Tuesday, 13 October 2009


In the midst of a move to Bristol, normal service has been operating minimally here at CB/OB (now based in a fourth floor flat with a dynamite view of Jamaica Street). It’s been one of those ‘waiting ages for a bus’ weeks with music though – suddenly everything you’re eagerly awaiting seems to all come along at once. Aside from wallet woes this week with new plates from Shackleton, A Made Up Sound and Moderat, there’s been a whole host of great new 12”s, as well as some other bits and pieces, on the CB/OB stereo over the last couple of weeks. So here’s a roundup of the artists making regular hi-fi appearances during the city transition.

Pausal – Pausal EP [Highpoint Lowlife]

There’s scant information available about Pausal, only a brief description of this EP reissue on the Highpoint Lowlife site. Given it’s wondrous, trance-like qualities it’s a good thing it has been re-released in the interests of avoiding its disappearance beneath the radar altogether, although admittedly it’s still likely destined to become a little-known gem.

Sonically the duo’s closest contemporaries are probably Tired Sounds…-era Stars of the Lid, all rising ambience and gently shimmering swathes of melody, wrapped up in a glacial cocoon of feedback and slow, ponderous motion. A cursory listen would probably lead the casual listener to dismiss the four pieces on this EP as pale imitations of the Texan pioneers, but as with SotL there is a great deal more buried just beneath Pausal’s surface that rewards careful and patient listening.

Melodic progression is barely overt at all – often an entire track will remain centred on a single chord for its entire length, the tiniest hints of nostalgia and recognition captured in hidden elements that emerge for fractionally small periods of time before ducking again beneath the surface. The EP’s centerpiece, the twelve minute ‘Place (Revisited)’, encapsulates perfectly the title’s dual sense of comfortable recognition and of unease at the smaller elements you hadn’t remembered; all trapped in crystal shards of guitar and the merest suggestion of choral voices that phosphoresce vividly as they blossom into full life.

‘Heroes=Dogs’ begins with the same sort of menacing mechanical grind that opens Godspeed You Black Emperor!’s ‘The Dead Flag Blues’, but whilst the Canadian troupe peel away the drone to allow each constituent part to breathe separately Pausal’s sound palette – synthesised strings, guitar feedback and hints of found sound – coalesces into a single, inseperable force that swells and swells like some monstrous tidal rise. Finally each element is stripped away again leaving only the machine’s soft cry for company as the piece ends.

Brackles – Rawkus/Air Pie [Planet Mu]
Shortstuff - Progression/Relapse/A [Formant]

The Blunted Robots crew are making real ripples in the post-dubstep/future-garage/whatever-you-want-to-call-it pond at the moment. The label’s second twelve, another set of tunes from Martin Kemp, is due in the next month or so, and the label’s main co-conspirators Brackles and Shortstuff have seen their profiles skyrocket in the last six months off the back of a series of incendiary plates for Planet Mu, Apple Pips and Ramp.

Planet Mu has just released a second set of tunes from Brackles, following on from May’s fantastically warped and mind-altering ‘LHC’. Compared to what had come before, the existence of both ‘LHC’ and his pair of tracks on Apple Pips felt less the product of natural evolution and more like a total rewiring of dubstep’s genetic structure, razor sharp synth spirals offset by a broken post-garage shuffle and lurching slabs of sub-bass. So it’s surprising given its track title that ‘Rawkus’ is probably the most graceful thing he’s yet put his name to. It’s still indisputably Brackles, filled with a knowing humour and a biting dancefloor edge, but sleeker and more streamlined, somehow sexier. ‘Air Pie’ on the flip is disoriented, ‘Rawkus’ staggering onto the dancefloor a couple of hours and a few pints of cider later, co-ordination diminished along with most of its sex appeal but with an unshakeable rakish charm.

In a similar vein, after the sheer sonic firepower of Shortstuff’s debut on Ramp, his second 12” in as many months is almost the entire opposite, softer, subtler and all the better for it. There’s a contemplative flexibility to his production that takes him further from a darkened club and a huge system than his other BR stablemates – ‘Relapse’ is shot through with barely audible bursts of melody buried deep in the mix under its circling eight-note motif. ‘Progression’ is simply beautiful, its muted arabesque chimes calling to mind the shifting sands and richly textured tech-scapes of Peverelist alongside early Shackleton’s dense plumes of shisha smoke. It’s as rich a solo listening experience as anything your average IDM-type label would put out – if not more so, as its firm anchors to the dancefloor ensure its effect is physically tangible as opposed to entirely abstract.

Idle Hands – 001 [Idle Hands]

Away from a Peverelist reference and straight to the latest label output from his shop, Rooted Records (now conveniently about five minutes’ walk from my flat). Idle Hands’ first release is an anonymous 12”, briefly covered in my ‘autumn in Bristol’ piece, with two pulsing experiments in repetitive minimalism, sonically very close to the output of a closely linked producer. To these ears side A is the superior cut – increasingly direct stabs of tech synth converge and separate over a subtly shifting beat to hypnotic, lulling effect. When the needle tails off at the end it feels unnatural for the track to finish at all, leaving the impression that you’ve merely tuned in to a six-minute long fragment of some perpetual alien transmission, its many permutations stretching out into astral infinity.

Wicked A - A Nie Dvamata S Bobi Piem Kafe (Ramadanman remix) [White]

It’s been a fair while in David Kennedy time – so about two months - since we’ve had any new output from his Ramadanman alias. This remix of an unknown Hungarian (?) band has sneaked out on white label with a minimum of fanfare - the track itself’s central section a notable exception, dominated as it is by an escalating and addictive brass line so suited to mixing into other sets that he’s kindly provided a ‘horns-apella’ on the flipside. Kennedy takes his sense of unconventional percussive playfulness to new heights, with a stop-start rhythm and vocal fragments as faithful to the original’s European roots as to his own vision. I don’t imagine it’ll be available for very long but it’s a white label well worthy of investigation.

F & Headhunter – Night Dive/Dedale [Transistor]

The dubstep-techno crossover continues unabated, but away from the more austere and experimental ends of the genre – Shackleton’s new material on Perlon, which arguably has freed itself entirely from any limiting concept of genre, or Scuba’s recent forays into new tempo territory – Bristolian Headhunter and France's F both fly the flag for the more direct, dancefloor-ready side of the sound. On this shared 12”, F’s ‘Night Dive’ pushes his nocturnal side further into aquatic realms over a four-four stomp, but the real gem is their collaborative effort ‘Dedale’, which sets a queasily churning beat and dissonant chord blocks over some of the deepest and darkest bass pressure this side of early Loefah. The sub-bass is so glutinous it binds the rest of the track’s elements together into a marshy, seething whole, a bizarre but effective mover.

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