Pye Corner Audio terraforms utopian, lysergic, beatless shoegaze ambient scapes with Ride & Oasis guitarist Andy Bell
Featuring Bell on five of its 10 tracks, ‘Let’s Emerge!’ leads on from PCA’s ‘Social Dissonance’ (2020) album for Sonic Cathedral to frame his gauzy synth magick at its most starry-eyed, romantic and world-building. Anyone attuned to Martin Jenkins aka Pye Corner Audio’s lustrous run over the past decade may find themselves missing his signature, purring and propulsive bass drive, and will need to readjust their rosy gegs to his billowing new forms, but once in there it gets pretty lush.
Andy Bell’s sheets of textured shoegaze guitar elide ideally with Jenkins’ spongiform synths on the tentative billow and vaulted vocal harmonies of open ‘De-Hibernate’ and the arcing bliss-out ‘Lyrical’, returning in spangled Eno-esque shimmer on ‘Haze Loops’, while pointing to woozier horizons of Emeralds on ‘Saturation Point’, and bringing it all together with vocoder and thrumming pulse on the finale, ‘Warmth of the Sun’. They all lend a new dimension to PCA’s signature sound, but to be fair we prefer him solo, as with the keening mass of ‘Does It Go Dark?’, and tonal float of ’Sun Stroke’, with his evocatively descriptive grasp of hazy timbre, akin to Abul Mogard or Alessandro Cortini, in best effect on ‘Luminescence’.
Seriously splayed modern compositional left turns from UK composer Laurie Tompkins, with additional material from Teresa Winter, Gwilly Edmondez, Eliza McCarthy, Jess Hickie-Kallenbach, Aaron Parker and Otto Willberg.
Slip boss Tompkins - who's recorded in the past with cellist Oliver Coates and bassist Otto Willberg - has assembled an impressive cast of friends to assist on "Fatty". He describes the set as "a desperate suite of consoling, tanked songs" but that barely scratches the surface. The first composition 'Agdum Cresh' features Death of Rave alum Teresa Winter on production, who accompanied Tompkins' FM-damaged moans with strangled electronics, decomposing strings and early electronic vortexes. Willberg dials in a grungy backdrop on 'Kelly', plucking out oscillating riffs while Tompkins karaoke screams through paper, sounding like a broken kazoo in a shower cubicle.
Somehow, Jess Hickie-Kellenbach drives Tompkins even further into the fringes, matching his gurgling vocals and electric violin scrapes with operatic moans. None of this material is easy to digest, but all of it tests the limits of our expectation: what do we want from a song? What do we need? On closing track 'Dreams', Tompkins duets with regular collaborator Eliza McCarthy, crying evocatively over pitch-damaged piano tones that sound trapped in time. It's folk or jazz music beamed in from another universe.
A compilation Pavement's early work from 1989-1993.
"Featuring all the tracks from Pavement’s first three EPs, ‘Slay Tracks (1933-1969)', ‘Demolition Plot J-7’ and ‘Perfect Sound Forever’, as well as the single mix of ‘Summer Babe’, its B-sides and two compilation tracks."
Vade Mecum by Glenn Jones, on Thrill Jockey - recorded in March of 2021 on Mount Desert Island in Maine with longtime collaborator Matthew Azevado.
"Glenn Jones is a unique player in the world of solo guitar music. Steeped in both American Primitive guitar music as well as rock and experimental music, Glenn Jones creates rich sonic tapestries with a distinct and stirring voice. Endlessly curious, Jones has spent the better part of four decades exploring the boundaries of expression and storytelling with the guitar and banjo.
On Vade Mecum, Jones draws on his personal history to tell stories with elaborate musical detail and emotional weight. Exploring the complexity of personal experience, emotions and our shared histories, Vade Mecum finds Jones painting his music in boundaryless colors, captivatingly vivid."
On Man, producer to Giggs, Darq E Freaker and Mr. Hudson, a.o, wears a sore soul on his sleeve for his debut album with London’s Houndstooth
Slipping into a bracket of tender, new, soul-related styles shared by Wu Lu, Wess Seven, Rainy Miller, On Man’s self-titled debut LP is an impressively well sculpted and variegated affair, befitting from song-writing assistance by Lotti Benardout (Hælos), and his Hertfordshire neighbour, Phil Plested (Bastille), with guest vocals by rapper F-M-M-F, and singer Tailor.
Thematically, it’s a dedication to his mother, who passed away during the writing process, and understandably informs the album’s lyrics and mood, as he explains “'Memento Mori' started life as a kind of bittersweet, romantic song about coming to terms with a break-up. But, when my mum unexpectedly died, I revisited the lyrics and, although the words were the same, it now had this parallel narrative for me: How might I had felt had I known she was going to die? Would I have made more of an effort to make amends in the remaining time we had?”
Drawing from aesthetic inspirations of his mother’s record collection (vintage pop from the Beach Boys, Michael Jackson, and the Pet Shop Boys) and teenage love of alt.rockers PJ Harvey and Sonic Youth, updated with his contemporary palette of hip hop and electronica, the 10 tracks lean to a leftfield pop style, full of melody and emotive harmony, but also cinematic in scope - a return influence from his work on major film soundtracks.
Cabaret Voltaire co-founder Stephen Mallinder returns with a 2nd album of acid house and disco-adjacent swagger with Dais
“’Mallinder distills his signature fusion of minimal synth, oblique wordplay, and “wonky disco” into a riveting rhythm suite ripe for our age of escalation: tick tick tick. Channeling the temporal malaise of lockdown through a lusher palette of modular electronics and stereo strings, the songs embrace ambiguity and plasticity, loose systems of percolating circuitry and airless funk. Recorded across a handful of sessions at MemeTune Studios in Cornwall with frequent collaborator Benge (aka Ben Edwards), Mallinder cites no guiding aesthetic premise for the collection beyond “cowbell on every track, and entirely no reverb.”
From the first coiled cybernetic groove of opener “Contact,” the album’s spatial dynamics are disorienting and asymmetrical, alternately cold and sensual, opiated and claustrophobic. But, throughout, “rhythm is the default, the bedrock, the building block – even the melodies are rhythmic.” Across 40-plus years of electronic musicianship, Mallinder’s sense of timing and tempo has honed into a rare tier of mastery, limber and fluid but knotted with strange frictions. Shades of Detroit technoid industrial (“ringdropp,” “Shock to the Body”) crossfade into no wavy punk-funk (“Guernica Gallery,” “Galaxy,” “The Trial”), bad trip IDM (“Wasteland”), and jittery vapor house (“Hush”), at the threshold of modes both familiar and foreign.
Lyrically the record is equally evasive, rich with allusions and associative linguistics, surveying liquid notions of societal noise, ecological ruin, art world pretension, and the trials of daily life. But the lack of fixed meaning remains Mallinder’s main muse: “Music should draw you in; lyrics should make you think. Most interpretation is misinterpretation.” This is music of countdowns and comedowns, fleeting pleasures and opaque futures, observing the great decline while dancing on its ashes. Flux is deathless and forever; the rest, illusion: “I will be a constant figure / Flickering a moving picture / Turning in your head forever / Split apart but held together.”
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.
Planet Mu's specially compiled 25th anniversary edition of u-Ziq's Lunatic Harness.
"Lunatic Harness, µ-Ziq's rare and sought-after fourth album was originally released in July 1997 on Virgin's Hut Recordings label. It is generally considered to be Mike Paradinas's best work of the nineties.
Lunatic Harness brings together the My Little Beautiful EP, the Lunatic Harness album and May 1998's Brace Yourself EP (released by USA's Astralwerks label) with the addition of four rare tracks."
Punk-rap spearhead Wu-Lu reps for South London in ’22 with a strong debut album, proper, for Warp after making waves with his self-releases and drops on CURL and Touching Bass.
Hailing from a fecund scene south of the Thames, Wu-Lu naturally weaves influences ranging from punk rock and rap to jungle and slanted soul in the swagger of ‘Loggerhead’. There’s a thousand other artists professing to do the same, but it genuinely works in Wu-Lu’s hands, in no small part due to his versatile vox which serve the coherent connective ligature between his disparate style hopping. At times those vocals remind of Dean Blunt at his most strung out, and especially when he’s joined by the harmonised backing vox of Asha Lorenz, Amon, Lex Amor and Léa Sen in a style shades away from Blunt’s work with Joanne Robertson.
