Wild Ambient Spaces

misty mellotron wilderness

Here we are again with a small collection of tracks we found whilst scouring the internet during May. The modern trip hop and ambient production techniques used in these tracks all conjure up a hint of wilderness and remote open spaces, so the combination of urban styles with organic influences makes these producers well worth following if you are hungry for laid back ambient and trip hop.

First on the playlist, we are lowered gently into iamforest‘s Hollie by tape-effected strings and vinyl crackles, before the crystal clear wave of drums, arps and pads spills across the soundscape. Each instrument, including the subdued vocal, takes a turn to dominate as the arrangement ebbs and flows between lolloping trip-hop and a frothing wall of dreamy sound. From the acoustic components this track seeds auras of peaceful wilderness, whilst still capturing the energy and buzz supplied by the subtle electronic tones.

Next up, spotted towhee by Melody Monroe opens with ambient whistles hidden behind a bassy, bold organ riff. Melody’s sultry vocal opens up the track as it breaks away into trance-like filter sweeps, and the energy of the organ rhythm continues to pick up the pace along with the percussion. Mountainous shapes loom throughout this music, which shows off contemporary, creative production skills alongside traditional songwriting talent. Get following for more!

Finally, Living Underwater by Marjen comprises four short discrete pieces in a similar vein, like nuggets of gold gleaming from the bed of mountain stream. The first section straight up infects us with the funk of a double bass and drum loop, peppered with climactic strings and whistles. Simple bass lines and fluttering echoes are present throughout each section as it is driven by delicate, captivating drum patterns. With all the karma of LTJ Bukem lazing in a sunny mountain rock pool, this spacious, ambient groove will have you laid back within seconds.


Quirky Grooves

Welcome to our run down of quirky grooves we discovered in the last month.

First on the playlist is Plastic Dreams by Kid Glow. The track opens with the grating dissonant tones of chip-tune synth, setting expectations for 8-bit retro chimes and trills. But instead, the tune rolls in an immense side-chained bass and shuffle, kicking a masterful groove on the off beat to form a weighty hip hop. Subtle space noises circulate as synth melodies become more sophisticated, but this is essentially a track that counters the simplicity of its riffs with the bold roundness of its timbres. Love that groove.

Kick the Wolf by Low Level Enemy is introduced by a child-like finger-prodded riff played on a prominent synth bass. As the rhythm section waddles along, dreamy reverberating synth arpeggios intertwine in the mix beneath. It is these airy melodies at stark odds with the weighty staccato of the drums and bass that form a perfect contradiction and make the track stand out.

Drone by The Shade Structure is introduced and underpinned by a slow, intricate acoustic drum performance; but it is the subtle myriad of individual electronic timbres that swarm underneath the warm and gentle vocal that give depth to this song. The lyrics eventually give way to many tracks of improvisation and electro wonderment to form this individual and experimental composition. Check out more of The Shade Structure’s stream for more bold experiments.

Finally, Burn Down The Disco is a track from the current EP Living Space Head Space by the Space Kiddettes, which is available now on Bandcamp and demonstrates the duo’s super-compressed hi-skool synth pop brand. A gawky synth riff drives a song peppered with simple percussion and a monotone pseudo-rap, and the result is truly appealing – like the sweet yet bitter sensation of lemon drops. Bis Ting Ting.


Mellow Sounds For Spring

spring sounds

This month sees us waving goodbye to a season, a financial year and a relationship with our neighbouring continent. It’s been a hard search for new music, but we’ve managed to find some mellow tunes for the spring time to help us chill out in the longer evenings, whilst remembering that it’s still dark in the morning for a while yet … !

First on this month’s play list is Reaction by the Australian synth pop pairing of Amos and Emily. The track opens with a gentle filter which slowly reveals the soft velvet of Emily’s vocal. A complex backing arrangement of fizzing pads, keys, and sticky bass complements the simplicity of the singing, and opportune drops are bridged by subtle well placed motifs. This is a well crafted arrangement which you might find yourself whistling to.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, New Yorker Philosofie entices us with her mellow Flavors. Soulful trills of percussion meander with crisp, subtly filtered vocal droplets, and lounge rhythms prod and sway subtly under a skillful composition of simple arps and keys. The whole package well produced, and brings to mind butterflies and blossom floating out of sonic hibernation, so this is something for the dreamy.

