Described as "naive improvisations from the distracted mind", Jan Matthé's latest is a lovingly homespun set of freeform piano experiments that avoids chocolate box prettiness at every turn.
Solo piano too often it settles into a compositional cul de sac that's been channeled down the path of least resistance - familiar sounds that are all too easy to imagine accompanying car adverts or TV title cards. 'Four Hands on Both Sides' swerves this boxed-in commercialised accessibility by focusing on the act of innocent investigation. From the beginning it sounds as if Matthé is enjoying the act of playing an instrument he's not fully accustomed to, at the very least he's not approaching it virtuosically. His rhythm fluctuates haphazardly and notes run into each other like drunken bumblebees, all part of the album's hazy appeal. Like Leila Sakini's brilliant 'Paloma' from last year, the record balances precariously on the line between inept noisemaking and reverential performance, helping it to flow freely into romantic fantasy and dreamy soundscaping.
The Belgian artist - who runs the Risiko Press printworks in Antwerp - has been part of numerous projects over the years such as Stacks and White Circle Crime Club. His solo material has been harder to track down: he released two eccentric 'Musik für Gotteskinder' records in 2011, but since then has been relatively low-key. 'Four Hands on Both Sides' is more focused than its predecessors, but its eccentricity can be tracked in and around the outer edges. Matthé's use of the piano is striking, especially when he opens up the strings to augment his uneven tones with percussive prangs, like on 'Mind of a Visitor'. His longer-form expressions are minimalist almost by accident; Matthé slows to a crawl on 'Shivers', glancing towards Satie but not slipping into pastiche. It's too imperfect to be quite that ornate - instead we get the feeling that we're hearing someone hitting keys as they're lucidly dreaming, communicating their emotional state from the other side of the void. Beautiful.
Cult far east club assassin Tzusing galvanises cyber-industrial and EBM with cinematic sound design in a raving meditation on masculinity for PAN, following a decade of building the fiercest reputation via productions on L.I.E.S. and powerful DJ sets.
‘绿帽 Green Hat’ is the 2nd album of strapping club music and computer game-like SFX by Malay born, Taiwan-based artist Tzusing. The dozen tracks feature scything, pulsating rhythms and gnashing electronics influenced as much by Tzusing’s heritage as ‘90s cyber-dance musicks, South African gqom, fetish club soundtracks and the locked-in thrill of RPGs or Manga animation, culminating a rollicking ride primed for people who dress unironically like they starred in The Matrix. It’s an intensely concentrated set, stirring a bucket of cultural motifs and signposts into a mix of seething club cuts spliced with interludes and narrative devices that ratchet the feel of being the protagonist in your own sci-fi saga.
A Chinese text-to-speech vocaloid triggers heads-down industrial trample of ‘趁人之危 (Take Advantage)’ and establishes parameters for the rest of the session, pivoting from the tumble of ballroom “ha’s” and knife-dance percussion in ‘偶像包袱 (Idol Baggage)’ to the tendon-thrumming torque of ‘孝忍狠 (Filial Endure Ruthless), and marshalling a major highlight in the tense EBM-techno drama of ‘Balkanize’. He specialises in slow heaving pressure on the sweltering madness of ‘Clout Tunnel’, and likewise hits the gas like Kaneda in an escape sequence on the rapid escalations of ‘Exascale’, with ‘Gait’ sounding like Kenji Kawai doing a club scene, and ‘Residual Stress’ revs up to the finish line with breathless velocity.
Mexican producer Bryan Dálvez follows high pressure avant dancefloor releases for NAAFI and Subreal with this void-prodding longform set of genre-melted cybernetic tribal-dembow hybrids. One for anyone into Siete Catorce, Lechuga Zafiro, or the SVBKVLT label.
Dálvez might not have the profile of some of his MX club contemporaries, but he's quietly been churning out some of the most urgent and technically baffling far-future dance music we've heard from the region. 'Irrealidades' is his most complete collection yet, not just a ramshackle selection of tracks but a heaving, multi-layered fantasy that's embedded with humor, craft and code. Dancefloor music often loses a proportion of its momentum when sculpted into album format, but Dálvez smartly avoids this, constructing his narrative like a DJ and using timing, psychedelic atmospherics and careful builds to bolster any movement rather than detract from it.
He wastes no time on 'Organillero', setting the mood with billowing choral pads, gossamer synths and faint, rousing shakers. His introduction of more Latin-coded instrumentation is cautious, first with a molasses-slow boat carnival lead, and then with the track's pounding central rhythm, pushing into ear-crippling distortion like a snowplow moving a glacier. The momentum is carried into 'Tribulación', that retains the soft, tribal-inspired kick pattern and cuts it with mind-altering, dissociated vocals and industrial scrapes. At some point, the track sounds as if it's being pulled between two worlds, a chrome-plated, crystal-cased superstructure, and an almost forgotten past, as the beats flux between hollow woodiness and robotic electricity.
Dálvez fires our minds towards East Coast club sounds on 'Retiembla', interrupting urgent kicks with strangled wails before dipping elegantly into unstable, pressurized rhythms, while 'Represión' centers a waspish off-kilter neo-hoover sound, driving it into head-mangling oscillator burps and a tom-heavy beat that wouldn't sound out of place on Abadir's ace "Mutate". He fuses lightning-blasted gabber and Amor Satyr-ish speed dembow on 'Quetzalcóatl', before taking a brief breather on the mystickal 'Un Respiro', that reminds us more of Michiru Ōshima and Pentagon's iconic "ICO" soundtrack. But the album comes to a head with the brilliant 'Karma', a breakneck fast-slow banger that's led by fluctuating folk strings that unite the Latina belt from Mexico through the Balkans to China.
One of the most vigorous dancefloor weapons we've heard this year, it's a fitting conclusion to an album that does its very best to spotlight the multi-faceted potential of one of the world's most nourishing experimental club wellsprings. Huge recommendation.
Polish vocalist Marta Złakowska teams up with Tricky on her debut album, tenderly purring over the Bristolian legend's brittle, dusted backdrops and giving us flashbacks to the Nearly God era.
Back in 2017, Złakowska ran into Tricky who promptly invited the singer to join his band. Not long later they began work on her debut album, developing nine songs over a lengthy period of experimentation as the two figured out a way to play to each other's strengths. Honestly it's the deepest material we've heard from Tricky in ages - he's always been at ease working with talented, soulful vocalists and with Złakowska he's found a new muse. 'Today' isn't too far from his gravelly work on 'Pre-Millennium Tension' and 'Nearly God', with jerky beatbox bumps, casual analog synthwork and sampled strings standing a few paces from Złakowska's sultry, cabaret soul vocals.
'When It's Going Wrong' is more like a slowed down 'Black Steel' beat, but Złakowska doesn't attempt to mimic Martina Toppley-Bird - her clear, jazzy tones fill the room with mist, not cigarette smoke. 'Nowhere' is even more theatrical, Tricky's accompaniment is restrained and drumless, with double bass plucks and baroque violins guiding Złakowska's vocals. Even when Tricky edges away from the downtempo extended universe, like on the electro-pop inspired 'Swimming Away', his inherent weirdness prevents the music from taking a simple path. Złakowska's vocal is warm and inviting, and early on it's not too dissimilar from The Knife, but deranged, druggy synths and backup vocals from Tricky make it more Lynch than A24.
Detroit deity Terrence Dixon lends a hand on a highlight of Karpenov’s effervescent debut album, which uses the abstract language of electronic music to evoke his native Black Sea landscape.
The Dixon link-up ‘Background Data’ is a massive standout deploying fine-tuned synth dissonance shorn of beats, while the rest of the album also impresses with its incredibly sharp sound design on the fluttering hyaline melodies of the title tune and sloshing pulse to ‘1.1’, what sounds like an alien orchestra tuning up in ‘Telpher’, and the stark contrast with its groggiest work, ‘Jet Ski Max’ in collaboration with Kuzma Palkin.
“After three years of deep work, Stas Karpenkov's debut album is released on Gost Zvuk in the form of an abstract, free-form study. The album is saturated with the Black Sea breeze and the natural beauty of the peninsula, a land associated with the life of the author. It’s a musical representation of its surrounding reliefs, an ode to the cyclicity of the waves, and a journey through soundscapes. These manifestations of maritime romance also include the experience of co-producing with Terrence Dixon and Kuzma Palkin on a couple of tracks that play an important role in the idea of the record.”
Holden outdoes himself on this latest psychedelic voyage, combining his latter-day kosmische flirtations with his breakout shoegaze-trance experiments. At its best, it sounds like Cluster doing 808 State, or Göttsching doing Shpongle.
James Holden has had a wild ride of it. As a teen he was fascinated by the pirate radio stations he'd just about be able to tune into from his dull West Midlands village, and before he'd hit 20 he was already producing major label dance music and touring relentlessly. In recent years, Holden has attempted to distance himself from the dancefloor energy he cut his teeth on, but 'Imagine this...' reconciles his two decade career, using the lysergic synth experimentation of his more recent material to spruce up his beloved early progressive trance patterns.
The best example of this is 'Trust Your Feet', a track that's blessed with the fluttering, chorus-heavy texture of Cluster's 'Zuckerzeit' era but launches into triumphant, euphoric organ rave so fluidly you barely notice it happening. Holden's clearly a keen listener as well as a confident engineer, so while the blend might seem clunky on paper (despite trance's established roots in German electronic music) Holden provides the authenticity it needs in order to work.
