After some lovely turns for 12th Isle, NNF and Constellation Tatsu, X.Y.R. commits a fragrant and humid tract of new age synths, kosmiche pulses and rustling field recordings to the charming Quiet Time Tapes series.
"X.Y.R. is Cherepovets musician Vladimir Karpov, who now resides in St. Petersburg. Standing for Xram Yedinennogo Razmuwlenuja, the name is a reference to Nikolai Gogol's 1842 "Dead Souls," in which one of the characters is pretentious enough to build his own "Temple of Solitary Contemplation."
Inspired by a mix of ambient, classical and film score music heard throughout his life, and especially the music he heard in Soviet children’s sci-fi videos - X.Y.R. uses Soviet synths and drum machines coupled with field recordings to produce rhythmicyet contemplative music with a mystic and natural feel. The accompanying Zine contains original photos taken by the artist."
L.A.’s enigmatic Baby takes a 2nd bow on Quiet Time Tapes with a not so quiet QTT9 session spanning one part Björk-like avant-pop expression, a tract of subaquatic electronic collage, and a febrile traverse thru fractious, iridescent indie-dance-pop deconstruction.
"Adrienne, Marty, and Phoenix of Baby met at Rhode Island School of Design while studying Film/Animation/Video. Drawn together by their mutual love of music, they started playing spontaneous, unrehearsed shows at DIY shows and parties around Providence.
Baby is more of a collective than a band, relying more on the individual creations of its members which are then combined into coherent works. This is Baby’s second release on Quiet Time, after QTT2. Each of the three tracks was led by an individual member of Baby. What results is two freaky, jazzy and digital pop songs - sandwiching a long, evolving ambient piece with long breaths of noise and beautiful shimmering guitars and synth. Zine contains Baby’s original artwork."
Lotic takes a stunning lurch forward with Power, their début album for Tri Angle following from the Heterocetera EP, and the Agitations  mini-LP for Janus Berlin. Where we’ve previously alluded to strong comparison between the music of Lotic and Arca, here the Berlin-based American artist really comes into their own, using vocals for the first time - ranging from syrupy rap to tortured torch song - to perfectly gel their de/constructed R&B, ambient and avant-electronic style in a way we haven’t previously heard.
Power was originally intended as a study in empowerment, but circumstances changed when Lotic lost their apartment and the subsequent two years were spent in state of flux, with windows of opportunity to record coming only every three months or so. In those windows, Lotic formed a fractious mosaic of a musical self-portrait, consolidating various aspects of their character into eleven illusively iridescent and tightly-packed crystalline structures. The effect of Lotic’s revelation is equally enthralling, serving to light up the complexities of his sound from striking new angles and providing a natural (if processed and extreme) counterpoint to their favoured high-register twinkles and asymmetric arrangements.
We can imagine cuts such as the pent dembow bumper Hunted and the severely warped R&B drill of Nerve to kill it in the club, but the album is most interesting when it’s pushing at more oblique angles, as with the Total Freedom-esque rush of Power-drums against banking discord in the title cut, or exploring pure alien terrain in Bulletproof, while it all comes together most affectively in the warped hardscrabble texture and mutant torque of Resilience, and deeply sophisticated yet animalistic expression of Heart.
If you’ve been struck by records from Arca, Yves Tumor, Björk or Ziúr in the last year, this one’s a must-have.
The debut album by UK/South African duo Okzharp and Manthe Ribane.
"Okzharp says 'most of the music came out of headphone moments in hotel rooms, planes and airports in the brief periods of time that we spent together, mainly on tour, in Paris and later Vienna', a city Manthe describes as a 'beautiful dream place'.
Okzharp describes Manthe as a ‘co-producer’, ‘she selected instrumental sketches and we developed them together, sometimes just keeping the bare bones or a melody or rhythm, or trying different elements or sounds.
