Hanetration – Timelapse EP

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I’m tired. Like, really tired. It’s been another long day out in the field, working and walking, and frustratingly with seemingly little gains on the face of things. In some ways, the last thing on my mind at the end of the day was coming back and reviewing Hanetration’s newest EP Timelapse, but I tend to be more receptive of music when I’m sleepy and this is definitely music you can relate to whilst sleepy.

“Moon” opens in the mindless patter of some unknown rythm, the itchy thumping of some object on a desk. Slowly a thin violin melody is eked out, becoming increasingly fleshed out with accompanying syncopated siblings but ultimately remaining extremely sparse and minimalistic in attitude. There’s a sort of beauty in how nonchalant it is; we’ve all seen the Moon a thousand times, we’re intimately familiar with its appearance and various phases, and yet every time I see it it’s an interesting experience, just being somewhere slightly different and looking upon that unchanging face and being amazed at its continued, unwavering presence. Like its namesake, the track keeps cycling repetitively and despite its barely evolving appearance, continues to be an interesting journey.

“Thought” is one of two brief, drone lead interludes that break up the EP’s 3 main tracks. It slips abruptly into my favourite track of the album “Opal”. It begins rather like the opener, a percussive riff carves a path but it begins to differ almost immediately as pulses of shimmering glitch begin to scour their own way through the track. Just as we become convinced this is the direction the track will ultimately continue in, distal bass beats suddenly thrum through the barely-there music, pauses of overwhelming, intoxicating distraction. The Moon has suddenly become sped up, rotating rapidly and alternately presenting us with its light and dark sides, like some delirious dream.

“Square” is the second interlude, an obnoxious, brash break filled with rolling glitch and noise to “nicely” counteract those mildly more melodic sequences. It terminates quickly to move into the finalĂ© “Sleep”, where menace creeps in fully formed at last. Glitch pulses, glistening synth and distal electronic form a writhing, uncomfortable mass 7 minutes long. It sounds unappealing, and I’ll concede that you’ll probably need to stick it out, but it’s worth the trip. It’s a stuttering, delirious monster that cant find solace even through sleep, a tormented sub-conscious brought to bear as we’re forced to toss and turn under the sheets in the moonlight. Somehow it’s compelling, and we’re forced to stare into the belly of this cathartic beast for 7 whole minutes before it spits us out again on the other side.

Timelapse is a little inconsistent and something of an acquired taste, but if you can get past the noisier sequences there’s a decent amount to enjoy here. It’s continually restless and twitchy, and slowly becomes increasingly twisted and tormented as the night thickens and we’re forced to succumb to our internal forces. It sucks you in and there’s no escape until the closing note whereby we’re finally relinquished, presumably to the oncoming dawn.

P.s, the EP is free to download and you can check it out in the widget below:

Ex Confusion – With Love (2013)

I originally was going to describe Ex Confusion’s sophomore LP as being something that follows up the swathes of other artists who also tread in the revered footsteps of artists like Stars of the Lid and Explosions in the Sky, and while this is true in some ways, Ex Confusion’s bleary drone sequences are also paired with acoustic sequences with a minimalism and intimacy that the former artists have never really displayed in their work.

Putting pen to paper and trying to describe what it is that Ex Confusion are creating with this release is troublesome; opener “All Alright” introduces a sound that we are about to become rather familiar with over the course of the album, spinning clouds of carefully looped guitar drone for an impossibly long 3 minutes, its paralysing waves of fragile melody pulsating effortlessly and seemingly stretching on forever, continuing to play even as they fade to black. Followup “Two Things” decides to take a more acoustic route, replacing the bleary soft drones with slow, considerate guitar work. Quiet vocals float in the backfield, barely there, whispering sweet nothings in this intimate solo.

“Come Find Me” temporarily puts this lovesick sound to the wayside for a brief moment, its tense airs and drones wavering and uncomfortable, a barely restrained anxiety suppressed by placid layers of calm drone give this track a really great balance as it seesaws carefully between fear and excitement, albeit in a very restrained and introspective way. The acoustic elements are maintained once more in “On Your Side” with creeping guitars riffs above shimmering clouds of fluffy drone just to give the track a little extra boost. I’m very strongly reminded of Sad Souls Apeiron album at this point, which is a lovely little Bandcamp release with a very similar sonic style.

But just when I’m about to be proven wrong, “What It Means To Me” creeps into the mix in true SotL style, summoning a fragile and fraught sound, ushered in with glacial drones and once again fragments of whisper quiet vocals to round it all off. Its delicate looped sequence once again defies belief, managing to be spun out for nearly 4 minutes and warping time in the process, before the heartwrenching drones finally melt away to a careful and brief silence at the very end. And in the spirit of keeping the album balanced and ensuring it keeps its acoustic quota high, it is once more juxtaposed against the new piano of “With Love”, a distal and simplistic solo performance bathed in reverb and a low-fidelity fuzz. “Days” comes in as a brief and forgettable interlude before we move into the nostalgic and lovely “Old Portrait”, with its breathes of faint static washes, distal piano strokes and obfuscating drone. It’s definitely a piece that demands a close listen, and it highlights the fact that a lot of the other tracks of the album also have a lot of quiet and far removed elements that pad the them out in their own quiet way.

This wistful attitude is kept flowing through “Letters That You Keep” as it ebbs and flows as the contents of some nearly forgotten drawer are rifled through, snippets of memories from a time passed brought to the surface again, but it just isnt allowed to keep going, which is a shame because it’s one of the nicer tracks. “For Memories” doesn’t do anything new but keeps that delicate minimalism alive as it continues to propagate this yearning and sad sound from the mid-album before finally tumbling into the more interesting piano led “Only An Angel”. The drone sequences are beautiful and all but it can get difficult to stomach for the length of time that triplet kept going, it’s nice to have a bit of meat back in the album with this, the longest track. The obviousness of loss is amplified here as the gulf between the down to earth but distal piano and shining drone is increased; it’s hard to make two sounds that work within the same space sound distant but it’s pulled off beautifully here and it’s clear that Ex Confusion’s is taking it quite hard. It’s repetitious and barely evolving but it’s lovely.

So if the elements of the previous track were about separation and loss then “Closer” is quite the opposite, evoking a warm and carefree vibe; the drone is still slow and considerate and it’s hard to describe how it can be uplifting but there’s a warmth and release here that oozes from every inch of the track. It’s possibly the most openly happy and welcoming piece of the album and I can’t describe how pleasant it is. Finally, closer “As We Are” embraces the separation and comes to terms with the absence as it leads us out on very final and determined piano.

It’s been hard to really pick up the ball this week in terms of reviews, especially after the spate of excellent recent releases. With Love is perhaps not the album that I was quite looking for to follow on from them, but its nostalgic and sad but ultimately self-resolving and compromising sound reflect a beautiful journey through degrees of separation (not necessarily death but it’s strongly hinted towards), expressed through delicate swathes of drone and piano.

Fuck Buttons Live @ The Library. 8/9/2013

First date in the Slow Focus tour and for some reason Fuck Buttons decide to visit Birmingham first. Not that I’m complaining of course, I’m glad they chose to come here at all.

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It’s been a while since any writeup on any live event because, well, I havent been to any. I saw Ludovico Einaudi much earlier in the year but I didnt write about it for a variety of reasons, this is basically one of the first gigs I’ve been to since about December. And what a return it promised to be; Fuck Buttons supported by The Haxan Cloak in the recently renovated HMV Institute, aka the Library now or something, it’s confusing. The last time I saw these guys (and indeed for the first time) was back in Paris at the Pitchfork Festival, so they had something pretty major to live up to. I called it at the time possibly the best live performance I’ve seen so far, which says quite a lot.

After what seemed like aeons waiting, The Haxan Cloak eventually made his way to the stage. Now, his debut album earlier this year, Excavation, isn’t exactly my favourite album of the year. I found it rather hollow and somewhat lacking in direction; it needed a bit more oomph and a stronger focus on the Ambient Dub/Techno aspects that it flirted with in my opinion. That being said, I was pretty much blown away with his live set. It’s one of those performances where you feel like you’re losing your mind; I was at the front and I was just watching him fiddle with all the buttons and dials and knobs and the lights behind him were strobing and occasionally blinding, and when they coincided with some of the more overwhelming moments in the music where the drone and noise reaching their frenzied heights I thought my head was going to explode. I’ve no idea what he played, I’m not familiar with many of his tracks so I can’t tell any fans of his what he did, but it was pretty crushing. Live and with the loudest sound system you can muster is probably the best way to experience that album; the sub-bass was fat and the thicker techno pulses on top were dirty and growling and abrasive. There were moments of rhythm and beat, but they were counterbalanced pretty well with just obliterating walls of noise. Pretty great.

And then an even longer wait. I think they had some technical problems with their setup; the stage was just a mass of wires and gizmos so I can’t really blame them. But when they finally came on it was, needless to say, worth the wait. Here’s the setlist from as far as I could make out/remember:

  • Brainfreeze
  • Space Mountain?
  • Colours Move
  • Olympians
  • Sentients
  • The Red Wing
  • Stalker
  • Flight of the Feathered Serpent?

This is as best as I can remember, I may be completely wrong on a few of these. It’s important to note that Fuck Buttons live are utterly different, it can be a bit tricky sometimes picking out what tracks they’re playing.

As you can see they obviously focused pretty strongly on the new album’s tracks but they blew them out of the water as far as I’m concerned. I love Slow Focus, if it wasnt clear in my review, but the live experience was far superior in my opinion, and it’s clear to see why these guys have focused down on such a percussive and rhythmic sound for this release; it’s way more fun. Tracks like Olympians and Flight of the Feathered Serpent, they aren’t required to do too much knob fiddling, there’s lot of builds and just standing still. But they got to break out of their shell a little bit when the massively revamped Sentients came storming out, it was hard to keep a straight face or a stationary body with that relentless bassline and squealing flairs, similarly true for Brainfreeze and in some respects Colours Move.

I also think the balance of old and new tracks was interesting when it came to the audience; the guy standing next to me was going apeshit over the newer, beat-driven stuff from SF but didnt really know what to do when the basslines got a bit more stifled and convoluted in, say, Colours Move. To me, hearing and seeing Ben scream down that little toy microphone and laying on those massive syncopated drum beats was the pinnacle of euphoric catharsis but it was pretty clear that some people weren’t enjoying it quite so much. Similarly so with Olympians, which is possibly one of my favourite tracks ever and they do such a fantastic live alternative. But that’s precisely what I love about these guys; it’s possible to have a good time, to get a bit of a groove on and get caught up in some of the beats but at the same time have your face scorched off by the searing noise washes occasionally injected. The live set is really flexible, the graphics were great, the disco ball also made a reappearance, and I had a thoroughly great time. Although I am now slightly deaf in one ear, but that’s just life.