Tuesday, March 29, 2011

SRM-- In Transition

"In Transition", the 18 track offering of a madcap mix of progressive rock, humor, soundtrackery, and ambience, somehow manages to gel together and form a cohesive glimpse into the brain of its creator (whom I imagine/hope to be a bit of a mad scientist) Steve Morton, aka SRM

First track "Smells Like Pork (Tastes Like Chicken)" is completely, fearlessly irreverent and absurd, flaunting flashy synths and samples of dogs barking and flatulence. It serves as the album's advice to its listeners to prepare for a strange variety of tracks.

Second track "American Idyll" encompasses an entirely different feel and mood-- it's dominated by wonderfully twangy electric guitars and a tapping bass, which lends itself to a shuffling, gritty Americana tone.

Track three, "Progress and Livers" is charmingly reminiscent of 1980's prog rock. A snappy synth and picky guitars are laid over a quick drum beat, making it a fun, danceable piece. 

Downshifting in tempo, "Fishfin" is a much softer, more somber experience. Moody percussion and chiming synths dominate, and woodblocks add a unique touch. The track is aptly titled: it's at once smooth and sleek with all the prickliness of scales. Following up is "180", which is made up of grungy, bass driven guitar tones and insinuatory vocals, making it the darkest track on the album.

Abruptly, SRM switches gears into "Really Cheesy Theater Theme", a track which is indeed as its title suggests-- cheesy surfer punk soundtrack music that sounds right at home in a beach party film. The track is so strangely placed that it fits right in, a delightful shift back into the bizarre. 

Standout track "Anna" returns to a twangily tuneful jazzy guitar and scratchy synths, peppered with Latin percussion. The piece breezily sways and crackles with magnificent vivacity.

"Trippin'" is slower in tempo and dominated by bass and hushed cymbals. The voice samples are at turns poignant and sardonic: "We assure ourselves that our destination will be Heaven", "I'm having the most perfect hallucination!, "Please help me. I've taken LSD". They lend a surreal quality to the atmosphere of the piece, proving that SRM can be thoughtful without taking himself too seriously.

It gears us up for track nine, "Sorry Danny", driven by a tuba-like tone, and it's a rollicking, fun dive into SRM's soundtracking forays. "Headlong" features whirling, gyrating synths and knocky percussion and is  a perfectly fitting mood piece for building suspension, and "Luncheonette of Death"'s flashy telephone synth is interwoven with piano-like pizzazz, adding a sort of smiling tension to the mix. 

Twelfth track "'Jasper did once, but he don't no more'" is another notable departure into more serious territory: it's tough, punchy, percussive, deep, and shifting-- another standout track.

"Midnight Tarmac" is a more traditional electronic piece-- lively, bouncy synths and a snappy bass dominate. It's light cheerfulness is balanced by the following track "'Here they come!'", an appropriately ominous mood creator. 

"Snouts in the Trough", an interpolation of chimes and humorously clever synths, marks a return to SRM's zesty and playful tone, while "Sunset" is more relaxed and ambient, using a humming, organ-like synth and a tiptoeing bass in a gradual crescendo of sound. 

Seventeenth track "Iron Lung Blues" is disquieting at first, and then bluesy as labored breath transitions into a decidedly high energy track that cheerfully bounces along, merrily poking fun at smokers.

Final track "Smells Like Pork (extended dance remix)" is a fitting conclusion to the album. It remains faithful to the original version, but showcases more bass and instrumentation, all the while still remaining as wonderfully weird as before.

All in all: SRM proves that he's versatile and capable of wearing many hats: some silly, some serious. Many of the tracks here are outstanding, and the whimsical, fun ties that keep the album together are strong. Everyone is sure to find at least a few tracks to their liking, even the poppies, and giving the full album a listen through is well worth it, just to witness the dazzling spectacle that is SRM's instrumentation.

Available at SRM's website, free download. Also available on CDBaby, physical copies for $6.00, downloads for $5.00. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Kadaj Da Kid-- Portrait

While Kadaj Da Kid primarily describes himself as an instrumental hip-hop artist hoping to pass on beats, his tracks on his latest album "Portrait" are strong enough to stand on their own.

The first track "Violet Eye" opens with a rolling, soft electric guitar-like synth, augmented by a quiet bass; these sounds provide a frame for the laid back yet soft beat. 

Deeper and more brooding than the first track, "Eternal" has a sense of quickening in its midlevels by using a looping synth that spirals around the central beat. The track manages to sound minimalist yet rich, allowing listeners to focus on the patterns that emerge.