Finally, we found No Desire To Wake Up from Russian producer Vodiche‘s current album The Tunnel. The dark mood of the track is indeed reminiscent  of underground passageways as the simple, clean particles of sound glint and sparkle across the stereo image. Combined with the anchor of no-frills acoustic drum textures, this is definitely one for fans of Orbital or other moody IDM.

Music With Character

voxel records

Welcome to our latest update from down here in the indietronica underground …

The playlist opens this month with Jigsaw Puzzle Glue as they give synthwave the Seattle treatment with 3-2-1, the first track on the current album. A guitar riff intro is echoed by synth bells, before simple yet familiar drum textures introduce synth bass stabs and Leah Rosen’s subdued vocals. The 1980s timbres are sculpted skilfully, and emotion pervades throughout the arrangement. The track peaks with a cascading wall of synth arpeggios and reverberating harmonies, all of which combine into some really personable retro synth pop.

Next, we found Not A Sign by The Tablets, released to us by boutique Brooklyn label Mon Amie Records. Immediately, we are pounced upon by this pacey pop punk with short stabs of hard-panned guitar distortion. A dirty synth wanders deep within the noise, and in all The Tablets’ bold production is both exciting and uncomplicated. This small label also provides a home for other interesting talents – why not try BreastMilk‘s Nite Life for shades of Add N to (X) and a shadow of Sheep On Drugs …?

Good Cool records introduced us to Questions About The Jungle by Seedge. A playful intro of synth noodling drops into a percussion track that shuffles with the riffs along with occasional decoration from the vocals. Whilst markedly less sinister, there is a slight feel of NIN’s Closer within this track, although it is certainly no emulation. The groove is compelling, and the mixture of synth parts is stimulating, so it’s definitely worth checking out the rest of the Seedge stream.

Finally, we have Ironface by Basic Printer on Newlywed Records. The track combines 8-bit and synthwave instrumentation with softer pads and leads, which add a gentler dynamic to complement the beautifully growling bass. Jesse Gillenwalters’  indie pop vocal sits comfortably against the serrated edge of chip-tune buzzes, and the experimental arrangement make this an adventure in synth pop with a subtle hint of the Sergeant Pepper.


Fresh New Sounds

voxel records pixel headphones

Welcome to our round up of new tracks discovered in the internet this month. Wrestling with the search engines in the online music community has proved challenging, but we have still managed to pull together a small clutch of tunes by underground producers that stand out from the crowd.

Meanwhile, resident producer Maze Car has been researching another genre of electronic music to accompany our next Electronic Music Adventure, following on from our deconstruction of techno back in December. Which style of music will we choose …? Watch this blog over the next few weeks to find out!

First up on the playlist this month is Chemistry by tv room, which presents us with some really fresh production techniques. Eli Ganem produces 8-bit bedroom hip-hop that carries melodic emotion and quirkiness together in perfect harmony. Game fx pitch and echo around a soft, restrained vocal; and voluminous stabs of well sculpted synths add an extra dynamic. The small collection of short songs on the tv room stream make for similarly intriguing listening, and this original writing is sure to find favour with followers of other experimentalists like Moloko and Broadcast.

Next, we found James Pond by Japanese theremin master Kuritez. This short piece is introduced by synthesised droplets that set the mood of water falling on water. Subtle percussion opens up the production as it continues to swell with analog bass, subtle bells and acoustic piano stabs. The drums mature into weighty band-limited bass and snare as the brighter layers of delayed, staccato synth arps continue to play off each other before the music submerges once more. Innovative sounds.

Finally, Jet Jazimov introduced us to Women Of Mars,  which, somewhat ironically, represents synthwave coming of age. Much music of this genre places its tongue firmly in its cheek and only aims to mimic the sound of the 1980s arcades and garish graphics. This track, however, harnesses romantic timbres and chord sequences above soft jangling guitar to produce a sensitive and genuine song. The wavering guitar progression and complementary synth interplay polish the track off sweetly. True.

