September 30, 2009

Traum Schallplatten various artists - Traum 100 (2008)

Traum Schallplatten is a minimal/ambient/abstract techno label in Cologne, Germany run by Jacqueline Klein and DJ Riley Reinhold, better known (to me) as Triple R. Triple R produced a very deep and trippy house mix called "Friends" for Kompakt in '02, featuring moody and melodic tracks by artists from several local labels, including Traum. I can't recall if I heard "Friends" first or the excellent '01 Traum compilation "Elektronische Musik - Interkontinental", but both made a lasting impression and introduced me to many top-notch house and ambient artists. Some favorites of mine were Broker/Dealer, a duo from San Francisco with a great '80s analog sound, the hypnotic arpeggiating textures of Philippe Cam and Waki, Tomas Jirku's psychedelic found-sound minimalism, Anton Kubikov, better known as SCSI-9, and Oxtongue, who later produced the first Kompakt Pop 12". Many of the artists hopped around between labels, including Traum's sub-labels Trapez and My Best Friend, and while I followed Kompakt, Traum and a few others pretty closely from around '02 until '05, I'm not *made of money* and eventually I was overwhelmed by the massive output coming from Cologne. However, in the past year or so I have been getting back into following, if not always buying, current house releases. Last summer, Traum celebrated their 100th release and 10 year anniversary with the "Traum 100" compilation, featuring new tracks by many of the same artists I had loved on those older collections; Broker/Dealer, Fairmont, Process, klick-meister Thomas Brinkmann, and some more recent minimal stars like Minilogue, Moonbeam and Gabriel Ananda. The sound is deep and mellow, with chilled out synthesizer sequences and a jazzy swing in the grooves, and a heavier focus on minimal grooves than I recall from earlier releases. There are definite similarities to Kompakt's trance-influenced melodics and experimentalism, which is understandable as the music all came from the same scene, but Traum offers their own unique spin on futuristic ambient/house crossovers and abstractions.

September 28, 2009

BONUS LINK: Mnml Ssgs blog

[Another entry in the "there is so much free music on the web, I'm not sure if or why anyone buys CDs anymore" file]
I came across the Mnml Ssgs blog from a link to a Delta Funktionen DJ mix posted on Myspace, and was impressed to find a whole new mix series hosted there, featuring a variety of top "minimal" DJs. So far there have been 38 "Ssgmx's" in the series, featuring some intriguing sets by Kompakt Pop Ambient folks Klimek, abstract beat producer Shed, and Mule Electronic's deep and chilled Koss. Additionally, the author of the blog (apparently a touring DJ himself, but I can't find any identification of who it is) posts regular round-ups of podcasts and free DJ mixes from all over the web. Also some very astute and humorous music criticism, which I always appreciate as I tend to not even BOTHER writing about music I don't like, even though there are many current "dub-techno artists", not even to mention "experimental musicians", I would like to name-check and demolish in print. A nearly endless supply of DJ mixes and insightful commentary, all free, thanks Mnml Ssgs!

September 27, 2009

BONUS LINK - The Black Dog monthly DJ sets

After referencing The Black Dog in my previous review of the new Delsin compilation, I realized I hadn't heard any of their new stuff in several years. I had always enjoyed their quirky, melodic IDM tracks as Plaid, such as their '97 Warp Records album "Not For Threes"which featured a vocal collaboration with Bjork that got a lot of people's attention (they had already done remixes for Bjork's "Debut" as The Black Dog, and later remixed "All Is Full Of Love"). Their early Warp releases as The Black Dog helped define the Artificial Intelligence/IDM sound of the '90s, and have a great old-school sound. On their website, I found that The Black Dog are still going strong, with new CDs and 12"s, and a free DJ mix series they are now producing each month. Their second mix was posted at the beginning of September; a lush, beatless ambient set featuring a couple Kranky artists, Stars Of The Lid and White Rainbow, and recent favorites like Intrusion. The Black Dog blog is updated regularly with new DJ charts, live dates and downloads, and streaming samples of every single TBD release are available from the side menu.

