Utterly absorbing recording of experimental vocalist Yifeat Ziv sounding into the Amazonian rainforest, following from her brilliant contributions to David Toop’s super trippy ‘Apparition Paintings’ from early in 2020
‘Amazonian Traces of Self’ was created as a response to the artist’s experience in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest as part of the Labverde artist residence in 2019. It premiered at a David Toop event at Cafe Oto, and is based on a live performance she made at IKLEKTIK in London. Ultimately it sounds like recordings from another time, place or planet, imagining the rainforest’s inherently complex geometries as a natural sounding board, filter and FX unit where her voice can totally get lost and wander with delirious results. Honestly it sounds like we’ve just undergone a heavy DMT ritual and the forest is speaking to us from all directions.
"The forest reverberates my voice. The density of the trees and the thick canopy reflects sound waves and creates an echo as if I was singing in a closed space, maybe a chapel. I didn’t expect it. This echo feels like a mirror, it feedbacks my vocal intervention, reflecting traces of my own sound pollution in the Amazon’s dense soundscape."
--- Yifeat Ziv
"Yifeat Ziv’s voice has intensity and precision but what I really love about it is a searching quality, the feeling that it questions itself as it moves around in space, so the strength of it is not dogmatism or force but a genuine curiosity about where it goes, how it absorbs and is absorbed by other sounds, objects, materials and emptiness."
-- David Toop
No fewer than three unreleased Mika Vainio works resurface alongside quieter highlights of his catalogue in a 23 years-overdue compilation originally made for an exhibition in Milan.
First commissioned for the Snow Crash exhibition in 1997, ‘Kiteet’ now sees a posthumous release, reminding of Vainio's subtlest solo standouts in the likes of ’Syväys’ and ‘Radio’, sequenced beside three diverse, unreleased gems of the late, great composer at his piercingly focussed and minimalist best - utterly crucial listening for fans of his seminal mid-’90s output circa ‘Metri’ and ‘Olento’ for any Ø head or lovers of C.20th minimalist music.
For the uninitiated, the album serves as a handy primer on Mika’s most pivotal period, aside to his Chicago-inspired techno, when he forged a style of improvised live electronic music that hold up as some of the purest and most hauntingly life-affirming in a generation. The icy 12’ expanse of sliding sine waves describing endless tundra in ’Syväys’ is a total classic, while the 9’s of hypnagogtic drone and ether voices in ‘Radio’ is another, and ‘Halli’ is the closest we’ll come to shivering in an ice cave in the Arctic. We can now add the whistling bleeps and frozen synths of ‘Kiteet, Pt. 1’, and the characteristically cranky grip of its pulsating ‘Pt.2’, from the album’s unreleased highlights, to that list.
DeepChord’s Rod Modell lists and tilts at 140bpm+ in his banging solo debut LP for Tresor
Landing 20 years since his 1st Rod Modell release, ‘The Autonomous Music Project’ for Lunar, the ‘Captagon’ album finds Modell breaking his usual 120bpm sound barrier to go headlong for a classic early Chain Reaction style, nodding to a mid-late ‘90s era when the likes of Monolake, Matrix and Erosion (T++) kept pace with the rest of techno, but also kept it deep and hypnotic as fuck. While it’s quite possible this uplift in energy may leave some of DeepChord’s older audience out of wind, for many others it’s a breath of fresh air to his exhaustively explored style.
Through a simple gesture of pushing the tempo, Modell’s sound instantly becomes more urgent, as though woken from its sluggish reverie and now properly up for some aerobic mysticism. Along with the Chain Reaction nods, there’s clear reference to classic Detroit and related gear, from Mike Grant’s Black Noise to full flight Mills trax and Convextion at his paciest. However, Modell’s grasp of layered, subaquatic dynamics really places ‘Captagon’ in a league of its own, with a rinsed out and rinseable dynamic and traction brilliantly transposed from his fathoms deep catalogue of cv313, Echospace, and DeepChord productions with inexorable velocity.
Best thing he’s done in years, basically.
Liquid blooz bewts from Young Echo’s Jabu, joined again by Jasmine Butt, and now Daniela Dyson for a necessary dose of lowkey soul kissers on their do you have peace? label, somehow joining dots between Tricky, Tirzah, King Midas Sound and Junior Boys
Appearing from the haze of Bristol’s hotbox after that Cali-grade side from Manonmars, and leading on from Jabu’s earlier split with Sunun, ‘Sweet Company’ holds to a perfectly measured line of soothing, downbeat vibes rendered in soft focus dub in a way that genuinely appears to care for your bruised soul right now.
Trust there are no sharp edges to snag on, as the band’s Alex Rendall and Jasmine Butt share dreamily reverberant vocals with Daniela Dyson, pairing their combined range of caramelised and strung-out tones with softly played, hushed production by Rendall and Amos Childs, with the latter effectively serving a more feminine follow-up to his class work on the Manonmars album.
This CD features the original tape session recording (near 30 minutes of deep space exploration) and a near 40 minute rework from variant.
"This is a step in the evolution with the first tape session laying the groundwork for one of Intrusion's dreamiest productions hazes to date. This was the idea stage in where this project was conceptualized and evolved, minimal and subdued. What has not been heard before comes into glimpse via analog circuitry, obsolete synthesis & sequencers coming to life.. Gorgeous plumes of sound evaporate into the ether in these compositions conveying the purest essence and emotion of vintage signal processing, an absolute beautiful analog tapestry."
The Vanity Box Vol. 1 is an anthology of releases by legendary japanese DIY label vanity, active in the late '70s and early '80s.
The box includes 5 CD's. r.n.a. organism - r.n.a. organism meets p.o.p.o.; bgm - back ground music; sympathy nervous - sympathy nervous; sab - crystallization; a compilation of 7" singles.
Vanity Records is a none-more-legendary Japanese label established by music journo Yuzuru Agi in late ’70s Osaka, Japan. Its small but precious and catalogue of bold experiments with rock and electronics is hugely prescient in its scope, and would loosely fall within and expand the term “techno-pop”, which its label owner first coined to describe the futurist sound of Eno-produced bands like Talking Heads and Devo.
The bands featured were all in their nascent stages, covering a spectre. Form the slimy, munted TG-like sleaze impulses of Salaried Man, to rhythmic experiments by Isolation and Kiiro Radical that properly pre-echo Mika Vainio and parallel Conrad Schnitzler, and the scorched earth blues drags of Nishimura Alimoti, or the exquisite late night Dekkard’s apartment ambience of Wireless Sight.
Proper ground zero gear for the heads and fans of owt from YMO to Skaters, Suicide, Animal Collective, proto-techno and early punk wave mutations.
Shinichi Atobe’s entire discography for DDS, totalling 43 tracks / 4 and a half hours of music, assembled on a special edition USB Card housed in a bamboo box in an edition of 200, all material in WAV format.
Despite persistant rumours to the contrary, Shinichi Atobe is not a pseudonym for anyone else, it’s not T++ or Mark Ernestus or Terre Thaemlitz - he’s a producer based in Japan who released the penultimate 12” on the Chain Reaction label back in 2001 and then disappeared until 2014 when the DDS lads tracked him down with a bit of help from the Basic Channel office in Berlin. In the 6 years since, his five albums and EP for the label have created a singular and inimitable body of work, a stripped-down, bare-boned, feelgood template somewhere between classic Chain Reaction and DJ Sprinkles’ deep House classics, with a bit of added weirdness thrown in here and there.
