This is the second album from the UK based producer USB. USB makes electronica, primarily IDM in its many forms ranging from commercial to experimental. The main criteria for a USB track is that it must contain melody, and that melody should be the main focus of what draws the listener in. No two tracks are alike, so the listener is taken on a very varied journey of moods and emotions from melancholic to uplifting. This is electronica that doesn't sound how you would expect electronic music to sound, but has a more organic feel to it. Fans of Plaid, Black Dog Productions, Boards of canada, Autechre and proem might do well to check this album out.
Vocals and lyrics on track 9: Michael McCarthy. Artwork by Sean forsythe.
Review of USB - TILT by Johann Meier:
"The first track on this album tells the tale. A vaguely retro electric piano chimes out a clear, memorable melody which in turn is echoed, warped, and slightly modified for the next six minutes over a glitching, stuttering, but always consonant rhythm bed. USB's music has always found an audience among online listeners seeking an introspective alternative. The instrumentation centers around mellow synthesizer bells, warm guitars, and pianos, befitting the quiet but precise nature of this music. The most significant change from the first USB record is the integration of live guitar, which adds a nice element of naturalism to the proceedings which had an ample dose of humanity often missing in electronic music anyway. A few of the tracks quite deliberately detour from the general vibe, including the nearly industrial grind of "Elevate" and the percussionless "Lost Hope," but even these are more like amplifications of elements found in other tracks than complete departures. As such, this is true album oriented mood music that slowly and progressively pulls the listener in. Fans of Arovane, Aphex Twin, Massive Attack, and Boards of Canada will find a lot to like here. But there's a lot more going on here than a tribute to the mid 1990's Warp and related records as USB continues to develop the sound he pursued so successfully on his first record".
Review of ‘Tilt’ by Alastair Brown (northcape) (2006)
Electronic artist USB’s new album ‘Tilt’ carries on where USB left off at the end of his 2005 debut, ‘Random Equations’. I remain a very big fan of that album, and ‘Tilt’ improves on it by broadening and deepening USB’s sound. That sound is broadly melodic IDM, influenced by such artists as Plaid, Black Dog Productions and Autechre, but USB has definitely found his own sound and it is instantly recognisable.
Like the previous album, this one is all about the tunes, and there are a lot of them. A typical USB track contains sweeping, tessellating synth lines over complex syncopated percussion, but it’s not all about the mechanics as this artist has an enviable feel for atmosphere and mood and is able to create hugely evocative tracks (seemingly) almost effortlessly. USB has a brilliant talent for melody that cannot be easily defined. The tracks here range from the dramatic (note the percussion and baseline of opener ‘Elevate’) to the often seriously chilled, but they are always very tuneful indeed.
Piano remains a staple part of the USB sonic toolkit, and it is used very effectively here on a number of tracks. ‘Autumn’ is a beautifully deep and relaxed piece of electronica, and the chilled melancholy of ‘Lost Hope’ is another good example. The general synthesizer programming is as always first-rate; the sound used at the opening of the interestingly-titled ‘Friendly to Fish’ (just taking one of many examples) is massively wide and instantly evocative. The percussive elements are always interesting, providing a counterbalance and unpredictable driving momentum to the rest of the music. There are a couple of tracks here that maybe use too many of the ‘standard’ USB elements, but to be honest, even a ‘standard’ USB track is frequently brilliant. There are few artists who I can honestly say have never made a bad track, however if USB has made a bad track, then I haven’t heard it.
This album is however definitely more than just a consolidation of this artist’s sound, firstly because of the fantastic tunes, and secondly as there are several new elements introduced during the course of the CD. The introduction of guitar is very effective indeed and in ‘Glider’ a simple yet very compelling loop of melodic guitar and string noise drives the track forward. ‘Believe’ is a fantastic track, one of my personal highlights, with a beautifully lyrical guitar line. The most strikingly different track here is ‘No More’, which has deep vocals provided by guest artist One. The use of voice works very well and adds a new dimension to the music.
The clarity of the sound is always brilliant and many of the tracks on this album are quite stunningly beautiful. USB definitely provide an escape from the depressing realities of the modern world, making music that takes you away from your surroundings if they are mundane and enhances them if they are not. Just listen to ‘Closer’ and let your imagination fly.
© Northcape 02/05/2006