Wednesday, September 08, 2004

V/A: The Leaf Label Sampler
Delivery Room
label: The Leaf Label
rating: 3.5

by Colin James Nagy

By virtue of their prolific output, some labels can be notoriously hard to explore and understand. To counter this notion, the Leaf Label has released a low-priced introduction to some of the diverse talent on its roster, following the tradition of 2002's Lost for Words sampler. Some artists, including Murcof and Susumu Yakota, focus on pure electronic compositions, but the London-based label finds itself increasingly adept at treading the delicate balance between traditional instrumentation and full-blown electronica.

This is best seen with Colleen, who weaves organic tones and instruments via modern sequencing techniques on a laptop, and with Bill Wells's collaborations on "Pick Up Sticks" and "A Soldier's Shoulder," which blend delicate, hand-played percussion, trumpets and computer-processed glockenspiels. Furthering the eclecticism, Japan's Riow Arai displays mastery of the cut-up and glitched-out hip-hop breaks, and Manitoba blends shoegazer inspirations with additional electronic melodies and organic instrumentation.

For the price of a CD single, Delivery Room is a good opportunity to gaze in at some of Leaf's newborn talent and check up on some standby artists you may have missed in the flurry of releases from this excellent imprint.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Cobra Killer

Claiming to be a reaction against dull early electro stage shows, the fact that Cobra Killer’s debut came on Alec Empire’s Digital Hardcore imprint comes as no surprise. Their third record blends 60’s pop/rock structures bolstered by filthy synths, samples and an exuberant live presence. But it's not all lo-fi screams and over-the-top electro posturing, the duo’s longtime presence in the scene stems from a high level of musicianship (both girls played in bands from age 12) and an ear for subversive pop hooks. In addition, collaborations from the likes of T. Raumschmiere on the growling opening track “Lets Have a Problem” and Thomas Fehlman on the comparitively restrained “High is The Pine” add some highbrow cred to an already excellent record.
Shredders Dub
Plug Research

forthcoming on

After discovering dub as the keystone connecting today’s hip hop and electronic music, Vancouver-based Calamalka wasted little time in setting out to craft his own. While most modern dub tracks sound overly processed and lack the organic textures that make those original King Tubby tunes sound so deep, Shredders Dub manages to stay true to the genre’s roots, while maintaining a live-played feel. On “Hear the Most,” each snap of the snare resonates and drifts off into the ether as the bassline snakes around lingering melodies and samples. “Chassi” is a welcome injection of warped and staggering funk while on “Bumpea,” lo-fi synths and percussion sit atop a chest-caving, volcanic bassline seemingly excavated from the depths of the Mariana trench.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Run With Me
BPitch Control

A version to appear on

Kiki’s debut LP for BPitch is a study in contradiction, where dubby hi-hats and detroit-inspired melodies find equal footing with swollen, cinematic strings and organic drum tones. Inspired by the sound he searched for in his high school band days, “The End of The World” is Sisters of Mercy-styled goth, anchored by overdriven, grating synths and a drum pattern more suited to an arena rock track circa 1980—all the while making perfect sense on a 2004 dancefloor. "On the 104th Day" adds variety in tempo with a tape loop jazz break while the album’s highlight, “Luv Sikk Again” finds echoing timpanis and urgent string stabs sharing space with burbling synths, neatly wrapped in a 4/4 package. (CJN)