ALBUM REVIEW: 12-02 The Journey by Gulliverb

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Gulliverb is the artistic moniker of Spanish electronica composer/producer Chimo Ausin. He has a fascinating back story; he is a trained pilot and works for a well known Spanish company flying Boeing 747’s. When not flying planes around the world, he’s also the executive producer of Russia Today TV. However, it’s the former passion for aviation that is the inspiration for this album 12-02 The Journey.

This concept album has been years in the making, and the concept is based around space travel, specifically the first time we sent men to the Moon in 1969. He intends to release the album to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 11. Musically, it could be described as future house or deep house, but the epic proportions of the tracks and use of atmospheric noises means it could be classified in the psytrance genre.

Another notable aspect of the music is that Gulliverb combines electronic sounds with real musical instruments including guitars, cellos, sax and harmonica. So far, he has made six tracks available before its full release in July, 2019. The opening track, Part 1, is the perfect introduction to his musical style. From its opening bars, it creates a sense of tension and excitement as vocal samples (presumably from the Apollo 11 mission) are heard over pulsing synths.

A memorable melody then emerges which forms the bedrock for the whole track. The arrangement is cleverly constructed, with effective use of cymbals and kick drum ‘booms’ that help create a sense of drama and crescendo. This builds up to the entry of a full house beat, with punchy kick and snare giving it a muscular and vibrant sound. Indeed, the intricate drum programming is one of the great strengths of the album, which is never just a repeated loop that a less talented, less inspired composer/producer might use.

Halfway through, the track breaks down to a female voice describing the musical concept behind Gulliverb and then for the first time we hear lead vocals, albeit briefly. It builds up once again when a new, very catchy low-end saw wave riff enters along with a classic ‘four to the floor’ beat. It then returns to a full beat augmented by samples, then follows a short half-time section leading to the final section coloured by rich saxophone. And that’s just the first track!

This complex, symphonic compositional style continues through the six album tracks released so far. Part 2 begins with dramatic strings creating a sense of intrigue then a section featuring a complex, syncopated beat leads to a hard hitting Oliver Heldens-style future house beat. The music continually morphs and progresses, featuring Enigma-esque Gregorian lead vocals and vocal samples, along with some imaginative atmospheric touches. It’s another epic at eight minutes but reveals a wealth of detail upon repeated listens, including more bursts of wailing sax and guitar towards the end.

Re-Entre is much shorter at three minutes but continues the future house style, with a raw sounding low end synth driving the momentum. This is one of the more aggressive sounding tracks, with the powerful drums bringing to mind The Prodigy. The ascending high-end synth melody that emerges in the final section is inventive and effective.

The fourth part, Landing, is the longest track here at over nine and a half minutes but, once again, there is not a dull moment. Constantly shifting rhythmic patterns and interweaving melodies keep your attention gripped, contrasted by tender strings and filmic percussion. Indeed, there is a strong cinematic quality to the music, given added depth through the album’s stylistic concept. The middle section is essentially dubstep, featuring Skrillex-esque warped, swooping saw-wave synths.

There is a real sense of drama where we hear vocal samples of the moon landing set to a poignant orchestral passage, clearly a major moment. It then takes off again with quirky NRG-style riffs and a restless, punchy beat before breaking down to a spine chilling section of piano, guitar and the beatific female vocals of Nicole Dobrovolski. At the very end we hear the classic famous moon-landing line, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind“. Truly an epic journey and perhaps the centrepiece of the album.

Nicole Dobrovolski features heavily on the uplifting pop house track I’ll Be Watching You, which is the most easily accessible and instant track amongst the six available so far. The title hook is memorable and deployed in myriad ways, augmented by lush harmonies, over a bedrock of swirling synths and an irresistibly danceable house beat. A genuine potential radio hit.

On the sixth track A Little Step For A Man, she gives another fine vocal performance on this contemplative, sensitive song. The title refers once again to the famous Neil Armstrong quote yet from the halfway point, the vocals make way for an evocative, dreamlike instrumental section with just sparse percussion adding subtle drama. The revolving melodic patterns have a mesmeric quality, then the vocals returning for the final seconds creating a haunting effect.

