Review: TSTI – Endings

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Some time ago TSTI had his third album released, or second if you don’t count “Evaluated: An Album Of Remixes“. German-based Basic Unit Productions have gotten the pleasure to release “Endings” – which is the apt title of the release. Other Voices Records have also gotten their share of it and have released a limited edition cassette of it. We’ve had the possibility of listening to a few of the demos before this was released and they sounded promising, as does his whole discography. The aesthetics of the release are industrial and very cut and paste, not really anything we enjoy at all, and the first album “Evaluations” looked more alluring visually.

The album clocks in at around thirty-six minutes in total. So let’s get into what this album has to offer in its entirety, by doing a track-by-track review of it.

Things I Would Do” is a special kind of song when it comes to the atmosphere, right from the start there is an inviting kind of mystic vibe over it but at the same time an assertive industrial sound to it. We’re not really fans of the processed vocals at all but the lyrics in this song are simple but add a catchy melodious tone to an – at first – deserted landscape. The favorite part comes forth in the build-up until the chorus and the chorus itself, as they both pack a melodious punch which is remindable and emotional. It lurks in the background and comes out in full bloom together with the drum beats and snaredrum, which later on forms a stunning introductory to a hopefully, equally as great album.

We’ve been fortunate enough to hear the craftsman, S. Smith, create this marvelous tune step-by-step until it finally was released on Basic Unit Productions. Even though the fondness of the demo-version of this song have caught on, his stamp throughout it makes for a more bombastic and impactful experience.

Naïveté (feat. Jennifer Touch)” is a lot more pop-influenced then the first one, but he stays true to himself and his sound, which allows for a heavier side to take place amongst the cheesier vibes of the flute and the melody itself. It is not necessarily the build-up and climax of the song which is interesting, but rather the dissective nature of the downbeat melodies that are produced in between – giving it a whole atmosphere instead of a half one. We don’t think “Jennifer Touch” adds anything that gives this song momentum, or a different characteristic, which is probably not what was meant – but as a collaborative effort it is stale. The instruments and rhythm are more interesting here then the synthesizers for the most part, as they are more complex and add more to the song overall.

The slower nature of “Sincerity” allows S. Smith to build up a better atmosphere then in any of the other songs, this one crushes totally in terms of the synthesizers vibrancy and the emotional delivery of his vocals. It is almost like an anthemic ballad in of itself and layer upon layer of instrumentation cut right through and form the shape of a transgression between straight-forward synth-pop and ambient music. A very nice addition which sprawls from his old sound and new, to connect and make something greater then all of that. Too bad that he underestimates this kind of touch with his other songs, whom are more industrial in nature, but not in the crafty kind of way – because they build upon a foundation of synth-pop – instead of a transgressiveness between severeal genres.

It is a dreamy song and we drear the end of it, which comes at a too fast pace unfortunately. Even though it is the slowest song yet, but at the time it is allowed to brood and deliver chord upon chord of nicely laden synthesized beauty – is precisely the reason why one ought to check out TSTI in his new form.

Forgive Me” catch elements of the previous song and have also been featured on Repartiseraren’s own compilation “Whoever Am I”, long before release. It is noticeable how Sid’s (from Schwefelgelb) mastering have affected the song, because it is somewhat different from Zarkoff (who mixed the re-mastered compilation) – so it is very intriguing to hear how different characteristics, in terms of mastering – can be heard in the end product. Since we have a special bond to this song in terms of nostalgia itself, it is hard to not have a personal connection to the song itself, but it lacks in momentum although it is picked together quite good through the atmosphere of the song itself. There is never a dull moment and around the corner there’s a whole different interpretation in itself.

The song has very different characteristics throughout, which is what ultimately makes it different as well as fitting at the same time. Everything runs like clockwork and the time never stops until S. Smith cares to do it himself, by ending on a high note. It’s a very classy song in terms of tone and clarity, where the repetetive lyrics play an integral role to it moving forward at all.

Strange Times” really catches one off-guard. Damn, the first melody is a work of art in itself and from there and on you can’t turn the song off. Had S.U.R.V.I.V.E moved in a different way and taken the help of S. Smith – this is how it would sound like. There’s a certain niceness about the mysticism in the song itself, the sweet touches of synthesizers and not-too-industrial beats make this outstanding synth-pop music. By now, had it been some other album, it probably would’ve dulled off by now. Here’s the part where musicians fall short, oftentimes, if they have an album that goes on for as many songs as “Endings” does. The samples that can also be heard but in another form, on “Naïveté (feat. Jennifer Touch)” take a step into informing the listener – rather then shake the world together with beats.

