DANCE / TECHNO / HIP-HOP / DRUM & BASS
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10 Truly exceptional, faultless
8 Very Good, well worth a gamble
7 Good, will especially appeal fo fans of the genre/artist
6 OK, enjoyable in parts
5 Average, could be better
4 Reasonable, plenty of room for improvement
3 Poor, little worth listening to
2 Mostly unlistenable
.NATARAJ XT Ocean Birds
(Nutone) 0 6700 30305 2 6 RELEASE DATE: May 2003
The Nutone label, a division of Nettwerk Records, is certainly beginning to make a name for itself as a proponent of first class danceable electronica under the world music brand. Nataraj XT?s combination of traditional Indian Music and electronic dance music is certainly no exception, with the marriage between conventional Indian instruments, such as the sItar, esraj and sarod, cleverly intertwined with the bubbling analogue synthesised tones and throbbing techno dance beats. Unlike the rather pretentious hollowness of say Future Sound Of London?s The Isness, Ocean Birds provides a much more natural, organic representation of the middle-eastern musical culture, with the studiously programmed electronic beats and frameworks providing a sturdy body for the natural harmonies of the classical instrumentation to shine through. Within even this, Natataraj XT have still found room to explore, with elements of Jazz on Feeze and the storming uptempo beats of Magnetic Nights and pulsating drum-loops and electro-tones of the brilliantly rhythmic Sahroui Mirage.
.PEST Necessary Measures
(Ninja Tune) ZEN CD74.RELEASE DATE: March 2003
Hyped release from this 5-piece from south-east London, yet Pest deliver something that hasn?t been heard since Red Snapper came to town and shook us down to the bone with their uncompromising blend of danceable electro-funk. Pest certainly demonstrate their originality on Duke Kerb Crawler, with its compulsive mix of drilled beats, scratches and funky rhythms, blended with an excitable creative freedom that is almost universally absent from today?s formulaic dance industry. Jefferson Shuttle has everything it takes to propel Pest into big-hit land. A delightful soundtrack-type track, which has more twists and turns than the imaginary road-movie it was spawned from. The warped bass lines of Heard Yer Bird Moved In and the frantic juxtaposition between jazz, electronics and break-beats on Slap On Tap further amaze, with a unique, almost mind-boggling production style. Most would make an utter mess of such an outrageous moulding of musical ideas, and fewer still would dare try to plug together such a mass of disparate styles and ideas. Yet, Pest not only succeed, but make it look outrageously simple. Whilst Necessary Measures is not overtly commercial, it often flits between that and serious jazz (Moody Hoe), it still has a great chance of picking up the plaudits as the most innovative dance album of the year. But that?s for the future, for now its best to just sit back and enjoy this highly original release.
.AMON TOBIN Out From Out Where
(Ninja Tune) ZEN CD70.RELEASE DATE: February 2003
A fascinating new release from Tobin, who moves away from his previous drum?n?bass/jungle style to deliver a richly layered cinematic tour de force of intertwining samples and innovative programming. Tobin doesn?t deal in ?song?s, but prefers to create rhythms, using powerful drum loops, rumbling bass tones and mind-bending spliced-up sampled loops. Even better, is that on Out From Out Where, Tobin has managed to envelope his complex and somewhat inspirational sampling techniques with a wall of dark, eerie atmospheric sound. The cut and paste vocal samples of Verbal are superbly blended into the pulsating beat-driven rhythms and atmospheric sound shards that drop like bombs into the mix, whilst Chronic Tronic is a superb mixture of sinister electronica and twisted middle-eastern sampled snippets. Despite the largely rhythmical nature of the music, Tobin does not totally ignore melody, as the shimmering keyboards and guitar flecks of Hey Blondie and Mighty Micro People go on to prove. Whilst the album is notably consistent, there is still room for outstanding tracks, such as the freakish stop-start programming of Cosmo Retro Intro Outro, in which Tobin goes berserk at the controls in an audio feast. Overall, Out from Out Where is a dense, complex, restless adventure, from a risk-taking musician who is happy to test the minds of the truly eclectic electronic music lover. We need more like him.
.ANDY HUNTER Exodus
(Nettwerk) nettwerk 0 6700 30285 2 3.RELEASE DATE: February 2003
Following in the footsteps of religiously founded dance acts such as Delerious and to some extent Moby, Andy Hunter delivers a sparkling mix of trance and electronica on his debut album, Exodus. Hunter puts his faith in not only God but a wall of rhythm and sound that fuses elements of Progressive House, Trance, Drum and Bass, and Electronica to deliver his message. Dance music is possibly just as suitable a religious musical platform as World or Ethereal music, where the message is more spiritual uplifting as opposed to the physical euphoria of House music - as anyone who has attended a rave is likely to tell you. Hunter remarks that the theme of Exodus ?started when I was spending time in God's word as a response to what I was reading, I just felt moved to go to the turntables and begin to worship God?. As a non-believer it would be easy to sneer at such a remark, but every musicians creative output has to have a center, and whatever the motivation for Hunter?s music may be, one can only judge on the quality of the results, whilst the inspiration is largely irrelevant. Exodus is a hugely varied album, continuously fluid with peaks and troughs similar to what you might experience in a first hand clubbing environment. Nothing on Exodus is overtly preachy, unless you closely examine the samples and lyrics, which similarly could apply to a hundred thousand other dance acts. Fans of techno and house, especially artists such as BT, Oakenfold or the Chemical Brothers will find Exodus fitting snuggly into their collection and probably surpassing much of it. Hunter has obviously mastered his electronic education to produce such an accomplished debut release, bursting with energy and ideas. He vitally also appears to have the common touch with which to identify with his audience, which has nothing to do with his religious beliefs, but more his understanding of how to communicate with his listeners through his music on a physical level. Every trick in the book is used, and more, to get people moving on the dancefloor, but ultimately it is the melody and craftsmanship of Exodus which most impresses. Exodus has come at an important moment, just as Dance music is becoming as dull and irrelevant as it has for quite some time, Hunter could be the one that gives it a gigantic kick up the backside. and is amongst the very finest dance music I have heard for a considerably long time.
