Stellardrone – Light years

cover017Well over one year ago, I reviewed a compilation by Energostatic Records entitled ‘Choose Ur Way’. I was very impressed by the overall attention the label showed to presenting a coherent package: the space travel theme of their website meshes very well with their selection of ambient and ambient varieties of techno and drum and bass. This release is no different, even the track titles are in on it.

According to his Last.FM page, Lithuanian artist Stellardrone specializes in “space ambient” (whatever that may be). He has been releasing music since 2007 and ‘Light Years’ is already his 6th release. As such, his style is quite well-defined. Most tracks feature the bread-and-butter reverb synth pads as a base for the track, which are complemented with (often LFO-manipulated) arpeggio’s in the high-end of the spectrum. I’m not a big fan of most of the drum elements (the rather plastickey drum sounds of ‘Comet Halley’ come to mind), which stand in stark contrast to the depth that is present in the rest of the sounds. Luckily, those occurrences are few and far between.

One notable feature of the release is its dynamic range. Stellardrone plays around with fades and volume shifts much more than I’ve heard on other ambient releases.

The best track on the album is without a doubt in my mind ‘Eternity’. I would think the artist himself agrees with that, as he’s even included a reprise of it at the end of the album. Apart from being a nice example of the dynamic range discussed above, ‘Eternity’ sports some fitting samples, though I wonder how anybody describing his music as space ambient can resist not using only HAL9000 samples.

While a few small imperfections might ensure this release won’t make my top 3 for 2013, it’s still a good ambient release and a very solid addition to the Energostatic Records catalogue.

Stellardrone – Eternity

 

Links:
Release Page [STASIS017]
Stellardrone Bandcamp
Stellardrone Facebook
Stellardrone Last.FM


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

Ochre – National Ignition

coverOchre has been producing electronic music for over a decade now. Most of his releases have been printed through Benbecula, one of Scotland’s most renowned electronic music labels. His new album is called National Ignition, has 10 tracks, and is now available as a digital release at Aura Materia. You can stream the album for free at its bandcamp page, or pay 5 GBP for the flac download. We don’t usually spend too much time on cover art, but the stunning work by Nathaniel Reeves is well worth highlighting. You can even order a limited edition heavyweight matte print of the cover art.

The sound of National Ignition is on par with the highest standard IDM released today, like those of Telefon Tel Aviv, Plaid, Proem, Boxcutter or Arovane. What defines this “high standard”? One factor which never ceases to amaze is the ability to combine myriad intricate and melodic elements into a sonic superstructure that flows much slower than the individual elements would suggest. This allows the listener to zoom in on those elements he wishes to pay attention to, while maintaining a much more soothing overall feel. If the music just makes you feel like you drank twenty espresso’s, something is wrong. Good IDM always gives the listener some new element to track and discover, no matter how many times you’ve heard a song. Great IDM does this without becoming a graveyard for a million sounds, and this is exactly what Ochre has managed to pull off with his latest release. It’s a stunning eb and flow of delicate sounds. I especially like ‘Leaving Arcadia’ (with a small Thom Yorke tribute at the end?) and ‘Abbau’, though every track is a little masterpiece in its own right. A highly recommended release!

Ochre – Leaving Arcadia

 

Release Page
Label Page


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

Candlegravity – Junpei

BK-K_037Candlegravity-JunpeiWhen listening to music most of us are very product-oriented. We listen to a song or an album and determine its quality based on whether we like chord progression, drum parts and not in small part how we are feeling at the time. Unless the artist is already very famous, we often don’t even bother with analysis of what they were thinking when they created their piece. Although one can see this as a natural tendency – we don’t have time for over-thinking most things in our fast-paced, adrenaline-based society – I would ask the reader/listener to sit back and do just that.

‘Junpei’ is an 8-track release from the California-raised/Japan-based Candlegravity. His work has been reviewed Netlabelism before, and I interviewed him in Tokyo when I got the chance to do so.  The release cycles through a variety of sound palettes and electronic sub-genres. ‘Junpei’ features bubbly, warm synth sounds, quirky samples (I love the Dutch girl telling her grandma that her cup of water is leaking, by the way) and more vocal work than we’re used out of Candlegravity. The form of his release has evolved in subtle ways, but looking at these formal elements is the sort of heady product-oriented view that completely misses the point of the release.

In a lot of eastern cultures and languages, there is no strict separation of “mind” and “heart”. The Japanese word ‘kokoro’ means both mind and heart at the same time, and I would wager that his time in Japan has moved Candlegravity’s already fairly emotional approach to making music even further in the realm of the unthinking mind. I also would not be surprised that this is one of the reasons why his music has been picked up by the iconic Bunkai-Kei label, still one of our absolute favourites here at Netlabelism. Think about this release and you’ll miss the point. Hard though it is for me to write this down (I’m definitely in the mind-part of the audience), this release has more to do with raw emotion than with beautifully crafted synth-lines or coldly calculated music. Throughout the release, you can hear the artist dealing with love, grief, pain, loss and even border-line insanity (I’ll admit the opening sample of ‘Afghan’ is to blame for that one). It’s these feelings that resonate directly with the listener more than the actual sounds which the artist uses to convey them.

This is a good release, but give it time to get under your skin and it will prove to be a great one. Highly recommended! [SVB]

Candlegravity – With Many Tears

 

Release Page
Bunkai-kei Records
Candlegravity Website
Candlegravity Soundcloud


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