On the USB card - the Ship Scope 12" (originally released on Chain Reaction in 2001, subsequently re-mastered by Matt Colton), Butterfly Effect (2014), World (2016), From The Heart, It's A Start, A Work Of Art (2017), Heat (2018) and Yes (2020).
Totally absorbing 3rd part in Meitei’s prized trilogy capturing lost Japanese moods, following sides of ghost story-telling and elemental sonics with a frayed suite of cut-up rhythms and samples; imagine Dilla meets The Caretaker on an Anime score…
One of the most distinctive and crafty artists we’ve heard emerge from Japan in recent years, Meitei and his absorbing catalogue have granted his listeners access to surreal, forgotten worlds where, for all intents and purposes, the past truly does feel like a foreign - if strangely familiar - land.
It’s been a real pleasure to immerse in the nuance of each of Meitei’s atmospheric sound-worlds, and ‘Kofū’ is a wonderfully unexpected addition to see out the series, contrasting his knack for shaping quietly rustling, melancholic scenes with more frenetic jump-cuts to colourful, but bittersweet, scenarios that subtly pay homage to working class courtesans of the Meiji era (circa late C.19th-early 20th, and Japan’s industrial and political revolution).
Using his art to give voice to dispossessed citizens of Japan’s past, Meitei’s descriptive skills are at their most sensitive, elusive, and affective here. Mottled vignettes of sampled vintage 78s are tiled with smudged & screwed Mica Levi-esque tekkers and collages of pitched-up vocals, old skool Kanye West style on the album’s two ‘Oiran’ works, dedicated to workers of the red light districts, with ‘Sadayakko’ and ‘Nyōbō’ slipping into something like Matt Wand on the MPC with Dilla or Carl Stone, along with an unmissable eight minute dream sequence cut, ‘Himawari’ recalling us the atmospheres of RZA’s Ghost Dog OST.
The Bug darkens Hyperdub’s doorstep proper for first time since ’Skeng’ with a dead strong new album of mutant dancehall and dread trip hop voiced by Dis Fig.
Currently in fecund form after a series of superb solo albums, Zonal with JK Broadrick, and his modern classic with King Midas Sound, Kevin Martin aka The Bug now finds another ideal foil in Felicia Chen aka Dis Fig, who appears to leave her production hat aside in favour of intimately hushed, almost opiated vox that provide the perfectly possessed counterweight to the musick’s low frequencies and noctilucent timbres.
For the majority of the album Dis Fig is a central, if elusive, presence strongly channelling a certain sort of late ‘90s trip hop and pop ennui that can’t help but remind us the tone to classic Massive Attack, Depeche Mode or Sneaker Pimps from that era, while The Bug’s production subtly elides the aching poetic, liminal nocturnal space of KMS into his more typical dancehall-mowing rhythms with irresistible effect.
The 12 tracks play out like a hymn book for the deserted, haunted dance floors of 2020, tempering the subs and drums to a ghostly, just-outta-reach middle distance, rather than in-your-face, and leaving acres of room for Dis Fig’s vocals to haunt, variously radiating from the core into infinity as on ‘End In Blue’, or hidden in a psychedelic stereo haze of ‘Forever’, while the ohrwurming cadence of ‘Destroy Me’ will likely be echoing in your head for days, weeks after, and you can find K. Martin at his instrumental best on the nerve-gnawing grine of ‘Blood’.
Call us fanboys, but the whole album is just fucking outstanding, really. Bravo.
Ana Roxanne follows up the short-and-sweet "~~~" with this devastatingly beautiful full-length for Kranky, joining the dots between the label's past and present with heartbreaking sounds that remind us of Labradford, Windy & Carl, Grouper and beyond.
The album was written over the last five years, when the LA-based, Oakland-raised artist released that debut EP. While that record was initially dropped quietly, it was eventually picked up and reissued by Matthewdavid's Leaving Records last year, bringing her almost spiritual vocal-led sounds to a much wider audience.
Ana Roxanne grew up obsessed with her mom's collection of 80s and 90s R&B CDs, singing along to them obsessively while simultaneously training her voice more rigorously as part of a church choir. Years later, she was introduced to Hindustani classical music and her connection to her voice and its potential shifted drastically. When she returned to Oakland, she began to refine her craft studying at the prestigious Mills College, learning to work with synthesizers and becoming obsessed with the deep devotional music of Alice Coltrane. And all of these sounds - these connecting threads - are present on "Because of a Flower".
The album is remarkable in its sublime coherence. Roxanne blends styles, influences and cultural reference points so seamlessly it's almost like reading a diary or a book of poems. From the beginning of the album, which opens on a spoken word piece snipped from a harmony textbook, we're transported to a different world. As billowing drones drift peacefully into view, Roxanne's voice echoes above like kisses from a distant reality. This is deeply personal music, and Roxanne is unafraid to bear her soul and assuredly reflect her identity as an intersex person, imbuing her sounds with a vulnerable sincerity that's impossible to fake.
From there, we're ushered lovingly through songs that unify different elements (muted guitar phrases, fragile drum machine loops, disintegrating film snippets) beneath Ana Roxanne's spine-tingling vocals but retain a rare cohesion. Each track is markedly different, but the album hangs together so perfectly it's almost impossible to separate a single moment from the sublime whole.
It is many things and one complete entity simultaneously. Anyone who's been enthralled by Kranky's classic sounds, from Labradford to Windy & Carl to Grouper, absolutely needs to grab this immediately; utterly unmissable music and one of the best records of its ilk we've heard this year.
Grönland present the definitive Harmonia boxset collecting their groundbreaking debut, 'Musik Von Harmonia' (1974), along with 'Deluxe' (1975), 'Live 1974', their Harmonia & Eno '76 album 'Tracks and Traces', and the previously unreleased 'Documents 1975' collection of early live performances.
The short-lived syzygy, extant from 1973 to 1976 and revolving three members - Dieter Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius of Cluster with Neu!'s Michael Rother - were responsible for a gentle but pivotal phase shift in German experimental music, and also on a wider scale within the world of new pop, rock and electronic music, thanks to the praise of David Bowie and Brian Eno - the latter of whom would join them for 'Tracks and Traces' as Harmonia & Eno '76.
Their history remains one of the most storied of electronic music; a group of imaginative, innovative German composers seeking to make a new music guided by nature and the stars, accompanied by one of the greatest producers of his generation, Conny Plank, and all at an idyllic location in the countryside of Forst, Lower Saxony, next to the Weser River.
From these lush conditions they vibed out, working with an arsenal of "mobile" recording gear (depicted in the accompanying booklet) to realise some of the most beautiful and influential records of the '70s, from the shimmering ambience of 'Musik Von…' thru the "pop" tone of 'Deluxe', along the motorik trajectories of their 'Documents 1975' recordings, and back to space music with Eno in '76.
An incredible set, grab one while you can.
Breathtaking new studio album from The Necks, saddling up for a glorious route taking in fast flowing polyrhythms and revelatory soundscapes - really one of their strongest in a flawless catalogue that now spans 30 years and with a closing track that once again taps into that Talk Talk thing they do so well...
