Another heart-rending beauty from Sean McCann’s Recital, following superb LPs by Sarah Davachi and R.I.P. Hayman with Alex Twomey’s first album under his own name. Featuring stately, immersive compositions for brass, strings, solo piano, woodwind and electronics, it’s a startling, full-bodied approach that places 'The Entertainer’ well outside the current taste for more disposable ambient and environmental recordings, and for our money, one of the great albums of the year so far.
Best known for his work as Mirror To Mirror, Twomey has been largely absent from our airwaves since his last release for the Preservation label in 2012, an album we described at the time as sounding somewhere between Jeff Witscher’s Rene Hell and ‘Victorialand’-era Cocteau Twins. The 7 year pause for thought has pushed Twomey into much more introspective and interesting terrain; weaving orchestral elements around his still searching electronic foundations.
He takes us from the breathless opener "Red Zone” - reminding us of the tragi-romantic opulence of Kara-Lis Coverdale’s still peerless ‘Aftertouches’, and into the overflowing brass arrangements of 'Pig Symphony’, sounding like a Disney scene re-purposed into minor key solemnity - like a funeral march rendered in pastels. ‘Fun in Vegas’ and 'Velvet on Foam’ each deploy two minutes of gauzy bliss, alongside the barely contained emotional minimalism of 'Just Drinking’, while 'Driving Home’ soars to almost Vangelis levels of sci-fi romance.
Modest in length, each of 'The Entertainer’s’ 11 pieces clock in between 2 and 4 minutes long, acting like "vignettes alluding to a vague narrative”. But the duration belies a richness of ideas and honesty in execution that’s inspiring to behold, taking us on an often wrenching emotional journey that’s, above all, highly believable. Or as the label put so well “...melodies dance as twinkling bulbs along a retired parade float. A dark comedy, a tragic smile. Love found in the rough of it all."
‘bblisss’ comp contributor Ulla Straus diffuses herself into the sublime, gauzy ambience of ‘Big Room’ for Quiet Time Tapes
Arriving in the glistening wake of instalments by Kareem Lotfy, Debit, and peer Huerco S, ‘Big Room’ is Ulla’s definitive statement to date, convicting a sublime soul through 8 gaseous, harmonised dimensions with sweet highlights in the milky flow of ‘Sister’, and the vertiginous scale of ‘Net’.
If Bibio and Express Rising make a record together, it might sound a lot like the dusty, nostalgic wow and flutter of ‘Elder Mantis’ by Black Taffy, an alias of This Will Destroy You bassist Donovon Jones. Stoke your pipe and nod along
“Black Taffy (Donovan Jones) is a Dallas-based composer and performer whose current focus lies in pairing ambient music with big bass and percussion.
The first born son of Pentecostal music ministers, Donovan grew up witnessing the power music has to induce trance and encourage spiritual awakening. Eventually drawing parallels between christianity, voodoo, and the occult, Jones left the former to immerse himself in the latter.
Sometimes performing with only Vibraphone and cassette decks, he frequently employs the use of tape loops and other antiquated mediums to create pillowy worlds of wow and flutter.”
The Chi Factory unfurl lushly overgrown 4th world drones, voices and field recordings made on a greek island, naturally drifting between time-slowing beats, FM radio interference, and languid instrumentation in four parts that describe a transition from dawn to dusk...
“Dedicated to the life and work of Robert Lax (1915-2000), the American poet who lived on Patmos, Greece, as a self-exiled hermit since the sixties. Jack Kerouac called Lax “one of the great original voices of our times, a Pilgrim in search of beautiful innocence”.
The Chi Factory would like to give special thanks to his good Patmian friends Ulf Knaus and Nikos Eliou, who showed us his house on Patmos (everything is still the same since he left) and also his favourite old wooden door (see leaflet). His great minimalistic poetry became a source of inspiration for the Mantra Recordings. His life on Patmos was far away from public attention - quiet and always surrounded by the skies, seas, cats and birds. Lax was a real dreamcatcher.”
Rhythmatician Joe works up his first set of riddims in two years with the ‘Get Centred’ session for Cómeme
Making a natural fit for the slinky tastes of Matias Aguayo’s label, Joe continues in pursuit of a slinky Afro-Latinate spirit on all three cuts, including a very handy run into slower tempo on the writhing centrepiece ‘Line To Earth.’
To kick off, ‘Get Centred’ synchs flutes, marimba and technoid dub chords in in a classic Joe mould heard on his Hessle Audio and Hemlock Recordings 12”s (and really not far from classic Peverelist or Beatrice Dillon either), whereas ‘Line To earth’ catches him dropping the BPM to a 100 on FM-synth toned bass torque gilded with golden pads, and ‘Rio Lea’ gets it up again on an East London ready, in-the-pocket samba hustle with a succinctly minimalist pucker.
Jessica Pratt’s exceedingly strange, seemingly sped up but ultimately completely immersive vocals are in haunting/beguiling effect on her 3rd album following an eponymous 2012 debut and ‘On Your Own Love Again’ [Drag City, 2015]. You’re either going to think the engineer is taking the piss or you’ll fall heavy under her spell - count us firnly under the latter....
“For her third album Quiet Signs, Jessica Pratt offers up nine spare, beautiful & mysterious songs that feel like the culmination of her work to date. "Fare Thee Well" and "Poly Blue" retain glimmers of On Your Own Love Again's hazy day spells, but delicate arrangements for piano, flute, organ and strings instill a lush, chamber pop vim. The record's B-side, meanwhile, glows with an arresting late-night clarity; the first single, "This Time Around," pairs the Los Angeles artist's intimate vulnerability with a newfound resolve. Ultimately, this confidence is what sets Quiet Signs apart from Pratt's previous work, the journey of an artist stepping out of the darkened wings to take her place as one of this generation's preeminent songwriters.”