.COVENANT Northern Light
(ka2) RELEASE DATE: October 2002 : Read our Covenant interview <here>
A typical Covenant album, which may or may not please followers of the band, as Northern Light brigs nothing new to the table but rather prefers to plagiarise the bands own back catalogue. The opening ?Monochrome? is a blend of their mesmeric Sequencer album and 1998?s Europa. You may be pleased to hear that the monotone EBM beats, Eskil Simonsson?s equally one-dimensional vocals and a canny knack to pull out a top class melody from the draw are all still in evidence. ?Call The Ships To Port? could have been dragged straight off Sequencer in fact, with its hard EBM beat, ghostly swathes of sound and big padded synth melodies. ?Invisible & Silent? is another good track, with an enjoyable chorus backed with some nice strings, but one suspects that it?s the sort of track Covenant could write in their sleep if they really wanted to. ?We Stand Alone? supplies further predictable dancefloor fare, however, whilst its derivative of everything else they have ever done, you still can?t help but enjoy it. Herein lies the impasse, some fans will have been looking for a step forward, others will happy with more of the same and they certainly get that. Personally, while I enjoy a lot of the melodies on the album, I?m not sure that anything on Northern Lights can be regarded as anything other than disposable electro-pop. Covenant appear to have rested on their laurels on this occasion, but should have provided enough meat and drink to satisfy the lust of their fan base. However, they have certainly regressed on the technological front, an area I was hoping they might be able to explore further to flesh out their sound and give it more depth. Maybe next time.
.SONIC ANIMATION Reality By Deception
(Sputnik Records) 334742 RELEASE DATE: September 2002
Debut album release in the UK for the Australian duo, Rupert Keiller and Adrian Cartwright. Following on from their 2000 debut release, ?Orchids For The Afterworld?, Sonic Animation push on with a further cross mixing of styles, firmly wedged in the Dance arena, but with rock, acid and rave sensibilities thrown in for good measure. After a slightly dodgy start on the cheesy ?No Gravity On Jupiter?, Sonic Animation throw of their shackles and dive into a slice of watered down Prodigy style punk-Dance on the rocky ?E-Ville?, plenty of electro synth doodling and punchy menacing beats make this a real stand-out track. As exemplified on their tongue in cheek single ?I?m A DJ?, also featured here, ?Super Showbiz Star? follows on with more satirical humour, on the topic of a useless rapper who couldn?t write a good tune if he tried. More nonsense soon arrives with the fluffy, cheesy casio-style keyboard melodies of ?Really Supa Doopa?, and its around now that you begin to wonder of Sonic Animation are merely a dance version of The Monkees. On the deeper side, ?A Fatman?, concentrates lyrically on a child?s discovery of death. However, despite the mellow synths and Yazoo style keyboard melodies, the lack of vocal affection fail to give the track any credible meaning, while the following ?Satin Filled Roof?, now on the subject of suicide, takes this album of wild mood swings into further dangerous territory. It?s all very well having a variation of styles on an album, but by now, total confusion reigns as Sonic Animation swing between musical themes, styles and ideas seemingly uncontrolled. Eventually, ?Reality By Deception? wanders back towards the dance floor mayhem that was originally showcased at the beginning of the album. In summary, there is always room to be impressed by the technical quality of Sonic Animations compositions, even though they probably remain a poor mans Eat Static at present. They need to move away from the schizophrenic dabbling that at times makes them appear amateurish and concentrate on what they do best, dance music for the masses, especially if they want to break anywhere other than their native Australian homeland.
(EMI) 7243 535343 2 5 RELEASE DATE: April 2002
Having struggled to find a front person for a couple of years, it appears that Aurora?s Simon Greenaway, a classically trained pianist, and Sacha Collisson have finally settled for Lizzy Pattinson to front this album of formulaic pop tracks. Having said that, other notable contributions arrive on the Duran Duran cover ?Ordinary World?, sung by Naimee Coleman, while ex-Shakespear?s Sister member Marcella Detroit chips in with two vocal performances. Having already tasted positive chart success with ?Dreaming?, ?Ordinary World? and ?Hear You Calling?, this eponymously titled album does it?s best to keep up the standards on the resulting contributions. The album?s laid back, down-tempo pop grooves do little to excite the senses and are mainly aimed at a mainstream teenage audience. The only notable exceptions reside with Marcella Detroits contributions, vocally she is far superior to her counterparts on ?If You Could Read My Mind?. Meanwhile, the lush strings of ?To Die For? give the album some much-needed emotional input, that is somewhat lacking on the rest of this mainstream release. Aurora is mainly a mish mash of contributions, whilst all the tracks are likely well suited to radio play, together they result in a disjointed release. However, the slick production and skilfully produced arrangements will always ensure Aurora have an audience.
.LOOPER The Snare
(Mute) CDSTUMM105 RELEASE DATE: April 2002
Looper's third album is the first on the Mute Label. Featuring Stuart David, Karn David and Ronnie Black, loopers debut album ?Up A Tree', reached the UK Top 40 in 1999, and was followed by the equally successful ?The Geometrid? the following year. To say that Looper have a distinctive sound is an understatement as ?The Snare? glides along with sparse beats and the repetitve use of trombone stabs, flutes and plucked guitars throughout. Meanwhile, Stuart David?s earthy vocal whispers its way through the album with little variation in style. With every track written entirely around a one-dimensional musical theme and the tempo of the album almost identical throughout, the seedy, shadowy underworld scenario, as depicted on the cover art is never adequately expressed through the music. By the time we reach the ironically titled and drearily dull ?Driving Myself Crazy?, it?s time to reach for the fast forward remote. The only highlight of the album is the closing ?Fucking Around?, just about the only one that shows any variation in style and self-depreciative humour. Avoid.
