SINGLE REVIEW: Masala Bazaar by Jamit & Kroissenbrunner

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Jamit is an electronica/EDM composer and producer who grew up in Australia but is now based in Singapore. The past months have seen a plethora of instrumental releases, including Multiplayer Erotica, Lovers and Rockers, Solar Power and Star of Wonder. His music is essentially psychedelic trance with other aspects of EDM genres incorporated into the sound, along with innovative use of spoken word samples.

His most recent releases have included Female Medieval Jester, Taeb Ecnad and Pole Vault, a collaboration with Franco Paulsen and vocalist Yuriko. This latest track, Masala Bazaar, is also a collaboration. This time it’s with producer Kroissenbrunner who hails from Johannesburg, South Africa. This constitutes their third collaboration and it’s a highly effective one.

It’s a moody and hypnotic piece of electronica, with an arrangement by Jamit and Kroissenbrunner contributing the various sounds and vocal samples. The beat is slightly unusual and off-kilter which gives it an exotic feel whilst still remaining eminently danceable. On top of this is a haunting, recurring synth line that becomes the main melodic motif of the track. This is augmented by pulsing synth pads and an ostinato note in the low end which also adds to the mesmeric ambience.

Interspersed with the music are the vocal samples, which enigmatically turn out to be the names of spices. As the track progresses the beat starts to become more strident, with the kick in particular developing a real punch. Near the three minute mark things turn psychedelic as the music starts to morph and an eerie sounding synth swirls to the end of the track, adding to the trippy nature of the music as a whole.

Overall, this is further evidence that Jamit, with the artistic assistance of his collaborator Kroissenbrunner, has mastered a certain style of electronica that takes the listener to some far out places whilst never losing its essential dancefloor appeal. He has developed a sonic niche of his own that is both quirkily original but with wide ranging appeal. Masala Bazaar will go down a storm with his current fans and should make him a whole lot more.

 

VERDICT = 8.9 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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ALBUM REVIEW: 120 Onetwenty by Daniel Biro

 

Daniel-Biro

A signed, limited edition of this album is available from Daniel Biro’s official website, click HERE.

Daniel Biro is a musician, composer and producer based in London. He was originally trained in jazz but his creative output has expanded into an eclectic array of genres including ambient, prog rock, psychedelia and fusion, to name just a few. These diverse sonic explorations have been fuelled by his love of analog synthesizers and other electronic sounds.

He has numerous film and TV credits to his name including work for the BBC, numerous award winning short films and the score for the film Things of the Aimless Wanderer, which was featured in several film festivals. Aside from his solo work, he plays live in two bands, an electric psychedelic jazz band called Mysteries Of The Revolution and an ambient improv band Echo Engine.

His influences are wide ranging as you expect; jazz greats like Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea, progressive rock like King Crimson and Tangerine Dream, ambient and instrumental artists like Brian Eno, Vangelis and Mike Oldfield. The influence of minimalist composers like Steve Reich and Philip Glass should not be underestimated.

An understanding of these various artists is important in fully appreciating Daniel Biro’s nuanced music. This album, 120 Onetwenty, is an hour long musical odyssey that has taken six years to complete. It consists of ten tracks of varying duration, mostly under the category of ‘epic’ and has been produced entirely with Biro’s collection of vintage analog keyboards. This shows in the overall sound which is rich and full, as opposed to the digital sonic thinness of much mainstream electronic music.

Opening track Door is one of the shortest and serves as an introduction to Biro’s sonic universe. It sets a mood instantly, a soundscape that disorientates the listener by somehow standing outside space and time. Once this dislocation has been accepted, the music feels meditative and psychedelic in the most profound sense. Pitch shifting synths that sound like futuristic war sirens create a mesmerizing mood, mingling with delicate splashes of Rhodes piano, one of Biro’s favourite sounds.

Second track Ancient is the one of the ‘epics’. It’s a masterpiece in slow musical development, building in complexity naturally and gradually like Mike Oldfield’s finest work, though more minimalistic in style. The way the music grows and expands organically, almost symphonically, shows the influence of classical composers like Reich and Philip Glass. It also brought to mind the other worldliness of The Orb’s ambient classic double album Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld.

The main melody doesn’t begin for 6 minutes and then really starts cooking, continuing seamlessly into Nimbus. It begins with an arpeggio-based chord sequence on Rhodes before being joined by an airy high-end synth melody that makes the listener feel they are orbiting roughly around Betelgeuse. Flashes of organ act as a nice textural counterpoint to the more spacey synth tones.

The pulsating 6/8 rhythm continues and progresses in fourth track Itinerarium. Musically, it’s the exact halfway point between jazz and electronica, with a complex bass drum pattern gradually emerging as several themes and textures combine in a polyphonic spree (good name for a band?). It then breaks down into a fantastic Rhodes section, with some superb xylophone-esque melodies floating across the sonic spectrum. It slowly dies away like the embers of a fire, bringing this overall section to a close.

Fifth track Embark grips from the outset, with a catchy chugging synth riff combining with an excellent high-end melody that morphs through several sounds. This time the rhythm is an insistent groove in 4/4 that really explodes around the two minute mark. This piece is a good example of Biro’s unique fusion of genres; if pushed I’d classify it as ambient psychedelic jazz/electronica, but really it defies categorization!

