NewRetroWave – Equinox EP

coverA lot has been said about the 80′s. Reagonomics, the first space shuttle, the first IBM PC, the Chernobyl disaster. But apart from it being the decade in which I happened to be spawned, I think I’ll mainly remember it for the horrible hairdos and clothes, and the new wave movement. While some people might argue new wave has never left, there definitely seems to be a resurgence of anything new wave in popular culture. How else could you justify the insane pomp that is Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon?

But let’s re-focus for a second. What was that synth-music doing in the background? There’s this thing called chillwave, a mashup between a love for ambient, 80′s new wave and some of the more modern sounds and production techniques. Now take that and put it on a steady diet of amphetamines and a healthy dose of retro, and you get a more energetic version called retrowave.

NewRetroWave’s ‘Equinox EP’ is a collection of songs by artists whose names sound like an alternate universe’s super villains and heroes: MK Ultra, Mega Corp, Kick Puncher, Sagittarius V, Orax. Just the names are enough to spontaneously grow a nasty little mustache and start sporting purple trainers.

The artists’ names actually give a decent preview of what the music sounds like: nothing which will ever be classified as fine art by any means, but a raw energy (definitely purple, by the way) which just plows straight through any objections one might have about the cheesy synths, the even cheesier synths on top of those and the drum beats which sound like they came from the same synthesizers.

‘Fears’ by Orax seems like it starts at the best part of the song. A crescendo arpeggio is soon joined by a synth line mangled through the best NI’s Guitar Rig has to offer. From there on out it’s just 4 more minutes of pure climaxing. Tell me this is not the ideal workout music.

And just when I thought there’s only a single thing missing to make this the quintessential nostalgia trip down retrowave lane, I stumbled on a hidden bonus track in the digital download. Beatbox Machinery’s ‘Cities of the Future’ (reworked by Camille R) continues the synthesizer madness but adds that much-needed sprinkle of terrible vocals. Break out the <add your favourite 80′s beverage here>, we have arrived.

The cover art is from the hands of Ariel Zucker. His art is a great fit for this release. I like the fact that the release package provides an uncoloured sketched version of the cover as well as some extra artwork. All are equally so-wrong-they-are-just-right.

People that have since shed their 80′s outfits might sometimes defend themselves by saying things like “You wouldn’t understand if you weren’t there. You had to live it to understand the moment.” This release is quite like that: there’s no possible reason I should like this at all. However, I just can’t stop listening. Once you listen past the individual elements you’ll get sucked into a world where lasers, cyborgs and complete world domination are yours for the taking. Ahem. If you’re into that sort of thing. Which I’m not. Nothing to see here. Move along.

MK Ultra –  Tears In The Rain


Orax – Fears


Release Page

This review was originally published on, an online music magazine covering netlabel culture and releases. I was editor for the magazine from January 2011 until December 2014.

Crown City Rockers – Unreleased Joints, Demos & B​-​Sides

coverSometimes one just gets lucky. As Hugh Laurie put it succinctly in Blackadder the Third: “Like thinking a cat did its business on your pie, and it turns out to be an extra large blueberry!” That’s exactly the kind of fortune that guided us towards “Unreleased Joints, Demos & B​-​Sides” by Crown City Rockers. The rest of this review is really just a formality. They just graduated cum laude from Netlabelism Academy.

Crown City Rockers are a hip-hop quintet that was formed in Boston, and moved out to California to record their first EP. They focus on hip-hop with a type of jazzy live instrumentation. Often likened to Tribe Called Quest, this daring comparison actually makes sense. Yes, Crown City Rockers are that good. You can read their full bio on this page. A teaser:

The trip to Cali proved to be an adventure in itself. An 18-wheeler totaled all of the group’s instruments and the car they were driving. Once the group finally made it out west, they used the insurance money from the accident to put out a self-titled EP to get their name out.

They have released material on a.o. Basement Records and Insiduous Urban Records. CCR are giving away this collection of B-sides and remixes on MC Raashan Ahmad’s Bandcamp.

‘Unreleased Joints, Demos & B​-​Sides’ features a whopping 16 tracks. They range in tone and contents of the lyrics, but there’s a nice consistency throughout the entire album.

‘Another Day’ quickly turns the slightly over-the-top piano intro into a catchy loop, and we are guided through a day of hectic work life, family problems and having newborn kids. The drums, the piano, distant brass sections mangled through an lfo-filter: it all comes together in a very solid way, accurately catching both the stress and the hope in the track.