The now legendary trio have always charted their own path thru the backwoods and wilds of jazz, krautrock and avant terrain, but ‘Three’ sees them head off across topographies that were previously only glimpsed on the horizon. In proper beginning, middle and end sections, they thrillingly cultivate and hack thru dense, lush new worlds of psychedelic sound before arriving at a third-eye dilating interzone, and relieving the psychic tension in a tranquil, bucolic final passage, leaving its participants ravished and refreshed.
Effectively 30 years in the making, if we take in their entire run from 1989’s classic ‘Sex’, via 1994’s ‘Aquatic’ and the singular roil of 2018’s ‘Body’, the triad of finely sculpted works in ‘Three’ are the ultimate combination of the instrumental intuition that binds Tony Buck, Chris Abrahams, and Lloyd Swanton, perfectly accentuated by studio processing from Tim Whitten (engineer) and Doug Henderson (master) that portrays their efforts in the best possible, impossible light and studio magick with frankly astonishing, practically psilocybic results.
It’s genuinely difficult to think of another band who could come up this sort of album after three decades together and for it not to sound like they were playing to hoary fans or trying to recapture something. From the barefoot scramble and cascading rush of ‘Bloom’ to the cavernous wonder of ‘Lovelock’ and bluesy resolution in the marshy delta sprawl of ‘Further’ The Necks effortlessly keep their sound flowing into oceanic, hypnotic grace.
High kitsch Moog fancies reaped from the catalogue of prolific ‘60s songwriter Mort Garson, following reissue of his legendary ‘Plantasia’ with a deeper dive into his archive of saccharine space lounge and new age music
Switching between minute long jingles, cod-baroque and delirious porno soundtracks, it all gets a high reading from our dusty kitsch-o-meter and will surely light up a lot of retro-futuristic fetishists out there. It could all be compared to the likes of Patrick Cowley, Bruce Haack or some Italian library jizz, with outstandingly corny gear tucked away in ‘Geisha Girl’, the throbbing space-disco of ‘Dragonfly’, and a ravishing ‘Theme from Music for Sensuous Lovers Part I (Instrumental)’, plus extra twee baroque whimsy in ‘Rhapsody in Green’ and cartoonish absurdity of his ‘Son of Blob Theme’.
“Music From Patch Cord Productions shows that Garson’s knack was to exist in both worlds, super-commercial and waaay out. He cut delirious minute-long blasts for commercials (as to whether or not they were actually ever aired remains unknown) and spacecraft-hovering études. Were there really account managers out there in the early ‘70s that gave the greenlight to these commercial compositions which seemed to anticipate everyone from John Carpenter to Suicide? What were these campaigns actually for, Soylent Green? Regardless, Mort’s jingle work laid the groundwork for the future. As Robert Moog himself noted: “The jingles were important because they domesticated the sound.” Via Garson’s wizardry, the synthesizer transcended novelty to ubiquity and dominance.
Other curios and questions abound. How did Garson’s arrangement work for Arthur Prysock’s satiny body worship album This Is My Beloved transmogrify into the body-snatcher pulses of “This is My Beloved”? Are the two pieces even related? What is the IATA code for the airport of “Realizations of an Aeropolis”? What denomination is the “Cathedral of Pleasure”? If “Son of Blob” sounds like a hallucinatory melted ice cream truck theme, what on earth does Blob’s father sound like? Every sound wrangled out of that Moog by Garson pushes things further and further out.”
Magnum opus-weight album from organist and electro-acoustic composer Anna von Hausswolff, the entire record consists of just one instrument - the pipe organ, and represents absolute liberation of the imagination. It's a masterwork of gothic classical beauty - a must check for fans of Kali Malone, Kara-Lis Coverdale.
‘All Thoughts Fly’ was recorded at Gothenburg’s Örgryte New Church and is heavily infused with the space’s atmospheric nuance, which renders the theatric richness of Anna’s compositions at their most billowing and melodramatic. As her 6th album, it’s also her most confident and strikingly original, following the slow steady procession of her sides for Kning Disk, Touch and City Slang with her most sepulchral and steepled refinement of black metal atmospheres and sacred dirges pronounced with an apocalyptic classical grandeur and iconoclastic experimental daring.
“Notes on the recording process: The organ on All Thoughts Fly is situated in Gothenburg and is a Swedish replica of the Arp Schnitger organ in Germany. It is the largest organ tuned in Quarter-comma meantone temperament in the world. With it’s four manuals, one pedal and 54 stops, it was built as part of a ten-year research project reconstructing 17th Century North German organ building craft. The tuning temperament is an important detail to note here, as it deeply affects the sound and tuning, and thus radically changed the process of creating this album. Anna speaks of a pleasant surprise during recording, the organ's ability to create beautiful "pitching" notes through its stops and air supply system. She remarks “We took advantage of this so most of the pitching sounds and notes that you hear on the album comes from the mechanics of this organ, effects made entirely acoustically." The organ was recorded with two room mics for atmosphere and two pairs of close mics placed inside the organ to capture nuances and detail for further organ sound processing by Filip Leyman in his studio.”
Tamper is another one of those Jim O'Rourke reissues that harks back to his days in the field of academic electroacoustics - and this is one of the earliest sets of recordings to resurface so far, dating back to an original edition on Extreme Records in 1991.
Those of you left slightly perplexed by the overwhelmingly dry, protracted drones O'Rourke experimented with during these years might just find this outing to be a breath of fresh air. Far away from the one-chord temporal suspension of Two Organs, Tamper finds O'Rourke combining with a number of collaborators, using violin, cello, clarinet, oboe, trombone and percussion to weave sophisticated tonal landscapes, wringing all manner of alien sonorities out of the instruments. It never gets too out of hand however, and the essential principals of drone are largely left in tact.
The final piece of the three on the album, 'Ascend Through Unspoken Shadow', is slightly different, taking a more chaotic, micropolyphonic approach, at times sounding like a huge sound mass in which the individual performers are lost in a nebulous whole. Great stuff from the reliably ingenious O'Rourke, and another great example of his more 'difficult' work. Now if he could just get around to following up on Insignificance...
Japan’s masters of rock and noise face off in ravishing, symbiotic form on their 7th collaborative album
Eighteen years since their first meeting on record (‘Megatone’), the hybrid unit clearly have lots more energy to expend on ‘2R0I2P0’, with Merzbow shelling signature, wildly overgrown, high-register noise squall to complement Wata and Takeshi’s shrieking guitars, and lend a sharp tonic contrast with the album’s slower, more melodic moments.
The album’s title translates to ’Twenty Twenty R.I.P.’ and is intended as both an elegy for a shitty year, and a catalyst for change, or as they say: "This work becomes a monument to the requiem of the previous era. From here, a new world begins again." As such they take the full limit of playing time - 78 minutes - to scythe thru strains of pulsating quasar rock and absorbingly harsh electronics, starting out all folksy and soothing with ‘Away from You’ before banking up to sky-clawing guitar leads and clamorous noise, sometimes letting Merzbow set the way ahead, as on the crushing ‘Coma’ and the sensory smother of ‘Jounrey’, and locking into freewheeling metal on ‘Absolutego’, but saving their finest for the two longer pieces of epic terraforming, ‘Evol’, and ’Shadow of Skull.’
Belle and Sebastian present twenty-two live performances featuring songs from across their 25 year career. The recordings showcase the Scottish septet at the height of their power during their 2019 tour, including tracks performed on the band's own Mediterranean cruise, "The Boaty Weekender."