.SOUL CENTER Soul Center III
(Novamute) nomu89 cd RELEASE DATE: April 2002
Soul Center, AKA Thomas Brinkmann, a new signing to novamute, releases the third in his collection of Soul Center albums. With a funk charge, mixed with sporadic doses of electronica, Soul Center III fails to produce anything other than repetitive, dull and largely uninspiring music. Cliché ridden and synthetic, Brinkman takes mildly funky minimal tech house grooves, and chops and splices them in every way he can, yet still fails to deliver anything remotely interesting. Hailed as a masterpiece by some, they are surely paying lip service to a well-respected producer that simply can?t cut it when it comes to recording his own music. This entirely sterile release leaves me cold, minimalist techno may work, but minimalist funk doesn?t?, it goes against the whole essence of what funk is. An album that would surely see James Brown reaching for his shotgun again.
.D*NOTE Fuschia Dog
(Channel 4 Music) C4M00212 RELEASE DATE: April 2002
After a four-year absence, Matt Winn, the creative force behind D*Note, returns with a new album and a new label, Channel 4 Music. Having worked with the broadcasters previously on his film-short ?Coming Down?, of which the soundtrack Channel 4 released as a separate mini-album, Winn is back in comfortable territory and the musical eloquence of Fuchsia Dog proves it. The album itself was written as an accompanying soundtrack to his new short film ?Out Of The Game?, however, Fuchsia Dog, stands up in its own right as an album project. Short though it is, with just 8 tracks and a 45-minute running time, Winn makes a decent job of fusing Ibiza-style dance themes with jazzy, laid-back lounge-core electronica, an ideal end-of-party come down soundtrack. The catchy downtempo grooves of the single ?Shed My Skin? are a highlight, as is the trance-influenced bliss of ?D*Votion? and the smooth jazzy grooves of The Hill. A talented man at work.
.LUKE SLATER Alright On Top
This is Slater?s most diverse and enjoyable release to date. Alright On Top is 10 tracks of thoroughly enjoyable electronica, with a retro-eighties feel, tailored for the dance floor. After an impressive opening with the pulsating electro of ?Nothing At All? and the soulfully low-key ?You Know What I Mean?, ?Stars And Heroes? enraptures the listener with its glorious retro beat and sumptuous electro-melodies. Slater pulls out every trick in the book, throbbing basslines, big and bold, keep the album chugging along like an unstoppable train. ?Only You? is simply brilliant dance fare, with its big beats, involving programming and stunning keyboard melodies, whilst ?Searchin? For A Dream? belts out huge drum beats and further catchy tunes (more than you would expect considering Slater?s previously hardcore techno productions). Slater has already made a name for himself on the techno scene, Alright On Top would deservedly see him expand his popularity to a far wider audience.
.WU-TANG CLAN Iron Flag
You know us at Barcode, like to try a bit of everything. Love it or hate it Rap music is as electronic-related as any other form of dance music. Lyrically, Wu-Tang Clan are exactly what you would expect from a rap band, humourless drivel about bitches, niggers, guns and with more hoods than an orgy for the uncircumcised. It's all as stale as a green loaf of bread. Musically though, its a different matter. The songs are skilfully produced and above all memorable growers. The hip-hop luxury of Uzi (Pinky Ring) for example is full of looped horn stabs and soul riffs and with the whole crew stepping up to take the mic, it's likely to leave their legion of believers ecstatic. 'Rules' takes on the WTC disaster, its as catchy as hell, with plenty of Wu-Tang Clan chanting to back it up, another slick cut which elevates them to the upper branches of the rap genre. 'Radioactive' takes on the war theme expressed on the album cover, but doesn't come close to say Prince's 'Dance On' for style or humour. In fact humour is something distinctly lacking from the Clan's pocket book, not that it is ever been demanded from them. However, Wu-Tang Clan seem to master the art of replacing every deficiency they have with an equal does of ingenuity via their genuinely surprising musicanship. 'Back In The Game' adds a much needed slice of chill out, Hip-Hop class to proceedings and by now its blatantly obvious that Wu-Tang Clan's heady mixture of loungecore rap, soul, funk and subtle electronica is matched by few of its peers. So good in fact, that Iron Flag will comfortably manage to transcend whatever negativity is likely to be flung at them.
