The Fall’s second studio album, reissued as a massively expanded 3CD clamshell box-set and a limited splatter vinyl LP with 7” single replica of their ‘Rowche Rumble’ single.
"Founded by its only constant member, Mark E. Smith, The Fall formed in Manchester in 1976 and were one of the most prominent post-punk groups in the world. Musically, there may have been several stylistic changes over the years, but it was often characterised by an abrasive guitar-driven sound and frequent use of repetition, always underpinned by Smith's distinctive vocals and often cryptic lyrics. “They are always different; they are always the same...” John Peel “Dragnet” is the second studio album – released 26th October 1979 - these editions celebrate the fortieth anniversary of this seminal album. Originally released through record label Step-Forward, it predicated 2 major factors in the group’s career – high productivity and high group turnover.
The album has historically garnered excellent reviews, including 4/5 in MOJO, 8.7/10 on Pitchfork and 4/5 in Q Magazine. Featuring the one and only Mark E. Smith alongside Steve Hanley (bass), Marc Riley (guitar), Craig Scanlon (guitar), Mike Leigh (drums), Kay Carroll (backing vocals) and Yvonne Pawlett (keyboards). This is the second release in Cherry Red’s new series of deluxe Fall reissues: “Fall Sound Archive”. The 3CD version comes housed in a clamshell boxset. Alongside the full album are several b-sides and alternative takes plus live shows from Retford in 1979 and Los Angeles in 1979. The boxset also features a booklet of new sleeve notes by Daryl Easlea and has been remastered by long-term Fall engineer Andy Pearce."
From the Catskill Mountains, Emily Sprague channels a timeless mix of new age ambience and poetry in her captivating debut for RVNG Intl. Compiling Emily’s two self-released tapes ‘Water Memory’  and ‘Mount Vision’ , this sublime package brings us right up to date with her effortlessly enchanting solo output. Across 14 parts in 80 minutes, she proves equally adept at sprawling out in longer forms, as with ‘At Lake’, as she is at capturing crystalline vignettes like the kaleidoscopic miniature ‘Huckleberry’, or the microtonal peal of ’Synth 3’, all pointing to a charming new talent coming into being.
“Emily A. Sprague’s Water Memory and Mount Vision albums are presented in new and complete detail. Emily’s work concerns the connectedness of all things, giving living, core form to the mysterious forces that guide earthly activity and human contact with them. Memory and vision, ocean and mountains, question and answer, emotions and infinity. Sunshine, lizard, sea salt.
Through sound and poetry, Emily focuses on fleeting moments of crystalline clarity and meditates on expanded lifetimes of intricate meaning-making. This vision is unfalteringly beautiful, gently profound. But, as Ursula K. Le Guin intuits in her translation of the Tao Te Ching, “In poetry, beauty is no ornament; it is the meaning. It is the truth.”
A collection of reflections are visible in the mirrored structures of Water Memory and Mount Vision, two chapters - two halves - each complemented by a written verse. As much about the presence in youthful experimentation as the permanence of transition and maturation, Water Memory is the first long-form instrumental music Emily ever channeled, generated over a year of self and sonic exploration between Massachusetts and New York.”
Los Angeles-based Cold Showers return to Dais with their third album, Motionless, wielding a pop sound that is familiar to followers, yet more sophisticated and evolved than their previous works.
"Having traversed the realm of synth-laced post punk expertly for close to a decade, their return with the new album Motionless is a process-based album that reaches into the band’s collective quiver, melding their familiar anthem infused postpunk and lush, grand pop influences.
Motionless is Cold Showers looking inward and taking control of their creative process, while retaining all of their unique songwriting signatures. Recorded in their own studio in Los Angeles with band member Chris King at the production helm, each selection on Motionless sounds like a line drawing that quickly becomes a technicolor collage of crashing shoegazed reverberation.
As compared to their previous endeavor, Matter of Choice, the similar additions of arpeggiated electronics and more recently, string arrangements, adds a new, more sophisticated depth to Cold Showers’ already dense allegories. Tracks such as “Shine” and “Faith” stand on their own as heavy-hearted melodies that have an almost “classic” impression after only one listen. The band’s cover of Sandy Rogers’ 80’s ballad “Black Sidewalk” (only available on the LP & CD) offers proof-of-concept, never fully comfortable with their formula and challenging themselves as to what defines an amazing song. “Measured Man” and “Dismiss” have Cold Showers orbiting in the palpitations of early Factory Records and present each spin with tactical layering, rather than flooding the board. "
Massively expanded reissue - the 3CD version comes housed in a clamshell boxset including a disc of b-sides and session tracks and a live show from Mr Pickwick’s in Liverpool 1978. The boxset also features a booklet of new sleeve notes by Daryl Easlea and has been remastered by long-term Fall engineer Andy Pearce. The LP features only the original 11 tracks.
"‘Live At The Witch Trials’ offers a fascinating insight into The Fall at a very early stage of their career and also the nascent alternative scene which was pulling away from the ‘rama-lama’ punk of 1976 / 77. ‘Live At The Witch Trials’ (not a live album) was recorded at London’s Camden Sound Suite on 15th December 1978 and mixed by producer Bob Sargeant the next day. The album was released on 16th March 1979 through one of Britain’s most noteworthy punk labels, Step-Forward. No singles were taken from the album, a practice that would be commonplace for the group until 1986. By the time the album was released, drummer Karl Burns had left the band and guitarist Martin Bramah also quit shortly afterwards to form Blue Orchids, leaving Mark E Smith as the sole remaining founder member."
Further to Daehan Electronics’ excavations of Liquid Liquid drummer Dennis Young’s archive, Athens Of The North pull out a Young album developed between the late ‘80s and 2004, to sit neatly alongside his late ‘80s new age/dance output
“After Liquid Liquid disbanded in 1985 I continued to record electronic music at my home studio inEdison,New Jerseybut I decided to mix the songs for "Concepts" at another studio so I could have another set of ears to help with the mixes. I was lucky when I looked in the local music ads that I to find Gabriel Farm Studios inPrinceton,New Jerseyowned and operated by Andy Gomory. Andy was a true talent, a keyboardist and arranger, we hit it off immediately. After he recorded my mixes we would record songs together. Andy played drum machines and keyboards while I played percussion, keyboards, & guitar and we both sang. When Andy and I parted ways in the late 1980's I decided to add both drums and percussion as well as overdubs from guest musicians many of which are included on this album. The albums timeframe ends in the year 2004. The later recordings have a jazz feel to it yet still had dance music elements mixed in. The title track "Primitive Substance" really sets the tone as you hear the great playing of Michael Gribbrook on Frugel horn/Trumpet and Gerry Carboy on bass. Also, my favorite song on the recording "Forgiveness" has David Axelrod (not the famous one) playing beautiful melodic bass guitar thru out.
Special thanks to Euan Fryer of "Athensof the North" for releasing this album. As I listened to the songs I decided to use for this recording it brought back memories of the hours spent adding the extra sounds and instruments to the point where I wanted to listen to them again and again to see what I missed hearing . Keep a close ear this might happen to you after hearing "Primitive Substance”.”
The king of Malian hip hop, Luka Productions follows up the sublime new age synth styles of ‘Fasokan’ - one of our top albums of 2017 - with a much broader window on his sound in ‘Falaw’, taking in cosmic folk, Afrobeats dance music and Indian-flavoured disco
Based in a small studio on a busy street in Mali’s capital, Bamako, Luka Productions writes beats for some of the region’s biggest artists, such as Supreme Talent Show, Ami Yerewolo, Iba One, Van Baxy, and Sidiki Diabate, earning him a reputation as one of Mali’s most prodigious and revered producers.
Luka’s 3rd release for Sahel Sounds follows the quietly stunning ‘Fasokan’ album with blend of that album’s balmier moments and the African pop and rap styles on his debut ‘Mali Kady’ tape, offering a much wider testament to the breadth and sweetness of his sound.
