The Toronto post-rock troupe reunite for their first album in almost a decade.
Inspired to rekindle the magic for another album after the band reunited for Constellation’s 15th anniversary tour in 2012, DMST eventually conceived ‘Stubborn Persistent Illusions’ after two years of studio sessions between 2014-16. Extra creative inspiration was gleaned from a short Buddhist poem about boundlessness and recurrence.
So much for DMST being the torchbearers of non-pretentious post-rock? Despite the time spent apart, the band have clearly lost none of their well-honed instrumental harmony and penchant for swooping drama, delivering another album that is best experienced as a whole.
The two authorized recordings presented on Konzerte 1972/1977 vividly conjure up the atmosphere, perhaps even the magic, of a Cluster performance back in the day.
"One took place in 1977 during a science fiction festival in Metz (France). The other dates back to an earlier show in Hamburg's Fabrik venue. Cluster played three gigs in the city in 1971/1972, including the one partially included on 1972's Cluster II (LR 335LP).
Cluster shows routinely lasted six hours or more, luring both the band and the audience into a state of intoxication, no doubt acutely enhanced by the intake of certain substances. The buzzwords of the moment were: psychedelic, magical, ritualistic, corresponding more or less to the Dionysian hedonism which pervades certain styles of contemporary music culture today. It is worth noting this context as useful background when listening to the live recordings presented here. In the beginning, Cluster's music was rough, brutal, and spontaneous, created with the most rudimentary tools. Unlike many of their colleagues in this pioneering age, Cluster did not use any synthesizers, sequencers, or high-end amps. But this proved to be their strength, rather than a disadvantage.
Roedelius and Moebius played in the truest sense of the word, untroubled by mechanical processes. They used their machines but were not dependent on them. Intuition was the dominant force, the risk of potential failure was readily understood to be as much a part of their vibrant art as success. Perfection had become a concept associated with convention. Indeed, anyone who was lucky enough to witness Cluster play in the 1970s will testify that things sometimes went badly wrong. But mostly they did not, and then the real magic was tangible.
A utopian, previously undiscovered world of sound was created in the presence of the beholder. The sound quality of these two documents is average. A successful performance was considered more important than a perfect recording thereof. As listeners, this should be accepted today. Konzerte 1972/1977 provides a short journey into the nascent heart of Cluster's creative universe, just after the big bang.”
Burials In Several Earths is a brand new work by the legendary Radiophonic Workshop. Nearly two decades after the Workshop was decommissioned, original members Peter Howell, Roger Limb, Dr Dick Mills, Paddy Kingsland and long-time associate composer Mark Ayres are back working together, featuring guest appearances from Martyn Ware and Steve ‘Dub’ Jones, creative an evocative suite of synth improvisations.
At first glance a new album from The Radiophonic Workshop may be viewed as something of a surprise, arriving long after the pioneering group’s last long player together. But it does make sense. A fair chunk of modern day archivalism has rightly focused on the group’s work for the BBC, after the workshop was established by Desmond Briscoe and Daphne Oram in the late ‘50s and crafted soundtracks that were well ahead of their time. This renewed interest led to core original members reconvening The Radiophonic Workshop in 2012 to undertake a series of live performances.
From this we now have ‘Burials In Several Earths,’ released on the group’s own Room 13 label - the name a canny nod to the BBC Maida Vale studio where they did so much great work. Recorded with celebrated engineer Steve ‘Dub’ Jones and Human Leaguer Martyn Hare, this album finds the veteran work shoppers freed from the constraints of working to a script and expressing their creativity in a spontaneous manner. The resultant five tracks occupy a strange – but totally alluring – place; sat somewhere between the Workshop’s own iconic work and a cadre of modern day practitioners who have undoubtedly been profoundly influenced by them, such as Pye Corner Audio, and Alessandro Cortini.
Coldcut and Adrian Sherwood team up on this album-length reaffirmation their joint status as elder gents of UK system culture.
Further reviving their pre-Ninja Tune label, Ahead Of Their Time, Coldcut make an interesting move with this album-length collaboration with On-U Sound don dada Adrian Sherwood. The UK dub pioneer has rightly been feted in recent years for his services to the advancement of electronic music, with On-U Sound undertaking an extensive reissue and compilation programme. As Coldcut, Jon More and Matt Black have arguably had a similar level of impact but aren’t viewed with the same reverence outside of the feverish community that fosters the Ninja Tune roster of labels.
Might this album’s title be a barbed reference to that? As you’d expect with an album written and produced in cahoots with Sherwood and featuring On-U Sound mainstays Skip McDonald on guitar and bassist Doug Wimbish, ‘Outside The Echo Chamber’ is at its core a tasteful celebration of UK Soundsystem culture skewered with the odd touch of maverick electronics.
Sherwood’s iPhone contacts list ensures the calibre of contributing JA artists is high, led by with the inimitable Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, whilst fans of Coldcut’s classic JBJ mix will be pleased to see Junior Reid also guesting. Even the presence of fidget casualties Dave ‘Switch’ Taylor and Toddla T doesn’t spoil matters.
‘Rocket’ is (Sandy) Alex G’s eighth full-length release - an assured statement that follows a slate of humble masterpieces, many of them self-recorded and self-released, stretching from 2010’s ‘RACE’ to his 2015 Domino debut, ‘Beach Music’.
"‘Rocket’s sessions began shortly after ‘Beach Music’s ended, with Alex tracking songs at home, by himself and with friends, in the gaps between a hectic 2015 and 2016 touring schedule (including working with Frank Ocean on ‘Blonde’).
‘Rocket’ was mixed by Jacob Portrait (Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Bass Drum of Death), who also lent his hand to Beach Music, giving the album a fine-tuning that retains the homespun personality of earlier efforts."
Premiering to the world at large, Tony Conrad’s gobsmacking quintessential opus Ten Years Alive On The Infinite Plain is now available to hear for the first time, featuring Laurie Spiegel and Rhys Chatham and arriving via Superior Viaduct just over a year since the death of the iconoclastic avant-garde violinist and composer in 2016.
Conrad’s sprawling, innovative practice - binding film, sound and performance in peerless and unprecedented style has been a huge influence on his myriad collaborators and far-flung body of avowed admirers. Just like the amazing and revelatory documentary, Tony Conrad: Completely In The Present , this steeply immersive 1hr, 30 minute recording should also attract a whole new wave of listeners to his truly sui generis music and cement his place in the 20th century avant-garde firmament, if it wasn’t already.
Recorded at the piece’s premiere at The Kitchen, NYC, in 1972, this release of Ten Years Alive On The Infinite Plain effectively forms some of the earliest documentation of Tony Conrad solo, one year before his legendary ..with Faust LP. Accompanied by Rhys Chatham playing the Long String Drone - a six-foot strip of wood with bass strings and electric pick up, prepared with tuning keys, tape and metal hardware - and Laurie Spiegel thrumming a crunching arrhythmic bass throughout, Conrad leads the 1hr 28 minute piece with the sustained caterwaul of his favoured violin (often the most battered model he could find), scraping back and forth in a pitching, phasing, mind-bending performance dating to just after his time spent developing this technique as part of The Theatre of Eternal Music with La Monte Young, Marian Zazeela, and John Cale - whom cites Conrad’s sonic philosophy and contributions to early live Velvet Underground actions as a pivotal formative influence over the esteemed artrock pioneers.
Completely mesmerising, the instinctively fearless results are belied by a conceptual and mathematical rigour that boldly asserted Conrad’s convictions in a unity and transcendence of all things. And yet whilst divorced from the visual aspect of the performance - a row of quadruple projections arranged side-by-side, incremental overlapping to form a pulsating picture - which was surely a major part of the piece, the sonic results still carry a potent meaning through its durational reinforcement of purely dissonant tunings and insistently dragging yet forward motion - an inexorable drive intently focussing themselves, and the listener, in the eternal traction of the present.
