October 21st- Nicolas Jaar- Sirens

 

Subtlety, Space and Silence are not qualities, which many would associate with modern electronic music especially in this post-EDM, brostep-inspired environment, in which we now live. However these three qualities are ones, which Nicolas Jaar fully inhabits. As a producer Jaar first attracted attention with his staggeringly excellent album Space is Only Noise, which has been lauded by many as being among the greatest electronic albums ever released. After some free downloads and an award winning essential mix Jaar now returns with Sirens, which quietly builds upon those omnipresent qualities within his work of: subtlety, space and silence.

Sirens kicks off with around 20 seconds of silence almost making the listener question whether the record has actually started. Fooling the listener from the off and putting them on edge with silence is an old trick but an effective one, it leaves the listener feeling unsure and uncertain and primed for the unexpected (of which Sirens contains muchs of). The silence is gently broken by the use of an effect which sounds like it was borrowed from an LTJ Bukem Record circa 1997. The track Killing Time is, much like everything on Sirens, a slow burner, which has been broken in to many seperate acts and then re-assembled into one track, it’s a skill, which fans of Burial will be familiar with and it is well employed here by Jaar.

Much of what makes Sirens such an engaging and interesting listen happens in the background. It is almost as if the listener is being told to pay attention to what happens in the shadows or the most interesting moments  could pass you by. You figure Jaar is a people watcher.

The complexity of Sirens is staggering there are multiple layers to every track: uses of samples, gospels choirs, jazz instrumentation, classical instrumentation, techno and much, much more besides. It will take the average listener a lifetime to decipher every element of Sirens. However, unlike lesser artists, it is this complexity, which makes Sirens entertaining rather than unlistenable.

There is a certain bleakness to Sirens, which fans of Jaar’s work will be familiar with but this bleakness is often balanced with such beautiful instrumentation that often it attains a strange alluring quality, which adds to the mystery of the album and certainly keeps the listener from tumbling into a self-pity party.

The reviews, which have so far appeared for Sirens have been over whelmingly positive with the album being called high art and its creator a genius. Whether these compliments are true or not I shall leave down to you. However, I will say that Jaar is a musicians musician who has, in Sirens, created a complex beast, which lives within subtlety.

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July 22nd- Fixate- March On EP

The second drum and bass appearance on my blog and a second recommended record for Exit Records, following the brilliant and diverse Richie Brains album. Exit Records continues to be the most exciting drum and bass label in the UK and represents a diversity of sound, which post LTJ Bukem and Andy C’s Bodyrock is often lost within the genre. I can safely and happily say Fixate’s new EP continues this Exit Records trend.

Things kick off with the heavy and aggressive March On, whilst the track itself features a pummeling bass unlike so many of their lesser affiliates a bass driven track doesn’t have to mean sped up to ridiculous levels for Fixate. Rather the aggression of the track comes from the strength of the bass not the rhythm. Things are subtle yet threatening and enough to get the blood pumping in any bass head’s veins.

The phenomenal Bandicoot is the real show stopper on Fixate’s EP. With its off-kilter rhythms, synth lead-in and Crash Bandicoot sampling drop, it is a display of diversity, restrain and bass driven brilliance. The track has been getting huge support from Toddla T and deservedly so.

Turbocharge sees Fixate employ a footwork stylised rhythm to the track, something which Exit Record affiliates have been experimenting with for some time, see Alix Perez and Richie Brains. The current love in between Drum and Bass and Footwork is an exciting one, which serves two purposes. One to reignite lost experimentalism in Drum Bass. And two to increase the awareness of one of this decade’s most exciting underground music scenes in Footwork. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship, which produces great results on Fixate’s new release and will hopefully do so for others in the future.

The EP closes out with its weakest track Molecules, which is centred round an Indian drum sample. It’s not that it’s a bad track, it’s just not as good as what else is on offer here. Also, the Indian drum sample has been done to death in Drum and Bass, there are a lot more world music sounds and drum loops to sample. It would be refreshing to hear something new.

Fixate’s March On EP adds to Exit Records continuing cannon of experimental and exciting drum and bass records and is a release that anyone with an interest in the longevity of the genre should seek out straight away.