Quench – Temporary Hero – (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

We so often hear artists talk about how making an album can be a cathartic process, how music is a way of exorcising personal demons, of freeing the soul and revealing their inner most turmoils, deepest emotions, most private thoughts. But more often than not the said album actually ends up being little more than cliche and guarded revelations designed to tick certain boxes but say very little? On that score Temporary Hero is nothing if not the real deal. An artist who can forge music from the most intimate experiences, from real, deep rooted emotion and darkest thoughts. And if you are used to such a process resulting in tortured music and bleak soundscapes, again just another cliched refuge for artists looking to play to certain pre-conceived expectations, the sheer infectiousness of Quench will again surprise you.

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Masala Bazaar – Kroissenbrunner & Jamit (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Collaboration seems to suit Jamit as this is the third time he has teamed up with South African based Kroissenbrunner to help expand the sonic range and palette of ideas from which to make music. Again based on Jamit’s ability to weave gentle beats with glitchy, freeform, futuristic dance patterns and Kroissenbrunner’s mercurial lyrical inclusions, it features the usual blend of familiarity and freshness, ambience and subversion.

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Colorado –  Infectious Rhythm (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

I have to admit that much of the electronic, dance orientated, synth driven music I have been receiving of late has left me somewhat underwhelmed. I think what happens is that music genres go through cycles, peaks and troughs of creativity and excitement where the high-points on the graph provide something genuinely innovative, fresh and forward-thinking and between that it just feels as if we are treading water. Those peaks are not reached that often and even if I’m not quite saying that Colorado provides one of those historical break-through moments, it’s certainly pretty near the pinnacle of one of those cyclical high points. And that’s not a bad place to be by anyone’s standards.

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Songs From Somewhere Else –  Aaron English (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Some music fits neatly into custom built, generic boxes and there is nothing wrong with that. But fad and fashions come and go, tastes change, music moves on and I find the music which survives, which continues to be relevant, which may even one day be regarded as classic is that which seems to be unconcerned by generic demarcations. After all, life doesn’t come packaged in different emotional compartments , it is at once sad yet positive, energetic and  poignant, loud but meaningful and everything in-between, all at the same time. So should our music be.

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Bronze Attack –  Kroissenbrunner and Jamit (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Jamit, and his strange and wonderful forward thinking dance music creations is a regular visitor to DAA’s sonic literary shores. Often seeming like a solo voice in the music wilderness, creating singular sounds alone somewhere on the other side of the world and fighting back against the waves of predictability and pre-conception by building mercurial musical landscapes. Here though he has found a like-minded soul and if Jamit on his own is an interesting prospect, a collaboration is exceptionally intriguing. Just the concept of a Singaporean-South African musical cross-pollination has to be fascinating concept.

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Only You (Viral Dance Style All Over the World for the Joy of Living) – Lord Conrad (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

There is something utterly and infectiously joyous about this latest release from Lord Conrad. But that is the art of making dance music in a nut shell. Too many people working in the broad progressive dance field, ignore any thoughts of moving the genre forward and instead stick to the same few musical tricks, overloading the song with sonic gimmicks and weigh it down with layer upon layer of studio tricks.

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Just Wanna Dance –  Solo 7 (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

There are few purer or more universally relatable things to write music about than attempting to capture the emotive sugar rush and natural high of your first crush and put into words those unexplainable and new experiences of first time love. And that is exactly what Just Wanna Dance is all about, attempting to describe with words and music all of those innocent, new and exciting chemical reactions that do strange things to you and your mind when love, lust and longing take hold of you.

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Log 57 – DawzKreat (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Dance music doesn’t have to be predictable. Although a lot of what is produced in that broad genre does seem to follow very tried and tested lines, plays safe and stays within its musical comfort zones. Occasionally you find someone who is deliberately making music without the safety net, who is happier leading than following, challenging rather than toeing the line. Log 57 is that very principle put into practice.

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Mr. Fix It  – Brooke Josephson (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

If ever a song was the sound of the modern clubland dance floor it is this. It seems as much built of sass and energy as it is with music and beats and with a video comprised of Day-Glo flashes and searing visuals, it is the perfect shiney object for the current crop of high-octane music magpies. Music can be staid and serious, poignant and poetic of course but sometimes you just want something to distract you from the grind of daily life, something to loose yourself in on a Friday night as the club kicks in to life, something that is more of a soundtrack or a sonic escape than anything particularly meaningful. And for those times, Mr. Fix It is exactly what the music doctor ordered.

