Tag: synthwave

Stitching Glitch

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The influence of glitch production has worked its way throughout the underground music community over the last decade or so, being used for a subtle tonal and rhythmical garnish and full-on abstract music concrete. This month we have selected a few tracks that demonstrate just how well it can be merged with other musical styles.

First on the playlist we have shared IT Breaks ME by Alecek. Bulgarian producer Alexander Ivanov kicks off with a dark and moody hip-hop shuffle, which anchors abrasive rhythms and tones that pepper the track with Gatling fire. A fluid bass persists the groove beneath, making this track a great example of contemporary glitch hop. Alecek has many more abstract and extreme examples of glitch production available on his stream – so we recommend that you don your Kevlar ear protectors and dive right in.

Glitch Hop (work in progress) is a track by the (presumably) Japanese producer Film, a.k.a Wataranai. Uplifting synth-wave riffs conjure Megadrive memories of Sonic the Hedgehog at a Power Puff disco, and the generally sugary complexion of the track is reinforced with skinny drums and playful pianos. There ain’t a lot of glitch or hop in this track, but it places itself beautifully right in the middle of chip-tune and synth-wave. Definitely one for a feel-good road-trip atmosphere.

Finally, we have Funky Feeling by Skank Spinatra. This is creation by UK-based producer Edward Clarke starts off with the as a simple combo of pure funk licks from guitar, drums and bass but then takes us on a journey through hip-hop and jazz before building into a crazy glitch breakdown. The blend of all these styles demonstrates a finesse worked expertly into a warm club vibe, making the track a welcome addition to your summer party playlist.

 


Dubstep: Psycho Acoustics

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Many styles have evolved since technology has become more and more influential in music production. Our previous electronic music adventure took us on a tour of techno,  a groundbreaking genre that has since spawned many other sub-categories and heavily influenced club nights around the world.

For this article, we have investigated the roots of dub-step and the essence of its production. We wanted to get to grips with this relatively new genre, where it developed and how it combines with other music that circulates on modern turntables.

Dub-step is rooted in urban South London, rising in the early 2000s from this bustling hub of ingenuity like many other innovations before it such as grime, garage and break-beat. As with the development of techno, the style is very DJ-oriented, and combined influences from UK garage with deeper origins in dub reggae. The infectious and versatile two-step rhythms, heavy bass and masterful combinations of effects have become hallmarks of the modern dub-step record.

Producers and DJs of the style are devoted to urban themes, and are named with dark or monstrous tags, like graffiti, that convey the depth and power of the music. As we’ve discovered, the extension of the style to its graphic art draws interesting (but presumably accidental) parallels with heavy metal, and this feedback loop has recently produced even more interesting results.

Urban Roots

The general consensus is that the early artists were born out of Big Apple Records, a record store in Croydon (South London). The likes of Digital Mystikz, Skream, Benga, Loefah are just some of the key names that appear early in the music’s history.

Techno sounds merged with sparse, shuffling breaks, stuttering effects and deep bass synthesisers. A lot of the components from these early tracks are pure techno, but laced with thin traps that avoid interference with the detail of the deep bass riffs. It is the unpredictable nature of the ominous bass lines and climactic rhythms that forces the listener to move with their gut feeling and not rely on the predictable rhythms in other styles; and this is probably why the grooves are so infectious. The classic 2-step beat is less apparent in many earlier tracks, but the dub-step still rips up rule books written for techno or house, and drills down into the core factors that get crowds moving. The influence of dub reggae is definitely prominent in Digital Mystikz and Loefah as their music develops slowly from spacious and reverberating delays and doom-like deep bass drops, but is underpinned by the urban vibe supplied by the thin electro traps from tech like the old faithful 808 drum machine.

Dubstep Anatomy

Dub-step tracks tend to sit between 130 and 150 bpm in tempo. They often cue up at half this speed due to the tendency to omit the up beats, making the track appear slower. But this technique allows the producer to inject serious pace later in the track when the atmosphere has been built up. Clubbers will find themselves moving slowly before being hit with a wave of energy as the true tempo is revealed.

Tracks are quite brief – between 3 and 5 minutes in duration. This doesn’t allow much time to evolve, so abrupt changes are introduced regularly every 8 or 16 bars. This keeps the music exciting in a short timescale and doesn’t rely on the subliminal influences or lengthy atmospheres of techno or ambient.

