ZULI, Stenny, Walton, Herva, Kinlaw & Franco Franco rework the fractious breakcore heck of Katatonic Silentio for Bristol NormCore
Diffracting her scudding bass missiles into mutually rambunctious forms, it sounds like everyone involved had a ruddy mucky time, resulting strong moves in Steny rollicking, coiled breakcore take on ‘Prisoner Of The Self’, a crushed take from Kinlaw & Franco Franco recalling current pressures from the Hakuna Kulala camp, and a bullish sort of Cairean dancehall flip from Zuli, while Silentio herself supplies the gutted, about-to-collapse structure of ‘Viscerale’ exclusive to the release.
Downwards look to Melbourne, Australia’s incredibly fecund experimental scene for this almighty split LP; facing off Bonnie Mercer’s colossal sub-bass drone hallucinations with scorched-earth drug dirges by the YLP duo. If yr into Sunn O))), Earth, The Birthday Party, Spacemen 3, Sun City Girls, Gallon Drunk - this one’s for you.
Both sides of ‘Old Moon, New Moon / The Image of 36’ sustain their influences from doom drone, gothic blues rock and post-punk for the already fraught 2020s. Each act renders a certain, ravishing sort of romance from end-of-earth bleakness, sketching out feedback-drenched vistas and sunburned, byzantine visions augmented by drum machines and electronics to blistering effect.
Internationally renowned guitarist Bonnie Mercer offers a rare solo suite for her part. Moving beyond her decades of work with bands including Grey Daturas and Breathing Shrine, Mercer generates a transcendent collapse of desert rock forms that will reward listeners with the sandblasted riff textures of ‘Half Moon’, the skull scraping psyche noise lushness of ‘Linda’s Goodman’s Love Signs’, and a deathly crawl to dawn in ‘The Latest Disappointment.’ If you’ve ever seen Sunn O))) play live, Mercer makes use of the same sort of precision tooled grot that turns our insides out - all subharmonic drone and subby gnarrr that's a properly transformative listening experience at the right volume.
On the flip, YLP’s Joshua Wells (Nerve) and Harry Schwind draw on a dirty, strung-out ethos and eros of Melbourne’s legendary and resoundingly influential sound. Laid down during marathon sessions where they “…came as close as we could be to tasting the tears of god”, the recordings mercifully came to attention of Downwards’ Karl O’Connor (Regis, BMB), who now has the honour of issuing their first release; taking in the flaming licks and nagging drum machines of ‘The Image of 36’ and the groggy desert blues of ‘Foreign Sands, before really stretching out in two nine minute jaw-droppers channelling Spacemen 3, Suicide and Sun City Girls with infinite levels of flange and cosmically yawning vocals, but with more grunt in their gruds.
Another 12″ drop of soundsystem pressure via the Comfortnoise imprint, channeling the ghosts of reggae, dub, dubstep and echo chamber sonics.
"This solo offering from Marius Neukom in deep bass research mode, comes pressed up on an edition of 150 discs, cut loud & clear for maximum effect, and is ready to give your hifi or soundsystem a proper workout. Bringing back a (much-missed) dedication to the purest of basslines, reminiscent of early RSD, Headhunter (or H.E.N.C.H. around 2008, before they went a bit too tear-out), Pinch and the more meditative sides of Skull Disco, new.com has pressed up four very-heavy tunes here – showcasing a more upfront dancefloor depth charge approach, but still sharing a similar meditative style with the Comfortnoise Ploy productions which he shares with Rjega.."
Sticky sweet soul and beatdown from Washington, D.C.’s Dreamcastmoe - strong vibes for fans of Dâm Funk, Amp Fiddler, Maxwell
If this sound is your bag, all four cuts are kinda hard to resist. ‘Make Your Move’ lays down the G-funk with finessed production by Shungu under Moe’s purring vocals, and ‘Deserving’ ups the soul burn with extra bouncy bass and pleading croons. ‘Bend Backwards’ follows with a canny slice of mid-tempo swang placing Shungu’s beats near to Dolo Percussion/Max D vibes, before Moe tags in Baxter for the deep fried crispiness of ‘(301) 341-7207’ on a proper R&B downstroke.