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Miles Away –  Mark James (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Some music looks to the past, re-invents the wheel or perhaps merely polishes it in the hope that this new found sparkle will ensnare a new audience. Others follow fad and fashion, happy to piggyback on the current zeitgeist and try to slip through the doors that have been opened by other contemporary artists. And then there are artists like Mark James who are all about looking to the future. For although there is much that is familiar on his album, Miles Away, there is a definite feeling of moving everything forward, of striding confidently onto new horizons and leading rather than following the pack.

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Love and Music –  MD Lyonga (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

If you need proof that the world is becoming an ever smaller and more connected place you just have to look at the blends and cross-references that crop up in the art forms of the 21st century. Canadian based Cameroonian artist MD Lyonga is the perfect representation of this and his latest e.p. is a deft mix of styles and genres garnered from many different cultures and countries. As you would expect from an artist with one foot in either continent there is a wonderful clash of western rap and R&B infused pop with the more exotic beats and rhythms of west Africa’s rich musical heritage.

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Halo – tunnelmental experimental assembly (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Sitting somewhere between those early 80’s sonic experiments, ones undertaken by disenfranchised punks swapping guitars for broken keyboards, and a modern clubland minimalist chill out zone, Halo sucks us back into the strange and wonderful world of this mercurial duo. The term punktronica is often associated with their music and it is easy to see why. Punk was after all an attitude rather than a music genre, it’s just that skinny art students wielding guitars seemed to be the point where it crossed over into the commercial conciousness. And so meld that same attitude onto a more measured and subtle dance groove and you have punktronica, I guess.

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Multiplayer Erotica –  Jamit (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

The only thing that you come to expect from Jamit is the unexpected. Yes, you know that the music is going to run along warped, experimental dance lines, though I’m sure one day I will find something from him in my review pile that throws even more of a curve ball and completely jumps the generic boundaries. But, apart from his broad signature strokes, his sort of sonic fingerprint, you have to just be content to go where he decides to take you musically. As always his subjects are the world around him, and the title alone informs you that this is inspired by the more fun and intimate aspects of life.

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Rude Redux EP –  Rude Audio (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

oM2xzBCQThere is a wonderful cross pollination of sounds and ideas running through the heart of Rude Audio’s latest release. It is music made using the latest studio technology yet it beats with an ancient heart, it’s from a London based band but their brand of Balearic chill is infused with North African and India sonic thumbprints. They make spacious and ambient music yet it still has a wonderfully confident beat, depending on your state of mind you can groove away to its exotic charms or just let it gently wash over you.

Unlike the often brash, linear and direct music that comes out of such a scene, Rude Redux seems to ooze from the speakers, a dub platform is used as a base for all sorts of world sounds and cross-cultural blending and this solid foundation allows them to be spacious when they want to be or use it to really ramp up the woozy, hazy intensity.

As a band they seem to have all the right underground and off the radar credentials, operating away from the limelight and in doing so building up a reputation for being the alternative choice for the underground party scene. And you can hear why. For every strand of familiarity there are two strands of “what just happened,” where did that sound come from” and “I wouldn’t have thought of doing that.” If you remember the early releases from the Future Sound of London and the original Balearic dance scene then Rude Redux is going to really make your day. Cinematic, cross-cultural and totally accessible. Cool!

Songs With Venissa – djpe and Venissa Santi (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

songs-with-venissa-275-275-1534537610I love music that refuses to sit in neat generic demarcations. I love music that is happy to exist in a multi-cultural sonic world. I love music that looks to the future rather than back at past glories. To find that all in one place is a rare and wonderfully satisfying thing but that is exactly what I found when giving Songs With Venissa a spin. I might not know exactly what Afro-Futurism, the description that producer Paul Edwards uses to indicate the nature of the music that he makes is, but when you come out the other side of this 6 track e.p. you realise that it is the perfect name for what him and Cuban-American jazz vocalist Venissa Santi create here.

And for all the dark, sultry beats and spacious electronica that the name implies, there is so much more going on here. My Schwinn blends the sound of that continent with more exotic India traditions and Lucky mixes heavy dub grooves and infectious pop with warped western classical outbursts. Heartbeat takes a turn into lazy late night jazz-hop and If I Could Write A Letter is so ahead of its time, so unlike anything you have heard so far that it might truly be the sound of the future.