Even thought the album was built long distance, the short periods they spent together were the ground zero for creativity, Okzharp recalls 'One particular moment in Milan last year, ‘we had a whole free day before our flight so we visited the Salone di Mobile design show. We were so
inspired by an installation there just walking around, listening to the amazing soundtrack.
That evening our flight was delayed, so we sat on the floor of the airport terminal putting musical ideas down for 'Time Machine' on the laptop speakers and writing the lyrics. "Tic Toc time, we'll be fine /Airport queues, cerulean blues / Viper trails cross the skies / Lights reflect in your eyes...'
The album has a softness and openness that contrasts the tougher sound of the EPs. Manthe explains, 'The new music is a 360 turn, It an expression of my “Lady” side, I grew up listening to Jazz, Classic and Gospel, I am a very soft spoken person, and it resonates with being confident with that. It's been crazy finding balance and finding a smart way to strengthen my weaknesses, I had to trust the process.’ Of the songs she says ‘They are part of the world now, I hope everyone feels motivated and inspired to be more after listening to the album.’”
Malka Spigel and Colin Newman’s Immersion vehicle tours breezy, instrumental ambient-pop variations in ‘Sleepless’, their follow-up to ‘Analogue Creatures Living On An Island’, still bearing hallmarks of their respective work with Minimal Compact and Wire during the late ‘70s and thru the ’80s
“Sleepless is at once a logical development from Analogue Creatures and a huge leap forwards. Although the influence of German krautrock pioneers like Tangerine Dream and Popol Vuh is still detectable, Immersion have evolved their own far more personal sound. Their amalgam of fascinating textures and limpid melodies gives their compositions an irresistible appeal.
While warmly percolating analogue synths remain at the heart of Immersion’s sound, Sleepless finds their sonic palette broadened to encompass guitars, drums and bass. There’s a guest appearance from Matt Schulz of Holy Fuck, too, and a collaboration with Gil Luz and Assi Weitz of EBM band Hexenschuss.
Album opener ‘Microclimate’ is a bright, optimistic composition with shades of Ulrich Schnauss in its thoughtful, melodic flow. ‘Off Grid’ kicks off with the infectious sound of a four-string tenor guitar, but it’s soon joined by flickering synth-lines and one of Spigel’s characteristically spacious bass-lines. In fact, Spigel’s bass work throughout the album may be the finest she’s ever committed to tape.
Just as you think you might be getting the measure of the album, the title track opens with a richly melancholic brass arrangement. But this is then eclipsed by an Eastern sounding melody and strangely circling guitar line. Like all Immersion’s best work, it’s simultaneously mysterious and emotionally engaging.
‘Propulsoid’ has the kind of urgent electro-glide that might suggest Moon Duo or Suicide, but the core melody is unmistakably Immersion. The strict yet fluid drum pattern comes courtesy of Matt Schultz of Holy Fuck, who provides the track with a strong motorik drive.
‘Manic Toys’ is another distinctly up-tempo track, which comes across as a weird deep-space hoe-down, while ‘Seeing is Believing’ begins with dark synth tones suggesting we might be listening to the soundtrack to an early 1970s dystopian sci-fi film. But as the piece evolves, there is something of the bucolic splendour of Boards of Canada to be heard in the cycling rhythm and rich drones. Album closer ‘Io’ sees several looping celebratory melodies overlaid to create a mesh of sound that is elegiac and uplifting.
Sleepless is widescreen music – lush, detailed and smartly executed. In short, Immersion have produced an album that politely but firmly demands your attention.”
A classic from academic and atrtist John Maus - sounding something like a cross between Autre Ne Veut and Joy Division - with a bit of Joe Jackson and Visage thrown in for good measure.
It's just one of those albums, it reminds you of something else almost constantly, yet leaves a smudged mark all its own on your psyche. This review from Jordan Redmond / Tiny Mix Tapes pretty much sums it up:
"Being an academic, John Maus understands the imperative to only release bodies of work that are conceptually sound and completely actualized. With Pitiless Censors, he sought to break into a new creative period but was disappointed that it was only a “consummation” or logical conclusion to the sound on his previous two widely-available albums (Songs and Love Is Real).
