The second full-lenght album produced by the talented Esem and released by Merck. “Serial Human” is decidedly more up-tempo than the last album (Enveloped reviewed in 2002), drawing heavily on techno, house and especially electro without becoming generic whatsoever. The twelve tracks on “Serial Human” displays a darker and more intense musical side of Esem and could be considered as a slight change in direction. Not fearing the more experimental side of things there’re also completely beatless sonic passages included on the album as well. “Tjiccli” is the first track and the harder setting of the album can be sensed straight away it’s a well-produced track with interesting sounds and quite an atmosphere alongside clinical beats. “Cee” displays an interesting take on the way of the Americas strings are included. The third track “Bleece” has less tempo than the previous track and a melody to kill for. The (extremely) long titled “Swift urban departure from what was once an innocent soul” starts of with environmental city sound takes and develops into a fairly fast paced bass monster, with straight forward and effective beats, nervous and somewhat claustrophobic synthetic constructs.”Sofiatram as I hear it” is beatless sonic experiment and one can but hope that the sounds of the trams in Sofia aren’t amplified in any higher degree! “Square Lamp” and “Outburst Nue” together with “Alipe Lacks” are currently my personal favourites of this album. “Square Lamp” is a clever take on electro, but with lots of atmosphere and masterly constructed soundscapes. Mid-through the track breaks down just to resume with even more intensity. And that is the key word here, intensity, not aggressivity. Brilliant! “Outburst Nue” comes next in line and that too is a marvellous track with solid beats programming a hint of electro and great atmosphere. More heavy basslines and straight forward beats in “Kyes Irrload” and “Scatterhaunted & Vellin Street” that follow. “Upward Instlr” is a mood change with gentler beats and fantastic melody leading on to the best track on the entire album with superb beats programming, fantastic bassline and the sweetest of melodies, all put together in the best possible way, two words: instant classic! “Tawn” ends this delightful second full-length by Esem. Who’s responsible for this release? Well, it’s Merck of course!
Although he’s already had some releases Mr Johnson’s music was completely unknown to me until I received my copy of ON Records compilation 002 and heard his excellent contribution “Boungy”. I’ve been waiting for his first full-length release for some time now and finally here it is. The 16 track CD is entitled “Chigliak and is released by Merck. It’s a very well produced album with a strong focus on rhythmic elements and a fair amount of electro influences. “Chigliak” starts of with a beatless atmosphere enhancing soundscapes acting as intro. “Trinity” has soothing guitar-based melody and steadily paced beats. “Version02″ starts off with a calm intro leading on to dry percussive elements alongside straightforward beats and bassline. Reminiscent of those days now long gone… The aptly named “Autopop” has a similar structure, but is rather heavily influenced by those legendary Germans and is constructed out of nice sounding melodies and sounds. “Some Say She’s Naive” incorporates more straightforward and effective beats programming fused with vocoder-based melody. It’s a quirky electro-like track. “Lounge Pig” again very nice selection of sounds and beats programming. The strings add an American feeling to the track and to that particular brand of techno. “Sensible Imposter” is like a second part to or a remix of “Lounge Pig” difference being a bit more intensity in the handling of the beats, and that is also my interpretation of the title. “Anex” follows and gives you a down tempo track packed with beautiful melody fused with glass-like percussive elements. And it truly is an outstanding track. All tracks on the album, but one are previously unreleased: “Captain Wood” was first released by Parotic Music on a 12″ entitled “Pressure Point EP” in 2001 under the name A.J Hunter, which apparently also was the debut release for Adam Johnson. “Captain Wood” is as fresh sounding as any other track on the album in fact it is possibly one of the best tracks. Lovely piece of music! “Shade” marks a drastic tempo shift with its atmospheric, beatless soundscapes it’s an interlude of sorts leading on to “Kriegspiel” bringing back the beats in grand style, it’s a bass filled delight. Then the strangest thing happens after 11 tracks of variety and a fair amount of originality the mood of the album is altered. “Malk” is an electronic dub by the format track, it is as well produced as the rest but not that interesting. “Traber” is moving along the same lines, but instead of being dub-influenced it’s house-influenced. “Croupier” ends this album in the same beatless way that it started, in short a classic outro. The album would most likely have benefited from having a couple of fewer tracks, but nevertheless it is an impressive debut album by Adam Johnson. And a final word must be said about the nice looking but fragile packaging. Merck continues releasing high-grade electronic music and the signing of Adam Johnson promises much, much more to come.