Issued in the year that Disney released a TV mini-series about The Sex Pistols, the idea of “punk” is clearly up for grabs by whoever the fuck wants it. Safe to say we’re really feeling Wu-Lu’s rugged punk-rap slant, one informed as much by jazz and soul as it is by loud guitars and pugilistic percussion. There’s a direct rawness to the results that are in antithesis to Yves Tumor’s overwrought posturing, for example, and really gets under the skin between the Dean Blunt-esque intro ‘Take Stage’, his restless, tight take on jungle in ‘Facts’, and the killer post-punk holler of ‘Road Trip’, with downbeat highlights such as ‘Calo Paste’ and ‘Slightly’ even recalling aspects of Rat Heart’s lokey punk soul approach as much as Slauson Malone or Tirzah.
Bob on, this.
Virtuosic modular synth fantasy and emo-rapture from Italian composer Caterina Barbieri, venturing the 2nd release on her Light-years label after its Lyra Pramuk-starring lead single.
Renowned for her live synth chops with 0PN’s band, not to mention a stellar run of records for Important and Editions Mego, Caterina now returns to orbit with the cosmic thrust of her 5th album, proper, ’Spirit Exit’. All endless flight, deep space roil and effuse prog-pop, the album’s eight parts feel to model the sensation of leaving one’s body and astrally projecting across unfathomable distance, with Caterina’s lyrically instrumental narration literally guided by female philosophers, mystics and poets such as St. Teresa D’Avila, Rosi Braidotti, and Emily Dickinson whom she fees a kinship with. It’s unapologetically epic and emotional stuff, perhaps not one for those of you who prize subtlety, but an absorbing ride for those who like it emo and panoramic.
Around its 10 minute centrepiece, an instrumental synth version of ‘Knot of Spirit’, sans Lyra Pramuk vox, Caterina oscillates from widescreen orchestral synth diffusion in ‘At Your Gamut’ to retro-futurist studies in proggy, renaissance-style choral chamber works, curdled club music and cosmic synth chaos with a clear conviction in her discipline. Crucially, there’s a sharper sense of syntax and style to proceedings that pays proof to the development of her sound over the past decade. The album’s two early choral pieces reveal a chiselled clarity to her experimental songcraft, at best in the multipart ‘Canticle of Cryo’, and prog-puckered in ‘Broken Melody’, while the mix of rugged dembow bump and streaking modular signals on ‘Terminal Clock’ is brimming with club potential in the right situations.
2022 sees the return of Party Dozen with their third album, The Real Work, with a new label partner in New York’s Temporary Residence Ltd.
"Party Dozen are a duo from Sydney made up of Kirsty Tickle (saxophone) and Jonathan Boulet (percussion and sampler). Since forming in 2017, they have become renowned in Australia for their incendiary live shows, touring and playing with acts such as LIARS, Tropical Fuck Storm and Viagra Boys.
Exactly what Party Dozen are is completely up to the listener. Doom. Jazz. Hardcore. Psychedelic. No-wave. Industrial. Although largely instrumental, their sets are punctuated by Kirsty’s unique “singing” style, screaming into the bell of her saxophone which itself goes through a bevy of effects pedals. Intensely independent in everything they do, the duo write, perform and record everything themselves.
The Real Work succeeds in exploring new directions but also features some familiar Party Dozen touches. Perhaps most notable is the first-ever appearance of a guest other than Kirsty or Jonathan on a Party Dozen track, with Nick Cave ad-libbing a very memorable contribution to the album’s second track, “Macca The Mutt.”"
New music specialists Apartment House render the tremulous glory and ceaseless drive of Eastman’s 1974 classic on their captivating 2019 recording
Following Frozen Reeds’ 2016 release of S.E.M. Ensemble’s 1974 take, and preceding the more recent iteration by Belgium’s ensemble 0 & Aum Grand Ensemble; Apartment House’s ‘Femenine’ is one of the first modern performances and recordings of the seminal, but long overlooked slice of c.20th avant-classical genius. It lands in the wake of Mary Jane Leach’s concerted and longstanding work in tending to Eastman’s legacy, holding some of the most remarkable classical compositions of its epoch, which has necessarily renewed interest in Eastman's sorely overlooked, yet hugely distinctive, work.
As a gay, black composer in a field dominated by white men, Julius Eastman shattered conventions merely by his presence, and his music was daring and distinctive, offering a more fluidly unified and singularly thizzing adjunct to the kind of repetitious minimalism explored by downtown NYC composers such as Steve Reich and Philip Glass. Eastman was just as adept at working with Arthur Russell on Dinosaur L’s landmark ‘24→24 Music’ and ‘Another Thought’ set as he was working on Peter Maxwell Davies’ monodrama ‘Eight Songs for a Mad King’ or Meredith Monk’s ‘Dolmen Music’ - all revered in their sphere - yet his own, remarkable compositions went practically unnoticed for decades and he ultimately ended up destitute and unsng, living on the streets of Buffalo, New York State.
Only in recent years has ’Femenine’ become recognised for the towering piece of work that it is, and this recording by Anton Lukoszevieze’s Apartment House helps spread the good word. It renders the full piece in all its colourful majesty, driven by insistent sleigh bell percussion and coursing with the purpose of a great river from streams of cello, flute, keys, vibraphone and violin that entwine and lushly gather with a ravishing torrent of ecstasy by the end of its 67’ flow. In effect it does away with notions of beginning/middle/end in a more cyclical, endless form and style that takes on Reich’s African inspirations at a more fundamental level, yet hasn’t been afforded the same sort of critical ear until only relatively recently. Trust Apartment House to handle the material faithfully and with the hypnotic traction we imagine Eastman intended.
Mark Broom & James Ruskin’s The Fear Ratio coax bittersweet synth fluids and crooked tech-hop rhythms beside new addition, King Kashmere supplying Shadowhuntaz-like rap
The duo’s first turn for Tresor after a string of LPs and EPs for Ruskin’s Blueprint and Skam since 2011, ‘Slinky’ weighs in some of their deftest, tricky to quantify decimations of electro-techno and hip hop, or what may simply be referred to as IDM. No strangers to Tresor as solo acts, Ruskin & Broom’s combined work transcends the sum of its parts here on a dozen trax of wigged-out, gremlinoid melody and rugged rhythms rooted in harder ‘90s hip hop as much as mutant dance musick.
King Kashmere’s two cuts articulate the project’s crooked hip hop roots in the crunchy boom slap of ‘Death Switch’ and swaggering lurch of ‘Spinning Globe’, while vocalist Ella Fleur also lights up one of the album’s highlights with her gibber-jawed vox threaded into the acidic electro organism ‘Lacovset’. Elsewhere the duo’s mazy melodies and nervy rhythms do the heavy lifting, convulsing from chromatic whorls in ‘L10’ to classic Skam substance in the melancholy BoC-meets-Æ move ‘Appi’, and aerated electro-step on ‘KZAP’, with tight shots of slow/fast electro gunk on ‘STMS’ and the autonomic impulse of ‘LFIVE’, with a particularly curdled highlight in the title tune’s cartilage-emulsifying funk.
Sweden’s leading avant gardists, Mats Gustafsson, Anna Lindal, Mats Lindström and Joachim Nordwall are captured live in quiet concentration during an online concert from ’21, hosted by Confront.
‘Vår’ renders the quartet in one intensely longform work beside a pair of odder preparations for the concert that venture into regression session primitivism and spectral electro jazz. Playing to no present audience, but heard remotely at the time, Ensemble Vår get right under the skin of their thing on the main piece, ‘Consort’, evolving from scribbly lower case plucks and scrapes into a restrained, primitivist language of animalistic purrs and breaths extracted from saxophone, flute, violin, electronics, sampler, analog synths, effects and tape. Nobody attempts to outdo anyone else, holding to a democratic division of frequencies that stalk each other and congeal into a sort of synaesthetically stimulating sound that feels like it grows hair, scales and baby teeth as their improvisation proceeds.
'Image Language’ is a stunning album that dips fourth-world MIDI oddness into silvery pools of cinematic intrigue, juxtaposing dislocated poetry with disorienting jazz and electronics that belong alongside works by Bohren & der Club of Gore, Robert Ashley, Christina Vantzou, David Toop and Colleen.