Based on the evidence here, Maus needn’t have any reservations about the body of work that he has released into the world. Pitiless Censors is a sparkling album, a lo-fi synth pop masterpiece that manages to give endless aural delights while still being intellectually engaging, and despite having been caught at the center of a whirlpool of current movements, all of which reflect some aspect of Maus’ style, he has only cemented his identity as a singular, unimpeachable figure. When confronted with music like this, it’s impossible not to be a believer.”
A must for lovers of affective pop music.
Buchla synth supremo Todd Barton’s hyperstitious soundtrack to Always Coming Home, an ‘80s American sci-fi novel by author Ursula K. Le Guin, is yet another ingenious recording dug out for reappraisal by Pete Swanson and Jed Middleman’s Freedom to Spend label - a division of RVNG Intl. Expect alien folk songs in made-up language, set to richly evocative backdrops of location recordings subtly gilded with self built instruments and synth contours. Properly immersive, otherworldly - think Breadwoman meets Lonnie Holley recording for Fonal.
“Music and Poetry of the Kesh is the documentation of an invented Pacific Coast peoples from a far distant time, and the soundtrack of famed science fiction author, Ursula K. Le Guin’s Always Coming Home. In the novel, the story of Stone Telling, a young woman of the Kesh, is woven within a larger anthropological folklore and fantasy.
The ways of the Kesh were originally presented in 1985 as a five hundred plus page book accompanied with illustrations of instruments and tools, maps, a glossary of terms, recipes, poems, an alphabet (Le Guin’s conlang, so she could write non-English lyrics), and with early editions, a cassette of “field recordings” and indigenous song. Le Guin wanted to hear the people she’d imagined; she embarked on an elaborate process with her friend Todd Barton to invoke their spirit and tradition.
For Music and Poetry of the Kesh, the words and lyrics are attributed to Le Guin as composed by Barton, an Oregon-based musician, composer and Buchla synthesist (the two worked together previously on public radio projects). But the cassette notes credit the sounds and voices to the world of the Kesh, making origins ambiguous. For instance, “The River Song” description reads, “The prominent rhythm instrument is the doubure binga, a set of nine brass bowls struck with cloth-covered wooden mallets, here played by Ready.”
According to writer and long-time friend of LeGuin, Moe Bowstern (who pens the liners for the Freedom To Spend edition of Kesh), Barton built and then taught himself to play several instruments of Le Guin’s design, among them “the seven-foot horn known to the Kesh as the Houmbúta and the Wéosai Medoud Teyahi bone flute.” Barton’s crafting of original instruments lends an other-worldly texture to the recordings of the Kesh, not unlike fellow builders Bobby Brown and Lonnie Holley. Bowstern notes, “Other musician / makers have crafted their own Kesh instruments after encountering the earlier cassette recordings that accompanied some editions of the book.”
Both Barton and Le Guin are sensitive to the sovereignty of indigenous Californians and were careful not to trample the traditions of the Tolowa people who lived in the valley long before the Kesh. “You research deeply, and then you bring your own voice to the table,” said Barton. Within the Kesh culture, the numbers four and five shape the lives, society and rituals. Barton composed loosely around these numbers, patiently listening to the land of Napa Valley for signs and audio signals from the natural elements. Todd incorporated ambient sounds of the creek by Le Guin’s house and a campfire they built together.
The songs of Kesh are joyful, soothing and meditative, while the instrumental works drift far past the imaginary lands. “Heron Dance” is an uplifting first track, featuring a Wéosai Medoud Teyahi (made from a deer or lamb thigh bone with a cattail reed) and the great Houmbúta (used for theatre and ceremony). “A Music of the Eighth House” sends gossamer waves of the faintest sounds to “float on the wind.” Like the languages invented in the vocal work of Anna Homler, Meredith Monk, and Elizabeth Fraser, the Kesh songs and poems play with the shape of voice.”
