Autechre – Amber

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  • Artist: Autechre
  • Released: 1994 on Warp Records
  • Genre: IDM

Where I live in Singapore (ha, ha), there’s this particular road in Malaysia that serves as the perfect place to listen to Amber in the car, which starts from the Tuas car checkpoint and begins again from the Malaysian side, through the Batu Pahat checkpoint. This is an inconvenient detour from where I reside, and we undertake this 30+ km detour only when the damned Causeway is jammed to the brim with cars.

There’s nary a single soul in sight, with lush forests full of deciduous trees lining the long, snaking road that has been fenced up to prevent unsavoury types from entering the area. This road is the most tranquil of places, but there’s an current of unease trickling in the background. It’s the weirdest feeling ever: an uncomfortable juxtaposition of the proverbial oasis of calm, with the wire fences that serve as a reminder of your presence in a restricted area.

So what do I do? I put on Amber, and snuggle comfortably in the backseat. I love the weird spacey, blissed-out vibes that Amber radiates in spades. It’s the most surreal experience ever. You’re half expecting someone to run out on the road but nobody appears. Even the shophouses to the right of the road are closed. How the fuck are shops closed in the daytime? It’s an apt avenue down H.G Wells, so I always imagine that the area has been evacuated in the light of an impending alien invasion. If you could see what I saw, you might have agreed with me anyway.

Album opener Foil sounds like aliens have beamed themselves down from their 60’s themed spaceships and Piezo is one of my favourites, where you get this quirky, bursting pogo-ing rhythm and a haunting synth floating somberly in the back. It’s like having a rave at the bleakest of funerals. Nine shimmers with an unfathomable beauty, with the keyboards unfolding their wings and pulsing like radars, spreading their indecipherable signals to the listener. Underneath it all, there’s this underground battle; a tug-of-war between harmonious melody and jerky, syncopated rhythm. It’s an essential pivot of Amber, which was probably why it appealed to me so much. I’ve tried listening to it in other places, but nowhere beats the surrealism of the fenced forests and deserted road.

 

Soundcloud Pick: Beyond The Wizard’s Sleeve – Diagram Girl

Beyond The Wizard’s Sleeve is an electronic music duo made up of Erol Nolkan and Richard Norris, who hail from London. I’ve been peeking at their Facebook page and it describes them as the “warped-Balearic-meets-psychedelic-brotherhood of Erol Alkan and The Grid’s Richard Norris”, which sounds hella fascinating. It sounds like some hidden music paradise that you can only gain entrance to via a magical dance club, and it definitely sounds better than my own description. They’ve remixed some tracks by Franz Ferdinand (Ulysses), Interpol and Goldfrapp, which should have whetted your appetite by now, eh?

Diagram Girl sounds like a pleasant Pet Shop Boys-esque synth-pop ditty, but it’s accompanied by a monochromatic, surreal video that features mirrors, a tarot card marked “Labyrinthe” and a girl trapped in her dream. Damn, I like this band already.

It’s also worth noting that their debut album, The Soft Bounce will be released this coming July 1st on Phantasy Records, so…you heard it here first, and a million other music blogs.

I’m going to bend the rule slightly and feature the video too, because it’s actually worth watching.

Here’s the Soundcloud version if you’re not into music videos:

YYVVESS – ART HISTORY

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  • Artist: YYVVESS
  • Released: 2016 on DMT Records
  • Genre: Electronic, vaporwave

Released on DMT Records, the second album from YYVVESS sees him mixing electronic music with the history of ancient civilization. Scratching your head already? Yeah, I was doing that two months ago. That’s what made me wanna write about this album though.

Why history, out of every possible subject? Why not Greek philosophy? Or applied chemistry? Admittedly, I have yet to see EDM mixed with Plato, but the optimist in me imagines it as a really awesome mash-up. One can hope.

The thematic concept isn’t new to the vaporwave genre- Pyravid’s Googleplex Bionetwork was one of the first few vaporwave albums where the often lambasted “aesthetics” took a backseat. Pyravid, armed with Microsoft samples, synths and beats, transported the listener to an unexpected vision of vaporwave – a Microsoft-enmeshed living, breathing jungle utopia in 16 tracks. Mother Nature in perfect harmony with technology.

I have this feeling that YYVVESS’s ART HISTORY might have attempted to be an aural history textbook, but unfortunately the album just hangs in mid-air halfway through. ART HISTORY has its merits though – Human Head, one of my favourite tracks, has pretty synths resembling Indonesian gamelans against a syncopated beat, and Bronze Vessel sees the introduction of exotic elements (jungle bird calls, elephants). The tracks after Stone Cist Tomb are rather forgettable, probably because they sound the same after a while. And it’s not the song length – the album duration hovers around 30 minutes.

Still, not all’s lost – I’m still hitting the repeat button on Human Head! Here’s a sample!

 

Records on repeat for the week

Hello, hello!

Nah I haven’t abandoned this blog yet, if you were wondering. I’ve been busy with real life (and annoying bouts of Word Streak With Friends, oops) but I’ll post some records that I’ve been listening to lately.

Craft Spells – Nausea (2014)

Gorgeously crafted melodies with a crisp, airy production. The pianos leave their dainty footsteps on the sonic landscapes that Justin Vallesteros creates, complete with lush violins. On songs like Twirl and Breaking The Angle Against The Tide, the guitar lines are reminiscent of the Pastels and Felt. On the whole, the album makes for a refreshing listen.

Highlights: Komorebi, Laughing For My Life, Breaking The Angle Against The Tide

Rip, Rig + Panic – God (1981)

In the same tier as The Pop Group (Gareth Sager and Bruce Smith were from the band) but with Neneh Cherry (yes, the Buffalo Stance singer!) and Andrea Oliver on vocals and a much funkier rhythm section. On Try Box Out Of This Box, the band mixes dub elements with a swooning saxophone and jazzy pianos. As a whole, the album isn’t as frustrating as Y, but the vocals are quite wild!

Highlights: Knee Deep In Shit, These Eskimo Women Speak Frankly, It Don’t Mean A Thing If It Ain’t Brrod 

The Other Two – The Other Two & You (1994)

I absolutely adore New Order’s music, and this is no exception. The duo, made up of Stephen Morris and Gillian Gilbert – the brilliant drummer and the lovely lady responsible for some of the synths on New Order records – show the world what they’re made of. Selfish, with its airy melancholia and Gillian’s girlish vocals begs for repeated listening. I love how the album starts out all synthy and almost teenybopper-y but then hits you in the face with harder tracks like The Ninth Configuration. This was recorded a year after New Order’s Republic, but Gillian’s vocals inject a bubbly optimism which is not evident in Republic.

Highlights: Selfish, Innocence, Loved It (The Other Track)

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