Singapore-raised, London-based cyborg Yeule toys with quiet/loud dynamics and neo-expressionist electronic pop idioms on a breakthru album of AI lullabies and post-human fever dreams - RIYL Lena Raine, Grimes, Eartheater
‘Glitch Princess’ is a sprawling yet exactingly stylised showcase of Yeule’s hypermodern pop, weaving aspects of computer game soundtracks, ‘90s grunge and shoegaze, with epic R&B balladeering, in a wholly 2022-ready record of the times. Fragile, whispered lyrics about self-love, lust and the emotions that came flooding back after the artist’s self-imposed sobriety are framed in world-building aesthetics, intended to express the artist’s unbound identity and the freedoms felts as a non-binary artist.
The dozen songs toe the finest line between sincere and corny, drawing upon all the conventions available to spunky young hyper pop sprites and magpie-picking the most luridly effective for an unabashed expo of Yeule’s style that attempts to find depth in its ornate surface detail and immediacy. We’re really drawn in by the icily naif, confessional opener ‘My Name Is Nat Cmiel’, and find ourselves simultaneously attracted/repelled by sashays between saccharine, saturated harmonies and syrupy torch songs, with curious cuts of screwed grunge-dreampop piquing our interests in ‘Perfect Blue’ and the curbed Avrilian enthusiasm of ‘Don’t Be So Hard On Your Own Beauty’, or noise-pop of ‘Fragments’ and the crystalline seduction of ‘Friendly Machine’, which comes off like Fuck Buttons meets FKA Twigs.
Matteo Uggeri and Dominic Appleton (Breathless/This Mortal Coil) new project, Starlight Assembly.
"Dominic Appleton has been a member of London dream-pop group Breathless since the 1980's but is perhaps better known for his vocal contributions to This Mortal Coil albums 'Filigree & Shadow' and 'Blood', including a cover of Chris Bell's 'I Am The Cosmos'. Matteo Uggeri is a composer and producer living in Milan whose most recent solo album was released by Infraction in 2019.
Redolent of trip-hop, electro-pop, shoegaze and other beat-driven forms of modern pop music, Starlight And Still Air vibrates deeply with Uggeri's unique production language, Appleton's instantly-recognizable voice, and a supporting cast of European musicians on cello, trumpet, guitar, backing vocals, and more.
In early 2019, Dominic Appleton met up for lunch in London with 4AD co-founder Ivo Watts-Russell while the long-retired label boss was visiting from his home in New Mexico. Who better to encourage Appleton to take the plunge into his first songwriting collaboration outside of longtime band Breathless than the man who invited him so many years ago to contribute vocals to This Mortal Coil, Watts-Russell's collaborative supergroup? At the time of their lunch Appleton had already agreed to work on an album with Italian composer and producer Matteo Uggeri but was suffering from a minor crisis of confidence. As he told British writer Barry Fry last year, "I loved the music Matteo sent me and had agreed to work with him but was dragging my heels. It was a confidence thing, it's hard to be openly creative and expressive with someone you've never met. I needed a push out of my comfort zone and Ivo gave me an encouraging kick up the arse.” Lucky for us, thanks to Uggeri’s persistence and Ivo-Watts’ timely encouragement, we have Starlight And Still Air, their stunning, memorable, and downright addictive debut album as Starlight Assembly.
"Without exaggeration, Dominic Appleton is by far my favourite living male vocalist. He has such a beautiful, sad voice and comes up with melodies that do the same" – Ivo Watts-Russell (4AD founder)
Jeff Parker is a member of the genre-splitting outfit Tortoise and has also played in the Chicago Underground Quartet/Trio, as well as the fusion leaning Isotope 217. ‘The Relatives’, his 2004 sophomore album as leader, was included on numerous year-end lists and over time has proved to be a pillar in the pantheon of Parker’s everexpanding music. Recorded with John McEntire at the legendary SOMA Studio (Yo La Tengo, Hamid Drake, Nobukazu Takemura, Jim O’Rourke).
‘The Relatives’ features Sam Barsheshet, Chris Lopes and Chad Taylor, who’ve also worked together in the Jeff Parker Trio and Chicago Underground Orchestra. As a composer, Parker has scored several documentaries and contributed music to feature films and video games. Parker is one independent jazz's most in-demand guitarists He is widely considered it's most versatile guitarist and is gigging constantly throughout the world. The Relatives is Jeff Parker's first solo record on Thrill Jockey, but his second solo record to date. The first was released on legendary Blues and Jazz label, Delmark.