Stellar first new album from Jam City in 5 years, cranking up the hair-kissing soul in a gush of distorted riffs and smarting synth melody certain to light up fans of his seminal ‘Classical Curves’ - a big RIYL 0PN, Jai Paul, Prince, Johnny Jewel, Cindy Lee
Arriving at opposite end of the decade to his debut, JC’s keenly awaited 3rd album answers the hypothetical query on everyone’s mind right now; “what would it be like to be quarantined in Heaven?”. It arrives just as the UK enters a 2nd lockdown to provide an escape playroom of ideas away from his, and y/our worries, packing some of his most im/perfect pop songwriting riffing on themes of unfulfilled fantasies and life in a “world of oozing, technicolor glamour and abundance in a time of diminishing expectations.” But it’s a joyful sort of worrying, prizing whatever glints of serotonin he can find and turning them into an album of brittly vulnerable but radiant pop uchronia.
Like 0PN’s dial-scanning nostalgia, Cindy Lee’s warped rock n roll, or Jai Paul’s chromeburst soul, Jam City magpies what he needs from the jukebox to alchemise a genre-oblivious sound that reflects the everything-at-once, exaggerated nature of the times in a way that has served him very well for the past decade. Look for standouts in the bolshy purple funk of ‘Sweetjoy’, the unnervingly saccharine glam stomp of ‘They Eat The Young Too’, and the smashed ballideering of ‘I Don’t Wanna Dream About It Anymore’ for the sharpest treats, and ‘Cherry’ for whelming doses of hair-kissing vintage JC soul.
Delia Derbyshire’s legendary collage of recalled dreams and spectral drones is available on wax again!
‘The Dreams’ features the BBC Radiophonic Workshop pioneer setting appropriately stark and enigmatic electronics to a reel of recordings of people describing their dreams, made by Barry Bermange in 1964. In perfectly dreamy manner, we’re struggling to recollect exactly where we’ve heard this album before (perhaps a Teresa Winter DJ set? Maybe during a blink in our scrutty bedsit?) but either way it’s giving us thee very strangest déjà entendu right now.
In five movements Delia divvies the narrations into commonly recurring themes of ‘Running, ‘Land’, ‘Falling’, ‘Colour’, and ‘Sea’, which should all ring a bell with quite literally anyone who has fallen asleep and wondered what the fuck just happened there (provided you don’t smoke enough weed that you forget dreams instantly after waking, and live in a half-world of half-remembered recollections, that is). Even despite the fact all the voices are super plummy and Estuarial English, it’s probably fair to say we’ve all experienced those sensations at some point or another during our oneiric blips (hands-up for recurring dreams of wind tunnel drag and chromatic lushness), and this is one of those rare records that arguably speaks to each and every one of us, in its deeply unheimlich way.
Most artists would struggle to put one album of the quality Liz Harris exhibited on 'Alien Observer' (the first part of her A I A double-header, also out now) but somehow she's managed to churn out a full two forty minute albums each as breathtaking as the last.
'Dream Loss' is the murkier, more grimy counterpart to 'Alien Observer's distant pop and travels still further into Liz's astral tape haze and noisy, vocal ambience. While the record might begin unassumingly enough with the downplayed 'Dragging the Streets', 'I Saw A Ray' greets us with a volcanic slither of noise and calloused harmony. This deeply buried melancholy transports us through the album, and while the noise subsides to make way for Liz's familiar layered vocal loops and subtle, withdrawn songs, the character and texture is still one of distortion and fragmentation as opposed to the occasional overt prettiness exhibited on 'Alien Observer'.
As Liz mentioned in the run-up to this ambitious double release, the albums are two very separate works, yet somehow feed off eachother when heard together. To hear one without the other is to only hear a single element of the whole piece - 'Dream Loss' adds the darkness, and in sinking deep into it we get a whole new understanding for 'Alien Observer'. It's a harrowing trip, but one laced with beauty, restraint and that unquantifiable magic that seems to grace mostly anything Liz Harris touches. Just buy it; you won't be disappointed.
