Pacific Breeze documents Japan’s blast into the stratosphere. By the 1960s, the nation had achieved a postwar miracle, soaring to become the world’s second largest economy. Thriving tech exports sent The Rising Sun over the moon. Its pocket cassette players, bleeping video games, and gleaming cars boomed worldwide, wooing pleasure points and pumping Japanese pockets full of yen.
"Japan’s financial buoyancy also permeated its popular culture, birthing an audio analog called City Pop. This new sound arose in the mid ’70s and ruled through the ’80s, channeling the country’s contemporary psyche. It was sophisticated music mirroring Japan’s punch-drunk prosperity. City Pop epitomized the era, providing a soundtrack for emerging urbanites. An optimistic spirit buzzed through the music in neon-bathed, gauzy tableaus coated with groove-heavy strokes.
Pacific Breeze is an expertly compiled collection of choice cuts that range from silky smooth grooves to innovative techno pop bangers and everything in between. Long-revered by crate diggers and adventurous music heads, this music has never been released outside of Japan until now. Including key artists like Taeko Ohnuki and Minako Yoshida, as well as cult favorites Hitomi Tohyama and Hiroshi Sato, the long-awaited release also features newly commissioned cover painting by Tokyo-based artist Hiroshi Nagai, whose iconic images of resort living have graced the covers of many classic City Pop albums of the 1980s.
Many of the key City Pop players evolved from the Japanese New Music scene of the early ’70s, as heard on Light In The Attic’s acclaimed Even a Tree Can Shed Tears: Japanese Folk & Rock 1969-1973, the first release of the ongoing Japan Archival Series. In fact, you could say City Pop set sail with a champagne smash from Happy End, the freakishly talented subversives who included amongst their ranks Haruomi Hosono and Shigeru Suzuki, both featured on this compilation. As Michael K. Bourdaghs noted in his book, Sayonara Amerika, Sayonara Nippon, this music was, “Deconstructing the line between imitation and authenticity.” Some of the best City Pop teeters in this zone—easy listening with mutant exotica, tilted techno-pop, and steamy boogie bubbling beneath the gloss."
So what more can we add to the mountains of praise lavished on one of thee best loved and lived electronic rock albums of all time? Not a lot, really, but listen in and read on if you need reassurance that this is a truly pivotal, essential record...
The birthplace of and inspiration for so much that we hold dear, Suicide's self-titled album is the very definition of future-proof, and its perfectly articulated vision of electronic punk minimalism seems more potent and prophetic today than it ever has before.
Spacemen 3 and Spiritualized owe their entire careers to the soaring, deconstructed VU ascent of 'Cheree', the tough-guy technobilly dynamism of Sandra Electronics and Powell can be traced back to 'Ghost Rider', and the exquisite 'Che' is everything minimal wave promises but invariably falls short of delivering.
Martin Rev's emaciated but propulsive drum-machine rhythms and fiendishly deployed shards of synthetic noise are of course impeccable, but listening back to this album we're reminded how much Alan Vega's utterly unique, utterly committed vocals make Suicide what it is: whether shrieking like a Times Square vagrant possessed on 'Frankie Teardrop' or coming over like a post-nuclear Elvis on the mighty 'Rocket USA'.
Really words can't do justice to the purity and straight-up magnificence of this album: it isn't just a record that everyone should hear, it's a record that everyone should own, listen to often, and know inside out.
Totally infectious Gnawa funk and psych-edged rock from Morocco, 1973, legit licensed and issued for the first time on any format! Yet another fuzzy peach on Habibi Funk.
Leading on from the labels plates of Afro-Cuban Jazz and the Afrobeat of ‘Muslims & Christians’, this is the first pressing of gripping, heavily soulful recordings by three generations of the same family, headed up by the distinctive cry of Attarazat Addahabia. Addahabia was schooled between Casablanca and Paris in the ’60s and brings some serious calibre to the record, commanding the mic in Arabic against female call and response vocals and a crack backing band throwing down thick electric guitar fuzz and driving blend of rhythm from Western rock and Moroccan tradition.