Experimental and Left Field Music

voxel records experimental and left field music

We’re here again to share with you some of the best experimental and left-field music we discovered this month. It has been a difficult year with the loss of so many influential musicians, but they leave us a positive and enduring legacy as we move into 2017.

First on the play list this month is Sakana by Japanese outfit Macaroom. This is the first track on the album Home Phone TE, which is available for download on Bandcamp. A chip-tune organ intro soon gives way to light, sugary vocals which soar above cascading waves of acoustic percussion and jazz horn. The rest of the album is well worth exploring, as it applies this mellow and organic texture to a sweet combination of glitch, chip and jazz.

Next up is Polyamorhythm by performers JPTR. This uncomplicated arrangement of vocals and percussion develops a marching band into a vintage disco funk vibe, as the vocals are layered across harmonies, registers and lyrics to create their own poly-amorous finale. This track, like other recent work by JPTR, is soulful, provocative and simple in its construction.

Team Dream by High Five Spaceship is a track that illustrates the creativity and diversity of Christopher Bingham‘s London collective, whilst still being immediately accessible. The long string intro segues into a throbbing bass and stumbling trip-hop percussion, where each sound is meticulously selected and sculpted with an immaculately captured vocal duet. The track is almost obsessively laid-back and is definitely one for followers of Massive Attack.

The last track on our Soundcloud playlist is Troll Stomper by Aytch. This is a track we discovered recently on Orfium, although it is actually from the EP Assuming Ultimate Form dating from way back in 2014. We’re not sure how we survived without Aytch – this glitch hop spits spiky, shuffling beats and raw bass which messes with your brain and body to glorious effect. Twist, turn and twitch through the rhythms and check out some of the more recent stuff on the Aytch stream.

Finally, we found Chewing Gum by 1Voct. This simply, electronic adventure begins with a slow analogue sweep that bristles with a shade of distortion before the hard-knock drums and bass line develop. The purity of the sound is addictive, and the almost melancholy improvisation of modulated leads is crammed full of taste. We were unable to track down anything else by this producer, but you can show your love by downloading this track for free. More please!

Formula Techno

Techno Music Mind


Here at Voxel Records, we spend a lot of time listening to new and interesting music, and we fill the pages of our blog with words trying to describe the experience. Transforming music into words is something that one could argue is pointless, because music refreshes the parts of the soul that words cannot reach – or at least it does so in a different way. Does anyone know what dark neurofunk cinematic dnb actually is …?

Words are still useful, though. You can probably scan a blog like this for a flavour of sound, without needing to gorge on the hours of tunes that we did in order to write it.

In the first of a series of adventures, we aim to explore the music behind the label of techno that is applied to music by journalists and record stores. What attributes music to this category, where did the genre originated and what it has become …?

Techno Origins

The general consensus is that techno was born in the clubs of Detroit in the early 1990s, where early synth sounds peddled by the likes of Kraftwerk and Moroder were melded with Afro-American funk and jazz. On the face of it, detecting traces of funk and jazz in today’s techno tracks is pretty hard – so perhaps our investigations will shed a bit more light on that aspect.

The term techno is most likely coined because the music was constructed from regimented and synthetic sounds, generated by nightclub warhorses like the Roland TR-808 drum machine. Even in the 90s though, this technology was retro enough to be picked up cheap at a yard sale – probably because it was totally shit at sounding like an acoustic drum and couldn’t replace a good drummer. But as history has taught us, one man’s shit drum is another’s percussive demigod. Nowadays, these wee beasts change hands for astronomical sums.

Whichever way you look at it, techno was something that people could dance to in a club without the need to bring in a large disco entourage. The tempo and key of two tracks could be synchronized easily, allowing DJs to play a crowd non-stop, and all night long.

New Originals

The early days of techno produced classic tracks that may sound rather puny today, but at the time made bold statements and got people moving to a new arrangement of sounds and rhythms. Richie Hawtin’s Plastikman guise brought us Spastik: This is little more than a weedy drum workout to some ears, but at its conception it was ground-breaking, and from this stem much did grow.