Opening with the wondrous "Istanbul", most reminiscent of the backing to Sam Prekop's amazing self titled debut album, the sequencing here is the central focus, with enough of post rock tradition to remind you of Jeff's dayjob - something that imbues this album with the cross-generic appeal Thrill Jockey so often excel at.
Bit of a classic.
Clint Mansell impresses with another moody electronic movie score, this time in collaboration with eccentric "Field in England" director Ben Wheatley.
Since collaborating with Darren Aronofsky on "Pi" in 1998, when he was apparently sleeping on a sofa in New York City, Clint Mansell has barely stopped to breathe, firing out scores for "The Wrestler", "Black Swan", "Ghost in the Shell" and "Mute". On "In the Earth", Mansell joins forces with Ben Wheatley again, after working with him on "High-Rise", "Rebecca", and "Happy New Year, Colin Burstead". Mansell is in his element working on a horror score; the film is set outside Bristol and languishes in pandemic paranoia, spiked with more than a little of Wheatley's psychedelic English eccentricity.
Mansell's score conducts an atmosphere of appropriate dread, throbbing with analog tension and mimicking vintage John Carpenter scores like the ominous "Prince of Darkness" and Ennio Morricone collaboration "The Thing". Mansell spices things up by meeting creeping monosynth basslines and Carpenter-esque Prophet pads with choral vocals and overdriven oscillator burps on 'Spirit of the Woods', and recalls Mogwai's recent albums on the remarkably hopeful 'In The Earth I+II'.
Fully bumper 20-track sprawl from folk-indie outfit Big Thief, following a run of acclaimed records on Saddle Creek and 4AD. Somewhere between Nashville, Brooklyn, and Los Angeles.
Put together following four 2020 recording sessions in Upstate New York, Topanga Canyon, The Rocky Mountains, and Tucson, Arizona, Big Thief edited 'Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You' down from a respectable 45 songs. The band wanted to show not only their growth as individuals, but vocalist and de-facto frontwoman Adrianne Lenker's songwriting. It's not easy to process in one sitting, but the band clears a lot of material, veering from pristine, but heartfelt country-fried pop ('Change', 'Spud Infinity'), to Marissa Nadler ambient dream-folk ('Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You'), trip-hop influenced electronics ('Blurred View') and '90s pop excess ('Little Things').
It's the four members' resolve that keeps the album grounded - you get the sense of each member's pent up desire and willingness to experiment. These songs came from a period where we all felt trapped in one way or another, and for Big Thief the period resulted in a wealth of material that covers a lot of ground. The amazing thing is how high the quality is throughout.
"A sweeping, cinematic, emotional change is in the air. Molly Nilsson’s sixth studio album Zenith begins with clear, wide eyes open to Earth as we would love it to be but seldom is. Recorded in her home of Berlin and whilst touring and, as ever, conceived, produced, written and recorded in solitude, Zenith is Nilsson’s big statement and consequently her most affecting work to date. It sees her reveling in big arrangements, sweeping synth strings, bigger choruses and emotions. Like the rest of us she looks within and to endless sunsets in wonder and puzzlement.
That Molly Nilsson is a DIY cult figure is beyond question; she has always written directly and with wit straight down the line between the universal and the personal. The difference with Zenith, and you can hear it in the opening chords of opener The Only Planet, is that her scope is now much wider and her heart heavier than ever before: over a post-ecstatic dusk, Nilsson serenades the globe in a loving embrace. Following on, 1995 is, arguably, one of Nilsson’s finest songs to date. It’s one of those songs to learn the lyrics to, to listen to on repeat, a reason to wear the grooves down to the bone, it’s why pop music can be one of the greatest art forms we have. It’s an example of how, on this album, Molly draws the listener closer to her heart than ever before. There’s simply no escape from the line “The plans that you made / when you still had the time / I’ve saved all the things that you left behind but by now I guess I’d consider them all mine /Windows 95, is only a metaphor for what I feel inside / Although I’m older now / there’s still an emptiness that’s never letting go somehow.” Show-stopper Mountain Time is the soundtrack to being on the run, from societal conventions, from normative ideas of happiness, from your surroundings. It’s the intoxicating call of the renegade. That’s not to say that Nilsson’s light touch has been forsaken for grandiose statements. Bunny Club begins as a demo-sketch before breaking into a fast-paced tale of doomed romance with big rave synths and Bus 194 (All There Is) sees Molly joyride through a city on a happy hardcore bus. But it’s tracks like Tomorrow and another contender for best-ever-Molly moment, Happyness that the true scale of what she’s accomplished reveals itself. We’re locked in a spiraling orbit, strings and bass whirling, gazing at the spinning planet below us as we contemplate both the ultimate freedom in loneliness and the glimmer of hope in the Other. Can we ever be truly with someone? Are we ever truly alone?
