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0PN mounts a definitive opus with his rapturous 9th studio album, entirely produced during lockdown, with “executive production” by The Weeknd, who also supplies vocals alongside Arca and Caroline Polachek.
‘Magic Oneohtrix Point Never’ is titled after the mispronunciation of Magic 106.7, a local radio station in Boston, Massachusetts; the state where Daniel Lopatin aka 0PN grew up, and where the album was created. The radio station’s adult contemporary programming is a formative and enduring influence on 0PN’s music, and it’s clear that he’s saved this album title for some of his most accomplished tributes to his influences, but refracted thru his prismatic styles to illustrate the distance between that era, and this, with some of his most elusive, illusive and beguiling sound design wrapped up in a mix of stunningly mazy and pop-toned arrangements.
0PN is one of those artists we’d imagine took to lockdown quite naturally, sequestering themselves away to immerse in their art for the good of everyone outside. Written between March and July, the results of ‘Magic Oneohtrix Point Never’ speak for themselves as 0PN’s most broadly appealing record, typically placing avant-inventiveness and curiosity at the service of a tumultuous narrative that really needs some kind of road-trip simulation game to go along with its possessed dial-strafing.
You’re probably familiar with the album’s opening sequence, which appeared on a lead single, and includes the lushest FM synthesis of 2020 in ‘Long Road Home’, and the rest of the album follows suit with a profligate approach to genre, cutting from phased dream-pop grunge in ’I Don’t Love Me Anymore’, to hypnagogic ident collage in ‘The Whether Channel’, and The Weeknd’s romantic ‘80s power pop turn on ‘Lost But Never Again’, crucially fractured with cut-scenes and mutant jingling of the ‘Cross Talk’ parts that tie the album’s story together with something approaching a sonic-visual analog of Safdie Brothers’ choppy editing gone lysergic.
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Detroit visionary Terrence Dixon scans stellar new horizons on the awe-inspiring 3rd chapter of his most cherished, foundational and inspiring album series.
Roughly once a decade since 2000 the pioneering Afrofuturist has offered a new landmark of deep, electronic music, and ‘From the Far Future, Pt. 3’ stakes one of 2020’s - and probably the next decade’s - leading examples of Detroit techno at its furthest, most experimental limits. This series of albums has consistently been the place to go for Dixon, and by extension the 313’s, most unruly but truest works, dashing between broken drums, dissonant alien synth tones, and the deepest recesses of the warehouse mind in a rudely distinguished calibration of Motor City mechanics. For us he’s right up there with the city’s deepest heads like Jeff Mills, Drexciya, Mad Mike, or Howard Thomas for producing some of that sound’s most vital, uniquely expressive machine music.
Dixon’s latest landmark sees him double down on the proprioceptive depth with acres of abstract, spatialised synth work while fine-tuning and ruggedly fucking with rhythmic conventions. From the black hole sensations of the album opener to abandoned space station ambience of ‘Found In Space’ and ‘Remarkable Wanderer,’ and the uncharted planet atmospheres of ‘By Land’ or ‘Rotation (Delay Mix),’ he has that side absolutely on lock, and in a way that lends proper cinematic cadence to the album’s flow of raggo muscle car drive between ‘Don’t Panic,’ the warehouse donuts of ’Spectrum of Light,’ a strobing deep technohouse centrepiece ‘Unconditional Love,’ and the widescreen warehouse-in-space scope of ‘Out of Darkness.’
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Ulla’s recordings of phone conversations and wildlife diffuse into the most vaporous and unsettling ambient dub textures on the third in our Documenting Sound series, recorded over the last few weeks in Philadelphia and recalling Sam Kidel’s ‘Disruptive Muzak’, DJ Lostboi’s ambient hymnals and Vladislav Delay’s Chain Reaction pearls.
Pieced together from airspun recordings made in Philadelphia during spring 2020, ’inside means inside me’ holds a subtle mirror to the new world’s psychic ambiance of existential, slowburn dread. Prizing the sensitively insightful, lower case manner that made Ulla’s recent 'Tumbling Towards A Wall’ album so memorable, here the sound is more poignant, the dissociative flux used to perhaps more therapeutic effect for an ephemeral reading of the times.