Loneliness, isolation, alienation, the need for connection and community. The salient themes of our times resonate with a haunting, predictive and vital power on the third album from London four-piece Landshapes. Released through Bella Union this November, Contact is an album that digs deep into the past, looks ahead to the future and burns with vivid life in the present, where its mind-expanding soundscapes, beguiling melodies and resonating emotions exude a tremendous in-the-moment vibrancy.
"The title speaks clearly to the album’s themes, as intended. As Luisa Gerstein (vocals, synths) explains, “The working title for a long time was ‘Collapse’, but when we came around to naming it, and having the conversation from our respective isolation, we wanted to give it a name that was more hopeful, and about connectivity. Dan suggested ‘Contact’ and it clicked - Contact with each other; contact with the wider world amidst its unravelling; music feels like a really essential part of that right now.”
Contact took form after extensive touring for Landshapes’ second album, “Heyoon”, where the band’s shape-shifting hybrids of alt-folk, psychedelia, math-rock and more brimmed with brooding beauty. The desire to sustain the focused fluidity and elemental power of their live energy – honed from Green Man to End of the Road and beyond – compelled them to continue playing and writing together, with strict principles to light the way. As Heloise Tunstall-Behrens (bass, vocals) puts it, “We approached this album with the idea of creating more space, simplifying and allowing things to breathe. We also wanted to keep the songs briefer, with fewer deviations.” A few years later, Contact sustains those principles beautifully. The sulphurous sludge-rock guitars and depth-charged synths of “Rosemary” throb with a rapt intensity: while the lyrics reflect on ancestral DNA and the memory-stimulating powers of the titular herb, the physicality of the sound embodies a sense of the past living in the present, registered deep in the gut.
Throughout, Landshapes equip their elemental intimations and exploratory themes with a palpable immediacy. “Siberia” is a psychedelic folk song of ice and fire, its forceful chants set to deliciously lopsided rhythms; direct and mysterious. Testifying to the band’s road-tested chemistry, loose grooves are executed with a limber precision. “Drama” sets its snapshot of, says Luisa, “the imbalance of emotional labour that can happen between men and women” to an alt-R&B funk drift. With Jemma Freeman (guitar, vocals) and Dan Blackett (drums) swapping instrumental roles, “The Ring” is mantric, romantic pop with a troubled heart, its seeming simplicity deceptive. “I suppose it was a love song at first,” says Heloise, “inspired by some friends getting married. For me, it evolved into a feeling of connection with the world and non-human species – a partnership upon which we tend to rely and take for granted but don’t appreciate all the time.” Elsewhere, moods and emotions deepen and diversify. “Real Love Is Dead” sets a tale of break-ups and Tinder to a misty synthetic backdrop. The spare, future-thinking “I’m Mortal” grapples with the question of giving birth in today’s world, treated vocals throwing its core human doubts into stark relief. For Luisa, the amniotic bliss-pop of “Dizzee” frames a reflection on “the specific experience of going to a queer people of colour club night for the first time, and feeling so ecstatic that the space existed, feeling at home, whilst simultaneously wrestling the feeling of being an imposter”.
Look for evidence of the band’s live power and you will find them manifested forcefully on “Let Me Be”, an inside-out critique of white male self-entitlement set to a whirligig of organs, chants and fuzzy math-rock guitars. Born from a jam session on tour, the wordless harmonies and guitar-strafed lurches of “Just A Plug” add cathartic jolts of electricity. “It feels like a release and a chance to vent,” says Heloise, “even without lyrics the sentiment is there!” Finally, “Conductor” diverts that energy into a serene reverie on time and the body, its expansive imagery anchored in the immediacy of sensation. After the voyages of self-discovery on their 2013 debut, “Rambutan”, and the wide-open reach of “Heyoon”, Contact pays testimony to Landshapes’ questing spirit. Recorded live at Soup Studios when it was in Limehouse, the album’s freshness reflects a strict resistance to, says Luisa, “over-cooking in the studio”. New tools helped flesh out the soundscapes, Jemma notes: “actual synths”, a Boss Dr Rhythm drum machine, and fresh guitar pedals enrich the sonic palette without gratuitous studio interference. Meanwhile, storied sound wizard and producer Kwes became, says Heloise, “sort of a fifth member”, helping to take the songs “to a new realm”.
As Jemma says, “We had a strong idea of wanting to keep a raw feel to the work, and that we wanted external ears to play a guiding influence and add a new voice once we had built the foundations. The sense of previous preciousness was something we could dispose of, as we had more confidence in our ability to play and write. I think it made us bold.”
Landshapes, then: reach out, make contact. "
Charming and spirited bass and harp quarantine jams from husband and wife duo Dezron Douglas & Brandee Younger - one for fans of Dorothy Ashby and Alice Coltrane.
"If you haven't lost your mind yet, God is good. If you have lost your mind that's cool too." Dezron Douglas and Brandee Younger's "Force Majeure" was recorded during lockdown, when the husband and wife duo would livestream duets every Friday morning. Douglas is a bassist and producer and Brandee Younger a harpist who's recorded with Lauren Hill and Drake, among others, so they have a pretty solid starting point here. The interplay between the artists is the key though. Sure, they are both adept players, but their lightness and humor is infectious - they even kept some of the back-and-forth banter from the streams (the bickering about how to pronounce "Force Majeure" is extremely cute).
If you're looking for something positive to shine through some of the seemingly-endless grey of lockdown, "Force Majeure" offers a spiritual salve that should appeal to anyone into florid harp-led jazz. Sunny and gorgeous stuff.
A release of 400 original CDs, unavailable for 20 years.
"The Raincoats have offered creative and spiritual inspiration for several generations of artists such as John Lydon, Kim Gordon, Kurt Cobain, Carrie Brownstein, Bikini Kill, Angel Olsen... In 1979, The Raincoats helped shape the timeless notion that punk is what you make it to be - an act of raw expression, not any one sound. Their anarchy was poetic. The group’s debut album ‘The Raincoats’, which Kurt Cobain called “wonderfully classic scripture”, was released by Rough Trade Records at its radical beginnings. In 1992, Kurt’s meeting with Ana da Silva sparked a much-documented relationship with The Raincoats, bringing them back together to play live on Nirvana’s final tour that never was, and inspiring Ana da Silva and Gina Birch to write ‘Looking in the shadows’, their final album, released in 1996 on Rough Trade Records and DGC.
Original CD release from Rough Trade Records in 1996. Recorded at Trident II in August 1995. Produced and mixed by Ed Buller. Backing vocals on ‘Love a loser’ by Buzzcocks’ Pete Shelley. Video of ‘Don’t Be Mean’ directed by Gina Birch. “It was The Raincoats I related to most. They seemed like ordinary people playing extraordinary music. Music that was natural that made room for cohesion of personalities. They had enough confidence to be vulnerable and to be themselves without having to take on the mantle of male rock/punk rock aggression…or the typical female as sex symbol avec irony or sensationalism”. Kim Gordon…
THE sixth record by Pharaoh Overlord - a cataclysmic clash with bewitching results.