The world is an ever shrinking place, certainly culturally speaking. Tools and traditions, sounds and styles which may never have crossed paths in the past are now creative bed fellows. As people mix so do their sounds and stories, their attitudes and ideas and the more that happens the more interesting and original those new blends of music become. Genres are dead, long live music.

Tower –  The Goodbad (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

artworks-000402462144-d015zf-t500x500Dance music, like most genres, is a redundant label. The common factors that you use to identify music that belongs within such a grouping… beat, groove, infectiousness, accessibility… are the same factors that you would use to describe most music across many genres. Dance music is dead. Long live music!

The Tower may just be the birth of the genre-less club anthem, adhering as it does to the things needed to get people on the dancefloor and moving but hardly the stuff of the mainstream pop-picker and party animal. It grooves, pops and zings in all the right places for sure but it also seems to be built of strange mutated genes, of warped electronica and industrial pulses, hardly the “go-to sound” of Saturday night. But as alien as it sounds in places, it is the perfect replacement for the saccharine dance-pop that currently fills the clubs and venues, instead offering a darker and more experimental way forward.

And proving that The Goodbad are pushing out in all directions, Aeon takes some of that strange, leftfield stance and melds it on to a more conventional beat, cleaner lines and driving energy, the otherness of their nature still apparent but buried deeper in the music, maybe so as not to frighten those more used to standard club anthems and production-line chart hits with their dystopian dance visions. Delve even further into the back catalogue and Illusion is different again, glitchy, clinical, futuristic and buoyant.

What makes The Goodbad’s music work so well is that it is like a Trojan horse in an assault on the mainstream. It feels like a celebration of the norm, it appeals to the masses, it uses familiarity to be let into the mainstream club consciousness but then, in the dark of night under the neon glare it begins to infiltrate the musical status quo with its new ideas and musical visions. Music doesn’t move on by trying to change the landscape from without, it moves on by unknowingly inviting mavericks and strange creatives to the party who slowly set about changing the party so that it conforms to their needs and desires. Welcome to the party, its about to get interesting.

Scene and Heard – CCCLXXIX :  I Am Bold – Janeliasoul  (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

14124478_1333246146703373_7280665907639755590_oThere is a point where Afrobeat meets western soul, where the emotive beats of that continent connect with commercial, occidental melodies, it is here that some of the most infectious and near perfect pop is created. I Am Bold is a perfect example of that concept blending as it does jazz motifs and soulful grooves through those already addictive sounds.

You might be able to take the girl out of Nigeria, she is now based in Balitmore leading her band of the same name, but you certainly can’t take Nigeria out of the girl and its music seems to ooze naturally in joyful celebration from her. As well as being a great pop song, it is a powerful mantra too, a reminder of our individual power and strength, that we should all chase our dreams whatever form they take and whereever that might take us.

Making music is more than enough for most people, making great, life-affirming pop music takes a whole, more refined set of skills, skills which Janeliasoul has more than her fair share of.

Shine  –  Odella ft. Ivory Lee (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

licfminpdchkieffDifferent music serves different purposes. Rock music is bold, brassy and in your face, R&B is smooth and sultry and pop music is at its best when it is being infectious and full of energy. I know this, you know this and Odella know this better than anyone as their latest release, Shine, positively snaps, crackles and… well, does what it says on the generic label. Pops!

Shine is an infectious song, a song built with vim and vigour, alluring enough to seduce you on to the dance floor and addictive enough that you won’t want to leave it. Bass lines pulse, confident piano riffs provide the structure and the vocals land with such a familiar and cool quality that you will be singing along in no time. We hear a lot about dance floor anthems these days, it has become a bit of a cliche for sure but this genuinely is one. Simple enough for the listener to be able to immediately become part of the song and cool and clever enough that, although it sits on a well travelled generic road, rarely will you hear dance-pop done this slickly and this succinctly.

Scene and Heard – CCCLXXIII:  Juliet – Adabu Steven (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

37242027_275946399881463_8490974250532864_nIt is strange how much store people put in language, in the lyrics of a song, they forget that the musical element that lie below the narrative, the rhythmic qualities, its melody, beat, its very personality, are all just as communicative as the mere words. Juliet proves this brilliantly. Even though most of the song is sung in, presumably, the language of Steven’s Congolese birth place it doesn’t really matter as the sheer joy of the song just oozes naturally from it.

