Another Electronic Musician, ent and SubtractiveLAD reviews (n5MD)

(February 2010) Critically acclaimed Californian label n5MD opens the new year with a trio of new releases; albums from label originals Another Electronic Musician and SubtractiveLAD and another from newcomer ent. Recognising the need to diversify n5MD has slowly expanded its roster to include artists not purely of the electronic genre, ent being one such artist coming from an indie pop background and mixing those influences with electronic elements to produce a hybrid pop sound. Long serving n5MD artists such as Another Electronic Musician and SubtractiveLAD have also developed, refined and experimented more with their own sounds, taking their music in new directions and venturing into new territory with each release without losing the characteristics that brought them recognition for their earlier releases.

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Another Electronic Musician :: States of Space (Listen & Purchase)

Jase Rex ironically named his solo project Another Electronic Musician although a number of critics, including me, have pointed out that he is far from that. Maintaining the finest tradition of n5MD’s signature sound, Rex mixes tracks influenced by classic techno, house and electro and fuses them with his unique brand of ambient, rhythmic experimental electronic music with a dash of glitch work sparingly applied throughout. Rex releases States of Space, his fourth album for the imprint in five years, five if you include 2004’s Decompose on n5MD’s netlabel offshoot En:peg Digital.

Although his influences are recognizable throughout, Rex’s music goes beyond emulation by mixing his own music with his own take on classic electronic styles. Often incorporating flowing synth textures below bassy rhythmic elements, Rex creates a sound that features both absorbing ambience and enjoyable rhythms at the same time. At times, he explores the atmospheric direction of his music more; “Treading” is based around dark creeping synth textures with shifting bass, a tense piano key chiming like a heartbeat all combining to heighten the senses and create a tense immersive soundtrack. Album closer, “Venatici,” on the other hand floods the senses with a distorted crescendo of synth waves oblivious to the throb of warning tone synths as undulating waves of texture rise and fall around it until they drown it out almost completely.

The mood of Rex’s music is generally upbeat, switching between styles from track to track but maintaining consistency through interpreting them in his own style. Always able to spot a good rhythm and loop, Rex produces another in a long run of consistently high quality releases for n5MD.

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ent :: Welcome Stranger (Listen & Purchase)

Atsushi Horie is the frontman of Britpop influenced band Straightener who have accumulated a strong following in their native Japan. Having developed an increasing interest in experimental electronic and post-rock music Horie – who hails from Nagasaki in Southern Japan – began writing Welcome Stranger, his debut solo album under the name Ent, in 2006. The album was later released on Tokyo’s Preco Records in February of 2009. Now licensed for release by n5MD the album additionally includes remixes by Kettel, Near the Parenthesis and Helios.

Unashamedly pop orientated Welcome Stranger focuses on acoustic and electric guitar paired with Horie’s voice. Consisting of guitar melodies and simple electronic rhythms Welcome Stranger occasionally ventures into more experimental electronic territory with the addition of discrete clicks, glitches and, from time to time, a field recording. “Will” is an interesting example of this with its fast beat, guitar and bubbling keyboard melody accompanied early on by the sound of someone running backwards and forwards across a wooden floor cleverly used as a rhythmic backing to Horie’s guitar. Also interesting is the opening track “No Tone” for its fragments of sampled guitar, Horie’s soft vocal, the crashing beat and a recognisable psychedelic flute-like sound that gives the track a dreamy quality. The same vocal style runs throughout the album perhaps with most effect on “Do Not Adjust Your Set” where a kicking break, tinkling melodies, gently driving guitar and Horie’s voice all come together in one great pop song.

Kettel’s remix of “Silver Moment” strips away the heavy guitar that partially obscured Horie’s vocal in the original and emphasises the electronic elements with a snappy beat, bright melodies and summery feel. Near the Parenthesis transform “No Tone” into a sombre track with a dark gentle beauty all of its own, slowly building until it almost implodes. Closing the album is the Helios remix of “Farewell Dear Stranger” stays fairly true to the original adding a radiant droning backdrop, subtly different drums and drawing out Horie’s vocal.

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SubtractiveLAD :: Life at the End of the World (Listen & Purchase)

Still maintaining his album a year record with Life at the End of the World, his latest release for n5MD, Stephen Hummel continues develop and refine his musical sensibilities as subtractiveLAD. Like Jase Rex (Another Electronic Musician), Hummel is an n5MD veteran consistently releasing an album a year. With each release he also refines his sound further, something those of us who have followed him since his n5MD debut in 2005 will already be cognisant of.

Hummel’s music has always been very personal and expressive but Life at the End of the World and its predecessor Where the Land Meets the Sky take a step closer towards intense ambient soundcapes by incorporating drones, piano and guitar melodies and layers of slowly shifting sound to further enhance the emotional experience he aims to portray. Where the Land Meets the Sky went a step further still by including a bonus disc containing an entire ambient album with the limited edition release; Life at the End of the World continues his exploration of sound.

Hummel allows his music to unravel, to tell its story and find its own way. Always heavy with deep emotive qualities, each track flows, undulates and drifts along with steady ease, textures and layers slowly interacting, coming in and out of the sound space, changing the mood as the emphasis shifts. Album opener “Beginning Again,” for example, is initially dark and melancholic yet by its close it has introduced an acoustic guitar that brightens the tone and introduces an air of optimism. This ability to subtly switch the emphasis and mood of a track is something that Hummel is very good at, making the transition gradually and gently in keeping with the expressive nature of the music he creates. Based mostly around layered droning texture and electric guitar tones, on tracks such as “Summer in Your Mouth” and “Always Ending” he incorporates lighter piano or guitar melodies to offer a sense of optimistic hope and positivity. Occasionally the pace is more urgent and the guitar heavier, louder and more aggressive as if depicting brief spells of anger or frustration such as “Once the Stars Have Been Washed from the Sky.” However, even at its most melancholic and introspective, Life at the End of the World has an undeniable sense of beauty where it soars majestically or drifts in peaceful reflection.

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All releases listed above will be released on n5MD.

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