"The band’s current duo of Tomi Leppänen and Jussi Lehtisalo first channelled their love of krautrock-damaged monomania into synth-driven motorik soundscapes on 2019’s ‘5’ yet this new exploration is a step way beyond, into a chilly and captivating electronic panorama. Beholden to the melodies and textures of Kraftwerk yet also the cinematic austerity of EBM and the effervescent pulse of classic Italo-pop, it’s further abetted by fierce and corrosive vocals from longtime collaborator and Isis/Old Man Gloom seer Aaron Turner, which stand atop these futuristic serenades not unlike the fevered delivery of a dystopian hellfire preacher.
The result, richly coherent yet startling even for the unpredictable world of this band, arrives like a series of otherworldly epiphanies. The opening ‘Path Eternal’ sets its stall out in style, marrying Moroder and Mayhem with a hint of the apocalypse manifesto of Skinny Puppy lurking in the middle distance. ‘Arms Of The Butcher’ is a strident anthem for a modern pandemonium, ‘Blue Light Hum’ meanwhile comes on like a robotic Neu! summoning end-credits euphoria. And most audaciously of all, ‘Without Song All Will Perish’ takes the urbane yet decadent sound of Voulez-Vous-era ABBA and reinvents it as a venomous disco Gotterdämerrung.
Aaron Turner was sent this material by Tomi and Jussi and initially ask to contribute to two or three songs to a sharp deadline, but the results soon revealed themselves to be so powerful that he ended up writing lyrics for the whole album, his vicious but uplifiting vision taking inspiration from the melodic yet scabrous likes of Killing Joke, Leatherface and Kill The Thrill. “I was also thinking of Drawing Down The Moon era Beherit where the music had gone almost entirely electronic and the only vestige of the metal aesthetic that remained was the vocal style” he notes “That rub of “artificial” music and organic/humanistic/off kilter vocals was intriguing for me.”
Written as the pandemic began to dominate world events in 2020, the resulting emotional turmoil couldn’t help but heavily affect its lyrical slant of this record. 6 has therefore become a record based on separation - the physical distance between the band members themselves, as well as the isolation of the quarantine itself. Yet it’s also a record concerned with finding a way forward amidst the modern cataclysms that surround - channelling negative experience into a positive change.
True to form, like a brightly underlit disco dancefloor flashing out a warning of danger, the alchemical force of 6 is equal parts hedonistic rapture and dark revelation. Let him who have understanding reckon the number of the beat, for it is a human number. Its number is 6."
A reintroduction to one of America's finest ever alternative rock bands, 'Quarantine The Past' coincided with Pavement's long-overdue reunion.
Although there are no exclusives on this 23-track collection, as Domino so rightly state: "it definitely goes deeper than the "hits"." For such a beloved band, a single disc Best Of was always going to present a tricky editing job, and sure there are omissions - no 'Zurich Is Stained', no 'Carrot Rope', for instance. In fact, the band's last LP, Terror Twilight is sorely under-represented given that it's the one Pavement album to not yet receive the deluxe reissue treatment, although making up for those absences are rarities culled from 1989's Slay Tracks 7", the Perfect Sound Forever 10", the Watery, Domestic EP and great B-sides like 'Unseen Power Of The Picket Fence'.
Additionally, old favourites like 'Range Life', 'Cut Your Hair', 'Summer Babe', 'Here', 'Stereo' and 'Shady Lane' are all dotted around the tracklist, ensuring that there's a healthy balance between early lo-fi obscurities and the band's best known classics. If you're looking for a gateway into this seminal band - or even if you're just looking for a quick-fix solution to plugging some gaps in your Pavement collection - this predictably magnificent compilation is a must-have.
Kamasi Washington turns his hand to soundtracking the Michelle Obama documentary based on her memoir, ‘Becoming’ with natural and uplifting classic jazz grace - properly American, like; it’s currently Grammy and Emmy award-nominated
“Kamasi Washington composed and produced the original score for Becoming, the four time Emmy-nominated film that provided an intimate glimpse into the life of Michelle Obama. Produced by Netflix Originals, Becoming documented a moment of profound change for the former First Lady, not only for her personally but for the country she and her husband served over eight impactful years in the White House. Washington, who joined the project in its embryonic stages, provides the powerful musical backdrop.”
Burial’s co-production ‘The Second Spell’, starring Prince and Madonna collaborator Ingrid Chavez closes out a smoky album of deep house soul from UK/US/SA journeyman Charles Webster, whose album as Presence ‘All Systems Gone’ is cited as an influence on Burial for its “pillowy sound”. Also includes vocals by Shara Nelson and an earthy house nugget ‘Music’
“‘Decision Time’ is Charles’ first major solo record since 2001’s ‘Born On The 24th July’, and features an array of artists from a number of different eras, guises and genres Charles has been involved with over his prolific career.
After moving to San Francisco in the late nineties, he created an album under the alias Presence entitled ‘All Systems Gone’. The “pillowy” sound design of this classic is cited as a key influence on the music of Burial. For ‘Decision Time’, Burial has paid a further tribute here, contributing a rare co-production, ‘The Second Spell’. This track featuring the words of Prince muse Ingrid Chavez. who also wrote the spoken word poetry in Madonna’s ‘Justify My Love’.
Charles was at the forefront of the halcyon years of deep house, working with vocal talents like Robert Owens, Tracey Thorn, Terra Deva (aka Furry Freaks), who features here on ‘Wait And See’, and Shara Nelson, perhaps best known for her vocals on Massive Attack’s ‘Blue Lines’ album, featuring here on ‘This Is Real’.
Charles’ influence also spreads to the South African house scene with his Presence single ‘Better Day’ becoming a huge radio hit there in 1997. Charles later moved to South Africa and immersed himself in the local scene, collaborating with some of the country's most exciting talent, including Sio, Thandi Draai and Sipho – all of whom appear on this project.
With an album of this quality and the 20-year cycles of electronic culture, it feels like this is the perfect moment to celebrate the brilliance of Charles Webster’s legacy. From the downtempo soul of ‘This Is Real’, to the impressionistic words and ethereal two-step on ‘The Spell’, a new generation of ears are about to discover the influential underground sound of Charles Webster.”
Spiky-elbowed goth, industrial body music, and sleazy ’80s nuggets plucked from Cherrystones’ crypt and dished up by Touch Sensitive.
Pilot of an ace NTS show and a bigger digger than most, Cherrystones pits another killer haul of personal favourites in his 2nd Critical Mass volume, arranging 15 top grade selections into a dead sexy collection spanning highlights from Paul Lemos’ percussive industrial trampler ‘Hog Rhythm’, to devil’s-dusted swag in Neon’s ‘My Blues Is You (Slow Dub)’ and The Neon Judgement’s ‘Antoine’, thru to jagged post punk by The Mud Hutters, pure dirt from Martin Rössel & The Dum Dum Boys, and a hash-eased comedown in JP 118’s mystic beauty.
Fans of the Light Sounds Dark sets should be all over this lot.
‘Land Waves’, the third album by new minimalists Snow Palms, is the project’s first full length since becoming a duo.
"At times it is like Terry Riley with Lex Baxter in Japan, at others it could be the soundtrack to a meditation centre in neo-Tokyo dreamed up by William Gibson and Brian Eno. Its patterns and textures accelerate and resolve with drama and intent, its abstractions rendered by a distinctive kinetic sound world of mallets and synthesizers conjuring real and imaginary landscapes.
