Liner Notes on 2021 – Part II (Anniversary & Special Editions / Re-issues)

“…because there’s nothing like an epic soundtrack to transport a viewer to another time and place, bring a theater full of strangers to tears, or complement a narrative so well that one simply cannot exist without the other..”

Now that this year’s record shopping shenanigans are off my chest, let’s move to more important things like the beautiful music that graced 2021. The second part pertains to anniversary editions and special re-issues; a new lease of life to quintessential albums and compilations, which I absolutely recommend.  In recent years, especially with the establishment of Record Store Day, it’s become almost de rigueur among record labels to re-release selected titles from their back catalogues, re-mastered and packaged in anniversary collector’s editions, featuring the original or updated artwork, extended liner notes, rare photos and ephemera. In certain cases the price of the first pressings had gone from exorbitant to speculative, so it’s been a golden chance to fill in some gaps, as well as revisit and replace some of the originals, which sadly I was too young and naive to look properly after.

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Liner Notes on 2021 – Part I: Record shopping & other disasters

Brace yourselves; it’s that time of the year again with the traditional end-of-year blog lists nobody has asked for. Amidst another complicated and relentless year, with our social reflexes tested to the limit, pandemic waves still looming, music has been the refuge, the remedy and a nostalgic reminder of simpler times.

This year has been graced with a plethora of beautiful music and the annual roundup will be divided into three additional parts to accommodate for as many releases as possible. I kindly remind you that these lists are not some kind of 2021 best of – quite the contrary – they pertain only to records I have bought this year and therefore I find worthy of your attention and your credit card. Inevitably some great music has been omitted or missed, some of the usual names appear again on these lists, but we’ve been down that road before. Despite the obvious shades of favouritism, I’d still argue that this has been an honest appraisal.

Continue reading “Liner Notes on 2021 – Part I: Record shopping & other disasters”

Songs for a life we left behind (w/ Brock Van Wey) – Part III

“… because it’s always a new experience, always a new fear of putting yourself out there to that extent, and always a new high and level of love when even one person reaches out and says how it affected them, or became a part of their life in some way. If you ever get tired of that or don’t care, you shouldn’t be making music.”

Part III

Chapter Nine: Read between the li(n)es

Another one of my many compulsions is concept albums with thought-provoking track titles. In fact, I have to admit that I have cheekily paraphrased a few in various posts. There isn’t a single bvdub album that doesn’t revolve around a central theme and the titles read more like chapters of a book, epigrams and poem verses, collages of micro-contradictions or parts of a greater story that has to be told in a particular sequence. I also read religiously the liner notes; another fine and intricate detail – a ‘lost art’ which brings back fond childhood memories. Sadly they are often neglected or considered redundant in electronic music. Of course, music should do the talking, but some pieces of art call for an extended narrative.

Walk us through the process of writing an album. You can omit the technical details as we have glorified the medium too often at the expense of the musical experience that matters.

Continue reading “Songs for a life we left behind (w/ Brock Van Wey) – Part III”

Songs for a life we left behind (w/ Brock Van Wey) – Part II

Both ambient and drum & bass have always been the music of the future. And they always will be. Which is why they’ll always be there; getting stronger, going deeper. And they’ll never need any outsider’s bullshit help to do so”.

Part II

Chapter Four: East Of Oceans

I have an affinity for intriguing, memorable or even cryptic artist aliases. An attractive name won’t compensate for dreadful music, but for me it’s definitely a head-start and if there’s a chance to go down in musical history, then it’d better take place in style. ‘East of Oceans’ epitomizes the case and instantly caught my attention, before even knowing it’s a side-project of yours. In fact I’d even argue that it’s a nod to the concepts discussed in Part I; an ocean apart from a life you left behind, eastern promises, the journey to the unknown. Is this an alter ego free from expectations and musical agendas, or just another guise created to accommodate for music that somehow doesn’t fit under the bvdub umbrella?

Yeah, with both that and Earth House Hold, I think it took people a lot of time to figure out who it was. Which is fine, it’s about the music, not about who makes it; otherwise I would only use one name for everything I guess. You are correct (once again) in your hypothesis on leaving life behind, promises afar (in the East, where I resided) and the unknown, they’re all definitely part of the name. I think these, among other things, combine to form (or perhaps be free of form) something that, yeah, just “is”. I myself honestly couldn’t tell you how to classify any music I make under that name. It’s a much more euphoric, no-holds-barred project that I am only rarely in the right head-state to journey into (thus the much smaller amount of releases), but when I am, it’s amazing and amazingly free. Again with the whole love or hate thing, but I think that one gets more hate than any other of my stuff (haha). Some people get it, a lot don’t and I’ve gotten a lot of flak over the years from fans of my more well-known work, who said it’s “cheesy” etc. I think they just don’t get where it’s coming from. It’s tapping into times and ideas of pure euphoria and escape, rather than the introspection of my other work, so I can get where it’s a bit of a shock to the system if you’re expecting something else. But you just need to let yourself go and have a good time with it and basically just fucking jam, because that’s what it’s for.

Or you can do none of that and think it’s cheesy and hate it. Also OK (haha).

Continue reading “Songs for a life we left behind (w/ Brock Van Wey) – Part II”

Songs for a life we left behind (w/ Brock Van Wey) – Part I

“The voice of ambient, grown up, grown emotional, grown wiser and grown eloquent.”

For the last few of years I’ve been on a quest to trace those elusive gossamer links between the drum & bass and ambient cultures. Although as genres they might seem oceans apart, I’d still argue that their musical trajectories converge, unlocking something magical, capturing that moment in time and that beautiful place, which both are tantalizingly at your fingertips, but are always out of reach. In the back of my mind there has been always a certain artist, whose musical work not only envelops the concept, but his poetic eloquence, his flair for the dramatic, his esoteric and philosophical approach to music, art and life has mesmerized a global and varied audience.