‘Mardi Gras’ goes another route. This is pure hedonism, much like the event should be. The instrumentation on this track is simply superb, complementing the jolly madness.

There’s no real gangsta rap on the album. The one track that does deal with some of these topics is approached from a very interesting perspective. ‘Could’ve been’ features a person slowly drowning in melancholy. The instrumentation is nice and subdued, while slowly building up to an inevitable climax, where the voice drowns and is replaced by a narrator that utters the final two verses. A very strong track.

Finally there’s the showcase that is ‘B-Boy remix’. This track features approximately a thousand contributing artists. The form of the lyrics is something worth noting here. Every artist brings their own distinct style to the track. From non-stop alliterating to a voice so deep you need a submarine to explore it fully, this track just exhumes personal identity, staying true to that and finding energy in it.  It’s a spectacular finale to an album which will definitely be in my playlists for a long time to come. Highly recommended.

Crown City Rockers – Another Day (Thes One Remix)

Crown City Rockers – Mardi Gras

Release Page

This review was originally published on, an online music magazine covering netlabel culture and releases. I was editor for the magazine from January 2011 until December 2014.

Jewbei Does Sean Price

coverLondon-based Jewbei has been doing some nice remixes of classic hip-hop tunes. I very much like the result. Changing the originals by adding in additional layers of laidback grooves turns out to to work wonders. Just compare this original version of Roc Marciano’s Snow (featuring Sean Price, of course) to the pimped track at the bottom of this post. Is this even necessary, you ask? Why is this man touching our classic hip-hop records, you ask? We’ll let the man’s mother answer all your questions: “Jewbei is crazy flamboyant for the rap enjoyment”. ‘Nuff said.

The release is not that long, and neither is this review. ‘Jewbei Does Sean Price’ consists of solid tracks given new life and a special twist. They are everything good old NYC rap should be, and then some.

There’s some good news for the turntable-enthusiasts: the Bandcamp download comes with the instrumental versions of the first 3 tracks, allowing for some no doubt smooth-as-butter scratching action in the home studio.

You can find the other installments in Jewbei’s remix series (Shad and Action Bronson) on his SoundCloud.

Sean Price – Bang Exclusive (Jewbei Remix)

Roc Marciano – Snow (Feat. Sean Price) (Jewbei Remix) BONUS


Release Page
Jewbei SoundCloud

This review was originally published on, an online music magazine covering netlabel culture and releases. I was editor for the magazine from January 2011 until December 2014.

Little People – We Are But Hunks of Wood (Remixes)

coverIt’s been a long summer, and one spent mostly away from buzzing hardware and bright screens. That doesn’t mean it was spent without some quality music, though. As to who won the “Battle of the Playlists – Summer Edition”, there’s very little doubt in my mind. A total gem of a remix album by Little People, called ‘We Are But Hunks of Wood’.

Some context. Little People is the alias of Laurent Clerc, a Swiss/UK producer that published his debut album “Mickey Mouse Operation” in 2006. As he explains in this interview, his style has shifted a bit since then, from extensively relying on samples to creating more of his own unique sounds. You can find a full biography here.

We Are But Hunks of Wood (Remixes) is a tiny masterpiece of downtempo electronica, combining lush synth textures with intricate percussion. There’s so much there you will discover new things even after you’ve played it a dozen times. From downtempo glitch-hop over oldschool trip-hop to Metro Area-esque dance floor vibes: it’s all here. Let me walk you through two of my favourite tracks.

Eminence Grise (Set in Sand Remix) is like falling down the rabbit hole one a double dose of whatever Lewis Carroll was doing. There’s things going on in every nook and cranny, various rhythms and harmonies, yet there’s some overarching structure to the song. A melody of glitchy chimes evolves into expanding synth structures and a woman humming in the background. You can just hear her singing, and then she’s gone. New synth lines take over, the beat keeps evolving, there’s a giant break and then is the synth arpeggio at 2:57. Pure bliss that one. In short: it’s the kind of track I will use in ten years’ time when I go out and buy new monitors. The kind of track you know and love, and is so well-crafted you can tell the quality of your listening equipment by what you’re missing but know should be there.

Electrickery (Joey Fehrenbach Remix) is a bit different. Even though there’s some variation in the track, it’s the hypnotizing effect of the notes that keep repeating over and over again that make this a winner. From the opening chord and gated melody that gradually appears through the cracks in the aural texture, the track steadily marches on, accompanied by a bass that’s very much minding it’s own business, albeit in quite an enjoyable groove. The melody teases the listener in the distance, only to return in full and sing out the rest of the track. Simple, yet stunning.

