Title: Nocturnal
Artist: 1981
Release Date: 2015 Aug 31
Genre: House / Downbeat
License: CC BY-NC-ND
Label: Breathe


I’ve been spending a fair amount of time on Sonic Squirrel lately, just getting in¬†touch with the releases that the netlabel community has been coming out with lately. ¬†1981’s Nocturnal is listed as a House / Downbeat release. ¬†It’s the type of release that grabs my attention with slick¬†production, and a audio palette that is as inventive as the music itself.

1981’s Nocturnal is Downbeat Goodness

As usual, I had my reservations about this release. ¬†Put the word “house” in the description and I cringe a little bit. ¬†It’s just one of those automatic reflexes. ¬†Fortunately, I was in the mood for creating a long playlist of releases as just kind of wandering through them, so I added this one to the list.

And I have to admit, at some points this was a release that annoyed me to some degree. ¬†Tracks like “The Way” and “Vulturno” are the very definition of house music with a disco-like beat that gets on my nerves. ¬†But, even with the annoyance of these tracks, there were things that made them interesting: chopped up piano lines, jazz references, shifting percussion mixing, etc. ¬†They really made me feel like I was in a smokey club someplace, and I could hear this music playing in the background while a bunch of people were on the dance floor grooving away to the beat.

If the whole release was¬†in a similar style, I would have written it off though: there is a lot of downtempo / house style music with jazz influences. ¬†It’s kind of become like Muzak for the club-set. ¬†Fortunately for me (at least) this isn’t a one dimensional release. There are¬†tracks like Kraken with a¬†more drum-n-bass style, Papacaidas that has more laid back, shuffle beat than house style, and Limbo with a much more experimental / ambient style than any of the other tracks on this release.

And, I will say, I have to admire the production of this work. ¬†There is a sense of depth to this release that often gets lost in the mix-down to a digital format. ¬†And there¬†is a very clear sense that 1981 worked hard to make all of the layers and parts clear and well balanced with their own sense of space. ¬†In fact, the production is so well done, I thought that several tracks on this release would have fit in with a couple of compilations I bought sometime back… ¬†And that got me thinking about something else.

Now, you will have to forgive me for a minute for a bit of a detour in the review…but I think this detour will provide an illuminating illustration. ¬†Have you see the TV advertisements for the “new” Buick automobiles this year? ¬†Seriously, I am bringing up a car commercial for a reason. ¬†If you haven’t here it is: [Ed. Note: The video is no longer available…just go with the commentary in the next paragraph…]

Now, here’s the point: Buick is trying to sell this as a “Fresh Look”. ¬†But the advertisements are horrible. ¬†The message I got from them is: now Buick’s look like every other car out there on the road. ¬†They are generic. ¬†And, in fact, they are so generic and out of touch with current trends that 1990’s rave music is the best music to show them off.

Now getting back to the review… ¬†When I was thinking about the compilations that I thought several of these tracks¬†could have been on it occurred to me: those are downtempo / lounge releases from around 2005. ¬†And, more so, those compilations became very generic to me. ¬†I couldn’t name even one of the tracks on them.

Which is kind of a lingering impression that I have of 1981’s Nocturnal: there are parts of it that are so generic that they could have been produced 10 years ago. ¬†They don’t really place themselves in today’s style of music. ¬†There is nothing that makes them¬†any different from¬†the songs on those old compilations.

Which is something of a compliment as well. It’s difficult for independent artists to produce works that measure up to the standards of “professional” producers. ¬†And yet, these works do¬†stand up to them.


So 1981’s Nocturnal gets something of a mixed review: there’s a lot of downtempo goodness to it, and there is some variation from the standard house style music to make it interesting to listen to. ¬†And the production is very professional. However, I also have this feeling that a fair portion of this release would have fit with tracks that were produced 10 years ago. ¬†But worse, there is something of a generic quality to the work: I don’t think in a compilation I could identify a specific track as being by 1981. ¬†I don’t feel a sense of style that is strong enough for me to differentiate their work from other artists.

1981: Nocturnal




Posted by George De Bruin

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