Robot Koch delivers an elevated piece of emotive electronica in 'Movement I'

Robot Koch is a Berlin born, Los Angeles based artist/composer who has cultivated a dream list of career achievements that would humble most successful artists these days. I could easily write pages about the gigs, collabs, labels, and awards but instead will leave this upto the inquisitive reader. I will however reference a quote from the late John Peel who described his music as “Strange and wonderful pop music from the future” because it’s a good segue into my impressions of his music. 

‘Movement I’ is simply a highly emotive piece of electronica that grabs you from the first note and wraps it's arms around you in the most intense embrace and doesn’t let go until it’s last phrase. The opening three repeating notes almost have the same reverence as a John Williams or Carpenter theme. There is something profound and transcendent about the repeating notes and their effect on our senses. While it would be easy to reference the impact of this kind of notation from such iconic, classic 70’s horror sound tracks it wouldn’t be an accurate comparison because these theme tunes are minimalistic and draw on a sparse sensibility to create tension and dread. ‘Movement I’ does quite the opposite, it creates warmth, melancholy and hope. Offset from the somber melody and opening urgency are lush layers of reversed vocals, soaring synth lines and flourishes of orchestral rapture that whisk you into a frenzy until it’s abrupt end. What you are left with is a piece of electronica that has the emotional range of a film score while being rooted in genre production styles that gives a piece of music like ‘Movement I’ that kind of awe that warrants all of the above dream list achievements. 

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Neu Balance wears his heart on his sleeve for 'In my life I've loved them all'

Neu Balance, one of Vancouver’s great breakout artists from the heyday of 1080p recordings, is back with a second full-length album, this time for the Seattle label Budget Cuts Records & Tapes. Despite retaining the name Neu Balance, however, this album is anything but the same rubbery, lurching, hazed out sounds of the first album, “Rubber Sole.” After the departure of Sebastian Davidson for solo works, Sam Beatch seems to have taken the opportunity of full control at the helm to branch out and collaborate in all directions. This new album, titled “In my life, I’ve loved them all,” includes a whole host of features by fellow producers, session musicians, and vocalists. They all work in tandem to expand the NB sound palette considerably, and coalesce into a polished, coherent, and smooth listen right from the first play.

The sound is still unmistakably PNW, but where Rubber Sole felt idiosyncratic and rhythmically experimental, In my Life, I’ve loved them all finds a confident unification of ideas. Track arrangements feel much more natural, the production is precise, and the emotional resonance of the compositions shine bright through it all. This is intuitive music; it prioritizes feeling over thinking, and the result is entirely sumptuous to consume.

Get a taste up above by streaming “I left my body alone with you,” featuring vocalist Forever, and hop over to Budget Cuts’ Bandcamp to get a copy for yourself.

— review by autonomy

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Winter Chill with Kurt Stewart's 'brrr!'

Winter on the east coast of America and Canada brings with it a few guarantees: short days, cold temps and regular dustings of snow. But this sub-zero hibernation isn’t all bad as Vermont- based beatmaker ‘Kurt Stewart’ shows with recent track- brrr! Although the name incites a whole body chill experienced only when your older brother shoves a handful of snow down your snowsuit, the sound of the track itself is actually quite warm and toasty. With a vintage croon to open the beat, the track bumps along with warm sense of nostalgia as the thumping kick drum drives everything forward. Although just over a minute long, brrr! gives us that brief moment of respite before heading back out into the bitter elements.

Happy winter from Kurt Stewart!
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Current Eddy serves up a Tasty slice of synth pop heaven with 'Eyes'.

Current Eddy is an international electronic music group based out of Thailand, Korea and the UK.  ‘Eyes’ being only their second release to date displays a track with well established synth pop sensibilities. 

According to my good friend at wikipedia Current Eddy “are loops of electrical current induced within conductors by a changing magnetic field”, it seems that this is the premise behind ‘Eyes’ as the track plays with elements that do exactly that, not just within the audio but also the animated accompanying video. Both sound and vision are created with an infectious playful energy that are excited by all the elements of the track that flutter, swirl and simmer like sparks of imagination caught in a magnetic field. Accented by a bell-diving bassline that bubbles back up towards the surfaces of swirling synths and crisp percussion.

