Switched On – Fhloston Paradigm: Right Where You Are (Cosmic Lounge Music)

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

Floston Paradigm is one of the many aliases for King Britt, and has been active since 2012. The celebrated Philadelphia musician and producer describes it in his Bandcamp biography as ‘is a manifestation of afro-futurist ideals, based in an electronic music landscape. The purpose is to transmit the omni-versal message of divine abstractions into aural pleasing tones’.

The time would seem right for its revival, and this new four track album was released to coincide with Bandcamp’s day of sharing their royalties with artists. Dedicated to ‘a world of peace, love and equality for all’, the music is designed to think along the same lines as the blue sky and heady clouds of the cover.

Whether that can be achieved in real life, of course, is another matter – but it is a reminder of the hugely important part music continues to play as the Coronavirus pandemic shows no sign of letting up.

What’s the music like?

Not surprisingly, very relaxing indeed. King Britt has all the assurance of an experienced hand in this repertoire, and the four tracks between them make an extremely calming whole lasting just under an hour.

There is no rush to go anywhere, and as the 22-minute opening track Friday Sombers develops we fall slowly under the spell of its bubbling bass part and slow moving treble lines, which occasionally glint at the edges as though caught by a particularly intense ray of sun. There are little acidic synthesizer sounds that flicker around the picture, like the embers of a fire, while the harmony remains grounded to an omnipresent pitch centre of C. Gradually the track breaks up, like those embers on the fire, until we are left with fragments of indistinct melody.

Mercury’s Portal returns to the same pitch centre with pure tones, birdsong and what sounds like footsteps crunching leaves and / or snow. The pure tones soon give way to a probing piano line, but the textures remain full of light until broader and more jagged tones make themselves known. Now the shadows lengthen, but the music remains airy.

A Moment For Self is more propulsive, with broad strokes around the edges while a more probing synth line forces its way through in mid-range. Again the musical breaths are long, as they are in the final ReBalancing The Theory, which starts with rain and a watery, sustained loop. This is more mellow, the music sinking back to earth gradually, where it becomes more noise-based and fades to the distance.

Does it all work?

Yes – because all of it is just the one track, and with absolutely no hurry or pressure King Britt creates the safest of musical spaces. It is one the listener can completely give over to, or they can apply a more critical ear and appreciate the subtle movements and texture changes. Either way it works well.

Is it recommended?

Yes. From personal experience Right Where We Are achieves exactly what its maker wanted – bringing the listener to a ‘place of center’. If only it could do the same to all those causing friction on the planet at the moment!

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Switched On – Peter Broderick: Blackberry (Erased Tapes)

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

This is a surprise release from Peter Broderick, the Oregon multi-instrumentalist giving us his first vocal album in five years, since Colours of the Night in 2015. The release will not be as much of a surprise to Broderick’s followers, however, as they are used to his prodigious output on several musical levels. While more recently he has been lending violin to Tim Burgess‘ band, Broderick still finds the time to write his own classically-infused music and the sort of song-based material we find here.

The whole of Blackberry was recorded in Broderick’s home in south east London, an environmentally friendly album in concept and execution.

What’s the music like?

Subtle, meaningful, light-hearted and affecting. Broderick recognises the need of listeners to have something consoling in the times in which we find ourselves, but he offers a few witticisms along the way. Stop And Listen and But are both quirky songs littered with wordplay and wry observations, Broderick’s sonorous voice working well with the humour.

As the album progresses however so the music becomes more deeply affecting – and the thread of environmental awareness, which runs through the album, comes more to the front. Blackberry itself is a celebration of foraging, and is really nicely done, while the wordplay on The Niece is clever. Broderick’s voice has folk music inflections without directly using traditional source material.

The soft but compelling storytelling of What’s Wrong With A Straight Up Love Song leaves its understated mark, Broderick working really well with a longer structure of nine minutes on the album’s centrepiece. The soft brushstrokes of Let It Go are lovely, as are the autumnal strings on What Happened To Your Heart.

Does it all work?

Yes. The humour in the opening songs might not strike a chord with everyone but it is an essential part of Broderick’s carefree style, and works really well. His skill in orchestration and songwriting, meanwhile, comes through at every opportunity.

Is it recommended?

Definitely. Seasoned collectors of Peter Broderick’s music will be used to spending a bit of money to keep up with his prolific output, but that’s because they will argue the outlay reaps musical dividends. That is very much the case once again.

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Switched On – Eumig: 23 (Courier Sound)

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

A fascinating challenge lies behind this album. Recently Courier Sound released an album of 23 tracks in 23 minutes by their artist Alien (aka Alastair Johnson), and it was so successful that label head Stuart Bowditch decided to set the same challenge for Eumig, aka Nick Dawson.

Given Dawson’s preference for working with drawn out structures, this needed a change of approach – akin to asking Schoenberg to write wearing Webern’s hat. He has responded with a set of musical postcards that meet the brief and create a very concentrated piece of work.

What’s the music like?

Fascinating and extremely varied. Dawson has in effect created a single work by taking the small cells and knitting them together. The music moves between the ideas logically, and flits between intimate asides and much bigger textures, the camera panning out to take in enormous vistas.