In the first half, Ulla makes a subtly heartbreaking use of crackling phone calls and dub stabs, but embedded in the music’s weft they take on an unsettling resolution that’s hard to place. On the flip, more entwined conversations snag in the breeze with location recordings and scudding hypnagogic washes with a signature low key movement that keep you feeling swaddled but uneasy until the end.
Free the ID
No rest among angels
Free the ID
No rest among angels
High School Blues
High School Blues
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Following last year's brilliant "Trinity" mixtape and LEYA collab "Angel Lust", Alexandra Drewchin returns with her most assertive record to date, a fiery collection of modern dream-folk that blurs the lines between ambient, shoegaze and experimental pop.
Following the dusty road traced by Cocteau Twins, Mazzy Star, Björk and Grouper, Eartheater assuredly carves out a space for herself by fusing effortlessly haunting songs with bleak orchestral elements or the kind of disintegrating electronic detritus u would more readily expect to hear on a Total Freedom mix. It's a pop record that sits on the outskirts of the contemporary wyrd club zone, but avoids any of the trappings of "hyperpop", instead choosing to languish in a sensual melancholy: isolated and maudlin but never sexless.
Drewchin composed, produced and arranged "Phoenix: Flames Are Dew Upon My Skin" mostly while she was on a ten-week artist residency in Zaragoza, Spain. Alone in a small Spanish town, she was able to trap the artistically freeing feeling of solitude after incessant touring and recording, tipping boundless thoughts into a suite of songs that flower and grow with each subsequent listen. Her vocals and guitar sit at the center of the album, fleshed out by contributions from close friends and collaborators Marilu Donovan (harp) and Adam Markiewicz of LEYA (violin) and whisper-soft orchestral elements from Ensemble de Cámara.
Each song manages to fizz between familiarity and passionate, alien uniqueness as Drewchin's voice resonates through words that hum over themes of love, togetherness, absence and existence. These aren't merely empty syllables, but lived experiences tied into a dreamscape of sparse instrumentation and sparser rhythm. Honestly we haven't heard many more records this year that are so accurately aimed at our hyper-specific needs - "Phoenix" is an album that muses on loss but feels unsettlingly hopeful, convinced of humanity's latent goodness even in the midst of disaster. We can't recommend this one any fucking higher.
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Grime scapes. Grim escapes.
it's a bit knowing // to grime what Lee Gamble's Diversions was to jungle. Praxis makes perfect?
Drown To Float
Drown To Float
Across the Hudson
Across the Hudson
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Nairobi, Kenya’s KMRU debuts on Mego with a suite of serene ambient scenes after emerging with Four Tet-like electronica releases in 2019 and recently starring on ‘Alternate African Reality - Electronic, Electroacoustic And Experimental Music From Africa And The Diaspora’
Known as Joseph Kamaru to his pals, KMRU was hailed by RA as one of ’15 East African Artists You Need To Hear’ in 2018 and is a regular performer at Nyege Nyege Festival in Uganda, beside performing at CTM and Gamma Festival. For his Mego release ‘Peel’ it appears he’s been listening to label hero Fennesz, the Austrian experimental guitarist, or Will Long aka Celer, with whom his tracks share a certain, longing melancholy in their long, sighing arrangements of glistening and creaking ambient pads and mournful post-rock/cienmatic elegance.
“The subtle calming atmosphere within Peel belies the compositional prowess as layers of delicate sounds wrap around each other creating a hybrid new form ambient musics both captivating through it’s textural depth and kaleidoscopic patterns. The track titles lend themselves to the themes and mood set within: Why are you here, Well, Solace, Klang, Insubstantial and the title track. This is a deep heartfelt journey with a new strong voice being expressed through the means of organically presented electronic ambient sounds, one which reveals further layers on repeat listens.”
