Tag: Air (Page 1 of 2)


DISCOVERY ZONE is the new electronically focussed solo project of Berlin based New Yorker JJ Weihl who is also a member of psychedelic rockers FENSTER.

‘Remote Control’ as a title concept examines the wonder and terror of technology; are we in control of the machines or are the machines now controlling us?

Pointing towards a cerebral approach, there are sound collages like the dialogue laden ‘Sophia Again’ and conceptual introduction ‘Nu Moon’. In some respects, the album is laid out like ‘Dazzle Ships’ by OMD and there is even a speech collage called ‘Time Zone’.

But one of the album’s most accessible features is ‘Dance II’ which is wonderfully catchy, exuding an esoteric funk. Expressing a touch of ‘La Dolce Vita’ with its bright scaling synth hook and New York disco vibes, a mood of elation is captured that expresses optimism and hope as well as the joy of second chances.

The laid back mood of ‘Come True’ is more conventional, utilising jazzy six string in an almost AIR-like fashion, with Weihl’s delivery recalling Beth Hirsch’s vocal contributions to ‘Moon Safari’ while processed choral samples and bubbling synths sweeten proceedings even further. ‘Fall Apart’ is cut from a similar cloth but adds in a distorted guitar solo.

Held down by pulsating synths and incessant reverbed drum machine, ‘Blissful Morning Dream Interpretation Melody’ does exactly as the title suggests as the treated vocal sonics bolster the spacey avant pop to present a surreal out of mind experience for that otherworldly feeling.

Enjoyably sinister is the ‘Remote Control’ title track with its vocoder laden aesthetics competing with pentatonic melodies, subtle dub and the Doppler effect of ‘Trans Europa Express’ but from inside a Spiegelsaal to symbolise a robot takeover.

Taking a different turn with its forlorn reverbed drum machine, ‘Come Slow’ sets up a ‘Twin Peaks’ atmosphere as an interlude but as it disappointingly fades, there are no doubts that this segment could have been developed much further.

The closing instrumental ‘Tru Nature’ reflects on the late Andrew Weatherall’s rework of THE GRID’s ‘Floatation’ and chills around a conga backbone while the pitched up voice samples of THE ART OF NOISE gently immerse themselves into surrounding water.

‘Remote Control’ hits the spot on many occasions and as DISCOVERY ZONE, JJ Weihl has relished the opportunity for some solo artistic expression.

This is a good debut, the musical equivalent of a hologram, hazy and shimmering but with a clear field of depth and different listening experiences felt depending on the time of day.

But while there are plenty of accessible melodic moments, some may find the spoken word sections quite challenging to absorb and unnecessarily interrupting the flow.

‘Remote Control’ is released by Mansions & Millions, in vinyl LP and digital formats available from https://discoveryzone1.bandcamp.com/releases




Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photo by Colette Pomerleau
8th June 2020

NICOLAS GODIN Concrete & Glass

Any AIR-related side project can be guaranteed to not deviate too far from the band’s tried and tested template of downtempo atmospherics, retro synths, dry stripped-back PINK FLOYD style drumming and occasional vocoder flourishes.

Unsurprisingly, Nicolas Godin’s second solo album ‘Concrete & Glass’ features plenty of tracks which would seamlessly slot into an AIR album.

It is a concept-based work of sorts with each song being inspired by buildings and their architecture.

With there not seeming to be a hurry to release new material with long-term musical partner Jean-Benoît Dunckel, there is plenty here for long-term AIR fans to enjoy.

It is hard to downplay the significance of ‘Moon Safari’ when it arrived in 1998; a wonderfully retro-sounding but groundbreaking piece of work, it would go on to ultimately define AIR’s sound and influence many other acts including ZERO 7 along the way.

A couple of the high points of ‘Moon Safari’ were the vocal-based songs ‘All I Need’ and ‘You Make It Easy’ featuring Beth Hirsch, so Godin has followed a similar route with ‘Concrete & Glass’ which has contributions from HOT CHIP’s Alexis Taylor, Russian vocalist Kate NV, Kadhja Bonet, Cola Boyy and Kirin J Callinan.

Opener ‘Concrete & Glass’ is a blissful combination of rising and falling synths combined with Latin percussion and trademark vocoder work with Godin “…looking for a house, made of concrete and glass”.