‘Image Language’ was written between La Becque in Switzerland, on the banks of Leman Lake, and at home on the coast of Normandy, and finds Atkinson keen to capture the disorientation of moving between places, and its effect on the creative process. Inspired by the concept of the "home studio” (now a reality for the majority of artists but in the past more of a prescribed choice for outsiders such as Agnes Martin and Georgia O’Keefe), Atkinson approached the record as if she were building a house, thinking of the tracks as separate rooms, each with their own discrete functions.
'La Brume' harks back to Jon Hassell's genre-defining Editions EG material, with its muted horn and slowcore Bohren-esque electric piano, acoustic and electronic elements seeping into one another without clear definition. Atkinson is a gifted world-builder who composes like a novelist - dialling back the scope and increasing the emotional resonance. She conjures a mist of ghostly claustrophobia that reminds us of Andrei Tarkovsky's terrifying swan-song "The Sacrifice", a film that mostly takes place between four walls on the eve of the apocalypse.
On 'The Lake Is Speaking', Atkinson alternates between French and English narration, enhancing the qualities of each language and splitting the words into curved syllables. Slowing her voice to an inhuman groan and duetting with her disembodied self, she speaks over treated piano, reclining into Satie's furniture music concept, allowing her world to breathe around the careful instrumentation.
The landscape descends to moonlight on 'Les Dunes', abstracting her sounds and covering everything in a sheet of white noise. It's here that the album's trans-dimensional mood bellows loudest, as finely-tweaked synthesisers dance like fireflies around the room. On 'Becoming a Stone', Atkinson's voice is threaded through orchestral simulations, while 'Pieces of Sylvia’ finds her fantasy orchestra at its most prominent as she speaks fragments of Plath, scattering words around the house.
'Image Language demands attention and focus, conveying complex feelings of familiarity, alienation, re-discovery. It feels like the culmination of a personal and creative arc - a litany of ideas and experiments realised over the last few years - that here arrive at a kind of creative apex. It’s an album riddled with puzzles, yours to untangle over time.
DoomCannon's debut album ‘Renaissance’, on Brownswood.
"Journeying through an awakening and reimagining of the young Black British experience, sequentially moving through a rich breadth of soundscapes, ‘Renaissance’ signifies the birth of a new era in DoomCannon’s trajectory. Inspired by an accumulation of experiences over the past four years and defined by significant events like the global pandemic to the worldwide outcry of the Black Lives Matter movement in the summer of 2020.
DoomCannon spearheaded a plethora of forward-thinking, improvised Jazz-inspired outfits (Project Karnak, Triforce) and is the Musical Director of award-winning vocalist, Celeste, performing live at the Brit Awards and Later with Jools Holland. He presented his solo project at Abbey Road Studios & was selected via Jazz Re:freshed as part of the SXSW/ British Council collaboration."
Techno-pop shapeshifter KLO meets Lasse Marhaug for an absorbingly gauzy 3rd album of unbuckled structures and expressive sound design, marrying Celtic mysticism and industrial dream-pop experiments nodding to TG and Enya.
Five years since her eponymous debut of puckered dance-pop songs, KLO yields the loosest, dreamiest conception of her style in ‘LP.8’, a very easy-on-the-ear suite of exploratory, studio-as-instrument craft benefitting from co-production by Norse polymath Lasse Marhaug. The album’s nine parts gently but intently flip preconceptions of KLO’s style into more etheric zones somewhere between the enigmatic song crafts of Susanna or Jenny Hval, Julia Holter’s oneiric early works and more brooding technoid-cinematic horizons. This switch in stylistic direction can be attributed to Kelly’s spontaneous decision, prompted by the pandemic, to board the last flight out of London to Oslo, where she holed up in subzero midwinter to coolly reassess and approach her music from alternate angles. The result oscillates her most sanguine and spacious works with an agitated core, reflective of a burning but unhurried mind tapping into its creative subconscious.
Simply put, don’t expect ohrwurming club cuts, as with previous KLO albums, but do expect a strong quota of spectral energies at work that are sympathetic of needs for time and space to think. Her thumping opener ‘Release’ is a gritty red herring for the rest of the album, giving up the club ghost in its exhaustive mantra before conducting a cleanse of energies from the greasy slump of ‘Voice’ to the raw electricity of ‘Sonic 8’, meting out grizzled ambient gunk in ‘Voice’, and going like Nate Young channelling Welsh myths in ‘Anadlu’.
The centrepiece couplet of the soaring ’S.O.’ and the Reese-streaked ‘Olga’ depicts her most widescreen, northerly visions in a contrasting flip of the weather vane, with the lilting keys of ‘Nana Piano’ giving way to the mountaintop kosmiche vision of ‘Quickening’ and the album’s standout torch song of sorts, ‘One’.
Gwenno's third full length solo album, "Tresor".
"Written in St. Ives, Cornwall, just prior to the Covid lockdowns of 2020 and completed at home in Cardiff during the pandemic along with her co-producer and musical collaborator, Rhys Edwards, Tresor reveals an introspective focus on home and self, a prescient work echoing the isolation and retreat that has been a central, global shared experience over the past two years."
The psychedelic, edging on kitschy, side of krautrock is surveyed thru freaky tunes by Die Partei, Conrad Schnitzler, Faust, Moebius & Plank and many other greats of that pivotal era
Selections span a slice of time from the ‘60s and ‘70s german avant garde, ranging from the slackened dub disco groove of ‘Scharfer Scnitt No.1’ by Populäre Mechanik to the pitch bent spume of ‘Base & Apex’ from Brian Eno, Moebius & Roedelius, taking in a custom edit of Schnitzler’s cosmic glitter in ‘Bis die Blaue Blume blüht’, unbuttoned sludgy slump by Faust, and a wavey organ workout on Asmus Tietchens’ ’Trümmerköpfe’.
Avant-garde computer music pioneer Carl Stone's newest is a Max/MSP powered deep dive into unsettled dreamworld sampledelica, warping pitch-fuct pop garbles into hiccuping noise spirals and quasi-techno ethno-pop bumpers. Properly off the dial material that sounds like a plunderphonic take on the Sublime Frequencies catalog, or ABBA reworked by Oval.
'Wat Dong Moon Lek' might be the oddest missive we've heard yet from Stone. The Californian computer music vanguard has long been notable for his dissections of electronics, minimalism, world music and hip-hop, and this latest set melts his history into a barely discernible soup of chattering drums, veiled vocals and stuttered melodies. "Stone 'plays' his source material in the way Terry Riley's 'In C' 'plays' an ensemble," reads the press release - and it's not far off the mark. There's a freewheeling charm and humor to Stone's approach that's hard not to love, it's uncompromising and deliciously bonkers, but struck thru with a level of knuckle-crack'd expertise that lifts it a few inches from the ground at all times.
At its best, 'Wat Dong Moon Lek' sounds like a shortwave radio interrupting a skipping J-pop CD: almost aggrevatingly loopy but texturally inviting at the same time. And while the music is assisted and driven by software, it sounds organic and human, as if Stone is answering the ubiquitous algorithmic playlist age with an arched eyebrow and a double helping of glitchy mischief. Whether you're into John Oswald, Farmers Manual, DJ Screw or Steve Reich, this one's for you.
Glorious, compelling post-classical improv and reshod folk songs by widely admired virtuosos Tarozzi & Walker - required listening for anyone smitten with Laura Cannell’s folk vision, Cucina Povera, or the duo’s recordings of work by Éliane Radigue, Phill Niblock, Stephen O’Malley.
A shining new star amid Unseen Worlds’ glittering constellation, ‘Canti di guerra, di lavoro e d‘amore’ follows from Tarozzi’s 2020 solo album for the label ‘Mi Specchio E Rifletto’, and her work with Walker on Philip Corner’s ‘Extreemizms’ (2018), with a ravishingly free and joyous expo of their combined energies. Rooted in the people and landscapes of Tarozzi’s native rural Emilia, Northern Italy, the album sees them breathe new life into songs originating from working class women and the partisan resistance of WWII, notably the choral song of rice field workers, named “Mondine” or “Mondariso”. Earthed in this rich tradition, and pulled to grander heights by their shared lifetime of experience in classical, avant, and new music performance, the results are brimming with a rarely captivating vitality for the ages.
