Xander Harris : Termination Dust

I try to get in as many great albums as I can throughout the year. I’m always searching for another record that’s going to blow my mind sky high and make me examine the world that surrounds me with new eyes and ears. I am but one man(but with many clones working behind the scenes), so the chances of me missing out on something great the year before only to discover it barely two weeks into the new year are always pretty high.

This new year transition is no different, folks.

I was asked by musician Timothy Fife if I’d heard Xander Harris’ Termination Dust. I’d said not yet and his reply was that it was amazing and that I should definitely check it out. 2017 rolled along and I kept forgetting to heed Mr. Fife’s advice, so about a week or so before we wished 2017 a fond adieu(and a hearty f**k you) I went to Xander’s Bandcamp page and bought Termination Dust. It arrived yesterday and I’ve been listening to it ever since.

Timothy Fife was right. It’s amazing.

I should’ve listened to Mr. Fife sooner, but if I had I wouldn’t have had this great musical surprise at the beginning of 2018. Harris works within a world of mysterious rhythms, slinky grooves, and sunken, eerie melodies. He makes songs that sometime move like techno, but not in a repetitive, undulating dance floor way. They move with purpose. They beckon you into their musical sanctuary. “Jaws Of Saturn” opens like this cross between the Orb and Popol Vuh as they’re scoring some seedy, grainy early 80s horror film. You can almost imagine an opening credit crawl over some faceless person in black as they walk down Times Square back when doing so would’ve required a S.W.A.T. team and a shot of penicillin for protection. Then we move right into “Carrion Gods In Their Heaven” which takes us from gritty city streets into some ethereal world of posh landscapes and dream-like atmosphere. This is simply a gorgeous track that takes 80s electronic sensibilities and meshes them perfectly with more headier intentions. “Oblivion Mode” is total Komische, Berlin School wonderment. Deep space meets deep thoughts by Xander Harris. This is the kind of thick, heavy synth stuff that takes you into that realm where all seems possible and nothing impossible. If Edgar Froese had ever met up with Boards Of Canada they might’ve sounded like this.

Xander Harris may bring up familiar musical vibes, but he’s building a musical world all his own. Take “Frontier Death Song” for instance; it’s all slinky menace and electronic, existential pondering. If Denis Villeneuve is looking for someone to score his Dune adaptation, something like this would fit in perfectly. All mysterious vastness and science fiction dread. It’s absolutely gorgeous and wholly unique. “We Smoke The Northern Lights” celebrates the new world with dance floor exhilaration and sweaty new age enlightenment. “Worms Crawl In” has an 80s Tangerine Dream vibe, Froese-ian warmth envelopes you as you succumb to this track’s hypnotic charms. “Swift To Chase” closes out the album on a deep space feel. Whether he’s using analog equipment or not, this track has the bubbly warmth of classic 70s Krautrock. Xander Harris tips his hat to the titans of mind expansion like Tangerine Dream, Jean Michel Jarre, and Klaus Schulze while modernizing their musical DNA with his own deft touch. It’s a brilliant way to close the record.

Termination Dust is fueled with heavy Komische vibes and heady dance floor aspirations. Xander Harris is a brilliant composer and musician, building worlds within his songs that make listening to the album feel like a tour of some alternate timeline or reality. A timeline where we welcome enlightenment and celebrate the human condition, despite the pain that sometimes comes with that condition. It’s a soundtrack to exploration, both internal and external.

2018 just got a hell of a lot more interesting.

 

King’s Filth and Other Love Songs

Le Matos.

A French Canadian synth band from Montreal. I’m not sure how to describe their music other than to say it’s a boisterously uplifting kind of electronic. It’s techno, heavy synth, house, and just plain hard-driving music. It’s what you’d have playing as you’re cruising the digital world in your Tron light cycle. It’s 100 mph music as you cruise along the Autobahn. I see lots of neon, flashing lights, and people wearing chrome suits touching inappropriately in the back of gravity-free interstellar night clubs. That’s the vibe I get when I listen to Le Matos.

fullsizerenderI first became aware of Le Matos when I picked up their soundtrack to the great little indie sci-fi throwback film Turbo Kid early last year. I ended up watching the movie with my son and we were instantly fans(and yes, I may have had a crush on the wonderful Apple.) That movie made me feel like a kid all over again, bringing to mind so many movies from the 80s I loved and watched over and over(Explorers, Goonies, The Last Starfighter, Karate Kid, Krull, etc, etc.) Though many of those films weren’t similar in story line, they all were about outcasts that stand up for themselves against bullies, aliens, monsters, and just plain bad dudes. There was also the endearing love story between Turbo Kid and Apple that made me think of, oddly, Wes Craven’s Deadly Friend. For a film that was so severely panned the love story in that movie really struck a chord with me(I’d love to see Craven’s original edit of the film, before WB executives had him destroy it.)

fullsizerender-2Anyways, the soundtrack for Turbo Kid by Le Matos was amazing. Such a great 80s synth-inspired musical work. It totally captured that 80s synth sound. That brazen and vast sound that brings to mind post-apocalyptic expanse and a sort of broken world wildness. Dark grey horizons and scorched earth hopelessness that the music works to build some kind of drive for the characters to survive despite the world seemingly coming to an end. Around a month ago I grabbed their debut record, Join Us, courtesy of the fine folks at Death Waltz/Mondo. It’s yet another brash and exemplary musical statement by the Montreal band that makes you want to groove and lose your mind in their beats and synth explorations.

I think what I love so much about Le Matos’ songs are that they’re long. Really long. They’re long so you have time to get sucked into their musical worlds. “King’s Filth” and “Interceptor” take up the whole of side A and they’re absolutely stunning. I imagine traveling at the speed of light through space as these tracks play. Produced exquisitely by the band which is composed of Jean-Nicolas Leupi, Jean-Philippe Bernier, and Maxime Dumesnil, the drums and synths pop and crackle with life throughout. You could be just as enthralled listening to this on the dance floor or riding through the bitter wasteland of a crumbling planet. “Overdog” and “58 Minutes Pour Vivre” fill out side b, and it almost sounds like there’s a sample from Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys in “58 Minutes Pour Vivre”, but I could be mistaken. Whether it is or not, it’s a hell of a track. Side C has a great collaboration with Electric Youth on the song “Light Again”. Le Matos worked with Pawws on the Turbo Kid S/T with the track “No Tomorrow”, giving us a wonderful slice of 80s synth pop. With Electric Youth they do the same, as “Light Again” is a hell of a track(check out Electric Youth’s track on the Drive S/T, “A Real Hero”…it’s a keeper.) Side D closes the album out with the tracks “Sarah”, “The Stuff”, and “La Mer Des Possibilities” and they’re standouts, all of them.

I can’t recommend Le Matos enough. Unlike a lot of electronic music, there’s a definitive beating heart in the center of all the analog commotion. These guys drop names like Vangelis, John Carpenter, Goblin, and Tangerine Dream as influences and drives for them to make music. Those names and echoes of their art certainly haunt Join Us, but in more of a Casper The Friendly Ghost sort of way, or The Ghost and Mrs. Muir sort of way. Not like an Insidious or The Conjuring kind of way. They seem to be an integral seasoning in the Le Matos stew, but not enough to make you think there’s too much.

Join Us is an outstanding album that will make your groovy side very happy, as well as your nerdy sci-fi side equally thrilled.

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MSTRKRFT : Operator

So let me start out by saying I’m not an aficionado when it comes to electronica.operator I’m really just an outsider looking in that finds himself drawn to the beats and noisy synths. I feel EDM, techno, and house music like I feel jazz, hip hop, and classical music; that is to say I feel it on a visceral level. It’s a tactile musical art form. You feel it and you react to it. When there’s a crowd of people in an abandoned warehouse sweating and pulsating to heavy bass and synth riffs they’re not looking for meaning between the breakbeats and dive-bombing low end. The meaning is being created as the music hits you in the face and sweat rolls down your back. No explanation needed.

MSTRKRFT was introduced to me years ago by a pal in-the-know of such bands. I wasn’t a techno/dance fan, but something about those two albums, The Looks and Fist Of God, resonated with me. It was more Chemical Brothers and The Prodigy than the mainstream dance-y stuff. This Canadian duo worked on the fringes of pure dance and techno, but still retained an air of experimentation. They may have made music for folks to lose their minds to in a sweaty dance space, but these two guys were artists, painting the air with skronky analog synths, filters, and mixing boards. After seven years, a few non-album singles, and some remix credits Jesse F. Keeler(of Death From Above 1979) and Al-P have returned with the great and noisy Operator. On its 10 songs, Operator runs the gamut of old school techno, house, and electronica while still feeling like a pared down duo losing their minds with a bunch of analog equipment. MSTRKRFT sounds more like mad scientists than party hosts.

“Wrong Glass Sir” opens with 808-like snare hits before going four on the floor old school techno. It’s an everything but the kitchen sink vibe. The track is almost saying “look what we can do”, before smirking, shifting gears, and letting some darkness in. The beauty in what Keeler and Al-P do is they let that air of experimentation into what could’ve been a standard techno muscle flex. Maybe it’s that air of punk rock that permeates the proceedings that doesn’t allow these two to ever hit auto pilot so they can go get an overpriced drink at the bar. But then you immediately fall into a track like “Runaway”, which is a total pop/dance powerhouse. MSTRKRFT aren’t afraid to collaborate with singers(and MCs) and their use of vocals on this track makes for a stunning display of pop smarts and dance floor mastery. “Little Red Hen” is another flawless, old school techno track. Something to get lost in. “Playing With Itself” sounds like a telephone dialing through a Frequency Analyzer as handclaps and a kick bass accompany it. Then you get to a track like “Party Line” and you feel like you’re falling into some endless void of analog synths, circuit boards, and rogue square waves. This is the kind of song your average purveyor of dance music doesn’t delve into. This is what it will sound like when the robots take over.

