At The River by Groove Armada was probably one of the first tracks that got me into “Electronic” music.
Up until that time, apart from the music I grew up on, I had got into ska punk. This was due to playing the trombone, and therefore having something to relate to in the music.
Obviously the iconic trombone solo from “At The River” was a key reason I latched onto it from first listen, but repeat listens introduced me to electronic techniques that would then overtake my interest in trombone.
The sampled drum beat, synth bass and vocal melody were techniques that I may have heard before. However, in this slow tempo song, and with my undivided attention, I finally started to hone in on them from an analytical perspective.
It was a stepping stone into the ideas of electronic music production, years before I even knew what sampling or synthesis was. Looking back at this track though, it was hugely influential in getting me to understand, accept and finally use these tools in my own work.
At The River is not just a great track but an essential one for me. Introducing me into the world of electronic music that has become my main interest for many years. It’s melody still holds up as iconic for the time, but is also instantly memorable for new listeners:
I’ve been listening to the excellent Sonic Talk Podcast for several years now. In the show, a rotating panel of guests who work in the production side of the music industry give opinions about the latest news regarding music technology. They also throw in the occasional story and insight into production.
As a fan of music production I would have always been attracted to this kind of podcast, and I have listened to many in my time. However, Sonic Talk manages to stay in my feed when many have fallen by the wayside. This is due to both the presenting of the podcast by Nick Batt and the guests, who remain effective, genial and relatable.
In June, collaborators of both the Sonic Talk Podcast and its website, Sonic State, released a compilation album on Bandcamp, showcasing their work. It’s a great collection of varied music that is well worth a listen.
Although there are several highlights on the record, Hanka by MATTHS really resonated with me. Its cavernous rasping synth lines tear away at your speakers and are reined in with tight, angular percussion. This creates an aggressive, brooding dance track that realy suits being played loud:
I’m running a little late with my track of the week and don’t have much time so I thought I’d quickly recommend this track.
In Nicolas Jaar’s Alter Ego Against All Logic he oftern pushes the production in his music into the experimental. Deeeeeeefers is produced in a way that pushes its sound as aggressive and harsh as possible adding to its energy but also making it quite a tiring repeat listen but its still defiantly worth your time:
I heard of Broken Atoms through the excellent “Electronic Music Open Mic.” Started by Martin Christie as a collection of nights for electronic musicians to perform, it has grown into a community outside of the events. Across the world, whatsapp and facebook groups of likeminded people express ideas, music and work together.
I try to listen to everything that gets put up by fellow EMOM performers and thats how I came across “Journey;” an EP by Broken Atoms. I really enjoyed it. The opening track “Koganoya Adventurer” blends synths with guitars in a way that instantly reminded me of one of my favourite bands “65DaysOfStatic.”
Those regular readers of my Track Of The Week will know that this style of music is definitely a favourite of mine. The warbling synth/e-piano melody that provides the foundatons and opens the track is a texture that I instantly appreciated. By its conclusion, I was impressed by the tracks maturity in its production and arrangment. For an artist that only has a handful of records on bandcamp, its impressive to see such high quality output that deserves your attention.
The Opening to M83’s 2008 album “Saturdays=Youth” is a slow burn. You appearing focuses on a collection of repeating melodyies, vocals and drones that slowly fade in and out of the track.
The track reminds me of the Shoegaze Gnere, Especially on the guitar pad/drones which are reversed to create these wide sweithes of sonic ambience I just love.
It’s an interesting start to the album, almost working as an amuse bouche before the main, more energetic corurse of the rest of the album.
As someone who likes some of my music to be a little more trippy and dreamy, “you appearing” is a supportive album track that holds up in its own right. With a sonic landscape and use of FX that really make this track shine.
Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been working on the Tokyo Olympic Games at work. It’s been a fun challenge that brought back visiting Japan, and my facination with the country over the years.
The first Japanese band I really got into were Plus-Tech Squeeze Box. A band who could have only come out of Japan.
Plus-Tech Squeeze Box are musically very hard to define. They wear their influences on their sleeves, often replicating them to perfection. What makes them so different is how scattershot those influences are, and how they’re plastered over their records in such a shotgun blast of frenetic energy that listening to one of their albums sounds close to someone with a low attention span flicking through channels on a television.
It’s an abrasive and frenetic style that could very easily be distracting if it weren’t for their charm. The two albums they have released (fakevox & cartoom!) are done with such an irreverent joy that you can’t help but smile. If I were to expand the fitting analogy of flicking through television channels, all of those channels would be of kids TV; bright vibrant colours of joyful and open innocence.
