The Morning of the Magicians: Inside the Album

“The fine art of deception”

Morning Of The Magicians

This terrible world pandemic is unprecedented in our generation. At the time of writing, more than 3 billion people are self-isolating and most countries have enforced partial or total lockdown measures. Dismally, that’s not a ‘Black Mirror’ episode or a sci-fi movie script. The tragedy is literally on our doorstep, the infection rate is still escalating and has already affected our daily habits and routines, testing our social reflexes to the limit, as well as the way we will act and interact in the foreseeable future. The present looks ominous, but the sooner we accept the new reality and behave with responsibility and respect to one another, the better we are going to adapt to the day after. In turbulent and uncertain times art – and music in particular – is a refuge and a sanctuary; it lets you escape the bleak reality of your isolation and daydream far beyond.

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Songs for the misfits: Inside Klute’s ‘Whatever It Takes’ LP

‘Whatever It Takes’ is a phrase I’ve been saying to myself over the last few years, when I despair with manipulative behaviour, in the face of what seems to be happening in the current climate of media/consumer culture; the lengths that people will go to, the things that they will do to get attention or change people’s opinions. Often people will do whatever it takes to get noticed.

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Klute – Whatever It Takes (SUICIDELP20)

I firmly believe that if you want to make a statement in music, you write an album and at the moment those statements are as relevant and interesting as ever. There are still artists that invest time and effort working on well-considered, profound narratives and multi-layered album concepts. Some get it right effortlessly, some lose the plot mid-way and others end up with a collection of selected works. It doesn’t matter anyway; the merit of album writing as an art form is to evoke different emotions and interpretations, unveiling beauty and truth in due course. Despite the convenience and luxury of streaming technology, the beauty of music transcends through time or media formats and listeners that are really into music are still paying attention.

Last year, Klute featured on the blog’s ‘Tracks I Wish I’d Written’ series and revealed that his 9th album was already in the making.  Fast forward eleven months later and his new LP titled ‘Whatever It Takes’ is finally released tomorrow (October, 25th). A certified album artist with a rare consistency that spans more than two decades, Klute has opted for full-lengths as a platform of artistic expression, although he could get away with releasing a string of singles for pretty much any label he deemed fit.  His latest album is a distraction, refuge and personal remedy from the white noise and hysteria of his surroundings and encapsulates the artistic maturity and versatility of an artist that has defied trends, formulas and genre confines. Renowned for his unique talent to instil a multitude of influences in his productions, from his punk/hardcore origins to techno, house and dub, Klute’s broad repertoire abounds with incredibly inspirational music.

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A Mermaid’s Dream: Inside J Majik’s Slow Motion LP

“The Luke Skywalker of Breakbeat. He is unbelievable, he is so talented. I’ve been watching him grow up in the last two years. I’ve seen him grow from this inquisitive street kid to that age where he’s humorous and simply enjoying life. I do feel like a big brother to him.” – Goldie on J Majik, Platinum Breakz inner sleeve notes, 1996

This week is the blog’s 7th year anniversary. Traditionally, the anniversary features are retrospective accounts. To celebrate the occasion, I’ve taken a nostalgic trip back to 1997; the pinnacle of drum & bass’ golden era and a seminal year for full-length albums and various artists compilations*. Drum & bass had already attracted the media spotlight, which in turn exposed the niche genre from a limited connoisseur circle to a wider audience, providing artists with a vital and creative space for experimentation. However, what started with bona fide artistic intentions came with a price, but this is a story for another day.

As manifested in previous posts, over the years I have developed an affinity for albums. Immersing in the underlying atmosphere, I am intrigued by the influences, the samples, the lyrical motifs, the artwork, the concept, the evident or cryptic messages they convey; everything eventually culminates in a narrative with a purpose and a profound personal touch. I prefer conventional structure: an opening track foreshadowing the main theme, which is divided perhaps into multiple sections with interludes or vignettes and a closing track that concludes the musical journey. Some artists get it right effortlessly, some lose the plot midway and others end up with a collection of selected works. It doesn’t matter anyway; the merit of album writing as an art form is to evoke different emotions and interpretations, gradually unveiling beauty and truth in time.

