Tuesday, 19 September 2017


Straight away there's this aura of opulence – that soft synth glow – gold fittings and fixtures and chandeliers and mahogany or maybe teak furniture presenting angularity and sweeping curves in delicious alternation. Rich, that's it—there is a high degree of richness embedded at the heart of Rochelle Jordan's 'How U Want It'. Her voice is of course a fabulous part of the track, its shining jewel, its billowing silk streaming through the well oiled machinery of the instrumental, at some points long and silken, and other times her vocals are tongue twisters, rapid-fire trilling lines that end in swooping lilts, itself full-bodied and robust but bringing it all together, lacing it with delicacy.

The all-encompassing solidity of 'How U Want It' comes from its producer Machinedrum, who creates a playground of synth and beats that stutter and somersault in tracts of audaciously empty instrumental hits, priceless vase ornamental rose footwork, clinking and glittering high-pitch and wonky but bumping and thumping with juddering rubbery quakes too. It is this with its sense of playful urgency that Rochelle Jordan's vocal pairs perfectly, similarly agile and acrobatic, making this track a marrying of two virtuoso elements that soar and sizzle. A subversion of classy with its spilling-over decorative feel, this track is feeling out-of-place at a high-society event and knocking over champagne and having fun in the face of imposition.

  • πŸ”” This track is the first release on Machinedrum's newly birthed label IAMSIAM. You can steam it and purchase it variously from most of your favourite services via this hyperlink.

Rochelle Jordan Internet Presence ☟

Machinedrum Internet Presence ☟
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This track begins awash with textures, the sea spreading itself onto sand with all its foam and flotsam and tumbling little stones and shells that dance jostling on the beach and the bleached bones of coral twisted ceramic antler collections crooning to the sky with its trickling trickling streaming watery sounds. Your private beach. How natural it all sounds, the percussion luscious delicious all hurtling molecular and tiny, a tapestry for time and the way the natural world fills it. Cynabel creates this moss forest these glorious miniatures for roundabout the first third of the wonderful 'When I'm With You', before wide synth chords like rainbows, slow and kinetic, these are dolphins arcing in open sea.

"This particular song was symphonically through-composed, rather than the usual copy/paste we're so accustomed to in music, especially EDM," the Philadelphia-based musicmaker himself tells yes/no via email. "The lack of strophic form and general air of adventure were directly inspired by RefraQ's tune Soda Ritual." The finished product, Cynabel explains, creates "a journey for the listener to experience," adding: "I sincerely hope that the sparkling chords and comforting ambience result in a few smiles for those who choose to adventure with me."

Out there just beyond the reef and from far off it seems slow and getting close to them it's a speed racer affair, it's wiggling and wobbly and vital utterly the smooth mammalian grey of the skin strobing in and out of the calm tufts of sea, as highlighted by the drum fill and the leaping leap into the jostle of more rapid fire rolling soft synth foamy fizzy waves breaking breaking. And the dynamic shift, slowdown, the cascading waterworld of the track's outro where Cynabel seems to be channelling this Zora's Domain feeling, a crowd of effortlessly glistening melodic synths that chime and drip-drop crystalline and ultragorgeous, this aching beautiful coda stretching into the distance, the gentle fade of cirrus clouds against vast blue, the comfort and heartwarm of being with whoever the "you" is in this electronic symphony.

Cynabel Internet Presence ☟

Monday, 18 September 2017


If Hanoi is quaint and decrepitly charming, Saigon is fast and layered, rebuilt from rubble on a huge scale with seams of Western influence vividly running through its core. Between the streets of rushing cars are blocks of buildings that act as facades to the true labyrinth of lanes that run between buildings like veins filled with the flowing blood of the city. Thousands of people seem to live down one alleyway, microcosms of the city itself, but hidden and properly Vietnamese with cafes and food stalls and shops occupying nearly every other house font. Cockerels crowing at dawn in the centre of the city isn't odd here.