In terms of that effect at least, we could compare the piece’s intensity and heightened hallucinogenic qualities with extended studies such as Éliane Radigue’s Transamorem - Transmortem, Alvin Lucier’s Music On A Long String Wire or Harley Gaber’s Wind Rises In The North, for example, yet there’s something utterly primal at play that bucks all those references, and appears closer to a prescient, overproof distillation of folk immediacy, rock’s lusting urge, and the hypnosis of tribal/trance/techno musics.
It’s a completely stunning piece of music that will repay the attentive, attuned listener with endless rewards.
Deluxe edition - the first to feature the now almost impossible to find original mix of the album, unavailable since producer Lee Perry withdrew the set in 1977. Also includes the more well-known re-mix, dubs, disco mix, seven and twelve inch versions.
No reggae album more obscure than the Congos' Heart of the Congos is as rich, and no richer album is as obscure. The Congos were just a duo, airborne falsetto Cedric Myton and tenor Roydel Johnson, who got together in 1976 and approached old acquaintance Lee 'Scratch' Perry about recording an album at his Black Ark Studio. This was in a two-year period when Black Ark (along with King Tubby's) offered the most exciting, unpredictable facilities on the island and attracted top hands like guitarist Ernest Ranglin, organist Winston Wright, and percussionist Noel "Skully" Simms.
During the sessions, unrepeatable chemistry resulted in Perry's finest production of a vocal group and a body of songs more vivid than anything else by the Congos. Oddly, Island Records passed on The Heart of the Congos. Perry put it out under his own Black Ark insignia. Then the Congos released in themselves. The British Go-Feet label reissued it in 1980. It has popped up several other times, each edition muddy sounding, incomplete, or both. The handsome Blood and Fire reissue package gathers every snippet; vocal renditions and their dubs, extra Perry-Congos numbers and a second CD of 12-inch remixes.
This is a full-length revival metting in the Promised Land of the Rasta faithful, though nonbelievers can still revel in its fervent activist force. Perry knots electronic and handmade beats with consummate ease while Ranglin and Wright deliver unobtrusive solos that etch like slow acid. The album swims in hazy tones, shot through with mammoth bass rumbles and slow sweet moans from background singers, most often the silky Meditations. The sound that bursts out immediately is Cedric Myton's falsetto. On "Can't Come In" and "Solid Foundation" he seems to breathe the same air as Curtis Mayfield. Roy Johnson puts the vocal dignity and assurance he learned as a member of of all-Rasta bands into his tenor work on tunes like 'Open up the Gate'. The snaps and rumbles that power 'Congoman' make it a party natural, as does the jocular mood of 'At The Feast" Passover plus ganja). Poetically twisted Biblical metaphors add mystery to 'La La Bam-Bam' and especially 'Ark of the Covenant', which fuses that ark and Noah's into a militant salvation granted to 'Even the ants / Safe in a Noah sugar pan.' Still, compassion for humans shines on Heart of the Congos.
The mysterious images of 'Fisherman' flow around and around from Jah Rasta/Jesus as a fisher of men, to a provider of spiritual food, to a symbol of the congregation voyaging to redemption. All that is certain is that those who would save their souls must row to reach higher ground. No one sings the parable better than the Congos." Milo Miles - Spin (US), June '96
Awesome Tapes From Africa return from the far southern extremes with another SA belter; Umoja’s politicised, vocoded, electroid late ‘80s ace, 707. Lovers of synth-dripping, bubblegum-flavoured dance music are going to melt for this one! The sound is immediate, but read the promo notes for important context which belies the buzzing music.
“A monumental career in pop music isn’t easy when the system is built against you. But South African songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist “Om” Alec Khaoli managed to do just that. As apartheid reached its violent peak, Khaoli pursued an escapist form of dance music that resonated across his complicated country, influencing countless legends and releasing recordings across the world.
Khaoli first made his name as bass player in the Beaters and later Harari—both legendary, scene-defining Afro-rock and soul outfits. The Beaters played a very late-60s blend of worldly pop and folk, building a scene for creative and experimental rock made by blacks. Their affect on South African popular music cannot be exaggerated. The Beaters evolved into Harari, which played big shows across Africa in the late 1970s, from Namibia to Lesotho, Malawi and Zimbabwe. They had a deal with A&M Records in the States and their records were available in Europe and elsewhere. But it wasn’t until that group eventually birthed Umoja that Khaoli met with multi-platinum success, growing into his own as a creative production powerhouse in the synth-drenched South African pop music of the 1980s and 90s.
Starting in 1982, Umoja recorded a succession of hugely successful recordings that reached a crescendo with 1988’s 707. Every song on the short album reached #1 on the South African pop charts and the record went double-platinum. The band changed personnel over the years but Khaoli remained producer, bass player and chief songwriter. Whereas Harari was an all-star group, Umoja was an evolving manifestation of Khaoli’s creative ideas with band members working more as sidemen than collaborators.
A white South African woman named Di Burkin was their manager. “It was very helpful having a white manager and she was a very dedicated person. She was very young and really believed in our music. Di made us popular to the white people, to everyone, to all the people who were not black. But it was very difficult for her. She saw herself as one of us and she didn’t look at herself as a white person in South Africa. And we would forget that she was white too and we would be traveling with her in the black townships and when the police would see us they'd say, ‘Where are you going!?’ And she would say to the police, ‘These are my bosses.’ And the police would go crazy! ‘We are escorting you out right now!’ And so on.”
“There was apartheid in the studios as well. We used to record our albums during lunchtime at Gallo recording studios. 30 minutes or one hour was all we got. Our first album I think we did in 30 minutes. We couldn’t even do overdubs. Some of the songs were unfinished but they were released anyway, that’s what they used to do. Recording under pressure was hard. You couldn’t fix bad notes. If you wanted to go back and do overdubs, they would say, ‘Oh, you’re not a good musician, it’s your fault.’ So before a session, we would really sit down and work out how we were gonna do it. Once our albums were selling, Gallo decided to actually respect us, they started to give us more time.”
Just one recording in a career of myriad hits, 707 is a brief but compelling window into Khaoli’s significant contribution to the sound of 80s South Africa.”
If we’re not mistaken, this is the first LP release of a score from Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror series, offering Geoff Barrow (Portishead) and Ben Salisbury’s original music for the Men Against Fire episode from Season 3 following their joint work on the Ivor Novello-winning Ex-Machina score.
String orchestrations from Koenraad Ecker (cello) and The Bristol Ensemble, conducted by Elizabeth Purnell meet Barrow and Salisbury’s widescreen electronics to match the grim themes of the government induced xenophobia and military drug testing; think Jacob’s Ladder meets District Nine.
"Revelation For Personal Use" is an ode to her native town and region, with all the songs being based on lyrics by local cult poet Arvid Hanssen and translated to English by artist and writer Roy-Frode Løvland.
"Anneli has written the album's eight lovely songs, plays piano and keyboards and has produced the album. It largely moves in the same musical landscape as the previous album, with the Arctic Philharmonic present on six tracks and string arranger Sindre Hotvedt, guitarist Eivind Aarset and drummer Rune Arnesen on board again. If anything, a couple of the tracks show a slightly sharper rock edge than its predecessor. Anneli Drecker's magical voice first became known through the music of her band, Bel Canto back in the 80s.
At age 17, Anneli left her Arctic hometown of Tromsø with band members Geir Jenssen (aka Biosphere) and Nils Johansen, for the pulsating indie scene in Bruxelles. Signed to the legendary Belgian label Crammed Discs, Bel Canto captured the Zeitgeist of European electronic music in the late eighties. Their two first albums, "White Out Conditions" and "Birds Of Passage" were released internationally in most territories. They won the Norwegian Grammy award “Spellemannprisen” three times, and are regarded as pioneers on the Norwegian electronic pop music scene.