Juliet is a brilliant cross cultural blend, wonderful evocative African rhythms meets western pop, lush vocal harmonies adding wonderful texture and depth to this infectious creation and the result is a song that should be the easiest commercial sell in today’s music business but one that doesn’t just conform to the norms of the industry. The world is a big and exciting place, it is a beguiling and multi-facetted adventure and the best things happen when those various cultures, experiences, styles and sounds come together. Adabu Steven understands this concept perfectly.

Tropika – Von Rushton (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

TropikaAs the opening salvo Party Over Here goes about its business it is easy to get the feeling that you have heard all of this before but then Take Me Now comes along. By then you will have tuned your ear to the finer points of the album, to what’s going on under the surface and you realise that there is something slightly odd and off kilter about the programmed beats behind the vocal. The next thing you know strange and exotic middle eastern riffs are running around, exchanging their sonic moves with rock guitars and now your original appraisal of being firmly in familiar musical territory has to be quickly put to bed. At that point its best to start the album from the beginning again and listen with fresh ears and an open mind.

Tropika may, on the surface at least, be just another collection of euphoric dance floor groovers, and indeed it is but unlike its contemporaries, Von Rushton has a way of weaving unusual musical threads through the usual clubland templates. And if tracks like Take You Down play to expectations, and there’s nothing wrong with that, the album as a whole pursues any number of different directions from its vibrant dance-pop core.

Be My Escape plays with chilled modern R&B, a wonderful mix of electro-reggae grooves, ambient dance melodies and confident beats and I Might Hit the Club takes the modern obsession with skittering trap percussion and rap deliveries but shrouds them in a brooding and emotive finish. Taking something that is often a fairly unoriginal genre and building it into something totally fresh and exciting.

There is even room for soulful dream pop with I Wanna Know Your Name, a brilliant revival of the golden age of soul made over for the modern and more discerning club goer and Firefly is a hushed and harmonious slice of ambient pop.

For an album I went into thinking, “here we go again” Tropika not only covers a lot of ground but does a lot of sonic landscaping along the way. This is not just someone visiting various genres, this is the sound of someone updating them for a whole new audience. The familiarity lies in the raw materials not the finished design in the same way that when you study the sleek lines and beautiful demeanour of an iconic building you don’t look at the individual bricks but marvel at what they have been shaped into. Tropika might be formed of the same building blocks as its rivals, however, where for those competitors it might result in perfectly functional music, practical sounds that gets the job done, Tropika is nothing less than awe-inspiring sonic architecture writ large.

Scene and Heard – CCCLXXI: Feels So Divine  –  Inanna  (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

51T0kdA5rJL._SY450_Feels So Divine is a very interesting concept, part infectious dance music, part devotional, the result being a track which is both euphoric and graceful, which is spiritual and yet full of energy. Lyrically it is a celebration of life, inspired by a spontaneous healing experience on the part of the author and combines the sound of primal chanting with contemporary dance music and it is around these juxtapositions that the charm of the song is built. It is the sound of worlds colliding, but doing so very gently, it is the modern entwined with the ancient, the sound of the natural world dancing to the tune of the technological one… or perhaps vice versa.

Dance music is often an empty place, with vacuous and empty words being forced together with the latest musical dance floor fads or clubland fashions, but Feels So Divine is a song which soars above such trivialities. It still plays with the joyous abandon of the pop and dance world but whilst it does so it leans on a deep experience and uses that to create something that is celebratory and emotive. It also has that uncanny knack of being able to take something highly personal and render it into a wonderfully relatable message.

Pop fans will love its lightness and accessibility, clubbers with dig the groove and those looking for something with a deeper message will revel in the place that the song comes from. When looking for something musically deep and meaningful you don’t often look to the dance and pop set for answers but Inanna is happy to prove that wrong, to over turn cliches and to show that wisdom can be found in the most unlikely places. 

