Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Vernon - Soundstream

promo: 1999

This CD caught my eye in the used-shop because I associated the name ‘Vernon’ with one Vernon Jerome Price, most famous for his hit Eye Q EP Vernon’s Wonderland. There’s more Vernons in the world of electronic music, but that was my first, so despite figuring this wasn’t the same Vernon, it was enough to check out on the flip regardless. And there I discovered Soundstream is a promo CD for a local DJ, which begs the question how this ended up in a used-shop. Where I paid money for it. Aren’t these supposed to be free? Whatever. Since the Vernon behind this mix is undoubtedly way under the radar of folks outside the southwest nub of British Columbia, commence the background info dump.

Vernon Douglas was a resident of one of Vancouver’s more successful underground nights, Deepen. This came at a time when the city’s nightlife was experiencing a radical shift, the main Granville Strip of clubs turning into homogenized bottle-service experiences filled with ‘bridge-and-tunnel’ douchery, earlier haunts for authentic underground house and techno forced out among the fringes of downtown. One such place was the Lotus Sound Lounge, a literal basement on the borders of the infamous Downtown Eastside. Clearly the perfect place for a proper underground venue, and Deepen found a comfortable home there in the year 1999(ish?). It nurtured such talents as overseas tech-house hero Jay Tripwire, dependable prog-house jock warm-up staple Kevin Shiu, and fabric contributor Tyler Stadius. I suppose I should also mention Deepen was my first ‘authentic’ experience at an underground club, while on a visit in Vancouver from my interior hinterland exile. Damn skippy that night at Lotus gave me incentive to move here. Heck, it was likely ol’ Vernon on the decks, but I can’t recall for sure.

Unlike his pals and associates working the decks each Saturday night though, Mr. Douglas never broke out of local fame. When Deepen came to an end some ten years ago, he moved onto a career in energy management and a quieter family life. He still dabbles with the label/podcast business (Deepen Sound), and will show up for a throwback rinse-out or anniversary love-in for those heady Deepen days, but it seems the hectic world of clubbing is in his past.

*whew* That was a mouthful. What do I have left for this promo CD, then? It’s definitely got that Deepen flavor to it, tech-house with a deep, dubby feel most associate with the opening portions of a prog DJ mix. Dot Allison’s Close Your Eyes is here, as is the Global Communications rub of Fluke’s Slid, and Hakan Lidbo’s Televinken on future Very Important Label Poker Flat Records. Vernon’s set does a decent, groovin’ build to a mid-set peak with Marino Berardi’s Numero 10, then takes the long ease-out into deep house’s territory for the remainder. Soundstream is essentially a strong sampling of what one might hear at Deepen in the year 1999, which makes sense given this is a promo disc.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Vermont - Vermont

Kompakt: 2014

[Obligatory United States Of America geographical joke]

Ah, haha-ha! Hoo, what a zinger that was, eh? And the way I tied it into [Contemporary Political Talking Point] with [Middling Movie Franchise], it just can’t be topped. What does this have to do with Vermont by Vermont? Well, we wouldn’t have gotten to this place without the guiding hands of such Very Important record labels like [Three Name Drops] and [Notable Artist/DJ], so you see, [Crushing Conclusion That’d Make Simon Reynolds Weep With Envy].

Vermont (by Vermont) is now three years old. Yet it doesn’t feel so long this was being talked up in the same, small window of reverent breath along side Tycho’s Awake, Todd Terje’s It’s Album Time, and Efdemin’s Decay. Yes, it was a fun time being a Very Important music journalist covering hip, underground electronic music that appealed to the chiller side of tastes. Naturally I was having none of that, concerned with reviewing Ishkur’s old CDs instead, but I cannot deny the cover-art for Vermont’s Vermont intrigued me enough to pluck a copy. I figured by the time I got around to reviewing this album (late 2015, lol), the hype would have passed and I could take in this music proper-like. But now this duo’s gone and recently released a sophomore album (II), which kinda’ makes this look like hitching onto a freshly revved hype wagon. I swear its pure coincidence, just like [Inflammatory Political Talking Point].

For those who missed it the first time around, Vermont (4) is comprised of Danilo Plessow and Marcus Worgull. The latter has DJ’d for a number of years now, and through Innervisions put out sporadic singles along the way. Mr. Plessow is more of a production journeyman, flitting from project to collaboration to remix to project over the past decade. I recognize Motor City Drum Ensemble among his credits, and his work with Joachim Tobias as Inverse Cinematics garnered positive buzz from deep nu-jazzy sorts, so a decent pedigree in the funky soul camps. That begs the question, then, of why he’d make a debut with Mr. Worgull as Vermont for an album of throwback ambient techno and Berlin-School weirdness? Just because they wanted to? What sort of [Calvin & Hobbes Artistry Quote].

The thing I recall most about Vermont’s Vermont CD is the general sense of disappointment it brought to those hotly anticipating it. The music is very humble and unfussy, going about its business without much care for ‘pushing boundaries’ or ‘changing the game’, as so many thought Plessow and Worgull would. It’s the sort of ‘ambient pop’ that Kompakt have had no problem promoting for years now - pleasing to the ear, crafty to the head, charming to the soul, with enough unique attributes to stand out from the pack (Guitars! Drums! Old-School Bleepiness! Theremin!), though not necessarily stick with you even after playing it over a few times. Vermont is an album that the phrase “good enough” was destined for. Sometimes that’s all you need.

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Crystal Method - Vegas

Outpost Records: 1997

The only Crystal Method album you’re supposed to have, even if you’re not a Crystal Method fan. Hell, even fans might argue this is their only album worth having, a hefty chunk ditching the duo once big beat fell out of favor with popular tastes. I know I did, albums Tweekend and Legion Of Boom failing to spark much interest from me for a purchase. They still held a significant following with those albums though, which is more than can be said for The Method’s recent ventures into festival friendly mind-rot bosh. Not that folks shouldn’t have seen it coming - Ken Jordan and Scott Kirkland have long kept their foot in the world of commercialism, whoring out their music to the highest advertising bidders in Hollywood and beyond. The difference is they’re lost riding overcrowded bandwagons now, whereas back in the day, they were at the forefront of the zeitgeist.