Running in the same circles as Moroccan legend Fadoul (star of Habibi Funk’s ‘Al Zman Saib’ reissue and ‘An Eclectic Selection of Music From The Arab World’ compilation), Attarazat Addahabia & Faradjallah were one of the first rock bands in the Arab-speaking world and they patently knew how to rip a cool groove. Nearly half a century later their tunes will still light up clubs from Casablanca to Paris.
Skull Disco reaches it's final catalogue number with the final nail in the coffin on 'Soundboy's Gravestone Gets Desecrated By Vandals', collating the final few 12" releases on the first CD, and a selection of accompanying remixes from the likes of T++, Rupture, Geiom, Brendon Moeller, and Bass Clef on an additional second CD.
Over the course of three years the label has come to define a very dark corner of the dubstep related universe, finding fans in unexpected places, from Ricardo Villalobos and Cassy at the housier end of the spectrum and T++ showing love from the techno end. The first CD opens with the dystopian classic 'The Rope Tightens' by the maverick Shackleton, with a horrific echo chamber lockdown featuring vocals from longtime Skull Disco affiliate Tenfold Vengeance, and moves onto later collaborations between Appleblim and Peverelist on their lauded 'Circling'.
Shackleton's smacky voodoo dancer 'Death Is Not Final' is included, alongside the undulating drum workout 'You Bring Me Down' as well as Appleblim's now classic 'Vansan' making it's first appearance on CD. The second set is about as fresh as it gets, starting with T++'s techno enhanced remix of 'Vansan' and further cementing the Berlin connection with Pole's spatialized dub-scape version of Shack's 'Shortwave'. Peverelist's remix of 'You Bring Me Down' is surely one of the finest dubstepXtechno tracks of the year and is also included alongside the stunning T++ revision of Shack's 'Death Is Not Final', surely one of the tracs of year full stop! The most surprising remix comes from badawi, with a previously unreleased rethink of 'The Rope Tightens'. Raz Mesinai sticks with the original's extended format, but rewires it with a technofied yet meditative version that sounds like 'Polaroid' or 'Cern' era Monolake mixed with sound design approaching Peter Rehberg's frosty scapes for the KTL project. The depth and scope on this one can only be fully appreciated at home on a good system with all the lights out, or equally in a dark warehouse setting, this is riddimic futurism at it's finest.
A final mention must be given to the terrific artwork from the mind of Zeke Clough beamed directly from a tower somewhere in deepest darkest Salford, applying the final but essential touch to a stunning package.
Out of print for 30 years, Airto Moreira’s Brazilian jazz-fusion masterpiece is now reissued for the first time. Moreira was key member of Miles Davis’ ‘electric’ group, notably playing on ‘Bitches Brew’
“The impact of Airto Moreira in both the world of American jazz and in Brazilian music is unparalleled. At the start of the 1970s Airto was invited to join Miles Davis’ groundbreaking ‘electric’ group, which with albums such as the seminal ‘Bitches Brew’ helping Davis regain his title from John Coltrane as the most important jazz artist of all time.
Two years later Airto helped establish two of the most important jazz fusion groups of all time: Weather Report, with Wayne Shorter, Joe Zawinul and Miroslav Vituous; and Return to Forever, with Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke and Flora Purim. Airto Moreira also began his solo career in the USA in 1970, and alongside his wife, the singer Flora Purim, and Brazilian artists such as Hermeto Pascoal, Sivuca, Deodato, Raul de Souza, Azymuth, all played a major part in the Latinised sound of American jazz fusion throughout the 1970s.
By this time Airto established himself in the USA in the 1970s, he had already had a formidable career back in Brazil in the 1960s as an important figure in the Bossa Nova movement, which soon after spread throughout the world. Airto played in a number of important groups during this time – Quarteto Novo Sambalanco Trio and Sambrassa Trio (all of with Hermeto Pascoal) – which proved to be three of the most ground-breaking groups of this era.
