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cover art

 Softcore - PS 08/53
  Release Date: 7 November 1994
  Limitation: 1000

   Naked Eye Spy                10.54
   Rather Bent than Shaked       7.02
   Home Sweet Home              10.03
   Funkified Female              6.35
   Difference Engine             5.44
   Plenty of Food                4.36
   White Hole 1                  2.06
   White Hole 2                 14.07

  all tracks written by Atom Heart

This earlier work from Atom Heart is a far cry from what he's doing nowadays. Actually, compared to his recent output, it doesn't even really sound like the same artist. This retrospect is interesting because it shows the natural evolution that all artists undergo. This record was made at a time when Uwe Schmidt was concentrating on several styles at a time, and "Softcore" falls into a hazily defined bracket of IDM, with several tracks being quite ambient and others being just odd in general. Contrasted with Schmidt's contemporary recordings, the focus here is much more centered upon effective sequencing rather than psychedelic flagellisticomplexities. Atom Heart is composing with a much simpler template here and resultantly the tracks sound very structured and much more mellow. All the tracks make nice well-constructed wholes, but as you let your ears wander over them all of the individual sounds are quite interesting in their own regard. A definite element of simplicity here that's surprisingly difficult to put into words. The title "Softcore" fits well with the music because here (as in lots of Schmidt's music) i find an extremely subtle undertone of eroticism, titillation, ticklish sensuality that's incredibly elusive, a delightful package of pixellated innuendoes. In the end this record sounds like the lighthearted cousin to "Orange", it's energized but mellow grooves producing a color palette of purple, violet, magenta hues. Incidentally, this record gets my vote for Most Risque FAX Cover art! :)

Naked Eye Spy - - -A glowy ambient stream opens the disc. This converges with sun-dappled and friendly loops of soft, repetitive notes. A definite rhythm takes shape quickly. Softly humming bass and tweaked ascending chimes set up an altogether happy and full-bodied structure. Atom Heart couldn't help making this one funky as the ambient setting gives way to a tonicky mixture of sequences. A steady and gentle groove snaps along, rolling through the sunlit atmosphere and really doesn't change much at all for the duration of the track, the only *seemingly* varying element being the odd choice of a tiny ting-ing sound which seems to give us an aspiring solo. It's a loungey atmosphere in general which disappears as the track moves again into more sunny tones and shifting harmonies. Silky simplicity.

Rather Bent Than Shaked - - -A deep, faraway bassline pulses out dark purple wallpaper. This is a stab at beat-oriented ambient and it's mixed a lot more quietly then the other tracks, giving a really subtle and gentle feel. A dusty, popping beat is our perpetual handrail into quilty darkness. Various equally subtle rhythmic elements join in sporadically; electric glitters, marimba-style tones and whispery slides percolate and shuttle about with a melancholy ambient theme beneath. Just enough textural differences here to keep our attention from straying. Weird stuff.

Home Sweet Home - - -Reverbed ringings introduce a very odd piece; a thin metallic veil of sound undulates between percussive layers. The luminous harmonies continue until replaced by several contorted and electric melodic patterns. The mood here is quite airy and the eclectic sequences puff and glide along easily. Patterns interact with each other in very minor ways, they seem to color and shade one another rather than play with composition. Like many of these tracks, Uwe ends it before the simplicity turns into boredom, and in the process shows how effective these simplified compositions are in that they can keep your interest so well!

Funkified Female - - -Hardwired Erotica in Metallic Blue-Gray

Difference Engine - - -An ensemble of what sounds like badly mechanized woodwinds are the entrance to a mahogany parlor of aristocratic 4/4 danciness. The track seems to exemplify the values of "Softcore": simplistic but undeniably toe-tapping rhythms, effective and repetitive melodic sketchings which set grooves in place quite perfectly, chromey embellishments and just enough intriguing special effects to pull it all off convincingly.

Plenty of Food - - -A glittery pounding effect and miscellaneous metallic oddities give a strong gold flavor to a quickly-forming piece of shifty electro-dance. Underlaid is a watery, rattling texture. Quite a mixed bag here, and it's driven to oddly comic dimensions by a lively cowbell. How does he pull this stuff off? The main character of the track, an oscillating thread of poppy effervescence, stretches down the end of this short-form, somewhat gestural piece.

White Hole 1 - - -Lovely, lonesome ambient thing that sounds like a chorus of ghostly horns. Focus drifts from channel to channel like fog. Wonderful little interlude...

White Hole 2 - - -Serene tone-clusters fade in and set up the most blissful region of the disc. Music for wheat fields. This makes me wish Uwe would have made an entire cd based on this kind of theme! Touching and beautiful, however the track soon switches themes to a more rhythmic nature. The sustains continue but with organic buzzes and wobbles spiraling in overlapped pools of design. A half-melodic dotting rhythm zaps and echoes, filling out the asymmetrical composition. Analog tweakages and slight timing shifts alter the patterned ambience and we're now presented with something completely different than what we started with 12 minutes ago. Rhythmic signatures dissolve and simplify, contracting oddly, like a beating heart. This track give a really solid ending to the disc which is where i think "Orange" really failed unfortunately. A serious and emotional finale to a collection of Vibrant Violet Voyeurism!

The powerful and playful scenes presented here are really captivating but don't expect anything mind-boggling or ground-breaking. Probably not a disc to be played frequently, but the emotions here all have a gentle and wholesome feel that will probably never fail to be simply comfy :) The tracks of "Softcore" all have lots of personality and sort of a 'light fiction' feel, great for springtime! The musical elements themselves encompass a wide variety of personalities as well, jubilantly fleshing out this group of dot-matrix centerfolds.

(review by Auraphage)

Some tracks are optimistic and super groovy, while others are dark, odd and eerie. It's kind of loopy yet often surprising in it's subtlety and complexity. I find it very unique in character and style, and I'm quite fond of the atmosphere it creates... it certainly led me to check out more of A.H.'s material (if you're a collector of his work, this is definitely a "must own" in my book).

Oh, it has lots of beats.

(review by Bryan Campbell)


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