Returning to more familiar drum & bass territory and with an older demographic in mind, the third part of the extended ‘Liner Notes on 2022’ series features a selection of previously unreleased material, re-issues of classics, as well as brand-new music that directly relates to that kind of 90s aesthetic, bridging the gap between generations. A gap that emerged when physical music products were gradually moved to or even replaced by streaming services and the sacred act of perusing older relatives’ collections, reading liner notes or flipping through magazines suddenly became relics of the past. However, what until this point has seemed to be inter-generational irritations and antagonisms, has now evolved into warm appreciation of individuality and idiosyncrasy, on both sides – and brilliant music, too.
This is the second part of the extended ‘Liner Notes on 2022’ feature exploring a wide array of styles, concepts, themes and motifs; from contemporary classical, ambient and music for films, to shoegaze electronica, techno, deep house and even progressive rock vignettes. The piano takes centre stage and bar a few exceptions, this is mainly music for home-listening. So, if you are wondering how Greek mythology, soundtracks and scores from classic LA movies, the ghosts of old America, vintage super 8 films, psychedelic trips into the subliminal and video games could all fit within the endless possibilities of electronic music, dust off your Glencairn glasses, dim the lights, draw the blinds, put your headphones on and scroll down.
It’s that time of the year again for my traditional end-of-year blog lists nobody has asked for. As we have returned to some kind of normality, another year has been graced with a plethora of fantastic records; precious moments where the underground and the niche popped their camo clad head through the mire of derivative and forgettable music.
This annual roundup will be divided into multiple parts (probably 5) to accommodate for as many records as possible. Once again, I would like to stress as a kind reminder that these lists are not some kind of 2022 best of – quite the contrary – they pertain only to records I have bought this year and therefore I find them worthy of your attention and (why not) 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. Needless to explain (again), but I’ll do it anyway: digital-only releases are beyond the scope of these features, not due to some warped sense of purism, elitism and showboating. It’s down to the simple fact that this blog is a one-man show, hence literally very little time to browse through and listen back to every digital release as well. So, despite the obvious shades of favouritism, I’d still argue that this has been an honest appraisal.
“Sentimental music, just like the change of seasons, has this beautiful way of taking you back somewhere and then forward, so you feel nostalgic and hopeful all at the same moment.”
In the blog feature with A Strangely Isolated Place 3 years ago, Ryan Griffin had disclosed that there would be a forthcoming drum & bass album on his brilliant label. I’ve had a feeling that it would be by Ludvig Cimbrelius (under his Illuvia alias) and several months later my intuition proved right. Titled ‘Iridescence of Clouds’and accompanied by an ‘isolated mix’ where Ludvig showcased his d&b influences, the album has been a definite highlight of 2021 So, this feature is the closing chapter of the blog’s mini-series exploring the interconnection between the drum & bass and ambient cultures with the help and invaluable insight of my next guest.
A multifaceted artist, a meditative and insightful composer, Ludvig Cimbrelius started his recording career at a tender age in 1999. Drawing inspiration from a wide range of musical influences, from Eurythmics and Björk to Photek and Squarepusher, his music is an extensive natural canvas, full of colours and sounds constantly adding deep, saturated hues into the monochrome silence. Although the term ‘cinematic music’ has been used ad nauseam, Ludvig’s cerebral approach to music is almost ‘Lynch-ian’, a unique juxtaposition of the ordinary with the avant-garde.
“I truly believe that the beginning of the 90’s saw the last of our “cultural revolutions” in the UK. In some ways it was the last rebellion that tied young people, music and cultural changes together like it had in previous decades. It was that combination of a wide range of musical influences, the accessibility to new musical technology, a melting pot of different cultures, a lot of drug influences and a healthy dose of anti-establishment that drove the whole scene forward, something very special happened back then, that at this present time, it’s difficult to see happening again on that scale…”
Words like classic, legendary, timeless, iconic, once reserved to laud people and exceptional gravitas, conveyed far more merit and accomplishment than they do these days and are being casually used, often outside a widely accepted context. There is one producer/engineer though, who has left an indelible print on the drum & bass genre. His productions are universally acclaimed and still praised across the spectrum; I’d fiercely argue that his work literally encompasses all those terms above.