They couldn’t have picked a better time to drop their debut album Vegas than the year 1997. America was tentatively coming around to electronic music thanks to ‘rockier’ acts from abroad making profitable inroads (heavy Virgin promotion didn’t hurt). Just so happened that a little duo out of Las Angeles was also buzzing, reppin’ the Westcoast acid-tweakin’ breaks action, but implementing beefier beats too. It was similar yet distinct enough to stand out from the likes of Chemical Brothers and Prodigy, and damn skippy American media was eager in promoting a homegrown ‘electronica’ act. Thanks to compilation duty on Moonshine, City Of Angels, MTV’s Amp, and TVT soundtracks, The Crystal Method was everywhere you turned. You could not exist in the year 1997 without having Busy Child and Keep Hope Alive penetrating your earholes.

Still, Vegas isn’t continuously name-dropped in reverence to this day if it lacked the tunes to back it up. Yeah, Busy Child was ridiculously overplayed, but it remains a fun slice of acid funk. And Keep Hope Alive will never get old, big-beat acid action at its crystallized perfection. Trip Like I Do, which had that Spawn tie-in with Filter, if possibly one of the best album openers ever, while Cherry Twist, She’s My Pusher, and Vapor Trail make for agreeable chemical breaks filler on an album full of killer.

Elsewhere, Crystal Method slow things down to trip-hop’s domain in tracks Bad Stone and the spaced-out High Roller (“you got it”), all the while retaining their crunchy acid sensibilities (I think Moonshine tried calling this sound ‘hard-hop’, or ‘trypno’ – you do you, Moonshine). And to prove they aren’t just all about those block rockin’ beats, a couple ‘poppier’ tunes in Comin’ Back and Jaded add vocalist Trixie Reiss to the mix, though Jaded is darn ambitious for a seven-minute, crunchy, acid-soaked radio jam.

If my mentioning any of these tunes had them flaring up in your memory membranes, it just goes to show the impact Vegas made on electronic music. Two decades on, it still reverberates and overshadows everything The Crystal Method has done.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Vector Lovers - Vector Lovers (2017 Update)

Soma Quality Recordings: 2004

(Click here to read my original TranceCritic review.)

I remain woefully neglectful of those two Vector Lovers albums between this and iPhonica. I simply don’t know if I’d like them though. I mean, I’ve heard some of the singles Martin Wheeler put out around that time, and they’re all tech-hausy, or deep-techy, or dub-hausy. Fine if you’re a DJ looking for some rinse-out material, but I enjoyed Vector Lovers for the touching electro melodies and groovy robot funk, so I haven’t been in a hurry to- Eh? They’re not like that? How can I corroborate this info? Oh yeah, Spotify. Guess I should do some ‘music journalist research’ on this then. Hold on.

*a couple illuminating hours later*

Um, oh wow. Huh. I had no idea. Just goes to show you can’t judge an album by its associated singles, eh? Still, despite my primary reservations, I’d likely have dropped some cash for those albums if I spotted them on the cheap. A decade on, and they still haven’t come down from full price, some of them fetching upwards in the hundreds of dollars now, which is mind-bogglingly bonkers. On the other hand, these are decade-old CDs now, released on a label that probably didn’t have a huge production run of them in the first place. For sure Soma Recordings has clout in the world of techno – they got this particular album into the Vancouver shop I stumbled upon in the year 2006 after all – but even they must run out of copies eventu- Eh? They still have copies for sale on their online store? Um, oh wow. Huh. I had no idea. Say, that British Pound isn’t doing so well right now either, is it?

Since my original TranceCritic review of Vector Lovers is already plenty and exhaustingly detailed, here’s some additional items of interest I gleaned in my Spotify trawl of Mr. Wheeler’s music. First off, the 2011 Electrospective didn’t just gather up a ‘best of’ collection of Vector Lovers, but also offered them up as ‘remastered’ versions too, essentially beefing them up musically, practically turning them into remixes. For the most part these are handled with enough class as to not render the originals moot, but Spotify does, replacing the original tracks with the remastered versions on the albums too. That… just might make the CD copies rare collectibles now, the only place one can hear the originals. Incidentally, five tracks from Vector Lovers made the cut on Electrospective.

Another track that did was an A2-side to the Electrobotik Disco single, Shinjuku Girl. It’s a nice little downtempo electro number in that easily identifiable Vector Lovers stylee, but I must draw attention to another cut off that EP, Electrobotik Disco Part II. Holy cow, if you thought the album version, or even Electrosuite, was ace dancefloor material, this tune takes all that robot future-funk, then feeds it through a galloping techno beat that’d have all the ‘electro’ guys of the mid-‘00s quivering with hearts in their eyes. How have I missed this for over a decade!?

Friday, May 19, 2017

Lorenzo Montanà - Vari Chromo

Psychonavigation Records: 2015

And now the conclusion of Lorenzo Montanà’s Trilogy on Psychonavigation Records. One. Year. Later. No, really, we last left off from Leema Hactus on May 17, 2016, and now we’re on May 19, 2017. I swear to God and all His subsidiaries that I did not plan for this remarkable cosmic coincidence; that we’d be at nearly the exact same spot in our solar orbit as the last review. In fact, I had no idea things had lined up like this until I went back through my previous Lorenzo writings for a quick refresher in his music. I feel like such an event should mean something, but my feeble man-ape brain can’t comprehend the significance of this fated alignment. Someone tell Hawking! Someone tell Tyson! Someone tell Daruwalla! Someone tell the Dalai Lama! And The Pope? Mm, nah, don’t bother telling him.