With her characteristic singing style, often compared to other wonderful singers such as Lisa Gerrard, Kate Bush and Liz Frasier, Anneli has had the possibility to collaborate with many great artists. She participated in projects with Hector Zazou, Jah Wobble, Gavin Friday, DJ Krush, Tim Simenon, Simon Raymonde of Cocteau Twins, and Guy Sigsworth. Anneli has also co-operated with ECM artist Ketil Bjørnstad and recorded three albums based on poems by John Donne and Hart Crane. Few can claim that they have been singing duets with Morten Harket, but Anneli joined A-ha on two world tours as their guest singer. She also toured the world for more than 10 years singing with Röyksopp and co-writing a number of songs with them."
Yes, Young Marco! The cultishly appreciated Dutch DJ and producer traces the links between Lowlands wave oddities, EBM, disco and US house in a prime double pack for Dekmantel’s Selector series.
We just came over all funny after seeing Force Dimension 200FA (Extended Mix) on the tracklist, which turns out to be Marco’s own edit of this stone cold ’89 EBM peach, and to be fair the original would cost about the same as this whole LP, so you’re winning from the start. You can trust he’s done a smart job on the edit, too!
The rest of the compilation is great, too: the percivals keep coming in the form of Green Baize’s slunky ace Spick and Span; Personal FX’s treacly roller Objects In Mirrors; a wavey late ‘80s Belgian beauty Televisiewereld by Gerrit Hoekema; and overlooked Larry Heard diamond, Dolphin Dream, a.o.
The Polish and German sound designers spell out a semi-organic system of densely layered drones and granular electronics intersected with lusher, complex superstructures and piquant, melodic electronic studies
“Kosmos of sound phenomena is devoid of a distinct beginning and end, fluid and polymorphous. Stream of sound is continuous, no matter whether and which volatile events are registered, and which ones are omitted. It is a complex state which transgresses borders defined by source, signal and mechanism of perception. Pastoral/tropical soundscapes and post-brutalist compositions by Max Loderbauer and Jacek Sienkiewicz from their “End” CD seem to evoke those situations where can actually hear objects, shapes and time flow itself, a sort of synaesthesia which erases and obliterates beginnings and ends of events, processes and phenomena. Apocalyptic and contemplative spaces generated by this pair of seasoned sound creators explode genre bastions of ambient and IDM, leading into the spectral areas once explored by such pioneers and Popol Vuh or Ilhan Mimaroglu.
Above all, etheric and extra-sensitive “End” marks the meeting of two incurable individualists, who use various tools of their trade to come up with a surprisingly atemporal effect, an insistent pulse of detail on an ever-morphing background. Without vivid commentary and recognizable soundbites of the present, “End” is simultaneously an interesting projection of hopes and anxieties of the New Age. Core of tracks included on the record has been produced on the occasion of Max and Jacek appearing as a live duo during 2015’s Berlin Atonal festival, which resulted in well received “Alpine-Tatra-Himalaian” EP “Ridges". Remaining compositions are natural conclusion of their friendship, conversations, meetings, trips and recording sessions that operate according to the rule of free improvisation with a reduced instrumental setup.”
FIS’ restless soul meets Maori sound artist Rob Thorne for a viscerally engaging suite of textural wrestles in Clear Stones, which documents the results of their recording sessions made in Berlin using a rich palette of traditional Maori instruments undergoing electronic augmentation. If you like the idea of music that emulates the copulation of Orks or sounds like Rashad Becker’s notional species at an afterparty in uncharted wilds, this record will light up your mind.
Employing the lesser heard likes of the taonga pūoro (traditional Māori instruments translating as singing treasures) - including the pūtātara (conch horn), pūrerehua (bullroarer), tumutumu kōhatu (stone percussion) and pūtōrino (both flute and horn) - the results represent an often surreal augmentation of their usual tonalities, with accentuation of certain elements uncannily defying the recording space and taking on encrypted new meanings when divorced from their conventional modes.
It would appear that FIS’ contributions are often barely perceptible but crucial to the transformation of the instrument’s use, persistently evading perception of the source of the sound that we’re faced with. It’s a dizzying and immersive experience to thread yourself thru, one that neatly dances around and plays into preconceptions that come with FIS’ music whilst rendering it at its most porous, naturalistic and open to elemental influence.
Ghost Box delve deep into the inner side of some parallel world on this debut album proper from ToiToiToi.
Some two years after his introduction to the Ghost Box world with a contribution to the Other Voices series, Berlin-based artist Sebastian Counts returns with a new ToiToiToi full length.
Presumably his 2011 CD-r only debut album passed you by, so ‘Im Hag’ is the first chance for many to explore his unique otherworldly vision consisting of 19 tracks that veer from little more than vignettes to full blown compositions. All of which are daubed in the velveteen poppy oddness you expect from this most singular of UK labels.
Richard Skelton returns with his third full album as The Inward Circles, following 2015's Belated Movements and 2013's Nimrod. It continues his exploration of the materiality of sound and the natural processes of weathering, attrition and decay and starts to pull down a more isolated direction that will appeal not only to Skelton’s considerable audience, but also anyone invested in works from Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works Vol.II to Thomas Köner's icy trilogy of albums: Nunatak, Teimo and Permafrost.
The source material for Skelton's recordings here remains largely the same as his Sustain-Release albums of a decade ago - small stringed instruments, found objects, field recordings - but the compositional process itself couldn't be more different.
Whereas the recordings under his own name, or as A Broken Consort, were largely concerned with preserving the clarity of acoustic sound, his work as The Inward Circles is devoted to burial, obfuscation and mythologisation. There is a desire to obliterate, to destroy, and to discover anew.
Each sonic artefact is subject to repeated distortions of pitch and timbre, and, as a result, is transformed beyond recognition. Any traces of acoustic sound that remain are little more than ghosts, as the whole recording is suffused with electricity, a kind of telluric current, an overwhelming chthonic energy.
The result is considerably more harrowing than anything we’ve heard from Skelton upto this point, particularly on the windswept desolation of The Soul Subsisting which could almost have been lifted off the aforementioned Selected Ambient Works II, or indeed Scaleby, Xi, which ends the album on a desolate tundra shorn of all sentimentality.
Brilliant stuff as ever from Skelton, immersive listening comes hugely recommended.
BL 8/85 Elettronica Meccanica documents the master of cosmic disco, Beppe Loda, at work at The Typhoon club, 1985. Library records, German synth music, electro-pop and records soup at the wrong speed - all fair game for Loda’s anything goes, freestyling selections.
Wound_Burner is an audio project based on field recordings which took place in various locations in New York, U.S.A, Gotland, Sweden, Rio De Janeiro, Brasil and the Greek countryside.
"The project consists of 3 main parts, and moves along high frequency slow motion sentimental delirios to heavy bass ambient soundscapes, periodically colored by the voice of the soprano Irini Kyriakidou.
Some of the sounds were constructed by using exclusively digital and electronic media. 'Wound_Burner' demonstrates a highly emotive power and aims to trigger listener's visceral, cerebral and iconoclastic perception."
Norwegian ambient maestro Geir Jenssen aka Biosphere maintains his fascination with natural landscapes in The Petrified Forest, in a sort of impressionistic illustration of Archie Mayo’s 1936 film of the same name.
After imaginary trips taking us to Trømso, the Wolski forest on Poland, and more esoteric corners of his mind, this time his music inhabits a noirish world on the edge of the desert, populated by nervous and disillusioned characters who crop up in snatches of sampled dialogue across strewn across the album’s isolated, imagined interzones.
Night falls with the opening prickles of starlit synth and smooth blanket of darkness in Drifter, inviting us to scud across the endless panorama of Black Mesa pushed by spare electro downbeats, touching upon the fulgurite synth figures and charred beat stumps of Turned To Stone, whilst The Petrified Forest itself appears a totally serene space akin to one of Wolfgang Voigt’s wistful Gas spaces, and Just One Kiss recalls Pye Corner Audio waltzing into the dawn, before the album resolves with thew weightless 808 sway of This Is The End, which could almost have come from a late ‘90s AFX or Ae album.