Russel Ellington Langston Butler
Emotional bangers only / Too stressed
Russel Ellington Langston Butler
Emotional bangers only / Too stressed
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‘Sign’ is Autechre’s first new album-album proper since ‘Elseq’ and contains some of their most emosh compositions in eons, perhaps since ‘Tri Repetae’.
Practically pocket-sized in comparison to their sprawling torrent of live material and radio recordings in recent years, ’Sign’ is a return to the sort of concision found circa ‘Exai’ and their earlier albums. Effectively they’ve gotten better to grips with their live set-up, and the hyper ideas found in their work-in-progress demonstrations on the five volume ‘Elseq’ and 8hrs of ‘NTS Sessions’ have been refined into moments of crystalline ambient baroque beauty and liquid-limbed swag on ’Sign’.
After their music has undergone what could be called a growth spurt in recent years, the acrid plasma of their complex, hyper-inorganic systems feels to congeal, create more intricate snaps across the album, from the lush cosmic collisions of ‘M4 Lema’, to the rhizomic arp weaving on ‘F7’, while refining their tendons and muscle in the gyrostep of ‘au14’ and ‘such.mefd2’. The anthropomorphisation of their synthesis accelerates with the album’s 2nd half with the elegiac catharsis of ‘Metaz form8’ displaying a greater emotional intelligence, while their shapeshifting synthesis grows semblances of glowing hair and teeth and skin in ’th red a’, and even a plaintive human heartache in the systolic thud and bloo pads of ‘psin AM’ that rawly bleeds out in the album’s future classic closer ‘r cazt’.
This LP was hinted at by Autechre as one of two albums ready for 2020, so we’ll take it this is their “U Ok Hun?” one to some possibly more hardcore turns in the future. Have it.
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Autechre drop ‘Plus’, the ruder counterpart to their brooding ’Sign’ album, rinsing squashed drums and harsher textured tones in a newly aerated, noisier sort of sound design.
If you were left glowing but still hungry for some rufige after ’Sign’, this album’s for you. Their staunchest North Manc C++Boy attitude is in spine twisting, neck snapping effect on nine unusually raw cuts that bleed dank air and squeeze melody from scuffed and scaly surfaces. It’s definitely still AE, but allowing for more space and finer graded textures in the mix, from their juiciest sloshing basses, to the rusted drums and iridescent, aerosolised timbres in a subtle new mutation of their sound.
As we commented with ‘Sign’, it feels like they're haunted by their older forms on ‘Plus’, but still inexorably pulled toward a futuristic unknown. We can feel those opposing forces at action in the stunning hyperstep dynamics and almost nostalgic ken of ‘X4’, which is one of the album’s durational highlights along with the totally absorbing concrète setting and avian chirrups of ‘ecol4’, and the quicksilver techno slipperiness of ‘TM1’, while the likes of ‘7FM ic’ deliver sharper shocks of impossible limb movements, and ‘marhide’ epitomises a noisier approach with straight-jacketed electro extruded thru some kind of imaginary airlock, saving bittersweet touches for the extended melodic thoughts of ‘lux 106 mod’ and the aspartame flavour tang of their beatless roller ‘ii.pre esc’, which is bound to become a favourite.
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On his first new album in 5 years, Vladislav Delay renders an extreme ecology of electronic sound inspired by time spent above the arctic circle, surrounded by tundra and the raw force of nature and visually given life by Ripatti's wife, Antye Greie-Ripatti, aka AGF. It’s a killer evolution of sound, like his foundational Chain Reaction productions chopped, screwed and fed through sheets of white noise and black metal.
Although it features no location recordings, ’Rakka’ clearly imparts its theme thru a riveting palette of weathered textures, unyielding rhythms and the kind of reverberating, widescreen sound design that’s defined his catalogue of cult, contemporary music since the late ‘90s. While Delay has been notably absent from release schedules in recent years - aside from working on the soundtrack to ‘The Revenant’ (2015) recording with Sly & Robbie (more of that to come) in 2018 - this new album is a bracing reminder of his deadly knack for creating utterly immersive environments at the poles of ambient, dub, and noise.
