Complex, pre-computer avant-garde composition. Challenging, arrhythmic and involving clicks, pulses and twangs scored for a electronic orchestra, recorded at the Center for Contemporary Music, Oakland, California, 1972, and another incredible two-part composition using the labyrinthine reverbs created by a motorcycle in tunnels beneath the hills of San Francisco. 63 minutes total.
"When the work was composed, in 1972, it was clear that a huge change in electronic instrumentation was just beginning, a change that would involve computers and sound producing devices as yet undreamed of. The piece consists of an electronic orchestra of 42 sound producing modules. The technique of the string quartet is for each player to make a stream of intentional but unpremeditated (that is, random) very short sounds, pulses, somewhat like pitched clicks, but with the formats and overtones of a string instrument (this idea came from the rumor of a performance by Takehisa Kosugi). These sounds go directly to a set of four loudspeakers, but at the same time they are delayed electronically, and those delayed sounds are sent to a series of seven networks of sound producing modules activated by the very brief coincidence of an original sound and a delayed sound.The operation of the networks as a result of the coincidence can, in the theoretical world of electronics, produce almost any sound imaginable. In the performance recorded here few of the technical resources were available. Now, of course, there are computer 'patching' programs that would make the job possible, but complicated. Such are dreams, when technology promises a 'new world'. Sort of like 1492. The hills and mountains separating San Francisco Bay from the Pacific Ocean are filled with a labyrinth of endless concrete tunnels constructed by the military in the 1930s in anticipation of World War II, to defend San Francisco Bay from invasion. At the entrance of every tunnel is a huge steel door. When the door is slammed, the reverberation through the labyrinth seems to last forever.
It is one of the wonders of the world. Naturally, Robert Ashley tried to record this phenomenon. On the occasion of the recording, just as the reverberation seemed to die away, a motorcyclist, miles away in the tunnels, started coming closer. The effect, which took minutes, was as if the reverberation had been reversed, as if the tape recording was running backwards. A perfect case of coincidence as illusion. In Version One of 'How Can I Tell The Difference?' the composer tried to create the drama of the recording of the reverberation and the motorcyclist, using the 'String Quartet' as an 'orchestra', in the way it was intended to be used in the opera. In Version Two of 'How Can I Tell The Difference?' a solo string player using the same playing technique as in the 'String Quartet' opens and closes the sound 'gates' to electronic reverberations and prerecorded sounds running continuously with the performance. A digipack CD edition including an 8 page booklet with scores and liner notes written by Robert Ashley."
Bewildering and brilliant freeform rock, jazz, and cut-up tape music from 1979 by a would-be collaborator with NWW - included on their legendary list! RIYL Ghedalia Tazartes!
"Released in 1979 in a limited edition on his own d'Avantage label, Catalogue, with its overt theatricality is every bit as wild as the previous Paralleles. Not really jazz, not rock, having nothing to do with contemporary music either, Catalogue is a kind of sonic postcard which features not the group of the same name but instead numerous Berrocal associates including Potage (co-founder of the d'Avantage label in 1976), Parle, Ferlet, Pauvros and recording engineer Daniel Deshays, plus many musicians from the French underground collective scene of the 1970s.
Not content with manhandling a toy piano on 'Tango' (which features mind-blowing accordion from Parle), abusing an arsenal of instruments including saw blades, pistols, shower attachment and even gingerbread, Berrocal pushes his own voice way over the edge on 'Incontrolablslaooo' and 'Faits Divers,' moving from a 60-a-day smoker's cough to a terrifying sequence of gargles and vomits. The grungy free rock of 'No More Dirty Bla Blaps,' the Portsmouth Sinfonia-like spoof Dixieland of 'Rideau,' the distressing punk of 'Signe Particulier' and all manner of fields recordings and cut-ups in Berrocal's Artaudian theatre style, combining the excesses of glam and punk cold-wave to post-1968 Situationist perspective. With the same creative attitude documented through the mythic d'Avantage label (1976-1979)
Berrocal later accumulated an extensive archive of unreleased recordings, some of which finally surface now on this new edition. Catalogue represents the most experimental and complex of Berrocal's records, as historical as contemporary modern, classic and at the same time as fresh and strange as if it had been recorded last week. During the same year Steven Stapleton frequently travelled to Paris to meet Jaques Berrocal and discuss a possible collaboration. In 1980, Berrocal travelled to London with his pocket trumpet and Tibetan oboe and recorded with Stapleton, Heman Patak and John Fothergill on NWW's second album, but that's another story."
Éphémère I & II' (for tape, or to be played with various instruments) are two previously unpublished masterpieces which represent a very specific moment in the creative life and catalogue of Luc Ferrari.
"Luc Ferrari was tempted in the mid-1970s by the idea of leaving the final realization of these pieces open to the performer's intervention (a perspective he decided not to develop in future researches). 'Exercises d'Improvisation', a score conceived in 1977 and unreleased for almost 35 years (first recorded this year by the GOL collective with Brunhild Meyer-Ferrari for an LP to be issued on PLANAM), directly comes from the two works presented here. Éphémère I' (or 'L'ordinateur ça sert à quoin?' i.e. 'What's the use of computers') is a 27 minute piece for tape only, created in 1974, conceived as a kind of electronic drone superimposed by fragments of multi-language whispered voices that creates the thrilling effect of a 'sea-like' continuum.
Éphémère II' (or 'Lyon 75' after the only recorded realization) is a 51 minute tape piece with guitar improvisation. The electronic repetitive structure reminds some of the most radical works of American composer Terry Riley, while the guitar sounds, first resulting as live manipulated pointillistic impulses, develop into a blues sonority superimposing the tape drone and creating a heavy psychedelic atmosphere of the most sublime kind.
The end of this long suite lead us back into more abstract and live-electronic sonorities. This very intense work can be placed in a context between scored music and totally improvised music. First press limited to 500 copies in tri-folded digipack sleeve. Please note: these 2 previously unpublished pieces revealing a hidden part of Luc Ferrari poetics are not included in the INA 10CD boxset. Only available on this CD edition."
Groundbreaking experimental compositions dating between 1958-68 from Austrian-born US composer David Behrman, reissued from the Alga Marghen catalogue.
"Behrman is assisted by a host of major names from the 20th century avant-garde: David Tudor plays piano on the opening piece, 'Canons', supported on percussion by Christoph Caskel. This work's difficult intervals and challenging staccato nature is mirrored by the prepared piano piece 'Ricecar', whose spacious and ambiguous narrative is performed and plotted out by Behrman himself. The album's centrepiece, 'Wave Train' is a very different proposition, characterised by an otherworldy feedback-driven tapestry of drone performed live with Gordon Mumma.
On 'Sounds For A Film By Bob Watts' Behrman concocts something that still feels incredibly modern, setting a template for countless microsound composers for years to come: he joins environmental recordings with mimetic synthesizer sound designs, which seem to melt into the broader soundscape like weird, metallic insects. It's a sublime electroacoustic piece from one of experimental music's true legends, and a typically innovative work on this outstanding collection."
This record marked the first installment of Alga Marghen's retrospective of Ghedalia Tazartes' recording career: Une Eclipse Totale De Soleil was first reissued in 1997 having been initially released in 1979.
In this form the original's two-part make-up was bolstered by a twenty-four minute third part, a new piece composed specifically for the reissue. Sounding quite unlike the output of his more academic contemporaries, Tazartes' music compiles fragments of tapes, voices and various other sound recordings in a fashion that's very idiomatic and new sounding, even by contemporary standards. The original two parts are made up from sung passages of Middle Eastern musics, drum machine noises, distorted signals and the voices of small children. The newer third part takes some of the same sorts of cues but is more in-keeping with turntablism or sampling culture, dipping into recordings recycled from pop culture.
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.
Apartment House's latest set is a hypnotic rendition of Morton Feldman's towering late-period masterpiece, originally recorded in 1991 by Kronos Quartet and Aki Takahashi and here performed by Mark Knoop (piano), Mira Benjamin & Gordon Mackay (violins), Bridget Carey (viola) and Anton Lukoszevieze (cello).
When Morton Feldman wrote "Piano and String Quartet" in 1985, only two years before he died of pancreatic cancer, he had Kronos Quartet and Aki Takahashi in mind, but the piece has been recorded many times since it was released in 1993, and has been endlessly influential, like much of Feldman's work.
On this rendition, the dynamic range is tempered with piano and strings fluttering delicately like a whisper over a silence that feels omnipresent. When notes appear from the void, they do so with purpose, hanging like ghosts before slipping away into the aether.