Third track "Frozen" is almost orchestral, with a lilting guitar, light piano chords, and a light piccolo sound, punctured by an occasional electric guitar. The beat is deep and laid back, and is well complemented by the bright tones. Kadaj Da Kid holds onto the mood with the next track: marked by a handdrum-like beat, "Pearl Swan" is a mysterious, well syncopated track that incorporates the sounds of light, floating synths, keys, and a rolling percussion. 

Moving from cooler tones, fifth track "Postscript" features a bass vocal sample elevated by warm, appealing keys that is underscored by handclaps and a bass drum to round out the tone. "Dusk" has a similarly calmative resonance, featuring another bass vocal sample and a sturdy beat that pulses without disturbing the smoothness of the sounds. Nicely syncopated glitchy noises flutter around softly, infusing the track with a twinkling essence.

Track seven "Dawn" is fittingly energetic after the calm of "Dusk", with a sharply assertive electronic synth synching up with a strong, dominant beat, and  "Believe" returns to smoother grounds, but maintains a lively quality, melting beat with synth-trumpet-like staccatos and a humming loop.

The deep, bouncy bass of ninth track "Deja Vu" nicely mirrors the percussion, and the track cleverly creeps through its tones, showcasing organs, keys, and a hint of electric guitar. 

Tenth track "Cosmos" is a marked departure from the rest of the album, relying on ethereal electronic tones underwritten by a shuffling beat. 

Final track "The Dark Arts" features a vocal sample and a driving beat, making it the most aggressive and emotional piece on the album.

All in all: Kadaj Da Kid has made an offering of engaging, catchy beats and instrumentals. Even independent of vocals, Kadaj Da Kid's sounds showcase a talent for both variety and steadfastness, and the ability to create thoughtful, crafted foundations for hip hop instrumentals.

Available on Kadaj Da Kid's site, name your own price.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Dubh-- Fractured Broken and Beautiful

Dubh's resonant, evocative 18 track album "Fractured Broken and Beautiful" shifts and glides through a spectrum of sounds using samples, synths, and beats to map out a somber album. His ideas are well rounded by shimmering moods and great depths; it's a phenomenal album for the pensive from start to finish. 

"Hello" fades listeners in with a rolling thrum, and through the murk a clipped sample greets and beckons. The album's watery beginning manages to outdo expectations of typical introductory first tracks through beautifully created sound collections. 

Distorted piano fuzz plays in the margins of the next track, "Without Pain", guiding it through the kaleidoscopic, forested sounds that feel as though their origin comes from the listener's own chest. We're then shifted into "You Will Find", a track that hums and shimmers, twisting hauntingly through its deepening of sounds. Particularly enjoyable is the faintly syncopated rhythm section that intertwines with the light sample.

As we climb deeper into the album, fourth track "Reality at Any Point" beats and throbs-- its sounds are nearly tangible. One of Dubh's major talents seems to be his adept handling of the sounds he creates; he allows his ideas to linger, fade and crescendo at exactly the right moments, never overpowering his ideas. "Geography and Chronology" showcases this talent, as piano, gentle windlike sounds, and sampling keep from dominating one another. 

Sixth track "Small Things" has a timid quality that recollect visions of drowned wind up toys forgotten but not yet gone. Next, "Fracture Broken and Beautiful" incorporates that same magical timid piano quality to it, but deepens itself with pizzicato bass underscores. The track glimmers and creeps and swells-- it's beautifully emotional without being maudlin.

Breaking listeners out of the reverie with extraordinary bass echoes, Dubh fades in "And We Do Not Know". The distinguished rhythm keeps the track gratefully pensive and moody rather than eerie or disquieting. Deftly, Dubh has moved his audience from the previous wilting mood to one of restlessness and quiet action. "Truth Becomes" continues in this vein and is more glitchy and clipped. Particularly lovely are the piercing, stretched piano tones against the scant rhythm.

Tenth track "Inside Ourselves" is a more muted, grave experience, using somnambulant mids rather than throbbing basses. The piece feels like an organic growth and intermingling of its own sounds rather than a painstakingly crafted idea.

"Musette" has a guitarlike theme that pulls away from the more restless feelings, and elevates the mood to a reflective, clear state of mind, and "Angeltech" layers light and dark, pricking the senses with rhythmic ticking, enigmatic voice samples, and a slightly foreboding bass.

Thirteenth track "Mild Methodology" is anything but mild-- it's a dark, pacing return to restlessness, but the cleverly timed drum rhythms keep the track from becoming unnerving, and immediately following, the aptly titled "I'm A Cyborg" features distorted organs and a plodding beat.

