’The Consuming Flame’ is an exhaustive, 3hr payload of characteristically freaky electronics by arch conceptualists Matmos, who commissioned 99 artists (inc. 0PN, Rabit, Vicki Bennett, DeForrest Brown+++) to contribute material of any kind, so long as it was at 99bpm
After marking their 25th anniversary with previous LP ‘Plastic Anniversary’ couple and duo Drew Daniel and Martin Schmidt shift away from playful avant-dance styles to a work with a sprawling messy mass of tangled sounds offered to them by a mix of established artists and longtime pals, plus near total strangers they found via open calls on Internet forums.
“The Consuming Flame was composed through the social act of invitation, and the album’s 99 participants are, even for Matmos, wildly eclectic. Some are collaborators that have worked with Matmos for many years (J. Lesser, Jon “Wobbly” Leidecker, Mark Lightcap, Josh Quillen of So Percussion, Vicki Bennett) and some are near total strangers found through open calls on internet forums for contributions at 99 beats per minute. There are players from the conservatory-trained world of “new music” (Kate Soper, Bonnie Lander, Ashot Sarkissjan, Jennifer Walshe) and figures from the extreme music underground (Blake Harrison of Pig Destroyer, Kevin Gan Yuen of Sutekh Hexen, Terence Hannum of Locrian), as well as auteurs from the world of “noise” music (Twig Harper, Moth Cock, Bromp Treb, Id M Theft Able) as well as writers (Douglas Rushkoff, Colin Dickey) and conceptual artists (Heather Kapplow). There are distinguished alumni and contemporary luminaries of electronic music (Jan St. Werner and Andi Toma of Mouse on Mars, Daniel Lopatin, DeForrest Brown Jr., J. G. Thirlwell, Matthew Herbert, Rabit, Robin Stewart and Harry Wright of Giant Swan) and artists associated with indie rock and folk traditions (Ira Kaplan, Georgia Hubley and James McNew of Yo La Tengo, Marisa Anderson). There are undergraduates who took M.C. Schmidt’s “Sound As Music” course during the final year of The San Francisco Art Institute’s existence. In honor of its fiercely independent tradition of outsider creativity, the album is dedicated to the memory of the now closed art school.”
FSOL render the classic opener to their seminal ambient techno LP ‘Lifeforms’ in myriad lush and previously unheard versions.
Like recalling a dream thru a kaleidoscope, the 13 versions of ‘Cascade’ each appear familiar but elusive, like morphing wormhole portals to the ambient techno mothership of ‘Lifeforms’. Arriving in 1993 as a prelude to the classic opus, the haunting original charted at No. 27 in the UK charts (not even “just” the dance charts!) and has since put wind in the sails of too many trips to count over the intervening 26 years, with ‘Lifeforms’ becoming something of a staple during the ‘90s.
The original’s haunted pads and breaks have now been respun and rebuilt in Dougans & Cobain’s FSOL lab with help form their studio engineer/spirit Yage, resulting in a variegated sprawl of gloopy acid downbeats, spine-tracing trance arps, intergalactic steppers techno ballistics and a ravishing jungle mix, reconnecting strands of arcane prog rock into dub and computer music = proper old skool ambient.
Deepchord’s Rod Modell and Viennese sound artist Marit Wolters’ induce ur states of mind with 74 mins of amniotic sound suspension for Italy’s excellent Silentes programme.
Following Modell’s thrilling change of tack into rapid techno on ‘Captagon’ in 2019, he again expands his palette here with a subtler fusion of his most ephemeral atmospheric timbres and Marit Wolters’ micro-sound design to endlessly nuanced and evolving/involving degrees. Any semblance of chord structures are less distinct now, smudged into a static but unfathomable infinity where it’s true that still waters run super deep.
Patient reception (preferably at night) will be rewarded with a finely gradiated fade into phosphorescing sferics and chasmic infrasound riddled with haptic rustle that fingerprint the breathtaking synthetic environment with a human, or even alien, haptic touch. One for the believers, and followers of anything from Bellows to uon or Pinkcourtesyphone.
Saint Abdullah get it right on the biting point of industrial noise, dub and free jazz in a powerful, killer debut blast for Psychic Liberation after shots for top labels; Purple Tape Pedigree and Boomarm Nation - big one for Muslimgauze, Sote, Moor Mother...
Invoking some of the most scorched earth styles we’ve herd in a minute, ‘In God’s Image’ is a document of rage and mourning by a pair of Tehran-born but NYC-based brothers, Mohammad and Mehdi, who draw just as heavily from their heritage as their current home city, and come up with something that exceeds the sum of it parts and crackles with its own impassioned sort of textural grip and darkside iridescence.
As Nick Klein’s Psychic Liberation label points out “Like the image gracing its cover—a tiny, dusty peykan, its roof fitted with an image of Ruhollah Khomeini and cone speakers—Saint Abdullah uses DIY minimalism to deliver maximal messaging”, and they certainly have a lethal knack for locating and generating the thickest sort of microtonal harmonic complexity/chaos from their set-up of samplers and FX units; turning a Shia orator and Nipsy Hussle into a blazing club banger ‘Problem’, and fulminaing ‘Battlefield culture’ with guest sax fire by regular collaborator Travis Laplante, before condensing the weight of their message into the cold stare of ‘As gently as the steps of death’ featuring an exhausted but still glaring vocal by Moor Mother.
Killer, highly original material through and through.
Less Bells fleshes out a sort of southern Gothic folk ambience that’s less macabre, more melancholic, than the title suggests; using plaintive choral vox woven with synths and banjo to create a longing, rarified air of Americana recalling Stars of The Lid and Julianna Barwick
“The second offering by Julie Carpenter’s textural orchestral entity Less Bells takes its title from a storied strain of decorative objects worn in remembrance of lost loved ones: Mourning Jewelry.
The album shares a similar mood of devotional pageantry, stirring ornamental laments born from a need to “create beauty out of grief.” Utilising an amalgam of strings, synthesisers, and choirs, the pieces ascend and descend in grand, glimmering arcs, ebbing from passages of “baroque complexity” to expanses of haunting emptiness. Certain songs also skew more overtly western than ever before, deeply reverbed plucks of banjo refracted against glowing horizons of sunrise drone: Americana gone ambient.
Furthering the music’s mystic intentionality, the track titles comprise “the major arcana of a tarot deck from an alternate universe,” lorded over by the “Queen Of Crickets,” ruler of “The Gates,” “The Fault,” and “The Fang.” Even so, the record requires no psychic divination to glean its fragile majesty, its muted tumult of mirage and melody. The beauty it possesses is too blatant, and bountiful.”
10 track collection of previously unreleased demos of all songs from the third studio album by PJ Harvey – To Bring You My Love – from 1995.
"Includes demo versions of the singles ‘Down By The Water’, ‘C’mon Billy’ and ‘Send His Love To Me’. Audio has been mastered by Jason Mitchell at Loud Mastering under the guidance of longtime PJ Harvey collaborator John Parish. Features brand new artwork with previously unseen photos by Maria Mochnacz."
Legendary Japanese experimental/industrial/wave label Vanity Records is subject to a comprehensive survey of its LP and 7” releases c. 1978-1981, all sourced from original tapes and digitally remastered for posterity.
Issued as part of Kiyou Records ongoing Vanity Records anthologies, this massive box plugs gaps not already covered by their previous CDs and overlaps the recent V-O-D vinyl payload. It spans endlessly fascinating “techno-pop” oddities first uncovered between 1978-81 by music journalist Yuzura Agi and released on his boutique label in Osaka. Yuzuru Aki coined the term “techno-pop” to describe the then emerging forms of pop by Eno-produced bands such as Talking Heads and DEVO and later Yellow Magic Orchestra, and set up his label to represent the prescient local sounds which stood out from prevailing Japanese tastes for West Coast psych rock and blues. As such Vanity Records covered some incredible, prototypical ground that paralleled actions in downtown NYC, the UK and Europe at that time, as a whole wave of artists gassed on the ideas of DIY music making were blurring the edges between punk, noise, jazz, industrial and whatever the fuck you want to call it.
Invivo’s ‘B.B.B.’ is exemplary of the label and this boxset’s strange range, from industrial jazz blurts to really haunting tape ambience, while the Kiiro Radical set of ‘Denki Noise Dance’ is raw steak for the discerning rhythmic noise minimalists, properly pre-echoing Mika Vainio and parallel to Conrad Schnitzler. Salaried Man Club meanwhile is real end-of-the-rope darkwave material with severely blunted vox and whiskey fume atmospheres set to sleazy machine pulses, with the exquisite late night Dekkard’s apartment ambience of Wireless Sight in there along with previously unheard demos zingers such as Onnyk’s robotic post-punk jag ‘Talk In The Dark’ and what sounds like Nico duetting with a rattly aircon unit in System’s killer ‘Love Song’ dirge.
