Monday, July 10, 2006


In the last few weeks of running themilkfactory in its old form, I had so very little time to actually listen to any music that I had to be overly selective. Since, I’ve rediscovered the simple pleasure of enjoying music. With me leaving my old job at the end of next week, I’ve finally taken the time to go through the piles of CDs that had been accumulating on my desk, and I’ve discovered some lovely records that I had either ignored or at least not given a proper chance.

Two of these being Scrubber Fox’s Ruffled Muffle (Musikexperience Recordings) and SubtractiveLAD’s Suture (n5MD), which found their way to my CD player the other morning.

SCRUBBER FOX Ruffled Muffle (Musikexperience Recordings)

I’d already played Ruffled Muffle once or twice, and it was well on track to be featured on the site when I decided it was time to step back. The first impression had been very good. The scope of this album is rather impressive, and Wigan’s Gary Naylor, who’s first release was on Skam’s Skam Cats compilation, and who has been seen officiating as part of Manchester’s Hippocamp collective, collects here sixteen tracks of clean-cut electronica built around razor-sharp hip-hop infused beats.

With influences including anyone from Curve, Nine Inch Nail and Ministry to DJ Shadow, Plaid, Chris Clark and Squarepusher to name but a fraction, it is hardly a surprise that Naylor’s first long player scans so many different moods and encompasses such a wide range of styles, from urban techno to shards of jazz to soulful electronica to whatever else was catching his mind that day. The result is a rather playful collection of imaginative little vignettes assembled without real master plan to provide a thread throughout. Yet, the lot feels rather consistent. If the programming sometimes appear to take precedent over the music itself, it also contributes in the vast majority of the tracks presented here to feel very individual. Here, Naylor blends just about everything that’s marked him in any way during his formative years and comes up with something that’s at once radical, accessible and overall rather unique. There are the odd nod to Aphex Twin, Squarepusher or µ-ziq to be found along the way, but Naylor uses them as simple reference points to consolidate his own musical reach.

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SubtractiveLAD is the project of Vancouver-based Stephen Hummel and Suture is the follow-up to his 2005 debut Giving Up The Ghost. While his first album was already setting up part of Hummel’s sonic realm, Suture takes things a lot further and expand on his original template of warm analogue ambient waves and delicate melodies. Here, the tone is once again rather subdued, with Hummel clearly holding down his horses on many occasions here, but tracks such as the wonderful Twinge, Lepidoptera, Your Tattoo or Sleepwalker offer glimpses at more contrasted terrains, drawing on psychedelic arpeggios and slightly abrasive percussive elements. The whole album appears built on this dichotomy, and this gives it a very interesting relief all throughout. Beautifully evocative melodies are swallowed by ominous clouds of noise only to reappear smoother and more voluptuous on the other side. At times, the listener is thrown into vertiginous moments of calm (Petals, Rerum Natura, Embryonic Again) which only reinforce this album’s ethereal ambience.

These two records are in many ways radically different, but they feed from a same passion for quality electronic music and demonstrate a similar drive.

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