Elsewhere 'In the End You'll Know' is a cinematic conglomeration of Klaus Schulze and pacy, progressive electro, and 'The Answer is Yes' sounds like Popul Vuh after a weekend at a psy trance festival. Even just as a collection of fetishistic synth demos, they're so well produced that the album would be worth a peep for that alone, but Holden not only knows his history but is able to create material that's just inarguably joyful. We'll take it.
Amsterdam’s contemporary cold wave pioneer De Ambassade dwells on matters of dark energy and power structures in the cranky, dare-to-differ charge of his debut LP for Optimo
Chasing up a standout cover of folk standard ‘Young Birds’ on his first offering for Optimo in 2022, Pascal Pinkert aka De Ambassade cultivates a subtly psychoactive melange of ‘80s post-industrial and synth wave with traces of exotica, chamber music, folk and no wave jazz skronk on his 2nd album, ‘The Fool’. Revolving around the idea that “Historically, some rulers have used religion to legitimise their power”, the Dutch artist was inspired to examine “what negative impact religion can have from the fact that it’s always dominated by men”. The results eschew notions of industrial muscularity or machismo for murky, damaged, metaphoric rumination on the dark energies released by region, greed and power relations.
While his earlier work was hardly straightforward, there’s a newfound complexity or nuanced exploration of tone that distinguishes ‘The Fool’ from what came before it. A bevy of unusual instrumentation gives the music a more diverse, detuned accent that personalises De Ambassade’s efforts against a field of sound-alikes. ‘Verderfelijke’ betrays a sort of orientalist enigma that perfuses the detuned waviness of ‘Brand in De Straten’ and seeps into the modal drone dirge of ‘De Dwaas’, and his rhythmic impulses allude to styles beyond the usual post-industrial reference points, such as the offbeat crank of ‘De Elitetheorie’, and recall the way Charlie Megira nods to rock ’n roll in ‘Later Met Je Beste Zelf’ or via Suicide on ‘Verwijder Jezelf’, with ‘Hé Romy’ reminding to He Said’s post-Dome/Wire oddities, and ultimately shoring up in a place and time out of joint with the medieval sassy of ‘De Zon Voor Altjid Rood’.
The Polish clarinetist and composer follows strong work alongside Shackleton and James Holden with an album that takes the sonic pulse of Warsaw, using repetitive sounds like trains and bouncing balls to guide his peculiar rhythms.
Although he's best known for his forward-thinking jazz experiments, Wacław Zimpel has spent the last few years developing a relationship with electronic music. 'Train Spotter' is his most convincing work to date, and was created in response to a brief asking him to capture the sound of Warsaw. Zimpel wanted to reflect the city's contemporary reality, tying up pandemic unease, anti-government demonstrations in the wake of sexism and queerphobia, and the hopefulness and second-hand resilience gained from successive waves of Ukrainian refugees. Piping samples of Warsaw through his arsenal of FX and synthesisers, he fogs them into blissful abstraction. We can just about make out tramline clicks on the Vladislav Delay-influenced title track; Zimpel's own production twirls lock into the rhythms, sketching out a dubwise percussive thud and dizzy, kosmische-inspired synths.
The methodology holds throughout the album, on 'Phantom Paradise' a placid urban landscape is pierced by palpitating synths and Zimpel's characteristic woodwind breaths, while 'Infinite Grey' assembles a soft-focus beat from ASMR shuffles and wooden creaks, providing a dusty backdrop for stuttering, psychedelic threads of clarinet. He veers towards chaos on 'Born in Captivity', chopping dissonant electronic blasts over rainfall samples and splattering pacy kicks beneath freeform horns. But Zimpel is most successful when he allows himself to paint outside the lines, like on the lengthy 'Vanishing Rainbow' that melts from gloomy environmental ambience into Reich-ian, repetitive electronics, then incorporates unexpected microtonal flute wails. The mood is maintained through the final track 'Broken Souls Whistle', that matches pitch-wonked whistles with pulsing Berlin school synths and gritty foley crunches.
Cosmopolitan pop from 1920-50s Shanghai, spotlighting a cross-fertilisation of east/west pop and cinema music during a golden age, before it was outlawed by the CCP.
“Shidaiqu literally means “songs of the era”, a term used to describe a hybrid musical genre that first began permeating through the cosmopolitan city of Shanghai in the late 1920s. Blending western pop, jazz, blues and Hollywood-inspired film soundtracks with traditional Chinese elements, the shidaiqu represented a musical and cultural merging that would go on to shape a golden age of Chinese popular song & film in the pre-communism interwar period.
Waiting for Your Return brings together a wide collection of recordings for an anthological overview of the style. Taking in it’s early beginnings in the work of the pioneering composer Li Jinhui – whose 1927 song “Drizzle”, featuring the vocals of his daughter Li Minghui, is often referred to as the first shidaiqu record – through to more polished 1930s & 40s examples, when China’s western-influenced popular music & movie industry reached it’s golden age with the prevalence of the Seven Great Singing Stars (Bai Hong, Bai Guang, Gong Qiuxia, Li Xianglan, Wu Yingyin, Yao Lee and perhaps most prolific of all, Zhou Xuan).
Included in the collection are tracks recorded right up until the music’s demise in Shanghai in the early 1950s – during which time the Chinese Communist Party denounced shidaiqu as “yellow music”, outlawed nightclubs and pop music production, and destroyed western-style instruments – following which, much of these singers would decamp to Hong Kong where many saw further success throughout the 1950s and into the 1960s.”
One of the greatest rap full-lengths of all time.
They don't come any more essential than this. 'Operation: Doomsday' originally appeared on Fondle 'Em in 1999, and introduced MF DOOM to most of us outside the Tri State area. Daniel Dumile had been working undercover for some time, having disappeared when KMD splintered and his brother DJ Subroc died; a name change later and Zev Love X was MF DOOM, a supervillain behind a metal mask who would pioneer a trippier but no less biting form of East Coast boom bap. The album was well received at the time, but its importance has snowballed in the years since it was released - in 2023, its influence can be heard across the underground spectrum, in Los Angeles' beat scene, Earl Sweatshirt and Tyler, in Kaytranada, even in the UK's club landscape.
You could say that DOOM was just building on the streetwise surrealism of Kool Keith, but he possessed a unique swagger and production style that's been rinsed and repeated for over two decades now. He managed to do something special here, constructing skits from unfussy nerd culture - not the middle class nerd fare that generation x steered into the mainstream, but the kind of vivid sci-fi and comicbook TV trash that would belt out of flickering CRT boxes over Frosted Flakes on a Saturday, later inspiring Adult Swim. In between the skits, DOOM made neck-snapping beats out of forgotten disco and funk loops, rapping as if he'd swallowed a compendium of cultural phraseology and then belched it up, semi-digested.
Every moment here, even if it isn't as developed as some of his later work (we highly recommend the crown jewel: King Gheedorah's "Take Me To Your Leader"), has been completely absorbed into the architecture of the era. Even when we can't see it, it's towering over us like a Roman archway.
Balmy Música popular brasilieira by a pair of Brazilian singer-songwriters recorded in rural ‘90s Finland, including their reggae cover of ‘Extra’ by Gilberto Gil.
“"Rosanna & Zélia were a Brazilian duo of singers and musicians Rosanna Guimarães Tavares and Zélia Nogueira da Fonseca. They moved from Minas Gerais, Brazil to Europe in 1988, released five albums in Germany between 1993–2004 and featured vocals on an Ian Pooley house track Coração Tambor before Rosanna died of cancer in 2006. Zélia still continues her career in Germany, touring actively and releasing new music.
The duo's journey from Brazil to Germany also included two brief visits to Finland. In the years 1989–1990, they spent time in the small town of Seinäjoki in Ostrobothnia. Rosanna & Zélia performed Brazilian music in Finnish clubs and festivals and recorded a 7" EP for local label Maumau Music. The record was distributed mostly in the Seinäjoki area, but the three songs are well-performed and authentic Brazilian MPB, so the largely unknown record now gets its first reissue for a wider audience on We Jazz Records.
But how did two Brazilian women find their way to a small Finnish town to record an EP? The main reason for this was music journalist and promoter Risto Vuorinen, who was on a holiday in Albufeira, Portugal, where a friend of his lived. The streets were almost empty that evening, but Vuorinen and his friend heard fine guitar playing and singing from a bar. There were Rosanna and Zélia performing on a small stage, and the two Finnish men happened to be the only customers. When the artists ended their performance, Vuorinen's friend, who spoke Portuguese, went to talk to them. Rosanna and Zélia told him they had recently come from Brazil and are trying to gain ground in Europe with their music.
Because Rosanna and Zélia didn't know where they would head next, and because Vuorinen liked their music, he thought of bringing the duo to his hometown, Seinäjoki. They immediately liked the idea, and in the autumn of 1989 they arrived in Finland. The national Finnish jazz festival was held in Seinäjoki, and Vuorinen thought Rosanna & Zélia's Brazilian music would fit right in. They performed at the festival and in November 1989, also made recordings in a local studio with backing musicians from Seinäjoki.
Music enthusiast Pertti Hakala had a record shop and label Maumau Music in Seinäjoki releasing music from local artists. He released a three-track EP from the sessions. with two tracks written by Rosanna & Zelia themselves and their cover version of Extra (Brazilian Reggae), written and originally performed by Gilberto Gil in 1983. A small pressing was made for the Finnish market, and Hakala also sent a box of records to Brazil, but for some reason it was sent back.”
