The Bit is the second recorded collaboration between Aidan Baker (Nadja / Hypnodrone Ensemble), Simon Goff (Jóhann Johannsson / Hildur Gudnadottir) and Thor Harris (Swans, Shearwater, Thor & Friends).
"Following on from 2017’s Noplace album, The Bit treads a similar path in terms of the recording process as the trio spent a day improvising at Voxton Studios in Berlin whilst on a European tour. The result was then edited and moulded into six hypnotic tracks that ebb and flow with beauty and ease.
The Bit finds the trio painting with a lighter touch than on its predecessor. Thor Harris’ motorik beats still underpin the music but the atmospherics take a more prominent role and there is a pure and cohesive path to be found throughout the record. Much like on Noplace, Baker’s guitar and Goff’s violin weave together beautifully, forming a deep bed of melody, ambience and reverb.
Given the trios credentials it’s not surprising they have created another immersive and stunning record."
Dead bonny Scots and Gaelic folk traditionals played faithful to form by Scottish folkie Alasdair Roberts. Done in a style inspired by a life of living haunted houses and traversing the Gaelic world researching its oral and musical history and sustaining folk traditions in a proper old skool role. Crack out your Arrans, stoke the hearth, and pour a dram for this one
“I am indebted to my piping friend Donald Lindsay for The Blythsome Bridal, The Braes of Tulliemet and The Smith’s a Gallant Fireman, while Chief O’Neill’s Favourite and The Flowers of Edinburgh were learnt from my fiddling friend Neil McDermott. The Blythsome Bridal is used as the melody to a comic lyric called ‘Fy Let Us A’ To The Bridal’ first published in 1706. The Braes of Tulliemet lie near the Perthshire town of Pitlochry. The Smith’s a Gallant Fireman is also known as ‘Carrick’s Rant’. Chief O’Neill was Francis O’Neill (1848-1936), who was born in County Cork, emigrated to the USA as a young man and eventually became chief of the Chicago Police from 1901 to 1905. The Flowers of Edinburgh was first published in James Oswald’s Caledonian Pocket Companion around 1760. The guitars are fretted in the following positions as the tunes appear on the record: II, II, V, VII and V.
My family stayed in a haunted house in the village of Balquhidder for a very short while in the early 1980s after moving from Germany to Scotland. However, I only took to singing The Braes of Balquhidder very recently after hearing a recording of it sung by the late Tim Lyons. The Seasons was learnt from the singing of the late Aberdeen singer Lizzie Higgins, daughter of Jeannie Robertson. Edinburgh-based Ulsterman Cathal McConnell knows many fine songs, most of which are collected in his book/CD set I Have Travelled This Country. I learnt this version of The Curragh of Kildare from that source. The late Sheila Stewart of Rattray, near Blairgowrie, is the source of my version of False, False. I would be unable to attribute my singing of Roberts Burns’ The Silver Tassie to a single source, owing to its general popularity in Scotland. I am forever indebted to all the fine singers and musicians mentioned above, and to many others unmentioned, for passing on songs and tunes to me over the years.”
Half of Deaf Center, all of Svarte Greiner, and boss of the Miasmah label, Erik K Skodvin has long flirted with cinematic sounds and now he's turned in his first solo film score - a chilling, drone-heavy accompaniment to Mo Scarpelli's Ethiopa-set "Anbessa".
Erik K Skodvin was probably always meant to make film scores. Since Deaf Center's 2004 debut EP "Neon City", the Norwegian producer has been taking influence from composers like Angelo Badalementi, Clint Mansell and Cliff Martinez and juxtaposing these cinematic elements with the kind of low-end drones fellow Norseman Deathprod made his calling card. Skodvin's solo material as Svarte Greiner was doomier still, hinting at noise and metal but never losing the magical glow of the silver screen.
Now, Skodvin has turned in his first solo score for American director Mo Scarpelli's "Anbessa", a documentary feature set in Ethiopia, about a young boy whose family are displaced from their agricultural community as Addis Ababa becomes quickly urbanized - and gentrified. Skodvin's treatment won't initially surprise fans of his Svarte Greiner or Deaf Center material - those calling-card shadowy, wavering guitar drones and melancholy strings are all present - but the scope, sound and additional elements in the material make this a very different kind of record.
Recordings from the movie are folded into Skodvin's music, like distant animal sounds or children talking, giving the record a narrative quality even without the visuals. Eventually percussive elements are introduced: sparse, clattering sounds on the terrifying 'Dream of Becoming an Animal' and bass-heavy East African percussion on the title track. It's not a fusion we expected, but it works. Brilliant stuff.
Long overdue first-ever vinyl edition of Jan Jelinek’s minimalist ambient gem for Pole’s ~scape, newly remastered and cut for this issue with Jelinek’s Faitiche 14 years after original CD release.