The album ‘Samba de Flora’, including the seminal jazz dance title track, is a masterpiece of jazz and Brazilian fusion and features Airto Moreira alongside Flora Purim, fellow Brazilian artist Raul de Souza and heavyweight USA jazz musicians Alphonso Johnson, percussionist Don Alias (from Stone Alliance), Cuban conga player Cachete and Argentinian pianist Jorge Dalto.
The album was originally released on the small independent Montuno Record label (which was run out of the unassuming Record Mart record store situated in the Times Square underground subway station!) and has been unavailable for many, many years.”
Reissue of ‘MZUI’, the audio document of an A/V installation by (then ex-) Wire and (current) Dome members Bruce Gilbert and Graham Lewis, and artist Russell Mills, whose illustration and designs adorned records by Eno, Japan, Yazoo ++
‘MZUI’ the installation was held at Waterloo Gallery in central London between 8-31st August, 1981. This was one year after Wire disbanded for the first time, and Gilbert and Lewis had spent the interim constructing the Dome studio at the legendary Blackwing facilities. They had met Russell Mills during the Wire days and invited him into their Kupol performances, leading to his participation on ‘MZUI’, where the trio made use of a 5000 sq. feet former meat-packing warehouse space, turning its detritus into artworks including a meadow of smashed glass, and also installed a PA and recording equipment to capture and use any public interaction. It was all in near pitch darkness and so risky that visitors had to sign a disclaimer before entry.
The music contained on ‘MZUI’ the release is not intended as a direct representation of the installation, rather it’s presented “as a landscape, as articulating a sense of place” according to Kevin S. Eden’s liner notes. In that respect, the album’s two 20 minute+ pieces offer a spectral tour of the warehouse, its contents and the installation’s attendees, with spare, aleatoric clangs, muffled voices, distant percussion and industrial eruptions occurring in acres of billowing negative space. It’s not hard to hear the vast dimensions of the space in the recordings in the first piece, which is compelling enough, but it really gets interesting in the 2nd part where they hold to longer, coherent section of curdled carnival music and noise, or particularly the mid-section of sepulchral choral drones and its transition into a looped quote of Marcel Duchamp intoning “in spite of myself, I’m a meticulous man.”
More than a curio, this is a fascinating example of the Dome guys at their loosest and most intuitively experimental.
A comprehensive remastered collection of all of the Television Personalities’ ground-breaking single releases from the Peel-approved 14th Floor through to the effervescent Salvador Dali’s Garden Party EP.
"Includes the super rare Creation flexi, the TVPs as The Gifted Children, and the even rarer Caff 45 where the band tackle Stock, Aitken And Waterman. Purists will also find two shelved 45s for the Dreamworld label plus their take on Syd Barrett’s Apples And Oranges from the Beyond The Wildwood tribute album. Features the seminal Where’s Bill Grundy Now and the self-effacing Part Time Punks alongside a host of pop culture-bating gems. A celebration of the songwriting of Dan Treacy."
Expanded reissue of one of the most fascinating Japanese ambient/environmental albums ever made, NOVA + 4 by Yutaka Hirose. The package includes the album known as Soundscape 2: Nova, sourced from its original masters, as well as 50 minutes of never-released-before recordings, yielding dreamiest synth tones swaddled in richly detailed environmental recordings that conjure a beautifully soporific non-place for drifting minds.
“Initially released in 1986 as part of the Soundscape series* commissioned by Misawa Home Corporation for use in their prefabricated houses, Yutaka Hirose’s NOVA has grown to become a mythical piece of the Japanese minimalist/ambient/environmental scene of the eighties. Initiated around the enchanting landscapes of the two first tracks recorded for the project, "Nova" and "Epilogue", Yutaka Hirose’s magnum opus serenely blends vintage synth with nature sounds, exploring soothing palettes and organic backdrops. For "Slow Sky", Hirose explains he "went for a pointillism-like sound, and tried to express a scenery of awakening, where the portal of a heart is opening up", while on "Humming The Sea", he "tried to compose a kind of music that expresses the daily, lazy life of child-like innocence in a summer vacation in some small town."