Inspired by the struggle to survive in unforgiving conditions, the music patently resembles a number of styles associated with music from northerly latitudes. Elemental traces of Scandinavian black metal, Pan Sonic or Deathprod-like power electronics and Thomas Köner-esque ambient isolationism are all detectable in the album’s brutal panoramas, and evidently speak to a shared conception of the extreme arctic’s uncontrolled and uncorrupted wilds, and their frighteningly magnetic sort of push/pull on the senses.
Titled in Vladislav’s typically alliterative style, the tracks cascade in aggressive iterations of gravel-swilled rhythm and tonal attrition. The barely-harnessed might of opener, ‘Rakka’ triggers a chain reaction on events that follows into a sort of blast-beaten ambience in ‘Raajat’, and what sounds like throttled blvck metvl vocals meshed with flashcore in ‘Rakkine’, whilst ‘Rampa’ hammers home a martial noise techno tattoo, and the final couplet take this sound to its logical end-of-earth degrees with breathtaking form.
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The sferic label add to a strong run of releases from Space Afrika, Perila, Echium and Roméo Poirier with a stunning new LP from Jake Muir; a fabrication of impressionistic cityscapes describing L.A. at dusk, and Berlin dawning, highly recommended if you’re into Pinkcourtesyphone, Gas, Philip Jeck, Jan Jelinek.
’The hum of your veiled voice’ was written by Muir in the wake of his transition from a life in Los Angeles to a new start in Berlin. It sees him transpose field recordings of his former home city into a hazier sort of mid-ground that subtly diffracts the difference with Berlin in summer, refining the shimmering production tekkers of his West Coast surf-pop tribute ‘Lady’s Mantle’ (2018) with a nuanced, lower case emotive tactility intended to arouse heady states of atmospheric tension between nostalgic sehnsucht and romantic promise.
Muir readily acknowledges influence from the more washed out, elusive textures, timbres, and spatial awareness of artists such as Philip Jeck, Richard Chartier, and Marina Rosenfeld, as opposed to the usual touchstones of AFX or Eno. But more implicitly he references a sense of queered ambience shared with Chartier’s Pinkcourtesyphone, and as such his music is seduced by the allure of “gay bathhouses and spas, club back rooms and decadent boudoirs” in a way that suffuses the whole record with an, intoxicating, aphrodisiac quality.
Supine and seductive in its illustration of an “endless night”, the devil lies in the album’s evocative intricacies, using a signature light touch and Akira Rabelais’ Argeïphontes Lyre software to ruffle locked grooves and dusty jazz loops into ASMR-triggering texturhythms and dematerialised, hea(r)tsick blurs between the ear-stroking ephemera of ‘fleeting touches’ and the way his music appears to waltz out of an open window over Berlin at night in ‘the dimness of the sealed eye’, and land on the pillow next to you ‘like sweet thoughts in a dream’.
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The superb, cybergunky results of an artist’s residency by two leading rhythmaticians, Don’t DJ & NWAQ, push far beyond their respective club boundaries on debut recordings for Belgium’s Meakusma
Hitting square between the eyes of their respective, grooving styles, ‘Fashion’ catches the German/Dutch duo consolidating freeform improv approaches into a pineal-squeezing style of psychedelic electronic noise that transcends the sum of its parts, and to the point you might never guess they’re behind it.
Recorded live at Vanessa’s place and at Meakusma Festival, the recordings are over easy on the distortion in a way that we’ve never heard from other artist before. And it sounds like they’re having top craic doing it, combined with unnerving avant-punkish vocals channelling John Bender and some kind of voice-in-the-head spirits, and a selection of rotted beats that still don’t give the game away, nodding more toward Nate Young or Aaron Dilloway than their usual vibes. It’s perhaps only at the shine-eyed ’Vanessa’ and whirligig harmony of ‘White Lies’ that they appear closer themselves, but only a glimmer of it, and it’s simply a strange pleasure to hear them go off road with such unexpected, intra-dimensional results.