Cosmo’s Midnight – Surge

Cosmo’s Midnight is an electronic duo comprised of twin producers from Sydney, Australia. Being their debut original release, Surge was mounted with a bit of hype (at least for me), and I think it lived up to every bit of it. I discovered Cosmo’s Midnight through a video by the glover Ahuh on the EmazingLights channel where he used the single preceding this EP “Phantasm feat. Nicole Millar”. After hearing the song I instantly looked it up only to find it was their only original track released but an EP was coming out soon. The day it came out (yesterday at the time of writing this I believe) I snatched it right up and gave it a bunch of listens.

I would describe the sound as chillwave but with a little bit more emphasis on the beats than is typical and I love it. It’s got everything one might love about a good chillwave release: the floaty vocals with memorable melodies, the sidechained keyboard and basskicks, phasing background synths, and it’s all executed with great cleanliness and professionalism. When the title track begins it starts with a flowing beatless ambient section before the beat kicks right in and the realization washes over you that this is going to be an awesome EP, even assuming you hadn’t heard Phantasm already (which is one of my favorite tracks of the year so far). Something I noticed that I thought was nice was the melody tie in from Surge to Phantasm with the plinky keyboard, which gives some nice flow to the ideas of the EP right off the bat and you can immediately tell this is going to be a concise and well put together release. The production is spot on and the songwriting is catchy and feely, the perfect combination in my opinion. My favorite aspect of the EP is probably just how well all the different sounds are layered and put together to create the final product, which I’ve got to give mad props to Cosmo’s Midnight for simply for that in itself, not even taking into consideration all the other great things about this EP.

I recommend Cosmo’s Midnight to pretty much anyone who likes anything remotely chill, but to be more specific; if you like XXYYXX, Blackbird Blackbird, or MillionYoung you might like this, those 3 artists just being 3 that I thought of off the top of my head.

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Overall Rating: 9.2/10

Favorite Tracks: ‘Phantasm’, and ‘Lover’s Shadow’

Released: 7 June 2013

Links: Cosmo’s Midnight on Soundcloud

-Eric

Balmy – Metaverse

Mataverse is the first release by producer Balmy, formally known as Atmosfear.

So I used to have this problem a long while back with listening to instrumental hip-hop and strictly beat oriented music in general. The biggest problem for me was attempting to maintain an interest, not becoming bored with what you are given; that being these linear constructions that I felt would so easily be made listenable with some raps thrown in overtop. Musician’s such as Flying Lotus and Blockhead were some of the first that turned me on to instrumental hip-hop mostly due to their listenability, the idea of hearing their music as established pieces that I could feel involved in and draw emotion from. As musicians their instrumentals seemed to pull everything together allowing me to hear it as more than just a nice background jam which is exactly what Balmy has done for me as well. ‘Metaverse’ is a twelve track collection of tranquil and pretty beats built on samples, lush synth patterns and great compositional arrangements that is experimental and nonlinear enough to listen to as is while still containing enough versatility for ambitious rappers to attempt to spit over. These psychedelic arrangements of pretty synths and sequences of downtempo jazz and hip-hop are perfect easy listening.

The smoothness that the album starts out with is maintained masterfully throughout making for an easy and relaxing listen that shows Balmy knows how to create a good vibe and just stick with it throughout. Even though the music is dominantly downtempo it goes without saying there are plenty of great bleeps, bloops, and unconventional noises to keep you entertained during a number of relaxing events, whether it be just lounging around with your friends, going to sleep, or just listening. All of the tracks remain at a steady pace all ranking in at under 4 minutes, a good length that ensures things don’t get boring.

‘Old Hall’ is a track brimming with tons of spacey futuristic sounds that is truly a treat for the ears. Tracks such as ‘Woob’, ‘Space Cruise’, and ‘Space Lounge’ have this old dusty record feel that harbors a sense of nostalgia and sounds like they would fit right at home playing during an Adult Swim bump. All of the tunes feature samples derived from traditional instruments which makes it hard not to get caught up in trying to analyze every aspect of the music and the sounds sampled to create it; these quick snippets of guitars, orchestral instruments, bells and chimes, all so warm and familiar. It happens so quick that it is almost subliminal but at the same time you don’t not want to pay attention.

