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(Soft Phase #20) Planet Boelex “Exist”

Igloomag

This Finnish artist has been producing since 2004, releasing a steady stream of excellent electronica on various netlabels that are usually free to download. With a sound often inhabiting the gracefully melodic timbres of Ulrich Schnauss circa A Strangely Isolated Place, Planet Boelex is a curiously underrated and underexposed producer.

“Exist” commences things in classic Planet Boelex style—saccharine sine waves, gentle percussion, pulsing bass and melodic progressions to make the heart sing. I would say it’s worth the entry price alone but Planet Boelex is kindly donating this to your ears for nothing—and it’s clear from this track alone that piles of thought and work have gone in to this release. There are plenty of collaborations here including a couple of vocal outings featuring guests Lisa’s Antenna and Krister Linder—the latter really soaring in combination with the usual excellent Boelex production. For the purist IDM heads there are further beauteous instrumental tracks too. “Unreasonable Reasoning” (with Bad Loop) is a particularly fine melange of skittering beats and infectious melodies whilst closing track “Leaving Quietly (Weldroid Remix)” marries Bladerunner style synths to low slung reverse bass stabs.

It’s unlikely to get the hipsters stroking their beards in contemplation but for any fan of good old fashioned tuneful and chilled electronica, Exist is a must. There’s an extensive back catalog too with archive.org holding the majority of these. The Sinking in the Soup EP from 2005 is a great place to start.

(Soft Phase #13) Planet Boelex “Raja”

Original Sound Version [16/05/2010]:

It’s been a long time since we’ve covered anything from the demoscene, but if you’re into dreamy electronic soundscapes, you definitely need to pay attention to this one. Back in 2008 we covered a release from one of our favorite electronic artists, Planet Boelex, who had teamed up with vocalist Lisa’s Antenna for a vibrant 30-minute release titled Little World. It was an amazing release, and most of all, it was available for free.

Well, Planet Boelex is back with Raja, and he’s brought even more friends. We get one track with Lisa’s Antenna which is much moodier than their collaborations on Little World, as well as a track with another of our favorite demoscene artists, Mikael Fyrek (you should really check out his A Thousand Years and One EP if you haven’t already), as well as demoscene legend Mosaik, who we interviewed last year. It’s basically most of my favorite demoscene artists wrapped up into one cohesive release.

The album starts off with Boelex-only track, “Soft Shapes,” which is a warm and enveloping piece using Planet Boelex’s signature belltones, thick electronic bass notes, and gentle string swells. The thing I appreciate most about this track is the mixing, as the percussion in particularl could have completely ruined the track with its harsh hats and wide snares, but they’re mixed in at such a low volume that they really let the soft layers of belltones, pads, and strings take charge.

Next up is the first collaboration track, “Not From Here,” featuring Lisa’s Antenna, and it’s an interesting one. Lisa’s Antenna maintains the pitch of her voice in a very tight range, creating a repetitive and somewhat foreboding sound. Planet Boelex’s background matches perfectly, adding a hint of danger with its descending progression and dissonant pads. This is followed by “Suddenly,” Boelex’s collaboration with Mikael Fyrek. Fyrek’s influence is immediately apparently, as his signature staccato synth leads come in to take the place of Planet Boelex’s belltones, but it isn’t long before the familiar bass and belltones make an appearance. The style of these two really complement one another, and this is probably my favorite track here.

Boelex goes solo one more time with “New Beginning,” a heavier and more “cool” journey into his typical electronic soundscapes. The bass and percussion plod along slowly and actually take center stage against the backing piano and pads, focusing more on a groove. The final track, “Sailor’s Dilemma” works in acoustic guitar and additional loops from Mosaik, although I would admit that Planet Boelex’s ability to craft tasty electronic atmospheres is right up there with Mosaik, so it’s hard to tell who’s who for the most part. Things do shift a bit when Mosaik’s acoustic guitar comes in, and Boelex makes room for it in the mix as it slowly fades in against the sound of waves crashing on the shore and a gentle synth lead that acts as a counter melody to the mesmerizing guitar work. The track ends abruptly, jarring the listener out of the dream-like state that Planet Boelex and his friends have created. An interesting way to end the album, but I would have actually preferred a slow fade out in this case to carry me off to sleep after listening to the tracks here.

Planet Boelex is really a master of his craft, and the fact that he’s able to not only hold his own, but complement each of his skilled and in some cases “legendary” collaborators further demonstrates that he is one of the forefront artists in this scene. As usual, this music is available to you for free, which still astounds me despite the fact that I’ve been followed this scene for over 10 years now. It’s available for download from the Soft Phase Netlabel, and if you’re a fan of electronic music or are looking for something different, I can’t recommend checking it out enough.

(Soft Phase #08) Mosaik “Leandi”

Original Sound Version [29/11/2009]:

Do you remember that we wrote about the lush and incredible co-lab between Planet Boelex and Lisa’s Antenna last year? If you don’t then I can tell you that we fancied it very much. Very much indeed. The relatively new netlabel Soft Phase has continued to churn out quite a few impressive releases, the last featuring the Swedish demomusic guru Mosaik, with an EP titled Leandi.

