University of Chicago Symphony Orchestra – [2012] Design and Intent

Live recording of excellently performed classical music. Though not exactly hi-fi, the performance excels.

Without surprise, recordings of full orchestra performing classical symphonies are rare. But the productive university orchestra in Chicago is so kind to provide full recordings of some of their concerts. While they do not (and to not want) to compete with proper (and pricey) studio recordings, they give us an opportunity to try out some classics:

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Akey – [2010] Feel

Rather experimental ambient electronica, but hear me out. Songs that work as songs, but will stick out in your collection.

Most experimental albums fall into the trap of trying to be too innovative for their own good. Akey avoids this elegantly by using well established song structures. Instead, the experiments involve voicing, odd harmonies and occasional use of noise; all this is always in strict service of a clear emotion, or, feeling. My two picks are:

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Various Artists – [2009] Footprints

Massive trip hop infused electronic compilation. 30 tracks from dance to experimental.

Netlabel Bump Foot is special in that it consists two separately numbered release channels. One is labelled bump, dealing with house and techno, foot the other for IDM, trip hop, chiptune, ambient… everything else electronic, basically. In 2009, both series hit their 100th anniversary. This one is filled with two hours of high quality trip hop, pop-y and funky electronica from the golden netlabel era.

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Boogie Belgique – [2014] Nightwalker (Vol. 2)

Old swing samples meet instrumental hip hop loops. Both casually and dancually enjoyable.

Back in 2013, Belgian (surprise!) producer Boogie Belgique published Vol. 1 of this series (ojdo reported). Only one year later, this gem followed. Time for me to follow up: like before, modern percussion arrangements are woven together with vintage recordings, carefully curated, sliced and spliced to create a tasty blend that could be described as instrumental hip hop. But this is only half true. Listen to hear for yourself:

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Planet Boelex – [2013] Exist

Short like an EP, full like a compilation. Uplifting ambient electronica at its best.

A short album, but varied like a compilation: 6 tracks, 3 of which are compilations, and 2 remixes make this a small festival in all things ambient electronica.
It marked the end of a three year hiatus. And what a bombastic, I mean, relaxing, way to do that. If you have not yet Planet Boelex on your mental shortlist for acoustic bubble baths, here is your ticket:

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Spiedkiks – [2013] Take Off Your Make Up

Groovy big beat funk, great for upbeat parties.

Spiedkiks is an electronic duo from Cologne and Stuttgart. For their 10th anniversary this year, they have announced their 7th release together. This review’s album is an excellent appetizer and sampler of their common work, ranging from funky beats to house party. Special: the last track is a 13 minute collage of song production stems, which awaited their completion (at the time). Appetizers…

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Electric Mirrors – [2016] UFO Stories

Slightly dark synth-pop at its best. Stomping beats and almost spoken vocals included.

If Depeche Mode and David Byrne did a collaboration (maybe they did? didn’t check), it might sound like Electric Mirrors.
Densely produced songs, with no second wasted on padding, are filled from start to finish with lyrical puns, glockenspiel interludes or gently sprinkled in ’90s pop music references.

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Saito Koji – [2009] Time / Line

Essential ambient drone music. Literally takes its time.

Take your time. Got it? Then take some more. This album is the slowest of slow music. Even among drone, which is the genre, it is one of the slower entries. Single, long-stretched notes fade in and out for literally minutes. In a sense, this soundscape realises what trance music promises. Low volume and background listening are crucial for enjoyment…

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Scott Altham – [2012] Scott Altham Anthology

Collector-curated compilation of 4 years of electronic music from Scott Altham’s ccMixter profile.

This review is special in that I am the curator of this grandiosely named Anthology. I stumbled upon Scott’s ccMixter profile, where he publishes single tracks, whereas I am a stubborn collector of proper releases. So what to do? His using a Creative Commons license allowed me to create a collection of my favourite tracks from his profiles, uploading it to the Internet Archive. I felt bad about reviewing then, but 7 years later I think I owe it to the artist to publicize his work. It is a bit weird to select my favourites among a pre-selected collection, so I let my usual restriction slip and hit you with not 2, not 3, but whopping 4 tracks:

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Knoxband – [2009] Equinox

Extremely shoe-gazy, ambient progressive or even post rock. Percussion only starts for the finale. Amazement during the intro.

Knoxband is the ambient post rock project by artist Vru Patel, whose albums always incorporate airy, vast, even stellar soundscapes. While this review highlights the start of this musical journey, give the appropriately named Solstice a try to see where his sound landed three years later. But first, have the appetizers:

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