Seventh track Levitator starts out hauntingly with a sparse use of sound and space ¬†then unfolds with a superbly controlled natural sense of musical development. It eventually reaches an astonishing crescendo and climax that actually makes you feel you’re levitating. The synth sounds at this point are mind blowing, the music having an emphatic grandeur all the more effective for the understated style that precedes it. This one is my personal favourite.

Seventh track Barren is a wonderful piece of musical impressionism that conjures up the image of being marooned on an alien planet that’s, well, barren. Its mysterious atmosphere brought to mind some of the more abstract moments of Holst’s classic suite The Planets. The following Immortal is equally dreamlike and gives the impression of gently floating through space forever. Once again, it slowly develops into a spinning web of intricate themes and melodies.

Ninth track Returning is a continuation once again with the nicely overdriven electric piano having an almost guitar-like edginess to the tone, which adds a little grit to the overall sound. Spatial, reverb-drenched synth strings give this track an almost orchestral feel which certainly adds to the epic vibe. The music catches fire around the six minute mark, some fabulous speaker-panning swirling sounds creating an intoxicating effect.

The closing piece Outside strips things right down to a sparse, enigmatic soundscape….the sound of gentle rolling waves and the most subtle of melodic themes, while a plethora of sounds from outer space float around as if suspended in mid air. It feels like a suitably mysterious finale for what has been an epic musical voyage.

Overall, this is a highly ambitious but perfectly executed electronica/ambient album. It highlights the importance of the album as an art form, as this work takes the listener on a sonic adventure where the sequence and arrangement of the tracks form a symphonic whole. It’s an album that rewards the listeners investment of attention, and gives the magical feeling of being transported to another place. To fans of this kind of music it will be adored, but it deserves to be appreciated on a much wider scale. If you’re looking for a unique musical experience, look no further than Daniel Biro’s 120 Onetwenty.

 

VERDICT: 9.2 out of 10 

Alex Faulkner

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ALBUM REVIEW: Modnar by Subterralien (released October 2014)

SUBTERRALIENSubterralien (great name) is an electronica artist from Adelaide, Australia , formerly one of the members of Noise Puppets. The music he makes, which is all instrumental (at least on this album), is impossible to pigeonhole as it defies categorization, being a unique blend of various electronica genres melded together. One word that does suffice is psychedelic, and listening to this debut album Modnar (released in late October) can make the listener wonder whether someone has slipped some mescalin in their tea at times!

For the sheer weirdness factor, it can be compared to such psychedelic classics as the LSD-drenched A Wizard, A True Star by Todd Rundgren and the truly bizarre Trout Mask Replica by Captain Beefheart. Modnar is the word ‘random’ backwards and that is apt as, although the music isn’t entirely random as such, it is constantly shifting under your feet and heading off in different directions.

This is the case with opening track Mr. Hungry, seven minutes of intense, frenetic beats and quirky, angular synths. The drum programming is very intricate and strangely mesmeric but at first there is no obvious melody to latch on to. Around a minute in though, a catchy riff kicks in before it all goes wonderfully psychedelic and a voice tells you to ‘just lay back and enjoy the ride’. It’s good advice, and the next five minutes explore some wild sonic territory.

Next track Lurger Time is slower paced but just as trippy, as if the acid is just kicking in. Sinister sounding basslines and eerie synths collide with a kaleidoscopic swirl of electronic melodies. Third track Madspace has another apposite title, and was a highlight for me, beginning with skittish hi-hats and mind-bending synths then developing a distinctive and catchy bassline that put a smile on my face. Like the rest, this piece evolves and morphs into different sections, ending with a blaze of bleeping arpeggios.

After a surreal intro featuring spoken word samples Slapstick Maverick is the closest thing to a standard dance track on the album, featuring a frantic four-to the-floor beat, though the reaction to this played in a packed club might be interesting. At nine and a half minutes long, Mangoloid is the epic on the album, and impressively holds the attention throughout, featuring some superbly detailed and intricate drum programming.

Who Knows is a beguiling listen with a particularly bonkers synth line and constantly shifting rhythmic patterns and time signatures. With its pounding techno kick, it could be considered a dance track, but good luck trying to dance to it. Bendy Arcade also has dance elements, the frenetic beat could almost be classified as drum ‘n bass for certain sections. I enjoyed the descending bass around the four minute mark, and the sitar-like synth that brings it to a close.

Sim U Later explores a slightly slower, darker sonic universe. A moody, restless bassline pulses the track along whilst haunting synth lines build, meander and meld in the background. It starts to get busier at it progresses but there is a more low-key feel to this one, as if representing the comedown of the acid trip, the journey back to earth.

Then again, it seems Subterralien has saved the weirdest till last with the brilliantly named Offal Chef , the finale of the album. Large amounts of the track contain no beat and resemble the psychedelic sound collages of Captain Beefheart’s surreal partner in crime Frank Zappa (circa Lumpy Gravy). It’s a disorienting but absorbing listen and a fitting end to proceedings.

Overall, this is a sonically adventurous and highly original album that challenges the listener and explores some weird but wonderful musical territories. Without wanting to sound portentous, it’s music that reflects the era it was made in, an era of humans creating machines and creating with those machines. If your taste in music is more in the vanilla/mainstream category then this album is perhaps not for you, but for those bored of cookie-cutter chart music and endless predictability, why not take a trip down the rabbit hole and experience some music that will blow your mind? It’s quite a trip.

 

Alex Faulkner

Verdict: 8 out of 10

 

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