An impressive album full of enjoyable mellow tunes that although sounds like you may have heard this before (Cosmogramma) you’ll definitely want to hear it again… and again and keep hearing it just to be able to digest it all. If you’re into Flying Lotus or Long Arm this will be a treat.

Overall rating: 8.3

Favorite Track: ‘Protura’, ‘Old Hall’

Recommended: Flying Lotus and Long Arm.

Released: 06 February 2012

Links: Mellow out on Bandcamp

Redntoothnclaw

Skymning – Moonstone Gang

Skymning is a bedroom music producer who writes and records lo-fi downtempo beats. ‘Moonstone Gang’ is the producer’s third release.

Rewind to 2010; a music genre called witch house arises and instantly creates a hysteria of rage amongst the internet music community. As lo-fi bedroom production grew more an more popular we were being introduced to the phenomenon of these tiny genres, micro-genres, often the result of an amalgamation various styles of music. The term ‘witch house’ refers to a form of electronic music that contains an unorthodox combination hip-hop music and some minor key characteristics of shoe-gaze, drone, and ambient music. Other than sharing similar musical characteristic the genre also saw a collective of shared imagery; inverted crosses, triangles, and various symbols all complete with a mysterious and elusive persona; masks, drag, veils etc. With Triangle Records rising out of the dodgy and laughable mess of faux-santanic imagery, mysterious personas, and the ability to induce a shit storm of rage whenever mentioned there has been this cloud of ethereal ambient laden music that has hovered over and influenced electronic musicians since late 2009; Balam Acab, How To Dress Well, and Holy Other being just a few out of the many.

The album is quick to rely on the mysterious presence that other musicians of this genre pioneered, complete with a combination of dark overbearing synth and hip-hop style production. The second track ‘Crystal Veins’ showcases this certain mystery beginning with a handclapped rhythm that draws a likeliness to southern hip-hop before exploding into these lush reverberated synth landscapes; a bold track that goes as far as to capture the vibe of the entire EP in one song. The EP continues to follow the consistency established on the previous two tracks. On the ridiculously incomprehensibly named forth track, ‘पापराक्षसी वत्से’, these saturated overdriven synths create an eerie and disturbing vibe as a vocal sample featuring a girl recounting the events of some negative point in her life, perhaps at some past rape or abduction scenario plays on. The track listing is nicely arranged with these short spells of calmness appropriately sandwiched between these foreboding hip-hop based instrumentals. ‘Nässjö II’ provides a smooth reassuring sense of ease that ties everything together and makes for a perfect closer.

‘Moonstone Gang’, although a short affair showcases the ethereal sounds of witch house ranging from washed out saturated synth patterns to dark and grimy hip-hop beats resulting in a dreamy piece of music that although does not attempt to be original by any means or provide anything new in terms of expanding on this short lived genre does accommodate with some great sounds that you could relax to just as easily as you could perform a satanic ritual to.

Overall rating: 6.3

Favorite Track: ‘Crystal Veins’

Recommended: Triangle Records. Salem style southern hip-hop influence production.

Released: 08 January 2012

Links: ▲▲▲

Redntoothnclaw

Mustapha Mond – Keeping Secrets

Mustapha Mond is a music producer from Boston. Keeping Secrets is the producer’s first release that puts an emphasis on downtempo hip-hop beats favoring simplicity and an array of smooth synth tones over unnecessarily complex instrumentals.

‘Keeping Secrets’ starts off with a bit of familiarity calling out to a wide array of sounds from the twinkly background noises and bells. The vocals are beautiful, recalling the ethereal falsetto vocals of Jonsi of Icelandic band Sigur Ros in the form of beat oriented electronic music that makes for a really nice combination. The vocals are pretty much unintelligible, whether they are actually saying anything is unclear to me but the way they are used more like an instrument or a separate melody more than an actual lead vocal. Undoubtedly a standout track and one of my favorite electronic songs I’ve heard this year that continues to progress in this dreamy direction with the second track, ‘Latching’ which features some reverse reverb. ‘Pills’ forces the listener out of the mellow sound of the previous tracks and into a distortion driven wah style that gives the track a little edge and momentarily brings the EP out of the dreamy slumber that the rest of the tracks do so well in inducing. The beats on the track are a sturdy backing to it’s otherwise chaotic nature giving it just enough structure to where it doesn’t feel sloppy while giving the illusion of chaos and non-uniformity. ‘Portland’, the closer, keeps a perfect mix of deep low end that is sure to please the bass heads out there and the presence of orchestral ambience giving the track a ton of depth and some great sounds to explore and re-explore.