Meshing live traditional strings and flutes with synths and software percussion, plus myriad vocals, ‘Falaw’ fully spells out Luka Productions’ style, drifting from the title track’s languorous folk soul at one end, to the driving, UKF-compatible banger ‘Dogonodoon’ (note the reference to the enigmatic Dogon tribe) at the other, taking in a very healthy set of dance trax such as the reggaeton-like ‘Bbni’, the charming twang of Sitars on a disco beat on ‘Indienfoli’, and the devilish twyst of ‘Badjan’ alongside more fragrant, spacious and unexacting downbeat highlights in the grubbing sway of ‘Forêt’, and something very close to the ‘Fasokan’ sound with ‘A Tara’, where he gently flanges Kora strings under his hushed vocals to gorgeous, spine-playing effect.
Again, warmest recommendations for this one.
Dylan Carlson and Adrienne Davies return Earth to its fundamental state - raw, slow burning and sensually psychedelic - in the “witches garden” of ‘Full Upon Her Burning Lips?’, their 9th studio album marking 30 years since the band’s formation
Doing away with the increased polish of Earth’s albums since they returned with 2005’s ‘Hex; Or Printing In The Infernal Method’, the singular band now prize a more direct route to the core of their sound. Still geologic in pace, their 1000 yard stare is here as transfixing and strung out as their early “ambient metal” classics, but of course with the addition of Adrienne’s workhorse drums underlining and urging Carlson to drag every riff out to the horizon.
The album’s 10 songs are titled with reference to historic, mind-altering drugs and animals that, in Carlson’s own words, “people have always held superstitious beliefs towards”, and it’s in this timeless, countercultural frame-of-mind that Carlson really comes into his own. Like a time-travelling bard who’s somehow seen it all, from the ravages of the American civil war to the darkest side of contemporary rock culture, Carlson’s expressively detuned licks regale heavily accented, instrumental stories of life and death and the liminal spaces between, and most crucially with the labouring quality of a resident act who plays five-nights-a-week in a dusty saloon.
Two durational highlights really set the scene at the album’s dawn and midnight, where he really rinses every last bit of distorted twang from his guitar, and both cuts act as gathering/diffusion of energies for what’s to come. In the first half ‘Datura’s Crimson Veil’ gives way to the sky-searching axe calligraphy of ‘Exaltation of Larks’ and comes down to bruxist grind of ‘The Colour of Poison’ and unpredictable turns of phrase and lacunæ in ‘Descending Belladonna’. At the album’s midnight, ’She Rides an Air of Malevolence’ then parts to the nocturnal solitude of ‘Maiden’s Catafalque’, but there’s a glimmer of hope cracking over distant mountaintops in ‘The Mandrake’s Hymn’, that ultimately follows with the resolute but resigned summation of ‘A Wretched Country of Dusk’.
Half a decade since the DMT-inspired ‘You’re Dead’ LP, Flying Lotus is cooking on gas with ‘Flamagra’, another concept-driven spectacular, this time featuring notable guest turns from Solange and David Lynch, among many, many more.
At 27 tracks wide and 67 minutes it’s a heavy serving by modern measures, likely inspired by the arms-race for epics established by Kamasi Washington, and like Kamasi, Flying Lotus favours a rich and densely woven blend of classic soul, jazz and P-funk flecked with the kinda jazzy IDM turns-of-phrase you might expect from Squarepusher, and the sorta wonky hip hop that was big 10 years ago.
In ‘Border Ballads’ Richard Skelton draws inspiration from the rolling landscapes of the Scottish Borders for a moving instrumental panorama coloured with a melancholy palette of piano, bowed cello, viola and burnished electronics. It’s some of the most focussed and direct work of an already fascinating career.
Blessed with his usual knack for limning the atmosphere of a place so well it feels familiar even if you’ve never visited it, ‘Border Ballads’ beautifully channels wide open spaces, lush green pastures fringing on moorland, most crucially, experienced without a soul in sight, leaving listeners comfortably isolated in the elements. While there’s no detectable human voices in the recording, Skelton's strings possess the haunting cadence of the region’s rich folk music heritage, which quietly seeps into the album’s abstract yet gripping, underlying narration.
"Richard Skelton has spent the last two years living on the rural northern edge of the Scotland-England border, a boundary demarcated by various watercourses - among them the Kershope Burn, the Liddel Water and the River Esk. This hinterland topography has informed a series of musical recordings which, in their brevity, stand in stark contrast to the longform compositions for which he is more usually known. Nevertheless, there is a sense that these twelve miniatures are fragments of a larger whole, such is their unity in tone and timbre.
In some ways, ‘Border Ballads’ can be seen as a revisiting of certain compositional processes first encountered on ‘Marking Time’, over a decade ago. The sparse, overlapping bowed notes, for example, or the solitary, bell-like piano. But there is something different at work here. Whereas ‘Marking Time’ felt aeolian, shifting, fleeting, this new work, with its persistent cello undertow and its low, tremulous viola, feels telluric, grounded, earthen. Perhaps ‘Border Ballads’ can be seen as the embodiment of a desire for certainty after a prolonged period of upheaval, but that ever-close riverine border, at once both fixed and fluid, is a disturbing presence. A darkness that cannot be ignored."
First in a two part compendium scanning the career of short lived, but highly influential New Wave Goth group, Bauhaus.
With their first single 'Bela Lugosi's Dead' the Northampton-based group effectively started one of the first post-punk genres by mixing gloomy guitars and spikily danceable drums with a subtle dub element to create that definitive goth-punk atmosphere. They're now held as a reference point by everyone from TV On The Radio to Kode 9, Silk Flowers and Regis, so if you've never checked them, this is an excellent place to start.
Second in a two part compendium scanning the career of short lived, but highly influential New Wave Goth group, Bauhaus.
With their first single 'Bela Lugosi's Dead' the Northampton-based group effectively started one of the first post-punk genres by mixing gloomy guitars and spikily danceable drums with a subtle dub element to create that definitive goth-punk atmosphere. They're now held as a reference point by everyone from TV On The Radio to Kode 9, Silk Flowers and Regis, so if you've never checked them, this is an excellent place to start.
There are few contemporary musicians who have had as much of an impact on us as Mika Vainio, so each new release is always cause for celebration. Whether exploring the grim underbelly of the electric guitar on ‘Life (… It Eats You Up)’ or haunted minimalism in his collaboration with Kevin Drumm and friends on ‘Venexia’, Vainio somehow manages to throw us into a state of awe consistently time and time again.
‘FE3O4 – Magnetite’ manages to uphold this quality but takes a stylistic about turn, exploring the two poles of noise and silence, finding Vainio explore distortion and contrast in a way he hasn’t for many years now. Radio static emerges from almost nothing, sounds appear for a second and are gone and cables are established and removed without warning. This dynamic is offset by Vainio’s well-documented expertise with very loud drones, and the drones we’re treated to on ‘FE3O4’ are louder and more intense than you’re likely to find almost anywhere else. Sub bass tones tear through the silence heralded only by small pops, and wavering, distorted oscillators cut and slice like a lone machete in a dark night.
This is often terrifying music, but thanks to Vainio’s calm hand it never devolves into mere theatrics. Rather the sounds are so well paced and expertly handled that you feel like you are being treated to the work of a pioneer, and someone whose work is a direct descendent of Bernard Parmegiani, Luciano Berio and Throbbing Gristle. Incredible music, and yet another totally unmissable full-length from Mika Vainio.
Tim Hecker returns with a companion piece to his recent Konoyo album.
"Anoyo (“the world over there”) draws from the same sessions with members of Tokyo Gakuso which led to the 2018 work Konoyo, but rendered starker, solemn, and stripped back, with more of a naturalist tint. Hecker’s processing here moves in veiled ways, soft refractions and whispered shrouds woven within improvisational sessions of traditional gagaku interplay, evoking a sense of vaulted space, temples at dawn, shredded silk fluttering in the rafters.
This is boldly barren music, skeletal and sculptural, shaped from wood, wind, strings, and mist. Modern yet ancient, delicate and desolate, Anoyo inverts its predecessor to compellingly conjure a parallel world of illusion, solitude, and eternal return."