The video is beautifully animated and supports the viscosity of the vibrant pallet of colours which is omnipresent in every sense. Current Eddy already sounds like a group with a distinct style, bringing something fresh and energetic to the table while managing to engage with the more familiar elements of pop we love. If you are a fan of groups such as MGMT, Tama Impala, Flume, and Gotye then be sure to check out future releases from the rising international electronic group. 

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Ambient dream-time from Germany's BLCKCSTLS

As Brian Eno once said “Ambient Music must be able to accomodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting.“

We’d definitely like to think of the ambient music of German producer Georg-Christoph Stadler, aka BLCKCSTLS, as falling in the latter category, being dynamic and intriguing sonic creations deserving the listener’s undivided attention. And while this is certainly true, there is an effortless unobtrusiveness flowing through his productions which also makes them the perfect companion for an evening of studying, relaxing or getting work done.

And this is the real beauty of a good ambient album, appealing to the various layers of a listeners attention without imposing any sort of will upon the observer. Leaving it upto us to decide how closely to listen or how deeply to dive. Allowing the listener to complete other tasks or close their eyes and let the sounds envelope them. This is indeed a unique freedom, rarely afforded by other genres of modern music.

This kind of passive beauty can be witnessed in Stadler’s recent EP entitled ‘Secorder’. The album description reads “A quick and unmastered EP made on a cold Autumn evening to shorten the wait for Notes from the Dust.” Although only running about 15 minutes in length, the uncluttered and spontaneous EP gives us a good taste of things to come from the rising ambient composer.

Support his music over on Bandcamp

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Spiritual music from a Tokyo Dragonfly

Next up for your listening pleasure is a local (for those of us in Japan, that is) Japanese artist, Tonbo (meaning Dragonfly in Japanese). Tonbo has been flying around the Tokyo underground electronic music scene for some years now, exploring the spiritual side of music and Japanese culture. Tonbo produces, DJs, plays guitar and even gets on the mic from time to time. He also puts on a regular party dubbed the Tonbo Matsuri, (Dragonfly Festival) which is described as, "...a crazy bash to make a place for releasing spirits." Our featured track, "Gion", comes from the recently released Yellow Trance EP. It’s been released on the Psymatics label and follows Tonbo's first full length album, released in early 2017, Tokyo Mad Cave. Tonbo works and collaborates with numerous musicians and creators, "Gion" follows that trend. The tune features the Japanese traditional string instrument the shamisen, as played by Tokyo Ghetto Shamisen.

"Gion" is hard to pin down, it dabbles in the ambient, downtempo and psychedelic genres, while also containing elements of minimal, acid house and trance. As a whole it has a deep, transcendental feeling, combining analog and digital sounds. There's both traditional Japanese drums and our aforementioned shamisen playing a dominant role in the track, along with electronic drum beats, treble droplets, and a constant bassline. At times the track feels foreign and cold but always maintains a feeling of Japaneseness; a certain ancient spirituality, that lingers throughout.

Tonbo is an interesting experience listening to in single track form. A given tune feels like it belongs to a piece of a much bigger expression. I have a feeling a full set from Tonbo is an experience that is sure to transport participants to another world and may very well be up to the task of releasing a spirit or two in the process.

If our Dragonfly man Tonbo has enticed you, as he has me, make sure to give him a look on the following platforms.

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Peteza delivers fast and comforting soul-food in "Not That Normal"

Pete Large aka Peteza, hails from Melbourne, Australia. Melbourne is known for having a thriving nightlife and long standing relationship with electronic music, especially House. But given the releases from Peteza or the material under his Pete Large moniker, you would be forgiven for mistaking this young Aussie native for one of an older generation Chicago producer. The reason for this is simple. He has layers and layers of that classic deep house sound in his productions. There are many nods to elements that made and make the classic Chicago sound so distinctive. Elements of jazz, acid and of course floating basslines and lush chord structures. 

This is a genre that is hard to stand out in because so many producers emulate this style. It’s timeless and it still sounds as fresh and as relevant today as it ever did. While the genre might dip in and out of favour with top global spinners, producers and listeners are always drawn back to it, not only because of it’s roots, but also just how human the classic style is. 

