Posts By Greg Stone

LABEL PROFILE: Spirit Level

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New Australian label Spirit Level is the brainchild of electronic producer/Double J radio presenter Tim Shiel, and Wally de Backer of Gotye fame. Originally formed to provide a local Australian release for U.S. outfit Zammuto, who had supported Gotye on some of their U.S. tour dates, the label was then shelved for a period whilst Tim and Wally were busy with other projects.

Fast forward to 2016 and the duo have resurrected the label to provide a platform for unique, compelling artists to be heard. When asked about the decision to revive the label Shiel states that “Part of the impetus for re-launching the label was having this realisation that I am surrounded in my day-to-day life by some pretty amazing creative people, and that we all have the will and the desire to collaborate and support each other – but sometimes you need someone to sort of plant a flag and say, ‘hey – this is a thing now. We’re a family now.'”

In addition to releasing music the label is committed to helping the development of their artists, assisting with any and all facets of the industry from song writing, mixing, artwork, promotion, contracts, booking shows etc. In Shiel’s words “I think we’ll just do whatever we need to do to help out…That’s the job of a label now I think, it goes way beyond just releasing music.” Throughout his own music career Shiel says he’s “really had to learn all of that stuff, piece it all together bit by bit on my own. Now hopefully I’m in a place where I can give some of that back, and through the label just do whatever is required to fill in the gaps. Even if it’s just being a bit of a cheerleader”.

The label’s first official signing is Melbourne artist Jordan White, aka Braille Face. Stumbling across his music on SoundCloud Shiel reached out to White and the two quickly became friends. This eventually led to the release of Braille Face’s debut single ‘Glow; an emotionally resonant slice of electronica not too dissimilar to fellow Melbournites I’lls. Simon Lam, the vocalist from I’lls, coincidentally mastered the follow-up single, ‘Backwards/Medicated’. Offering up a similar mood to ‘Glow’, this latest single builds from a wavering synth line atop a propulsive percussive loop, gradually unfolding and momentarily allowing White’s vocals to soar in beautifully restrained flashes, giving us a glimpse of what the Braille Face project still has up its sleeve.

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What’s next in store for Spirit Level? Firstly, the debut album from Braille Face, due for release later this year, then we can expect new music from the label’s latest signing, Melbourne duo Telling, one of Shiel’s own projects along with singer-songwriter Ben Abraham. And as for the future direction of the label, Shiel notes “We’ll go wherever feels right….I don’t particularly care what kind of music it is as long as I think it’s really great and creative, and that it moves me. And that I can imagine it moving other people.”

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VIRTUAL MIXTAPE: CORIN

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Illustrations by Lucy Roleff

CORIN is the solo project of electronic producer Corin Ileto. A classically-trained pianist, Ileto weaves complex keyboard melodies atop glistening, rhythmic soundscapes to create her own lush brand of electronica.

Ileto’s debut LP, Wave Systems, released via Danish label Speaker Footage late last year, explored aquatic themes with submerged motifs and cascading synth washes perfectly capturing the majesty of an underwater world.

Since the release of Wave Systems, Ileto has been busy on a number of projects including a collaborative album with Melbourne artist Ju Ca, remixing composer Christina Vantzou, scoring dance works by Chloe Chignell, and recently joining Rainbow Chan’s live band alongside Moon Holiday.

For the latest instalment in our Virtual Mixtape series, Corin has provided a selection of music from some of her favourite Japanese producers.

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RYUICHI SAKAMOTO – ‘Riot in Lagos’

I am a long-time fan of Ryuichi Sakamoto and his multitude of collaborations, including his work in pioneering synth trio Yellow Magic Orchestra and piano collaborations with glitch producer Alva Noto in more recent years. The track I have chosen, ‘Riot in Lagos’, is from his album B-2 Unit released in 1980. I like the math-rock vibe and the mix of industrial drums with bleepy arpeggiated synth lines on this track. This track in particular has been cited as a key influence behind the electro sound of early New York hip hop groups such as Afrika Bambaataa.

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DJ WWWW – ‘Network’

DJWWWW is a producer that I found whilst sifting through the depths of SoundCloud. He is one of those mysterious producers that changes his alias every few weeks – his usernames have included “Lil Sega”,  “☆. exileVEVO”  and “pure trance”. He is also known for a label he runs called Wasabi Tapes which released a nice compilation Utsukushii earlier this year that I took part in.