(Nettwerk) 5 037703 024021
Ever since Delerium's 'Silence' stormed the UK charts over one year ago, Delerium have been mercilessly over-promoted with a plethora of remixes, none of which have done justice to the original tracks that derived from the classic Delerium albums 'Semantic Spaces', 'Karma' and, perhaps not so classic, 'Poem'. In truth, 'Silence' was a success, the remixes were good and the track flourished because, as a dance track, it held the equivalent promise as the original did as a an ambient/ethereal track. Five Delerium remixes further down the line and we are in the predictable position of a being subjected to a string of failures, none of which have been able to come close to the success or original excellence of 'Silence' and certainly, none of them have done justice to the superior original tracks. However, here is the irony. In a dance culture that is so infiltrated with bland, unexceptional, plaigarist rubbish, this collection of remixes still manages to win over and above the majority of dance compilations that are available today. As a huge admirer of the original Delerium albums, I still find that 'Odyssey' has something to offer, even though the original artists behind Delerium had virtually nothing to do with any of the remixes available here. 'Odyssey' is a double CD album, 15 tracks and mixed as a DJ-style remix album would be, with each track flowing through to the next. As you would expect, three of those remixes are of the big hit 'Silence', the only track that comes close to the success of that track, in remix terms, is the most current release 'Underwater', which has two mixes on display. As both these tracks kick off the CD, its a promising start, however, we are then subjected to the less than successfully remixed 'Heaven's Earth', Innocente', the truly dreadful 'Euphoria (Firefly)' and the drearily dull 'Duende'. 'Flowers Become Screens' (Return Mix) by Greg Reely closes CD1 and, again, does very little to expand on the excellent original. Happily, CD2 saves the album. Matt Darey's mix of 'Heaven's Earth' far surpasses the earlier Key South Remix, while 'Silence' by Fade and 'Duende' (Spiritual Collapse) mix at least retain that essential ethereal flavour in the mix, as does the 12" mix of 'Incantation' from the 'Semantic Spaces' album. Michael Woods ambient Mix of 'SIlence' and the excellent Frequency Modulation Mix of 'Flowers Become Screens' close the collection. CD2 is certainly a more thoughtful and intelligently constructed collection of dance tracks, retaining the feel of the originals at least, rather than dumbing down the tracks with brainless beats. What also helps this album to succeed are the vocal's, the dolcit tones of Sarah McLachlan, Rani, Kristy Thirsk Jacqui Hunt and Camille Henderson lift the songs onto a higher level even if some of the remixers fail to build a sufficiently interesting track around them.
.POLAR Still Moving
(Certificate 18 Records) CERT18CD013
Debut release from Kjetil Dale Sagstaad, a Norwegian electro artist working under the name Polar. Still Moving is a 12 track collection that breaches the 70 minute barrier, obviously Sagstaad has plenty he wants us to listen to. The album has quite a sparse, minimalist feel to it, with flimsy drum patterns and lightweight drum and bass assaults busily working around the melodic, sparingly built up arrangements. Thankfully, the melodies are strong enough to sow everything together, whilst the bouncing basslines and experimental sampled soundbites hum around the compositions, keeping the listener involved. Whilst Polar has enough beats and treats to be considered a dance album, it's a fairly laid back debut overall and rather too intelligent for the dance brigade to really get their teeth into. Sagstaad wants us to listen, not just dance. Therefore, Moving somewhat keeps you teetering on the edge of whether to move the body or sit back and appreciate the skilfully crafted compositions. Great tracks, such as the brilliantly melodic retro of 'The White Chambers' and the pacey space race of 'Ill-formed Sensation' achieve both and there's plenty more littered around the album if you know where to find it. As a debut release, it's neat, tidy and perfectly formed, although at 70 minutes, be prepared for the long haul.
.CHILLER TWIST The Way
(Plum Projects) AplumCD004
Debut dance album from a debut band that takes in a variety of genres within the dance format along the way. The synth drones of ?House Of Morricone? take on warming, ambient house undertones before building brick by brick into an enjoyably euphoric climax of snyth pads, female vocals and jangling drum loops. At nearly 10 minutes in length, ?Bootsy Goes East? at first appears to be one of those easily dismissable, yawn-inducing techno tracks, yet Chiller Twist revel in the opportunity to diversify their sound, hopping from techno to arabian dance to ambient chill with impressive ease. Despite some truly impressive moments, Chiller Twist is mostly a debut dance act still at the cusp of learning its trade. The title track is another absorbing slice of uplifting dance-floor melodrama, yet slightly let down by a turgid ending, whilst the ambient music-box sound of ?Circle Of Seven? provides further, enjoyable arm-waving dance-melody, but unfortunately runs out of ideas well before the 9 minute mark. On the plus side, the slightly dark, subtle melody of ?Do You Hear It? is a superb track, combining all of the necessary elements to ensure that Chiller Twist are truly capable of standing out from the crowd. Comparisons, have been made to Orbital, Basement Jaxx and Underworld, yet I find that a tad premature and prefer to imagine Chiller Twist as a decent alternative to BT or perhaps a youthful, dance-orientated Moby. Wherever you wish to bracket them, ?The Way? is undeniably an impressive debut release, promising much for the future and plenty to enjoy in the now.
.SARAH MCLACHLAN Remixed
(Nettwerk) 0 6700 30200 2 2
This is the complete collection of dance/chill-out remixes from this phenomenally successful Canadian, singer-songwriter. Spanning an album career, which astonishingly dates back to 1991, this lengthy, 73 minute journey into McLachlan?s dance inspired collectives gives a clear indication into why McLachlan is almost a household name in the US. Her 1997 album ?Surfacing? sold an astonishing 8 million copies in North America alone. This no doubt goes quite some way towards explaining the ease of which she has managed to attract remixers of the calibre of William Orbit, DJ Tiesto, BT, Hybrid and Dusted (aka Rollo from Faithless). McLachlan?s highly distinctive vocals are surrounded here by a blanket of pulsating electro dancefloor anthems, all of which have a decent experimental edge to them. From the trancey sensibilities of DJ Tiesto?s Mixes of ?Sweet Surrender? and the superbly catchy ?Silence?, to the warming dark edges of the Dusted mix of ?Angel? and the haunting, sophisticated angst of ?Black? (William Orbit Mix), this is more than just a dance album. I?m still yet to be wholly convinced that McLachlan is as richly talented a female-songwriter as the majority of her contemporaries, but on the vocal front she is pretty much without equal, whilst, for the dance floor, she sensibly gives her music to the music makers that know how to manipulate it. It?s hard to think of anyone this wouldn?t appeal to.
