Longform Editions coax out a magnificent, hour-long ambient banner from Robert Cox’s revitalised Rimarimba project. Ideal for taking a stroll and letting your head unravel
“I live on the coast. The inspiration came from daily walks by the sea. The background ever changing drone is the restless sea, the cellos are the breaking waves, their 'gritty' sound quality is the pebbles washing back down the beach and the higher pitched twiddly things are the circling sea gulls. Although 'real' waves have a frequency of 7–8 per minute and, yes, approximately the seventh one is often the biggest I have slowed mine down as they sounded too fast at 7–8/m. Think of these as long Pacific rollers breaking on a distant shore.
Unlike most of my compositions this one has no percussion.
The whole beast was made from acoustic and electric guitar parts recorded onto a Tascam DP32. Many had their initial attack removed and some were looped on an Electro-Harmonix 45000 looper. The 'strings' were produced by feeding some parts through an Electro-Harmonix Mellotron pedal. A Yamaha SPX 2000 processed many of the parts in various unspeakable ways until they 'felt' about right. A Lexicon Reverb worked its magic as only Lexicon can. About half of the parts play in reverse at various points. The guitars used were a Furch SJV 121 Lux acoustic 12 string, hand made in the Czech Republic in 1997, and a Gibson ES335 electric, made in Nashville, USA in 1987. Both were tuned in open C – CGCGCE.
This is an age of ever shortening attention spans driven by the constructs of our online world. News is delivered as headlines to skim across with little in the way of in depth explanation or examination. The so called 'long read' pieces in online news sites are no more than the first two columns of a four page article in the Sunday newspapers from a few years ago. Ebooks do not convey the same experience as print on paper. Without the physical presence and weight of a book digital information can feel as ephemeral as television advertising. Wikipedia, good though it is, does not allow for the chance discoveries that come from turning the page in a reference book or encyclopedia. Saving a link in order to return to an online article is not the same as remembering the piece about electrons is about one third of the way through the volume E–G a few pages after the picture of the Egyptian statue. Whilst static art is still, well, static and you can gaze upon and contemplate a painting or a sculpture for as long as time permits how many do so when we are conditioned by the predominance of moving images.
Slow cooking is a healthy reaction to fast, commercialised, food. Likewise both walking and cycling (slow travel) rather than driving make for a deeper experience of the journey.
A long piece of music be it a symphony, an ambient work or a jazz suite creates a mindscape in which the listener can lose and find themselves as their attention wanders and returns. It can trigger a memory in that moment at 37 minutes which is different the next time they hear it because they almost inevitably arrive at that moment having taken a different path through the piece. Today the bass line, tomorrow the percussion figures, the day after the unfolding harmonies. This takes time to achieve, time that is not available in a three minute pop song. The listener who allocates enough of their time will find an hour immersed in a piece of music is at least as beneficial as a long soak in a warm bath.”
A highly evocative, smudged take on shoegaze drone from Jefre Cantu-Ledesma, a release that marked a radical rethink of the classic dream-pop template when it was released in 2010, taking an impressionist's brush to established ambient traits.
Love Is A Stream joins the dots between My Bloody Valentine and drone-pop figureheads like Tim Hecker and Grouper, sculpting noise and feedback around gauzy vocal shimmers that expand the horizon far into the unknown.
Although its component parts spring from the fiery embers of molten synthesizers and tape saturated guitar tones, the album derives its luxurious textural presence from submerged vocals supplied by the likes of Type boss John 'Xela' Twells, Lisa McGee and Maxwell August Croy.
You can just about make out those lost voices roaming around the pulverised mix of 'Stained Glass Body' and the billowing 'River Like Spine’ - though it's impossible to make any single element out given how melted and fluid the mixing is, bringing a frail human element to an album that otherwise sounds entirely not of this Earth.
We’re f*cking buzzing to tick Mappa Mundi’s enigmatic 1990 ambient album ‘Musaics’ off the vinyl wishlist, with thanks to Brian Not Brian’s Midnight Drive reissue schedule, who’ve necessarily expanded it from single LP to a 2xLP primed to play loud
A rugged outlier on the cusp of ambient sea change ‘80s into ‘90s, ‘Musaics’ presents 6 soundscapes realised by Jan Van De Bergh and Pieter Kuyl in “spontaneous sessions” with a sampler, drum machines and a computer circa 1990. The results are absolutely choice examples of that era, ranging from tuff but deep breakbeats to dead sexy proto-Goa styles including the lusting ‘Sexafari’ and languorous classic ‘Trance Fusion’, as recently hailed by Hunee and also reissued in the ‘Antwerp Bio Techno 1989-94’ EP.
So yeh, a favourite of ours for a good few years now, ‘Musaics’ is a little world unto itself, folding in all stripes of environmental sounds, acidic synths and lithe rhythms to terraform a psychedelic rave dream just prior to it all tipping into “hardcore”. As they state int he liner notes, the duo arrived art this style serendipitously via simply mixing two records together with a mixer. That might sound easy and obvious, but remember this was the start of Europeans pissing around on two turntables, finding that mythical 3rd track, and attempting to recreate its imaginary clash of textures, tones and grooves.
Like UK producers who were also applying the same Hip Hop-based ideas with a twisted lip and at faster tempos, Mappa Mundi did it slower, psychedelic, but still with a rugged appeal. It’s there everywhere from the very Bristolian parallels of opener ‘Urbi Et Mori’ with its depth charge subs, to the aforementioned beauty ‘Sexafari’ and its writhing 808s, to the mix of didgeridoo and rap knocks in ‘Serendipity (Take 1)’, and thru to full swing break in ‘The Oracle’ or the New Jack Swang of ‘Wölfli’, but hardly better than on ‘Trance Fusion’, one of the sexiest, enchating 11 minutes of slow dance music produced in 1990.
Finnish psych sorceress Laura Naukkarinen aka Lau Nau weaves a cats cradle of crystalline electronics recorded at EMS Stockholm across her half hour-long work ‘Amphipoda’ for Longform Editions
“Lau Nau (Laura Naukkarinen) composes music for films, theatre and albums, makes workshops and sound installations and travels around the world performing. In her work she combines electroacoustic approaches, found objects, field recordings, folk instruments, classical instruments, analogue synthesisers and her own voice. Her music is imbued with a cinematic breadth of vision and her idiosyncratic, finely honed sound world builds on fragile, spectral otherness. She has been nominated for various prestigious prizes in her home country Finland and won the main Femma prize 2018 with her fifth album Poseidon, released in Europe, USA and Japan.
Lau Nau says: “The piece is recorded at Elektronmusikstudion EMS in Stockholm with their big Buchla 200 system in 2018. I was there for a short residency studying how to compose the changes in the Baltic Sea into music. This composition is inspired by how the biomass of plankton vary in the Baltic depending, for example, on the entering saline pulses from the North Sea, the oxygen levels and the temperature of the water. The work has been supported by The Arts Promotion Centre Finland, Taike.”
Elegantly transportive and deeply dreamy, ‘Malam Minggu: A Saturday Night in Sunda’ is the first vinyl and download reissue of a 1991 compilation CD of traditional Indonesian gamelan and folk songs recorded between 1978-1985. Don’t miss Group Gentra Madya’s haunting ‘Gupay Pileuleuyan’ or the exquisite precision of their ‘Sambal Lada’, and the swingeing, Senyawa-esque syncopation of flutes, drums and vox in ‘Kulu Kulu Gancang’ by Mang Memed Group
“Akuphone resumes its reissue operations with its latest compilation, Malam Minggu: A Saturday Night in Sunda. This release brings us once again to Southeast Asia, with a stopover in the Indonesian archipelago – to the region of Sunda in western Java. As its name suggests, this collection immerses us in the vibes of Sundanese nights at the turn of the 1980s.
During the post-independence climate of the 1960s, Presidents Sukarno and Suharto encouraged artists to renew and innovate traditional Indonesian art forms in an attempt to limit and control the spread of Western music - which was banned from broadcasting in 1961. This policy saw a revival of traditional musical styles like gamelan degung, and the emergence of Indonesian singing genres: jaipong and pop sunda.
Recorded between 1978 and 1985, this unique and surprising selection presents some of the most popular artists of the time, such as Nano S. and Tati Saleh. It is richly documented by Southeast Asia music specialist Édouard Degay Delpeuch.”
