Demdike Stare.

Elemental.
Modern Love.

Reviewer - Ben Dorey.

Demdike Stare are a hard act to pigeonhole, but for the fun of it I'm going to go for one of those humourous neologisms that music reviewers love and describe them as anachro-futurists. That is an amalgamation of anachronistic and futurist, just in case you had wondered, and it is purposefully similar to the term afro-futurism used to describe early techno, because the sound and visions of those early electric pioneers inform every aspect of what Demdike Stare do. The methods of creating musical narrative and atmosphere from repetitive loops is at the heart of the project, yet in their music for a dystopian future there are clear and consistent nods to the past, informed in part by Sean Canty's work restoring old recordings for the Finders Keepers label. It is these contrasts that make Demdike Stare's music so powerful, as it revolves between the ancient and the modern, the dark and the light, the holy and the satanic. It is hard to communicate the power that the awkward juxtaposition of all these elements creates musically, but as I write this review with the album on loop I find myself uncomfortably affected and darkly euphoric in turn.

Elemental is, like their last album Triptych, a compilation of previously released EPs into a singular package, which might frustrate some vinyl junkies and loyal fans who will possibly already own most of this material. I'm not quite sure where I stand on the matter myself, but the fact that the two represent the summation of two periods of work enable you to see quite how much the duo have changed direction, which is more difficult to judge when the music is seeping out in three track releases.

This album has none of Triptych's musical unity, partly due to an increasing abandonment of the dub techno framework the group vaguely followed early on. In interviews, Miles Whittaker has mentioned how he enjoys messing around with hardware until it plays itself, and this release feels like he has indulged this passion. This handing over of controls to more machinistic processes paradoxically lends a more organic sound to the music. The inevitability of other human influences when sampling what's gone before fades to the prominent background and the timelessness of the music emerges.

You may have noticed that I have avoided mentioning individual track names on this release. This is because I feel that, despite its meanderings in style, this release is best taken in as an immersive whole. Though it is musically scattered, the emotions it evokes are fully unified. If you haven't yet indulged in Demdike Stare this is the perfect platform to begin your explorations. You will discover that, unlike with so much electronic music released recently, acknowledging the past does not have to mean regressing back to it. And you might just have a near religious experience while doing so.

Robert George Saull.

SINGS "RICHARD FURLONG".
SELF-RELEASED.

REVIEWER - BEN ECKERSLEY.

I've been familiar with the work of Robert George Saull as lead singer of popular local band The Purgatory Players for some time now, and so was as sad as everyone else to learn that they are taking a (hopefully non-permanent) break. That said, it was a great pleasure to discover last September just how much I enjoyed his solo show too. After watching him open for The Payroll Union's EP launch, I described him in these pages as "staggeringly good", and was consequently pretty excited to get my hands on a copy of this, his first solo EP.

The six songs that make up Richard Furlong are quiet and sparsely arranged, yet heavily imbued with emotion and pathos. It is not quite an entirely solo effort; the sensitive double bass playing of Neal Heppleston appearing on all but one track lends an important depth and seriousness to the music. Other guest musicians include local performer Oxo Foxo, who sings backing vocals as well as adding a beautiful viola line, and General Robert E. Lee's lap steel on 'The Weight of Dust' transports the music from an English winter to a cool Mississippi evening. I must throw a huge compliment to the production skills of Nick Maldini as well (bias alert: he produces my music too. It sounds fantastic, though).

While performing solo, Robert's guitar often fades into the background; the sound that fills the (often silent, rapt) venues is his voice, and this pervasive quality of his singing has found its way into the recording too. His voice, much like the general influences I can hear in the songwriting, is pitched somewhere between Neil Hannon of The Divine Comedy and Morrissey, with just a hint of Southern blues. It's a deep baritone, often rich and mellifluous, though on occasion dry and laconic, or with just a slight crack of emotion. In times past I might have criticised him a little for not generally having a huge range, but now I've begun to see it as one of his strengths. On the ten-minute closing track 'The Wedding Prayer', four chords are repeated on the guitar, and the effect of his voice is entirely hypnotic.