Within the simple burbling staccato of Carl Craig’s Sandstorms, rhythms play with each other and develop organically. This is where a jazz influence can be detected, albeit in a regimented and computerized form. Taking a simple one or two bar lick, repeating it, and developing layers and undertones over a constant groove is a hallmark of techno.

Another key piece of technology in the early days was the sampler. However, these digital recorders could hold little more than a drum loop or a vocal hook, so hardware synthesizers still provided most elements of the music, as can be heard in KGB’s Stark.

A dark minor key was also an ally to many early tracks – Joey Beltram’s Energy Flash shows how sinister monotonic prods control the mood. It is safe to say that melody and chord progressions were not a priority for early techno producers.

A generation of producers like Juan Atkins, Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson are now considered techno pioneers, all of whom are now international superstar DJs.

Techno Production

Let’s get our hands a bit dirtier now. There are some tell-tale attributes that define a techno track, and these prevent it from slipping into other nearby classifications like house or trance.

In terms of tempo, techno tracks tend to tick between 120 bpm and 140 bpm, although hard techno gets a rave up towards 150 bpm. This kind of speed means that even the slower tracks are sufficient to get the blood pumping.

Tracks are usually longer than 5 minutes and will sometimes run to 10, which lets the clubber soak up the development of a track. A novice listener may easily be fooled into thinking that the tracks eke out the minutes by monotonous repetition, but good techno producers will always keep some aspect of the music changing and developing throughout.

Melody is not a feature of techno music. This may be because it is easier to mix tracks with little variation in pitch and tempo when there is minimal adjustment available on the decks; but it also allows the producers to manipulate the listener through other musical dimensions. Some tracks may have long chord progressions, but these would be verging on the trance – techno tries to stick to extremely simple, monotonic rhythms. Those productions that venture into the melody will either exploit automated arpeggios, or ham-fisted three-note stabs.

Rhythms are usually anchored around the ubiquitous 4-to-the-floor bass drum pattern. This is keeps the pace, and allows other percussive motifs to be developed as the track progresses; usually with hi-hats. It is rare to hear a snare drum in techno. The tones of the bass drum and hats are split evenly across the frequency spectrum, but a snare drum just takes up too much bandwidth. As a result, the snare drum can distract the listener from other more subtle variations within the music.

The weapons of choice for drums are the tinny 808 and 909 drum boxes, but these offer quite a wide variation in sound. A techno bass drum often defines the character of the track, ranging from hollow, open acoustic emulations to tight, clicking pulses.

The final ingredient is timbre, and here it is common to hear synthetic bells, pulses and pads. There is quite a lot of sonic breadth, though, ranging from organic, tribal instruments through to hollering analog Junos and whistling digital Korg M1s. Modern tracks also exploit all manner of effects in the form of filters, delays and distortion to twist and turn the flavour of simple base sounds. The aim is to find textures that can be intertwined, generating subliminal undertones that mysteriously ebb and flow within the mind. The techno producer will identify these hidden pathways, and exploit them as the track develops. This explains why a good production becomes mesmerizing whilst still being minimal.

The technique also influences the arrangement of the track. Long periods will be spent building the mood from layers of synths and percussion, and whilst not much has really changed, the listener has been taken on an epic journey. Lengthy ambient drops reset the mood so it can be taken in other directions. Such intermissions are drawn out and not predictably placed by drum fills, crescendos and risers like they are in dub-step and trance.

Modern Techno

The base form of techno has moved on much in the last twenty-five years. Cutting-edge producers experiment and cross over with other styles. A quick quasi-scientific, pseudo-random cross-section of on-line record boxes provides a good state of the nation report.

The rumbling, rolling drums and bass of Artefakt build up into a simple melody that drifts like a cool breeze on a warm summer night, and this ticks all the techno boxes. Conversely, the sticky, vinylized drums, speech synthesis and clanky acidic bells of Bjarki are abstract and eccentric.

