With the never-ending onslaught of the modern-day content wars, it’s appropriate sometimes to sit back and take a break from it all. Techno producer Manni Dee, of Perc Trax and Electronic Explorations fame, has done exactly this with his Life Between Screens compilation for WotNot Music. Life Between Screens is an opportunity for producers to work outside of their stated comfort zone on a project themed away from the dance floor and even stepping into the conceptual art space. Proposed as a soundtrack to the listener’s non-computer/smartphone/table existence, it offers a fascinating and rewarding collection of sounds that hover between a variety of, dare we say it, ambient modes.
Opening with the elegiac shuffle of “Body In Earth” from Fuewa, whose masterful Sonic Router release we profiled last year, the initial feeling is of wistful regret, tempered with an off-kilter shift into more exploratory electronic tones. Similar in shape if not emotion is “Taint” by relative newcomer Trinkkets, which moves from a solid build-up of noise into a plodding hip-hop groove before being stretched and shredded beyond recognition. On a more ethereal tip, BNJMN contributes the swirling tones of “The Unseen”, while D. Hansen shows up as Lotide with “In The Deserted Bazaars”, reportedly one of the last tracks under this alias. It’s a tense affair, unresolved chords and strange vocals eventually given catharsis by a beautifully surreal poetic reading/film sample (delete as applicable). MockSun’s “Without Instinct”, meanwhile, is a glacially cool slice of meandering ambience reminiscent of Biosphere at their most serene. Far from serene, however, is Shelley Parker’s “Restrictions”, a chainsaw-distorted piece of noise and fuzz, enlivening and unnerving in equal measure. Those who opt to obtain the cassette release can avail of even further ditties, with glistening, beatless melodies from Ekca Liena and Lost Twin sitting alongside Vangelis-esque beauty from Danalogue, and curator Manni Dee’s “A Nod Was The First Step” under his Nuances pseudonym, which comes off like Campfire Headphase-era Boards of Canada dragged down to a deathly 10bpm.
One of the most astounding pieces on the release is Memotone’s “Abbots Bromley Horn Dance”, a thrillingly bizarre piece of music that blends moods, eras and styles in a single unit. Built around a chilling recorder melody that’s straight out of the May Day celebrations of The Wicker Man, Memotone undercuts this playfulness with large swathes of distorted noise before injecting dolor with mournful clarinet harmonies. It’s a truly singular piece that takes the listener into realms uncharted and unexpected, in the same way that Manni Dee hoped to draw the assembled producers away from the norm. Take some time and get to know these beautiful and strange pieces of music.
Life Between Screens – Curated by Manni Dee is out now on WotNot Music. Buy here.