A more than aptly named album by the Lackluster and don’t get it wrong this is a share show of force. There’re 19 tracks ranging from world class electronica, to old-school sounding electronics and beyond. In the warm melodic vein of things the number two “LL7 01/10/00″, number fifteen “mes 19/10/99″ and number sixteen “11/11/99″ are all exceptional tracks. An interesting take on electro with a fairly harsh edge is number five “24/04/00″ or why not number fourteen “buzz”. With 19 tracks to choose from it just goes on and on and actually there’s something for everyone on the album. Produced by Lackluster between 1999-2001, compiled and released by those nice people at Merck.
The duo is adding to their release list with this second release, the first ever was naturally “Viva Fab!” as FAB on our very own Electronic Desert Recordings. They also appear on the newly released (Feb 2003) compilation CD Sand Waves Sector One also on Electronic Desert Recordings. Solid beats, nicely played bassline and a playful melody starts of this Frank and Bill 7-inch. The opening track “MA01″ is followed by MA02’s simply excellent rhythmic compositions fused with expertly chosen sounds, creating a fantastic and forward moving track. “MA03″ features more solid rhythmic constructions alongside tremendous basslines and very nice melody on top. The track auto-deconstructs itself and reassembles again and yes it is fantastic! The final and fourth track MA04 contains high-octane beats and a melody with toy like characteristics and ends this beautiful 7-inch delivered by Frank and Bill and released by high-quality label Merck. The actual order of the songs on the 7-inch is different from the order that is presented in this review, but well-informed sources claim that in order to maximize the listening experience the songs should be played according to their numbering… and who am I to argue with that?
Five tracks by as many artists on Merck originally released on n5MD as a part of the MD2 compilation. Featured artists are: Proem, L’usine ICL, Jvox, Tim Koch and Spark “Laid back off” by Proem features his cut-up treatment and some interesting choices in sounds, creating a dubby feeling to this track and beats are functional as ever. “Don’t Interfere”, L’usine ICL delivers again and delivers in style: excellent glitchy beats, subbass and organ like melody, forward moving and lots and lots of atmosphere. Jvox’s “Cardona” a playful track with some truly beautiful sounds and heartbreaking string arrangements follows it. Tim Koch’s “poly800vs.6581″ features straight up beats and some really nice layered structures alongside effective chords. Spark’s “Array” ends this EP with some nicely played basslines and tempo shifts together with playful electronic sounds.
2 = 1 features six tracks by Proem and is released on Merck. Two of the songs are taken form his full-length albums “Negative”, two other are taken from his n5md release “Among Others” and two are new. “Binary+bored” is besides being cleverly named a beatless intro and a track with haunting sounds and plenty of atmosphere. In “skylup” you get crisp beats, nicely played basslines and glass-like structures. It’s followed by “Early rings” nice, nice beats in combination with melody saturated by melancholy alongside bass and a hint of processed vocal samples. Rather complex beat handling in the forward moving “Crash map” filled with cut-up melody with a healthy dose of reminisce in the choice of sounds. “Access Mike (failure to connect)” display more rather nice beat handling and a fair amount up cut-up sounds in the track, but the solid beats keeps the composition intact. Finally there’s a remix of “Early Rings” courtesy Tim Koch. Proem goes from strength to strength and rumors have it that a second album is to released on Merck in 2003. It will be highly interesting.