Pioneer Generation (feat. Orestis Milios) –  Jamit (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

pioneer-generation 2Jamit makes dance music for the modern age. It’s as simple as that. With so many acts liberally plundering from the past, re-working the golden age of Balearic music, of the Rave scene or revisiting those iconic early sounds of the the original synth explorers, it is great to come across an artist looking forward rather than backwards. Pioneer Generation is a pulsing and groovesome blend of contemporary dance, it is a wonderfully minimal, slow-burning and hypnotic EDM blast, it never strays too far from its beguiling singular vision, it draws its electronic trappings around it, slowly layering up beats and grooves and sauntering its way towards its final destination.  

And whilst Pioneer Generation contains the required groove and pace of a midnight dance floor, it also is sassy and sultry enough for the more laid back dance experience. It is built on trippy beats and airy electronica but allows enough space between that the music never becomes claustrophobic or cluttered.

Not everything has to be the fastest, the most intricate, the most driven; we have matured enough to get beyond that. What Jamit offers instead is solid and sexy, and when has that not been more than enough for a good night out?

Yallel –  Mavex (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

31280446_197293694397672_8595670645377859584_nWorld music has always mixed well with dance beats and electronic music largely because they share a common purpose. Music that can trace its sounds back though history and heritage, has survived the fickle fortunes and fads that fashion dictates because it was the dance music of its day. Club sounds are the dance music of today and so the two make a natural alliance. And that is why Yallel works so well.

The core sounds are those haunting vocals that have drifted across the deserts of North Africa and The Middle East for a millennium and the same energetic beats that drove Moorish warriors towards their targets or danced through the air above Persian philosophers, whirling Dervishes and Sufi mystics across the years. Add to this some high octane modern clubland beats and electronic washes and you have the perfect meeting of the old world and the new, the organic and the digital, the cutting edge and the timeless. Perfect.

Scene and Heard – CCCLVII : Back It Up –  Dia Grover (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

imageIf songs charted because of sass and swagger rather than sales then Back It Up would be occupying the top spot for a long time. It is the perfect storm of groovesome old school R&B, pop energy, hi-octane soul and dance floor smarts. That’s a lot to fit in to a song but Dia Grover deftly weaves those threads together into a vibrant musical party. And more than just delivering a cool tune, via the video he also brings the dance moves to go with it. How great is that?

Defining the song really depends on which aspect of the sound catches your ear first. Back It Up is capable of driving like rock music, grooving like a dance floor classic, blending slick, R&B moves around echos of disco’s golden age, has pop infectiousness in spades and is delivered with effortless cool. Genres? Who needs them?

What You Wanted – Temporary Hero (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

36556846_1306974442773539_8756127471050424320_nThose of a certain age, myself included, remember a time when the first wave of bands emerged wielding the newly accessible synthesiser rather than the more expected guitar and the death of music was heralded in certain quarters. But what those rock classicists and pop purists couldn’t have predicted was that far from burying music, the new technologies saved it, to a point now where whole sub-genres in their own right and pop music in a more general sense sound they way they do today largely due to this change. How boring would the state of the music world be if we still thought that guitar rhythms and full kit drums were the only option. The world would be a much emptier place, for a start we wouldn’t have Temporary Hero’s deft and dulcet tones to revel in.

Firstly, it is worth pointing out that Jonah Bell, the man behind the moniker, is as much an eclectic warrior as he is an electric one, releasing everything from high octane dance hits to tribute albums to the likes of Bing Crosby and Chet Baker in his own inimitable way. To Bell there is no underground or mainstream, no generic demarcations, no tribal music affiliations, nowhere that is off limits for him to explore. There is just music to be made, music to be celebrated.

What You Wanted, the latest from his very busy release schedule, is an album of chilled dance creations and indie-pop wandering between sharp clubland sounds and spacious ambient vibes. At one end of the sonic spectrum there are songs filled with sultry grooves such as opening salvo Suitcase, the dynamics and dance floor hustle of I Didn’t know What I Was Doing and even some rock riffs blending with the late night chill of Consequences. What You Wanted even collects some sassy jazz-soul sounds and puts them to a compelling and minimalist beat. Elsewhere songs such as Sacrifice are built on more brooding tones wandering between slick beats and dark reflection and Fear is an intimate and emotive torch song built on vocals and a plaintive piano before heading towards a restrained crescendo…if there is even such a thing.