Latterly Godin’s vocal has a call and response with his own live bass playing and the track instantly lowers the listener’s heart rate setting the scene for the rest of the album.

‘Back to Your Heart’ with Kate NV sets up the run of guest vocalist-featuring tracks and is beautifully produced with layers of CR78 percussion, synthetic brass and real strings. Unashamedly retro in sound and delivery, ‘Back to Your Heart’ evokes lounge icons THE CARPENTERS and leads into ‘We Forgot Love’ which features a cyclical descending synth figure throughout and yearning vocal by soul singer Kadhja Bonet. These two tracks are easily the strongest song-based works on ‘Concrete & Glass’…

‘The Foundation’ which features Californian Cola Boyy has more of a modular synth aesthetic and again would comfortably pass muster on an AIR album; conceptually based on Pierre Koenig’s groundbreaking ‘Case Study House #21’, the song features a neat sci-fi based promo video directed and shot on 16mm film by Greg Barnes. The highlight of the song is the outro which has some luxuriant vocoder and synth interplay which on the album version runs for an extra minute and could quite easily run for longer such is its beauty.

‘Time On My Hands’ which features Aussie vocalist Kiran J Callinan is a midpoint album lull, spending roughly 4 and a half minutes going nowhere whilst HOT CHIP’s Alexis Turner fares little better on the saccharine ‘Catch Yourself Falling’; arguably both of these tracks would have been more successful as instrumental workouts as their vocal contributors add little to the respective pieces.

The intro to ‘The Border’ evokes Clint Mansell’s wonderful theme to sci-fi doppelganger movie ‘Moon’ before taking more of a song-based direction with Godin’s vocodered vocals drifting through the remainder of the piece. Ambient pads and a sparse electric bass part underpin subtly building sequencer parts, the “take me to the border” line is possibly overused and makes the track feel unnecessarily repetitive, which is a shame as the song’s soundbed is wonderfully hypnotic and (again) beautifully produced.

‘Turn Right Turn Left’ is possibly one of the few songs primarily vocalled by a SatNav and features a soaring string arrangement whilst it’s left to album closer ‘Cité Radieuse’ to provide the only real radical departure in sound aesthetic on ‘Concrete & Glass’.

Initially sounding like a homage to Philip Glass, the first three minutes are comprised of concise Serial Music-style synth arpeggios with a melodic synth break thrown in.

The final minute and a half unexpectedly makes a U-turn into ambient jazz territory which recalls German act BOHREN & DER CLUB OF GORE, creators of funereal tempo music of this ilk with upright bass, sax and brushed drums.

‘Concrete & Glass’ certainly won’t disappoint fans of AIR, not all of it hits the heights of Godin’s main act, but there is more than enough substance here to make the album bear up to repeated listens.

The building-based concept is an intriguing one and something that KRAFTWERK could have kicked themselves for not pursuing at some point; however, Nicolas Godin has got there first and ‘Concrete & Glass’ neatly draws parallels between the worlds of music and architecture in one grand design…

‘Concrete & Glass’ is released by NCLS in vinyl LP, CD and digital formats



Text and Live Photos by Paul Boddy
4th February 2020

ULTRAMARINE Signals Into Space

Essex duo ULTRAMARINE are probably best known for their 1991 album ‘Every Man & Woman is a Star’.

Arguably Paul Hammond and Ian Cooper pioneered the Folktronica genre including an eventual collaboration with SOFT MACHINE’s Robert Wyatt on their 1993 ‘United Kingdoms’ album. ‘Every Man & Woman Is A Star’ melded a disparate mix of  lo-fi drum machines, electric piano, jazz inflections and squelchy Roland 303s. It was a sound that on paper shouldn’t have really worked, but when it hit its peak, comfortably matched acts like THE ORB at their finest, albeit less self-indulgently.

After a fourteen year hiatus, the duo returned with a pair of singles in 2011 and this has led to ULTRAMARINE’s ‘Signals Into Space’, their first full length album since 2013’s ‘This Time Last Year’. This time around there are collaborations with vocalist Anna Domino who contributes to four tracks, plus percussionist Ric Elsworth and sax player Iain Ballamy from LOOSE TUBES.

