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The Weekly Froth!

  • Published in Columns


The Weekly Froth! A weekly take on six tracks, most of which have recently popped up somewhere in the blogosphere. Bit of a mixed bag with a slight leaning towards house, disco, and remixes, but generally just anything that for some reason tickled the writer’s fancy.

Track of the Week:  ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’ by Chromatics

And who says that advertisements can’t lead to something wickedly good? Apparently, the new MANGO clothing line will be accompanied by a Chromatics take on Cindy Lauper’s '80s pop hysteria. The original track was girl power before Spice Girl power even got here, and seemed a sort of call up to all the girls to cut loose sometimes as well, get rid of the restrictions, and just have a bit of fun (as, you know, that is what girls want). In the hands of Chromatics, it turns into a wistful, wispy, wishful endeavour. Not a breaking out moment, but a moment of longing, of hope that, yes, one day you won’t be missing out anymore, but you’ll be running with the young and fool-hearted (in MANGO clothing, no doubt!). Chromatics just get that atmosphere spot on every time again, and surprisingly the lyrics suit it as well, sliding into the slow beat, the sad synths, and the soft percussion sounds with ease. It is also a lovely proof of how a different context can give something a new feel and a new function. Just ace, yet again, by that band.

‘Tall Stories’ by World’s End Press (Bottin remix)

This one starts out with some fast paced synths before the beat comes in to lend a helping hand. Not long after, another rhythm elements enters, followed by the rhythmic vocals. Add some more percussion in there, and you’ve got a track that paces forward, both because of the percussion elements, the beat, the synths, and the on-rhythm voice. Only around 1:40, during the chorus, do they get a different function (as well as that they go an octave higher). After that chorus there is a sort of synth-string section that comes in, after which Bottin strips out a lot, having just a couple of deeper rhythm sounds with the vocals as contrast. And that kind of works, the combination of the forward driving nature of the track along with the vocals and occasional string-like sounds, with the synths being Italian and high-pitched as well. After the four minute mark there’s a prolonged instrumental part, where the strings really get to work, which has a super nice effect. Bottin knows how to do this sort of thing, and here too he delivers, as the strong rhythm section is put into balance nicely by the higher pitched strings and vocals. Lovely work yet again right here.


‘I Couldn’t Fool Around No More’ by The Keeper

The Keeper gets the ol’ soul and R&B vibe going, first with some drums, then with the synths, and when the guitar comes in you know for sure. It’s got a bit of that love making pace going that soul music did so well, and it has all those instruments that befit that air. Then the vocals enter as well, singing that they Couldn’t fool around no more! The vocals are slightly back in the mix, but sometimes they are multi-layered and come through, with some extra emotion in the voice to really get that full effect. The guitar, in the mean time, gets plenty of time to add the right colours in there to complete the atmosphere as it sees fit. Add a dash of piano on occasion as well, and, voila, you’ve got the finished product. Around 3:35 the guitar really is allowed to scorch it all up, giving it some of that steakhouse blues vibe with that smokey sound. In the end the vocals repeat the title of the track, as love and lust still is that what makes the world go.


‘All My Lovers’ by Starchild & The New Romantic

Let’s get nocturnal with this starry-eyed track by Starchild & The New Romantic, giving us this cross of a jazzy soundtrack for Chicago at night and a more electro pop song. It starts out with laying down the feel of the track with some synths before, softly, the drums come in. The drums, however, turn more insistent as the time goes by, and they move this one forward. A floating, jazzy influenced layer gives us the atmosphere in which they sing that All my lovers they, look the same as you (if I hear that correctly). The higher pitched vocals are a nice contrast with the drums, giving the track a dash of emotion as well, with the nocturnal soundtrack having a slightly alienated layer too. The track was released last month on Ghostly International, which is always a lovely label to keep an eye on if you like this sort of thing.


‘Bird Matrix’ by Actress (Kid606 Dub)

Kid606 takes on ‘Bird Matrix’ by Actress, diving deep into the industrial sounds out of which, around the 44 second mark, a nice juxtaposing synth sound comes that, along with the slow beat, tries to fight for its space amongst the machinery and the soul-less. Later they get help as well, some floating synth sounds opening the track up a bit. And more instruments weave in and out of the track, taking the middle path of it and finding a way to put life in the industrial and mechanical sounds. Kind of as you are walking through all that is concrete in the city and there is that bright yellow flower growing, that is kind of what makes this track work so well. At one point Kid606 strips the beat and the percussion out, leaving us with different synths that each have their own function, and around 4:15 he brings it back in to help this song trod forward. It is a beautiful narration of urban life, with undertones of sadness, the mechanical, and beauty, the latter maybe highlighted so well because it’s contrasted in sound so nicely with the former in this slow paced walk through the industrial. I mean, those angelic sounds that suddenly come in around the seven minute mark, those are just the things that work, aren’t they?


