Thursday, 11 September 2014

Sattva Ananda 'Breakdancing Jellyfish' Review

Artist: Sattva Ananda

Title: Breakdancing Jellyfish

Label: Party Time Society

Released: 1st September

Sattva Ananda is someone I know relatively little about, other than he hails from Sante Fe and is one half of Chase The Lazer, along with Amani Friend of the Desert Dwellers. With the promotional literature describing this E.P. as the darker side of temple bass and having nothing to lose except time I didn't see any reason not to have a listen.

The release begins with the title (which I found quite appealing in it's own right) track. The piece itself doesn't include any acoustics and didn't strike me as eastern at all really. I found it more like instrumental 80's european synth-pop squeezed through a mangle along with some bass. It's different but still it's downtempo and not unpleasant to the ear.

This is followed by 'Honig' which is more psy orientated than the opening track with a trip-hop'ish vocal that is released in spurts and toyed with on route. For me they seemed like two entities that didn't really connect until the latter half of the track but I also suspect that may have been the intention?

Two tracks in and I was feeling like I wasn't really getting 100% behind this release but 'Counter Swerve' rescued my interest somewhat. It's a down-tempo bass affair, balancing gritty and heavenly sounds with a drive behind it, that would work well to entice headnodders on to the dancefloor early doors. This is followed by 'Counter Counter Swerve' which drops the bass to a even lower frequency and starts with a more chilled atmosphere. However, it's not long before this version gets gritty and lo and behold the eastern percussion arrives.

This combo is continued with 'Chiznickens' which starts with an ambient atmosphere before dropping a phat bass and a soothing female vocal. This is the most eastern orientated track so far and layers more and more sounds the deeper you dive into the track. Yet still maintains the ambient atmosphere in the background. I can see this one being a grower.

The final track 'Reflections' travels even further to the east with Arabic lyrics and dubbed out sitar strings which seem to transcend out into the ether. The temple has definitely connected with the bass and sees the album out in a chilled fashion.

Review by Woodzee


Thursday, 4 September 2014

Gypsy Hill 'Our Routes' Review

Artist: Gypsy Hill

Album: Our Routes

Label: Batov Records

Released: Sept 11th

Now although I'm aware of their label mates Balkan Beat Box and despite a number of releases under their belt, I've not come across Gypsy Hill before but from the intro the fusion of loudhailer samples, Balkan/Hip-Hop Breaks and low frequency bass caught my attention immediately. So strictly speaking it's not Dub or Chill but I feel with it's global fusion stance it's still an apt album to review on here.

Although the album has an overall Gypsy/Klezmer approach it takes a journey along various avenues 'Balaka' for example switches seamlessly between flutes, guitar and horn maintaining that Balkan sound while the horn section of 'Jimmie Jam' has more of a old New Orleans Jazz edge and 'Pachupa' transports you from the Balkans to the Mexican desert with the feel of a Spaghetti western soundtrack not unlike Calexico for those of you who remember them.

I've often felt the Balkan sound works well with Ska giving that knees up feel. But Gypsy Hill prove it can work with a variety of fusions along a variety of tempos, with the dj throwing in a scratch in suitable places and twitching low bass accompanying a few of the tracks. I have to say it works for me and I'd imagine they would be great fun to see live. Anyone in the Dalston area of London on September the 11th can catch the album launch free at the Passing Clouds.

Review by Woodzee.


Tuesday, 26 August 2014

International Observer 'Touched' Review

Artist: International Observer

Title: Touched

Label: Dubmission Records

Released: August 2014

This release is a re-mix compilation of other artists by International Observer as opposed to his solo productions. A fair few of them I already had but as always for those fans of International Observer (or indeed dub reggae in general) who haven't, you may well be interested in what this release has to offer.

The album starts with Tom's Doordashan mix of Bic Runga's 'Drive' and I'm not familiar with the original. However, what I can ascertain is this version is a well polished production that combines a mellow female vocal, the kind you'd expect to accompany a trip-hop piece, while the music floats between melodic chill and a deep raga dub.

The next track sticks with the Indian vibe with a re-mix of Bombay Dub Orchestra's 'Monsoon Malabar'. The strings are stretched both beautifully and perfectly alongside vocal echoes and bamboo flutes. I like this piece a lot ... perfect hammock music.

