Category: Music Reviews

I can safely say I’ve been waiting for this album for 6 years. Geoff White’s initial Aeroc album on Ghostly was solid, had some good ideas. I saw Geoff play an Aeroc live set at Decibel Festival in 2005, and it blew me away, I came back frothing about it to some friends (it probably also helped that it was played after an awesome Lusine ambient set that also sent me frothing (and was the source for a lot of the material on his Language Barrier album on Hymen). Nonetheless, after bragging about the show, we all sat waiting 6 years for this album to come out, so there was really no way it could live up to those expectations. It is still a pretty good album. Excellent to throw on during a bright Sunday afternoon around the house. Its well balanced, has a great vibe amongst most of the tracks, and a good energy about it. Guitar electronics need a careful practitioner usually, as I find that many non-electronic musicians, coming into the electronic stuff, use the machines in an awkward way. Geoff comes from the other way, so his stuff really flows (to my ears at least). Definitely an album to check out (Merck reference; definitely check it if you dug the Tiki Obmar, Lateduster, and Tstewart stuff).

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Amazon Digital Release & Sound Clips

This is an awesome album. Yes, I can safely say that all Merck fans should really dig this one. Don’t let the weird french singing in the first track throw you off, its about to get riggedy ruff.

It progresses really nicely through lush beaty material overlaid perfectly with soundscapes, delicious deru percussion, and the melodies that gets in many-a-merck fans heads. This is the kind of stuff that I hoped to release in my Merck days. Heavy on the beats and bass, stuff I can’t stop nodding my head to. He combines the best of Autechre and Dj Premier, in a subtle, seamless, and original way. There aren’t any standout tracks for me to point to initially, because the whole thing is strong, its screaming for a straight through listen, no angst to ffwd a track, or repeatedly backtrack, it flows excellently. Its got a good strong start with a few block-knocker tracks then it slows down a little into Walk and Fadeaway, which remind me of Carter Burwell stuff (his soundtrack to In Bruges). I’m guessing maybe he was listening to some of his stuff around the time of making this, just like you can hear in a few of Proem’s tracks when he had started to listen really heavily to Thomas Newman stuff (his Tiki Obmar remix in particular). Nonetheless, it continues on to finish off with 2 ambient pieces, and sandwiched in between them is Cottonmouth Lothario, with its excellent midway breakdown. Ok, I’ll stop hyping, if you didn’t catch this one already, please do, cheers to Ben & Mush, this kind of music belongs on the label that Aesop Rock started off on. Futuristic hip-hop indeed.

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I’m very picky about my dubstep, post-dubstep, bass music. Whatever you want to call it. I enjoy the stuff that tends towards the IDM edge (with nods to Autechre), or to actual dub, or to dubstep’s roots in the Drum & Bass scene. I know this album covers a swath of genres (as only Travis could), from footwork, to juke, to post-dubstep, to (post?)IDM. I’m coming at it with a skeptical ear towards things labeled dubstep and towards Travis’s new music (I wasn’t really feeling a lot of Want To 1 2). But straight up, I really enjoy this album.

With the exception of Come1 (don’t really dig this one most of the time), I’ve listened straight through this album a lot, which I can rarely say about many albums recently. I’ll guess that Travis and Mike P’s ears are tuned quite the same as mine, as a possible explanation about why I’m so into this one. As I really didnt expect to be, its been an awesome surprise for me. Travis can attest that I’ve never much been into vocals in music, or even vocal samples in songs at all. He somehow found a way to slip them past me, and get me vibing to music with straight RnB vocal samples in ways I never expected. Hell, I regularly go 20-30mph over the speed limit vibing out listening to The Statue on the highway.

I can see that some Merck fans are not gonna feel this direction for Travis’s music, but I have to say that if I had seen an album like this coming, I would have kept Merck going as long as needed to see it come out on the label (that being said, I am proud that Mike P has picked it up for his excellent imprint). I’ll accept that this is definitely a different move for the “Machinedrum” moniker than his diehard Merck fans can be comfortable with for the most part. But the other option would be for him to run the glitch-hop sound into the ground with a half dozen albums slowly getting more and more forgettable, as Prefuse did. I much prefer he switches up to interesting new material like this, even if he whiffs with a few tracks along the way. This one is definitely in my top 10 of 2011. Bravo Trav.

PS. He has a new EP coming out next week on Luckyme, entitled SXLND. Like his last one for them, it has its cool moments, but you need to accept that the music and the release is being crafted more for the dancefloor, than for the headphones/bedroom as his Merck stuff was.

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Amazon Digital Release & Sound Clips

I’ve been meaning to write this review for 2 years, but every time I listen to this album I find more depth that I feel I need to explore before writing it, I’m finally giving up and just going off about it. This album is just awesome. Instrumental metal (or heavy post rock if you will), written superbly. As far as ‘guitar music’ that I’ve been enraptured by in the last 5 years, it comes close, if not beats out, Pivot’s Make Me Love You. (Side note: Warp please don’t sign Pelican and drive them into mediocrity).

This album has it all, elements of Tool, Isis, Slayer, Oxes, and even some lighter Indie rock nods (and no vocals, thank god). The variety of styles doesnt come off as pandering though, it comes off as that they know thoroughly, a variety of styles of music, and understand how to combine them effectively. By that I mean when things need to get hard, they do, math rock nods, they do, when they start off soft and move you in the proper emotional direction, they do. Its quite amazingly done really, especially compared to the normal rhythm + chorus, rinse repeat, of todays modern rock. There are enough excellent riffs on this album to write 10 good pop albums, which brings up the other related point that this album may be a bit more poppy for Pelican as opposed to their earlier stuff. Really, who cares. Honestly, whilst listening to it now I’m out of words to talk about it anymore, I’m just gonna go sit on the couch and soak it up. Summary: if you like music with guitars, and aren’t on some soft skinny jeans shit, check this album out.