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LISTEN: 0point1 – micro-flora

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Mysterious Melbourne-based artist 0point1, aka Bob Streckfuss, returns with his latest collection, micro-flora. Following on from his beguiling 2014 debut, Clean Dirt, and the self-released follow-up EP, Embryo from a Collapsing Star, the music of 0point1 is startlingly original, melding digitally manipulated found sounds and instruments with intricate, skittering rhythms and ethereal vocals. The result is a unique marriage of the drama and cinematic grandeur of post rock with the erratic energy of IDM.

The cut-up field recordings and acoustic instruments which make up these rich sonic landscapes create an organic form of electronic music – a delicate tapestry that draws out similarities between the seemingly disparate complexity of animal architecture and computer software.

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LISTEN: Kane Ikin – Modern Pressure

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Kane Ikin

Melbourne-based producer Kane Ikin has been crafting his brand of brooding, slow burn electronica for a number of years. After a run of solid releases for the likes of 12K and This Thing, he finds a suitable home for his latest album on experimental UK label Type Recordings.

His new album, Modern Pressure, follows on from EPs Warehouses and Circular Tip, both of which saw Ikin’s sound emerge from the delightfully swampy murk of his earlier work, juxtaposing crisp sonic details with his hazy signature style.

As the title suggests, the album was created during a difficult period for Ikin. Pressures both financial and otherwise inspired a condensed period of creativity, with majority of the album written in quick succession. These struggles permeate the sound of the album, an unsettling twinge of anxiety underpinning each track.

Like Warehouses, Modern Pressure sounds like music for large concrete spaces, the cold sheen and ghostly echoes evoking stark industrial areas where programmed machinery replicates object after object with flawless precision. From the techno pulse of opener ‘Partial’ and ‘Tap Tap Collapse’ to the lumbering stumble of ‘Pulp’, the rhythmic elements play a more prominent role on the album, propelling the buried melodies along as if caught in their slipstream.

Modern Pressure is another impressive entry in Kane Ikin’s stellar catalogue, his sound growing and evolving in all the right ways.

Watch the stunning clip for ‘Tap Tap Collapse’ below and be sure to grab a copy of Modern Pressure pronto.

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VIRTUAL MIXTAPE: Dro Carey

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Illustrations by Lucy Roleff

Eugene Ward has been carving a path on the electronic music scene for a number of years now. Best known under his Dro Carey alias, Ward’s music has seen him explore grime, UK garage and other forms of bass music, clocking up releases on a slew of international labels including Trilogy Tapes, RAMP Recordings and Greco-Roman.

A restlessly prolific producer, Ward also releases music under a number of other guises: the rugged techno/house-leaning Tuff Sherm, the avant-club experiments of PMM and more recently, under his given name, the Paint En Pointe album, a selection of compositions written in collaboration with choreographer Patric Kuo for a series of performances in late 2014.

On his latest single, ‘Grow Lithe’, Ward melds bubbling acid-synth and rolling garage rhythms with his typically crisp production style. The single is taken from a forthcoming EP for Australian imprint Soothsayer, expected later this year.

 

For the sixth instalment in our Virtual Mixtape series, Eugene has chosen a selection of his favourite German experimental, Neue Deutsche Welle & synth-pop 7”s.

 

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Eugene Ward:

“For my virtual mixtape I knew that I wanted to delve into something forged in those dark and wide-reaching years of teenage taste. I got into dance music somewhat late in the scheme of things, probably only when I was 16. Before that, coming out of a jazz piano background I was generally drawn to improvised, avant-garde and heavy music. Really whatever could shock me – the kind of Internet-aided audio thrill-seeking that is endemic to reclusive or introverted teenagers. So there were a lot of options as far as the areas spanning ‘pre-Dro’ music taste. The reason I chose this somewhat loose category of Neue Deutsche Welle, synth-pop and German experimental seven inches is that it remains particularly relevant and inspiring to what I do now. Hopefully as we go through the tracks you will see that this was a legendary and fertile era for sound design and electronic music arrangement, one that goes far beyond the obvious linear relationship with European techno.”