Overall, these six tracks already constitute a wonderful listening experience which bodes well for the full release of this concept album. Gulliverb has found a way to breathe new life into an over-saturated genre through a natural gift for melody and structure, an innate musicality and close attention to detail. Although some of these tracks are of lengthy duration, they never meander or drag on. With its many musical intricacies, it is electronic music that will work both on the dancefloor and just for listening pleasure. It would only be apt and justified if this album about space travel sends Gulliverb’s success soaring into the stratosphere.

VERDICT = 9.3 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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SINGLE REVIEW: A Fighter’s Heart (part 2) by Untitled Art

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Untitled Art is an EDM project based in Florida. It’s the musical brainchild of singer songwriter David Sempier, assisted by producer/partner James Linton. While he chooses to remain as enigmatic as the band’s moniker, the small amount of music Untitled Art have released in their short duration has had a strong impact on music listeners and critics alike.

Their music is a fascinating and unexpectedly original concoction of electronica, dubstep, alternative rock, psychedelia and indie. They employ semi-traditional song structures with the most modern electronic styles, comparable to what New Order and The Prodigy did in the 80’s and 90’s.

Their first release, Philly To Long Branch (Part 2), blended the energy and sound of dubstep (warped and morphing sawtooth synths and blistering drum sounds) with alt. rock guitars and vocals, along with trippy, blissed out psychedelic sections (the latter featuring on the remix). This eclectic concoction made a big splash, garnering tens of thousands of views on YouTube.

Aside from their original sound that’s bang at the cutting edge of modern genres, a key component of their musical personality is David Sempier’s distinctive vocals. With a tone mildly reminiscent of Blink 182’s Mark Hoppus, but with much more power and range, he gives the music an anthemic aspect that bodes well for their potential exposure on the festival circuit.

All these elements are in place on their latest release, A Fighter’s Heart (part 2). It’s a more aggressive, yet at the same time more accessible track, than their first release, with a plethora of naggingly catchy hooks (“I’m a fighter with a fighter’s heart now“, something you can imagine being chanted by thousands”).

The production is superb, with punchy, intricate synths melded to a brutal kick and snare sound that will work just as well on the dancefloor as at a festival. It breaks down and builds up like a great dance record, yet works just as a great EDM/alternative pop record.

Overall, Untitled Art have managed to forge the perfect balance between EDM/dubstep and the anthemic, emotive elements of alternative/punk rock to create their own fututuristic hybrid sound. In David Sempier, they have a vocalist that gives their music power and personality aided by cutting edge production,  so their appeal stretches right across the musical spectrum. In short, I’m putting Untitled Art at the top of my list as the ‘next big thing’ and A Fighter’s Heart Part 2 could be the song that catapults them into the stratosphere

VERDICT: 9.1 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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SINGLE REVIEW: Petrified by Drone Flesh

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Drone Flesh is an electronic artist/producer hailing from Zurich, Switzerland. His music is a unique hybrid of electro, house and dubstep or complextro, as he describes it. His primary musical interest is in “exploring different genres of bass heavy music that does not fit into a drawer”. He has already released several tracks including Do Not Touch, Risk Everything and Big Bad Bass.

This track, Petrified, certainly is not easily categorized. It starts with a simple four to the floor beat which soon becomes more complicated, with elements of dubstep that bring to mind artists like Skrillex at times. On top of this Drone Flesh weaves a high end synth riff, a vocal sample and a meaty bass synth melody that gives the music an aggressive edge.

This hard-hitting sound puts Drone Flesh in the same field as equally original artists like The Prodigy and Aphex Twin, whose music is also difficult to categorize. In the second half of the track it starts to become more chaotic and complex, but you always sense that there is method in the madness and all the track’s main melodies are addictive to listen to.

Overall, this is a refreshingly unique piece of alternative electronica that ignores all the rules and creates a strong energy and momentum in its four minute duration. While it might not be designed to be played in clubs, it certainly makes great music to listen to. For those who are bored with the generic EDM that fills the mainstream charts, I recommend you give Drone Flesh a listen, it’s an exhilarating ride.

