World Premiere: Album Review: Sixteen Records: Volume One

‘Crammed full of moments to musically catch you out, every track gives you more than you could possibly imagine.’

Listen to Sixteen Records: Volume One on the Spotify Playlist here.

The Launch of Sixteen Records:
Launching today (23rd May 2018) record label ‘Sixteen Records’ will provide the perfect platform for Leeds based electronic and alternative music to be showcased. Founded by 22 year old artist/producer Lotte van den Berg – of DIY band Luna Pines – the appropriately titled debut album ‘Volume One‘ (Out today – 23rd May) takes us through an eclectic mix of tracks and introduces 12 of the best electronic and alternative artists from in and around Leeds. Crammed full of moments to musically catch you out, its launch gig at Hyde Park Book Club, Leeds this evening is sure to give you more than you could possibly imagine. Find out more about Lotte and Sixteen Records here. You can also read my interviews with some of the signed artists at: Behind the Music: Sixteen Records Interview Series

Album Review: Sixteen Records: Volume One
Opening the album with their trademark ambient-centred sound, Luna Pines’ Spring makes for a gentle and enticing start to this debut album from Sixteen Records. Led by atmospheric textures and swirling synths, it perfectly demonstrates a step up once again from Medics released little over a month ago. Throughout the track there is never any doubt that this is the music of Luna Pines, and with ever-heartfelt messages sitting above the subtly driving accompaniment, phrases such as ‘If you’re lonely won’t you wait for me?’ instantly connect with you. Delicate, reserved and meaningful, it gently grabs your ears and whispers sweet musicality.

Bringing an instant change of mood, Track 2 LELO‘s ‘I Looked at the Sun takes us into a less fragment based musical direction. Showcasing a true understanding of how melodic and harmonic content can be perfectly balanced, it’s a sound which feels familiar and warming. Vocally taking on an effortlessly earworm-like form, the extended title lyrics speak to you personally while the accompaniment – built around gently swaying drums, chord centred guitar and emerging synths – gently grows. However, while to some this combination may not be new, the continual emphasis on this being a ‘true song’ alongside the stylish production techniques make it feel refreshing. Continually bathing you in musical warmth, you want to step outside and take in the summer air.

Moving through to Track 3 – and taking us back into a more electronic sound from that of the previous track – Hannah Slavin‘s U & I generates an enticing atmosphere through soaring synth led motifs. In comparison to Hannah’s previous – aptly dreamy – release ‘Daydream,’ you can’t fail to notice the real step up in all musical aspects. This isn’t to take anything away from her debut – most definitely not – but in showcasing new depths within her mid pitched, silky vocal there is a sense of real progression. Add to this the seamless interweaving of trip-hop influenced drum patterns, deep bass lines and glitchy ambient sounds and it feels like an urban hit. As for the use of hopeful sounding guitar lines and unexpected breaks within the accompaniment? Well they only enhance what is a real musical delight.

Taking us into a different direction once again, the otherworldly, slightly unsettling beginnings of Loris’ Bitter make it feel like it’s the middle of the night and you’re in the middle of nowhere. It’s creepy. It makes you shiver. And that is exactly why it is so incredibly enticing. Subliminally encouraging you to explore this strange, yet immensely musical place you have found yourself in, the subtle emergence of rhythmic content starts to break through the previously warped sounds. It’s like a full on journey. One that’s full of musical twists and turns, and like every great track should, it transports you somewhere else. Your destination? A place where momentum generating deep bass and half-whispered multi-tracked vocals bring unexpected calm and relaxation.

Continuing in a similarly calming manner, the opening notes of Regista’s Orange Sky (feat. Kaya and Amber Joy) take you to an harmoniously seductive place. Based around dreamy jazz organ tones set to a dominant, snare led drum pattern, it feels like you are strolling through the city back streets while the most beautiful of sunsets takes place. Sounds perfect doesn’t it? Actually, it really does and having wonderfully created this atmosphere, the accompanying elements slowly and subtly develop allowing the gorgeous lead vocals to bring their own, equally seductive smoothness. Filled with moments heavily reminiscent of French Kiwi Juice it’s a track that’s beyond chilled, it’s ice-cold!

‘The musicality and production on display means every track sounds stylish, sophisticated and most of all, incredibly professional.’