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Silent Dust – Listen To The Night: Inside the album

“No? Who am I then?  – A puppet. – And you’re not? Or maybe, you’re my puppet. But like all puppets you think you’re actually human. It’s the puppet’s dream, being human.”

Silent Dust

Silent Dust

Silent Dust is the musical project of Andy Hobbs (Hobzee) and Daniel Blishen (Zyon Base). They have been producing music under their respective solo monikers for more than a decade and made their discography debut as a duo in 2008. Hobzee & Zyon Base forged their unique career path from the prevalent post-liquid drum & bass sound to the outskirts of Autonomic with releases on some of the genre’s renowned labels including SGN:LTD, Fokuz, Influenza Media and Samurai Music (‘1000 Paper Cranes’ is a firm favourite), which garnered wide support and praise by the genre’s most prolific djs and taste-makers.

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The Hidden Worlds: Inside the album

“ … when I’m creating music, I mostly envision different worlds. Once you stick with astronomy and the mysteries of the universe, there’s no turning back, hence the track titles are all universe-related. I’m all about stargazing, what I imagine is what I create and through the process I’m feeling it. The album title says it all really …”

cover

“The Hidden Worlds” is the debut personal album of the Serbian producer Slobodan Oljaca, known by his recording alias Okee. An inertial and stellar navigation to distant constellations and planets, the album beautifully emulates premium atmospherics, creating a mood of existential uncertainty. Profoundly influenced by vintage science fiction films and the exceptional drum & bass sound of the 90s, “The Hidden Worlds” captures sense and sensibility as grandly as Okees’ musical icons, investing every glacial synth shimmer with a hope even solar  wind at the termination shock can’t kill.

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Savage Times: Inside Modern Urban Jazz

“… when I refer to the music now as d&b, I never really considered it much then. I know that may sound strange, but I think we always operated as outsiders; I personally always felt on the outside looking in, which is why our Glider-State track was called so…”

“… I hadn’t done anything on Modern Urban Jazz since the ‘Emotions With Intellect’ LP, so to keep the ethos going, we decided that this would be an ideal collaboration by using the Modern Urban Jazz tag on the Creative Wax label. I don’t think either of our labels had been ones to follow trends and certainly at the time we were ripe for a more experimental sound…” 

Modern Urban Jazz

Modern Urban Jazz front cover (CWLP001, 1997)

Modern Urban Jazz 01 is a seminal compilation album, curated by Tony Justice Bowes and published by Creative Wax. Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the official release, this is a retrospective account of the series of events that culminated in the realization of a brilliant project, which transcends genres and time. Titled after Justice’s eponymous record label, the compilation shares similar aesthetics and musical direction. An amalgamation of sounds with allusions to musique concrete; jazz noir, hip hop, funk, techno and electro instilled into drum & bass, with all contributing artists showcasing their musical backgrounds and creative influences, free of formulas, dancefloor reaction and genre constraints. Walking down a long, nostalgic and captivating trip down memory lane, this is a colourful and emotionally charged narrative, through the protagonists’ looking glass, filled with fond and distant memories that capture vividly the atmosphere of the mid-90s drum & bass scene.

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A Thousand Beautiful Things: Inside the Blu Mar Ten albums

“Musically it’s the same button we’ve been pressing since day one, trying to find that particular and delicate place between sadness and hope. We rarely find it, exactly, but we come close sometimes. It’s like what they say about jazz players, always trying to find the ‘lost chord’ …” Interview for UKF, November 2016.

Mosaic

Blu Mar Ten Album Covers

A common trait among music fans is their ability to recollect little details regarding their musical icons. A series of coincidences and seemingly unrelated events acquire a whole different gravity in hindsight. Although I firmly believe in the maxim “Don’t meet your heroes”, happily enough, meeting Blu Mar Ten has been a distinct exception to the rule and I feel quite honoured to have known them in person and consider them friends.

