Friday, 28 March 2014

Radioactive Sandwich "Survival" Review

Artist: Radioactive Sandwich

Release: Survival

Label: Tech Safari Records

Released: 4th April 2013
Digitally World-wide

This five track single features three new tracks from Radioactive Sandwich with Globular and Tron Sepia on re-mix duties.

The first track “Ex Nihilo” opens up with an infectious hook running over an atmospheric background, just as I began to tire of this as if by magic comes the switch and the mood swings to laid back reggae perfect for the hammock. Here and there they drop a vocal which is lyrically quite dark, flitting between universal conciousness and decay. In fact it even sounds a little like Convenant or VNV Nation attempting reggae. Strange as it may sound it works for me.

'The Storm' commences with slow bass piano chords overshadowing an undercurrent which seems to chug along with a slight sense of urgency. Once again there's a switch signalled by a short choral followed by a psychedelic acid section before it gets really interesting lovely sweeping synths and guitar that transform into twisted Arabia almost seamlessly, before dropping into ambient operatics (your really getting your moneys worth in this track) as it twists and morphs to eventually reach where we started.

Now we move on to 3 variations of 'Icefall'.

The original begins with a combination of choral synths and a broody feel with IDM style beats the groove is lifted taking the piece away from the initial laid back tracks into psy-trance but still maintains a chilled feel in places.

Globular seems to have become pretty popular in the psy scene last year. Which kind of surprised me as he's been around awhile. His 'Thawing Sunshine Mix' has more of a reggae feel to it with plenty of psychedelic twitches and although it's up-tempo in places I have to say I prefer this take.

Last but not least is Tron Sepia's 'Tron Sandwich Re-Mix'. A new name on me and though it's not quite my cup of tea it's certainly a fresh brew. He drags the track into dirty slow stretched bass with bursts of high pitched vocal and releases it back into the realms of psy-trance.

To summarise if you like your psy on the dancefloor and on the sofa, then this is another crazy ride with plenty of variation. Covering just shy of 45 mins of music, which I'm sure you will agree is pretty good value for a single.

Review by Woodzee.


Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Banco De Gaia "Maya 20th Anniversary Edition"

Artist: Banco De Gaia

Album: Maya
20th Anniversary Edition

Label: Disco Gecko Records

Release Date: Feb 28th 2014

A bit late with this one. But as they say better late than never. This special edition will be released as a triple cd package only. Limited to 1500 copies and not available to stream or download.

Originally released in February 1994 on the Planet Dog label, Maya reached No1 in the independent charts in the UK and was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize.

Disc One contains the original album, which mixes beautiful textures, soaring melodies and slamming grooves with sounds from the far corners of the world as airy breaks and beats ripple against a backdrop of Asian and other ethnic influences.

Disc Two features mainly unreleased alternative mixes of the album, including a live version of Sunspot, recorded for the John Peel Sessions, and the original full 22 minute mix of Shanti.

Disc Three is predominantly remixes and features a brand new mix of Mafichi Arabi by Temple Hedz, as well as versions by Eat Static, 100th Monkey & Mr Noisy and Veloce.

I never actually brought a copy of Maya at the time. However, I came across Banco De Gaia on what was for me a landmark compilation from Beyond Records “Ambient Dub Vol 2”. I'd already leaned towards more chilled Balearic no's in the late 80's and was listening to a lot of reggae, psychedelic rock, progressive house and techno at the time.

This album did something I hadn't really come across before combining ambient sounds with the Roland TB-303 which instantly appealed to me. However, there were also two tracks that had a cinematic, global edge to them. These tracks (if you didn't know already, you've probably guessed) were from the album “Maya”. The track “Shanti” was and still is one of my favourite all-time chill out tracks and too be honest I really can't see that changing.

Shortly after, I also brought a video that featured what was considered state of the art 3-D C.G.I. at the time, with a soundtrack featuring some of the artists from the Beyond compilations, as well as the Future Sound of London, Aphex Twin, Brian Eno and of course Banco De Gaia. I then caught a live show at a Mega-Dog event and was blown away, so eagerly purchased a cassette only release “Freeform Flutes and Fading Tibetans”. All in all I can't compare all the re-mixes one hundred percent as some of the tracks have only reached my ears of late. However, I shall give it a go.