In “Not That Normal” Peteza does manage to take all the elements of Classic Deep House and put his own updated take on the Deep/Lounge House sound. While you would expect a routine 4/4 drum pattern to accompany the familiar deep chords, we are treated to a more break oriented drum sequence and elements of acid cut through the lush pads to give us an impression of Peteza’s playful personality. The elements always compliment each other rather than over power, which is always a sign that the producer knows the fundamental approach to a great deep track is harmony. Peteza does this while doing something that is just as skillful, making great soulful music that really stands out. 

Grab the release on Bandcamp
Check out Peteza / Pete Large’s back catalogue on Soundcloud for more lush, deep goodness. 

Electronic and Acoustic worlds collide with California's - Doombird

In a time where we have analog elitists, gear lust and synths with hefty prices tags it’s refreshing to find a group of musicians that is focused on what really matters- the music.

Songwriter Kris Anaya and producer/arranger Joseph Davancens have been writing and performing as Doombird for a decade. In the last year Cory Phillips (bass), Ben Edrington (guitar), and Fernando Oliva (drums) have joined the band, anchoring the live performances. As a quintet, they create a hybrid of live instrumentation and electronic sounds, as evident on Past Lives (2016). With their newest EP, Twin Prime, Doombird continues to explore the tension between the analog and the digital.

What’s so special about the group is that they skillfully combine the strengths of acoustic, analog and digital instrumentation and production techniques so well. Think the fatness of analog synths, harmonic variance of acoustic instruments and the clean, precise sound of digital. The sonic palette they work with is truly diverse, throw on top of that the amalgamation of various genres and styles into their music, from electronica to indie, you’ve got the formula for a unique and exciting musical experience.

And that’s exactly how I’d describe their most recent release, The ‘Twin Prime EP’. 5 tracks of cleverly crafted indie, electronica, and post-rock that carry a variety of flavours throughout the album while remaining cohesive as a start to finish listen. The EP is really pushed to it’s full potential with an expertly tweaked mix full of colour and clarity from Bob Cheek (Band of Horses, Tera Melos, Chelsea Wolfe, Deftones, Two Sheds), and the final bit of polish applied by the mastering of Eric Broyhill (!!!, Chon).

Make your ears happy and go grab the EP on Bandcamp or stream it on Spotify

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Serenity now with London's Sleepless

The classic downtempo, acid jazz sound is alive and thriving throughout Sleepless's 4th album, Serene.

While there isn't much info to be found on the man behind the beats, the music speaks for itself. It harks back to a simple time of bass heavy, laid back bobbers, with crisp snare snaps and the odd jazzy instrumental. I've been missing music like this. Sleepless recalls genre pioneers like DJ Cam, Dilla, Amon Tobin and more.

Serene, which dropped late last week is Sleepless's fourth album in five years. Each of his releases provide the lo-fi vibes which drew many of us into acid jazz and instrumental hip hop from the beginning. Serene, as an album is a pleasure. It's filled with smokey, back room sizzlers to help us fade into the night and early morning risers to bring us back. In our hard pounding, technological, unrelenting world, a little serenity is necessary to keep sane amidst the daily madness.

Stand outs from the 16 track album include 'Process' which features guitar work from Rax Beheshti, 'Don't Forget' which features smooth muted horns and the dreamy 'Where You At?'.

Don’t sleep on this release, go grab Serene on Bandcamp now.

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New Soulful Hip-Hop from Big-O and P-Rawb

The American producer / MC duo of Orlando Turner, aka 'Big O', and Patrick Roberts, aka 'P-Rawb' come correct with their new single 'Good Company.' 

Forgoing the usual trappings of cash, women and expensive cars for a more soulful take on the genre, the two describe the new track as "a song about finding peace within yourself and surrounding yourself with the company of good people to help you move forward in life."

With P-Rawb lacing the A side with a skillful, feel-good flow, the collab comes together like a backyard BBQ on a chill summer day. The B side instrumental version of the track enters with profound strings and keys setting up for something special. With a rolling, percussion-rich beat, the track contains just the right amount of weight and finesse. With mixing and mastering coming from Portland based audio engineer, Kevin Carafa, not only is the beat infectious but the whole track sounds crisp, clear and well balanced. 

Support the release on Bandcamp

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