I have been too timid to ask for a feature/interview, but this summer the stars aligned and I have the privilege and pleasure to host Brock Van Wey for an in-depth discussion. Aficionados will recognize that the head title is paraphrased from one of my favourite bvdub albums (Songs For A Friend I Left Behind, Distant Noise, 2011). In fact that very album was my introduction to Brock’s music and the title seems even more apt now, that he’s moving back to his home country after 20 years in China.

Enter stage right; Brock revisits old habits from a distance, flips through the chapters of his life book and narrates the stories behind the musical notes, from the obvious to the far-fetched, the tangible to the abstract, the mundane to the profound, essentially what the sleeve notes will never tell you.

Continue reading “Songs for a life we left behind (w/ Brock Van Wey) – Part I”

Postcards from Canada: Stasis Recordings

“We fit in where people decide they want to give us space to fit in, because of our label DNA, I believe we can fit in a lot of places – crevice or chasm. I tend to describe Stasis Recordings like a person and the styles represent character traits one sees depending on the vantage point …” – Sanderson Dear

The next edition of the blog’s label profile series is about a brilliant boutique record label from Toronto, Canada. I admit I’ve been late at the party, as I only discovered it six years ago, but I’ve tried to catch up pronto. Though not a bona fide drum & bass label, in fact Stasis Recordings covers a wide range within the electronic music spectrum, still their musical output is perfectly aligned with my personal taste and aesthetics; mesmerizing and emotional music transcending genres and styles, gracefully combined with beautiful imagery and artwork.

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Klute: The Certificate 18 Years (Singles 1995-99)

It’s no secret that I am a Klute fanboy; I’ve been following him since his first production forays for the Ipswich-based imprint Certificate 18. More than 25 years later, 9 studio albums and countless singles and remixes for literally every label that matters, his sound is still as relevant as ever. 

He has now remastered and re-issued his entire C18 collection of singles for the first time in superior digital format through his revered label Commercial Suicide. It’s a golden chance to re-live and recapture a time and place that has left an indelible print on the d&b history book, or even some great new discovery for a new generation of listeners. Whichever the case, head over to the label’s official webpage here to read one of the genre’s most compelling stories about how it all started, featuring many familiar names, narrated by Klute himself in his unique way of storytelling.

It is the story of an artist at his very beginning working closely with a label that shared a vision for a finite period before things imploded, a snapshot tracing the dots from the origins of Klute into the new millennium when drum & bass started to splinter off into smithereens …

Preview and purchase links for 17 timeless classics:

Tracks I Wish I’d Written (issue #22): Spirit – Life Goes On

We would talk for hours on the phone, him asking me questions, sharing ideas and tips. Soon we were both releasing music for Tom from Redeye’s labels ‘Deep Red’ and ‘Fresh 86’. The rest, as we say, was history … [Klute]

This month is my blog’s 9th anniversary. I never really expected that nine years and 120 features later it would be still around, but here we are. Reflecting on those years, so much has changed in my personal life and everywhere around us that it seems like worlds apart from those timid beginnings. Reconciling the arrogance, the naivety, old obsessions and spent ideals of a past life with a new reality of different priorities, the blogging experience has been frustrating and cathartic at the same time, like a confessional love letter to music; wavering between posting and shredding it to pieces.

The fundamental idea has always been to keep a personal musical diary and document those musical memories before they inevitably fade into oblivion; hidden annexes littered with thoughts left just as they were on the day they were captured, music you’ll probably never have time to listen to again, locked in its own era. Once again, a big heartfelt thank you to all readers, either regulars or those who have stumbled upon the blog by chance; the interaction with like-minded people has been the greatest reward.

Continue reading “Tracks I Wish I’d Written (issue #22): Spirit – Life Goes On”

Love & Other Tragedies: Inside The Album

“Behind every exquisite thing that existed, there was something tragic”

(Extract from ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ written by Oscar Wilde)

The next edition of the blog’s ‘Inside The Album’ series is about a record which has the utmost sentimental value to me and I’ve gone to great lengths in order to add it to my collection. Regular readers might have noticed that the album title has become a reusable mantra in various posts. Although a neo-romantic album might seem worlds apart from the usual drum & bass features, I’d still hope that the timeless theme and the mesmerizing modern classical interpretation of concepts like hubris, jealousy, deception, self-sacrifice, devotion, grief, spent ideals, redemption and immortality, which have inspired philosophy, literature, music,   cinema and countless works of art, might have an appeal to you too.

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Portals: Atmospheric Drum & Bass Vistas

Following the recent release of Illuvia’s d&b album ‘Iridescence of Clouds’ on A Strangely Isolated Place, I’m proud to present my contribution to the ASIP ‘Portals’ series. Tracing the links from the halcyon days of the 90s to the present, from the classic to the obscure, this is a selection of 26 tracks showcasing the evolution of the atmospheric d&b sound or at least my own perception. The feature is supplemented with a mix, liner notes and fan facts. A long trip down memory lane for d&b fans, as well as an introduction of atmospheric drum & bass to a non-d&b audience. I hope this feature served its purpose and that you’ll enjoy it as much as we did.

You can read the original post here and listen to the mix on Soundcloud, Mixcloud or the ASIP Podcast.

For archiving purposes, I attach the full transcript of the feature below.

Words and layout by Ryan Griffin/ASIP
Comments in italics and track notes by Spyros/GodIsNoLongerADj

Continue reading “Portals: Atmospheric Drum & Bass Vistas”

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