The thick, syrupy bass of true dub reggae and jungle is ever-present in the bottom end, and if you can’t hear it on your iPod it will quake your bowels in the club. Whilst the bass and drums were surgically separated within the frequency spectrum for earlier tracks, modern dub-step employs speaker-shredding synthesisers wailing abrasive timbres, and exploits modulating filters, sirens and delays to the extreme.

A trademark of modern dub-step is the bass wobble or wub, where sounds are filtered to a rhythm, pulling and stretching the bass across triplets and quavers as well as the frequency range. On its own, this effect is something that can be easily programmed using modern production tools; but it is also something that can be created on the fly by the DJ if their rig is equipped with serious filter and overdrive effects. Much as kill switches have been used by DJs in the past to mix tunes together, modern DJ controllers allow effects to be scratched in as part of a live performance, much like hip hop.

As we mentioned, early dub-step tracks were careful to separate the drums and bass whilst maintaining a definite groove. Many modern tracks take the gloves off and throw acoustic, electronic and sampled breaks all over the spectrum for maximum effect. Bass and snare drums sound huge and weighty. Producers will more than likely use these to compress competing instruments or even the whole mix using a side-chain, and this makes modern dub-step far more aggressive than the original productions. A familiar bass drum sound can be traced back to the old Alesis SR16 which has plenty of bottom end but also a sticky, high-frequency attack.

Infectious Rhythms

Most dub-step records make use of the classic 2-step drum beat derived from UK garage, and this is often married with breaks, triplets and fills for maximum impact. This beat gives a slow, heavy, head-rocking vibe but can easily be doubled in time to inject energy and urgency. Dub-step producers use the power of this variation to attack the audience with waves of changing beats which only the most uninhibited are able to surf.

Dub-step also shares features with trap, using the thin, electronic trills of hi-hats. In current releases, this technique is often used during drops, but was used more continuously in earlier records. The use of lazy triplet shuffles further gives dub-step a more human and performance element, even though it is almost entirely electronically generated.

Psycho Acoustics

In addition to the rhythmical improvisation that continuously evolves throughout most dub-step records, the wall-of-sound effects are almost the polar opposite to something like techno or ambient. Whereas the melody within a techno track is implied by evolving timbres, dub-step overloads the frequency spectrum and is appealing in the same way electric guitar distortion is in heavy rock. The clipping of the signal induces all manner of frequencies and not just simple tones, and the effects will be perceived both physically and subliminally. The whole package is more likely to burst forth than chill out, so modern dub-step is not for the feint of heart.

Our survey of contemporary dub-step records shows the genre to be truly diverse. Roots dub-step very much carries the attributes of dub reggae with respect to bass and spacey delays plodding predominantly at lower tempos. Enter the new young ruffian of cousin bro-step, and we hear the trademark wow-filter, heavy metal tainted riffs and drum fills accentuating grooves that may otherwise have lain undiscovered.

Modern And Mainstream

The crew that grew from the seeds at Big Apple Records are still touring strong, but other players have entered the game and broadened the horizons. Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites by Skrillex represents an evolution of bro-step and glitch that has dominated the mainstream in recent years. Bands like Pendulum and The Prodigy could also be credited to some extent with getting punk and metal to permeate dub-step, or equally demonstrate its influence in other music. However, the urban core of dub-step is still the best place to score some awesome tunes.

The Nato Feelz track Showtime combines cinematic power with wub-laden filters and club-friendly drops to dramatic effect., and Energy by Front Artillery’s Dayskid hollers synthwave riffs through watery filters but still keeps a ska-tinged offbeat beneath tumultuous glitch finger-work. The reggae influence, more glitch and bold riffs combine in Bad Trip by Skitear (a.k.a. Blayd), and the stern wubbing in Joe Garston‘s Quickscope demonstrates a crossover of dub-step with popular melodic tech house.  