I'll start with Gamelah where Dub 3 was featured on the original an alternative Dub 1 and a live version are also featured here. Dub 1 seems to combine the sounds of the Eastern bazaar with tribal drumming that you could easily imagine is being performed by a drum troupe. Dub 3 starts in a gentler fashion but as it progresses has a lot more going and has the edge for me.

Mafich Arabi begins in a psychedelic manner with indistinct voices and digeridoo before the African vocals join and the beat kicks in (and I'm beginning to feel I missed out not purchasing Maya at the time). Also included on this release is the original demo and a new re-hash by Templehedz. I have to say Paul's done an a sterling job, retaining the didge intro and a lot of the vocals he's lifted the tempo and energy resulting in a global dancefloor monster.

Sunspot I guess epitomises Ambient Dub in the way the synth loops rotate through the track, but it doesn't end there add some gypsy violin, tribal drum rolls and scientific vocal samples and you should get a feel of a track. Argue or debate if you will, but I suspect tracks like this set the building blocks and probably inspired much of what we hear in the psy-chill tracks that followed in later years. This release also includes a live Peel session and a new re-mix by 100th Monkey & Mr Noisy whose take flickers between orchestral dance and tribal rhythms with some lush dubby sequences along the way.

Heliopolis begins with a combination of rainforest field recordings, whale song and acidy synth loops which is is soon joined by sweeping vocals and housey elements and is a track I well remember from the time. Also included on this release are the Aethereal and Veloce re-mixes. The former adds a more chanty, slightly harder and repetitive take which doesn't really do it for me, while the latter gets dubbier and more acidic which I quite like. However, the original is the one for me.

Qurna (Mister Christian on the decks) begins with a mixture of natural field recordings and synth sequences, a lovely chilled number not a million miles away from Shanti, which then transcends into the bazaar and back. I for one would not start a mutiny here and there's an additional live version and Hah Ali's Birthday Mix a slow paced and suitably chilled alternative.

Sheesha begins with helicopter and submarine sounds laid under psychedelic and military rhetoric, while the music clashes ambient synths and harder edged techy acidic sounds. This is the weakest track for me, not in the sense there isn't a lot going on, as there is. I just found it created an edgy mood in places, as opposed to a peaceful ambience I'd relate to a Sheesha pipe. I didn't find the Green Tractor mix any better, but then that's hardly surprising considering my stance on the source material.

Now I've arrived at Shanti and have to consider the Black Mountain version that became my pedestal of ambience was not the original Red & White Spots version on Maya. Also included on this release is the full 22 minute original and a live version. In all fairness no matter how you dress it up or which version I select to play the core of this tune is always going to make me blissfully happy.

Similarly the version of Lai Lah on the Ambient Dub compilation was the Deeply Sirus mix recorded live at Club Dog as opposed to the Version 1.Infinity mix on Maya. However, I also have this on another compilation and have always liked both. Also included here are the Marine Mix and a Kitchen Sink mix by then label mate Eat Static. The former begins more dark, brooding and tribally percussive, dubbing the seagull samples which I guess give the mix it's name? All in all an interesting alternative. The latter retains all the quality of the original with a more thumping dancefloor orientated vibe with some wonderful oud and tribal samples you won't find in the original. 

Finally we reach the title track, where for some reason there is only the one version. Bearing in mind I've never heard it before I found that quite odd. Admittedly, it doesn't rank as my favourite track but at the same time it's more than listenable.

There's also a couple of bonus tracks. Firstly the Blue Mix original of Soufie (a track that featured on the aforementioned video, cassette and on Beyond Records Ambient Dub Vol 1) a slower paced version which mimics the original with a lovely piano, haunting strings and operatic vocals. I loved the original but this is a very nice alternative. The other is Data Inadequate recorded live at Club Dog and a track I'm not familiar with. Beginning with vocal samples, choral synths and eerie sci-fi sounds before becoming more dance orientated.