Fire! Orchestra, mnow a 14 piece group, still feature the core trio of Fire! (Mats Gustafsson, Johan Berthling and Andreas Werliin) and the two singers Mariam Wallentin and Sofia Jernberg - between them the only constant members of Fire! Orchestra since their inception.
"Apart from this reduction, the main line-up difference is the introduction of a string quartet. This "cleanup" has worked wonders, keeping the rhythm and horn sections to their bare necessities, with the string quartet expanding the canvas and bringing a new, exciting dimension to the table. And on top of their game; the two powerful and sublime singers, quite different, but still blending perfectly.
We also have to mention drummer and producer Andreas Werliin for his work in the audio department; rarely have we heard such a detailed, warm, deep and dynamic mix from a relatively complex combination of instruments. While their three previous albums can be considered as uniform works, if not conceptual, Arrival is a collection of more individual compositions and songs, including two stunning cover versions. Blue Crystal Fire by visionary guitarist Robbie Basho was first heard on his 1978 album Visions of the Country. At Last I Am Free is today probably best known from Robert Wyatt´s version, but originally written by Bernard Edwards and Nile Rogers of Chic.
Although the rest of the tracks are credited to Berthling, Gustafsson, Werliin and Wallentin, it´s important to stress that this time the orchestra members have had considerable creative input throughout the process. Arrival is light and shade, joy and despair, structure and improvisation, performed by an ensemble of excellent musicians."
Berlin’s Réelle commits their first physical album to Aïsha Devi’s Danse Noire, offering claustrophobia-inducing insight to states of schizophrenia thru a palette of tense, explosive percussion, astringent electronics and unsettling vocal processes
“Following their debut release with Danse Noire Réelle releases their second album entitled Ghamccccxc vRR, expanding upon the painterly melodies and ornamental sound design of Kissing Myself. Rather than focusing upon deep psychological aspects of schizophrenia, Ghamccccxc vRR explores key moments before and during Réelle’s first schizophrenic psychosis as well as the lateral state of mind caused by this condition.
“Schizophrenia is said to limit a person’s abilities overall. My discovery was that it opened a gate to limbic realms not accessible under normal circumstances – at least not to me.”
The Cuban – German artist’s approach to schizophrenia as xenopraxis leads them to explore avant garde methods to composition, such as focusing on a key technique within their work of painting melodies via Image Synthesis, rather than inputting binary values or manipulating sound through skeuomorphic methods such as knobs and sliders. The painted melodies also featured in the gorgeous “Floating” and “All I Have Left” evoke alien soliloquies through damaged soundscapes.
“Most of these sounds, as well as the album title, were created during psychosis without me consciously knowing what I’m doing. Therefore I also can’t remember when or why I wrote down Ghamccccxc vRR on a piece of paper.”
Ghamccccxc vRR questions how one navigates with authorship within and beyond one’s control. Gargling textures and vocal artefacts oscillate between the erotic and the eerie (“Hybris,” “Fluid Metals”). Between Kissing Myself and Ghamccccxc vRR Réelle dissolves the real and illusion, reassembling their relationship between body and mind.”
The songs on this collection are a paean to youthful summers spent in deep countryside or on the Welsh coast, early tape recording experiments on quiet afternoons, memories of Grandparents’ houses and daydreaming on long car journeys.
"The track ‘Penarth’, originally intended to be featured on Through Broken Summer, is featured twice; the second, a dreamlike reinterpretation by Antony Harding aka July Skies. Antony also contributed organ and synth layers to ‘Carnival ‘88’. ‘Sun Memory II’ is an alternate edit of the Through Broken Summer song and features another collaboration with Spc Eco vocalist, Rose Berlin with bonus synth texture from Dean Garcia (Curve). This ep acts as both a consolidation of previous concerns and a partial signifier to the next phase."
150 minutes of previously unreleased material from Coil, strewn with parts that would eventually metastasise into ‘Backwards’, and ultimately ‘Black Light District’ and ‘Musick To Play In The Dark’. We hardly need to stress that ’Swanyard’ is a bounty for Coil nuts out there, but equally a fascinating listen for anyone attempting to get to grips with their unfathomable catalogue - especially DJs and listeners currently digging into the underbelly of the ‘90s.
The material was all written and recorded between 1993 to 1996 and was selected and assembled by Danny Hyde (Electric Sewer Age, ex-Coil, ex-Psychic TV, ex-Black Light District) from the studio archives. As he outlines in the liner notes, these 23 tracks offer unforetold snapshots of Coil’s constant work-in-progress during an important phase of exploration. Tracks were usually seeded in Peter 'Sleazy' Christopherson’s dreams, and rendered thru the prism of his myriad sample bank, with Jhon Balance pulling from his notebooks for lyrics, and Danny Hyde would aid in engineering, editing and mixing, animating their studio gremlins and mental apparitions to an almost complete form.
The ’Swanyard’ is effectively as close as you’ll get to being in their notorious studios during the pharmaceutically-fuelled peak of the ‘90s, at the point where dark ambient, electronica and dance music were mutual bedfellows, and mutated the framework for where we are today.
Synth se’er Steve Moore presents his first non-soundtrack work since 2013 with the cosmically scoped ‘Beloved Exile’ - a must check for fans of Abul Mogard and Pye Corner Audio...
"Beloved Exile is the new studio full-length by Steve Moore, his first non-soundtrack album in over five years, and his first for Temporary Residence Ltd. A prevalent figure of the modern synth era, Moore cofounded the influential synth- prog duo, Zombi, and has scored more than a dozen feature films and TV shows, including The Guest, Crunch Time, and Mayhem.
Composed and produced by Steve Moore in his home studio in upstate New York, Beloved Exile is a collaboration with internationally-renowned Tunisian singer-songwriter Emel Mathlouthi, visionary harpist Mary Lattimore, and veteran percussionist Jeff Gretz. Drawing influences from vintage ambient synth libraries, New Age/spiritual music, and menacing horror film canon, Beloved Exile proves to be simultaneously exquisite and deceptively unsettling. It is appropriate, then, that a literary treasure like John Darnielle (The Mountain Goats), would provide the song and album titles – his masterful mind most fitting to put moniker to this mercurial triumph.”
‘I Am Easy To Find’ is the band’s eighth studio album and the follow-up to 2017’s Grammy Awardwinning release ‘Sleep Well Beast’.
"The album features vocal contributions from Sharon Van Etten, Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Lisa Hannigan, Mina Tindle and more. As the album’s opening track ‘You Had Your Soul With You’ unfurls it’s so far, so National: a digitally manipulated guitar line, skittering drums, Berninger’s familiar baritone, mounting tension. Then around the 2:15 mark, the true nature of ‘I Am Easy To Find’ announces itself: The racket subsides, strings swell and the voice of long-time David Bowie bandmate Gail Ann Dorsey booms out - not as background vocals, not as a hook but to take over the song. Elsewhere it’s Irish singer songwriter Lisa Hannigan, or Sharon Van Etten, or Mina Tindle or Kate Stables of
This Is The Kit, or varying combinations of them. Also, The Brooklyn Youth Choir, whom Bryce Dessner had worked with before. There are choral arrangements and strings on nearly every track, largely put together by Bryce in Paris - not a negation of the band’s dramatic tendencies but a redistribution of them. “Yes, there are a lot of women singing on this, but it wasn't because, ‘Oh, let’s have more women’s voices,’” says Berninger. “It was more, ‘Let’s have more of a fabric of people’s identities.’ It would have been better to have had other male singers but my ego wouldn’t let that happen.”
Reinhold Friedl’s zeitkratzer perform the tense and often violent ‘Agitation / Starvation’ from an original, electronic score by Polish-French composer Kaspar T. Toeplitz, also included on the 2nd disc
Marking 20 years of releases under his own name, during which he’s worked extensively at the GRM and notably collaborated with the likes of Eliane Radigue and Phill Niblock, ‘Agitation / Starvation’ forms both an objective and subjective rendering of Kaspar’s latest work, with his original electronic score included for reference against zeitkratzer’s instrumental interpretation. The two pieces are meant to be stand alone, but the CD cover does ate that they can be played simultaneously.