It is good to hear how the first melody is expanded in the end and clangs out like it should’ve. Not that we’ve heard this song before, but because it is just what is supposed to happen – it is the destiny of this song.

To Visit You Again” is metaphorically speaking the most emotional song so far. Both in message and sound. The longing, the outdrawn beats that scrape against the soundscape and the desperation in the atmosphere that lunge towards you in an instant. It draws upon mutated choirs that between added effects and from high to low notes, add a nicely angelic touch to an otherwise doom and gloom song. It is also the only instrumental song on the whole album. Which is a pleasure to listen through. The repetetiveness of it doesn’t bother at all because it is inventive and make use of the different small touches added to the whole totality of sound. When “Flatter Me” comes on, it is obvious that it is a direct continuation of the aforementioned instrumental song. They share many of the same ambitions in being emotionally touching and direct, together with impervious melodies that never stagnate.

Here though, the melodies are taken into a different direction which both touch upon these elements and create a whole other atmosphere – the intangible nature of TSTI’s sound is one of his strengths. All of a sudden everything is downhill and from there it goes uphill, the emotions come crashing down and the beats develop intensity as they shift from rhythm to rhythm. Very flattering of him to do so.

R.A.S.” never hits home but at the same time does. It is a song filled with paradoxical sound production, with melodies that sound oriental at times and the complete opposite. There’s a shyness and awkwardness about it as a whole, as if he doesn’t want it to bloom out completely – as he holds it even closer. He shapes and unshape things, from rhythms that don’t really make sense to beats that almost put the synthesizer’s wonderful soundscaping out of play. Maybe it is the complete destruction of everything, the ending as it is, even though this certainly isn’t his last contribution in terms of sound as TSTI.

Unfortunately, the remixes of “Things I Would Do“, by Hante and Ssleeping desiresS don’t do the original justice. It is much better and their versions of it aren’t up to par with it, and it doesn’t even create anything tangible from the perspective of making a new version, or something that could possibly stand out in any way, in terms of musicianship.

The album as a whole is a decent thing to listen to. It might even be better then that, though some things are hit and miss – but when it comes down to it, TSTI hones his old sound and develops something new – not necessarily breaking everything down and making the outcome dull and boring. Listen to it in whole down below.

 

 

Exclusive Premiere: Hidden Place – Picture Hall

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British label Peripheral Minimal is in the process of releasing a retrospective compilation of tracks, with the Italian electro/new-wave group Hidden Place. Having released four albums in total, from 2005-2012, this retrospective album will feature three songs from each of their albums, plus an unreleased remix. As they gradually moved on from their most experimental first album “Weather Station“, they put out a new album each two years that passed, in the end making it three years – with their latest album up to date; “Novecento“. Being on labels like Hellektroempire, to Twilight Records, Calembour Records and now finally, with Peripheral Minimal, very soon. Approaching a colder picturesque landscape of sound with their overlaying electro, as the more pop-induced new-wave sound made the melodies all the more danceable. A fresh new sound had been developed through the years, as the vocals of Sara Lux, a member of the group – became more and more distant from the sound itself. Making it a rather accomplished combination between vocals and the sounds of Fabio V., Antonio L. and Giampiero Di B. Not really my cup of tea when it comes to a lot of their songs, but there is something that has been captured amidst the energetic synth-pop with the overtones of a different mixture, embellished by the nature of different electronic genres.

The retrospective album that is coming out on Peripheral Minimal before April is over, is titled “Retrospettiva: 2004 – 2014” and captures tracks from their years when they were the most active, to the more sullen years of being unproductive. Harnessing a lot of tracks, being forgetful about others. This compilation does cover the perspective of their active years, but it also essentially takes out the best of the songs that has been put out there in between these years. The rather interesting artwork was made by Oleg Galay of Other Voices Records. So I can say to you that Repartiseraren will give you the time of your day, letting you listen to and stream the track “Picture Hall”, originally featured on their album “Fantasia Meccanica” – but now also brought to and from the forthcoming compilation. Click play and enjoy their uncanny vision, the masquerading electronic synthesizers, the hectic tempo delivered by the melodious content of the fixated drums in tune with the synths.