Over the 13 tracks here we get the impression that Nilsson may always be restless; like anyone else she has conflicting feelings of love and hate. It’s just not many other people can tell you exactly how you feel before you know it yourself."
London's Death Is Not The End rope in folklorist Derek Piotr to curate another mystical collection of crackly mountain music from North Carolina. Powerful, soul-stirring unaccompanied vocal music.
Last year the label released "Last Wisps of the Old Ways", a brilliantly revealing set of decaying folk music sourced from deep in the North Carolina mountains. Recorded between 1939 and 2020, it highlighted the enduring power of songs that still form the backbone of American country music. Companion set "Ever Since We've Known It" picks up where its predecessor left off, mostly focusing on recordings of Mrs. Lena Bare Turbyfill, whose dozens of 1939 recordings were rescued from a shelf in the Library of Congress by Piotr.
Mostly just vocals, with occasional spare accompaniment from a squeezebox or dulcimer, the texture comes from the recording process, adding a layer of grit that'd put Burial to shame. Voices are saturated into Basinski-esque crumbled tones, and there's rarely silence between the words, just reflecting pools of hissing white noise. A time capsule, seriously.
John Zorn and Laurie Anderson collaborator Rob Burger imagines desert vistas using muted solo piano, lap steel and organ on "Marching With Feathers".
Swerving from the kosmische experimentation of 2019's "The Grid", keyboard virtuoso Rob Burger turns down the volume on "Marching With Feathers", echoing Michael Andrews' dampened piano score for "Donnie Darko", or Goldmund's homespun "Corduroy Road". It's not all gentle ivory tickling though, 'Library Science' is all synth and canned percussion, sounding like a '70s b-movie score, and 'Hotel for Saints' is more like Vangelis's chiming soundtrack to "Chariots of Fire".
Trentemøller's sixth studio album, Memoria.
"As with most Trentemøller releases, it’s a body of songs that are thematically linked by many melodic threads. The first single from the upcoming album, 'In The Gloaming', implies the arc of the album might have actually begun late in the day, giving the sensation of waking in the evening. Nocturne’s dawning. Stars emerge in the form of percussive arpeggios.
2019’s Trentemøller album 'Obverse' was an exercise in what could be done if the prospect of performing the songs onstage wasn’t a factor. It opened up some doors, and signaled a new chapter. Memoria, even considering its resplendence, almost feels like it demands to be presented live as well."
From the cradle of Bristol’s influential early ‘90s post-rock scene swirling Crescent, Third Eye Foundation and Flying Saucer Attack; Movietone’s incredible, hushed 1994 Peel Session is made available for the first time - RIYL Hood, Tara Clerkin Trio, Tortoise.
Counting core members Kate Wright & Rachel Brook (Flying Saucer Attack), plus Matt Elliott (The Third Eye Foundation) and a rotating assembly of pals, Movietone yielded a fine handful of albums and singles during their decade of quiet operations 1994-2004 with the likes of Planet Records, Domino and Drag City. Their ‘Peel Sessions’ collects the band’s three sessions for the late, great DJ gate keeper between 1994-1997 and makes them available anywhere for the first time since original broadcast.
