Labels: CollectionDX & Aural Films
Keywords: Ambient, Experimental, Film Music
Reviewer: Alex Spalding
… ROBUTTSS!!! MY ROBUTTS ARE TAKINK OVER ZEE VURLD!!! AAHAHAHAAA! *cough cough* sorry about that, I’m just over-excited right now to be reviewing the compilation ROBOTS! As the page says, “Get ready for 51 tracks from international artists who have composed music about their favorite robots”. Makes me think… who are your favourite robots? Who are mine? I thought I’d make a quick list… my top 10 favourite robots, go:
Anyway, time to get this review started… with 51 artists, we’ve got a long way to go!
First track here is ‘Rachael [Nexus6]’ by Alex G V. I’m hearing very thin, bright bell-like synth pads and acid twinges ringing out, the melodies are very digital and abstract, tonal but alien.
Then it’s ‘Big Loo’ by Another Neglected Hobby, which sounds like breathing with rushes of digital machine noises. I hear flickers of a heavily compressed acid sequences. I feel like I’m in some kind of compression chamber, maybe receiving robotic body grafts and updates to my consciousness. I will come out a cyborg hybrid with machine-gun arms.
‘HAL 9000’ is by Batch Sound. It begins with some very cyber sounding effects, the general ambiance on par with something like Clock DVA, though definitely more modern. It gets pretty awesome, with the sequences and pads, various mechanical percussive sounds. It develops eventually into a kind of downtempo electro-breakbeat thing that’s really nice; dark, cold, chill and very robotic and dreamy. Electro voices drift in… wah-treated leads… here is where, for me, the compilation really got it’s groove going.
Dan Stubbs’ ‘Turminder Xuss’ begins like a drone of wind and scorched earth. It’s like standing in a ravine torn from war while spirits of heat and death roar past. It goes on for quite awhile, during which time I began meditating unconsciously about robots. What is the etymology of the term ‘robot’? I was not surprised to learn that, at root, it pertains to drudgery and forced labor. I think it was Isaac Asimov, sporting probably the most recognizable pair of mutton-chops in recent history, who was the one who first applied the term to science fiction with his Three Laws Of Robotics. Anyway, I think we’re about to come upon the next track…
… oh, yes, this one’s titled ‘Manshonyagger’ and it’s by Breaking Light. Electronic trickles and whizzing lazers shoot by, while a bizarre tuba-noise starts playing over an avantgarde electro rhythm. The leads are really nice, reminding me of experimental Moog tracks from the 1970s! Over the course of the track it becomes very hypnotic, psychedelic even… I’m really in love with this track. Am I man or machine? I do not know anymore.
Next is Burning Artist’s track ‘Postcard From Will Robinson’, which is like… a vacuum running in a giant steel chamber while ethereal choirs sing hymns in praise of its cleanliness. Then a computer chip chimes in with bits and bytes of data interference. Then, suddenly, some kind of trickle down liquid sound comes in while everything else has gone, and then a strange ringmod chip sequence follows. Some ripping zipper type sounds come in, and the trickling pisstronics are back.
The next track is by artists Christopher Alvarado and Ari Porki, titled ‘Annalee Call’. It begins with a whirring of electronics from out of the deepest recesses of an abandoned laboratory. It’s the sort of thing that, if you were to hear it in real life emanating from a warehouse or factory you’d feel the strong inclination to turn around and leave before something horrible were to happen. It’s vaguely nightmarish! Then a downtempo rhythm comes on and, for a little while, it seems we are safe. We can dance to this. We have the technology. I’m loving the ambient padwork that creeps up on you, filling the mix with dark atmospheres while the rhythm seems like tribalism cobbled together from the spare parts of machines. Very cerebral and fascinating!