Scaling things back to what’s important, Vari Chromo (translated as ‘various colors’ …or ‘lemur colors’? Huh?) was Mr. Montanà’s third and final album with Psychonavigation. Since then he’s flirted with a few different prints (Carpe Sonum, …txt, Projekt), and squeezed in a couple collaborative efforts with Alio Die and Mick Chillage too, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. If you might recall, I noticed a pattern with his previous solo outings, where the quality of his LPs would alternate between “eh” and “AY!” As we’re now in his fifth album, this should be an “eh” then, right. Absolutely not! Perhaps it was that Carpe Sonum record between this and Leema Hactus that was the downturn LP. May have to dig further into this flimsy theory.

But nay, Vari Chromo is indeed Mr. Montanà’s sixth record, and another darn good one at that. He’s added a couple new items to his sonic palette, one of which being sporadic piano passages. I honestly don’t recall hearing him use the ol’ ivories in any previous album, though considering I’ve still yet to take in those Labyrinth albums with Pete Namlook, I may have simply missed them. Look, they’re darn expensive, what with being double-discs that include a 5.1 mixdown option, a hopelessly useless feature for yours truly as I remain stuck in renter’s purgatory (damn you, unaffordable Vancouver housing!).

As per most Lorenzo albums though, we get a nice assortment of ambient techno, crisp skittery beats, and charming melodies that’ll melt your heart. There’s a couple moodier numbers too (Spoot, Tek Kyah), but nothing too off the beaten path. Vari Chromo also finds Mr. Montanà indulging outside his comfort zone, Hy-Brazil worming a little Latin rhythm into his click-glitch beats, Green Room feeling the ethereal flow, and Anya taking on the modern classical stylee for good measure. Then just to show off, Lorenzo drops a twelve-minute long space ambient cut, with cosmic pads, subtle acid burbling, and all that good, vintage Fax+ vibe old-schoolers will never tire of (*cough*). Is it too much that I demand collaboration with Carbon Based Lifeforms after hearing this?

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Vitalic - V Live (Original TC Review)

Play It Again Sam [PIAS]: 2007

(2017 Update:
Considering this was my first Vitalic review for TranceCritic (or ever for that matter), I'm surprised I didn't go heavier on the background info. Maybe I'd name-dropped him enough times prior to not need it? Eh, just as well that I didn't, this review already super bloated as it is. All the ranting, raving, and point-making I do regarding live album mixdowns could have easily been summed up in a few sentences, but for some daft reason, I go for a few paragraphs on the subject. Probably trying to cover my ass in defense of whatever counter-arguments could be made in favor of this CD, an obviously moot point now.

V Live was a limited-run release, of only five thousand "specimens". Considering many CD runs seldom crack the one thousand mark these days, I find that hilarious such a number is considered limited. Erm, I also don't have a physical copy of this, but I doubt I'd have to pay much to snag a copy if I really wanted one. Which I don't. Yeah, this hasn't held up at all, espcially now that Vitalic's added three more LPs to his resume since (called the date of the second one here!). I wouldn't mind hearing another stab at a live album from him though - fix the issues I had here, and we're good to go!)

IN BRIEF: Not OK, cowboy.

Vitalic has to be both the most exciting and the most frustrating new producer of this decade. In a time when fresh ideas are rare, Mr. Pascal Arbez-Nicolas has not only made an undeniable impact with his work, but double-lapped damned near everyone else in the process. His debut Poney EP will probably go down as among the most important singles of the 00s, and the follow-up album OK Cowboy kept his star firmly in place. Unfortunately for fans though, the Frenchman has an irritatingly sluggish output rate. True they say absence makes the heart grow fonder, and lord knows Vitalic’s followers salivate at every whiff of a new tune, but for someone who’s shown so much promise it’s almost criminal that Pascal has kept a cool head and resisted the temptation to release tracks en masse. At this rate, you’d think he was trying to mimic Leftfield’s career from the 90s (which means don’t expect a new album until about 2009).

Given his small discography, the idea of a live album seems odd. More so is the fact over half the tracks on here are either new or unreleased cuts, some of which have been specifically made for his live shows. While this sounds exciting on paper - fresh Vitalic material, live setting - I could not help but feel some slight apprehension going into this. The idea of a live album often revolves around hearing an artist’s material in a different context, which in itself is good stuff, but two problems all too often crop up in the process, and V Live falls victim to both.

Let’s address the most prominent one first: the mixdown. The whole point of recording something live is to capture the show as though you might be hearing it there in person. This includes the sound resonance of the club/hall/tent/stadium/field, appropriate crowd noise, and, the trickiest bit, the energy of the event itself. Any imbalance often creates a lackluster atmosphere - muddy music, for instance, or a lack of spectator presence reducing the whole ‘live’ aspect in the process; both seem to be a common fault of many a live rock release. It’s funny, then, that V Live suffers from the exact opposite problems.

Frankly, it sounds like Pascal recorded two sources: one somewhere in the middle of the crowd, and another directly in the main output. Then he apparently took the former master and gratuitously fiddled with the volume during the mixdown. The end result is music that is mostly computer clean, with crowd noise and hall reverb jumping in and out at extreme volumes throughout; at some points the cheers are the loudest thing you hear, other times it disappears into barely a whisper.

For the life of me I cannot imagine a hall as excitable as this one would get that quiet at key points of this concert, especially when in the early going pandemonium is likely with a mere pitch bend; their enthusiasm is borderline ridiculous. I’ll grant the killer cuts - La Rock 01 will forever kick like a kangaroo mule - but why on some of the lesser moments like, say, Follow The Car? It doesn’t seem to matter what Vitalic does, they’re just in awe of seeing the Frenchman live. This crowd would cheer if he banged on a keyboard for an hour. Probably.

No, their frequent absence in the final mixdown must be deliberate, and it makes for a live recording where you either find yourself lost among a sea of caners, or stuck in one of the monitor speakers. It’s disconcerting, and hardly an ideal representation of a live Vitalic show.