Unlike the strong focus on rhythm which is very prominent in electronic music, Mosaik is all about emphasis on melodiousness and soft, dreamy textures. If you’ve been listening to one too many a’ pumping house beat lately, this can be your antidote. There is always a very personal touch to Mosaik’s recordings, and this is no exception. He seems to have the rare ability to let his songs evolve in a way which creates an enormous sense of replay value. You might find yourself just like me, pushing repeat and listening to the songs all over again, just one more time.

The man himself explains that this is his most sincere and straightforward production in a long time. The artist’s own fatherhood and the warmth he obviously feels for his son gently shines trough. To quote John Paul Young: “Love is in the air.” Experimentalism and the more abstract landscapes of ambient take a back seat and the songs make strong references to what is known as demostyle. The music flows like water down a gentle stream until it finishes: leaving you and the atmosphere behind with a sense of encouraging warmth.

All the tracks are instrumental, and although it would be exiting to hear what Mosaik and a talented vocalist could pull of, the lack thereof does not detract in any way from the quality and strength of this work. He has gotten help from fellow producers though with the ever so lovely Planet Boelex and Niklas Nummelin, collaborating with Mosaik on one track each.

If I had to pick my favorite track, it’d be the title track, “Leandi.” It has a sense of optimism embedded in its melody which is very uplifting. It is very well balanced and the percussive elements only seem to underline the general movement of the song’s melody. Also the arpeggio-ridden hymn, “melo,” oozes of ethereal quality and seems to evoke a sense of unlimited possibility and freedom. And this my friends is something which this world should do well to cherish.

With just an ounce of the world famous Scandinavian trait of melancholia; just a little bit, the songs also somehow have more then one emotion going at the same time. High quality is seemingly a trademark of Mosaik, and there’s not a single song here that disappoints. So what are you waiting for? This one is both free and favored by OSV. A download should therefore be as imminent as sunrise on a cloud-free morning.

(Soft Phase #06) HALO XVI “The Sixteenth Hour”

Rockerilla magazine / Mirco Salvadori [September 2009 issue]

“The Daydreaming started under the wings of Laverna netlabel and became reality in this new HALO XVI’s work, published by the good old Planet Boelex nordic netlabel Soft Phase.

Hidden under the HALO XVI moniker is GianPaolo Diacci, a venenetian musician who’s always riding the innovative soundwave. In this work, though, he received some help from sound alchemist Giorgio Ricci, with whom he once shared the same band (the alas disbanded RAN); and from the trumpet player Massimo Berizzi, with a touch that’s a mix between the sublime and the subliminal. A musical touch able to expand his instrument’s notes, transforming them in something else of obscure nature. Sixteen hours spread over ten tracks of a wonderful interstellar travel to the borders of sonic obscurity.” 8/10 [translated from italian]

(Soft Phase #01) Planet Boelex & Lisa’s antenna “Little World”

Morpheus Music [10.10.2008]:

Style : “Blissful electronic downtempo with dreamy female vocals. This is a delightful album of warm, translucent digital soundscaping carried on glitch touched beats – serene washes and air filled pads form misty veils that enshroud lazy piano and synth melody with an effect that reminds me of sunshine dispersing the dawn chill. The music lingers in low key gentleness, builds into waves of tranquillity, sighs of intensity that breath in tandem with singer Lisa’s wistful voice. It’s a little like Planet Boelex have strung together a suite of the most beautiful interludes – those idle moments from the spaces in between – then built these naturally into complete forms in themselves. The vocals are equally effective – poignant, whispery, breathy – mostly delivered softly, occasionally lifting heaven high – intimate themes that neither dominate the music nor submerge too deep. The rhythm section is among the most serenely euphoric I’ve heard anywhere – uncluttered programmed beats that nudge the music forward, unfurling bass forms masterfully intertwined.”

Artwork : “Since this is a freely downloadable album you might expect little visual material, yet here is a full set of accompanying artwork – and you know what – this too is of a very high quality. Photographic imagery, little line drawings and painted textures interact with printed fonts and handwritten script in a fashion that calls to mind the more attractive aspects of personal scrap booking. The front cover features a misty landscape photograph where distant trees have softened into a single hue, reflected in a lake, little reeds dotting the foreground. The rear cover holds a shot of the wires and rods of T.V. aerials on a rooftop black against a grey sky. A grey painted panel to the left holds track titles and a note from Lisa to Ossi – the eyes of the artists bookending this section. Within, more lush, hazy scenery surrounded by eclectic pictorial details – a dark snail, curling twigs, a windswept couple on a plane of battleship grey, a bird on a roof, an abandoned bag. Very little information clutters the impact of the artwork – website details and titles.”

Overall : “Planet Boelex has been around since 2004 as an electronic music project originating from Finland. Ossi is a self taught musician who began his musical experiments using computer-based “tracker” programmes. He has to date released a series of albums and EPs via such notable netlables as Monotonik, Ogredung, and Kahvi Collective – all freely downloadable under the Creative Commons licensing system. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that this guy’s music is in any way inferior in quality to the expensive CDs that you have paid for to put on your shelves – Little World continues to demonstrate that Planet Boelex is a world class project, delivering material second to none. Little World is a six track EP released through the new netlabel Soft Phase. If Soft Phase can continue this high standard they will certainly be a label to watch.”