The Black Dog - 02. Sometimes – Ambient DJ Set/Mix

September 25, 2009

Delsin various artists - Delsin II (2009)

One of the labels I've really been enjoying for new dance/techno music in the last couple years has been Delsin, operating out of the Netherlands since the mid-'90s. I had heard some buzz around some Delsin artists in the early '00s, like IDM artist M>O>S, aka Aroy Dee who had a bunch of releases on Rush Hour Recordings, and Yotoko, a side-project by the prolific "broken beat" producer Domu, but I didn't really start paying attention to Delsin's techno releases until I heard the '05 compilation "Planet Delsin : Interstellar Sounds Of Stardust". The general aesthetic of Delsin is oriented towards the pure, experimental synthesizer sounds of classic early '90s IDM, blended with the rhythmic patterns of Detroit techno, and brings to mind early Warp Records and Rephlex artists like Polygon Window, The Black Dog or Bochum Welt. Many of the artists compose with minimal palettes of bleeps and bloops and unprocessed, old-skool drum machine beats to craft catchy house hooks, working both as an homage to classic analog synthesizers of the past, and as a forward-thinking futuristic movement in dance music. This year, Delsin released an even greater follow-up compilation called "Delsin II", a 2CD set featuring many of the best tracks from the past couple years of 12" releases, with copious liner notes featuring a label profile and artist interviews. Highlights for me include the moody, melodic atmospherics of Taho and D5, the gritty, lo-fi stomp of Redshape, and the pounding, hypnotic patterns of Delta Funktionen, Quince and Newworldaquarium. While some of the tracks get into territory that I find a bit too robotic, simple or lo-fi sounding, almost all of the artists on this collection can be depended on for regularly releasing high-quality new tracks. Delsin has kept up a steady release schedule, with a new 12" every couple months, and I frequently check their website to see what's new. (BONUS LINK: I particularly enjoy the large collection of free DJ sets and live performances available for download, such as this interview and classics-laden DJ set by label boss Peel Seamus, or this deep and dubby set from Quince.)

September 22, 2009

BONUS LINK: Autumnal Equinox Dub-Techno Mix by Ethernet (me!)

Happy Fall Equinox to all!

I am pleased to present a deep and hazy mix of some of my favorite dub-techno classics. Thanks to the cool Self-Titled online magazine for sharing my mix! The mix was put together in Ableton Live 7, with most of the tracks ripped from vinyl, and a couple of the newer tracks bought online in WAV format from Beatport, and features live dub FX and delay manipulations by yours truly. Oh yeah, the Bluetrain track is B2 from “Factory Dubs” ‘00!

Download the mix here!

My CD “144 Pulsations Of Light”, which is more in the drone-ambient territory rather than dub-techno, is out on Kranky on Oct. 5th! Here is the All-Music Review, featuring short clips of each track!

September 19, 2009

Microstoria - Snd (1996, Mille Plateaux/Thrill Jockey)

