A Setting Sun: Empty Sound

Jimmy Edgar: Nothing is Better

D. Gookin: When You're Lonely Everybody's A Celebrity

Le Technique: Le Technique

Moodgadget has established itself rather surreptitiously as a high-caliber label by doing a couple of things exceptionally well: by not oversaturating the marketplace with an excess of releases; and ensuring that every one of them is unfailingly solid. The trend generally continues with four new releases, a single by Jimmy Edgar, EPs by D. Gookin and Le Technique, and a lengthier outing by A Setting Sun.

Jimmy Edgar's up first with a simple two-track single that pits his “Nothing is Better” against a remix by hefty head John Hughes. Edgar's original coats a contrasting mix of pulsating electro-synth patterns and softly glimmering exhalations with distorted speaking voices—unfortunately, though the song's sultriness is appealing, a three-minute running time prevents it from developing into something truly substantial. At five minutes, Hughes has more room to maneuver and the tune significantly benefits as a result. In his hands, “Nothing is Better” becomes vaguely Asian-inflected when sparkling synth flourishes punctuate a slowly building rhythm base that grows incrementally funkier as the song unfolds.

Le Technique's self-titled EP presents a half-hour of futuristic, synth-heavy electro-house that's poppy, graceful, crisp, and polished. The five tracks are generally mid- to uptempo galaxial struts that exude traces of electro, house, funk, and even acid (in the case of “The Shine”). Predictably, Le Technique's universe is wholly synthetic although “Never Breathe Again” does ultimately swell into a guitar-boosted raver. Powered by handclaps and a Kompakt-styled schaffel-like propulsion, the synth-heavy electro-techno of “ Archangel ” swings with a summery, fleet-footed breeziness while “Rhombomere” soars like a shuttle traveling at light-speed through the heavens. Le Technique's “Tiger” remix might actually be the EP's best moment, simply because it distills the allure of the artist's sound into a succinct five minutes. In this case, writhing electro-synth patterns swirl over a minimal snappy pulse while spiraling staccato patterns blow like curtains rocked by gentle breezes.

D. Gookin's twenty-minute EP When You're Lonely Everybody's A Celebrity is also heavily synth-based but its feet are firmly planted on poppier ground, a fact rendered even clearer when Mike Birnbaum (the drummer in Landau Orchestra) includes vocals on the middle three songs. Aside from voice-over elements, the framing pieces, “In This Time” and “People,” are instrumentals that primarily emphasize vibrant synthesizer melodies and natural drumming (the high-energy opener features explosive playing that's a bit reminiscent of Four Tet). Some may find the proggy dimension a little tough to swallow, especially when “In This Time” starts to sound like Keith Emerson and Carl Palmer locked in combat. What argues in favour of Birnbaum's material is its poppy quality which in some moments is appealing. “Inside” goes down easily when it anchors its keyboard burble with a hard-to-resist funk groove, and the chirrupy vocal hooks, melodic sparkle, and buoyant vibe coursing through “Glad I Met You” make it an EP standout. Birnbaum's singing is both serviceable and palatable though won't win any male vocalist awards—a bit bland, in other words, but, at the very least, neither offensive nor out-of-tune.

Empty Sound is Jay Bodley's full-length sequel to his previous A Setting Sun release Views from the Real World and subtly builds upon it in style and mood. While the earlier collection was ambient music of a rather languid and low-level kind, the new material's bolder, in general a deeply textured, industrial-ambient brand of moodscaping that occasionally points in the direction of a vaporous techno style that would resemble Gas if Bodley's melodic elements were built from classical samples rather than electronics and natural instruments (“Garmonbozia,” for instance, almost startles for adding a naturally-sounding acoustic piano to its otherwise heavily processed sounds). Even so, “Circumambience” merges orchestral elements with electronics and a minimal kick drum pattern, and so invites the comparison even more strongly. “The Sunshine Mind” opens the album promisingly by pairing bright melodies with a nimble house skip and adding atmospheric clicks and tones for extra seasoning. “Casting Shadows” at first appears to be a revisitation of Bodley's earlier style until a techno pulse kicks the tune into a higher gear. “Bruteforce” begins as a beatless meditation heavily swathed in windswept textures but then slowly mutates when propulsive beats arise to challenge the industrial tonal dimension that otherwise dominates. In addition to the aforementioned Gas-like moments, echoes of Oval and dub also surface during “Peak” but, generally speaking, Bodley clears his own path through the densely-populated ambient-electronic territory (a shame, however, that he felt the need to title the closing piece “When I Look For Too Long At Your Face I Want To Throw Up”).

December 2008