On the original electronic score, Toeplitz presents a harsh, abstract gully of free-moving atonalities that erupt with a n often violent nature. There’s almost no respite apart from the relatively poignant breakdowns in the latter half that offer some contrast to the transfixing, spectrum-saturating nastiness. So, then, it becomes all the more fascinating to hear how zeitkratzer’s interpretation makes the instrumental leap into acoustic dimensions. Revolving 11 personnel, including Toeplitz as conductor, Hild Sofie Tafjord on french horn, and Reinhold Friedl at the piano stool, the reset ‘Agitation | Starvation’ in a vaster sound stage, sustaining and diffusing the tension with often petrifying, even alarming results that resemble a warzone or the rendering of a nightmare in sound.
‘Birmingham Frequencies’ is Biosphere and Bobby Bird’s atmospheric reading of the Brummy pulse at the turn of the millennium
Recorded in 1999 and released in 2000, the CD album explores intersections of location recordings with filigree ambient tones between dual poles of rugged, range-finding dub and exquisitely burnished, Lynch/ Badalamenti soundtrack styles to present a portrait of Birmingham that’s much more romantic and dreamy than you may imagine, especially if you know the place.
20 years later, the album effectively marks a midway point between original, late ‘70s/early ‘80s ambient pioneers and the modern field. It trades in a mixture of crisply polished, well established, classical ambient notions that reflect foundational forms by Eno and Hassell, and a strain of more technoid investigation that’s perhaps prescient of producers such as uon or Pendant.
The exquisitely sparing ’Giraffe’ contains Swedish composer Johan Lindvall’s super minimalist works for acoustic steel string guitar and voice, performed by Fredrik Rasten.
‘Giraffe’ is a hugely sparing testament to this mature-beyond-his years and quiet mind’s time-lapsed style of composition. It unfurls in 5 multi-segmented parts, firstly establishing his airy meter with the 14’ piece of plucked, trembling strings in ’21 Nocturnes’, and a series of shorter probing pieces, before those spaced out notes appear to gather closer harmonic relationships with ‘As Though It Had Shut Its Eyes’, all seemingly preparing he stage for ‘Five Songs for Voice and Guitar’. Here, words by Marianne Moore are sung by Fredrik fasten in an unaffected, plaintive style, with space between the notes taken up by the breathing and leathery creaks, while the songs take elegant form recalling the spectres of Hisato Higuchi or a Nico folk song taken to extreme lengths.
A must check!
Cellist Charles Curtis searches for phantom sonorities in ‘Orpheus Variations’, a work for solo cello and seven wind instruments played by the SEM Ensemble - one of eight large scale compositions expressly written for him by Alvin Lucier - and specifically based on a particular sonority, or de-tuned chord, from Stravinsky’s ‘Orpheus’ that Lucier can’t shake since he first heard it, decades ago
“Lucier speaks first of a sonority, and only then of a chord. He discusses the chord, its notes and their disposition, but what haunts him is a “particular sonority.” A sonority is the product of physical action on physical materials: the instruments, the registers in which they are activated, the breath of the musicians, the waveforms thus produced, their merging and interfering, and finally the moment and place of these actions. An energy field, certain to vanish completely once the musicians put down their instruments. However concrete and real the actions and materials, the sonority they produce is a phantom.”
John Cage acolytes, Edition Wandelweiser Records, collect Guy Vandromme’s performance of three ‘Number’ pieces for piano from a body of late Cage works composed c.1987-1992
All entitled ‘One’, as the pieces were so named to denote how many players, and which variation they’d play, each piece is structured around Cage’s time bracket technique; providing only short fragments of score (often a single note, with or without dynamics) and indications, in minutes and seconds, during which the fragment can start andy what time it should end. The brackets can be fixed (e.g. from 1.15 to 2.00) or flexible (e.g. from anywhere between 1.15 and 1.45, and to anywhere between 2.00 and 2.30), allowing form myriad subtle variations on the same themes.
In the case of ‘One’ there are 10 time brackets, all flexible except for the ninth./ Each contains music written onto staves, but the content of one staff can be played in any relation with that of the other staff. Guy Vandromme offers two calmly spare 10 minute versions of ‘One’, which, if we’re honest, sound pretty much identical, but do actually differ from each other. There’s also a 20 minute version of ‘One5’ (his fifth work for one player) which has a more complex set of instructions including 21 time brackets for the left hand and 24 for the right. Each contains a single chord or a single note, and the performer is instructed to either hold the pedal throughout, or make as many overlappings as possible (again, using the pedal if necessary). The final piece is very quiet, often tending to the lowest registers of the keyboard and allowing the notes to spread out, smeared into a gently undulating late night panorama.
Low Jack hustles a clutch of mutant industrial dancehall edits for Hospital Productions following his role on a pair of killer Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement releases
‘Breizh’ on the most immediate level is a heavyweight bag of riddims bending industrial sounds into the dancehall template - airhorns and vibes replete - while on another level it’s posited as a comment on the “sociapolitical contradictions and passions” of his home region, the Celtic region of Brittany in North West France, which is reflected thru the cryptic cover art of Celtic glyphs and, perhaps more subtly, in the music’s short-circuiting of cultural dogma.
All cut from live recordings, the five tracks serve ammo to the discerning DJ, ranging from stormy dancehall dread in ‘Robert (Le Bourg Version)’ and woozy reversed loops in ‘They Rule (Cap-Sizun Remix)’, thru to absolute dancefloor wreckers in the cyborg bogle of ‘Plogo (Live Edit)’, a bombed out flip of Richard Brown’s late ‘90s ace ‘Baddis Riddim’, and a mental, recklessly sped-up ‘Tempo Riddim’.
Argentinian saxophonist Sergia Merce appears to flicker in and out of consciousness in ‘Three Dimensions of the Spirit,’ a spellbinding deep dive into microtonal and prepared Tenor saxophones.
Conservatory trained Merce plays with the Berlin-Buenos Aires Quintet and Haiti groups, and has previously collaborated on record with another master of spittle-inflected microtones, Lucio Capece. This is his 2nd recording for Edition Wandelweiser Records after 2016’s ‘Be Nothing.’
Until we got used to his steez by the end of titular opener, ’One Dimensional’, we genuinely weren’t sure if the CD was cutting out or if he suffered from a form of Narcolepsy or self-induced hypoxia (shortage of oxygen to the brain) from his concentrated tekkers. But, no, the piece actually makes use of those lacunæ as ear-palate cleansers in between his strangely harmonised musical sections, each returning similar to the previous part, but always different, beckoning the ear to make out the difference. ‘The Same Morning’ follows at a similarly slow pace, this time stressing queered overtones and beating frequencies after each fade out and in, until he’s hitting some really tweaky nerves, before ‘Ondular De La Espera’ completes the suite with a real test of physical endurance, as Merce somehow sustains his beating frequencies and tremulous overtones for 27 minutes.
Youth keep up a killer run of form with the first album proper by Tokyo’s Hoshina Anniversary; a steeply immersive fusion of traditional Japanese instruments with gunky acid and coruscating, psychoactive electronics.
Arriving hot on the heels of Youth’s widely-praised ‘Sports’ comp, Hoshina Anniversary’s ‘Nihon No Ongaku’ extends an invitation into a singular sound world as mazy and enigmatic as the label’s previous solo artist album by FUMU, but informed by a whole other set of reference points.
Comprising over an hour of material, ‘Nihon No Ongaku’ showcases Hoshina Anniversary’s full but particular range, spreading out from the heavy-lidded acid noise hypnagogia to experiments with processed instrumentation and pulsating electronics that recall Sote’s ontological explorations of traditional Iranian music, but woven with curious threads of pinched, minimalist, fluid rhythmelody.
