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Net Decks 23

img  Tobias


Please Note: This will most likely be the last edition of "Net Decks". From now on, Netlabel reviews will be featured alongside CD- and DVD reviews, including MP3 excerpts for each item. Hope to see you there!


Slowly but surely the name Bill Bawden is getting around. A firm insider tip among attentive ears, his EPs and sampler contributions for UK-outfit Serein have left an impression not just with fans of romantic and heartwarmingly off–kilter-ambient, but with musicians and other netlabel heads as well. 12 Records, for one, were extremely chuffed about being able to present the third in a string of short-form releases by Bawden’s nom de plume Herzog. “Ocean! Be Our Blanket” passed us by at the time of its release, but makes for one of these equally upsetting and uplifting “How could I have missed that!”-and-“What a brilliant discovery!”-moments one occasionally encounters when the sky is premonitiously grey, the mood’s gloomy and nothing seems to work out right. “Ocean! Be Our Blanket” certainly caught me off-guard and turned a morning which promised nothing but uninspiring work and stress into an oasis of rest and peace. “His idea of transforming analogue sounds into short-form ambient-compositions fit our intentions perfectly.” 12 Records bosses Sim Sullen and Sven Swift mention in the introductory notes, but there is quite a lot more going on here. Especially in terms of instrumentation, Bawden avoids the trapdoors of monochromaticism and builds his orchestra from various field recordings, minimal piano trickles, rhythmically broken radio frequencies, powerful pads and soft drones, as well as intangible echoes of what could be a guitar being plucked. With the gentlest of movements, casual and careful at the same time, Bawden then stirrs these elements into glistening photonic crystals like a pastry chef mixing in beaten eggwhites with a cream of quark, raisines and cherries. His melodies are recursive and seem to fall back into themselves, like a skater in a halfpipe, creating the sensation of movement without really advancing one step. Herzog uses reverb with utmost care, preferring intimacy above majesty and enjoys delaying his motives into spiralling grooves of high emotionality. Especially so in the closing “I’m no cathedral”, with its deep organ root, far-away drum machine clatterings and filtered psycho-acoustics, a piece which reaches out to several scenes and genres at the same time. So does the entire release, which has a strong coherence and continously references itself without ever actually repeating a note. A mixture of Winter and Autumn-tunes glowing in the rays of a Summer Sun and with the promise of Spring.


In the former paragraph, I mentioned Serein and shame on me for not reviewing their material earlier. I can at least defend myself by claiming that this feature was originally going to focus exclusively on techno, minimal and related styles – genres, which are obviously far from the electro-acoustic soundscapes at the border of sleeping and waking that the label has excelled in since its inception two years ago. With its fourteenth release, Serein comes full-circle for the first time. Muhr, after all, was the protagonist behind the very first digital EP on the label and has published with Miasmah, Fenetre, Zymogen and Kahvi in the meantime before returning. “Pussiere”, a collection of five slowly simmering tracks, is now said to be his most personal EP. Switching between silent string arrangements and rusty beats, scraping cliffs of distortion and melancholy, it is certainly a disturbing, sensual and emotive work which searches for a mood and then stays put. Muhr is a poet, but he eschews lyrics of banale beauty. “Quiet Words and Forgotten Trees” stumbles on splintered glass and a chopped guitar riff, “Dead Leaves” crunches and stutters. Haunting synthesizer chords are continously trying to shine through the desperate and sharp-edges constructs made of futuristic nightmares and naive glockenspiel tinklings. An uneasy release, which stretches the meaning of the word “Dark Ambient” to extremes. Midnight music for bad dreams.


How much music can you take? A lot we hope, for the latest installment in Cold Room’s series of net-samplers offers 26 artists and a total of approximately two and a quarter hours of sounds that are all worthy of your attention. Some of them have already featured on the label’s previous output, others have chimed in to celebrate the occasion. Combined, they make for a package that will have friends of demanding and delicate electronic music dancing in their dreams. Opener “Pivot Knoll” by Flotel is a perfect example: Delayed chords overlap, create a sense of rhythm and morph through different tonal changes. Harmonic and dynamic, it is archetypical for a compilation which both enjoys a certain youthful charm and an elaborate proficiency in welding together warm structures and analytically precise digital cuts. There’s a couple of great surprises on “Drifting Skywards 3”, as well as some expected gems: PJE, who caught my attention with “A Different Place” a while ago, again delivers with a sensual track of electro percussion, insistent bass signals, organic keyboard washes and a whispered piano melody. Daisuke Miyatani, meanwhile, presents what could easily be an outtake from “Diario”, his pointilist childhood fantasy, which reaped nothing but rave reviews this summer: A harmonica, a toy piano and a guitar meat for a picknick on the green meadows of a fairy tale. There’s more material of this quality level waiting in the folds and cracks of “Drifting Skyward” – if you can take this much music, that is.


“Airport Affairs” is the very first sign of life by Cologne-based Sophie Tiedtke,whose band-lineup includes nothing but her sweet self and her Midi-Keyboard. Without a single doubt, this concise four-track EP will not be the last we’ll hear of her. Tiedtke is anything but yet another technohead with an inflated ego and she definitely doesn’t strut her love for minimalism around like a peaock on an 80s revival. Instead, her tracks are emotional, exceedingly melodic, hypnotically sweet and disarmingly straight-forward hymns of joy. “Mysterious Baggage” takes off on a sort of Ragga-bass and a staccato-synth pattern filtering around seemingly aimlessly for minutes, before it gets ornamented with an exstatic side theme. “Departure Unknown” is nothing but bass and atmospheres pulsating nervously and penetratingly in search for a vein. Everything hinges on the power of her motives, presented by irredescent vibraphone- or bell-sounds and minutely synchronised with the stoically repeated rhythm section. Closing piece “Lost Gate” is a 21st century chill-out tune with an ominous and foreboding presence, but it is really the monumental opener “Unknown Arrival” which turns “Airport Affairs” into something special and frankly unforgettable. A tribal groove of delayed railroad hihats and claps, cinematic vibratos and a brooding variation over a deep string section make for a gravitational pull comparable to forces of nature beyond control. Makes you want to dive in again and again to repeat the sweet stupour of listening to it for the first time. Curious as to where Sophie and her Midi Keyboard are off to next.


By Tobias Fischer


“Net Decks” is a weekly feature of covering Netlabel releases from the techno and electronica scene. It is published each Monday. For including your infos, having your releases reviewed or joining the reviews team, please contact us at



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