But who cares about all that so long as the tunes are mint, eh? After all, Pascal didn’t become the sensation he is by producing the odd gem with a bunch of mediocre wank to fill out his discography. So yes, La Rock 01, My Friend Dario, and newer cut Bells all deliver. However, they also deliver just as effectively on the albums or singles they were initially featured on and very little is done here to give them a fresh spin, which leads us to Problem #2.

Some of the most utterly bland live discs I’ve heard are often the result of hearing tunes that are near-identical to the versions heard on the original recordings. It’s fine and all to hear it while you’re actually there in concert - who doesn’t enjoy hearing their favorites played out, after all - but to have a similar rendition on yet another disc at home is redundant. If I’m going to pay money to have songs I already have, it’d better be significantly different or presented in a unique context. And there is little significantly different or unique in the way Vitalic performs his familiar songs on V Live. Honestly, I’ve heard several DJs make better use of his tunes than he does here.

What about all those new cuts though? Surely they’re worth picking this up for, right? Well, assuming you haven’t yet downloaded some set rips to hear them, mostly they’re effective club bangers containing a catchy Vitalic twist. Though none of them are quite at the level of some of Pascal’s highlights, Anatoles will probably be rubbing elbows with Poney Pt. 2 and No Fun on a ‘best of’ CD down the road. And besides, chances are you’ll be hearing the best cuts on future albums or B-sides to singles anyway. Unless you can’t possibly hold out for non-live versions of them, you’d be better off waiting and seeing rather than picking V Live up solely for these tunes.

This isn’t an entirely bad release but casual fans of Vitalic will undoubtedly come away underwhelmed. There are few surprises in Pascal’s set and the crowd unfortunately is more annoying than entertaining. Although it’ll probably still be some time before we see another full-length album from the Frenchman, V Live doesn’t have enough going for it to make this a worthwhile tide-over. When all is said and done, only completists will find long-term satisfaction with this.

Written by Sykonee for, 2007. © All rights reserved

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Alphaxone & ProtoU - Stardust

Cryo Chamber: 2017

Now this is a pairing I wouldn’t have expected. Come to think of it, I wouldn’t have expected Alphaxone to pair up with anyone, beyond the now-obligatory yearly Cyro Chamber ‘Old Ones Tribute’ jamboree. He’s worked in conjunction with other dark ambient folks on thematic compilation albums, specifically Tomb Of Empires and Tomb Of Seers, but those are still solo outings from Mr. Saleh, merely contributing a piece of music for those particular projects. Lord Discogs tells me this is his first true collaborative effort though; across any alias he’s had this past half-decade. Maybe he’s done others even The Lord That Knows All doesn’t know about, but I kinda’ like Stardust being his first for a simple reason: it fits a narrative!

In case you missed all those Alphaxone reviews I did last year, there’s been a slow, steady conceptual migration in his works from terra firma to the great beyond above. Well, after leaving some alternate dimensions filled with graylands and some-such. However, it’s lonely in space [citation needed], so now that he’s finally out among the stars, perhaps a little company was called for. Enter ProtoU, fresh off her work exploring Southeast Asian crypts, joining in on a little solar surfing. I’m not sure how Ms. Cats knows Mr. Saleh, but I imagine after those Cryo Chamber Collaboration epics, a few emails were exchanged for future reference.

As the name implies, Stardust is a space ambient outing, and surprisingly not so bleak as the dark practitioners of this sub-genre go. For sure it’s got its fair share of isolationist drone, tracks like Sub Signal, Consumed, and Observing Quasars doing the ‘cosmic emptiness’ thing you’ll typically hear in this field. It’s tempered with subtle melodic passages though, plus a surprising amount of field recordings lurking just out of hearing range. Even the latter two tracks of the ones I just listed provide some synthy tonal counter-balance to the atonal nature of space drone, music that feels just as in awe of its surroundings as it does meek and insignificant. Nicely captures the whole ‘we’re all star-stuff’ notion, despite so often confounded by such implications.

If anything, this album feels less about exploring the cosmos at large (something of a daunting task), and rather chilling out on some fringe of civilization, far from contact but not impossibly alone. There’s still star-gazing going down, but more like being at an outpost, or remote colony, pushing the boundaries of our cosmic influence. Hence a track like Planemo Dreams, a lonely track with rainfall/static for sure, wiling the time away on some far-flung dwarf or rogue planet. Counter to that is Versus, which features the cosmic drone, yet also has tweeting birds, and an almost positive twist by track’s end. Then at the conclusion of Stardust, Alignments goes synthy old-school, and Returned’s drone gradually turns into brighter pad washes before fading out into static. Whatever this mission was, it’s safe to assume it’s accomplished. How remarkably upbeat for a dark ambient release.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Dronny Darko - Spira Igneus

Cryo Chamber: 2016

Sure enough, about the same time I get to one of Dronny Darko’s latest albums on Cryo Chamber, he goes and releases an even newer one. I’m constantly behind the eight-ball on Mr. Puzan’s output, forever chasing, never first out of the gate. Yeah, yeah, that’s all due to the stipulations I place upon myself going through new music, but it feels strangely coincidental this keeps happening. About the same time I was catching up with his prior LPs of Earth Songs and Neuroplasticity, he put out a collaborative work called Rites Lost on Sparkwood Records. I suppose if I hadn’t been so lax on reviews this year, I’d have gotten this particular review for Spira Igneus out about the time his other recent collaborative effort with Ajna came out, Black Monolith (ooh, a double-LP is it?). But as it stands, I’m reviewing Spira Igneus as Abduction has hit the streets. Thus concludes my convoluted method of bringing y’all up to speed on Dronny Darko’s musical endeavors since last we saw of him on this blog (almost a year ago!).