While the filtered, tape-fuelled obfuscation of Grouper's signature sound remains, Dragging A Dead Deer Up A Hill is far more resonant up front about the songs at the heart of her work.
Opening track 'Disengaged' offers a segue from the cloudy, amorphous Grouper output of old and this current strain of more easily deciphered writing: it's a mass of mesmerising magnetic hiss and soft noise, with a voice cloaked in lo-fi haze somewhere at the back. Soon after, Harris' guitar and voice emerge, reverberant and phantom-like, and yet comprehensible.
If previously you've struggled to make out Grouper lyrics, and wondered what's going on beneath that veneer of musty, degraded audio, 'Heavy Water/I'd Rather Be Sleeping' offers you a way in. Those dense recording techniques have become a unique production signature and it's virtually impossible to separate Liz Harris' creative identity from that uniquely ghostly sound of hers, but now it feels like a conduit to her songs rather than a barrier. There are echoes of her earliest work on the album too, as on the wordless, partially acappella atmospherics of 'Wind & Snow', but the overall impression left by this album is one of inspired creative renewal, and the unveiling of a songwriting talent that's previously been content to dwell in shadows and deflect attention with smoke and mirrors.
A real milestone release for Harris, and a definite high point for the rejuvenated Type label, we've been unable to stop listening to this incredible album for weeks - it's an absolute must.
Japan’s Calax Records debut with reissue of a rare batch of breezy and brilliant cuts by Industrial and new beat originals, Siegmar Fricke, and Dirk Desaever aka A Thunder Orchestra, White House White, Danton’s Voice +++
Both artists were heavily active in the late ‘80s tape and industrial electronic scenes, with Dirk Desaever recording some of Belgian new beat/EBM’s finest moments, and Fricke developing a catalogue of 100s of release up to the modern day, including 2019’s turn as Pharmakustik for V I S. This set captures a snapshot of the pair sharing a tape and vibe in 1990, charting an early phase of their respective creative oeuvres when they both worked between a flux of inspirations from ambient to synth-pop and proto-techno, thru to experimental integers of EBM and new beat.
We’re particularly drawn to the ATO cuts, which hark to the archival Dirk Desaever material that surfaced on Musique Pour La Danse’s two compilations in 2019. They feel as though mailed in from a greyscale parallel dimension of the very late ‘80s, possessed by a brooding gothic Belgian spirit that filters thru from the eerie dance tension of ‘Birch’ to the cinematic strings of ‘Coming Closer’, and impish works like ‘Reaching out for that brandnew little nothing’ that split that difference between Coil and John T. Gast, and the face-numbing coke psychosis of ‘Columbarium’, plus the unmissable goth ballad ’She lives in a dream Movie Theme II.’ Factor in Fricke’s side of eight more playful electro-dub and heady acid house freaks such as ‘This Is John’, and its exclusive ’91 remix, or the scudding, proto-ambient-techno of ‘In Good Shape’, and you’re onto a proper winner.
The first Grouper album in 4 years finds Liz Harris stripped of FX, pairing her vocals with skeletal piano gestures in beautifully pregnant space. For anyone familiar with the miasmic fuzz of Grouper’s previous releases, the relative clarity is quietly shocking in effect, revealing her songs and sound at their most vulnerable, and, in the process, locating a newfound strength in fragility.
Grid Of Points was recorded in Wyoming shortly after Liz finished recording Grouper’s Ruins out in Aljezur, Portugal, and on the most immediate level it seems to describe the difference in recording locations between windswept Atlantic coastline and sparse, landlocked insularity. The seven songs were written over a week and a half, with the process curtailed by a bout of what she describes as “high fever”. What remains forms some of Grouper’s most legible lyrics and intimate instrumentation, with each piece framed by stark, unprocessed space working in the same role usually occupied by her billowing sheets of harmonic distortion.
Untreated and unfiltered, Grouper's voice rings plaintively clear, sometimes layered in ephemeral harmonies or curling off with jazz-soul wise inflections shadowed by modest piano phrasing in a crepuscular style that links back to all her previous work. Yet, in places the clarity is such that it almost feels like we the listeners have just been hearing her songs with clogged ears for the past decade and longer.
