Posted by: Dominic Umile | 03/29/2010

March Commutes: Electricwest, Vex’d, Free The Robots

Vex'dWhile I try to sift through what’s really been an onslaught of already notable releases this year, here again are a few thoughts on some things I’ve been checking out on the way to work. A quick note on social media: I’m temporarily trying Twitter at the moment, albeit very infrequently. It’s been a great resource for news, but I’m doubtful that I can contribute much other than an additional small voice in a sea of mediocre small voices. Follow me here, or just use email and let’s communicate like normal people for once. Thanks for reading, as always.

Cloud_SeedLondon duo Vex’d gathered a number of original productions and remixes from 2006 and 2007 and sequenced them for a final album they’ve called Cloud Seed. This formula usually sucks, but for the revered dubstep act whose Degenerate was one of the first of its kind in 2005, it’s welcome closure (they’re not producing as Vex’d anymore, citing geography and other work — albeit worthwhile outings such as Jamie’s recent Dream Sequence EP as Kuedo — as major obstacles). Clanging, metallic flourishes and reliably shuddersome bass are everywhere to be found on Cloud Seed, but the paranoia is tempered with ethereal neo-classical pieces like “Remains of the Day”. Don’t miss this one on the headphones — “Slug Trawl Depths” is cacophonous and too damned short, living heartily up to its gruff moniker with gut punching beats and fierce, jagged synths. Recommended. XLR8R has “Disposition,” and get Jamie’s mix for RA as Kuedo here (registration required).

DetachI don’t know Idaho electronic producer Electricwest at all, but his Detach EP reminds me of a slightly darker, stripped-back Lusine or Milosh, back in the You Make Me Feel days — all surgeon-snipped vocal samples and a blitz of precise micro beats set around field noise and subtle chords. “Flourish” is a nice morning listen, especially when you’ve got the commuter chatter around you cancelled out and the train appears to be accelerating at a respectable speed (which doesn’t happen on the G, obviously). Electricwest won a remix contest for his bubbling-over, R&B-like edit of 2006′s “Color Shifting” from ambient producer Christopher Willits, whose Surf Boundaries I wrote about for Orlando Weekly when it was released. You can download Electricwest’s Willits remix here, and check out the Detach EP, on Willits’ Overlap label.

CTRL_Alt_DeleteCTRL Alt Delete has been in the works for a while — Chris “Free The Robots” Alfaro’s work has popped up in different places, but this is his first full-length for the West Coast-based Alpha Pup (which signed him in 2008). The feel of Alfaro’s record is unmistakably one that we can attribute to the Low End Theory cast (Nosaj Thing, Gaslamp Killer, etc.) — monstrous lows, plentiful theremins at will, 8-bit bleeps — but CTRL Alt Delete‘s range of experiments is wide-reaching. “Orion’s Belt Buckle” gets a lot more interesting than what’s promised in its first couple of minutes. Leading with the heavily compressed type of sub bass that Distance was using for his Planet Mu stunners three or four years ago, Alfaro layers chilling synths and what sounds like multi-tracked hand claps that almost dominate the percussion end for its final stanzas. Ok, good enough, but where the record goes from there (and where it goes from each track to the next) is the clincher. “Wandering Gypsy” doesn’t sound like Alfaro has been trolling online UK record shops for ideas any longer. He helms vintage organs and clips spooky 60s-psyche vocals for this epic, sometimes allowing a whole verse from the latter to filter overtop his concoction. When he doesn’t overdo it on the gloopy game-music patterns, Alfaro’s debut is jolting, with live instrumentation, an impressive sampling hand, and enough artful risks to effectively distinguish this producer from the in-crowd. Wacked-out promo video here, and get “Orion’s Belt Buckle” from XLR8R. Right-click for the Free The Robots/Nobody Low End Theory podcast here.

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