In 2017 Snow Palms originator, the musician, critic and tutor David Sheppard, invited fellow composer, producer and academic Matt Gooderson to formally join the project, after spending time together experimenting in the studio. “We have quite different musical backgrounds but found we were responding to and searching for the same things in music,” explains Sheppard, “Over time, we evolved both a methodology and a signature sound.” The album’s opener ‘Atom Dance’, which is like Martin Denny’s orchestra reinterpreting Steve Reich, crescendos to heart-stirring finale; ‘Everything Ascending’ counts out a human heartbeat before reaching for the stars in glittering synths and galaxies of soaring vocals; ‘Evening Rain Gardens’ is soothing music for a meditation centre from the future.
Title track ‘Land Waves’ is a restrained epic, equal parts vast panorama and decorous motif. The graceful mwoodwinds of ‘Thought Shadow’ express the album’s more reflective moments, while the shifting rhythmic patterns of ‘Kojo Yakei’ evoke the concept it’s named for - a Japanese trend for night-time visits to factories and refineries decorated in lights. Inexorably enveloping closing track ‘White Cranes Return’ is a requiem for twilight, when soft shadows are drawn over a landscape. ‘Land Waves’ is hallmarked by the voice of Matt Gooderson’s partner Megan, who was pregnant with their son during recording sessions. Her empyrean vocals are woven into the tapestry of the album, grounding the music in the human, as glockenspiels, marimbas and clarinets move in lockstep with arpeggiated modular synthesizers and glinting percussion. “Adding the human voice to this sound world adds a generous new dimension and opens up and a whole new vista for Snow Palms,” says Sheppard. “It’s a buoyant and uplifting record, which I love deeply,” agrees Gooderson, “That feeling is much needed in these times of crisis.”
With a clutch of deeply conceptual albums on subjects as diverse as the anthropocene and sleep paralysis after a major car accident, Cuts' latest album, ‘Unreal’, is a mournful meditation on pandemics, populism and disinformation.
"‘UNREAL’ is the second full-length album by musician and filmmaker Anthony Tombling Jr’s CUTS moniker. Tracks retain their emotional resonances in strong melodies and eerie vocals but there is also a hard edge to the music compared to previous releases. “I’ve always reacted to my environment,” explains Tombling, “and a lot of the themes I am exploring on ‘UNREAL’ are around climate crisis, pandemics, and the terrifying rise of far right orators.”
‘UNREAL’ was largely made in lockdown, as Tombling moved to an isolated house where there was no phone or internet three days before full lockdown was introduced across the UK. He soon built a routine of foraging for dinner in the morning and making music all afternoon. It marks a major departure in his output, as the first album not to be rooted in his films. It opens with ‘R U OK?’, with a precipitous bass drop into anxious rhythms like irregular heartbeats. ‘DISSOLUTION’ is a vocoder ballad for fragmenting hardware; ‘UNREAL’ is a hazy roller, evoking fast cars on highways at night. ‘OMEGA MINUS’ is a requiem for postindustrial wastelands, as robotic voices sweep over dust storms and obsolete machinery, then ‘SHELTERED LIFE’ harnesses coarse, rippling static around depth-charge bass. ‘THE BRINK’ brings on woozy and elastic basslines, ‘EXHALE EXILE’ sways in melodic loops lashed to fitful beats, then final track ‘AN INFINITE COLLAPSE’ blows off the grit to reveal songlines and crumbling metallic pulses that crackle with static electricity.
Tombling’s sound world for ‘UNREAL’ is one of anxiety, frustration and emotional peaks, where heavy slugs of sound are lifted by vocoder lyricism, sharp static and fizzing cymbals that cut through like shafts of light in abandoned warehouses. “It’s the heaviest record I’ve made,” says Tombling, “but it’s also the most accessible. I was much more influenced by what's going on in the world - it’s impossible not to be at a moment like this.”
Wolfgang Voigt’s ambient techno evergreen mercifully reissued as a standalone release for the first time since 1997, and its inclusion in the sumptuous Gas ‘Box’ set, now remastered.
Right up there with ambient techno’s greatest slabs, ‘Zauberberg’ is a classic balm for overworked minds and stressed bodies. As the 2nd Gas album, following the project’s eponymous debut, it pressed deeper into a uniquely dense yet diaphanous mixture of ambient and modern classical themes, exploring a breathtakingly lush, Black Forested adjunct to the sort of ambient/dub/techno austerities explored by other contemporary German producers such as Basic Channel, Monolake and the rest of the Berlin cabal surrounding Chain Reaction/Hardwax.
As with all GAS releases, It’s possibly difficult to provide any definitive description of ‘Zauberburg’, as we’ve usually fallen under its spell and towards the pillow, or at least drift off into a half-lidded reverie before it finishes. In that sense, we can only limn it from sub- or unconscious recollections, but the two effectively merge into one, as Voigt’s patented, distanced kicks mirror the soft throb of arteries heard muffled in a pillow, and the strings feel to descend with the inevitability of nightfall, all leading to the same conclusion - your head caressed by the sandman.
For obsessives fiending a fresh copy, or those lucky noobs about to pop their Gas cherry, this album is 100% essential.
Master field recordist, author and sound theorist David Toop presents a poignant, deeply trippy tableaux inspired by Chinese ghost stories and including recordings of his grandpa’s memories of 1901, a blind street group in Chiang Mai, and Ornette Coleman in conversation - wonderfully transitory, metaphysical stuff of rare substance.
From David Toop: What are field recordings? “My memory is not what it used to be, David,” my grandfather, Syd Senior, said to me as we huddled round a fireplace in 1979. Thanks to a cassette tape I have the memory of his gradual loss of memory, hearing him speak of Queen Victoria’s funeral and the severity of patriotism back in those old days, 1901. Syd Senior is long dead, no longer part of the field of living relations but still within the field of memories that can be revived by technology, albeit an old one that squeaks like a mouse, hisses like a cat.
Where is the field? The field is populated by all the ravishing, painful, poignant, nondescript moments of remembered life. Field recordings forget, just as memories forget. My recording of Ornette Coleman forgets that he fell asleep as we were talking together. I sat quietly, waiting for him to wake; the tape machine continued its work, oblivious.
During lockdown, a warm spring day, I sat working in the garden. A small fox appeared close to me, started, retreated into the shelter of plants by my pond. I took a photo with my phone but when I looked at the image no fox was visible. Earlier that day I had been reading Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio, a collection of short stories written by Pu Songling during the course of his life in the late seventeenth/early eighteenth century. In many of these tales, fox spirits inhabit the physical spaces of living humans in a variety of guises. Some are malicious; some benign. Their presence in the material world is wrong and yet accepted as either a temporary nuisance or a blessing that would later be regretted.
“All the memories are very incomplete,” said Annabel Nicolson during a conversation I recorded with her in the early 1990s. “It’s like trying to substantiate something that was important to us . . . When I was younger I thought that didn’t matter. I thought everything could be transient because people would always be creating more . . . when you get older it seems rather different because you realise many wonderful things have just vanished. Which in some ways doesn’t matter but it also means that they can’t be shared with anyone other than those who were there.”