Ultimately, these results perhaps most acutely resonate with the etymology of Liz’s moniker - ‘Grouper’ as in member of a Fourth Way commune, The Group, which was inspired by the philosophy of George Gurdjieff, whose mystic meditations surely linger in the magick of Grid Of Points.
For many people 'Work And Non Work' was the first introduction to one of Warp’s most singular and interesting signings ever - Broadcast.
Released in 1997, it compiled a bunch of early singles and EP's the band released on Wurlitzer Jukebox and Stereolab's Duophonic label, making for a spectacularly unusual hybrid of evocative songs capturing the psychedelic spirit of "The United States of America”, augmented by a love of radiophonic sound effects and electronic production.
Although those early releases fell broadly alongside Broadcast's Birmingham contemporaries Pram, Novak and Plone, the group fast outshone all of their contemporaries and went on to produce some of the most brilliant and individual sounding records made by anyone in the UK over the last 30 years, reaching a creative peak with the magnificent ‘Tender Buttons - surely one of the finest albums ever released by Warp.
Antithesis is taken from Keith Fullerton Whitman archives, featuring ensemble works featuring instruments played by Whitman himself with no computer interaction.
Each piece was recorded in one of the different apartments Whitman has rented since he lived in Boston and broadens the instrumental and compositional base of 'Playthroughs' with fender rhodes piano, viola, guitar and percussion.
The four tracks on the album verge from straight up drone to what sound like lost krautrock classics.
Brian Mcbride and Adam Wiltzie's "Stars Of The Lid" are another one of those bands, alongside Windy and Carl, that seem to typify Kranky's quiet exuberance perfectly.
Their ability to create drifting shimmers of sound that veer from hushed, whispered soundscapes to disturbed crescendo's utilising nothing more than a couple of guitars, some basic effects pedals and whatever found sounds happen to be lying around has allowed them to progress slowly from one album to the next with the sort of intuitive, masterful command of minimalism that's quite hard to fathom in one sitting.
"Gravitational Pull" was originally released on the Sedimental label, eventually reissued by Kranky back in 1998, including extra material. Amazing stuff.
Fresh load of coiled, minimalist, electro-dub steppers from Italian-in-London producer, Big Hands
Charging up the 4th release on London’s Oscilla Sound after turns by E-Unity and Significant Other, Big Hands calls to mind aspects of Ilpo Väisänen’s scratchy Liima dubs, Shackleton and Felix K’s economical halftime D&B between the recursive steppers space of ‘1346’, a gritty roller named ‘Calix’s Head’, and the extended B-side trip into Skull Disco-like percussion and vibes on ‘Louis H. Theme.’
As we approach the end of 2020, we thought we'd shine a light on a handful of releases we reckon should have had a bit more attention; albums that might have fallen between the cracks for some of you, but which have become missing links between different scenes and feelings for us over the duration of this cursed year. First up is FUJI||||||||||TA, whose iki album offered solace and space for contemplation with one of the most unusual, moving recordings we’ve heard in recent years. Played on a wheezing, self-built pipe organ, Iki unfolds into a set of oddly tuned organ meditations that bridge the gap between sacred music and the kind of smudged vignettes that made BoC's ‘Music Has The Right To Children’ so ingrained in our psyche’s. If there was one record in 2020 that perfectly straddled high art and approachability - this was surely it.
In the works for a decade, ‘iki’ is a unique release from nose to tail. It features FUJI||||||||||TA’s first recordings in nine years, over which time he’s got to grips with a self-built pipe organ that he crafted in 2009. The unique instrument features only 11 pipes, has no keyboard, and is powered by an air pump called a “fuigo” based on a traditional blacksmith’s model. Its sound is simply enchanting, and sensitively brought to life by the artist, who has evidently spent his time well in taming the instrument and bringing out its sublime, warbling harmonic and timbral qualities.
The overarching influence for ‘iki’ is traditional Japanese gagaku, the slow and elegant form of classical court music extant since the 7th century. In this context, FUJI||||||||||TA’s four pieces unfold with a graceful, if abstracted logic, imaginatively expressing a sound that one could easily imagine mirrored by graceful movements on stage, or enacted by much more phantasmic, anime creatures in the mind’s eye.