To summarise I'd imagine any fan of Banco De Gaia has already ordered a copy and if you haven't you really should. In my opinion this is a must buy for all fans of global tinged ambient dub.

Review by Woodzee.


You may also like the Banco De Gaia special of Ambient Music Guide's Mike G's Radio Show the Cosmic Lounge.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Desert Dwellers "Union: The Whitebear Re-mixes" Review

Artist: Desert Dwellers

Release: Union:
The Whitebear Re-mixes

Label: Desert Trax

Released: 10th March 2014

This release contains the Desert Dwellers original version and two re-mixes with different approaches by an up and coming young Australian producer that I've not come across before “Whitebear”.

The original starts very much in the manner of an Indian Classical piece with gentle ambient synths and bamboo flutes. I could easily be fooled into believing it was a piece by the Suns of Arqa. In the second half it sounds like a slide Oud is introduced with subtle delay. Wonderful stuff I have to say I like this track a lot.

Whitebears Groove Mix is a completely different approach. However, in it's own right it's also a bit of a gem, commencing with flutes and field recordings which visually took me straight into a union with the nature of the tropical rainforest. But don't be fooled after all this is the Desert Dwellers and Desert Trax. He layers the predominant instrument of this track, the Oud over slo-mo deep bass chords that are stretched and twisted along with some lovely loops that give an impression that the track is released in short bursts. Halfway through the breakdown is accompanied by bleepy keys reminiscent of early Warp tracks before resuming the initial vibe.

Whitebear's second re-work the Psyborglitch Edit is probably the most suited to the dancefloor of the three. Here Whitebear releases the oud between the twitches, glitches and trailing loops. I can see this working well as an early evening enticer to shake your rump at a psy-event. It would seem Whitebear could well be one to watch out for in 2014.

Review by Woodzee.


Monday, 17 March 2014

Kick Bong "A Waking Dream" Review

Artist: Kick Bong

Title: A Waking Dream

Label: Cosmicleaf

Released: 10th March 2014

What I've always liked about Franck's releases is there always a little different and this release moves even further afield from the Psy-Chill of earlier releases than the more recent. The title and artwork of white deers in a misty winter setting conjure a feeling of soft ambience. The music on the other hand although reflecting this is also balanced with a bouncier feel and darker edges.

The opening track “The Beginning” starts in a field recording manner with a gentle running stream and gentle keys, but is soon joined by deep bass chords and a twitchy IDM beat. However, it doesn't stop there halfway through it shifts gear and sets a tone for the album in the sense there's a lot happening in the track, yet , at no point seems out of place i.e. an almost but not quite industrial techno loop is injected overlapped by a peaceful flute.

This trend of bouncy ambience continues with some nice vocal samples in “Smooth” while “Happy Faces” contrasts deep atmospheric synths with builds that border on house and the production starts to bear some resemblance to Bluetech. The next track “Electric City” is reminsicent in places of Vangelis and Cybotron giving a more spacey feel to the album and the sense that you're travelling to conciousness.

The next few tracks drop the tempo as if you're drifting back into the dream. The title track for example is a lovely guitar affair extremely reminiscent of the Cure. While “I'm Still Sleeping” starts with a vocal sample I could easily imagine in Bazoo Bajou's “Keep Going” while the drums are more reminiscent of the Cure's “The Empty World” with a synthetic marching band feel interjecting the ambient sounds. Again there's a turn of pace with a techy driving backdrop counterbalanced with flutes and again nothing sounds out of place.

The theme of the album then takes the dream firstly into space, followed by sadness in much the same manner of bouncy ambience with a turn of pace before reaching the nightmare of “The Midnight Hour” which starts in an ambient techno manner with lots of little overlapping loops and a wonderful guitar once again reminiscent of the Cure. Then unexpectedly comes a vocal intro sample from probably the most famous “Spooky” pop track of all time. I wasn't 100% sure it worked but it did allow for that turn of pace and too be honest I think the track could well be extended from there.

All in all I feel this album will probably take a few listens to really appreciate fully, as there's plenty going on within the tracks and the production is high quality.

Review by Woodzee