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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Switched On – Air Texture VII compiled by Rrose & Silent Servant (Air Texture)

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

The innovative Air Texture compilation series reaches the magnificent seven, staying true to its principles. The idea is that two producers with a connection hook up for a double compilation, whose only proviso is that the music should not be ‘straight ahead club music’. Early volumes in the series tended to be much more ambient, with some completely devoid of beats, but as the canon has developed so has the open and inclusive approach.

This is one of the more upfront releases so far, from Californian Seth Horvitz – now using his Rrose alias – and Silent Servant, aka Los Angeles resident Juan Mendez.

What’s the music like?

The great thing about each Air Texture release is the opportunity for musical discovery, and this is no exception. Both contributors have clearly given the collection a lot of thought, and the range of musical styles here extends from thick muffled ambience from the likes of Octo Octa, where time stands virtually still, to the other end of the scale and the relentless bass drum of JS Aurelius.

Along the way we hear fascinating ideas. The first set of twelve tracks includes probing sounds from Anthony Child and nice, spectral effects from Laurel Halo, whose Dies Ist Ein sounds great on headphones. Ron Morelli’s Psychic Harms of Economic Deprivation has dense and foreboding ambience, while AGF’s HUM-iLiTY displaces reality with eerie vocal effects,

The second set has the wonderfully cinematic Luke Slater track When It Twists, yet another example of his techno mastery, but backs this up with Mara’s Rebellion, a fascinating track which moves from sumptuous widescreen sounds to distorted, extraterrestrial fragments. Silent Servant’s own New World has a propulsive drum track but broad ambience behind, while the ever-reliable Phase Fatale offers the excellent Nightmare in LA, a bubbling and moody synth cauldron. Finally Zahlensender (ssb), from Function, takes us to the other end of the aural spectrum with glittering treble sounds.

Does it all work?

Yes. Some of the more confrontational sounds here mean the compilation is not one of outright ambience, as previous volumes have been, but at this point it is worth remembering the Air Texture philosophy of challenging as well as soothing. In that respect the pairing of Rrose and Silent Servant works a treat, fulfilling the brief while introducing new names as the best compilers should.

Many of the tracks here led to further exploration, but they hang together really well as a pair of sets.

Is it recommended?

Yes, without reservation. This may be the seventh release in the series but it is another feature in the cap of Air Texture’s bow, a compilation series where it really pays to immerse yourself in each instalment. For a listener to be challenged and soothed in equal measure is just how a series like this should be.

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