In a world where anything is available at your fingertips and mass consumerism and media has gentrified music into pre-defined packages, digging for new and interesting music has both gotten easier and harder. We constantly have to wade the shit to find those hidden gems, but with the internet we have more direct access to those unique pieces, often a direct line to the creators and the distributors through sites like Bandcamp, and even those rare classics through places like Discogs (if you’re willing to pay and double that with delivery). The record store however remains hallowed ground and a constant source of new and old material for those with an open-mind and strong fingers and combined with the Internet it remains a powerful tool to balk shelves under the pressure of an ever-expanding collection.
We are reserved yet determined in our approach for finding new and new-old music to enrich our record collection and as music swims in banality our reserve has only strengthened in finding those rarefied gems. In a new feature The Formant pulls out some of the best finds from the month procured at record stores and over the internet and highly recommended by the Oslo DJ community. Vinyl our preferred format, but mostly available digitally, some new and some old, these are the 12 inches and EPs that have made the last couple of weeks worth living for.
A languid ambience that unwinds itself over ten inches and 9 minutes, Soft Peak Mix is a track you simply wade into. Low rumbling bass lines gather around electronic organism that sparkle and squawk at you before a pad floats across the arrangement, instilling a calming pensive mood. Sequences amass under its presence building up to a controlled, yet refined noise that stays anchored to a root chord with the rest of the arrangement landing the furthest flung regions of its tonal centre. LNS’ third only release after Heliacal Rising on Freakout Cult and Maligne Range on 1080p it shows an artist with an extensive artistic palette and although it’s unclear where LNS ends and Sotofett begins on this track, there’s definitely something there that ties into her electro-tinged EP on Freakout Cult from last year, that makes us eager to hear more from the Canadian artists.
A restrained tension is immediate and dominates Nadia Struigwigh’s title track on this the latest release on the CPU label. Big, billowing soundscapes roll over the listener in incredible waves of arrangement that follows the progression of a dance-floor, without ever delving into a four on the floor rhythm section. Showcasing an incredible song writing ability, there’s a narrative to Lenticular which introduces new melodic phrases out of the central theme even as it comes to conclusion. A percussive element is present, but it’s elusive, resigned to a fleeting pulse that merely aides the sonic palette, rather than dictate the speed.
The flipside Trip in Fiction is more of the same, and consolidates the 12”, but goaded by a more sinister sonic landscape with a densely orchestrated minor chord at its epicentre, it lives happily on the B-side. The tension is broken up by a meandering 4/4 kick that like its sister on the A-side aides the pulse of the track, a shadowy figure in the background that you feel rather than hear. Modulating into a major key from the tonic it Trip in Fiction, re-iterates the song-writing capabilities of Struiwigh and as the progression unfolds, it reveals there’s an incredible depth to her work. Lenticular and Trip in Fiction are both taken from her digital album of the same name also released on CPU last month.
In the three releases André Bratten has released up to this point, he has gone from a Disco-tinged functional dance music Tech to a big room masochist Techno to a melodically-informed electronica, all in the space of two albums and an EP and four years. There’s no congruity between his releases except the incredible production value so it comes as no surprise when this limited pressing release arrived on Smalltown Supersound it added yet another dimension to Bratten’s immense creative talent. Drifting somewhere between Aphex Twin’s “I Care because you Do” and the sinister sound palette of Jungle, Valve and its Megamix interpretation have no real relationship to Bratten’s previous releases Gode or Math Ilium Ion and is so far removed from Be an Ant you Man that you’d be hard-pressed to hear both records were created from the same artist. I get the sense Bratten likes to play with preconceived notions of his artistic voice and these very different releases showcase an artist with a diverse musical ability.
Valve is a bit more rhythmically interesting than his previous releases and the bold sound palette is stripped back, but cover every inch of the stereo field, conveying something powerful and determined. Valve comes on the announcement of a whole host of EP’s and 12 inches set to be released through various labels this year, music recorded before Be a Ant you Man even, and as expected in the current climate a bit of a delay is to be expected, but if Valve sets the tone for what’s to come, there’s certainly going to be yet a few more surprises in store, no-doubt.
Quirky synthesisers frantically play between electro percussive arrangements while charming chord progressions pull you closer into the music. Familiar with this Icelandic producer’s music, you always try and keep your distance, since at a moment’s notice it can suck you in and spit you out on the other side of turbulent downward spiral of irrational rhythms and aggressively obtuse melodic arrangements. The opening title track teases a few of these moments but never quite goes quite as intense as the latter part of EOD’s album from last year EODS.
Swurlk appears more focussed in its purpose and the tracks never quite fall over the invisible edge, offering a more engaging experience with listeners through evasive acid lines and muddling rhythm patterns diving from one moment to the next, keeping the listener engaged and uncertain of the direction. Pads and a thin harmonic accompaniment ties it all together for the most part and although Swarm is the odd one out, that driving jack-hammer beat is more of an intermission than anything else, it resolves into ELCASET_TESTGROOVE one of the finest examples of and EOD track if there ever was one. An Electro beat, percussive melodic elements, a simple but effective bass-line, and various cloudy atmospheres are playful, but sincere and tie an EP together that showcases EOD in the best of light. Also worth a listen is the previous release from this label, from Cucumb45, Syslo.
Another Dark Age
Menacing, percussive and concealing something ominous behind the oozing bass-lines and uncomfortable atmospheres, Tackle combine elements of a UK bass music lexicon with the more extensive sound palette of modern music concrete,, landing somewhere between the rhythmical output of Shackleton and the brooding soundscapes of Lumisokea. Almost a year old already, this release from Another Dark Age came via a recommendation from a friend and after hearing the title track it on a live PA in all its vivid drama, you couldn’t escape its presence. Built from the percussive arrangement up with tumultuous basslines filling in the gaps between the beats and that constant eerie noise in the background, the arrangement on Tackle is impressive and prominent.
The B-side is a little more elusive as live drums and attenuated strings whining between buzzing basslines capture the idea of a live band in a rehearsal jam on Stung while AGR 803 tries its hand at something a little more accessible replete with a four on the floor arrangement and repetitive simple melodic bass lines. The latter still conceals something unusual in it the constant drone that accompanies the beat and additional percussive arrangement weaving the very minimalist track into a contrapuntal sinkhole that tugs and tugs at your feet until your completely consumed by it. Between Benzedrine and AGR 803 there’s a thin red line that could snap at any moment but it remains in check brings together an EP that eludes any discernible distinction.