Weval – You´re Mine (2016)

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When Kompakt came across Amsterdam-based Harm Coolen and Merijn Schotte Albers aka WEVAL back in 2014, we were blown away when we heard their slow-burning, darkly emotive tracks.

Their debut EP “Half Age” on Atomnation featured painfully intimate and surprisingly kinetic electronic chamber pop that convinced us they were a perfect fit in Kompakt’s family. Following two widely acclaimed EPs for Kompakt and playing numerous festivals including DGTL, Reeperbahn, Iceland Airwaves and Piknic Electronik, we now see the two tackle their self-titled debut full-length WEVAL. What you have before you is not a mere collection of tracks, but a complete listening experience with organic flow, emotional heft and a narrative thread.
Smitten with WEVAL’s uniquely personal and catchy approach to producing dark electronic music, it didn’t take much to win us over… and so came WEVAL’s acclaimed 2014 label debut EASIER EP (KOMPAKT 318), followed by the bold and beautiful 2015 offering IT’LL BE JUST FINE / GROW UP (KOMPAKT 344) which saw the two soundsmiths digging deeper into the granularities of electronic funk than ever before. However, Harm and Merijn’s music – while astonishingly fully-formed even in its earliest stages – always seemed destined for more, a bigger format, more space to explore the nooks and crannies of their rapidly evolving sound cosmos. Simply put, they needed to think about an album and their beloved living room studio wasn’t cutting it anymore.
An old school building became WEVAL’s new home, repurposed to house small creative businesses – but in the summer of 2015, it was abandoned most of the time, with everybody out in the sun while our heroes turned the building’s attic into a sweet spot to make some noise, have 24-hour access and lose track of time. And apart from a sketchy tenant being evicted, the occasional soccer game with friends and live gigs across Europe, there really was no interruption to the focussed vibe. It’s not like they were looking for distraction anyway: “working on the album all by ourselves in this bloody hot attic was all we had on our mind”, the artists admit. And they decided that their album shouldn’t sound too clean: “We try to find the beauty in imperfection. It makes things sound more human”.
Weval draw their inspirations from no single genre of music but a cumulation of music that inspires them. The results present an astonishingly coherent vision – cuts like the dramatic THE BATTLE, bass growler I DON’T NEED IT or the trippy epic MADNESS share the same DNA of zestful nostalgia, a knack for immersive sound-sculpting and that certain kink in the groove. They also feed on deeply personal experiences and moods, as exemplified by the haunting electronic ballad YOU’RE MINE, the carefully layered, polaroid-tinted JUST IN CASE or the beautifully voiced closer YEARS TO BUILD. And sometimes, it’s just an old, out-of-tune piano that stands in the hallway: “Whenever I’d pass by it, I couldn’t resist playing it”, says Merijn, “so Harm decided to start recording and it became an integral part of YOU MADE IT (PART I)”. No doubt about it: this is WEVAL’s most powerful and organic material yet – which means a lot, considering the amount of skill already on display in their small, but weighty portfolio.

John Tejada – Lakewood Drive (2016)

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Having released more than a combined 80 EPs and LPs to consistent acclaim since 1995 is certainly no small feat – for techno luminary JOHN TEJADA, one of the most respected producers in the US, it’s the result of an all-consuming passion for electronic music spanning two decades. Returning to Kompakt after last year’s stunning solo album SIGNS UNDER TEST (KOMPAKT 321 CD 119) – already his third full-length with the label -, the LA-based artist presents his latest concoction LAKEWOOD DRIVE. It’s a sturdy, spirited EP showcasing Tejada’s admired brand of energetic, melodic minimalism, packed to the brim with three expertly crafted cuts confidently commanding dance floors. His predilection for sophisticated, playful bangers is very much intact, making this another hugely successful foray into the realm of hot-wired synth machinery and glistening beats.