Hip Hop heavyweight Ali Shaheed Muhammad (A Tribe Called Quest) & soul don Adrian Younge highlight and pay tribute to the Harlem Renaissance in beautiful style on the 100th anniversary of the movement’s pivotal emergence. Features CeeLo Green, Luther Vandross, Bilal, Laetitia Sadier, Questlove...
“The Midnight Hour is Black excellence: an ode to the cultural sophistication that the Harlem Renaissance established for its people. The Midnight Hour is comprised of Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Adrian Younge, alongside a tight rhythm section and a full orchestra. The album has features from CeeLo Green, Raphael Saadiq, Marsha Ambrosius, Bilal, Eryn Allen Kane, Karolina and more.
Adrian and Ali began working on this album back in 2013, but put the project aside as they would score the hit Netflix series Marvel’s Luke Cage (the two even perform in an episode of the upcoming second season). The Midnight Hour is a soul/jazz/hip hop album which continues the conversations started by yesterday’s jazz and funk pioneers; those that created the bedrock of samples for hip hop producers in the 80s/90s. The Midnight Hour is sophisticated hip hop that fans will enjoy, capturing their jazz rhythm section, and a full orchestra, to analog tape.
One of the seminal compositions, “Questions,” originally began as an unfinished Midnight Hour demo with Cee-Lo Green. However, Kendrick Lamar heard the track and wanted to sample portions for his GRAMMY-winning album To Pimp a Butterfly (the song ultimately made it to Kendrick’s 2016 compilation Untitled Unmastered as "Untitled 06 | 06.30.2014."). The full, completed version of “Questions” is now the lead single on The Midnight Hour.
“So Amazing” is a reimagining of Luther Vandross’ 1986 single. Ali and Adrian took Luther's original vocal stems and composed new music, as if they were in the room with Luther originally. This transcendental recording is something that really makes The Midnight Hour special.”
Theo Parrish commemorates one of the UK’s most important clubs for a whole generation, London’s Plastic People, with 3 x CDr’s spanning the full length of his 4hr 36min set at the club’s closing party
It’s a room recording, so you get all the excited natter in the background while Theo cuts loose on the filters, regularly bringing the crowd to ecstatic whoops and whistles...
The track-listing isn’t included but it does exist online thanks to some proper knowledge, and we can pretty much guarantee that if you’re investing in this piece of history, you’ll want to know what da fuq he’s playing!
Topdown Dialectic make a sort of systems-based dance music that finds not-so-distant precedents in K. Leimer/Savant as much as Actress, NWAQ, Madteo and Jen Jelinek's Farben project. Over 8 tracks on their debut LP you’ll hear trace echoes of disco in frayed flux with fathoms-deep dub bass, soulful chords and swathes of electro-acoustic ephemera, somehow maintaining a sense of hypnagogic coherence that’s a total pleasure to follow.
“The dissociative electronic designs of incognito American producer Topdown Dialectic originated as a set of software strategies, rather than compositions in the traditional sense. The recordings are captures and edits of various nonlinear sound-systems, shifting conditions, and reactions to internal changes. Despite such a conceptual basis the music is hyper-sensory, evocative, and emotive, meshing the impossible sonic geometries of early UK warehouse bleeps and IDM stutters with the gritty spatial abstraction of Basic Channel to chart dynamic and diaphanous electronic topographies, at once decentralized, parallel, and environmental.
The eight identical-length tracks comprising this self-titled vinyl debut demonstrate the breadth of the Topdown sound world: shuddering, circuitous, textural, kinetic. Algorithmic arrhythmias phase and pulse and oscillate, chopped voice samples flutter within buffering static, peripheral melodic fragments glitch and glide in and out of time. It’s an aesthetic both autonomous and expressive, impersonal and inscrutable, in keeping with artist’s roots as a central operative in revered anonymous cassette collective, Aught. This is compelling, composite music, instigated as much as created, like obscure machinations occurring deep in the labyrinth of a server somewhere.”