I’m pretty sure We Are But Hunks of Wood (Remixes) will survive 2014 to make my top 3 of the year. Excellent album. I don’t even know why you’re still reading this. Head over to Bandcamp. Download that stuff.

If you would like to find out more about the artist, Little People is doing a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) on the Listen to this page Wed Sept 3rd at 3PM EST. Keep your eye on Or if you’re in the US, catch the artists live at one of his upcoming US shows.

Little People – Eminence Grise (Set in Sand Remix)

Little People – Electrickery (Joey Fehrenbach Remix)

Release Page
Little People Facebook Page
Youtube interview with Little People

This review was originally published on, an online music magazine covering netlabel culture and releases. I was editor for the magazine from January 2011 until December 2014.

Brk – Nttld

coverWe’re big fans of Energostatic Records here at Netlabelism HQ. Their coherent feel as a netlabel, in selection of styles, cover art and website design is something I can never quite get enough of. The 21st release to sprout from their side of the netlabelverse is another winner.

Even on the label website, there’s not a lot of info on Brk. In fact, there’s not a lot a vowel either. We can assume ‘NTTLD’ stands for ‘Untitled’, which to me is always a bit of a missed opportunity. There’s plenty of untitled releases and tracks to go round. Just throw a dart at a dictionary for all I care, but name your babies. It reminds me of a piece of advice I saw on a sticker in Berlin: “Don’t be a maybe. Push hard!” And why shouldn’t Brk put himself out there a bit more? He/she/it has all the right to after an impressive debut.

‘NTTLD’ is a dub techno release, which means a more laidback approach to the ol’ four-to-the-floor paradigm. ‘Ml1′ is a nice example of staying true to the dub techno roots while experimenting with some of the recent trends in a more mechanical kind of dub. Even with a generous splash from the Reverb Cup of Plentiness, synth texture is a bit colder, and song structure a bit more calculated. Just the way I like it.

Ml2′ is a bit more traditional dub techno. A low-pass filtered and never-ending synth-arpeggio coils around a subdued kick to provide the meat of the track, with additional depth provided by faraway synths and some high-end shenanigans that fail to decide whether they want to be hihats or shakers. It all blends together very nicely and passes the ultimate dub techno test: is it suitable for late night travel? Play this release in your car, on a night train or even cycling back home after a night out and you will find that, yes, it very much is.

As always, Energostatic shows the artwork some love as well. The cover photograph is the work of Dutch designer Folker Gorter (Superfamous), who also provided the cover for the latest Energostatic release, Specta Ciera — Mountain Region. His photography often revolves around epic dimensions, with many impressive nature shots and abstract composition. I highly recommend having a look at some of his work.

All in all, another solid release from Energostatic Records. We’d love to hear more from (and about) Brk, and are looking forward to a sophomore release.

BRK – ml1


Release page [stasis021]
Energostatic Records

This review was originally published on, an online music magazine covering netlabel culture and releases. I was editor for the magazine from January 2011 until December 2014.

J. Butler – So Long, Voyager

00_-_j_butler_-_so_long_voyager_-_cover_image_fullWhen I’m shuffling through my playlist, I’ve more than once been delighted by some tune I didn’t remember downloading. A surprisingly large amount of those releases have something in common: a heart-shaped cover. The trademark cover design by the Basic_Sounds netlabel is present for ‘So Long, Voyager’ as well, and I imagine many of our readers might be just as intrigued as I was when I first heard this release.

From the Basic-Sounds website:

“Pittsburgh based sound artist, J. Butler creates masterful contemporary ambient works with guitar pedals, custom electronics and tape loops”

Maybe it’s because I’m a bit of a romantic and a gearhead (the two are not mutually exclusive, but try explaining that to your significant other), but I always love when electronic music is made with more than just DAW’s and software sequencers. While sounds may not always be tweaked to perfection, there’s often a lot of what can only be described as “heart” to be found in compositions made this way. You can actually hear this pretty well in all three tracks on ‘So Long, Voyager’. On a somewhat unrelated note: I’m still surprised by how loud these ambient pieces actually sound. So much so, in fact, I went ahead and had a look at the waveforms of these tracks. Warning: (some) compressing has been done.

Yes, yes, get on with it. What does the release sound like? You mean you haven’t clicked the audio preview at the bottom of the article yet? ‘So Long, Voyager’ is an ambient release, so you can pretty much expect there to be no drum lines or even much rhythm to shape the tracks. Faint guitar notes and synth pads are compressed into oblivion, and then brought back to life with copious amounts of reverb. All with a pleasing dose of crackling and pinch of noise in the high end of the spectrum.