Album opener ‘Elsewhere’ provides a dark electronic opener with an eclectic mix of twittering bird song, echoed TANGERINE DREAM-influenced sequencer part and retro analogue drum machine which has its lo-fi congas pitched up and down through the track. Ambient guitar and Juno-style synth layers work brilliantly on the piece; the only criticism is that the track ends too soon and could have quite comfortably been extended by another couple of minutes.

‘Spark from Flint to Clay’ is the first song to feature the vocals of Anna Domino and is the kind of piece that fans of AIR’s ‘Moon Safari’ and ZERO 7 will really get excited by; a Kaoss Pad manipulated 303 makes its first appearance alongside another retro 808-style drum machine and echoed guitars and vibes create a beautiful, drifting and luxuriant soundscape.

‘Breathing’ stretches to an epic 7 minutes and is the first track on the album to feature a combination of trademark off-kilter ULTRAMARINE sounds, improvisation and a far jazzier aesthetic.

‘Breathing’ is not a foreground piece, but it would provide a superb ambient accompaniment to drift along to with Ballamy’s sax providing the main musical content.

‘Arithmetic’ ups the tempo and could quite easily have appeared on ‘Every Man & Woman is a Star’; live percussion, electric piano and another 7 minute running time allows it to ebb and flow with a combo of electronics and live elements drifting in and out. Again, Anna Domino provides the main vocal hook for a song that wonderfully conjures images of far-off beaches and tropical climates.

‘If Not Now When?’ indirectly take its cues from JON & VANGELIS’ ‘State of Independence’ with a modulated Yamaha CS80-style bassline whilst ‘Equatorial Calms’ (could there be a more ULTRAMARINE song title?) evokes some distant arid and dusty landscape with heart-rate slowing sounds and cross delayed drum sounds. The album closer and title track finishes with another Anna Domino vocalled-piece; combining found sound ambience and a heartbeat pulse.

The fact that only a third of ‘Signals into Space’ feature vocals means that the album works best as “put on, zone out” work and it accomplishes that exceedingly well; once you become locked into it, it does a superb job of transporting the listener to a variety of sonic-inspired landscapes.

For those that have previously delved into the world of ULTRAMARINE, there are no radical departures, reinventions or surprises here; over 30 years Hammond and Cooper have carefully cultivated their own sound that combines their source material beautifully.

For this reason there appears no motive to deviate too far from a tried tested template and fans of the duo will welcome ‘Signals into Space’ with open arms.

‘Signals Into Space’ is released by Les Disques du Crépuscule, available in CD, double vinyl LP and download formats from https://www.lesdisquesducrepuscule.com/signals_into_space_twi1236.html




Text by Paul Boddy
Photos by Emily Bowling
29th January 2019

SHOOK Bicycle Ride

SHOOK is Jasper Wijnands, a composer, producer and musician based in The Netherlands.

His life took a turn when he was diagnosed with Pancreatitis in 2016, but during his illness, he remained determined to continue making music. The follow-up to his previous album ‘Continuum’, Wijnands has musically documented his journey to recovery on ‘Bicycle Ride’. Influenced by jazz and anime soundtracks, the music of SHOOK captures a moody virtuoso ambience, recalling AIR and Ryuichi Sakamoto.

This template is no better represented on ‘Wind On The Water’, a marvellous instrumental passage with gentle piano and calypso flavoured synth textures. On ‘Love Trip’, Wijnands brings his own voice into proceedings and compliments the optimistic mood of the album started with ‘Wind On The Water’.

Capturing latter day CHINA CRISIS, ‘I Will Be There’ features the vocals of Juliet Klaar for a story of reassurance in love through hardships; it’s a beautiful piece that shows an appreciation for the simple things in life.

Wijnands said:“During my recovery I spent a lot of time with my dear Juliet. She was always there for me during my illness. It felt natural for us that we made a song together. We spend many days together in our living room / music studio, and we wrote lyrics and recorded together until the late hours which resulted in the creation of ‘I Will Be There’.”

With a sweet melody and pulsing arpeggios, ‘Hello Sky’ is another instrumental that projects optimism and the high feeling of life itself. Meanwhile, the synthy cacophony of ‘Deep Dive’ is marvellously padded by some swimmy string machine and provides some rhythmic swing.