Athenian composer Michalis Moschoustis works around tip-of-tongue timbral minimalism and teasing tones that naturally beckon a deeper listen on his sterling debut for Room 40 - RIYL Bellows, Félicia Atkinson, Ben Bondy
His most prominent release to date ‘Classical Mechanics’ is quietly nuanced and modestly absorbing introduction to Moschoustis’ work, which is presented as evidence of ongoing works both compositional, musical, and in organising and fostering electro-acoustic music in Greece. He aims to present the music as honest documentation of actions/reactions in a sort of homage to the humour and pathos of his early influence, artist Roman Signer, and his absurd but quasi-scientific artwork.
The result is four tracks that get under the skin thanks to a preternatural sensitive attention to detail and ability to not so much transport, as centre us in the moment, giving us a lowkey chuckle at how he offsets the ostensibly calming guitar strokes of ‘Archery’ with a buzzing mosquito, or lures us into the sweetest hypnagogic states with the keening tunings of ’Soft Tissue’, before plunging us somewhere hellishly other, and into pastoral scenes on ‘Sounio’ with the trippiest, liminal grasp of poetic/prosaic subtlety.
From the artist: “I perceive all of the following sounds simply as movements that have resonated within me over the past few years; the touch of contact microphones on various surfaces, vibrating strings loosened to the extend they no longer produce audible tones, myself swimming in the sea, the underwater crackling of shrimps, Thalia Ioannidou's heavy breathing, Ingi Garðar Erlendsson's solo thranophone performance in Reykjavík in 2014, oscillating springs, rotating cymbals, subtle movements of tuning pegs and knobs, scrubbing of piano strings, Sofia Labropoulou playing with the mandals of her qanun, pressing keys, patting strings, moving pedals and knee levers of a pedal steel guitar, Ilan Manouach's close-miked soprano saxophone and soft mouth sounds.
With Classical Mechanics I invite the listener to an intimate space I find as immersive as a large venue resonating to the throbbing frequencies of a full-range PA.”
Kelly Lee Owens crisps up and expands her melodic synth-pop style on a well anticipated follow-up to 2017’s breakthrough debut LP - including a smart Radiohead cover and guest feature by John Cale.
'Inner Song’ sees London’s Kelly Lee Owens hone her sound to a fine blend of sleek, late ‘00s melodic minimal techno and timeless, shine-eyed synth-pop with neatly tempered nods to her home city’s rude club swing.
Going deeper on the sound of her debut LP, she stakes her tastes for classic and experimental pop between the album’s two key reference points: a nimbly stepping cover of Radiohead’s ‘Arpeggi’ from ‘In Rainbows’; and the husky guest appearance of Velvet Underground’s John Cale over her dreamy electronics on album highlight ‘Corner Of My Sky’.
In between, she recalls everything from a moonlit meeting of Four Tet & Julee Cruise with the synth-gilded 2-step of ‘On’, to Fever Ray doing R&B in ‘Re-Wild’, or some Mathew Jonson tech house twirler from the mid ‘00s in ‘Jeanette’, and a sweet piece of Sally Shapiro-esque dry iced synth-pop in ‘L.I.N.E.’
Every year London label WIAIWYA (Where It's At Is Where You Are) asks seven acts to each record a 77 minute track/album to raise money for Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) - the project is called #sevenat77.
"ISAN are the latest act to rise to the challenge – for your convenience they have provided a 7 minute edit, and a 77 second super-edit, alongside the full 77 minute opus. Think of a sonic pencil case full of recently sharpened electronic chimes and breezes, tweets and wooshes, swirls and hovers and even some plinks and plonks. ISAN - “On the outskirts of now-deserted Hapfelzdorf in the former GXD lies the vast, abandoned Zwip-Con Mega-Fac #77. Input bays are empty of supply pods, output bays with corrugated shutters are closed. Solar panels still glisten on the roof, a wind-farm sussurates in the constant, persistent NoSeason breeze. Non-stop power for a non-op facility. Inside, automata whirr over empty production lines. Conveyor belts deliver only the empty promise of work to bots operating on pre-programmed habit alone. Warehouse mechanicals serenely optimise acres of empty rack-space. A cleaning clone sweeps, oblivious to the wild dog barking at its solenoid ankles. Birds roost in the rafters. Nature infiltrates.”
From minimalism to melody and back again, Isan have been navigating the aural Autobahn since a chance meeting brought together Robin Saville and Antony Ryan in 1996. With Robin based in England and Antony residing in Denmark, they creatively communicate via email, telephone and postcard. Notes are compared and directions assimilated or abandoned, they prefer to allow their sound to develop on its own. Continually progressing their passion for sound, Isan are not afraid of giving their analogue tone poems space to breathe, placing as much importance on void and silence as on sounds – sometimes vibrant and scratchy, sometimes hymnal and opulent. Their sonic design sits somewhere between the Düsseldorf sounds of Kraftwerk and neu!, the invention of a young Eno and the smart-pop expertise of the Cocteau Twins. They’ve remixed and been remixed by the likes of Depeche Mode, The Notwist, Seefeel and Piano Magic amongst others."
Bill Callahan returns with another solo jammer, which opens with him exclaiming "hello, I'm Johnny Cash." It's good too; Smog devotees will find plenty here to enjoy and Callahan's deep, smoky tones have rarely sounded so absorbing. The songs are sad and graceful, slow and seductive, simple and enjoyable. Callahan's a witty, gifted songwriter and his take on deeply Americanized country and folk tropes is never dull. Think latter-day, deconstruction-of-the-mundane Mark Kozelek, but without the misogynist, self-referential cringe.
"For his first record in….uh, well, just a little over a year (!), Bill Callahan’s given us his first Gold Record. They can’t all be gold, and they’re not all six years apart either — all good! You could probably call the album “Gold Records,” too: all the songs have a stand-alone feel, like singles, meant for you to have a deep encounter with all of a sudden, from the start of the song to the finish. And what do you got when you have a record full of singles — and let’s face it, hit singles, at that? That’s a Gold Record for you.
From the top, it’s clear this is music with an affection for people, as Bill immediately slips easily and deeply into his characters. Among them: a limo driver, a watcher of television, a suitor, a man in a broken-down car, a reader of books, a Ry Cooder superfan, and in the closing number, a wanderer who “notices when people notice things”. The voices of the people, with their ups and downs, their loss and laughter. You can feel the love.
For Bill, preparing to tour for Shepherd In a Sheepskin Vest meant considering being away from home for long stretches of time — maybe up to a year, who knew? Feeling his oats, Bill pulled out a few sketches from over the years and touched them up. Before he knew it, he was recording them, and in the shuffle, newer songs started popping up.
It happened fast. Basics were recorded live with Matt Kinsey playing guitars, guitars, guitars and Jaime Zurverza holding it down “and then letting it go” on bass. Drums and horns were brought in for a couple songs. Spirits were high! Six out of the ten were done first take; overdubs, when needed, came equally quickly. Listening, one hears their intuitive cohesion coming together richly behind Bill’s titanic voice spread across the stereo spectrum: the gentle conversation of Bill and Matt’s guitars, the subtle percussion of the bass and drums, and odd appearances of trumpet, woodwind and synth, striking notes both decorous and discordant, sounding for all the world like the naturally occurring sound meant to accompany and express lives lived everywhere.
These are in fact songs meant for other people to sing — but until they do, Bill’s got this. He’s got a secret on this one, and before we go, we don’t mind sharing it with you: he’s figured out how to perfectly place his voice in proximity to your ear. It’s based on the distance from your heart to your brain. Simple! Why don’t more people think like this?"
Recorded at Randy’s Studio 17 and Lee Perry’s Black Ark, Max Romeo’s Revelation Time is rightfully regarded as one of the cornerstones of Jamaican music.
"Released in JA in 1975 on Black World, the album was picked by United Artist for US release and later by listed in The Rough Guide to Reggae as one of the essential reggae albums to own. Includes the classic Lee Perry production ‘Three Blind Mice” and one of the all-time high-grade ganja anthems “A Quarter Pound Of I’Cense”."
Tricky returns with his 14th studio album, Fall To Pieces, on his own label False Idols.