.EAT STATIC Decadence
(Mesmobeat) MESMOCD1 : Read our Eat Static interview <here>
'Decadence' was originally released as a limited edition album in 1999, to celebrate the bands 10 year anniversary and is choc-full of unreleased tracks, half from the studio and half from classic live perfomances taken from the duo's various stages of evolution. Pepler and Hinton's sense of fun and adventure has never been missing, therefore it is no surprise that 'Perostalsis' main keyboard rhythms are in fact Pepler's sampled stomach gurgles after yet another day in the studio without food. 'Decadence' has its moments, such as the wonderfully trance-inspired 'Inferno' and the inter-stellar bleeping mass of electronics that is 'Synapse'. However, this does not quite match up to the excellence of 'ALien E.P.s', also released this month and is almost purely driven towards some very lengthy, un-deviating dancefloor techno anthems.
.EAT STATIC Alien E.P.s
(Mesmobeat) MESMOCD1 : Read our Eat Static interview <here>
The quite prolific Eat Static return with yet further tub-thumping electro-techno. This time it's in the form of the bands limited edition and rare 12" single releases, taken from Merv Pepler and Joie Hinton's 1990-1992 era, now a decade long partneship. Kicking off with the total classic that is 'Almost Human' (Abduction Mix), this is Eat Static at their techno-dance inspired best. Full of pulsating beats, jungle drums, spacey electronics and melodic synth spirals, it's a real gem. Eat Statics pure love of making dance music is so deeply ingrained in their very being that is was never in question that they would succeed, yet it's rather a tragedy that they do not get the plaudits they fully deserve from a much wider audience. A clue to this is that they distinctively write music for dancefloor rave's, therefore home listening is not always the most effective place to appreciate their CD albums, of which the music can occasionally suffer from a little tunnel-vision, unwaveringly focused on the dancefloor format. However, their raves are legendary, and if you like your techno to have a sense of humour, a muderously relentless beat and, more often than not, a big fat juicy melody then you simply can't go worng. An extra treat for fans arrives in the shape of the track 'Alien', one of the first pieces ever written by Pepler, pre-dating Eat Statics official releases. Oh, and of course there's 'Medicine Wheel', pure manic dancefloor euphoria, with wondeful synth-stabs, ice cool female vocals and more bips and bleeps than R2D2. Listen to this and you will see that not only are Eat Static a modern day force in the techno-arena but they were also truly ahead of their time at the beginning of the rave inspired nineties.
.RAZED IN BLACK Oh My Goth!
(Cleopatra) CLP 1103-2 : Read our Razed In Black interview <here>
Good to see Razed In Black return after their impressive 'Sacrificed' album. With 'Oh My Goth!' they produce more of the same, Industrial dance of equal, if not higher quality to anything they have produced up to now. Don't be put off by the title, the only resemblance to Goth here lies in lead singer, Rommell Regulacion's infatuation with dressing like The Crow. Otherwise we have a 12 track mini-album release that is wholly aimed at the dance market, with an Industrial, NIN inspired edge to the music, mostly maintained by Regulacion's occasional Reznor-like vocal screams. 'Oh My Goth!' is in itself a very strong track, 6 versions are on evidence and all have something slightly different to offer. Razed In Black are not afraid to experiment with their gear and neither should they be as the sound is very polished, rivalling and occasionally treading all over anything on the Industrial-electro scene at present. The other 6 tracks are all remixes of previous R.I.B highlights and should be welcomed by fans alike. But the highlight remains the title track, which is to put it midly, a bit of a classic. Especially the Dj R<i>B Trance Remix extended dub, which deserves its long title, it would fill up any half-decent club dancefloor in seconds.
(Earache Records) MOSH 217CD
3 years on from their impressive 'Killing God' album, Ultraviolence move ahead with that unmistakeable techno/cyber style, this time aiming to appeal to a slightly wider audience. Whilst, Killing God, fused cyber-house with gabba, 'Superpower' dispenses with the harshness of the aforementioned, and now thanfully dissolved Gabba genre, and concentrates on the more 'marketable' techno-dance scene. 'Superpower' contains Ultraviolence usual mix of pulverising beats and treated gothic cyber-vocals, however, this falls short of 'Killing God' simply because the songwriting strengths of that album aren't quite as evident this time around. Despite that, there should be more than enough to get people dancing in the clubs, particularly 'Elektra' with its repititious, formulaic house-style lyrical euphoria and relentless, thumping dancefloor beats. The killer track is undoubtadely the title track, fusing drum and bass, Prodigy style vocals and anthemic electronics. Another feature of Johnny Violents latter day songwriting is the fusion of classical samples with powerhouse dance-beats, as displayed on 'Airbreak', although he doesn't really hit it off successfully on this occasion. Much of Superpower is geared towards live performance, and Johnny aims to please. On 'Race Face' he excels in revving up and reversing the beats to ridiculous velocities, however, none of it really means very much and these are not new Johnny V party tricks we're hearing. Crash and burn is certainly the theme of the album, but too often 'Superpower' races through one ear and out the other all too fast, and its not the longest of albums at 45 minutes. Nevertheless, it still has its moments, 'Separation' is a superb track, more thoughtful indeed, with Johnny V's vitriol on top form. 'Team UVR' closes the album, and as you would expect Ultraviolence throw the lot into the boiling pot. Despite certain deficiences, and whilst this is certainly not likely to be ranked as a classic Ultraviolence album, it should still please fans of Johnny V's unique style sufficiently enough, if only because he is undoubtadely unique and his music still retains that essential self-depreciating humour
.VIRTUART Drumz, Bass & Double Cream
Prolific Parisian DJ, Olivier Abitbol unleashes a double whammy with simultaneous techno and drum'n'bass projects. First up is the lively 'Drumz, Bass & Double Cream', where Abitbol provides pacey drum and bass beats to a mellow, semi-ambient backdrop. There is a strong Goldie influence on tracks such as 'Milko Milca', with laid back female vocals and dubby bass to accompany the beats. 'Crime Of The Millenary' ups the tempo considerably, giving vent to Virtuarts DJ sensibilities, housey piano stabs and blistering bursts of drum'n'bass makes this one strictly for the dancefloor, it's skilfully and impressively put together too, a track not to be missed. Virtuart seems to be able to effortlessly switch between dancefloor and chillout room and is not afraid to experiment.