Somewhere in between the subliminal and the computerized fits Dr. Double Face, where 8-bit monotony is also present, but somehow these non-musical tones overlap and collide into some happy accident. Some offerings from Gemini offer funkier shuffles with boxy drums and cheesy riffs, showing that modern techno loves to ride the technical limits of sound processing.

Ever present, though, is the technique of building percussive patterns and minimal melodic content, as is demonstrated by recent Illektrolab releases which border on the abstract with fizz and bubble.

Compulsive Sounds 

From this deconstruction, we have found that a jazz influence still lurks beneath the unadventurous melodies of techno. Instead of virtuoso musicianship, the frequency spectrum itself is where the magic lies. The listener can be wholly enveloped by slowly changing atmospheres over a long period of time, becoming wrapped up in the moment and carried along by friendly forces. The euphoria induced by this combination is somewhat inevitable, because the qualities of techno appeal to ancient, tribal and subliminal receptors deep within our human brains. So, whilst the music may be simple and repetitive in construction, it has the power to affect us much more deeply than we might expect.

The human body responds both physiologically and psychologically to the deeply penetrating frequencies of the bass drum. In the social context of the club, this constant rhythm, the evolving timbres and accompanying light shows explain why many find that the music breaks down boundaries and unifies people.

The genre of pure techno is probably more capable of inducing trance-like symptoms than music that is assigned the modern (commercial) label of “trance”. Where trance tends towards melodic and timbral feelgood factors, techno exploits the rhythmical and the subliminal.

There is a whole bunch of science about all this, but in short, techno affects your brain and body, and this can be as pleasurable as you want it to be. Despite the face-value monotony and slow variation, you may find it helps your mind expand and your body move. Whereas the sub-genre of “hard techno” may be designed for infectious, high energy clubbing, the experimental and pure forms of techno open up many dimensions.

The Red Six Production

To put research into production, we set about playing around in the RedSix studio, enlisting the help of Voxel Records‘ resident producer Maze Car. You can read about how he created the track on his blog – and the result is free to listen and download right here:


Hidden Pop Joy

voxel records hidden pop

Welcome to the November news from Voxel Records!

The latest Maze Car single Those Shallow Games is now available in all major online retailers, but it is FREE for you to download right now from Orfium, Bandcamp and SoundCloud, so please play, like and share!

Coming up in December we will also be publishing the first of many investigations into the classification of musical styles. The aim is to analyse some of the labels and categories applied to music, from the very basic through to the unfathomable. We will be deconstructing and reconstructing various genres in the Red Six studio, and sharing a free demo track with every installment. Keep your eyes on the blog for updates – who knows how far this journey will take us …?

Once again this month, our ears have taken us on a journey through the very latest underground releases on Orfium, SoundCloud and Bandcamp. We have stumbled across the next Lady Gaga, found some great but unshareable music and finally managed to collate a few tunes we think are worth a listen – scroll down for the reviews.

Despite the somewhat incongruous presence of the bass drum, Let Me In is a great production from London collective Lyne. The gentle introduction soon builds up the pace, adding shimmering urban trills to the backing synths in place of the more traditional traps. The instrumentation rightly gives way to the excellent vocal performance that is more than tinged with the character of Adele, and this is no bad thing. The music is already fulfilling its potential as it gathers a ton of plays, so check it out now.

Candle Light is an experimental production by Lebanese producer Stephanie Merchak, Here, mellow trap clicks introduce feel-good melodies constructed from gentle chimes and gently distorted vibrato keys. A fluttering of bit-crushed chip-tune motifs precede the thin pad break down, before the tune resumes with a phased signature of accordion. The endearing and stimulating timbres glitch their way through this track, and indeed throughout the parent album From Dusk Til Dawn.

Bitter Brain appears to be the only track available from Texan duo Tripl3ts, so we hope there is more in the pipeline. A deep, dark monastic humming that borders on the satanic opens this track like a chasm, before familiar soulful vocal exercises and provocative effects are married with the powerful undertow of dub step and trap. The addictive pitched-drum bass licks bring extra greatness to this track, as it plays out with twitching trap hats. And it’s a free download!

