At the beginning of last year, Tympanik Audio opened their annual release schedule with a clutch of releases in the form of ESA’s remix collection, a new Displacer album and free to download MP3 EP also from Displacer. Despite significant changes in musical retail in recent years Tympanik Audio have successfully managed to maintain their popularity with a regular release schedule (mostly on physical formats) and a strong stable of both new and established artists.
ESA – The Immaculate Manipulation
[CD, Tympanik Audio]
ESA – an acronym for Electronic Substance Abuse – is the brainchild of Jamie Blacker. Originally signed to respected US label Hive Records where he released his first two albums, Blacker signed to Tympanik Audio after Hive disbanded. Releasing The Sea and the Silence in 2008, The Immaculate Manipulation is its companion release featuring one new track and 12 remixes by like-minded artists such as Manufactura, Access to Arasaka, Stendeck and Marching Dynamics. In addition to this, as Tympanik Audio occasionally do, the artwork contains a link and password to download nine additional remixes from equally recognisable names such as Ah Cama Sotz, Keef Baker, Autoclav 1.1 and Blacker himself.
With a total of 22 remixes across the CD and downloadable formats there is a real mixed bag of styles and approaches represented on The Immaculate Manipulation. Like “Tasting Nails” that opens The Sea and the Silence, “I am the Filth”, the new track that kicks off The Immaculate Manipulation, is loaded with euphoric thudding bass and hard pounding rhythms. Dark themes run throughout both the original and remix albums, the most common being consistent references to mainstream religion through the use of carefully selected samples.
Transforming the dancefloor stomper “Tasting Nails” is Marching Dynamics who delivers a complete reconstruction of the track that replaces its dark pounding industrial rhythms with crisp jabbing electronic beats. The hard beat and symphonic backing of the addictive “It’s Hard to Sleep in Hell” is made more disturbing still by Manufactura who blurs the line between industrial and noise in convincing fashion. The original version of “The Sea and the Silence: Part 1 – The Sea” is a punishing, grating industrial track that features a female vocal mantra; Lucidstatic inject it with a dose of grinding experimental menace. “The Sea and the Silence: Part 2 – The Silence” was originally a soothing rhythmic track filled with Eastern instrumentation and chanting; Stendeck updates it with glitchy electronic rhythms and a gentle organ-like drone that builds with glistening radiance while Ah Cama Sotz expands on its sensual Eastern influences, reworking it with increasingly manic abstract rhythms to give it a musky air of mysticism.
The punishing beat and distinctive vocal of “Your Anger is a Gift” is completely redefined by Access to Arasaka who imaginatively transforms it into a glitchy futuristic soundtrack while Keef Baker strips back the thunderous industrial beat, replacing it with a subtle break and dubby bassline to emphasise the male/female vocal interplay. The deep distorted throb, Latin styled acoustic guitar and floating female vocal of “Randomly Selected Drawbacks of the Human Condition Part 2” is transformed by Monsieur L’Antechrist into a slow glitchy gothic re-version; Lights Out Asia’s rework is a slow burner that builds into a massive radiant glow by its close; Blacker’s own remix tones down the original industrial elements to emphasise the very gothic vocal and acoustic guitar. A further version entitled “The Drawbacks of Sleeping in Silence” is a collaboration with Intoner that introduces an ominous dark ambient backdrop, sharpens the electronic elements into a crisp glitchy rework and adds heavy grinding industrial rock guitar. Again returning to the recurring religious commentary, “The Devil Worships Me!” builds with ethereal female and aggressive male voices repeating the title over a steady militaristic drumbeat. After a couple of grinding industrial remixes of the track from Psilopsyb and Process Drone, it is Autoclav 1.1 who combines horror movie piano, almost orchestral tones, a heavily processed electric guitar loop and an insistent beat to produce the most subtle yet intriguing remix of the trio.
DISPLACER – X Was Never Like This
[CD, Tympanik Audio]
After releasing his first trio of full-length albums on the French M-Tronic label between 2003 and 2006, Toronto-based musician and visual artist Michael Morton found a new home with Tympanik Audio in 2008, releasing his next album, The Witching Hour the same year. Now releasing X Was Never Like This, his second album in as many years for Tympanik Audio, Morton again combines new tracks with collaborations and a slew of remixes from the likes of Daniel Myer of Haujobb/Architect, Keef Baker, labelmates Lucidstatic, Marching Dynamics and Morton himself as he did with his debut release for the label.