After a nervy début with ‘The Future of Discipline’ , the Leichtmann / Tricoli duo gel in more sensuous curves and oneiric space on their 2nd collaboration for Entr’acte
Pulled along by viscous grooves in la Casa delle Chimere|, it feels like the duo found a new route out of their previous tangle of tape loops, percussion and FX, only to periodically lose the thread and dissolve the rug woven by their noumenal looms.
Recorded live to two-track at Plivka, Kiev, in 2017, the results resemble the environmental sound of an alchemical lab or some experimental machinery workshop that comes to life afterhours when nobody is listening - seemingly documenting inanimate objects in etheric dialogue, drills seducing vices and soldering irons secreting flux on live circuit boards, perpetually short-circuiting half-built systems.
In the best way, we hear both artists’ well established processes and approaches subsumed into a greater, indivisible whole with plenty of ephemeral remainders that will keep you coming back the plate.
Sarah Davachi’s quietly stunning first side for Sean McCann’s Recital Program. It arrives in the tremulous wake of the widely acclaimed 'All My Circles Run' album to offer a sublime reaffirmation of Davachi's genius for anyone who’s followed her work over the last few years, and also acts as an unmissable entry point for curious newcomers, especially anyone smitten with the methods and effects of music by Eliane Radigue, Kara-Lis Coverdale, or Mark Hollis.
Sarah’s work has been intimately concerned with the phenomenology of sounds and the way in which, once “released” from the player and instrument, they move in chaotic and unpredictable ways, effectively taking on a new life of their own. In order to exert some control over those factors, it’s perhaps understandable that Davachi's music is most often slow and the result of ostensibly simple gestures, but thanks to her preternatural attention to space and tone, those careful motifs generate a complexity of overtones that have become her coveted secret ingredient.
After alchemically turning her hand to whatever instrument is within reach (she’s been known to turn up at venues without an instrument and improvise on unfamiliar gear) for previous releases and shows, Davachi opts for the Mellotron and an electronic organ on Let Night Come On Bells End The Day, rendering five variegated improvisations that feel vulnerable yet somehow increasingly assured in her perceptive powers.
Most impressive among them are the gently coruscating chamber figure of Mordents, which makes an imperceptibly glacial transition from legible motifs to a gorgeous blur, and the heartbreakingly funereal drift of Buhrstone, especially when it really starts to keen out of the lines. But that’s not to say less of her hyaline beauty At Hand, or the time-melting dimensions of Hours In The Evening - as with all of Sarah’s work, they’re just aspects of the same, amazing whole.
A Wolf Eyes masterpiece comes back to take your mind with this expanded reissue of their ‘Dread’  killer, re-cut at D&M and now featuring a bonus digital track taken from their ‘Sandpapered Eyes’ CDr
‘Dread’ is among the very earliest and gnarliest Wolf Eyes releases. It features the unholy trinity of John Olson in formative formation with Aaron Dilloway and Nate Young, each playing a fizzing and spitting disarray of tapes, electronics and guitars interspersed with scant vocals, and fundamentally catching the group at their most ragged and primitivist during a time when underground rock and noise was in need of new ideas.
The seeds planted in Dread sprout in the pavement cracks between sludge metal, avant-garde electronics and punkish No wave, establishing a low down and dirty sound that would eventually become known as Trip Metal. But it’s fair to say that their modern sound is generously polished when compared with these nascent, evil doings, where half-cut drum machines drunkenly slur in a torrid union with Nate Young's vocals, at times recalling throat-scarring hardcore, and at other reminding of Mark E. Smith with a bad cold on some home-brew.
In swapping out rock’s macho posturing for genuine, certifiable madness, and effectively reducing it’s structures to rubble, Wolf Eyes forged one of the most deadly records of the early ‘00s, which still remains utterly compelling today, 17 years on. And just in case you’re the insatiable type (you’re a Wolf Eyes fan, it’s most likely), the bonus cut of ‘Sandpapered Eyes’ should finish you off to the bone.