Track fifteen, "Unbecome" features an soft, beautiful accordion-like synth, but is more dictated by its rhythms-- another shifting beat that leads the tone. Soft midtones round out the piece, making it feel simultaneously large and intricate. The restlessness is quieted here, and almost banished in "Silence is Full of Music", a track that opens with a regal, church-like appeal. Chanting synths with a pattering bass and percussion line strengthen the track's charms, and the continually evolving resonance throughout deepens and unifies the individual sounds.

Penultimate track "The White Box" marks a return to a more mechanical theme, and a dark bass is elevated by sweet, lilting bells. The track evolves into itself, maturing in a matter of minutes.

The final track, "Cimmeria" is disorienting but rewarding, if the listener can relax into the track's vocal samples, scattered patterns, and winding mechanisms. The tiny piano that haunts the listener's ear again and again are like final glimmering rays of light before day's end. It's a fitting close to an album that demands complete surrender and rapt attention. 

All in all: Resonant and gorgeous, this album is one that you can sink deeply into without any residual effects of unease-- instead, upon finish, you might find yourself feeling an energy and clarity lacking before. Listen for the beautiful piano and amazing accordion-like sounds. It's a wonderful album for sitting and staring out a window on a rainy day, or for providing a soundtrack to a task requiring solidity of mind and concentration. Not for pop-ulists, but definitely a must hear.

Available on Dubh's site, physical copies (cool vinyl look!) ₤10.00 or more, digital for ₤5.00 or more. See also Dubh's Facebook page.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Open Submissions!

Hi all,

As many of you know, Dovetail is a project in its infancy.

I'm looking for submissions by artists who have taken the time to put together a collection of songs online for download or stream. The collections can be full albums, EPs, sketches-- whatever works! I'm shying away from single tracks (for now) as listening to consciously curated collections of tracks gives me more of an opportunity to listen deeply.

That said, ANY collection will do-- and this project is not limited to only electronic/ambient artists! I'll listen to anything: rap, country, heavy metal, pop, rock, spoken word, you name it.  I embarked on this project in the hopes of not only exposing good music to anyone willing to listen, but also to teach myself how to listen passionately to all sorts of music, even if the particular genre has yet to catch my attention.

So come on, don't be shy! You can leave a link in the comments or find me on Twitter (@katieweed). Whatever works best for you works best for me.

My promise: to listen wholeheartedly. I lock myself in a room or listen with noise canceling headphones and let the sounds seep into my brain. I listen through at least twice, often more. I look for the unique, ear-catching, evocative moments. I pay attention to what's being said and what's not being said. I'm fair, I like variety, and my goal is to listen without pretense or prejudice.

That said, if for some reason I choose not to review your music after a submission, I will let you know as soon as possible, and have no problem discussing and reconsidering.

Aiming for ~1 review per week, so get sending! Don't be shy!


Monday, March 14, 2011

Alka-- A Dog Lost In the Woods

We wander into Alka's album "A Dog Lost In the Woods" with the first track, "Blueberry", a cheerfully ambling expedition that begins with a steady bass and a brightly syncopated percussion, and rounds out with a humming, dreamy treble.

The second track, "When You Abandon Your Youth", nicely commingles bass with charmingly messy synths, a jumpy percussion, and a twangy guitar. A faint melody tugs at the heart, but the upbeat walking tempo and the clever rhythms keep it from being drab or dark.

Track three, "Collocation", is a brilliantly ambient piece, with enchanting bell-like timbres and a deceptive beat. Alka is particularly exceptional at weaving percussive patterns that evolve and twist throughout his tracks, rather than relying on a change in melody in order to help his songs evolve from section to section.

The fourth track, "I Am a Wreck" begins with a throbbing, soft bass, electric noise, and whispers of high synths that round it out. A sudden shift into harp-like strings elevate the track from its bounciness. The following track "Lucent" has a harder appeal; it pulses rather than thrums. Synths grind and percussive elements pop against a deep bass. The track feels sensuous-- the sound textures are so rich that they're nearly tangible.

"Separate", the six track, opens with bells and faint, distorted vocals. The emerging pattern feels light and tuneful but balanced, and the vocals are eagerly received as an important part of the track, rather than a noisy distraction.

"Immolated" is the otherworldly combination of a tinny rhythm that's supported by a deep bass and gyrating trebles. The noises contract and crunch satisfyingly.

Particularly great moment: "Solip" feels distinctly metallic and schizophrenic, but it somehow manages to feel wonderfully weird and benign rather than menacingly alienating when Alka introduces an ethereal treble into the mix.

"Alpha Pilos" is a notable departure in tone from the tracks preceding-- funky synth that drives the track rather than the trebles or syncopating rhythms. The synth is a simple loop but manages to keep the audience captivated and grooving on it. Its upbeat synthesis of weird sounds is catchy and almost hypnotic, and the track transitions nicely into its segments without losing feel. Another personal favorite.

