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Jorge Velez - Roman Birds Music Album Reviews

Inspired by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, this five-track ambient wonder finds the New York producer letting pulses and motifs overlap until the tracks resemble the inside of a lava lamp.
Jorge Velez has long been prolific, but that’s been especially true in the past few years. Like many underground electronic musicians, the New York producer has taken advantage of the internet’s self-publishing opportunities—in particular, the direct-to-fans platform Bandcamp—to sidestep label gatekeepers, streaming services, and crowded retailers. (Velez’s Bandcamp page currently numbers 26 releases.) Velez first gained recognition a dozen years ago with blippy disco derivatives for labels like Italians Do It Better, but his output has gradually become more esoteric and inward-looking. He’s still capable of ebullient club tracks, as last year’s excellent Forza attests, but many of his long, undulating machine jams sound like late-night missives to himself.

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Hoover H-Free Review

The Hoover H-Free is an affordable cordless vacuum that cuts a few corners to get there, with a few consistent irritations marring what's otherwise a solid cordless for a fantastic price.

PRICE WHEN REVIEWED
  • £139.99
Hoover was once such a big name in the vacuum cleaner world that here in the UK the brand basically supplanted ‘vacuum’ in the lexicon. But as much as we all talk about our hoovers, these days you’re probably more likely to think of Henry or Dyson when it comes to buying your next vacuum.

Hoover is still out there, and the H-Free is a decent cordless vacuum that may not be packed with innovation, but does a solid job of offering a Dyson-style experience at a much more budget-friendly price.

PRICE & AVAILABILITY
The H-Free is out now in the UK (though not the US, we’re afraid) and costs just £139.99 for the regular version (reviewed here), with the H-Free Pet available for a little more at £149.99 - the only difference is the colour (turquoise instead of red) and the inclusion of a pet hair remover head.

That price is really impressive for a cordless, and actually makes the H-Free the cheapest cordless vacuum we’ve reviewed - by quite a way. It’s over £100 less than the cheapest Dyson (the V7 Motorhead), despite offering similar battery life and accessories. But can it compete on suction?

DESIGN & BUILD
In terms of design, the H-Free doesn’t stray far from the designs of most rival cordless vacuums. The main vacuum itself is the handle part, with a curved, black body that incorporates the dustbin and all the buttons you’ll need to use the vacuum.
The main model comes in black/red, while the Pet version is black/turquoise. That second colour is used for a few accents on the handle, but is most notable on the main shaft, which comes entirely in one colour or the other.

The shaft attaches and detaches with the help of a quick release button, as does the main brush head. Unfortunately the connections are a bit stiff, which means you’ll have to yank the shaft a bit to get it off (quiet at the back, there) - the first sign that with a price like this, maybe you do get what you pay for.

Worse, the other accessories don’t include the quick release switch at all, so you’ll have to get used to putting a bit of effort into swapping parts. With the base model, those are just a crevice tool and a 2-in-1 furniture and dusting head, though the Pet model gets an extra pet hair removal brush.

Beyond that, there’s a very simple black plastic wall mount thrown in, along with the screws you’ll need to attach it to the wall.

One area where the H-Free does better is in weight - at 2.2kg it’s noticeably lighter than Dyson and Philips equivalents, bested only by the 1.5kg Roidmi F8 from our tests so far. That means it’s fairly comfortable to use over the course of a clean, even if you’re lifting it up to get at ceiling corners.

SPECS & FEATURES
Alright, so that’s how the H-Free is built. But how is to actually use?

The first thing to know is that there are three basic modes of operation: temporary, always-on, and carpet/turbo. Temporary is the basic mode you’ll be used to from other cordless vacuums: you hold down the trigger button, and the vacuum kicks in for as long as you keep pushing it.

What makes this mode slightly irritating is that the H-Free takes a few seconds to spin into action each time - not a huge amount in the grand scheme of things, but consistently longer than you expect - meaning that cycling it on and off regularly for spot cleaning actually gets quite annoying before long.

That’s why you might turn to the always-on mode. There’s a small latch near the trigger, and once you flip it the vacuum keeps going, saving you from holding the trigger down. Given that the main button is surprisingly stiff it’s a welcome relief, but there’s yet another minor irritation here: it’s too easy to accidentally flick the latch back off, and even over just a few minutes’ use we’d find ourselves regularly switching the H-Free on and off by mistake.

Finally, carpet/turbo is a higher power mode activated by a switch on the top of the main body. It amps up the suction for tough spots and thick carpets - though in all honesty we didn’t notice a huge power increase. It also activates lights on the front of the main brush head to give you a better view of what your cleaning - a neat feature that we wish you could activate separately from the turbo mode.

On the standard mode, suction is decent, and the H-Free mostly coped well with dust and small debris, but usually took a couple of passes to suck up stray hairs - enough that we’d be hesitant to recommend the standard model to anyone trying to clean up after a shedding pet. This definitely isn’t as powerful as Dyson’s finest, but at a third of the price you probably shouldn’t expect it to be.

What’s more frustrating is that despite being less powerful than rivals, the H-Free somehow manages to be louder. It’s not exactly deafening, but you’d hope that the trade off for less suction would be a bit of peace and quiet, and this does make a fair racket once it’s going, even on the slower standard modes.

On the other hand, what the H-Free may lack in muffling it makes up for in battery life. Hoover boasts that this lasts up to 25 minutes - it’s even written on the body of the vacuum for some baffling reason - but in our testing it ran for over half an hour before giving up the ghost, even with a bit of turbo mode thrown into the mix.

Again, that’s not up there with the hour-long battery life that flagship cordless vacuums can manage, but for something that costs less than £150 it’s really not bad - and it’s always refreshing to find something that actually performs better than the manufacturer claims.

Finally, we get to emptying the bin, and once again there’s a lot of promise let down by a minor flaw. As you’d hope, there’s a release latch to open the bin, in theory making it easy to quickly empty over the bin. But that latch is a bit too quick, and the bin lid tends to violently swing open, spreading dust as it goes. Sure, most of it ends up in the bin, but you really want it all to do that.

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