Joseph Auer: Vhast
Insanic4: Neglected Particles
Ontayso: Selected Work from the 24 Hour Box Part Two
Quosp: Soundscapes I
VA: U-cover Mix 03 [IDM]
Zainetica: Cambridge Heath
U-cover maintains a release regimen that must make fellow label managers raise their eyebrows in disbelief. Scant months after a fall roundup of eight releases, here we are again with eight new full-lengths and 3-inch discs.
Leading the pack is Soundscapes I by Quosp (19-year-old Colin Kay), one of the most beautiful collections of celestial ambient music I've heard in recent days. The disc's dozen pieces come from previous mp3 EPs Kay issued on Metanoia Media, a split-mp3 release he did with Milieu titled Rope Swing Cities, and four previously unreleased tracks. Regardless, the material's superb and evidences a sophistication one hardly expects from one so young. Rumbling washes swell into stirring tones as they gracefully arc through the upper stratosphere in “Blue” while disembodied choral voices are heard in the far distance. “Beechwood” exudes a stirring, church-like melancholy that calls to mind Stars of the Lid, while “Green” and “ Night Coast ” replicate the becalmed stillness of Brian Eno's Discreet Music. Soundscapes I arguably reaches its ethereal zenith when “Bistre” billows like a slow-motion cumulus cloud for twelve divine minutes. If you at all worship at the altars of Eluvium, Celer, and William Basinski, you'll definitely need to add Quosp's riveting material to your library.
Recorded in Tokyo, Vhast, Joseph Auer's second U-cover release, opens spiritedly with the title track's sunkissed techno before plunging the listener into a sixteen-minute ambient ocean of shimmering tones and washes. “Flat Archive #5” appears to pay subtle homage to “Tour de France” with not only a classic Kraftwerk-styled theme but also a faint percussive motif reminiscent of the original's chain sounds. Elsewhere, there's buoyant Detroit-flavoured techno (“Cerulean Dusk,” “Clouds Across The Sky [Soft Version]”) and throbbing, mechano-funk workouts (“Euripideas,” “ Latina ”). Notwithstanding a rather unnecessary “Version4” reprise of the title cut, Auer brings the same kind of melodic finesse to Vhast that he brings to his Boltfish releases.
The third release in U-cover's mix series is nominally an IDM mix (compiled and assembled by Ontayso) but there are as many moments of hip-hop as IDM—a detail that matters little when the magnificent opener, Mint's “Chasing shadows,” takes the stage. The song is so sublime, one presumes Mint set out to create the most heavenly piece imaginable. Over the course of eight glorious minutes, silken synths voice stately, ever-intensifying themes alongside a slow bass melody's processional pulse. Don't miss the climax either when the gates open, revealing the blinding lights emanating from within. The material that follows is a little more earthbound (with the exception of a choral sample that surfaces halfway through) yet lush still, and impresses especially in the hip-hop-inflected passages (such as Multiplex's “Xpand”). Familiar names like Zainetica, Cooler, Biotron Shelf, and Lusine ICL (who remixes Llips.) rub shoulders with Ten and Tracer, Renu, Iyunx Productions, LAN Formatique, Sense, and Octavcat during the almost hour-long set. As with the previous two mixes, transitions from one piece to the next aren't always fluid—often a matter of one fading out and the other fading in—and there's no track indexing, forcing the listener to work hard at matching a given track to its author. Without question, though, the mix itself offers a goodly share of enticing moments.
On Selected Work From The 24 hour Box Part Two (the second in the projected four-part series), Ontayso (Esther Santoyo and Koen Lybaert) weaves six 10-minute excerpts from six hours (of the group's 24-hour box set) into a continuous hour-long session. Endlessly propulsive, the set wends a serpentine path, referencing throughout the journey the full spectrum of Ontayso's music-making styles, from mystical ambient to pounding mechano-funk episodes. Throughout the hour, steely tentacles lash out over clattering dub rhythms drenched in wind-blown atmospheres, field recordings, and metallic washes. The flow is so organic and the transitions so natural, one hardly thinks of the elements as having been stitched together from longer, originating source material.
U-cover upholds its steady stream of 3-inch releases with four new offerings by INKlings, Insanic4, Zainetica, and, again, Ontayso. Its Birth, a twenty-minute piece of industrial-flavoured ambiance created in 2005, stretches rumbling sheets of dark haze over limitless, desolate terrain. Blurry washes ebb and flow accompanied by traces of whistling tones, prompting the image of a storm-tossed vessel struggling to stay afloat while being violently battered by immense waves.
The Dutch duo INKlings (Alkaloid Desperado and Peter Koedoot) conjures three connecting improvisations on Hermetica. The mood is menacing in the opening piece but the skies part for the comparatively more uptempo second and third sections. “Ears to the Sky” opens the set with a slowly morphing, wind-blown exercise in dark ambient soundscaping before “Global Alarm,” a squelchy drillfest pulled along by a bass-heavy lope and handclaps, follows without interruption. Closing out the trio, “Which Idea Will Take Us (Out of Here)” perpetuates the plodding tempo but adds acidy seasoning to the hazy mix.
Though the quality level is certainly high enough, there's nothing terribly new or unusual about the high-polished IDM gleam of Insanic4's Neglected Particles. Those with an insatiable appetite for sparkling melodies and warm synth tones may want to step right up but, frankly, the EP doesn't offer much that hasn't been heard before. Having said that, “Ice Queen” does present a nicely textured flow of garbled voices and delicate melodies, while “Tek Loden” paints a pretty portrait using glistening tones and squirrelly chatter as production material. But why Wouter van Beek would set himself up by choosing “Obsolescence” as a song title is puzzling, to say the least.
Zainetica (aka Rednetic Records head Mark Streatfield) makes his own evocative contribution to the 3-inch series with Cambridge Heath, four enveloping tracks of atmospheric washes, brooding string tones, chiming keyboards, and clickety rhythm patterns. Streatfield gravitates towards a somber, symphonic lushness in the material's synth-heavy melodic dimension and offsets it with understated, head-nodding pulses in the rhythm department. In this case, the tight, hand-clapping groove, funky synth treatments, and lilting swing of “Earl Grey” give it the edge over the other three.