As with Outer Tehom, Spira Igneus is the sort of dark ambient most folks associate with the genre: moody, creepy, something something occult. Far as I can tell though, the idea of ‘spira igneus’ is a wholly unique concept, not drawing upon any specific piece of obscure folklore. My very, very rough Latin translates this as ‘the fiery tower’, or something to that effect, which shouldn’t be a surprise given there’s an actual tower on the cover of this album. The art kinda’ reminds me of the end of The Neverending Story, when The Nothing has consumed all of Fantasia, save the Ivory Tower, though in this case, it looks like even the lair of The Childlike Empress isn’t such the beacon of hope as in that movie portrayed.

And damn straight Spira Igneus is all sort of crushing, suffocating bleakness as only the most classic dark ambient goes. Mostly it’s of the minimalist droning sort (of course), with added sounds and effects complementing a particular track’s theme. Opener Scriptures has chants lurking in the shadows, as does Three Rulers, though even more indistinct here. Rotten Orchestra sadly doesn’t feature any cacophonic instrumentation, but does bring machinery hum and clankery to the mix. Endless Cave holds low throbs and plonks as though mimicking endless echoes in deep caverns. Grey Echoes has echoes of their own, though emerging like shrieks penetrating the relentless drone, such that even its omnipresent tone recedes in fear. The ‘big’ track on here, ten-minute long Forbidden Wisdom, comes off like a trip through your own psyche, slowly losing yourself as though you’re overwhelmed by whatever unholy secrets the spira igneus keeps closely guarded. Ol’ Dronny definitely knows his way around some warped soundscapes.

As an aside, I’m continually fascinated by his construction of ‘perfect minute’ tracks that never feel too short or long. That’s some serious dedication to self-imposed constricts within one’s craft. I should know.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Fjäder - Shades Of Light

Shaded Explorations: 2016

I forget how I stumbled upon this. For sure it was via a Bandcamp link, but given my conservative excursions through the website, it wasn’t intentional. Perhaps it’s because Shades Of Light came out on a label called Shaded Explorations. It just so happens that I did a review for Shaded Explorer this past half-year, and some Bandcamp Googling for the latter may have accidentally led me to Ms. Fjäder instead. I do recall, however, that the moment I saw the CD packaging displayed, I was intrigued; a black cover with an intricate cut-out, and a simple cardboard sleeve slipped inside. It’s always nice when hopelessly underground artists take extra care in crafting their ultra-limited run hard copies. A very quick sampling of the music confirmed Shades Of Light was at least electronic, so I took the gamble and waited for the goods to arrive for audio consumption.

And this… I wasn’t expecting this. Something dubby and ambient, sure, as the brief clips I played suggested as much. But ethereal dub techno with live instruments? (Pianos! Voices! Strings! oh my) Is this even a thing? I feel like this should be a thing, but I can’t say I’ve come across anything like Fjäder’s music before.

The lass behind the moniker, Ida Matsdotter, has been making music for a few years now, her most prominent bit of exposure coming at the tail-end of a 4CD M_nus box set titled Enter.Ibiza 2015. Cool that she got to rub shoulders with the likes of Slam, Beltram, and the Plastikman himself on that particular set from TM404, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she went overlooked regardless. Still, a couple more appearances on various compilations, podcasts, and the odd single has given her a decent start in the world of techno, thus we now arrive for Album Time with her debut of Shades of Light.

Opener Yellow Cosmic Sun is a beatless, dubby, droning piece with various strings and vocal snippets fed through heavy, throbbing effects, feeling more of a meditative outing than something intended for club use. Second track तूफान केंद्रअ (Google translate tells me this is Hindi for ‘eye of the storm’) brings in ethereal chants coupled with a marching rhythm that sounds like it’s being dropped into digital water. World beat with a dub techno twist? I can dig it.

The one consistent element I’m hearing throughout Shades Of Light is no genre fusion is off limits, a remarkable strategy considering dub techno’s staunch, stuffy traditionalism. There are a couple examples of that deep, minimalist, rolling warehaus thump in tracks like Abyss and Dragonfly, but elsewhere Fjäder breaks those beats up into something more akin to experimental trip-hop (Talk To You, twelve-minute long Vintergatan). There’s ethereal ambient (Shades Of Light), crushing drone ambient (Venus), and feedback-fuzz ambient (Hjärtans Fröjd). I also quite like that she isn’t afraid to manipulate her voice to such a degree it’s almost unrecognizable from other layers of timbre. No ego here, my friends.

EDM Weekly World News, May 2017

Happy Valentines Day. What do you mean it's not? We sure are selling the same amount of flower bouquets. You've never seen so many buggies filled with blossoms! As for the tragic events of this major bone-breaking news, like the murder-spree of a few years past, I'm sure these living jukeboxes will make a full recovery. Not so sure about their mixing 'skills' tho', but that hasn't stopped them from having headline careers yet.