The stand out elements of the music is not so much the beats but the gorgeous layers of synth sounds that carry the tracks on a bed of cloudy tones. Where Mustapha Mond really shines is not only in his ability to make relaxing instrumentals but also in his ability to create these soft airy sounds and dreamy background textures while making it all work together really well with the help of the tight production aesthetics. There are a few points were the beats are just a tiny bit too high in the mix which can be distracting; I feel like this could easily be corrected with some slight adjustments but overall it’s nothing too big.

Mustapha Mond’s simplistic beat making is complimented by his atmospheric and smooth sounds that makes for a really easy listen that doesn’t get old with repeated listens. Keeping Secrets is a solid beginning effort that maintains a cohesive sound throughout while having enough variety to keep you listening.

Overall rating: 8.2

Favorite Track: Keeping Secrets, Pills

Recommended: Dreamy relaxing instrumentals

Released: 11 February 2012

Links:

Follow him on Soundcloud

Take a listen on Bandcamp

-Redntoothnclaw

Vasko – Enough Enough

Vasko is the solo recording project of Brian Sopher, a Columbus, OH musician who has busily recorded, produced, and released music as Glasslung, Folted and has performed as a duo in drone / noise project Hintergrund. ‘Enough Enough’ is Brian’s first dubstep release as well as the first EP under the name Vasko.

I missed my chance / procrastinated in reviewing this when it was released late last year but nonetheless, I feel like this should be talked about and deserves a review regardless of whether it is still relevant.

On this EP Vasko’s style of dubstep is a dark and disjointed journey thats plays off of it’s minimalistic influences. The song structure is skeletal, basic, built on deep sub bass that tectonically shifts beneath an aura of ambience resulting in something sleek and futuristic while having the same mystery and curious appeal as some dusty lost tape recording. There are large spacial synth swells that produce this overarching feel of something expansive or maybe even cosmic but at the same time everything still remains restrained being careful not to overwhelm. The overall mood is calm even though there is this surrounding unease, a sense that not all is right and that beneath the soft airy synths is something deeply sinister. Everything is neatly organized but still has the organic feel of a piece of drone music where it forces one to pay attention and pick out parts of the music taking away something ambiguous and new to each listen.

The album begins strong, ‘Touching Till’ is a sensual pursuit of bass heavy rhythms that features a sample that repeats throughout the track. It may be just me but I get this slight R&B influence as well, not only on this track but on the EP in it’s entirety. The beats are thin sounding, and at times seem to fall out of time with each other. Its a primitive approach, stripped down to a wiry sound, one that is as dark and mysterious as it is comforting. I could honestly listen to it over and over again. One of my favorites, ‘Women’ is a beautiful feast of synth sounds that contains little in the way of beats or dubstep and for what it is, it is just fine. There is a tasteful palette of delicately layered synths that does enough to make up for the sparse beats.

The album closes with ‘Traumzeug’, a stark interpretation of post-dubstep that at times outshines the classification itself. There is this distant metallic clanging that keeps the beat throughout ‘Traumzeug’ bringing out this feeling of anxiety, building tension that never sees release and ultimately leaves you waiting for something that never comes. Relying heavily on a minimalistic approach I can’t help but feel like there were moments where the music became repetitive and felt stagnant which I can imagine is always a  concern when creating something like this. Fortunately the songs are a good length, never going past the five minute mark ensuring that if things do become boring they aren’t boring for long.

The focus of Enough Enough tends to favor atmosphere over beats and like much of Brian’s work prior to Vasko, it has this same strong ambient presence that runs throughout the songs on this EP which makes for a fairly even blend of relaxing ambience and minimalist dubstep in an attempt to challenge the listener with a few unconventional sounds.