I spent my junior year of college as an exchange student in central Japan in '00-'01, and took every opportunity to explore the endless winding streets of Kyoto and Osaka. Looking back now, I marvel at the number of concerts I was able to attend, considering the full-time load of classes and Japanese homework I had to deal with every week, and I feel good that I made the most of my limited time there (well, maybe I bought too much manga). One of my favorite places to see shows was the Kyoto Club Metro, a weird little space half-way down a flight of stairs at one of the Kyoto subway stations, which apparently used to be a conductors' bar and hang-out area. There were shows at the space pretty much every single night, as I recall, with lots of punk, ska and weird '60s-'80s pop mash-up DJs. They also hosted a bunch of amazing IDM and experimental nights, including a Rephlex night with Cylob and Freeform, and a deafening night of non-idiomatic improv and turntable destruction from Christian Marclay and Lee Renaldo, followed by Boredoms' DJ EYE. I also went to see Mouse On Mars on their "Idiology" tour there, and was very impressed by the opening laptop set by Jan St. Werner and Markus Popp as Microstoria. I had previously heard Popp's Oval project, when he made a big buzz in the electronic music community with the albums "Systemisch" and "Dok", released domestically on Thrill Jockey, but I had found the material I heard to be too sonicly harsh for my taste, with a focus on gritty CD-skipping digital rhythms. I recognize now that Popp's "Ovalprocess" was pretty revolutionary for its time (early-mid '90s) and predated much of the laptop scene of the next ten years. Teamed up with Werner, also a member of Mouse On Mars, the abrassive side of Oval was tempered into a soft-spoken glitch ambience with a futuristic edge of digital ice. When I returned to the US, I found Microstoria's "Snd" CD and recognized similar textures to what I'd heard live, if even more subdued. Considering the time frame of this album, the experimental DSP processing and granular synthesis effects put to use must have been produced with relatively cutting-edge technology/software, predating the release of the genre-defining Max/MSP Macintosh software. The "Snd" album has a calm ambient atmosphere, with occasionally jittery computer manipulation that creates a psychedelic vibe. Organic sounds of bells, reed instruments and field recordings are occasionally perceptable, but the tracks generally explore abstract, if constantly shifting, territory. Listening to it 13 years later, the CD still sounds impressively futuristic and forward-thinking. The album also led to a follow-up remix collection called "Reprovisors", which featured many big-names in the avant-garde/laptop scene of the time, including Jim O'Rourke, F.X. Randomiz, Stereolab, and Christoph Heemann, bringing the group wider attention from the post-rock/experimental crowds.

September 14, 2009

BONUS LINK: XxXy free mix from Example Magazine July '09

I recently came across one of XxXy's tracks in a long dubstep mix and was so impressed I had to search for more. Part of the Mindset label collective, XxXy presents a further evolution of the Basic Channel/Deepchord-meets-dubstep sound, with deep sub-basslines and intricately crafted beats that resemble a blend of 2562 and Burial. There are a few tracks for free listening at the XxXy myspace page, and this free mix was recently posted for download from a UK blog called Example. I predict the full-length from this artist will be big news...

September 11, 2009

Ghosts On Water - Senshu (2005/8, Faraway Press)

Ghosts On Water is a project between Andrew Chalk, who runs the Faraway Press label in the UK, Daisuke Suzuki, boss of the "industrial"/experimental Siren label in Tokyo, and his wife, Naoko Suzuki. Chalk is one of the masterminds behind the amazing Mirror, and has been releasing solo and collaborative material since the '80s. Daisuke Suzuki is a drone and field-recording artist who has been recording since the late '90s, with a debut appearance on a single-sided 7" in collaboration with David Jackman and Michael Prime, followed by releases every year or so, mainly in Japan. The trio's first CD was "The Days After", released in '03 on Chalk's in-house Three Poplars label, and was Chalk's first collaborative project since his work with Christoph Heemann as Mirror. Earlier this year, I became aware of Chalk's new Faraway Press label, and noted that several new CDs had been made available for mailorder. All of the Faraway Press releases are hand-made, with extremely high-quality cardboard gatefold cases, hand-painted/stamped covers and inserts, obi-strips and plastic sleeves, and limited to a few hundred copies. "Senshu" was originally released in a tiny edition of 100 in '05, but was re-issued in '08 in an additional 250 copies and is still available. The CD itself is an awe-inspiring work of drone minimalism and acoustic textures, with soft melodic guitar patterns creating a hazy atmosphere of bell-like tones on the opening track "Ukigiri", followed by "Koyurugi", a slow crescendo of meditative, bowed-metal-sounding drones, ending with the subdued climax of "Untan", a blend of plucked notes that sounds like a koto, and blurry clouds of organic drone textures and field recordings. All of the titles and liner notes on the CD are written in Japanese, but I found a translation here. The evocative titles actually give the pieces even more depth. The whole package makes "Senshu" a very personal-feeling piece of artwork, and I look forward to hearing more of Ghosts On Water's new material.

