Lone – Levitate (2016). Rapidly becoming one of my favourite electronic acts of the last few years, (and I am very much still in catch-up mode with his discography) it seems Lone, aka Matt Cutler, can do no wrong. I’ve listened to three of his albums in chronological order: Galaxy Garden, Reality Testing and now Levitate. Each one is a technicolour explosion of rainbow colours, bouncy rhythms and joyous melodies, and on each album Lone explores – and gives his stylistic take on – a different genre of dance music gone by. Galaxy Garden is early 90s rave, blended with 2010s juke and footwork, Reality Testing is mid 90s boom-bap trip-hop, and Levitate is back to the old school rave again, but more heavy on the breakbeats.
But this is not just another hackneyed nostalgia trip. Although Levitate has the same old-school beats as for example, Liam Howlett deployed to such explosive effectiveness on the The Experience, Lone is making music that sounds completely fresh. For one thing the technical wizardry he employs would not have been possible in ’92, and where early rave producers used sirens, simple synth riffs and samples to ramp up the energy, Lone uses melody and subtle atmospherics to craft something celebratory, but also cerebral. Here and there is the sound of a trickling stream, tweeting birds or twinkling bells, which combine with fat neon slabs of synth to give you the sense of being in some lush day-glo rainforest (raveforest?). Also have to mention the clear Boards of Canada influence on some of the melodies, taking a nod from the masters of nostalgia to add an undercurrent of melancholy to this rose-tinted scene.
Deepchord presents Echospace – The Coldest Season (2007). Winter might be drawing to an end, but I hope that doesn’t mean I stop listening to the Coldest Season. I’ve written previously about Deepchord – undisputed master(s) of Dub Techno and rightful heir to Basic Channel’s crown. The Coldest Season is actually a collaboration between Rod Modell of Deepchord and Stephen Hitchell (of Intrusion) and is cited by many as one of Deepchord’s best albums and one of the strongest electronic/ambient albums of its time. If, for some reason, you’re a fan of dub techno or ambient and you’ve not listened this album – do not hesitate to do so.
For anyone else I can say The Coldest Season lives up to its name – long drifting passages of spectral icy crackle and hiss, like being lost in a white-out blizzard, are tethered here and there by the unmistakable throb of dub techno. It being ‘dub’ you’d think it would be inherently warm, but Echospace pull off something magical and profound with this album. It’s hard to do it justice in words, or convey how such seemingly simple sparse elements can combine to make such deep, moving music. This album deserves your time, go deep and get pulled into the blizzard.
Carlton Melton – Photos of Photos (2012). I saw this band mentioned in reference to Bardo Pond, whom I’ve been listening to lately so as always, following my nose (or rather, ears) I decided to check ‘em out. I get the feeling, as I so often do, of approaching a musical rabbit hole. Bardo Pond have some 20 or so albums, and Carlton Melton half a dozen more – obviously there’s no way I’m going to listen to all those without becoming a full time devoted psyche/space-rock/stoner fan. Appealing though that sounds, I enjoy other genres of music too much, plus I have a wife and a full time job.
Anyway, the point is there’s a shitload of this kind of music out there, from dozens of acts like Carlton Melton, dating right back to the 70s. So you just gotta follow your instincts and enjoy what comes your way. And this album is enjoyable if you’re in the mood. Similar to Bardo, there are magma flows of molten guitar distortion and some proto-proto-proto-Black Sabbath riffage. But there are also some lighter moments – Wingspan (one of the briefer tracks at only 8 minutes) is a dreamy soundscape, where layered guitars are joined by gentle strings in something that resembles Seefeel or Sigur Ros far more than Hawkwind. Not an album to stick on if you what something punchy to perk you up…but if you want to be lifted slowly skyward by a chorus of a thousand guitars: turn on, tune in and drop out.