'Drekhar' is an out-and-out techno album, with longer arrangements designed to induce a dance till you drop scenario. The beats constantly pulsate throughout it's 70 minutes length and I suspect this would be particularly welcomed by fans of Eat Static, thanks to it's trancey, rave mentality. It's 100 mph stuff with the flaming electro tunes incessantly attempting to produce fuel for the bpm fire. Nevertheless, unlike 'Drumz, Bass & Double Cream', there is little on 'Drekhar' that hasn't been done already and the album is strictly for the dancefloor and unlikely to be as effective anywhere other than that. Nevertheless, that cannot detract from the fact that 'Drekhar' more than adequately delivers top-quality electro dance music, its intentions more than fulfilled.
.STANTON WARRIORS The Stanton Session
(XL Recordings) XLCD144
This is vintage, British urban dance music at its very best. Stanton Warriors bring a compilation with a difference, jam-packed with funky breaks and housed up beats representing genres such as UK garage, deep house and rave, some remixed by the Warriors themselves (including Basement Jaxx) and other tracks hand picked by the band. The Stanton Session also includes a number of Stanton Warriors own compositions, the combination of which moulds together to produce the genuine article when it comes to demonstrating the real essence of the current, underground British dance music scene. Stanton Warriors are more than just DJ's, nothing irrelevant is thrown into a seamlessly crafted album that has already been road-tested in clubs all over the world, from London to Barcelona to Moscow, and, it's refreshing to hear such an album, amidst a market weighed down by a plethora of copy-cat dance fodder. At 75 minutes in length it also provides outstanding value for money and you'd be hard pushed to pick out best tracks, although Pmt's 'Gyromancer' and T Power feat. Amaziree, 'Runnin' both completely rock. If you want the real McCoy, and a dance album that you can immediately get into from virtually whicever point your laser strikes, then the hard-edge dance grooves of the Stanton Warriors is the one for you.
(Nütone) 0 6700 30168 2 7.
French music is becoming increasingly popular in the ambient/dance arena, with a host of artists cropping up with classy, skilfully produced albums. Izdatso, released on Nettwerks new Nütone label, is a further example of the surging increase in Parisian music. This self-titled album in paricularly caters for the laid-back mezzanine beat enthusiast rather than your avid Saturday night clubber. The arrangements are orginally sparse, with snap-shot vocals providing an aura of suburbian chill, with cautiously arranged melodies throughout. The experimental electronica of 'Jazz ID' makes for pleasant distraction, whilst the ambient breeze of 'Inner Lie' also proves that there is more to Izdatso than first imagined. It's from here that the album takes rather a strange turn, the video game style of 'Zero Killed' fits uneasily within the general ambience provided thus far, whilst the rather strangled up-beat electronica of 'Shimoda's Flight' again appears uneasily misplaced. 'Western Nights (Southern AZ MX) returns the album to its roots, ambient beats set to a distinctive guitar twang. Izdatso is hard to categorise, making for a reviewers nightmare, it's a deliberately eclectic album that through its lack of direction and any particularly outstanding tracks is likely to get somewhere lost in the undergrowth.
.UGLY DUCKLING Journey To Anywhere
(XL Recordings) XLCD140.
Ugly Duckling are on a crusade to put some fun back into Hip-Hop on 'Journey To Anywhere'. The flavour is uncategorically 'old-skool', when you your more likely to get shot with a water pistol than an uzi, and the flamboyant posturing was all just for show and nobody dare flick a V at a copper. The album should go down with the Wall Of Sound crowd, and this is probably a good time for Ugly Duckling to have a crack at the mainstream, although it could just as easily float away without trace. 'If You Wanna Know' supplies the sort of infectious theme that could break a band, whilst the sarcastic 'Pick Up Lines' screams out for a cool video and MTV. However, hip-hop is primarily a fiercely combative game of imagery, where music is secondary. Ugly Duckling take The Beastie Boys approach, largely tongue in cheek, lifting eighties breakbeats and samples left, right and centre, Soft Cell here, Kraftwerk there, and obviously Sesame Street, it's like a tardis of eighties disco-theft. To be truthful, Ugly Duckling are probably a little more musically talented than they need to be, so it will be interesting to see where they end up, but if you never got fed up with break-beats, scratching and gold rings, and couldn't care less what they look like, this will definitley be right up your street.
.DEVIANT ELECTRONICS Blunt Instruments
(Blue Room) BR104CD.
At first glance this looks like a compilation album, but Deviant Electronics is all the work of one man, Ciaran Walsh, its also one of the most pleasantly surprising electro albums I have heard for quite a while. At 67 minutes long, this collection of nine dancefloor orientated electro gems is pretty much compulsive listening. Kicking off with the sprinkled piano and pulsating drum loops of 'Babelfish', it never really looks back. Fans of Front Line Assembly sideproject Intermix will possibly embrace this album most. Blunt Instruments is a non-stop tour-de force of throbbing electronics, constantly spiralling with inventive electronics and analogue riffs. 'Swollen Goods' sees the album hitting a peak, its incredibly cleverely produced and the weaving break beats and funky electronics hint at a big future in production for Walsh. What is particularly impressive is that neither is Blunt Instruments low on tunes, check out 'Tesco Siesta's' fluttering flamenco guitars against an ethereal backdrop of middle-eastern flutes and big beats, top notch stuff. For the 'pure' electro enthusiast, who loves his keyboards, this is indeed an essential purchase.