I accidentally discovered Blu Mar Ten in 1996 and I have closely followed their musical career path ever since. Their sophisticated approach, art and literature connotations, eclectic taste and cinematic aesthetics have never ceased to amaze me. Celebrating the 20th anniversary of their discography debut, Blu Mar Ten recently released their 7th studio album entitled ‘Empire State’. What follows is a retrospective, but not exhaustive account of their career from my biased perspective, emphasizing on releases, which I have associated with fond memories and have had a profound impact on me; an array of reminiscences printed on vinyl grooves. Browsing through my record collection, I also present my personal highlights from each LP, instead of a track-by-track review, trying also to deduce and identify their creative influences. This is essentially my own perception and an attempt to capture the essence of the album narratives, which is completely arbitrary and probably nowhere near Blu Mar Ten’s actual vision and purpose. Nonetheless, I believe that the value of an artistic product is to create different emotions, thoughts and interpretations.

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Ancestral Voices – Night Of Visions: Inside the album

.. the name (Ancestral Voices) comes from the idea that knowledge and wisdom are passed down aurally, sonically, and experientially into our time for us to learn the laws of Nature …” – excerpt from an Ancestral Voices interview for XLR8R

Ancestral Voices

Ancestral Voices

Ancestral Voices is the side-project of British producer Liam Blackburn. Widely known in the electronic music circles for his solo outputs under his primary recording alias Indigo, as well as his collaborative work with Synkro for the acclaimed hybrid electronic outfit Akkord, Blackburn created Ancestral Voices to be a musical platform exempt from genre restrictions, formulaic constraints, expectations and musical agendas.

With prior releases on prestigious labels like Exit, Auxiliary, Apollo, Samurai Red Seal and Samurai Horo among others, as well as being affiliated with producers and label owners, who share the same musical ethos and vision, Ancestral Voices didn’t have to look elsewhere for a creative home. In fact, his long-term relationship with Geoff Wright (DJ Presha), the label owner of Samurai Music, who used to be Blackburn’s agent and later his mentor, provided him with the artistic freedom to re-invent his sound; hence Ancestral Voices found his natural habitat on Wright’s pristine experimental label Samurai Horo.

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Beastie Respond – Back To The Future

“ … a contemporary take on  80’s aesthetics, analogue synthesizers, flamboyancy and neon lights; a diverse canvas of nostalgia, audacity, luminescence, aspects and aspirations …”

Poster square

Back To The Future poster

Beastie Respond is the recording alias of Danish producer Tobias Pedersen. He made his discography debut in 2011 for the bass music label Teal Recordings. After two singles on Teal, he released his sophomore personal album entitled “Fictitious Nostalgia” in 2013. Effortlessly oscillating between genres and styles, from electro and techno to experimental 85/170 electronica and drum and bass, drawing from a wide palette of musical influences (from the cinematic likes of Brian Eno and John Carpenter to the dark melancholy of The Cure to the minimalism and genre-defiance of the Autonomic movement), his talents were readily picked up by forward-thinking labels like Exit, CX Digital and Demand for a string of fine guest appearances; the highlight being the track “One More Second”, which was selected for the second volume of the critically acclaimed “Mosaic” series, released by dBridge’s Exit Records.

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Pact Infernal – The Descent

“Abandon all hope, ye who enter here”

“… A haunting sci-fi lullaby that quickly escalates to the soundtrack of the worst nightmare…”

The Descent - Chapter II

The Descent – Chapter II

“The Descent” is the discography debut of Pact Infernal, a new production outfit hidden behind a veil of anonymity and mystery. Inspired from and thematically based on the epitome of medieval literature “Divine Comedy”, written by the poet Dante Alighieri in the 14th century, the theme title (‘The Descent’) is an implicit reference to Dante’s allegoric narrative of his epic journey through the underworld, guided by the spirit of the eminent Roman poet Virgil.

Although it could qualify as a full studio album around the aforementioned theme, the release has been split into two chapters (EPs) and consists of nine tracks equivalent to the nine circles of hell, as described vividly in the “Inferno”, which is the first part of the “Divine Comedy” trilogy (the other two parts being ‘Purgatory’ and ‘Heaven’ respectively). The first chapter (Circles I to IV) was released to public and critical acclaim on April 2015, whereas the second and final chapter (Circles V to IX) is due on March 2016. Both chapters have been licensed to the exquisite outlet of experimental bass music Samurai Horo.

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