It’s all fully charmed & charming stuff, dwelling at a crossroads of styles in a way that was only just starting to be explored, but has fed forward into myriad bands since, with contemporary echoes surely found in last year’s lokey gorgeous LP by another Bristol unit, Tara Clerkin Trio. Throughout the sessions the near-whispered fragility of Kate Wright’s vocals helm the record in the shadows, coolly urged by melodic guitars jangle, snaking jazz-wise basslines, and dusty stickwork that’s at best in ‘Mono Valley’ and the deathly crawl of ‘Heatwave Pavement’, and sees Matt Elliott chime in on the groggy but intense free-jazz-folk of closing beauty ‘Facing West From California’s Shores’ from their final Peel session, despite having left the band years prior by that point.
Almost universally derided when it came out in 1998 (I remember, it was shocking), TNT quickly became like a family member we'd listen to it repeatedly, totally entranced by its quirky combination of jazz, post-rock and experimental electronics.
Okay so some levelled that it was too 'light' and had lost the Kraut intensity of previous records, but it's an album that takes time to truly appreciate and hearing it now it seems bizarre that anyone could dislike it. With one of the most memorable sleeves of the 90s, it features 'Swung from the Gutters', 'I Set My Face to the Hillside' and 'The Suspension Bridge at Iguazu Falls' - combining everything that Tortoise do so well. Classic, innit.
Pye Corner Audio finishes his trilogy of albums - following 2016's "Stasis" and 2019's "Hollow Earth" - with this high budget tribute to vintage synth crust, dystopian lost futures and squashed dancefloor memories.
Could there be a more appropriate home for Martin Jenkins than Ghost Box? His latest album characterizes everything that the label stands for, building a strong theme immediately with Jenkins' peerless production skill and leaving the throng of other vintage synth fetishists in the dust. It's hardly surprising that Pye Corner Audio has been picked up for so much TV work recently, he sounds as if his music is umbilically joined to a set of cathode memories: blinking images of Doctor Who, 1980's Channel 4 documentaries, late night horror shows, Open University idents.
We've heard Jenkins' dusted retro-future electronics plenty of times now, and at this point he's just enjoying the ride; the squelchy sci-fi moods of 'Paleolith' are a perfect intro to 'Earthwork', where the album bugs from acidic squelching to knackered dancefloor froth. And while the shadow of Boards of Canada looms over so much retro synth music, Jenkins reaches his own distinct conclusions.
'Hive Mind' twists toughened disco rhythms and modulated arpeggios into a horror theme dancefloor jam that's two clicks left of the TV dial. 'Phantom Orchid' is another slow burner, sounding like Vangelis if he was given the opportunity to rescore John Carpenter's "The Thing". Basically, imagine Johnny Jewel, Alessandro Cortini, S U R V I V E, and Dean Hurley going b2b at the purgatorium disco and you have the measure of it.
Retro-futurist cinematic synth-fest from Supersilent keyboardist and composer Ståle Storløkken.
"Just as radio drama is said to provide the best pictures, so some music can make for a perfect film soundtrack without the need for a film to exist at all. ’The Haze of Sleeplessness’ is a case in point: as the album starts to play, the listener’s imagination kicks in and does the rest, supplying the necessary plot, character and setting until a full-scale narrative unspools behind one’s eyes.
A suite of seven movements whose common musical material is continuously recycled into new shapes and sounds, while recurring leitmotifs create a connecting thread of continuity, ’The Haze of Sleeplessness’ operates on several levels simultaneously. Most obviously, perhaps, it’s an unapologetic synth-fest; a love poem to old-school electronica and analogue sound whose squelches, bleeps and blurts can’t help but recall the heroic era of Wendy Carlos, Vangelis and Tangerine Dream. It’s also a remarkably original and successful attempt at using by now antique instruments to form a true orchestral palette, building a symphony of sound through combining monophonic sources and their new digital variants into a densely populated audio landscape that is captured with astonishing sonic fidelity.
The super-saturated surface of the music fairly crackles with raw electricity, as if the over-amped distortion was about to short-circuit itself, with a wobbly jack plug connection flickering dangerously before finally cutting out. That many of these sounds and their treatment can’t help but suggest the retro-futurist setting of a dystopian sci-fi thriller might make the cinematic analogy inevitable, but it doesn’t lessen the music’s power or cheapen its effect."
15 tracks from Modeselektor, released on Monkeytown Records.