Everything Everywhere

To us, dub-step is a style that is well at home with laid back reggae and stripped back trap. It fits with breakbeat and jungle to bring energy; and can be refined to slot into heavy metal. The compatibility doesn’t end there, though. Our own crate digging has also revealed a harmony with glitch, when rhythmical accents are adorned with blasts of quasi-random effects and octave-leaping lead riffs.  The cheesy digital sounds of synthwave also often turn up in rude, bold melodies that are further beefed up by heavy filters and overdrive. And last but not least, dub-step influences have washed over many film soundtracks to accompany the visual intensity and action sequences.

Dub-step is probably one of the most diverse genres in terms of creative production dynamics in the world today. From the grime of basement clubs to the sheen of the stadium show, there’s something for any lover of the extreme. It’s music that’s less about soul and more about attitude.

Voxel Records producer Maze Car picked up the challenge of creating a demo track that tries to reflect this diversity. You can listen to it below, and read about the trials of its creation on his blog.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Music With Character

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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

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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.


Box-fresh synth pop, electronic grooves and style-busting drum and bass for March 2016

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Welcome to our latest update from the electronic music underground! We have a bit of a frog-flavoured theme this month, in order to celebrate a new demo from Voxel Records resident producer Maze Car. as ever, we also bring you a short playlist containing three more great tracks we discovered in the internet during the month of March.

The Maze Car demo currently goes under the working title Dub Croaky, and for a limited time you can download it for FREE at SoundCloud! This experiment combines some abrasive 8-bit tones with shuffling grooves and thick deep bass. It’s an epic journey that builds from basic beats into a trancey glitch-house workout – we hope you enjoy it!

First on the playlist for March is Trouble In My Head by Human Skills. This is the only track we found by this brand new, box-fresh band from somewhere in the USA. Launching into an up-tempo rhythm, the bendy, echoing synth motif takes the lead before the crystal clear vocals burst through like a shaft of light through an otherwise lo-fi mix. The wall of synth lines eventually gives way to a clean guitar solo and middle-8 (in true indie style), and there is enough freshness and familiarity to this music for it to find a home with all fans of indie synth pop. If this track serves to demonstrate their potential, we are expecting great things from Human Skills.

Having been available for two years, Rive Gauche by Carlini is not quite as new, but we are glad we found it. A slow, bouncy introduction with acoustic funk feel plays on before the piercing timbres of zither and thin synths form the true mood of the track.  The deep groove and the subtle bubbling of the bass mooch along until a neatly-etched passage of poetry finally plays the track out. This is a moody melting pot of influences that would be well received by any lovers of retro movie scores and Air.

Finally, we have Images With a Heartbeat by LA producer Hermetik. We are always pleased to discover a pioneering genre as we wander the internet in search of music, and this example of drill and bass introduces a new take on DnB. A simple hi-tempo synth arpeggio kicks off before the percussion takes control with a rigid, robotic jungle vibe. After a half-tempo breakdown, dark and dirty pads ebb and flow beneath the drums until more machine-edged synth motifs limp in and out of the mix. Make way for new wave industrial drum and bass!

 


New innovations in electronica and techno

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Welcome to our latest update from the world of underground music! During the month of February we have found some more awesome tunes as producers make use of their influences to transcend typical genres. The very nature of these crossovers means that we can’t put a label on the music – and that’s just the way we like it!

Maze Car has spent the last few weeks crossing various boundaries of his own, using some delicious new synths to explore the grooves that lurk between dub, chiptune and house. Head over to the Maze Car blog to hear about how he is stitching his latest demo together.

First on the playlist, though, is From Within, by Canadian synthwave sci-fi gurus c+d. This song is driven from the outset by stabs of thin bass and hissing snares, and the mood is lifted by every iteration of the powerful chorus. The mix fills with dirty synth-vox and wiry strings, and Donna’s vocals gain a dramatic urgency as she tries to keep her head above water. The c+d sound is reminiscent of Broadcast and Add N to (X) (wink), but there are also clear nods to NIN and Depeche Mode. There are more great sounding songs on their stream – so go have a listen!

Next up is Tune WIth Horse by aLLriGhT (featuring Horse). This pair of London DJs drops us straight into rude, spitting synths and heavy, plodding drums. The basic monotonic riff does battle with pitch bending buzzes and shredded arcade effects, resulting in a sound potent enough to demolish the sound system without the need for excessive bpm. Mike and Luke throw slow, weighty techno that was born and razed on the dance floor – keep checking their blog for more releases throughout this year. This is loud. With added Horse.