Anton Lukoszevieze, leader of Apartment House, explains why he chose to record the piece:
"Piano and String Quartet, one of Feldman’s final works, is a seemingly simple work and yet it isn’t. As Philip Guston, a great friend of Feldman, wrote ‘Frustration is one of the great things in art; satisfaction is nothing.’ The length of the work (nearly 80 minutes) and the erasure of musical memory (What did we just hear?) is in fact its identity. Feldman makes simple statements, a piano arpeggio or a sustained string chord, holds these things and examines them over time. Gradually, as the sun’s light moves across a still life through the day, like a drawn out Morandi painting, the work evolves and indeed dissolves in some sense.
Using different transformative processes, Feldman illuminates his basic material and achieves the miraculous, an extended work of great beauty and enigmatic wonder. There are ghosts there, tinctures of late Schubert, Brahms and even Janaček, where beauty is a signature of passing time and an ephemeral focus on hearing and disappearing."
Intoxicating, Algerian Raï with ‘80s funk chops and high wire drum machines by Majid Soula, arriving in the fine vein of Habibi Funk’s eclectic compilations from the Arab world
Previously spotted in the label’s ‘Arabic Funk’ mix by its head Jannis Stürtz, Majid Souyla now gets his own album survey, sporting a deadly brand of in-the-pocket, Arabic machine funk with a heavy soul and fiery psych and surf guitar lashes in an unmistakably ‘80s fashion, most potent on the Italo-esque disco drive of ‘Ageruj (with vocals)’ and ’Tafat (Instrumental)’, and the swaggering rocket ‘Win Terram.’
The legendary label limb of Berlin’s beloved kink palace marks 15+1 years of party frolics with 20 trax by label fam and fresh faces alike, including the first new MMM in years, and notable work by Luke Slater & Barker, Oren Ambarchi, Jessica Ekomane & Zoë McPherson, JASSS & Silent Servant +++
‘Ostgut Ton Fünfzehn + 1’ plays up to the full spectrum of Ostgut Ton, and, by extension Berghain’s tastes, with a bespoke, 20 stück taster menu that shows how their aesthetics have evolved from pure, all night bangers to encompass a much broader, related range of experimental, avant garde electronics. We’ve had the pleasure of witnessing its transition from its early dalliances with offbeat styles via the Sub:stance and Leisure System events, to hosting a widening array of Berlin’s experimental fraternity over the years, and it’s fair to say that that range, class and maturity is well documented here.
From an instant winner by MMM, arriving ahead of their upcoming debut album, to a surprise beatdown turn by Len Faki & Honey Dijon, thru a spangled trance mission by JASSS & Silent Servant, to the roiling brilliance of Jessica Ekomane’s turn with Zoë McPherson, or Tama Sumo & Lakuti’s NRG disco bomb, there’s an absolute glut of high caliber dance music on offer that doesn’t patronise its users, delivered in the knowledge they know how to join the dots beyond business techno markets.
The original US/Euro house and techno spirit of Berghain’s original all night kink parties is still there in the feathered swang of Substance & Soundtstream’s glittering ‘Session 2’, and the ruder EBM drive of Norman Nodge & Marcell Dettmann’s ace, while longtime residents Nick Höppner & nd_baumeker show a persistent experimental bent with their hearty, sloshing dembow-electro soup ‘Labskaus’, and trusty hard hands Luke Slater & Barker follow that stewing theme with the piquant, uptempo hyper carnival styles of ‘9/8 Gumbo’, with the motorik stroll of Oren Ambarchi, Konrad Sprenger & Phillip Sollmann linking the label’s styles back to Berlin’s kosmiche pioneers.
Alles Gute zum Gerburtstag. Thanks for the memories and here’s to many more.
Isotope 217/Chicago Underground Trio founder member Jeff Parker's new album features a handful of original compositions, a cover of Thelonious Monk's 'Ugly Beauty' and a new version of 'La Jetée', a track he performed with both Tortoise and Isotope 217. Gorgeous solo guitar music that's deceptively simple and effortlessly soulful.
On "Forfolks", Parker proves he doesn't need much more than a guitar and a looper to make affecting, meaningful music. Gone are the complex instrumentations of his distant past; this album's about intentional economy, and it's a pleasure to hear Parker working in this mode. The album's longest track - 11 minute slow burner 'Excess Success' - is the closest to Parker's previous work, with filtered percussive string taps forming delicate rhythms for Parker to expand melodic loops across. It's like post-rock reduced to a faint whisper, with just the jazzy skeleton remaining.
On the other side of the spectrum, Parker's version of jazz standard 'My Ideal' is played relatively straight, and shows his humble skill and light touch. Elsewhere, his interpretation of 'Ugly Beauty' is elongated and incredibly memorable. Parker has always made beautiful music, and "Forfolks" is an understated gem.
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.
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.
Posthomous release of some of the barest mechanics and deadliest Chicago House you’ll likely ever hear, mostly recorded in the 80’s and now finally released via Carson’s long time disciples at Sound Signature. Best believe that this is the OG shit, never bettered, most of it previously unreleased - all of it a total fucking education. R.I.P legend.
The cover of LeRon Carson's debut album is a reminder of another era; Carson, smiling in front of a pair of decks, bulky headphones around his neck. The Chicago icon died in 2016, but left behind a vast archive of unreleased music, much of it recorded in the 1980s when the House sound was in its wildly creative infancy. Theo Parrish has made much of his obsession with Carson's production and performances over the years - and has put out a handful of tunes on Sound Signature - but this full-length set might be the most fitting tribute, showing the depth and prescience of the producer's sound.
Only seconds into opener 'Sof n Thik' you know what you're in for - fudgy kicks thud slowly and carefully, surrounded by pillowy, soulful pads and the warmest synbass. If you're looking for the root sound that gave rise to Theo Parrish, and in turn Newworldaquarium, Actress, and Andy Stott - this is pretty much the blueprint. Carson's veil-pierced ferric fuzz has been regularly duped but never quite captured. Carson didn't just pre-empt deep, knackered grooves either - tracks like 'Baby Said to Me' and 'Say It' tickle the same loopy funk euphoric sweet spot that Daft Punk, and the later entire French touch kru, would fire into the mainstream a few years later. MLK-sampling '72nd & Ogelsby' meanwhile can't help but remind of DJ Sprinkles with its spare beatbox shuffle and painfully moving square wave bass wind.
It's impossible to overstate the resonance of Carson's tracks; writing music from the Midwest - the US dance music heartland - in the country's beleaguered '80s, they're charged with a hedonism that's far from empty. It's a jubilant cry from Black America, chiming alongside established classic material from Larry Heard, Ron Hardy, Virgo, Adonis and Steve Poindexter.
Honestly, life-changing music.
Earth follow their folksy, spiritually-tinged 'Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light' LP with a further five tracks recorded during the same two week sessions at Seattle's Avast studios in 2011.
Part II picks up the heavy-heart porchside vibes and mind-drifts through solemn, melancholy improvisations laden with a brooding tension and grit. The group's instinctive motions are evidently honed to near telepathic communication, providing the sort of slow, conversational musical dialogue you'd expect of a whisky-and-weed-sunk evening with close friends, recounting their woes with a seen-it-all pathos and humoured inflection that could only come from experience.
As usual they're at their very best when stretching out, rambling freeform on the cicadas and dusky shimmer of 'His Teeth Did Brightly Shine', or the hushed, deeply engrossing yarn 'A Multiplicity Of Doors', but it's almost worth the entry alone for the interplay of impossibly slow, shuddering drums and smashed psychedelia of 'The Rakehell'.
More crackling 1950s and '60s slow rock, pop and R&B jammers gathered from the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh as the country reacted to US and UK pop and chanson and bolero from France and South America.
Death Is Not The End does us more solid service here with a second collection of levitational Cambodian pop music that provides a vivid picture of a period many of us are completely unaware of. In the 1960s, the country fully embraced psychedelic and garage rock that was flooding in from the USA - especially in the Vietnam war era - but here we get to witness Cambodia's pop landscape in a more transitional, and more malleable state.
This selection follows on seamlessly from the first volume, centering Cambodian language versions of music that sounds so close to its stylistic forebears that it's almost familiar. There's a localized twang to these compositions, but the root sounds are chirpy and exist in a haze of global nostalgia - they could almost be attached to an aging movie reel or TV show. Yet the vocals, sung by Cambodian performers - often singing through heavy reverb and delay - give slow, romantic tracks like 'Word of Promise' or 'Ivory River' an otherworldly resonance.