The next three tracks take the emphasis away from the East and straight back to Jamacia with a retro 70's feel. Pitch Black's '1000 Mile Drift' for example is a smoky chilled out dub. While Warp Technique's 'Nowhere Dub' gets given a re-rub which is reminiscent in style of some of the early dub pioneers and the Black Seeds 'Come To Me' has a slow ska feel dotted with old skool dub fx.

Minimal Compacts 'Autumn Leaves' is another track where I'm not familiar with the original. This Oak Tree dub contains stereo-typical dubbed out reggae keys that chug along quite nicely with the odd vocal injection and a little horn. While the International Observer meets Horace re-work of Pitch Blacks classic electro-dub 'Lost In Translation' has always been a great alternative, stripping it back to a lush melodic acoustic.

Stellar's 'Slack Bastard' once again throws any comparison to the original into the wind as far as I'm concerned. As with Bic Runga I'd hazard a guess from the female vocal that's it's a trip-hop original, either way it's a lovely slow bouncy dub with some male vocal stabs injected here and there. While the Monkey Forest dub of Banco De Gaia's 'Oreia' transports you to the Far East in a spiritual dub fashion you'd expect but with a definite International Observer stamp.

Once more with the last two tracks I have no knowledge of the originals. The Daddy Dub of Tapes 'Lowry Dub' combines a retro feel with off-key pitch bends, a fair few fx and a squelchy plod throughout. Then we finish with an alternative of where we started with the Interstellar Underpass mix of Bic Rungas 'Drive' which this time is served up in a spacey instrumental drum & bass stylee.

To summarise this release has been a combination of new delights and wonderful refreshers for me and I'd highly recommend a listen. Especially to lovers of dub reggae who aren't familiar with these releases at all.

Reviewed by Woodzee


Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Andrew Heath 'The Silent Cartographer' Review

Artist: Andrew Heath

Title: The Silent Cartographer

Label: Disco Gecko

Released: 300 cd's available to pre-order on bandcamp release around the 18th of August. Available on general download in October.

The 2nd non-Banco release from Disco Gecko showcases Andrew's journey into beatless ambient terrains comprising synth, piano and field recordings. I find I have to be in the mood for these type of compositions, usually quiet reflective times in my own company. Now although this isn't Andrew's first album. I've not come across his work before. Having a look at his web-site 'Aqueous Arts' I found it minimal and to the point and I liked the cut of his jib with this passage 'I remember as a small boy, watching a film about an artist who had made a sculptural piece of work that involved hanging large pieces of metal and wood inside an old barn. When one piece was moved it made contact with another until ever so gradually, the whole building was filled with random motion and sounds. I was fascinated by the serendipitous nature of this creation'. So I find myself trusting in Toby's judgement and hoping that I'm transported into a content and relaxed state, somewhat akin to floating in water on a hot, sunny day.

I began with 'In Search of Eden' and although the sound of the materials differs from the instruments. I could easily draw a comparision to the statement of the passage above. Andrew utilises sparse piano and synth layered over birdsong maintaining a minimal beauty and managed to keep my interest without the need of multiple complex loops diverting from the main theme of the piece.

The next track 'Kleine Blume Irgendwo (a homage to Joachim)' an epic 18 minute piece, which refers to Hans Joachim Roedelius (an experimental synth player at the forefront of the 70's Krautrock scene). In some ways it's similar to the first track but with a far more elongated synth passage and stereotypical field recordings such as waves lapping on the beach, door creaks etc that's not to say it's a bad piece, in fact it's great and I enjoyed it all the more for those inclusions.

The album continues with tracks of variable lengths and although keeping to the same format they all have little traits and personalities of their own I particularly liked the overall sounds of 'Shoreline (found object)' for example and the eeire and less stereotypical field recordings of the title track against the melodic piano and krautrock like synths.

I would recommend this to fans of Krautrock artists such as Klaus Schulze and the ambient compositions of Keith Keniff (Helios/Goldmund) or simply those looking to relax.

Review by Woodzee


Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Desert Dwellers 'The Gathering Remixes' Review

Artist: Desert Dwellers

Title: The Gathering Remixes

Label: Desert Trax

Released: 14th July 2014

Once again the Desert Dwellers have selected some smoking hot producers to do their magic on some classic DD tracks, the original tracks were compositions co-produced with Shamen's Dream as part of a series of yoga DVD's. Now although, this e.p. has fewer tracks than some of the releases earlier in the year, quality rather than quantity is probably what your after anyway.