Bringing some acoustic guitar into the mix, ‘Close Your Eyes’ adds some AIR, especially with its gorgeous feminine whispers, while the self-explanatory ‘Between Spaces’ would be ideal company for a peddle past some meadows. In fact, if the sounds used were just a little more avant garde, this wouldn’t be far off Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory’s soundtrack for ‘My Summer Of Love’.

To close, there is the ‘Bicycle Ride’ title track itself, a tuneful oriental tinged piano dominated piece that Sakamoto San probably wouldn’t have minded composing himself.

Jasper Wijnands makes good use of his vintage keyboards and modern tech throughout the record, reflecting his positive spirit in the face of adversity. Leagues above the majority of that dreaded chill-out music which afflicts many beach bars, ‘Bicycle Ride’ should be on the playlist for your upcoming summer vacation.

SHOOK plays the following instruments: DSI Prophet 08, DSI Prophet 12, Roland VP550, Fender Jazz Bass, Korg Polyphonic Ensemble PE1000, Yamaha CP70B Electric Grand Piano, Moog Minimoog Model D, Moog Polymoog 203A, Arturia Minibrute, Yamaha Acoustic Guitar, Yamaha Stage Custom Drums

‘Bicycle Ride’ is released on 26th June 2018 in CD, vinyl LP and digital formats, pre-order via https://shook.bandcamp.com/album/bicycle-ride-lp




Text by Chi Ming Lai
23rd June 2018


Photo by Chad Kamenshine

“Background noise, breakquest, reverb, spending time, large hadron collider, warp drive, the empire”… that’s how New York based shinnichi Danz Johnson aka COMPUTER MAGIC describes her interests.

Johnson actually released her first album ‘Scientific Experience’ as a Japanese only release in 2012, while her first album proper ‘Davos’ emerged in 2015. There have been EPs and singles as well, with enjoyably escapist ‘Obscure But Visible” EP possibly her best body of work yet. But now at last comes another COMPUTER MAGIC simply titled ‘Danz’; however Johnson has declared that it is a far darker and more personal companion to ‘Davos’.

The bubbling spaciness of ‘Amnesia’ is an ideal dream pop opener but appears with a clouded tinge to Johnson’s voice. This is a statement that tunes like ‘Lonely Like We Are’ from her last EP will not be figuring. Seguing into ‘Nebraskaland’, while obviously using synths, Johnson shares Bruce Springsteen’s solemn 1982 musical picture of the region.

The mood lifts with ‘Ordinary Life (Message From an A.I. Girlfriend)’, but despite offering bright synth passages to classic Linn Drum sounds, it’s a twist to Philip K. Dick’s ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’ where Artificial Intelligence has allowed a robot to aspire to more than just being a love companion… meanwhile as a variation to the theme, the amusingly titled ‘Delirium (Don’t Follow The Sheep)’ sees rumbling bass drones over a drum loop with a suitably detached Johnson.

Photo by Randy Smith

The wonderful instrumental ‘Teegra’ adds some loungey vibes to proceedings echoing AIR when they were on their ‘Moon Safari, while borrowing from the same part of Western Europe, the nonchalant overtones of ‘Perfect Game’ come over like a less Gallic-centric STEREOLAB.

The sombre string synths and mechanised outlook of ‘Data’ see a shift eastwards to Deutschland for an album interlude before the very sparse and haunting ‘Space and Time / Pale Blue Dot’. Almost to the point of crying, Johnson’s forlorn demeanour offsets the track’s pretty arpeggios in a cacophony of light and shade.

Adopting a live percussive feel with sombre string synths for the introspective manner of PET SHOP BOYS, ‘Drift Away’ draws the curtains before the departing flight of ‘Clouds’; “Take me with you” she exclaims before cathartically admitting she is “lost again above the clouds”.

Those used to the appealingly kooky and cutesy manner of COMPUTER MAGIC from ‘Been Waiting’ will be surprised by ‘Danz’. But this is a mature and more thoughtful Danz Johnson in action here. Reflecting the mood across the Atlantic, she is among those who are prepared to do some thinking at a time when ignorance appears to be the leading philosophy.

‘Danz’ is released by Channel 9 Records in digital formats worldwide, limited green vinyl LP edition is available from http://www.channel9records.com





Text by Chi Ming Lai
26th February 2018, updated 27th February 2018

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