Background Sounds - Two Angles To Electronics [BkSn23]
26 January, 2013
This next feature will discuss two electronic artists that sound nothing alike, yet share a common aversion of melodies and verses. And, unlike most of the bands on Soundscape, these two might sound vaguely familiar!
Christ. - No, that's not a religious reference - that's just a shortening of Christopher H., the famed electronic/ambient artist who collaborated with Boards of Canada until 1995. He also recorded a live session for John Peel, and was even asked for an encore afterwards (making Christ. the second artist ever to have been granted that honor).
Last October, Christ. released Cathexis: The Motion Picture Soundtrack; as the name implies, it's the music for a movie produced by Swedish/Japanese director Stefan Larsson. And first - well, just look at this cover. Fascinating, isn't it? Yet what is it, really - A green chain? A mutant form of snake? A complex coil of wire? The music evokes the same sense of mystery - particularly on the first few tracks, which are linked smoothly together by a robotic conversation in Japanese. 'Tis a very BoC-esque album, indeed, that waxes and wanes in its energy, from the fragile and isolated "Ingrid Cold" to the hum and vibe of "Zeroth Law". So much detail in these tracks, too - though they sound like loops, each song evolves, quietly and steadily, as new sounds slip into the mix. And while this might sound oxymoronic, "Cathexis" does indeed possess a very organic sound; for there are few drum machines, no flashy effects or snappy samples. Along with "Zeroth Law", the most memorable track for Cathexis is "Twynned", an ethereal and echoed track with a heartbeat bass that seems to float in a vast, empty space far away from any known reality. It embodies the rather remote, cold nature of the entire album, created by the sustained synths seem to linger throughout. The sounds that grow from that atmosphere - distant thunder crackling in "Singular", faint breathing in "Indrid Cold", and the occasional pulse - seem to stem from an alien landscape devoid of most life.
In short, if you're into ambience, you MUST dig into Cathexis. You can stream it for free through the link above courtesy of Parallax Records, and from there you can buy either a digital or physical release. About 21 bucks for the latter, due to international shipping fees (lucky Brits), but the insert for the CD must be absolutely gorgeous if it matches that wonderful cover.
melee beats - French house/electro producer who's been on the scene since 2005. Now, the dude does have a new album out, available on his home page, and I'll certainly dig into it in time; tonight, however, I want to discuss his free download release from 2010, V.
Like Cathexis above, V is a repetitive album. Tracks are built around several loops - a funky bassline at the bottom, a soulful sample, a pulse. These patterns are then manipulated throughout the course of the track: take "Vectors (Someone Like You)", where the beat is dropped and added twice, vocals are thrown into mono, and the bass fades in and out. In lieu of lyrics, samples are looped, treated, and arranged to create pop structures ("Violet" uses only three different lines throughout the entire track; another track, "Valerie" is crafted out of looped choirs). Beats, by the way, on this album, are excellent - like on "Vialator" which comes thumping in with some wickedly treated vocals, or on "Vii", which boasts a killer distorted riff and glorious songstresses.
Overall, V often aims to invoke a retro, funky style, aided by the bumpin' bass, florishes of violins, the stylishly dated vocals, and frequent fades from stereo to mono to stereo again. Only one track, "Volume" employs fresh vocals - and, though that one lyric does sound quite jarringly modern, it's overshadowed quickly by the fantastic, rave-ready synths. In spite of being so techno, however, it segues smoothly back into another funky number, "Valley Girl", with its very retro riffs and athletic bassline.
It may take a few listens to appreciate the technical skill that melee beats has applied to V. I know I wasn't really enthused with this album at first, since it did just sound redundant on the surface. But melee beats's strength isn't melody or lyrics - it's production. And, yeah, beats. Find it for free on the link above.