Up first is Living Light weaving her magic on 'Kumbh Mela'. Now, I've been listening to L.L. a fair bit recently and I'm definitely partial to her distinctive sound of reggae keys, bamboo flutes and summery uplifting chill with a dubby psychedelic underbelly. This re-mix is no exception to the rule and what a way to start the e.p.

Next up is Quade's re-mix of 'Ras Mandala', now I only remember Quade for the excellent low bass frequency re-mix of 'Tala Odyssey' which I personally hammered alongside Drumspyder's more tribal edged re-work. Maybe it's a grower but this didn't grab me instantly. It's a slow plodding number which blends eastern horns, darbukas and vocals with the industry standard wub, wub, computer game like sequences and sweeping synths that seem to build to no drop.

Finishing off the e.p. is Soulacybin with an alternative take of 'Kumbh Mela'. Now although the original is easily recognisable he's really gone to town on the fx producing a psy-dub version with more loops than a cotton mill. I'd hazard a guess that they are probably more prominent with headphones for a full panning experience.

Review by Woodzee

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Mislead Convoy 'Tickling The Dragon's Tail' Review

Artist: Mislead Convoy

Title: Tickling The Dragon's Tail

Label: Dubmission Records

Released: 14th July 2014

It's been a fair while since Pitch Black burst on to the worldwide scene, While other acts such as Fat Freddies Drop and Salmonella Dub who put New Zealand on the map when it comes to reggae, they were more digital. Paddy Free's solo project focused on indidgious Māori music, while Mike Hodgson under the Mislead Convoy moniker has retained elements of the Pitch Black vibe delving even deeper into the relationship between dub and electronica.

The album opens up with an elongated ambient intro on 'It's In Here' which contains a sample of the album's name. When the beat did kick in I found myself transported into a world of slo-mo spacey dub whose atmosphere I was happy to float in for some time. Next up is 'Critical Mass' a twelve minute piece of two parts the first a bass heavy dub that takes you to the very edge of sonic compression while the latter has a more chilled atmosphere with more piano keys.

This flavour continues throughout the album and although in many ways the tracks bear similarities, they also have their own characteristics for example 'Ring Wraith' contains a lovely incomprehensible sample while 'No Ganja Required' a collaboration with Vlastur Dub combines hauntingly spacey synths with some fantastic digital drum patterns.

Well if all this isn't enough the vibe continues with a 55 minute bonus track 'Long Into The Embers'. My advice to fans of Pitch Black … join the convoy and get ready to be mislead through the realms of space-themed synths and digi-dub I doubt you will regret it.

Review by Woodzee


Monday, 30 June 2014

Friends Electric 'Friends Electric E.P.' Review

Artist: Friends Electric

Title: Friends Electric E.P.

Label: Triskele Music

Released: 21st June 2014

My only knowledge of Friends Electric prior to this release was their re-mix of Pitch Black's 'Free Fall' a good while back, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The chaps behind Friends Electric is Bill Robin (Rebel HiFi, Dub War, Warp Technique) and his old pal Sam Rice-Edwards. So taking this into consideration my first thoughts were I might be pleased with what this E.P. had to offer and my second a 10 track E.P.? Surely, this is an L.P.?

The first track 'Longwave' starts with dusty record crackles, radio tuning fx and a lovely acoustic guitar hook. This is soon accompanied by lush synths and an ethereal operatic female voice which when all combined forms a solid chill out track. Next up is 'Freeze Frame' which again utilises those dusty record crackles to form a nest for some lovely loops and a funky bassline which glides along like a penguin on ice. I'm already starting to be sold with this release.

'Pondlife' begins with an ambient intro followed by sparse drumming which slowly becomes more consistent while a variety of twisted fx and pitch bends are implemented to stunning effect along with a sprinkling of robotic female samples and little jazz like keys. Although, all three tracks so far are quite different this is proving to be down-tempo at it's finest. 'F%ck The Whole Thing Up' is a dubby piece of electronica with a little more drive than the previous tracks add some well sourced samples and some interesting diversions on the breakdown it's perhaps my favourite so far.

'Ode To Allen' is a jamboree bag of dubbed out cosmic afro-funk followed by a couple of Pitch Black re-mixes including the one I mentioned before. 'Try To Breathe' is a spacey melodic dub followed by a more hard hitting & squelchy 'Sonica Dub' which leads nicely into the final track a re-mix of I.S.W.T. 'Temperamental Vibrations' and to be honest I'm not familiar with the original but going by this I suspect they've dubbed out a lush and jazzy piece of trip-hop.

Review by Woodzee