Overall Rating: 7.9

Favorite tracks: ‘Touching Till’, ‘Conveyor’, ‘Women’

Recommended: Futuristic; fans of UK garage and Burial will have no problem getting into this.

Links:

Brian’s Soundcloud profile

His previous work as Glasslung

2gi – Cartello Fiorentino

After 26 years living in the Third World, I’m moving to LA next April. I guess this is my chance to finally actually understand electronic music, if I’m not too old for that already.

What I don’t get is this: I thought people were supposed to dance to electronic music. I had listened to Stockhausen and other strange stuff (some kind of early masters of electronic music compilation I downloaded in the eMule times), so yeah I knew that at least not always, but when listening to pop electronic music I thought people were supposed to dance to it. My previous experience with Pitchfork-recommended electronic seemed to vouch for this.

It doesn’t seem like it anymore. At the same time that I stopped reading Pitchfork, I started to get in contact with all of this crazy shit that can’t possibly be danceable. It’s a whole experiment with the infinite possible sounds you can music with, I suppose, and the whole thing has so many subgenres at any given moments that 1) it seems like anyone can come up with another crazy genre, and 2) no one really cares if people are dancing to it.

Fuck if I care. I don’t dance to shit so this crazy electronic music should be right up my alley. The problem is, is this ever performed live? Do people sit around carefully listening to it in some kind of classroom somewhere? Are they so drugged up that they could dance to anything, and thus dance to this stuff?

Fuck if I care. So I just: 1)  listen to this stuff and write down my opinion, judging it as a purely aesthetic experience; 2) ?; 3) profit.

Which brings me to 2gi’s Cartello Fiorentino, the crazy electronic shit I have most recently carefully listened to.

My opinion is that it is completely insane. I’ve listened to experimental psychedelic music and the idea behind it was always to kind of feel strange. But oh no for these electronic musicians this is not the point. The most absolutely batshit crazy stuff is just normal to them. They start with the batshit crazy and then they add Italian vocal samples to it. Not crazy enough? Add glitch sounds, that will do. Don’t ever keep a synth sounding the same for more than 30 seconds, you gotta have 100 different synths in each song. That will do it alright. Sounds come in and out for the one and only time, everything changes according to them, and then everything goes berserk with yet another beat that comes up out of the blue.

So yeah this album is pretty cool. There’s an incredible amount of effort behind it and a very cohese style. It’s like a concept album at that, really. You really feel it’s some strange mind’s best effort at making music that is so insane, insanity becomes the norm and stops being strange altogether. I like it. As for the genre, I name it “badass glitch psychedelic with italian samples”, this album being the best the genre has produced.

-Carpeaux

Kinack – Ondas

“Zack Slavkin was born in Orange County, California, moved to Denver, Colorado at the age of 15 and at the age of 18, decided to graduate high school early and begin traveling the world.
Up and coming in the Downtempo scene, he dons the handle Kinack and lets loose natural flowing instrumentals, samples and MIDI, all mixed into a mirror of sound. This mirror reflects nature’s glistening beauty, crisp atmosphere, and all his experiences in-between.
Taking after his artist influences Emancipator and Bonobo, Kinack features live instrumentation accompanied by MIDI and samples. The young self-taught producer has been working with Reason production software all the way up to his first album, Ondas.” [from last.fm]

I downloaded this album awhile back right when it was released but haven’t gotten around to listening to it or reviewing it until just now. I had high hopes for it they were pretty much satisfied. I got something that sounded like a mixture of Helios, Tycho, and Bonobo and I’ve got to say: I like it.

This album doesn’t really bring anything new to the game, but that doesn’t mean its not good. It’s got the chilled out drums, the plucky acoustic guitar, and the nice melodies one would expect from a good downtempo album, and for a lot of people that’s all they are really looking for when they listen to something of this flavour, and that’s perfectly fine.

He has the album up for $4.99 on bandcamp, and I had got the album when he briefly had it set as “choose your price”. For some odd reason he thinks people are going to buy his album (lol) but if you ask around I’m sure you can find a copy of it.

I liked this album but it never really captivated me at any points or had anything WOWing, but that is just my opinion I guess. The production is airtight but the songwriting feels lacking.

Rating: 6.5/10

– Trelt