Within the first minute of ’keshiki’ our eyelids are drawn to half mast and we’re swept into an impossibly fragile and serene headspace as FUJI||||||||||TA gently coaxes out melodic figures over a long, sustained base note while the gentle clack of his pump appears to resemble a knackered butterfly beating its wings for the last time.
With ‘nNami’ the instrument’s capacity for beating low end frequencies really comes into view in a way recalling Eleh’s electronically generated wonders - but trust there’s no electricity involved here! - resulting in some dead uncanny harmonic chaos, and ultimately ‘osoi’, which sounds something like a BoC synth pad slowed down and recreated acoustically, also pulling the same trick on the ear to sublime effect, whereas ’sukima’ perhaps resembles organ music in its most classic, austere form, but in a way as familiar as a fleeting dream.
Unmissable for fans of Kali Malone, Eleh, BoC, Áine O’Dwyer, Yoshi Wada...
Cedars combines cosmic Americana with Western ambient and Middle Eastern influences.
"Delicate layers of pedal steel, banjo, oud, and hurdy-gurdy ﬂoat atop looping guitar drones to create a soothing, atmospheric chamber where folk and electronic music coalesce. Set to Arabic and English poetry, the song cycle examines some of Earth’s most iconic and ancient forests, revealing our complicated relationship with the natural world. For this special dual-language release, Field Works producer Stuart Hyatt has assembled a supergroup of musicians, poets, and artists.
The album is narrated by Youmna Saba and H.C. McEntire. Instrumentalists include Marisa Anderson, Fadi Tabbal, Dena El Saffar, Danny Paul Grody, Bob Hoffnar, Tomás Lozano, Nathan Bowles, Alex Roldan, Youmna Saba, and Stuart Hyatt. Renowned illustrator María Medem brings poems by Todd Fleming Davis and Youmna Saba to life in the accompanying full-color Risograph comic book; and longtime Field Works collaborators PRINTtEXT design the packaging."
Cult NDW star Christian Pfluger aka Die Welttraumforscher is subject of Bureau B’s latest archival expedition, covering his mid-period years and a tranche of songs that typically spark with melodic invention - a big RIYL Andreas Dorau, The Residents, Felix Kubin
“The second collection sees Bureau B zoom in on the years 1992 to 2012 in the Welttraumforscher universe. A more pensive atmosphere of melancholy pervades the tracks documented herein, as if the more spherical musical journeys and expeditions undertaken by creator and sole member Christian Pfluger lead to increasingly enchanted worlds.”
Premo new age jazz chuff-on, sourced by the expert diggers at Numero Group; a wide-eyed throwback to the dawn of the internet age and desktop optimism rendered via the likes of Slap & Powell’s smooth gradients in ‘Sex Drive’ and Steve Bach’s twinkle toed ’Rain Dance’, primed for the ‘90s diehards and dreamers. Kinda ace zone-out.
“As escapism from corporate banality turned the corner in the ‘90s, a new generation of vibrant, software generated soundscapes emerged. Communal access to the internet propagated the new hive mind of ideas online, giving way to smoother, stress-free textures. The PC revolution opened the gateway to ray-traced playgrounds of color and light, allowing for visions of utopic proportions to manifest themselves on screensavers far and wide. Boot up your machine, load the software on this floppy diskette, and drop out of a reality bounded by the physical laws of the universe.
Numero 95 is the soundtrack to the screen saver fever dream we’re all trying to climb back into. Eight droplets of proto-vaporwave, synthesized in vinyl (or digital) form, fresh from Numero’s archive of forgotten sounds. Are you looking for that half way point between smooth jazz and new age? Mac and PC? Quantum Leap and the X-Files? This software is for you.
Housed in a replica floppy diskette, Numero 95 explores an early computer music unbound by scene or region. Eight solo pioneers vibing out at home in their headphones, traveling as far as the sound card would allow. This is music that barely escaped the hard drive and yet percolates at the edges of the algorithm 30 years later. Welcome to Numero 95.”