"Fall To Pieces was recorded in Tricky’s Berlin studio in late 2019. Tricky is keen to point out that the tracks on the record can be deceptive; often short, ending abruptly and moving on to the next without warning. Although instrumentation varies from bursts of tense synths, distorted dial tones, and samples, the song’s lyrics can be dark and dense.
Tricky’s music has always enlisted female vocalists to carry his ideas: the majority of tracks on Fall To Pieces, including ‘Fall Please’ rely on Marta Złakowska, the singer he discovered during a european tour when he was left without a vocalist on the opening night. She saved the tour from disaster. “I can tell when someone is humble and down to earth,” says Tricky. “Marta doesn't care about being famous, she just wants to sing.”"
The sounds of bird song, singing bowls and water rippling invite us to Peradam, the transcendent new album by Soundwalk Collective with Patti Smith.
"Peradam takes as its entry point René Daumal’s early 1930s novel Mount Analogue: a Novel of Symbolically Authentic Non-Euclidean Adventures in Mountain Climbing, in which the French writer, critic and poet mapped a metaphysical journey to “the ultimate symbolic mountain” in search of meaning. In it, Daumal introduced the idea of the “peradam”, a rare, crystalline stone – harbouring profound truths – that is only visible to seekers on a true spiritual path.
Peradam arrives as “the final stone”, says Soundwalk Collective’s Stephan Crasneanscki, in The Perfect Vision, a triptych of albums that evoke and explore the sainted spaces of thought and creativity opened by three French writers. After albums devoted to Antonin Artaud (The Peyote Dance) and Arthur Rimbaud (Mummer Love), Peradam expands on “the living space”, says Smith, that Daumal left for future seekers to enter and create out of."
The D’Addario brothers return with their third Lemon Twigs album, Songs For The General Public - written, recorded and produced by the D’Addarios at their home studio in Long Island, Sonora Studios in Los Angeles and Electric Lady in New York City.
"The brothers first emerged as The Lemon Twigs in 2016 with their debut LP Do Hollywood, whose showstopping melodies mined from every era of rock quickly earned fans in Elton John, Questlove, and Jack Antonoff. Go To School, the ambitious 15-track coming-of-age opus, followed in 2018 and solidified the band’s reputation for building grand walls of sound around an audacious concept."
The Vanity Box Vol. 1 is an anthology of releases by legendary japanese DIY label vanity, active in the late '70s and early '80s.
The box includes 5 CD's. r.n.a. organism - r.n.a. organism meets p.o.p.o.; bgm - back ground music; sympathy nervous - sympathy nervous; sab - crystallization; a compilation of 7" singles.
Vanity Records is a none-more-legendary Japanese label established by music journo Yuzuru Agi in late ’70s Osaka, Japan. Its small but precious and catalogue of bold experiments with rock and electronics is hugely prescient in its scope, and would loosely fall within and expand the term “techno-pop”, which its label owner first coined to describe the futurist sound of Eno-produced bands like Talking Heads and Devo.
The bands featured were all in their nascent stages, covering a spectre. Form the slimy, munted TG-like sleaze impulses of Salaried Man, to rhythmic experiments by Isolation and Kiiro Radical that properly pre-echo Mika Vainio and parallel Conrad Schnitzler, and the scorched earth blues drags of Nishimura Alimoti, or the exquisite late night Dekkard’s apartment ambience of Wireless Sight.
Proper ground zero gear for the heads and fans of owt from YMO to Skaters, Suicide, Animal Collective, proto-techno and early punk wave mutations.
Produced and recorded by Arca, KiCk i defines a new era of multiplex harmony for the Venezuelan artist, singer, DJ, performer and experimental music composer, featuring appearances from Björk, Rosalía, Shygirl and SOPHIE, this is the first time Arca has invited collaborators into her world, previously having lent her sound to some of the decades most avant-pop artists.
"KiCk i is a celebration not only of the joy Arca’s been able to find in her life, but the sometimes arduous journey it took for her to find it. Her struggles to reconcile her Venezuelan heritage and her trans Latinx identity emerge as reggaetón and pop en Español. But KiCk i isn’t just a pop record, or an experimental record, or even simply a mix between the two, but rather all of them at once- and so much more. Depending on where you drop the needle you’ll find bubblegum, harsh noise, electronic psychedelia, balladry, bangers, laughter, tears, passion, and expressions of faith - sounds and ideas that don’t simply blend together, but coexist simultaneously in quantum superposition made possible inside the sonic worlds Arca builds in her music.
“I don't want to be tied to one genre,” Arca explains. “I don't want to be labeled as one thing.” Where she is now, being nonbinary doesn’t end with her gender identity. It’s become a mindset where no one thing has to be just one thing, where multiple meanings, multiple realities can coexist in superposed balance. In this space between states, where one thing is the other, Arca has discovered a vast field of untapped creative power. KiCk i is the sound of her plugging in."
This boxset contains the solo catalogue of Michael Rother (Kraftwerk, NEU!, Harmonia) as well as a brand new album. His first since 14 years
Lavish 7CD box set ‘Solo II’ contains the solo catalogue of Michael Rother (Kraftwerk, NEU!, Harmonia), as well as a brand new album, ‘Dreaming’, His first for 14 years.
Brand new album from Throwing Muses, consisting of Kristin Hersh, David Narcizo and Bernard Georges. The follow up to 2013’s ‘Purgatory/Paradise’ is an outpouring of modal guitars, reverbed shapes, echoey drums and driving bass set behind Kristen Hersh’s well-thumbed notebook of storylines.
"A ten-song opus of suitably wrought tales set against a wall of sound that’s at once calm and ethereal before building into glorious cacophonous crescendos. When Throwing Muses wrote their last album, they were shattered. Pieces were coming and going, elements repeating and charging the whole. “It sounded beautiful jumping around like that”. Two-minute songs reappearing as twisted instrumentals or another song’s bridge. They mimicked the effect live which kept them on their toes. Whatever was happening was already over in other words. ‘Sun Racket’ is the opposite. It refused to do anything but sit still. It says, “sit here and deal”.
“All it asked of us was to comingle two completely disparate sonic vocabularies: one heavy noise, the other delicate music box. Turns out we didn’t have to do much. Sun Racket knew what it was doing and pushed us aside, which is always best. After thirty years of playing together, we trust each other implicitly but we trust the music more” - Kristin Hersh And so, they continue. Business unusual."
Stunning debut LP proper by LCO violinist and solo composer Galya Bisengalieva, offering an elegiac lament for the former Aral Sea, now Aralkum Desert, in Kazakhstan for the newly renamed One Little Independent Records
Following recent acclaim for her exploratory EPs with the NOMAD label, Kazakh/British artist Bisengalieva applies the dream-like qualities of those EPs to a more brooding and poignant purpose here, layering her strings into panoramic, weathered arrangements that describe and evoke her personal sense of pain and hope for what has been called one of the worst environmental disasters on the planet.
The situation in the region stems from Soviet irrigation projects in the ‘60s which eventually caused most of the Sea to dry up, to the extend that, as revealed by NASA satellite images in 2014, the eastern portion had turned to desert. However, with construction of the Kokaral Dam, a successful effort was made to retain the remaining water, bringing back fisherman and communities to the land, while the rest is left to toxic desert.
Galya’s tribute to the region, ‘Aralkum’ is thus laid out in three parts - Pre-Disaster, Calamity, Future - inspired by the region’s fate. Her strings gently billow out in the first part more sublime and widescreen than ever before with the title opener, but gradually turn inwards to pensive drones and deftly jagged strokes that feel the land atrophying, leading to a crushing sense of levity emphasised by weighty electronic bass pulses in ‘Barsa Kelmes’, and eventually a sense of suspended relief, with shards of choral light breaking her high plains clouds on ‘Kokaral’.
Aleph is often defined as the “oneness of God”, and Private World thematically embrace the sentiment on their debut album for Dais while eschewing pop conventions, simultaneously navigating and subverting its context.
"Rather than individual tracks that inform a greater narrative, Aleph finds members Harry Jowett and Tom Sanders weaving in and out of a space they call the “pop psyche,” where songs become scenes in a collective exploration of sentimentality and melody.
In a sense, the songs that comprise Aleph are soothing vehicles that dart about pop history, stopping at touchpoints throughout the ‘80s to borrow from jazztinged synth, ambient music, and even cinéma vérité. The plot twist is while weaving this tapestry, they omit the familiarity of chorus-driven song, allowing space and mood to build melancholy transitions that feel whole and floaty.
