James Zabiela / Balance 029 (Feat. Merrin Karras' 'Void')

 
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Flash-back to 2003(ish), I'm spending my weekend in the great British countryside at Homelands festival - a now defunct franchise that was one of the best dance music festival alternatives to the ever-indie-focused Glastonbury. Not content with two-days of dancing in a field, a few friends and I decided to drive to the coastal town of Southampton to jump on a boat the next day and see James Zabiela do his thing, whilst we nonchalantly sailed around the harbor.

This was at a time when CDJ's were only just becoming the norm for mixing, and James was one of the only DJ's doing anything better than looping a few Defected vocals... James had turned the CDJ's into a performance of its own, combining additional effects units, Kaoss Pads, (likely) prototypes from Pioneer, and his electro-acid techno. It was in retrospect, one of my favorite DJ experiences, watching someone behind the controls up close, swaying back and forth (from the boat, of course). 

James duly continued on his upward trajectory and is now one of dance music's most celebrated technical DJ's. His 'Alive' mix CD from 2004 contains one of my all-time favorite transitions - those goose-bump-inducing moments that stick with you forever as an aspiring DJ - when the slow-burning synths of Underworld's 'Dark & Long' gradually grew under the electro-tinge of Rob Mello's 'Fantasize (No Ears dub)'. 

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Since then, mirroring a general trend across the industry, DJ "mix CD's" have taken a back-seat to the onslaught of streaming activity and the newfound ability for anyone to upload mixes to Soundcloud or Mixcloud. The commercialization of mixes became less desirable to labels and curators when faced with the fact DJ's could upload something on a whim for their audience to hear in a matter of minutes. For free, with no licensing concerns.

The Balance Series, however, have stuck with their guns with a steady churn of quality CD-first mixes over the years. The Australian based label, helmed by Tom Pandzic, has played home to one of my all-time favorite mixes in 2003 (James Holden's Balance 005) as well as  notable mixes from Joris Voorn, Nick Warren and Danny Howells amongst many others. All this to say very simply, two of my favorite musical entities have now combined, with an added ASIP dimension...

James Zabiela's latest addition to the series is a welcome return to the art of the mix CD. For those that grew up listening to Sasha, Digweed and the Global Underground series, you'll know just what I mean.

After an arduous year spent compiling, the deserved result is an intertwined journey of the many varying aspects of electronic music - a blueprint for what a truly passionate and time-inducing mix should become. Add to that, the technical wizardry (and added restraint) of Zabiela, and the seamlessness and innovation contained across the two 'Acts' is impeccable. 

"Some people know me for my technical noodling but this really had to be about the music, whilst still challenging myself technically. My focus was very heavily on melody and combining songs that would have ‘conversations’ with each other." - James Zabiela

This approach is perhaps best highlighted for those of us who may recognize ASIP's very own Merrin Karras within the tracklist. Brendan's track, 'Void' forming a euphoric moment of progression when paired with the heavy-hitting broken beats of Pev & Kowton

You'll also hear tracks in here from Goldmund (Helios) and Steve Hauschildt for example, but whether you recognize them amongst the many edits, layers and transitions, is another question, often serving as intros or melodies amongst a greater sound. 

James' mix also serves as a great snapshot in time for me personally. Not only am I extremely happy to see ASIP artists being picked up (or even listened to) in this capacity, but the great variety of labels and artists that are featured here are a perfect example of the type of music I'm enjoying these past few years. The  previously mentioned artists of course, alongside music and artists from Northern Electronics, Mule Musiq, Traum (see Traumbient), I Love Acid, Delsin... I could go on, but then I'm just describing 90% of the track list. 

A big thank you to James for digging deep, looking beyond the norm and spending the time to curate such a considered and insightful journey, whilst capturing the very essence of electronic music over the past few years. Perhaps, this mix will serve as a pivotal moment in time, when the need for something greater then a streamed mix compiled in a couple of weeks, plays a back seat to a physical mix obsessed over for many months. The bar just got put back up. 

More info and links to buy. 

Buy Merrin Karras' album, Apex. 

James Zabiela / Balance 029 : Tracklisting

ACT 1
1. Sapphire Slows – Silent Escape [Mundus]
2. Kornél Kovács – Szikra [Studio Barnhus]
3. Barry Lynn – Alpha Tauri [Touch Sensitive]
4. Earlham Mystics – Truth [Notown]
5. B12 – Untold [Central Processing Unit]
6. VC-118A – Face the Waves [Lunar Disko Records]
7. Grandbrothers – Bloodflow [City Slang]
8. Sad City – Steady Jam [Emotional Response]
9. Talaboman – Safe Changes [R&S Records]
10. Francisco Branda – Hyena [Traumuart]
11. Ecco Foul – Gloss [Ecco Foul]
12. Pye Corner Audio – Dead Ends [I Love Acid]
13. HOLOVR – Into Light [Further]
14. Debussy – Reverie 68 [Second Story & Appleblim Rework) [Decca]
15. Island People – Distance 7 [Raster]
16. Oddhoody – The Deep [Electronic Tapes]
17. Merrin Karras – Void [A Strangely Isolated Place]
18. Pev & Kowton – Junked [Hessle Audio]
19. Davis – Plenitude [Live at Robert Johnson]
20. Ozel AB – Positronic Dreams [Workshop]
21. OOBE – Crush Mind [Blueberry]
22. Courser – Distances [Electronic Emergencies]
23. James Zabiela – Vines [Balance / Born Electric]
24. AAAA – Jazz D [Omnidisc]
25. ARCHITECTURAL – Cubismo 8.2 (Lost in Buenos Aires I) [Architectural]

ACT 2
1. Goldmund – Thread [Friends of Friends]
2. Earlham Mystics – Waters [Notown]
3. Steve Hauschildt – Horizon of Appearances [Kranky]
4. Radio Slave – Children of The E (KiNK SP1200 Mix) [Running Back]
5. Avalon Emerson – The Frontier (High Desert Synthapella) [Whities]
6. James Zabiela – X-Ray [Balance / Born Electric]
7. Mak & Pasteman – Pulses [Mak & Pasteman]
8. Pisetzky – Vahana [Just This]
9. Lanark Artefax – Touch Absence [Whities]
10. John Beltran – Under This Sky [Delsin]
11. Lawrence – Simmer (Lake People Remix) [Mule Musiq]
12. Solitary Dancer – Paradise Found (Rapture Version) [Graded]
13. Chambray – Cerulean [Ultramajic]
14. Silas & Snare – Memories [Brotherhood Sound System]
15. Redlight – City Jams [Hot Haus]
16. Lake People – Delusive [Mule Musiq]
17. Truncate – WRKTRX 3 [Truncate]
18. Rod – Pull (with Christina) [Klockworks]
19. Plant43 – Frozen Monarch [Frustrated Funk]
20. Sinfol – Crystalline featuring Barbara Ford [Anagram]
21. Steve Parker – Acid Planet [Planet Rhythm]
22. Fabrizio Lapiana – Far Away [Figure Jams]
23. SHDW & Obscure Shape – Augen der Nacht (Ryan James Ford Version) [From Another Mind]
24. Benjamin Damage – Montreal [R&S Records]
25. Mark Henning – Expander Six [Soma]
26. Special Request – Carex Vesicaria [Houndstooth]
27. Wata Igarashi – Lucifero [Midgar]
28. Paper Dollhouse – Crayons [MoonDome]
29. A Sagittariun – Vanishing Point [Hypercolour]
30. Anthony Linell – Fractal Vision [Northern Electronics]
31. Hans Berg – In Dreams [The Vinyl Factory]
32. Sine Sleeper – Closing [Traum Schallplatten]
33. J. Mono – Sspses [Dalmata Daniel]

 

 

 

 

Dewtone releases full back catalog of beautiful ambient and dub-techno recordings

 
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Our good friends at Dewtone announced some bitter-sweet news recently. The deep and organic ambient and dub-techno label have put their entire Bandcamp catalog up for free (or a very low price to have it in your collection). 

The label has been quiet as of late, so it might not come as a surprise that label founder Dustin Morris has been busy planning new ventures. This gracious move to open up the back catalog, perhaps signaling a change in direction sometime in the future. Fingers crossed we see Dewtone back with even more deep and emotional ambient music. 

There's a wealth of albums to choose from, and whilst you should no doubt download every single release (not a bad one amongst them), we wanted to reflect on five standout tracks. It's a tough choice given the quality throughout the catalog, but ASIP has been supporting Dewtone from the very early years, pre-2012, so some releases have a little sentimental value attached to them. This made it slightly easier for certain tracks to stand out and pinpoint personal memories and moments as both ASIP and Dewtone evolved over the years. 

Download the catalog on Bandcamp. 


Bjorn Rohde / I Began To Float
Perhaps one of Dewtone's most ominous and sincere tracks, but Bjorn Rohde'sForgotten Hearts is a story unto itself - heartbreak and adventure. 

Purl & Deflektion / Growing
If you enjoyed Lav & Purl's A State of Becoming, there's plenty for you to dig into amongst the Dewtone catalog, with Purl featuring across several releases (as himself and some of his many other monikers) and Lav, too. But it was this beat-laden production with Olle Hallqvist (Deflektion) that really made me realize the never-ending innovative approaches ready and willing within Ludvig (Purl's) innovative mind. 

Sebastian Paul / Zen Temple
One of the later releases on the label, Sebastian Paul's album Warm Night Fall, really struck a chord with me. Perhaps it was my similarly timed visit to Japan and a chance to reflect, or maybe the extremely engrossing textures and minutiae sound design. A lesson in doing so much with so little. 

Segue / House of Cards
Dewtone also curated  a selection of compilations that included artists and labels they admired and were inspired by called, Foundations. Their second edition, 'Foundations II', featured Segue, amongst many others, and his contribution, House of Cards formed my first introduction to his works, ultimately going on to release superb solo efforts on Silent Season, such as Pacifica

Halo / Hollow City
Halo is one of those under-the-radar composers that deserves so much more attention. His Places Series EP, for example, and this album from 2012 on Dewtone. Tell me you can't hear the same delicate genius of Nils Frahm or Jon Hopkins in this track (and this album). And then remember. Pasquale, who is young now, let alone six-years ago, put this album together way before the nu-modern-classical-wave we know today. 

Listen to Dewtone founder, Dustin's exclusive ASIP mix from a few years back, featuring many other favorites in a similar style to the label. 

 

 

 

Portals: The Bandcamp Ambient Compilation

 
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Music platforms are consistently reinventing music listening and purchasing behavior. My experience with music discovery began with P2P sharing platforms such as Soulseek, evolving into the discovery-era of Pandora and Last.fm, and the playlist era of 8tracks, Spotify and Apple Music. But one platform reigns supreme when it comes to independent music discovery... Bandcamp.

This isn't a moment to talk about how great Bandcamp is. Instead, I wanted to focus on just one of the behaviors the platform has enabled, that isn't really possible anywhere else. The notion of like-minded individuals and labels coming together to create music compilations to purchase, and in many instances, for the benefit of a greater cause. Along with donating profits in aid of global movements, Bandcamp has inadvertently enabled an easy way to spread music for the greater good.

Sure, you can create playlists as compilations, but you risk seeing no profit (and it's streaming...). You can create physical releases, but then you have to overcome the barriers of production and distribution. Or, in the many instances we see, you can create a Bandcamp compilation, with high-quality downloads, fan feedback, added discovery mechanisms, and likely, a better return than anywhere else. This approach is a shining light in a world where the debate rages over the monopolization of playlists, underpaid artist royalties and, "The problem with Muzak". 

Whilst I'm sure this isn't a genre-specific behavior on Bandcamp it seems there's a good amount of compilations focused on ambient and electronic music. They're often established as reactions to political or natural disasters, self-sustained labels who solely operate to donate to charity, or they're quite simply, just an excuse to pull together a few like-minded friends and get some good music out into the world. 

Below I've pulled together a list of my favorite ambient/electronic compilations that aim to raise money for a cause through Bandcamp. As with all of the Portals features, the main objective is to help you discover even more great music, and this time you can do it knowing you're supporting something greater. Lastly, by a very rough count, you can spend less than $100 supporting the below 8 compilations and charities, and be 350+ tracks better off...


Disquiet Series [Buy on Bandcamp]
Purpose: for charity (multiple)
Keith Kenniff is a brilliant ambient and classical musician in his own right, but for the Disquiet series of compilations (we're on #2 as of July 2017), he teams up with his wife, Hollie, to curate some of the most essential ambient, neoclassical and experimental music one can need. Ben Lukas Boysen, Eluvium, Julia Kent, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Windy & Carl, Hammock... the list goes on. 

This isn't Keith's first venture into compilations for good either, as his, For Nihon release in aid of the Japan Earthquake is one of the best ambient compilations of recent years, charity or not.  


Dronarivm - Illuminations [Buy on Bandcamp]
Purpose: for charity (4 Paws For Ability)
Home to Olan Mill, Offthesky, Dag Rosenqvist, Segue, Pleq, Sven Laux and many more, the Dronarivm label is one of the most consistent outputs amongst the ambient genre, and with its now yearly Illuminations compilations, it's creating yet another reason to pay close attention to the busy roster of emerging musicians. After its 2017 edition, the 2018 release featured many of the labels own great artists alongside, Loscil, Ludvig Cimbrelius, Jacaszek and more, all available for a minimum 1-Euro payment. 


Memories Overlooked: A Tribute To The Caretaker [Buy on Bandcamp]
Purpose: for charity (Alzheimers Association)
Leyland Kirby's infamous project, The Caretaker is currently in the midst of a special concept based on dementia.  His latest release, Everywhere at the end of time "is a new and finite series exploring dementia, its advance and its totality". As if these melancholic and introspective productions weren't enough, this charity compilation reimagines 100 of The Caretaker's works to fuel the generosity and further raise awareness of the disease.

"In proper fashion, this compilation was diagnosed with having early onset dementia, and is mixed and arranged in accordance with the advancement of the disease. Every passing hour, to quote Mr. Kirby in regards to his 'Everywhere At The End Of Time' series, "will reveal new points of progression, loss and disintegration".


Headphone Commute ...and darkness came [Buy on Bandcamp]
Purpose: for charity (Hurricane Sandy)
87-tracks curated by one of the finest ambient, modern-classical and experimental blogs out there, means you know you're in for quality and quantity. A fine place to start or get lost in, with inclusions from the 'pop-stars' of the genre, Nils Frahm and Olafur Arnalds, alongside many other HC friends, favorites and talented artists that deserve your ears just as much as anyone else on the track list. 


Composure - Ambient Techno for Japan [Buy on Bandcamp]
Purpose: for charity (Japan Earthquake)
This compilation started as a CD, but was then placed on Bandcamp to further aid its good cause, so it's still worth a mention based on how defining this compilation has become. It could be argued this compilation single-handedly opened up a world of ambient music lovers to a new breed of 'ambient techno' emerging from Japan's Mindgames camp, and similarly introduced a mellowed take on techno to the dance-floor savvy. It's the one place to start if you have any interest in the ambient and techno spectrum, featuring producers such as Donato Dozzy, Rod Modell (Deepchord), Donnacha Costello, Minilogue and many others.  


Touched Music (various) [Buy on Bandcamp]
Purpose: for charity (Macmillan Cancer Relief)
Curated by Martin Boulton, this UK-based label is synonymous with not only a series of epic charity compilations, but the ability to present releases by many classic, favorite and sometimes forgotten electronic musicians such as Autechre, Plaid and Future Sound of London. Touched's latest compilation, Found Sound, features unreleased material from John Tejada, FSOL and Milieu to name just a few of my muses, and I'm pretty certain the collection of tracks on the anonymous Covert compilations feature even bigger names in the electronic genre, albeit incognito. 


Grenzwellen Eins [Buy on Bandcamp]
Purpose: Radio Compilation
Curated by Ecki Stieg, host of Hannover Radio station show, "Grenzwellen", Ecki promotes a refined selection of electronic music and this recent compilation was created to raise money for the station upkeep. Ecki has pulled many of his favorite artists together for the cause, with the likes of Ulrich Schnauss, Hecq, Hotel Neon, and Arovane, featuring alongside lesser-known artists for you to dig your discovery hungry teeth into. 


