Switched On – Daniel Troberg: Electro Works 1997-2002 (Sonidosys)

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

A trip down memory lane for Daniel Troberg, the Finnish DJ and producer now located in Los Angeles  where he is resident for Transition @ Dublab. A lot has changed for him musically since 2002, but this collection brings together his solo output from the turn of the century.

What’s the music like?

Troberg explores a mixture of approaches. At times his music feels very minimal, and certainly is in the melodic department, but the variations in texture and clumps of activity behind the front line means there is actually a lot going on.

Some of these tracks are more experimental, and pull at the outer reaches of rhythm and melody. The cinematic Bad Dream is one of these, setting a weird and at times unsettling scene with its unusual harmonies. The slower Abyss looks down similar avenues.

On the other side, Zzz proves its worth as one of the best tracks with a combination of driving rhythms, friendly chatter in the midrange and a backdrop of cool keys. The more minimal Talkback gives off a rich array of colours from its dancing synth lines, while the propulsive Epax is a chunky piece of electro, again with minimal melody but punching its weight comfortably. Intruder is cut from similar cloth, while OBX2 is notable for a distinctive, thick chord that recurs at regular intervals.

Does it all work?

Does it all work?

Largely. Troberg’s electro tracks are well crafted and impeccably scored. They generate a good deal of kinetic energy, if not always getting beyond a darker and minimal melodic approach.

Is it recommended?

Yes. It’s easy to see why figures such as Laurent Garnier, The Hacker and Marcel Dettmann have expressed support for Troberg’s collection, as fans of those artists will find much to appreciate here.

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Electro Works 1997 – 2002 will be released on July 15 on Sonidosys. In the meantime, visit Daniel Troberg’s Soundcloud page for more tracks

Switched On – Jimi Tenor: Multiversum (Bureau B)

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

After two collections of career-spanning retrospectives, Jimi Tenor teams up once again with Bureau B. This time the material is brand new, and the label have allowed him free reign within the slight confines of synthesizer, flute and saxophone. He has such a diverse musical history that he could turn his hand to pretty much any form of electronic, jazz or even modern classical, but here his choices tend towards a blend of electronic and jazz.

Working with a typically instinctive approach, Tenor delivered the album within a few months from his Helsinki studio, using drum machines and synthesizer loops as a support for all sorts of treble-range activity.

What’s the music like?

Full of character. Jimi Tenor writes with a good deal of flair and always with a sense of humour, and his solos are packed with melodic content but also unexpectedly poignant moments.

The range of music is impressive, from the ultra-cool Gare du Noir and Monday Blue, with their easygoing vibes, to the upfront Slow Intro, where Tenor employs a fake choir. This leads to Life Hugger, with a flute-led swagger to the Krautrock groove. When the vocals are employed the approach is the same, with Unchartered Waters more song-based and Birthday Magic adding a humourous nod and a wink.

RajuRaju has a short attention span, with frenetic beats countered by rich ensemble passages. It is followed by the longest track, The Way To Kuusijärvi, a lovely slice of mellow flute and keys that give us the chance to kick back and indulge. This being Jimi Tenor, though, there is always some activity underfoot, and the skittish beat means we can’t relax too much! The saxophone solo, when it comes, is a beauty.

Does it all work?

Yes. With most constraints off the table, Jimi Tenor’s ability to think instinctively makes for consistently involving listening. His music is always interesting and full of melodic content, and the humour tops it off. On occasion Multiversum can get a bit ragged, but that’s a small price to pay for some infectiously good vibes.

Is it recommended?

It is. Jimi Tenor’s partnership with Bureau B is clearly good for him – and with the music as colourful as its cover, we can expect a good deal where this came from.

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Switched On – Various Artists: Air Texture VIII with Anthony Naples & DJ Python (Air Texture)

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

For its eighth episode the rightly lauded Air Texture series relocates to Brooklyn, where it is picked up by DJs and sometime housemates Anthony Naples and DJ Python. Python is one of the many aliases under which Brian Piñeyro operates, and he has been working with the intriguing combination of ambient music soundscapes and reggaeton beats.