September 7, 2009

Celer - Engaged Touches (2009, Home Normal)

Celer was the ambient project of Will Long and Danielle Baquet-Long, prolifically releasing nearly 40 CDs between '04 and '09. Tragically, Danielle passed away suddenly this summer at age 26. Together as Celer, and with Danielle's solo Chubby Wolf project, they generated a buzz online with their masterful dronescapes and processed field recordings, featuring beautiful, often hand-made covers/packaging and poetic titles and liner notes. The majority of Celer's output was self-released on CDr, but in '08 they began releasing CDs through labels and gaining more widespread attention. I first encountered good reviews surrounding "Nacreous Clouds", released on and/OAR in '08 and featuring a verbose and surreal press release and slightly-improbable description of their creative process. Whatever the truth of their sonic sources, the Celer material I have heard is a heady blend of electro-acoustic, organic and synthesized ambient textures, at times melodic and blissful, and occasionally dissonant and unsettling. This weekend, I happened to search Celer on iTunes, and found one of their most recent releases, "Engaged Touches", on sale for only $3.99 (I also found a really nice Windy & Carl compilation track called "Warm Like December" for $.99, tip!). Released on limited CD in April of '09 on the Home Normal label, "Engaged Touches" consists of two long tracks totaling 67 minutes, with each track divided into evocatively-titled movements. "Part 1" begins with a reverb-drenched field recording that sounds like a train station environment, and then transitions to a gorgeous classical-sounding movement, with instrumentation that almost sounds like orchestral strings, but belies its synthesized nature with noisy, artificial-sounding decays. The train station sounds return periodically, puntuacting the movements and transitioning to each subsequent tonal texture. In the second part, the instrumentation starts with a sound similar to accordions, but gradually becomes increasingly other-worldly and singing bowl-like. The classical tones and vintage radio-esque sounds that occasionally swell within the mix give "Engaged Touches" a distinctive and pleasant vibe, with a soft-spoken, mysterious and melancholy tone developing over the course of "Part 2", until a rich crescendo of orchestral chords propels the listener to a blissful finale. This album impressed me, and has more to offer than the "average" drone record! Celer's most recent CD "Brittle" has just been released at the end of August, so check that out as well! (BONUS LINK: Devin Sarno & Celer, live '07 "Symphony 19")

September 6, 2009

BONUS LINK: Brainwashed : The Eye video series is home to the band pages of many leading figures in the avant-garde, electronic and ambient genres, and also functions as a record label, periodically releasing CDs and DVDRs, as well as posting weekly podcasts and album reviews. The Eye is a video series of interviews and concert footage initiated in mid '03, with a nonstop torrent of new features each month up to late '06, when the releases slowed down to a semi-monthly schedule. The videos are available for streaming or free download in .MOV format (some are hosted on Youtube), while high-quality DVDRs can be purchased for $10 from the Brainwashed store. An amazing array of innovative sonic artists are showcased, and like the Red Bull Music Academy archives, it is almost overwhelming to choose a starting point. But my eye was immediately caught by features like: an early interview with Keith Fullerton Whitman when he was calling himself Hrvatski in '03, a great Windy & Carl video showcasing their Stormy Records store and live performances, the amazing full-length Andreas Martin feature that the guitar solo video I recently posted was excerpted from, a cool little interview with Ulrich Schnauss, and not one but two psychedelic performances by Edward Ka-Spel and The Silverman, one with The Legendary Pink Dots and the other in collaboration with wild theremin-player, Nicoletta. All this, plus sometimes-rambling interview clips, and a cool feature from '03 on the Mutek Festival, featuring some awe-inspiring live Coil footage. Hours of brainwashing entertainment!