Each minute has its own important part to play, but highlights include the distinctive sighing motif of Law Of Diminishing Returns, then the glitchy pair of Electronic Communication and Audio Lingual Acquisition, introducing a sharper edge to proceedings. Worship Of Heavely Bodies is appropriately stellar, while the friendly signals of Primary Colours are nicely placed. Pteroylmonoglutamic Acid (easy for you to say!) has a big presence, like a large assembly of machinery grinding into action.

Does it all work?

Yes. There are some extremely concentrated ideas here, many of which could easily run for much longer and carry the same intensity. The tapestry is woven in a compelling fashion however, Eumig’s thoughts logical to follow but also taking a few unexpected turns.

Is it recommended?

Yes. 23 is a great idea for a challenge to throw down to a composer, and for someone used to composing in much longer forms Nick Dawson handles the shorter form with aplomb. It will be interesting to see what effect this form of working has on his output in the future.

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Switched On – Richard Norris: Elements (Group Mind)

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

Richard Norris has kept himself busy during lockdown. As well as running the excellent Group Mind resource on Facebook (do join if you have an interest in any sort of ambient music!) he has been making music to help ease the stress created by the COVID-19 pandemic, confinement and worrisome news headlines – to name just a few of our bugbears in recent months.

Having released a series of Music for Healing tracks, Norris now heads into album territory with meditations on the five Chinese elements. He is helped by vocalist Bishi (who appears on Water) and some wonderful artwork by Mark Golding and Andy Ball, and a striking front cover image designed by Lyndon Pike.

What’s the music like?

Although his music with The Grid and Beyond The Wizards Sleeve is largely beat-driven, Norris has always shown a talent for creating musical textures that can soothe or comfort, and Elements is a fruitful use of that resource.

He uses appealing, analogue-driven sounds twinned with sequencers, making consonant musical motifs and – where required – well-crafted beats. Earth sets a solid base, its loops unfolding at a naturally relaxed pace, while Water is a more expansive structure, contrasting immersive vocals from Bishi with gentle instrumental oscillations.

Norris’s interpretation of Fire brings to mind the vision of flames lazily flickering in the half-light, with glowing embers that leave a lasting warmth. This eases us into the lovely stillness of Air, which could easily go on for longer than five minutes and not outstay its welcome, after which Space is appropriately remote, with lights twinkling in the distance.

Does it all work?

Yes. Elements is ideal for either end of the day, soothing the fevered brow but also working the brain nicely with its loops and well-constructed melodies. The music is always on the move, but the mind can choose the intensity with which it follows the designs.

Is it recommended?

Very much so. If the cover hasn’t already drawn you in then the music will. For best results the LP is strongly recommended, but anything linked to headphones will do the job. Norris offers a half hour of escapism, something we can all do with right now!

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Let’s Dance – The Beloved: Happiness (Special Edition) (New State Entertainment)

The BelovedHappiness (Special Edition) (New State Entertainment)

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

Music can make you feel old sometimes. With the recent trend for deluxe reissues of older albums that is happening on an increasingly regular basis for this particular writer! However in the case of The Beloved, initial horror at their standout album Happiness reaching 30 years of age is replaced by the pleasure of a chance to listen to it again – now in the company of a number of exclusives.

The album has been remastered and reissued with its distinctive and attractive artwork, very much of its time but also falling in nicely alongside the misty-eyed memories people have been creating of Ibiza recently. After the Heritage Orchestra’s Ibiza Classics tour and the White Lines series on Netflix, the reissue of Happiness is timely – and it’s tempting to say it’s a shot in the arm for us late in the summer.

What’s the music like?

Inevitably Happiness sounds dated now, but when you hear it alongside the more clinical Ibiza sounds of the current year its analogue charm is only amplified. There is a strong, positive thread running through the album too which is enormously helpful in these times. Songs like Hello, Don’t You Worry, The Sun Rising and I Love You More all hit the ears sunny side up, with Jon Marsh’s husky vocals enjoying the Balearic climate.

The Sun Rising continues to stand as one of the very finest tunes from the early 1990s, its blissful piano-led house music fit for any dawn-themed chillout set. The knowledge that it was written while the sun rose over Nunhead only increases its likability, totally suited to everyday phenomena. The roll call of Hello is always fun but also meaningful, trying to picture all the different people Marsh name checks and also identifying how they match up. It’s a great set of soundbites.

The extra material offers a great deal of context, especially with the accompaniment of the booklet notes, where Marsh confirms that he and Steve Waddington were ‘doing our own thing. Absolute musical freedom.” That much is confirmed by Acid Love, Sally and Jackie (Won’t You Please Come Home?), all of which are footloose and euphoric if occasionally on the ragged side. The influence of New Order is put to good use on these songs in particular.

 

 

Does it all work?

Mostly. There are a couple of more obvious album tracks towards the album’s close, and some show their age a little more readily, but this is still a very strong set of songs suitable both for the singles chart and for the centre of a dancefloor. The Beloved really hit a rich vein of form around this time, and it’s great to be reminded of the artwork that complements it so well. They really were in touch with Ibiza clubbers at the time.

Is it recommended?

Yes. With lockdown, quarantine and external pressures creating anxiety like never before, the reappearance of Happiness provides just the sort of escape its listeners will be looking for, along with the simple assurance that maybe things will be alright after all. When you listen to any of the singles on here, The Beloved make you feel that could indeed be the case!

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