As much as their single “On the Run,” released with DAIS in 2019, touched on this hushed world of memory, Aleph retains Private World’s DNA but tames the dynamics of pop with Eno-esque intention. Aleph is an album you can pick up at any entry point and loop into its conscious nostalgia. Rather than singular statements, each song on the album nods to Roxy Music, Peter Gabriel, Talk Talk, Spandau Ballet in tandem. In a sense, it’s a rolling piece that spans ten movements, each informing a sphere of culture. Though it’s not forward-facing lyrically, Aleph is a culture driven work, as the duo offers it as an equalizer that transcends social boundaries or divisions—united passages meant to be heard and immersed by all.
On its own, “Blue Spirit,” is very much the album’s mission statement, as vocal unapologetically indebted to Brian Ferry leads the way over a gated beat as instruments pulse in and out, punctuating the rhythm before disappearing into the echoes of the next moment. One second over five minutes in length, “Magic Lens,” is Aleph’s most direct and authoritative, without disrupting its tonality. As Tom Sanders delivers a syncopated vocal, the track lightly sprinkles synth washes and prominent bass accents that plod out atmospheric pattern. Embracing the overarching north star for their sound to be a return to sophistication, Aleph embodies the sentiment by redefining it."
This box-set collects all the available recordings by seminal japanese group tolerance.
It includes both their albums released released between 1979 and 1981 on japanese cult diy label vanity records, along with never before released tracks recently discovered in agi yuzuru's archives.
Coming off like Gas meets MvO Trio and The Necks, and now packing a whole LP-worth of bonus material, Biosphere’s atmospheric 2005 ambient jazz lather returns, remastered and reissued on his Biophon label for those who may have slept on its deeply seductive charms. The bonus bits beautifully expand on its vibe with moments of windswept BoC-like melody and sublime alternate versions of album evergreens.
“Widely regarded as one of Norwegian electronic music's most important artists, Biosphere's [Geir Jenssen] career spans nearly two decades, several albums, lots of remixes, various sound installations, commissions, soundtracks and even the odd Himalayan summit. You may recognise his work without knowing it, so frequently does it crop up on TV trailers and idents. In the early 1990s he was a pioneer of so-called 'Ambient Techno', but since then, he has refined his sound into something more magnetic and enduring.
Dropsonde' isn't a soundtrack like the interwoven 'Substrata' nor an episodic journey in the way that 'Autour de la Lune' is. Here Geir Jenssen is pushing new directions towards the jazz colours of Miles Davis and Jon Hassell, whilst re-invigorating the pulse and projection of his signature sound: a hypnotic combination of pleasure and dread. The spatial aspects some have dubbed "Arctic sound" but it summons strong feelings, or as Exclaim from Canada put it, "in order to climb higher, you must first go deeper". Jon Savage adds: "As with all of the Biosphere albums, the music draws you in and makes you want to listen and feel. Jenssen's work acts on a very emotional level, one that encourages you to drift away into a haze of images and scenes brought to you by the music, where spectacular beauty hides unseen danger. Intense and moving, but comforting and soothing at the same time."
[A 'dropsonde' is a weather reconnaissance device designed to be dropped from an airplane or similar craft at altitude to take telemetry as it falls to the ground. It typically relays information to a computer in the dropping airplane by radio. The fall may be slowed by a parachute. Information collected by a typical dropsonde may include wind speed, temperature, humidity, and atmospheric pressure.]”
‘Morton Feldman Piano’ is a major 5CD collection of virtually all of Feldman’s music for piano, performed by Philip Thomas with a tactility befitting of this extraordinary, quiet, intimate music. It’s the most extensive survey of Feldman’s piano music since John Tilbury’s long unavailable 4-CD set was released 20 years ago, including several pieces which weren’t included there, and three works which have never been released on disc before at all.
Feldman was part of a radical group of experimenters, alongside the likes of John Cage, Christian Wolff and Earle Brown, who looked beyond the strictures of serialism to innovative with and embrace aspects of chance and “indeterminacy” in their compositions. Most often associated with the piano, Feldman is perhaps best known for his perceptively time-slowing later works, but this boxset presents the widest angle possible on his approach to the piano, spanning surprisingly cranky recordings from the 1940s thru to the exquisite delicacy of his acclaimed ‘Triadic Memories’ and ultimately ‘Palais de Mari’ in 1986. Feldman died in 1987, leaving behind a remarkable catalogue that has previously been tackled by John Tilbury in the 4CD set ‘All Piano’ (1999), which is now long out of print and trades for triple figures on the 2nd hand market, making this boxset of Philip Thomas’ Feldman interpretations an even more indispensable collection.
Accompanied by pianist Philip Thomas’ lucubrate and extensive book of notes on Feldman’s music, its development, unique notation, and his close personal relationship with it, ‘Morton Feldman Piano’ methodically and artfully unpackages the great composer’s often forbiddingly vast oeuvre for anyone looking for a way in or seeking to enrich their knowledge of his life and work. In great depth, Thomas writes about Feldman’s holistic approach, recognising the connection between ears, mind, and fingertips which resulted in the music’s quietly extreme dynamic, and which singularly revolutionised historic approaches to the instrument thru the artist’s attempt at refusing attack in the notes - essentially a near-impossible idea when considering that the piano is a percussive instrument, and needs to be hit to be played. The sensitivity of the results are quite astonishing, and most beautifully executed and evidenced in Thomas’ playing throughout all 31 pieces included.
While the later works will be well known to even the casual Feldman follower, and are sure to entrance newcomers, his early and mid-period works between the late ‘40s and into the ‘60s provide a fascinating grounding for his sound and style, ranging from a solemnly inquisitive ‘Untitled piano piece’ (1942) to the almost jazzy flourishes of ‘Illusions’ (1949), thru to his increasingly sparser ‘Music for the film ‘Sculpture by Lipton’’ (1954), and up to the barely there ‘Piano Piece’ (1964) before he took a 13 year hiatus from writing for solo piano (although he would still write parts for piano in larger ensembles), only returning to it with ‘Piano’ (1977).
Yet for all the technicality and philosophy surrounding Feldman’s compositional process, it remains to be said that his music is strikingly easy on the ear. With a little focus and patience in the right mindset, Feldman’s music has the capacity to lead the thinking mind into unusual places, and as his catalogue proceeds, it becomes an increasing pleasure to find the notes flickering, illuminating contrasts with the shadows of his lacunae.
New Omar S album featuring John F.M, Rick Wilhilte, Norm Talley and O B Ignitt.
Omar-S always does things his own way and always hits hard, this time doubling up on that title with some of his tighest and brightest productions for - oooh - a good few weeks at least.
This is wall-to-wall good shit, House bangers stripped bare, loads of space, endless hooks - basically undeniably deadly gear, especially on 'Mell'like Boom Boom In'dair!' with its completely fucking riotous hybrid of a squashed acid line and bounced snares, something like Wordy Rappinghood if it were re-worked by MMM and Theo Parrish.
A colossal, trance-inducing, yet largely overlooked pillar of 20th century American minimalism.
Regarded no less than a "holy grail" by Keith Fullerton Whitman, it spans 100 minutes of atonal, amorphous string composition scored in four parts for a quintet, here performed by Linda Cummiskey (Violin), Malcolm Goldstein (Violin), Kathy Seplow (Violin), Stephen Reynolds (Viola), David Gibson (Violoncello).
By all accounts Harley Gaber was a colourful fella, a complex American artist, composer and filmmaker who dropped it all not long after release of this 1976 work to become a full time Tennis player and coach. He would return to the arts, and later music, writing soundtracks for his own films before sadly committing suicide in 2011.
'The Winds Rise in the North' is a frighteningly heavy and rewarding master-stroke, giving rise to dense, gripping harmonic overtones which prickle, seduce and get under the skin in a way that few others achieve. Lock the doors, turn off your phone and give yourself two hours with this. You won't regret it.
Across the middle years of the 1990s, Merzbow (Masami Akita) refined a stochastic language for harsh noise that had emerged from his studio experiments at the beginning of that decade.
"This technique, which involved a combination of self made instruments, synthesisers, tabletop effects and, in the case of EXD, drum machines, often recorded at incredible levels to create a uniquely visceral distortion, has essentially become the benchmark for noise music in the 21st century.
A devout archivist, Merzbow’s unreleased works from this period are finally getting the attention they deserve. Editions like Noise Mass, issued by Room40 in 2019, are amongst a growing number of releases that document the gradual unfolding of his signature approach to overabundance of frequency and ceaseless sonic chaos. Recorded at the end of 1997 and early 1998, EXD owes its title to the Bias Rockaku-kun EXD 5ch analogue drum synthesizer. It is an exercise in maximal minimalism. Using repeated phrases, atmospheric, but reductive drum patterns and tightly wound pulses, Merzbow calls up a vision proto-industrial technoscape.
Bathed in white noise, it is a music in which the reassurance of the kick drum is largely torn away, sending the music into an uneasy orbital decay. It’s the sound of warning systems onboard a satellite as it begins to burn up, falling back to earth. An exquisite sonic evisceration. What makes EXD quite unusual is it reveals, in part at least, some of the skeletal structures Merzbow deploys in the creation of his works. It’s especially revealing, as this period is mostly recognised for its unending shower of brutalising harsh noise. On the title track EXD we can a Roland TR-606 drum machine folding into and out of focus. Its grooves ruptured by, and then become gradually consumed in, a field of phasing noise and distortion."
The second album by the American Gamelan composer and instrument builder, Daniel Schmidt, following 'In My Arms, Many Flowers', his majestic debut on Recital. Abies Firma lies next chronologically, collecting works from 1976 to 1991, considered the second phase of his compositional form.
“We were like children playing with new toys,” Daniel recalls of the early days of American Gamelan music. “Though, as we moved into the 1980s, I moved away from Javanese traditional formalism completely, no longer using a constant stream of notes.” Daniel became a father twice over in the early 80s, transforming his compositional voice, finding himself open to new affects. Notably, the Sierra fir species, ‘abies firma’ … “These trees gave me a sense of rising and rising, all their branches reaching toward sun and sky. Looking at them across open spaces, I felt myself part of their upward striving. The tall mountain trees became rising themes and arpeggios, sometimes even sweeping across the six octaves of the gamelan.”
This album holds a variety of recordings including an especially immersive tape-delay piece for the rebab, a bowed Javanese instrument. A sort of Eastern Frippertronics weaving the stereo field. Another standout is a semi-improvised flute and gamelan work, ebbing in slowly like a night’s wind. “Accumulation” and “Abies Magnifica,” the spirited opening pieces, exemplify the precision and dexterity of Daniel’s group, The Berkeley Gamelan, who at this time were constantly performing around North America. Two pieces on the album were co-composed by Schmidt and the late Lou Harrison, who helped conceive of the American style of gamelan and enjoyed a similarly long and varied musical career. “Unempins to Sociseknum” is based on arranging Harrison’s social security number against Schmidt’s unemployment insurance number. A window into the cooperative spirit and experimentation of the late 70s.
With each LP comes a CD including the addition of “One White Crow,” a three-part tapestry of melodic fragments which epitomizes the second phase of Schmidt’s composing; a divergence from both Javanese and European music. Daniel states, “William James once said that one white crow would suffice to overturn science’s assertion that all crows are black. I felt myself to be ‘one white crow’ amidst the prominent, established musical styles.”
Sean McCann, September 2019
'Live Knots' presents two immersive live recordings of Oren Ambarchi playing the epic 'Knots' from 'Audience Of One' (Touch, 2012) in Tokyo and Krakow's Unsound Festival.
Captured with alternately intimate and widescreen fidelity, the original elements of cyclonic guitar harmony and quicksilver percussion are twisted different ways across the two performances, exploring and testing every nuance of the track's framework. 'Tokyo Knots' intimately documents their show at SuperDeluxe in March 2013, Ambarchi cautiously stalking Joe Talia's prickling, Dejohnette-esque percussion with viscose bass tone and heady harmonic incense, progressively whipping up a free form storm of buzz-saw guitar attacks and crashing drums, organically resolving to a lean motorik groove flecked with spring reverb.
By contrast, the twice-as-long performance of 'Krakow Knots', featuring Sinfonietta Cracovia led by Eyvind Kang on viola, presents a more expansive reading of the same structure, adding a prelude of sliding string dissonance before swelling against Talia's adroit patter with a burgeoning tension, ratcheting the mid-section squall to blistering barrage of buzz-saw flares and strobing fuzz, before burning out to reveal a captivating resolution of string glissandi swept against Joe Talia and Crys Cole's skittish percussion objects and retching spring reverb. The applause at the end is very well earned.
‘An Empty Bliss Beyond This World’ is perhaps The Caretaker’s most coveted and cherished venture into the haunted ballroom of the subconscious. It fetches a lot of moldy dough on the 2nd hand market, hence this new edition will be welcomed by many who’ve only picked up The Caretaker’s frayed thread since this album was first released in 2011.
Redefining ideas of “ambient” music on its release toward the start of this decade, the deeply unheimlich feel and sonic detritus of ‘An Empty Bliss Beyond This World’ have arguably provided a fitting score to the dazed feeling and regurgitated aesthetics of culture in the 2010’s. Despite sounding like mid-afternoon in an old folk’s home, we can vouch that it has (ironically enough) become a go-to afterparty staple for many gurned-up, memory-blipping listeners on one level, while also coming to characterise a whole stream of rumination on hauntology, a definitive idea of our age, as explored by the dearly departed theorist Mark Fisher, who prized The Caretaker’s “…understanding that the nostalgia mode has not to do memories but with a memory disorder…”, which he related to a form of dementia imposed by late stage capitalism.
Whichever way you take it, the record rarely fails to evoke personal reactions. Whether that’s nostalgia, sorrow, puzzlement, calm or despair is wholly variable, but it always takes listeners to that other place, like the one connoted in the dream-like scenes of Jack Nicholson unravelling in The Overlook ballroom during Stanley Kubrick’s ‘The Shining’. With the sleight-of-hand of a veteran illusionist or hypnotist able to “conjure” parallel dimensions and manipulate metaphysics, The Caretaker subliminally uses the vague familiarity of vintage, nearly-forgotten music and the patter of gradual physical disintegration to reflect the side-tracking, melancholy nature of rainfall in much the same way as Burial, but with a haunted, middle distance stare all of its own.
Carsten Nicolai and Ryoji Ikeda’s seminal minimalist project is now finally available to download. Originally issued on CD and LP in 2001, cyclo.’s . was, and more or less still is, the last word in purest, stoically funked-up digital sound pressure.
“cyclo. is a collaborative research project by Ikeda and Nicolai which focuses on the visualisation of sound. The artists are developing a database of sounds that they are composing for the visual responses these produce when analysed in real time using equipment developed originally for phase correlation in mastering vinyl records. With such stereo image monitoring equipment, the phase and amplitude of stereo signals can be illustrated graphically.
The audio elements have been constructed and chosen through agendas concerned with the minute editing of frequencies (often beyond the physical range of human hearing) and the perceptual amassing of audio elements to an undefined point. For Nicolai and Ikeda an 'infinity index’ of sound fragments is a conscious motivation forming the basis of their research and feeding cyclo. with the audio material required for visuality.
In amassing this archive, Nicolai and Ikeda transcend the usual dynamic whereby image acts merely as a functional accompaniment to sound. They arrive at a standpoint from which the audio element in the process is subservient to the desire and appetite of the image. Although this imaging is purely 2-D in display, the process proposes 3-D possibilities. Their proposition is that the structural complexities of these visual metered shapes, born and examined from the perspective of audio metering, may have in them a rich potential for architects, designers and engineers to find starting points for structural readings.”
A very old saying goes that no one saves us but ourselves. Recognizing and breaking free from the patterns impeding our forward progress can be transformative - just ask Bully’s Alicia Bognanno.
"Indeed, the third Bully album, ‘SUGAREGG’, may not ever have come to fruition had Bognanno not navigated every kind of upheaval imaginable and completely overhauled her working process along the way. “There was change that needed to happen and it happened on this record,” she says. “Derailing my ego and insecurities allowed me to give these songs the attention they deserved.”
‘SUGAREGG’ roars from the speakers and jumpstarts both heart and mind. Like My Bloody Valentine after three double espressos, opener ‘Add It On’ zooms heavenward within seconds, epitomizing Bognanno’s newfound clarity of purpose, while the bass-driven melodies and propulsive beats of ‘Where to Start’ and ‘Let You’ are the musical equivalents of the sun piercing through a perpetually cloudy sky.
On songs like the strident ‘Every Tradition’ and ‘Not Ashamed’, Bognanno doesn’t shy away from addressing “how I feel as a human holds up against what society expects or assumes of me as a woman, and what it feels like to naturally challenge.” But amongst the more dense topics, there’s also a light-heartedness that was lacking on Bully’s last album, 2017’s ‘Losing’. Pointing to ‘Where to Start’, ‘You’ and ‘Let You’, Bognanno says “there are more songs about erratic, dysfunctional love in an upbeat way, like, ‘I’m going down and that’s the only way I want to go because the momentary joy is worth it.’”