Lost In The Humming Air (Music inspired by Harold Budd) [Buy on Bandcamp]
Purpose: for charity (Unknown)
Ambient pioneer Harold Budd is reinterpreted by a new school of ambient producers, including bvdub, Biosphere, Loscil, Taylor Deupree and Deaf Center. Released in the 50th anniversary-year of Budd's career, the compilation was conceived and curated by Marsen Jules and Rafael Anton IrisarriBudd's works are legendary and this compilation does many of them justice. 

 

isolatedmix 75 - Hypnus Records

 
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There’s always something stirring in the depths of the techno realm, but the majority of it on my radar lately seems to be heralding from the lovely country of Sweden. 

Hypnus Records label owner Michel is not sure why there’s been an amazing output of deep techno coming from his country in the past few years, notably through labels like Northern Electronics (home to Varg, Isorinne, Acronym et al), and his very own Hypnus Records, but for us listeners, this deeply hypnotic sound is converging the best emotional elements of ambient music, with the trusty techno rub.  When asked if there was something in the water, Michel described Sweden as more of a distraction than an inspiration;

"The realm of Hypnus lies more in the imagination. Sweden, and society in general, feels more distracting than inspiring”.

Michel is perhaps unknowingly describing the very root of the techno movement - an inspiration to release and break free from society, happening here once again, but this time in his home country of Sweden.

If pushed, he would probably describe his label’s sound as “curious and immersive electronic music” after once trying to label it as "psychedelic deep techno”, but only to realize this genre in itself was already established, and his output was different. Either way, to him “it’s highly psychedelic as it is synthetically cinematic”. To the casual listener, it’s techno. But to me and many others, it represents the perfect blend of atmospheric ambient music and heads-down-4-am-stompers.

Much of Hypnus’ output retains the basic elements of techno we’re used to; repetition, synthesizers and a sense of progressive euphoria, albeit with a mysterious, bubbly and intriguing feel that’s more akin to the atmosphere found in dub-techno. The label was founded as a result of Michel wanting to release music by some producers he enjoyed on Soundcloud: "I had just recently lost my job which left me with some extra cash that I decided to spend on curating the first Hypnus record”. That record, was released in 2014 - not so long ago, given the extensive output and impact of the label so far, which as now gone on to introduce the world to the sounds of Luigi Tozzi, Feral, BLNDR, Primal Code, Michel’s own techno alias, Ntogn and many, many more.

Michel's self-discovered techno community has gone on to become a close-knit bunch of friends that share the roster, retaining a distinct aesthetic and a consistent output. 

"I met Luigi and Tom (BLNDR) through Soundcloud many years ago while Alessandro (Feral) and Jakob (Skymn) came into the label through common friends. Over time we’ve all grown closer as we’ve had chances to meet all over the world and this is really a great reward for me. It is a special feeling listening to the music of a friend, hearing the whistles and gales of their mind”.

The likes of Luigi Tozzi’s techno is comparable to the euphoria of mastermind Donato Dozzy and the associated Italian techno-mafia that have long held the crown for this style of music. BLNDR, who recently contributed to Silent Season’s tenth anniversary release, represents an even deeper and more hubby sound; whilst Feral features more tribal tendencies. Skymn, lives up to the more ambient/psychedelic sound you might draw comparisons with the likes of Future Sound Of London, for example. And if that wasn’t enough to stretch your techno spectrum, Michel is also running two sub-labels: Kabalion (a slightly more intense, techno output) and Tome, home to Michel’s personal project as Ntogn.

Michel's isolatedmix takes us on a journey through the various elements of Hypnus, opening with ambient and quickly moving into the distinct sound we’ve come to love from the label. Describing his thought process behind the mix, Michel notes: “spontaneously I felt that I wanted to make an intro of the first four tracks, although initially I had my mind set on a different order. Eventually they fit better this way and after that I just followed the mood and was happy to include some unreleased material”.

It’s a mix from a music-loving DJ-at-heart, as much as it is a collection of label-head tracks, with blended transitions, changes of pace and a growing progressive atmosphere throughout thats synonymous with the labels output. “One of my favorites is maybe at 30-34 mins where a couple of Alessandro’s and Primal Code’s unreleased tracks flow into each other. Both when the shakes come at 30:06 and the drop at 33:41 are sweet spots for my little DJ-heart”. 