Invaluable reissue of the debut collaboration between La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela, popularly known as "The Black Album."
Originally available in a private pressed edition in 1969, the duo's earliest joint release presents two sizeable drone compositions, each performed and recorded at the precise date and time given in each track title.
Side 1's '31 VII 69 10:26-10:49' for voice and sine wave drone is a mesmerising and exotic projection recorded at Galerie Heiner Friedrich, Munchen, and manifesting a sub-section of the even larger work, 'The Tortoise, His Dreams And Journeys'. Side 2, '23 VIII 64 2:50:45 - 3:11AM The Volga Delta' on the other hand, is a purely instrumental piece for bowed gongs, engulfing us in a sound bath of sonorous, multi-dimensional harmonic complexity achieved using varying extended technique. Make sure to dive in head first.
"La Monte Young was born in Bern, Idaho in 1935. He began his music studies in Los Angeles and later Berkeley, California before relocating to New York City in 1960, where he became a primary influence on Minimalism, the Fluxus movement and performance art through his legendary compositions of extended time durations and the development of just intonation and rational number based tuning systems. With his collaborator since 1962, artist Marian Zazeela, they would formulate the composite sound environments of the Dream House, which continues to this day.
Seeing reissue for the first time since its initial 1969 release, Young and Zazeela's first full-length album is often referred to as "The Black Record" due to Zazeela's stunning cover design, complete with the composer's liner notes in elegant hand-lettered script.
Side one was recorded in 1969 (on the date and time indicated by the title) at the gallery of Heiner Friedrich in Munich, where Young and Zazeela premiered their Dream House sound and light installation. Featuring Young and Zazeela's voices against a sine wave drone, the recording is a section of the longer composition Map of 49's Dream the Two Systems of Eleven Sets of Galactic Intervals Ornamental Lightyears Tracery (begun in 1966 as a sub-section of the even larger work The Tortoise, His Dreams and Journeys, which was begun in 1964 with Young's group The Theatre of Eternal Music). According to Young, the raga-like melodic phrases of his voice were heavily influenced by his future teacher, the Hindustani singer Pandit Pran Nath.
Side two, recorded in Young and Zazeela's NYC studio in 1964, is a section of the longer composition Studies in the Bowed Disc. This composition is an extended, highly abstract noise piece for bowed gong (gifted by sculptor Robert Morris). The liner notes explain that the live performance can be heard at 33 and 1/3 RPM, but may also be played at any slower speed down to 8 and 1/3 RPM for turntables with this capacity."
DJ Fucci summons strong Central/South American club energies on their 2nd turn for the NAAFI powerhouse
After musically anthropomorphising Mexican fauna on his previous EP, Fucci is also guided by deep native spirits on ‘Milpa’, propelling him to killer, latinate slants on post-UKG/dubstep a la INVT on the grungy wobble and parry of ‘Frijol’, beside the effortless acidic stepper of big EP highlight ‘Chile’, and onward to uptempo pressure of ‘Maíz’, and more pendulous workout ‘Calabaza’ recalling Leonce and JSport cuts.
Using the low-lit atmosphere of Medieval church music and the fluctuating tonality of folk music, Eden Lonsdale stretches avant classical forms into textured drones pregnant with mystery and magick. We're floored by this album - highly recommended listening if yr into Morton Feldman, Tongue Depressor, Arvo Pärt, Jakob Ullmann.
One of the most startling releases we've heard on Another Timbre in ages, Eden Lonsdale's debut is a dizzying mutation of Quiet music and classical minimalism that's buoyed by its remarkably perceptive sonic complexity. There's no shortage of contemporary composers challenging the hegemony of equal temperament with xenharmonic scaling and ancient methodology, but Lonsdale's approach is so even-handed and sensitive that it's never merely a flex, rather he uses a modified language to embed an artistic message in music that sweeps up centuries of European history.
Now based in Berlin, the composer grew up in London and studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where he developed an obsession with Simon Reynell's Another Timbre label. A few years later and his inspiration has fed back into the imprint's canon; ‘Clear and Hazy Moons’ reflects and channels work from Olivia Block, Lance Austin Olsen, Catherine Lamb and others, bringing a clear-sighted view of recent experimental-classical history to music that sounds almost completely out of time. 'Billowing' is as light and airy as Celtic folk music, but as exacting and ornamental as baroque, slowed to an inebriated crawl so we can hear not just the rubbery, elongated notes but the distinct resonance of each instrument and the measured spaces in-between.
Piano and bells echo into eachother on 'Oasis', with filigree frivolity casually thrusting against pious logic. Apartment House meet these foundational sounds with aerated, vacillating strings and gaseous woodwind that form light clouds around Lonsdale's punctuating clangs. The composer bravely resists the temptation to veer towards high drama: his compositions are animated by yearning and restraint, whenever they threaten to crescendo, they're pulled back from the precipice with a flourish.
Rothko Collective take over from Apartment House on the generous 20-minute title track, realising Lonsdale's cautious, slow-motion tones with grace. It's a piece of music that captures the stillness of an Edward Hopper painting, lit with woodwind that flickers like a gas lamp and hesitant strings that trace out the shape of an abstract, physical space. There's drama but it's not broadly cinematic music - Lonsdale's tonality is too suggestive and insurgent for that.
‘Clear and Hazy Moons’ is an essential listening experience, one that demands your full attention. We've been spinning it for days and still attempting to fully unravel it.
Idiosyncratic multi-instrumentalist Laura Cannell returns with three tracks recorded in a shipping container, obscuring violin and voice in a reverberating mass of hybrid folk-experimental harmony. As usual, it's brilliantly inventive and struck through with unmistakably British melancholia.
'No Sound Is Lost' swerves enthusiastically from last year's peerless 'Antiphony of the Trees' and its organ-led follow-up 'We Long to be Haunted', blurring its sources into the aether, using resonant space to guide its distinctive motion. Cannell found the 40ft metal box in the Norfolk countryside plonked somewhere in the middle of a field of cows, between intersecting roads and alongside a centuries-old oak tree. "All I want to do is play," she explains in the accompanying press release. "To hit the sides with violin soundings, for them to ricochet among the metal grooves of this oversized shipping crate." The music sounds as if it's been informed by this juxtaposition as Cannell brings East Anglia's cultural soil into an unfamiliar shell thats inexorably linked with the modern malaise - what's more emblematic of failing global logistical systems than a huge empty container in the middle of nowhere surrounded by cows?
'Swarm Intelligence' is surprisingly mannered, Cannell overlays elegant bowed phrases, letting the sound cluster and mutate to fit the alien space. The music sounds rooted in overcast Brythonic folklore, but diverts through the Medieval Franco-British courts, arriving at minimalism and free improvisation almost by accident. Cannell's technique is key, she's keenly aware of how even the tiniest flourishes are transformed by the metal box's tight, unnatural reflections. The title track is even more startling, with Cannell using protracted drones and crumpled phrases to bed dreamy, wordless vocals that echo and flux like the memory of an ancient lullaby.
Essential gear whether yr into Jessica Moss, Richard Skelton, Julianna Barwick or Andrew Chalk.
The first volume of Discrepant's new water themed 'Aquapelagos' series is a soggy journey across the Atlantic from Tenerife-based trio LAGOSS and Portuguese duo Banha da Cobra. Absolutely crucial if yr into the fantasy worlds ov Andrew Pekler, Jon Hassell, Sugai Ken or Christina Vantzou.
Following the label's ace 'Aquapelago' comp last year, 'Aquapelagos Vol. 1' gives two acts a little more space to map out their seasick topography but sticks to the same basic aesthetic guidelines. LAGOSS are up first, and veteran producers Gonçalo F. Cardoso, Mladen Kurajica and Daniel García make short work of getting straight to the point on 'Baía do Papagaio', bending resonant bells over uneven, hollow toms and whimsical electric piano. What begins as a beachside jingle slowly vaporizes into surreal, dream-like wooziness, centering tottering synth improvisations and slow-motion shakers before plunging underneath the water as oscillators mimic swirling bubbles. 'Barranco del Infierno' is even more blunted, splicing skittery improv percussion with noisy environmental sounds and wobbly analog synths, and 'Mar de las Calmas' sounds like a noise show deep inside a flooded cave, with dripping electronic squiggles and tidal drones for company.
Lisbon-based musicians Mestre André and Carlos Godinho, aka Banha da Cobra push out even further on their side, taking a more lower-case approach to their sonics. Understated to the core, the music is expertly distant and characterizes the sense of unease and vast openness the sea can provoke. 'Mojo Rojo' is whisper-quiet, just a far-off clang and rumbling electrical pulses that suggest maybe a lost buouy ringing out on choppy waters, or the sound from a diving bell as it dips beneath the surface. 'Dragos' is a dense cluster of field recordings that refracts pink light through glassy island folk sounds, letting ear-tingling effects singe the edges of music that's usually heard completely untreated, while 'La Laguna' is almost silent, letting occasional sustained hits echo into the terrifying, endless void. It's powerful, poignant electro-acoustic music that's never short of a wry smile or two.
Damn we weren't expecting this - Joachim Nordwall matches Mats Gustafsson's horns with doomsayer synth dirt on 'Their Power Reached', a frighteningly good marriage of free jazz skronk and psychedelic industrial weirdness.
Nordwall's been a reliable source of cross-genre entertainment for decades, both as a producer and unstoppable collaborator (as part of The Skull Defekts, Organ of Corti and more), and as a curator. Gustafsson is equally important in Swedish musical lore, having been involved in literally hundreds of projects and having worked with artists as diverse as Sonic Youth, Merzbow and Neneh Cherry.