‘I Can’t Go For That’ by Hall & Oates (Vito & Xavier No Teeth, No Marks mix)

This one starts surprisingly patient, with a beat that they ride for about forty seconds before some of those more disco sounding synths come in. A little guitar appears in the background as well, as the track really starts to appear through the more house-y vibe that Vito & Xavier go for. The vocals then come in, with at about 1:40 the first verse that is the starting sign to really go with the song from that point on. And obviously, we know this one, with after the verse the higher pitched vocals singing that they would do Almost anything you want me to, but obviously, he can’t quite Go for that. After that moment we get a nice little guitar riff to go with the chorus, after which they put in the horns, which then move away in favour of the bass and beat combo. Those more deep sounds get contrasted nicely by the higher pitched vocals of the Iiiiiii, would do almost anything you want me to, after which they then move to the chorus again. And even more horns! Who doesn’t want that? Don’t expect a major disco edit, but the beat and bass as the bottom layer sure provide some dancing fun on this Hall & Oates classic. We sure can go for some of that (...).



Actress - R.I.P.

  • Published in Albums

‘R.I.P.’, the opening, title track of Actress’ third album is short and ephemeral, like something from Boards Of Canada’s Geogaddi album drained of all nostalgia and colour. It’s a transient opener, made up of synths and the quiet fuzz of noise that both pulse, and it’s gone before you know it – or at least subsumed by second track ‘Ascending’, which builds on a very similar heartbeat ambience. These tracks very much set the tone for the rest of R.I.P., which develops through repetition, remains resolutely beat-free for the majority of its run time and often mesmerizes you with its attention to the most minute details.

Darren Cunningham’s last album as Actress – Splazsh – was fractured and wide-reaching, taking whole genres as inspiration for particular tracks and stretching and reconstructing them in longer forms. R.I.P. retains that ambition but applies it more broadly – Cunningham has arranged the tracks here into a narrative loosely inspired by Paradise Lost. These pieces of music are generally shorter and feel more unified, while still drawing on influences as varied as minimal techno, Detroit techno, modern classical, IDM and the broad spectrum of UK bass music.

Much of R.I.P. (as you might expect from its title) sounds decayed, mournful and grey – it’s been produced in a way that can make it sound mechanical and slightly damaged.  There are hopeful elements too – strange, pretty melodies buried in the gloom, as they often were on the early Autechre and Boards Of Canada releases. For example, the album’s central track ‘Shadow From Tartarus’ is driven by a grimey, worn beat that sounds like it’s disintegrating, but eerie melodies rise and fall, in and out of the mix. Meanwhile ‘Jardin’ is one of the tracks on the album most indebted to minimal techno, but also incorporates a dainty, improvised melody that picks its way through the distorted, almost featureless backdrop.

The beats become a little more prominent as R.I.P. reaches its latter stages – ‘Caves Of Paradise’ is a highlight, with a clanging pulse that inches towards 2-step while still retaining the 4/4 drive that subtly propels the majority of the album. Muffled voices and a sample of a flute loop in and out. ‘The Lord’s Graffiti’ sounds like a celestial rave confined to the inside of someone’s head. The album finishes on a high, with the muted house thump and twisted vocal of ‘IWAAD’ approaching The Field, with less snow and ice and more fog and haze.

It’s easy to grasp that R.I.P. is a personal album for Cunningham as you listen – from the song titles to their detailed though imperfect production, this is clearly a labour of love, something in which he has absorbed himself. The appeal to the rest of us may well be the distinctive, mediative quality of these pieces of music, their fractured, worn beauty, and the way they convey, wordlessly, the themes of mortality, time and spirituality that Cunningham has obsessed over. Other electronic artists have addressed similar themes recently – Burial’s recent EP seemed half-preoccupied with the physical sounds of vinyl and their emotive qualities, Zomby took on death in his typically unfocused, inventive fashion, while Hype Williams’ last few releases have reflected on mortality through the prism of grime samples, ancient synths and meandering monologues – but none have crafted a captivating, enveloping, unique record quite like Actress.

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