With this ambitious project partly recorded in Beirut with local musicians and featuring Mondkopf, Charbel Haber, Sharif Sehnaoui, G.W. Sok, Tamer Abu Ghazaleh, Oiseaux-Tempête have achieved a far more complex work, richer in texture, the intertwining of acoustic elements with electronica, roaming and shaking the foundations of this almost labyrinthian personal opus of an album.
"As ever, the group realising both the immersive and also the total physicality on the record.
Sun-bathing beauty from the Ecuadorian/Floriadian artist aka Boom & Birds, Roberto Carlos Lange
“Exploring the expressivity within intense states of being, Latinx identity, and pluralistic sensibilities, Helado Negro's Private Energy is an engrossing statement achieved through lyrically personal and political avant pop music. Supplemented with three brand new “versions,” this remastered, redesigned, and expanded iteration of Helado Negro’s Private Energy will continue the strong narrative of Helado Negro’s spectral and transmissive 2016 opus.”
Lynch and Badalamenti would go on to become synonymous with one another but at the time these pieces were written their collaboration was still in its early stages.
Even so, Badalamenti pulled together music which absolutely mirrored the images we were seeing on screen from the incredible theme song to the unforgettable 'Audrey's Dance'.
The soundtrack to the much maligned Fire Walk With Me, a film which divided opinion at the time but which has gotten considerably more impressive with age - and another standout, smokey soundtrack from an Angelo Badalamenti at the top of his game.
We didn't know what to do at the time, but looking back now at the film and it's clearly a work of twisted, unpredictable genius - hinting at the sort of heady weirdness Lynch managed to achieve with Lost Highway and Mullholland Drive later on.
The soundtrack, as usual comes from Angelo Badalalmenti, one of our favourite composers, and in true Badalamenti style he revisits the soundtrack that made him a household name and reworks it into menacing submerged jazz. The soundtrack is also notable for showing many of us the incredible 'Sycamore Trees', a track which almost sums up everything David Lynch is about; distant, haunted strings and a vocal (from Jimmy Scott) which sounds absolutely out of time and out of place.
One of Constellation’s most pivotal contributors, Canadian violinist Jessica Moss, takes the solo spotlight to afford a stunning glimpse of her personal sonic weltanschauung in a rare, captivating away day from the GY!BE, Vic Chesnutt, Black Ox Orkestar, A Silver Mt. Zion and Carl Bozulich ensembles that she frequents.
It wasn’t until 2014, when Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra went on hiatus after years of touring, that Jessica began to tend to her solo work properly; resulting a self-released album, Under Plastic Island recorded by Guy Piccolo (Fugazi) and released in 2015. Maybe understandably that one flew under many folks’ radars, but the febrile dreams of Pools Of Light warrants and deserves much wider attention to its glorious swells of dissonant, coruscating strings and plangent, effected and multi-tracked vocals, all blossoming from a finely honed matrix of distorting and harmonising pedals, loopers and samplers - with no software plugins used whatsoever, we’re promised.
In the two longform pieces of Pools Of Light we hear Jessica channel years of live performance service on stage with an almost ineffably masterful control and vision, presenting a sound clearly anchored with the patience of someone used to holding their own in the eye of a storm, and instinctively operating at the intersection of myriad styles - neo-classical, improvisational, avant-folk and electronic - with a sure-footed sense of navigation that’s decidedly non-academic, but surely guided by emotion and the impression of the world around her, as she puts it in the liner notes: “Feeling love in a melting world”.
Dive in. Roll around and soak it up.
Goblin's name is synonymous with the cinema of Dario Argento, the imperious director of stylised Italian horror.
"For him they composed such celebrated scores as Profondo Rosso - that starred David Hemmings and which provided the group with a domestic number one hit - and the hallucinatory Suspiria, where Goblin's blend of primal rhythms, haunting celeste arpeggios and unearthly voices add immeasurably to the film's delirious sensory overload.
The full original soundtracks for both Profondo Rosso and Suspiria, along with a multitude of bonus tracks are featured in this six CD box set. The package also includes Goblin's scores for Argento's Tenebre and George Romero's also legendary, Zombi (Dawn of the Dead), along with the band's 1976 album Roller, their uncompromising psychedelic concept work,Il Fantastico Viaggio del Bagarozzo Mark and the rare non-album singles Chi? And Yell."
Despite the unfortunately cheesy artwork, Out of The Dark Room collects some 24 of Max Richter’s “most beautiful compositions for film” c. 2008-2015, issued in the wake of his string of major solo and score releases. So great is Richter’s wingspan now that you’ve maybe heard some of them without realising they’re from the Richter scale - a definite measure by which to hold up modern classical film soundtracks.
Equally adept at majestic string orchestration as he is with bellicose electronic tension and romantic themes - as proved in the first three tracks inside, and as you would hope from a blockbuster OST composer - Richter is patently fluent in the language of film music, evidenced in his work with everyone from Tilda Swinton and Robert Wyatt to his work on films such as Waltz With Bashir, Sarah’s Key, Wadjda, Disconnect, The Congress, and Testament of Youth - all included inside.
The composer himself comments on his role: “I think music is a kind of amniotic fluid and the film lives in it. Sometimes music can be at the forefront, playing a supportive role without even realising it, but if you take it away you would miss out on the basics.” And there you have it, a smart portrait of the man’s mature and widely scoped latter-day oeuvre, 2008-2015.
With ‘Best Troubador’, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy pays homage to a longtime and forever hero, the late Merle Haggard.
"A singer who, some 25 years previously, first performed in public by playing a Merle Haggard song, Bonny has often cited Merle’s work in performance, on records and in conversation with anyone who was around, even talking to Merle himself for Filter magazine in 2009.
‘Best Troubador’ flips through his song book, landing on pages unmoored from their time and located anew. Moving from 1978 to 1969 to 2003 to 1981 allows the album to circle Haggard’s music in a simulation of thought and memory, slipping around from spot to spot as if they were discrete impressions, unknown but knowable yet."
Horse Follows Darkness is the second record by Delia Gonzalez, her follow up to the album “In Remembrance”. The title is taken from a werewolf genre film her 8 year old son Wolfgang had created. At this time, Wolfgang also turned Delia onto a genre of cinema she had always resisted - the American Western.
"Delia explains that what she observed “was all relevant - the album is based on our personal experience of moving back to America (from Berlin) and the journey that followed. The record is a manifestation of that, and what one creates for themselves under the given circumstances. Coming back to America, I felt like a foreigner and NYC / America felt like the Wild West. Most Westerns from the 1960s to the present have revisionist themes. Many were made by emerging major filmmakers who saw the Western as an opportunity to expand their criticism of American society and values into
a new genre.”
The narrative of the record is one of re-encountering the frontier mentality that shaped the country but somehow never faded. This time as a foreigner. The genre of the Western remains pertinent, many of the same stories of that brutally deromanticised era are still relevant today. America hasn’t changed - the cast, times and settings have, but we still hold onto the same ideal. Horse Follows Darkness is essentially a modern electronic soundtrack for the Revisionist Western. Even the idea for the record cover is inspired by one of the most well known modern Westerns, Robert Altman’s McCabe & Mrs Miller.
The album was recorded with Abe Seiferth at Transmitter Park studios, which Delia likens to “going to the finest tailor”. Abe became an integral part of the recording, playing guitar and helping to suggest experimenting with different synthesizers, something Delia was keen to do. Delia refers to Abe as a magical and incredibly intuitive collaborator” regarding the sound of the record. The music that emerged from these recording sessions combines a range of influences - from the compositions of Erik Satie to ‘Salon De Musique’, the solo piano record by Su Tissue (of the L.A. punk band Suburban Lawns). The record also took on a much different shape and sound with the introduction of the Sequential Circuits Prophet VS, as well as a vintage Korg Poly synth and the Roland SH-101. The golden era Krautrock recordings of bands like Neu!, Cluster & Harmonia were touchstones as well, the repetition, swirling soundscapes and locked-in rhythm tracks.”
This CD brings together the two main strands of FSOL’s current output, namely the “From the Archives" series and the "Environments” albums.