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Amazon purchase link ($8 for digital!!)

Last year I quietly put out a little 7″ soon after the demise of Merck (pretty much only available in our mailorder). Its by a group of guys from Wisconsin, one of which (Eric Bray) has released music with me on my Narita label under the guise of Arctic Hospital. Now that being said, the music really has nothing to do with the Arctic Hospital sound in any similar way, other than the excellent technicality of the production. All the tracks on their debut album were arranged/produced by him, with the instruments, etc. played by the rest of the group. This album came out only in Japan, so you probably were more likely to hear about the 7″, than the album. The ultimate point of this is that I released the 7″ cause the music is great. Musically it is the kind of stuff you would expect to read about in The Wire, or hear as the soundtrack to a great independent film, or that you may hear on a label with the likes of Helios or Deaf Center. It is best filed under Post Rock Shoegazer Ambient, and as usual on here, I highly recommend you check it out. Especially if you think that the Lateduster and Aurora 2 CDs on Merck put in a blender would sound nice (figuratively, not literally).

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Disclosure: More music by some friends. But on the realness, this is probably the most underrated release to ever come out of Miami. Probably because its vaguely IDM, and was released on a ‘hip-hop’ label. Its a perfect collection of 26 minutes of music, 5 tracks (forget the remixes, they’re inferior) by 3 smart and unique guys from Miami. It really is a densely emotive, fringey IDM, downtempo masterpiece. Who knows if you can still buy it anywhere, as I’m sure this release is probably last priority to Counterflow nowadays (who never quite had their shit together), but I highly recommend any Merck fans check this out, as its really gold. It also has some lovely art by Miami’s own AS1 as well (see Otto Von Shirach covers, or early Rawkus stuff).

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Lovely little half hour of free music from Finland that I’ve been enjoying for the last year. A mini-lp by Northbound, entitled “Landscapes of Late”. Its a bit poppy, but it cleanses the palate nicely of everyone trying to be so experimental. Disclosure: one of the members of the group (Olli Jäderholm) is the brother of Fthr, one of my main Merck Designers. Its hard to classify it in an exact category, but its got hints of jazz, indie rock, pop, and electronica. Its also pleasantly instrumental (I listen to people talk all day, why do I want to hear it in my music?). To speak in terms of groups from Merck, or mentioned on this blog, its like Tstewart, Lateduster, Pivot, Landau Orchestra, plus pop sensibility, put into a blender. Though honestly that doesn’t really capture it. Its free, so just go listen to it, so I can stop trying to describe what is ultimately undescribable (music).

You can grab the album here

The epitome of awesomely done dark ambient music. Passed my way by none other than Proem himself (A disturbingly dark dude to have twin daughters). I beleive the limited edition cd versions are sold out, and out of print from the label, I don’t even have copies myself, but try and support him as best you can, because his stuff is great. Kammarheit is none other than Pär Boström, of Sweden, possibly the darkest country on earth. They churn out so much death metal and dark ambient, they’re really tipping the balance. Off the bat this stuff reminds me of playing the PC game Defcon, its perfect for a nuclear holocaust, but it really is post apocalyptic music. This is the music that Biosphere would make if he was super depressed and thinking about suicide. Both albums tread on the same territory, but you can hear his progession on The Starwheel, as it has more sophistication and development. Well, now that i’ve talked about all of this, I feel like playing some more dark PC games. Can’t decide if i should go S.T.A.L.K.E.R. or Bioshock. Hmmmmm.

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Here is another gem that Twerk passed along my way. He was asked to master it for Audibleoddities, and couldn’t resist letting me get a peak at it. One of my favorite IDM cds of 2007 for sure, and self released at that. Based in San Francisco, Retic, better known as Douglas Teike, combines influences from a lot of well known IDM names into a nice pot of stew. This disc is a guaranteed delight for fans of the Merck catalog (Landau meets Deru and Machinedrum). Probably would have released this myself, if things had continued on with Merck. You can track down a copy on CDbaby, and I hear he has a new album nearing completion soon as well.

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Apparat, who so nobley picked up where Funkstorung left off (once they decided that Germans should be doing more hip hop), shortly after 2000. Became the heir apparent to the role Funkstorung was playing previously, which was continuing the Autechre sound in a listenable way, and expanding upon the sound with some indie type elements. Nothing typifies this better than his Duplex album, with its mild usage of guitar and vocals here and there, but still staying true to the Autechrian roots of IDM. Not every track on here is a complete winner, but there are a lot of gems. See: Cerro Largo, Schallstrom, Steady Uprsing, etc. Very emotional stuff, and of course extremely technically well made. I had talked to him briefly about including the track Cerro Largo on a electronica/indie compilation thing I was working on for Merck a few years back, but it ultimately never came to fruition. I finally got to meet and see him live in September 2005 at Decibel Festival, and he was an extremely nice (and tall) fellow, standing around chatting with me until they were begging him to go on stage. He even apologized for the complete ripping dance set that he was about to drive the club wild with, because he knew it probably wasn’t down my alley. Nonetheless, I’ve had a few marzens this Oktober, listening to his wonderful creations.

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