Some questions for Xiu!

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Xiu is the Russian-born Estonian, but now Milan-based minimal synth artist, whose real name is Oksana Rodinova. Whilst harkening to her dark landscapes and magnificent voice, it gives you a palette of emotions to experience. Hearing her luminescent voice clash within a dark sound-scape of minimalism, is probably one of the most enjoyable things to hear. Since she started her solo-project back in 2010, with the self-released “Dancing Voodoo“, she’s been gaining momentum. Appearing on the German visionary label aufnahme + wiedergabe in 2012, with the self-titled cassette “Xiu“, which sold out very fast. To her collaboration with the interesting act Cold Colors, and their joint release “Loneliness“, where she lent her voice to four unimaginably solid tracks, in 2013. A little bit earlier, she also released the cassette “Possessions” on the increasingly larger (Swedish) Beläten etiquette. Since she’s been interviewed by different outlets, I decided to ask her a bunch of new questions. Mostly about the coming release, but also what her music means to herself, rather than the audience. Therefore, this will be a short Q&A-like “interview”, if you’d like. Hope you enjoy it.

Right now, you’re occupied in making your own debut-album become a reality. You’re also busy filming your first music-video for that particular release. What label have you teamed up with and where does the story begin?

– I would keep the label name in the secret for now.

Since you’ve released a lot of different songs here and there, how does it feel to work with your first “real” release?

– I don’t feel any difference. I mean, its always my own produced songs, it’s just a next step that comes naturally after two EP tapes, different compilations and collaborations.

You’ve also got two demo-tracks which you put up on your own bandcamp. Are these coming to good use in your forthcoming release?

– Well, yes. These tracks will be released but not on the LP. it will be as bonus tracks + some others on forthcoming CD release. Russian label Other Voices Records will release my two tapes (s/t by aufnahme and Possesion by Belaten) and bonus tracks this fall.

Is this album going to be any different from your earlier material in any way? What kind of theme will it have?

– It will be a kind of different but in the same time it will always be an analogue sound. I keep using the same gear that I used before, including some new synths and effects. I can say that debut LP will be more mature and confident.

Your latest release was together with Cold Colors, which was a  collaboration between the two of you. How did it came to be and what could you say about the making of “Loneliness”?

– This might sound weird, but I’ve never met Fred (Cold Colors) in real life. All our collaboration have been “online” through chat on Facebook and Skype. I’m very happy about this work, I’m really in love with that what Fred is doing. Nobody before this have produced music especially for my voice, specifically for me.

What do you think about aufnahme + wiedergabe and Beläten? Since you’ve released stuff on both those labels, how did that came to be in the first place, since your first release “Dancing Voodoo”?

– I tenderly love both labels! I’m proud to be their artist and thankful, especially because I was taking my first steps into the musical “scene” and they’re helped me a lot. Working with them was very enjoyable.

There seems to be a lot of hype surrounding you, and have been since you began to be noticed, it seems. What kind of response have  you gotten through the years?

– Really? I haven’t noticed any hype. I started to produce music two years ago, and less than year ago my debut tape came out, so I don’t think it’s time to speak about any “hype”. Everything have been flowing smoothly.

You’re also going to be featured on a split together with Spatial Relation, which is coming out pretty soon. What can you tell us about this?

– It will be a new song I produced specifically for this release. It will be coming out in September on Peripheral Minimal Records, I’m very excited about it and can’t wait, really! It will be the first Xiu 7” vinyl release.

How would you describe your own music?

– Looking for harmony inside of yourself.

When it comes to the general aesthetics of your own albums, they seem to revolve around yourself. Is there any thought behind – and if there is – then why is that so?

– Do you mean the visual part? Well, that might be because my music is autobiographical. I don’t speak about global problems, politic things, social troubles. I don’t want to change or save a planet, I try to save and understand myself, in my own world. I’m interested in creating something beautiful, fragile, delicate, something about feelings, sensations, sensuality.

Alright, seems like the time’s up. What kind of artists/groups/bands would you recommend here in the end and when will your full-length be out?

