Pete Swanson – Life Ends At 30 (Track Review)

Image

In 2008 the two-man noise / drone duo that was Yellow Swans announced that they would no longer be performing together which lead the duo to release their posthumous magnum-opus finale, ‘Going Places’ in 2010. As of recent, Pete Swanson, the man behind the electronic aspects of the project, proved that the title of their final effort together was not simply a title but a promise of things to come.

In 2011 that promise was met with Swanson’s return, this time with a full length solo album under his own name. Where previously, in Yellow Swans, Swanson was in part responsible for creating these lurching bodies of evolving and decaying feedback dominated compositions, these compositions he, along with guitarist Gabriel Mindel Saloman took part in creating as Yellow Swans were not completely free of melody or structure. Some releases in Yellow Swans expansive and varied catalogue even included aspects of electronic dance music within their music, most notably the duo’s 2004 album ‘Bring The Neon War Home‘ in which they exhibited their own art-damaged take on electronic music, merging the psychedelic noise they were known for with techno and dub. On the latest track from Pete Swanson, the man continues to produce the broken and eclectic off-shot of dub and minimalist techno that was ‘Man With Potential’.

When I first heard ‘Man With Potential’ I was surprised to find that Swanson had taken a turn to making techno / dub inspired music but it seems as though this has proven to be a natural transition for many noise artists, the likes of which include the famed, Black Dice, Justin Broadrick (as JK Flesh), and perhaps the most notable being Dominick Fernow who, under his Vatican Shadow moniker moved away from the abrasiveness of his work as Prurient and took a wholly musical approach to techno. On Bermuda Drain, his last major label release as Prurient, Fernow even embraced elements of post-punk, new-wave, and EDM. For fans of Fernow’s earlier, more grating material as Prurient the transition was an unexpected one at the time and was a change of pace that divided some and I must admit, much like the first time I heard ‘Bermuda Drain’ I was a bit put off by Pete Swanson’s more structural efforts in comparison to his work with Yellow Swans but given time, it all sank in and it seemed that this coming together of electronic music and noise couldn’t be more of a perfect marriage.

With this latest track, Swanson returns in a similar manner to his debut, brandishing the nearly thirteen minute long odyssey of a track, ‘Life Ends At 30’, the B-side off of his upcoming EP, ‘Punk Authority’. Brimming with the amount of contrast and texture you would come to expect from Swanson’s involvement in Yellow Swans, ‘Life Ends At 30’ is a blistering, speaker tearing approach to electronic music. Swanson’s approach to techno and dub music is simplistic yet destructive; tearing apart the structure laid out by pioneers of the genres, his latest single strips the maximalist approach of techno down to a bare skeleton and saturates it in a mess of thick overdrive, sculpted into a creation that fits the sounds he helped develop early in his career.

The track hits as hard as it ends with a pulverizing fuzz drenched beat, the deep bass fighting it’s way through masses of static and colorful synth textures only to be swallowed again and again. Swanson finds a balance between his love for noise and structure and molds them into one in a tightrope walking act of a track. Its a trance-inducing formula that at one time can feel raw yet polished, futuristic yet primitive, chaotic yet reserved. Over the span of thirteen minutes, as repetitious as the track is the amount of diversity and layering here practically begs for repeated listens, if only to hear every tortured beat alone.

On this new track Swanson took everything that was great about his debut and amplifies it, merging his love for distortion fueled noise and techno. If the rest of his forthcoming EP is anything like this new track then I can’t wait for whatever this guy decides to put out, noise, dance, or otherwise.

You can preorder a physical copy through Mexican Summer’s website.

Also, check out the visuals that accompany a shorter cut from this track:

-Tyler Thompson

Borealis – Voidness

Borealis is the solo project of Hesse Somfay, part of the Origami Sound collective who describe themselves as “an ever growing collective of artists and labels aimed towards introducing the highly subjective concept of quality emotional electronic music with an emphasis on eclecticism” – a statement that I find to be largely true within the music of Borealis and associated acts like Hmot and Nocow, the sound of which is concentrated largely on the ethereal and meditative nature of IDM godfathers Boards of Canada to the moodiness and the skeletal structure evocative of Burial.

