Switched On – Gaspar Claus: Tancade (InFiné)

What’s the story?

Tancade is an imaginary beach, portrayed here by a single instrument – the cello of Gaspar Claus. With technical imagination and a little bit of electronic trickery he has made an entire album with the cello, using every millimetre to conjure up wooden and metallic sounds to add depth and shade to his musical pictures.

What’s the music like?

Ghostly harmonics and trills on the outer reaches of the cello usher in Une île, which is a brief contemplation in front of the waves. Un rivage portrays the gentle lapping of water through the pizzicato (plucking) across the strings, with a slow, lamenting figure that plays out in several parts.

These first two tracks are an indication of the powerful, meditative qualities Claus brings to his work, employing great imagination to get the sounds he wants.

2359 is a great example, playing out like a game of pinball with small musical ideas pinging across the sound picture as bigger, distorted waves threaten disruption. Meanwhile E.T. (Extra Terre Version) has a ghostly presence, with Claus playing two short fragments of arpeggios together but at a distance of a microtone, creating a disquieting mood in spite of the birdsong in the background.

1999 is a foreboding presence, Claus expanding the intimacy of the solo cello into quasi-orchestral sounds. Ô Sélénites goes a step further, using a wide array of textures to portray a lunar environment. Finally Mor des mystères amoureux finds relative stillness, with sustained harmonics and pizzicato flicking lazily in the breeze before a brief but affecting spoken word passage from Lyna Zouaoui.

Does it all work?

Yes, thanks to Claus’s imagination and deep knowledge of the capabilities of the cello. He creates very personal and meaningful ideas, but against bigger backdrops the listener can dive into.

Is it recommended?

It is, especially for lovers of solo cello music by Bach – Claus offers an interesting and viable alternative for the instrument as it is now.

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Switched On – Rival Consoles: Monster (Erased Tapes)

Rival Consoles – aka Ryan Lee West – is back with a new album, scheduled for release in December. Described as ‘a resonant and explorative soundscape of original music’, it was written for Alexander Whitley’s contemporary dance production Overflow.

The first calling card we have from the record is a substantial one, the ten-minute Monster. West describes Monster as having “a kind of drunken madness to it, highly repetitive to mirror the repetitive nature of how we as humans engage with technology such as social media. It’s sometimes edging towards chaos but yet always returning back to the same starting point, but eventually giving way to exhaustion. I wanted to create a bold opening piece for Overflow.”

It certainly has an ominous presence from the outset, West using micro-adjustments to a single pitch as a slow beat gradually takes hold. The atmosphere is tense, like an approaching encounter in a Ridley Scott film:

Overflow will be released by Erased Tapes on 3 December 2021. For more information click here:

Switched On – Caribou: You Can Do It (City Slang)

If you’re after some positive Sunday affirmations, look no further!

It may have been out a few weeks, but Caribou‘s single You Can Do It has been steadily burning its way into peoples’ consciousness.

It is a wonderfully uplifting track, from the rapid-fire vocal ‘you can do it’ to the slightly oblique riffing Caribou (aka Dan Snaith) conjures from his keyboards. It’s not a great deal removed from the Chemical Brothers in that respect, but the output could only be from the same pen that wrote the wonderful Sun and Can’t Do Without You and many others.

Add in a video with dogs soaring to catch frisbees, and what’s not to like? Enjoy below:

You Can Do It is out now on City Slang, with Caribou due to play Brixton Academy on 22 October.

Switched On – Various Artists: Total 21 (Kompakt)

total-kompakt-21

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

Kompakt’s annual compilation series rolls on, but on hitting the coming of age number the Cologne label have decided to put it on a diet. Slimmed down to a single disc / four sides of vinyl, it is a leaner beast but still packs in 13 tracks that cast the net across the label’s output.

Seasoned Kompakt regulars such as John Tejada, Jürgen Paape, Voigt & Voigt, Gui Boratto and label founder Michael Mayer rub shoulders with new talent to these pages – Kollmorgen, The Bionaut and Nicky Elisabeth.

What’s the music like?

Kompakt’s approach to techno is always pleasingly varied, and this set of tracks spreads itself nicely across the tempo and emotional spectrum. It doesn’t take long for us to be transported to warmer climes in the company of Jürgen Paape, whose La Guitarra Romantica is dreamy and exotic. The same words could apply to Roman Flügel’s remix of Nicky Elisabeth’s Celeste, though in truth this is a magical piece of work, beautifully floated above the deep beats.

“I Am A Dancer!”, proclaims the track from Marc Romboy & C.A.R. of the same name, an assertive piece of work shaking its booty from the off, while Jonathan Kaspar’s Von Draussen also hits the tougher spot with its rolling drum track. John Tejada contributes some typically thoughtful and nicely woven techno on Spectral Progressions, while Voigt & Voigt do similar with darker shades on Nicht Mein Job.

Michael Mayer’s contribution Happy plays around with spatial effects rather well, as does Sascha Funke’s Fasson, working in a nice broken beat and airy synths for good measure.

Does it all work?

It does. The decision to slim down to a CD’s worth of tracks pays off – not that the previous Total series instalments were overlong – but it works well because it brings the focus in to some really good compositions. The Kompakt catalogue is still in good shape, it would seem!

Is it recommended?

It is indeed. One for the seasoned Kompakt fans, but also an effective introduction to the label if you’re late to their recent output.

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Switched On – Haiku Salut: The Hill, The Light, The Ghost (Secret Name)

haiku-salut-2021

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

Derbyshire trio Haiku Salut relocate outdoors for this, their fifth album, which is in their words ‘an exploration of sound in relation to memory’. To fuel the latter they blend electronics and field recordings taken from a variety of sources, at all times seeking a personal touch or a story behind. The notes in the CD booklet document their findings, which range from natural sources to the strains of a ghostly piano in a large abandoned house, somewhere near Frankfurt.

What’s the music like?

Strange and captivating. Beginning with birdsong, Wide Awake is the ideal piece of music with which to start your day, soft strings and distant piano stretching the eardrums pleasantly. The mood changes with Entering, where a cold shiver runs through the arpeggios on the upper register of the ghostly piano. Gradually a mournful air descends on the instrument as it tolls slowly, beautifully played by band member Sophie Barkerwood.

A simpler, calmer piano informs the restful Trespass, while the tones are softer but the musical key remains the same for We Need These Beams, where a gently oscillating loop is gradually taken over by eerie displacement from the electronics. The sounds become increasingly wooden as the track dissolves.

I Dreamed I Was Awake For A Very Long Time is a lovely piece, a combination of a clipped piano phrase and stately chords over a steady, chugging beat. It really is a wonder, and is complemented by the wide open vista of How The Day Starts.

There are less field recordings evident for the friendly chatter of All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace, an older track, but they come to the fore in the reassuring balm of Try Again And Again And Again, full of subtle positivity, and the closing All Clear, which brings back birdsong and strings akin to the start of the album.

Does it all work?

Yes, especially on headphones. Closer listening reveals the different layers and perspectives of the field recording, which is matched by the trio’s distinctive and carefully monitored musical complements. These are always pleasant to listen to at the very least but often take the breath subtly with moments of consonant beauty. There is, however, a dark undertone running through some of the memories, a shadow that once applied is hard to remove.

Is it recommended?

Yes. Another excellent set from one of our electronic musical treasures, who continue to fly just under the radar – when really they deserve to be held in much higher regard.

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