Review: Midnight Shift continues its fine run of form via a mini-album of bleak intensity from renowned modular electro/analogue rave fusionist Umwelt, an artist whose distinctive releases are always worth a listen. The French producer sets his stall out via title track "Superior Life Forms", an undeniably heavy and distinctively dystopian chunk of broken electro fuzziness, before reaching for even grimier electronics and gut-punching bass on "Computer Controlled". "Latent Existence" is a moody, beat-free soundtrack for urban decay, "Fragment" and closer "The Windfall" are teak-tough industrial techno stompers, while "Shadow Entity" is a suitably psychedelic slab of trippy acid electro. Not for those of a fragile disposition, but impressively intense and forthright nonetheless.
Review: REPRESS ALERT: As far as collaborative delights go, this really takes the cake. Miami boogie wildcard Noel Williams, aka King Sporty, throwing it down heavy with legendary Jamaican reggae axe man Ernest Ranglin - as you might expect, the results are incendiary. "Soft Touch" has a hint of the cosmic about it as it romps through insanely catchy chorus chants, stirring brass stabs and Ranglin's sweet licks. "Keep On Dancing" has a more uptempo feel, "In The Rain" slips into a laid back reggae skank and "Be What You Want To Be" turns the vintage disco heat back up. Throughout this wonderful mini LP, the duo switch between each other's strengths and bring out the best in each other, like all good collaborations should.
Review: Dutch minimal techno hero Koos "Ion" Ludwig teams up with multi-instrumentalist Twan Sallaerts to present a collection of experimental and electro acoustic ambient journeys on this one for Berlin-based label Meander's Horizon Pi Series. Ludwig's singular sound is recognised by his penchant for all things esoteric and hypnotic, and although this is a non-dancefloor affair he still manages to channel that aesthetic into this collection of tracks, by way of Sallaerts' competent classical know-how on "Entre-Acte". The title track's mesmerising use of sparse melody and disorienting pads over a slow motion / skeletal drum groove is almost just a pitched-down version of Ludwig's usual work when you think about it, while the droning tension and suspense of the atmospheric "Towaknos Carpet" is much more of a departure. Elsewhere, free jazz and film score aesthetics collide on the moody "C.A.T. Track" and the cavernous and glacial ambient textures of "Ijsselzand" only add to the many moments of introversion offered here.
Review: By the time they headed into the studio to record Protection, Massive Attack were still riding high on the success of their peerless debut album, Blue Lines. While the resultant set, released in 1994, does quite hit the same dizzying heights, it remains a thoroughly great album. Of course, we all know the highlights by heart - the stoned bounce of "Karmacoma", evocative downtempo bliss of Tracey Thorn hook-up "Protection", string-drenched lusciousness of "Sly", and the gentle dub-house soul of the Horace Andy-voiced "Spying Glass", for example - but even the forgotten album cuts (see "Weather Storm" and "Better Things") have aged remarkably well. If you don't own a copy on vinyl already, you definitely should.