Voidness is something of an epic, an electronic odyssey into something personal but also distant and strange. Clocking in at 1 hour and 15 minutes Voidness serves as an electronic exploration that delves into and builds off of the genres of earlier contemporaries.

Most of the tracks on Voidness are simple which is best heard on Orphan Fire, a song includes a repetitive overtly minimalistic structure which would normally be boring but it all fits together so well in the context of the album, what the music here is trying to accomplish. Like a futurist sharpening a set of kitchen knives, the beats are sharp and angular sounding but they are almost always arranged in such an interesting way. Tracks like ‘Intravenous’ show off the spontaneous nature of Voidness as loud explosions of metallic clanging often erupt at seemingly random times. The arrangements are futuristic and favor simplicity and mood while the beats are strange, never out of time with each other but more so off-kilter, irregular rhythms that bring a spontaneous element to an otherwise straight-forward album giving the otherwise ultra sleek sound that is Voidness something natural, something human and deliberately flawed.

Borealis’ makes a kind of electronic music that in a way is very much his own and while it may be unique in an out of context kind of way, comparatively ‘Voidness’ takes quite a large chunk of inspiration from musicians who have already pursued what Borealis is doing here. What I think listeners will pick up on first are those pitch-shifted disembodied chipmunk-esque vocal samples that have been used to death by nearly every future-garage / dubstep musician. Although there are some obvious borrowed ideas the effort and attention to detail within ‘Voidness’ is uncanny and definitely worth a few listens.

Voidness is a highly emotive piece of work that brings a necessary emotional aspect and level of intimacy to electronic music that is often seldom heard. The album takes the listener on a moving journey through the crossfades of the digital polish of electronic music, a certain physical viscera and interweaves the two together. While some may feel that Borealis is borrowing too heavily from his contemporaries this is definitely an overlooked piece of electronic music that deserves a higher seat in the electronic of 2012.

Overall Rating: 8.3

Favorite Tracks: ‘Womb’, ‘Unseen & Uncalled’, ‘Not Of This Reality’, ‘Intravenous’, ‘Wearied, We Keep Awake’

Recommended: Check out the rest of the Origami Sound catalogue.

Released: 13 July 2012

Links:

Check out ‘Voidness’ on Origami Sound’s Bandcamp

Redntoothnclaw

The Hai – In & Out

Review of their previous album, Pop Songs, here.

Just recapitulating, The Hai is a sort of internet music supergroup, a handful of people from all over the world who met by posting their music on the Internet and being some of the very best at it. It’s unfortunate that I can’t review their output as fast as they can release it. After this album there has already been another one called Temperatures, and that’s not talking about the individual albums that keep coming up. The always wonderful A Problem Like Maria has just released Saudade, a very touching album, some of the best music I have listened from her. Before that, Mattir, The Flying Batteries, Water Gun Water Gun Sky Attack (reviewed here) and other members of the group have all come out with interesting albums that I can’t recommend enough. It’s all in their website.

Now let’s start the proper review.

The theme of this album is sex. As usual, it doesn’t mean that every track will be straightforward about it, specially the EDM tracks. Something has to be said about the track order selection in both albums I have reviewed though, it is optimal in balancing out the different styles of the musicians, in such a way that even if the EDM tracks don’t clearly deal with the overall theme, they always sound like an intercession, they just fit nicely in the overall progression. Perhaps this is one of the most subtle qualities of the group’s output: how can all these different people from these different places come up with something that feels whole and balanced? It can’t be a simple affair. And that’s not dealing with the same happening in the tracks themselves, carved by multiple sets of hands apart from each other.

These guys are bursting with creativity and they keep it in a tight leash of perfectionist music-making practices, every synth that comes and goes is perfectly tailored, specially in the EDM tracks. It all sounds anything but home-made. StratosFear’s Approaching Summer is a shining example,  as well as Rekapper’s When and MaximiliaN’s chilling track, adorned with equally chilling vocals by A Problem Like Maria. I was also impressed by her own track, Slow. It’s about sex alright.