Opening with the gentle melodies of “Arms Bent at Right Angles (Instrumental Version)”, X Was Never Like This quickly builds in pace to create a warm flow of melancholic sound punctuated with prolonged bursts of bouncy energetic beats. The other versions of this track feature vocal contributions from Victoria Lloyd of Claire Voyant/HMB and Broken Fabiola respectively; both featuring equally dreamy processed vocals ideally matched to the Morton’s musical contribution. Lloyd appears again on “Junkie Blvd” with her typically seductive vocal delivery that is perfectly matched to Morton’s brand of dark swirling atmospheres and spritely drum ‘n’ bass rhythms. The title track matches 50’s TV samples and a tame phone sex line conversation under a driving but steady bassy rhythm. Of the remixes of “X Was Never Like This” the Daniel Myer ‘Renegades of Noise’ remix is disappointingly generic by his standards, Famine disposes with the samples, cuts it up and reconstructs it from the pieces using huge buzzing bass while Displacer produces the best of the remixes utilising a catchy loop, a playfully bassy break and bursts of grinding metal guitar. “Never Compromise” again highlights Morton’s ear for a catchy tune with snappy breaks, carefully utilised samples and sampled guitar loops while Mark Thibideau’s remix harks back to the era of classic extended remixes of the 1980’s. “Windmill” is similar to “Never Compromise” but features a sparkling backdrop over tumbling beats and radiant melodies whereas Keef Baker’s remix is a combination of minimal electronics with huge breaks and cascading piano keys and the Marching Dynamics remix that closes the disc is purely electronic with piano keys offering an air of gentle yet beautiful melancholy running throughout. The remaining remix on the album is of “To Live, Love, Die or Kill…” from The Witching Hour that sees labelmates Lucidstatic turn what is a minimal electronic track into an epic with distorted beats, deep dark bass tones and an insistent synth backing providing an added sense of urgency.
DISPLACER – Lost Mission EP
[MP3, Tympanik Audio]
Hot on the heels of the X Was Never Like This album Tympanik Audio released the six track Lost Mission EP, an MP3 collection available free of charge from the label’s website. Comprising of the title track and five remixes by Co-ordinates, Gus & Griz, L’Ombre, labelmate S:Cage and Morton himself, ‘Lost Mission’ is a return to his dark electronic roots.
Title track “Lost Mission” pulsates with a deep bass tone and elastic beats while retro futuristic zaps criss-cross in the background and suitably retro space related samples come in and out of the mix, occasionally distorted, processed or echoed for added effect. All the time the pass increases subtly and gradually, giving a heightened sense of urgency before a sampled ‘Goodbye’ cheekily ends the track as it gets into full flow. The Co-ordinates remix is fairly true to the original, dispensing with most of the retro sound effects and samples and picking up the pace at a much earlier juncture to give the track a classic techno feel. The Gus & Griz Remix is also true to the original, again removing most of the samples but this time retaining the effects and utilising a deeper bassy beat. Slowing things right down is Morton himself who takes the track, initially slowing it considerably but soon picking up the pace once more and adding a backdrop that radiantly rises and falls for added emphasis. L’Ombre darkens things up considerably by making the beat harder, sharper and distorting it slightly, adding some grinding industrial accompaniment and a replacing the radiant backdrop with a grinding metal guitar for extra industrial effect. Closing the EP is labelmate S:Cage’s rework which is again a dark interpretation of Morton’s original vision, the backing is transformed with creeping atmospherics, the beat is sharp and rumbles in what is a masterful rework that transforms the track into a dark and tense take on the original.
Tympanik Audio closed 2009 by looking forward to 2010 in the manner in which we have become accustomed – with another set of strong releases from a consistently high quality label. With another packed release schedule to look forward to, 2011 looks like being another strong year for the label.
ESA – Rating:
Displacer CD – Rating:
Displacer MP3 – Rating:
Published by Igloo Magazine [January 31st 2011]