"Israel" combines a steady, hard beat with electric blasts and a  tinkly, music-box-like chime, and ghostly little harmonies flicker throughout. It's darker and more otherworldly, eerie piece that manages to keep from feeling alienating.

"What Will Become of Your High Existence?" marks a return to the earlier elements of the album, combining intricate rhythms with metallic elements, deep bass, and legato synths. This piece, however, feels a bit more serious than those preceding, and is an exciting and deep foray into sound.

The final track, "Sky, Face Down" is a mellow, shuffling piece sprinkled with bells and plucked strings The faint hint of keys is uplifting and serene, and the shift into an electronic blip variation peppers and livens the track. It's a fitting "zoom out" of the soundscapes that we've heard.

All in all: The changing percussive beats are sure to make any listener revel, and this album is a cheerful and complete enough synthesis of its elements to please even those who prefer pop. 
As an added bonus, listeners pick up on more fun nuances with repeat listens. It's a great album for active and passive listeners alike-- notice as much (or as little) as you like. 

Available on Amazon.com for $8.99 or on iTunes for $9.99. 
You can find more at Reverb Nation and Sound Cloud.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Kurt Lorenz-- The General Analysis of Nature EP

"The General Analysis of Nature", the first EP by artist Kurt Lorenz is a challenging and fascinating undertaking of five tracks, each of which plays as a micro-journey through a realm of physics. Separate, each track is a complete idea that is realized by extrapolating a sound-element that acts as a guide. Together, the tracks commune and interweave as microcosms of the multifaceted scope of the nature of the world.

"Magnetic Moment" opens with a mysterious, hoppy looping synth. The synth acts as a conveyance through the track; Lorenz lets his sound linger and then bursts it open by bringing in a dark, intense bass synth and a driving percussion, all the while impelling the listener to hear that continually gyrating theme. The track is an omen of what's to come and an exciting first offering that blends synthetics and physics and pulls the listener through a corridor of sound.

"Eigenvalue", the second track, is introduced by an oscillating, unsettling synth that tunnels through the ear like a worm. That insidious sound is underwritten by a steady rhythm and light, airy synths. The piece whirls through brain like a dervish. I had a sense of ants in an open field at dawn, working madly in their tiny, intricate worlds. This track is successful because of its combination of the large and small-- the oscillating synth, the strong beat, and the major themes. All move together smoothly, albeit uneasily, but Lorenz has another surprise in store for his listeners: roughly two-thirds into the track, just as the listener begins to settle in with the sounds he's been surrounded by, a voice sample overlays those sounds, intoning: "For we have become a people, indeed, a whole world dependent upon the technology, the enormous sophisticated complex technology that we have created. Yet despite our depending on it, most of us know next to nothing about how it works or how it fails to work." The sense of unease that permeates the ear suddenly makes sense: in a world where art and music are so augmented by technology and where that technology has become an integral part of the creative process, what happens if that same technology collapses?

"Resonant Sway", the third track, begins with a method that is similar to the preceding tracks: a singular sound (in this case, a looming liquid reverberation) that opens the piece acts as a unifying thread. Here Lorenz layers a more upbeat, almost danceable rhythm under his thread, and listeners are treated to a surreal, arboreal experience. When the "sound thread" fades away, one feels a sense of arrival and abandonment and it's as though he's been tunneled into the depths of a forest and left to experience its offerings in solitude. It makes for a simultaneously disquieting and somehow pleasant experience.

The fourth track, "Soliton", opens with an organ-like synth, and this time Lorenz gently introduces the percussion and a bright but soft synth as transport. After the jarring, percussive experiences of "Resonant Sway" and "Eigenvalue", "Soliton" feels gentle and uplifting. The listener becomes joyously aware of Lorenz's ability to soothe as well as unnerve. This particular journey feels astral, subliminal, and steady.

The final track, "Alfvén" is evocative and pensive, with bells and a string-like synth acting as a vessel through its layers of sound, combining dark and light, mechanical and musical, busy and calm. The track dissects itself and places itself back together again. It's an intricate and deft distillation of the restless mood of the EP, and a beautiful coda to the album as a whole.

All in all: deeply thoughtful. Lots of layers to analyze, fun for the listener who enjoys connecting with sounds and physics. Want to propose a theory as to the general meaning of a pattern? Try out "Eigenvalue" or "Magnetic Moment". Want to meditate? Go for the eerie underworld of "Resonant Sway" or the beauty of "Soliton".  Again, not for the pop of heart, but for the thoughtful person who likes an aural puzzle, this EP is a pleasure to hear, again and again.

Available on Kurt Lorenz's website, name your own price. See Kurt's portfolio at www.kurtlorenz.com.