2012 Artists' Picks

The Alvaret Ensemble
The Boats
Enduser / The Teknoist
Alejandro Franov
Christoph Funabashi
The Inventors Of Aircraft
Kostis Kilymis
Lau Nau
Madera Wind Quintet
Todd Matthews
Lubomyr Melnyk
The Outside Agency
Pleq + Philippe Lamy
Roach & Metcalf
Martin Schulte
Jay Shepheard
Tape Loop Orchestra

Compilations / Mixes
Darkroom Dubs Vol.3
Petre Inspirescu
Pop Ambient 2013
v-p v-f is v-n

EPs / Cassettes / Singles
Bee Mask
Fluorescent Heights
William Ryan Fritch
Junction 12
Lind and Loraine
Alessan Main
Show Me The Future
10 Yrs 45 Vol. 10
Wolf Cub

Enduser / Needle Sharing / The Teknoist: Enduser Shares Needles with The Teknoist
Ad Noiseam

The Outside Agency: The Dogs Are Listening
Ad Noiseam

Oyaarss: Smaida Greizi Nakamiba
Ad Noiseam

Techdiff: P.Conv
Ad Noiseam

Ad Noiseam ushers in the new year with a hellacious set of releases, some more punishing than others but all guaranteed to keep listeners from nodding off. Breakcore is still an oft-reference point, but, if these four releases are representative, the label's artists have updated their sound so that it today more resembles a hard breakcore-dubstep hybrid.

Techdiff's P.Conv provides a handy example of just how much dubstep has infiltrated this one-time breakcore artist's sound. Initiated in 2010, Dave Forrester's first full-length album under the Techdiff name has got enough ten-ton bass wobble to satisfy the dubstep devotee but also emphasizes an equally obsessive focus on ultra-edited track construction to keep the breakcore addict happy. Techdiff's tracks are also set to a slower BPM than the Ad Noiseam norm, which allows the listener to better appreciate the intricate sound design Forrester works into the ten pieces. A piece like “Zero Moment Point” mutates hyperactively throughout its four minutes, for example, but without losing its fundamental identity. In a typical dubstep-styled piece (e.g., “Thirteen Acres”), jittery, stop-start rhythms appear alongside throbbing, grime-covered bass lines, electronic whirrs and whooshes, clangorous percussive treatments, and an occasional android-styled voice.

P.Conv's sound is generally sleek and hard-edged, the vibe sci-fi and futuristic, and variety's evident, too, with a beat-based tune such as “Gofair” sequenced alongside a beatless, sci-fi moodscape “Sentience.” Its inexplicable title notwithstanding, “Xkiysa Icwe Olrxgln” not only shows Forrester's skills as an ambient-electronica scene-painter but might also be the prettiest tune Ad Noiseam's ever released. Work by kindred artists appears on the release, too, though one would be hard pressed to recognize it as such, given how thoroughly Techdiff makes their material his own. The only thing that might cue the astute listener to the involvement of someone else is that “Stochastic Process” (a remix of Hecq's “Spheres of Fury”) is a tad more dystopic than the P.Conv norm (Hecq returns the favour at album's end by remixing “Gofair”). Elsewhere, “Positronic Meltdown” presents a suitably seizure-gripped remix of Raxyor's “Robonoid wrecks NYC,” while “Decommission Procession” remixes Balkansky & Loop Stepwalker's “Kora.”

Rather more hardcore by comparison is The Dogs Are Listening from The Outside Agency (Noel Wessels aka DJ Hidden and Frank Nitzinsky aka Eye-D), which splits its eleven tracks between the two members. The material fuses drum'n'bass, breakcore, and dubstep into a rabid blaze that's nonetheless listenable and evidences no small amount of creativity and imagination. The tracks' BPM count ranges from 110 to 240, and the duo keep things interesting by littering their coal black material with voice samples of cinematic character. It takes little time for the group's militant buzz-saw attack to assert itself when “Godspeed” bolts from the gate with pounding rhythms and lethal bass wobble. If anything, “The Strangers” ups the ante when a crushing beat pattern roars with furious intent, its onset signaled by a voice's merciless “It's time,” while “The Fabric of Life” roars at an even more epic pitch with a painfully throbbing bass pulse accompanied by shredded beat clatter.