It's yet another invigorating listening experience (and history lesson), that gets better with each play - fans of Sublime Frequencies, you know what to do.
Very rare venture from Swedish a/v master Kent Tankred, deploying his “concresizer” image/sound mangler in properly free adventures between absorbing noise textures and expressive organ and rhythm excursions - RIYL Pan Sonic, NYZ, CC Hennix, Russell Haswell, Daphne Oram.
EMS graduate of the ‘70s, key member of The Freq_Out Orchestra and half of The Sons of God with Leif Elggren; Kent Tankred’s reputation in the Swedish underground is inversely proportionate to his sparse handful of works, best highlighted in 1995’s ‘Ordinary Things’ for Flykingen Records. ‘There Is Nothing To Attain’ is his first new release since 2010’s CDr of the same name, and supplies a 2 hour canvas ideal for exploring his wildly variegated sprawl of post-human styles, where he clearly relishes the possibility of his machines to make freaky as fuck, outlandish electronic sounds that exist in the space between music and non-music. He’s been at this since the early ‘70s and by this point you can trust that Tankred knows what he’s up to, or, then again, maybe doesn’t - as his work is full of an intuitive, inexplicable vitality that feels as ancient and primitive, as it does advanced.
Tankred’s music isn't for everyone, but for those who like to be challenged and poked, it's a vital trip. Tankred doesn't shy on the track lengths either, with most running into ten+ minutes, variously doing JCB-scale dentistry with ‘Kökkenmödding 1’ and sharply contrasting with the Hennix-meets-NYZ-alike organ vamps of ‘PSR-266’, but also reserving the right to go stringently minimal on the absorbing tracts of ‘Pulsar’ and ‘There Is Nothing To Attain 2’. His rhythmic/percussive provilicites come to life in ‘Dialog’ and there’s an unmistakeable sort of far northerly dread scope to the seething drone of ‘Obsession 2’ and to-the-bone abstraction of ‘Pots’ that surely resonates with Pan Sonic, primed for those who really like to get their ear’s teef into it and swill it around.
Exquisitely melancholy, pre-war Japanese Ryūkōka Recordings, 1929-1938, delving deeper into the style’s fusion of traditional and classical Japanese and western blues x jazz on Death Is Not The End.
Further to the label’s ‘Longing for the Shadow’ collection, ‘Is It Really Goodbye?’ seeks out 16 ghostly slow dancing partners that reflect a time when once mutually exclusive cultures were beginning to merge and create new fusions, ahead of a full tilt toward western styles that came with the post-war US occupation.
They're haunting, sultry and elegant songs that connect with the blues from a more distant, oblique angle, but share the focus on groove and jangling melody, with standout pieces strewn between the banjo-like melody of Issei Mishima’s ‘Over the Kuroshio’ and the smoky jazz torchsong of ‘Blues for Farewell’ by Noriko Awaya, or the ghostly dancehall reverie ‘Let’s Dance The Tango’ from Rumiko Yotsuya.
The punk jazz squad re-group around Camae Ayewa aka Moor Mother for an intensely coiled and disciplined 3rd album of eschatological declarations and post colonial explorations.
One of the fiercest, deepest ensembles working inside and outside jazz right now, Irreversible Entanglements have achieved cult acclaim for their restive skirmishes of post-bebop with punkish jazz-funk and cosmic electronics since their eponymous 2017 debut. On ‘Open The Gates’ they one again unleash the powers of Luke Stewart (bass), Aquiles Navarro (trumpet), Keir Neuringer (sax), and Tcheser Holmes (drums) around the future vocals of Camae Ayewa’s Moor Mother, collectively keeping the flame of ‘late ‘60s and ‘70s agit-jazz burning for a new generation who are currently taking to the streets and decrying their disenfranchisement by successive generations of racist neoliberal bullshit.
OK, maybe jazz doesn’t hold quite the same power to invoke revolution and open minds as it once did, but Irreversible Entanglements make strong inroads to remind of its fluidly intuitive democracy and timeless message of unity in an era of increasingly atomised souls. Over the album’s seven tracks they expand and contract between limber rhythmic studies and warrior poetry, all informed by a form of concentrated melancholy that never slips into self-pity but instead becomes fuel to their fire. It’s palpable in the stark midnight energies of ‘Keys to Creation’ which turns into spiky punk-jazz over its 13 minute course, and bound tightly into the free jazz shredding of ‘Storm Came Twice’, with the band marshalling their powers at their most intuitive, mystic, and longform in the 20 minutes of capoeira-like serpentine motion and spirit-heightened atmosphere to ‘Water Meditation.’
The third proper album from Anthony Child (Surgeon) and Daniel Bean's acclaimed drone project, 'All Skies Have Sounded' is another voyage into esoteric synth-led ambience. Think cosmic new age business, but with teeth - the creeping dread of Cluster and early Tangerine Dream but tangled with Black To Comm's surrealist oddness.
Child and Bean have been regularly churning out syrupy psychedelic drones since their 2016 live appearance at Free Rotation, and with each successive release their music has increased its soft power. "All Skies Have Sounded" was recorded in Spring this year, and is the duo's most confident yet; there's nothing particularly new, but each element has been sculpted and all fat has been trimmed.
Like its predecessors, the album is a mind-splaying celebration of cosmic synthesis, allowing synth drones to bubble, squelch and sway without being subject to melodic phrasing. The duration of each piece (the longest here is an ample 12 minutes) is key to its unraveling, and allows for meditative focus into the texture of the sound. Oscillators are able to rumble and throb, shifting in timbre and subtly filtering in and out of the sonic spectrum.
It's music that requires laser focus - not simply background ambience - and rewards pensive, deep listening.
Julia Holter, Arca, Ana Roxanne, Kelsey Lu, Blood Orange, Joseph Shabason & Thom Gill, Jeremy Dutcher and Bon Iver & Flock of Dimes rework the resurfaced ‘80s gems of pioneering synthesist Beverly Glenn-Copeland
A cross-generational show of solidarity, ‘Keyboard Fantasies Reimagined’ draws connections between decades, genders, and continents thru the transcendent prism of synthesisers. It features Arca at her most sanguine, shorn of more typical manias in a trembling take on ‘Let Us Dance’, and Julia Holter projects some of her most voluminous strokes in a loud/quiet remix of ‘Fastest Star’.
Ana Roxanne shows why they’re often hailed in same breath as Enya and Eno with a hauntingly beautiful remix of ‘Old (New) Melody’, and Blood Orange blurs the lines between then/now with the sublime Afro-rhythmelodic lilt of their take on ‘Sunset Village’.
Recorded in Heliopolis Egypt between 1968 and 1973, 'Egyptian Jazz' sees the seamless knitting of cultural maxims - with the musical traditions of the North Arabian region of Africa overlapping Western jazz to intoxicating effect. Proper headmelt this one.
Given the interconnected world in which we now live, it's becoming an increasingly rare commodity for any music to remain under the radar longer than it takes for the Youtube algorithm to fling things your way. Yet whilst access to such vast tributaries of music is undoubtedly a good thing, it can take the fun out of hunting down long lost gems and bijou classics - with everything long dissected and consumed by the broiling blog community. It therefore comes with great pleasure to introduce a genuine find that will have your ears blossoming with dusty joy, as Salah Ragab and the Cairo Jazz Band create the kind of music which is vital, immediate and swelling with energy and scope.
Chief of the Military Music Department, Salah Ragab had at his disposal a vast retinue of musicians (almost 3,000!) all versed in the aural language of marches and national anthems, but with little knowledge of the more fluid aspects of contemporary jazz. From this foundation Ragab went on to carve a sound that is at once familiar and completely alien, using his own skills on the drums to inform and sculpt the vivacious music on offer.
Unreasonably broad in its scope, the twenty-five or so musicians involved were essentially anointed full-time jazz mercenaries by the military top-brass. Intuitive and dripping in talent, the opening 'Ramadan In Space Time' sets out their stall perfectly - as a traditional Baza drum rattles into life and soon becomes engulfed by stomping percussion and the kind of ribald horns that simultaneously combine upfront bluster and emotional nuance. 'Dawn' re-imagines a relihgious tract through a 6/8 rhythm and throbbing horns that raise the temperature in frenzied style.
From here the treats keep coming, with 'Neveen' (featuring Ragab's then six year old daughter on bass) bursting into life on top of a sparkling compote of traditional and New York-rooted percussion, 'Oriental Mood' looks to the far-east for inspiration, whilst 'Kleopatra' revolves around a flutter of horns and rhythms.
An unbridled pleasure from beginning to end. King Tut!
'But Only After You Have Suffered' is a layered and personal new work from multidisciplinary artist, composer, percussionist & producer Jamire Williams.
Following his 2016-released Leaving Records debut, artist and percussionist Jamire Williams expands his craft in widescreen with an album that's a cross between movie soundtrack and mixtape. Ambitious stuff, with guest appearances from Sam Gendel, Carlos Niño, Zeroh, Mic Holden and Josh Johnson.
'But Only After You Have Suffered' fluxes through ideas with a fluidity that's omnipresent in the post beat-scene Cali landscape. Williams cuts movie samples with bell sounds and loops wobbly tape-recorded vocals over his idiosyncratic drumming, and he approaches songs with the scope of a cult director and the record collection of a digger. There's burned-out, post-Madlib rap ('Safe Travels', 'Ugly'), hollowed-out R&B fusion ('When it Gets Dark', 'For the Youth'), even loungey Stereolab vibes ('Bow'), and everything's interspersed with the dusty grandeur of David Axelrod. Fans of Flying Lotus, Tyler The Creator, Dilla or Adrian Younge, check this one.
Sakamoto’s standout 1985 blast of rhythmic invention and hallucinatory FM synthesis is mercifully reissued by WEWANTSOUNDS, who revisit its extraordinary and obsessive electronic detail.
Abetted for this one by Arto Lindsay on electric guitar and the fleet hands of Yas-Kaz on percussion, Sakamoto was really hitting his experimental stride in 1985, in the years after crafting some of the ‘80s most enduring popular synth recordings with ‘Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence’ soundtrack and collaborations with David Sylvian. As its name suggests, ‘Esperanto’ sees Sakamoto both literally and metaphorically inspired by the “constructed international auxiliary language” that was invented in 1987.
Nearly 100 years later, the album witnesses the Japanese genius drawing linguistic and musical parallels between Esperanto’s semantic systems and vernacular structures and the peculiar, modernist languages of electronic music in a way that beautifully embellished and dovetailed with ideas of 4th world possibility, and likewise lucidly resonates thru today, especially in the syncretic systems-based aesthetics and intentions of compositions by Autechre, Christos Chondropoulos or Visible Cloaks, for example. Call it ambient, synth music, proto-IDM, or whatever you like; it’s just proper dream music for dreamers and electronic romanticists, and now readily available, resplendent in remastered form for optimal absorption in its ultra-vivid interraforms.
Another treasure trove from Death is Not the End, "Wounds of Love" collects 1960s slow rock, pop and R&B 7"s from Cambodian capital Phnom Penh. Super moving stuff, that digs deeper and more meticulously than similar sets from Sublime Frequencies et al.
This bumper set unearths music that's rarely heard on this side of the world. During the 1960s, Phnom Penh was flooded by music: rock and pop records from the UK and USA, and chanson and bolero 45s from France and Latin America. The result was these sounds being absorbed into the country's musical landscape, which until that time was mostly influenced by Hindu forms and classical dance.
"Wounds of Love" looks at the Phnom Penh scene before the widely-known garage rock boom of the late 1960s, and it's a revelation. These songs are slow and romantic, undoubtedly inspired by pop and rock trends but spiked with a unique Khmer element that sets them in their own dimension. Gorgeous stuff.
Veteran US tape scene experimenters Jeph Jerman and percussionist/Quakebasket owner cut-up and collage their touring experiences into a beguiling, Burroughsian maze of tonal and textural shadowplay and mnemonic prods, feat. guest input by Billy Gomberg, Barry Weisblat, Jean-Herve Peron, Zappi Diermaier, Mike Majkowski, Chris Heenan, Joachim Nordwall, Ted Byrnes, Bill Hutson and Mitchell Brown
“A note from Jeph Jerman: What I remember…a car on fire alongside the highway in the middle of the night. Waking in someone else’s bed in London with an entire poem spilling into my head, and then recording it with Tim in the kitchen after breakfast.
Seemingly endless car, bus and train rides full of the country side splintered and refracted through glass and fatigue, always the same, always different. The screaming woman at the airport who pulled the fire alarm, evacuating the terminal. Some guy in Brooklyn talking through our entire set…
…smoking rope and playing chess with Jean-Herve Peron. Playing in that giant concrete bunker on Mare Island, our sounds smeared by endless reverberation. People smoking heroin in the bathroom in Oslo, setting off the fire alarm toward the end of our set, and the freezing room in Den Haag. Improvising in the back seat of Tim’s car while he drove and recorded it, somewhere in Indiana. The guy shooting up in the stairwell of that dilapidated squat in Berlin, and the whirlwind tour of the city at 3 AM. Chocolate you could snort in Antwerp. Crossing the English Channel through the Chunnel, and our entire train loaded onto a ferry to cross the Baltic Sea. Spending a lot of time together, without ever running out of things to talk about.
It was Tim who said that our next record should be called hiss lift. We saw it on a sign pointing to an elevator in some hotel, the two words in different languages. For me, that phrase conjures up vague thoughts about tape manipulation, a finger on a switch so marked. We talked about the record a lot, mostly on trains, and came up with other titles launched from subtle in-jokes. What we didn’t talk about in any detailed way, was what it would sound like.”
LA ambient noise sculptor Ian Wellman transmutes his experience of lockdown into a schizzy quiet/loud suite, adding to the mountain of feels felt during the past two years
“A note from Ian Wellman: ‘On The Darkest Day, You took My Hand and Swore It Will Be Okay’ spawns out of reflections and realizations from the past year. The musical pieces themselves teeter between anger, anxiety, and hope, usually turning to distortion and noise. These were often an attempt to make sense of the happenings around the world. At times this process was a way to soothe my own frustrations with life at a standstill.
A big influence on this album was watching events unfold online. Technology made it incredibly easy to ‘experience’ something without having actually been there via live streaming and second-to-second updates on social media. You can now watch the world burn without leaving your home, and I did. With work on hiatus, I would obsessively watch how the world was fairing with the crises on our hands.
For an escape, I would often venture out for field recording. Unlike the reports I had heard about the silent cities, human-generated noise in Los Angeles never ceased. As people slowed their movement, the sound of LAPD helicopters were amplified. During the height of the fire season, I had recorded several areas to see how the air pollution had affected the soundscape. In North Hollywood, the electrical wires felt particularly loud as ash fell from the sky. Even as our forests burned, we continued to pump oil behind public parks and across the street from homes, only to speed up our own decline.
Through the year’s ups and downs, and navigating lots of unknowns, friends and family reassured me that it will be ok. This period was a constant reminder of how important it was to keep the folks you love close, physically or otherwise. Please hold on to each other.”
A hitherto-unreleased electronic masterpiece from Roland Kayn, singular pioneer of cybernetic music. Over a period spanning the late 70s through the early 80s, Kayn (1933–2011) issued a quintet of extended works that quietly but definitively redrew the map of electronic music. Informed by cybernetics and a desire to actualise analogue circuitry as an agency in the compositional process, this music adopted a form that can only be described as oceanic, as side after side of vinyl allowed a wholly new vocabulary of electronic sound to find its shape. This set features a staggering batch of mesmerising computer music realised in 1982-83, roughly between his totemic ‘Infra’ and ‘Tektra’ boxsets. Essential listening for fans of Xenakis, Æ, Cam Deas, Jim O’Rourke, Laurie Spiegel.
As co-founder of the influential Gruppo di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza (whose members included Egisto Macchi and Ennio Morricone), and an unparalleled pioneer of algorithmic composition, Roland Kayn made an inestimable and arguably unsung contribution to 20th Century music. Now following the acclaimed recent reissue of his jaw-dropping ’Simultan’ (1977) boxset and the 2017 unearthing of ‘A Little Electronic Milky Way Of Sound’, Kayn’s daughter Ilse has rebooted his Reiger-records-reeks label to unveil ‘Scanning’; a typically brobdingnagian expanse of perpetually amorphous sound generated by unfathomably complex iterations of maths, physics, philosophy and music that advances upon a genuinely post-human conception of sound arrangement.
Remastered from the original tapes by Jim O’Rourke - a long-time disciple of Kayn’s durational works, whose influence can clearly be heard in O’Rourke’s prized ‘Old News’ series - ‘Scanning’ now emerges from a pivotal phase of Kayn’s research/practice to highlight his pioneering grasp of bio-cybernetic communication at its most illusive and elusive. Where ’Simultan’ for example, felt darkly alien, and ’Tektra’ sounds like a black hole, the vast breadth of ‘Scanning’ is best defined by its spectra of impossible, string-like glissandi, cascading in infinitely smooth gradients and tectonic harmonic shifts that recall contemporary examples ranging from Autechre at their broadest (as on the æo³ & ³hæ DVD), thru to the sloshing shape of Cam Deas, and, at times, Dopplereffekt’s immense ‘Calabi Yau Space’ classic taken to Nth degrees.
For those who really like to know what’s going on in the mechanics of Kayn’s music, the boxset is accompanied by Kayn’s own notes, which, while succinct, may still require a Phd in scientific philosophy to properly digest (and same can be said of Massimo Ricci’s fascinating but baffling notes). However, the technical roots of Kayn’s music are not a barrier to entry for anyone with open ears and a taste for actually otherworldly sound. His frighteningly complex grasp of inimitably fluid dynamics and ear-probing tonalities can simply be enjoyed for their richly sensuous qualities and transportive/transcendent potential for altering one’s mindstate, as your grey matter attempts to perceive and compete Kayn’s revelatory series of ever-changing events and alien sonic scenarios. Trust this can have profound effects whether consumed when under the influence of psychedelic substances, or not.
We encourage anyone with the time, funds, and curiosity to immerse themselves in Roland Kayn’s non pareil computer music for some of the most unforgettable, enigmatic, and strangely life-affirming sonic visions imaginable.
One for the believers; Holy Other returns with a loooong awaited slash mythical 2nd album, one decade since his singles and debut LP for Tri Angle dominated our lives circa the short lived but influential w*tch house epoch.
‘Lieve’ is the first sign of life from Manchester’s David Ainley, aka Holy Other, since his debut album dropped in 2012 and he promptly appeared to exit stage left, leaving practically no trace of action, save for a 2017 credit on Cashmere Cat’s ‘9’, over the interim. It’s fair to say the legacy of those early records left a big impression with many of us, and would surely influence - whether explicitly or by osmosis - everyone from Andy Stott to AYYA, Space Afrika, Croww, Koreless and DJ Lostboi with his brand of bittersweet electronic blooz, which helped define that era alongside the work of peers such as Evian Christ and The Haxan Cloak. Those latter two have gone on to score Hollywood movies and produce for major rappers, but Holy Other has kept his powder dry ’til now, with lockdown possibly nudging him to reprise that uncannily affective brand of emotional punishment with tear jerking potential.
We’re not gonna lie; the instant gratification of Holy Other’s immaculate 2011 calling card ‘Touch’ has seen us thru some tough times, becoming a real go-to when you just need to feel something, anything. While there’s perhaps no equal to that tune here, ‘Lieve’ feels to better refine its intensely emotive effect to a more slow release appeal diffused across its 10 tracks of instrumental isolationist chamber pop modernism. Between the foggy onset of opening vignette ‘Dirt Under Your Nails’ and the trembling synthetic jaws of its closer ‘Bough Down’, his music has clearly lost none of its capacity to evince strong feelings, taking on an intimately cinematic arc from he skin-tingling developments of the title track, thru harpsichord licks recalling Æ’s ‘Dropp’ in ‘Absolutes’, and the self-evident ‘Heartrendering’, with exquisite, tintinnabulous sound design on ‘Whatever You Are You’re Not Mine’, and gorgeous sorts of post-rave hymnals in ‘Groundless’ and ‘Refuse’, and delivering that surefire piloerect effect on ’Shudder.’
Masters of sinister whimsy NWW are at their mind-spanking best in this session, recorded at The Great Monster Dada, Henie Onstad Kunstsenter, Oslo 2019
Revolving around the core trio of Andrew Liles, Colin Potter and Steven Stapleton, NWW playthru a glacial, elemental 48 minutes of slanted swirl and slompy pulses with masterful psychedelic traction that really hits the spot. Titled in dadaist style befitting of the occasion, ‘3 Lesbian Sardines’ portrays them in synchronous, queasy harmony, flowing purposefully forth from melodically and rhythmically sensual urges to far more ratty atonality in an ideal expo of their inimitable breadth of palette and hallucinatory scope.
Potter’s signature, spongiform, raga-esque swirl of electronic textures weave with gotham city sirens in the initial induction of ‘Transference (Did Marcel Steal Elsa’s Urinal?)’, before they congeal into a swaying krautrock pulse led by lushly searching guitar lines and swarmed by spectral interferences and poltergeist noise on ‘Weimar Drill Head (Flea Circus)’, bringing us to a remarkable mid-way movement of almost D&B-like steppers pulse recalling DJ Krust-via-Conrad Schnitzler in the 12 minute title section that’s worth cost of admission alone. From here in it all breaks down and malfunctions in the best way, cogs crumblings and springs pinging as the machine whirs out of control into sheeting guitar noise in ‘Doing What We Are Told Makes Us Free’, and riffing on the star fucking schpangled banner in the ultimate collapse of ‘Broken America’.
Powell flicks his coattails and takes to the synthetic piano stool for a suite of ribboning rhythmelodic and tonal scapes inspired by Conlon Nancarrow, David Behrman, Xenakis.
Precisely not what one might have been lead to expect from previous exploits, but also not beyond the realm of possibilities explored in his private label a ƒolder, ‘Piano Music 1-7’ takes a marked step further into non-dancefloor directions; it’s all melody and space, as opposed to driving drums and samples, unexpectedly unleashing a more “musical” side in seven works that craftily play with perceptions of consonance/dissonance and clearly relish the semi-real tone of the basic Grand Steinway sampler at its core.
The seven parts range from expansive to succinct, and progressively diverge from relatively untreated to highly processed abstractions where his meticulous detailing comes into its own. They conceptually lead on from his four albums inspired by a formalisation of music proposed by Xenakis and issued on a ƒolder, applying research into stochastic (random) functions to generate an oddly contemplative music that encourages minds to wander his, and his computer’s, lines of thoughts from the curdled optimism of the opener to the strange interplay of glassy/gloopy textures and helical elision of plangent notes and their surreal reflections in the last.
Gusty prog-jazz fusion from the busy Norwegian lynchpin Hedwig Mollestad, asserting her place in Norway’s pantheon of jazz greats
“Hedvig Mollestad must surely be one of the hardest working musicians on the Norwegian music scene at the moment, with “Tempest Revisited” being her third album in a mere 18 months, all at a consistently high artistic level. Her first solo album, “Ekhidna” (2020), received a Spellemannpris (Norwegian Grammy), appeared on several jazz and rock best of the year lists and got her into Downbeat´s “25 for the future” selection.
“Tempest Revisited” draws lines back to 1998 and the very beginning of Rune Grammofon. This was the year we released “Electric”, the collected electronic works of Arne Nordheim, one of Norway´s greatest composers. It was also the year when parts of “The Tempest”, possibly his most cherished and well-known work, was chosen to be performed at the opening of Parken, the new cultural house in Ålesund, birthplace of Hedvig Mollestad. To celebrate 20 years, the culture house was ready for a new storm, and the first name that came to them was Hedvig, a local artist that was already making waves on the international scene with her power-trio. Hedvig took inspiration from the front of the house, adorned with Nordheim´s score for “The Tempest”, at the same time making a direct connection to the sometime heavy weather conditions of this coastal area in the northwest part of Norway.
One could say it´s a big paradox that over all this might be Hedvig´s most lyrical and less aggressive collection of music. On the other hand it´s quite a dynamic record, lots of light and shade and enough sonic parts at work to evoke the elements, the mighty Gran Cassa drum only one of them. The music included here was adapted from the initial performance in 2018 and produced by Hedvig in the studio the following year for this album release. The musicians included are old friends Marte Eberson from the Ekhidna band, Ivar Loe Bjørnstad from her trio and Trond Frønes (Red Kite) on bass as well as a horn section of three.
Yet another triumph in a more than impressive discography.”
Eliane Radigue's complete "Opus 17" (1970), her final work created using feedback material.
"With Opus 17, Radigue perfected her slow mixing technique with sublime results. Imperceptible transformations envelop the attentive listener who is confronted with an immensely physical experience. Time is suspended in powerfully poetic and artful ways as Radigue masterfully sculpts the physical matter of sound using feedback for the last time. Opus 17 is an absolutely essential masterpiece in the realm of early electro-acoustic/drone/minimalist composition."
Another Timbre finally realise their long-held ambition of putting together new recordings of John Cage’s Number Pieces, here performed by Apartment House who shine a light on Cage’s late period “reconciliation with harmony” on a staggering set of recordings that span over 5 hours in length and which will likely upend everything you thought you knew about the late, great composer's legacy. In other words; it’s a highly immersive, quiet and meditative entry-point to his vast catalogue that comes very highly recommended to old guard and complete newcomers alike - a mind/soul expanding session awaits you.
The Number Pieces were written by Cage during the final five years of his life, 1987-1992, and are widely regarded the most broadly appealing of his vast oeuvre - despite few of them having been performed over the past couple of decades. The starting point for the pieces is typical of Cage’s chance procedures - they don’t have a set time signature, bar lines or a conductor, and the musicians performing can decide when and how loud or soft to play each note, making each and every performance of a number piece unique. As the recordings took place during lockdown between August 2020 and May 2021, many of the individual parts were recorded separately and edited in in post-production, presenting a far from ideal, yet intriguing additional dimension to these performances.
Titled for the number of players (i.e. Five) and their position in the series of compositions (i.e. Five²), each piece accords to a score composed using Cage’s time bracket technique; short fragments which indicate performers play what is often just a single note, and for a mix of fixed and flexible durations. Some were composed for non-Western instruments, but this set focusses on works for traditional instruments, deploying a range from Accordion to Xylophone in myriad configurations.
The set is broadly centred around variations to one of Cage’s earliest number pieces ‘Five’, variations of which account for half of the set, and range from relatively succinct, gorgeous interpretations to a 40 minute rendering of its trombone and string quartet version ‘Five³’. Most striking to us, however, is the remarkably cavernous, abstract space explored in their take on ‘Fourteen’ and also ‘Seven²’, both demanding percussionists use “any very resonant instruments”, while the brief, Gamelan-esque ’Six’ also points to Cage’s fascinations with Far eastern traditions. The hour long ‘Eight’ for wind is also striking for the way Apartment House slowly comprehend its complexities (more than 80 time brackets per part) across its considerable arcing breath.
In effect, the Number Pieces reveal Cage’s return to ideas of harmony after ostensibly finding ways around it ever since his studies under serialist Arnold Schoenberg in the ‘30s. They are perhaps the most beautifully ponderous manifestation of his work with chance operations, or use of the I-Ching as compositional tool, and the soundest reflection of his notion that a harmony exists in everything, if one’s to acknowledge the possibilities that lie beyond the restrictions of classical convention - the rest of the world, the un/known cosmos, and everything between. For the Cage curious and acolytes alike, Apartment House and Another Timbre have here managed to frame Cage in an unexpected light, presenting us with an unmissable entry portal to his most rarified realisation of cosmic chaos.
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.
Deadly deep dive into the legendary artillery of Ghana’s Essiebons label during a golden and influential era of West African music
Parsed from the power house label’s hundreds of releases between 1973-1984, there’s pure pressure for any self-respecting dancefloor here, running proper organ-fired heaters from a crack squad, including multiple zingers by Joe Meah, at best in the wigged-out vamps of ‘Ahwene Pa Nkasa’, beside a haul of Ernest Honny aces, including the suave ‘Kofi Psych’, his swirling groove ‘Say The Truth’, and the pen-on-pot Afro-Latinate percussion of ‘Odo Mframa.’
And it would be remiss of us to neglect the choppy psych-funk killer ‘Yeaba’ from CK Mann & His Carousel 7, or the fiery bustle of Nyame Bekyere, and jeeeez those breaks on ‘Wonnin a Bisa’ by Black Masters Band or Sawaaba Soundz’ ‘Egye Tu Gbe.’
Perennially bewildering polymath Akira Rabelais unveils the most impressive durational work of his career thus far with a 4 hour smudge of classical works by the musical zeitgeist of the late 19th and early 20th century Belle Époque. It’s a highly enigmatic erosion x sublimation of the familiar in a way that's by now etched into modern canon thanks to works by The Caretaker, but Rabelais has been weaving his own uncanny shroud of infidelity over our collective memory for over two decades now, with this extended set somehow managing to play like a homage to the mixtape, to the novel, to French pre-war culture and to the modern malaise all at once. Deeply immersive, stunning work that’s essential listening if yr into works by The Caretaker x William Basinski.
The focus of the set covers the time period and culture around Proust’s 'À la recherche du temps perdu’ novels, and attempts to unravel his fascination with the illusive qualities of memory - most famously identified in his notion of “Proust’s madelaines”, outlined in the eponymous novels that inspired this release. Taking fifty-one works by Bartók, Bellini, Berg, Brahms, Caccini, Chausson, Chopin, Debussy, Delibes, Donizetti, Franck, Hahn, Jungmann, Lully, Ravel, Saint-Saëns, Satie, Schoenberg, Schubert, Schumann, Scriabin, Strauss, Tchaikovsky, Verdi, Wagner, and Weber, Rabelais uses his Argeïphontes Lyre software, as well as specially commissioned new recordings (Bartók's String Quartet No. 2 was recorded specifically for this album at half speed with minimal dynamics) to play with our perception of time via a prism of distortions and subliminal refractions.
In an attempt to breathe in the same creative air as the French author, Rabelais’ distils the creative potential of sound in relation to our cultural fabric; everyone knows these pieces, despite precious few of us having lived in Paris in the 1920s. They're the background sound and building blocks of our culture, from cinema to advertising, but secreted in the music’s play of decaying reverbs, you get an uneasy sense of some unknown spectre floating thru the mists of time.
Stunning, multidimensional work from a master of the artform.
15 years on from its original release, Studio One Groups remains one of the toughest of all Soul Jazz/Studio One releases and features some of the biggest groups in the history of Reggae including Bob Marley and The Wailers, Toots and the Maytals and The Heptones who all began their careers at 13 Brentford Road, under the guidance of the great producer and label owner Clement ‘Sir Coxsone’ Dodd.
"Featuring many, many classic and killer tunes from The Wailing Souls, Carlton and His Shoes, The Gladiators, The Ethiopians, The Mad Lads and more. Studio One Groups brings together numerous classic artists alongside a number of rarities and delves into Studio One’s musical output in its prime in the 1960s and 70s featuring Ska, Roots, Rocksteady, Dub and more. Clement Dodd’s role in launching and nurturing Reggae groups and singers is unsurpassed and Studio One’s success was due to Dodd’s ability to see talent, surround himself with it and nurture artists.
Launching Bob Marley and The Wailers career at Studio One also meant housing Marley in a flat in the studio compound, as well as employing Marley in an A&R role, checking out the latest American soul and jazz 45s that came out for Studio One artists to cover. In similar fashion Leroy Sibbles, lead vocalist with the Heptones, became the key in-house bass player after being taught from scratch by Jackie Mittoo.
Studio One Groups were at the heart of the label’s success. The sweet three-part harmonies, so close to the heart of Jamaican music, can be heard throughout every stylistic change of Reggae music – Ska, Rocksteady, Roots and beyond - all of which are featured here in all their vocalised glory.
The album comes with excellent informative sleevenotes by the author and Studio One discographer Rob Chapman, and exclusive photography including the stunning colour picture of Bob Marley and the Wailers on the front of the release."
The eternally evocative and enigmatic concept of black holes fuels the musical imagination of Dr. Valery Vermulen on his debut mission for CM Von Hauswolff’s Ash International - RIYL Roland Kayn, Heinrich Mueller, Thomas Köner, Mika Vainio
Just over 100 years since German physicist and astronomer Karl Schwarzchild theoretically discovered and proposed the idea of black holes - a region of spacetime where gravity is so strong that nothing — no particles or even electromagnetic radiation such as light — can escape from it - the mathematician-artist Dr. Valery Vermulen takes advantage of subsequent scientific research data to model and sonify a multidimensional sound experience akin to passing out in deep space. Cynics may say this stuff is up its own black hole, but lovers of free-floating, spatialized electronics will be in their element when following the music’s path into next level oblivion.
“Black holes were first theoretically discovered and proposed in 1916 by German physicist and astronomer Karl Schwarzchild. Their possible existence resulted from an exact solution Schwarzchild had found of Einstein's theory of General Relativity published a year earlier. Being a long-contested concept, the existence of the first black hole, Cygnus X, was confirmed in 1971. Four decades later, in February 2016, science made another huge leap as the first merger of two black holes was observed by the LIGO – VIRGO telescope. This discovery announced a new exciting era in observational astronomy based on gravitational wave detection.
Using the latest technology, Mikromedas AdS/CFT 001 connects these fascinating scientific evolutions to the realm of electronic music. Having worked on previous astrophysics related musical projects, Vermeulen had the first idea for the album in 2016. It was not until 2018 that these conceptual ideas became a reality when Concertgebouw Brugge (BE) commissioned a new musical piece and live show for their Cosmos Festival. This work ultimately resulted in the album Mikromedas AdS/CFT 001.
The six-track album is produced using data streams generated by various simulation models of astrophysical black holes and observational data of regions in space with extreme gravitational fields.
Data used for the realization of Mikromedas AdS/CFT 001 includes gravitational wave data, data generated by black branes (i.e. higher dimensional generalizations of black holes), neutron star data, data from white dwarfs and trajectory data of elementary particles near black holes.
As a mathematician and artist, Vermeulen effectively designed and programmed new innovative data sonification, i.e. the means to translate data into sound and music, systems and techniques. These were used to transform black hole data and their associated mathematical models into engaging, moving and multidimensional sound experiences.”
Magisterial, psilocybic stuff from Windy City electro-acoustic explorer Olivia Block, returning to Room 40 with a filmic new album inspired by mushy trips during lockdown.
‘Innocent Passage in the Territorial Sea’ plots out a mental projection of pulsating Mellotron synth scapes that build on over 20 years of diverse practice involving composition for chamber instrumentation, field recording and explorative synthesis, as released by esteemed labels such as Sedimental, NNA Tapes, and Another Timbre. Reflecting on a process of listening “somatically”, as inspired by her “regular practice of listening with intention while on psychedelic mushrooms”, the results form an escape pod from lockdown, shaped into something like a sort of “speculative science fiction film” that now firmly lends themselves to use as your own shuttle to other dimensions.
Using the warped tonal colour of a broken Mellotron synth, Olivia was drawn to its low end possibilities which underline and propel the album from its elegant lift off ‘Axiolite’ across the oceanic ‘Laika’ to really take flight with heart-in-mouth sensation on the Alessandro Cortini-esque grandeur of ‘Great Northern, 34428’, and with Eleh-like thrum nagged by icicular patterns in ‘En Echelon’. The narrative takes a more blissed turn into keening new agey chamber styles like a frosty Laraaji with ‘Through Houses’ and ultimately leads up to the iridescent ice caves of the album’s 10 min climax ‘Rivers in Reverse’ where she acts as chilly fleshly conduit for the Mellotron’s off kilter voice to really sing out its strange dream.
Justin Cantrell's debut J album finds him skating into delicate locations, marrying faded piano and delicate electronics with gusty radio static and frozen pads. The CD edition features remixes from Laila Sakini, Fia Fell, mu tate, Nico Callaghan and Grace Ferguson.
Cantrell is better known for his recordings under the Ju Ca moniker, or his collaborations with mdo as picnic. As J, he reduces his sound to a whisper, gently manipulating environmental hums and crackles into a poetic wisp of harmony and microscopic sound. "my seat and week" is an album that requires close listening, and when you focus your attention, the details make themselves present. Like the lilting rhythm Cantrell extracts from piano on the title track, disturbing the natural pacing of the keys by digitally stuttering the sounds, or the faint sine chimes on 'you take each others breath away...' that beat quietly beneath an insectoid hum. Subtle spoken word from Angelina Nonaj elevate 'more room to breathe in', slipping between the gaps in Cantrells piano, while cello from Abby Sundborn gives a melancholy distance to 'a healing tear'.
But it doesn't quite end there, Cantrell has assembled an intriguing list of collaborators to re-interpret the album's songs. Experiences Ltd's mu tate refracts the electroid dub bliss of January's "let me put myself together" on his remix of 'yellow leaf flutters on a nail'. Laila Sakini doesn't disappoint either, pushing Sundborn's cello from 'a healing tear' into the foreground and allowing it to sink slowly into a bath of crackly field recordings and woozy analog synth. Pianist and composer Grace Ferguson's version of the album's title track is more restrained and allows the gossamer piano to crane itself out of the shadows.
All together it's a varied set, that highlights Cantrell's community approach to his craft - the warmth is palpable.
Can's live series continues with another pit-taped psychedelic sesh from 1975, following Spring's release of "Live in Stuttgart 1975". Unhinged music that captures the Krautrock pioneers at their most vital - outside of the studio, performing in front of a crowd of weirdos.
By 1975, Can's studio juice was running dry. That year's 'Landed' was a far cry from '71's "Tago Mago" - after losing idiosyncratic vocalist Damo Suzuki, their recorded music began to take on a more boxed-in sound. But as "Live in Stuttgart 1975" demonstrates, they were still just as ragged and rough around the edges. Like its predecessor, "Live in Brighton 1975" is another privately taped recording, remastered under the watchful eye of Can co-founder Irmin Schmidt.
It sounds exceptional given the covert nature of the recording, which is a testament to the equipment used to clean it up and producer Rene Tinner's keen ear. Split into seven sprawling sections, it features material that never made it to Can's recorded catalogue - we're guessing it may not have even been performed again - and most interesting for Can devotees, it features a rare (indistinct) vocal from guitarist Michael Karoli and an epic drum solo from Jaki Liebezeit.
With sleeve notes from Rob Young and journalist Kris Needs, it's a well assembled package that fleshes out the Can story into new dimensions.
A strong look for anyone snagged on Mihály Víg’s Bela Tarr OST side, Colin Stetson, or Goblin’s giallo scores; Swiss-Bosnian accordionist Mario Batkovic moves between cinematic choral works and swirling folk-jazz electronic fusions on a captivating 3rd solo side
Batkovic’s 2nd album with Geoff Barrow’s Invada powerhouse is a melodramatic tour de force of brooding east and central European themes handled with emotive vigour. The head of the BeBa Orchestra and a skilled accordionist, he brings a masterful flair for shifting cinematic moods and soundscaping to ‘Introspectio’, leading in with the hauntingly stark choral arrangement of ‘Sanatio’ and cutting sharp left into swingeing jazz breaks and quickstep, keening accordion with thrilling style on ‘Repertio’, intruding electronics to the mix with a carmine-stained Goblin-esque feel in the needling arps of ‘Chorea Duplex’.
The 10 minute centrepiece of widescreen drones glacially brings his various elements together in a pensive vision that feels like Colin Stetson scoring a sped up Bela Tarr scene, with pulsing tones bleeding over ‘Surrogatum’ into smartly tempered dissonance. An elegiac then rushing accordion coda in ‘Primordial Finale’ lends an ideal closing sequence that wraps up his narrative in a satisfyingly succinct manner that makes the whole thing ideal for colouring your commute with a brilliant sense of drama, or however one sees fit to use it.
Brooding forces lead Skelton’s bowed cello, woodwind, cymbals and piano on his latest stunner for hiw own Corbel Stone Press.
Richard Skelton offers a fine soundtrack to the current low pressure system hovering over the land with a rumbling chamber drone suite primed for watching the weather from more comfortable surroundings. By this point in his singular oeuvre you know what to expect from him and he doesn’t disappoint on ‘a guidonian hand’, allowing the elements to osmotically seep into the skin of his sound with beautifully sore and evocative results sprawling over its ten-part soundscape.
Skelton uses his instruments to paint widescreen sound images with a lush but bittered flourish between recordings made across 2020/21, vacillating into shorter, fleeting sketches with more immersive tracts in a haunting play of light and shadow, granite textures and moistened, rolling meadows. There’s a notable electronic accent and emphasis to proceedigns that place it in this century at least, with a stressed tone in its expansive centrepiece ‘In Ancient Fabricks’ that really hits home somewhere between the gentler, more romantic side of Yellow Swans and Gabe Midnel’s follow-up projects, all underpinned by that low-end rumble that's full of uneasy menace.
Legendary dub master Dennis ‘Blackbeard’ Bovell MBE does The Pop Group a dead solid version of their seminal ’79 side, ‘Y’ gutting and rendering their wiry post-punk in tightly rude but rambunctious form
Chasing up the band’s live rendition of 2020, the original 9 tracks appear here filleted for funk, with gristle tossed in the bin and Bovell effectively puppeteering their much younger limbs with specialist animist tekkers. In a proper livication, not dedication, to the band’s mutant avant dub-punk styles, Bovell bring out the studio duppies to play, finding and pronouncing the space in between the grooves in a way that totally reenergises his original work on the record while marking distance travelled from the 1979 studio sessions.
