Tag Archives: Electro

Jagwar Ma – Howlin

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Is it right to review an album that’s been out for a while now? Don’t think I should feel bad about it as I’m not working for NME or another hype machine. The three blokes from Jagwar Ma have been in the game since 2011 but their first LP Howlin has only been available in Europe since June this year and it quickly got my attention, to be quite honest.

The music can be described as a mix between Django Django and Tame Impala. Not that the latter do have something to do with electronic music but I personally tend to classify Jagwar Ma‘s music as slightly dreamy, yet hypnotic even if it’s dance music, in first instance. Maybe it’s too “soft” to be considered as psychedelic but it somehow totally stimulates my hypothalamus, which is a good thing.

The Throw, for example, is the best proof that Jagwar Ma isn’t just a typical electronic act. If first starts with a decent drum loop, reverb-loaded vocals, guitars and loads of other samples just to burst into some kind of dancy tune in the likes of Chk Chk Chk (a.k.a. !!!) or LCD Soundsystem. Four keeps the pace up and should be on every party playlist or whatever kids call it these days.

My favorite song is still Man I Need, not because it’s some kind of stomper or something alike, but it sounds like a perfect POP song (yes, pop music can be enjoyable sometimes). So does That Loneliness as it sounds like if The Beach Boys and The Beatles had a child. A dangerous comparison, I reckon, but the songwriting has these retro references and a feel good vibe with enjoyable melodies. This is obviously due to the production which used a lot of pan gimmicky in addition with shitloads of effects and samples coming out of nowhere, plunging the listener into a motley dreamworld making it irresistible to stand still and not to dance at all. Some call it Madchester but I don’t feel this music as a revival of that genre with the exception of The Throw which could be from that era, to be honest.

These blokes definitely haven’t re-invented the wheel but Howlin surely is a solid release and a pleasant surprise. You should give it a go and see them on stage anytime soon!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vU6a7Haw78]

Serj Tankian – Jazz-iz-Christ

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Serj Tankian has recorded a jazz album. So far, so good. Serj Tankian even did a pretty interesting jazz album. And as “interesting” is a damn boring word, let me try to explain why.

I’m certainly not a specialist in jazz music, so for all you connoisseurs out there, let me know if my impressions are for the birds. First of all, Tankian invited a wide range of guest musicians (probably because he isn’t a specialist either) such as, amongst others, Tigran Hamasyan, Tom Duprey, Valeri Tolstov or Troy Zeigler, which would be the first explanation for the advanced level of Jazz-iz-Christ. Besides classic jazz influences the LP combines fusion, electro, also rock, even if it is not so obvious at first listen, and also a number of oriental influences, represented for example by sitars.

The opener Fish Don’t Scream was described somewhere as a System of a Down song in disguise, and I have to say that this an appropriate way of hearing it, especially for the returning stamping parts. One could really imagine the slower jazz melodies as a reflection of a possible Tankian singing performance. The rocking elements on this album are omnipresent without pushing to the foreground at any time. The classic guitar solo in Arpeggio Bust, for instance, is perfectly fitting to the jazzy rhythm section. Moreover, there is a very concise and pushing bass line in a handful of songs.

Besides the rock influences there are especially the electronic and/or the fusion elements that produce the main groove of Jazz-iz-Christ, which generally spoken provides a wide range of musical experiences without being overcharged at any time. Most songs are instrumental; Tankian himself, or his vocals, enter the stage in song number 7, Distant Thing, a very oppressive but chilling song in which his voice and performance perfectly fits, which counts a little less for the following  Song of Sand.

The album clearly has its depressive period towards the middle, guided by melancholic vocals and instruments, combining the feeling of drinking whisky in a dark lounge and Tankian’s typical feeling for tragedy. Jinn then picks the pace up again, being a rock song at heart, and yet very hard to categorise in terms of style. Waitomo Caves would be the next creative bastard, having a 90s electro and beat box groove dancing around the classical jazz instruments. Same as the opener, the closing song Miso Soup then again can easily be defined as being a SOAD song, and this time, to make it more obvious, Tankian takes care of the vocals.

Jazz-iz-Christ is a very enjoyable, nearly 57 minutes long piece of jazz combined with like everything one could imagine, and I think one can really hear the fun the contributors were having during the recording sessions.

Jon Hopkins – Immunity

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Truth be told, I have never heard of Jon Hopkins before, if it wasn’t for a friend who pointed out that he collaborated with Coldplay years ago with his song Light Through the Veins being the intro snippet for Viva La Vida‘s opening track Life in Technicolor. As the ambience and emotions caused in that track were far more stunning than Coldplay‘s LP, I was eager to hear what he was capable of doing as a solo artist and it turned out that Jon Hopkins can do way better than composing Chris Martin‘s delivery room soundtrack.

If it was to summarize Immunity in one, simple sentence I’d say that this LP is a perfect electronic / neoclassical hybrid. The opener We Disappear reminds me of Burial‘s wonkiness, especially during his Untrue phase. This is minimal electronic music as it should be and no overinflated bass-driven techno madness. Solid structure, fragile content.

Open Eye Signal sucks you right into the dancefloor. The pumping beat and the deep atmosphere make you forget time and space and you’ll be pleasantly noticing every fibre of your body moving to this groove. One of my favourite tunes on this LP.

Personally, I think that Breathe This Air stands out as the best example of Hopkins’ capabilities as a composer. He masters the quiet / loud game like a boss and captivates the listener with his unique blend of deep electronic compositions with frail classical elements. Collider, on the other hand, is straight-forward, hypnotic and stomping. This could be my soundtrack for cruising through urbanisation at night.

Fortunately, Hopkins did not opt to release a pure electro album. Tracks like Immunity or Abandon Window are the proof for his real talent, which is evoking moods with placidity. The soundscapes remind me of Sigur Rós, during their heyday (from Ágætis byrjun until Takk…), with the fragility of the tracks being the strongest point on this LP. This is as naked and intimate as music can possibly be.

Maybe it’s too early for my verdict but I somehow feel the urge to name Immunity as my personal biggest surprise for 2013 and I’m pretty sure this album will be on my top 5 for this year! I recommend this album for fans of Brian Eno‘s Ambient 1: Music for Airports who are not afraid to go full electro for a minute or two.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q04ILDXe3QE]