Cooler: Details For Gloomy People
Hakobune: Sense Of Place
Hakobune: Wandering Toward What Was Unsaid
Ontayso: Red Planet Data
Remote_ versus Ontayso: Celestion
VA: U-cover mix 01 [ambient]
VA: U-cover mix 02 [dub]
The incredible production rate of U-cover and its signature act Ontayso continues apace, with a nonstop stream of material pouring forth monthly from the Belgium imprint. This gathering finds label manager Koen Lybaert (also an Ontayso member alongside Esther Santoyo) issuing 3-inch mini-discs, ambient and dub mixes, and full-lengths for mass consumption.
Despite the challenges involved in completing its ambitious Project 24 Hours set, Ontayso somehow finds time to prepare additional material, like the Red Planet Data mini-disc, the two mix discs, and a collaboration with Remote_. A perfect introduction for listeners new to Ontayso, Red Planet Data is representative of the group's approach: NASA voice transmissions intermittently surface amidst a stream of metallic dub rhythms and tonal washes that rattles and rumbles in classic Basic Channel-Chain Reaction fashion for an immersive twenty four minutes (the massive waves that unfurl during its closing minutes are particularly effective). Though the destination is Mars, the piece's spacey sound doesn't depart radically from Ontayso's previous 3-inch, Blackout, which incorporated scanned US police radio transmissions.
Ontayso's two mix discs document U-cover's ambient and dub sides. Each about an hour in length, the mixes weave assorted selections from the label's catalogue into epic travelogues. The ambient set jets us around the globe by visiting with Hakobune (Japan), Joel Tammik (Estonia), Utom Alla (Sweden), Tim Jackiw (Australia), Kutin (Austria), Forrest and Milieu (US), and, naturally, Ontayso, Sonmi451, and Zool. (Belgium). True to form, the mix begins with willowy beatless atmospheres but darker, violent episodes arise too, exposing the genre's disturbing side. In short, the piece doesn't so much disappear in that invisible ‘wallpaper' sense but more possesses the listener invasively with penetrating, slow-motion drift and sudden ruptures. Contrasts of mood add variety too: during one hallucinatory passage, voices bob to the tumultuous surface while, later, a languorous beat-based section warms the mix with shimmering tones, followed by an even gentler piano episode. The sax-based “Cool Cats Jazz” setting by Ontayso, Gizmo Cosmos, and Joel Tammik that ends the mix departs radically from the fifty minutes that comes before though, taken on its own terms, isn't displeasing.
The similarly-structured electronic dub set begins in Multila mode with the mix steeped in amorphous clatter and echo as it moves through pieces by Electric Birds, Flipper, Danieto, Iyunx Productions, Tim Koch, Entia Non, Cosmic Connection, Quench, and, again, Tammik and Ontayso. Think deep, ambient atmospherics grounded by rumbling bass lines and beats that both restlessly pop and skankily flow and you're in the general ballpark. Here too moods vary, from dreamy melancholia and metallic chill to laid-back seaside ambiance and vaporous dub-funk. A sudden energy charge boosts the mix near the end before a jazz-dub outro shows the way home. The transitions between tracks are less fluid than they could be, making for some abrupt segues, but the disc is otherwise a solid representation of U-cover's dub side. Both mixes are fine, though presenting each one in a single-track form sans individual track indexing makes it difficult to pinpoint or return to a particular artist's section.
The seventy-four minute Celestion contains two tracks only, the forty-minute titular original by Remote_ (Smallfish Records' Mike Oliver) and a half-hour ‘rework' by Ontayso. Time gets suspended early on in the first when two chords see-saw for minutes on end, with each chord leaving a slippery trail of dubby echo in its path. Those vaporous trails are joined by a galloping house pulse at the seven-minute mark as Oliver incrementally expands the mix like a slowly inflating balloon. The various treatments he applies to the chords do add variety but, after twenty minutes, you'll feel like you've heard those two chords enough for at least one lifetime (or two). When a chord change takes place just past the halfway mark, it feels like merciful release, though, predictably, that chord sequence then repeats ad infinitum too. Subtle beat alterations help but they're not enough to dispel the impression of excessive repetition. It hardly surprises that Ontayso's “Celestion II” impresses as the more engaging piece, especially when the group enriches the scenery with signature elements like NASA communications, atmospheric synth washes, and churning dub-techno rhythms that clatter with mechano precision.
Japanese artist Takahiro Yorifuji (aka Hakobune) has two releases on offer, the 3-inch Wandering Toward What Was Unsaid and full-length Sense of Place. Yorifuji creates his uncluttered soundscapes using guitar-generated drones and field recordings as source material. The mini-disc's four drifting pieces of softly shimmering tones and bucolic nature sounds are lovely, and their retiring, reflective character is reinforced by titles like “Realization at Dusk” and “What It Meant Before” (the meditative placidity of the latter is especially beautiful).
Compared to the pastoral character of the EP, the full-length's material is generally more aggressive and intense, though there are occasional peaceful moments too (“The Straight Road”). Tracks like “Pastoral 463,” “Lights That Gradually Fade Away,” and the haunting “Waiting Offshore” feature immense clouds of billowing haze that may remind some listeners of Eluvium circa Talk Amongst the Trees. Gleaming organ-like cathedral tones vibrate throughout “Ethereal Goings” and “Elusive Past” while shuddering guitars evoke an outdoors pond in “Natsu no Hi.” A brilliant latticework constructed from a legion of acoustic guitars pushes “From Mesquite” in an altogether different direction. Aficionados of beatless drone soundscaping will find much to admire about Hakobune's nuanced take on the genre.Details for Gloomy People, András Jakab's second Cooler release on U-cover, is clearly the wild card of the bunch. Two years in the making, the hour-long album is an aggressive electronica hodgepodge of hard-hitting beats, marauding bass lines, and blistering synth melodies that suggests Jakab's drawn inspiration from instrumental hip-hop (“My Dream Crawler”), EP 7-styled IDM snarl (“Details for Gloomy People,” “Blue and Brown Petals”), and Squarepusher-like madness (“Nuts in a Nutshell”). It sometimes sounds as if Jakab's throwing a few too many things into the mix (“Polyethylene Fairy Tales,” “Six Days”)—nuanced certainly isn't the first word that comes to mind when considering his style—but let's give the young Hungarian artist part marks at least for enthusiasm and energy. How welcome it is, at album's end, to hear—who else?—Ontayso weigh in with a prototypically steely treatment of “Blue-eyed Harp” to show him how it's done.