Experimental field recording artist Kate Carr joins the finely programmed Longform Editions with a minimalist, lower case 36 minute session...
Traversing hydrophonic sounds to filigree textured electronics, following a fine line between elemental, natural forms and more menacing, looming, aleatoric sources
Mutant R&B starlet Lafawndah places her vocals front and centre over bashy, technoid backdrops produced by Aaron David Ross (Gatekeeper/ADR) and others on her debut album ‘Ancestor Boy’, following up her recent link-up with Midori Takada.
“The debut full- length album from Lafawndah, ANCESTOR BOY, released via her own label imprint CONCORDIA, is a bracing statement of intent, heralding an artist unbound in scope, scale, and intensity. She opens 2019 with bold single DADDY, plotting new territory onto her own highly personalized map of influence – a map drawing the club, composition, and pop into thrillingly unresolved, ultramodern erotics.
Lafawndah’s 2018 was filled with myriad musical highlights and successes - including a celebrated performance featuring peers Tirzah, Kelsey Lu and more at London’s South Bank in December, growing from her acclaimed HONEY COLONY mixtapes. Meanwhile her heart-stopping inter-generational music & film collaboration with japanese ambient legend Midori Takada in Le Renard Bleu (with KENZO and Partel Oliva) continues to echo into new forms, with a full production performance titled ‘Ceremonial Blue’ premiering at the Barbican, London in April. And streaming now, her achingly beautiful self-directed video for JOSEPH - a lullaby and an ode to newborn life co-written with Jamie Woon and also featuring on ANCESTOR BOY - has set Lafawndah apart as an independent director with a singular vision spanning multiple media and artforms.
Having in her prior self-titled and TAN EPs upturned geography, in ANCESTOR BOY Lafawndah digs deep to unravel geology, mining emotions of the deep past and future. The album’s physicality is elemental; its memory, mineral. It is a becoming- of- age story for a people yet to come, created out of a need to find the others. In the middle of the album’s sonic and lyrical onslaught is the desire to share the uncertainties of growing up when you don’t belong anywhere. Crafted with the aid of fellow travelers Nick Weiss, Aaron David Ross, and James Connolly,
ANCESTOR BOY’s maximalism- it’s overflow of detail, of feeling, of ideas- serves to amplify a frequent lyrical motif: the sensation that one body, one lifetime, isn’t big enough for what you’re feeling. The record is pregnant with memories shared across more than one mind, recalling the storytelling antagonisms of Nina Simone at her most strident and unpredictable. In response, the rhythmic aggressions of her music have grown even more determined and psychedelic, drawing a line in fire between Jimmy Jam’s turnt industrialism on Control and the furious unease of Red Mecca- era Cabaret Voltaire.
With a palate equal parts chrome and dirt, ice and depth, Lafawndah’s finesse with song architecture imbues the LP with an uncanny addictiveness: anthems loaded with trap doors.
ANCESTOR BOY imagines a pop music that is neither imperial nor local, but a freedom of movement; a residue, perhaps, from the album’s nomadic creation between Los Angeles, Mexico City, New York, London, and Paris.”
Straight-up knockers from Chicago hit squad Traxmen aka Gant-man, Paul Johnson, Robert Armani and Eric Martin
Robert Armani puts in a serious shift with the distorted wallop of ‘Caution’, next to the all-time Chi anthem ‘Let Me See You Butterfly’ with classic vocal and skipping’ flow conducted by Paul Johnson.
Paul Johnson puts his potty mouf to dutty use again on the naughty nursery rhyme melody of ‘F___ N Sucking’, before slinging the piano house power-up ‘Outta My way’.
Nice new age ambient synth vibes with a tropical humidity offset by breezy slow grooves, from Vancouver, CA’s Khotin for the summer romantics and smokers...
“Beautiful You needs little framing. “No distinct storylines or themes. It’s really just a collection of songs as rudimentary as that sounds,” Khotin-Foote explains. But the title of the album arrives with some lore: in high school, Khotin-Foote found a handwritten note on his windshield that read “Beautiful you, thanks for the smile.” Whoever left the note, they gifted the producer with this anonymous phrase that perfectly suits the work now, here, years later. Paired with the record’s cover, an ASCII-rendered photo of his mother and her parents living temporarily in Italy as refugees in the '80s, the information graphs a malleable outline for listeners to shape into their own experience. A sensation akin to déjà vu, of misremembered hospitable climes, broadcast via ambiguous transmissions, birdsongs, melody and static.
Songs drift at a leisure; environments and voices pass by, some distinguishable, others pitched down or truncated to single words. In the case of “Vacation,” the message comes into focus over time, beginning in fragments, assembling above a suspended note to sublime effect. On “Merged Host,” a cycle of melodic phrases becomes punctuated by a clipped half-time beat and injected with a sample’s reoccurring comic relief (“I am so happy / how great I am”). On album closer “Planet B,” nostalgia is encountered head-on, with coiling and smooth synth lines twisted and spiraling around a nodding and assured percussion pattern.”
Astral Industries serve the equivalent of a warm cup of camomile while two thumbs gently massage your temples with Sonmi451’s ‘Nachtmuziek’ suite of drifting modern classical ambient.
“Belgian artist Bernard Zwijzen, aka Sonmi451, has for over a decade now been quietly making some of the most luscious ambient we’ve heard here at AI-HQ. We are delighted to announce him as part of the Astral family with this six-track EP - Nachtmuziek - sit back, tune in and drift away.”
We're onto volume 3 of Shackleton's Deliverance series and his rhythmelodic magick is in full flow.
Shack's new modular palette appears to remain unchanged from the last few releases, but it feels like he's more in control and able to follow the line of his 3rd eye. 'Headcleaner' unfurls nearly 12 minutes of chiming drum patter synched with globular subs in mutating patterns, seeming to move one way whilst the slow-arcing pads rove at another tempo entirely, making the whole piece move like some backa spoon inversion of Cut Hands that takes a Balearic trip half way thru.
With 'In Norwegen ganz verwegen' he locks into a fluidly psychedelic pulse pursuing quicksilver likembe thru a zig-zagging maze of sloshing water sounds, distant siren calls and sparring toms like the hieroglyphic soundtrack to some ancient Greek myth.
This stunning first outing on Yves Tumor’s Grooming label was released this summer in a run of just 100 copies and is already selling for sillies second hand. For us it's easily one of the most overlooked and vital releases of the year - this new edition comes with new artwork in a run of 200 copies, an essential cop for those of you yet to experience its wildly original mix of choral aggression and cavernous percussion sounding quite unlike anything else we heard in 2018.
Sepulchral, majestic, Kill is John Bence’s sophomore release following a début for Nico Jaar’s Other People in 2015. Since then Bence has also appeared as part of Ashley Paul’s new ensemble on her striking LP, Lost In Shadows for Slip, as well as playing in support of Grouper earlier this year.
Where Bence’s first record, Disquiet was a sort of palimpsest of re-scored composition, Kill finds him unfurl a shocking three part movement for vocals, cello and bellicose drums that should leave no one uncertain of his talents. And in that sense it’s really not hard to hear why his music has been snapped up for release by Yves Tumor’s label, as the pair patently share a feel for music both fuelled by and navigating overwhelming emotion.
In the first part, he shapeshifts from something like prime, latter day Coil in a section of reverberant cello and ghostly keening, to erupt in Prurient like howls and psychotomimetic scat like a possessed, Welsh mining choir.
By contrast, the 2nd part is pure entropy, vocals layered and decaying into extremes of the soundfield, leading to a passage recalling Aíne O’Dwyer’s haunted situations, before a real denouement comes with the sublime closing coda of vaulted vocals into noirish strings and recursive industrial percussion.
Keep a very close eye on this one...
Properly seminal deep house dubs from Moritz Von Oswald and Mark Ernestus with Tikiman (Paul St. Hilaire), originally issued in 1996 and now repressed for 20th anniversary edition.
The strident but plasmic nine minute groove of Acting Crazy (Club Vocal) is just about the most perfect, immersive balance of NYC deep house, Jamaican roots reggae and Berlin minimalism that you’ll ever encounter - a rare slice of shut-your-eyes and dance magic that never fails in the right situations. There’s also a shorter Instrumental which is pretty much an alternate mix of Maurizio’s M6, and a nipped edit of the vocal mix, all demanding that DJs buy two copies to really get the most out of it.