Endphase – ‘Reise In Den Tod’ from 2 Hemden & 2 Hosen Vol. 1 (2003)

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The interesting thing about this loose classification of seven-inch ‘synth-pop’ music is that since its inception in the late 70s/early 80s it has never really gone away. As such this track is taken from an earnest, dedicated early 2000s pastiche of the form. 2 Hemden & 2 Hosen was a long-running series of compilation seven-inch releases put out by the Kernkrach label, including some tracks that are so stylistically on point that you wonder if they’re actually archival rather than contemporary takes. Not the case here, however, where ‘Reise In Den Tod’ features some decidedly modern and sophisticated oscillations and filters. Yet these synth lines are backed with a genuine motorik chug and ultimately it hits the mark as far as the emotional vibe of this music – part saccharine, part gothic.

Im Namen Des Volkes – ‘Reaktorkern’ from Weisses Rauschen EP (2006)

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Im Namen Des Volkes was an alias for Matthias Schuster, whose work typically resides at the more industrial end of this music. Veteran engineer Christa Brüggemann remastered this EP, drawing on unreleased material that was originally recorded 1979-1981. Brüggemann lends this archival release some amazing heft and crispness, which allows us to appreciate the arrangements and sound design. This release brings me to one of the core reasons for my love of this music: were these not the best snare sounds going in the 1980s?  Substitute them into Yeezus or a TM88 production today and I wouldn’t blink. Drums miles ahead of their time.

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LISTEN: Curse ov Dialect – Twisted Strangers

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Curse Ov Dialect

Melbourne-based outfit Curse Ov Dialect are without a doubt one of the most interesting hip hop acts to emerge from Australia. Their penchant for surreal costumes and onstage theatrics, and their outspoken criticism of Australia’s underlying racism puts them at odds with the endless stream of generic drivel currently being churned out. Instead of weakly mimicking US hip hop, a music intrinsically linked to the culture in which it was born, they instead incorporate their own cultural perspective and experiences into a hip-hop framework.

Over the course of their output the group’s crafted a unique sound. Trawling for samples through psychedelic rock, traditional folk and various electronic oddities, they hold these seemingly disparate elements together with a hip hop backbone courtesy of beat maestro Paso Bionic. The distinctive style of each MC and the interplay between them is another defining element of the Curse, with the rapid-fire delivery of Volk Makedonski, the endearing multiple-personality disorder of Raceless and the ethereal flow of Atarangi all adding to the tapestry.

This formula has struck a chord with local and international audiences alike, with the group’s first two full-length LPs released via Mush Records. At the time, the label was leading the experimental hip-hop charge, repping artists like cLOUDDEAD, Busdriver and Aesop Rock.

Seven years on from last album Crisis Tales, Twisted Strangers finds the group in fine form, picking up where they left off – poignant, politically charged lyrics underpinned by their signature multicultural grooves. Guest spots on the album include Japanese furioso Kaigen and Hemlock Ernst, aka Samuel T. Herring of Future Islands. Herring’s been clocking up notable appearances with a number of indie rap’s finest, including Busdriver and Cavanaugh, and it’s great to count Curse Ov Dialect alongside such luminaries.

Watch the video for the title track below and grab the full album on CD or vinyl via Monotype Records or digitally via Valve Records.

Curse ov Dialect will be launching Twisted Strangers at Ding Dong Lounge in Melbourne on Friday, 13 May. Full details here.

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LISTEN: Gentleforce – Refuge from The Great Sadness

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Sydney-based producer Gentleforce, aka Eli Murray, first appeared on the scene with his debut album Sacred Spaces, a warm, immersive listen that contrasted sharply with the club nights he was DJing at the time. The album serves as a great introduction – informed by Murray’s wildly eclectic music taste, there are nods to numerous genres, all filtered through his pastoral, downbeat lens.

Sacred Spaces was followed by Looking Through New Window, a long-form live piece created for the monthly experimental sound series ‘Refraction’. Written for a live setting, the release has a more expansive feel, as musical themes drift in and out, dissolving into one another in a blissfully evolving soundscape.

Refuge from The Great Sadness is the latest album from Gentleforce, and it represents a tremendous leap forward for Murray. There’s an epic beauty that reveals itself over the course of the album. From the subtly treated field recordings of ‘Singing over Shibuya’ to the sweeping techno abstractions of ‘You hold my hand through the Gate’, the music consumes you, envelops you in its radiance. And while it’s easy to categorise the music of Gentleforce with labels like ambient or even drone, this belies the bigger picture. There is a sense of grandeur to the music, a majesty that’s uplifting without sounding overwrought or cliché.

Refuge from The Great Sadness is available digitally now.

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