Meanwhile, every single one of the straightforward songs has a satisfying feeling of inspired, well-made mainstream music. Somnitone’s closing track might be the winning song this time around, I figure it’s absolutely radio ready. Musically, there’s no reason why these people couldn’t take over the world. Everything is so fucked up in music though, who knows what will happen. If these times were like up to the early 90’s, they would be selling millions by now. It’s already good enough to be released by a regular label, that’s for sure.

-Carpeaux

Water Gun Water Gun Sky Attack – Slew

Water Gun Water Gun Sky Attack is the solo electronic project of Tim R. de Reuse based in Denton, Texas who is also a contributing member of The Hai having released music and remixed the work of other members. ‘Slew’ is perhaps WGWGSA’s most realized work to date. There are a lot of sounds to be heard on this release and therefor there is a lot to cover so dim your monitor.

The style Water Gun Water Gun Sky Attack has built throws so many sounds at you that upon the first initial listen it may be hard to process, it’s nearly cacophonic and overbearing but fortunately the distinct style and progression of the album proves to never be off-putting. Interjected between the more expected completely instrumental tracks are electronic epics complete with nicely performed vocals. The songs themselves have so much substance; a good example being the opener ‘Outlanderish’ that showcases so many changes in direction, each beat appearing to build off of where the last one ended, branching out, constantly morphing and spilling over into the second track ‘Fine’. Track two makes way for the introduction of vocals which have this distinct feeling of sincerity, a round quality to them, I would even go as far as to liken them to vocalist Peter Silberman of The Antlers.

With ‘Slew’ WGWGSA has created a work that pushes boundaries; the most enjoyable aspect is not only his ear for outstanding production as a producer but also some solid songwriting as a musician and his attention to the structuring of the album itself. The beats constantly change with songs crossing over into each other the whole album feels like one long piece of great electronic music. ‘A Good Fake pt. II’ is a 12 minute long electronic epic full tons of sounds that gives the feeling of the music operating like a piece of machinery, this cataclysm of sounds resulting in a mechanical feeling. Beautiful spacey harmonies float about adding depth while the ever evolving beats add movement that holds my attention throughout the entire track, a track the grows in intensity, multiplying in the addition of new sounds with every passing minute. The last 3 minutes are the most intense with the addition of this heavy baselines, sputtering synth, and a really killer drum beat that hits hard.

One aspect of WGWGSA’s style is his ear for shiny futuristic sounds, metallic beats, and most noticeably his use of glitch effects which can be heard on many tracks. One of the best examples is the sputtering effect on “Actiiisciv” which complements the already ever shifting choppy and eclectic beats.

I do enjoy many of the instrumental tracks but I however do prefer the cohesiveness, this feeling of completeness that the vocals provide on these more traditionally performed songs. Tracks like ‘ckers’ just don’t really do much for me, it is not that they are poorly written or completely unenjoyable for me but that they just don’t add anything to the album that isn’t already there and ‘Slew’ is quite a lengthy album. I do applaud WGWGSA for implementing his experimental stylings into the mix, the songs are not so much straight forward but can be more appropriately described as familiar; it becomes something fans of experimental electronic and those who are just looking for some good tunes to listen to can both enjoy.

Until now with the release of ‘Slew’ The Hai hasn’t really blown me away and its not that I think the music they have been putting out has been bad but that it just wasn’t suiting my tastes. It is apparent that the quality of their output; the great album artwork, and the consistency of their numerous releases show that they aren’t substituting quantity over quality and in this case, with Water Gun Water Gun Sky Attack’s ‘Slew’ they’ve established that statement very well. There are just so many different things going on that you could play this over and over again in an attempt to digest it all and still never feel like you’ve completely explored the whole thing.

Overall rating: 9.0

Favorite Tracks: ‘Outlanderish’, ‘A Good Fake Pt. II’, ‘Out From Underground Alive’, Actiiisciv’.

Recommended: Tons of replay value. For more good electronic from The Hai check out Mattir.

Released: 26 March 2012

Links:

Seriously, go check this out on Bandcamp

Also follow WGWGSA on Soundcloud.

Redntoothnclaw