Pay heed to the capitalisation of TechNo by US collaborators Casio Playa, because this is far from a pounding club track. The simple, clean production enables a heavy down beat hat to anchor a groovy synth-wave jam session, as choppy synths twirl and riffs emerge and subside with light-touch back up from the pads. This pair of artists have posted plenty more of their ruminations on various music styles, so tune in to their stream for fun sounds.

New Releases This November


Time for a quick word on some great tunes from Voxel friends that flew past us this week …

The latest release </3 by SHI is out today in all major online outlets, and this five-track EP includes Shattered Backbone in addition to four other delights. Beneath the bitter-sweet coating of bright and airy vocals, this atmospheric and soulful confection of electro trap is bursting with the flavour of analog beeps and bells, with a dusting of organic percussion. If you liked what you heard in our playlist back in May this year, then now’s the time to download this new box of treats!

Also worth checking out is the latest from Brazilian trance producer Insonic as he racks up the plays in Spotify. With Etcraft, the pulsing bass drum anchors a sonic breadth that hones the sheen of psi-fi, biting dub scratches and the melodic adventures of trance into a wicked high-energy form. Dark arpeggios and uplifting chord progressions are peppered with playful fx in this epic trance outing.

Finally, Maze Car has dropped the two tracks for his next single into our own Voxel Records release process, so this will be on its way to the stores next week. This project has seen our resident producer experimenting outside the box with the analog gear that furnishes the Red Six studio, combining retro computer games with flavours ranging from quirky alt-pop to complextro. These tracks will be FREE to download from selected stores until the next project is completed – so watch this space for the release date!


The Darker Side of Indietronica

voxel records discover indie electronica october

This month, we have found ourselves drawn to the darker side of indie electronica, as Autumn closes in and Halloween lurks on our doorstep. We have found another formidable clutch of tracks which we recommend you check out, ranging from electro thrash to sci-fi disco.

Out first discovery in Soundcloud this month was 192tentacles by Japanese experimental electronic rock bad Paris death Hilton. The mangled chip-tune synthesizers cast a spine-tingling shadow over what may otherwise be cutesy timbres, and these complement the incredible live drum performance. There are hints of heavy metal in the arrangement, but the musicianship and vibe result in a new take on electro rock, landing somewhere in the vicinity of angry Atari Teenage Riot and shouty Melt Banana. Fresh thrash – best served NOW.

The creepy imagery of Knots by electronic post-punks Ribcrow is well-timed for a Halloween drop, and this represents one of the groovier tracks from their current EP Defective Plexus. The hip-hop drum loop leads into a detached and dreamy mood, with light and airy vocals that belie a darker lyrical theme. With this EP, Ribcrow definitely create a mould of their own, and it is available to download on Bandcamp. Turn it up, and let it envelop you.

Our first trip over to Orfium this month revealed Gott ist Tot by Electrodaimon. Synth sounds sparkle in the mellow shadows of this pure and simple electro groove, where analog bells chime above the thin, shredded synths as they phase together over rhythmic ripples anchored to a sumptuously distorted bass drum. Releases from Electrodaimon are few and far between, but what exists is beautifully polished and sculpted.

Carousel is a free download from Hamburgers Gatwick that tempts us into further listening. The simple side-chained synth moods and minimal percussion underpin a seductive vocal, echoing the melancholia of Beth Gibbons and the soulfulness of Shingai Shoniwa. This track is just a foot in the door for even more, so we recommend you go have a listen to their current 7-track EP Boundless to sample their wares.

Bandcamp brought us to In The Shadows by Sunrom, which features on a current release by French label Place For Us along with various artists. The intro whistles like wind into a slow, dark groove peppered with clicks of glitchy percussion, as deep undertones sway in and out, playing off each other before merging into a muffled, mysterious hip-hop that fills your head with cotton-wool melodies. A beautiful creation.

Your Monster Is Me is the first track on It Came From Beyond Eternal September by mad scientists Ugress. An infectious off-beat side-chained groove, growling synth and cinematic suspense meld into a style that looks to create a great live show. This is strongly recommended for anyone who, like us, loves sci-fi disco laced with a feint touch of Royksopp.