Blocks & Escher - Sagan b/w Broken [Narratives Music]
EDJ favourites Blocks and Escher turn up the heat this week with the introduction of their new label Narratives Music. The emphasis here is on ‘releasing music which encapsulates the atmosphere, emotion and excitement’ that made them fall in love with the genre in the 90’s’. So a label that is deeply personal and not afraid to show it, good news! Music is undoubtedly a deeply personal thing and too many labels trying to be all things to all people is partly the reason why the majors and the mainstream industry at large is in the state it is in today. People don’t feel the connection with music that they once did, predominantly because everything is so homogenised and essentially impersonal. I invites the question, why should somebody feel obliged to pay for something that is aimed in such a corporate scattergun fashion at anybody the marketing model’s remit picks up? I’m not condoning the theft of music and to be fair the factors outlined above generally don’t apply to our beloved genre, I’m just saying it’s partly understandable when you take them into consideration and apply them to the bemoaning masses.
Anyway, enough about that. Narratives’ first release lets two typically raw and pulsating rhythms off the leash for our aural pleasure. On ‘Broken’, heart melting synth lines and breathy vocals entwined with stone cold breaks produce an indefinable fusion that sounds quite unlike any other set piece of music out there in the realm of 170bpm at the moment. ‘Sagan’ with a percussive journey that twists, turns and rolls up and down throughout certainly keeps the listener on their toes. Both tunes are a healthy testament to the notion that you can take the polished sheen off of drum and bass and still make it listener friendly. A little bonus for digital lovers and supporters of those who buy from the labels online store over at Surus is a solo effort from Escher, ‘Cymbal Runner’ that’s been doing the rounds for a while now.
With such a personal slant on the ethos of the label, I thought rather than the usual waffle that litters these reviews, it would be good to ask Phil [Blocks] to try and give us an idea of some music that inspires, particularly him and how this relates to the sounds we hear in the vinyl tracks, ‘Sagan’ and ‘Broken’. The result was as expected, a very broad spectrum including cult classic acts like Joy Division, Kate Bush, Radiohead and Neil Young, alongside some offerings from the more obvious sources of Photek, Boymerang and Susumu Yakota. The later of these creative sources offer the more obvious sonic assimilations. Having listened to Narratives001 it would difficult not to cite a Photek in the inspirations bracket. His penchant for making such succinctly underground, but ultimately tactile sounding music is a very close fit with B&E’s style. Not to say that Narratives001 is full of Photek rip offs, far from it. What struck me was the mutually innate melodic charm of both ‘Broken’ and Photek’s ‘Aleph1’. The hypnotic synth work in Kate Bush’s ‘Running up that Hill’ has always been a personal favourite. Less obviously though, the staunch attitude of an artist so uncompromisingly her own (although actually this tune had to be given a different name to that originally intended for fear of losing commercial appeal!) To me this reflects how B&E have carved out a strong identity of sound for themselves in the scene, build a good following and still manage to stay true to their craft. Having never taken the time to indulge in the buzz surrounding Thom Yorke and his ever influential band, I was shocked at the frantic percussion in Radiohead’s ‘In Rainbows’. ‘Creep’ this is not and although this may be a slight fallacy of logic, you can see how it may have influenced some of the more experimental electronic music to have graced our ears over the last few years. Another citation worthy of note is the general level of atmosphere that the tunes on Narratives001 create. Generally a building sequence of melodic elements is pretty standard these days but to let the composition get overcrowded and convoluted is all too easy in my mind. When you listen to the young Mike Sheridan’s ‘Stjernekiggeri’ (yeah I can’t pronounce it either) or the veteran Yakota’s ‘Imagine’ you are treated to a master class in how it’s done in the very subtle way witnessed in both ‘Broken’ and ‘Sagan’.
One of my favourite things to do is garner an understanding of what influences artists to write the music they do. Some references are more blatant than others. Sometimes you can hear them at a micro level IE a particular sample or sound. Others are more macro, the general feel and atmosphere of a track or the artistic outlook. One way or the other I always enjoy coming away with an enhanced sense of understanding and affinity with an artist. Understanding for obvious reasons but affinity because you feel you’ve been given a personal insight into the mind of somebody whose work you respect and appreciate as a contemporary. That is part of the charm of not only this experience but the whole ethos of Narratives Music as an entity. With that in mind I have to whole heartedly recommend you keep a close eye on the future of the label.
Review by Tom (Taken Root) - follow him on Twitter here
Listen to the audio here