The bonus LP gathers four long unreleased pieces created around the same period of time for installations, described by Yutaka Hirose as "not music per se but rather sound sculptures", and including the haunting "Shadow Of A Water Droplet" which was recorded for an Ikebana exhibition.
All in all, NOVA + 4 is a transcendent experience of nature in the urban context, an oeuvre which, much like Midori Takada’s Through The Looking Glass or Satoshi Ashikawa’s Still Way, holds the power to appease the soul in turbulent times. As one inspired YouTube commenter once said when describing Yutaka Hirose’s masterstroke: "I can't tell if the birds are singing inside or outside! Thank you! "
Etheric excursions into new age ambient and folk underlaid with woozy drum machine rhythms and perfused with field recordings
“Following 2017’s Infinite Avenue and 2013’s Sleeper, Both Lines Will Be Blue is Carmen’s first full instrumental album. A 7 track collection of cosmic excursions and dubby ambient-jams, the album is written, recorded, played, produced and mixed by Carmen in her Oslo studio. The soothing atmospherics are made up of tapestries of field recordings, synths, piano, drum-programming, zither and modular sounds. Throughout, Carmen’s music is colored by experimenting with different sounds and learning new techniques or by adding new instruments to the mix.
"I’ve been playing around with instrumentals for a long time, and it was something I wanted to do more with after I finished Infinite Avenue,” says Carmen. “Leaving out my voice and lyrics got me out of my own head a bit, which I needed. Working with sound is to me the ultimate meditation and is a more unconscious way of expressing whatever is going on inside.”
The flute, played by Chilenean-Norwegian Johanna Scheie Orellana (formerly of Sassy 009), is a central part of this new album. Carmen got her in to the studio to both record melodies that she had written, as well as making plenty of room for impro/freeform. Prins Thomas also appears on the record, playing percussion on “I Could Sit Here All Day.”
“I made this track based on a Roland SH-101 sequence run through various processing,” says Villain. “The whole thing came together kind of like a jam, I wrote the flute in one take, and it just felt right. I wanted real flute on this, so asked Johanna if she'd like to come in, and we've been collaborating ever since.””
Michael O’Shea’s sole, breathtaking album ranks among our favourite of all time - yet hardly anyone seems to have heard of it. Produced by Wire’s Bruce Gilbert and Graham Lewis at the Dome studio in 1982, it’s an utterly singular work of magick meshing myriad, worldly modes into music that rarely fails to reduce us to tears. It’s one of those albums that basically sounds like nothing else - the only record we can draw some parallels to is Dariush Dolat-Shahi’s life changing 'Electronic Music, Tar and Sehtar’, despite it coming from the other end of the world.
First brought to our attention by Blackest Ever Black at the start of this decade, we’ve gradually developed an obsessive fascination with its sublime, rapid dervishes and warbling rhythmelodies, so it’s a pleasure to see it finally made easily available to everyone who we’ve ranted about it over the years (2nd hand copies have been historically pricey and hard to come by!), and especially replete with its enlightening new sleeve notes by archivist and writer Failed Bohemian.
A busker among other trades, O’Shea was an itinerant soul who, after a childhood and formative years spent between Northern Ireland and Kerry in the south of the country, and extensive travel between Europe, Turkey and Bangladesh, created his own instrument - an electrified dulcimer known as Mó Cará (Irish for ‘My Friend’) - which he performed on at Ronnie Scott’s, before later playing on bills with everyone from Ravi Shankar to Don Cherry, and also recording with The The’s Matt and Tom Johnson.