The 3LP edition of Wolfgang Voigt’s most treasured Gas release is finally freed of the 2016 boxset and available as a standalone edition to a definitive ambient techno classic
Originally issued as a 2LP in 2000 as the 4th Gas transmission, ‘Pop’ remains among the Kompakt co-founder and European techno catalyst’s finest work. By 2000 Wolfgang Voigt has indelibly carved his name on European electronic music with a huge catalogue touching on myriad strains of rave, techno and trance for everyone from Warp to Sähkö and Force Inc., including very canny lines in flipping pop classics far out of their original frameworks. With the Gas series he refined and applied that latter aesthetic to the grand orchestrations of Wagner in a strolling style of breezy strings and booming bass drum heartbeats designed to accompany his walks through the Black Forest. ‘Pop’ is arguably among the most revered of these rambling soundtracks and has now been afforded the fitting luxury of a 3LP pressing giving each track more room to breath and let the listener take in the scenery.
In our books it’s an evergreen essential that rarely fails to draw us into its gently insistent, ambulating pace and naturally plangent ambience.
Wolfgang Voigt’s deeply romantic, terrifying Gas classic, ‘Königsforst’ returns to vinyl on its 20th anniversary reissue, re-cut over 3LP for optimal immersion.
Finally available following its appearance within the Gas ‘Box’, this is the definitive 8-track vinyl edition of the 3rd instalment to one of deep, ambient dub-techno’s most revered catalogues.
Originally issued by Mille Plateaux in 1998, ‘Königsforst’ is an ideal example of Wolfgang Voigt’s turn away from his early ‘90s acid rave classics toward a more Teutonically-refined hybrid of classical elegance and inexorable techno momentum.
More specifically, the tracks distill Voigt’s experience of walking in the Black Forest into a sort of rhythm-driven meditation, creating a space for reflection upon always-the-same/always-different repetition that most beautifully encourages the mind of the listener to wander, ponder and arrive at similarly rarified conclusions.
In other words it’s a stone cold classic.
One of PC Music’s OG avatars, Hannah Diamond does black mirror pop in her debut solo album; ‘Reflections’
Puckered with diamond-polished production by AG Cook (Charli XCX, GFOTY) and EASYFUN (Charli XCX, Rat Boy), ‘Reflections’ is an assuredly hook-riddled volley of pop “perfection” that arrives in time to offer a glossy kind of resolution to this decade and consolidate PC Music’s game-changing, or at least defining, aesthetic.
Enunciated in the primmest middle clarse vowels, syllable by syllable in nursery rhyme pop style, Hannah delivers “frank” thoughts on love and pop in the modern day, set to backdrops that variously draw on ‘90s trance and synth-pop as much as contemporary hardstyle, dancehall, and that sort of trash pop that Farrah Abraham built her name on and is guzzled up by tweeny types everywhere.
It’s difficult to say whether PC Music have reflected stylistic shifts or prompted them, but either way, and depending on your tolerance for upfront shininess, this album is either as welcome as a glitter bomb in your bed, or a U2 album in your iTunes. Are PC Music the new Stock, Aitken & Waterman? Is Hannah a wannabe Sonia?
The Freelancer’s Blues, the second full-length LP from Brooklyn’s country crooner Dougie Poole, captures its current moment like nothing else.
"Poole updates the storytelling backbone of country music for an audience that is young, urban, romantically alienated and financially precarious, using the same threads spun by Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson before him to write his own anthems for a new generation of country music fans.
With his debut album Wideass Highway Dougie Poole established himself as forerunner in a class of musicians who grew up in a post-genre ecosystem equally as likely to be influenced by Ariel Pink and Animal Collective as Dolly Parton and Dwight Yoakam. On The Freelancer’s Blues, Dougie graduates from drum machine and synthesizer bedroom country to a full band with honky-tonk harmonies, wailing pedal steel, and carefully constructed arrangements. Produced by Jonathan Schenke (PC Worship, Gong Gong Gong, Public Practice) The Freelancer’s Blues does the seemingly impossible of staying true to Poole’s heritage in the DIY scenes of New York and Providence, while simultaneously certifying him as a country music bonafide."
The master of the tape loop returns with "Lamentations", yet another collection of eroded drone for low-light dreamers, captured and constructed from tape loops and studies from Basinski’s archives – dating back to 1979 – Lamentations is over forty years of mournful sighs meticulously crafted into songs. They are shaped by the inevitable passage of time and the indisputable collapsing of space – and their collective resonance is infinite and eternal.
Those familiar with Basinski's catalog won't find a lot new here - not a complaint - like the molasses-slow shots that made David Lynch's "Twin Peaks: The Return" so eerily affecting, Basinski's spine-chilling repetition drags u into a state of near-hypnosis, focusing on the tiny details as they crumble in and out of view.
"Lamentations" is the perfect title; we've been spinning this on repeat as the constant chatter of apocalyptic news bubbles thru social media and every newsreel across the planet. It's hard to tell exactly what Basinski is lamenting but it doesn't really matter - each track sounds like a fragment of our past slowly fading from view. As "The Disintegration Loops" mourned a New York City that had been lost, "Lamentations" feels like a memorial for something else huge and all-encompassing. Nostalgia's a hell of a drug.
“25th anniversary compilation. It’s a mid-price cd, a snapshot to show where we are at after 25 years of the label. A selection of our roster and what we’re releasing in 2020. There is one exclusive - Basic Rhythm’s remix of DJ Nate. And six tracks from forthcoming albums for 2021, the tracks by RP Boo, Ripatti (aka Vladislav Delay), Jana Rush, Bogdan Raczynski, Meemo Comma and Eomac.”
Nick Cave here steps into the spotlight as librettist rather than performer, for a second operatic project with Belgian composer Nicholas Lens.
"Having collaborated on Shell Shock in 2014, they joined forces again during the global lockdown to create a new work, L.I.T.A.N.I.E.S.. At Lens’s request, Cave penned 12 litanies – “petitions to a divine maker” – simple, moving texts which the composer then wove into what he calls a “modest chamber opera of sleeping dreams”. Riding his bike around an unusually empty Brussels, Lens had been reminded of the magical stillness of the Rinzai Zen temples he had seen in rural Japan. Memories of these structures and of the inner peace he experienced while visiting them were the initial inspiration for the minimalistic, at times trance-like music of L.I.T.A.N.I.E.S., which features Denzil Delaere, N.L. Noorenbergh, Claron McFadden and Lens’s artist daughter Clara-Lane on vocals."
22nd anniversary reissue of what is for us one of the greatest albums of the late 20th century, originally released on Rephlex in 1998, now painstakingly remastered by Rashad Becker after being unavailable on any format for more or less two decades. If you’re into anything from Prince to A Guy Called Gerald, Tirzah to Jai Paul, Autechre to Rick Rubin - this really is an all-time great.
When you make a record that doesn’t conform, expect to divide opinion. ‘Like Weather’ was released in 1998, on Rephlex - run by Grant Wilson Claridge and Richard D James - an often great label that had a following that couldn't quite deal with electronic music made by a girl - let alone one that used vocals. Everything those lads couldn’t fathom about ‘Like Weather’ is essentially what makes it untouchable; one of the greatest, most effortlessly esoteric pop albums ever made, not in the lineage of IDM or Trip Hop, genres it has so often been awkwardly lumped in with, but something else that cant quite be categorised - even two decades later.
‘Like Weather’ echoes the world-building energy of Prince’s ‘Sign O The Times’ - every track is a self contained universe all its own, there are no rules or conventions - it’s full of hooks, but also insular as fuck, the production is all over the place and it still sounds like nothing else (although if you’re into the Mica Levi-produced Tirzah album, know that this here is the aesthetic, spiritual blueprint). It feels analog, then digital - it’s R&B, but also baroque music box, drone pop, experimental, electronic, junglist - attempting to define it is like trying to cup mercury in the palm of your hands; it’ll just find something else to slide into.
In 2020 we reckon it’s time to re-appraise ‘Like Weather’ as one of the great overlooked albums of our age, made by a female auteur operating in an overwhelmingly male-dominated scene at the turn of the century. Now newly remastered by Rashad Becker (a long, 6 month process - trust that a lot of work has gone into it) - it sounds fucking amazing, one of only a handful of records that have never left our side since we opened our doors in 1998.
So yeah, we could write a long thing here about Leila’s background playing keyboard for Bjork, her meeting with the Rephlex lads, the Aphex connection etc etc, but ‘Like Weather is a record that needs no hype - for real - listen to it and you’ll know.
In the winter of 2017 I moved back to my hometown of Kansas City from Los Angeles. The move was sudden and unforeseen, just as I was tying a bow on the writing process for what would become my 2019 album, Oh My God. I bought a Four Track Tascam model 424 off of an old friend to help me get to the finish line, but much to my surprise and excitement, this new piece of equipment in my all-but-bare home didn’t help complete one album but rather inspire another: Sundowner. The new collection of songs came quickly and effortlessly as I did my best not to resist or refine the songs, but instead let them take shape all on their own.
"As the songs kept coming I cleared out the crowded shed that was sitting dormant in my backyard and built a makeshift studio before adding drums, lead guitar and piano to complete the demos. Each day I would teach myself basic recording techniques, watching the channels illuminate and pulse as if the machine were breathing, and then emerge in the evenings as the sun was getting low: - around 5:30 in the winter, when the Kansan sunsets look icy and distant, like a pink ember inside of a display case, and 9 o’clock in the summer, when the sunsets are warm and abstract.
Landing back home felt jarring juxtaposed with a life full of chaos and adventure with my band on the road. But at the very least, I was happy to have - for the first time in my adulthood - a place to close the door, with no temptations other than to work on music and reflect on what I had built since I left. It was a new form of isolation, one I had never explored or expected to experience. Not ready to let go of the hand of the California desert, I spent the winter decorating the best I knew how; with mementos from my previous home, cactus and aloe vera and covering the walls in pinewood - immediately earning my house it’s nickname, The Little Los Angeles.
In January 2019 I contacted my friend and producer Brad Cook to help recreate what I had made in my shed. We chose to work in Texas; we wanted to make sure the record was done far away from any coastline, and in the heart of America. Brad played bass and some keys on the album, but beyond that he encouraged and inspired me to play almost everything else. All lead guitar, proper drums (save the drums on “A Night At The Little Los Angeles”), mellotron and what I believe to be the albums secret weapon - a WWII era collapsible and slightly out-of-tune pump organ - were performed by me. We did, however, bring in James Krivchenia towards the end of the session to fill out the percussion. It was an honor to work with him as he built maracas from pecans and played on the floor of the live room, adding flourish wherever he saw fit.
On the last evening of the session, after everything had wrapped, we all climbed on top of an empty water tower on the property, giving us a view in all directions. To the North you could see an endless Texas, with long wisps of cirrus clouds above the desert floor, and to the South there was Mexico, the recent detention camps only a mile beyond, with large cumulus clouds hovering over, bringing us to an ominous pause. To the West, towards the setting sun, the two families of clouds merged, holding the last light of the day in purple and orange. Below, a freight train cut the landscape in half as it whistled in the distance.
Almost as soon as the session wrapped, I was off and away on press trips and then proper tours for Oh My God, which came out in April that same year. Sundowner sat inside of a hard drive back at Sonic Ranch and did not see the light of day, until I found myself, as did the rest of the world, stuck inside their home and in quarantine in March 2020. My second year of touring for Oh My God was cancelled. Brad, Jerry and I worked from our respective homes, sending notes back and forth as we worked alone but together to mix the album, and suddenly, just like that, Sundowner was finished.
Songs, like sunsets, are fleeting, and it’s only due to a willingness and desire to catch them that you ever, if even only for a moment, grab a hold of one. When writing Sundowner, I was lucky to have had the Tascam 424 there to help capture both. Sundowner is my attempt to put the Middle American twilight -- it’s beauty profound, though not always immediate -- into sound. It is a depiction of isolation. Of the past. Of an uncertain future. Of provisions. Of an omen. Of a dead deer. Of an icon. Of a Los Angeles themed hotel in rural Kansas. Of billowing campfires, a mermaid and a highway lined in rabbit fur. It is a depiction of the nervous feeling that comes with the sky’s proud announcement that another day will be soon coming to a close as the pink light recedes and the street lamps and house lights suddenly click on. -- Kevin Morby, Kansas, 2020"
To mark this year’s Piano Day Nils Frahm released eight solo piano pieces.
"Conceived of just before Nils broke his thumb and composed the similarly intimate solo piano album Screws, Empty is a soothing vessel of eight simple and serene pieces originally recorded as the music to a short art film he shot with his friend and film director Benoît Toulemonde. Drifting through emotions from the stark and sobering opener ‘First Defeat’, to the gently euphoric ‘No Step On Wing’ and the contemplative but hopeful closer ‘Black Notes’, with its poignant minute of silence, Empty is a comforting score for these turbulent times.
“When I came back from the hospital with a broken thumb and listened to the recordings, I felt they were unfinished. I decided to put them aside and started to work on my small album, Screws. Many many other notes of the piano have been struck since these days, and before we all forget about this, I thought it would be a good moment to share these lullabies with you. I hope they help you stay all strong and calm in these days of solitude – despite the hardship, we can discover introspection and reflection unexpectedly. Who knows what it is good for.
Much love, Nils”
One of Coil’s most “accessible” and definitive classics finally resurfaces on Dais for a first *official* reissue 21 years after the fact
‘Musick To Play In The Dark’ is one those records that, like your first f*ck or trip, remains intractably lodged in the memory. At long last rearriving officially on physical formats with blessing of Coil’s Drew McDowell, the album could hardly be better timed to soundtrack the dread and enforced isolationism of our times.
Alongside Coil’s ‘The Ape Of Naples’, it plays to the full breadth of their enigmatic strengths, from sky-lashing doom licks and jazz noir to gibber-jawed druggy nightmares, via soaring kosmiche and breathtaking, unforgettable songcraft that rarely fails to plunge listeners into their wholly realised soundworld; hence it’s widely regarded as a vital entry point to their catalogue for anyone lingering on the fringes and wondering where to start with Coil’s catalogue.
This listener was relatively late to the album, but can still vividly recall being bowled over during the nithering winter of 2007 in Berlin, frozen to the chair and utterly transfixed by its magick appeal, which perhaps owes something to their shift in production methods from “Solar” phase to the “Moon” phase at their new studio, as well as the indelible trace of Drew McDowell’s deep granular synthesis and Thighpaulsandra’s brand of esoteric audness.
From the classic intro of ‘Are You Shivering?’ to their subbass hymn to our favourite brassica ‘Broccoli’, and the sleepwalker slant of ‘The Dreamer Is Still Asleep’; many years later the album has lost none of its capacity to reduce us to a goose-pimpled mess, and we’re just a bit jealous of anyone who’s about to pop their Coil cherry with this new pressing.