Welcome to the very first Circuit Running, our look at what’s going on in the wild and varied world of electronica. And what better way to kick off the series than a brand new album from The Orb, one of the behemoths and true pioneers of the scene?
The duo have described their new offering as a “protest album in reverse”, namely a super-chilled reaction to the craziness and war enveloping the world. It’s certainly a celebration of the ambient side of their sound, with less of the heavy dub influences and techno stylings sometimes in evidence in their sound.
The Orb – COW / Chill Out, World!
There are plenty of nods to their past here, particularly the legendary KLF album ‘Chill Out’, constructed from a DJ set by Alex Paterson when he was a member. The sound of crickets chirping, a trademark of the KLF classic, is woven into the fabric of this album and keeps returning from opening track ‘First Consider The Lillies’ to the exotic sounding ‘Sex (Panoramic Sex Heal)’ with its luxurious Hawaiian guitars. ‘4am Exhale (Chill Out World)’ seems to echo Paterson’s former band too, with an ultra-slowed down take on the stadium rave keyboard riffing of ‘3am Eternal’ and ‘What Time Is Love?‘. From start to finish this is a thoroughly soothing listen though, proof perhaps that in the words of Mixmaster Morris the time to lie down and be counted is upon us again.
By weird co-incidence – or perhaps the synergy of some higher force – another of this month’s highest profile electronica releases was also directly inspired by The KLF‘s landmark ‘Chill Out’.
Chill Out (Complete Mix) – The KLF
Tracklisting: Brownsville Turnaround on the Tex-Mex Border Pulling out of Ricardo and the Dusk is Falling Fast Six Hours to Louisiana, Black Coffee Going Cold.
David Holmes says he took the album as a starting point for his ‘Late Night Tales’ mix, and although the source material is very different, including a heap of new Holmes productions, the 19 track sonic journey he’s constructed has a similarly unpredictable and eclectic nature to it. There’s much more focus on the human voice here, though, from the rich Irish tones of BP Fallon‘s spoken word contribution ‘Henry McCullough’, set to music by Holmes, to Song Sung’s excellently icy cover version of 10CC‘s ‘I’m Not In Love‘. Such is his mastery as a DJ, even the appearance of a record a good 50 years old – ‘Love Is Strange’ by Buddy Holly – sounds completely normal and logical in this company.
Buddy Holly – Love Is Strange
Love Is Strange by Buddy Holly from the album Teenage Heart Throbs Released 2014-03-29 on Music Memories Download on iTunes: https://geo.itunes.apple.com/
However, electronica is a wide church, and from the other end of the spectrum comes the markedly less chilled stylings of Cardiff producer Michael Simmons aka Conformist. His second album ‘Lifestyle Bible’, out now on his own wonderfully named Consumer Consumer label, shows that he’s anything but conformist. There’s an element of the wild, punky energy of the classic Berlin crews signed to Digital Hardcore Recordings here, although perhaps welded to some sturdier beats with their roots in hip-hop, breakbeat and drum and bass. The likes of ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Dead Man’, with its ingenious use of samples from a certain New York punk outfit that all share the same surname, are hyperactive, fun and highly recommended.
Also hailing from across the border in Wales, although a little further north, is Robin Edwards aka R Selliog. He’s unleashed the first track from the soon-to-be-released ‘Shedhead’ EP, going on the strength of ’Cloddio Unterdach’ it’s going to be a corker. It starts with soft pastoral chords before an understated rave rhythm with echoes of Aphex early work picks the pace up and lively, spiraling melodies begin to encircle the piece. You can certainly see why the likes of Manic Street Preachers are fans, asking him to remix their ‘Futurology’ single on the strength of his 2013 debut LP ‘Doppler’.
Hot on the heels of the news that Luke Vibert has just dropped a pair of ‘long-jam analogue DJ tools’ on a 12” for the I love Acid label, restricted to 303 (geddit) copies and available from https://balkanvinyl.bandcamp.com/, we can also tell you that fellow 90s electronica legend Mike Paradinas’ ever productive Planet Mu label has a couple of strong releases out this month too.
Berlin-based producer Jamie Vex’d aka Kudeo’s second album ‘Slow Knife’, the long awaited follow up to 2011’s ‘Severant’, is heavily inspired by film soundtracks, with Michael Mann’s ‘Manhunter’, ‘Angel Heart’ and ‘Night of the Hunter’ all cited as influences along with the soundtrack from HBO series True Detective and Mica Levi’s score for ‘Under The Skin’. It’s certainly atmospheric, slow and seductive – check the collaboration with Wild Beasts singer Hayden Thorpe here (‘In Your Sleep’) for further proof.
Also on the label comes ‘Beyond Sight’, a five track EP from Brighton’s Ital Tek, with its eerie manipulations of electronics providing an ideal alternative soundtrack to Halloween if you’ve got fed up with hearing ‘The Monster Mash’. ‘Utter’ could be a Eski-style instrumental from Wiley after it had been put through the blender, and there’s an uncompromising, quality to these cinematic instrumentals that put us in mind of the ‘Isolationism’ compilations put together by Techno Animal for Virgin in the late 90s.
How strange, then, that the very next recording to make it onto the hard drive was the new offering from Council Estate Electronics, a project, it transpires, put together by Justin K Broadrick of Techno Animal, Napalm Death, Godflesh and others, together with co-conspirator Diarmuid Dalton. Their ‘Arktika’ album employs the same approach to expansive, evocative soundscapes but set here to a subtle but sturdy throbbing techno pulse and plenty of booming sub-bass pressure. Hear the highlights like ’50- Does Pobody’ and ‘Liquified Natural Gas’ for yourself at https://councilestateelectronics.bandcamp.com/
Finally, there’s just time to tell you about the latest offering from Apollo, the ambient/leftfield offshoot of iconic Belgian techno label R&S Recordings. ‘Static Polymorphism’ by Sieren AKA Matthias Frick was curated by fellow signing and Manucian dubstep cadet Synkro,. As you’d expect from that the four tracks here definitely use the skippy rhythms of two step garage as their starting point. But it’s no mere homage – tracks like the opener ‘Neglection’ and ‘Rebase’ add a layer of spaced out electronics and cut up junglist attitude that make it truly original. Half horizontal chillout, half street tough beats in short, we can’t wait to hear more.
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