Be sure to check out Hypnus’ full catalog on Bandcamp, as well as their very own Memoir Podcast, featuring guest mixes from fellow artists and friends alike.

Download.

Tracklist:

01. Feral - Heruka 4
02. Luigi Tozzi - Yavin 4 (Ambient Mix)
03. Luigi Tozzi - Epipelagic
04. Skymn - City Lights
05. Primal Code*
06. Primal Code - Jikan
07. Primal Code - Junkan (Luigi Tozzi's Interpretation)
08. Primal Code - Junkan
09. Feral - Krishna
10. Luigi Tozzi - Flusso Perpetuo
11. Primal Code*
12. Luigi Tozzi - Binary Sunset
13. Skymn - Okuyi (Korridor's Interpretation)
14. Luigi Tozzi - Yavin 4
15. Primal Code*
16. Feral*
17. Primal Code*
18. Luigi Tozzi - Subterrel
19. Luigi Tozzi - Jedha
20. Feral - Heruka 3
21. Skymn - Biker Scene
22. Luigi Tozzi - Chemosynthesis (Claudio PRC Remix)
23. Luigi Tozzi - Quetzalli
24. Luigi Tozzi - Mesopelagic Zone

* Forthcoming release.

Hypnus web | Bandcamp | Soundcloud | Facebook

 

Christian Kleine / Electronic Music From The Lost World: 1998-2001

 
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A slightly new style of music for ASIP,  but for those that know me, City Centre Offices and the people that made up that label and the IDM/electronica sound of the late '90s, are big inspirations. We're very happy to host a home for some of Christian Kleine's early works - a time machine back to the early days of music software, when 808's were all that mattered and studio sessions with Arovane,. Thaddi Herrmann and Ulrich Schnauss were the Sunday norm. 

~

1998, Berlin was a pivotal time for Germany’s Christian Kleine and electronic music as a whole. Growing-up amongst a divided city’s bleak aftermath, alongside hedonistic tendencies that birthed the likes of Loveparade, it was easy to be both inspired and rebellious at the same time. The influences of Detroit techno and rave culture started to travel, and artists were turning to new techniques and machinery, at a time when the bedroom, started to become a studio. 

Christian would end up developing a new and unique sound, alongside a small but impactful community that eventually formed a cult artist roster on the City Centre Offices label. His background began in New Wave and Punk, eventually transitioning into DJ’ing in the early 90’s and then, into more electronic productions, with Jungle and drum’n bass his first muse. Christian was on the hunt for something different to what Berlin had to offer at the time, and with his first synth, (Nordlead 1995) and an Atari computer, Christian was creating his first drum’n bass tracks, sending them off to the local radio station, (Kiss FM) where he met future production partner and CCO label head, Thaddeus Herrmann

Sunday morning studio time alongside Thaddi (as Herrmann & Kleine), jam sessions with Arovane, and coffee with Ulrich Schnauss, continued to inspire and push Christian’s style. This small but influential group of producers would go on to define a melodic, and introspective style of music that now has a cult status amongst IDM, ambient and electronic music fans.

Becoming tired of functional productions, Christian was always interested in finding his own place and language, and continued to experiment further. Taking his inspiration from drum’n bass, and the company of City Centre Offices artists, Christian defined his unique style we know today. Intelligent drum programming met an ethereal and melodic synthesizer style. A delicate and introspective listen, or a hazy layer of bubbling activity and color, Christian’s music defies function and invites you into a world of personal reflection. 

This collection of music is Christian's own moment to reflect. Going back to a time he misses; an intense period when producing music was the only thing that mattered. This is music that never saw the light of day; recovered from DAT and pressed on vinyl; A Strangely Isolated Place and Christian Kleine present 'Electronic Music From The Lost World: 1998-2001'.

Wish you were there...

Available on transparent green double vinyl and digital download. Mastered by Rafael Anton Irisarri at Black Knoll Studio. Featuring original Berlin-brutalist inspired artwork by Noah M / Keep Adding with photography by Midori Hirano.

Buy at Bandcamp

Buy at Juno (UK/EU shipping)