Various Artists.

Audible Approaches for a Better Place.
c.sides.
Reviewer - Alex Yau.

With the recent rioting in London, Manchester, Birmingham and elsewhere, it seems quite apt for music to provide a social commentary as the Clash and the Doors famously did. Whilst music may not fully heal the wounds, it can to an extent provide a gradual healing process. Audible Approaches for a Better Place features ten artists sharing one goal; to humbly contribute to making this world a better place through their music. Written and recorded before said riots, the sentiment is obviously not aimed at these events but the objective resonates throughout the recent troubles.

Pushing the boundaries of the ten artists featured, the aim of this compilation is to encourage them to move away from their conventional songwriting over timespans of 10 to 15 minutes. It does at times suffer from bouts of long windedness - Glitterbug's 'The Sky Fell Silent' becomes a long haul of Eastern chants which strangely gets rehashed at the ninth track. If you do find the time to get through it, however, the album does become quite rewarding.

Moving between the electronic and the acoustic, Audible Approaches has highlights in both. Elliot Wagner's 'The Exile' is a charming glitter of spacey 8-bit sheen and Gold Panda's 'Air' is a welcome ambient departure from his usual electronic barrage, his vocals holding an eerie presence. But more ingenious is Christian Loffler's 'Cast', in which clocks act as percussion amongst a soothing Trentemøller-esque bassline. The main highlight of this compilation is Casper Clausen and Mads Breur's Efterklang contribution. Built on a beautiful trickling piano, peculiar bell chimes and train-like anticlimax, the existential narrative depicts the good luck a parish receives when they take in a child, only for it deteriorate with her disappearance. Quite chilling.

This record aims to make you think and in that respect it succeeds. The long tracks allow for such thoughts to be conceived and roam in the scarcity that they breed. With a dissonance between the serene and the unnatural, these explorations have proved that such artists can work well outside their comfort zones.

From the Kites of San Quentin.

Mitochondria EP.
This City Is Ours.
Reviewer - Herbert Soden.

Stereotyping is a funny thing, especially when it leads you to expect hoary clichés. Allow me to elaborate; as soon as I found out that From The Kites of San Quentin are from Manchester I was already writing this review in my head. This was until I listened to the Mitochondria EP.

I imagined the review would have started with Manchester's "musical heritage" (horrible phrase I know) followed by the inevitable comparisons to Stone Roses/ Happy Mondays/ New Order/ Joy Division/Oasis (delete as applicable).

Listening to this EP effectively consigned my mental review to the dustbin. FTKOSQ sound nothing like any of Manchester's favourite sons. They eschew lad rock or electronic miserabilism in favour of a heady synthetic brew.

This particular pop electro is evident in the glacial synth swells of opening track 'Stoopid' and can also be heard in Alison Carney's icy yet serene vocals. The production is slick but I was disappointed to hear a wobbly dubstep bass line in the background. When will electronic musicians realise that they can make music without referencing this already clichéd genre? To my ears the production of the vocals is similar to that of Asian Dub Foundation.

'Leopold' changes the tone from electronic pop to a more cerebral and dense wall of sound. I was pleased that they left out the dubstep elements that tainted the first track. However, 'Leopold' has far too much going on; the fidgety beat could have benefited from less adornment. Another spoiler is the overuse of samples. Not only does it make the music sound a little monotonous, but it also detracts from the otherwise solid vocals.

Third track 'Tiny Numbers for an Abstract Mind' is a refreshing change, pushing the vocals to the forefront and laying off the grating samples of the previous tracks. The rest of the EP is bulked out with five remixes by the likes of Co.fee, Anclove and Zoir, none of which manage to outshine the originals.

Mitochondria shows real promise, but it would be improved by ditching the dubstep references and unnecessary samples. If you enjoy bands like The Knife and Asian Dub Foundation, you will probably enjoy this EP. If not, this effort will do little to convert you.

Walls.

Coracle.
Kompakt.
Reviewer - Ian Pennington.

In search of the next big thing, most of the audience at an In The City show in Manchester last year saw Walls' set as an opportunity to duck outside Band On The Wall for a breather. Sandwiched as they were between two of the festival buzz bands D/R/U/G/S and Mount Kimbie, Walls' smoggy subtlety was rejected in favour of an in-your-face now-ness.

They were bound to be an unnoticed commodity for the ITC hit parade flock. D/R/U/G/S stimulate via musical Tourettes' and, even then, Mount Kimbie had already been critically awarded their own 'post-dubstep' leanings. But you suspect an album doesn't receive the Mojo Electronic Album of the Year award without merit, even if Walls' eponymous white noise seemingly scares scenesters so.