"The "From the Archives” series is no exercise in barrel scraping, FSOL are well known for their prodigious output regularly going through periods of creating several tracks a day. Many of these tracks would be 'lost’ only for not fitting current projects, created only for special live events and broadcasts or would change so drastically during the recording process that the original version would bear little resemblance to the released track.
From the Archives seeks to give light to these tracks that are as good as anything released on their ‘official’ albums. As the title suggests, each Environments album is a journey through a specific mood, place or environment. Views brings together much of the piano work FSOL have done over the years"
The entry into the Bohren universe...
"Since their founding 25 years ago, few bands have managed to create such a mythical musical cosmos as Bohren Und Der Club Of Gore. With their dark instrumental tracks they have earned a huge fanbase over the past few years, and this set brings together all the highlights of the Bohren catalogue including new songs and versions..."
Originally released in 1992 by Che Records, Disco Inferno’s debut album ‘In Debt' is now available as double limited edition vinyl LP package including one previously unreleased track and with new artwork and sleeve notes by 90’s music zeitgeist legend Neil Kulkarni.
"Almost entirely out on their own, out of step with the times, Disco Inferno were widely ignored and underappreciated during their (pre-internet) existence. Remaining largely unknown beyond a small but slowly expanding cult of devotees, they were probably the most ambitious and isolated band of the '90s. Over a six-year span (1989-95) they were also quite simply, jaw-droppingly great - a virtually peerless group mining a steady stream of uncompromising, pioneering recordings. One of the first wave of 'post-rock' acts (and perhaps it’s ultimate example), they combined avant-garde aesthetics with a basis in solid pop hooks, credibly depicting suburban alienation and national decay through embittered, intelligent lyrics.
Whilst it's now almost second nature for a band to incorporate digital technology into their armoury, you'd struggle to find anyone who went anything like as far as Disco Inferno. In 1992, they took the quantum leap from their modest beginnings to totally rewire themselves and become the most radical, forward-thinking guitar band on the planet, with a revolutionary sample-based approach that was simply years ahead of the curve. Whilst numerous acts were making use of the sampler and MIDI technology, no other band integrated it so thoroughly into the process. DI didn't simply tack on a dance beat or spice things up with the addition of a few novel sonics or quirky quotations. The technology was hard-wired into the very heart of their music. Veering between the deeply challenging and the downright catchy, they continually attempted to push themselves forwards, resulting in two unrivalled albums and a dazzling collection of EPs that consistently redefined the boundaries.
Regardless of the injustices of history, Disco Inferno were without doubt a trailblazing, unique, utterly important band. With huge ambition and integrity, they rejected the easy routes and rewards. Setting themselves directly against the stylistic regression and rabble-rousing bluster dominating Britpop and grunge, against the bland facelessness of so much of the dance / electronic scene, Disco Inferno ought to have been widely championed as an antidote, a vital blast of nonconformist bravery and brilliance. In reality they received very little coverage. Buried away for way too long, their recorded legacy continues to offer revelations to the open-eared and actively inquisitive. Whilst it may have been their curse to have been overlooked throughout and long past their short existence, the chances of some overdue recognition rescuing them from the limbo of obscurity have nonetheless recently risen. Certainly more popular now than they were during their creative peak, you might detect either direct influence or certain similarities in the likes of MGMT, The Third Eye Foundation, Hood, Epic45, Piano Magic, Deerhunter (particularly offshoot projects, Lotus Plaza and Atlas Sound), Matmos, Animal Collective, Black Dice, The Avalanches, The Books, Battles, and No Age. But no-one has really come close to replicating their awesome output and utterly singular aesthetic. Whilst digital music technology has evolved dramatically, becoming smaller, faster, cheaper, and consequently far more widespread, Disco Inferno's inspired approach and consequent sound seems unlikely to ever be reproduced without seriously compromising its futurist spirit. Littered as pop history is with unsung heroes and buried brilliance, few bands are so deserving of such recovery as Disco Inferno."
Faust's new album Fresh Air differs in several respects from its predecessor, Just Us. The recordings were made at Jean-Hervé Péron's rehearsal studio in Schiphorst in northern Germany, hypnotic pieces with the kind of noisemaking the band is known for.
"For the new album, Péron and Werner "Zappi" Diermaier were looking for communication with musician friends and the audience. The tracks were recorded in changing ensembles at changing locations in the USA (during a tour in 2016). In these community recordings, with friendly support from Péron's database of field recordings, a strongly shaded noise music emerged which extends its feelers to the remotest corners of the here and now. Droning, swinging, lusting for freedom, here and there holding out quite stoically as machine-room blues.
On board are the freely fabulous Barbara Manning in a live lecture, Jürgen Engler (Die Krupps) in overdub, and Ysanne Spevack as a wonderful wave-maker on the viola. The seven and a half minute title track begins with the poem by a French school friend of Péron (translated and recited in Polish) and ends in an industrial sound inferno. The singer cries for "Fresh Air" as if it is being taken away from him. Jean-Hervé Péron offers a political reading: "Can you breathe calmly here, or are we being poisoned?" "Engajouez Vous!" Péron presents this franco-Faustian artificial word to the audience and rewrites the Marseillaise for the here and now in the track "Chlorophyl". And finally, Zappi has his mini-dada performance with "Schnobs" and "Bia": a small dialect-based text piece, which starts with chlorophyl, goes over the meadow past the cow and lands with the farmer who drinks a beer and schnapps and suddenly sees two cows.
The story of the band can tell that tale nicely. As Krautrockers, Faust had a worldwide career. On their first three albums in the early 1970s, they inhabited the vast field from improvisation to bricolage to rock'n'roll with the ease of rogues and the determination of declared sonic renegades. One can still feel the breathing of this music in current Faust pieces, in the stone-age thudding of "Fish", which Faust anticipated in 1972 on "Mamie Is Blue". "We let the music play through us," says Jean-Hervé Péron. Jean-Hervé Péron has a little tip for us: Listen to the fish.”
The third album from Philadelphia's Nightlands (War On Drugs’ Bassist Dave Hartley), is an exercise in synthetic nostalgia.
"Each of the nine songs use meticulous choral arrangements and bittersweet pop melodies to evoke a unique type of longing, not for the past, but for a future that once lay ahead but has drifted out of reach. For Dave Hartley, the artistic force behind Nightlands, the answer is found on an inward retreat, away from the cold static of modern life and into the warmth of love and protection.
I Can Feel the Night Around Me showcases Hartley's ¬nely tuned ability to layer his voice and conjure some of the most beautiful and elaborate virtual choirs in modern music. If his ¬first two records were vocal layering experiments, his third stands as Hartley's thesis statement: "I was determined to use vocal stacking to enable my songwriting, not shroud or obscure it." He recorded most of the album alone in a cold warehouse basement, which he affectionately calls The Space -- it's where The War on Drugs formerly rehearsed and stored their equipment. "The dissonance between the sound of the album and the atmosphere in which it was recorded is pretty striking," Hartley says.
Indeed the music seems more geographically inspired by the microclimates of the Lost Coast and the moonrises of Big Sur than the post-industrial cityscape of North Philadelphia. Perhaps his periodic westward sojourns and healthy obsessions with mid-career Beach Boys albums and Denis Johnson's Already Dead: A California Gothic were influencing him more than he was aware. Despite the warm astral vibes of opener “Lost Moon," the song was born in that unheated warehouse basement during a record-setting blizzard. "I wanted to write a song like Jimmy Webb's ‘Wichita Lineman’," he recalls. "But it didn't come out like that at all.
I ended up in a lonely and unexpected place, which was a really nice surprise." The massive "Only You Know”, a cover from Dion's Phil Spectorproduced masterpiece Born to Be With You, blends perfectly with the rest of the album's shades of psyched-out doo wop revivalism If there is an outlier on I Can Feel the Night Around Me, it's the exotica-tinged “Fear of Flying,” which Hartley composed with minimalist synth virtuoso Frank LoCrasto before the two had ever even met. Soft tangles of voice wash up on the shore of the song's warbling synth backbone, pushing the album briefly into the sunlight without sacri¬cing its melancholy, late-night vibe. It's the sound of the earth turning, night falling. Soon it will be dark, but there's still light seeping over the horizon. And that's a beautiful thing."