'Their Power Reached' is a relatively restrained back-and-forth that doesn't need to show off either of its collaborators' estimable skillsets. Nordwall's gloomy synths are stripped back to a grim wheeze on opener, while Gustafsson joins with sustained breaths that grow into harmonic tones.The emotions shift as distortion encases Nordwall's dying toy bleats and Gustafsson flips from phlegmatic hums into manic squealing without so much as a warning.
The duo navigate dangerous waters with a middle finger to expectation. Industrial electronic music and free jazz might seem like fine bedfellows but the amalgamation is often too fussy and heavy handed. It works here because both Nordwall and Gustafsson appear to be completely at ease with not just each other but themselves; Nordwall's brooding electronics are minimal but never lifeless, and Gustafsson doesn't need to show us how quickly or fluidly he can play, he's able to instead concentrate his efforts on finding the best possible tone to slip into a groove that's got us dizzy with excitement. Really good this.
Attic-recorded folk tales about rural life, and elegies for the death of industry in early ’70s Hebden Bridge, surface for the first time with Basin Rock, who are located further up the Calder Valley in Todmorden some 50 years later.
‘Fireside Stories (Hebden Bridge circa 1971-1974)’ introduces an unheard talent for the first time with a bevy of solo guitar laments and gripping stories about the schisms of class, the trials of romance and decline of industry in a small working class town nestled in the hills between Leeds and Manchester. Written against a backdrop of post-industrial decline, long before Hebden Bridge became a mecca for queer folk and hippies, it’s quite an astonishing collection of work that hs somehow remained out of earshot until now, and especially so when considering the utterly classic quality of song-writing and playing, which recall the tenor of Arthur Russell’s down-home folk works, Robbie Basho’s folk blues, or stumbling across the greatest pub folk session and a pint after rambling in the drizzle. We can practically hear the beards sparking with glee at the promise of this one, and trust it doesn’t disappoint.
“Although you’d never know his age from the world-weary character of his voice, this is the work of a young songwriter seeking a musical identity by trying out several. He begins with dark and detailed narratives. Album opener “Marion Belle” is an evocative tale of mariners adrift upon the waves and within their own hearts; “Tell Me Now” is a harrowing one about a farmer’s son accused of raping and murdering the mayor’s daughter. His assumed guilt is rooted in the class divide: “Such a girl of respect would never have let/ A mere farmer make love to and court her.”
“Sunlight on the Table” is the opposite of a narrative, however, which is to say it’s a song in which nothing happens. Beales fixates instead on the minutiae of a single, interior moment: “Silence in the corridors, a slow tide in my mind/ A mist made up of memories of the ones I left behind.” A talented player by any standard, he attempts a playful Latin experiment on the instrumental “Braziliana.” But the energized album finale “Fireside Stories” may be the standout. He hits every impassioned downstrum with fervor and combines sharpened, singular stanzas—“If your jewels make you sparkle/ And your wine makes you glow/ And my words taste so bitter/ And you’ve learned all there is to know”—with a catalog of momentary images marked by a sensory vividness. It’s easy to imagine him, pen in hand, noting down the “creaking rocking chair and thick velvet curtains and the smell of the pinewood walls.” As such, Fireside Stories captures a gifted and otherwise-forgotten songwriter in amber. Finally dug out of the attic and dusted off, it shines in the light of day.”
Hardcore techno nails from Scotland’s finest, chasing up their ambient moonlighting as Power Inc. with a cold-blooded return to the bosh.
‘Clubmatter’ is the first Clouds 12” since 2021, and builds on a fierce reputation among the UK’s techno headstrong in four nae-nonsense dancefloor rockets. ‘Ravesight’ cues up steaming, grungy kicks and banshee-shriek mentasms shades away from Blawan or Perc, and ‘NRG Density’ yokes back to a cantering horsepower that comes on in waves of intensity ratcheted by its Arabic-sounding strings and murky midrange. ‘Liquid Tank’ follows that modal middle eastern feel like a sort of industrialised dabke, if ye squint your lugs a bit, and ‘Corestyle’ expends any remaining energies with an escalating sort of hardcore techno-trance unleashing virulent mentasms akin to Minimal Violence artillery.
Boredoms icon YoshimiO and one-time Rephlexian IzumiKiyoshi give wings to lush and wildly inventive fusions of psychedelic electronics and classical keys derived from improvisation - RIYL Anthony Manning, Jim O’Rourke, Theo Burt, Keith Fullerton Whitman...
The second fruits of their labour after a very scarce CD in 2002 is ‘To The Forest To Live A Truer Life’, whose title implies one leave their sensible head at the door and ready themselves for a brilliant sensory-bathing experience. In a back and forth process or recording in a cafe nestled near a forest in Japan, YoshimiO’s piano and vocal improvs are fed into IzumiKiyoshi’s modular synthesiser, and spectralised and modulated in imaginary air, and recombined with YoshimiO’s riffs on those parts to create their fantastic, unpredictably erupting arrangements.
It’s a real pleasure to follow the shape of the duo’s hyaline harmonics, threaded by tattered ribbons of semi-synthetic melody and clambering free-jazz piano where they want to take us. Honestly we could be here all day describing the abundance of energy tempered into fantastic whorls, plies and psychoacoustic headiness, but best to trust your ears and prepare oneself to be wowed by this one - there’s some seriously rare, poetic and visionary genius at work here.
Shelter Press return with an immersive sound piece recorded for Latifa Echakhch’s installation at the Venice Biennale, deploying undulating rhythmic experimentation and intricate, detailed sound movements on a micro-psychedelic tip, highly recommended to fans of Jake Meginsky, Apartment House, crys cole, Lucy Railton or Beatrice Dillon.
When Latifa Echakhch was tuning the concept for her presentation at the Swiss Pavilion during the 59th Venice Art Biennale, she wondered how it might be possible to alter her visitors' perception of time. She invited Berlin-based drummer and composer Alexandre Babel to come up with a response to her silent exhibition, held inside a striking multi-room building designed by Bruno Giacometti and originally intended for the display of classical art. Babel assembled field recordings captured at the Pavilion alongside pre-recorded viola, contrabass, flute and percussion sounds contributed by Jon Heilbronn, Rebecca Lenton, Theo Nabicht and Nikolaus Schlierf, combined to construct an immersive slow-creep of detailed micro-sounds designed to gradually alter your temporal and spatial bearings.
Opening with echoing footsteps over a discomposing whirr of modern machinery, our attention is drawn to the physical space and the natural rhythm of walking. Pinprick clicks add an extra layer of microscopic grist, as water droplets form an incoherent pulse that eventually turn to woodblock clacks and toms. Resembling the innards of a clockmaker's workshop as though heard from the central hall of a vast gallery space; Babel's rhythms are so finely drawn that they're hard to grasp at first blush, demanding multiple listens in order to fully comprehend their abstruse latticing.
Spray can blasts and white noise bursts dance in tandem, ushering in low-end rumbles that cautiously mutate into the album's central segment, where a bass drum slowly ushers in a pressure shift. It's at this point where the music begins to fully betray its influences, linking the freeform heartbeat-led expression of Milford Graves and his under-sung student Jake Meginsky with crys cole's lower-case sonic journeying. When more traditional instrumentation rings out from the rafters, it's to reinforce the piece's rhythmic thrust, not drown it out with buttoned-up respectability.
At its peak "The Concert" sounds lost between genre and temporality, both electronic and astonishingly biotic. It's the rare site-specific installation piece that truly meets its brief, forcing listeners to consider not just the three-dimensional space it's responding to, but also the constant rhythms that surround them in day to day life.
Hood co-founder Richard Adams most impressively emulates Mark Hollis’ godly solo work with a jazz and folk-tinged post rock beauty in his beloved guise as The Declining Winter - do not skip without checking the heavenly catharsis of ‘This Heart Beats Black’! RIYL Talk Talk, Rachel’s, Sam Prekop, Hood, Red House Painters, Bark Psychosis, The Notwist, Sandro Perri...
“For over 30 years Richard Adams has been quietly documenting his own particular corner of the English countryside both with Hood, the post-rock band he formed with his brother in 1991, and since 2007 with The Declining Winter.
Recorded over a five year period and inspired by rustic English alternatives such as Talk Talk and Robert Wyatt, The Declining Winter’s latest work ‘Really Early, Really Late’ is a collection of beautiful songs, immersed in a richer sonic spectrum incorporating strings, horns and lush electronic textures, alongside Adams’ own unique guitar tones and characteristic dubby bass.
Though it retains the homespun scratchiness of previous The Declining Winter records, ‘Really Early, Really Late’ is also their most ornate. A remotely collaborative effort, the record is scattered with decorative embellishments from violinist Sarah Kemp (Brave Timbers), cellist Peter Hollo (Tangents), and guitarist Ben Holton (epic45), among many others. Adams’ distorted whisper of a voice has never been more exposed leading to a brutally emotive and intensely personal song-suite, both raw and beautiful in equal measure.
The storybook curiosity of Mark Hollis’ work is a particular influence. Like Hollis, this music is imbued with magical realism: beholden to nature, it hints at the mysteries lurking in mundane local landscapes and the more remote Yorkshire moors and valleys. A record to hold close to your heart, ‘Really Early, Really Late’ sees Adams and his collaborators emerge from the shadows with their most complete work to date.”