– I highly recommend you to pay attention to the small new label based in Italy named Minimal Trend Records. They’re soon releasing their first album on vinyl, a compilation with only Milan-based contemporary electronic artists. So, stay tuned!

Also, the one-woman-project Froe Char going to release her 3rd album, she’s awesome. Again, an Italian project which is unfairly underrated is Spettro Family. They’re soon going to release a new  album. As well, records from Beläten and aufnahme + wiedergabe are always brilliant. Don’t miss out on new releases!

You can find Xiu over at Facebook, Soundcloud, Bandcamp and YouTube. Do also check out her music-video for the track “Possessions” from the Beläten-release. You can also play two demo-tracks from her bandcamp down below. Her much anticipated full-length album will be released in the beginning of 2014. Do also listen to her latest remix of TSTI’s track “Pull The Animal’s Teeth Out“.

Spotlight [SP. ED 1]: Nouvelle Phénomène / Soft Riot!

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As always, we head back to the realms of Other Voices Records. Who is on a certain music-spree, killing off all the competition. Or, well, that’s not really the case – but some seriously great releases have been relieving one another. Some that should’ve been Spotlight:ed a while ago, like their Nouvelle Phénomène-release. Since there haven’t been any creativity in the loop for a while, other business had to be dealt with first. But now, we return to the great Russian-based label which sorely needs our attention. Together with a whip of Soft Riot, as they’re also featured over there, with their already released album (since a month ago) “Fiction Prediction“. Hey, who doesn’t like when it rhymes. Well, let’s get to it, since you don’t want some blabbermouth introductory, as you’d already know them by know. This post will be updated with a review of Soft Riot’s latest endeavor, when it’s done.

a1778775496_10Nouvelle Phénomène is a group of Hungarians, that haven’t been brought to my attention, til’ now. Santa Angela, Santa Fanni, Dziba Zsolt and Peter Buza have one thing in common – which is synth-pop with a jaded edge of new-wave and minimalism. The catchy tones of this double-single, titled “Caresse / Glory of Romance“, is a tease indeed. The concentrated drums, hitting the soft-spoken nerve that they’ve incorporated with their rhythmic endeavor, is carefully packaged together with a francophilic adoration, sampled amidst the up-beat happiness of “lé soleil“. It’s important enough, because the sun is shining in their direction. Grandiose on one hand, minimalistic in the carefully laden undertones of the swooping synthesizer. Frankly enough to touch the tip of your noise, be so brazen to ask you out and invite you to the party of your life. “Retro-fantastic“, could be a world to describe it, as they see to their roots before they carefully model the landscape they wish to present. Clinking to their pieces, mapping out exactly the feeling, without having to pinpoint it for the listener. Sometimes interpreting the atmospheric senselessness that isn’t always present in synth-pop, and as such – they’re leading the charge towards a brightener future. At times, the darker tones of their loveable sound-scape move you onto dampening and tearjerking journeys through imagined landscapes of ultimate destructiveness. Reminding you, oh so much, that your perception of invulnerability is a joke. Well, it would not be so far away to remind them of Swedish purveyors (now disbanded) Zeigeist, as you indulge in the second song “Glory of Romance“, which certainly has its likeness. Cleanliness is not a sin, remember that, as the angelic sounds clean you out totally – turning your mind upside down, and your heart inside out. Nouvelle Phénomène might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but they strike a resemblance, and they strike when you need them to.

Spotlight [SP. ED]: A New Life / Soft Riot!

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Russia wouldn’t be my main vantage point if I think about retro-fantastic synth-pop and minimal synth. Obviously, Los Angeles have been in the headlights for far too long, even though they have some merits to withhold that certain degree of appreciation. However, it seems like the Russian label-boss have been at it, at least if you check out Other Voices Records, whom we’ve interviewed earlier on this blog. Taking influences both from legendary groups such as Human League, and specifically; Soft Cell – there’s a resurgence that simply can’t be ignored. We’ll see if any other label from that particular region of the world are up for the challenge, but it seems like they’re the number one contenders so far. To be noted, the artists themselves aren’t from this region, but the mastermind is the Russian label. In this special edition of Spotlight, I’ll guide you to the two gems “Fright †reasures” and “Your Own Private Underworld“. Courtesy of A New Life and Soft Riot, one Italian-based producer and one UK-based producer of synth-pop music, with the word “retro” in the mainline.