Oscillating incantations about “hard, poorly paid work, love, the hypocrisy of society, protests, war, the challenge of working far from home, the violence of oppression and the need for political awareness”, with instrumental passages, the suite flickers in a beautifully elegant form that blurs the music’s idiomatic borders. With poetic license they describe the natural world above and around them, with flighty strokes opening out ‘Country Cloud’ and contoured in slyding pitches to follow the temple-kissing vocal cadence of ‘Sentite buona genre’ at the album’s boundaries, while the main body utterly enchants with the rowdy choral swell of ‘La lega’ sequenced beside gripping experimental instrumentals such as the agitated elegance of centrepiece ‘Il bersagliere ha cento penne’ and the sublime staging of its 2nd part, into the inventive rabble of ‘Meccanica primitiva’, and simply breathtaking pastoral tableau evoked in ‘La campéna ed San Simòn - Ignoranti senza scuole’, where all their circles bleed into one.
Black Twig Pickers' Sally Anne Morgan drops trad pop in favor of stark outsider folk on "Cups", a creaky set of homespun American psychedelia that'll appeal to fans of Richard Skelton, Laura Cannell or Six Organs of Admittance.
There's a simplicity and immediacy to "Cups" that sets it apart from so much DIY folk. Morgan's last album "Thread" was an attempt at melting folk into pop structures, but there's no such conceit on "Cups" - here Morgan sounds free to catch her own tempo, and paint with sounds without being trapped in one template or another. She uses familiar instruments - fiddle, banjo, and various small noisemakers - and sometimes awkward, evocative tunings, and lets her arsenal speak for itself.
Morgan sounds as if she's reveling in the strings and space around her, twanging meditative phrases until the strings themselves are making the percussive scrapes and rattles. Fiddle phrases are pushed and pulled as they squeal ritualistically - the root formula is European folk music, but the way Morgan flushes these sounds into American folk and more experimental structures is careful and captivating.
Batu knocks at new doors of club and electronic music perception with an amazing debut album exploring alternate meters, spaces, and permutations of his personalised style and pattern.
As hinted at in 2021’s preparatory 12” of corkscrewing drums and mutable sound design (‘I Own Your Energy’), in recent years Batu has re-assessed his sound from the ground up with remarkable results. On ‘Opal’ he resets the parameters of his music with a dilated, psychedelic purview, markedly emphasising electro-acoustic textural and tonal aspects, and working with Serpentwithfeet’s vocals for the first time, while rendering his rhythms more omnidirectional and unresolved. It’s a bold and meticulously realised effort by one of UK rave’s keenest prism pushers, balancing club music’s technoid sensuality and Afrorhythmic roots with more introspective electronic soul in timelessly fwd fashion.
Unfolding its narrative along psychoacoustic, ballistic axes of exploration, ‘Opal’ follows a mostly instrumentally implied, seamless kind of sonic fictional arc. The title and future-primitive feel of ‘Former World’ with its bowed percussion and GRM-like shocks coalesce into 4th world signifiers of ‘Mineral Veins’, and crystallize into rhythmic frameworks akin to Rian Treanor’s riddmic flux on ‘Convergence’ and the disrupted syncopations of ‘Even Here’. His future-primitivist flex follows into the recalibrated muscle memory tweaks and throat singing-like tones of ‘Atavism’, with ‘Emulsion of Light’ coming off like SAW-era AFX doing drill, sans drums, and cleansing the palette for a gorgeous Serpentwithfeet vocal on ‘Solace’, notably tempering the more dramatic urges to measure.
The final parts reconnect with more sinewy strains of club futurism in the rug-pulling tekkerz of ’Spectral Hearts’ but the focus is smartly kept to “album-mode” with his expressively narrative flourishes of ‘Eolith’ and the deep space projection of ‘Always There’, each setting off this vessel as Batu’s definitive artistic statement and a new high water mark for UK dance music long players.
Synth-pop pioneer John Foxx reads from his novel ‘The Quiet Man’, set to distant solo keys and pads.
‘The Marvellous Notebook’ is latest in his ongoing, surreal fiction about a ghostly meta-figure who inhabits an old grey suit and tells the story of London becoming overgrown. It’s a fine example of Foxx’s enduring obsession with Ballard that has influenced his work since the ’70s, from his first poetic observations on Chorley and Lancashire’s mix of post-industrial ruin and bleak moors, thru his subsequent move to London and far beyond. It might just be us, but we can hear strong thematic parallels with the contemporary work of Preston’s prodigal Blackhaine, give or take a generation. Here’s looking forward to Blackhaine’s novels and spoken word LPs in 2062, but before that we’ll happily sit and listen to John Foxx’s Lancastrian tones in audiobook form.
“'The origins of the novel are firmly cinematic', says Foxx of The Quiet Man project. 'I found an old grey suit in a charity shop in the 1970s. Over the years, I got some friends to wear the suit in various locations in London. I filmed them just walking or sitting in cafes or apartments. As I did this, The Quiet Man story began to emerge. It's about London becoming overgrown, about the suit being alive somehow, and the way cities can alter us - and our memories. It's also about film', he adds. 'In the novel, The Quiet Man walks into the screen at one point. I think we all do this when we view a film, we enter into it. Participate. Travelling without moving. If that isn't magic, I don't know what is.’”
Maverick baroque lutenist Jozef Van Wissem returns to his Incunabulum label for an hypnotic follow-up to his latest works with Jim Jarmusch
Still beloved around our way for his collab with Smegma some decade ago, it’s fair to say that time is a malleable concept to Van Wissem, an artist trading in baroque music in 21st century, and his new album feels like scrying into a parallel dimension where the baroque era never ended. However, in that dimension Van Wissem skilfully prunes the more florid aspects of baroque music to taste, modernising by design with an elegantly deft restraint that pushes his instrument’s putative use along more minimalist angles and subtly fusionist angles, galvanised with electronics.
We can hear something resembling Cajun country styles on ‘A New Earth’, while ‘Your Flesh Will Rise in Glory on The Last Day of The Future Resurrection’ recalls Keiji Haino not just in its title but the gloaming music, too. For more classicist application, turn to the final song ‘The Adornment’ for a fascinating interplay of straight-played strings and shadowy electronics, but the real meat is in the two durational works, each taking up around 14 minutes to cast their magick with mesmerising melodies at opposing, romantic and gothic ends of the register.
On her sixth album, Nika Roza Danilova embraces the unknown, collaborating with producer Randall Dunn and drummer Matt Chamberlain (Fiona Apple, David Bowie) to piece together her most progressive and energetic album yet. A must-hear for anyone into Fever Ray, Eartheater or Jenny Hval.
As she was beginning to come up with sketches for 'Arkhon', Danilova found herself stuck behind a creative brick wall. It was a writer's block more intense than anything she'd experienced before, and reached the point where she couldn't even listen to music for pleasure. Wracked with frustration, she realized she needed outside assistance and sent her early demos to producer Randall Dunn, and looked to drummer Matt Chamberlain to help with the album's rhythmic backbone. Between them, the three managed to come up with a sound that Danilova could lean into and use to burn through her writer's block. That's not to say the album is completely an ensemble affair - piano and voice composition 'Desire' is all Danilova - but the majority feels like a conversation between Danilova and her collaborators.
Most impressive is the record's sparkling centerpiece 'Dead & Gone', which includes widescreen string arrangements from Danilova's friend (and ZJ touring violist) Louise Woodward. This track is the key that unlocks the rest of the record - it's both minimal and lushly orchestrated, centered around Danilova's powerful voice, but letting creative light stream in from outside her headspace. Similarly, 'Sewn' feels indebted to Chamberlain, who lays down drums that give the track its chunky, distorted aesthetic; Danilova's cavernous voice is draped around a beat that screams from the mountaintop, surrounded by woozy pads and pinging staccato blips, but little else. For anyone who's been following Zola Jesus since her gloomy debut in 2008, this new set reconciles her early material with her latter day sheen - there's a willingness to douse herself in bleak noise here, but Dunn helps balance the elements, retaining a full, poppy quality without sacrificing any bite.
Early singles 'Lost' and 'The Fall' express this best, utilizing Danilova's recognizable circular vocal melodies, and meeting them with billowing drum patterns and fractal electronics. The latter is particularly impressive, reflecting '80s aesthetics and contemporary R&B simultaneously, sounding like Toto, Tangerine Dream, Kate Bush and Kelela at once. Danilova's choice to embrace collaboration has resulted in her most complete full-length in ages, it's still pop on some level, but epic, baroque, emotional and unashamedly experimental.
Recorded at home on her farm in Kentucky alongside her partner Nathan Salsburg, Joan Shelley's latest album is a pristine set of filigree country-folk, with contributions from Meg Baird, Bill Callahan and others.