Naples, meanwhile, worked at an indie label but discovered techno through artists such as Theo Parrish, Omar S and Actress – and met Piñeyro when returning to New York after stints in Los Angeles and Berlin. The two were housemates for a little while before starting the Incienso label together.

Air Texture appears to be their first official compilation together, and as the biographies imply it is a cosmopolitan and very open musical affair.

What’s the music like?

Just when you think you have the Air Texture series nailed and pigeon-holed, it goes off in a new direction, indicating how essential it has become.

Volume eight, in the company of the New York-based pair, varies wildly in tempo but makes perfect sense when heard from start to finish. It starts with thick ambience and loping beats from Parris and Aurora Halal & DJ G., whose Off The Top has a particularly squelchy bass. The profile is dubby but not for long, as DINA’s Skin Shed unleashes an unexpected volley of rapid fire beats, comfortably the fastest thing yet heard in the Air Texture series.

It signals another change of tack, leading into the Naples-Python collaboration Entouré, where the reggaeton sway takes hold. Things then turn mysterious with the spaced out Per Ounce, an excellent spaced-out contribution from James Bangura with a strong percussive drive. Bitter Babe & Nick León continue with the thick, hot weather ambience but add some simmering tension, though by the time we get to DJ Trystero’s Palisade a warm, comforting ambience has descended. After some intimate beats and humorous touches on downstairs J’s 1000 dumplings, another Python-Naples collaboration – Final Speaking – complements short riffs with warm colours. Finally Vertical Silence finds a weird, levitating profile in Antonyms For Us, and 5AM’s Years signs off with a lazy, semi song-based finale, scattering into the ambient dust.

Does it all work?

Pretty much. There will be something for everyone to discover, which is a compliment you could level at each instalment of the Air Texture series so far. These are imaginative choices, and while the best are arguably the most ambient the collision course set by dancehall-influenced beats and ambient backdrops is truly intriguing.

Is it recommended?

Yes – and the more you listen the more there is to discover. Air Texture continues to be one of the few compilation series still going that is required listening. Once again, it proves an experience to broaden the musical mind.

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This weekend – the PRS Foundation and Southbank Centre’s New Music Biennial

Last year saw the inaugural New Music Biennial weekender, and now to celebrate the initiative’s 10th birthday PRS Foundation and Southbank Centre are presenting a whole weekend of essential new music. You will require tickets for each visit to the three-day festival, but the good news is that those tickets are FREE!

Two shows have already sold out – Coby Sey’s From The Vestry and Anna Meredith’s HandsFree – so well done if you’ve already bagged a ticket for those. There is however a whole heap of good music still on offer, including:

New works by composers and music creators such as Yazz Ahmed, Paul Purgas, AFRODEUTSCHE, Martin Green, Rakhi Singh / Vessel, Keeley Forsyth, Coby Sey, Roopa Panesar, Toby Young and Philip Herbert. The full list is as follows:

The Moon Has Become, commissioned by WOMAD, written by British-Bahraini trumpeter and composer Yazz Ahmed

Tape Music, commissioned by Supersonic Festival, written by sound, performance and installation artist, Paul Purgas

He Sings Over Me, commissioned by Manchester Camerata and NEWFORM, written by composer, producer and DJ AFRODEUTSCHE

Split The Air, commissioned by The National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain and Lepus Productions, written by Martin Green     

It commissioned by NYX Electronic Drone Choir, written by Rakhi Singh, Vessel & NYX Electronic Drone Choir,

Bog Body, commissioned by Sound UK, written by composer, singer and actor Keeley Forsyth

From The Vestry, commissioned by Serious and written by vocalist, musician and DJ, Coby Sey     