Basically every home needs a copy of this and every other plate on Main Street Records, but depending on who you ask, this one more than any other.
As Round One for the Main Street label, Mark Ernestus and Moritz Von Oswald made one of house music’s most enduring 12”s; I’m Your Brother.
The club and edit versions are a masterclass in appropriating Chicago house with your own style, whilst Ron Trent and Chez Damier’s Chicago’s Twisted Mix brings it right home.
Rolling down from the heavens with a total shockout intro, Basic Replay dig deep into the vaults for another selection guaranteed entry into the front of your dancehall pile.
Legendary keyboard whizz Jackie Mittoo is on fine tinkling form, riding the Ayatollah riddim with some hazy synthetic electronical embellishments atop a heavy heavy digital subbass rhythm. Mittoo version's the alltime classic 'Mash down Babylon' on the flip, installing a lush lick of African guitars and working the rhythm up with some driving organ chords in his inimitable style.
Devendra Barnhart presents a compilation of demos pestered from the archives of Vashti Bunyan, Arthur Russell, Nils Frahm, Helado Negro and many more in ‘Fragments Du Monde Flottant’ - this is the only place to get that previously unreleased Arthur Russell peach on vinyl...
"Devendra Banhart presents a very unique & precious compilation featuring his best friends never heard before demos. Among them some of the yesterday and today’s most talented musicians and singers of the folk-pop-experimental scene. This handprinted album comes randomly in six different colored cardboard featuring one of six of Devendra’s drawings.
"I’ve always loved demos, often much more than the final version, in fact. My favorite John Lennon song is a demo , its called Friend of Dorothy , it’s a masterpiece...
Please enjoy this anthology of intimacy before everyone on it freaks out and doesn’t want you to hear their demos (on the bright side , at least 5 of them will show up at your house and pay you the big bucks to get this back!) This comp has taken years and years to put together, wow, has it been that long? Yep.
Love Above All,
For anyone who knows these records already - you won't need much of a sermon from us about their stature and greatness. If you don't know them - you're in for a treat.
Rhythm & Sound was the project that Mark Ernestus and Moritz von Oswald turned to after their seminal series of recordings as Basic Channel came to an end. From 1997 until 2002 the label released seven 12" EP's which pretty much defined the direction so much electronic music would turn to in its wake - and it still continues to exert a colossal influence, for better or worse. It's perhaps hard to remember over a decade later just how little these productions sounded like anything that preceded them - taking the essence of dub and breaking it down until all that was left was a vapour trail of melody and a colossal bass echo. We could spend an hour listing all the music that basically came along and copied this template in the intervening years but, the thing is, none of what followed comes anywhere near these productions in terms of substance, none of it has aged in the same way.
"Mango Walk / Mango Drive" was the second release on the label and, for many, remains its finest moment. The a-side features an original production from the Wackies vaults by Azul & Bullwackie recorded in 1979, with an incredible 9 minute revision from Mark and Moritz on the flip. The version that appeared on the Rhythm & Sound 'Compilation' is over two minutes shorter.
A late pinnacle of the Drexciyan oeuvre, Storm 2 aka Transllusion's 'The Opening of the Cerebral Gate' is availed as an expanded 3LP pressing to include (almost) all the tracks on the CD version, compared to the original 2LP
It's all remarkably bass-heavy, even saturated, compared with a lot of other Drexciyan workouts, resulting some of their most ruggedly stripped down electro-techno functions ranging from the pounding might of 'Transmission Of Life' to the militant march of 'War Of The Clones' and the funked come-on, 'Do You Want To Get Down'. On the other hand, it also features stacks of gorgeous Drexciyan melodies in the aquatic flux of 'Cluben In Guyana' and the twinkling keys of 'Unordinary Reality', and to darkest effect on 'Crossing into the Mental Astroplane'.
Highly recommended to all aquanauts.
For anyone who knows these records already - you won't need much of a sermon from us about their stature and greatness. If you don't know them - you're in for a treat.
Rhythm & Sound was the project that Mark Ernestus and Moritz von Oswald turned to after their seminal series of recordings as Basic Channel came to an end. From 1997 until 2002 the label released seven 12" EP's which pretty much defined the direction so much electronic music would turn to in its wake - and it still continues to exert a colossal influence, for better or worse.
It's perhaps hard to remember over a decade later just how little these productions sounded like anything that preceded them - taking the essence of dub and breaking it down until all that was left was a vapour trail of melody and a colossal bass echo. We could spend an hour listing all the music that basically came along and copied this template in the intervening years but, the thing is, none of what followed comes anywhere near these productions in terms of substance, none of it has aged in the same way. "Carrier" was the fifth release on the label and offers another 20 minute trip into the depths of fractured dub.
A Late 80’s slow digital dancehall killer; malevolent, sick and paranoid - prob the most essential and sought-after selection of dubs you'll ever have the pleasure of copping.
Replay Version is basically like a JA variant of Ramelzee & K Rob's Beat Bop, Once Bitten is a deadly variant featuring more detuned-synths on top of a pure skank, while "Senci Pipe" on the flip is just out and out minimal digital sorcery.
"Sides like these announced a new era in reggae... Replay Version sets the mood - malevolent, sick and paranoid, but haunting, and funky like a train, with cruelly brilliant effects..."
Northern UK-based artist Rian Treanor re-imagines the intersection of club culture, experimental art and computer music with a super smart debut for The Death of Rave.
Galvanising and accelerating garage and techno with cuttingly crisp tonal diction and pointillist percussive palette, ‘A Rational Tangle’ demonstrates Treanor’s adroit and finely-nurtured rhythmelodic instincts through a quicksilver syntax of kerned, polychromatic 2-step patterns and whipsmart, emotive jit music.
The EP’s four tracks vacillate ping-pong ballistics and recursive melodic motifs constructed in Max/MSP, dancing from pendulous, aerobic minimalism to taut, synthetic tabla grooves with grid melting nous, whilst also taking in gamelan-esque hypeR&B through wormholes of smeared and curdled harmonics, plus one dead lush section of Detroit-via-Yorkshire styled hi-tech funk.
The production is stainlessly dry and future-proof whilst Rian’s arrangements are considerately efficient, yet it’s all blessed with a pop or ’floor-ready turn of phrase that reveals new kinks, fills and twysts with each return listen.
Whichever angle you view it from ‘A Rational Tangle’ forms a rewarding introduction to the work of a very promising and distinct new voice in electronic music.
Shed wears his bruk-up garage/techno hat for 6 tracks of deep ’n rude Head High action.
Weaving cues from classic ‘90s UK, US and Euro rave styles into gritty textured yet richly emotive grooves, Head High plays up to his deepest, ruggedest instincts in six parts.
He comes Head High but eyes down with the vertiginous pads and scuffling breaks and bass of ‘Higher The Break’ recalling a bird’s eye scale of Shed’s classic ‘ITHAW’ (ye ye we’re obsessed with that LP and what?!), before Virtual Girl’ steers the vibe into free-floating Detroit soul and ‘Depth’ takes it right into early Urban Tribe or Detroit Escalator Company styles. He’s back on a full wingspan breakbeat house tip with ‘What You Want’, again making cracking use of puckered Diva vocals, while ‘Set Me Free’ goes on like a fantasy collab between Carl Craig and 4Hero, and the sublime rufige of ‘Hardcore’ is a perfectly sweaty, body-gurny kiss-off.
Beautifully by-passing our expectations, performance artist/musician Pan Daijing’s first major work Lack yields a spellbinding demonstration, or “purgative finale”, to her improvised live performances over the past two years; offering a far more nuanced and probing suite of electronic gestures than her gnarled handful of slamming, salty tapes and 12”s for Bedouin Records, Power Vacuum or Noisekölln Tapes since 2015.
Extracted and edited from field recordings and live documentation of her concerts made in Europe, China, and Canada, Daijing aptly describes the album as “an opera piece”, from the soaring soprano and flustered strings of Phenomenon thru the convulsive industrial throb of Act of The Empress, to the possessed folk energies condensed in The Nerve Eater and the closing trance induction of Lucid Morto with an effect recalling something like Diamond Galas conducting a court ritual with Black Mecha and Jani Christou.