D&B prism-pusher Mark goes on like Parmegiani-meets-Source Direct at Valentina Magaletti’s gaff in the Berlin artist’s baddest, noirish breakbeat experiments to date.
Chasing up a split with Christoph De Babalon and mixtape pack with Good News, Nina & Moopie on ACS/V I S, the barbed title of ‘So You Betrayed The Creative Arts For Your Own Personal Ends’ signifies a sharpening of tools and ideas.
It’s been a few years since Mark’s previous releases for A Colourful Storm, Berghain’s Unterton and BEB sibling Low Company, and we can hear that the time was spent getting right down to the nuts and bolts of his thing. To be quite honest, while his previous works didn’t quite live up to the hype for these ears, this new half hour of music has us rapt at his grasp of more intricate meter, space and vibe.
Impossibly taut but lithe breaks sizzle and ricochet in the space between performed and programmed ballistics, subtly gelling with instrumental touches that recall recent Valentina Magaletti solo work as much as the noirish, inner-city spy-funk of Barry Adamson on the first part, before opening out with orchestral staging with the GRM-like diffusion of Parmegiani, and the reticulated, jazz-fusion referencing D&B of Source Direct alloyed to Kenji Kawai-like vocal and synth-string arrangements on the latter.
Classy spins on UK bleep, Detroit techno and Chi house by Finland’s Halvtrak, chasing aces on the Cold Body Music comps
Lending an icy-finished gleam to classic templates in a way akin to Mono Junk or Mika Vainio, your man Halvtrak cycles from the 1990 bleep ’n breaks drive of ‘X-Pressed’ to a fine echo of Bellville Three techno styles in ‘Rhythm Overture’, while ‘Phase Distorshun’ trades in percolated Windy City house with attention to lighter atmospheric details, and ‘Doubt’ dials up the Detroit and Chi inspiration via shine-eyed early UK techno.
Sound designer and producer Katie Gately's newest is an examination of childhood energy inspired by the birth of her first child that blends the Animal Collective's psychedelic abstraction with the quirky, anthemic quality of kids' TV themes.
"When I got pregnant, I started to get creative again," explains Gately. The process of pregnancy and childbirth, and the young life that created is the driving force behind "Fawn/Brute", Gately's fourth album. Her previous album was a solemn affair that addressed the death of her mother, in contrast its follow-up is joyful and unpredictable.
A devoted sound designer, Gately uses cartoon sound libraries to build unusual elements that suggest kids' TV without being too obvious. Hovering between polar pop formalities, she captures the chaos of childhood perfectly, singing erratically over typically inventive electro-acoustic structures. It's not easy music to listen to, but it's not supposed to be - Gately's innovative song forms wheeze from gassy post-punk to overblown, Kate Bush-informed pop, and her wide scope reflects her complicated, personal theme accurately.
‘Avenham’ finds synth-pop pioneer John Foxx in oneiric, world-building form comparable to the ‘My Lost City’ LP or work with Harold Budd, stirring synths and strings into evocations of his home town Preston. Listen after a Rainy Miller album for historic perspective on emotional Lancastrian romance...
“Avenham is inspired by a place John Foxx knew as a young man but it’s more than a location. It’s less defined, more dispersed and mysterious than that. As Foxx says of the album which has echoes of his London Overgrown recordings, Drift Music with Harold Budd, Ghost Harmonic and the My Lost City album: “I think the point of music is to remain open enough for everyone to invest with their own experiences and memories, so I’m not going to explain too much.
“Avenham is a real place, that’s also as mythical as the gates of Eden. So the music is likewise nebulous and impressionistic - a view from here to a time which occurs in almost everyone’s life, when the world becomes a radiant place of infinite mystery and promise - and everything seems possible.”
Richard Skelton continues his exploration of electronics on 'Selenodesy', blending his requisite scraped and bowed strings with cinematic synthesizer swoops to capture the peculiar magic of the night sky.
In 2017 Skelton moved to Northumberland, near the Kielder Observatory in an area known as the 'dark sky' region. A remote, sparsely populated corner of the UK, it's a place where light pollution is less of a problem, so the stars are far more visible than in the rest of the country. And just as the prolific artist's earlier albums were inspired by the Pennine Moors and glacigenic landforms, "Selenodesy" pulls its inspiration from the night sky. Skelton was rattled by a bout of insomnia, and would stare up at the stars to alleviate the problem - the music would come to him in these periods of sleepless lucidity, as the outdoor and indoor realms fused in his half-dreams.
Musically, Skelton follows on from his last Phantom Limb album, 2020's "These Charms May Be Sung Over A Wound". The sorrowful strings that characterized his earliest releases are still present, but joined by humming, overdriven oscillators that merge with the organic sounds sometimes imperceptibly. His sound design chops have evolved considerably, and occasionally we're reminded of more recent music from Tim Hecker or Ben Frost - it's music that we could easily imagine brushing up against a particularly acclaimed TV series or movie. Evocative and chillingly futuristic, it sounds like Vangelis going head to head with La Monte Young.
Richard Youngs' followup to 2021's absurdly good "CXXI" isn't anything you could have possibly predicted. On 'Modern Sorrow' he tenders his answer to contemporary R&B and radio rap, contorting his voice with AutoTune and shepherding whirring bossa and caliginous samples. RIYL claire rousay, Klein, Coby Sey, Tara Clerkin Trio.
It's easy to get completely lost in Youngs' vast catalog. The prolific British musician has been recording and releasing tirelessly since the early 1990s and following his work feels like being subjected to his sprawling interests and obsessions. Ostensibly an experimental musician, he's never been shackled to one particular style or another, following loose threads and pulling on them until he's left with a basket of unravelled colors to work with. On 'Modern Sorrow' he stitches together one of his most unexpected patchworks yet, "embracing the accessible digital tools of contemporary music production just as at another moment he would pick up a kazoo," to quote the press release. Rap and R&B sets the stylistic baseline for the side-long title track, Youngs confronts the styles without resorting to appropriation or reductionism.
His use of sampling captivates immediately, casually taking direction from early Mobb Deep (think 'Shook Ones, Part II') and DJ Shadow (think 'Midnight in a Perfect World') with its choppy piano and organ loops. But Youngs' beatplay is very different - his icy, staccato rhythms lack the hard-swung funk of the boom bap era, instead peering south towards Atlanta and the 808-led syrrup that's guided almost a decade of pop music production. He takes a similar approach with his vocals, mutating each syllable electronically until every unrecognizable word becomes a cluster of combed oohs and aahs. Mimicking emo rap with its appealing and forced, digital emotionality, Youngs adds an outsider quality to its footprint.
On 'Benevolence I + II' he extends the view, retaining the palette but stripping away some of the elements completely. The piano and organ parts become plodding drones, and the beat is there for punctuation rather than drive. The snare that occasionally cut into Youngs' previous Black Truffle excursion "CXXI" is used in a similar way here as an exclamation point at the end of a phrase, leaving his voice to take the lead. Words are gone completely and phrases melt into pure expressions, linking the correctional AutoTune fluctuations to Carnatic music without removing its contemporary relevance. A voracious listener, Youngs can't help but reinterpret the sounds around him using his usual rudimentary set of instruments and processes, an unashamedly DIY and unapologetically expressive process. Just as on the legendary "Sapphie" when Youngs stretched folk pop into basement experimentation, he once again follows the same thought process, it's just the background image that's shifted. 'Modern Sorrow' couldn't be a more accurate title.
Those of you who have obsessed over Tindersticks' soundtrack work will find much to fall in love with here.
Espeically on the short but perfectly formed album closer "Goodbye Joe" - sounding like something off their wonderful "Nenette Et Boni" score mixed with the lonesome harmonica from John Barry's theme for Midnight Cowboy.
It's all spacious, padded percussion, bells and strings - showing the band at their most affecting. But back to the begining of the album and you don't have to wait long for Stuart Staples' distinctive voice, augmented here by some spoken narration courtesy of David Boulter, setting the scene perfectly for what's to follow. It's a strong album, probably their strongest since re-forming, and a welcome addition to an already formidable body of work. Recommended.
Pioneering psych rock deity Dorothy Moskowitz ov The United States of America genuinely wows with her extraordinary, expansive first LP, proper, since the late ‘70s; teaming with Italian electronic musician and collaborator of Martyn Bates & Simon Fisher Turner, Francesco Paladino, for a visionary side that recalls elements of Cyclobe’s work with Shirley Collins, Current 93, Lonnie Holley’s cosmic blues, Leonard Cohen’s ‘You Want It Darker’, and late-stage Marianne Faithful
“Under An Endless Sky represents the interchange that took place between electronic composer Francesco Paolo Paladino, composer and writer Luca Chino Ferrari, and the legendary Dorothy Moskowitz, an icon of underground culture who broke all kinds of new ground as a member of The United States of America. Led by the charismatic composer Joseph Byrd, the band released their lone eponymous album on Columbia Records in 1968. It has taken on a mythic status that has grown through the years, sampled by Diplo and Mac Miller and widely acknowledged as a visionary psychedelic classic.
Francesco Paolo Paladino, an avant-garde Italian composer contacted Dorothy, inviting her to sing on some of his compositions. When she heard his 2021 CD release of Barene & Other Works, she recognized that they shared a similarly experimental point of view and she accepted his invitation. Paladino is known for his collaborations with Martyn Bates, Allison O'Donnell, Simon Fisher Turner, and other world-renowned contemporary composers, as well as his own sought-after 1985 debut LP Doublings and Silences Volume 1.