September 4, 2009

Windy & Carl - Akimatsuri (2006/9, Blue Flea)

This week, the ambient guitar duo Windy & Carl reissued three of their older albums for digital download via Amazon, iTunes, eMusic, etc.; Their first two, pre-Kranky, albums, "Drawing Of Sound" and "Portal", and a limited edition CD from '06 entitled "Akimatsuri". The CD was only available for sale at the Brainwaves festival in Arlington, MA that year, celebrating the 10th anniversary of Brainwashed, and was limited to just 500 copies, each featuring one of ten photographs by Christy Romanick. I was excited to see the album reissued, featuring a previously unreleased bonus track, and even better: is offering the album for only $1.98! The original album itself consists of one 33-minute long track divided into five movements, each with a Japanese title (Akimatsuri meaning "autumn festival"). The tone is lush and melodic, weaving soft patterns of guitar notes and bowed strings, transitioning from calm and soothing to slightly melancholy, as a subdued organ plays alternating chords beneath sliding electric guitar tones. Swells and crests of other-wordly tones rise up in the latter movements of the piece, suggestive of cellos and flutes, but assumably produced by guitar. There is a distinct "falling leaves" vibe; the summer is over. I always enjoy the textures W&C are able to produce from such simple, organic instrumentation, not to mention the fact that they're able to reproduce it flawlessly in their concerts, and "Akimatsuri" does not disappoint. The bonus track "Seiche" offers an additional 5 minute post-script of gentle drones with a warm, meditative feel. C'mon, its only $1.98, check out some great new ambient music!

September 3, 2009

BONUS LINK: Joe Jack Talcum's Bootleg Of The Month archive

I have been a fan of The Dead Milkmen since I was in 5th grade, when a friend and I started listening to his college-aged brother's tape collection and found their newest (at the time) album, "Metaphysical Graffiti". Besides the hilarious and occasionally raunchy skits and clever lyrics, I loved the guitar sound and experimental instrumentation on many of the tracks, and still consider the album an all-time favorite today. (I also remember listening to tapes of Love & Rockets and John Zorn's Painkiller, but neither of those thrilled me so much...) Throughout junior high and highschool I collected the entire Dead Milkmen catalog on cassette tape, but missed my chance to see them on the "Not Richard But Dick" tour, after which they broke up. However, almost exactly a year ago today, The Dead Milkmen announced they were reuniting to play an Austin, TX music festival, and have continued to play shows since, even announcing an upcoming tour this Fall! (unfortunately for me, it appears to be all East Coast dates) Even more exciting to me, however, was the discovery of singer/guitarist Joe Jack Talcum's personal website, where he hosts a monthly-updated archive of bootleg recordings of The Dead Milkmen and their many side-projects, dating from the early '80s to present day DM shows! Amazing, and all free! Of course I was excited to find some demo sessions from "Metaphysical Graffiti" as well as the first performance of material from "Soul Rotation" under the alias of The Draco Reptilians, and even some bootleg tapes I had collected on the tape trading scene back in the '90s (Tipitina's!)! This is genius stuff, go grab some!

September 2, 2009

BONUS LINK: Mimir - live in Antwerp, Belgium, Feb 12 2005

Mimir is a sort of a super-group project between members of The Legendary Pink Dots, prolific brothers Christoph Heemann and Andreas Martin, and experimentalist and occasional Sonic Youth-member Jim O'Rourke. In contrast to many of the limited LPD releases, the Mimir CDs were actually find-able in US shops, distributed by Drag City in connection with Heemann's Streamline label. The music is an expert blend of drone experimentalism and acoustic improvisation, resulting in a magical, organic sound. After a hiatus of several years, a limited edition picture 7" of 500 copies was released for mailorder from To make things even more exclusive, only the PRE-ORDERS of the release would receive a bonus DVDr of four music videos by LPD, Mirror, Andreas Martin and Mimir. Luckily the magic of the interwebs has unearthed these videos for public viewing on Youtube. This performance by Mimir in Belgium is of a track from the 7", and is actually part of a long playlist of Brainwashed-related artists with a lot of great clips. If you don't watch the whole playlist, at least check out the following video of a virtuoso guitar solo performance by Andreas Martin!