San, Ripley and Jeffrey commit the Yang to Vol.1’s Yin with a fuzzy, psychedelic journey from darkness to light.
“Meaning all things magick and supernatural, the root of the word occult is that which is hidden, concealed, beyond the limits of our minds. If this is occult, then the Occult Architecture of Moon Duo’s fourth album - a psychedelic opus in two separate volumes released in 2017 - is an intricately woven hymn to the invisible structures found in the cycle of seasons and the journey of day into night, dark into light.
Offering a cosmic glimpse into the hidden patterning embedded in everything, Occult Architecture reflects the harmonious duality of these light and dark energies through the Chinese theory of Yin and Yang. Following the Yin (feminine, darkness, night, earth) represented on Occult Architecture Vol. 1, Vol. 2 presents the Yang.
Yang means “the bright side of the hill” and is associated with the male, sun, light and the spirit of heaven, and as such Vol. 2 explores the light and airy elements of Moon Duo’s complex psyche.
“In production we referred to Vol. 1 as the fuzz dungeon, and Vol. 2 as the crystal palace,” guitarist Ripley Johnson explains. “The darkness of Vol. 1 gave birth to the light of Vol. 2. We had to have both elements in order to complete the cycle. We’re releasing them separately to allow them their own space, and to ensure clarity of vision. To that end we also mixed Vol. 2 separately, in the height of Portland summer, focusing on its sonic qualities of lightness, air, and sun. Listeners can ultimately use the two volumes individually or together, depending on circumstance or the desired effect.”
Vol. 2 was mixed in Portland by the band’s longtime collaborator Jonas Verwijnen.”
In December 2016, after more than a year of touring the world behind her 2015 album ‘Over And Even’, Joan Shelley and Nathan Salsburg headed a few hours north to Chicago, where they joined Jeff Tweedy in Wilco’s Loft studio for five days.
"Spencer Tweedy, home from college, joined on drums, while James Elkington (a collaborator to both Tweedy and Salsburg) shifted between piano and resonator guitar. Jeff added electric accents and some bass but mostly he helped the band stay out of its own way. “He was protecting the songs. He was stopping us before we went too far,” says Shelley .
The Loft proved essential for that approach, as it was wired to capture every musical moment, so no take was lost. If, for instance, some magic happened while Spencer added drums to a tune he’d never heard, or while Elkington tinkered behind a piano, the tape was rolling. Indeed, half of these songs are first takes.
“The first time is always the best. That’s when everyone’s on the edge of their seats, listening to not mess it up,” Shelley says. “They’re depending on each other to get through it.
It’s fitting that the resulting set is self-titled. These are, after all, Shelley’s most assured and complete thoughts to date, with lyrics as subtle and sensitive as her peerless voice and a band that offers support through restraint and nuance. In eleven songs, this is the sound of Joan Shelley emerging as one of music’s most expressive emotional syndicates."
Nite Jewel ups her workrate with sublime results found in Real High, arriving only a year on from her Nite-Funk hook-up with Dâm-Funk and the lush Liquid Cool album, itself landing after a five year hiatus. The West Coast songwriter has definitely found her groove now, making for a perfect smoking partner or accompaniment to dusky evenings.
Teaming up with tentacled producer Cole M.G.N. (Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, Julia Holter, Devonte Hynes) again, the artist aka Ramona Gonzales stirs up a subtly infectious suite of syrupy ’90s R&B and synth-pop gems across Real High, each one drenched in Cali sun and the classic vibes that percolate between all of her records since Good Evening and the outstanding What Did He Say 12” for Italians Do It Better back in 2008 (2008?!?!!).
So, ten years later she’s lost none of that louche but trim lushness, evident in the hazy slow disco gleam of I Don’t Know at the album’s core, and radiating out from the blissful downstrokes of Real High or the perfectly tucked Janet Jackson stylings of Who U R, with special mentions also going to the lip-biting sensuality of Part Of Me’s molasses shuffle and the underwater soul of R We Talking Long.
Uh huh; she’s still got it. Recommended.
Perfume Genius, nom de poster-wraith of musician Mike Hadreas, releases his fourth album, ‘No Shape’, on Matador Records. The album was recorded in Los Angeles, produced by Blake Mills and mixed by Shawn Everett.
"Perfume Genius’s 2014 breakout album ‘Too Bright’, featuring seismic anthem ‘Queen’, marked a musical and performative leap that sounds unlike anything before or since. With his new songs, Hadreas goes even further, merging church music, makeout music, R&B, art pop, Krautrock and queer soul into his take on stadium anthems, completing the journey from critically acclaimed underground hero to fully fledged pop auteur.
Lead song ‘Slip Away’ encapsulates this bold, expansive and sophisticated sound, marrying powerful and intimate songcraft with a newfound visceral and immersive sonic gusto.
Of the album, Hadreas says: “I pay my rent. I’m approaching health. The things that are bothering me personally now are less clear, more confusing. I don’t think I really figured them out with these songs. There’s something freeing about how I don’t have it figured out. Unpacking little morsels, magnifying my discomfort, wading through buried harm, laughing at or digging in to the embarrassing drama of it all. I may never come out the other side but it’s invigorating to try and hopefully, ultimately helpful. I think a lot of them are about trying to be happy in the face of whatever bullshit I created for myself or how horrible everything and everyone is.”
In a bio for the album, writer Choire Sicha says, “God is all around actually and some of these songs are about being equal and some are about the witchcraft of believing. This is church music the same way Prince’s ‘Black Album’ is - too dirty. It’s femme art pop the way Kate Bush’s ‘The Dreaming’ is - too scary.”
"A penguin stands in the middle of a scorching desert, far away from its natural habitat. This mirrors composer Arthur Jeffes’ journey and exploration into a new musical territory. Penguin Cafe have evolved into something of their own at the hands of Arthur who started the band in 2009 with the continuation and homage to his father’s legacy, to the late Simon Jeffes’ Penguin Cafe Orchestra. Now, their upcoming album echoes reminiscent sounds that embrace the new.
The album title refers to a saying by his father that “we wade in a sea of imperfections…”, reflecting upon the idea that beauty can be found amongst the chaos. “If there is a narrative to the album it’s coming to the acceptance of the imperfections in all aspects of life; moreover, the recognition that these imperfections and tiny randomnesses are in fact what make up the best parts”, Arthur explains. This has also been highlighted by the striking cover artwork designed by FELD under the art direction of label founder Robert Raths, resembling a lone figure adapting to and accepting its surrounding environment.
Predominantly self-composed, the new album also features covers of electronic works by Simian Mobile Disco and Kraftwerk, along with a re-working of Simon's 'Now Nothing'. Arthur has developed from the traditional folk and jazz heritage Penguin Cafe Orchestra is known for into another realm of blissful ambience and dance music, recreated using strictly acoustic elements.
“For this album I wanted to effect a departure from where we’d been up to now. The idea was to create a musical world that would feel familiar to an audience more used to dance records but stay true to our own values. So we replaced electronic layers with real instruments: pads with real string sections, synths with heavily-effected pianos, and atmospheric analogue drones with real feedback loops ringing through a stone and a piano soundboard.”
Endearingly head-spinning debut release of textured, pulsating plunderphonics from Jean Cousin aka Joni Void (and fka Johnny_Ripper); spanning elegant waltzes redolent of The Caretaker thru to slamming metal maelstroms and hiccuping, micro-edited avant-techno. While that may read like a mess, there’s a teasingly elusive logic underlying it all which lies in Void’s sleight-of-hand and hypnotic timing.