Francesco has long collaborated with Italian writer Luca Chino Ferrari, author of biographies of Nick Drake, Third Ear Band, Captain Beefheart, Tim Buckley and Syd Barrett. He submitted lyrics to Dorothy and together they began a profound and unique collaboration on the adaptation of lyrics to music, delving into words and meanings, phonetic properties and their singability. “Lyrics that have the audacity to deal with complex themes of human existence, real philosophical cutaways that look at reality and question it, often without offering answers,” says Ferrari.
Moskowitz's extraordinary voice and modal melodies float over Paladino's magical musical textures. There are no guitars, bass, drums or other technological devilry, but only virtual sounds (sometimes without even keyboards) upon which are grafted some acoustic interventions: violins and violas, woodwinds and percussion entrusted to excellent musicians such as Italians Riccardo Sinigaglia, Angelo Contini, Stefano Scala, Trio Cavallazzi and Gino Ape, and English folker Sean Breadin.”
Synth-pop godfather John Foxx takes to the piano stool solo after decades of collaboration with Harold Budd and Ruben Garcia. Of course he doesn’t forget the electronics, wreathing keys in resplendent shimmering pads and FX for a quiet dérive...
“This latest work has a fresh sense of wonder, as if returning to the instrument after the raging analogue noise of his last major work, 2020’s Howl (by John Foxx And The Maths) necessitated a further retreat into quiet, minimal music. The half-light, atmospheric flow of the album recalls the artist’s own series of short stories, The Quiet Man (published by Essential Works in 2020).
However, as Foxx writes in an essay to accompany the album, there’s another text - by Walter Benjamin - that provides some of the inspiration, as well as the title for the new record. Foxx explains how he first came across the book, ‘when I was at art school, in the mid 1960s a number of obscure books were discussed and dog-eared copies often circulated. Among these ‘The Arcades Project’, by Walter Benjamin, was especially tantalising. It was often referred to, but its existence seemed no more than a rumour. In those days before the internet, you could never find a copy. Of course, all that elusiveness and mystery lent the book a legendary status.”
He continues: “The book itself is a sort of stroll through new ideas emerging from the city life of Paris in the 19th and early 20th century. It was also concerned with what the French poet Baudelaire had termed flâneurism. The flâneur enjoys walking randomly, drifting with the tides on the streets, taking great pleasure in a dreamlike state of coincidentalism - being open to all the unfolding daily events of a great modern city.” The glass-roofed Parisian arcades that are described in Benjamin’s The Arcades Project, offered its citizens a chance to “meander, dream, gather impressions” through the rows of shops and elegant apartments.
Foxx in turn - “with the piano and the help of some old electronics” - set out to create “immediate, often imperfect, gestural fragments of music and atmosphere that might allude to some momentary experience - a chance meeting, a glimpse into a garden, a coincidence, a life behind a window revealed at twilight, someone indistinct. And it all comes from walking.”
'Adult punk' act Debt Rag shimmy towards PPM with their debut album, crafting minimalist, short-form skronk that's right at home alongside plates from No Age, Syko Friend and Eric Copeland.
Max Nordile, Lillian Maring, and Marissa Magic aren't newcomers by any means. With tenure in bands like Grass Widow, Preening, and Girlsperm, the trio are acquainted well enough with the US punk/DIY scene to be thoroughly disillusioned - how else would they be able to come up with a brand of punk that's as snotty, cynical and self-consciously silly as this? Each track runs for only a few moments, usually assembled from broken-sounding instruments, batshit earworm riffs and hoarsely screamed vocals.
A statement that appears to be anti-artspeak, anti-nostalgia and anti-aesthetic in general, their music isn't supposed to be pleasant. It's art that's visceral because that's precisely the point: Debt Rag want you to feel uncomfortable and question what it is they're doing, because to switch off completely is to let the idiots (or the algorithm) truly win. Their music isn't throwback either, it's punk that doesn't purposefully look towards the Discord canon or Bikini Kill for its stylistic pointers. Rather the trio attempt to bend familiarity into awkward, unsettling shapes, using cheap toys and playing purposefully off-piste to sound more like Captain Beefheart jamming with Dirty Projectors.
Living legend of Berlin dub, Paul St. Hilaire aka Tikiman (Rhythm & Sound) is subject of a much-needed retrospective scanning solo productions across three decades for Kynant Records.
Adored around these parts for his ohrwurm vox as Tikiman on Rhythm & Sound’s Burial Mix records, Paul St. Hilaire is a Dominican artist based in Berlin since the ‘90s, where he’s honed a singular style of dub finely balanced between Caribbean tradition and its European offshoots. Any Berlin dub fiend will tell you, however, that St. Hilaire’s work does not stop at Rhythm & Sound, with his dulcet baritone also key to recordings by a raft of related artists such as René Löwe (Vainqueur), Deadbeat, and Rhauder, not to mention Larry Heard and Modeselektor. Perhaps lesser known are St. Hilaire’s inimitable solo productions, as previously showcased on a pair of albums for his False Tuned label, and now in abundance on ‘Tikiman Vol.1’, which reels between meditative steppers, psych-dub, rolling house and drowsy lovers for a rare insight to his cloud chamber studio floating somewhere above Kreuzberg.
While the tunes may bear a striking similarity to Rhythm & Sound, it’s all St. Hilaire’s own productions, custom-built with an extensive collection of vintage hardware to accompany his “patois metaphors on education, displacement and personal vs. global histories.” Reflecting on life between Dominica and Berlin, and especially as as one of the city’s long-standing but scant number of Black artists, it supplies a unique skew on the german capital’s beloved dub house/techno sound. Between the smoked-out dub blooz of ‘Bedroom in My Bag’ and the waves of rolling dub noise clag to ‘Three and a Half’, he echoes timeless work with Rhythm & Sound in the deep lovers dub mystery of ‘Little Way’ and ‘Keep Safe’, coining mesmerising sort of dub poetry on ‘Bright One’ and giving dancers something to trot to with the elegant pressure of ‘The Weather Man’, the swollen bass of ‘Ten To One’, and his skanking dub-jazz-house ace ‘In Door’. Legend.
Deerhoof do their genre-oblivious thing with renewed alacrity and freedom signified by Satomi taking the opportunity to sing entirely in her Japanese mother tongue.
Riddled with hooks and verve that can’t help but raise a massive grin on longtime followers or newcomers alike, ‘Miracle-Level’ is their latest in a fruitful relationship with the fittingly titled Joyful Noise Recordings, placing 30 years of honing thee tightest, most unpredictable chops at the service of a joyride between angular skronk and more tender, jazzy moments of indie-pop whimsy.
Perhaps an acquired taste for some (hands up here), once bitten by their grasp of nerve jangle discord and puckered, bittersweet melodies it’s hard not to be charmed by their conviction and vigour in shattering generic forms. On their 19th studio album, recorded by Mike Bradavski at No Fun Studio in Winnipeg, Manitoba, they patently entertain themselves as much as their listeners as each song hops between frameworks and feels with a preternatural dexterity that never comes off as showy or virtuoso.
The ecstatic, hacking guitars and drum kit bustle of ‘Sit Down, Let Me Tell You a Story’ nods to Afrobeat via talking Heads and anime soundtracks, beside a sort of psych-blues sugared by Satomi’s vox, and ‘Poignant Melody’ does just that on one of the album’s more hushed highlights, along with the brushed downstroke of its title piece, and the Brazilian-Japanese lilt to ‘The Little Maker’, and ‘Wedding, March, Flower’, that make a fine contrast with the rowdier shape of ‘And The Moon Laughs’ or the motorik mathiness to ‘Momentary Art of Soul’.
Haela Ravenna Hunt-Hendrix continues to disassemble black metal's rigid structures on her confounding new long-form incantation.
If you've come across Liturgy before you'll probably know that since the late 2000s the project - that's flitted between being a solo endeavor and a full band - has sought to recontextualize black metal, using the frenetic Northern European template to examine ideas about history, identity and transcendence. "93696" is a lengthy two-disc sprawl of ethereal choral vignettes and fuzzed minimal-maximal expressions that pierce the genre's impenetrable veil, spiking oppressive atmospheres with hope and wyrd magick.
Hunt-Hendrix's skill is in orchestrating music that's as ambitious and high-minded as early Genesis but as visceral as Darkthrone. And if black metal has been an easy petri dish for growing fascist ideology, her usage of it to provoke alternative concepts is vital and life-giving.
ACR, plus Chunky and Ellen Beth Abdi, dial up nostalgia for their golden years circa ‘1982’ with a swaggering, sinuous new set of early punk-funk, hip-hop and electro-funk stylings
Factory staples and local heroes, ACR’s music has long been symptomatic of Manchester’s multi-cultural make-up. ‘1982’ likewise hails the city’s rose-tinted retro fixations with a classy bag of tunes built for clubs and gig stages, sticking to what they do best, while refreshing the flex with new blood in the Prince of South-Central, Chunky and his vocal foil Ellen Beth Abdi on preceding single ‘Waiting on a Train’, while Abdi also keeps it classic sounding on the choppy, Afro-Latinate lines of ‘Constant Curve’ and the proper Afrobeat hip-work of ‘Afro Dizzy’. Anyone who still adores ACR’s 1982 album couplet of ‘I’d Like to See You Again’ and ‘Sextet’ will have a ball here.