‘So Long, Voyager’ is not the most subtle ambient release I’ve ever listened to, nor the most soothing. Yet, there’s something here that I connected with almost instantly. And did I mention it is loud as hell?

J. Butler – Heliosphere


Release Page
J Butler Homepage

This review was originally published on, an online music magazine covering netlabel culture and releases. I was editor for the magazine from January 2011 until December 2014.

Eyesix – Limerence

coverWe recently reviewed a Sparkwood Records release, Scyye’s Timegazing. We absolutely loved it, so naturally we were thrilled when we were contacted by Scyye’s fellow Sparkwood artist eyesix about his debut EP. Could this be the birth of another heavyweight IDM netlabel dynasty? We certainly hoped so. Let’s see if our enthusiasm was justified.

The sparkwood website brings us up to date on eyesix, the alias of Jason Dowd:

Eyesix is a producer of ambient electronic music based in Galway, Ireland. Heavily influenced by bands such as Boards of Canada and Tycho, amongst others. Nature, psychedelics and a love for all things retro and vintage, are some key elements reflected in his music. Eyesix also creates videos to accompany his tunes, believing it to provide a far more powerful experience. He is also a graphic designer and does his own artwork for releases.

I especially noticed the last part, and it shows. Eyesix’s facebook page is full of images and photographs that show great attention to detail. The cover image for ‘Limerence’ is the same: not wildly spectacular, but instead exhuming a quiet, dignified sense of beauty. The love for retro is apparent from the choice of colours, and the subject matter. To showcase the graphical dimension of the release, we added the music video of ‘Sunset on Skyscrapers’ as a preview track.

Boards of Canada being a huge influence on the work of eyesix is rather obvious from the first time one listens to ‘Limerence’. When asked about any other influences, eyesix mentions he just loves that downtempo, nostalgia vibe which can be found in the work of Christ, Fieldtripq, Freescha or Tychoand, and tries to get that across in some of his music. Other influences would be nature, as he incorporates some nature field recordings in certain tracks, and many of the videos he has made consist of old 16mm/8mm footage of vintage wildlife documentaries.

It’s always risky to mention the big names as influences, because comparisons are wont to follow. However, using only a minimal setup of a laptop with Reason 5, a pair of Audio Technica M-50s, some monitors and a midi keyboard, eyesix has created a sound which is truly grand.
‘Limerence’ is a wonderful downtempo release. For me personally, ‘Maryland’ is probably the most reminiscent of BoC. Rounded, pleasant and very warm-sounding synth lines are complemented by a drum track which is both amplifies their soothing quality, and adds an unmistakable element of groove to the track.
‘Idaho Transfer’ is a bit of the odd one out. Its sound strays somewhat from the rest of the album. The overall atmosphere of the track is a bit more menacing. Think the dark tracks on Aphex’s Selected Ambient Works Vol.2. The percussion elements are slightly different as well.
All in all, this is an astounding piece of work. High-quality releases like this have firmly put Sparkwood Records on the map as a force to be reckoned with in the IDM landscape. We are eagerly awaiting more from both Eyesix and Sparkwood. Highly recommended listening!

Eyesix – Sunset on Skyscrapers


Release Page
Eyesix Soundcloud
Sparkwood Records Site
Sparkwood Records Bandcamp
Sparkwood Records Facebook

This review was originally published on, an online music magazine covering netlabel culture and releases. I was editor for the magazine from January 2011 until December 2014.

RFJ – of Storybook and Sound

IDMf043 Front CoverRick Jeldy, driving force behind the Altered Echo project, also produces his own music. ‘Of Storybook and Sound’ is his latest release, published through the ever-sublime IDMf netlabel. It chronicles Jeldy’s arduous journey in achieving personal change. If you’d like to know more about the circumstances that gave rise to this EP, you can read about it in the included pdf document titled ‘A Version of Me’.

All instrumentation on the first four tracks of this five-track EP exudes a haunting, creepy atmosphere. While the combination of children’s voices and reverb can’t exactly be called ground-breaking, it has never failed to make an audience slightly uneasy, and it certainly doesn’t fail now, either.
Drum elements are mainly of the breakbeat variant, and they complement the previously described feeling of unease very well, without smothering the sense of depth and space. My two favourite tracks on the EP are ‘Contemplation’ and ‘The Last Analysis’. Somehow they remind me of Big Bud’s ‘infinity + infinity’.