Under his newly minted Joni Void pseudonym, the Montréal-transplanted artist blends his Film Studies schooling with a sympathetic appreciation of DIY/lo-fi techniques to arrive at a very canny sense of freedom within his music. Now focussing ever deeper on the synaesthetic visual/sound and narrative qualities of editing, he’s arrived at a sort of concrete-pop that lives up to the enigma of his influences - Delia Derbyshire, Philip Glass, Burial - whilst smartly intersecting ground previously cut-up by the likes of Jan Jelinek or Matmos.
However, the biggest key to the record ids in its title, Selfless, which characterises his attempt to undermine egoist composer ideas of originality, or a sense of solipsism, and replace it with the voices of his friends - whether embedding the poetry of Natalie Reid into the fractured waltz of Observer (Natalie’s Song), or incorporating Ogun Afariogun’s rap, processed Moor Mother-style, into the fractious knock of Yung Wether (Ogun’s Song) - whilst the instrumental likes of the warbling Song Siènne fillets Erik Satie into something uncannily refreshing, and Doppler renders something new from familar sound sampled off free mp3s, and the intensely frayed loops of Cinema Without People quite literally nods to the important influence of Vicki Bennett’s People Like Us, twisting samples of her plunderphonic soundtrack to the film The Big Sleep into a miasmic fantasy that feels like the lister is keening through the silver screen.
It’s quite simply a wildly imaginative ride, one of the most intriguing things we’ve heard on Constellation since Sandro Perri and co’s Off World album, at least.
Stunning retrospective of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda’s devotional works collated from the private tape archive of the Avatar Book Institute. Seriously, this one's a proper head melter...
Luaka Bop commence a new series of releases themed around the global spiritual diaspora with this superb collection of rare devotional works from Alice Coltrane. Sure, everyone knows how great ‘Universal Consciousness’ (especially after that Superior Viaduct reissue from a few years back) but ‘The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda’ hones in on a period of her life that is less widely-known.
Undoubtedly moved by the passing of her husband John Coltrane in 1967, Alice embarked on a spiritual reawakening that took her out of the public eye and culminated with the establishment of a 48-acre Sai Anantam Ashram in Malibu, California in 1983. This secluded ashram gave Coltrane the freedom to explore her spirituality through music unfettered, performing countless solo bhajans, and group kirtans and experimenting with them and synthesizers using the complex structures learnt from jazz.
These would soon form a series of cassette recordings that were privately distributed throughout the ashram community on Coltrane’s own Avatar Book Institute label. After some rather iffy, illicit vinyl editions of those tapes recorded off YouTube made the rounds, it’s good to hear this music in newly-remastered form from the original masters (by engineering legend Baker Bigsby, no less) on this Luaka Bop collection.
And how vibrant it sounds! There is clearly a vast intersection of styles at play throughout, interspersing the spiritual incantations of the Vedic devotional chants with some unique song structures and uplifting synthetic experiments. You can easily foresee the likes of Flo Po, Antal and Four Tet playing Oh Rama and Rama Guru, two of the more rhythmically-bound kirtans that act as spiritual jazz precursors to Detroit techno with illuminating synths that would make Carl Craig blush with envy. At other times, it is Coltrane’s voice which acts as the guiding force, orchestrating a wonderful harmonious call on Om Shanti.
Hopefully this is the prelude to a wider LB campaign of Alice Coltrane reissues from the Avatar Book Institute era.
Félicia Atkinson is a multidisciplinary artist with many strings to her bow. Hand In Hand elevates her work to a completely higher plain as far as we are concerned though; fusing field recordings, modular and MIDI electronics with an almost hypnotising line in whispered/ASMR vocal narration to subliminally affective degrees, lulling us into an alien - yet incredibly human - soundsphere. It’s rare to hear a singular artistic vision translated into a sound that is so inherently personal and inviting - but somehow Hand In Hand is both one of the most accessible, and most experimental albums we encountered in 2017. It’s riddled with so much nuance that many months on we’re still discovering hidden new crevices with every listen. If you’ve yet to hear it - what are you waiting for?
Preeminent avant-garde composer Felicia Atkinson weaves myriad, filigree electro-acoustic and non-musical metanarratives in her totally absorbing follow-up to A Readymade Ceremony  - a remarkable album which attracted high acclaim worldwide and pushed her to the core of the modern experimental sphere.
Hand In Hand consolidates Atkinson's refined palette of modular and MIDI electronics with ASMR voices, field recordings and instrumental improvisation to subliminally affective degrees, whilst conveying the ambitious complexities of her sound art with a harmoniously organic, spaciously poised appeal.
Where her last album A Readymade Ceremony emerged fully formed from a protracted period of experimentation and research whilst based in The Alps c. 2013-2015, Hand In Hand finds Félicia building a metaphysical playground on its foundations, meshing recordings and lyrics - found and composed between her home in Brittany and Stockholm’s EMS facilities - into a finely sculpted and dreamlike web of subtle sensations and hyperstisised fiction.
In the process she brings closer together a wide-range of her artistic practices, incorporating elements of sculpture and painting along with sound installation, multichannel diffusion and live performance into her ever-expanding sonic vocabulary and grammar. Whether consumed on headphones or loudspeakers, it’s clear to hear this sharply honed sound sensitivity come into play as her carefully hushed vocals are bathed in placid yet suspenseful tones and almost imperceptibly underlined by an attention to timbral detail and those infrasonic frequencies normally ignored or blithely unattended by other composers within the field.
This all becomes apparent within the first side’s transition from warbling ambient-pop/neo-classical in I’m Following You to a stark contrast of hushed ASMR vocals and Rashad Becker-ish crack-bug electronics in Valis laid over Oren Ambarchi-esque bass tones, and then again into the hyaline gamelan dimensions of Curious In Epidavros, each laced with layers of spectral detail that only reveal themselves after multiple listens, and quite differently in each mode (headphones or speakers).
The dichotomies or paradoxes between the seen/heard/felt and unseen/unheard/elusive continue to beautifully, mystically inform and frame the rest of the album; begging us to chase her vocals around the stereo field of and mazy shimmers of Adaptation Assez Facile into the upside down oddness of Monstera Deliciosa’s rising basses and the curiously erotic lyrics about plants in Visage, before calving off into squashed rhythms with the hymn, A House A Dance A Poem, emerging into the sublime, weightless ambience of Hier Le Désert, and the surreal avian jazz Buchla strokes that resolve No Fear But Anticipation.
In the best way this is a record that is immediate and enduring; transparent yet oblique, riddled with nuance and underlying layers that keener listeners will discover in their own time.
22 years since Pygmalion and the band’s dissolution, Slowdive swoon back into earshot with Slowdive. With hearts bleeding all over their sleeves, Slowdive captures the sound of the band at their sunny best, with a renewed optimism and timeless dreaminess to fall right into.
““It felt like we were in a movie that had a totally implausible ending...”
Slowdive’s second act as a live blockbuster has already been rapturously received around the world. Highlights thus far include a festival-conquering, sea-of-devotees Primavera Sound performance, of which Pitchfork noted: “The beauty of their crystalline sound is almost hard to believe, every note in its perfect place.” “It was just nice to realise that there was a decent amount of interest in it,” says principal songwriter Neil Halstead. The UK shoegaze pioneers have now channelled such seemingly impossible belief into a fourth studio opus which belies his characteristic modesty. Self-titled with quiet confidence, Slowdive’s stargazing alchemy is set to further entrance the faithful while beguiling a legion of fresh ears.
Deftly swerving what co-vocalist/guitarist Rachel Goswell terms “a trip down memory lane”, these eight new tracks are simultaneously expansive and the sonic pathfinders’ most direct material to date. Birthed at the band’s talismanic Oxfordshire haunt The Courtyard – “It felt like home,” enthuses guitarist Christian Savill – their diamantine melodies were mixed to a suitably hypnotic sheen at Los Angeles’ famed Sunset Sound facility by Chris Coady (perhaps best known for his work with Beach House, one of countless contemporary acts to have followed in Slowdive’s wake). “It’s poppier than I thought it was going to be,” notes Halstead, who was the primary architect of 1995‘s previous full-length transmission Pygmalion. This time out the group dynamic was all-important. “When you’re in a band and you do three records, there’s a continuous flow and a development. For us, that flow re-started with us playing live again and that has continued into the record.”