Elsewhere, “Death In The Gulf Stream” and “World Peace” keep the groove moving effortlessly, while “Morning Of The Hunt” starts out like Wendy Carlos’ The Shining S/T before blips of synth create a pattern between your ears. “Go On Without Me” ends the album on what sounds like android black metal. Screaming and heavily affected vocals gargle glass and blood over a repetitive guitar/drum duo of doom.

A noisy and apocalyptic goodbye.

So my vernacular may not be up to speed in the dance/techno department, but I know what I like, and I like MSTRKRFT. Operator shows these two Canadians in top form, and their brand of electronic voodoo as sharp as ever.

8.3 out of 10

Slave To The Rewind : Thug Entrancer’s ‘Data Slave’

If you had told me a year ago I’d be getting all excited over a damn cassette tape I would’ve told you to jump back in that Delorean and get back to 1985. As it happens, I stand corrected. I mean, I’m not having some sort of cassette tape renaissance or anything. Sure, I’ve found a passion for making mix tapes again. But that doesn’t really count. That’s more like exercising a muscle that doesn’t get much use anymore. This newfound excitement comes from what I got in the mail yesterday. I arrived home yesterday to see a large white box on the front stoop from Software/Mexican Summer. Inside was the deluxe version of Thug Entrancer’s Arcology. It came on double white vinyl and as a bonus the Data Slave cassette tape. The Data Slave cassette mix tape is reprogrammed and restructured songs from 2013-2015. They’ve been compiled into what I would describe as a club mix. Not that I frequent clubs or raves or whatever the kids call ’em these days, but it definitely sounds like something I’d hear in a scene in a movie where there’d be strobe lights flashing, lasers cutting through the air, and lots of sweaty bodies grinding and losing their shit on some makeshift dance floor. Where Arcology is this carefully structured, intellectually concise electronic music that follows a well thought out narrative, the Data Slave Mixware cassette is pure, visceral, lose your shit techno music. I think the folks at Software could explain it a little better than I can so I’ll let them:

“Following in the footsteps of previous Mixware composers Napolian and Sculpture, Thug Entrancer crafted Data Slave out of re-structured and re-programmed compositions spanning the years 2013-2015. Inspired by insomnia and obsession, Data Slave serves as “furniture techno” – an accent table to a late night post-club come down, the treadmill for a speed run binge, or the turntable soundtracking internet compulsions.”

I told you they could say it better than me. Anyways, I’m sitting on the couch right now typing this and enjoying Data Slave quite a bit. I never really got dance/techno music all that much. Seemed rather loud, bassy, and monotonous. But then I never really was much of a booty shaker or drug taker. I could see how the music could appeal to both of those groups. Since I’ve gotten into the heavy synth stuff and the drone-y ambient music my opinion has changed on techno. It appeals to me like the synth stuff does. It’s music you can lose yourself in. Instead of sweating through my Fruit Of The Looms on a dance floor, I’m just sitting on the couch imagining myself doing some killer moves on the dance floor. Like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever. Or Nicholas Cage in Wild At Heart. Or an oversized, drunk muppet.

FullSizeRender (51)I just have to say that I love the care and detail record companies like Software, Mexican Summer, Secretly Canadian, Captured Tracks, and Jagjaguwar put into their artists releases. From colored variants to remix albums to cassette releases that are included with the records. Hell, even the posters and stickers are cool in my book. Polyvinyl sends candy along with their records. Candy! They know that we as vinyl lovers appreciate the details and all the cool schwag that comes with our records. We geek out over that sort of thing(at least I do.) And I’m not saying this so they’ll send me more cool stuff. I’d never do that. I mean everything I say….but, if anyone from any of these record labels is reading this I’d be happy to take anything you’d want to send(I wear X-Large in shirt sizes and I think splatter-colored vinyl is lovely. I also LOVE coffee mugs, in case you were wondering.)

So if you’re into cool special edition and limited edition things, I’d say preorder directly from the record companies. I think they appreciate it. Plus, if you wait on getting that cool limited color vinyl and decide you want it six months after the release and they’re all sold out you’re gonna be paying a hefty chunk on Discogs or Ebay for it. Just order it now, and save yourself the heartache and emptied bank account.

That’s all I got.

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