Mornings have long been the go-to metaphor for hope. And the closing track by that name introduces this element into the equation, creating a noticeable break in style with the previous tracks. Musically speaking, it’s my least favourite of the five tracks on the EP, but that’s more just a personal taste characterized by a love for minor chords, literature for the chronically depressed and an appreciation of beauty in all things dark. But that’s based purely on the physical form of this release, not taking into account what it symbolizes. Truly, one can only be happy the track is there. ‘Morning’ retains the children’s voices as an anchor point to the rest of the release, but uses them in an entirely different context. New, but never unfamiliar.

RFJ has molded his personal experiences into a strong IDM release, which is dark and eerie, deep yet stimulating. Highly recommended.

RFJ – The Last Analysis


Release Page

This review was originally published on, an online music magazine covering netlabel culture and releases. I was editor for the magazine from January 2011 until December 2014.


Best Netaudio of 2013


#3. Lefolk – isn’t this dangerous
Release Date: 25.01.2013
Label: Resting Bell
This is one of the best ambient releases in years. Where some ambient might suffer from “cheap synth preset”-syndrome, this is most certainly not the case for ‘Isn’t this dangerous’. Far from walls of sound, all pieces on this release are beautifully crafted, incorporating space and silence just as much as actual sound. The track that stands out the most is ‘Ludmilla’, which is probably my most-played track of 2013.

#2. Params – Grids Grains & Waves
Release date: 24.08.2013
Label: Self-released
Download link
Params released a superb example of clicks and cuts on the world with ‘Grids, Grains & Waves’. Every track is an intricate collage of of patient and haunting synth sounds, subdued kick drums and clicks, cuts and noise. While perhaps not as flamboyant as my #1 pick, this excels in subtlety. ‘Grids, Grains & Waves’ is a fantastic release.

#1. Ochre – National Ignition
Release date: 21.01.2013
Label: Aura Materia
Download link
Whereas deciding the number two and three spots for my list took quite some time, this was not the case for the top spot. When I first heard it back in January, there was little doubt in my mind ‘National Ignition’ was going to be the best netaudio release of 2013. Everything about it just breathes quality: the instrumentation, the intricate rhythms, crisp mixing and stunning artwork (which is available as a separate matte print), and of course the track ‘Leaving Arcadia’. Ochre created something truly special, and it will be in my all-time favourite album list for years to come.

This review was originally published on, an online music magazine covering netlabel culture and releases. I was editor for the magazine from January 2011 until December 2014.

Dead in Sacramento – Over the Fiery Wall of the Horizon

coverThere’s always just that little extra excitement when coming across new netlabels from one’s native country, so it was with great expectations that I clicked the link to Belgium’s Tape Safe. What I got instead was a call from the 1990′s, who desperately wanted their website design back. Combined with poor sentence structure and excessive use of exclamation marks, my initial enthusiasm was most certainly curbed. But I was there for the music, not to look at the website. Browsing through Tape Safe’s catalogue of releases quickly reveals they offer a plethora of releases in a wide variety of genres. This gives potential listeners a mixed bag of releases, you can get a good idea what they sound like through their latest compilation.Personally, I much prefer the more “curated approach”, as mentioned in Filipe’s latest interview with Thanks for your netlabel. While there is most certainly room for improvement (both in website design and focus for the label itself), there are some delightful sounds to be heard here.
None more so than ‘Over the Fiery Wall of the Horizon’, the debut EP of Dead in Sacramento. The opening track, though somewhat lacking the finesse in instrumentation which the other tracks excell at, exerts just enough pull to get the listener to stick around for the second track. ‘There is no quiet here, nor silence’ is a tiny masterpiece. While it is undoubtedly one of the shorter drone tracks out there (at 3:52 most of its peers have barely begun unfolding most of their layers), it is a meticulously crafted soundscape. The texturing is just right for grain, depth and space alike. It immediately reminded me of Radere’s ‘Lost at Sea‘, which is still one of my all-time favourite ambient/drone releases.
After this excursion, the album returns to a less dronelike instrumentation. Where the opening track stumbles about in its efforts to find its footing, the rest of the EP hits all the right chords with a steady yet subtle precision. Distant guitar is incorporated, which gives a slightly more rhythmic dimension to the release.
All in all, this is a solid debut, and I can’t wait to hear more from Dead in Sacramento. Highly recommended!

Release Page

This review was originally published on, an online music magazine covering netlabel culture and releases. I was editor for the magazine from January 2011 until December 2014.