Definitive reissue edition of James Stinson’s legendary, posthumous Drexciyan Storm #6, featuring the tracklist as intended, and marking 20 years since his untimely passing - 100% all timer gear
Among the most in-demand, Drexciya-related titles, ‘The Cosmic Memoirs Of The Late Great Rupert J. Rosinthrope’ holds among his sleekest and aqua-dynamic electro masterpieces. It was originally issued in the months following his much mourned death in September 2002, and as such has been subject of much speculation to the meaning of his one-time moniker for the project, and its evocative title. We’ll never be able to sift truth from apocrypha with this one, as even his Drexciyan co-pilot Gerald Donald holds his tongue about its provenance, but that’s half the attraction as listeners apply their own narrative and mythos to its enigmatic electro arrangements in a way surely intended by the late, great Detroit oracle.
Replete with the mesmerising ‘Flux’ which was mistakenly omitted from early pressings (which are now practically impossible to find anyway), the 11-track set is certain to stoke nostalgia for the early ‘00s in anyone who was around then, and, like the best, uncanny electronic music it’s one of those records that feels like you’ve heard it before - déjà entendu-style - even if you definitely haven’t. It sends us reeling back to the days of the IL3KTRO and Sequence club-nights in Manchester circa the early ‘00s, and the heyday of our Pelicanneck shop, when the Drexciyan mythos was only just starting to grow into the cult it has become.
Held up against previous Drexciyan Storms, the album is notably more minimal and hypnautically efficient, and perhaps the one that best reflects Stinson’s day job as a trucker hauling down long, straight US highways. Between the Red Planet adjacent pulse and powerful subs of ‘Solar Wind’ and the outstanding finale of ‘Flux’ it smoothly shifts gears between the acidic nag of ‘White Dwarf’ to the stark electro-techno of ‘Dance of the Celestial Druids’ and supremely twisted, even sleazy electro strains in ‘The Freak Show’ and the ‘Alien Vessel Distress Call’, with a fine cap-tip to his ancestors in ‘Crossing of the Sun-Ra Nebula’, and of course an unmissable centrepiece in the lip-biting melody of ‘Lonely Journey of The Comet Bopp’.
Outstanding MIDI funk by a legendary NYC comedy club’s in-house bassist - support act for everyone from Seinfeld to Robin Williams and Eddie Murphy - laying it down with ample charm for anyone snagged on Novo Line, NYZ’s Old Trax, Funkycan, Ceephax, US sitcom soundtracks.
Lloyd George Mair Jr.’s 2nd archival volley with Glasgow’s chOOn!! brings a big daft grin to our mugs again with 19 sparks of characterful jazz-funk fusion groove chiselled from the grid. No doubt it’s dead nostalgic for anyone who grew up with 8-bit tones on computer games and sitcom or sci-fi soundtracks, but also endures after more than 30 years due to Mair’s proper funk flair and feel for nagging melody.
Originating from the early years of MIDI technology, it’s a sound that persistently resurfaces in electronic music’s left fields - kinda like rock musicians returning to roots in early electric blues - and we’d struggle to name a finer historic example in effect, hailing one strand of a cross-pollinating NYC scene that has held swerve over successive generations ever since.
“As the 1980s progressed, together with increasingly tough Reaganomics, the crack epidemic, real estate inflation, demographic shifts and musicians and clubs catering to increasingly segregated audiences, the synergistic elements that first set the scene apart weakened severely from 1984 onwards. However, thanks to a dedicated underground, the forward-looking sensibilities of Mair, Jr. found an audience, gripping the imaginations of a select group of collaborators and peers from the so-called ‘cassette culture’ movement.
These were not simply ‘demos’, but fully realised art projects primarily traded with other like-minded artists around the world. All kinds of folk found this a simpatico space to make music, think aloud, drift in and out of focus. Mair, Jr. started recording a dizzying array of home-baked cassettes, most of which remained unreleased or traded internationally. Captivated by the promise of possibility, his sound totally embraced the plastic potential of MIDI and digital, in all their unreal perfection. The sound of placeless, dream-like environments: movie sets, photo shoots, videogame backdrops. Dense webs of flickering neon, laser-strafed minimalism and thick saw-wave synths.
This expansive second volume of rarities is drawn from Mair, Jr’s ‘Selected Rhythm Tracks 1988-1994’, a hidden archive of introverted electro-minimalist songwriting culled from over 30 years of private and unreleased cassettes. There's the boogie of the opening ‘Rhythm Track’, rendered in such perfect hi-res, it approximates digi-Motown via sci-fi Library Music soundtracks. ‘The Escape’ strings the most plastic of trumpets over an avant-funk stroll that’s so laidback you feel like it must be hiding something. The Afro-tropicalia of ‘Winefride XL’ is a beatific series of polyrhythmic kalimba lines that you can imagine gathering and drifting over and over again, like tides. There’s a distinct cinematic quality in Mair, Jr’s sequencing, and most of all on the outro to the blissful sweet-sour synth spirals of ‘Winefride LIV’, which sounds like Angelo Badalamenti scoring Perry Henzell instead of David Lynch."
Alice Coltrane and Pharaoh Sanders’ definitive avant-jazz opus available on vinyl again as part of Verve’s Acoustic Sounds Series.
Widely regarded a sacred contribution to the exploratory phase of late ’60s and early ‘70s avant-garde, modal jazz, Journey In Satchidananda finds Alice Coltrane and Pharaoh Sanders channelling a staggering flux of emotions - lushness, fury, melancholy and a spectrum of integers between - through a uniquely free fusion of far-flung styles and ideas. It’s arguably a syncretic form of Afro-American Black Classical music which distilled and looked beyond the turmoil of the civil rights movement to a more positive, open-minded and optimistically empowered sound-as-life.
There’s no way we’re going to try and break this down. But although it may be impenetrably encrypted, it’s easy to understand once you’re in the midst of it.
Cult Manchester guitarist Kevin McCormick's 1982-1984 bedroom demos are assembled on this shimmering anthology, blurring the lines between ambient, jazz and experimental forms and harmonizing with The Durutti Column, late-Talk Talk, or Andrew Chalk.
If you caught 'Light Patterns', the lone 1982 release from McCormick and his collaborator David Horridge, you'll already have an idea what this complimentary set will offer. A rare statement from the greyscale depths of Thatcher's Manchester helped bring to life a side of the city that's often only hinted at: a counter to the hard-drinking party mentality that looks inward instead of outward. It's an emotional state Vini Reilly has always nailed, and it's laid out even more clearly on McCormick's solo material.
'Sticklebacks\ is a downsized, electrical counterpart to 'Light Patterns', and reflects McCormick's interest in hazy ambient music as he disrupts placid guitar improvisations with dubby delays and cavernous reverb. Dream pop without the pop, it's music that sounds as if it's been smudged at the edges and hums with the same ethereal energy as contemporaneous material from 4AD and their Lowlands counterparts Les Disques du Crépuscule. The opening track is moody but not dejected, obscuring McCormick's Northern poetry with voice-changing effects over wailing, dimly-lit arpeggios.
But 'Sunday Farmway' has more in common with German kosmische music, bedding Manuel Göttsching-style noodles in staccato repetitions and synth-like string drones. There's a breath of Robin Guthrie's signature sparkle on 'Mountain Tops', but McCormick's compositions are self-consciously lo-fi - not exactly bare, but decidedly economical. There's rarely more than electric guitar and a few carefully picked delays and reverbs, and on tracks like the stargazing 'Night Journey' and the gloriously faded outro 'Alone in a Crowd' it's all we need. A festival of drift.
A late ‘90s neo-noir ambient jungle masterpiece, Christoph De Babalon’s 'If You’re Into It, I’m Out Of It' sounds something like Thomas Köner re-assembling fierce, unrelenting D&B with his frozen gear. Now a quarter of a century old, it still occupies its own distinct notch on the continuum; copied endlessly, never bettered.
Christoph De Babalon was a key member of Digital Hardcore, the mutant Berlin-based splinter cell who fused UK rave music with more experimental, Teutonic techno, Ambient and hardedge politics to brutal effect during the mid-late ‘90s. CDB was always somehow on another level to most of his peers and labelmates at DHR, less interested in purely aggy breakbeat energy, his was a sound that also embraced windswept, ice-cold ambient atmospherics and a bleak sort of romance that was at odds with the almost cartoonish “sound terror” aesthetic of the label.
For us, ‘If You’re Into It, I’m Out Of It’ really distills a feeling of that era, as the utopian outlook of rave’s early years had given way to something much darker, more maudlin, perhaps symptomatic of an ennui with dance music’s hyper-commercial land grab, a kind of pre-millennial tension. Either way, it provided the perfect soundtrack to ravers who were spending more time developing virtual lives online, or (speaking from experience) who weren’t yet old enough to go raving, but were shelled with media images and 2nd hand impressions of the culture, which had by then morphed into the prevailing trends of garage, trance, and prog house, and was but a ghost of its original, loony self.
It’s an album torn between extreme states; on the one hand going harder than the rest in killer rave moves such as the hardcore rattler ‘Dead (Too)’, the epic amen + drone blow-out ‘My Confession’, or the cut-throat beast ‘Water’. But on the other, it gets properly haunting on the remarkable 15 minute opener ‘Opium’, or with the sublime, Gas-like suspension system of ‘Brilliance’, and the funereal, bombed-out bliss of ‘High Life (Theme)’.