Orginially released on Sub Rosa in 2000, in between the band's 'Per Aspera Ad Astra' and 'The Tired Sounds of...' albums, this classic Stars of the Lid release has been out of print for years.
Now available again courtesy of kranky (coinciding nicely with the release of Stars of the Lid member Adam Wiltzie's sublime debut album under The 'Dead Texan' moniker and the release of Kranky's excellent second label compilation), "Avec Laudenum' is another mesmerising document of this indispensable band's low-level prowess.
Minimal yet full to bursting with melodic undertones, "Avec Laudenum" is an album that's widely regarded as possibly the band's most accessible work, immersive music that requires your immediate attention.
Brilliantly unexpected blast of Singeli-style martial snares, choral pads and see-sawing cosmic arps from Caterina Barbieri as reworked by Jay Mitta.
Not the first person one might expect to reference the recklessly fast style of Tanzanian hard dance music, Barbieri aska Mitta to run the drum rhythm and hiccuping vox at an unyielding, hyper-trot pace while her arps elegantly waltz at an interstitial meter in a way perhaps best compared with Nkisi productions.
It kinda knocks our socks off, and maybe yours, too?
Levitating Franco-Flemmish electro-Kraut-prog goodness from Finders Keepers. You already know!
Experimental prog/jazzrock fusion outfit COS might not be as well-known as CAN or Neu!, but are just as worthy of your attention. Fronted by Daniel Schell, the band balanced glittery pop with indulgent prog, something that's easy to hear on 'Mein Maschine Ist Schön'. Mirroring Stereolab's endearing early tracks, the single layers cooing vocal chants over chirpy synths and a sturdy rhythm section and it's frankly difficult to understand why they've never achieved wider notoriety.
On the flipside, Finder Keepers has unearthed another Schell rarity from his short-lived FF Boom project. This one should be more familiar to FK regulars, inhabiting a funk-flecked Euro trash-core soundtrack landscape, complete with wailing lead guitar and epic drum breaks.
Scum of the Earth is a nod to the duo’s Northern roots and a signal to their friends and fam ethos, featuring Watson’s uncle - Mancunian poet Thick Richard.
"Blending swirling synths with punk energy, on ‘Scum of the Earth’ Thick Richard’s no-frills, spoken word - ”but just remember this planet is made out of dirt, when you call me the scum of the earth” - is peppered with broken beats and distorted vox lines. Originally a track made from a live recording of Thick Richard taken in the wee hours of the morning in the smoking area of Corsica Studios about eight years ago, he managed to re-record during the UK lockdown in 2020, adding verses from another poem, People in Crack Houses Shouldn't Throw Rocks.
A duo with strong creative vision, follow Thick Richard cycling around the canals of Manchester, tinnies in hand, in the glitchy, wigged out visuals for Scum of the Earth, directed and edited by Dilesh Patel. The follow up to their sensational 2020 EP Black Dragon Loop which garnered support from Clash, Loud and Quiet, Mixmag, Boiler Room 4:3 and more, FYI Chris return to esteemed Bristol label, Black Acre Records, a fitting home for their debut album Earth Scum. Traversing post-punk, jazz, techno, weirdo house and beyond with a psychedelic spin, across twelve tracks Earth Scum promises insight into the multiverse of FYI Chris. The duo pay homage to their strong sense of community and life as they know it in South London and the North of England, nodding to friends and family along the way. Sonically, the pair showcase their varied palettes and musicality with a darker and more rugged multi-instrumental approach, while shining a light on their gallows sense of humour. Hailing from the North, FYI Chris (Chris Watson and Chris Coupe) met in South London - fast becoming key players in that tight-knit local community as well as the global dance music scene. Regulars at Peckham’s Rye Wax and often at the helm of the Rye Wax radio show; pre-pandemic, the duo could also be found playing gigs in esteemed underground venues across the globe.
With their breakthrough release No Hurry / Juliette on esteemed local label Church in 2015, FYI Chris have since released on revered platforms including Rhythm Section, Toy Tonics, Banoffee Pies, remix work for Ninja Tune. The pair also co-run ‘West Friends’, a platform showcasing their own groove-centred repertoire and genre-defying creations by pals. With a friends-and-family ethos and self-effacing humour combined with their raw talent and incredible musicality, FYI Chris are a force to be reckoned with."