By the time the lockdown hit, Shelley had already grown tired of constant touring, and constant upset. She'd been working solidly since the release of her 2010 debut "By Dawnlight", recording and touring both solo and with her Maiden Radio trio, and the pace had begun to wear her down. So Shelley retreated to her farm with her guitarist husband Salsburg and the two raised goats and chickens, and had their first child. This time of relative peace is the inspiration for "The Spur", an album that addresses Shelley's new world and muses on her new creative landscape.
It's a personal album that's sparked by small touches and a generous heart; the album's title track (and lead single) is a clear highlight, anchored by a strong vocal performance from Shelley and an impressive turn from Salsburg. But the guest appearances provide equally enthralling entertainment: Bill Callahan makes a welcome vocal contribution on the horizontal 'Amberlit Morning', while Meg Baird turns up for an assist on opening track 'Forever Blues' and short folksy piano jam 'Between Rock and Sky'. Nothing feels forced, everything is natural and it's a pleasure to engage with.
Maverick Swiss pianists the Kukuruz Quartet turn in a definitive work here, interpreting four of Julius Eastman's best-known pieces (including 'Evil N*****' and 'Gay Guerrilla') with delicacy, emotionality and studied poise. Phenomenal stuff - whether you're familiar with Eastman's output or a newcomer, it's essential listening.
Recorded back in 2017 in Zurich in the national radio station's large concert hall on four Steinway D grand pianos, "Piano Interpretations" captures the Kukuruz Quartet's obsession and fascination with Eastman's output perfectly. The Swiss group have been working with Eastman's compositions since 2014, and have slowly built up a reputation for their bold adaptations of the cult composer's anxious "creolized" contemporary classical works. Eastman died tragically in 1990 at only 49, and at the time was hardly recognized for his outsized artistic contributions and developments within classical music, but since then his catalog has been re-appraised. His music was confrontational and political to its core - Eastman knew his existence as a gay Black American was controversial even before deconstructing his activity as a composer, and his music screamed it from the rooftops, languishing in the pain, complexity and beauty of his identity and allocated role.
Known for their unique performances and outsized skill, the Kukuruz Quartet are well suited to Eastman's nuanced compositions. The composer wrote music that stretched itself across 20th century classical minimalism and jazz, music that opened itself up well to a kind of improvisation that Kukuruz are well-positioned to attempt. On their recording of Eastman's 1983 piece 'Fugue No. 7' they balance chiming, rhythmic intensity with doomy low register hits, punctuating dissonant minimalism with a hand into the distant past. There's little room for sentimentality here; Eastman uses "fugue" to represent both its musical meaning and its emotional one, ruminating on identity and loss with a clear hand. The recording of 1979's 'Evil N*****' is even more powerful, flowing like water from tense sunlight into stifling darkness, moving from clustered, dense notes into plodding baroque phrases.
The album concludes with the 30-minute 'Gay Guerrilla' from 1979, a powerfully shifting composition that Kukuruz are able to infuse with the level of mournfulness, transcendence and anger it needs to truly represent Eastman's genius. Mindboggling music from beginning to end.
Written, recorded & performed by Muslimgauze, this album was withdrawn by Bryn Jones, and replaced by the ‘Betrayal’ album in 1993. This is the album in its original form, as intended by Jones. The material was recovered from a cassette copy of the album as the original DAT was reused.
"Shekel Of Israeli Occupation' was never meant to be released. This is the only release of the album in its original form, as intended by Bryn. The material was recovered from a cassette copy of the album as the original DAT was overwritten with new material. Remixes of the tracks "Khan Younis", "Jerusalem Knife" and "Yasser Arafat's Radio" appeared on the album 'Hamas Arc'. The tracks "Caste" and "Amritsar" appeared on the album 'Satyajit Eye'. A version of "Drugsherpa" appeared on the mini album 'Drugsherpa'. Versions of the tracks "Khan Younis", "Drugsherpa", "Amritsar" & "Jerusalem Knife" appeared on the extended 'Drugsherpa' album."
Master of reflective melancholy, Tape Loop Orchestra presents their soundtrack to the titular catalogue/exhibition of Keith Ashcroft - a 41 minute tapestry of willowing ambient classical strings and synthesised choral vox inspired by his studio’s proximity to the painter’s. It comes in two editions -a signed "artist edition" book and CD (100 page), and a slimmed down booklet and CD (20 page). Both limited to 100 copies each. RIYL Basinski, The Caretaker, Lawrence English.
"Artists’ studios often exist in abandoned or rejected buildings, no longer used as they were intended. In these spaces, artists repurpose, rearrange and divide sites into new spatial enclosures. MDF boundaries mark out space for creation whilst giving the inhabitant a sense of scale, and a limit, to avoid becoming overwhelmed by the infinite world beyond. Thin walls also conceal artists’ labour, enabling ‘invisibility’ through which magical operations can occur (any bewitching quality found in the work would be lost by peeking behind the curtain).
Through the wall that separates Keith’s studio from mine, I am granted the experience of listening to him paint. Brushstrokes glide softly and slowly, at other times rapid and rhythmic, and on occasion there are harsh stabs as though he is trying to break through the canvas into a space beyond (i.e. my studio). In return, Keith hears muffled sound from my side of the wall, the vibrations pushing back, supported and finally captured within the canvas.
There is an uncanny ‘absent presence’ running through this series of paintings, like ghostly hauntings neither leaving nor returning, but hovering in and beyond the temporal space of the canvas. Despite their pervading presence, the paintings conceal information, beyond and behind the surface, to the extent we are instinctively aware of there being ‘unseen spaces’ in attendance. It is from these hidden areas that sounds originate, like spectral presences waiting to reveal themselves. Voices are suspended between embodiment and disembodiment, and out of tune pianos are played by unseen hands drifting in from cavernous chasms. The overlaying juxtaposition of different spaces in both painting and stereo allow the experience of being in one space physically, whilst experiencing another – being in two spaces at the same time.
Keith and I both construct facsimiles from real events, fusing different temporal-spatial elements to create a third fictive space. The wall between our studios does not maintain a boundary, it acts as a point of merger, a space where our practices overlap, coalesce and fold into one another, allowing for something unexpected to develop from the collision. An amalgamation or conceptual resonance occurs, where the paintings make us hear differently and the sounds make us see differently, facilitating a three-fold experience, with each work taken alone or changing the other."
2022 re-release of Wire's early 80's bootleg, Not About To Die.
"The album was made up of selections from demos recorded by the group for their second and third albums: Chairs Missing and 154. These demos had been recorded for EMI, with cassette copies circulated amongst record company employees. However, they were never intended for release.
A typically shoddy cash-in, the songs on Not About To Die were taken from a second or possibly third generation cassette, with the album housed in a grainy green and red photo-copied sleeve. Compared with the high standards of production and design Wire have always been known for, it was something of an insult to band and fans alike.
Now, in a classic act of Wire perversity, the group have decided to redress the balance and reclaim one of the shadier moments of its history, by giving Not About To Die its first official release. All the tracks have been properly remastered, with the relevant recording details in place.
Not About To Die emerges as a fascinating snapshot of Wire in transition with embryonic versions of classic songs such as ‘French Film (Blurred)’, ‘Used To’ and ‘Being Sucked In Again’, that the group would develop considerably for their epochal 1978 album Chairs Missing. Later demos such as ‘Once Is Enough’, ‘On Returning’ and ‘Two People In A Room’ would surface in radically altered form on 1979’s 154. Some songs, such as ‘The Other Window’, are virtually unrecognisable from their later iterations but the biggest prizes here may well be the tracks that were omitted from Wire's later studio albums... Highlights include ‘Motive’, which has an undeniable power.
These properly mastered tracks have never been available before, and they provide an opportunity to hear Wire at a point in their development when they were bursting with fresh ideas and a will to communicate them. This is post-punk at its very finest."
‘The trees were buzzing, and the grass.’ is an album of collaboration with contributions from percussionist Michael Anklin, voice artist Natasha Lohan and performance artist Es Morgan as well as vocal appearances from friends.
"From the moment you press play, Wordcolour immerses you in his world, enveloped by the sound of rustling leaves, footsteps, gong-like synths and ghostlike, sometimes haunting, vocals. As you listen through, you will find the signature twinkling, magical style of Wordcolour, as it twists and turns through ambient and IDM.
The Wordcolour project started back in 2017, with the first output under the moniker via a Blowing Up The Workshop mix in 2019. With these ideas and sketches in mind, this album feels like a culmination of Wordcolour, marrying the two worlds he currently orbits in, between the early experimental concepts and the recent more club-focused output."
Killer comp of traditional gong musics ranging from the central highlands of Vietnam and NE Cambodia to variants from the Philippines, Borneo, Sulawesi and Indonesia, with an introduction by David Toop.
As the venerable Toop opines, Gongs have played an integral role in the mythogeography of Asia, and this comp is a great example of the instrument’s potential to induce unusual feelings thru tonality and rhythm. Normally used for ritual purposes, encouraging unity or trancelike states of mind, the recordings impart heady sensations, and, for those who can join the dots, form a sort of distant echo of other far-flung rhythmelodic traditions from outernational techno to other regional folk traditions from African to Native American, as well as c.20th minimalism and free jazz.
Initiated by Japanese sound artist Yasuhiro Morinaga, the project documents recordings of over 50 different groups spanning the South East Asian mainland and along its thousands of miles of archipelago into the Pacific. We’re particularly struck by the clashing overtone play of Isneg Group’s clangorous ‘Rooster Dance’ from the Philippines, and likewise the mesmerising melancholy of ‘Music for Funeral Ceremony’ from the Sumba Island, Indonesia, which both contrast with the transfixingly monotone, woodcut techno-like trample of ‘Duet Gongs by Coho’ from Vietnam, and again the gently hypnotic rhythmelody of ‘Buffalo Sacrifice by Jarai’ again from Vietnam.
Again, we can’t disagree with Toop’s description of the music as “simple yet mysterious and enveloping, a sound world in which to disappear. A theory exists but this is not explained" and urge lovers of anything from Don’t DJ to Ka Baird, Harry Bertoia to Sleazy or Kode 9 to give it whirl.
Flock is a brand new collaboration between five leading musicians from London's open-minded jazz and experimental scenes: Bex Burch (Vula Viel), Sarathy Korwar, Dan "Danalogue" Leavers (Soccer96, The Comet Is Coming), Al MacSween (Maisha) and Tamar Osborn (Collocutor).
"The musicians were first brought together by drummer Sarathy Korwar during March 2020 for one of Boiler Room, Total Refreshment Centre and Night Dreamer’s more memorable streamed sessions from early lockdown. It caught the attention of Strut Records and the label presented an open offer for the musicians to create a new, completely freeform project.
Tracks include the pulsing, searching opener ‘Expand’, the taught soundscape ‘Prepare To Let Go’ and the frenetic, urgent ‘Bold Dream’. At times widescreen and cinematic and at others more tense and claustrophobic, each Flock piece explores its own colour and mood.
"Every moment in this process has been a new journey into the unknown. Everyone came, breathed and brought openness of heart, ears, lungs and wings."
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.
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.
The classic 12 disc Parmegiani Box Set finally given a reissue by INA GRM, covering the majority of Parmegiani's musique concrète output recorded between 1964 and 2007. Is there a more important, influential, totemic single-artist collection in all of electronic music?
The Wire magazine described this amazing package as "A bargain price treasure chest....containing worlds of inexhaustible spaciousness and strangeness" and, indeed, listening through just some of the 12 cd's included you find yourself drawn into a multi-faceted world of strange sound sources and audio manipulations designed to play tricks on your senses to an extent that has left this reviewer almost paralysed with wonderment.
Parmegiani was mentored by the founding father of Musique Concrète, Pierre Schaeffer. Making use of technological advances that gave the world magnetic tape and microphones, Schaeffer pioneered a method of taking everyday sounds and transforming them into unrecognisable, detached pieces of music with no identifiable sound source, a style that became known as Acousmatic music. Parmegiani was hugely influenced by Schaeffer's pioneering work and Groupe de Recherche Musicale (GRM), the French Radio institution that is often described as the French equivalent of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.
The work Parmegiani would go on to create would make use of these Acousmatic techniques in creating a body of work which is not only one of the most significant of the 20th century, but also hugely influential on a whole host of musical pioneers that would follow in his wake, with Christian Fennesz, Aphex Twin and Jim O'Rourke being notable disciples. These 12 cd's cover the majority of Parmegiani's musique concrète legacy and include pieces recorded between 1964 and 2007.
Hard to comprehend the immersive and often woozy effect of these recordings, ranging from eerie cut-out tape loops through to popular music plunderphonics and proto-distilled-dub that's impossible to absorb in one sitting. L'Œuvre Musicale is one of the most impressive and important collections of electronic music you'll likely ever hear, but also one of the most rewarding.
The debut album from Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood, and Sons of Kemet drummer Tom Skinnner's new band The Smile.
The Smile officially debuted last year at Glastonbury, but some of the songs included on their debut have appeared in some kind of form at Radiohead shows over the last few years. Listening from beginning to end, while there's a minimalism and melancholy to the album that's elevated by The Smile's collaboration with the London Contemporary Orchestra, if we were told this was Radiohead, we wouldn't question it.
Opening track 'The Same' is like a "Kid A"/"Amnesiac"-era gem, a head-to-head between Greenwood (on synths) and Yorke (on vocals) that acts as a fake-out before the record treads assuredly into a guitar 'n drums-led post-punk groove. 'You Will Never Work in Television Again' is angular and chunky, a Radiohead goes Talking Heads moment if you want, but 'The Smoke' hits the band's other pole, with Stereolab-style bass and breathy drums accompanying Yorke's signature falsetto. "It's easy, don't mess with me," he states before orchestral swoops pick the grandiosity from the song's exposed skeleton.
'Speech Bubbles' is a gift for any of us who miss the weepier parts of "The Bends" or "OK Computer". Evocative guitar arpeggios and a barely-present drum beat play second fiddle to the LCO's cinematic sweeps, Yorke sounds in his element completely." 'Open The Floodgates' is another high point, matching piano with modular cycles, cautiously introducing guitar that ties the entire thing together.
Exploratory English-German sound artist and composer Claudia Molitor ushers a gently smouldering fantasy fusion of dream-pop, avant-classical, lieder and jazz torch songs for the ever searching Nonclassical label - RIYL Pauline Oliveros, Nico, Laurie Tompkins
‘Have You Ever’ shapes up as Claudia’s debut album, proper, after the conceptual LP ‘Decay’ and commissions for everyone from London Sinfonietta to HCMF, BBC Proms and the British Library over the past decades. Those credits should give one a firm idea of the zones Claudia operates within, but ‘Have You Ever’ persistently shapeshifts borders in a way that transcends concrete classification - almost any sweep of our descriptive butterfly net would catch such a remarkable confection of styles from song to song. That may be due to the fact that ‘Have You Ever’ wasn’t originally conceived as an album, but stems from many disjointed works, which Claudia has gelled together with her untrained vocals and spirited electronic substance to frame a remarkable sort of mosaic image spanning the breadth of her practice.
It would take more time than we have to unpick the complexities of every song, but, like the historic work of Pauline Oliveros, or the contemporary compositions of Teresa Winter, it’s clear that the magick lies in the way Claudia naturally binds many strands of interest in her singular, yet open ended plaits of artful sound. Expect to hear everything from brooding darkside drones and shredded guitar noise under harmonised vox on ‘Change’ to tongue-in-cheek whispers of “I’m so fucking chilled / this is a stream of consciousness, listen up misogynists” introducing the the schizoid brilliance of ‘I Am Chilled’, with an Alice in Wonderland trip in between, spanning something like Derek Bailey doing avant Lieder on ‘Ein kleines Lied an Dich’, while channelling ‘Desertshore’-era Nico on ‘You Crawl’ and shadowy torchsong ‘Das Gefühl’, taking in cosmic vectors of ‘I Caught a train’ beside Oliverosian accordion on ‘Interlude 2’, and plangent prepared piano noise giving way to dusky Deep Listening avant-blues on ‘What feeds a Listen’.
"Palaces began to take shape when Flume returned to his native Australia after struggling to write music in Los Angeles at the beginning of the pandemic. Settling in a coastal town in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales, Flume quickly found the inspiration he needed through reconnecting with the nature around him—the rolling hills, walking around barefoot, the green colour the sky turns before a big storm, growing and eating his own vegetables, the smell of rain. He and his neighbour and long-time collaborator, the visual artist Jonathan Zawada, became fascinated by the local wildlife, in particular the birds, collecting field recordings that ultimately worked their way in to the album. As Flume continued to forge a strong connection to his surroundings, the album he wanted to make started to form, eventually adopting a title to properly highlight the luxury and magic of the natural world. Palaces is his most confident, mature and uncompromising work to date, a true testament to nurturing the relationships that make us whole and bring us peace.