The Crossing, commissioned by Opera North and written by the sitarist Roopa Panesar

Breathlines, commissioned by Armonico Consort and written by Toby Young  

Towards Renewal, commissioned by the BBC Concert Orchestra and written by Philip Herbert

AFRODEUTSCHE – Unquiet (credit Vivaldi Rocks)

There will also be a selection of highlights from the last 10 years of the New Music Biennial, in the company of Anna Meredith, Brian Irvine and Jennifer Walshe, Daniel Elms, Errollyn Wallen, Philip Venables and David Hoyle, Aidan O’Rourke and Kit Downes, Jason Yarde, Jessica Curry, Arlene Sierra and Gazelle Twin. Here’s the full list:

HandsFree, commissioned by National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, written by Anna Meredith and choreographed by David Ogle

13 Vices, commissioned by Moving on Music and written by Brian Irvine and Jennifer Walshe

Bethia, commissioned by BFI and written by Daniel Elms

Mighty River, performed by National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain and written by Errollyn Wallen.  Originally commissioned by The Rector and PPC of Holy Trinity Clapham Common and the Revd. John Wates

Illusions, commissioned and co-promoted by London Sinfonietta and written by Philip Venables with performance artist David Hoyle

One Story: 365 Words, commissioned by the Edinburgh Arts Book Festival and written by multi-instrumentalists Aidan O’Rourke and Kit Downes

Skip, Dash, Flow, commissioned by Wonderbrass and written by composer, producer and saxophonist, Jason Yarde

She Who, commissioned by National Youth Choirs of Great Britain and written by English composer, radio presenter and BAFTA winner, Jessica Curry

Urban Birds, commissioned by INTER/actions Festival of Interactive Electronic and written by Arlene Sierra

The Power and the Glory, commissioned by BBC Concert Orchestra and written by performance artist, composer and producer, Gazelle Twin

The festival starts tomorrow, Friday 1 July, and runs through until Sunday 3 July. For more information head to the Southbank Website

Pieces from the New Music Biennial will also be available through NMC Recordings. As well as releasing the new pieces at this year’s festival, and to celebrate this milestone in the partnership, NMC is re-issuing the ten existing works being performed this year. This special re-issue bundle entitled Celebrating 10 years of New Music Biennial, is available for download from the NMC online shop at a discounted price, providing a lasting legacy for this new music.

Switched On – The Utopia Strong: International Treasure (Rocket Recordings)

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

Steve Davis, Kavus Torabi and Mike York made a strong impression on their debut in 2018 as The Utopia Strong – but International Treasure confirms they were only just getting started.

Now their line-up is established, Davis has confirmed what it all means: “I see myself as a strong midfielder, or a centre back. Kavus and Mike are like the Lionel Messi or Ronaldo in the equation, and I’m setting situations up for them.” This modest appraisal gives a clue to Davis’s own role with the modular electronic backdrops, which are so important to the more improvisatory work that goes on up front.

International Treasure, the trio’s second album, takes them further along a journey which has already explored more musical dimensions than they thought possible.

What’s the music like?

International Treasure has a strong emotional pull throughout its nine tracks. It is also difficult to place stylistically, which proves to be one of its strongest selling points. At no point does it feel like the record was placed under any restrictions, and yet its musical progress is carefully managed at every turn, creating a rare intensity.

Another feature of the trio’s work is the vivid colouring they apply to the sounds, which operate as strong primary musical colours. This is in part due to Torabi’s acquisition of a guzheng (a Chinese plucked zither) which is used on Shepherdess, and the set of pipes and wind instruments York brings to the table, like an updated version of the Penguin Café Orchestra.

Does it all work?

It certainly does. There are some fascinating colours and tableaus presented here, each of them handsomely rewarding repeated listening.

Is it recommended?

Yes – as indeed is the first album. If you’re an electronic music devotee then this is a mandatory purchase, and a sign that even greater things lie ahead for the unlikely trio.

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