Lubomyr Melnyk's devastatingly intense 1979 solo piano debut - one for Steve Reich or Terry Riley devotees.
A minimalist classic, "KMH: Piano Music in the Continuous Mode" is a bizarrely under-appreciated behemoth in the deep listening canon. Sounding like an Erik Satie vinyl playes at the wrong speed, the album is centered around Melnyk's virtuoso fast playing, a style that allows the notes to fall into each other, creating breathtaking clouds of resonant harmony. Looping short phrases tumble and phase over and across each other inspiring a desperately unique, hypnotic mood that's hard not to get lost in. Melnyk plays deftly with concepts of tonal density rather than allow himself to get bogged down in the kind of joyless, sparse ivory minimalism we've heard regurgitated in recent years by you-know-who.
Melnyk's disorienting material works as a counter to all that blandwave nonsense, a healing salve, blessed with transcendent power that only reveals itself after multiple listening sessions. The devil is in the details, and flames spike from Melnyk's use of the piano's natural reverb and resonance as he creates harmony and dissonance simply from varying the speed of his performance. Shifting the pressure and enacting tiny shifts, Melnyk teases out soundscapes that hint at later ambient music - there are echoes of early Tim Hecker - yet still sound utterly distinctive.
Quirky bite-sized compilation from Glasgow’s 12th Isle featuring top notch wyrd dancefloor alchemy from Luar Domatrix, Robert Bergman, Grim Lusk and others.
The Scottish imprint has made a name for itself with gorgeously-packaged, expertly selected material, and 2019 mini-comp "Inkosi" is no different. It's a vibrant cross-section of tracks, with Grim Lusk contributing a ten-minute jam of oscillating electro pulses, cut-n-paste vocal samples and a synthesizer that sounds a bit like a dying flute.
Robert Bergman hits a durational note too on the seven minute 'Dream About You (Almost Every Night)', all dreamy echoes and back room 4/4. But it's Luar Domatrix who gets our pick of the bunch, showing off his skill again with a hiccuping dancefloor destroyer packed with squealing percussion and neo-gqom crashes. Good stuff.
Eccentric, lo-fi electronic pop that inspired Felix Kubin, Mouse on Mars and Barbara Morgernstern.
The enigmatic solo project of Swiss oddball Christian Pfluger, Die Welttraumforscher released over thirty albums over the years, penning stories, drawing illustrations and making films to vividly document his artistic universe. If you're unsure of where to start, this stunning Bureau B retrospective is a useful jumping off point, collecting up Pfluger's early Die Welttraumforscher material from 1981 to 1990 and remastering it for cohesion.
At it's core, Die Welttraumforscher is pop music, but Pfluger's eccentric world is too unusual for mass market concerns. The songs have vocals, basslines, rhythms and riffs, but everything's assembled with such quirky surrealist fantasy that it feels as if it has more in common with outsider folk, prog fusion or the outer reaches of the electronic avant-garde. The difference is that Pfluger appears to make music without any stuffy notions of hierarchy; these songs are refreshingly pure - it's easy to hear how a Mouse On Mars and terminal pop outsider Felix Kubin were inspired by these alluring, labyrinthine compositions. So weird and so enjoyable
Gobstopper boss Mr. Mitch blesses his label with a sterling 4th solo album that surprisingly places the pivotal grime/new beats producer as the UK’s answer to Theo Parrish. Read on.
Landing as the first Mr. Mitch album on Gobstopper, ‘Lazy’ essentially frames him as pioneer of a new, weird, UK soul music that feels timeless but totally of the minute. The eleven tracks feel like a fever dream about the UK’s rare groove, acid house and dancehall raving heritage; packing loads of 303 squiggles in a way that doesn’t feel fusty, nimbly weaving in rap and R&B vocals to his wickedly asymmetric grooves with a London-wise suss and swagger that simply can’t be imitated.