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Things I've Talked About

...txt 10 Records 16 Bit Lolita's 1965 1966 1967 1969 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2 Play Records 2 Unlimited 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 20xx Update 2562 302 Acid 4AD 6 x 6 Records 75 Ark 7L & Esoteric 808 State A Perfect Circle A Positive Life A-Wave A&M Records A&R Records Abasi Above and Beyond abstract Ace Tracks Playlists Ace Ventura acid acid house acid jazz acid techno acoustic Adam Freeland Adham Shaikh ADNY Adrian Younge adult contemporary Aegri Somnia Aes Dana Afrika Bambaataa Afro-house Afterhours Agoria Ajana Records AK1200 Akshan album Aldrin Alex Theory Alio Die Alphabet Zoo Alphaxone Altar Records Alter Ego alternative rock Alucidnation Ambelion ambient ambient dub ambient techno Ambient World Ambientium Ametsub Amon Tobin Amplexus Anabolic Frolic Andrea Parker Andrew Heath Androcell anecdotes Aniplex Anjunabeats Another Fine Day Antendex anthem house Anthony Rother Anti-Social Network Aphasia Records Aphex Twin Apócrýphos Apollo Apple Records April Records Aqua Aquascape Aquila Arcade arena rock Arista Armada Armin van Buuren Arpatle Arts & Crafts ASC Ashtech Asian Dub Foundation Astral Waves Astralwerks AstroPilot Asura Asylum Records ATCO Records Atlantic Atlantis atmospheric jungle Atomic Hooligan Atrium Carceri Attic Audion AuroraX Autistici Aveparthe Avicii Axiom Axtone Records B.G. The Prince Of Rap Babygrande Balance Balanced Records Balearic ballad Banco de Gaia Bandulu battle-rap Beastie Boys Beat Buzz Records Beats & Pieces Beck Bedouin Soundclash Beechwood Music Benny Benassi Berlin-School Beto Narme bhangra big beat Big Boi Big L Big Life Bill Hamel Bill Laswell BineMusic BioMetal Biosphere BKS Black Hole Recordings black rebel motorcycle club Black Swan Sounds Blanco Y Negro Blasterjaxx Blend Blood Music Blow Up Blue Öyster Cult blues Bluescreen BMG Boards Of Canada Bob Dylan Bob Marley Bobina Bone Thugs-N-Harmony Boney M Bong Load Records Booka Shade Botchit & Scarper Boxed Boys Noize Boysnoize Records braindance Brandt Brauer Frick breakcore breaks Brian Eno Brian Wilson Brick Records Brodinski broken beat Brooklyn Music Ltd Bryan Adams BT Buffalo Springfield Bulk Recordings Burial Burned CDs Bush Busta Rhymes Calibre calypso Capitol Records Capsula Captured Digital Carbon Based Lifeforms Carl B Carl Craig Carol C Caroline Records Carpe Sonum Records CD-Maximum Celestial Dragon Records Cell Celtic Cheb i Sabbah Cheeky Records chemical breaks Chihei Hatakeyama chill-out chiptune Chris Duckenfield Chris Fortier Chris Korda Chris Sheppard Christopher Lawrence Chromeo Chronos Chrysalis Ciaran Byrne cinematic soundscapes Circular Cirrus Cities Last Broadcast CJ Stone Claptone classic house classic rock classical Claude Young Clear Label Records Cleopatra Cloud 9 Club Cutz Cocoon Recordings Coldcut Coldplay Colette collagist Columbia Com.Pact Records comedy Compilation Comrie Smith Connect.Ohm conscious Control Music Cor Fijneman Cosmic Gate Cosmic Replicant Cosmos Studios Council Of Nine Counter Records country country rock Covert Operations Recordings Crazy Horse Cream Creamfields Crockett's Theme Crosby Stills And Nash Crosstown Rebels crunk Cryo Chamber Cube Guys Culture Beat cut'n'paste Cyan Music Cyber Productions CyberOctave Czarface D-Bridge D-Fuse Dacru Records Daddy G Daft Punk Damian Lazarus Damon Albarn Dan The Automator Dance 2 Trance Dance Pool dancehall Daniel Heatcliff Daniel Wanrooy Dao Da Noize dark ambient dark psy darkside darkstep darkwave David Bickley David Morley DDR Deadmau5 Death Row Records Deejay Goldfinger Deep Dish Deep Forest deep house Deeply Rooted House Deepwater Black Def Jam Recordings Del Tha Funkee Homosapien Delerium Deltron 3030 Depeche Mode Der Dritte Raum Derek Carr Detroit DFA DGC diametric. Dieselboy Different DigiCube Dillinja dirty house Dirty South Dirty Vegas disco Disco Gecko disco house disco punk Discover (label) Disky Disques Dreyfus Distant System Disturbance DJ 3000 DJ Brian DJ Craze DJ Dan DJ Dean DJ Gonzalo DJ Heather DJ John Kelley DJ Merlin DJ Mix DJ Moe Sticky DJ Observer DJ Premier DJ Q-Bert DJ Shadow DJ-Kicks Djen Ajakan Shean DJMag DMC DMC Records Doc Scott Dogon Dogwhistle Dopplereffekt Dossier downtempo dowtempo Dr. Atmo Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show Dragon Quest dream house DreamWorks Records Drexciya drill 'n' bass Dronarivm drone Dronny Darko drum 'n' bass drunken review dub Dub Pistols dub techno Dub Trees Dubfire dubstep DuMonde Dune E-Mantra E-Z Rollers Eardream Music Earthling Eastcoast EastWest Eat Static EBM Echodub Ed Rush & Optical Editions EG EDM World Weekly News electro Electro House Electro Sun electro-funk electro-pop electroclash Electronic Dance Essentials Electrovoya Elektra Elektrolux em:t EMC update EMI Eminem Emmerichk Emperor Norton enCAPSULAte Engine Recordings Enigma Enmarta Epic epic trance Erik Vee Erol Alkan Escape ethereal euro dance Eurythmics Eve Records Ewan Pearson experimental Eye Q Records F Communications Fabric Fade Records Faithless Fallen fanfic Fatboy Slim Fax +49-69/450464 Fear Factory Fedde Le Grand Fehrplay Feist Fektive Records Felix da Housecat Fennesz Ferry Corsten FFRR field recordings