.DAFT PUNK Discovery
Daft Punk are back after their hugely influential debut album 'Homework' in 1997. Unfortunately, they appear to have consigned themselves to the rubbish bin before they have even put their second foot forward. Everything they unkowingly did right first time round on their debut CD has ironicly been fumbled on this collection of unimaginitive sample driven, formulaic disco drivel. Right down to the credit card, that allows you the 'privelege' of having to wait half an hour to download more nonsensical imagery from the band who don't like to show their faces, and at this rate will never get the opportunity, everything about Discovery is fake. It has some fun moments yes, in a Chemical Brothers sort of way, but these are very few and far between. Yes folks, they've opted for the cash! and appear to have targeted the youth market in particular, by youth I mean under 15, well below The Prodigy yellow line. This is more likely to appeal to the Spice Girls fan club, however, they'll need more than a vocoder and a metal mask plastered to their membranes to land themselves on a pre-pubescents ceiling, let alone burrow their way into their lipstick bag. Ok, if you weren't as miserable and cynical as me you might call this kitsche, funky and humorous but I'll bet my last tenner that you really think it hideously contrived, nonsensical theft. And yet, in the midst of this unmitigated mess is the delicious, sublime, subtle instrumental 'Nightvision', a real peach of a track, tragically cut short at a minute-and-a-half, what are they doing?? The 'punk's' gone and all that's left is the 'daft', oblivion awaits, a single doesn't make an album. I suggest they choose their next step very carefully, it may be their last.
(Blue Room) ELM8033CD.
Fifth album for Ben Watkins Junoi Reactor, in which the techo knob-twiddlers turn their attention to African percussion and middle eastern vocal samples, it's a new direction for the band but no longer what one would call ground-breaking, as this type of diversification has becoming increasingly popular over the past few years. On the spaghetti western influenced 'Pistolero' Juno Reactor manage a resounding success through pure energy alone, this is an advertising executives dream soundtrack tune and and you can expect to hear this cropping up all over the place, if you haven't already. Elsewhwere, Shango delivers little other than ethereal-techno, immaculately produced, soundtrack designed music but low on memorable melodies. It can still be invigorating though, 'Masters Of The Universe' is a high-tempo pulsating drum orgy, with a tasteful sprinkling of piano and bubbling with stacked loops and choice samples. More familiar ground is trodden on 'Nitrogen' Parts 1 & 2 though, Part 1aided and abetted by The Orb's Alex Paterson no less - helping to steer the band into a trance-techno orientated direction. The theme of Shango is nevertheless returned to on 'Solaris' and finally 'Song For Ancestors', two contrived ambient pieces no doubt influenced by latter day Delerium, although they are somewhat lacking the melody lines that made that band such a huge success they still remain interesting atmospheric pieces, consistent with the overall soundtrack theme.
.EAT STATIC In The Nude!
(Mesmobeat) MESMOCD5 : Read our Eat Static interview <here>
The irrepressible Eat Static return with another brand new album, still fresh from their last adventure 'Crash & Burn', released only last summer. This, their eighth studio album, sees them once again on their own Mesmobeat label, where Static once again demonstrate the benefits of being able to work at their own pace and with total creative freedom. If you could choose one song that summed up Eat Static it might be 'Follow That Camel', as it has a touch of everything - atmosphere, melody, euphoria, funk, experimentalism and a cracking dance loop, I've rarely heard better from the celebrative Pepler and Hinton. This is swiftly followed by the dancefloor romper stomper 'Monstro', nightclub bpm's saturated by pulsating electro-rhythms, the track leans very much toward their rave culture philosophy. Eat Static are very much a band who like to look both backwards and forwards, the garage guitars of 'Our Man In Nirvana' give the track a distinctive 60's feel, but the track evolves into electronica and finally a delicious, laid back, loungecore groove. The search for new means of expression continues on the ambient, interstellar strangeness of the title track 'In The Nude!', before proceeding via the upbeat craziness of 'Byronic'. The album continues to delve into a cross mixture of experimental electronica with low-lying and primarily ambient grooves throughout, finally ending with the excellent sullen technogroove of 'Critical Mass'. 'In The Nude' contains a wealth of experimental electronic dance and ambient music ,of some 74 minutes in length, short changed you certainly won't be. Followers of the duo, of which there are many, will be delighted with this release, and for any true, eclectic dance fanatic this simply can not be ignored.
.RED SNAPPER Our Aim Is To Satisfy
(Warp) WARPCD78 : Read our Red Snapper interview <here>
That infamously difficult second album has caught Red Snapper right in it's net. It was always going to be tough, if not near impossible to emulate '98s exceptional 'Making Bones' LP, let alone eqaul it. On 'Our Aim Is To Satisfy' the albums seedy gangland Britain sentiment is as dead as the holywood films that they doff their hats towards, but it's not all doom and gloom. There is far to much talent on show in this band to restrict themselves to any singular theme, yet Red Snapper have slightly regressed by forcing themselves into a box, the complete opposite of which made 'Making Bones' such a vibrant, creative, boundless delight. The album has good moments though, the opener 'Keeping Pigs Together' is a pulsating instrumental piece whilst 'Shellback' provides a cool slice of electronica-funk, similar invigorating moments are to be found spread around the album, although it is all too often reduced to a type of repetitive staticness, dare I say, as if the ideas have either run out or been incarcerated. Even MC Det is a pale imitation of himself on 'The Rake', he was positively on fire the last time we heard him. It's not until we hit 'The Rough And The Quick' that Red Snapper jumps off the plate and into the frying pan, it's a pure porno-funk extravaganza and an absolute killer club track to boot. 'Bussing' also sees the boys approaching form somewhat, an ambient, scratch inflected brass laden instrumental, not spectacular, but listenable stuff nevertheless. 'Belladonna' also sees Ali Friend's double bass in top form, even if the remainder of the song fails to deliver quite as highly. Disappointing follow up to 'Making Bones' it has to be said, but I remain confident that Snapper will be back to their best in the not too distant future.
