From Berlin producer/dj Shed comes a new album, ‘The Killer‘, hailed by Resident Advisor as contender for techno album of the year, which can be streamed until July 27 here (much better sound quality than YouTube, so make sure to take a listen). It’s full of sparse, dystopic techno, but intermingled with all kinds of dub, breakbeat, ambient and classic house elements, making it a true sonic journey, rather than an album full of dancefloor killers.
For instance, check out this brutal, old-fashioned techno track, ‘I Come By Night’, very much the Berghain/Ostgut sound, but with an almost religious kind of melody on the background.
Also check out Day After. Possibly even better. Great interplay between kick and snare drums and a great melody, rather original too.
It is one of the coolest aspects of Star Trek: The Next Generation (and of science fiction in general): the sound of the ship engines. The ambient humming of a humongous machine floating in deep space.
In the series, you’ll notice it everytime in a scene on board of the Enterprise, and it contributes much to the atmosphere. So here’s something to help you get asleep: a 24-hour loop of Enterprise ambient engine noise! Yes. Very relaxing, and good for imagining you’re in deep space.
Mirror’s Edge (2008) is an underrated video game. The unique dystopian atmosphere, taking place in a picture-perfect white glass metropolis, that is nevertheless continuously under surveillance and where privacy doesn’t exist, reminds of the brilliant novel We (1921) by Yevgeny Zamyatin.
The game takes you free-running and parkouring through this metropolis as a sole resistance fighter on the run for police, all the while accompanied by some really decent electronic ambient music, reminiscent of Aphex Twin and Underworld.
The track posted below is an example of this music. It’s not brilliant, but pretty evocative of this game’s futuristic atmosphere, which I think shows what some games at least conceptually are capable of.
Electronic music as an art form is often credited to start with the likes of pioneers such as Karlheinz Stockhausen and Pierre Schaeffer, in the 1940s and 1950s. However, one guy in Egypt was there earlier: Halim El-Dabh (1921), who in 1944 hit the streets of Cairo to record ambient sounds and music, and experiment with it afterwards.
While Pierre Schaeffer is often thought of as the father of the electronic music form known as musique concrète the gentleman above, Halim El-Dabh, actually got there several years before, 1944 to be exact. Born in Egypt in 1921, El-Dabh studied agriculture at Cairo University while playing piano and other traditional instruments as a pastime. One day, the student and a friend borrowed a wire recorder — a device predating magnetic tape — from the Middle East Radio Station and hit the streets to capture ambient sounds. El-Dabh recorded a spirit-summoning ritual called a zaar ceremony and ultimately found that he could use the sounds as the raw ingredients for a new composition.
An excerpt from the 1944 composition called “The Expression of Zaar” is here below, credited as ‘the earliest piece of electronic music ever produced’. I don’t know whether that’s true, but it sounds very ambient and cool. Not too surprising if you realize you’re listening to a spiritual ceremony from 1940s Cairo:
The Electronic Music Foundation has an interview with El-Dabh, who is currently Professor Emeritus of African Ethnomusicology at Kent State University. About the 1944 piece:
We had to sneak in (to the ritual) with our heads covered like the women, since men were not allowed in. I recorded the music and brought the recording back to the radio station and experimented with modulating the recorded sounds. I emphasized the harmonics of the sound by removing the fundamental tones and changing the reverberation and echo by recording in a space with movable walls. I did some of this using voltage controlled devices. It was not easy to do. I didn’t think of it as electronic music, but just as an experience. I called the piece Ta’abir al-Zaar, (The Expression of Zaar). A short version of it has become known as Wire Recorder Piece. At the time in Egypt, nobody else was working with electronic sounds. I was just ecstatic about sounds.
I can’t stop playing this track since I discovered it on the 1992-2002 album a few weeks ago. It was a bonus track on that compilation. From the style I’m guessing it was produced during the studio sessions for Beaucoup Fish. A fat, sluggish beat, good build-up and great vocals from Karl Hyde:
Like last week’s, this week’s Sunday chill track is an oldie. I have chosen this classic ambient masterpiece by Aphex Twin to celebrate that Mr. James is going to perform on Dutch soil this summer. He will be doing his face mapping show at Lowlands Festival in Biddinghuizen in August. Had I known, I might even have tried to buy a ticket, before they sold out in a day. Anyway, enjoy “Stone In Focus” from Selected Ambient Works II (1994):
We posted about the Mancurian/Berlin outfit Holy Other before: ghostly, dark ambient dub/house music that is very delicately crafted yet also powerful. Check three great tracks here.
Now, Holy Other has released an EP called With U, with some (for me) new tracks on it. Check out ’With U’ and ‘Feel Something’. Again: lots of drones, Burial-like rave and R&B elements, synths, but also very smooth and dark. Imagine hearing this coming from huge speakers in a dark, forgotten cellar underneath a club somewhere.
Sometimes you wanna post stuff not because it’s new, but because it’s frigging brilliant. This is such a case.
In the realm of exquisite minimal techno, Pantha du Prince probably reigns supreme. What he produces is superb: very layered mixtures of all kinds of rhythms, digital and natural sounds (chimes, wood percussion, environmental sounds), and it ebbs and flows in all kinds of new directions all the time. Yet there’s still some sort of musical vision behind it.
The track underneath here, from the 2010 album Black Noise, is the best example of that. It’s extraordinary beautiful, with lots of precious sounds, but also a bigger melody behind that. Although you’ll like it immediately, each additional listening session reveals new stuff. Definitely check it out.
Here’s your Sunday chill track, even though it’s a Thursday. Norwegian producer diskJokke presents us a highly ambient, pretty stoned-out track, with lots of chimes, synths and maritime sounds. Taking some cues from Röyksopp and Kraftwerk.
It goes through several phases and is overall very happy yet mysterious, so check it out here:
This is a 2007 Echospace remix of the Model 500 (Juan Atkins) track “Starlight” which was originally released in 1995. The original is a great 125 bpm techno track, very different from this craftily produced entrancing ambient remix. The perfect selection for…(drumroll please)…the tenth installment of The Sunday Chill Track:
I like slow, ethereal and ambient, but this may be a bit too much for me. Nevertheless, this track by Julianna Barwick, from the similarly named album (released on Ashtmatic Kitty records, which also features Sufjan Stevens) with footage from the 1983 film Celebration: I Am All of These is still good. If you like Sigur Rós’ Jónssi Birgisson’s solo work, you’ll like this. She’s also one of those solo artists that use loop pedals to create an orchestral sound. I can think of some occassions in which it would fall completely into place.