"EXTLP is very much rooted in bombastic rave sounds, but there’s much more to this romp than barreling techno and neck-snapping breakbeats. Across its 15 tracks, Modeselektor tear through mutant crunk distortions, glitchy dub meditations, neon synth-pop and more. EXTLP features a star-studded slate of guests from around the globe, including veteran dub vocalist Paul St. Hilaire, sharptongued UK rapper Flohio, avant-pop rulebreaker Catnapp and legendary Einstürzende Neubauten frontman Blixa Bargeld.
Arriving on the heels of Extended mixtape — and the three EPs that immediately followed it — EXTLP is the final piece of what might be the most prolific period of Modeselektor’s entire career."
First new Animal Collective album in four years, yielding a harmonious reunion of Avey Tare, Panda Bear, Deakin and Geologist with bags of Beach Boys-in-wonderland vocals, Rolling Stones-y blues tonk, and Paddy McAloon-like turns of phrase, all bathed in skin-tingling pop psychedelia
Inarguably one of the bands of their generation, thanks to a peerless run of albums between the early ‘00s and the past decade, Animal Collective have spawned more than enough copycats in the process (i had the misfortune of living above one’s rehearsals), but the effortlessness of their swaying, sunny day arrangements remain practically unsurpassed in their field. ‘Time Skiffs’ reprises the group’s close-knit vocal harmonies and lysergic jangle with an unmistakeable ‘60s twinkle in the eye, strolling and swooning between nine gently restless works that sound as though channelled thru a magick radio dialled to a fractal love-in, and sloshing over at the edges with melody and spunk.
Offered up as “love letters, distress signals, en plein air observations, and relaxation hymns”, the album revolves some of their sharpest pop songwriting, soused in half a century of classics but ultimately distilled to their own magick brew. It’s all one of the most American-sounding records, but smartly in a way that incorporates US rock ’n pop’s double refraction of influence from the UK in a way weirdly unique to Baltimore (think B-more’s early links to UK hardcore, even the strange inflections of their accent - odd even to Americans).
As such we can clearly hear the Stones referenced on the bluesy tonk of ‘Strung With Everything’, and perhaps even nods to the Sprout’s Paddy McAloon or Scritti Politti in the balmier swagger of ‘Cherokee’, or Scott Walker on ‘Royal And Desire’. Yet the optimist spirits of The Beach Boys are still a huge influence everywhere else, just secreted a little more into their own sound, at best in the iridescent bop of ‘Car Keys’, and most explicitly on ‘Prester John’ and the swirling lilt of ‘We Go Back’.
Motion Ward follow that ridiculously sought-after Ulla album with an unexpected new entry from perennial lowercase practitioner Craig Tattersall aka The Humble Bee, deploying a typically lovely, absorbing set of frayed strum and sublime domestic rustles.
Tattersall needs little introduction to these pages, he’s been a crucial node of post-rock, leftfield ambient and ambient composition since the late ‘90s, with a catalogue that links Hood to The Remote Viewer, CCO, and The Boats across dozens of coveted CDs, tapes, and vinyl editions, many of them self released on one of his many private edition labels.
Following a tape for our Documenting Sound series and a reissue of his debut as The Humble Bee in 2021, Craig lets us peer further into his everyday practice on ‘Light Trespassing’, which offers a golden luminosity to suffuse his more usually half-lit sound. You can almost hear the glow of morning light angling across his workshop, with distant, muffled voices also lending a rich sense of depth perception, and pinging apps from a phone or computer nearby gently piercing the patina of analog surreality with a momentary, digital burst.
No doubt there’s craft at play here which is more elusively electro-acoustic and handmade than much of the work produced by new ambient lambs, but it’s not hard to hear why Motion Ward, among many contemporary explorers, are flocking his delicate haptics for inspiration, he just oozes an effortless, liminal sense that’s been accompanying us for over two decades now. Long may it continue pal.
Violet Opposition is the latest album from Brock Van Wey's ambient project.
"With Violet Opposition, Van Wey floats the project into murkier waters by adding a layer of overdriven gilding to his trademark sound. This sound is a texturally fibrous take on ambient that Brock has been experimenting with recently. As a result, the bvdub peaks and valleys you know, and love, are even more arresting with the added grit and brume.
Violet Opposition is four achingly impelling tracks smeared across a double LP in violet and yellow swirl, each song taking its time to evolve and cradle you in sinewy tones."