Filter filters Final Fantasy Five AM Fjäder Flashover Recordings Floating Points Flowers For Bodysnatchers Flowjob Fluke Flying Lotus folk footwork Force Intel Fountain Music Four Tet FPU Frank Bretschneider Frankie Bones Frankie Knuckles Fred Everything freestyle French house Front Line Assembly Fugees full-on Fun Factory funk future garage Future Sound Of London g-funk gabber Gabriel Le Mar Galaktlan Galati Gang Starr gangsta garage Gas Gasoline Alley Records Gee Street Geffen Records Gel-Sol Genesis Gerald Donald Get Physical Music ghetto Ghostface Killah glam Gliese 581C glitch Global Underground Globular goa trance God Body Disconnect Gorillaz gospel Gost goth Grammy Awards grime Groove Armada Groove Corporation Grooverider grunge Guru GZA Haddaway Halgrath happy hardcore hard house hard rock hard trance hardcore Hardfloor hardstyle Harmless Harmonic 33 Harold Budd Harthouse Harthouse Mannheim Hawtin Hearts Of Space Hed Kandi Hell Hercules And Love Affair Hernán Cattáneo Hi-Bias Records Hic Sunt Leones Hiero Emperium Hieroglyphics High Contrast Higher Intelligence Agency hip-hop hip-house hipno Hooj Choons Hope Records horrorcore Hospital Records Hot Chip Hotflush Recordings house Huey Lewis & The News Human Blue Hybrid Leisureland Hyperdub Hypertrophy hypnotic records I Awake I.F.O.R. I.R.S. Records Iboga Records Ice Cube Ice H2o Records ICE MC IDM illbient Imperial Dancefloor Imploded View In Charge In Trance We Trust Incoming Incubus indie rock Industrial Infected Mushroom Infinite Guitar influence records Infonet Inner Ocean Records Insane Clown Posse Inspectah Deck Instinct Ambient Instra-Mental Inter-Modo Interchill Records Internal International Deejays Gigolo Interscope Records Intimate Productions Intuition Recordings ISBA Music Entertainment Ishkur Island Records Italians Do It Better italo disco italo house Jack Moss Jam and Spoon Jam El Mar James Horner James Murray James Zabiela Jamie Jones Jamie Myerson Jamie Principle Javelin Ltd. Jay Haze Jay Tripwire Jaydee jazz jazz dance jazzstep Jean-Michel Jarre Jefferson Airplane Jerry Goldsmith Jesper Dahlbäck Jive Jive Electro Jliat Jlin Joel Mull Joey Beltram John '00' Fleming John Digweed John Graham John Kelly John O'Callaghan Johnny Cash Johnny Jewel Jonny L Jori Hulkkonen Jørn Stenzel Josh Wink Journeys By DJ™ LLC Joyful Noise Recordings Juan Atkins juke Jump Cut Jumpin' & Pumpin' jungle Junior Boy's Own Junkie XL Juno Reactor Jurassic 5 Kay Wilder KDJ Ken Ishii Kenji Kawai Kenny Glasgow Keoki Keosz Kerri Chandler Kevin Braheny Kevorkian Records Khooman Khruangbin Kid Koala Kiko Kinetic Records King Cannibal King Midas Sound King Tubby Kitaro Klang Elektronik Klaus Schulze Koch Records Koichi Sugiyama Kolhoosi 13 Komakino Kompakt Kon Kan Kool Keith Kozo Kraftwelt Kraftwerk Krafty Kuts krautrock Krill.Minima Kris O'Neil Kriztal Kruder and Dorfmeister Krusseldorf KuckKuck Kurupt L.S.G. Lab 4 Ladytron Lafleche Lange Large Records Lars Leonhard Laserlight Digital LateNightTales Latin Laurent Garnier LCD Soundsystem Leama and Moor Lee 'Scratch' Perry Lee Norris Leftfield Legacy Leon Bolier Linear Labs Lingua Lustra liquid funk Liquid Sound Design Liquid Stranger Live live album Loco Dice Lodsb London acid crew London Classics London Elektricity London Records 90 Ltd London-Sire Records Loop Guru Loreena McKennitt Lorenzo Montanà Lost Language Loud Records Loverboy Luaka Bop Luciano Luke Slater Lustmord M_nus M.A.N.D.Y. M.I.K.E. Madonna Magda Mali Mammoth Records Marc Simz Marcel Dettmann Marco Carola Marco V Mark Farina Mark Norman Mark Pritchard Markus Schulz Marshmello Martin Cooper Martin Nonstatic Märtini Brös Marvin Gaye Maschine Massive Attack Masta Killa Matthew Dear Max Graham maximal Maxx MCA Records McProg Meanwhile Meat Loaf Meditronica Menno de Jong Mercury Mesmobeat metal Method Man Metroplex Metropolis Miami Bass Miami Dub Machine Michael Brook Michael Jackson Michael Mayer Mick Chillage micro-house microfunk Microscopics MIG Miguel Migs Mike Saint-Jules Mike Shiver Miktek Mille Plateaux Millennium Records Mind Distortion System Mind Over MIDI mini-CDs minimal minimal tech-house Ministry Of Sound miscellaneous Misja Helsloot Miss Kittin Miss Moneypenny's Mixmag Mo Wax MO-DU Moby Model 500 modern classical Moist Music Moodymann Moonshine Moss Garden Motech Moving Shadow Mujaji Murmur Music link Music Man Records musique concrete Mutant Sound System Mute Muzik Magazine My Best Friend Mystica Tribe N-Trance Nacht Plank Nadia Ali Nas Nature Sounds Naughty By Nature Nebula Neil Young Neotropic nerdcore Nettwerk Neurobiotic Records New Age New Jack Swing new wave Nic Fanciulli Nick Höppner Night Time Stories Nimanty Nine Inch Nails Ninja Tune Nirvana No Mask Effect Nobuo Uematsu Nomad Nonesuch Nonplus Records Nookie Nordic Trax Norman Feller Northumbria Nothing Records NovaMute NRG Ntone nu-jazz nu-skool Nuclear Blast Entertainment Nulll Nurse With Wound NXP Octagen Offshoot Offshoot Records Ol' Dirty Bastard old school rave Ole Højer Hansen Olga Musik Olien Oliver Lieb Olsen Omni Trio Omnimotion Omnisonus One Little Indian Oophoi Oosh Open Canvas Opus III orchestral Original TranceCritic review Ornament Ostgut Ton Ott Ouragan OutKast Outpost Records Overdream Pantera Pantha Du Prince Paolo Mojo