The album features a host of vocalists and collaborators, its cast list spanning new and household names from around the world—breakout U.S. star Caroline Polachek, British polymath-icon Damon Albarn, Spain’s Vergen Maria, France’s Oklouand fellow Australian Kučka, who returns following her standout turn on Skin."
Leoni Leoni channels the eerie serene of Julee Cruise, exotica allure of Spencer Clark, and the twinkle of Orphan Swords from behind a lysergic sheen on her first vinyl release
Harvesting songs from her handful of tape/digital releases since 2019, this self-titled set is a strong introduction to Leoni’s timeless charms, sure to find favour with lovers of the sweetest DIY synth-pop and wobbly tape fidelities. We’re not quite sure what she’s doing, but practically every song is treated to the cutest patina shimmer of FX that lends it all a daydreaming warmth and the pleasurable effect of overdoing your microdosing, as in it actually feels trippy, and it’s not just a figment of your imagination, or is it?
Honestly it’s hard not to be seduced by this lot, reaching back to her earliest release with the groggy lilt of ‘I’m out of this 1’ off her ’Super Slow’ (2019) tape, while ‘Easyjet’ from the ‘Easy Sleep’ (20202) makes gorgeous use of pan-slosh woe and flutter wobble, beside the gauzy keyboard minimalism of ‘Weed + Cartoons’ off ‘Yellow and Why’ (2021), and, for good measure, the likes of her synth-pop stepper ’Schön Frau’ from 2021’s ‘Drum Problems’ tape proves she’s just as adept at more uptempo modes, and we urge you to check ‘Herbst im Dschungel’ for her pluckiest wee pop oddity.
20th anniversary of Steven Stapleton & Colin Potter’s ‘Salt Marie Celeste’, a lowkey drone masterpiece comparable with the scope of Gavin Bryars’ ‘The Sinking of the Titanic’ or indeed NWW’s own seminal enigma ’Soliloquy For Lilith’, and a massive RIYL Deathprod or Timo Van Luijk & Frederik Croene’s ‘Fortune De Mer’
Recorded and mixed in summer 2002 at Colin Potter’s legendary Watertower studio in Preston, the 60+ minutes of ‘Salt Marie Celeste plunges listeners to the imaginary depths of the ocean in a steeply sensurreal swill of two chords and fathomless spectral magick enacted by the NWW guys. The original release is now roughly equidistant to NWW’s earlier masterwork ‘Soliloquy For Lilith’ (1988) and now, and with the benefit of hindsight it can clearly be hailed a landmark in the dark ambient drone canon, reserving a remarkable ability to transport the listener by minimal, durational means with unforgettable effect.
Originally conceived as the atmospheric soundtrack to an art exhibition at The Horse Hospital, London, this released version features the FX of creaking timbers and briny, insectoid scuttles subtly but crucially foregrounded in the mix against its call and response swell of orchestral chords, gradually accreting layered traces of loops that come resemble the sound of ship’s horns or even siren-like voices rippling through the murk. The most notable change comes around the 50 min mark when those FX slip out of view, leaving us only with the amniotic whorl of its chords for strange, briny comfort.
William Bennett’s Cut Hands mark a decade of disruption with magnum opus ‘Sixteen ways Out’, hailing a surprising change of pace and style into spare chamber versions of his work voiced by his creative and life partner Mimsy DeBlois
Preceded by a seven year absence, Cut Hands’ return to the fray is a solemn and haunting affair that operates in the shadowy nether region between electro-acoustic and classical musicks. Compositions from that fecund first run of Cut Hands between 2011-2015 are here stripped of their studied Congolese rhythms and reset in richly noirish, cinematic dimensions, where Mimsy’s vocals almost appear to mimic the subvocalised narration from Ghost In The Shell, with her mix of poetry and prosaic numerical sequences allowed to coldly reverberate the upper registers amid alternating backdrops of swarming spectral apparitions and puckered original instrumentation.
Aye, it’s not what we were expecting at all, and better for it. The original Cut Hands productions, effectively exhausted his interests in Congolese, West African, and Haitian rhythms, and what we’re left with on ‘Sixteen Ways Out’ is a sort of residual meditation, all dematerialised echoes of sources that remains out of sight and earshot. It’s a sound he has previously explored in the likes of ‘Krokodilo’, which memorably soundtracked a Vice documentary on Russian drug addicts, but here dominates proceedings, and finds a sharp new foil thru Mimsy’s vox, distinguishing their inverted versions of Cut Hands classics such as ‘Curl Up And Die’ and ‘River Mumam’ beside reams of new material, at its dark ambient cinematic best in the likes of its elegiac opener ‘Inka’ and the dark baroque of ‘Navillera’, before almost looping back into the original sound with the resonant thumb piano like tang of ‘Secret of Elegua.’
Celebrating his 80th birthday, 'Cloud Shadows' is the third collection of Daniel Schmidt's groundbreaking American gamelan explorations, recorded by Gamelan Encinal and Mills College students. Beautiful music that draws thoughful parallels between Indonesian, European and North American folk traditions.
Following the release of the hugely loved 'In My Arms, Many Flowers' and 'Abies Firma' sets, this third album brings Schmidt's archive almost to the present day, featuring recordings made between 2017 and 2019. Schmidt is best known for connecting elements of 20th Century American minimalism with Eastern gamelan music, and developing American gamelan sounds alongside characters such as Lou Harrison, Jody Diamond and Paul Dresher. Here he considers death and relief, having written 'SEOR' as he recovered from cancer treatments, and 'Sandy Suite' after the passing of a close friend. The former is one of Schmidt's most impressive compositions, unashamedly beautiful but restrained, utilizing dynamic range to show emotional depth, and microtonality to hint at controlled chaos. The latter is one of the album's handful of tracks to feature vocals written by Schmidt's wife Deborah Bachels Schmidt and sung in the style of 19th century lieder, where poetry is set to classical music.
These vocal pieces are among the most unusual Schmidt has recorded; the voice hangs over the gamelan playing uneasily, but it's hard to imagine one element without the other - it's gorgeous, risky music that joins history across continents without sounding heavy handed. The album's longest track, 'A River in Delta', features vocals in a more familiar range. Dedicated to Lou Harrison and John Cage, it uses a Cage-influenced chance method for the composition and a poem written by Cage for Harrison's 60th birthday.
'Cloud Shadows' is an unmissable album for anyone interested in the possibilities of American gamelan; the recording is of exceptional quality, and Schmidt's dedication to progression and emotionality oozes from every note. As he states on the press release, "please allow this music to flow into you."
Option Explore, Dylan Moon’s second full- length album, via RVNG Intl.
"Option Explore is a glassy-eyed survey of pop’s playing field both past and present, and a collection of clever, colorful songs filtered through frequencies, timbres, and dreams discovered and discarded while its maker shifts from one sub-genre to the next.
Option Explore signals a significant departure from Moon’s debut 2019 album Only the Blues, which at its heart is a folk record from the forlorn fringes of psychedelia: a little mysterious, but ultimately lucid in its internal logic and generous with standalone, but sing- along, songs. Dylan’s 2020 EP Oh No Oh No Oh No suggested both a shift in his writing and listening habits, culminating with the 2021 compilation Moon’s Toons Vol. 1. On Option Explore, Moon willfully spins multitudes. With a careful study of synthpop, a penchant for warped yet unwavering guitar grooves, and an effortless songwriting ability, he leans into unlikely convergences, and arrives at something deeply futuristic in its disregard for genre sanctity."
Psychedelic jazz funk from jamie branch and Jason Nazary's Anteloper project, with help from legendary guitarist and former Tortoise member Jeff Parker.
Following 2018's fractal "Kudu", the similarly vivid "Pink Dolphins" takes a familiar approach to jazz. Nazary and branch make music that refuses to root itself in one spot, lurching semi-consciously from hip-hop and dance music into funk, psych rock, prog and jazz. This time around the duo are assisted by Jeff Parker, who was a fan of Anteloper's kitchen sink sound and felt as if he could tweak them into the next tier. Inspired by Miles Davis's "Live Evil", Parker plays a Teo Macero role on "Pink Dolphins", reigning in branch and Nazary's influences but allowing the duo to breathe. branch is influenced by Sun Ra, J Dilla and Mouse on Mars, while Nazary wants his drums to sound like "Confield"-era Autechre.