If you’re after highlights, run check for the Don’t DJ-alike percussive cadence of ‘Maai’ - somehow reminding us of both Photek's 'Ni Ten Ichi Ryu' and Ryuichi Sakamoto's 'Left Handed Dream' album, the grubbing electro-dub elegance of ‘Makuranage’, or the oddly sidewinding, darkly jazzy hustle of ‘Saga’ and ’Shindeiru’.
A big tip to fans of owt from Peder Mannerfelt to Foodman, Sote or Don’t DJ!
You’ve definitely seen their name on a poster over the years if you live in the UK, and now, if the mood takes one, Hey Colossus can be heard on vinyl for Luke Younger aka Helm’s Alter label
“Coming out of London and the South West of England, Hey Colossus are one of Europe's great live bands. Since 2003 the 6-piece has been driving around the continent with their “pirate ship” backline of broken amps and triple-guitar drang, elevating audiences in every type of venue imaginable; a doctor’s waiting room in Salford, an industrial unit in Liege and a vast field next to a river in Portugal. Wherever they may roam.
Four Bibles is their twelfth studio album and the first to be released by London label ALTER, whose sole proprietor (the electronic producer Helm) encountered the group at their first gig in 2003. Recorded by Ben Turner at Space Wolf Studios in Somerset, it's their most direct album yet and follows a well-documented trajectory of evolution that began (in the truest sense) with 2011’s RRR for Riot Season and continued across three albums for Rocket Recordings. Lead vocalist Paul Sykes sounds more in focus than before, dialling down the effects and using reverb / delay to carry his lyrics rather than smother. The band has also fine-tuned to leave some room for extra depth. Piano, electronics and violin (by Daniel O'Sullivan of This is not This Heat / Grumbling Fur) all find a way in amongst a familiar mesh of interlacing guitars, wrapped round a taut rhythm section. Like every other Hey Colossus record before, the line-up has altered and the sounds reflect this.
From the weight of “Memory Gore”, to the subtlety and swag of “It's a Low”, via the sonic extremes of “Palm Hex/Arndale Chins” this is exactly as the band are live; raging & rail-roading but somehow in control. Grooves for those who want to dance or for those who want to hug a wall and nod...bleak dystopian imagery submerged in relentless rhythms and low-end rattle. The songs breath life and soul - Hey Colossus have never sounded fresher or more on point.”
Folk-Blues trooper Mike Cooper and French rock band Hifiklub present a craggy psyche-rock soundtrack setting music to a 1907 text and the images of Robert J. Flaherty’s silent film ‘Man of Aran’ 
Filmed over two years on the inhospitable islands off the Irish west coast, ’Man Of Aran’ was 3rd documentary feature film made Robert J. Flaherty following ‘Nanook of the North’ - in 1922 the world’s first commercially successful documentary film in 1922 - and ‘Moana’, which was set in the south seas. While the latter film may seem the most natural choice for Cooper, whose work often revolves the south Pacific, the Aran Isles clearly provide a colder streak of inspiration for Cooper and Hifiklub, who describe the Atlantic-lashed rocks with salty licks of psyche guitar and starkly primitive drums, while Cooper hollers John Millington Synge’s text ‘The Aran Islands’  with a conviction that brings the words to life and takes listeners right there.
Nottingham-based composer and multi-instrumentalist Thomas William Hill returns to Village Green with ‘Grains Of Space’, his second album for the label following 2017’s multi-textured ‘Asylum For Eve’.
"‘Grains Of Space’ started life as a series of minimal loops, recorded using a viola da gamba - a stringed instrument most popular in the Renaissance and Baroque eras - and aloop pedal. Using the negative space within each loop as the primary drive for composing, Thomas began a process of ‘joining the dots’, allowing the silence to dictate the next layer, informing the length, pitch and timbre of notes.
Using those recordings as the foundation, Thomas began incorporating a wide variety of other instruments into his palette, including bowed metallophones, gongs, Tibetan singing bowls, African kalimbas and metal tongue drums, as well as drum machines and analogue synthesisers. From the tense, opening drones of ‘Carriages’ to sparser, more lyrical works such as ‘Curvature’ and ‘Refract’, Thomas again demonstrates profound compositional insight, crafting highly poignant moments rich with harmony and texture. Complementing this, a more developed sense of pulse and rhythm characterises much of the album, such as the propulsive undertow of ‘Willow’ and the tactile, modernist polyrhythms of ‘Furnace’ and ‘Tongue’.
‘Grains Of Space’ also sees Tom collaborating and cowriting with a number of other musicians, bringing trumpet, violin, double bass and harp together to provide a broad and varied form to each piece."
Carl Craig follows Stacey Pullen’s lead to mix the 2nd volume of ‘Detroit Love’, starring a slick and funky selection of cuts Kevin Sanderson, DJ Minx, Mr. G, Derrick May, Ectomorph, The Dirtbombs, and many more
The 1hr 37 min mix appears alongside its components, turning up highlights in Gay Marvine’s kinky bathhouse remix of ‘Credit Card’ by Interdimensional Transmissions’ BMG & Sal P; the twisted jazz-techno of ‘Boss’ by Brain; Floorpan’s gospel techno rework of Sophie Lloyd’s ‘Calling Out’; Derrick May’s all-time classic ‘ is It What It Is’; and the rude electro swivel of ‘Satori’ from Ectomorph.
‘Morphic Dreams’ is the sophomore LP by Alessandro Adriani, including guest input from Simon Crab (Bourbonese Qualk) and Shawn O’Sullivan (Led Er Est, Civil Duty)
A crucial cog in the wave machine with his Mannequin Records, and a gatekeeper to one of Berlin’s most feted clubs in his role as programmer of Säule in the guts of Berghain, Alessandro Adriani is by many measures a key player at the intersection of retro-futurist Industrial, EBM, post-punk and techno. Leading on from the cinematic vision of his debut LP, 2016’s ‘Montagne Trasparenti’, his follow-up is defined by its dancefloor-ready stance and is full of dead-on jak beats extracting what he needs from Italo, Industrial and EBM, to galvanise 11 tracky trax of bare bones rhythms and fanged, fleshly arps in his dry style.
Luke Younger yields his most engrossing work as Helm with the sorely romantic dynamics of ‘Chemical Flowers’, his follow-up to 2015’s ‘Olympic Mess’. Bolstered by J.G. Thirlwell’s rich string arrangements, it’s a hugely ambitious work that extends from whirling, panoramic vistas to insular, pulsing dynamics, somewhere between Earth, Oren Ambarchi, Keiji Haino and Actress.
Recorded in long, sustained sessions in the Essex countryside, giving him breathing room from the choke of London, ‘Chemical Flowers’ feels more elusive and ambitious than anything we’ve heard from Helm recordings in the past. While typically concerned with the nature and sound ecology of urban life, the Helm sound now feels more edgeland, drawing on a sense of marshy menace and concrete-meets-country dread limned so evocatively in classic J.G. Ballard novels, and surely recognisable by anyone in the UK beyond off-grid folk in Pembrokeshire or the Scottish highlands, perhaps.
Given the luxury of space and time, Younger detectably reflects on past experience touring and playing live, as ambiguous nods to the strings and tones used in his Egyptian ‘Rawabet’ recordings subtly colour and marble the eight tracks, thanks to string parts arranged by J.G. Thirlwell (Foetus/Manorexia/Xordox, The The), plus saxophone from Karl D’Silva and Lucinda Chua’s cello. These acoustic touches lend human sweat and grease to proceedings which Younger uses sparingly but crucially in his electronically sculpted stagings.
In effect, Helm pulls something hallucinatory from the mundane and prosaic, akin to viewing other dimensions refracted and projected into the dark from within a brightly lit bus or train carriage during a long commute, when the mind slips into the realm between reality and waking dreams. As we pass under the flight paths and neon, microtonal ephemera of ‘Capital Crisis (New City Loop)’ this nocturnal mindset plays out in the most absorbing ways, slipping from Yves Tumor or David Axelrod-like symphonic soul strokes and trip hop drums in ‘I Knew You Would Respond’ then the ambient noise qwheeze of ‘Body Rushes’, while ‘Lizard In Fear’ captivates with its hyperrealist electroacoustic evocation of a drowned Thames estuary, and the title and gnawing tone of ‘Toxic Racecourse’ could be an allegory for London itself.