Finally, Irrealiser beta is the very latest from Japan-based producer Christmas (a.k.a. Dear McQueen), and the track is available for free download. The music has all the power of that uplifting, big hall techno vibe, but it is constructed from a brighter sonic palette and more stimulating grooves. The aggressive synths squawk and squeal over the boom of the beats, resulting in a style that takes old-skool Faithless to a new level of breaks, grit and groovy bass.

 


New Year discoveries in underground music

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Welcome to the New Year with Voxel Records. This trip around the sun has started with the loss of some influential musicians – so we would like to show big respect in particular for Bowie, Lemmy and Brad: Thanks for all the good times and the inspiration!

The RedSix studio has once again expanded its sonic arsenal. From the depth and control of the Roland JU-06 boutique synthesizer to the playful japery of the Teenage Engineering PO16, resident producer Maze Car is busy noodling with buttons and small lights. Apparently it is entirely acceptable artistic behaviour to fiddle with one’s Pocket Operator day and night …

Now for some more great music we discovered in the underground this month. First on the playlist is Final Lap by Cleeve Morris. This is a nostalgic journey inspired by the classic 80s video game Out Run. The tinny, cheese-grater FM synth sounds are complemented by deep, wide drums that plod firmly beneath the melodies – in fact, the snare is so deep that it is barely discernible from the bass drum. The tones are right on the money, though, from the arpeggiated lead to the late impro breakdown. Cleeve’s melodic retro synthwave fills the audio spectrum with a depth that the arcade games never could!

h.o.p.e. by BTFL MND is a down-tempo affair. The bright percussion is subtly glitched, and the pulsating pads and bass are given space to move and morph around each other. The lazy groove of the bpm is decorated with further arrhythmic morsels, resulting in some laid-back synth trap that fills the page with its beautifully balanced mix. There isn’t much on the BTFL MND stream yet, but keep your ears pressed to their Bandcamp page for future releases.

Finally, we really enjoyed the latest tracks by Way, Shape or Form, with 1.2.2016 being the first of the year from this American collective. The close, boxy drum machine is intelligently programmed, and it spits a rhythm tight to the groove of the track. These computerised timbres both contrast and complement the more organic elements of the music, which builds from a foundation of bass, through syncopated organ arpeggios and thick jazz-tone electric guitar to distorted pad finger-work. This is an accomplished performance and a fresh mix of instruments – keep it coming!


Voxel Records Newsletter August 2015

 

If a comet was indeed destined to eliminate planet earth in the next month or so, then this does not give us nearly enough time to PANIC. Some say that the offending comet sounds like “hell” but if it’s anything like Rosetta, we think it sounds kinda cute.  Instead of living in abject fear of Armageddon this month, we have been collecting a few more choice echoes from the deep space of electronic music. Not only this, but we have also started generating playlists across various music platforms … keep your eyes on the Voxel Records news feed for the stuff we find!

Maze Car is currently on a voyage of discovery, attempting to create chiptune breaks in 8 bits (or less). We expect some funky, crunchy demos to be emerging soon enough – but just how much can the Maze Car squeeze out of his vintage toy collection?

What else did we find this month?

H-arth by Hyph-n – This producer from Melbourne commits to posting a new track every two weeks. This recent output demonstrates Hyph-n‘s consistent style well: singing synths and dry, weighty basslines play off each other over a laid back tempo. H-arth is full-on and close-up, tripping between a spiky trap impro and a more organic, mellow groove which reclines into the shadows. A bit like star-bathing under a cool night sky.

Co-Star by Michael Lantela – Co-Star opens with sticky glitch-esque trills, and the atmosphere builds into a cogent, rolling trip-hop beat with swirling effects. The bass growls menacingly throughout, and whilst the underlying percussion is often complex, the sheer mass of the crunchy drums keeps a solid underlying rhythm. Further nods to chip-tune and ambient are noted in this heavy, down-tempo affair.

Try To Forget by Laugh Lines – This tune dives into dark, distorted dub waves from the start. it swells and subsides between well-placed breakdowns, and Letitia’s sweet and clipped vocals provide the sheen on the finished product. much like lighting a match in a dark hall, this track illuminates and burns brightly before smouldering to an end in a faint puff of smoke.