Then it’s a piece by Cousin Silas, ‘The Watcher’… which reminds me…
… I have a lot of weird dreams. Most of them are recurring. Every now and then I’ll have one that stands out for being especially unique and vivid, but the rest seem to take place in a certain number of places, involving a certain variety of people and situations, but will repeat off and on with only moderate variations for periods of 2 weeks to several months. I’ve considered mapping them all some time, even attempted to do so once in a Facebook post before changing my mind and deleting all that I’d written. But these dreams are memorable in that they’ve repeated so often they’ve pretty much imprinted themselves in my psyche. I can recall them as I would any memory, but with occasional gaps. I’ll often wake up from one knowing that, “Oh, I had (that) dream, involving (that) place again, only this and this happened.” as the details might have had slight divergences from previous incarnations. One of these themed dreams, of which details might vary wildly from time to time, is the one involving ‘Watchers’. It’s about the film, for some odd reason. In this dream I’m sometimes in a video rental store trying and often failing to find a copy of one of the films in that series (of which there are several more sequels than in real life), or I’m already watching it with an unknown dream-acquaintance. The film, in dream, is quite a bit different than the one that actually exists… and it’s interesting, because I’ve only started having these dreams within the last 3 or 4 years even though I haven’t seen any of the actual films in at least 15 years! The plot of the real-life film, from my shaky memory, goes something like this I think:
There’s this dog that escapes from a lab (a laboratory that is, not a Labrador!). He’s a very special dog in that he has a very, very high IQ. He meets some people, and soon these people realize just how intelligent and special he is. But the dog really seems to want these people to leave with him in a hurry. That’s because, when the dog escaped, the labs ape escaped too. This ape always knows where the dog is hiding, and it wants to hurt the dog. The ape will hurt anyone that helps the dog. Over the course of three films, the ape basically ends up looking like this! He’s like… the Jason Vorhees of apes, basically. None of the films were particularly frightening as far as I can recall, so I believe they’ve managed to embed themselves in my dream life for reasons of symbolism of some kind… and, like I said, the films differ in my dreams from the actual versions. They sometimes involve the occult, and/or a “haunted” house… sometimes the ape is actually a ghost, or looks like swamp thing, or (two nights ago) happens to be a yeti. Usually the whole bit about the dog is foregone and the emphasis is just on the murderous rampages of The Creature. I don’t know if any of that was worth typing out just now, except that it all floated into my mind when I saw the title of this track and ended up colouring my perception of the sounds I was hearing…
… and getting to that now, it sounds at first like drifting choirs of blown wind. I’m imagining the aural esp of the ape, tracking the dog from the grounds surrounding the lab it just escaped from after killing all of the scientists there. I can hear the calm, cold breaths of the ape amid the ambient bells. It’s totally like a sci fi soundtrack. Who watches the watchers? Who sees the seers? The ape walks slowly, with purpose, to slaughter it’s prey. Anyway, enough with all this silly dream stuff, it’s time to get back to reality…
… robots start blasting through the walls on the next track by Darage Bang titled ‘Marvin’. There’s an electro beat, then a waspy bassline comes in that’s really cool. This is definitely like… updated Kraftwerk music. I love stuff like that. Electro will never die, it will just keep on rocking. It’s robot dance party time, my friends. Currently, I’m watching this with the volume down, it kind of works! This existential droid keeps speaking, it’s kind of awesome.
Now it’s time for the chill resonant sequence on ‘Robbie The Nurse’, by Diego Monroy. I love the prowling vibe, the cold string pads, that sequence. Then a sweet lead comes in backed by fatter bassline synth sequences. I love this track, expert use of sound. A groove of percussive clips and scissor cuts enters the mix. I feel like I’m on a monorail entering the Mechaplex Station in Technopolis or some kind of thing like that. Really great stuff!
‘Mechanical Knight’ is by Digital Horizons. I hear synthetic phase plucks, like an androids banjo. There are some nice bell tone chords, occasionally the sounds detune. A trance-like electro bassline sequence grows louder in the mix, and then there’s a hard bass kick pulse every couple measures. Electro sitars float around… a little later I hear a soft-distorted bassline sequence, and these rock drums come in.
Next is a track called ‘Zane Gort – Robot Writer’ by Doug Lynner aka Synthesizerman. There are some IBM drones, some reverberating electronic noises, clips of spoken words all cut up. This is more of a musique concrète type thing, very bizarre and intriguing! Eventually the effect treatments of the vocals begin to lift a little, allowing us to make out a little of what is being said.
E.U.C. then delivers something called ‘Data’… what is this data? It’s an audio feed of bass, wah guitars echoing, and some splashy snares… then more drums, some vocalisations. It’s like the robots have built a psychedelic rock laboratory!
Then it’s ElectroCelt’s ‘Android Dreams (Bishop)’… dark, modulating pads give way to light and airy piano/string/choir pads. Then I hear a light electro groove, with orchestra hits, some really nice synth leads! I am really enjoying this track, it’s got some very nice melodies! It’s like a strange combination of Mega Man urgency and Jean-Michel Jarre / Tangerine Dream, ah, dreaminess. I hear what could be a hybrid of a guitar and a crow soaring above, then some piano harmonies. This is a very smooth, bright track.
