Terra Nine – The Heart of the Matter

Be prepared to be taken on a little trip. Driven to an unknown goal, “The Heart of the Matter” of Mike Westcot, better known as “Terra Nine” invites you to do a bit of floating and exploring.

The producer from Auckland created an electronic chillout track with an outstanding amount of determination and drive here. The core of his track is a groovy beat which is backed by a thoughtful mix of percussion. On top of that there’s this almost psychedelic repeating synth line, and there you have it: the foundation of the whole track.
From there on Westcot starts to play with whatever he wants to. Arranged builds and breaks, vocal one-shots, a narrator voice track, reverbed and doubled analogue and digital instruments… maybe this whole scenario can best be compared with fireworks. There’s something new to find every other second. The melodies played are often scratching the surface of being oriental, but then again using a very unique signature sound. When listening to the other tracks of the EP “Heart of the Matter” released by Iboga Records a couple of days ago, it seems the arsenal of the producer from New Zealand is endless. You can almost feel the amount of creative joy Westcot must have had when experimenting with all those scenes, with all those instruments and effects. They say that once you feel the effect of music, the world is at your fingertips. In my opinion, this is exactly what happened with Westcot. Although there surely is a concept, he makes it seem so easy and playful as if there wasn’t a script behind all of his works.

So this is a perfect mixture of electronica, chillout and experimental, best enjoyed while using closed headphones. If you haven’t grooved today, the tracks of Terra Nine most definitely will get you there.

Blonde Maze – Antarctica

Today I was abducted. I found myself in the world of Amanda Steckler aka Blonde Maze. Too bad it only lasted 3:50 minutes. But at least I got a glimpse of the landscape of Antarctica.

I guess this is the soundtrack of snowflakes falling to the ground. The newest track of New York based Blonde Maze has got an unbelievable soft feeling attached to it. Using several soft synths, a very defensive slow beat and marimba/mallet like sounds, the track offers the whole setting for the ultra-soft voice of Steckler who manages to complete the track with those reverbed vocals.
This track doesn’t necessarily want to make you move, and it’s not really a floorfiller anthem, but that wasn’t the intention anyway. It’s relaxing to listen to the melodies, nothing harsh happens, no stabbing effects are added. This track delivers that certain kind of flow to groove to. I especially like those vocal chops that were used as a synth addition. They’re not overly used, so they add up perfectly to the whole mix.

Clicking through several other tracks of the solo project known as Blonde Maze, I found a similar base to many of Stecklers tracks. Her signature sound is that soft, dreamly arrangement of layered synths and her angel-like voice. But in almost every track you stumble upon that little surprise she build in – unusual percussion, vocal chops with a load of effects added to them, backward played samples, you name it. This beautiful producer creates relaxing soothing music which never turns out boring. Sounds like the recipe to sell copies out there! I’m curious what’s next in her bag of electro tricks.

Amparo – The Orchid Glacier

When ambient meets drive. Feeling like kite surfing on the calmest waves you ever saw. Or paragliding on a warm, sunny day. Although it’s relaxing, there’s this state of alertness coming along. If you ever felt this, you know exactly what “The Orchid Glacier” is all about.

So, I know this producer lives somewhere in Arizona. I know it’s a woman. I know she’s very creative not just in music but with words as well as photography. She likes thinking out of the box (for example, her EP “Cloud Wrangler” was available as a limited edition on a cassette. Yes. A CASSETTE. What a beautiful mind.) And that’s about where my knowledge about Amparo ends. People who know me know that I really like to do my homework regarding reviews, but this is it, I didn’t find any other information with the time available tonight. That’s either because I’m sleep deprived like hell, or because Amparo didn’t want to share more of her private life. So let’s concentrate on her music, shall we?
“The Orchid Glacier” is a track that is build on several synth layers which are connected like single threads of a cobweb. Somehow Amparo managed to not just smash up all of the synth tracks to a thick layer, but to let them interact with that certain fragile, icy feeling attached. There are accents happening that are part tubular bell style, part percussion, alongside a drum pattern which lets the song pick up speed while progressing. Several reverb/hall effects and some haunting arpeggiated melodies are keeping the track interesting every second. There’s a lot of detail happening within these five minutes of sound. Sometimes one base tone is getting a bit too dominant because your ears get used to this specific tone, but there’s never a fight between layers happening.