What You Wanted proves that the broad field of pop music has room to accommodate many different styles, that it isn’t always about obvious dance floor instant hits, although this album has its fair share of those. But the charm of the album, for me at least, is what is happening between those more obvious musical outings. The use of space, the dynamic twists and turns, the gentle merging of styles, both from within the dance world and beyond. It also reminds us that electronic music is a technique rather than a genre, a tool rather than the finished artefact and you can use those same technologies to explore any and every corner of the music spectrum, that confining yourself to the traditions and heritage of clubland is a step backwards. What You Wanted is not that, this is definitely a bold forward step. It is the path pop could have made if it had decided to explore more serious territory, it is indie music that doesn’t merely follow the latest fashion. It is indie-pop music in the truest sense of the word. It is exploratory, generically shifting, dynamically clever, mercurial and unexpected.

In fact if one track sums up the album as a whole it is, perhaps unexpectedly, Natural. Musically it is chilled yet groovesome, full of space and restraint, it seems to hang just out of earshot, distant music coming from somewhere just out of reach. Lyrically it is beautifully romantic, a far cry from the clumsy lyricism, if it can even be called that, which passes for pop-dance lyrics these days.

Dance music for the future? Alt-pop for the underground? Mainstream music for the discerning listener? Stylistically shifting tunes for the post-genre word? Yes, yes, yes and yes, it is all that and more.

Sex – Kingkween (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

KingkweenKingkween is a band who skirt the fringes of many different genres, deftly dancing around the borders of established sonic demarcations but never fully committing to any one, instead preferring to take a bit of everything that they find and use those various threads to weave wonderfully original music from. Genres are out of fashion anyway and such a magpie approach has got to be much more fun than merely sticking to the rules and following in the footsteps of what has gone before.

Right from the first notes, the chiming introduction which slowly warps and buckles, the band signals that this is more about strangeness and non-conformity than doing as you are told. It then proceeds to mix cinematic synth washes with dance beats, shimmering electronica with just enough rock urgency to take this beyond the usual expectations of the dance fraternity but neither does it pander to the rigidity of the alt-rock scene or the play the indie game. Fluidity is the name of the game.

This is music on the fringes, music that is on nodding terms with many genres but which is happier inventing its own labels, or better still doing away with such old school journalistic notions altogether. If ever there was a time to stop analysing the music and just letting it get under your skin, that time is now. Or, if you will allow me just one obvious cliche…shut up and dance!

Warren’s Jam –  Ionoship (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

30742331_1635802213155343_2298672183355899904_nTaken on its own Warren’s Jam is a great slice of high speed EDM built on fast and funky breaks, rapped vocals pushed back into the mix, emotive electronic washes but mainly pure energy. Play through the whole of Swimming Pool, the album that it is found on, and you will see it in a slightly different context. The album that it sits on is a beguiling mash up of clubland sounds, rave euphoria, trance sonics, left field EDM, urban vocal styles and crazy remixes. It’s mad, unexpected, utterly original and brilliant. Warren’s Jam is just one direction that the album pushes in, there are plenty to chose from.

If you can draw a line between I Feel Love, the song that saw disco spawn house music, and Strings of Life, the tune that saw the birth of techno, then this is music that decided to take a more charged and madcap root. This is music that stole the fastest car it could find and drove it high as a kite, joyriding out of control around the streets and not caring if it got caught. This is music which is all about the thrill of the moment rather than the long game. Music which packs in so much energy and excitement that it could self destruct in a blaze of sonic glory at any moment.

Its a song that exists in both the past and present, it echoes with the ghost of European house pioneers and Detroit clubland explorers but in that cyclical way that music loops through time, it also feels right for the here and now and maybe even marks the start of a nostalgia-tinged new take on those sounds and a new scene for the future. If you are tired of the chill-out vibe creeping over the dance floors of the western world and the way that urban music seems to have chosen conformity and fashion rather than driving new technology, new ideas, new sounds and new musical fusions, then this is definitely for you.

Mind The Ether  – Shaman Elect (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

shamanelect.pngIt’s very easy to judge books by covers, or in this case bands by titles and upon seeing both the name of the band and the album, I have to confess that thoughts of some sort of dreadlocked, hippie-esque, stoner alt-dance did immediately set off warning bells in my brain. And whilst they do occasionally work some wonderfully heavy and pulsating, psi-trance style electronica through the middle of their songs, there is so much more going on here. 