The artist admits that finding the proper treatment for bipolar 2 disorder radically altered her mindset, freeing her from a cycle of paranoia and insecurity about her work. “Being able to finally navigate that opened the door for me to write about it,” she says, pointing to the sweet, swirly ‘Like Fire’ and slower, more contemplative songs such as ‘Prism’ and ‘Come Down’ as having been born of this new headspace. Even small changes like listening to music instead of the news first thing in the morning “made me want to write and bring that pleasure to other people.”"
Stunning, uncompromising works for violin recorded on the hoof in lockdown. Quite frankly one of the most engrossing collections of string recordings we've heard for a while, we just wish we had more time to live with it so we could do it justice in words. All we can say is - give this time and attention and you'll be rewarded tenfold.
"Music for Violin Alone" was recorded in a makeshift studio in an empty house in Le Poujol sur Orb during the first two weeks of the French lockdown. Recorded both as a response to all loss of work due to COVID-19 and a way to be heard again. The pieces on the album are the pieces I’ve come to discover and learn during the two years of maternity leave. Two years of maternity leave have also been two years of creative silence, a search for new approaches, repertoire and ways of playing.
Only after finishing the recording process I realised the connection between the works - they have all been written by or dedicated to violinists-composers (with Oliver Leith being an exception) - J.S.Bach, Angharad Davies, Nicola Matteis Jr., Malcolm Goldstein (dedicatee of Cage’s Eight Whiskus and Tenney’s Koan).
The album opens with Circular Bowing Study by Angharad Davies - an extended exploration of a technique no matter how limited, it continues back through the ages with works that are filled with silence (Bach, Cage and Leith) and works with almost total absence of it (Tenney, Matteis), and closes with my own composition - broken harmonics of a string trapped inside a ring. It’s like a map of invisible violin sounds where past and present pathways are being drawn and redrawn over and over again until they are confined to a single technique or a broken sound or disappear into a total silence."
The time had come, Angel Olsen realized in the fading summer of 2018, to take her new songs out of the house. Olsen’s 2016 marvel, My Woman, had been a career breakthrough, but it catalyzed a period of personal tumult, too: a painful breakup, an uneasy recovery, an inadequate reckoning.
"At home in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, Olsen penned songs that finally grappled with these troubles, particularly love—how forever is too much to promise, how relationships can lock us into static versions of ourselves, how you can go through hell just to make someone else happy. These heartsore explorations shape Whole New Mess, Olsen’s first solo album since her 2012 debut and an emotional portrait so intimate and vulnerable you can hear her find meaning in these crises in real-time.
At least nine of the eleven songs on Whole New Mess should sound familiar to anyone who has heard All Mirrors, Olsen’s grand 2019 masterpiece that earned high honors on prestigious year-end lists and glossy spreads in stylish magazines. “Lark,” “Summer,” “Chance”—they are all here, at least in some skeletal form and with slightly different titles. But these are not the demos for All Mirrors. Instead, Whole New Mess is its own record with its own immovable mood, with Olsen working through her open wounds and raw nerves with just a few guitars and some microphones, isolated in a century-old church in the Pacific Northwest. If the lavish orchestral arrangements and cinematic scope of All Mirrors are the sound of Olsen preparing her scars for the wider world to see, Whole New Mess is the sound of her first figuring out their shape, making sense for herself of these injuries.
Considered alongside All Mirrors, Whole New Mess is a poignant and pointed reminder that songs are more than mere collections of words, chords, and even melodies. They are webs of moods and moments and ideas, qualities that can change from one month to the next and can say just as much as the perfect progression or an exquisite chord. In that sense, these 11 songs—solitary, frank, and unflinching examinations of what it’s like to love, lose, and survive—are entirely new. This is the sound of Angel Olsen, sorting through the kind of trouble we’ve all known, as if just for herself and whoever else needs it."
Two decades. Twenty years. Twenty compilations. Over 400 tracks. Over two days of total playing time and countless coloured dots. Nice one Kompakt.
"If someone would have told us in 1999, when we put together TOTAL 1 that this would turn into one of the longest standing compilation series in techno world we would have laughed out loud. But here we are – in the year 2020 which will probably go down in history as the most difficult period ever for club culture. But we won’t stop doing what we’re doing. Music is our oxygen. We’ll dance together soon again.
The TOTAL series has always been like Kompakt's yearbook and to say it with the late Frank Sinatra: It was a very good year. Our family of artists delivered a strong heterogeneous mix of uplifting sounds, from the lush reveries of ROBAG WRUHME and SOELA to the stark primetime bangers of MARC ROMBOY or ANNA & KITTIN and everything in between. Notable new entries to our crew are the Londoner KIWI with his wonderfully careless “Hello Echo” that picks up the camp disco vibes Justus Köhncke made a staple in our repertoire. Amsterdam’s DAVID DOUGLAS delivers an appetizer for a full course meal. His quirky pop approach sits comfortably between fellow dutchmen WEVAL’s abstract beats and AGENTS OF TIME’s opulent Italo Disco. YOTAM AVNI blends Detroit techno with new age jazz that reminisces the sound of ECM artists like Jan Garbarek or John Surman. The man with the hat, KÖLSCH also picks up jazzier notes in his very own big room style. Youngblood JONATHAN KASPAR appears twice, fortifying his status as one of the hottest beat smiths of our hometown Cologne. TOTAL wouldn’t be TOTAL without our permanent staff present in full force. As per tradition, KOMPAKT’s founding fathers, VOIGT & VOIGT, JÜRGEN PAAPE, JÖRG BURGER, MICHAEL MAYER as well as our Berlin outpost SASCHA FUNKE all deliver exclusive gems that also feature on Total 20’s double vinyl edition. May TOTAL 20 become your trustworthy companion in these uncertain times."
Houndstooth's new comp attempts to put a badge on the wave of cyber-sonic global club music that's been building in momentum over the last few years. It's tough to label sounds that are by design so disparate (unsurprising since, as Houndstooth admits, the comp "takes in artists from almost every continent in the world") and the imprint's fixation on "radical otherness" feels awkward, but the artists featured here can't be sniffed at.
China's SVBKVLT label is best represented, with tracks from 33EMYBW, Gooooose, Hyph11E and Osheyack illustrating the vibrancy of the country's club scene by electroplating familiar sounds (trance arps, chopped breaks, cut vocals) with polished chrome. Subreal bosses AMAZONDOTCOM & Siete Catorce follow their unmissable new collab EP "Vague Currency" with another idiosyncratic team up here, blending clattering drums with wheezing synths and icy, pinprick bleeps.
Yorkshire babe AYA represents the UK with a fresh fwd-facing slice of neon club ecstasy 'DaRE u to sour lips with me', melting bass momentum into a fractured skeleton of 16-bit bliss. Elsewhere Debit serves up a rolling rhythmic gem sure to fire up fans of last year's towering "System" EP with more tribal guarachero sounds merged with haunted industrial club pressure.
It's really all killer no filler: Tunisian producer Deena Abdelwahed folds in North African sonic elements on standout track 'Abbrejiyeytar', while Uruguay's Lila Tirando a Violeta teams up with Irish producer Lighght for the head-splitting 'Rituals For Rusting Metals'. Even Ugandan wunderkind Slikback shows up with the restrained 'Shogai'. U know what to do.
If The Crucible - both visually and musically - started where The Tower ended, one can argue that The All Is One starts where The Crucible ended and thus finishes the so-called "Gullvåg trilogy". That said, The All Is One is so much more than a sequel, and very much a standalone album in its own right.
"While The Crucible took the band a step further out than The Tower, the new one explores new frontiers, especially with the dark, brooding landscape of the 42-minute epic centerpiece that is "N.O.X.", possibly the most ambitious piece of music they have recorded. Eight shorter tracks, clocking in between two and ten minutes, make up the rest of the album and bring some balance to the proceedings. Lyrically, The All Is One takes up the threads from the previous albums. While there is no thematic red line as such - and not being overtly political - it is difficult for a socially conscious writer like Bent Sæther not to observe and reflect on what goes on in an increasingly unstable world. They have also found strong inspiration and common ground in the paintings of Håkon Gullvåg, the artist responsible for the cover art.
The album was recorded in two major sessions, the first took place in Studio Black Box in France with long time collaborator and guitarist Reine Fiske. Here they mainly focused on material with more or less traditional song structures. The second session was at Ocean Sound Recording in Norway and basically dealt with the long "N.O.X." suite, developed from the commissioned music they wrote for, and performed at, the St. Olav Festival in Trondheim last summer with two of their favourite Norwegian musicians, Lars Horntveth (Jaga Jazzist) and Ola Kvernberg (Steamdome). The whole album was mixed by Andrew Scheps at his Punkerpad studio in the UK. Artistically searching as ever, and in their own way joyously stretching the rock format as out of whack as they can, Motorpsycho neither can nor will align themselves fully to any scene or genre. Travelling their own path in their own tempo, it might take longer to get anywhere, but that is just fine when the journey itself is the whole point. And what a journey it has been; this band is still peaking after more than 30 years in the business. Amazing!"