A pairing of two keen scholars in modern musical gadgetry, Walls comprises Londoners Alessio Natalizia and Sam Willis, who operate under the pseudonyms Banjo or Freakout and Allez-Allez, respectively. Both are frequent bloggers, serving up playlist mixes and freebie remixes mostly of music less experimental than their own, while Natalizia's Banjo or Freakout debut earlier this year resonated with much poppier tones than Walls would have considered as a duo. Previously theirs was a template akin to Penzias and Wilson, Nobel Prize winners whose discovery of the constantly crackling sonic remnants of an explosion lent credence to The Big Bang Theory. But wipe away all the interference of background radiation from Walls' inception in electronic music and you're left with the cleanly delivered Coracle, their second in tandem.

Where Walls was prefixed with 'Burnt Sienna' as a scene setter for the fizzing distortion and mechanical yawn to follow, Coracles' 'Into Our Midst' repeats the stylistic introduction, easing in with deep but smooth bass, lulling your senses into a false security. Before you know it, you're staring down the house-addled barrel of a cosmic disco humdinger. The initial reaction is towards the label. They're signed to Kompakt - for some the definition of German electronic minimal dance genres in the 1990s, recent releases including Tobias Thomas and The Field - so that kosmische side of Krautrock was bound to rub off. But that's too simple a link. An alternative reference might be Scando-disco-house label Full Pupp (Prins Thomas, Diskjokke), which is invoked through a shared penchant for intricate, blissfully progressive layers.

First single 'Sunporch' continues in the same vein with the old model of uneasy listening replaced by immediate accessibility, but it's not all a steadily propulsive plateau. Contrasts emerge through the sparse album closer 'Drunken Galleon', whose echoing ivories - not dissimilar to Sigur Rós - suggest another Scandinavian influence. This downtempo angle is more Jon Hopkins-esque film music than the testing ambient fuzz synonymous with Walls' debut, although to that end they could be envisaging alternative scenery; replacing a humming claustrophobic paranoia with long lens panoramic expanses.

Lunice.

one hunned EP.
luckyme.
Reviewer - Imogen DeCordova.

Much is being done at the moment to bridge the gap between mainstream hip hop, pop and experimental electronic music and Lunice is a master of producing tracks of this description. Like some sort of musical Clark Kent to Superman transformation, the geek chic gameboy jingles and arcade samples swell and eventually morph into beefed up gangster anthems. The near-perfect Stacker Upper EP was always going to be a hard one to follow and despite some similarities - well, the artwork is sort of familiar - One Hunned sees him gravitate more towards his inner nerd than his ubermensch alter ego.

This release gets the Glaswegian based LuckyMe seal of approval and includes remixes of 'I See You' by Girl Unit and label mates The Blessings. The original stalks along like an eerie grime track with kick drum and jittering arpeggiator lifting the deep oscillating synth that slithers over the top.

The mutual influence 'twixt Hud Mo's latest Satin Panthers EP and One Hunned are clear and I quite like the idea of the two EPs being twinned in blissful glitch hop matrimony. The percussion on 'Glow' definitely sounds like something from Hud Mo's 'Butter', while 'Juice' appears to make use of the horns at the beginning of 'Thunderbay'. With 'Juice', Lunice takes The Knife's 'Silent Shout', rolls it out a little and sprinkles sharp snare effects on top, sending it away with a much smoother stride compared to the mechanical, robotic march of the original.

'Bricks' reminds me a bit of 'Fancy Forty' from Stacker Upper - sorry, can't help but refer to it - with all the ethereal shimmer of Teebs' production. A particular highlight is the wistful 'And She Said' which samples DeBarge's sleazy pop ballad 'Love Me In a Special Way', providing the 80s jheri-curled pop and the accustomed new jack swing inflections that every LuckyMe release tends towards.

One Hunned contains less of the dense bass that fogged up the first release and more off-kilter rainbow computer game trips. There aren't as many straight forward hip hop tunes and nothing quite packs the instant punch of 'Hitmane's Anthem' or 'Hip Pop', but then again this is not Stacker Upper. Must.get.that.into.tiny.little.head.

With Diplo inciting jealousy from those unable to catch Lunice by putting him on the bill at the two impenetrable events - the exclusive Notting Hill Carnival party and the ridiculous (and free) Mad Decent block party in New York - it's a good thing that Lunice will be making an appearance in this fair city at No Uniform at The Harley on 28th September. It's probably worth going just to see the former B-boy pull some shapes, particularly his renowned flipping pancake dance. Seeing is believing.