Like we said, there’s definitely parallels between the scope of this album and recent Theo Parrish long-players, as the pair share a taste for jazzily drawing out of the lines and injecting their works with a tangible, characteristic sort of psychedelic soul. The acid tang is in strong, fresh effect on the scuzzy slam of ‘Black Majik’ with its rude call-and-response vocals, and again like a dembow answer to the ‘Acid Hall’ riddim on ‘What They Want’, while his soul burns thru in various ways between the gauzy blues thrum of ‘Did We Say Goodbye’, to the juicy expressive synth tone of ‘Proud’, and the physically expressive sensuality of the album’s experimental highlights, the hazy hunch of ‘Make Time’, and electro bent of Burn Down IDM’, with his vocals tenderly lighting up the centrepiece ‘Proud.’
Early contender for one of best, weirdo UK soul records of 2021 if you as us.
Fizzy retro IDM memories Anodyne, with a nifty Autechre remix to boot.
"Decayed" selects two tracks from Anodyne's last album, "Decay" and presents them alongside a suite of remixes from Somatic Responses, Lackluster, Primary Node, S>>D and most excitingly, Autechre. For anyone who wasn't keen on the Rochdale duo's brilliantly sexy switchup of SOPHIE's 'Bipp' the other week, this should quiet you down: it's a low-key reduction more in line with the terraforming ambience of "SIGN" and "PLUS" that smudges the original track's "Chiastic Slide"-esque clatter into pure aural chrome. Fitting, somehow.
Another commanding performance from Brian Mcbride and Adam Wiltzie, the opening "Central Texas" setting the tone with the distant sound of fading breath, slow paced, barely audible, full of life.
When it comes to genre-defining releases, even releases that define a band's career, few sum up ambient music, and the work of Stars of the Lid in general like 'The Ballasted Orchestra'. Released in 1996 it was their third album and the band's first for the Kranky label and was a perfect statement of intent from a band who have never put their name to a bad record.
Flowing almost continuously 'The Ballasted Orchestra' was unlike anything else around at the time - it was lumped in with post-rock, quite strangely, but this was like hearing Arvo Part piped into a gigantic metal chamber, or a fresh take on Brian Eno's ambient dictat. It's hard to go into detail track by track, but in my mind 'The Ballasted Orchestra' is the partner of Stars of the Lid's best known work, the incredible 'Tired Sounds of Stars of the Lid' in both composition and organisation.
The album starts with the trembling beauty of 'Central Texas' but quickly drifts into the gorgeous 'Sun Drugs'. The real highlight comes with the incredible two-part 'Music for Twin Peaks Episode #30', Drone rarely reaches these sort of expansive emotive heights and what sets this album (and band) apart from its peers is that it seems totally effortless. You never need to stop and think as you're listening, yet at the same time it never feels like background music, rather this is the soundtrack to the most beautiful dream you've ever had.
‘Flock’ is the record that Jane Weaver always wanted to make, the most genuine version of herself, complete with unpretentious Day-Glo pop sensibilities, wit, kindness, humour and glamour. RIYL: Bradcast
"A consciously positive vision for negative times, a brooding and ethereal creation. The album features an untested new fusion of seemingly unrelated compounds fused into an eco-friendly hum; pop music for post-new-normal times. Created from elements that should never date, its pop music reinvented. Still prevalent are the cosmic sounds, but ‘Flock’ is a natural rebellion to the recent releases which sees her decidedly move away from conceptual roots in favour of writing pop music. Produced on a complicated diet of bygone Lebanese torch songs, 1980's Russian Aerobics records and Australian Punk. Amongst this broadcast of glistening sounds is ‘The Revolution Of Super Visions’, an untelevised Mothership connection, with Prince floating by as he plays scratchy guitar; it also features a funky whack-a-mole bass line and synth worms.
It underlines the discordant pop vibe that permeates ‘Flock’ and concludes on ‘Solarised’, a super-catchy, totally infectious apocalypse, a radio-friendly groove for last dance lovers clinging together in an effort to save themselves before the end of the night. The musician’s exposure to an abundance of lost records served as a reminder that you still feel like an outsider in this world and that by overcoming fears you can achieve artistic freedom. Jane Weaver continues to metamorphise… “A mind-expanding delight, devoid of retro posturing.”