.THE YOUNG GODS Second Nature
The Young Gods were always, primarily a rock band, with a leaning towards industrial and techno, in other words they could never keep their fingers off the samplers and keyboards for more than 5 minutes. 'Second Nature' is probably their most electronic sounding album ever, the rock element hanging on by a strand now, in the past it was a feature of their music they seem to produce effortlessly. Tense and edgy 'Second Nature' pulls no punches, the single 'Lucidogen', isn't as heavy as the media are making out, it doesn't hold a candle to the fury of Nine Inch Nails for example, the Young Gods like to keep their hands on the reigns somewhat, check out the contrived 'Attend' for further evidence. The other side of the coin shows off the impressively arranged 'In The Otherland', where the precise electronics combine to produce a thoughtful, panaromic landscape of modern darkwave. A truly visionary moment. This is soon to be followed by the excellent 'The Sound In Your Eyes', which is everything that 'Lucidogen' could have been, a crunching mass of electronics and blistering guitar hauntingly prodded into action by Franz Treichler's monotone vocals. This is your thinking mans electro-rock, and this being their fifth album, the progression is a natural one. I would have preferred a few more kick ass moments though, they are unfortunately few and far between, yet 'Second Nature' still offers much in total to get excited about.
.TOSCA Suzuki In Dub
(G-stone Recordings) 012 CD
If it's deep bass your into then Tosca will not disappointed, a simple glance at the remixes on offer here pretty much tell you all you need to know. Dub-tronica you could call it at bassline ridden tunes saunter around the reclining electronics and breathy female vocal samples. 'Busenfreund' is that track that really pricks the ears up. The cool as you like Kraftwerkian percussion shuffling behind some stunningly simple but effectively laced piano's chords. This is Massive Attack on methadone, but with an undoubtadely funkier edge. The mixes, 4 of 'Busenfreund' and 3 of 'Annanas' are plenty full of inventive clubland bass drum beats and caramel smooth almost tribal rhythms. Should be ideal for both pre and post-club boogie nights. In fact Suzuki In Dub shouldn't have much difficulty in muscling it's way to the forefront of your listen pleasure whatever your doing.
.MAXIM Hell's Kitchen
(XL Recordings) XLCD134
Debut release from the ex-Prodigy confederate who has set himself up for a fall after his massive success with not only his former employees but also thanks (or no-thanks perhaps) to that cracking collaboration with Skin on 'Carmen Queasy'. 'Killing Culture' kicks off with many dues paid to the Prodigy sound, he has a strong individual style, especially on the vocal front so it's normal business resumed on that front. Having said that Maxim often, sensibly, breaks things up on vocal duties, employing Divine Styler's rap on 'Spectral Wars', rather bland though it is. The title track equally requires a little push in the motivation stakes, the banal hook line not enough to induce the inventive electronics into a higher state of consiousness. By the time the album hits mid-stream one can't help but thinking 'I was expecting more than this'. It's not until two-thirds through that Hell's Kitchen finally begins to pull at the listeners ear-drums, Soul Seller provides the sort of narcotic tune that the album badly lacks elsewhere, Trina Allen's burning vocals pushing the track ever on upwards. Backward Bullet ends the album with something a little more sublime and is the only track on show that comes aspires to reach the heights of 'Carmen Queasy'. Despite the accomplished ending, in retrospect, there are simply not enough ideas here to keep this album flowing, unfortunately this is simply Prodigy on prozac for the most part.
.ETIENNE DE CREY Tempovision
One half of Parisien duo Motorbass and one third of French Label Solid, Etienne was one of the key figures behind the French house explosion during the '90s, and the wizard behind the acclaimed Super Discount project. A producer and engineer in his own right, Etienne De Crecy has released material under the pseudonym Minos in the past whilst this Tempovision release is an atmospheric album, layered with twisted-disco, deep-house and stoned funk. This, mostly laid back techno-electronica should go down well in the Parisian bars and clubs as well as finding a comfortable route into the chillout establishments residing in the heart of most European capitals. It has to be said that the musical contents are not deserving of the rather bland cover art, particularly in mind of such summery funk-juice gems as 'Am I Wrong' and the inspiring title track. Will definitely appeal to those who have been animated by recent Les Rhythm Digitales material.
.EAT STATICPrepare Your Spirit
(Mesmobeat) MESMOCD4 : Read our Eat Static interview <here>
Hot on the heels of their imaginitive new album 'Crash And Burn', Eat Static return with a re-release of their debut 1992 album 'Prepare Your Spirit'. The result is a mammoth 19 track double CD, available for the first time on this format and with 4 of the tracks previously unreleased. 'Crash And Burn' may have taken Eat Static off on a slight tangent, away from their techno roots, but this release contains the essence of what has delighted the club scene over the past 8 years. What has to be admired is their incredible enthusiasm, Eat Static have always been allowed total creative freedom and it's that which paves the way for this open invitation to share in an explicit arms in the air techno rave orgy. 'Destiny' is pure delight, pulsating bass beats and ferocious drum programming mixed beautifully with the cliched sampling and trancey spurts of galactic melody. New track 'The Plot' is equally mesmerising with it's bursts of house piano aria and ferocious ever changing drum loops. The tempo never lets up throughout as each track spirals into the next, full of inventive electronic dance beats and knob twiddling space-age experimentalism. 'Cyber-Funk' is just classic Static, pumping with outrageous energy and stonking break beats, pure unadulterated infectious fun. All you need is a CD player and all the outrageous dance manouveres as your body can muster. 'Prepare Your Spirit', what a perfect title.