“It was a really exciting time for Jungle/DnB. The landscape was so open to experimentation and the mainstream press suddenly seemed more interested in the movement of the scene. I felt like I was in a bubble, meeting all my heroes and pursuing my hobby. I kept telling myself 6 more months of this and then I will look for a real job …”
This month is my blog’s 10th anniversary. I never really expected that ten years 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. So, once again, a big heartfelt thank you to all my guests and all readers, either regulars or those who have stumbled upon the blog by chance; the interaction with like-minded people across the globe has been the greatest reward.
“Music put together for every pair of ears, regardless of their colour, size or shape”
Back in 2014, I met in Athens with Chris Marigold, who was extremely excited about his latest discovery; the new drum and bass wunderkind he’d met at a ‘Vollkontakt’ gig in Vienna. Although the snippets I heard didn’t divulge much, I could tell from the first notes that it would be something out of the ordinary.
Music is a sanctuary and a remedy, a form and a means of escapism from a bleak environment, a portal beyond the four walls of a depressingly mundane reality. The world of music abounds with accounts of young kids channelling their difficulties, hopes and fears into creation and although Kimyan Law’s story is not too dissimilar, it still transcends the standard stereotypes.
“I knew these people. These two people. They were in love with each other”
A common trait among music enthusiasts is their ability to recollect even the smallest details regarding their musical icons. A series of coincidences and seemingly unrelated events acquire surprisingly different significance and gravitas on reflection. I accidentally discovered Blu Mar Ten in 1996 and have ardently followed them ever since. Their sophisticated approach, art and literature connotations, eclectic taste, cinematic aesthetics and acute insight, which extend well beyond the musical sphere, have never ceased to regale and amaze me.
In 2003 they released their debut album; one of my favourite albums of all time, which for various reasons will always have the utmost sentimental value and retain a special place in my heart and record cabinet. Echoing carefree and simpler times I still reminisce with bitter-sweet nostalgia, it’s only fitting that the next installment of the ‘Tracks I Wish I’d Written’ is taken from that particular album.
“… a snapshot in time, enveloping all those aspects and aspirations in a compelling vision of a world (past or present), where musical ecstasy is rendered warm and nostalgic, but also mechanical and precise …”
This is the last part of the extended ‘Liner Notes on 2021’ feature exploring a wide array of styles, concepts and motifs; from contemporary classical, ambient and music for film, dance & theatre to shoegaze electronica, techno, deep house and even progressive rock vignettes. I would argue that most of these entries revolve around dramatic themes – albeit in varying degrees – assessing and defining the listening experience, triggering and releasing intense or suppressed emotions; a glimpse of a present imagined by someone in the past who got it all wrong. But, it’s not all about heartbreaks, tallying miseries and marshaling regrets. There is always a glimmer of hope and a sense of well-concealed optimism, if you listen closely enough, which make it all the more emotionally draining.
“Introducing intentional anachronisms as a device to help a contemporary audience to engage more readily with a period in the past and implementing modern production techniques to emulate the mystique and breakbeat science of a specific era is a tricky affair that occasionally might lead to the rabbit-hole of repetition and mediocrity”.
The previous part of the annual round-up included classic albums and compilations, which will always linger like ghosts of my own youth. For the drum & bass edition of this mini-series I have selected 25 records, which represent only a fraction of the beautiful music released in 2021, but I had to draw the line somewhere. Despite the frustrating mess at pressing plants that incurred severe delays to manufacturing and delivery, with average waiting time in the area of several months and final release dates continuously moving forward, it’s been a fairly prolific year.