Christoph De Babalon effectively plotted out terrain that bridged DJ Scud’s rugged jungle breakcore with soundscaping more commonly associated with Thomas Köner or Deathprod, and in the process set the ground for myriad contemporary producers and sounds ranging from Raime and Blackest Ever Black to Demdike, Pessimisst and beyond. ‘If You’re Into It, I’m Out of It’ was, and still is, a deadly statement of intent, with an aesthetic that still strongly resonates and influences today.
Sublime fingerpicking guitar tekkerz and meditative keys on the edge of folk blues and minimal modern classical by a pair highly regarded for respective collaborations with Mike Cooper, Kim Gordon, Bill Nace, and in 4AD’s Bing & Ruth.
“Steve Gunn and David Moore’s Let the Moon be a Planet is a volume of improvisatory exchanges between classical guitar and piano, and a meeting place where two artists become acquainted through instrumental dialogue without a single expectation distracting them from the joy and open field possibility of collaboration.
A project enveloped by an aura of reciprocity, Let the Moon Be a Planet unfolded from an invitation to connect between two New York-based musicians who admired each other’s work but had never intersected: guitarist and songwriter Steve Gunn, whose solo, duo, and ensemble recordings represent milestones of contemporary guitar-guided material, and pianist and composer David Moore, acclaimed for his minimalist ensemble music as the leader of Bing & Ruth.
The exchange began remotely as Gunn and Moore responded to one another’s solo improvisations, embarking on a synergistic progression of deep listening and connection through musical conversation. “We were both fans of each other’s music and this was a chance to try a different process which was much more open,” says Moore. “It felt like something I needed personally as an artist, to not be so controlling over the final output, and to truly collaborate with somebody else.”
Similarly for Gunn, who was exploring new pastures and passages in classical guitar when the dialogue began, the project was an invitation for pure conversation and exchange, creating space for him to revisit foundational forms with his playing: “I was trying to break out of what I was doing, to have something that just pulled away all the elements of usual structured things.”
Let the Moon Be a Planet intertwines the trajectories of two musicians acclaimed for pushing the boundaries of their instruments, unified by a shift away from what they recall as more “detail-oriented” approaches to composition. Fueled by the magnetism of their call and response exercise, Gunn and Moore set out on a nomadic songwriting venture without an intended destination.”
Grief in the Kitchen and Mirth in the Hall, the fifth full-length collection of traditional song from Alasdair Roberts.
"Recorded live in the studio, Grief in the Kitchen and Mirth in the Hall is an entirely solo collection of twelve traditional ballads and songs sparsely arranged for acoustic guitar, piano and voice. The majority of the songs originate in Alasdair’s homeland of Scotland, with a couple from Ireland and one from Prince Edward Island on Canada’s eastern seaboard too.
The record takes its title from a line in the final verse of one of its songs, “The Baron o’ Brackley” — a ballad of feuding clans and matrimonial betrayal from the north-east of Scotland. Grief in the Kitchen and Mirth in the Hall: it’s a title which goes some way towards encapsulating many of the record’s themes. Collectively the songs treat of various conflicts and tensions — those of gender; of class, status and position; and of geography and tribal belonging — and the roles and responsibilities expected at the various intersections of these constructs. That we should never forget!
Grief In the Kitchen and Mirth in the Hall was masterfully recorded by Sam Smith at Green Door Studios, Glasgow over an economical two days, and mixed in one day. Its brevity on all levels is an aspect of its expression. Alasdair’s renowned acoustic fingerstyle guitar is understated yet questing, ever in service to the needs of the song, underpinning his soulful tenor voice. Three songs eschew his habitual acoustic guitar in favour of simple piano arrangements. The spare setting and Alasdair’s deeply committed performance gently reminds of the meanings and melodies of these old songs, chosen instinctively and with care, for all to hear and sing, and the world beyond that is ever coming."
First time vinyl pressing of a concrète masterwork by experimental autodidact Tod Dockstader, returning to orbit with a stunning mesh of shortwave radio signals siphoned from the aether and arranged into a mind-bending experience - RIYL Roland Kayn, The Conet Project, Leyland Kirby, Jim O’Rourke.
‘Aerial 2’ is the fruit of 15 years of Dockstader parsing the atmosphere for shortwave radio. Together with its other volume issued 2005-2006, it marked Dockstader’s re-entry to the release schedules decades after his batches of library music in the ‘80s, and nearly a half century since he entered a sphere dominated by academia by the back door with his DIY tape spliced ‘Eight Electronic Pieces’ in 1961, which was realised late at night in an NYC studio after working as editor in Hollywood during the ‘50s. ‘Aerial 2’ finds the late composer sticking to his instinctive approach with fathomless results full of gyring, shearing dynamics and complex textures and timbres that can’t help but lead the mind to the other side, placing self-taught technicality at the service of incredibly imaginative, immersive scapes.
Sifted from some 90 hours of nocturnal recordings that scanned the atmosphere for signs of life, the results pitch those cross signals and etheric filaments into plangent compositions oceanic or cosmic in scope. In that sense he follows a thread of inspiration that lit up imaginations of the earliest cavemen thru to advanced ancient civilisations and contemporary physicists with appropriate measures of atavist and futurist wonder brought into sharper, yet still elusive, focus via prisms of C.20th technology. The results are perhaps best compared historically to the awe-inspiring para-academic vision of Roland Kayn, yet differ in their grasp of cosmic chaos and rhythmic diffraction, and are more simply perceived as a stunning expression of proprioceptive intuition - projecting light years out from earth to find a place in the universe, ultimately making us feel like a speck of dust.
Christoph Dallach, Andreas Dorau and Daniel Jahn present Echo Neuklang, a compilation which explores the question of how Krautrock has influenced generation after generation of musicians since its inception.
"A contentious genre at the best of times, the music within its spectrum is essentially intangible. The common thread running through it is a compulsion to seek out the new.
Beginning in the year 1981 and extending as far as 2023, the music in this collection demonstrates how the idea of what passed for Krautrock in the 1970s has been interpreted or reinterpreted by a diverse array of artists with distinct approaches in the decades which followed,without recourse to any generic conventions."
A right blast of proto-emo hardcore from Annapolis, Maryland, USA, ’88/’92, in proximity to the fertile D.C. hardcore scene of Discord Records and Bad Brains, Minor Threat, S.O.A. et al
A must-check for anyone snagged on Moin’s mutated recapitulation of this era, or At The Drive In’s classic to follow a decade later, ‘Lyburnum Wits End Liberation Fly’ is the first album by Moss Icon, reissued on its 30th anniversary of release (despite being recorded in 1988) in a restored, facsimile edition after original copies got increasingly spenny in recent years.
“Lyburnum Wits End Liberation Fly was the one and only full-length album by experimental post-punk innovators, Moss Icon. Recorded in 1988, Lyburnum would not be released until 1993 – several years after Moss Icon’s demise. Originally released on Vermiforn – the esoteric noise label founded by Sam McPheeters of Born Against – the vision that Moss Icon’s Tonie Joy had for Lyburnum failed to manifest in its finished product. Of the process of preparing Lyburnum for its eventual release, Joy recalls, “My creative mind was well into its next chapter, onto an apocalyptic order [referring to Joy’s post-Moss Icon band, Universal Order of Armageddon]. Getting Lyburnum to look like what I envisioned in my mind became an uphill battle that involved misplaced photos, misunderstood instructions by the printer, increasing apathy, and lack of advanced printing knowledge (on my part), amongst many other technical and creative issues. With a deadline near it ended up being an it-is-what-it-is situation. Some corrections were attempted for the second pressing the following year, but a further lack of coordination between various parties saw it losing even more of the original vision.”
Despite these challenges and shortcomings, Lyburnum Wits End Liberation was instantly cherished as a feral masterpiece – a singular entity that would become a defining influence on post-hardcore and emo in the 1990s and beyond. Nothing before sounded like this, and nothing since has quite captured the same mysterious fury.”
Post-industrial pioneers of Bourbonese Qualk, 23 Skidoo, Current 93 and Laibach go deep in the echo chamber with masterful results for anyone smitten with The Orb, Ozric Tentacles, or Om Unit’s acid dub studies, and hankering for the halcyon haze of ‘90s chill out rooms.
Featuring the digits of revered veterans Simon Crab and Fritz Catlin on the synths, guitars, drums and mixing desk, Big Daddy’s ‘Bomb Culture’ is a wickedly loosey goosey batch of acid dub betraying strong influence from psychedelic rock and reeking of ganja and patchouli. It feels very much a vestige of bygone eras that have endured in certain, addled imaginations and after-hours sessions since the ‘80s new age travellers free-party/festival network transitioned to squat parties and the likes of Herbal Tea Party or Megadog in the ‘90s.
The 8 tracks dial up aspects of both artists combined 80-odd years of work in this arena, with Crab leaning into the latent dub-wise nature of his Bourbonese Qualk works that have more firmly surfaced since his return to the fray in recent years, and Catlin channelling, and tempering, the percussive suss of his classic chops with 23 Skidoo, whose ground-breaking, gamelan-infused post-punk was massive highlight of that era.
Trust it’s one for the eyes-down crew, holding a dense but spacious pressure between their heavy-trodding ‘Umwelt’ and melodica-led charms of ‘Molecule’s Dream’ with psychonauts and spangled bodies in mind. They edge on a sort of Afrobeat dub gilded with lush pads on ‘Cupid’s Itch’, and properly lift up knees on the buoyant stepper ‘Chasmophyte’, next to crashing dub of ‘Warlords’ and the defter ‘Esolang’.