1481648355-1What can possibly be said about A New Life and his newly released cassette titled “Fright †reasures“? Firstly, it’s based off material that was recorded in 2011-2012, by the synth-pop producer Maurizio Pustianaz. Besides the obvious fact that it’s retro all over, there’s also the importance of analogue. Smearing our brains with a current of force, but at the same time also a sincere yearning for times that have past. The music itself strays from synth-pop, to minimal synth and he delves into the 80’s – with good intent. His abysmal fascination for that decade, is preceded by the apparent structure of the songs, whom in their natural state reveal much of the influences. But they are pretty unconventional – and are only matched, when it comes to superiority, by the fast-paced sections of synthesizer goodness. Some of the ambitious hints of melodic content, are sometimes not his strength when it comes to the music. The weird, showcased melodies in the choruses don’t intertwine in a good way, within the context that is intended – of the structured colossus that is his sound. Which at times actually can be turned in his favor, since the music itself relies on the ambitious notion and atmospheric experimentalism that is rarely seen within this decade. Sure, if you’re interested in Soft Cell, their experimentation seem to be a guideline for his music. But when it comes to the regular synth-pop, with 80’s vibes, this is not something for the faint of heart or primitive minds. No, this sounds like an intellectual approach to an otherwise pretty basic genre, at least if you gather up all your synth-pop belongings and heed to the overall quality. Catchy, it is and can be when he lets it form around the strengths that emit throughout the often heartbreaking lyrical content, but not to an extent that is in his favor. Since the vocals are 50/50, they’re just too much in some of the songs, but at the same time add up in the end – which makes this a case of how you’d like the lyricism to be. When he sings from his heart, the music itself is energized and should re-conquer the castle it needs to forcefully re-take. Otherwise, when it comes to the overall picture, it’s a picturesque cassette which needs to be listened to. At least if you compare it to the not-so-stiff competition out there.

1006979070-1As you listen to Soft Riot, which is a moniker for another UK-based producer, who goes by the name of JJD (Jack Duckworth) – there’s an instant appeal to your own monotonic glory. His single-based release “Your Own Private Underworld“, from his forthcoming cassette “Fiction Prediction“, is a fusion between the minimal synth landscape, of dark intentions morphed into a kind of shallow Miami synth-pop sound. There’s a glimmering haze around the general atmosphere of the song, along with almost atonal sounds with monotonic intentions. The contradictions that feed off this sound is astonishing. No cliches are being re-interpreted into the shrewd landscape of ludicrousness, angelic dismay and sincere synthesizers. If anything, this is simply a display of utter originality. Quenching the thirst for some post-punk, by squeezing some influences from that pathway – into an all-out electronic endeavor. At times, the vocals and the interchangeable nature of the music, reminds you all too much about the totally non-electronic band Lebanon Hanover. The kind of dry atmosphere of aridity is utilized as a kind of undertone, which is absurd when blended with the glamor in the overlying parts of the songs structures. It’s odd, but it’s actually one of the better blends of minimal synth, with irregular influences, that has a more static synth-pop ground to stand on – which in the end actually works. Since there’s only two songs, as this is a part of a forthcoming cassette, I am dismayed. Not because anything is bad about it, it’s just because there are only two songs so far – and I want him to get on with it and deliver the rest of them. The urge that simply walks into your brain and make your hands click on the mouse-button, just so you can hear the songs on repeat. Really great songs, original and unique in so many ways. This is a cassette that you simply have to listen to. You should wait until the forthcoming cassette and whole album “Fiction Prediction” comes out, but I urge you to buy the digital download of these two songs – right now!

Interview with Other Voices Records!

Other Voices Records is both an independent label and a mail-order from Russia, rising from the ashes of the pioneering post-industrial/ambient label Tantric Harmonies. It was first titled Intuition Records but was later renamed. Musically, they don’t limit themselves to genres, the only requirements are that you should be a creative artist. The name itself is derived from a classic post-punk song by The Cure, and a homage to both the band and that particular song. There’s much going on in means of productiveness and their releases are featured as downloadable, CD, tape and vinyl. Which gives a good range to the releases. Artists and bands featured on this label is everything from Nagamatzu to Venus In Furs. With that said, they’ve got a wide range of genres represented on their label. I took some time to interview Oleg from this label, both about the releases but also the history of the label as a whole and much more.

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