Daijing’s process is multi-disciplinary, featuring improvised sound and movement that feed off one another in a painstaking mental and physical practice that draws energy from the moment. The reduction and selection of the recordings which make up the album felt “more like a psychoanalytical process” explains Daijing, feeling like “this absurd, mad person ‘acting’ out the sounds… All things naturally came out of me”, and in the edit she effectively detaches and controls the listener’s gaze, offering what could be viewed as an almost voyeuristic document of those intimate, private energies.
Scandinavian isolationists Deaf Center draw a beautiful pall over this decade with ‘Low Distance’, their first album since 2011’s ‘Owl Splinter’, arriving nearly 15 years since their debut couplet of modern classical/ambient masterpieces; the ‘Neon City EP’ and ‘Pale Ravine’.
Low Distance’ returns Erik Skodvin and Otto A. Totland to the shadowy, wintry depths of their early sound, seemingly sequestered in a loft or creaking wooden house in a place where the sun doesn’t rise for 6 months of the year. Their signature palette of ghostly piano gestures, glacial but knife-edge strings and electronics is employed to expectedly beautiful effect, but it’s perhaps the final mixing treatment, uncannily rendered along vertical and horizontal axes at EMS Stockholm, that really brings this record to life, just as integrally as lighting is to a slow burn film noir.
Endearingly working on low batteries throughout the album, their sense of melancholy is patently apparent and deeply intoxicating with it, diffused through the synaesthetic connotations of rain in ‘A Scent’, and through the clammy skin stroking strings of ‘Entity Voice’ before sublimely relieving tension with ‘Undone’. They then broach more textured, abstract electro-acoustic space in the spectral flocking of ‘Gathering’, the album’s extended centrepiece, before touching on midnight jazz notes, sumptuous subs and extended techniques in ‘Red Glow’ like some meeting of Deathprod and Bohren Und Der Club of Gore, and the barely there yet heartbreaking strings of ‘Faded Earth’ attest to their preternatural skill in getting the most from the barest components.
The last section is just immensely powerful in its stark vulnerability and impending tension, holding its emotive line thru the needling hi-register keys and heavy-breathing strings of ‘Movements/The Ascent’, thru the lingering romance of ‘Far Between’, until the quietly jaw-dropping, beautiful solo piano resolution of ‘Yet To Come’, where the hallucinatory nature dissipates and we’re left with starkly vivid, waking realism implied by the track’s title.
Basic Channel heads Mark Ernestus and Moritz von Oswald keep the burial mix series going with its most ambitious release to date - a collection of one-rhythm tracks featuring vocal contributions from Basic Channel collaborators old and new.
"See Mi Yah" is a classic collection of one-rhythm tracks, typical format and production approach in Reggae, featuring ten vocal versions and one instrumental of the See Mi Yah rhythm (an additional 3 are only available on the 7" collection), strictly roots!
After Paul St. Hilaire (formerly known as Tikiman) had lent his voice to quite a few Rhythm & Sound releases over the years, the starting point for this project was to work with him once again and also with his brother Ras Perez, their fellow Berlin based Dominicans Koki and Ras Donovan (also known from his collaboration with Mapstation), the Berlin based Jamaicans Freddy Mellow, Walda Gabriel, Bobbo Shanti, Lance Clarke as Rod Of Iron and Joseph Cotton aka Jah Walton.
With a toasting style heavily influenced by the legendary U-Roy, Cotton was a central figure in the jamaican DJ scene of the 70s and 80s. To cap it all off, on a visit to Berlin, the great Sugar Minott and Willi Williams (famous for Studio 1 classic Armagideon Time) did their versions in the Rhythm & Sound studio!
For each tune the rhythm is arranged and mixed differently. The legacy and genius of Basic Channel and all its myriad offshoots seems more relevant and important now than ever before, they have a knack of creating music that lives on in the listener's head long after voices, rhythm and sound have long gone. Highly recommended!!
After a blazing succession of Sound System heaters, Dug Out offers a spiritual session of seminal nyabinghi grounation from Dadawah circa 1974, perhaps the most mind-expanding, important spiritual dub reissue we've heard this last decade.
It's most likely a large influence upon the work of label head Mark Ernestus in his Rhythm & Sound guise, recalling the magical spirituality of classics like 'Making History' among others in the hypntoic, shuffling pace and intangibly smoky aura that seems to evaporate from the grooves with each listen. The group is led by Ras Michael, guiding a traditional set up of nyabinghi (ceremonial Rasta drums), bass, guitar, brass and Piano organ in four extended excursions over sublime, psychedelic terrain without a worry in the world.
As with much of the best reggae, much of the magic was elicited and embellished in post production, with Lloyd Charmers and Federal engineer George Raymond apparently staying up all night after the session to mix the recording, imbuing the tracks with a dazed, wide-open and echoing personal space. Keeping the standards impeccably high, the album was lovingly restored at Abbey Road and looks every bit the classic that it is. Big up Dug Out, this going to be on rotation round here for years to come.
'Versions' leaves out the vocal accompaniment and exposes the production as it drifts off into instrumental effervescence...
This second breathtaking CD leaves out the vocal accompaniment and exposes the terryfingly deep Basic Channel production as it drifts off into instrumental effervescance. The hallmarks are all there; Mark Ernestus and Moritz Von Oswald have already set the world ablaze once, twice, three, four times with their work as Basic Channel and the splintering into microscopic, heavyweight offshoots by way of the M series, Main Street, Chain Reaction, Rhythm and Sound and, of course, Burial Mix. It's hard to over-emphasise just how important their music has been to us over the last two decades and, for that matter, just how substantial their impact has had on everything that has taken place in electronic music since.
Following convention, each of these labels has offered a catalogue up on record (in this case 10" releases) before compiling the music. This is, in fact, the second Burial Mix compilation, the first "showcase" concentrating on the label's collaborations with Paul St Hilaire, aka Tikiman, for its opening set of releases. This second installment divides itself into Vocal and Instrumental "Versions" (the Vocal tracks are collected seperately on a second release), displaying the last seven releases in their entirety, plus "Mash Down Babylon" (a new take on "March Down Babylon"), and features a by-now totally classic collection of tracks that in their time have all been singles of the week for us here.
Just thinking of the majestic exuberance of "King in My Empire", or the breathtaking space of "Making Histroy" makes it hard to fathom how this material hasn't really aged a day in all these years...
The second instalment from Basic Channel's offshoot, Basic Replay, a reissue label convened to showcase prime influences and lesser known inspirations, the men from Berlin have selected and remastered a truly shocking follow up to Keith Hudson's 'Playing It Cool..' album reissued last year.
'Call me rambo' was originally recorded in 1986 and released on the Heavyweight label, an imprint formed by the Heavyweight soundsystem, based in the Wood Green and Tottenham areas of north London. Featuring Chester Roots at the controls and his nephew Ackie at the microphone, this is raw and dangerous english dancehall. Hailing from that blissful period in the middle eighties, when clubs could play Marley Marl next to Super Cat, or Half Pint next to early Trax records, 'Call Me Rambo' opens with a bang, racked with strafing machine gun fire and the helicopter sounds free with a Commodore 64, natty dread a go scientific an' ballistic.
Stylistically speaking, Ackie's voice is reminiscent of the great Barrington Levy, and the simply enormous, rampant rhythm sends shockwaves through any musical system - all b-boys and hardcore addicts would do well to sweep a copy of this and ask questions later. Flip the script, and Chesse retains Ackie's winning 'Don't push me' refrain, and much of the sonic elements but works the board hard, 'Rambo Gun Salute' as a part two is simply perfection, dubwise and anywise. 'Rambo Salute' takes the dub even further out, as Ackie drifts further into the mix, and Chester works it on out in true ragamuffin style. "Ramming dancehall is the priority", so the man say. This has shattered the office record for rewinds this week and is utterly essential for ALL self-respecting music fans.
‘Electrucs’ is a previously unpublished LP of works by former INA-GRM chief François Bayle, recorded 1974-1995, and now finally issued on the 60th anniversary of the world-renowned facility he managed between 1966-1997.
Comprising four distinct sections of acousmatic study ranging from playful AKS Synthi “hand games” to the blooming ‘Rosaces’, a test-piece for the Acousmonium, and a dedication to his peer, Bernard Parmegiani; ‘Electrucs’ follows Recollection GRM’s series of Bayle reissues to offer a diverse and spellbinding survey of his pioneering work spanning the past half century.
The A-side is taken by 10 oozing, viscously shapeshifting ‘Electrucs’ that give the LP its title, rendering a series of highly dynamic pieces made on the Synthi AKS between 1974-2018, and veering from chaotic polymetrics to pulsating, almost melodic vignettes, and many moments of tense, atonal abstraction that wouldn’t sound out of place on a good hour or thriller soundtrack.
The other side breaks down to three distinct sections. ‘Cinq dessins en rosace’  is a five part study of increasingly complex geometries, transiting from sharp, simple oscillations to filigree, spatialized arrangements of electronics and keys. ‘Foliphonie’ [1974-2011] follows with a beautifully alien scene of chirruping voices and whirled woodwind originally hatched for use on the GRM’s Acousmonium speaker/diffusion system, and ’Marpège’ [1995-2007] finds him dissolving a trace of Bernard Parmegiani’s ‘Sonare’ into sonic delirium.
Two of the great unsung protagonists binding Manchester’s DIY scene unite for this limited edition release taking in some of the many multidisciplinary interests the pair have been involved with as sound and visual artists.
John Powell-Jones is perhaps best known for his work in the creative arts and as a visual designer and printer for projects as diverse as Mogwai, Jamal Moss, Delroy Edwards, Raime, Moon Duo and Demdike Stare, as well as a technical demonstrator in printmaking and Risograph techniques at the University of Salford. Alongside his most recent work in sculpture, Powell-Jones has also had a number of music releases for the Sacred Tapes label since 2014.
Craig Tattersall needs little introduction round these parts, having been involved in numerous projects close to our orbit since the late 90’s as part of Hood, The Remote Viewer and The Boats, as well as running the much loved (and missed) Cotton Goods label.
This release emerged as the result of a sound art and print workshop the duo ran together at the University of Salford, based on a premise of capturing sounds during the process of printing. The resulting prints would act as both 'sketches' of the workshop, but also as gestural marks that would replicate those sounds, like a visual score.
Making use of contact mics, tape loops, manipulated radios/cassettes and an altered turntable to make the sound, the pair then used different mono printing and dry point etching techniques, as well as an old typewriter to make the images.
The A-side starts off baring the hallmarks of classic location recording; all clicks and whirrs, it slowly develops into a mesmerising, whirling drone piece. But it’s the b-side that envelopes in warmth, a sublime study in stillness and beauty that’s quite the contrast to the rattling, microscopic chaos of that opener. Over the space of almost 20 minutes, Tattersall and Powell-Jones bridge between celestial and personal dimensions with ease, creating a kind of barely-there rendering of the sublime that recalls everything from William Basinski to the quiet music of Jürg Frey, an effect heightened by the ferric quality of the recording...
Robert Hood’s minimal techno masterpiece enters orbit again for first time since 2001
Originally found on the ‘Internal Empire’ album and also released as a 12” in 1995, the lead cut is an all-too-short piece of whirring Detroit mechanics flecked with icy trills and slinky gear shifts as only he can do. Handily, the 12” offers a slightly extended version with ‘Master Builder (Sandman Option)’ giving it a highly effective nip ’n tuck that gets right under the skin of the dance, while ‘Quartz’ strides out with filtered organ motifs on a whipsmart groove.
Infectious Greensleeves dub reggae aces from 1979
The A-side is Barrington Levy & Trinity’s rootsy blue cry ‘Lose Respect’, while Roman Stewart & Trinity play it down, cool and rocksteady and the same riddim as The Upsetters’ ‘Soulful’.
Unspeakably beautiful dub from Mark Ernestus and Moritz Von Oswald’s Round Five, starring Tikiman, on the Main Street Records series.
Na Fe Throw It was the final instalment of the series, which ran concurrently to their Rhythm & Sound project, and presents brought Main Street Records to a sublime finish with nearly ten minutes of utterly blissed-out, magnetically attractive dub bass and lamenting vocals, also included as a starker dub.
Evergreen music. Every home should own the full set!
Basic Channel present a full 14 minute version of 'Q-Loop' backed with first ever vinyl cuts of 'Q 1.2' and 'Mutism' - previously found on the 'BCD' (1995) and Scion's 'Arrange And Process Basic Channel Tracks' releases.
Need we say any more?
Deaf Center's second album Owl Splinters from 2011 gets a lavish re-packaging as a gatefold 2LP. It includes a Svarte Greiner re-interpretation album ‘Twin' as well as new cover-art with photos by cinematographer Joshua Zucker-Pluda.
Erik Skodvin and Otto Totland quietly honed their art via the nightmarish catharsis of the Svarte Greiner and Nest projects respectively, arriving at their 2nd album together ‘Owl Splinters’ back in 2011 in deeply solemn and contemplative mood. For this chapter of their story, mysterious imagery was rendered even sharper, as though someone on the inside wiped a palm on the window of their cabin in the woods.
This is largely attributable to the fact it was recorded at Nils Frahms' Durton studio, where the lo-fi graininess and techniques of their early work was brought to life with hi-end engineering and analogue equipment, allowing the duo to articulate their supernatural stories with more evocative detailing and widescreen atmospherics.
Opening to the bowed strings and seismic bass shudder of 'Divided', we're ushered straight to a world where Totland's piano adorns centrepiece 'The Day I Would Never Have' with ethereal pensiveness and Skodvin's cello expands like a dense, blackened cloud of smoke. Through the smaller vingettes like 'Fiction Dawn', this forested gloom colours the album through to the slow, vacuous pressure system of 'Close Forever Watching', its surge of cold black air almost brutally resolving the atmospheric tension.
The accompanying LP ‘Twin' is a 40 minute interpretation of Owl Splinters by Erik K Skodvin under his Svarte Greiner alias. The record takes the long-form, ghostly sections of it's parent album and expands them into crushing drone epics. The two parts are cut into four sections, pieced together by used and unused material from the recording session. It first appeared in form of an accompaniement CD that came with the initial 100 LPs of Owl Splinters. This is the first time ‘Twin' appears on vinyl.
An absolute winner from the SKRS INTL camp for Ancient Monarchy, the Paradise Magic Traxx Mobile Sound & Lighting EP arrives in the wake of their RunComeTest EP with a wicked, red-eyed smudge of digi-dub dancehall on a Lovers Rock and R&B slant.
Coagulating some 30 years of sound system styles from the Island in a seamless flow of sawn-off samples and plasmic FX on sloshing subs, the enigmatic Filipino/Canadian project gives up some of the most stickily seductive gear in their decade long catalogue.
Perhaps tricky for the DJs, but great for home listening and parties, the EP is sequenced in untrammelled transitions between its eight parts, but you probably wouldn’t even realise without looking at the track list online. Of course, DJs can use their ears and eyes to pick parts out, but it’s best consumed as a whole, preferably with a 21 minute long zoot and good company.
Unique psychedelic killers from Niagara, mounting a sterling debut album with Lisbon’s Príncipe five years after their first 12”, ‘Ouro Oeste’ . Trust that they have lost none of the weirdness that’s endeared them to freaks around the world ever since they emerged. If anything they’re stranger, more spaced-out and porous to wild influence...
Outlining Niagara’s definitive description of contemporary exotica, ‘Apologia’ limns a frayed, buzzing sort of “Fourth World PLUS” sound, where the “PLUS” refers to their embrace of noise as an agent of chaos. But it’s not necessarily malefic chaos, and should be taken as a smart acknowledgement of the overlooked yet crucial role that roughness of grain and construction play in contrast with so many clinically smooth and even anodyne efforts from the same, imagined arena of worldly music for a new age.
In allowing for the entropy of time and the inevitable infidelity of attrition to enter their soundsphere, Niagara’s organic machine music keenly reflects a natural world order without the need for algorithmic process. Their world is a fertile interplay of acoustic and electronic sources rendering hazy, fata morgana-like glimpses of musical possibility, practically triangulating the visions of likeminds such as Jamal Moss/Hieroglyphic Being and Dolo Percussion with the explorative precedents of Portugul’s Telectu to realise a fine expression of anachronistic modernism.
Most of the tracks loosely work around 3 minute timeframes, lending a zig-zagging mosaic quality to the tracklist in between its longer parts. Richly colourful spiritual jazz arps and raw machine grooves spring from opener ‘França’, triggering a cascade of ideas that bends between acidic kosmiche in ‘6:30’ to the heatsick boogie gliss of ’40’ and the stark emptiness of ‘Senhora Do Cabo’, to give up the gorgeous, extended flute and acid meditation ’Siena’, and mess with Vangelis-style synth majesty on ‘Via Garibaldi’, before spending their coolest energies in the drowsy Afro-latin swagger of ‘Cabo Verde.’
It’s hard to ignore the fact that Alberto, António and Sara a.k.a. Niagara have distilled their sound to imperfection on ‘Apologia’, resulting one of 2018’s most crucial and vital electronic albums.
Michael O’Shea’s sole, breathtaking album ranks among our favourite of all time - yet hardly anyone seems to have heard of it. Produced by Wire’s Bruce Gilbert and Graham Lewis at the Dome studio in 1982, it’s an utterly singular work of magick meshing myriad, worldly modes into music that rarely fails to reduce us to tears. It’s one of those albums that basically sounds like nothing else - the only record we can draw some parallels to is Dariush Dolat-Shahi’s life changing 'Electronic Music, Tar and Sehtar’, despite it coming from the other end of the world.
First brought to our attention by Blackest Ever Black at the start of this decade, we’ve gradually developed an obsessive fascination with its sublime, rapid dervishes and warbling rhythmelodies, so it’s a pleasure to see it finally made easily available to everyone who we’ve ranted about it over the years (2nd hand copies have been historically pricey and hard to come by!), and especially replete with its enlightening new sleeve notes by archivist and writer Failed Bohemian.
A busker among other trades, O’Shea was an itinerant soul who, after a childhood and formative years spent between Northern Ireland and Kerry in the south of the country, and extensive travel between Europe, Turkey and Bangladesh, created his own instrument - an electrified dulcimer known as Mó Cará (Irish for ‘My Friend’) - which he performed on at Ronnie Scott’s, before later playing on bills with everyone from Ravi Shankar to Don Cherry, and also recording with The The’s Matt and Tom Johnson.
Aside from his two contributions to the Stano album, ‘Content To Dine In I Dine Weathercraft’ (also recently reissued by Dublin’s Allchival), O’Shea’s first and only album is the main point of reference for this unique artist. Like some eccentric expression of ancient Indo-European voices channelled thru a Celtic body, Michael O’Shea’s improvised acousto-electric music intuitively distills a world of styles into singularly hypnotic works. Using his self-built instrument; a hybrid of a zelochord and a sitar, made on a wooden door salvaged in Munich, and with the crucial addition of electric pick-ups and the ‘Black Hole Space Box’, O’Shea would absorb sounds from his travels like a sponge, and relay them back thru the instrument with effortlessly freeform and achingly lush results as elaborate as a Celtic knot or elegant as Sanskrit text.
The mercurial flow of syncretised styles in 15 minute opener ‘No Journey’s End’ catches your breath and doesn’t give it back, leaving us utterly light-headed and feeling something akin to religious experience, before his ’Kerry’ vignette most beautifully limns the epic coastline he hails from. The plasmic swirl and phasing of ‘Guitar No. 1’ is perhaps the one piece that time dates the LP to the post-punk era, even if it could have come from ancient Mesopotamia, while the album and artist’s underlying metaphysics bleed thru most hauntingly in the timbral shadowplay of ‘Voices’, and the rapidly tremulous, animist voodoo of ‘Anfa Dásachtach’.
Noted in his lifetime, not least by himself as; “…joker, transvestite, inventor, psychonaut, actor, catalyst, community worker, musician, traveller, instrument maker,” Michael O’Shea’s life was, by all accounts, every bit as colourful as his music, which only makes his untimely death in 1991 all that more tragic, as we’d practically give an arm to hear what he could have made in the early techno era, as he was purportedly getting heavy into London’s rave scene before he was taken.
Honestly no other record has cast such a strong spell over us in recent memory - to the extent of sending us on wild goose chases on the wrong peninsula in Kerry - so please pardon the gush ‘cos we can’t help but share love for this life-affirming disc and Michael O’Shea’s beautifully transcendent music.
Yves Tumor’s debut for the PAN label offers a perfect distillation of everything the label stands for, filling another as-yet-unnamed niche between the eyes of hypermodern styles. It’s an album that takes you from the most beautifully produced earworm one moment, to the depths of sonic experimentation the next - making for easily one of the most impressive and memorable albums of the year.
The Tennessee-raised, Turin-based artist has sown seeds across the contemporary field in visual as well as musical fields over recent years with releases for NON, Janus and Halcyon Veil issued under an expanding roll call of names, as well as visceral live work for LA's Hood By Air earlier this year. However, it’s under the Yves Tumor moniker that he commits his most personal and noteworthy work to date; the result of three years of creative discovery, drawing from a deeply emotional, vulnerable place to grapple with themes of social anxiety, paranoia and missing loved ones to present one of this year’s most staggering albums.
Serpent Music covers the full bandwidth of Tumor’s far-flung aesthetics, navigating from lushly organic yet elusively distanced instrumental textures in the opening strokes of Devout and the homesick soul ache of The Feeling When You Walk Away, before more oblique, abrasive drums and layered electronics begin to infiltrate the airborne keys of Dajjal, and with Role In Creation he incorporates the east African motifs heard in his Bekelé Berhanu output, but with a much gentler, more optimistic effect.
But just as you begin to get a grip on his slippery scales, Serpent I rushes into a ferocious tribal battery, resolved with the stentorian pastor and doom echo chamber feels of Serpent II, and he really starts to let his mind drift with the conflated pastoral and darkroom noise vibes of Seed, and the eastern-facing Alice Coltrane nod, Spirit In Prison, skizzily returning to smokey vapour trails in Cherish and Face of a Demon, to wash us up on the lonely, distant shores of Perdition.
Alongside the likes of Dean Blunt or Klein, Yves Tumor is patently rewiring the conventions of soul music and psychedelia according to his own, twisted schematic and modernist insight, making this album feel vital at a point where conservative sensibilities seem to have permeated the spirit of so many “independently" minded creators.
18th anniversary of one of Trunk’s earliest and most sought-after sides; John Cameron’s sweeping string and woodwind score for ‘Kes’ 
As possibly one of the most widely referenced portraits of Northern England, the imagery and soundtrack of Ken Loach’s ‘Kes’ hold a special place in British 20th century culture. For reasons unknown, the soundtrack was never released until Jonny Trunk came along in the late ‘90s and made it the follow-up to his release of another equally classic British film soundtrack, 'The Wicker Man’, and it’s now a foundational part of the Trunk label.
Where ‘The Wicker Man’ played to ancient, arcane folk spirits in Scotland, ‘Kes’ is a study in gritty realism, portraying a sweetly romanticised image of youth and the working classes in post-industrial Yorkshire. John Cameron fits the film’s images of gridiron streets, grey skies and rolling hills perfectly with arrangements of flute, clarinet and harp that beautifully match the kindred spirits of Billy, a bullied kid in Barnsley, and his pet bird, Kes.
The gobsmacking ‘Selected Early Keyboard Works’ forms the first full length vinyl release by Catherine Christer Hennix, a peerless Swedish polymath whose uniquely diverse yet holistic contributions to early American minimalism and experimental music are cultishly appreciated by those in the know, yet remain sorely overlooked in the broader history of 20th century music.
As anyone who has heard Catherine’s classic ‘The Electric Harpsichord’, her hypnotic ‘Dharma warriors’ with Henry Flynt, or the stunning Chora(s)san Time-Court Mirage and The Deontic Miracle CDs will surely attest, her compositions exist on a whole other plane of musical perception. They naturally embrace a complexity of expression that places science and maths at the service of art, resulting some of the most beguiling, enigmatic and unprecedented combinations of styles - Indian raga, jazz, drone, early electronics - that we’ve ever heard, at the least.
In keeping with that enigma, the label’s notes for ‘Selected Early Keyboard Works’, ambiguously imply they were recorded in 1976 circa The Deontic Miracle’s 1976 performance at the Moderna Museet, Stockholm, which was issued on CD in 2016 as ‘Central Palace Music (From 100 Model Subjects For Hegikan Roku)’. If we use our ears, and take an educated guess, though, we’d date these previously unheard pieces to the same period, which makes them even more remarkable in context of that fertile period of musical thought.
We’ll forever fail to fully place a finger on the magick of Catherine’s music, but there’s a play of paradoxes at work in her music - mischievous yet meditative; light yet somehow driving, and even psychoactively aggressive - which makes it stand way out from her field. It’s definitely not just another new age whimsy or academic exercise. It’s much better described as intuitively daring and hallucinatory, setting out noumenal space for logic-defying feats of imagination and musical virtuosity.
In the two parts of ‘Mode Nouvelle des modalitiés’ for well-tuned Fender Rhodes and sine wave drone, listeners will discover a masterfully alien mix of early electronic music’s mercurial freedom and razor sharp jazz chops, inseparably blending her formative, teenaged experience of listening to jazz luminaries such as Coltrane and Cecil Taylor play in Sweden, with later studies at EMS and playing alongside La Monte Young and Henry Flynt in NYC. In revealing contrast, ‘Equal Temperament Fender Mix’ follows on the same Rhodes but in twelve-tone equal temperament, also using a tape delay system akin to Terry Riley’s, yet with a more reflective, blue and psychedelic appeal that’s far more interesting to us than Riley’s hirsute ecstasies. And ‘The Well Tuned Marimba’ for well-tuned Yamaha, shoeing, sine wave and live electronics completes the set in suitably, subtly breathtaking style with 18 minute of trickling, iridescent rhythmelody and curdling timbre limning a lush lysergic episode.
While we can point to her influences - from Cecil Taylor to Pandit Pran Nath and the EMS facility - what Catherine does with them is little short of alchemy, and provides some of the most curious music you’ll ever hear. We can barely wait to see what this long overdue series brings to the table...
You Know What It’s Like is the quietly breathtaking debut album from Carla Dal Forno ov Tarcar and F Ingers - an incredible debut which tip toes the finest line between contentment and aching vulnerability in head-turning fashion.
Her voice is exquisitely fragile but poised and confident with it; representing an unshowy resolve which, despite its gothic chic, actually feels fresh and necessary - operating counter to contemporary glitz and glamour with clear allusions to her heroes, such as Nico or Anna Domino.
Prefaced by two single tracks, the departing dream of Fast Moving Cars and the ghostly nerve pincher What You Gonna Do Now? the album also features six new songs clocking in at just under half an hour, following a bedsit slug trail from the mildew sprawl and nitrate bubble of opener Italian Cinema to the ‘floor-stalking sleep house thud of DB Rip and a deep drifting instrumental, Dry In The Rain, strewn with melodica-like pipes and cobwebbed in acoustic guitar strum like some dusty eldritch dub of A C Marias.
In the album’s twilight hours, Carla really comes into her own on the title song, flitting between Crepulscule-esque songcraft and slow-rocking traces of UK dub, her vocals urgent but nevertheless nonchalant, before Dragon Breath recedes back into the mists of chamber music and she proceeds to pour a potent, near paralysing nightcap and shuffle away from the screen down a long corridor, fading to black in The Same Reply.
We’re utterly smitten, this could turn into a proper addiction.
One of the most influential, insular and multi-layered albums of the last three decades, created through endless hours of improvisation - involving almost fifty musicians and recorded in complete darkness, 'Laughing Stock' is an album that has attained almost mythical status since its release in 1991.
Following the commercial success of their singles "It's My Life", "Life's What You Make It” and album "The Colour of Spring”, Talk Talk retreated back into the shadows and produced two albums that defied categorisation. After the release of the first of these (Spirit of Eden) and a proolonged court case, the band parted ways with EMI and signed to iconic jazz imprint Verve who financed the long and complicated recording of Laughing Stock. Assembling almost 50 guest musicians, Mark Hollis is said to have demanded they record in almost complete darkness, improvising for hours to produce individual parts without hearing any backing tracks or surrounding material. Most of these recordings were discarded, but from what remained Hollis and producer Tim Friese-Greene pieced together a record that is essentially one long sequence of overdubs separated out into six long tracks.
Laughing Stock was to be their last album - on its release the NME described it as “horrible” and many listeners were left perplexed by its insular, unfathomable dynamics. But in the time since, Laughing Stock's legacy seems to have grown in stature with every year that has gone by. You can easily see the stylistic and conceptual markers left by Talk Talk in the way that bands like Radiohead went on to explore more open-ended, diverse sound sources and stylistic shifts - feeling able to experiment without fear of alienating a large fanbase as if it were the most normal thing in the world for a band with considerable chart success to do.
"Laughing Stock" is not only one of the most absorbing albums of the modern era, it’s also a masterclass of production and construction, a relic, perhaps, of an era when artists could completely disconnect from the pressures of their surroundings and dive deep into the wormhole...
Music From Memory deliver feverish 1992 Eurohouse from German drummer (and producer for Nina Hagen) Curt Cress, with reissue of his sole foray into ‘90s dance music backed with three tracks off his debut 1983 album
The real gold is all in the remasters of Cress’ 1992 single ‘Dschung Tek’, which arrives fronded by bird calls and cicadas, then works itself into a proper house lather with swingeing bassline and Cress’ killer percussion, wickedly edited with whipcrack punctuation, buzzing bees and elephant calls to super playful, charming effect. Totally the kind of thing you’d expect to hear sunburnt germans stomping to in Goa circa ’92.
The B-side tracks are cool, too. ’Sundance’ catches him knocking out power toms around slinkier melodic fills, alongside the swaggering syncopations of ‘Power Vein’, and the wonky width of ‘Flying High’.
Through her latest, ‘Titanic Rising’, Weyes Blood, aka Natalie Mering, has designed her own universe to soulfully navigate life’s mysteries. Manoeuvring through a space time continuum, she plays the role of melodic, sometimes melancholic, anthropologist.
"Tellingly, Mering classifies ‘Titanic Rising’ - written and recorded during the first half of 2018, after three albums and years of touring - as The Kinks meeting WWII or Bob Seger meets Enya. The latter captures the album’s wilful expansiveness (“You can tell there’s not a guy pulling the strings in Enya’s studio,” she notes, admiringly). The former relays her imperative to connect with listeners. “The clarity of Bob Seger is unmistakable. I’m a big fan of conversational songwriting,” she adds. “I just try to do that in a way that uses abstract imagery as well.” The Weyes Blood frontwoman grew up singing in gospel and madrigal choirs. (Listen closely to ‘Titanic Rising’ and you’ll also hear the jazz of Hoagy Carmichael mingle with the artful mysticism of Alejandro Jodorowsky and the monomyth of scholar Joseph Campbell.) ‘Something To Believe’, a confessional that makes judicious use of the slide guitar, touches on that cosmological upbringing. “Belief is something all humans need. Shared myths are part of our psychology and survival,” she says. “Now we have a weird mishmash of capitalism and movies and science.
There have been moments where I felt very existential and lost.” As a kid, she filled that void with ‘Titanic’. (Yes, the movie.) “It was engineered for little girls and had its own mythology,” she explains. Mering also noticed that the blockbuster romance actually offered a story about loss born of man’s hubris. “It’s so symbolic that The Titanic would crash into an iceberg, and now that iceberg is melting, sinking civilization.” Today, this hubris also extends to the relentless adoption of technology, at the expense of both happiness and attention spans. But Weyes Blood isn’t one to stew. Her observations play out in an ethereal saunter: far more meditative than cynical. To Mering, listening and thinking are concurrent experiences. “There are complicated influences mixed in with more relatable nostalgic melodies,” she says. “In my mind my music feels so big, a true production. I’m not a huge, popular artist, but I feel like one when I’m in the studio. But it’s never taking away from the music. I’m just making a bigger nspace for myself.”
Recorded at Mills College in 1977, Robert Ashley’s iconic Private Parts has remarkably never been officially reissued on vinyl since its first pressing in 1978 - until now.
Ashley was a pioneer of the American avant-garde, member of the Sonic Arts Union (alongside David Behrman, Alvin Lucier, and Gordon Mumma), the director of the San Francisco Tape Music Center and eventually the Mills College for Contemporary Music where Private Parts was recorded. Despite his interest in experimental techniques, often modulating his voice beyond recognition, on Private Parts Ashley discovered that his own, untreated voice carried its own transfixing qualities. Split into two 20 minute pieces (one told from the perspective of a man, the other of a woman), Ashley narrates a philosophically rich, often absurd, mysteriously opaque quasi stream-of-consciousness, weaving around slowly unfurling keyboard and tabla ragas played by Krishna Bhatt and Gene Tyranny.
“This is not a record, this is a story…” he tells us not long into ‘The Park’, before referencing Alvin Lucier’s “I am sitting in a room”, recorded a decade earlier - a piece famously concerned with frequencies and resonance. Was Ashley dismissing his formative tape music life, or merely producing a new kind of acoustic sleight of hand? Hard to tell, but in any event, these recordings marked a distinct new phase in his recording career; from this point on he became best known for that uniquely meditative, untreated voice.
Ashley had previously worked at the University of Michigan's Speech Research Laboratories, so it’s not a stretch to assume that his focus on ‘Private Parts’ was as much about tonality as narrative, but in any event, the impact of Private Parts was substantial, eventually adapted for television by Channel 4 in the UK (as part of Ashley’s seven-part opera Perfect Lives), but also carrying through an obvious stylistic influence on everyone from Laurie Anderson to David Byrne’s Talking Heads.
Over 40 years on, Private Parts has lost none of its potency. It’s a record that operates on multiple levels; it opens a portal into a curious narrative wormhole, but also triggers dizzying, gradual hypnosis. It makes you think of the deep, mysterious but also absurd minutiae of life - something that’s now most commonly (and far too often) referred to as Lynchian - in a way you’re unlikely to experience with any other record. And you’re unlikely to experience it in quite the same way more than once.
Visible Cloaks meet two of their influences, Yoshio Ojima & Satsuki Shibano, in a beautiful effort to expand and refine their ambient-environmental gestures with firmer architectural underpinnings. For our ¥ it’s the most sublime episode in RVNG Intl.’s intergenerational ‘FRKWYS’ series so far
Between them, Yoshio Ojima & Satsuki Shibano are part responsible for a lot of music that prompted Visible Cloaks to life. Yoshio Ojima is a composer of environmental and ambient music, with a bias toward the possibilities of generative software. Together with pianist Satsuki Shibano, known for his renditions of Debussy and Satie, they programmed influential radio experiment St. Giga’s constant stream of field recordings, sound collage and readings of Japanese poetry, often read by Satsuki.
Recordings of St. Giga was a big inspiration for Visible Cloaks first records, so its a natural conclusion for them to work together, and the results are divine. Pursuing mutual passions for St. Giga’s remit, as well as the Lovely Music, Ltd. catalogue and the British avant-garde, they arrived at a number of creative strategies for the creation of ‘serenitatem’ in Tokyo, late 2017. From MIDI randomisation to text-to-MIDI generative software, the process lends a variable to their music which sweetly blurs distinctions between the programmed and the serendipitous, making their music simultaneously timeless and futuristic, and most of all optimistically utopian.
In effect, they’ve conjured a modern echo of St, Giga, opening a place where sounds illusively occur, emerging form the minimalist but detailed matrix only to metamorphose on sight, and drift back into the parallel dimension whence they came, implying that we’re only teasingly hearing aspects of a greater shape which they’re so carefully describing.
16 hours of peerless, important works by Eliane Radigue relating to her work with the ARP 2500 synthesiser between 1971-2000. Prior to this period, Eliane worked exclusively with feedback on tape and oscillators, but her work from the ‘70s onward is defined by an uniquely meditative and transcendent grasp of microtonal minimalism which has latterly come to place her among the 20th century’s most esteemed and truly inimitable composers. Bearing in mind that Eliane realised this fathomless body of work in her Paris apartment away from professional recording studios, only makes it resonate more strongly with the idea that Eliane was a genuine outlier whose uniquely sober work divined an unquantifiable yet ultimately human nature in electronic music.
"Eliane Radigue was born in Paris. She studied “musique concrète” techniques at the “Studio d’Essai” of the RTF under the direction of Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry (1956-57). She was married to the painter and sculptor Arman and devoted ten years to their three children. She then worked with Pierre Henry, as his assistant at the Studio APSOME (1967-68). She was in residence at the New York University School of Arts (1970-71), the University of Iowa and the California Institute of the Arts (1973) and Mills College (1998). She has created sound environments using looped tapes of various durations, gradually desynchronising.
Her works have been featured in numerous galleries and museums since the late 60s and from 1970, she has been associated to the ARP 2500 Synthesizer and tape through many compositions from Chry-ptus (1970) up to L’Île resonante (2000). These include: Biogenesis, Arthesis, Ψ 847, Adnos I, II and III (70s), Les Chants de Milarepa and Jetsun Mila (80s) and the three pieces constituting the Trilogie de la Mort (1988-91-93). Since 2002, she has been composing mostly acoustic works for performers and instruments. Her music has been featured in major international festivals. Her extremely sober, almost ascetic concerts, are made of a continuous, ever-changing yet extremely slow stream of sound, whose transformation occurs within the sonic material itself.
Radigue found her musical voice through the decisive encounter with “musique concrète” and its founding fathers. With Pierre Schaeffer, first, and then Pierre Henry, with whom she learned and perfected the art of tape recorders. She then developed a unique style by herself, freely continuing the exploration of electronic sounds, progressing with tenacity through her musical quest, without worrying about current trends or fashions, paying no attention to creeds or dogmas. An isolated course, out with fashions and institutions, such a singular and intense music, so remote from everything..."
Ryuichi Sakamoto’s ravishing and rare solo piano suite ‘BTTB’ is finally issued on vinyl - expanded, reshuffled, and newly replete with liner notes by none other than Haruki Murakami. Trust it’s swoon-worthy stuff.
Originally released in 1998 and hard to get hold of outside of Japan, ‘BTTB’, or ‘Back To The Basics’ is now reissued on 2LP to mark its 20th anniversary. It’s effectively a definitive edition of ‘BTTB’, reshuffled from the original 2LP pressing to also include ‘Energy Flow’ from the BTTB’ maxi-single, (which peaked at No.4 in the Japanese singles charts), as well as the slippery elegance of ‘Reversing’, both on the vinyl album for the first time.
Tech specs aside, this new edition is a sumptuous testament to Sakamoto’s effortlessly natural, poetic evocations of emotion, by then channelling some 30 years work as an arranger of classic synthpop (YMO, collabs with David Sylvian), and seminal soundtracks (Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence; The Last Emperor) into some of his most stripped down yet affective music, hovering on the line between precise, mindful composition and intuitively fluid improvisation.
While the majority of the material here features Sakamoto playing conventionally beautiful solo piano with magnificent highlights on the likes of ‘Opus’, he also extends into experimental, prepared piano on a handful of pieces, both serene and frantic, such as ‘Prelude’, ‘Sonata’ and ‘Uetax’, cannily resonating with Aphex Twin’s prepared piano pieces on ‘Drukqs’, which were released just two years later.
The first Grouper album in 4 years finds Liz Harris stripped of FX, pairing her vocals with skeletal piano gestures in beautifully pregnant space. For anyone familiar with the miasmic fuzz of Grouper’s previous releases, the relative clarity is quietly shocking in effect, revealing her songs and sound at their most vulnerable, and, in the process, locating a newfound strength in fragility.
Grid Of Points was recorded in Wyoming shortly after Liz finished recording Grouper’s Ruins out in Aljezur, Portugal, and on the most immediate level it seems to describe the difference in recording locations between windswept Atlantic coastline and sparse, landlocked insularity. The seven songs were written over a week and a half, with the process curtailed by a bout of what she describes as “high fever”. What remains forms some of Grouper’s most legible lyrics and intimate instrumentation, with each piece framed by stark, unprocessed space working in the same role usually occupied by her billowing sheets of harmonic distortion.
Untreated and unfiltered, Grouper's voice rings plaintively clear, sometimes layered in ephemeral harmonies or curling off with jazz-soul wise inflections shadowed by modest piano phrasing in a crepuscular style that links back to all her previous work. Yet, in places the clarity is such that it almost feels like we the listeners have just been hearing her songs with clogged ears for the past decade and longer.
Ultimately, these results perhaps most acutely resonate with the etymology of Liz’s moniker - ‘Grouper’ as in member of a Fourth Way commune, The Group, which was inspired by the philosophy of George Gurdjieff, whose mystic meditations surely linger in the magick of Grid Of Points.