Where will we go next? Flying Species says it’s time to go ‘Cruising With R2D2’ of course! This is a fun track, loads of R2D2 samples, a rolling, deep electro breakbeat, sci-fi synth sequences, bass waves. I’m suddenly in a B-Wing taking a pleasure cruise to exotic planets… maybe I’ll visit the pink jacuzzis of Clak’dor VII, or go dune-hopping on Tatooine… snowboarding on Hoth, skinny dipping on Dac… or maybe I’ll fall for a dancing girl from Saki and we’ll run away to Coruscant. The world is my cloister… or oyster, I mean.
‘Gnut’, by Gareth Whittock, sounds like a tesla coil charged with insane amounts of energy. Random objects echo from the currents running through them, are amplified into the surrounding atmosphere.
Ged then brings us ‘Bob Hésite V2.0’. What makes this version different from the others? This, as far as I can tell, is the only version that exists, for one. There’s electric static, some bass guitar, some swirling electrodes, another guitar (maybe)… then a vocoder voice comes in! That makes me happy. There are some shrill feedback electronic noises throbbing… highly experimental stuff here.
The next track is titled ‘Hector’, by Grove Of Whispers. It’s like a bassy Moog noise with water running. Some robot must be flushing me down the toilet! Who programmed them to do that!? The water appears to be rusting it’s arms… now would be the time to make my getaway…
… but now I’m in the vile clutches of Ian Craig’s ‘Gort’s Theme’! Oh well, this is much more pleasant anyway. Wonky electro saw bass synths are rocking out freestyle with electric guitar and a subtle rock rhythm. This is one of the most insane things I’ve ever laid ears on. Buttrock robots… robots in acid washed denim with electro-mullets clutching v-neck guitars… they’re making a racket in here, but it’s amazing. I hear bits of vocal somewhere underneath all of it. What the hell is this? Why? Fucking hell… it’s beautiful noise, regardless. Gort is taking no prisoners.
We’ve got another ode to ‘Hal 9000’, this one by Instagon. It’s another rock track, kind of blues-rockish. It’s got live drums, a rolling bassline, some guitar strumming. It picks up after a bit sounding like a mostly surfless Man Or Astroman? thing. I’m feeling it at the end with the bizarre wah-weirdness with the guitar.
Then Jack Hertz comes on with ‘Ralph Numbers Dreams Of Electric Sheep’. It seems like it could be raining, but I think it’s just static or spacial hum. Some creaky doors open, there’s a nice ambient feel… pianos seem to float somewhere out there. It’s like we’re just outside a bar in a black & white film, walking home. Something about the atmosphere wants to lead us to believe this is a horror film, other sounds tell us it’s science fiction, but those pianos say it’s just a lonesome night of meandering, lovelorn strolling on a foggy evening at bar close. I don’t know what to think, but am enjoying the confusing imagery. I’m also at times thinking many of the sounds seem like factory assembly, which paints an image in my head of someone having sentimental waking dreams while running on autopilot at their shitty job. Then I hear a dog barking, and that puts me back on my night-time stroll, but now the world has colour. I’m being followed by ufos as I wistfully stare at the melon-green porchlights of the houses I walk past. What a dream this was! Very nice stuff.
There’s a bit of industrial-tinged mechanical rhythm menace on Jeff Duke’s ‘The Rise And Fall Of Gog And Magog’… then a shrill feedback lead comes in, followed by a broken radiator on overdrive. It sounds like there are sirens screaming in the darkness now. Am I being taken in by Robo Cop? The music sounds mostly like a dark wall of choirs and horns in the night. It drops away into a more solemn, deep space of drone. This is a really dense, thick piece of electronic drone. A mechscape. It seems to get better and better and I love the shifts.
Then it’s ‘Erasmus’, by Jon Johnson. Electro pulse sequences, very rhythmic with some great arpeggiated tones that float in!!! I love that. There is a digibell lead and synth string for a bit, then what could almost be randomized atonal series of sequences. Very hypnotic. Bits of rhythm, like crunchy snares or crates being battered drop in. There are some really spacy, psychedelic sounds happening all over the place here.
‘Necron 99’ is next, by Keith Spears. There’s a low bassline sequence, some flanged strings. Later, some bells… this feels like another soundtrack mood. Sawpulse synths come in as well… so far a lot of this music has been very quality!
‘Marvin’s Headache’ is by loopool. It sounds like an abstract migraine. If you had any kind of headache, you might want to pop some painkillers before delving into this one because it will only make it worse.
M.NOMIZED comes next with ‘Cybermen’. There’s some robot threatening me at the beginning while warping electronic noises fly around. Some low toms are being struck and I hear angelic choirs. It’s like a cyber marching band. The robots are coming, everybody run! It’s half martial, half martian.
