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Machinedrum / Wu Lyf / Zomby / The Black Dog.

by Now Then Sheffield

Room(s).
Planet Mu.

Reviewer - Tom Belshaw.

Are you growing weary of following what everyone else is doing? Have a penchant for condescension? Willing to take back years of hard graft slating your dad's music collection to reap its potential ironic gold mine? Well buddy, you need a 'scene'.

"But there are so many to choose from" I hear you yelp under the heavy cotton of that spiffing new checked shirt you're struggling with. Nonsense. Nobody likes a niche-er. Swedish black metal and Doris Day revivalists are small fry.

What you need is an umbrella scene that covers so much you'll be dining out on its potential avenues long after all those involved are working back at TK Maxx. I'm talking of course about upfront, forward thinking, future bass music. You can't go wrong with upfront, forward thinking, future bass music. Upfront, forward thinking, future bass music is everywhere.

I personally love upfront, forward thinking, future bass music, but it is not without its flaws. The problem with something staking claim to upfront-ishness and forward thinking-icity is that it is unable to be static by its very definition, so artists rarely spend time honing their craft in lieu of yet another reinvention.

Room(s) by Machinedrum (one half of Hotflush darlings Sepalcure) is testament to the idea that I often don't have a clue what I'm talking about. This album refuses to break any new ground. It bears some striking similarities to the current output of many of its peers, but it's downright blooming marvellous.

Joy O inklings of rumbling drums, meandering chords and syncopated vocal pops announce themselves on opener 'She Died There'. HudMo has a fitted cap doffed his way through the bashiness of current single 'Sacred Frequency'. There are even nods to forward thinkers of days gone by in the Metalheadz-inspired glory of 'U Don't Survive'. But my personal favourite is 'GBYE' and its musings of 'the plant level from G Darius', as it ties in rather well with the 'remixing old Playstation game soundtracks' project I've literally just decided I'm doing.

These similarities are not unwelcome. These artists are some of the reasons the scene has gained so much notoriety and it's always nice to not be so 'forward thinking'. Machinedrum attempts and subsequently succeeds in striking a fine balance between progression and quality and thusly butters my upfront, forward thinking, future parsnips.

That sounded a lot better in my head.

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Go Tell Fire To The Mountain.
Lyf.

Reviewer - Ian Pennington.

Wu Lyf are one of those Myspace generation bands whose name precedes their music in the recognition stakes. They were born into a culture eager for an image, a reference point. People see smoke and think they're missing something, but as this quartet sought to stem the flames and move their bonfire out of the glare, allure became all the greater. It was Alex Turner's "don't believe the 'ype" all over again. So, surrounded by a swarm only aggravated by their mainstream introversion, the camera-shy collective sent scenesters weak at the knees and even managed to ruffle the feathers of industry bigwigs. "Who are these daring Mancs and why don't they fit into a neat Manc package along with all the other Oasis and Smiths tribute bands?" journo hacks and A&R scouts alike must have mused as they crammed into Manchester's Northern Quarter cafe venue An Outlet to see the band, only to be let down by a self-sufficient shun of interviews and financial label interference.

Whether withdrawn due to cold feet or marketing genius, even the name Wu Lyf draws an inevitable mystique. Its separations stand for World Unite and Lucifer Youth Foundation. Cool, right? It sounds like something you could envisage being a part of a Lord of the Flies start-up community. The acronym is the fence of exclusivity created around their corporation-free fun, but consequently is also the neon sign hanging up outside saying, 'PARTY INSIDE!' Groucho Marx's memorable quip, "I do not care to belong to a club that accepts people like me as members," may cast wit upon the scenario, but the opposite rings absolutely true.

The greater the mystery, the more you want to solve it. Recently shorn of their anonymity, Wu Lyf's debut full-length Go Tell Fire To The Mountain swings wide the gates of a perceived outsider gang. Welcomed in by 'Lyf', the album's first flicker of its fascination for organ interludes and undercurrents, sets a scene of sunrise. Further inside the recorded bounds of LYF's cathedral, epic echoes emanate from modulated guitars to coalesce with vocalist Ellery Roberts' irascible shrieks.

The cult set-up conjures the religious undertones, invigorating others to worship at the euphoric altar of LYF through a succession of uplifting crescendos, notably in 'Such A Sad Puppy Dog', 'Summas Bliss', 'We Bros' and closer 'Heavy Pop'. Indeed, the production sheen adds hymnal grandiosity to the scuzzed vocal melodies borrowed from late 80s / early 90s US alternative indie rock, with hints of Modest Mouse, Cymbals Eat Guitars and fellow Mancunian rockers The Longcut.

Is it the music or gang ethos that strikes such a heartfelt chord within the listener? Hard to say, but, almost certainly, without their mini empire they wouldn't have the same publishing clout as they've mustered for this debut. Also dabblers in film and photography, Wu Lyf are treading the same self-owned publishing path as Enter Shikari, maintaining artistic control by acting the Pied Piper and leading their LYF recruits away with them.

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Dedication.
4AD.

Reviewer - Jack Scourfield.

It's becoming increasingly hard to maintain an aura of elusive anonymity in this day and age. If your name's not being bandied about willy-nilly by Scottish newspapers and 70,000 Twitter users, then Facebook will be busy scrutinising your photos from your secondary school leavers' ball in an attempt to automatically pinpoint you the next time a picture of a coconut that shares your poorly-trimmed facial hair crops up on the site. Of course, when it comes to the world of music, it's very easy to remain thoroughly anonymous. So easy, in fact, that 99% of the planet's bands are currently doing a stellar job of avoiding the rest of the global population's recognition entirely. The sly dogs. A harder task, though, is remaining elusive whilst churning out a string of high-quality, well-received releases. Despite his public shyness, Richard D. James' sinister grin can be found leering out from all manner of places, and even Hyperdub's shadowy 2-stepper Burial is now recognisable, so long as he's viewed from within a car, pointing a camera at himself.

But one who most people would still struggle to clock walking down the street is Zomby. On the back of a handful of glitchy 8-bit cuts on Ramp and Hyperdub, 2008 saw the recondite producer drop the magnificent early-rave tribute, Where Were U in '92?, which through the bristling complexity of his hardcore interpretations catapulted him into as much of the mainstream limelight as tends to shine on underground electronic music. In the years since, he's become almost as (in)famous for what he doesn't do - i.e. turn up to gigs - than for what he's released. But while his body of work has never quite matched Where Were U in '92? - including (spoiler alert) this latest outing on 4AD - Zomby's productions over the past few years have easily justified the hype surrounding Dedication.

Never one to 'sprawl', Zomby may occupy 16 tracks on Dedication but it still clocks in below the 40 minute mark. There's a noticeably less frantic, more restrained and introspective feel to the album, but it nonetheless retains echoes of Zomby's 2008 self. Opener 'Witch Hunt' lurches along in a hail of muffled discordant whirls, interjected with the occasional salvo of gunshots. 'Natalia's Song' will be a recognisable cut to those familiar with Burial and Kode9's haunting mix for Mary Anne Hobbs' last ever Radio 1 show last year, and is no less a gorgeous composition here as it was back in September, brushing a shuffled 2-step beat with bewitching vocal snippets to etch itself in to the ranks of Zomby's career highlights. Tracks like 'Black Orchid' and 'Digital Rain' brim with the kind of 8-bit swirls that would once feature regularly in any Zomby production. An appearance by Noah Lennox (aka Panda Bear of Animal Collective) half way through the record on 'Things Fall Apart' is a gem in itself.

Closing with the piano-led digital funeral march of 'Basquiat' and the shimmering 'Mozaik', it's clear that Dedication marks a new page in the Zomby anthology. Whether it's an indication of things to come, or merely a snapshot of one moment in time for the continually evasive and subversive producer, remains to be seen. It's safe to say though that, for as long as he continues to release music as good as this, he's welcome to keep wearing that Anonymous mask.

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Liber Kult (Book 1 OV 3).
Dust Science.

Reviewer - Sasha Levy-Andersson.

This release from The Black Dog (currently Ken Dowdie, Martin Dust and Richard Dust) on Dust Science sees one of Sheffield's 'intelligent dance music' pioneers return with a typically well-sculpted double A side. 'Sculpted' is certainly the word for the ambient soundscapes that appear on this record, although fans of their previous album Music For Real Airports should be prepared for a thoroughly more technooriented sound.

On the A side 'Black Chamber Order' opens with a gentle ambience reminiscent of an Orbital track or some of the tracks from Music for Real Airports. It builds up with a minimal techno kick drum and an atmospheric bass line, all overlaid by rich synth textures with that characteristic depth out of seemingly simple production. The subtlety of production and the work that has obviously gone into melding it all together is particularly impressive. Techno fans will be pleased to hear a clacking kick/hi-hat combination, lending it a sound more characteristic of early Black Dog releases, a pleasing techy ebb and flow.

'Bass Mantra' on the AA side certainly lives up to its name. The intro opens with a rhythmical synth stab building a rolling tension with the promise of a hard-edged minimal beat. A layer of exciting and edgy bass builds the tension further, the kick and hi-hat introducing themselves to create a pleasingly throbbing track. This one is most certainly on the techno side of the group's releases and continually grows and shrinks -even more so than the A side. The synths and percussion give a moody character and a much more heads down style, featuring a rolling rhythm while still preserving that hypnotic drift so characteristic of the group's work over the years. This is definitely a set-builder of a track, most suited to DJs.

Liber Kult (Book 1 Ov 3) shows a welcome return to the techno style that can be recognised as far back as their earliest releases in 1989 and 1990. For those who are keen on the tight minimal production of The Black Dog, this is a winner. Although both tracks are similar in style they are sufficiently different to form a strong double A side, more suited to techno fans than those who may have been expecting something like Music For Real Airports. As usual, The Black Dog don't shy away from experimenting with their sound and we are treated to an atmospheric release full of dancefloor promise.

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by Now Then Sheffield

Next article in issue 40

Sound Netlabel Dub.

The pages of this magazine have long been shouting praise in the direction of the netlabel scene and like it or not, I am here to shout a li…

The pages of this magazine have long been shouting praise in the direction of the netlabel scene and like it or not, I am here to shout a li

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