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Indie Electronics: Cygnus X-1, the Jingle Kings, Gen Ken Montgomery, Tigerforest, UtopiaXO

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CYGNUS X-1: The Next Logical Step (CD on 9 Volt Records)

This release from 2010 offers 58 minutes of snappy techno music.

Cygnus X-1 is Martin Craig.

Techno electronics are supported by rapid-fire e-perc, creating pop tunes that possess an appealing dance factor.

The electronics are crisp and amiable. There are instances of grittier sounds, but things never stray into overt industrial territory. The keyboards provide agile chords that bend and twist in an effort to avoid too much redundancy.

The rhythms are often hyper, but not excessively so, keeping the beats just sky of exhausting the audience. The timbre of the percussion shifts from song to song, sweet and slippery in one case, gritty and harsh the next. While exhibiting high velocity, the tempos lack any distracting complexity.

One song explores the Middle Eastern sound with exotic strings and remote prayer chants squeezed in between a host of frantic rhythms and urgent electronics.

While most of the tunes are sans lyrical contents, two pieces do possess female vocals. And another track features computerized vocals.

These compositions are lively and engaging. Patterns and riffs and established, then tickled into subtle variations as each song progresses, adding new layers and diving off in fresh directions. Many of the pieces feature a tasty surge factor.

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THE JINGLE KINGS: The New Megalopolis (CD on Such a Sound Records)

This release from 2010 offers 46 minutes of mellow electronic music.

The Jingle Kings is: Jeffrey Bridges.

With a name like "the Jingle Kings," one might expect the band's music to be pop ditties, but instead these tunes are light and airy electronics pieces, more ambient than anything.

The electronics are delicate, pensive. Sparse texturals establish moody backdrops which are then tempered by auxiliary electronics of a rather mellow nature. These atmospheric aspects often exhibit a heavenly character, so gentle are their resonance. Tender keyboards contribute pleasant riffs that drift like leaves on the slow-moving surface of a country brook, buoyant and lovely. Sparkling chords achieve a manifest clarity when presented in this minimal fashion.

Some percussives are used in a few pieces. In one track the rhythms are sedate, the beats soft and imbued with more of a gurgle than any bang. While another song offers traditional drums, albeit in a subdued manner.

For all their serene qualities, these compositions are quite melodic. While the structure is almost simplistic, the result is particularly satisfying. The tunes convey a pacific demeanor, designed to enhance relaxation. The listener finds themselves immersed in an affable milieu whose passive predilection becomes quite infectious.

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GEN KEN MONTGOMERY: Birds + Machines (CD on Pogus Productions)

This release from 2010 offers 71 minutes of engaging noise.

These tracks are a selection of Montgomery's compositions from 1980 through 1989.

Montgomery has a fondness for blending abrasive electronics with environmental sounds and produce abstract recordings that are baffling yet engaging. Even those who spurn "noise" find themselves mesmerized by his work.

A fine example of his quirky sensibilities can be found in the two versions of the title track: one of which concentrates on the mechanical aspects, the other focussing on ornithological elements. The former injects harsh industrial machinery into the flow; the latter uses bird calls instead. Both auxiliary elements are dropped into a pastiche of aggressive electronics--the results are surprisingly unique and attractive.

His tendency to collect found sounds and force them to share the stage with erratic electronics is unparalleled. He has a special ear for combining the uncommon and ending up with special consequences.

Melody isn't really a prerequisite for this material, although melodic conditions can be found among them. Clutter is gathered and given a new life in this music.

There are several tracks that explore the appeal of manipulated drones. In these, the abrasive factor is low, replaced by the appeal of wavering texturals.

Included are a few notable rarities: Montgomery's track from the Onslaught Magazine's flexi-disc from 1982 (an industrial tune that blends treated vocals with blooping diodes), and a live snippet from a WFMU radio broadcast in 1982 (which explores percussive cadence punctuated by vocal observations).

Also included is a bonus track recorded in 2009 which contrasts warped violin with fettered static and modulated electronics.

A worthy documentation of sonic experimentation.

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TIGERFOREST: Daybreak (CD on Amadea Music )

This release from 2009 offers 63 minutes of pleasant electronic music.

Tigerforest is Gunnar Spardel. Vocals are provided by Amethyste and Lori Cunningham. Guests include: Chad Klink (on piano), Michael Ghiggeri and Richie Roccisano (on guitars).

Dreamy electronics are seasoned by percussion and lilting lyrics, achieving melodies that instill a hopeful respect for nature.

While atmospheric textures establish an airy disposition, the gist of the electronics are derived from keyboards that produce shimmering waves of tender chords. Guitars and soft drumming flesh out the sound into a delicate and holistic resonance.

Periodic appearances by guitars and synthesized strings lend a spry kick to the melodies, while traditional piano generates a cerebral reverence to some songs.

The percussion is snappy yet hardly overt. The rhythms slide into a nice groove with the ongoing harmonics, creating suitably bouncy locomotion.

The female vocals serve to impress a yearning spirit to the tunes. The lyrics convey optimistic sentiments which celebrate bonds between people and their environment. Sometimes the singers abandon organized lyrics and explore a realm of heavenly chorales.

These compositions blend a smoothly liquid flair with a compelling mastery of relaxing melodies, resulting in songs that offer equal doses of sultry, dreaminess, and uplifting predilections. Spardel has a crafty touch with assembling floating chords in ways that instill a sense of majesty.

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UTOPIAXO: Supernature (CD on UptopiaXO Music)

This release from 2010 offers 78 minutes of pleasantly soft electronic music.

UtopiaXO is Dave Hesketh. He is joined by Sara Hughes as the voice of utopia.

This album is presented in two versions. The first nine tracks include vocals; the next nine are pure instrumental takes of the compositions. A final instrumental track offers a culminate impression of the entire release seasoned with environmental recordings and children at play.

A variety of guitars conspire with electronics to generate gentle tuneage of a holistic nature.

Some of the guitarwork is very homey, near-acoustic strumming designed to evoke dreaminess. While other guitar expressions are more electric, these more substantial guitar stylings retain a distinct gentility. Mixed in with the guitars are other string instruments, exotic and ethnic and synthetic--all of whom adhere to the album's overall tranquility.

The electronics are similarly serene. Textural flows blend with the sky. Keyboards provide temperate chords of sparkling definition.

The lyrics concern themselves with nature and one's congenial appreciation of man's coexistence with the environment.

These compositions are extremely delicate, crafted to induce an outward introspection that unites the listener with the world around them, to coax the audience into accepting that they are a part of a global beauty whose beauty often goes unnoticed in the burly heyday of daily life.

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