Funky electro breaks on ‘Robot Commando’ by Marvin Ferguson. Live drums, sequenced slap bass, synth brass/bass, occasional vocals sweeping in.
‘But Where Is Louie’…? asks Michael Brückner. I do not know, but I don’t think we’ll find him in the voidscape of this track, and a lot of the unsettling sounds give me the feeling that even if he were in there, there would be little we could do to help. Angelic voices float around, very pretty juxtaposed against the melancholy drones. There is a piano that seems to echo sharply! The bass sequence is nice, very subtle.
Then it’s ‘L. Bishop’ by midnightradio11… it seems like a howling wind run through a phaser, then these crunchy bass bursts come in. I hear someone making the most deranged bag of popcorn I’ve heard heard popping in my life, very bassy and warped. There’s a broken shuffle of percussion that unfurls into a still-very-peculiar rhythm. It’s like skittery house music, highly abstract, almost sounding granulated.
Mystified comes up next with ‘Terminator’, and I had been wondering to myself many tracks ago when someone was going to reference the ‘Terminator’. “Ah’ll be Bach!” “Give me your clothes.” “Hasta la vista, baby.”… yes, that film series (of which I only truly consider the first two films) had many contributions to the world of stupid movie-reference zings. This piece is largely ambient at first, full of spacial textures. Rhythmic textures are also introduced, and strange electric sounds seem to enter the space of the mix and leave every so often.
‘Caprica’, by Oopz, starts off sounding like some distorted Commodore chiptune/electro. Later we get a thick beat and then some OMGZ SICK BASS DROPS!!1!! It’s kind of dubsteppy, in other words. It rides that weird line between modern electro and dubstep until finally deciding to go all wubby and shit. Still, there are some nice parts!
‘Robot-Mba’ comes after, and it’s by Playman 54. Very nice, cold electro atmospherics. Makes me want to soar through space with a jetpack! When I first read the title of this track I thought it said ‘Robot-Nba’… so I was imagining robots playing basketball. Anyway, it’s really cool and ambient with a lot of interesting space sound effects happening as well as a kind of acid sequence with high-resonance that happens for a bit.
Next up is ‘Medibot’ by R Duck. If you’re not feeling well, let this track take care of you with its electro harmonics and burbling frequencies. A subtle electronic pulse rhythm comes in, that sounds like something somebody programmed on an enormous modular system.
The next track is titled ‘Jeri’, and it’s by Rapacious Pretense. It’s very dreamy and abstract, a thousand pin pricks of electronic bips. There are samples from… something… I’m actually not sure on this one… and then out of nowhere it goes into some heavy breakcore noise stuff! Wow, I did not see that coming!
Ron Shayler is next, with ‘Cult Of John’. Wind whips through the ears, and low, heavy frequencies rumble. I think we’re taking off on some kind of interstellar voyage. 3, 2, 1, blast off! I hear throbs, dust sirens from exploded nebulas. Later, these amazing choirs come in. I also hear a kind of dreamy electro sequence. Very spacy, deep, hypnotic, lovely. It eventually evolves into a lush, green and blue terrain. There are alien bird calls, waterfalls…
… and then we find ourselves on ‘Alphie II’, by Sam Mitschke. There’s a buzzing toy melody at first, then it gets very Kraftwerky with tiny synth bass sequences, then some bass frequencies with a bit more bite. A nice drum break comes in too. The melodies are playful, energetic.
More ambient feels on Scott Lawlor’s ‘Data’s Night Terror’. Dark, reverb-intensive hums… traces of an electronic lead echo out.
‘Kronos’ is by Slate, and it begins with slight telephone bandpass noise frequencies that eventually disappear into silence, later broken by occasional bursts of electronic sound. This is a soundscape, for sure… a silence interrupted with strange noises! Later a distorted guitar seems to fill most of the space. I really liked the end, with its choirs and… what might be the plucking of guitar strings near where they’re wound at the head. Or it could be a toy xylophone, hard to tell!
‘EVE’ is by Sonic Winter, and features DJ Engoy… it’s kind of an electrohouse thing, sort of… the synth sequences are very looped sounding, as are the vocals… then it breaks into a countdown, coming back as a completely different track, a rock thing with what sounds like the same vocalist. I don’t know about this one.
But then we come to a track by Stephen Briggs, titled ‘Robert ‘On Our Way Home!”. It’s very melancholy, dreamy, pretty, ambient with almost the feel of shoegaze-style ethereality. I think I’m hearing guitar, maybe cello too. It’s definitely got that soundtrack vibe.
