Xenon District

Yet again, “Xenon District” is a vehicle for Panabrite (Norm Chambers) to show off his unique and rarefied take on sci-fi tendencies that manages to tap into the collective imagination of other worlds in far away places without a hint of cliche.  It’s a talent that has led him to create a string of finely honed albums on a number of reputable labels – Digitalis, Preservation, Aguirre, etc – with an approach that swirls and contorts synthesizer figures toward the infinite.  It’s not pure astral ambience, however, as bulk of the  material on “Xenon District” is pinned to IDM-like beats and analog arpeggios, allowing the music to be palatable even as it seems to drift through an unknown universe.  Throughout the C42 cassette Panabrite is also able to harness pure melody just as much as gleaming drones, making “Xenon District” multi-faceted in a way that synth-based albums rarely are. – Ryan Potts, Experimedia 

It’s easy to imagine Norm Chambers as equal parts musician and mystic - one hand on the keyboard playing blissful synthesizer melodies well the other hand dances wildly in the air, collecting ethereal timbres. This balance comes organically on Chambers’ latest outing as Panabrite, Soft Terminal, out now on Digitalis Recordings. Nothing on the record is forced, it evolves naturally and Soft Terminal exemplifies the interaction between humans and synthesizers as a point of transcendence. Gentle melodic waves, pulsing sequences, and crystal leads float about, conjured into meeting before dispersing back into the ether.

The album opens with “Rainbow Sequence” a hazy patch resembling an electric piano strikes delay saturated chords, a color washed, cross processed image appears as a vocoded voice sings an indecipherable incantation, and LFO chirps appear as DNA strings carrying the plan for the rest of Soft Terminal’s existence. An arpeggio swells in the background, frequencies filter, the picture grows clearer. A low analog drone grows, stretching along with the LFO chirps until they form pulses of pure energy. “Index of Gestures” follows taking the meditation to movement. Against a hypnotic sequence, a vibrato filled lead attempts to mimic human speech~the synthesizers are now alive and Panabrite acts as medium, channeling the cosmic message.

Panabrite explores the neo-kosmische (or neu-kosmische, rather) of modern synthesizer music that grew in popularity in the middle to late oughts. Rather than become absorbed in passionless criticism or trend absorption, he moves forward with the idea of cosmic exploration. Soft Terminal is an album that reconciles the synthetic, the vast unknown of the cosmos, with the organic, the human experience within the cosmos.

Songs like “Janus” and “Sound Softly” are driven by beautiful guitar melodies, while the drum machine cameos as propulsion in “Camembert Symphony,” although, in large, Soft Terminal is composed from synthesizer sources. Panabrite is obviously familiar with the instruments and this allows him to convey the message of cosmic unity that much clearly. The title of “Microlife” is indicative of the album as a whole - each song expounds upon the miracle of life springing from the lifeless, with the synthesizer as primordial ooze from which component organisms emerge in surprisingly complex form to connect in waves of beautiful movement before dispersing back to source.

- Curt Brown (of Rubber City Noise/Black Unicorn/Cane Swords) for Experimedia - Buy

Experimedia is now featuring original shop reviews for some of the titles we stock… as time goes on our goal is to include original reviews for most if not all of the titles we stock.  More to come soon… here are some of the latest so far.

TIP TO LABELS: Get us digital promos and info as early as possible to increase the likely hood of your release receiving a review.

Will Montgomery & Robert Curgenven - Winds Measure 25
This new vinyl presents two sides of summoned sounds, field recordings and treated media by sound artists Will Montgomery and Robert Curgenven. Montgomery’s side “Heygate” transmutes the South London housing estate into an acoustic architecture at times fragile yet as imposing as the modernist concrete blocks now in the first throes of demolition. Montgomery’s composition illustrates a fading modernity, without being overtly literal or nostalgiac, in abstracted field recordings, lo-fi signals and thoroughly sanded concrete sound moving in and out of silence as brief views of an age close to us yet quickly lost.

Side B continues Curgenven’s use (and re-use) of unique dub plates and feedback as previously documented on his “Oltre” for Line. Starting with a blooming series of tones occasionally pocked with small dubplate pops, occasionally wrapped in other wisps of field recordings. Considerably more static than Montgomery’s composition, “Looking for Narratives on Small Islands” hovering sound world slowly unweaves itself, overran and interrupted by natural sound.

As to be expected from Winds Measure, this slab of white vinyl comes with elegantly crafted letterpress art designed and printed by Ben Owen. - Billy Gomberg for Experimedia

Black To Comm - Earth - Destijl
Stunning new full-length from the prolific Marc Richter, curator of the fantastic Dekorder label. Richter is a man of many hats, as evidenced by the sonically diverse yet consistently rewarding body of work he’s released under the Black to Comm moniker. “Earth” proves to be a particularly arresting listen right from the start, with the spooked “Sticksoff II,” a track that features bizarre, warbling vocals and ominous held chords that are augmented by metallic whirring and percussive tones. It’ s these bizarre, almost “John Gavanti”-esque vocals, which appear on each of the album’s tracks, that make this BtC release truly unique in Richter’s discography. A surreal and quite beautiful album. - Alex Cobb (of Students of Decay) for Experimedia

Death And Vanilla - Self Titled - Hands In The Dark Records
With Death and Vanilla, it’s easy to get caught up in that vintage drum sound — really, that vintage sound in general. Needless to say, their self-titled debut album is dropping at just the right time, with the inevitable Library Music craze just around the corner. We also get a healthy dose of old-school pop, complete with breathy female vocals and ‘dreamy’ instrumentation (that means lots of jangly guitar and vibraphone) all seemingly etched on slowly disintegrating 8mm tape. The question becomes, what elevates this above a coarse homage to all things vintage? Indeed, Death and Vanilla might have come off as mere aesthetic window dressing, but they are luckily imbued with a composition wit and melodicism that makes the record irresistible. - Keith Rankin (of Giant Claw, Orange Milk Records, and Tiny Mixtapes) for Experimedia

Nicholas Szczepanik - We Make Life Sad - WeMe Records
New album by Chicago-based Nicholas Szczepanik following up from last year’s Streamline release, “Please Stop Loving Me.” This effort finds Szczepanik operating on a bit of a smaller scale, conceptually speaking, presenting ten song-like pieces over the course of the record’s two sides. Hovering digital synthesizer tones, processed strings and what sounds like time-stretched, fx-laden orchestral (and otherwise) samples make up much of the palette here, with Szcepanik setting his sights on concision and tonal diversity rather than the single-minded, pathos-driven bent that characterizes his previous full length. - Alex Cobb (of Students of Decay) for Experimedia

Panabrite - Sub Aquatic Meditation - Aguirre
Beautiful new album by Norm Chambers’ Panabrite project. Once again Chambers’ knowledge and interest in library/cosmic disco imbues his own output with nuances that allow it to transcend “synth music” proper and become something bigger. Pop sensibilities and rhythms abound on “Sub Aquatic Meditation,” with Chambers’ deft hands pulling pulses and arpeggiations from his array of exotic electronics. A superb record. - Alex Cobb (of Students of Decay) for Experimedia

Pulse Emitter - Aeons - Aguirre
Daryl Groetsch’s Pulse Emitter project must be one of the most underrated synth acts in North America, consistently putting out high-quality offerings (his Meditative Music Series still gets a lot of play around these parts- someone release this on vinyl!). He’s in fine form here, offering cycling, lush, crystal clear modular synthesizer tracks composed with the focus that we’ve come to expect from this project. “Spaceship” in particular is one of the more beautiful pieces I’ve heard from Groetsch to date. Pitch perfect stuff. - Alex Cobb for Experimedia

Ian Martin - Mechanical Rain - Further
Superlative new work by Rotterdam’s Ian Martin, “Mechanical Rain” proves to be a subtle but affecting listen. Pillow-soft drones ebb and flow as rhythmic ticks and sputters (evocative of the album’s title) coalesce all around them, coming to a head on the dizzying, beautiful “Wires.” A cold, bleak minimalism pervades throughout the album, conjuring lonely landscapes, claustrophobic spaces and sleepless nights. - Alex Cobb (of Students of Decay) for Experimedia

Main Attrakionz - 808s & Dark Grapes II - Type
Fantastic public service release of Main Attrakionz’ genre-defining 2011 mixtape “808s & Dark Grapes II” on double LP, an album which, alongside the duo’s work with LW Hodge and Julian Wass on last year’s “Chandelier,” stands as the best they’ve laid to tape. With the striking diversity of its production credits, “808s…” in some ways functions best as a primer on the aesthetics of the MA sound, referred to by many critics as “cloud rap.” Friendzone provide hazy, ethereal and slow-moving tracks over which Squadda and Mondre’s laid-back flows sound entirely at home, while Marlee B and Giorgio MoMurda offer up lusher, more funky productions. “Take 1” features current it-rapper A$AP Rocky (it also appeared on last year’s “Live.Love.A$AP” mixtape) and showcases the epic, brooding production of Clams Casino, whose “Instrumentals” mixtape also received the vinyl treatment by Type. A terrific set and really a must-buy for anyone interested in the current state of rap music. - Alex Cobb (of Students of Decay) for Experimedia

Belbury Poly - The Belbury Tales - Ghost Box
A quite accomplished concept album from Ghost Box co-founder Jim Jupp’s vehicle that works equally well as both homage to British prog rock of years past (think Soft Machine circa ‘70-73) and as a thoroughly immersive, enjoyable listen in its own right. The release of the “The Belbury Tales” marks the welcome arrival of the superb Ghost Box label to our domestic shores. Jupp is joined here by Jim Musgrave on drums and Christopher Budd on bass/guitar, fleshing out his unique sound (which makes use of analog synths, percussion, melodica and other instruments) perfectly. The press release notes that the album was composed by way of “taking in medievalism, the supernatural, [and] ideas about the re-invention of the past, childhood, initiation and pilgrimage (both spiritual and physical),” and the depth of intention and influence is striking throughout. Fans of the Canterbury sound/Cuneiform records and forward-thinking rock as such take note. - Alex Cobb (of Students of Decay) for Experimedia

Nicholas Szczepanik - The Truth of Transience - Isoundscore
During the final stretch of The Truth of Transience’s first side, the pervading eerie drone cools down and drops all menacing pretenses. Everything opens up, and slowly a bright, shimmering major chord invades the entire range of sound, hanging like a bird in mid-air. Needless to say, the moment is beautiful and unexpected — the exact kind of shift that sets certain ambient records apart from the flock. The Truth of Transience is Nicholas Szczepanik’s first official vinyl release and is limited to 300 copies. - Keith Rankin (of Giant Claw, Orange Milk Records, and Tiny Mixtapes) for Experimedia