Lyrically, this is a wonderful set of songs. The three stand-out tracks, 'Kathy', 'Dutch Elm' and 'The Wedding Prayer', are like poetic ballads. Certain lines jump out and then continue to haunt you. A huge weight of feeling can be expressed in just a few words. It's hard to take an example out of context, as these songs are detailed stories filled with fleshed out characters and meaningful situations. You'll know what I mean when you listen. Give them half a chance and these timeless songs will get under your skin and stay with you for a long time. Robert has proved that, in the right hands, the simple combination of just guitar and voice will never get boring.

Warm Digits.

Keep Warm...With The Warm Digits.
Distraction Records.

Reviewer - Andrew Almond.

Warm Digits are an electronic duo consisting of Andrew Hodson and Steve Jefferis from Manchester and Newcastle respectively. As an aside it would appear this geographical separation has directly influenced the duo's output (see the self-consciously titled 'Trans-Pennine Express', the third track).

Their debut album arrives backed by some impressive proclamations thanks to the most enthusiastic of accompanying press releases. We're told to expect a "krautophonic blizzard-wave" and "glacial otherworldliness". Such liberal use of hyperbole and unnecessary superlatives left me initially sceptical, but upon giving Keep Warm...a listen it became apparent that they were not without basis.

Title track 'Keep Warm' pulsates for the entirety of its six and a half minutes and is complemented by intermittent explosions of drumming and perfectly positioned synth inflections, sounding like the kind of electronic soundscape that would perfectly accompany a Stanley Kubrick movie, which on this evidence is no bad thing it must be stated.

'Trans-Pennine Express' recalls Kraftwerk at their most playful, whilst 'Weapons Destruction' is as industrial and metallic as its rather apt name would suggest, with its frantic drum beat and staccato synth work.

Fifth track 'Grapefruit' slows the pace somewhat and whilst the impeccable building block construction of the rest of Keep Warm is present, it also retains the duo's knack of wholly engaging the listener through use of hypnotic and seemingly never-ending repetition, indicating genuine craft in their compositions.

It is only perhaps the behemoth that is 'One Track Groove (Living Stereo)' that loses its way slightly. Clocking in at nearly eight minutes, the "snowstorm guitar" and frenetic drumming, rather than working in harmony as they do so brilliantly throughout the rest of the record, threaten to swamp each other, proving at times, as is so often the case, that less can equal more.

It's testament to the skill and talent of Hodson and Jefferis that Keep Warm plays like a brief history of electronic music, played out through ten brilliant tracks. It's all here; Krautrock in abundance, 80s synth pop and, through album closer 'Here Come the Warm Digits', industrial techno.

Bass Clef.

reeling skullways.
punch drunk.

Reviewer - sasha levy-andersson.

Bass Clef (Ralph Cumbers) brings us a varied journey through the sounds of jacking analogue techno and melodic ambience with Reeling Skullways. It was a pleasant surprise for me as I'd not heard much from this artist before. Despite being reminiscent of lots of things, he has an individual style which causes the kind of analogue hypnosis I always enjoy from the less full-on side of techno. It certainly has an insistent beat to it and is seemingly devoid of samples. Bass Clef gives us a consistent jacking funk combined with a mellow ambience, peppered with some great acid lines and analogue dirt. The album is a good builder and definitely speaks to the techno head within me.

The release opens with a synthy, ambient intro track and then goes straight into the second track, consisting initially of a bare beat that gives us a taste of things to come. The aptly named 'Hackney- Chicago-Jupiter' has a really jacking Chicago acid sound, somewhere in between acid house and analogue techno. There are harsh snare hits interspersed with floating synths at points. There is nothing gradual about the sounds; they hit you with a groove that moves your body.

The record continues to build up to 'Stenaline Metranil Solar Flare' (another fantastic track name) with a very well placed synth and slow broken beat interlude that provides a good contrast to the build up so far. It then returns to a slightly less intense jack and 'A Rail is a Road and a Road is a River' takes the meandering feel of the record to its fullest extent. It's a bit on the long side, but if you persevere you will be rewarded with some lush sonic landscapes. 'Ghost Kicks the Spiral' is one of my favourites. It has a melodic ambience and a real mournfulness, contrasting effectively with this generally jacking release.

All in all, the sound of Bass Clef is perhaps not the most original, but it does what it does very well. It is a very well put together record full of contrast. The most interesting tracks are certainly the more ambient ones and I found them very emotive at times. It is a solid and well made release, although it doesn't break too many boundaries; a very good listen if you enjoy analogue explorations, a bit of melodious ambience and some jacking funk.