‘Archytas’s Robot Bird’ is a modular-sounding ambient track by Symatic Star & Sheleah Nahshon. I hear some really nice buzzing leads come in behind the free-floating dream chords. Then come the space sound effects! Lovely stuff. I hear what could be synthetic flutes. This one changes up a lot, going through phases with the sounds, and it’s very cool. I’d begin to kind of go into my head, and then something really pretty would happen and I’d be constantly re-absorbed into the music. Another standout track for me.
Symmetry’s ‘Opportunity’ begins with a gruff synth bass. Added to this is a sharper, acid type synth bass. Some drums come in… then some ambient bell tones… it takes a while to get going, then kind of stops going anywhere and takes stuff away, then brings that stuff back a little bit and then ends.
Whoa, another voice sample on ‘Deathscythe’, by Tapey, which is kind of like a very pretty downtempo brokenbeat track. The bass really rumbles!
We’ve now come to some abstract greatness on ‘Mind Over Mayhem (RR vs. Columbo)’, which is by T.E.T. vs. T.R.I. It sounds like congas, voices, 808 bass and water drips are all being sucked through a giant pneumatic tube to outer space. The robots are going crazy now, pulling off all kinds of remarkable and absurd feats of physics.
The ERNIE 4 are next, with ‘Arcdeflexic Disunion (Robby’s 60 Gallons)’. I feel like I’ve dived into a pool of hydrochloric acid and am about to melt. Slowly. By the way, did you know that you could pickle metal? The noise intensifies, I feel like I’m being shot with visible radiowaves from a 1950s alien craft. Or maybe I’m being stalked by a… Robot Monster! Skittering electro pulses attack! Ends with a harsh wall of noise.
‘Fembot’ is by The Implicit Order, and I hear movie soundtrack effects and a broken piano, a bit of bass guitar as well. It’s a little bit like entering the Twilight Zone, especially when the electronically modulated vocals come in with their Stepford vibes.
‘The Seduction Of Pris’ comes next, which is by Twilight Transmissions. It’s a very ambient, liquid soundscape. I feel like, if steel could breathe, this is what it might sound like. The harmonics become increasingly dissonant, nightmarish. It goes through several metamorphoses through it’s run time.
Brace yourselves for another track, this one a Dr. Who reference (I still have seen none of that show). ‘Dalek Vendetta’, by Veil Of Alchemy, sounds like wood being struck underwater while a refrigerator is humming. It becomes a somewhat tribal and wooden sequence, and then this really cool bassline comes on!!! Slight touches of ambient sound float around behind. I love how it moves, all of the sounds subtly shifting. Yet another high point for me! Beautiful and funky.
Violence Mars brings us the ‘Valkyrie’. A stilted breakbeat, some distorted off-key vocals with a sci-fi bent, distorted chip bass and arps, then sequenced synths during the driving chorus.
… we’re almost finished! Next is William Spivey’s ‘R. Daneel Olivaw’, a stringed ambient track that goes into a trance-inducing electro thing. This one’s got some nice harmonics, lots of movement and a Jarre-esque feel.
The final track is by Zebra Kills Horse, titled ‘Tobio Lost In The Forest’. Tribal rhythm patterns over very low bass thrushes, some chants in strange sonic hertz levels. I think I hear some horns and synths developing into focus, then they disappear again as if by magic. I am enjoying, even despite the hours I’ve logged into listening to this beast of a compilation, the bizarre intricacies of this track. A mind-bending and fascinating adventure!
Well… that was quite a listening experience! It took awhile to get through it all, and now I feel like putting on the critics cap to end my review. At no point did this compilation really seem to have any definite filler, though the extreme track lengths were a bit much on several of the pieces, probably only because I’ve been sitting here intensely listening to every single track instead of maybe putting it on while doing other activities. 😉 There’s a lot of gold on this album, honestly, and the quality is high. Another thing I noticed is that the tracks seem to be compiled in alphabetic order by artist name which you would think would damage the flow of the compilation, but it actually doesn’t. Strangely, there are parts of the compilation that sound like the tracks had been grouped according to style. The only issue I had was that track 4 (by Dan Stubbs) was the sole track that wasn’t in the alphabetized order and my brain just honed in on that immediately. Oh well, not worth dwelling upon! Overall, this compilation was a lot of fun, with some amazing sounds sure to please the robot inside you. Be sure to hear it at the link… I’ll just drop that right here: