Back in the early days of psychedelic chillout/ambient trance music the UK was one of the leading counties producing such music. From The Orb, The KLF, Loop Guru and Banco De Gaia through to the genesis of Twisted Records ( Shpongle ) and Liquid Sound Design ( Kuba, Youth Abakus etc ), UK producers were shaping the future of what was to become psybient music. Two decades hence and the the psychedelic downtempo scene has become a global movement with strong representation from America, Canada, Russia, Ukraine, Spain, Australia and more.
If you ever find yourself pining for those days of old, wondering what the UK scene is like in 2016 then you might do well to check out this new compilation release "Diversity In The Isles" from Ian Taylor of Liquid Lounge fame. Aiming to highlight the diversity of music on offer from the current crop of established and up and coming UK based producers, Ian has hit on a wining formula that is sure to delight long time fans of the genre and new listeners alike.
It kicks of with a engaging dubby chillout tune from Pete Ardron ( aka Orchid Star ) in that classic Liquid Sound Design style - kind of Abakus vs Kuba in a way. A very soothing opening to the compilation. Pete has been around the scene for what seems to be forever and he has no intention of slowing down with a new solo album due for release this July. Check out his website for more info on this multi talented wizard. 8/10
The next track takes us into the world of OOOD. Much like Pete Ardon, OOOD have also been around for a long time. Formed back in 1994 their music crosses a number of genres from goa/psytrance to eclectic chillout. This track has that vibe from the old Global Psychedelic Chillout compilations on Spirit Zone. It's kind of a freeform beat driven guitar fusion that will keep your attention throughout. Cleanly mastered too, as you would expect from OOOD. 7/10
Following on we have have another tune that harks back to Spirit Zone. Antam Yar deliver a tune that is reminiscent of the darker side of early ambient trance. Shades of "Grey Area" and Patchwork perhaps. Wonderfully mixes tense mechanical moments with bubbling organic opiates to great effect. 8/10
Track four is real treat for psydub fans. The talents of producer Geoglyph have been hailed by none other than Globular of late and with good reason too. Geoglyph has the chops ! This is an excellent example of spiraling bass shenanigans that will make you wonder if Geoglyph isn't actually just Globular or Ott in disguise. Check out his free to download album here. 9/10
Next, Atman Contruct gets us shaking with a contemporary tribalbass brokenbeat affair. Atman Construct is the principal music project of Looke Zen; multi-talented musician, producer, programmer, and curator of the trend-setting "Into This Wired Abyss" compilation albums. Certainly one of his better tunes I think 8/10
Tea Tree ( Rory Gordziejko ) is a new artist to my ears and a very welcome one too. This track sits in that funky glitch hop style with a twist of psydub. Displays a vibrant playfulness that would go down a treat on a big stack of speakers in the dust. I'll be sure to be following this chap. You can listen to a couple more of his tunes at his Soundcloud page. Lets hope for a full album someday ! 8.5/10
Following Tea Tree is Perpetual Loop (Charles Massey), an artist whose music I've been a fan of for the best part of a decade now. He doesn't always please but when he gets it right, he shines. Such as the tracks Emotive Signs and Dark Passenger on his last album Molecronsition. I would say this track doesn't quite reach those heights but is still a nice bit of classic styled chillout. 7/10
Flexagon is another new artist here. This track approaches a cheesy 80s synth pop band thing at times. Not really my thing but quite listenable all the same. Maybe its just me be I cant help but thinking if it had Midge Ure singing over the top he would have a retro styled hit on his hands. Check out his Bandcamp page for more music where there are few tasty gems on offer. 6/10
Okay, no introduction needed on the next track. Here Globular is at his psydub globby best. He can do no wrong these days. I cant wait for the release of his next album Holobiont which is due to see the light of day soon. 10/10
More dubby exercises next with a minimal psydub tune from Moonwolf. Moonwolf have a couple of EPs on bandcamp you can checkout. They are quite varied in style with a number of tunes on offer that I quite like. Certainly worth following. 7/10
We then have Belle Seraphin with a kind of trip-hop track that is a bit raw in parts but shows a lot of promise. If you dig this one check out her Soundcloud page where you can hear a few more chillout tracks and a number of Ibiza styled trance tracks. 6/10
After Belle we thankfully get back into some quality dub - something Liquid Lounge is an expert mixer of. Here Ian introduces us to Rev Dread with some classic dub reggae. The UK has a well established history of dub reggae and Rev Dread continues that fine tradition in this track. Great summer vibes here. If you like this one then check out Rev Dread on Soundcloud for loads more tunes. 8/10
Up next is an excellent guitar chill number by False Identity ( Charlie Bartlett ) . I became an instant fan of F.I a few years back after the release of his debut EP Community Of Me. That special little release, which is now available for free, was full of glorious bouncy psydub that gets you shaking all over. This track isn't quite like that and rather displays a progression into a cocktail of traditional dub, chill, jazz, funk and more. Freaky goodness. 9/10
Mosienko Project then gives us a 4-4 ethno-tribal dub dance tune reminiscent of Tories and Banco De Gaia. Seems a bit out of place at first but diversity is the name of the game on this release and it certainly grows on you to a point where I actually wished it was a longer track. For something a little more chilled check out the Soundcloud page where there is a very tasty remix by Analogue Mindfield of the track Transcendence In Dub. 7/10
We then cool off with some more dub on the track To Live By The Sea by Ultramorphic. This one starts off with you thinking we are in for a Pink Floyd tune due to the opening Gilmour-esque guitars. However it then morphs into a a straight up dub number complete with classic horn arrangements and saxophone. What I find most impressive is that it has a whole band feel to it despite being the work of one person. 8/10
After Ultramorphic is an odd little number. London based producer Narcose carves a curious creature that mixes up tribal bass, funk, cinematic keys, growling synths and old school appregiated melodies. It stop and starts,twists and turns, wines and dines. Very tasty 8/10
Digital Skunk is an eclectic producer who constantly surprises on Soundcloud with each track about as far removed as possible from previous ones. For this compilation Ian has gone with one of DS's more chilled tracks. This is a pretty standard chillout track as you might find on a Buddha Bar compilation. Well produced and cleanly polished but just lacks a little something. 6.5/10
For the final track we have a bit of electric surprise from The Diplomatic Core. Personally I like a compilation, especially a chill out compilation, to finish on an upbeat number that leaves a smile on your face or something that smoothly fades off into the distance. Instead , here we have an odd cinematic overture that cuts off with a heart attack inducing scream. Perhaps the intention was to wake you up if the previous track had sent you off to sleep ?
Overall this an impressive debut compilation with something on offer for everyone. There is enough dub to keep psydub fans happy. Some old school influenced number to keep the old fans pleased ( myself included ) and some fresh contemporary sounds that you can get into without too much trouble.
My one gripe would be that some of the tracks, especially in the second half are a bit below par in terms of quality ( not sure if that's a production or mastering issue or both ). Perhaps it would have been better to cull a few of those tracks so as to keep it to a solid dozen tracks instead the eighteen on offer. Or maybe that's just the geeky DJ in me speaking ?
Still, diversity is the theme here with this compilation and it certainly succeeds in that regard. Ian has laid down the foundations for what may well be a highly successful series and one that once again could promote the UK to the peak of the psychedelic chillout scene. Two thumbs up Ian and roll on Volume 2 !
"Diveristy In The Isles" is available for pre-order from Bandcamp now with full release on March 25. Anyone who pre-orders will also receive the opening track "Unexpected Pleasures" as an advance copy.