So, there you have it. The perfect hybrid of chillout and wake up. A synergy of melody, effects and percussion. This one needs to be placed in another genre than the available usual ones. I’ll name it… “Ampient”. If you like this track, I recommend checking out her other available songs off her EP “Cloud Wrangler” released by svnset waves.

Carbonates on Mars – The Song of Sol

After a rough day, I just wanted to listen to something taking me away for a couple of minutes. Out of my home, maybe even out of this world. “The Song of Sol” was the perfect sound to achieve that. So get ready, put on your headphones, close your eyes, and off we go…

I didn’t listen to chillout and ambient in a while. During hectic times you often tend to blast your ears with what is keeping you up and running, right? But after hearing the first seconds of the new track of Gareth Farmer aka “Carbonates On Mars”, I turned up the volume and just listened. Farmer created a deep soundscape here with the use of just several synth lines, and just seems to let it flow from there on. There are these beeps and glitches happening, and these are making your imagination go wild. What’s this? Some computer generated beeps? Extraterrestrial lifeform? An outer space instrument? You name it. Due to the non-linear progression of the single tracks you’ll never get used to a rhythm and/or melody. This is creating what I like to call the “lean back effect” in the process. From a certain point on, it’s not about what the music or the producer wants to achieve anymore, it’s where your mind wants to run with it. Those reverbed layers of soft synth in addition with tiny little beeps and stabs create a cavern for your imagination, and the song takes its time to introduce you to it.
The final mix has its flaws, several times I think the track is clipping over those high eq band beeps, but that doesn’t kill the track itself. In a strange way, this even adds a bit granular deep space touch to it.

Farmer opens a door to something unexplored with his “Song of Sol”. I like the free flow going with the track, and if you are really taking your time to adapt (and no, this doesn’t mean simply switching from mainstream material to ambient tracks), I’m sure you’ll be taken away on this producer’s audio waves as well. Destination: wherever you want to go. All you need is a set of headphones and your imagination. Have a save journey, folks.

Haquin – Congested (ft. Santino & Elouise)

Here’s something for those of you who won’t be satisfied with strict patterns or linear structures within a song. Constantly changing, the new track of Nicolas Haquin gives you a hint what creativity is about.

When I listened to this track the first time, I realized right away that the Leeds based musician is searching. He’s searching for that unique sound, for soundscapes never heard before, for the unusual and the unexpected within sound and rhythm. There’s not a second of music in “Congested” where you get bored by a linear track pattern. As soon as you figured out a certain track or effect, melody or percussion, Haquin changes the rules again. Normally this would disturb the flow and even make the track so restless you would instantly change to the next track, but in this case those changes are made very sensitive in order NOT to destroy the flow. Turns out this really works out. I was attracted to that reversed sample at the intro which created that “where does he want to go with THAT?” feeling. Haquin then builds an wide reverbed atmosphere around that sample, even adding some oriental tunes and sort of white noise and percussion to it. What tops all that are the vocals of rapper Santino Luca Browne and the singing of Elouise McCracken. Those two are giving the track what I like to call the “Café del Mar feeling”. Sort of floating on a wave, but with a destination. Smooth and down to earth, but constantly in motion.
Speaking of the mix, I think the instrumental part sometimes is too much parted from the vocals, there seem to be like small “gaps” in the final mix where the music feels detached from the vocals. Although this might be a wanted effect, I think an additional sub bass or something would have glued those tracks back together. Besides that, this track sounds great over headphones. Of course, it also would fit in almost any setting you like, be it a bar or late night driving through empty streets.

I like that Haquin hasn’t decided where to go yet. Music needs to have those “free agents”. Maybe this constant evolving is his essence of being a musician, maybe one day he’ll just decide to go for a specific genre, who knows. Right now you have a variety of sounds, tracks and genres to choose from on  his soundcloud account.

Josey Marina – Ocean Sighs

This one takes you for a walk at night, strolling down beachside. All alone, just enjoying the silence and the sounds of your surrounding. Until you get hit by the haunting warm voice of UK based Josey Marina, making you feel both lost and loved, vulnerable and protected. I’m sure you’ll agree there’s carried a huge amount of breathtaking emotion and passion with the young singers’ voice.

What I really like about this track is the overall minimal setting to give the vocals a stage without taking anything away from them. It takes a certain amount of courage to sing along to just percussion, a soft synth, minimal guitars and backup melody elements, but having such great vocal skills Josey Marina had no problems at all to master the task of giving the track a fragile and dreamy setting. She sings with soft and gentle tones as if it was really easy, although it’s really a hard thing to do. I’m totally in love with her vocals in higher octaves, it’s like time slows down when she’s singing the high notes. It’s remarkable how she manages to take what’s in her mind out there with just the usage of her voice. Keeping in mind she’s only 18 years old and her musical journey has just begun, I really see a bright future ahead of Marina.

Underlining the incredible vocal skills of beautiful singer Marina are the other tracks on her two self released EPs. For the actual “Violet Desires” EP she teamed with Manchester based Jack Beech who really did an awesome job with all the tracks, though “Ocean Sighs” in particular is a great example for what is necessary to mix and finalize a track. In my opinion it’s done with a great sense of detail and passion. No glitches, no overly-compressed tracks, carefully set highlights in the higher eq band due to the nature of the track…in other words: awesome work. Now, I’m usually not doing this, because it’s advertising competition here (as we run a small studio ourselves over here at kms), but in this case I recommend checking out the facebook page of Jack Beech . You’ve got a true talent here as a producer and mixer in my opinion.

Theoki – Hashima

Sometimes it’s just one single idea to lift your track off. One main theme on which you can build the whole track on. A little drums there, some nice one-shots here…there you go, your treat for the ears.

Theo Khmelnitsky aka Theoki did exactly this – he took an idea and then worked with it in such a creative manner that it worked as the foundation of the whole track. A steady piano melody gives room for any other effects and additional tracks. Okay, I got to admit that the final mix doesn’t sound high-end, the levels are off on the high band, and it seems that there are rough peaks in the main out, probably due to not limiting the signal properly. But here’s what’s really interesting – this rough mix does add some vintage style to the track. It’s like being reminded of an old scenery while walking through the old house you used to live in. Distorted memories, being reflected. The signal being scrambled because your memory isn’t what it used to be. See? All of a sudden this eq glitches work as an effect, and they do so perfectly.

There are additional tracks on Theoki’s Soundcloud account, many of them showing that the artist has an affinity for slow, melodic and melancholic themes. Them sided by slow drum sections give you all that emotional impression of these songs. If Theoki continues to stay on this path he’s working on now, he for sure will step out on the scene soon. With “Sandstorm” for example, another one of his tracks, he even adds some oriental percussion to the arsenal – big time movie score material, if you ask me. But don’t just take my word for it. Listen for yourself and check out his available tracks, you won’t be disappointed.

Kieran Mahon – Pt2

You are about to witness something big happening. So lean back, close your eyes, open your ears…and there you go.

There are two things really mandatory for listening to this track – headphones, and time. In the newest track of Kieran Mahon, nothing happens fast – you are allowed to dive into the whole scenery one step at a time.
The intro gives you a hint right away that this sound will go deep as there’s a lot of room created with an arpeggiated monotone synth and several whistle-like synth notes packed with a lot of reverb. Mahon then continues to masterfully create a soundscape, building in small pieces of additional sounds just to take them away as the track progresses. You are fed those little pieces of sound like Mahon was a gardener throwing grass seed onto the soil. He gives you what you need and lets your mind do the rest. In a time where you are just handed everything through available media channels, it’s essential to be reminded of how to use your brain. How to explore sounds with it. To tell the difference between sounds. To embrace sound. To reject it. To let your brain create whatever it can create out of what is heard.

The Essex based artist Mahon really seems to like playing with several elements of sound, and doing so he shows he’s serious about building sceneries just with the use of sound. Looking around in today’s music scene, I guess musicians like him are a dying breed. Or at least a rare breed. In his own words, music should be minimal enough to allow the listener to fill in the gaps.
It takes a certain amount of serious understanding how to manipulate sounds to do what soundscaping artists like him do. It’s not about the fame or the money. I said it before in other blog entries, creating a sound like this is a mixture of creating art and music. The listener decides what to make of it. If you are not sure what to think of this track, I strongly recommend browsing through the soundcloud profile of this outstanding artist, there are a total of 40 (!) tracks to choose from. I’m sure one of them will trigger your imagination.

Mokito – Earth is a Cloud

Although disturbing in some manners, something keeps you listening. Feeling a mixture in between nice, cozy space to uncomfortable space, massive drive and a room filled with curiosity. Not for the mainstream masses, but for the mind.

Today’s pick is a bit experimental. The reason I’m recommending you this particular track is because of it’s original nature. Starting oh-so-innocent with a soft, dreamy synth, the track manages to suddenly to turn around the atmosphere to a somewhat not-so-comfortable place anymore. Still enough to leave you curious, wondering what will be next.
To give you a picture, I guess this is what kids feel when entering a forest on their own. At first it’s nice, warm and great to be there, but as they go further into the forest, it get’s more adventurous, new things to explore. And if they go too far in – they’re in trouble. Of course, that’s just one of many interpretations of what’s happening in the track.

French producer Stephane Vitart aka Mokito has that special ingredient in his track I really like: the element of surprise. Throughout the track there are changes happening, keeping the sound alive. He uses several elements, mainly synths, but also fractures of rhythm and sound effects. Also, he managed to mix some changes in a way that they seem to be wrong, be it a massive mixed bass line, a distorted synth line or a defensive mixed drumset…all of them mixed clearly intended, but unusual. And the quite abrupt (and therefore cruel) end of the track leaves you still listening into the void, while your brain asks “wait…is this the end? There’s gotta be something more!”

You just can hear that Mokito likes to grab the sound around him, blending it to a result not necessarily intended. Playing with all the elements, and handcrafting all of the single tracks into something that makes sense. With a lot of free tracks available on his soundcloud account, he invites you to go on a journey with him – I strongly suggest to take your time and stroll around in his world of sounds, it’s worth it.

Vesna Kazensky – Raven

Just imagine standing on top of a mountain, overlooking your whole surrounding. Being able to just spread your wings and start flying over cloudy mountain scenery, you can just forget about your everyday problems for the next 5 minutes.

Croatian composer Vesna Kazensky captured the relaxing moment of this described scenery perfectly. I can imagine half a dozen of similar settings, but the flying and top-of-the-world feeling is what my brain makes out of it. The solid mixed track itself is a remarkable piece of several layered synths which consist of soundscaping elements as well as melodic, harmonic synths and percussive elements. I love that the beat track is hold back and used very defensively – usually the beat and rhythm section is one of the key elements of most of the tracks I hear, but “Raven” doesn’t need a driving beat. The track creates its own flow on which it is carried. And that’s mostly  because of the intelligently used soundscape elements in it. In addition with reverb effects this creates a lot of…let’s call it “contemporary space”. There’s a constant build-up of scenery happening, maybe it can be compared to background music of a nature documentation of some sort.

The gifted musician Kazensky created a real stunning track. Whether it’s played as ambient tune in a lounge, used as background music in a video, or it’s just used as something to listen to while you’re relaxing with closed eyes – this one’s a multi-purpose piece of art. On Kazensky’s soundcloud account there are several other tracks for those who want to get deeper into the sound world of this outstanding talent.