But Younger makes sure to keep that view of London ambiguous, at arms length, by returning to hypnotic rhythms like the doomy pulse of ‘You Are The Database’ that glumly precedes ‘Chemical Flowers’, a majestic widescreen synth piece that poignantly manifests the allure and promise of the city as much as its isolating qualities.
Surreal Euro oddity from double bass player Hannes d’Hoine’s Jon Doe One, joined by a quintet of guitar, flues, marimba, drums, clarinet and vacillating late night Lynchian feels with prog-jazzy turns of phrase and unexpected daubs of strange soul music. RIYL Rupert Clervaux, David Lynch, Jean-Michel Jarre, Kreng
“Jon Doe One is the alter ego of Hannes d’Hoine, a double-bass player and composer from Antwerp. His collaboration with guitarist Sjoerd Bruil and Magnum photographer Sohrab Hura, The lost head and the bird, has led to a series of live events in which the framework for Small Numbers was established. Together with a handful of guest musicians (Elko Blijweert, Michaël Brijs, Jeroen Stevens, Han Stubbe and Gert Wyninckx) the material was distilled and refined into the album’s eight tracks.”
Crafty mix of dream-pop vocals and supple, slow grooves nodding to witch house, R&B, trip hop
“"Our Love Is The Gold" is the third proper studio album from Paco Sala following "Ro-Me-Ro" & "Put Your Hands On Me". Written over 4 years it marks a return to song-writing for the duo, employing fever-dream melodies and synth drunk hooks, balanced against off-kilter production that sets them apart from their peers.
Intense, impassioned, guttural yet enigmatic - the album documents the process of leaving London and the empowerment a new life inspires. The opening & title track is a statement of intent “are you aware of my power?” repeats Garza, leaving us in no doubt that we really shouldn’t doubt her.
Tone set, what follows is gloriously idiosyncratic and deeply personal pop, presented without compromise or concession. Direct, confident, articulate - gone are the the opiated improvisations of 2017’s "The Silent Season", though the wilful sense of adventure remains throughout. "Our Love is The Gold" is a record of awakenings and self-discovery.”
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.
Wonderful suite of archival gamelan minimalism from Bay Area practitioner Daniel Schmidt.
Recital dip into the personal archives of Daniel Schmidt, an integral scholar in the development of American Gamelan. After studying Javanese gamelan at California Institute of the Arts in the early ‘70s, Schmidt set about creating a West Coast movement based around an aluminium version of the instrument – the Berkeley Gamelan - forged of his own design. He’s since gone on to build numerous gamelan instruments, theorise on it’s compositional qualities, collaborate with Lou Harrison, Jody Diamond, and Paul Dresher, and currently teaches at Mills College San Francisco.
‘In My Arms, Many Flowers’ captures the American Gamelan movement in its nascent state, the result of a personal invitation for Recital boss Sean McCann to rifle through three boxes of Schmidt’s studio and live recordings committed to cassette between the late ’70s and early ‘80s. What’s immediately striking here is how Schmidt deviates from the traditional Javanese style of gamelan composition, instead seeking out the minimalist movement of North America for guidance.
Making use of a primitive sampler borrowed from Pauline Oliveros (RIP), lead track And the Darkest Hour is Just Before Dawn pairs a sumptuous looped string arrangement with Schmidt’s delicate caresses of the Berkeley Gamelan which build with quiet melodic complexity into something quite wonderful. The title track sees Schmidt augmenting the mysticism of his Berkeley with the bowed strings of a rebab, another traditional Indonesian instrument, deployed to signify a bird that “calls from far away.”
Ghosts is one of two compositions done solely with the gamelan, Schmidt leading a procession of players using traditional techniques on a detailed 14-minute recording of percussive dexterity and intricacy that highlights the spiritual powers of the instrument. Faint Impressions offers a sombre finale, the ringing melodicism of the Berkeley gamelan set to a backdrop of an understandably captivated audience.
American hardcore punk veterans plug in a drum machine and vent their worries about modernity. If you don’t like this check out Holly Herndon’s ‘Proto’ album, and vice-versa
“Technology was meant to be humanity’s tool to combat famine, disease, confusion, and to facilitate life, culture, and innovation. Instead, we’re mired in a digital labyrinth that few care to navigate or even solve. Perhaps it’s not a ruse and the matrices coded by keyboard maestros are a path to liberation, but without querying the constructs we cannot ruminate on their affectations on humanity.
VR SEX are audio/visual provocateurs who transpose the identifiers of death rock, synth punk, post-punk, ambient, and ethereal soundscapes into an audit on technology and its imprint on our collective psyche. Comprised of visionary mercenaries Noel Skum (Andrew Clinco of Drab Majesty), Z. Oro (Aaron Montaigne of Antioch Arrow/Heroin/DBC) on vocals and drums, and Mico Frost (Brian Tarney) on synths and electric bass.
Their debut tome, Human Traffic Jam, focuses on lyrical themes that probe the possibilities of loss of autonomy through social media, the decline of human interaction, and celebrity favoritism. Skum believes in the stabilization of society and preservation of our planet by reducing its amount of procreators.
Through PSRS or Procreation Simulation Reproduction Stimulation, humans can act on their hedonistic desires and not face the responsibilities and consequences that come with being an ill-prepared guardian. The future of our offspring will exist in virtual realms and population growth in turn will be stabilized. VR SEX is the cure to most societal ills.
Thematically condensed into an eight song album, Human Traffic Jam was written and demoed by Skum in a flat in Athens, Greece during the winter of 2017. During a rigorous week long session at Figure 8 studios with experimental and dimensional production extraordinaire Ben Greenberg (Uniform/The Men), Skum solely committed all the instrumentation present on Human Traffic Jam.
Rather than being emblematic of influences, each song on the LP infuses a dire tension that cuts shimmer with fetid frequencies, never establishing an aural hierarchy or urgency. Instead, we’re lead into punchy capsules of “dour pop”; the balance of saccharine and sour so emblematic of the VR SEX hive mind.”
Studio Mule’s rotating assembly, helmed by Kuniyuki, cover a clutch of their favourite ‘80s Japanese music from the likes of Yasuaki Shimizu, Dip In The Pool, and Yellow Magic Orchestra.
Sweetly on the money for a growing number of ears attuned to the gems of Japanese pop and electronics, ‘BGM’ is set to introduce a lot of listeners to some classics picks, strewn between the likes of ‘Face To Face’, Miyako Koda’s take on Yumi Murata’s ambient pop ace - a favourite of Visible Cloaks, too - along with a cover of a cover in Nanako Sato’s version of Yukuhiro Takahashi’s take on Burt Bacharach’s ‘The April Fools’, and Miyako Koda’s funked up spin on ‘Carnaval’, a Japanese dance classic by Taeko Ohnuki, produced by YMO.
Holly Herndon returns with the conceptually top-loaded ‘Proto’, an interesting and multi-layered attempt at humanising technology, featuring her A.I. “baby”, Spawn, and a stacked ensemble of guests including Jlin and Amnesia Scanner’s Ville Haimala, plus co-production by Mat Dryhurst.
With one eye on her background in East Tennessee, and the other tracking a future where A.I. aren’t feared but integrated into society, ‘Proto’ is heavily focussed on the voice, both Holly’s own, that of Spawn, and also 16 guests including Stine Janvin, Colin Self and Annie Garlin, in a fusion of folk-wise, hymnal arrangements rendered with computerised tunings. As you can see from the massive list of guest contributors, the hi-def glossy artwork, and an “emphasis on alien songcraft” and existential questioning of “who we are, what are we, what do we stand for, and what are we heading towards?”, a lot of time, thought and effort has gone into this one...
"Holly’s third full-length album ‘PROTO’ isn’t about AI but much of it was created in collaboration with her own AI ‘baby’, Spawn. For the album, she assembled a contemporary ensemble of vocalists, developers and an inhuman intelligence housed in a DIY souped-up gaming PC to create a record that encompasses live vocal processing and timeless folk singing and places an emphasis on alien song craft and new forms of communion. ‘PROTO’ makes reference to what Holly refers to as the protocol era, where rapidly surfacing ideological battles over the future of AI protocols, centralised and decentralised internet protocols and personal and political protocols compel us to ask ourselves who are we, what are we, what do we stand for and what are we heading towards?
You can hear traces of Spawn throughout the album - developed in partnership with longtime collaborator Mathew Dryhurst and ensemble developer Jules LaPlace - and even eavesdrop on the live training ceremonies conducted in Berlin, in which hundreds of people were gathered to teach Spawn how to identify and reinterpret unfamiliar sounds in group call-and-response singing sessions; a contemporary update on the religious gathering Holly was raised amongst in her upbringing in East Tennessee. “There’s a pervasive narrative of technology as dehumanizing,” says Holly. “We stand in contrast to that. It’s not like we want to run away; we’re very much running towards it, but on our terms. Choosing to work with an ensemble of humans is part of our protocol. I don’t want to live in a world in which humans are automated off stage. I want an AI to be raised to appreciate and interact with that beauty ”
Just as ‘Platform’ forewarned of the manipulative personal and political impacts of prying social media platforms long before popular acceptance, ‘PROTO’ is a euphoric and principled statement setting the shape of things to come."
Like a rare comet, Suicide and Talking Heads producer Craig Leon returns nearly 40 years after his ‘Nommos’ and ‘Visiting’ LPs with their widescreen conceptual follow-up; ‘Anthology of Interplanetary Folk Music Vol.2: The Canon’. Apparently John Malkovich makes an appearance too...
Comprising all new material recorded over the past 2 years, and made using similar technology and tekkers as his ‘80s classics, Leon’s sequel finds him riff deeper on the cosmic lore of Mali’s Dogon tribe of Mali, whose exhibition of art at the Brooklyn Museum in 1973 first inspired him to make ‘Nommos’; a visionary piece of NYC’s new wave/downtown puzzle released by John Fahey’s Takoma, which has re-emerged among the most crucial, revelatory reissues of this decade via everywhere from Volcanic Tongue to Superior Viaduct, and RVNG Intl’s deluxe ‘Anthology of Interplanetary Folk Music Vol.2’.
The ‘Nommos’ Leon refers to are part of the Dogon tribe’s creation myth revolving visitations by an amphibious alien race from the white dwarf Sirius B who came to impart their wisdom on humankind. Resonating with then prevailing new age thought and conceptually pre-echoing Rashad Becker’s ‘Traditional Music For Notional Species’, the project sincerely speaks to electronic music’s ideals of transcendence, both (meta)physical and spiritual, beautifully employing the use of synthesis as a means of divination and hyperstition,
‘The Canon’ leads directly on from ‘Nommos’ and ‘Visitation’, tracing the alien knowledge/arithmetic/energy’s journey from Mali to Egypt and Greece in a narrative arc that unfolds like a map for inner exploration, coursing from the ceremonial chorale of ‘The Earliest Trace’ thru glyphic drum communications in ‘The Respondent in Dispute’, and the panoramic beauty of ‘Four Floods of the Point’, before opening the tantalising wormhole of ‘The Gates Made Plain’, and atomically diffusing into ether with ‘Departure’.
Including contributions from folk sorceress Cassell Webb and apparently even John Malkovich in there, somewhere, the results are worth the wait for any believers who look for signs in the skies.
Studiously soft-focus, retro-vintage ’60s/‘70s fetishism from Sweden’s Death and Vanilla, following their live rendition and recording of ‘A Score For Roman Polanski’s The Tenant’
“There’s something about the Swedish city of Malmo that doesn’t add up. Named the “happiest” city in Sweden in 2016 (who gets the job of judging these things?), Malmo’s DNA contains a “none-coding” strain that reveals the city’s penchant for a world more studious, fashioned in a vintage era, telescoped by pop culture that arrives via the TV-approved bridge that connects it to Denmark. Surely, it can’t be the same place.
Marleen Nilsson, Magnus Bodin and Anders Hansson of Death and Vanilla couldn’t come from anywhere else. They are dreamers, antiquarians, music-obsessed individuals, lauded by the media for their last album ‘To Where The Wild Things Are’ from 2015…
Prior to recording their new album ‘Are You A Dreamer?’, they scored several soundtracks, that process undoubtedly influencing the new album’s dreamlike euphoria built with added mellotron and affected electric guitar. Expanded with bass and drums in their quest for the grail, Death And Vanilla’s songs are longer; more plush and pampered; more hypnotic and haunting.
‘Are You A Dreamer?’ is melancholy at its most refined, riddled with super-memorable motifs and melodies that nestle in reflective echo. Death And Vanilla are an alluring confection, hard to resist and wantonly moreish as Marleen Nilsson’s sepia tones are embraced by the trio’s gorgeous arrangements and intricate ambience.”
Praised Icelandic ambient-techno producer Yagya spreads his wings on A Strangely Isolated Place
A key member of Iceland’s Thule crew, and a revered artist in his own right, Yagya is beloved for his knack in turning inspiration from his native Icelandic landscapes into signature, sensitively fluffy but sincerely deep creations that swim somewhere between classic ambient and dub techno styles.
Following from two albums for Delsin and a rare 12” for XOZ in 2018, ’Stormur’ is Yagya’s 7th album proper and a snug fit for A Strangely Isolated Place’s eternally melancholy, dream state aesthetic. It works like a seamless mixtape or production showreel, flowing with a cool conduction of energy between its 10 tracks that’s equally suited to simmering dancefloor sessions or sinking into your sofa.
Fans of everything from Gas to Basic Channel and Brian Eno should find something to appreciate here.
EVOL cough up the intensely hypnotic results of sessions recorded on a Serge Modular Music System at the GRM in Paris, in early 2019. Weighing in at 28 trax wide and 292 minutes long, ‘GRM Trax’ is arguably the motherload of all EVOL releases. It features the OG deco-rave duo applying their unrelenting, uncompromising process to a classic vintage synth with transfixing results ready to open a vast, pulsating wormhole in your living room or wherever it is that freaks like to consume their EVOL (betcha someone does it in the bog).
Pushing the classic early ‘70s synth in a way not previously heard, EVOL make only the slightest envelope shifts in each part, allowing the machine to gurn and chatter in its purest, buzzing vernacular. With such unyielding focus on each tweak, they encourage a total immersion in the sounds’ pure signal and its resonant overtones. We can confirm the effect is extremely uncanny and totally disorientating after headphone ingestion, meaning that once the cans came off every sound in the room will still pulse freakishly.
For the sake of your sanity and the health of your ears, it’s maybe not best to do the whole release in one go - or at least not loudly on headphones - but for those who love to peer into the abyss, we can assure you of a heavily sensational, mind-bending experience quite unlike any other.
The Lioness is the first Jason Molina project to fully turn away from the battlefield folk and deconstructed Americana of earlier Songs: Ohia recordings. At the dawn of the 21st century, the album felt modern. It aligned Molina with a new set of peers — Low, Gastr del Sol, Red House Painters and, most importantly, the influential Scottish band Arab Strap, whose producer and members were crucial in the creation of The Lioness.
"The avant- garde tones and arrangements of Arab Strap are absorbed here into Molina’s songwriting to create what would become, for many acolytes, the archetypal Songs: Ohia sound. Love & Work: The Lioness Sessions, the box set reissue, will serve as the seminal log of the era, complete with lost songs, photos, drawings, and essays from those who knew Molina best. We know Molina was diligent in both love and work. He treated songcraft like a job at the mill, and his approach to romance was not so different.
We know that when he fell in love with his wife, he was dutiful in his adoration. There were strings of love letters and poetic gesture. Included in this edition are replicated examples of this relentless love — an envelope with a letter from Molina, a photograph of Molina and his to-be wife, a postcard, a Two of Hearts playing card, and a personal check for one million kisses. Some of these items were gifts he would send to his new love from the road; others, like the 2 of Hearts, were totems he’d carry with him around this time as a symbol for his burgeoning love. And so, the head-over-heels album that is The Lioness has its workman counterpart. Nearly another album’s worth of material was recorded in Scotland during the album sessions. While similar in tone and structure, the songs seem to deal in the grit and dirt of being.
These are songs for aching muscles getting soothed in the third-shift pub. But they’re also examples of Molina’s diligence as he constructs what would be the essential elements of The Lioness. In addition to these outtakes, we also have a 4-track session made weeks earlier in London with friend James Tugwell. Comprised of primarily guitar, hand drums and voice, these songs are raw experiments that mostly serve to illustrate Molina’s well of words and ideas. But then, there is the devastating Sacred Harp hymn “Wondrous Love.” While he may have had his new love in mind, one can’t help but think of Molina’s legacy as he softly warbles “Into eternity I will sing/Into eternity I will sing.” You don’t have to try too hard to mythologize Molina. He did all the work for you."
One of Drexciya's most sought-after and definitive "storms" finally reissued for those that need it.
Originally released in 2002, 'Harnessed The Storm' yields timeless anthems such as the devastating 'Digital Tsunami' - leaves us an emotional wreck every time - and the unfathomable mystery of 'Under Sea Disturbances' alongside signature enigmas like 'Mission to Ociya Syndor and Back' or the heart-breaking melodies of 'Birth Of New Life'. Trust us and everyone else: it's essential.
An incredible 80 minute wormhole into ritualistic, hypnagogic experiments from riveting dark ambient to freezing rave riffs and SAW II-like tone poems. Puts so much of this kind of music to shame - if you’re into the darker, more harrowing end of drone and Ambient - anything from Kevin Drumm to Dean Hurley or Thomas Köner, this will rule your world.
Key Hospital Productions artist Jim Mroz aka Lussuria ditches the synths for a holistically organic, analogue alchemy in ‘Scarlet Locust of These Columns’, anticipating the mighty shadow of his ‘Three Knocks’ album looming on the horizon. Assembled and executed in 10 days of October and finally realised at Merchant House, South Hampton, Long Island, New York, the album locates Lussuria in elemental and liminal states. Gathering a charged array of instrumentation including flutes made out of human leg bones and a drum made from a skull, he conducts ritualistic experiments that enable him to broach other dimensions and relay the what’s on the other side in a series of riveting dark ambient tales and hypnotic pulses.
It’s maybe wisest to take ‘Scarlet Locust of These Columns’ as an initiatory rite of passage for the upcoming ‘Three Knocks’ album. In structure and scale, its 17 tracks are perhaps surprisingly light on the ear, and as hypnagogic as they are impending, vacillating the pressure meter between sky citadel structures in the title track and the choking pound of ’Neo-Savage (Suspicions of Destiny)’ with heavy-lidded wormholes such as ‘With Bated Breath (Bird in Hand)’, segueing from somnambulant shoegaze in ‘Mondala (The Snell Of Power)’ to dry-eyed choral samples in ‘The Mondrian’, and sublime, opiated gauze in ‘White Ties To The Revolution’, or seemingly isolating and freezing rave riffs in meditative space on ‘Feather Duster Put In Place’, beside SAW II-like tone poems and exquisite palls of inclement gloom.
Albums of this kind of atmospheric calibre don’t come along so often. Don’t let it escape you.
Almighty sophomore album by industrial overload Kris Lapke aka Alberich - Hospital Productions’ mastering engineer, scene-defining producer, and right hand man to Dominick Fernow (Prurient, Vatican Shadow, RSE).
Where Alberich’s infamous, 3 hour long ‘NATO Uniformen’  series can be heard as a cornerstone for this decade’s tilt into noise techno experimentation, its follow-up is a bitterly refined and exquisitely crafted single disc bedevilled by increasingly excoriating detail via bombed-out rhythms and eschaton-limning atmospheres. Lapke distills and pokes his most potent ideas into their most succinct, brutalist forms, but also makes room for one durational pulverizer that is on its own worthy of the cost of admission.
A master of calibrating maximalist and minimalist scopes, Lapke has a gift for getting right in-the-mix and pulling sounds to the biting point or allow them to glisten in the periphery; emphasising their grotesqueness, stark beauty and visceral nature in the process. It’s an approach which has elevated him to the vanguard of modern industrial music, evidenced in production work and mastering for Prurient, The Haxan Cloak and Nothing, as well as audio restoration for COUM Transmissions and Shizuka, but rarely felt as strongly or as nuanced as in his solo work.
Between opener ‘Upper Mountains’, casting some of the gloomiest synth pads this side of Silent Servant’s ‘Negative Fascination’, to the entrenched techno of ‘Unity House’ with its asphyxiating, buried-by-mud effect buoyed only by drily resigned vocals, and the aching synth poignancy of ‘No Reference to The Absence of Allegory’ at the album’s charred heart, Lapke's sounds adopt a frightening meaning thru their manacled grip of reality.
But its the B-side that will really see off any half-hearted types, as he sucks us down the title track’s rabbit hole of collapsing techno and lo-NRG vox into the reverberating negative space of ‘Freeze’, and the masterfully dense yet wide open paradox of his closing ‘Radio Op’ transmission.
Ex-Veronica Falls singer/songwriter Roxanne Clifford becomes Patience to express her synth pop tastes to the fullest on ‘Dizzy Spells’; an achingly well-crafted batch indebted as much to Todd Edwards - who co-produced the opening cut! - as New Order, AC Marias, Vince Clarke or Strawberry Switchblade
“Dizzy Spells delivers a debut album that twists Clifford’s songwriting into new shapes and ecstasies. The album dances around melancholy, thrown to the floor like a bad dream to be circled, emerging bright-eyed into the early morning full of hope. The Girls Are Chewing Gum (produced by Todd Edwards) bursts open Dizzy Spells like fresh fruit: sweet and rich with a synth-bass line beamed down from Chicago House heaven. Exquisitely sung by Clifford, it’s a wonderful, funky, instant-classic hinting at sexuality and memories dredged from our bodies’ secrets. The bouncy production expertly renders the addictive power of our ephemeral pleasures. Living Things Don’t Last chases themes of longing and loss, opening up into a life affirming chorus that sings of transience, the passing of time and railing against inertia. It’s the perfect example of a song formula that Roxanne Clifford has almost patented: simple and cutting straight to the point. There are shades of Strawberry Switchblade or French synth pop pioneer Jacno in the happy/sad dichotomy and it is all the better for it.
Dizzy Spells features all three long-sold out singles, embedded in the full depth of Patience’s soundworld they fit like pieces of a puzzle. White Of An Eye, The Church and The Pressure—all recorded in Clifford’s former home of Glasgow—crackle with razor sharp melodies and dancefloor-ready dynamics. There are exciting additions to Patience’s sonic palette, brought into sharp relief on Voices In The Sand. In this song, a plaintive Clifford enunciates a heart-torn plea to the antagonist, a mournful cascade of synths and haunting vocals evocative of AC Marias, a sepia-toned ode to anxiety, “a storm is on the way”. On No Roses, a Vince Clarkesque production belies a sunburnt sadness. Clifford defiantly sings “you would go out tonight, but there’s nowhere you like,” describing a disenchantment with her adopted city of Los Angeles, she longs for home in a singular refrain “No roses… no roses for us.” An ode to English folk singer Shirley Collins, a surprising yet innate influence throughout Clifford’s work. On Moral Damage, former Veronica Falls bandmate Marion Herbain joins Clifford on an anglo-french duet that feels instant and spontaneous, a cutting comment on emotional accountability. More than a vehicle for Roxanne Clifford’s songwriting prowess, Patience is holding our hand through the night, dancing with tears in our eyes, dizzy and spellbound.”
Out of print for 25 years, Stereolab’s retro-pop and indie-rock classic ‘Mars Audiac Quintet’ is back in circulation with a bonus disc of demos and alternate versions, most notably a demo version of Ping Pong!