A few minutes into walking around Saigon we wondered why we'd heard so much about road crossing safety in Hanoi: Saigon's roads are wide boulevards streaming with a constant river of traffic dominated by hordes of scooters who take over the streets and pavements. Eventually we concluded that if you were to adopt the tactic of walking slowly and steadily across the road you could probably cross blindfolded. However, there is more to the city than its city-scale traffic. Without even thinking about trying to navigate the city on wheels, we walked: foot-power is as almost always the most interesting mode of transport in a city. You get up close to things and breathe it in. We strolled around the main sights from the Opera House to the colonial French Post Office, which is still very much in use, though also occupied by a continuous crowd of tourists snapping at the elegant interior with smartphones. Next to the post office is the Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon, modelled as many are, on the original Notre-Dame. This slice of the city feels a bit like a little Paris even some new buildings slotted in are almost like replicas. Another place that feels very French, probably because it was established by them, is the National Museum of Vietnamese History which details Vietnam from its prehistory to its modern history with various displays of stone tools, Khmer statues, just enough information to read in its entirety, plus a century-old mummy to gawp at. And then there's Independence Palace which in its current form, after being rebuilt in the 1960s, is a geometric dream of simplicity and solid lines, a bastion of modernism with a well trimmed garden from the French era. The palace is more than worth the entrance fee of 40,000 dong (£1.30). The basement, a base of communications doubling as an emergency bunker, was especially interesting with its classic '60s decor and office furniture and technology like broadcasting equipment and word processors on show in well dusted situ. The kitchen, grand meeting rooms and private quarters are all open to the public, the art and regal furniture in stark majestic contrast to the minimalist design of the building. If you like photography and design you will want your camera with you when you visit.

Outside on the grass next to the grand turning circle is a replica of the tank that famously smashed though the gates on 30th April 1975, when apparently, according to an Australia man we met outside, the guards were about to open the middle gate anyway.

Away from passive sightseeing you can engage in active haggling at the Ben Thanh Market. It's packed with food, toiletries, electricals, souvenirs, all manner of items for daily life. Housed inside a big building on a grid system the market is easily navigated and enjoyed. We bargained with a stall owner for some coffee and drip filter because we just couldn't enough of Vietnamese coffee. Westerners are well catered for in Saigon. The expat and tourist scene culminates in a long raucous strip of restaurants and bars all out to get your business with confusing happy hours and blaring music, all contending with each other for your money. Pick a bar, take seat out the front and watch the madness unfold: fire breathers perform for money up and down the road getting much too close for comfort so you can feel the searing heat of the flames--we saw one guy get the back of his shirt singed as he was working at a bar. Local food vendors sell Vietnamese tidbits like dried squid and sugar rolls, portable karaoke is wailed into and as the night goes on the raucous atmosphere of young Vietnamese and tourists culminates in a drunken debauchery that eventually slips away into the side streets in search of dancing and darker pasttimes.

We joined one such foray which led us to an empty bar where a man rolled one joint for us for 10000 dong whilst his maybe-girlfriend sliced a pill in half with a giant carving knife and then tried to give the halves to us. We weren't into it and declined. But she got pretty angry and combined with the blade she was holding and her unhinged demeanour we were happy to just hand over the money for the joint and go get high. A seedy undercurrent runs close to the surface of the southern Vietnamese city. Warnings about keeping your phone and belongings glued to you are not unfounded, since drive-by purse snatchings are frequent and drugs are but a question away from any nocturnal situation. The day we arrived, as we walked down an alley searching for our hotel using google maps, a woman motioned urgently for us to put our iPad away and we never took out it again.

In such recent history Saigon has transitioned from being a friend to foe. Tactfully positioned by the USA as a stronghold for their fight against Viet Cong's communist ideology, the city was bombarded and destroyed, then accepted like a wayward family member as Vietnam unified after the long war. Saigon is no doubt the underdog city that's grown very big very rapidly. The rusted layers of history and modern day struggles converge and combine in the buzzing urban heat of a real-life half-dystopia. Edgy and hard but well-ordered and still unfolding as it flows into the future.