Defining the band really depends on which aspect of their sound catches your ear first. Their music is capable of driving like rock music, grooving like a dance floor classic, blending slick, wonderfully restrained and soulful guitars, has pop infectiousness in spades and is delivered with the effortless cool of an indie band. Genres? Who needs them, this is the perfect post-genre band for a world peopled by discerning music buyers who have no truck with the old music allegiances, demarcations or tribal divisions.

Woman in Black shimmers with psychedelia echoes whilst growling with heavy electronica, spins by on funky yet minimal guitar licks and throws some deft spoken word lyrics at the listener whilst Hugo of Bath warps a pop-rock song into a strange alternative dimension, bristling and brooding but still musically elegant and eloquent. Ships Ahoy sees the band referencing some old school indie, a sort of post punk vibe but one brought bang up to date with its strange eclectic mash up that sees sweet jazz-blues guitar lines compete with funky drumming and pristine pop vocals and Sangfroid is pure prime time, dance floor filler.

In short, its great, and it is great because although Shaman Elect enjoy explore many musical threads and laying down intricate and full musical textures in each song, they are the masters of the art of editing and production. This means that although there may seem to be a lot going on in their music, each element, each instrument, each idea, has enough room to breath. It is complimentary rather than competitive and is both free of rules enough to bring something wonderfully fresh and unique to the table but is still wonderfully familiar and accessible. I’m not sure how they do it…I’m just glad that they do.

Scene and Heard – CCCXXXVII : Paradigm Shift – Cyborg Asylum (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Paradigm Shift Single Cover lighter_previewCyborg Asylum has always been great at blending a sort of clinical, cold war, drama with a slightly apocalyptic musical vision. Their great art has always lain in their skill for looking at the political machinations and social choices being made today and extrapolating their views of where those decisions might takes us. And to be fair there is no shortage of blatant, sweeping  and impactful policies being forced upon an ever more helpless or uninformed (or perhaps wilfully ignorant) population. They may not provide us with answers but it is enough to ask the questions, instigate a conversation and raise  concerns.

And what better way to make your voice heard than wrap those worries in slick and cool post-punk infused, industrial dance music? They revel in robust electronica, the sort which replicates the grind and grunt of rock music but which uses the synth palette of electronic glitches and riffs, programmed beats and washes to create their dystopian dance sound. It is Depeche Mode heading into the dark places of their later career, it is Nine Inch Nails gone dance, it is a file sharing, long distance, collaborative process which reflects the times that we live in. With previous release My Metallic Dream having already laid out a stall for their beautiful and bleak sound and a full album Never Finished, Only Abandoned now available it is the perfect time for you aquatinted yourself with the Asylum. You’d be mad not to.

Scene and Heard – CCCXXXVI : 100 Steps to the Shoreline – Dr Optimiser (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

22489846_10154756428242015_1397146505708562180_nCombining futuristic jazz vibes, ambient EDM washes, alt-pop beats, electro-classical and film soundtrack riffs and motifs, it is hard to pin down 100 Steps to the Shoreline to any one genre but I always see that as a test to be passed for the best music. Why sound like what has come before when you can be the answer to the question, “So, what next?” Why follow and repeat when you can lead and instigate? 

This trippy instrumental runs along on a collection of confident beats and bass pulses and seems to evoke future Day-Glo dance visions just as much as the descending riffs seem to take a leaf out of 60’s TV drama theme tunes, a cyclical musical machination that paints contemporary dance music with nostalgic vibes and which then sets out to see what might be just around the corner.

It wanders a world lit by the argon soaked glamour of up-market night clubs and neon glare of illicit, down town, basement parties, a world where the fashionable and the favoured dance side by side with the cult clubber and the discerning dance floor diva. It’s a world where many roads cross, where futuristic beats weave through early house music, where the seasoned electronic music fan embraces the hedonism of rave culture, where rhythm isn’t just a dancer, it is the very heart beat of the artists making such music.

100 Steps… is a wonderfully minimal, slow-burning and hypnotic EDM blast, it never strays too far from its beguiling singular vision, it draws its electronic trappings around it, slowly layering up beats and grooves and sauntering its way towards its final destination, a destination which if it was a physical place could equally be a late 80’s Manchester happening, a 90’s Ibiza beach after-party or even a cutting edge Euro dance club of the here and now or the near future. That’s the charm, it bridges gaps between the past and the present whilst looking to the future and that’s a great thing for music to be able to do.

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