Drummer and loop conductor Simon Scott enhanced the likes of ‘Slomo’ and ‘Falling Ashes’ with abstract textures conjured via his laptop’s signal processing software. A fecund period of experimentation with “40-minute iPhone jams” allowed the unit to then amplify the core of their chemistry. “Neil is such a gifted songwriter, so the songs won. He has these sparks of melodies, like ‘Sugar For The Pill’ and ‘Star Roving’, which are really special. But the new record still has a toe in that Pygmalion sound. In the future, things could get very interesting indeed.” This open-channel approach to creativity is reflected by Slowdive’s impressively wide field of influence, from indie-rock avatars to ambient voyagers – see the tribute album of cover versions released by Berlin electronic label Morr Music. As befits such evocative visionaries, you can also hear Slowdive through the silver screen: New Queer Cinema trailblazer Gregg Araki has featured them on the soundtracks to no less than four of his films.
“When I moved to America in 2008 I was working in an organic grocery store,” recalls Christian. “Kids started coming in and asking if it was true I had played in Slowdive. That’s when I started thinking, ‘OK, this is weird!’” Neil Halstead: “We were always ambitious. Not in terms of trying to sell records, but in terms of making interesting records. Maybe, if you try and make interesting records, they’re still interesting in a few years time. I don’t know where we’d have gone if we had carried straight on. Now we’ve picked up a different momentum. It’s intriguing to see where it goes next.” The world has finally caught up with Slowdive. This movie could run and run…”
Forest Swords’ decayed yet magisterial palette broadens with the scope of his canvas on a widely anticipated new album, Compassion; marking his shift in line from bedroom producer of note to recent collaborator with Massive Attack and composer for the Assassins Creed video game.
His first new solo material proper since the Engravings [2013, Tri Angle] album locates the Merseyside-hailing artist scaling up his compositions to a more layered, pinched and grandiose sound but still kept just out of reach, somewhere in the middle distance, like the outline of a sunlit mountain range in the distance occluded by a spring storm.
The R&B ruggedness that was key to his cherished earlier work belies Compassion, too. Echoing a beat-driven aesthetic that resonates with the rich history of his home region, a place cleft between sprawling, sea-sprayed wilds, concrete brutalism and mock classical architecture that makes for strong allegorical comparisons with his music.
Likewise we’re tempted to read a struggle between roots-preserving conservatism and tentative progress in Compassion, finding a balance of pop appeal and rustic authenticity that characterises the albums highlights such as the contrasting couplet of Exalter, with its choked-back choral swells and folk/R&B sensuality, and the sombre sepulchre of Border Margin Barrier, wreathed in gorse distortion, or especially in the dirtied brass gleam and haunted, stately poise of Vandalism and the blue supine elegy of Sjurvival.
For sure he’s going to lose no fans with this one, and will likely gain a swathe more.
RIYL Richard Skelton, Massive Attack, Arca, Phillip Jeck...
Like his peer Jeff Mills’ recent Planets suite, Carl Craig continues to pursue a consolidation of electronic and classical composition with Versus, which was initially a live performance and now becomes a studio project adapting his techno for an orchestra.
We can’t really see the classical crowd getting excited for this, so it’s effectively just techno for people who can’t be arsed getting their handcrafted leather trainers mucky in the club.
Volume 2 of Mac Quayle’s synth-based score for ‘Mr. Robot’.
"Quayle is well respected for his soundtrack work alongside Cliff Martinez on ‘Drive’, ‘Spring Breakers’ and ‘Only God Forgives’ and has written music for over 40 films and TV shows. Quayle’s score brings to mind works by composers such as Cliff Martinez, Cabaret Voltaire and Vangelis but it is ultimately its own dark, unnerving beast; at times strange, dreamy and atmospheric, whilst being almost unbearably claustrophobic at others."
Mica Levi is without question one of the most interesting producers working today, with numerous strings to her bow she has repeatedly wowed us with everything from skewed rhythmic edits to her chopped & screwed take on classical arrangements, hooky 3-minute pop tracks to squashed Urban mixtapes - always seemingly side-stepping expectations with a singular approach to everything she's put her hand to.
Following her standout, brilliantly unnerving score for Jonathan Glazer’s Under The Skin a couple of years back, Levi now returns with her second high-profile soundtrack, this time for Pablo Larraín’s Jackie.
There are some pretty amazing interviews with Levi around at the moment (both written, and a couple of totally hilarious Video ones where she makes no concession to what’s expected of her - go find them!), and the tiny insight she gives to the recording process does very little to explain quite how she manages to make a sound so utterly identifiable as her own, regardless of the scale of the production. You’ll find out that she likes to look out of the window when she’s writing, for inspiration, and that despite a classical grounding (at Guildhall) she likes to layer strings in such a way that they attain a kind of school-band quality to them, ever so subtly messing with harmonics in a way that defies tradition.
And that’s the thing with this incredible soundtrack - it sounds rich and beautiful and hugely accomplished, but also ever so slightly off. The use of silence, dissonance, recurring motifs that accelerate and unravel as the soundtrack goes on... is quite something to behold. It’s a hugely confident, self-assured and above all gripping score that is never emotionally heavy-handed, nor does it ever sound like it's trying too hard.
Rather than adapting herself to convention, Levi has re-moulded the genre itself to fit around her acutely non-conformist approach to composition and production and, in the process, has in some way re-set our expectations of what a film score can achieve. She’s done that twice now, on her first two goes at it, which is really quite staggering.
We’ve said this so many times now it almost goes without saying, but there really aren’t many people in contemporary music leaving quite as indelible a mark across so many different genres and sub genres as Mica Levi, in a way that, in our opinion, hasn't really been seen since Arthur Russell or Prince.
Stunning record from Colin Stetson, continuing to redefine the saxophone’s role in contemporary music with an innovatively percussive and soaring follow-up to the trio of New History Warfare volumes released by his neighbours at Montréal’s Constellation. This time Stetson takes charge of everything - from engineering to mixing, production and release - to present a gripping document of timeless instrumental virtuosity and visionary solo persistence that somehow sounds like Autechre whipping up an ancient Sufi dervish.
Anchored in spirit and narrative somewhere between NHW:Vol.3  and Never Were The Way She Was , and making pointed use of his instrument’s myriad percussive possibilities, All This I Do For Glory was typically recorded without overdubs of loops to effectively bring the listener unflinching close to Stetson’s practice, like you’re the lone front row spectator facing the artist and his massive bass sax in a huge but deserted auditorium.
Shut your eyes, however, and the man incredibly appears to diffract and multiply into trio or quartet; somehow blowing, singing and knuckling out loping, irregular rhythms thru his instrument all at the same time. To break it down as simply a result of circular breathing, microphone placement and extended technique would be doing the results an immense disservice, though, as Stetson is patently transcending method and style to achieve something far more ambitious and disbelief-suspending in each of the record’s six parts.
Like some archaeoacoustic rendering of Autechre playing unplugged in Plato’s Cave, the results thoroughly play with perceptions of electronic and acoustic music: firstly like a cranky blues geist divined by Áine O’Dwyer in the loping, stomping chamber blues-folk buzz of All This I Do For Glory; and then with supernal, lupine elegance described in the wordless vocals and furtive, zigzagging search-and-destroy tactics of Like Wolves On The Fold; or with a perception-baiting buzz and syncopated convulsion that runs ragged along the line between programmed electronic music, improvisation and modern classical in the supernatural, paraphysical emulation of Between Water and Wind and the naturalistic techno-vortices of Spindrift and In The Clinches; before scrambling previously unscaled heights of polyrhythmic scree and windswept harmonic updrafts with agility comparable to a flock of mountain goats traversing an escarpment in the complexity and fixated, hunched intensity The Lure Of The Mine.
It’s truly rare that we hear artists blur the line between perceptions of acoustic reality and the modelled projections of electronic music with such delirious, remarkable results as these.