JMII – Tightbrass (2016)

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Jami Bassols has been a close member of Hivern since its beginnings as one half of Aster. Now, following the release of Noche/ Templo, his two acclaimed edits for NVH, he returns to the label with his solo debut as JMII.
In Thrills, the Barcelonian producer displays a sound that’s equally raw and lively, with a very personal sense of quirkiness. The title track is JMII’s most expansive production to date. An uplifting house number built around an elastic bassline and sprinkled with a bubbly arpeggiated melody, echoed vocal snips and ravey pads. Bailar is a sort of lunatic take on chi-house, with a crude bassline, psychotic organ chords and feverish percussion coming together to form an ultra-infectious groove. Tightbrass follows a similar path, but conducted by frenzied synthetic horns that bring to mind a marching band of manic robots. In his remix, Comeme’s Christian S. brings the track to a darker territory, reducing it to it’s core elements and focusing in a nasty bassline that will for sure cause serious damage in the dancefloors in the upcoming months.
The 12” comes wrapped in a sleeve designed by Christian Schafer aka Graphic and Sound.

 

DJ Metatron – As I Get Insane (2016)

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DJ Metatron – 2 The Sky

A1. DJ Metatron – As I Get Insane
A2 .Traumprinz – 2 The Sky (Metatron’s What If There’s No End And No Beginning Mix)
B1. DJ Metatron – The Journey
B2. Traumprinz – 2 Bad (Metatron’s What If Madness Is Our Only Relief Mix)

Artist: DJ Metatron
Label: Giegling
Release Date: 2016-05-20

Xeno & Oaklander – Palms (2016)

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Maybe the murder of screeching crows that surrounded Connecticut’s Clubhouse Studio—turning all the trees jet black—was a sign that something was up with its latest tenants, Xeno & Oaklander. Well, that and the lunar eclipse that lit the starry night sky while Liz Wendelbo and Sean McBride plowed through another propulsive minimal-synth piece called “Palms.”

“We’ve always referred to our synths as elemental,” says Wendelbo. “Fire is what powers energy, voltage, and electricity. Electromagnetism is electric energy, like lightning in the sky. We control it with potentiometers and buttons; we shape it with filters and envelopes.”

That explains why Xeno & Oaklander’s music has always felt so alive, the result of chemical reactions at its core and chain-linked keys that rattle, hum, and howl. The duo’s fifth album, Topiary, is no different; taking its title from hand-sculpted gardens like the stately grounds of Versailles and the highly ornamental Levins Hall, it’s an enchanting listen, welcoming you into its self-made world with warm synth washes, moody chamber melodies, and Wendelbo’s haunted yé-yé hooks. (Topiary is the first Xeno & Oaklander album McBride—a.k.a. solo artist Martial Canterel—didn’t sing on, although his plush keyboard parts more than make up for it.)

As catchy as they are discomforting, Wendelbo’s lyrics read like poison-tipped poetry, led by lucid passages like the following “Palms” excerpt:
The palms at night move in the light
The moon is blue
Strobes of delight
Symphony by the sea
Timpanies and mythology
The ships at night sail in the dark
The clouds glide through a ray of light
Symphony by the sea
Timpanies and mythology

Much like their seamless live sets—which have won over contemporary art crowds, underground dance clubs, and painlessly cool indie kids—songs bleed into one another, too, becoming moving parts of one streamlined organism, textured and orchestral at every turn. To reinforce the duo’s self-aware sequencing, each side of the vinyl pressing is even bookended by a striking pop song and opulent instrumental. Another reason it’s so fluid is the fact that Xeno & Oaklander broke out of their comfort zone by transplanting their synth-flanked Brooklyn space to a pro setting: Tom Tom Club’s longtime studio, the Clubhouse.

“We began from a kind of Year Zero,” explains McBride, “nothing written, nothing recorded, just a bracketed amount of time in which to compose, arrange, record, and mix the album. For me, this was a highly inspired month—living and breathing music from sun up to moon up.”

Topiary’s artwork echoes its electromagnetic themes as well; Wendelbo based it on a blown-up X-ray of protein molecules, shot through an electron microscope—a form of crystallography. Or as she puts it, rather cryptically, “What is deep inside of us is a reflection of what is above us. And electricity runs through it all.”