 

Alex Faulkner

Verdict: 8.3 out of 10

 

★ Video: https://youtu.be/gzQlXoYWNl4

★ Drone Flesh Website: http://www.droneflesh.com
★ Listen to Drone Flesh on SoundCloud: www.soundcloud.com/DroneFlesh
★ Follow Drone Flesh on Facebook: www.facebook.com/DroneFlesh
★ Watch Drone Flesh on YouTube: www.youtube.com/c/DroneFlesh
★ Buy Drone Flesh on Bandcamp: DroneFlesh.bandcamp.com
★ Invest in Drone Flesh on Tradiio: tradiio.com/Drone-Flesh

E.P. REVIEW: rEVOLVED by HADDOCK

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HADDOCK is the alter ego of studio and live drummer JonoMagro. Formed officially in 2013, the gestation period for this music has actually been ten years. After trying to find a replacement for the monotony of a metronome, he found that juxtaposing real live drumming with the precision of electronic instrumentation and sounds created a fascinating musical dichotomy.

As a seasoned drummer, he had immense experience behind the kit but had to modify it to fit the demands of his new project. That was the genesis for this five track E.P. rEVOLVED. The five instrumentals are a perfect balance between synthetic electronica and real, expressive drumming.

You can certainly recognize elements of his various influences. Among them, he lists Daft Punk, The Prodigy and film composers like Tyler Bates and Hans Zimmer. It all combines to create a unique style and sound that has the excitement and dynamism of dance with the brooding intensity of soundtrack music.

Opening track Kilgore is an excellent example of this, starting with pulsing low-end synths combining with dark high-end melodies to set an intense tone. Then the punchy,raw sounding drums enter with the impact of a breakbeat by The Prodigy, but this beat is constantly shifting under the listener’s feet in a 14/8 time signature.

This later becomes standard 4/4 and 2/4 later in the track and the way he constantly shifts the accents and syncopates the beat is superbly inventive. The synth riffs holds the music together, aided by some Daft Punk style vocoder effects towards the end of this arresting first track.

Second track Break is lighter in mood and features a repeated vocal sample throughout, which works as a good hook. The drumming on this one alternates between a standard four-to-the-floor dance beat to the highly intricate, almost tribal sounding tom-tom patterns of the middle section. Musically, it employs two synth melodies, both short and very catchy. You could really imagine this being played in a club and going down a storm, especially as the danceable beat stays constant throughout.

Detroit Slim, the third track, is a big change in sound as it features an electronic Daft Punk style 2/4 disco beat that most would assume is a drum machine (presumably played by triggering samples through his modified drum kit). This makes it pure electronica in the house/disco genre, with some funky synth riffs and more vocoder effects thrown into the mix. It’s another track perfect for the dancefloor, but very enjoyable to simply listen to.

Cave Thing again employs mostly electronic soundings drums but also incorporates the snare sound from the ‘real’ kit in parts. This track is my personal favourite on the E.P. as it seems the perfect encapsulation of the disparate musical elements involved. It features a superb hi-hat heavy dance beat (bringing to mind 90’s stadium house duo The KLF) which grabs you as soon as it enters. It has the brooding intensity of the first track with rising synth lines and insistent EDM-style snare fills that help maintain the tension.

The final track My Salvation continues in this style, though this time uses an almost hymnal synth melody over a deceptively fast house beat, and has a futuristic, soundtrack feel (think something like Blade Runner.) Its hectic BPM rate would make it a great track to finish a DJ set with and it makes a fitting finale to this E.P.

Intriguingly, right at the end, the original drum sound that we heard at on the first couple of tracks returns, bringing things full circle. Finally, the drums fade out leaving us in a sea of synth sounds…

Overall, this is a genuinely innovative and original piece of work that also manages to be accessible and commercial. It blended and balances elements of dance and rock, as well as human and synthetic very successfully, and every single track has a strong sonic identity which isn’t easy to achieve with instrumental music. With some very intriguing ideas for performing this live also, I think Haddock will become known as a pioneer in the electronica scene and look forward to hearing a whole album.

 

 

Alex Faulkner

Verdict: 8.8 out of 10