  • Saigon Inn, £13.50 (40,0000 Dong) a night for a basic double room with en suite, including breakfast.
    Tucked down one of the many labyrinths of alleyways in Saigon is the Saigon Inn. The guesthouse was a little hard to find at first but we were really glad to have stayed here. We arrived at around 7am and were exhausted after getting off the night train from Hue, the staff greeted us extremely warmly with smiles. It was too early for us to check into our room but that didn't matter: the guy and girl running this place happily offered us breakfast for free in their cosy kitchen which was more than we expected. We chose breakfast from an immense menu of around 50 options and it came served with a plentiful platter of fruits. Our room was ready early and it was clean and neat; even though we chose the cheapest room option we were happy. At the end of our stay we were sad to leave our new friends who made our stay so comfortable and made us feel so welcome even though they must have hundreds of travellers pass through their doors every month. We would stay here again.

Friday, 15 September 2017


It would be very easy to say that this track is ambient and ethereal and leave it at that. However there is much more to the continual hypnotic hum of synth and wordless voices that call and cry throughout than a cleanse of the soul, or as background music for chillment—it is actually the opposite. Much like with his previous track 'silhouette', pastel creates this whirlwind of sound in 'stammer' that blocks and muffles the outside world, stuns and clears the mind, in order to set a very lonely scene. It is a vast landscape and there is nothing but the wind which is howling but muffled and there's you yourself standing in its midst as it whips up the sand. The colour is down so low it might as well be greyscale.

Talking about the track, pastel writes that it "deals most explicitly with an inability to formulate language around the historical and generational trauma tackled in the preceding tracks of the EP." This is a reference to his latest self-release as a whole, absent, just dust, a collection of music that illustrates loss as viewed from the perspective of Native Americans, himself coming from this background. Words fail, unable to form into something that can fully explain what has been done to the New World's original people since European colonisation: a very big, very old subject. So it's no wonder that the voice in 'stammer' literally stammers, stuttering fricatives of words truncated, struggling, the forgotten language of communities in the dust, in the ghostly wind, the traumatic growl of sub-bass

  • πŸ”” 'stammer' is the finale of pastel's absent, just dust EP, released at the end of last month, which you can grab from Bandcamp. Half the proceeds taken from its sales will be given to FreshestCollective.org, "who have provided continued legal support to water protectors since the founding of the Sacred Stone Camp."

pastel Internet Presence ☟
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To find a sort of absolutism for sounds and styles of sounds in the music world today is something of a rare thing. Genres have become so fluid and superfluous a notion that, instead of being rallied around and defining a fanbase, they are treated more like palettes, or moodboards, and can be blended in new ways according the artists' desires. And so it is with musicmaker DUCKY. In particular 'What U Say' is a cocktail of chiptune, VGM, dubstep, pop, footwork, drum and bass, an experimental track, as many tracks that make their way into the pages of yes/no tend to be; gone is the label of 'experimental' as mere code for 'abstract' or 'unlistenable', experimental is vibrant and fresh and very online.

But to say that is to discredit the clear leaning towards, or rather the roots in, rave and specifically dubstep and the combination of sweet upbeatness – euphoria – and hard, noisy, quite dark manifestations that loom in both. 'What U Say' begins something like a track from SNES racer Top Gear, triumphal synths blaring overdriven abrasive, pulsing bass bobbling with excitement. It builds, handclaps taking us to the apex from where we plummet into grinding squelching synth and a punchy thudding beat. Vocodered vocals skip like a robotic sirensong. A small bridge where marimba-like chimes resound darkly amidst warm crackles and ominous tides of sub-bass gloop. And at breakneck speed: rapid kicks take us back into the chaos of neon bubblegum high-end melodies and scraping searing synth that storms with the beat.

Delicately, that chiming once more in earshot, DUCKY's track ends. And you realise, despite the squalling dubstep sounds at work, despite the familiar rhythms, it is alive with freshness, with emotivity, illustrating chaos and calm like an electronic symphony.

DUCKY Internet Presence ☟
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