The dystopic portent that often surfaces in breakcore-styled material appears most explicitly in “A Perfect World” when the spoken samples “Humanity has failed as a species” and “Humanity is obsolete; accept your end” dramatically appear amidst The Outside Agency's chaotic roar. “The Wandering Mind” can't help but be an album standout when it repeatedly threads HAL 9000's dryly intoned “My mind is going, I can feel it” (lifted from 2001: A Space Odyssey) into its pummeling beatscape. The severely addled “Backpack Wisdom” oscillates between old-school hip-hop samples and seething breakcore episodes, after which “End Boss” closes the hour-long release with a jazzy hit of speedcore. The Dogs Are Listening's intensity level is sometimes so extreme it verges on absurd, and all one can do at such moments is step back and listen in stupefaction until the cyclone passes and the carnage can be added up.

Oyaarss (Latviain-raised and Berlin-based Arvids Laivinieks) describes Smaida Greizi Nakamiba (The future smiling wryly) as “a compilation of nine ‘tales' from the future, largely inspired by the works of George Orwell, Stanislav Lem, Aldous Huxley, Jean-Paul Sartre, Knut Hamsun, and Maynard James Keenan [and] an attempt to pay tribute to the inevitable realization that eventually all things … pass, perish and rot, as well as appreciation to the people who strive daily to make the smile of the future less wry.” Its release came about circuitously: first recorded as a demo in 2011, Smaida Greizi Nakamiba re-appears remastered and with new artwork. Its overall sound is also unlike its Ad Noiseam brethren in that it eschews an explosive breakcore-inflected attack for something rather more restrained and more texturally focused—“Vienaldzigo parmainu muzika” (Music of irrelevant changes) even includes an extended solo piano spotlight. That piece notwithstanding, the typical Smaida Greizi Nakamiba piece is a droning, bass-heavy colossus smothered in grime and rust, its edges corroded and decaying, the tone misanthropic and the mood claustrophobic (an effect intensified by the occasional voiceover).

As a result, the album material exudes a rather cinematic quality, with its nine settings coming together to form a broad canvas of evocative scene-painting. That's never more apparent than during “Lidojums pari mijkreslim” (Flight across the twilight), a sweeping, ambient-styled setting that plays like some hallucinatory crossing across dust-swirling plains. But though the album might be restrained by comparison, it still has more than its share of crushing moments. A dubstep-styled menace oozes from the pounding rhythms of “Ibumetins sagurušai dveselei” (Painkiller for a weary soul), for example, while the percussion-heavy “Klusums, tveice, lietusgaze” (Silence, swelter, rain) throbs with as much intensity as anything on the other Ad Noiseam releases. Adding to the music's heft are guest appearances by others, including Nauris Bruvelis (guitars and organ on two tracks) and Mahi Bukimi and Edgars Raginskis, who make contributions to separate tracks.

The most bruising of the four releases is the threeway collaborative project Enduser Shares Needles with The Teknoist, which revisits the template of Panacea Shares Needles with Tarmvred ten years later. Each of the artists involved—Enduser, The Teknoist, and Needle Sharing—first provided the others with material to draw upon and then produced a solo track plus two more using samples of the others' material. The result: nine breakcore-rooted constructions pitched at a generally ferocious level. As punishingly hard as the material is, the three producers invest the tracks with an attention to detail that rewards close listening, and the percussive detail alone is often jaw-dropping.

We've always been big fans of Enduser, who typically elevates the breakcore genre with ample amounts of artistry and imagination, and his participation on this latest project almost automatically guarantees that it will be something worth listening to. His buzz-sawing solo track, “I Could Stop if I Wanted To,” evidences all of the customary beat complexity and rampaging drive we've come to associate with Lynn Standafer's work. Using sounds by Needle Sharing, Enduser turns “Pony Pak” into one of the album's most powerful cuts, and the force of its convulsive drum attack is so extreme it verges on nuclear. With help from The Teknoist, Enduser's “Waking Upside Down” thunders as explosively when an “Amen”-derived break roars at something close to light speed.

The others' material is memorable, too. Incorporating sounds from Enduser, The Teknoist's opener “White Slavery” sets the tone with a pile-driving attack that namechecks breakcore and drum'n'bass as it makes its way through a constantly detonating war zone. In addition, The Teknoist's solo contribution, “Truckers Road Map,” accents its acid-drenched grindcore with a “You are the devil” refrain, while Needle Sharing's “Whorenado” and (abetted by sounds from The Teknoist) “Dead Hooker in a Trunk” are bulldozing in the extreme.

February 2013