The Bit is the second recorded collaboration between Aidan Baker (Nadja / Hypnodrone Ensemble), Simon Goff (Jóhann Johannsson / Hildur Gudnadottir) and Thor Harris (Swans, Shearwater, Thor & Friends).
"Following on from 2017’s Noplace album, The Bit treads a similar path in terms of the recording process as the trio spent a day improvising at Voxton Studios in Berlin whilst on a European tour. The result was then edited and moulded into six hypnotic tracks that ebb and flow with beauty and ease.
The Bit finds the trio painting with a lighter touch than on its predecessor. Thor Harris’ motorik beats still underpin the music but the atmospherics take a more prominent role and there is a pure and cohesive path to be found throughout the record. Much like on Noplace, Baker’s guitar and Goff’s violin weave together beautifully, forming a deep bed of melody, ambience and reverb.
Given the trios credentials it’s not surprising they have created another immersive and stunning record."
Minimalist Düsseldorf dance traction in full effect from Harmonious Thelonious, the rhythm tripping alias of Salon Des Amateurs affiliate Stefan Schwander.
Now following his nose for a mix of perpetual African rhythm motions, American minimalism and tight German engineering for over a decade under this alias, Schwander continues to get ever deeper into his groove with the viscous hydraulics of ‘Plong’, his first long one for stewards of classic German synth music, Bureau B after turns with the likes of TTT and Disk.
The churn is hard to resist on this, his first album in 3 years, showing off some real arp muscle and motorik drums in ‘Young Kong’, and slaying us with the swingeing grind of ‘The Roller’ on a scrambled Ed Rush & Optical tip, while he serves killer wonky sidespin on Kurdish Dabke in ‘Original Member Of a Wedding Band’, and the plong of the title is felt heaviest in the relentless bent of ‘Höhlenmenschenmuziek’ and ‘Totentanz’, his tribute to formative gigs witnessing “Liquid Liquid, Gun Club, Jonathan Richman, and a very young Aztec Camera”.
The band’s fifth album feels comfortable and lived-in: humble in structure, heavy on mood. Perhaps that came taking time off from the touring grind, instead working full-time jobs and settling into the rhythm of daily life in a small upstate New York town.
"Plum was recorded over a handful of weekends last winter by Sam Evian (Cass McCombs, Kazu Makino, Hannah Cohen) at his Flying Cloud studio in the Catskills, and was mixed by Ali Chant (PJ Harvey, Aldous Harding, Perfume Genius). In addition to Hamilton (vocals, guitar) and Thomas (guitars, bass, synth), it features instrumental contributions by Andy Weaver (drums), Michael Hess (piano), and Sam himself (bass, synth). Plum nestles into the band’s canon like it was always there, but with new textures coming to the fore, like the polyrhythmic pulse of “Amy” and “The Good Ones”, or the watery, Terry Riley-influenced track “Jeanie”
Plum navigates the spaces between the lesser emotions of modern life. Hamilton’s lyrics speak to the unique turmoil of anyone who creates as their work, who must somehow survive off such “fruits of their labor.” Yet, Widowspeak have always made a bitter pill much easier to swallow. The majestic “Breadwinner”, the luminous “Even True Love” – these songs here were made to be listened to, enjoyed. “Money” is particularly hypnotic, built around a repeating, cyclical motif that serves as both skeleton and body. “Will you get back what you put in?” Hamilton asks over an insistent guitar riff. The line is delivered with a knowingness that transcends its surface critiques of late-stage capitalism, asking both herself and the listener whether this is, in fact, the world we want to live in. Through Plum, Widowspeak have brought something into the world that seems to know its own worth, even as it wonders aloud about what is to come. What value and meaning do we assign ourselves, our time, and how do we spend it?"
The haunting soundtrack to so many comedowns and moments of existential moping, SAW II is an arch masterpiece of ‘90s ambient music treasured by practically anyone who crosses its path.
First released in 1994, a couple of years after Selected Ambient Works 85-92, the follow-up largely does away with beats in favour of properly K’d out atmospheres and meandering melodies that lull us into thee lushest and strangest headspace. It’s fair to say that a whole generation of ravers grew up with a copy of this album in one of its many forms (there are multiple editions with very slightly different tracklists) but the effect remains the same; a deeply hypnotic sense of déjà entendu, sehnsucht, hiraeth, or whatever the fuck you call that feeling when you go to feed a squirrel and it runs away.
The bulk of the album’s 24 tracks are shy of AFX’s signature perc, and for that reason, among others, it stands well out from the rest of his catalogue on its own, shivering and ponderous, lost to its own thoughts. All the tracks were originally titled with an image, which makes identifying each one a pain in the arse, and it kills the magic to refer to digits. It’s better grasped in synaesthetic sensations and terms with which it was painted, which will only become apparent to the user as they waft along conjuring harmonic sound/image and olfactory/spatial, or whichever sensory short-circuiting feeling that it elicits for those susceptible to such stuff. To be honest, we’re not sure if we or anyone else has ever completed the whole thing in a conscious state from end to end and best enjoyed it; you’d just be fighting the feeling of its sanguine seduction; best to let your eyes fall to half-mast and let it infect your space like no other, allowing AFX to be your dreamstate shaman guiding you through its shifting tonalities, letting it play out on the back of your eyelids and draw you into the strangest, most unsettling and ephemeral headspaces imaginable.
Finnish dub maverick Sasu Ripatti scrambles and sloshes Sly & Robbie’s rhythms in patented style for Sub Rosa
Fucking with distinctions between Jamaican dub proper and the spiralling matrices of its globalised spin-offs, ‘500 Push Up’ is a proper avant-dancehall rinse out full of scurrying organic detail and sweltering pressure. It leads on from Delay’s involvement in the 2018 LP ‘Nordub’, which also featured Nils Petter Molvær and Eivind Aarset, but leaves behind the jazz fusion elements to go hard and ruthless in the dubbing, until every element is fizzing and bouncing in a proper swill.
“In January 2019, Vladislav Delay went to Kingston and spent some days at The Anchor studios, to record drums and bass with S&R, some voice takes and a series of atmospheric field recordings. Back to Finland, Delay started to experiment with this precious material, mixing and overdubbing, in the comfort and quiet of his studio, based on the island of Hailuoto, Baltic Sea, Northern Finland, giving another feeling to the Jamaican trip. This became a tribute to the 'dub spirit', but in a very personal way, far beyond any influence or "the obvious". 500-PUSH-UP is two worlds collapsing, merging, also showing some intriguing approach of the Jamaican groove, used as a filigree, like the echo or the ghost of reggae, converging and conversing with a post-industrial and experimental approach. To file beside experiments - for instance - such as Lee Perry's 'Scientist Rids The World Of The Evil Curse Of The Vampires' or the On U-Sound productions.”
At this point you shouldn't need any introduction to Liz Harris, better known to most as Grouper. She's got a few albums and splits under her belt now, but chances are the first time you came across her music was the stunningy beautiful modern classic 'Dragging A Dead Deer Up A Hill', released back in 2008.
It was the distinct and singular blend of shimmering dream-pop and tape-mangled noise that had just about anyone worth their salt in awe of her music, so you can imagine the hype surrounding this brand new record. Ah, but then it's not only one record is it? A I A is two full forty minute full-lengths, and rather than a traditional double, these are two very distinct albums, each one with its own focus and style. 'Alien Observer' might be the more outwardly song-based of the two records, and while the songs aren't necessarily as clearly defined as those on 'Dragging A Dead Deer Up A Hill', they slowly and pointedly push up through Liz's familiar gaseous layers of drone.
Her distinct, breathy tones are initially barely audible over the mudded harmonies, starting life as ghostly echoes, but the further you get into each track the more clearly defined shapes start to emerge. It's music that no doubt changes with each listen and listener - you're left to fill in the gaps, and while we can hear the heaving breaths of the Cocteau Twins, The Red House Painters and This Mortal Coil wrenching themselves from the subconscious, you would probably come to a different conclusion altogether. 'Dream Loss' is the murkier, more grimy counterpart to 'Alien Observer's distant pop and travels still further into Liz's astral tape haze and noisy, vocal ambience. While the record might begin unassumingly enough with the downplayed 'Dragging the Streets', 'I Saw A Ray' greets us with a volcanic slither of noise and calloused harmony. This deeply buried melancholy transports us through the album, and while the noise subsides to make way for Liz's familiar layered vocal loops and subtle, withdrawn songs, the character and texture is still one of distortion and fragmentation as opposed to the occasional overt prettiness exhibited on 'Alien Observer'.