Parlaphone Paul Moelands Paul Oakenfold Paul van Dyk Perfect Stranger Perfecto Perturbator Pet Shop Boys Petar Dundov Pete Namlook Pete Tong Peter Benisch Peter Gabriel Peter Tosh Phonothek Photek Phutureprimitive Phynn PIAS Recordings Pink Floyd PJ Harvey Planet Dog Planet Earth Recordings Planet Mu Planetary Consciousness Plastic City Plastikman Platipus Plump DJs PM Dawn Poker Flat Recordings politics Polydor Polytel pop Popular Records Porya Hatami post-dubstep Prince Prins Thomas Priority Records prog prog psy Progression progressive breaks progressive house progressive rock progressive trance Prolifica Proper Records Prototype Recordings protoU Pryda psy chill psy dub Psy Spy Records psy trance psy-chill psy-dub psychedelia Psychick Warriors Ov Gaia Psychonavigation Psychonavigation Records Psycoholic Psykosonik Public Enemy punk punk rock Pureuphoria Records Purl Push PWL International Quadrophonia Quality Quango Quinlan Road R & S Records R'n'B R&B Rabbit In The Moon Radio Slave Radioactive Radioactive Man Radiohead Raekwon Ralph Lawson RAM Records Randal Collier-Ford Random Review Rank 1 rant RareNoise Records Rascalz Raster-Noton Ratatat Raum Records RCA React Red Jerry reggae remixes Renaissance Reprise Records Resist Music Restless Records Rhino Records Rhys Fulber Ricardo Villalobos Riley Reinhold Rising High Records RnB Roadrunner Records Robert Miles Robert Oleysyck Roc Raida rock rock opera rockabilly rocktronica Roger Sanchez ROIR Rollo Rough Trade Rub-N-Tug Rumour Records Running Back Ruthless Records RZA S.E.T.I. Sabled Sun Salt Tank Salted Music Salvation Music Samim sampling Sanctuary Records Sander van Doorn Sandoz Sarah McLachlan Sash Sasha Scandinavian Records Scann-Tec sci-fi Scott Hardkiss Scott Stubbs Scuba Seán Quinn Segue Sense Sentimony Records Sequential Seraphim Rytm Setrise Seven Davis Jr. Shaded Explorations Shaded Explorer Shadow Records Sharam Shawn Francis shoegaze Si Matthews SideOneDummy Records Signature Records SiJ Silent Season silly gimmicks Silver Age Simon Berry Simon Heath Simon Posford Simple Records Sinden single Sire Records Company Six Degrees Sixeleven Records ska Skin To Skin Slinky Music Sly and Robbie Smalltown Supersound SME Visual Works Inc. Snap Sneijder Snoop Dogg Solar Fields Solaris Recordings Solarstone Solieb Soliquid Solstice Music Europe Soma Quality Recordings Songbird Sony Music Entertainment soul Soul Temple Entertainment Souls Of Mischief Sound Of Ceres Soundgarden Sounds From The Ground soundtrack southern rap southern rock space ambient Space Dimension Controller Space Manoeuvres space synth Spank Rock Special D speed garage Speedy J Spicelab spoken word Spotify Suggestions SPX Digital Squarepusher Squaresoft Stanton Warriors Star Trek Stardust Statrax Stay Up Forever Stephanie B Stephen Kroos Steve Angello Steve Miller Band Steve Porter Stijn van Cauter Stone Temple Pilots Stonebridge Stormloop Stray Gators Street Fighter Studio K7 Stylophonic Sub Focus Sublime Sublime Porte Netlabel Substance Sun Station Sunbeam Sunday Best Recordings Superstition surf rock Sven Väth Swayzak Switch Sylk 130 Symmetry Sync24 Synergy Synkro synth pop synthwave System 7 Tactic Records Tall Paul Tammy Wynette Tangerine Dream Tau Ceti Tayo tech-house tech-step tech-trance Technical Itch techno technobass Technoboy Tectonic Terminal Antwerp Terra Ferma Terry Lee Brown Jr Textere Oris The Beach Boys The Beatles The Black Dog The Brian Jonestown Massacre The Bug The Chemical Brothers The Clash The Council The Cranberries The Crystal Method The Digital Blonde The Dust Brothers The Glimmers The Green Kingdom The Grey Area The Hacker The Human League The Irresistible Force The KLF The Misted Muppet The Movement The Music Cartel The Null Corporation The Offspring The Orb The Police The Prodigy The Shamen The Sharp Boys The Sonic Voyagers The Squires The Tea Party The Tragically Hip The Velvet Underground The Wailers The White Stripes themes Thievery Corporation Third Contact Thrive Records Tiefschwarz Tiësto Tiga Tiger & Woods Time Warp Timecode Tobias Todd Terje Tom Middleton Tomita Tommy Boy Ton T.B. Tone Depth Tony Anderson Sound Orchestra Tool Topaz Tosca Toto Touch Tourette Records trance Trancelucent Tranquillo Records Trans'Pact Transformers Transient Records trap Trax Records Trend Trentemøller Tresor tribal Tricky Triloka Records trip-hop Trishula Records Troum Tuff Gong Tunnel Records Turbo Recordings turntablism TUU TVT Records Twisted Records Type O Negative U-God U2 Überzone Ugasanie UK acid house UK Garage Ultimae Ultra Records Umbra Underworld Union Jack United Dairies United DJs Of America Universal Music UOVI Upstream Records Urban Icon Records V2 Vagrant Records Valiska Valley Of The Sun Vangelis Vap Vector Lovers Venetian Snares Venonza Records Vermont Vernon Verve Records VGM Vice Records Victor Calderone Vince DiCola Virgin Virtual Vault Virus Recordings Visionquest Vitalic vocal trance Wagram Music Warp Records Warren G Water Music Dance Waveform Records Wax Trax Records WEA Weekly Mini-Review White Swan Records William Orbit Willie Nelson world beat world music writing reflections Wu-Tang Clan Wyatt Keusch XL Recordings Yello Yes Youth Youtube Yul Records Zenith ZerO One Zoo Entertainment Zyron ZYX Music µ-Ziq