“Modern, cinematic takes on ambient electronica and vintage aesthetics, sprinkled with bitter-sweet nostalgia”
In the dawn of the 90s emerged a new musical hybrid, fusing various elements and structural forms of electronic music, relying upon composition, experimentation and innovation rather than adhering to formulaic standards associated with specific genres and styles. Free from dance-floor reactions and limitations, championed by electronic music luminaries, the new style was regarded just as suitable for dancing as for home listening. A plethora of generic, as well as imaginative terms were conceived to outline the genre.
Ironically, the contentious term ‘IDM’ (an acronym which stands for Intelligent Dance Music and is based on the eponymous 90s mailing list), which has been dismissed and denounced by the artists themselves as derogatory, seems to have eventually prevailed.
Fast forward to 2016, the dust has settled and it’s far easier to separate the wheat from the chaff. A second wave of acclaimed producers has introduced a new perspective. The sound has evolved, encompassing a wide palette within the electronic music spectrum, with niche production techniques, as well as futuristic and unconventional design.
The 90s have been often considered as electronic music’s golden era, fondly reminisced. Those emotional short trips down memory lane, sprinkled with bitter-sweet nostalgia, intertwined with blurry memories and subliminal images, instantly surfaced when I was first introduced to the brand-new record label aptly named Short Trips.
Short Trips is a new musical platform and subsidiary of the globally renowned drum & bass record label Warm Communications, based in Texas, USA. The label’s sound, musical direction and aesthetics are inspired and influenced by mid-nineties ambient electronica. A project graced with an eclectic and compelling array of artists, who record for the label using exclusive or secondary aliases, bespoke physical output – all records are available in 7” colored vinyl with exquisite full-artwork design by Jake Wooldridge, rendering each product unique and collectible – Short Trips aspire to achieve exactly what the title implies; short trips through ethereal musical realms.
Comit –‘ Under Your Spell’ b/w ‘Contact High’ (‘Soft Focus’ is a bonus digital exclusive)
The label’s inaugural release is by the genre-defying artist James Clements, under his new guise Comit. One of the most versatile and prolific electronic music producers (widely known as ASC, which is his primary recording alias, Intex Systems and Mindspan), Clements has the Midas touch; from his seminal drum & bass productions for the genre’s most prestigious labels (including his own Covert Operations) to redesigning the 85/170 blueprint having been an integral part of the ‘Autonomic’ initiative, to the establishment of his own impeccable Auxiliary label, to his ambient explorations for Silent Season, to the uncharted territories of ‘Gray Area‘ for Samurai Music. This time he tests new waters, with remarkable confidence and success. The leading track ‘Under Your Spell’ is an adept study of modern electronica; an elegant amalgamation of signature cinematic soundscapes and minimal, yet intricate beat structures. ‘Contact High’ is an orchestration of ethereal chimes that gently sways in immersive ambience. Finally, the subdued percussion dynamics of the digital bonus track ‘Soft Focus’, are gradually adorned with echoing melodramatic pads. TRIP001 could easily be the downtempo sequel of his exquisite ‘77‘ EP (co-produced with Ulrich Schnauss and released on Auxiliary, the eponymous track from the EP will feature sometime soon on the blog’s “Tracks I Wish I’d Written” series) and is available on 7” yellow vinyl and digital format on the usual outlets.
The official video for ‘Under Your Spell’ (cinematography and direction by Xavier Gath) is available here.
Jack Lever – ‘Sundial’ b/w ‘Down’
Behind the production of the label’s second installment is Jack Lever, known in the electronic music circles by his primary recording alias Bering Strait as well as ½ of Kiyoko alongside Synkro, with releases on Apollo, Auxiliary, Samurai Horo and his own Bering Strait Archives. Lever elegantly creates a diverse musical canvas for the discography debut under his real name, compared to his previous solo works. ‘Sundial’ almost borders on drum & bass territory, with a synthetic male vocal chant, deep stabs and subtle ambient textures. ‘Down’ on the flip-side is probably the highlight of the release, with a slower, almost hypnotic groove and subtle, melancholic chords.
A short teaser for ‘Sundial’ filmed by Jack Lever is available here. TRIP002 is available on 7” turquoise vinyl and digital format on the usual outlets.
Mikarma – ‘Avenoir’ b/w ‘Sonder’
Damon Kirkham, another prolific producer is the musical guide of the third trip of the series. Founding member of the paradigm-shifting production outfit Instra:mental (alongside Alex Green aka Boddika) that championed the ‘Autonomic’ movement free from musical conventions and stereotypes. In 2011, Instra:mental disbanded and Kirkham pursued new musical challenges adopting the Jon Convex alias for his techno ventures. In 2013, he re-emerged as Kid Drama, which is currently the main recording moniker for his drum & bass and post-Autonomic explorations.
Apart from his solo work, he’s been a member of the following all-star production groups:
- Heart Drive (with dBridge) – Essentially the second incarnation of Autonomic.
- Binary Collective (with dBridge, Consequence and Joe Seven) and
- Module Eight (with dBridge, Skeptical, Loxy and Resound).
During a stressful and emotional period, Kirkham created the Mikarma project to channel his depression. Replicating a minimal, vintage 90s setup he recorded the ‘Passes’ LP on his own label Convex Industries. Profoundly influenced by ambient/synth electronica and IDM (the ‘influences’ section of the Autonomic podcasts clearly suggest it), Kirkham revisits Mikarma for Short Trips (and recently for the ‘Engram Project’ on his CNVX imprint) and the result is brilliant. Borrowing neologisms from John Koenig’s ‘Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows’ for track titles, TRIP003 recaptures the atmosphere and aesthetics of years past. ‘Avenoir’1 presents a dream-like state with droning electronics and warm synth washes punctuated by robot flickers. The rhythmic percussion, machine noises and attenuated claps of ‘Sonder’2 create a sense of expectancy that gently resolves into lush, widescreen pads. TRIP003 is available on 7” scarlet red vinyl and digital format on the usual outlets.
1 Avenoir: The desire for memory to move backwards
2 Sonder: The realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own
The mesmerizing sonic trips down memory lane will continue with a very intriguing and promising batch of releases, including some fascinating new additions to the already eclectic roster. Simon Huxtable, better known for his atmospheric and futuristic drum & bass productions as Aural Imbalance for a variety of labels including Cadence, Nu Directions, 720 Degrees and Ascendant Grooves, as well as his for his deep house/ambient explorations either solo or as ½ of Deep Space Organisms, will be behind the fourth installment of the series assuming his new Ihnmost guise. Comit will return for TRIP005 with his second contribution to the label, whereas a most anticipated appearance is due for the sixth part; the German maestro of electronica Ulrich Schnauss!
A new web-store is expected to be online come January; a centralized platform for all things Warm Communications, Short Trips and Pushing Red.
Additional information, audio and social media links: