Venerable minimalist Éliane Radigue continues her ‘Occam Ocean’ adventures at the threshold of perception on a third volume in collaboration with string trio Julia Eckhardt, Silvia Tarozzi and Deborah Walker
Performed and recorded in September, 2019 at the Abbazia di Santa Maria Assunta, Bologna, Italy, the 3rd volume of ‘Occam Ocean’ features the pioneering French composer’s radical thoughts on time, tone and timbre carefully manifest thru the trio’s fingers and strings in the model of preceding volumes, also for France’s Shiiin label. Incredibly patient in its sustained drones and incremental developments, the results return an experience that really only comes with Radigue’s work, among a few others, holding the ability to generate moments of revelatory epiphany from the subtlest alterations.
Where previous ‘Occam Ocean’ instalments fielded a mix of solo and duo works (Occam Ocean 1) and a broad orchestra (Occam Ocean 2), this one is perhaps most focussed in its triumvirate of works written for solo, duo and trio configurations of Julia Eckhardt (Viola), Silvia Tarozzi (Violin) and Deborah Walker (Violoncello). The first, for Tarozzi and Walker resonates with an intense immanence as the Violin’s icy high register is underlined by glyding lower end Violoncello contours, creating a unique weather system of mid-air dissonance, which makes Walker’s lone performance on ‘Occam VIII’ only appear hauntingly nude by contrast.
When all three players converge at ‘Occam Delta III’ they create a more sublime tension, adhering the composer’s instructions to follow a razor fine line between microtonal frequencies and making the piece’s technical challenges feel effortlessly natural, really honing in on tones that resonate the pharynx and get up in your head quite unlike anything else.
A definitive edition of Philip Corner’s ‘The Judson Years’, spanning works for tape, electronics, and instrumental-vocal from a vital period during the early ‘60s. Includes stellar avant-garde cast revolving Ayo, David Behrman, Malcolm Goldstein, Dick Higgins, Joe Jones, Alison Knowles, Jackson Mac Low, Charlotte Moorman, Nam June Paik, and Chieko Shiomi, and more
“It's hard to overstate the importance of Philip Corner. For more than half a century he has been a cornerstone of the American musical avant-garde. Once a student of Otto Leuning, Henry Cowell, Olivier Messiaen, and Dorothy Taubman. A founding member of Fluxus, Corner made waves fast, creating a body of singular work, both on his own and within ensembles like Gamelan Son of Lion and Tone Roads, founded with Malcolm Goldstein and James Tenney, which has cut its way across the decades. Among Corner's most fascinating works are those created between 1962 and 1964, during the period when he was resident composer at the Judson Dance Theatre, one the great occurrences in the emergence of avant-garde dance, movement, Happenings, and performance art. Even today, it stands among the most important examples of collaborate create exchange in the history the American arts. Alga Marghen present a three-CD box, issued in early 2000s by and now out of print, gathering much of the work created during these important years in Corner's career, signed by the composer himself.
Alga Marghen's triple box gathers On Tape From the Judson Years, and More from The Judson Years (Early 60s) Instrumental and Vocal Works Volumes 1 and 2, bringing you to heart of Philip Corner's brilliant practice and mind. Across the first disc Corner's tape works -- complex textures and sonority coming to life. The second disc is of an entirely different sort, featuring works created with a great many of Corner's closest collaborators and friends. Recorded at Judson, 1965, the disc features a knock-out cast of Ayo, David Behrman, Philip Corner, Malcolm Goldstein, Dick Higgins, Joe Jones, Alison Knowles, Jackson Mac Low, Charlotte Moorman, Nam June Paik, and Chieko Shiomi, and more. The third disc takes the ear further afield, with "Everything Max Has" (1964), a performance of Max Neuhaus solo recorded at the ONCE Festival (1965), captures the composer and percussionist taking down an overwhelming amount of equipment. It also includes Big Trombone (1963), with Jim Fulkerson improvising over tape collage, "Homage to Revere" (1962) a work for an ensemble of copper-bottom kitchen utensils, and "Punkt" (1961) for an ensemble of staccato sounds, and a number of other astounding works from the era. As a totality, Alga Marghen's three-CD set of Corner's years spent at the Judson Theatre, are a mind-boggling entry into an overwhelmingly exciting moment in time.”
Now compiled into a single handy package, Judee Sill's first two albums here resurface with extensive bonus tracks included.
Sill's place in history is assured by the fact that she was the very first artist to sign to David Geffen's Asylum label at the beginning of the '70s, recording the two now legendary albums (her eponymous 1971 debut and 1972's Heartfood) found on this release. Sill's lyrical concerns tended to converge upon particularly eccentric Christian themes, never more successfully than on her debut single 'Jesus Was A Crossmaker', produced by Graham Nash.
Frankly, it's as good an example of 1970s West Coast songwriting as you're every likely to hear - the almost uncomfortably intimate live version that rounds off disc one of this collection stands as a testament to its incredible compositional elegance. The second disc contains Heartfood in its entirety plus ten bonus tracks made up of outtakes from the original recording sessions for the album, solo demos and alternate versions. These two albums have achieved 'lost classic' status by now, and there's never been a better presentation of them than this.
Iranian-Canadian brothers Mohammad and Mehdi Mehrabani-Yeganeh harness the fourth world power of Jon Hassell and the spannered, electrified weirdness of New York's short-lived illbient genre on this exceptional, eccentric voyage into stateless sound. RIYL DJ Spooky, Bill Laswell, Moor Mother, Supersilent...
Over the last few years, Saint Abdullah have been quietly cooking some of the most intense genre-distorting experimental music we've heard from NYC in ages. Their PTP run - 2018's "Stars Have Eyes" and last year's "Where Do We Go, Now?" - established them as key players in the city's musical landscape, and this two volume follow-up (the second part is a cassette on Important's sublabel Cassauna) is their most convincing statement yet.
On "To Live A La West", the brothers lean into the spiritual and political fluctuation of free jazz, effortlessly melting it into their established fractured electronic backdrop. So virtuoso instrumental performance takes a front seat, whether it's Panamanian trumpeter Aquiles Navarro on subdued opening track 'A Lot of Kings', British sax legend John Butcher improvising over stuttering beats on 'Like A Great Starving Beast' or Mohammad and Mehdi themselves inhabiting a space between Alice Coltrane and Florian Fricke on cosmic jazz burners like 'Philly' or 'Nocturnal Pool Party'.
The album is a subtle statement on western living; Mohammad and Mehdi grew up in Iran but were shuttled to Canada by their parents when they were kids. So they reflect on the choices they made for acceptance, for "a life lived with less tension". "But who are we imitating?" they ask. The brothers take American music history and reconfigure it in their own mode: levitational spiritual jazz becomes as emotionally affecting as Middle Eastern classical music, and blown-out, freeform electronics that owe as much to the post-punk era as they do The Bronx, sound as cybernetic and expertly wrought as Sote's "Parallel Persia". At times their production takes on the cadence of gutter-blasted IDM, refined with the free-flowing immediacy of Rune Grammafon's Supersilent.
It's hard to express how well engineered and perfectly cooked this sound is. Fusion is a tough thing to get right - a quick dip into NYC's restaurant culture will assure you of that - but when it's good, it sounds like everything you love all at once - and nothing quite like anything you've heard before.
"The Nearer The Fountain, More Pure The Stream Flows", is the new studio album from Damon Albarn on Transgressive Records.
"The Nearer The Fountain, More Pure The Stream Flows was originally intended as an orchestral piece inspired by the landscapes of Iceland. This last year has seen Albarn return to the music in lockdown and develop the work to 11 tracks which further explore themes of fragility, loss, emergence and rebirth. The result is a panoramic collection of songs with Albarn as storyteller. The album title is taken from a John Clare poem Love and Memory.
Albarn says “I have been on my own dark journey while making this record and it led me to believe that a pure source might still exist.”"
The Berlin-based duo hackedepicciotto return with "The Silver Threshold", their fourth full length album.
"This cinematic and hypnotic release combines swirling electronics, shimmering autoharp and the beautiful vocal harmonies of Danielle de Picciotto (co-founder of Berlin’s legendary 'Love Parade', prolific solo artist and illustrator) and Alexander Hacke (Einstürzende Neubauten), blended with a plethora of instruments from around the world.
Danielle and Alex have contributed to a vast and varied legacy of electronic music, although The Silver Threshold is their the first album in partnership with Mute, they are not new to the label, with both Danielle and Alex members of the last incarnation of Crime and the City Solution and Alex a member of Einstürzende Neubauten whilst also contributing to releases by Phew and Miranda Sex Garden."
Curated by Wolfgang Voigt, Kompakt's ongoing Pop Ambient series continues with this latest set, featuring gauzy sadbient contributions from Blank Gloss, Andrew Thomas, Thomas Fehlmann, Yuo Onodera and more.
Started in 2001 "Pop Ambient" series long predated the current global obsession with ambient music, but somehow has still managed to stay completely mired in its own reading of the sprawling, bloated genre. The label's latest compilation is completely free of surprises, and again highlights the dedication to their chosen theme. There's no darkness here and few blustery field recordings, the world of "Pop Ambient" is right there in the title - whimsical pop (or post-rock) bluster has been reduced to Gas-eous fog.
Cali duo Blank Gloss start things off calmly with a dream pop jangle and occasional kick drum, before Yui Onodera gets us back on the usual path, blending watery environmental sounds with Reich-ian phasing, evocative piano and strangled strings. Markus Guentner and Joachim Spieth do their best Wolfgang impression on 'Kari', before Thomas Fehlmann lightens the mood slightly with the cheery 'Rosen Fliegen'. For the most part, these tracks are almost interchangeable - a granulated pad there, a twinkling piano there - so it's fitting that, as usual, there's a mixed version.
Disarmingly haunted recordings of piano tuned to fit the Persian classical scale; without knowing what instrument was being played you'd likely mistake it for a santur, while the ferric recording process disintegrates the sound with the resonant intention of Basinski. Incredible, really.
Morteza Mahjubi developed a special tuning system to allow him to play the piano, a Western instrument, using Persian microtonal scaling. His technique was known as Piano-ye Sonnati, and allowed him to play music usually perfomed on tar, setar or santur on an instrument intended for a completely different use. A highly unusual sound that's rare even in Persia now, these recordings were made for radio between 1956 and Mahjubi's death in 1965 and are a testament to the composer and performer's skill.
If you're familiar with Persian classical music the compositions themselves won't surprise you, but the piano gives them a ghostly quality - they're familiar yet just unusual enough for the brain to jolt, in the best way. Incredible find this.
Unmissable first showcase of pioneering Vietnamese rock ’n bopper Phương Tâm; a real labour of love compiled by her daughter and the Sublime Freq’s, all bubbling over with catchy rock ’n roll, blues, jazz, twist and surf nuggets
‘Magical Nights: Saigon Surf, Twist & Soul (1964-1966)’ spans dozens of songs written a lifetime ago, when Phương Tâm blazed a trail of US-influenced songwriting, which she promptly left for family life after only a few years. It was only in 2020 that Phương’s daughter, Hannah Hà, now in the USA, began to fully uncover her mother’s fantastic - if short lived - pop and rock career, leading her to Sublime Frequencies via their much-loved collection ‘Saigon Rock and Soul’, where Phương’s ‘Magical Night’ is a centrepiece, and whose title lends itself to this archival bonanza. Reaped from far flung collections thanks to the efforts of Hannah, plus Mark Gergis and a network of proper diggers, its 26 songs speak to Phương’s remarkable range which saw her in high demand at Saigon nightclubs and a regular in the recording studio, penning songs that would become popularised by others years later, after she exited stage left to marry her love and start a family, still against the backdrop of the Vietnam war.
After 55 years, Phương encountered many of her recordings for the first time since they made, thanks to the compilation process. Including 25 of her known 30 recordings, the set proves her natural dexterity at both driving, early rock ’n roll, and a fine vein of sultrier jazz soul ballads, and crucially with influence from traditional Vietnamese melodies in parts. We find ourselves most snagged on the likes of her strolling bewt ‘Đêm Huyền Diệu’ with its haunting woodwind and choral backing, and likewise the smokier sashay of ‘Ngày Phép Của Lính’ or ‘Buồn Lên Thành Phố’ and ‘Lá Thư’ just drip with timeless elegance, whereas the likes of her slinkily infectious ’60 Năm’ and the reverberating surf rock licks of ‘Tình Mơ’ surely scream late night good times.
Legendary balearic disco and house player DJ Harvey adjusts the temperature on his 3rd volume of peachy picks for Ibiza’s Pikes
Named after his residency at the seminal Ibizan hotel, ‘The Sound Of Mercury Rising Vol. III’ packs 16 prime, and as yet (at time of writing) undisclosed, cuts of glistening yacht boogie, star-eyed house, debonaire boogie disco and blissed out downstrokes. We’ll be honest, we can only ID Twice of Love’s sexy New Beat ace ’24 Hours From Culture’, but we’d love to know what that 10 minute closer is. Trust it’s all bound to get you unbuttoned and feeling dead glam. Add your own pool and cocktail bar for best effect.
Wounds and Blessings is a brand new studio double album by Blaine L. Reininger, the Colorado-born composer and founder member of avant-garde music group Tuxedomoon.
"Wounds and Blessings is a collection of 28 new tracks organised into 4 distinct suites. While all the music is performed and produced by Reininger, featured guests include his Tuxedomoon colleagues Steven Brown and Luc van Lieshout, as well as former Indoor Life member Bob Hoffnar and Reininger’s Greek guitarist, Tilemachos Moussas.
On this expansive double set Reininger employs all the tools in his current arsenal, from AI-assisted lyrics to sampler bricolage, to violin and guitar virtuosity, a vast array of computer plug-ins and effects, and a trompe l’oeil assortment of 20th century avant-garde compositional methods.
"When I’m working," explains Blaine, “and a piece begins to reveal itself to me, I always follow where it leads. It becomes clear that it requires a violin, or a guitar, or lyrics. Whether it should be harsh or serene, orchestral, or entirely electronic. So it is with this new collection. Also, in the vocal songs, the subject of mortality has surfaced time and time again, albeit in a lucid manner and without becoming morbid, or fearful. I’m pleased with the results, and grateful to have the means to write every day and present my music to you.’"
Raster mark their 25th anniversary with Greek composer Novi_sad’s epic episode of elemental field recordings made on five continents and sculpted into thunderous and sublime scapes.
Rooted in Greek mythology, ‘Κεραυνóς’ is composed of environmental recordings made in Oceania (Tarkine Forests), Asia (Okinawa), Europe (Ancient Olympia and Iceland), Africa (Uganda, Botswana and Namibia), and America (Amazon rainforest and Niagara Falls) to impressionistically relate a mythos that connects Gods of thunder from Greek, Celtic, Slavic, Norse, Finnish, Indian, Chinese and Roman traditions. Aye, it doesn’t sweat the small stuff, and tends to the broadest frame of references for a release befitting of Raster’s lofty reputation.
The five durational works obliquely and evocatively elicit their subject by means of textural inference and timbral nuance; Oceania’s Tarkine forest recordings result a wall of nocturnal bird calls that become soused in flames and give way to lush aftermath; location sounds of Okinawa form a rich blanket of insectoid chatter that sounds like recordings of cicadas slowed 1000%; the various locations of Europe are knitted into a transition from foreboding low end to sublime noise; the Africa piece offers the most haunting, suspenseful scenes of warbling drone wow and flutter; and America’s transformed sounds rainforest squall and cascading water are pregnant with portent.
Veteran sonic alchemist BJ Nilsen returns with a Sartre-influenced hall of mirrors, using recognizable elements (voices, trains, bells, birds etc) to create fantasy "irreal" soundscapes struck thru with beauty, intrigue and mischief. Chris Watson and Lawrence English devotees take note!
Swedish sound artist Nilsen has spent almost two decades impressing us with his skillful blend of environmental recordings and deep drone. His '06 collaboration with Chris Watson, "Storm", is a classic, and his records with Icelandic duo Stilluppsteypa remain some of the experimental canon's most slept-on tomes. "Irreal" is Nilsen's most impressive solo work in a while, combining his philosophy of sound with evocative field recordings and engrossing deep listening experimentation.
Using recordings from Austria, Russia, South Korea, Belgium and The Netherlands, Nilsen creates fresh, unique landscapes that exist in neither one place nor another. Insects and birds hum in the distance, snow crunches, grass blows in the wind, but this isn't documentary, it's pure fantasy. The environmental sounds form a textural landscape for Nilsen's careful synth work, and drones and wobbling rhythmic sequences ping in-and-out of the more recognizable sounds.
This is meditative music, created with a distinctly philosophical concept in mind. The title is taken from a Sartre quote, and the music is intended to investigate the effect natural sounds have on humans. On the epic almost 40-minute closing track 'Beyond Pebbles, Rubble and Dust', Nilsen's ideas come together with the force of an orchestra. In less capable hands, this would fall into "power ambient" traps, but Nilsen only teeters on the edge of the extreme, never allowing his slow-building composition to overwhelm the cautious, complex palette. It's a masterclass, honestly.
Bewitching magnum opus from Lotic, arriving at her definitive album statement with 3rd LP ‘Water’ after helping reassert avant-club dimensions over the past decade.
A dramatic tour de force, ‘Water' is dominated by the confident appearance of Lotic's operatic R&B vocals, lending a vaulted new perspective and embellishment of ravishing electronic backdrops. She arrives at this point after spending the last decade moving from the USA to Germany, and co-founding the influential clubnight Janus in Berlin, where her adventurous DJ sets helped redraw boundaries of contemporary, queer club music and beyond.
Björk is also big fan, enlisting Lotic’s remix skills for the ‘Vulnicura’ album produced with Lotic’s peer Arca, but recent years have seen Lotic withdraw from the release schedule to spend time on this, the most ambitious realisation of a style that transcends club and home listening distinctions and places her music in a loftier dimension of avant-R&B.
Song to song, Lotic's soaring vocals take on an aqueous quality, variously processed into emotional cascades or shimmering passages, with strings and rhythms also allowed to slosh with a freedom of meter that stems from formative classical training. Embodying a siren like character, she summons the storm with ‘Wet’ and makes great use of what sounds like water drumming in the tremulous ‘Emergency’, while binding the club and classical dimensions in a lush manner on ‘Always You’ that also informs the Ariel/aeriel inversion of ‘Apart.’
Her theatric arrangements ultimately come to a head with the final strokes, on the woodwind and Reese bass mise-en-scene of ‘Oblivious’ channelling a sort of Klaus Nomi cabaret for the Berghain generation, while the spotlighted vocals of ‘Diamond’ give way to a killer orchestral death drop and windswept drums that epitomise her grasp of dramaturgy and heightened classical sensitivities.
Instant life upgrade gear, starring guitar maestro Omar Khorshid showcasing one of the most important Arabic composers of the c.20th, who has written for legends including Umm Kalthum, Abdel Halim Hafez, Sabah, Warda, and many others
Packing opulent string orchestrations, intoxicating sitar work, sizzling drums and the psych-surf guitar fire of Omar Khorshid - a big fave around here - Baligh Hamdi’s ‘Instrumental Modal Pop of 1970s Egypt’ collects 19 relatively stripped back examples of the composer charting modernized directions for Arabic music during the open-minded ‘60s & ‘70s. Compiled and annotated by Sublime Frequencies don Hisham Mayet, the selection is deliberately shy of vocals, in order to best reveal Hamdi’s intricate weave of influences from subcontinental classical music to Afro-American jazz and west coast US surf and psych rock, all subtly and seamlessly incorporated into the lushest of psychedelic exotica.
Under Hamdi’s direction, the crack squad of Omar Khorshid on guitar, Magdi al-Husseini on organ, Samir Sourour on saxophone, and Faruq Salama on accordion, aka his legendary group “Diamond Orchestra”, articulate a new musical language porous to peripheral influence, yet firmly located in the sophistication of cosmopolitan Cairo during that specific era. Abundant with tonal colour and, crucially, driven by a suave swagger, it’s hard not to be charmed by the passion and patent intellect of this music, sweeping us up on a deadly cool but exhilarating trip for the ages that still surely conveys its urges to mingle myriad musics and make you dance better.
Just essential stuff, really.
Carsten Nicolai embarks on a new series of works with this new full-length, commissioned to score Richard Siegal's choreographed performance "Oval" and influenced by astrophysics phenomena, cinema and scientific events. Not easy listening then.
At this stage in his career, Nicolai has his methodology nailed down like a dining table on a cruise ship. His precisely-engineered infusions of drone, noise and glitch have inspired a generation of producers, and truly, few do it quite like him. So although "HYbr:ID I" sounds familiar, the only person he's really aping at this point is himself. And Panasonic.
The album is saddled with an expectedly heady concept; it takes its track names from "static images portraying scientific events" and is inspired by "cinematic visual techniques". Which is to say, it's kinetic, spacious music made out of soundsystem-shaking slabs of wavering bass and chattering pinprick rhythms that encourage movement as much as they suggest abstract imagery.
Nicolai has always had a knack for crafting art that inhabits an area between audio and visual, long before it was de rigeur - "HYbr:ID I" continues that tradition: it's intensely visual music, even without accompaniment, and sounds like a blend of his more upfront material (best represented on the "Uni" series) and his textured "Xerrox" ambience. It's excellent, expectedly, like a VW Passat. Play loud, maybe in the Passat?
Songs of resistance and gratitude in a Latin pop mode from Chicago’s Dos Santos, one of the longest running groups on International Anthem Recording Company.
Vintage-sounding, but polished to modern tastes, ‘City Of Mirrors’ feature the septet playing to their latin heritage in a style that will appeal to all members of the extended family. It’s rich with melody and impassioned vocals, driven by coolly urgent tresillo rhythms and equally given to elegiac ballads that wouldn’t sound out of place in a Lynch flick, as it is to party-gathering bops and jangling, psychy, indie-rock verve.
"Cinematic in its journey, the album was produced by multimedia artist and long-time friend of the band Elliot Bergman (NOMO, Wild Belle), and reflects sounds from across the Americas combined with Chavez’s compelling poetic narratives. Its 13 tracks consolidate the band’s unique identities, creative and cultural roots, and their penchant for honoring traditional Latinx music with contemporary compositional expressions and production techniques. It achieves the band’s mission to push against their own musical boundaries while also exploring themes of social justice, immigration, and contemporary human struggle.
Chavez, a scholar who has produced albums for Smithsonian Folkways and conducted extensive ethnographic work on the music of the Texan US/Mexican borderlands (where he is from), articulates beautifully: “City of Mirrors is an assemblage… glimpses of tradition… reflections on our collective present… luminous echoes between love and solitude, hope and absurdity, euphoria and mourning. This album grapples with and transgresses these binaries because we have/and continue to cross borders. Yet, for us, the border is no metaphor — too much real staring back at us. We embody the border. We (our families) have crossed it. We (our stories) are coated with its residues. And so… we cross the border of self through our art – out of necessity.”"
‘Morton Feldman Piano’ is a major 5CD collection of virtually all of Feldman’s music for piano, performed by Philip Thomas with a tactility befitting of this extraordinary, quiet, intimate music. It’s the most extensive survey of Feldman’s piano music since John Tilbury’s long unavailable 4-CD set was released 20 years ago, including several pieces which weren’t included there, and three works which have never been released on disc before at all.
Feldman was part of a radical group of experimenters, alongside the likes of John Cage, Christian Wolff and Earle Brown, who looked beyond the strictures of serialism to innovative with and embrace aspects of chance and “indeterminacy” in their compositions. Most often associated with the piano, Feldman is perhaps best known for his perceptively time-slowing later works, but this boxset presents the widest angle possible on his approach to the piano, spanning surprisingly cranky recordings from the 1940s thru to the exquisite delicacy of his acclaimed ‘Triadic Memories’ and ultimately ‘Palais de Mari’ in 1986. Feldman died in 1987, leaving behind a remarkable catalogue that has previously been tackled by John Tilbury in the 4CD set ‘All Piano’ (1999), which is now long out of print and trades for triple figures on the 2nd hand market, making this boxset of Philip Thomas’ Feldman interpretations an even more indispensable collection.
Accompanied by pianist Philip Thomas’ lucubrate and extensive book of notes on Feldman’s music, its development, unique notation, and his close personal relationship with it, ‘Morton Feldman Piano’ methodically and artfully unpackages the great composer’s often forbiddingly vast oeuvre for anyone looking for a way in or seeking to enrich their knowledge of his life and work. In great depth, Thomas writes about Feldman’s holistic approach, recognising the connection between ears, mind, and fingertips which resulted in the music’s quietly extreme dynamic, and which singularly revolutionised historic approaches to the instrument thru the artist’s attempt at refusing attack in the notes - essentially a near-impossible idea when considering that the piano is a percussive instrument, and needs to be hit to be played. The sensitivity of the results are quite astonishing, and most beautifully executed and evidenced in Thomas’ playing throughout all 31 pieces included.
While the later works will be well known to even the casual Feldman follower, and are sure to entrance newcomers, his early and mid-period works between the late ‘40s and into the ‘60s provide a fascinating grounding for his sound and style, ranging from a solemnly inquisitive ‘Untitled piano piece’ (1942) to the almost jazzy flourishes of ‘Illusions’ (1949), thru to his increasingly sparser ‘Music for the film ‘Sculpture by Lipton’’ (1954), and up to the barely there ‘Piano Piece’ (1964) before he took a 13 year hiatus from writing for solo piano (although he would still write parts for piano in larger ensembles), only returning to it with ‘Piano’ (1977).
Yet for all the technicality and philosophy surrounding Feldman’s compositional process, it remains to be said that his music is strikingly easy on the ear. With a little focus and patience in the right mindset, Feldman’s music has the capacity to lead the thinking mind into unusual places, and as his catalogue proceeds, it becomes an increasing pleasure to find the notes flickering, illuminating contrasts with the shadows of his lacunae.
Maverick electro-acoustic composer Marina Rosenfeld returns to Room 40, host of 2009’s standout ‘P.A./Hard Love’ album, with an investigation of dub plate decay and the haptic, physical interaction of skin, sweat and grime on acetate, with results recalling Bellows, Stephan Mathieu, early Wanda Group
“For over two decades, New York-based artist and composer Marina Rosenfeld has pioneered a specific language for turntable music, based on an ever-expanding collection of dub plates she creates.
The dubplate is a one-off, hand-cut record. Each dubplate can be made to contain any array of sounds decided on by its creator. For Rosenfeld, her discovery of the dubplate in the late 1990s was a pivotal moment, when she recognised the material instability of the medium as critical tool for performance and composition.
On Index, the investigation of this materiality is paramount. The physical intimacy that colors the relation between the hand and the plate is revealed through a very particular reading of the turntable, one which sits in parallel to the more recognised ways in which that technology has been deployed as a performative tool.
This edition features a series of live recordings and related materials that trace the development of Rosenfeld’s tactile approach and her shifting collection of sound materials. The recordings are published alongside a book featuring extensive archival documentation, photography and a long-form conversation between Marina Rosenfeld and Lawrence English.”
Danish duo Bremer/McCoy— with Jonathan Bremer on acoustic bass and Morten McCoy on keys and tape delay.
"What were they up to? They couldn’t explain it. But not explaining it was part of the point. Bremer/McCoy recorded straight to tape so that they had as little time as possible to think about it. They just laid it down.
The duo has been making music that defies categorization since 2012. They started as a dub group, bringing their own sound system to shows. Now their sound lilts between jazz, ambient, and neoclassical, with contemplative, propulsive melodies that capture the Nordic woods they walk in. Their last full-length release, 2019’s clear-eyed Utopia, gained them a cult following in the U.S. and a roster of notable fans, including Nils Frahm and Gilles Peterson.
The duo’s latest release Natten, which means “The Night” in Danish, strives for even more transcendence, more freedom, more of everything in whatever sound they’re making. It’s still hard to explain. It’s not meant to be explained. These 11 tracks are tinged with the sublime: watching the setting sun, feeling the planet tilt on its axis. If you listen closely, you can hear the constellations. Let Bremer/McCoy bring the night mood to you, whatever you’re up to."
Hana Vu's debut LP for Ghostly International, "Public Storage".
"Storage units hold possessions on pause from the outside world, objects capable of reconnecting us to a time or place. Hana Vu (born in 2000s California) grew up with her family making regular use of public storage spaces in Los Angeles, moving every few years, leaving a mix of the sacred and the mundane to sit inside concrete and steel. The 20-year-old musician sees the art of making and releasing songs in a similar sense: “these public expressions of thoughts, feelings, baggage, experiences that accumulate every year and fill little units such as ‘albums.’” She lived next to one of these buildings when she started writing her full-length Ghostly International debut, Public Storage, and its towering presence lends a metaphor to a record that sounds far bigger than the bedroom it came from.
"Public Storage" underscores Vu's strengths as a songwriter with a deeper sense of luster, sophistication, and urgency. She calls it “very invasive and intense sounding music,” refreshingly out of step with contemporary trends; this is music to engage with rather than lean back to. For the first time, she welcomes a co-producer, Jackson Phillips (Day Wave), who helps Vu create a vast, grainy, multifaceted world to stretch into vocally, her distinct contralto drifting freely between evocative low-lit ruminations and soulful, skyward bursts."
Barmy and quite brilliant new album from Mira Calix, that cuts thru a ruff clutter of abstract ideas and wildly disparate elements with a digital hotknife, collaging elements from avant garde experimental music, rap, footwork, opera, industrial and dubstep. Somehow the result is coherent and utterly compelling - perhaps her best album yet.
It's easy to forget that Durban-born Chantal Passamonte was the first woman signed to the Warp label, and she's been hard at work doing her own thing since 1996's still-underrated "Ilanga" 12". She's managed to completely avoid classification too, working with experimental electronics and mutant dance forms initially, over the years she's made the transition into installation and theatre work without sacrificing the uniqueness of her voice. So "a̵b̵s̵e̵n̵t̵ origin" follows these decades of invention and reinvention, and is influenced by feminist artist Hannah Wilke's collage works.
Passamonte compares her studio process to a Scandi-noir detective's office as she assembles her inspirations and influences. Each track on the album is formed using a different collage process that reflects the output of a different visual artist, and yet somehow Passamonte manages to find a connection between each one, assembling a cast of 17 tracks that form a complex narrative.
There's a confident, theatrical quality to "a̵b̵s̵e̵n̵t̵ origin" that feels risky and modern. Passamonte has experience working with theater - she composed for the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2017 - and her stark, recognizable sound has never felt more lavishly displayed. It's a challenging, rewarding and bold work that grabs influence from throughout the artistic spectrum without cynicism or polite restraint - a rare thing.
Following their latest trifecta of EP releases, A Certain Ratio return with the remix album Loco Remezclada.
"The remix album takes all 10 tracks from 2020’s ACR Loco + ‘Down & Dirty’ from EPA and puts them in the hands of a sensational selection of producers and artists including Lou Hayter, LoneLady, Lounge Society, The Orielles, Maps, Sink Ya Teeth, Skream, Doctor Pieter, Chris Massey, Colleen Cosmo, Number and Muddy Feet. The album launches with the remix of ‘Down & Dirty’ from this year’s ACR:EPA by Speedy Wunderground mastermind Dan Carey."
Guitarist Ben Chasny (aka Six Organs of Admittance) whips up an emotive suite of psych-folk library music on "The Intimate Landscape". A sharp and lushly cinematic set of acoustic vignettes for fans of John Fahey, Robbie Basho et al.
Since the late 1990s, Chasny's name has been synonymous with the resurgence of American folk wyrdness that saw a grip of artists across the continent pick up where John Fahey and his contemporary accolytes left off. "The Intimate Landscape" is his umpteenth full length, but deserves special attention because it was original recorded for library music label KPM and was intended to be used as such. So we find Chasny in a particularly cinematic space, tying uncharacteristically positive acoustic guitar compositions around evocative riffs and ominous textural elements.
The album isn't simply a collection of loose studies, it feels like a selection of related themes - if we didn't know better we might mistake the album for being a complete soundtrack - and can easily be enjoyed from beginning to end. There's a cheerful positivity to these tracks that reminds of the mid-00s nu-folk boom and points to a future that just might be more hopeful than we think. Recommended.
West African drum and funk fiends, your time! Master Ghanaian percussionist Okyerema Asante ov Oneness of Juju returns for a 20 year follow-up to his part on ‘African Rhythms 1970-1982’, one of the earliest aces on Strut
Nose to tail, it’s 100% bad-to-the-bone grooves inside, shimmying around the square roots of the Afro-American dance dialogue during the years after Asante had cut his teeth playing with Ebo Taylor’s Blue Monks band, and gigging at Fela’s Shrine, which led to him touring with Hugh Masakela and Oneness of Juju alongside James Branch aka Plunky (Ndikho Xaba & The Natives).
Recorded during the golden years of disco and boogie, ‘Drum Message’ strongly bears their traces, but bent with a proper Ghanaian highlife suss and deadly jazz skill, exemplified in the likes of his classic ‘Asanate Sana’ and the bustling upness of his anthem ‘Sabi’, and its deeply concentrated ‘Sabi (Black Fire Mix)’, while ‘Never Fly Away From The Funk’ gets right on the funky nerve, ‘To The Ancestors’ pushes right out into proper rhythmic psychedelia, and oh my days, if you aren’t snagged on the cowbells and whistles of ‘Play a Sweet Rhythm on Them Drums’ you’re a lost cause, basically.
Salford psych rawk collective Gnod murder the meaning on their latest set, recorded through a period of confusion and turbulence. Grizzled, acidic sounds 'ere >> RIYL Melvins, Harvey Milk, Electric Wizard, Neurosis.
There's a disorientating boxed-in quality to "La Mort Du Sense", which makes sense given its recording history. The band laid down the demos back in 2019, but when COVID-19 hit Gnod rethought everything - this gave the tracks fresh motion, and noisy, post-punk mettle. In fact, the album sounds as urgent as Gnod have been in a while, harnessing the rhythmic throb of Joy Division and crossing it with the angular oddness of "Gluey Porch Treatments"-era Melvins.
'Regimental' is angry and charged, but ordered - almost dancefloor-ready with its chunky rhythm section, but 'Pink Champagne Blues' strikes a different chord, increasing the temperature (and the tempo) before burning into ten-ton overdriven riffs. The entire album feels as if it's a slow wind-up to the 12-minute finale, 'Giro Day', that seethes and hisses through noisy feedback, ritual drums, bells and cell-melting stoner drones.
KID A MNESIA is coming, a triple-album release marking the 21st anniversary of Kid A and Amnesiac, collecting both albums alongside a newly compiled third disc titled 'Kid Amnesiae' which is exclusive to this release and features unearthed material culled from the Kid A / Amnesiac sessions plus alternate versions and elements of Kid A and Amnesiac album tracks and B-Sides, Kid Amnesiae features the never-before-heard "If You Say the Word” and a previously unreleased studio recording of "Follow Me Around.”
These are the formats:
3LP: Three 12" half-speed cut black vinyl pressings of KID A (A/B), Amnesiac (C/D) + KID AMNESIAE (E/F) bonus volume containing unreleased material, in artwork sleeves - available on limited edition Red or Black vinyl.
3CD: Three compact discs containing KID A, Amnesiac + KID AMNESIAE bonus disc containing unreleased material, in artwork sleeves.
Liz Harris's 12th album is a heart-melting anthology of songs written over the last 15 years. A mixture of 'Dragging A Dead Deer...' emotional rawness and 'AIA' -style tape-dubbed sonic fog, it's a timely reminder of why she's one of the crucial underground voices of the era.
When Harris's early Grouper material began to emerge thru the cracks in the wall of wyrd folk CDRs and hand-made cassette tapes, we could already sense it was something different. There was a bare quality to it that set it out of time: this was music that sounded as harmonious with Slowdive's melancholy shimmer as it did with the Olympia and Washington DIY set. 'Shade' is a career-spanning set that accurately charts her evolution thru the years, running a course that broaches ambient music, Laurel Canyon folk, grunge, dream pop, and everything in-between.
Her music is unified by its unique spirit and personified by Harris's voice - a ubiquitous element that's sometimes an elasticated, ghostly whisper and at others a spiraling coo. On opening track 'Followed the ocean', it's an assured driving force, but her powerful tones are reduced to glowing cinder beneath the burn of overdriven, tape-distorted noise. Words are present, but indecipherable - it's like hearing a song taped from radio and endlessly re-duplicated for heightened ghosting. The fog dissipates on 'Unclean mind', harking back to 'Heavy Water' with a grunge-y strum and angelic moans.
'Shade' is a good title, because the interplay between openness and insularity lies at the heart of the album. From track to track is sounds as if Harris is revealing herself and then retreating under a blanket of tape hiss. 'The way her hair falls' is so clean you could hear a pin drop, making out every nuance in Harris's voice. The biggest surprise is the album's closing track 'Kelso (Blue sky)', where her vocals are finally given a grand treatment, drenched in reverb but completely tangible. The result is a glimmering slice of lingering acid folk that sounds divorced from time and space.
‘Zurufe’ is the captivating debut of orchestral drone by Mol Quartetto, who count Hans-Joachim Roedelius (Cluster), Christopher Chaplin, CM von Hausswolff, and Tim Story in their gloaming mass, resembling the late stages of The Caretaker project.
Mol Quartetto introduce themselves in the most elusive, spectral terms on their first venture, a sort of hybrid, semi-improvised version of a performance at the Arnulf Rainer museum in Baden, for the MoL festival. The 45 minute piece features original recordings made in situ, where the players were sequestered in separate rooms, using the centuries old bathhouse-turned-museum’s marble clad pools and walkways as a giant acoustic reverb unit for communication between Roedelius’ grand piano, synths and tapes, Chaplin’s orchestral choir samples and synths, von Hausswolff’s Nepalese location recordings and oscillators, and Story’s sound design. However, someone forgot to push record on Chaplin’s line out, and the results were shelved until he re-recorded his parts, which were re-amplified by Story, along with the other parts, back into the museum space, resulting this richly ghostly interplay of resonant impressions and afterimages.
Mixed down from some 30 mic tracks, the final piece evokes the feeling of drifting palatial settings that could just as easily be The Overlook as Marienbad, doubtlessly conjuring a dreamlike, OOBEy sensation and perspective of place and space that deeply stimulates subconscious responses. As we say, The Caretaker’s latter stages are a clear reference point for us, and also Stephan Mathieu’s manipulation of ancient 78s, but it’s the natural acoustic complexity of the resonant reverberations that really sets this one apart, perhaps best compared with something like Howlround’s ‘The Ghosts of Bush’, and serving to smudge each performers parts into an insoluble whole where we can only pick out the most fleeting, glancing impression of Roedelius’ keys, or Chaplin’s orchestral chorales, which are seamlessly subsumed back into the mass by Story.
It’s a sound of incredible, rarified substance and ambiguity, absolutely primed to get lost in and detach oneself from reality for the duration. Seriously, you’ll want to return to its haunted corridors and halls over and again. A proper trip, this.
It can’t be easy following a record as beguiling as 2008’s genre-defying ‘The Drift’, but pounding to life with the incessant woodpecker percussion of album opener ‘See You Don’t Bump His Head’, it’s clear that 69-year-old Scott Walker has shock and awe in mind.
He’s never been an artist who’s struggled with originality, and ‘Bish Bosch’ takes his aural cubism even further than ever before with confusing instrumentation and some of his finest vocal work to date. Where its predecessor profited from a hoarse, growling electronic backdrop, ‘Bish Bosch’ is almost circus-like in its approach, draped in horns, strings and crushing guitars - but rarely does the cacophony encroach on Walker’s hallowed vocal tones.
In what feels like a conclusion to a trilogy (along with ‘Tilt’ and ‘The Drift’) Walker has turned in a delightfully difficult to navigate masterpiece, filled with wrong-turns and red herrings. From the much hyped chorus of farts (it works, seriously) to the humorous asides on ‘SDSS14+13B (Zercon, A Flagpole Sitter)’ it feels like Walker delights in making an generation of music listeners have to sing for their supper for the very first time. ‘Bish Bosch’ is a million miles from the instant gratification we’d hope to glean from the majority of contemporary releases, and yet it doesn’t sound dated or stuck in time; rather Walker has created a record that sounds conscious of its surroundings while it tears them down relentlessly.
The near-doomed, close apocalyptic holler of ‘Bish Bosch’ isn’t likely going to appeal to everyone out there, but those of you looking for originality, craftsmanship, challenge and sheer imagination should look no further. Defiant, beautiful and occasionally spine-chillingly frightening, ‘Bish Bosch’ is a late contender for album of the year, and one that will be hard to shake from the mind any time soon.
The latest from Eleh is surprisingly busy, considering the mysterious synth botherer's usual output. Composed in a storm, it's silky, oscillating material that's part deep listening and part psychedelic, k-hole dissociation - think Eliane Radigue, "Time Machines"-era Coil, "Imperial Distortion"-era Kevin Drumm or even early Tangerine Dream.
Over the years, Eleh's music has developed from hyper-minimalist studies of tonal fluctuations into more confidently composed drone epics. "Snoweight" feels like his most musical edition in a while, a further development of the tonal gliding found on last year's ace "Harmonic Twins". There's an ominous, uneasy quality to the record, that's enhanced by Eleh's attention to minuscule details; if his early material was barely perceptible shifts and variations, all those psychoacoustic flexes are still present here, they're just employed differently.
The album is split into two compositions, and while the first sounds as if it might launch into an Emeralds-style sci-fi arpeggio trip at any moment, Eleh makes sure the payoff is more subtle. Slowly revealing the character of his oscillators, he builds the brassy drones into thick sub bass instead of bleeps, using overtones and resonance to suggest a creeping counter-harmony.
'Snoweight 2' is even more restrained, with Kubrickian clonks punctuating a falling sine tone that eventually gets swallowed by white noise that forces us to consider the weather and the conditions in which Eleh was working. It's a neat trick, and proof that you don't always need high-end field recordings to evoke a time, place and mood. By the time it draws to a close, Eleh unexpectedly deploys a melody that wouldn't sound out of place on Tangerine Dream's first run of atmospheric tomes, or perhaps more fittingly - Ennio Morricone and John Carpenter's ominous score for icy horror milestone "The Thing".
The excellent Death Is Not The End label has done it again with this stunning collection of early Japanese ryūkōka music, documenting the beginnings of a sound that was popular in Japan until the 1960s.
Before the US occupation of Japan and the dominating influence of Western pop, there was ryūkōka, which literally means "popular song". The term now means a specific style of music that emerged in the 1920s, and fused Western classical music techniques with traditional Japanese folk sounds and kobushi singing.
On "Longing for the Shadow", we get to hear the subtle beginnings of the form, before it was influenced by postwar US presence in Japan. The music's theatrical qualities stand out most, with decadent vocal parts hovering over folk instrumentation. Due to the time period, the quality of the recording itself gives the music its own unique character, offering us the chance to travel into a completely different universe.
Some of the sounds might be hazily familiar from their usage in Japanese cinema, but most of the pieces here are startlingly unique. If you enjoyed the Kouta Katsutaro tape Death Is Not The End put out a couple of years ago, this one's going to be completely essential.
It's always worth considering the route Scott Walker could have taken following his flirtation with the charts back in the sixties - an endless procession of 'farewell' tours, some dodgy dance collaborations and a slew of moribund chat-show appearances.
He might have even got rediscovered at Glastonbury. However, rather than set-off down the tried and tested slope of endless rehashing of the mythical glory years, Scott Walker has somehow installed himself as one of our most esoteric songwriters - fusing a love of European poetry and experimentation with the intense melodies of A-grade Americana.
Opening through the death-rattle and roll of 'Cossacks Are', Walker's new album 'Drift' is the dictionary definition of the word singular - taking the listener on a highly personal journey that veers from the baroque ('Cue') though to the flippantly paranoid ('The Escape'), without once breaking sweat. With a vocal style that can't help but draw comparisons with the somersaulting larynx of Antony, Walker seemingly delights in the grand gesture; making the likes of 'A Lover Loves', 'Jolson And Jones' and 'Buzzers' edicts on the power of bare-bone production when mixed with such raw talent.
As a new generation emerge in his vision (see London's The Irrepressibles), 'The Drift' proves that Walker still has the modernistic streak which makes his records so enduring. Drift away...
10 new tracks from Scorn, "The Only Place".
"Combining the signature soundscapes of Scorn with tartareous textures, the newest album “The Only Place” reaches a psychedelic groove, based on what Harris calls “Pushing an original idea further” with his own shades of light and dark and celestial electricity of what SCORN is. These new tracks add elements unheard in Scorn since Evanescense and Gyral - ethereal ambiences and floating, near-melodic-but-not-quite moments, a signature of Harris’ abilities to generate feelings in a lost world of his own creation."
Cuba: Music and Revolution: Culture Clash in Havana: Experiments in Latin Music 1975-85 Vol. 2 is the new album compiled by Gilles Peterson and Stuart Baker (Soul Jazz Records) that takes off in exactly the same vein as Vol. 1 - exploring the many styles that came out of Cuba in the 1970s as Latin and Salsa mixed with heavy doses of Jazz, Funk, and Disco.
"The music on this new album features a host of rarities from legendary Cuban artists such as Los Van Van, alongside Grupo De Experimentación, Farah Maria, Ricardo Eddy Martinez, Juan Pablo Torres, Grupo Sintesis and Orquesta Riverside, most of whose names remain largely unknown outside of Cuba but have long been favourite club tracks and secret-weapons in Gilles Peterson and Stuart Baker's record boxes!
The music on this album reflects the most cutting-edge of Cuban groups that were recording in Cuba in the 1970s and 1980s – all searching for a new Cuban identity and new musical forms reflecting both the Afro-Cuban cultural heritage of a nation that gave birth to Latin music - and its new position as a socialist state. Most of the music featured on this album have never been heard outside of Cuba."
Chicago composer and trumpeter Jaimie Branch serves a gripping live iteration of her ‘Fly Or Die’ sessions, recorded with her quintet in Switzerland on her early 2020 EU tour - RIYL Irreversible Entanglements and Moor Mother
Captured in full flight in Zurich, just weeks before the pandemic really hit, ‘Fly Or Die Live’ sees Jaimie lead her ensemble on proper no wave jazz manoeuvres, freely swaggering between agitprop bullets aimed at the dome of Trump (‘Prayer for Amerikkka pt. 1 & 2) to oodles of taut but supple stick work by Chad Taylor that clearly gets the cord going, and thru to woozy Morricone-eque western themes again lit up with incredible percussion, and one almighty passage of no wave doom jazz in ‘The Storm’.
Aye, it’s a lot, paying testament to the band’s punkish, dextrous drive and sparking energy for the full 90 minutes, with Jaimie front and centre switching between blazing trumpet and snarling vocals.
Compiling the final three albums in the 'Everywhere At The End Of Time' series - 4 x CD's and almost 5 hours of material cataloguing the ultimate descent into dementia and oblivion, using a patented prism of sound to connote a final, irreversible transition into the haunted ballroom of the mind that The Caretaker first stepped into with 1999’s ‘Selected Memories From the Haunted Ballroom’.
Invoking Jack Nicolson’s caretaker character in Stanley Kubrick/Stephen King’s ‘The Shining’ as metaphor for issues revolving around mental health and a growing dissociation/dissatisfaction with the world, the project really took on new dimensions in 2005 with the 72-track, 6CD boxset ‘Theoretically Pure Anterograde Amnesia’, which was accompanied by an insightful unpacking of its ideas by cultural critic Mark Fisher aka K-Punk; a stalwart of the project who identified it (alongside music from Burial and Broadcast) among the most vital, emergent works of Hauntological art - a form of music often preoccupied with ideas about memory and nostalgia (but one distinct from pastiche), and the way that they possibly overwhelm, occlude, or even define our sense of being; ideas that resonate with Fisher’s own assertion that capitalism essentially undermines collective thought, distorts the individual, and has tragically lead to a worldwide increase or even ubiquity of mental health-related issues.
By using fusty samples from an obsolete analog format, and by doing so in the 2nd decade of the 2nd millennium, The Caretaker perfectly and perversely bent ideas of anticipation/expectation with his arrangements, playing with notions of convention and repetition with effect that would lead some listeners to wonder if the same record was being released over and again. When combined with Ivan Seal’s bespoke painting for each release from 2011’s ‘An Empty Bliss Beyond This World’ onwards, the project crystallised as a real gesamtkunstwerk for these times, and one arguably defined by a stubborn and intractably chronic drive against the grain of modern popular culture, or even a refusal of it.
And so to the project’s final goodbye. Drifting from the silty departure of ‘Confusion so thick you forget forgetting’, thru the smudged anaesthetisation of ‘A brutal bliss beyond this empty defeat’, and the abyssal, distant echoes of ‘Long decline is over’, to the increased pauses that punctuate the final side’s piece, ‘Place in the World fades away’, it eventually leads to a final coda that breaks the fourth wall.
Here, with the outside world muted and only the timbral residue remaining like smoke, everything moves as slow as a Lynchian dream sequence - until a conclusion so ineffably sublime occurs that we can’t mention it for fear of waking up.
Long out of print and much in demand, this classic NWW CD is now back. This time as a double CD set with a CD of a completely unreleased alternate mix.
In 2007 Steven Stapleton and Andrew Liles were invited to provide a live soundtrack to FW Murnau's Der Brennende Acker by the Friederich Wilhelm Murnau Foundation. The sounds the duo devised were to become the primordial constituents of The Surveillance Lounge. In the wake of the recent Huffin' Rag Blues, this long-player feels like a continuation of the older, darker Nurse With Wound material, with each of the four compositions delving into narrative rabbit-holes for quarter-hour-plus durations.
The dynamics are extreme and bathed in mystery, evolving from whispered electronic necromancy to stark metallic noise annunciations, all of which is peppered with scrambled unintelligible vocal contributions from a number of guest artists. One of the more curious aspects of this release is the crediting of David Tibet with voices (fine), Big Muff (a fuzz pedal, righto) and Hawtrey. What's that last one mean? My best guess would be that somewhere within the catacombic capillaries of this album the Current 93 frontman is doing his best impersonation of Carry On star Charles Hawtrey. I'm yet to find evidence of this but it's as good an excuse as any to keep replaying the album.
Much needed reissue of Porter Ricks’ 1997 follow-up to ‘Biokinetics’, plunging deep in the interzone between ambient, noise, and dub techno across its expanded and reshaped 2021 version
Re-floating an overlooked vessel from their 25 year voyage, ‘Same’ returns to the surface subtly resequenced to change its direction of flow, front-loading its rolling dub techno depths and pushing its mid-late ‘90s smoker-funk hip hop and D&B tracks to the back (to be fair they could have omitted them fully). Dodgy bits aside, what remains is a killer example of Porter Ricks’ patented subaquatic pressure in effect, oscillating waves of skanking and stepping groove with canny turns to funkier house and disco loop styles that acknowledge the era they were launched into.
Anyone smote by Porter Ricks’ preceding run of classics for Chain Reaction and Milel Plateaux will be in their element with this album’s dub techno dynamics, with wickedly offset grooves in the ‘Redundance’ parts at their skudgy best in the discoid grind of ‘Redundancy 3’, darker textural ambient scapes in ‘Redundance (Version)’, and a gorgeous scanner ‘Redundance 5’ surely laying the ground for Convextion’s album tracks. At its deepest point, ‘Scuba Lounge’ exerts 11 mins of menacing pressure, before the residual deep house throb of ‘Spoiled’ comes on like a rave heard from miles across dark sea, and ’Spoil’ cuts the filters to reveal a proper Chi-style disco-house loop in action.
Lo-fi house survivor Ross From Friends returns with an album of plasticky gauzetronica that takes the half-remembered essence UK garage, funky house, post dubstep and breakbeat and breathes it into tracks that make Four Tet and Bicep sound like Merzbow.
'Tread' isn't going to win any awards for originality. Every sound on the record, from opener 'The Daisy's slippery 2-step to 'Morning Sun In A Dusty Room's gossamer ambience feels as if it's been picked out by a music supervisor for the BBC's youth programming. It's impeccably produced music - aided by Ross From Friends' custom-made Max for Live patch - but in rooting itself so firmly in the past, says absolutely nothing about the present.
'Tread' is escapist music - and it's true we all wanna escape the post-Brexit rainy racist nightmare of modern Britain - but it runs away from its responsibility to be more than elevator music for bored middle management stooges.
Originally released in 1977 on the Cobra label, 'Paradia' is the debut solo album from keyboardist Roland Bocquet who was best known for his work with cult French rawk outfit Catharsis. One for fans of 'Plantasia' mastermind Mort Garson and the Trunk catalogue of oddities, this quirky selection of oddbod Latin pop and wyrd library bossa is a proper find.
Whenever you think all the best library oddities have been flushed out from the basement, another one pops up and reminds us just how much there is out in the world that we're still yet to hear. The latest discovery to grace our desk is this explorative gem that initially emerged on the Cobra label who released French legends like Heldon, Lard Free and Magma side project Weidorje. It's real crate diggers' gold, that will certainly appeal to movie soundtrack obsessives: tracks like jaunty piano-led opener 'Fête' and the synthy, exotica-adjacent title track sound almost like Goblin after a sedative and a blunt.
Elsewhere, 'Djerba' taps into a jaunty Gallic funque mode, and 'La Marche Des Canards' is pure analog silliness that wouldn't sound out of place on the Ghost Box label. Each track feels completely different from the last: 'L'Abeiile' is cosmic bossa, 'Bee Flat' takes a sexy piano ragtime turn, and 'Exotique', arguably the album's high point, is a beatbox-led haunted electronic jammer.
Well this is a charm: solo pianist Fred Thomas leads an ineffably light and gorgeous transigurations of 24 organ chorale preludes, vocal cantata movements and orchestral sinfonias by JS Bach, accompanied by Aisha Orazbayeva and Lucy Railton.
Thru twenty four works transcribed by Fred Thomas for trio and his solo piano, and sequenced by ECM’s Manfred Eicher, ‘Three Or One’ offers a quietly joyful reading of the late Baroque master’s abundance of organ chorale preludes, vocal cantata movements and orchestral sinfonias and perhaps act as an inviting portal to fresher ears.
The set includes the famous chorale prelude ‘Ich Ruf Zu Dir, Herr Jesu Christ, BWV 639’, here resplendent in its timeless simplicity thanks to the fresh character of Aisha and Lucy’s performance. Their effervescent touch counters the gravity of Fred Thomas’s lead where needed, but his own solo works are also gently luminous and inventively playful, speaking to a variegated background ranging from interests in rhythmic cultures of Africa and South America to improvised counterpoint that’s detectable in his rhythmelodic filigree. Trust this is a collection for the ages; accessible, enchanting, and beautiful in execution.
‘Only The End’ is the second LP by Ashley Shadow, with guest vocals from Bonnie “Prince” Billy and guest pedal steel guitar from Paul Rigby (Neko Case).
"Ashley Shadow winks at darkness, but she won’t lead you towards it. It’s easy to fall under the spell of Ashley’s haunting voice. The Vancouver, B.C. based songwriter forged her own identity as a songwriter with 2016’s eponymous self-titled debut. Her sophomore effort, Only the End, maintains the moody introspection that is ingrained in Pacific Northwest life, but now comes armed with a palpable hope complementing her signature melancholy. Ashley explains, “I wanted to make a more upbeat album, something you could play with some friends over. Some of the songs I wrote were initially bummers, but when we went to record them, we lightened them up.”
Balancing a couple of jobs and navigating life and love in increasingly unstable times, the album was written over two years by Ashley at her apartment. Her confident vibrato above lightly, distorted guitars mirrors the album’s theme of resilience, if not triumph, over adversity. There is comfort in these warm songs that endorse the realism of contented acceptance, rather than the naïve search for non-existent utopias. While the songs were conceived in contemplative solitude, Ashley invited some very capable collaborators for their journey into the studio. Ashley’s first album saw her take center stage after more than a decade of gracing friends’ projects in a supporting role. The move to the front was a cautious one. “First record was, can I do a solo album? This time, I know what I’m doing. It’s way more clear.” "Don’t Slow Me Down" reunites Ashley with Bonnie “Prince” Billy for the first time on record when she sang vocals on Bonnie's Lie Down In Light album in 2018. The album also includes contributions from Paul Rigby (Neko Case), Colin Cowan (Elastic Stars), Joshua Wells (Black Mountain, Lightning Dust) and Ryan Beattie (Himalayan Bear). It’s clear to anyone listening. It’s Only the End. If only all endings were so glorious."
Les Disques du Crepuscule present a new 76-minute CD edition of The Culling Is Coming by 23 Skidoo, originally released on vinyl by Crepuscule and sister imprint Operation Twilight in February 1983.
"The Culling Is Coming signposted two radical new directions for Skidoo following the success of their indie chart-topping debut Seven Songs the previous year. Drawing from two extraordinary live performances, Culling combines a collaboration with the Balinese Gamelan Orchestra recorded at Dartington College of Music in October 1982 (subtitled A Winter Ritual), together with extracts from a more extreme improvised set performed at the first WOMAD festival in July 1982, using scrap metal and tape loops (A Summer Rite).
The original vinyl album is expanded on CD by the inclusion of a complete (and equally extreme) 26 minute loop performance (An Autumn Journey) at Tielt in Belgium on 8 October 1982, recorded as part of Crepuscule’s short Move Back-Bite Harder tour with Cabaret Voltaire, Tuxedomoon, Antena and The Pale Fountains."
First vinyl edition of Scritti Politti’s hip hop-inspired 4th album, originally released in 1999 after a decade long hiatus, and to head-scratching reactions from longer term listeners.
After crafting some of the ‘80s most enduring classics, Scritti Politti’s Green Gartside ended that decade disillusioned with music, and retreated home to the Welsh Valleys where he spent years listening to US hip hop. By 1999 he returned with a hip hop-skooled album ‘Anomie & Bonhomie’ that boldly challenged the band’s legion fans, setting his unmistakably blue-eyed soul vocals to production that leaned almost into rap-metal and pop-punk, and even featured Mos Def guest spots, with one of its highlights ‘Tinseltown To The Boogietown’ being remixed by Pete Rock, Rob Swift and Ali Shaheed Muhammad.
First album in five years from Luke Slater’s Planetary Assault Systems, mainlining pure techno in the classic vein of Jeff Mills, Terrence Dixon, Steve Bicknell
Proper tackle built for all night sessions, loaded with hard working highlights in the effortless, pounding drive and glyde of ‘Bang Wap’, the palpitating Chi-style toms of ‘Say It Loud’, the funked up shuffle of ‘If I Die’, and the pulsating throbber ‘The Drag Train’, plus spacier cakes for the cosmic crew in ‘Nano Chameleon’ and ‘Abstract.’
"A figure who needs little introduction to fans of the genre, but whose consistency in the studio and on the road has repeatedly marked him out as true pioneer of sound design and performance with a singular vision, Slater first minted the PAS alias in '93. Since then, a slew of singles and LP's from the industrious artist have made sure Planetary Assault Systems has become a byword for hypnotic, funk-heavy Techno in a purist tradition. Toeing the line between heady, psychedelic material and all out main room fare - Slater's work as PAS captures the very best facets of the genre, with economically selected parts exquisitely arranged and engineered with a shrewd and uncompromising ear for what really makes people move.
On the new LP, Slater draws on studio material but also components recorded during the PAS live show - and he's keen to let fans know the focus is well and truly on the dance floor with this one: Sky Scraping is a loud and unabashed celebration of the formative and familiar environments so loved by the electronic music community, the dark clubs and festivals made special by their unique ability to bring like minded people together.
Sky Scraping kicks off in characteristically dense, psychedelic fashion with Labstract - a slice of classic PAS with cavernous low end and a tight, looping sequence doing the driving work while frenetic drum machine cuts and wide angle synth sirens shift the track onwards from one phase to the next. Follow up One For The Groove showcases the chunkier side of Slater's production as PAS with an infectious 909 pattern propelled on in the high mids by a squelching synth patch. Bang Wap revisits the artist's last outing on Token - a monstrous, unforgiving roller designed with peak time in mind. Say It Loud - the idiosyncratic proto-anthem that accompanied Bang Wap earlier in the year leads the LP onwards, before sequing into new recording Give In - a masterclass in dense, funky, face-melting Techno. Drums take centre stage on If I Die, as the artist returns to the 909 for a marginally slowed down cut that really highlights the artist's connection to and natural affinity with groove and drum machine cuts. Coal thrusts the listener straight back down the wormhole - an extraordinary, driving piece propelled by a guttural lead synth sequence and ghostly drums, before giving way to Run - a dry, pared back recording with plucked, staccato synths that makes for a good contrast to its fathoms deep predecessor. Though not without moments of hysteria in its closing quarter, The Drag Train, featuring a classic, more mono finish begins the wind down towards the LP's close. Nano Chameleon ties up Sky Scraping, a track as forceful as anything that has come earlier on the record - as it approaches its close, a warping lead powers the recording home with shuffling white noise percussion dipping in and out of the sonic main stage before giving way to a delicate, controlled chaos."
Debut full-length album from Lily Konigsberg.
"Lily We Need To Talk Now is a record Konigsberg has been slowly chipping away at since 2016, revising and re-record- ing the songs over the years. The eleven-track collection is her first proper full length, following her anthology of EPs and unreleased tracks, The Best of Lily Konigsberg Right Now, released in 2021 by Wharf Cat Records. The new record is catchy the whole way through, like much of her poppy and plainspoken indie rock output that’s made her a fixture of the NYC underground in recent years. Her voice twists and turns and dashes around her clever wordplay in new ways; there are hints of power-pop, pop-punk, and downtempo in- trospection, all dotted with easter eggs of winking humor.
True to its title, this collection of songs is like a check in with herself. “On “That’s The Way I Like It,” with backing vo- cals from longtime collaborator Paco Cathcart, she reflects on the feeling of “struggling with someone you love, and how you can get all evil about it, like a brat, like a baby.” On “Proud Home”, she sings one of the records boldest earworm hooks (“You’ve got a lot of fucking things to be proud of!”) and tries to comfort a friend who has a crush on her mom. “I really cracked myself up with the lyrics,” she says. “It’s kind of a Stacey’s Mom riff. I decided it’s a dedication to Adam Schlesinger [of Fountains of Wayne].” “Roses, Again” is a new take on a familiar Lily tune (origi- nally on Good Time Now) re-recorded at the request of her current live band, who have evolved the song on the road."
Whew! Montreal’s Light Conductor brings the epic space energy on a pulsating and then sublime 2nd album for Constellation, replete with all that label’s widescreen connotations
Picking up where the pre-pandemic vehicle ‘Sequence One’ left off in 2019, the 2nd mission manned by Stephen Ramsay and Jace Lasek aka Light Conductor continues their trajectory into unfettered psych-kraut-disco-rock zones and beyond into shoegazing synth ambience across a 4-part, 45 journey sure to get the longhairs bristling and reaching for their silver capes.
It’s really all about the opening number here, with ‘Splitting Light’ taking all the time it needs to warm the synth engines and ascend to orbit-breaking velocity, when outta fucking nowhere a holographic Jimmy Somerville bursts into full song, appearing to be overseen by 10CC and Sonic Boom at the mixing desk in a outrageous choral escalation for the ages. Unfortunately it’s a bit of sore thumb, as the rest of the EP never quite achieves those giddy heights again, preferring to terraform vast scenes of textured, off-world ambient and more cliched space music, but it’s all gravy after that flash opener.
The Moons Of Saturn is the second collaborative project from ASC & Inhmost.
"Picking up where Dimensional Space left off, The Moons Of Saturn goes even deeper than it's predecessor, whilst exploring similar subject matter. There's lots to be in awe of here, from the opening arps floating in the white noise of space debris on Symphony Of Rhea, right through to the expansive 14 min+ epic of Reflections From Enceladus. If you enjoyed Dimensional Space, you're going to be right at home orbiting The Moons Of Saturn with us."
Collection of rare and unreleased tracks by the influential English experimental group Contrastate.
"This follows on from the sold-out compilation "False fangs For Old Werewolves" showcasing a dark ambient realm of spoken and sung soliloquies, driven machinery, evolving drones and electronic minimalism to create juxtaposing imagery and dreamlike landscapes. Active from the late 1980s through to the present day Contrastate provide a sonic soundtrack to a hypnotic world full of dynamic sounds and emotional shifts.
Their sound insinuates itself somewhere inside the dark ritual ambience of the electronic avant-garde shot through with a vein of experimental noise and sarcophetic vocals strewn amongst industrial surrealism. Includes a remix by Ralf Wehowsky. "Contrastate achieve an amazing equilibrium between organic sound and brooding electronics" (Heathen Harvest). Gatefold oversized mini-LP sleeve with a four-page booklet containing detailed (mis)information on the history of each of the tracks."