Sending us away from the relaxed atmosphere of the previous two tracks, Jack Segal‘s percussively led Touch Me Silver brings an unexpected sense of momentum to the album. Built around a dance inducing combination of arpeggiator affected synth patterns, rhythmically echoing break drum beats and emerging bass lines, the accompanying elements feel incredibly accomplished. Likewise, due to Jack’s tone and the sophisticated production, so does the vocal. However, while all this makes for immensely enjoyable listening, the real musical gems come from the use of high-pitched counter accompaniments, false build ups and unexpectedly exposed vocal moments. Creating contrast within itself, and bringing further contrast to the album, it makes for a great track.

Not content with having already ticked off a multitude of electronic and alternative styles, Track 7 – Dokkodo Sounds’ Sara takes us to a club setting through the combination of delicately husky vocals and overlapping textures. Ironically – given Tom’s description of his music being ‘minimal dance music for headphones’ – you want to take to the dance floor and feel the full force of the bass line as it slowly creeps into our ears. Among the many strengths of the track there is one thing that stands out: How much it feels like a live mix. In truth, as the atmosphere moves towards a more deep house direction it’s not hard to imagine it being a DJ set. Of course, the main difference here though is that it’s not a mix of tracks but the perfect blending of melodic and rhythmic ideas. Taking on a down-tempo Underworld-esque feel at its fullest, it’s a track that produces an increasingly dance inducing sound.

Bringing a slight return to the more unsettling, but no less musical side of the album, the opening melodic phrases of Imi’s Monolith sounds incredibly haunting. Formed of a distorted string synth sequence, it provides intrigue as to where the track will be heading. This is, however the exact purpose as it leads you to be completely thrown by the highly contrasting, Kate Bush-esque tone of Imi’s vocal. Soaring above its textural accompaniment as the track progresses, its unsettling beginnings take on an increasingly dreamy, soundscape-like nature. It’s a truly beautiful sound and with the exposed harmonies bringing an almost ethereal edge, you effortlessly float towards the clouds.

Providing a somewhat abrupt introduction, the opening of Ryan Hawkins’ Cinnamon isn’t as sweet sounding as it’s title would suggest. However, stick with it because it is about to become a lot tastier. This introduction, as quickly becomes apparent, is one that forms the basis for a set of seemingly unrelated ideas to emerge. Again stick with it. Why? Because the musical magic is about to happen and as the ideas combine, a funk infused, completely unexpected infectious sound appears. There is no doubting that the track sits within the genre of ‘experimental electronic based funk music’ however the risks within are what make the track. Combining instantly catchy vocal hooks and swagger inducing rhythms, it doesn’t take long before Cinnamon’s disparate nature makes complete, highly musical sense.

Returning briefly to atmospherically driven music once more, the combination of sampled crackle and synth based drone provide the perfect setting for the opening soothing vocals of JOULE’s Unmade Fire. Like the point at which Monolith concluded, the sensation here is one of floating and for all the best reasons, you forget everything else around you. Gently drifting you become immersed in the heavily intimate nature of the track as it effortlessly lulls you. However, the interest within the track is much greater than its sparsity would suggest as through alternating tempos and selective vocal harmonies, you hang on to every musical inflection. Feeling constantly honest and reflective, it’s a track to get lost in.

Ensuring that we are brought back to reality, the opening of Eyre Llew’s Havoc makes for a power filled wake up call. Not texturally dis-similar to the latter parts of Coldplay’s ‘Fix You,’ the gentle emergence of distorted guitar, vowel based vocals and rock style drums makes for an epic opening sequence. Ever growing in sound, it quickly feels like it’s the track’s mid-point – finale even – but in creating such an anticipation filled sound, you can’t help wondering how the rest will live up to it. However, it isn’t long until we find out and as the lyrics of ‘stay strong’ break through an immensely stirring atmosphere emerges. As for the rest of track, expect to go on an emotional journey where beautifully contrasting musicality moves you beyond expectation.

Helping bring the album to a close Magic Hour Soundtrack’s ‘Eventually I’ll Catch Fire’ (feat George Gretton and Loris) makes for a more than appropriate final track. Returning to the atmospheric centre of where Volume One began, a mix of vocoder affected vocals and glitchy ambient textures creates the perfect soundscape based showcase. Each and ever sound has a place and as a result, it never feels too much. However, just as realise how intently you are listening, additional, totally unexpected vocal and instrumental lines transform the sound. Emotionally you are caught out. As if this wasn’t enough, the mid section of the track brings an incredibly contrasting, acoustic centred sound. It shouldn’t work, but somehow it does, perfectly, and on returning to its former atmosphere a gorgeous, film-esque sound brings the track, and the album to the most suitable of conclusions.

Sixteen Records: Volume One is available to stream on Spotify from today. You can also read my interviews with some of the signed artists at:Behind the Music: Sixteen Records Interview Series

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