Proceeding from reissues of the master minimal illusionist’s ‘Loop-Finding-Jazz-Records’ and his classic Gramm side ‘(Personal) Rock’, this one sidles now the timeline to 2006 and finds Jelinek combing strands explored on those records into more frayed and drifting ambient designs less concerned with club-related rhythms and more defocussed into a sort of cottony ambient bliss humming with folksier and early electronic/radiophonic themes.
The charmingly ‘“retro” album artwork gives away the album’s slightly wood-cut, ambient chalet (as opposed to house) aesthetic, conjuring a pastoral vibe for ending healthy days of outdoor pastimes in the German countryside or Swiss Alps that will surely also suit and probably enhance the vibe of your lockdown bedsit in Levenshulme or shared studio closet in Peckham.
Whether lolling about in frothed loops on ‘A Concert For Television’, or imagining Gas strolling off into the undergrowth with ‘Palmen Aus Leder’, recalling a “laptop-steel” echo of Mike Cooper’s exotica in ‘The Ballad Of Soap Und: Die Gema Nimmt Kontakt Auf’, simply ‘Up To My Same Old Trick Again’, or dialling into Oramesque electronics in the album’s title track, Jelinek’s mesmerising ambient textures will charm anyone with a penchant for hypnagogic ambient music.
Probingly bittersweet electro-acoustic investigations of online surveillance and security systems from Australia’s Jasmine Guffond, following excellent albums for Sonic Pieces with her Editions Mego debut.
Paranoid in tone and elusively spectral by nature, ‘Microphone Permission’ evokes its subject in a mix of quizzical ambient sound design and mutated techno pulses that furtively get under the listener’s skin. As one might hope from experiencing Jasmine’s acclaimed solo albums, ‘Yellow Bell’ (2015), ‘Traced’ (2017), and ‘Degradation Loops’ (2018), the sound of her new LP is also incredibly detailed and once again lures us into a hypnagogic state where her ideas about contemporary life’s liminal but ubiquitous aspects can better take hold.
"Coming from a background in composing for theatre, dance and site specific installation, Jasmine is well versed in transcribing complex ideas into sonic arrangements that reflect their subject. The material in ‘Microphone Permission’ stems from a range of these projects - from the sonification of Twitter meta data, to soundtracks for an extinct forest, and emulating the harmonic shifts of a hydroelectric dam - without referring to them directly, using them as research that feeds into her stark and brooding dystopian musical worldview.
Developed over the course of two years, ‘Microphone Permission’ takes a justifiably paranoid standpoint against the ubiquity of smart phone surveillance systems. Taking cues from the example of the Spanish football league accessing fans’ phones via apps, to see if they were watching illegally screened games, Guffond’s music has a slow creeping sensibility that emulates the now near ubiquitous psychic dread of being watched. Between the muffled voices and subtly piercing tones of ‘Forever Listening’, the warped Arpanet-like electro of ‘Dotcompound’, and the introspective descent from clammy ambient pop to jagged electronics in Jasmine’s concluding statement of ‘An Utterly Dark Spot’, she portrays an aspect of the world as hidden, subliminal as it is ubiquitous and invasive, making for one of the uncanniest, incisive computer music records of 2020 so far."
Chicago’s deepest pop band make up for a five year hiatus with their skin-tingling new album channelling the richest strains of Mark Hollis/Talk Talk, Tindersticks and strung out Arthur Russell vibes.
After leaving us dangling for a new album since 2015’s Show Us The Fire’, the trio’s singer/songwriter Matt Christensen rejoins meditative mates Mike Weis and Brian Harding for another spellbinding album that makes the world fade away for at least its duration. Like their classics for Type, ‘Give It Up’ (2009) and ‘The World Is a House On Fire’ (2012), the six songs on ‘Hold You Up’ linger in the mind like the nostalgia-triggering notes of a long gone scent, with a notable lack of reverb from their previous records allowing a heightened sensitivity for swooning harmonics to intoxicate us to the horizontal.
So subtle in their style of ghostly songwriting that it’s perhaps easy for Zelionople’s music to slip the memory, they really are a treat best served infrequently but intimately, with loved ones, or even solo in order to best immerse in their world. In the right conditions the effect of their songs can be quietly devastating or life affirming, and this one is no different. The lack of reverb feels like the smoke has cleared from their sound stage, bringing into sharper focus Christensen’s near tremulous vocal and the effervescent ambient hush he coaxes out with Weis and Harding.
In the most precious sense, Zelionople are a cult band - the kind you can talk (talk) about with mates who also just know - and while their label may not appreciate us saying it, you almost want to keep it that way; something personal, a preserve, a private treasure map to special, rarified feelings.