October 11, 2011

Review: Sam Kidel – ‘String Loops’ EP

Posted in Reviews tagged , , at 4:28 pm by essentiallyeclectic

Sam Kidel – ‘String Loops’

A Future Without

Welcome to the crazy yet intriguing world of Sam Kidel. Occasionally working under the name El Kid, the Brighton resident is a true scientist of sound, and is affiliated with a number of different camps, most notably with A Future Without, the imprint that’s releasing this latest EP of sonic adventures.

A recent collaboration with A Future Without co-conspirator Vessel (for the Astro:Dynamics label) saw the two different approaches to production clash head-on in a demented collision of mangled beats and general insanity, and it seems to be no coincidence that the two will release individual EPs on the same day this month.

Kidel’s work as El Kid tends to swing (marginally) more to the dancier side of things, so it’s probably fitting that ‘String Loops’ is released under his own name. The EP dives headlong into the world of Musique Concrete (a form of composition using ‘found’ sounds and other non-musical sources to build compositional soundscapes), and focuses heavily on atmosphere, emphasising sonic layers over more conventional beat-led material. (One blogger describes Kidel as having “gone to town on texture” on this EP – definitely an apt description).

‘String Loops – Part 1’ sees long, distorted drones balanced on top of one another to form ethereal harmonies, before fading away into a minimalist guitar loop, which in turn gives way to what sounds like a collection of scratched piano strings. It’s all very intense stuff, definitely not for the faint of heart (or those looking to throw on some beats before heading out for the night).

The looped minimalism of Steve Reich is called to mind more than once on the EP, none more so than on ‘String Loops – Part 2’, in which an eerie atonal pattern is forged from more snatches of distorted sound. The loop twists and turns, filtering up and down the frequency scale before finally descending into a muddy puddle of bass and disappearing altogether.

‘String Loops – Part 3’ contains a searing – and comparatively melodic – guitar loop over more washes of white noise. Kidel is not afraid of experimenting with instrumentation. A recent post on his website shows the producer’s construction of a homemade instrument christened the “splank”, built from a plank of wood and a number of springs as a reaction to growing tired of having to use his laptop on stage. But it is this creative approach that gives Kidel’s music its inimitability, and, though it may not be to the taste of all, makes for intriguing listening.

Read this review in context over at HYPONIK

October 10, 2011

Review: Vessel – ‘Wax Dance’ EP

Posted in Reviews tagged , , at 1:20 pm by essentiallyeclectic

Vessel – ‘Wax Dance’ EP

A Future Without

            The return of Bristol native Sebastian Gainsbrough sees him attach his Vessel moniker to an EP of quality bass music, teaming up with new label A Future Without in the process.

            Only a few months on from his impressive debut 12” ‘Nylon Sunset’ on the fledgling Left_blank imprint, Gainsbrough has hit the ground running at new home A Future Without, putting together a collaboration with lablemate Zhou. The resulting split single, ‘Tremble/Release Me’, is an impressive two tracks of ghostly ambience, and dropped back in August. Now Gainsbrough throws the ‘Wax Dance’ EP into the mix, to devastating effect.

Title track opener ‘Wax Dance’ has a muted tribal quality to it, leaning towards the lo-fi end of the minimal techno spectrum. Snippets of vocals calling out like ghosts in the machine complete the eerie nature produced by distant chords and blips. ‘James Dean’ introduces a schizophrenic feeling to proceedings, with scraps of beats underpinning a racing bass synth sequence. Fittingly, it ends suddenly mid-phrase, in keeping with the disorientated feel of both the track and the EP as a whole. This disorientation continues into the first few bars of ‘Blowback’, before a solid beat drops and the track stabilises into a solid groove, nailed in place by a syncopated bass note and the rhythmical, almost respirational quality of the synths.

Overall Gainsbrough’s production seems to have slowed in tempo, becoming more considered and introspective than the driving rhythms of ‘Nylon Sunset’. The 2-step garage swing of tracks such as ‘Ton’ has been replaced by the playful bounce of ‘Cuba’, and ‘Wax Dance’ as a whole seems to have taken a lot from the spectral sounds of the Zhou collaboration. This is no more evident than on the pensive closer ‘Trapped Wave’, an uplifting and gentle head-nodder driven by spirited synths and soft, round drums.

The rate of maturity in Gainsbrough’s production over such a short space of time is impressive, and it appears he has found himself in a prime location to build on the exciting work found on this strong EP.

See this review in context over at HYPONIK