At its maddest on the likes of his GRM-style rendering of ‘Savage Sea’, the whole thing feels only just about tethered to reality, with no two bars left wanting for kinetic, corkscrewing details as Bovell’s deft hands flash across the desk. From the needlepoint step and razor cut parries of ‘Thief Of Dreams’ to the recoiling echo chamber abstraction and reggae disco thrum of ‘3:38’ this is no cursory “in dub” session, but a systemic overhaul of the album’s bones, muscle and sinew, with vocals like a possessed presence, dissected into shrieks, yelps that cut thru the smoke.
Expert-level dub punk business.
Dizzying multi-instrument devotional jams based on Afro-Arab sufi trance music from Tunisian percussionist Houeida Hedfi, assisted by production from The Knife's Olof Dreijer.
When Hefdi picked up drumming for the first time, she was already an established academic, working in economics and mathematics. But her inquisitive interest in Afro-Arab sufi trance music led her towards percussion, and she began touring alongside teaching, reaching out to Tunisian violin player Radhi Chaouali and Palestinian bouzouk player Jalal Nader, for a nine years stretch touring back and forth across Europe and North Africa.
In 2011, Hefdi met Olof Dreijer when he visited Tunisia during the production of a compilation of music composed by local women, and he agreed to produce her album. The result is a work that's decidedly modern, but intrinsically linked to Tunisian folk traditions. Hefdi was insistent that the music should use Arabic quarter tones, but the compositions aren't an exercise in simply looking to the past - her music nods to classical minimalism, contemporary post-classical sounds and modern electronic music.
The first handful of tracks express her classical influence strongly - the lengthy 'Envol du Mékong' folds in Philip Glass-style organs into expressive piano playing and bowed strings before erupting into percussive Tunisian styles. In the album's second half, the lid is blown off as Hefdi allows herself to flex a little, experimenting with drums and electronics. 'Echos de Medjerda' is a clear highlight, balancing subtle processes with trance-inducing percussive loops, and 18-minute closer 'Cheminement du Tigre' is the record's most mind-bending moment, creating a singular mood with bells, electronics, drums and evocative pads.
Silvia Jiménez Alvarez finally follows up 2017's enigmatic nu-EBM tome 'Weightless' with a dumbfounding left-turn for Berghain's Ostgut-Ton imprint. "A World of Service" isn't techno or EBM, it illuminates Alvarez's staggering voice as it flirts with trip-hop, radio pop, grunge and industrial metal. Unexpected doesn't even come close.
Since the release of her acclaimed debut album for iDEAL, Alvarez has been touring constantly, building a reputation as a live performer and challenging, lithe DJ. So when lockdown hit, it provided her with the time she needed to finish an album that's been years in the making. 'A World of Service' is named after her now-defunct monthly radio show, and retains its sonic philosophy. The Spanish artist has never wanted to pigeonhole herself: she grew up with an obsessive interest in music that never began and certainly doesn't end with techno and electro. It doesn't even begin and end with dance music at all.
Her latest material is rooted in the pop forms that crystallized in the 1990s on alternative radio and MTV, and her dynamic voice is the glue that binds it together. Unlike so many of her peers, Alvarez's shift from electronic producer to enigmatic frontwoman sounds fated. Raw, unprocessed Spanish words lurch into view on 'Camelo', after 'Birds You Can Name' introduces the album on a curly instrumental electronic fake-out. 'Camelo' is the stylistic link to 'Weightless', and accompanies Alvarez's powerful vocals with grinding industrial noise and torched half-speed trap percussion. From here, we're funneled into the album's defining run, beginning with Autotuned lounge sizzler 'Luis' that sounds like a robotic re-interpretation of Sade via Kanye's peerless "808s & Heartbreak".
Title track 'A World of Service' might be the most improbable move for Alvarez. Described in the press release as "pandemic-era trip hop", it's a sultry, pristine slow burner that reminds of the moment where trip-hop started to poke into the mainstream with hybrid acts like Dubstar and Olive. And with clubs shuttered for the last couple of years, it makes sense that the genre's half-tempo crawl has began to resurface. But JASSS saves the best for last, teaming up with Berlin's Zíur on 'Wish', an industrial grunge anthem that sounds like Garbage's towering first couple of albums.
The Berlin underground's relationship with pop has been confused (and often antagonistic) over the years. Here, the union is flexible and candid - perfectly in tune with Alvarez's interests, obsessions and strengths. It sounds like the beginning of the next chapter of her creative story, and might be the most unlikely release on Ostgut-Ton thus far.
More than just a live session, this set of weighty, radiating interpretations features Anna Von Hausswolff on synth and vocals alongside the Sunn O))) touring band. Heavy-as-fuck ritual drone - you know it.
Recorded after their 2019 UK tour, 'Metta, Benevolence' is an impressive redevelopment of compositions from their two albums released that year - "Pyroclasts" and "Life Metal". After touring with the material for a few months, the band - featuring guest players Stephen Moore, Tim Midyett and Tos Nieuwenhuizen on top of core droners Stephen O'Malley and Greg Anderson - had worked on each composition to evolve them into their emotional final stages. Playing in front of an audience has the habit of shifting material, and O'Malley and Anderson embraced the change, looking to create an "all-inclusive radiation of O)))" that would support each player's interpretation of the themes.
Well, thankfully it sounds incredible. Anna Von Hausswolff's contribution on booming opener 'Pyroclasts F' is particularly noticeable, with her vocals pealing out ritualistically over the band's seismic rumble of saturated guitar and thick, modulated synth. It's Sunn O)))'s open-armed philosophy that's led to their work being so consistently engaging - It would have been easy for them to rest on their laurels years ago, but Anderson and O'Malley have continued to develop their sound and encourage the natural shifts in emphasis.
For many, a BBC session is just a formality, for Sunn O))) - it was an opportunity to basically dub a completely new album.
Full throttle, 160bpm hardcore, jungle and footwork tekkers from the rave’s leading pied piper, for Fabric’s key mix series
In the space of a few short years, Sherelle has leapt from cult quantity to headline dynamo, largely with thanks to her incendiary and highly memed Boiler Room showcase in late 2019, when she generated nuclear energy levels via a jump up dub of ‘RIP Groove.’ She’s spent the intervening pandemic building a fearsome rep as the happiest and up-for-it DJ on road, ultimately leading to this, her 27-track razz between UK and Chicago rave styles, taking in upfront Black dance music from key hotspots of NYC and LDN with a breathless, party-ready flow that’s precisely what eager yung ravers want, and are getting, right now
As with her A&R actions on the HooverSound and Beautiful labels, the mix highlights Sherelle’s roots and branches thru cuts from a close but far flung coterie of producers ranging from old skool soldiers (Aphrodite, Cloud9, Q-Bass) to relatively new skool jungle players (Dub One, Tim Reaper, Dev/Null) and US catalysts (DJ Rashad, Kush Jones, DJ Phil, AceMo), each finding a mutual axis around the 160bpm thing. With a sense of drama and intensity that’s perhaps more UK rave than US, Sherelle defines the sound at its most disciplined and up for it, spraying from the hip with a lethal disregard for our safety that can’t be prized any more, especially after 18 months of brutal club lockdown.
No prisoners, we tell ya!
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.
Exquisite minimalist investigations into counting, repetitive processes and listening from London-based acoustician and composer Georgia Rodgers, performed by Apartment House, Zubin Kanga, and Rodgers herself.
For 2019's Rainy Days festival in Luxembourg, Rodgers was commissioned to write a new piece of music for Apartment House, which would be premiered at the festival. "September" was the result, and it's bundled here in three excerpts, with a selection of other pieces recorded between 2010 and 2021.
'September' finishes the album, and it's undoubtedly a highlight. Rodgers wanted the piece to reflect the counting methods used to track bars, or notes, and it does so by sticking to a discernible rhythm, with instruments taking the place of a metronome. This forces the listener to tune into the sounds of the acoustic instruments, and the space itself. The presentation is minimal, but Rodgers packs it with tiny details and no small amount of emotion. Fans of Jonny Greenwood's soundtrack work - like his collaboration with Paul Thomas Anderson on "There Will Be Blood - should investigate.
'Ringinglow' is the newest recording on the album, and possibly the most stark and evocative. Using a piano and ominous electronics, Rodgers evokes a mood that plays against traditional flourishes. 2010's 'Logistic', the earliest piece, demonstrates Rodgers' dedication to industrial soundscaping, with granulated glass sounds forming a nauseous atmosphere, while 'Base' is almost the polar opposite - warm and welcoming with oboe and strings. It's a varied spread of work that hangs together in harmony, joined by Rodgers' strong sense of space and musical philosophy.