It’s a shame that they’ve only released two albums. Their last, “cartoom!” was released over fifteen years ago, yet they are so distinctly unique they sound as fresh and exiting now as they did when I first heard their track “Early Riser” all those years ago.
Listening to a full album from Plus-Tech Squeeze Box is where the real joy lies as its their crazed development that makes them so compelling, which isn’t transferred to the listener with a single track. However “☆” from their first album “fakevox” is a great place to start as it captures them at their most rambunctious, with big Simmons drums and brass pad sounds that just bring joy to any listener with a soul.
“☆” also works well as it features the same kind of themes as their track “starship.6” from their second album “cartooom!,” which I have talked about previously in an earlier Track Of The Week post. At that time, Plus-Tech Squeeze Box weren’t available on spotify. Now that they are, I will posthumously add that track below, as well as to my TOTW-playlist for your enjoyment:
Nowhere Sound instantly perked my ears up when I heard it on Daniel Avery’s reccord “Together In Static”.
The track channels elements of on of my favourite electronic acts Boards of Canada with its warbling synth sounds and laid back electronic percussion strolling allong in the background. It’s a style I have loved for decades now and Daniel Avery proves that it is still as enjoyable and relevent now as it was all those years ago.
There is also some really intersting use of samplerate reduction as an effect on some of the synths throughout the track that gives them this crystaline fragility. Its a technique that is very easy to overdo but its masterfully blended here. An exemplarory piece of one of my favourite styles of electronic music.
Sorry for the delay with my track of the week. Over the next four weeks, work commitments are going to be busy and this may have to take a backseat if I can’t find the time.
I’m breaking many a couple of rules this week. Not only is it a few days late, but this isn’t a track. It’s a live performance on Youtube.
I decided to break the rules because I simply had to highlight this performace from three great musicians and fantastic live performers in their own right. Mark Rebillet & Reggie Watts are both best known for thier entirely improvised sets. Flying Lotus more so for his albums and production work.
Over the hour forty five minutes of this performance, we’re shown the fluidity of them working between each other, which creates completely improvised music that is truly a blend of each artist’s sound and style.
It has two different styles of comedic irreverance that both Rebillet & Watts have in their music, along with a smattering of all three artists approaches to electronic music production. Add to that, it’s improvised nature and the musicians’ joyous ireverance throughout, and your left with a video that is not only fun to watch but great to listen to.
Its incredible that technology has got us to a point where this level of production can be accomplished live but technology is not doing the heavy lifting here.
The skills required from the three performers comes from thousands of hours of practicing in the equipment they are using, just like you would any instrument.
Truly a sight to behold; modern virtuosos of their own creative approach to instrumentation and a demonstration of what is possible when musicianship is applied to modern computer technologies.
The album “Compro” by Skee Mask was a favourite of mine from a few years ago. Although it works well as a complete collection of tracks and their order within the record is really well designed, a handful of standout tracks are well worth listening to in their own right.
Rev8617 Is one of my favorites from the record. The track focuses on a synth 4 bar pattern that loops with slight tweaks throughout the majority of the track. This fluid synth pattern is then anchored with a shuffling drum section that works its way around the synth line creating an energy and variety that keeps you hooked on the pattern.
After the first third of the track, once the melody and the drums are truly cemented in your conscious skee mask then pulls them apart turning the textures of the synths into wider ambiances and stripping parts of the drums down as some low end comes into the track.
He continues to play with the tracks elements through to its conclusion, taking a short idea in many directions, removing and weaving different elements together so although the track its built up around a 4 bar sequence it never gets tiring. A masterstroke in how you can eek out great electronic tracks from small electronic ideas:
Over a decade after its creation, the album “Immolate Yourself” by Telefon Tel Aviv is still one of my favourite records. Its dark aesthetics and brooding analogue synth lines pack an emotional punch that still holds up to this day.
This is an analogue electronic record through and through. This is not just in choice of instruments, but in how they were recorded and processed. You can almost hear the clunk and whir of the tape machines; the electricity passing though the very circuitry itself.
Through its warbling synth lines and softer aesthetics you can really feel the tactility of the instruments and equipment used. No better is this exemplified than in my track of the week ” I Made A Tree on the World.”
Melodically, its structures are rather simplistic, but its the way they drift through the piece, building in power as filters are slowly opened up to create underlying drive and aggression. This aggression is then released in the final third of the track with a raise in octaves and looping vocals that merge into each other creating a wide sonic landscape that slowly fades away into the distance.
Although its more of an “album track” and provides a link between more traditionally constructed tracks on the album “I Made A Tree on the World” is still my favorite from an impressive bunch. It manages to create a world that I have enjoyed returning to countless times over the past twelve years:
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