As Liz mentioned in the run-up to this ambitious double release, the albums are two very separate works, yet somehow feed off eachother when heard together. To hear one without the other is to only hear a single element of the whole piece - 'Dream Loss' adds the darkness, and in sinking deep into it we get a whole new understanding for 'Alien Observer'. It's a harrowing trip, but one laced with beauty, restraint and that unquantifiable magic that seems to grace mostly anything Liz Harris touches.
Ok, this is more like it - a crackshot slab from the crackpot producer putting his computer controlled acoustic orchestra thru its paces.
As promised or alluded to in various interviews around last year's 'Syro' LP, he's done a proper Pierre (Bastien, Henry, Schaeffer) and manufactured a whole mechanical band of things that hit other things - mainly pianos, drums and gongs - to make a very pleasing sound indeed. It's the sound of an artist exerting optimal control over his instruments but allowing for, or even cultivating the natural infidelities of syncopation and harmonic dissonance in a way that's rarely, if ever, been achieved quite to these standards.
Breaking down to thirteen tracks, each between 20 seconds and 5 mins long, he explores that stripped-down palette to its fullest, funkiest, whether accelerating the aesthetics of Gruppo di Improvvisazione and Portishead in the brooding opener, 'diskhat ALL prepared1mixed 13', putting solo pianists out of work with the likes of 'piano un1 arpej' and 'piano un10 it happened', or communing a radiance of gamelan-like keys and metallic tones in its most curious highlight, 'disk prep calrec2 barn dance (slo)'. The closest comparison we could make is with the breaksploits of his 'i Care Because You Do' album mixed with some kind of abstracted Italian Library Record funk aesthetic, which is pretty mad, and pretty damn good if you ask us...
Pure, uncomplicated loveliness on this latest LP from bijou imprint Sonic Pieces and their pal F.S. Blumm. There was a time we’d find the easygoing breeziness of this one a little bit hard to bare, but right now it’s ticking a lot of boxes. Basically, if you wanna see the world in pastels and stop the clock on your anxieties for a minute, this one should do the trick.
Blumm is one of those characters that’s been around for what must be a good several decades by this point. Always on the peripheries, as part of Sack & Blumm with Harald Ziegler and as Bobby & Blumm with Ella Blixt, he’s had albums solo and as part of other groups on numerous labels like Staubgold, Tomblab, Morr, Plop - u get the picture, that school of homespun electronic-acoustic miniatures that was for a while kind of a big deal and which ultimately spawned loads of Japanophile labels like Erased Tapes in their early days.
Anyway, all of that is dated as fuck by this point, as would this album be - if it weren’t for a few twists that elevate proceedings into something more nuanced and believable. The windswept Paris-Texan vistas of aufgrund, for instance, or the sad lullaby strums on haltegriff - you’d have to have a heart of stone not to swoon a little bit.
The rest - it all sounds like the sort of music you get on CNN weather slides - and normally we’d leave it at that. Except that at this moment in time, 'In Sight' provides a purity of feeling we just can’t bring ourselves to argue with or resist. Add to that the typically gorgeous hand-sticthced textile packaging from Sonic Pieces and we’re back in Berlin in the early 2000’s, full of hope and open hearts.
Yeah, pure af this one.
Debut album of seething, artful punk blurt from well tipped London band ranting about the unrelenting pressures of the world like it’s 1980 all over again, building on a mean live reputation and a run of cult 7”s since 2016 - think Wire, The Fall, Crass
“In equal parts frantic, considered, ear-splitting and melodic, the group take their cues from the early DIY punk and post-punk pioneers to keep everything in-house; artwork, videos, performances and recordings are created entirely by the group and their handful of trusted collaborators, under a bedrock of heavy, bludgeoning, dark, post-punk.
‘Now Here’s An Echo From Your Future’ is their first release for fabled experimental punk label Harbinger Sound and finds the band advancing their sound, making subtle but experimental shifts in texture and tone, helping to break free from the shackled straight-jacket of punk rock that, to be fair, never really held them down in the first place.
Across the album’s ten songs, Girls In Synthesis explore a wide range of sensations and sounds as the album detonates into life with opening track ‘Arterial Movements’ in a screeching flurry of over-driven guitar and hammering drums. The contrast between the slow, mesmerising look into aging and dying in ‘Human Frailty’ (‘The realisation that you cannot halt their impending death’), to the aggressive attack on the rise of the right-wing in ‘They’re Not Listening’ (‘The time-old tradition of the right wing accosting desperate working class people has returned’) shows a wide range of subjects and reactions aggressively tackled.
Mental health in a fast-moving, unforgiving world, media control, the divide widening between the have and the have nots, the class divide, the blaming of the poor, NHAEFYF bristles with an unforgiving frustration and temper.”
Rhodri Davies (Apartment House/Hen Ogledd) charms with this gorgeous suite of improvisations on a C.13th Horsehair harp specially built for this release - the maiden voyage on his Amgen Records
Seemingly recorded in a stone cottage in medieval times, but actually captured in Newcastle upon Tyne, 2020; ’Telyn Rawn Amgen’ revolves around a flurry of 18 poetic improvisations on the transportable, lightweight sort of harp that was used to accompany Welsh and Irish bards back-in-the-day. Once popular, and even mentioned in C.13th Welsh law, the instrument has been practically obsolete for nearly 200 years until Davies’ process of research and experimentation brought it back to life in 2016, intended as he says, “as a means to improvise historically informed music and re-evaluate the legacy of the harp in Wales”. And he does so thoroughly, taking inspiration from contemporaneous historic texts and poetry to coax and pluck out rawly gorgeous flows of extended melodic thought from its horse hair strings.
As a member of new music specialists Apartment House, as well as the ancient punk rabble Hen Ogledd and myriad collaborations with the exploratory avant-garde, Davies brings an in-depth experience and dexterity to his performances here. Experimenting with different styles of stringing - both plucking and bowing straight, woven, and plaited strings - he wrests a remarkable range of sonorities from the harp, from lissom, lilting melodic pieces to shredded scree and see-sawing folk discord that gets right in the back teef and flings us back to backroom pub sessions in our native North of England, where echoes of these traditions used to (or still?) play out. But Rhodri surely revitalises the sound with a bleeding sense of expression and gripping storytelling that gets beyond images of hoary beardy tropes and gets in your head, much like his previous collaborator Laura Cannell did with Polly Wright on 2019’s ace ‘Sing As The Crow Flies’.
30th anniversary reissue of the historic coming together of two icons of leftfield music.
A prime example of heroes who lost it in the ‘90s, Eno & Cale’s collaboration should be stellar on paper but sounds intolerably twee and indulgent 25 years later. Includes two bonus cuts; ‘Grandfather’s House’, ‘Palenquin’
From the stiflingly clinical production to their woolly harmonies and, again, that artwork, it’s turns like this that really split the Eno diehards from those who prefer his classic work in the late ‘70s/early ’80s. If you're in the former category, you’ll be pleased to see two new cuts included on this 2020 reissue, with the sappy ‘Grandfather’s House’ and moody keys of ‘Palanquin’ extending the album’s pleasures.
All too often what passes for "ambient" music is pulled towards one of two poles: nihilistic darkness or cloying lightness - manbient or cutebient. We're fucking sick of it. Thankfully, mischievous scene veteran Richard Chartier has unleashed a much-needed corrective here with his latest Pinkcourtesyphone full-length, allowing his darkness to languish in sensuality and the softer edges to present tenderly, flamboyantly and joyfully.
"Leaving Everything To Be Desired" is a dense collection of post-Wolfgang Voigt fog and Badalamenti-inspired Lynchian mystery, spritzed with a cherry-scented mist of queer kitsch. Its cinematic and grand, but never takes itself too seriously, underpinning its woozy, shimmering orchestral blasts with a sense of poised, poignant longing.
There's no posturing here, Chartier has a catalogue that would put most producers to shame, instead this album is here to represent mood, moment and memory. It's not hauntology; there's nostalgia, sure, but detoxed, removed from the churning context of bad cultural tropes and white, cishet self-loathing. "Leaving Everything To Be Desired" is as decadent as a new set of silk sheets so treat urself and slide in.