Whether they manage that exactly is a tough question, but the two friends manage to jerk through ideas and styles with the blotter-damaged effectiveness of The Flaming Lips. They even tip their hats to Tropicalia on the album's lengthy closer 'One Living Genius'.
XAM Duo – the Yorkshire-based pairing of Matthew Benn and Christopher Duffin – follow up their acclaimed self-titled 2016 debut with XAM Duo II.
"XAM Duo have spent the past few years collaborating with Virginia Wing and releasing the fun single ‘Tisch Tennis’, as well as playing live with everyone from Stereolab, Sonic Boom and Michael Rother to Jessy Lanza, The Necks and Anna Meredith. They are also both members of Holodrum, the band formed from the ashes of Hookworms whose debut album came out earlier this year.
Despite being over five years in the making, ‘XAM Duo II’ is a much more concise affair than their debut, clocking in at just under 30 minutes. The journey begins and ends with the beat-driven ‘Blue Comet’ and ‘Cold Stones’, taking in shorter ambient jams along the way, making use of saxophone, drawn out tape chords, floating Rhodes piano and spaced-out synths, alongside very precise and intentional, sequenced and punchy synth tones.
With the digital approach it could feel cold and processed, but it’s the opposite – warm and natural. This is something that is reflected in the striking artwork by long-time collaborator Jonathan Wilkinson which comes from a series of prints inspired by his time hiking around the Calder Valley in West Yorkshire. One thing that has stayed the same is the influence of The Sopranos, with three of the six tracks on the album named after episodes of the classic series."
Revelators Sound System is the collaborative musical project of MC Taylor (Hiss Golden Messenger) and Cameron Ralston (Spacebomb House Band).
"Relevators is a meditation on community that caroms from root-down avant-funk to solitary cosmic minimalism and twinkling dubby ambience. Most importantly it is a deeply emotional record, the running soundtrack to a world in confusion.
“Grieving,” with its trunk-rattling double drums and searing electric Clavinet, imagines a rhythmic meeting of The Meters, post-Bitches Brew Miles and Can before dissolving into a smoky, time-smeared coda that is a direct descendent of Lee 'Scratch' Perry's headiest Black Ark productions, while “Collected Water” is a mournful, pointillistic improvisation between Taylor's drifting guitar loops, Ralston's loping double bass, and the melodic dancing between Daniel Clarke's chiming piano figures, J.C. Kuhl's insistent saxophone and Reggie Pace's subtle, circular percussion.
“Bury the Bell” is a shimmering, Alice Coltrane-inspired piece for guitar, clarinet and orchestra that spins off into stardust. The album concludes with “George the Revelator,” a lush devotional epic built atop the on-the-one drumming of J.T. Bates that shakes and rolls with psychic, psychedelic fervor."
Don Cherry, Nana Vasconcelos and Collin Walcott’s modal archetypes as CODONA produced three exceptional, pioneering albums between 1978 and 1983 that were compiled on this ECM ’Trilogy’ which is now thankfully available again. Kodwo Eshun described the trilogy as "18 intimations for new genres, 18 proposals for a poetics of principled perambulation and intense propinquity, each of which vindicates the capacity of jazz to make effectively fictional worlds, to hint at the possible forms implied by those worlds, to enact phonographic propositions for equality, hospitality, intimacy, distance, utopias.”
In 1977, Collin Walcott decided to form a trio with free jazz trumpet legend Don Cherry and Brazilian berimbau master Naná Vasconcelos. He'd worked with both musicians before, and the three had found common ground in their obsession with non-Western instruments and hybrid musical forms. Walcott had studied sitar with Ravi Shankar and tabla with Alla Rakha, and performed with Miles Davis on his legendary "On The Corner" album, while Vasconcelos was responsible for bringing the berimbau to Western audiences via his collaborations with Pat Metheny and Jon Hassell. Cherry of course was best known for his association with free jazz innovator Ornette Coleman, he performed on Coleman's best-known records before collaborating with Krzysztof Penderecki and composing the score to Jodorowsky's "The Holy Mountain". Together, the trio was able to reach into parts unknown - they were operating in a landscape not only before Jon Hassell had coined the term "fourth world", but before “world" music itself had reached a popular, widespread definition.
The first Codona set arrived in 1979, and is credited with shifting the dial on jazz globally. It was tempting for a while to label it “world" music, before that descriptor became identified as outmoded and condescending, but what Cherry, Walcott and Vasconcelos were attempting was fundamentally more experimental anyway - bringing their unique experiences, naturally global and explorative, to a broadly improvisational, jazz structure, and the result was new and invigorating. Anchoring the music is the tangled interplay between Cherry's trumpet and Walcott's sitar; Vasconcelos operates more subtly, but his impulsive rhythms are just as crucial to the music's unique breath. The group's cyclic back-and-forth is immediately evident on opening track 'Like That of Sky', where Indian rhythms, Chinese flutes and jazz horn sounds coalesce so perfectly the song almost levitates. On 'Colemanwonder', Cherry, Walcott and Vasconcelos weld together two Ornette Coleman tracks and Stevie Wonder's "Songs in the Key of Life" track 'Sir Duke', disintegrating all three pieces with the same sparse, free-form instrumentation, using sitar, vocal chants and cuíca. But it's closing track 'New Light' where the band's magic is fully pushed into the clouds: fusing an almost ambient sensibility with minimal shaker rhythms and spine-tingling dulcimer from Walcott, the sound they manage to arrive on is still without parallel.
Codona's second album was released in 1981 and found the trio challenging each other to lift their ideas further into the stratosphere. This desire is evident on 'Godumaduma', a solo piece from Walcott that reinterprets an African traditional standard using overdubbed sitar, influenced by Steve Reich's pulse music concept - the result is a brain-expanding two minutes of resonant and rhythmic sound that stands alone on the album, but feeds its concept perfectly. A skeletal cover of Ornette Coleman's 'Drip-Dry' provides another stand-out, with clattering percussion, dancing trumpet and particularly evocative sitar, but it's closing track 'Again and Again, Again' that lifts the album highest, balancing horizontal drones with whistles, bells and birdsong. 1983's "Codona 3" would be the trio's last album, as Walcott died tragically in a car accident a year later in 1984. Here the band expanded their scope, pulling in influence from ancient Japanese music and West African sounds, with Don Cherry playing the Malinese doussn' gouni.
In many ways, the trio's third album is their most complete, as at this stage their chemistry had reached a level many groups never graze. The fluidity at play on tracks like 'Hey Da Ba Doom' and 'Travel By Night' gives the record warmth without diluting the focus - it sounds as if all three musicians are flexing not only their instrumental skill, but also their exploratory muscle, poking into ideas they may have had for decades and inspiring each other constantly. Opener 'Goshakabuchi' is particularly effervescent, again highlighting Walcott's hammered dulcimer, rubbing its rhythms against shaker percussion from Vasconcelos and singing trumpet wails from Cherry. 'Trayra Boia' is another high point, a collaboration with Brazilian contemporary artist Denise Milan that circles chattered vocals with blasts of overdubbed horn and Vasconcelos's evocative coos. But it's yet again the closing track that has us fully ruined: 'Inner Organs' juxtaposes Western church music with tabla percussion and psychedelic vocal chants to create a sound that's ghostly, affecting and unforgettable. It doesn't get much better than this - truly foundational sounds, and one of the most essential collections on ECM.
Exquisite shadowplay from Sardinian, Saffronkeira and his Persian spar, Siavash Amini; sensitively underdoing each other for a fine album of atmospheric electro-acoustic inference
"Upon hearing a small snippet of sound an image is conjured, not a memory but not unfamiliar. A shell of a memory, thousand events superimposed on each other. While trying to extract points of a narrative to ease the discomfort of this recollection, I try to separate and unfold the image and with it the points of the spectrum which make up the sound, a shell of a narrative.
Here is an album based upon an almost entirely imagined/ synthesized happening upon hearing a snippet of sound. It sounded like of a whole story that never happened but yet I felt myself amongst it’s participants, a sound triggering a false memory. Each sound in Eugenio’s collection of sounds and ideas guided me a to a point in the narrative and it’s construction. He had handed me a portals of some kind to a few scenes of the whole narrative. This is the soundtrack for that false memory from all the perspectives I can think of."