Aside from his two contributions to the Stano album, ‘Content To Dine In I Dine Weathercraft’ (also recently reissued by Dublin’s Allchival), O’Shea’s first and only album is the main point of reference for this unique artist. Like some eccentric expression of ancient Indo-European voices channelled thru a Celtic body, Michael O’Shea’s improvised acousto-electric music intuitively distills a world of styles into singularly hypnotic works. Using his self-built instrument; a hybrid of a zelochord and a sitar, made on a wooden door salvaged in Munich, and with the crucial addition of electric pick-ups and the ‘Black Hole Space Box’, O’Shea would absorb sounds from his travels like a sponge, and relay them back thru the instrument with effortlessly freeform and achingly lush results as elaborate as a Celtic knot or elegant as Sanskrit text.
The mercurial flow of syncretised styles in 15 minute opener ‘No Journey’s End’ catches your breath and doesn’t give it back, leaving us utterly light-headed and feeling something akin to religious experience, before his ’Kerry’ vignette most beautifully limns the epic coastline he hails from. The plasmic swirl and phasing of ‘Guitar No. 1’ is perhaps the one piece that time dates the LP to the post-punk era, even if it could have come from ancient Mesopotamia, while the album and artist’s underlying metaphysics bleed thru most hauntingly in the timbral shadowplay of ‘Voices’, and the rapidly tremulous, animist voodoo of ‘Anfa Dásachtach’.
Noted in his lifetime, not least by himself as; “…joker, transvestite, inventor, psychonaut, actor, catalyst, community worker, musician, traveller, instrument maker,” Michael O’Shea’s life was, by all accounts, every bit as colourful as his music, which only makes his untimely death in 1991 all that more tragic, as we’d practically give an arm to hear what he could have made in the early techno era, as he was purportedly getting heavy into London’s rave scene before he was taken.
Honestly no other record has cast such a strong spell over us in recent memory - to the extent of sending us on wild goose chases on the wrong peninsula in Kerry - so please pardon the gush ‘cos we can’t help but share love for this life-affirming disc and Michael O’Shea’s beautifully transcendent music.
This is f×cking amazing - a second volume of desolate, ambient themes from David Lynch’s sound designer and mixer of choice Dean Hurley, one of those behind-the-scenes guys whose work most subtly colours the popular imagination. If you’re into anything from Deathprod to Badalamenti to Mica Levi’s 'Under the Skin’, the more ascetic end of work from Leyland Kirby / The Caretaker, or Aphex Twin’s ’Selected Ambient Works Vol II” - this will rule your world.
Having operated and managed David Lynch’s Asymmetrical sound Studio for 13 years, Dean Hurley only appeared on our radar a couple of years ago with his sound design for the third season of Twin Peaks, and the first volume of his Anthology Resource which collected some of that work. During those 13 years - a period that began just before ‘Inland Empire’ - Hurley was basically there to create, mix and edit any sound artefacts Lynch required - a process that evidently allowed him the freedom to innovate through pretty much limitless experimentation. As a result, Hurley is now without question one of the most striking sound designers and supervisors working in film & television right now, steering well clear of overly emotive/manipulative cliche and instead focusing on the minutiae of sound in a way thay recalls the classic, pre-digital era.
His Anthology Resource is an ongoing series curated from his work for film and television in the library / production music tradition, as well as a series of albums in their own right, with this second volume 'Philosophy of Beyond’ collecting 12 pieces made in residency for Art Gallery of New South Wales’ event Masters of Modern Sound, and contributions to Eddie Alcazar's feature film ‘Perfect’ - mostly assembled from tape loops and field recordings.
While it’s fair enough to wheel out a usual list of ambient/atmospheric comparisons with ‘SAW II’, Brian Eno, Leyland Kirby, and indeed David Lynch’s own early work with Badalamenti, that’s really just to show what class Hurley is operating in - his music clearly possessing its own, menacing magick that stays with you long after the music has stopped, just like the imagery he is so highly adept at scoring.
Slow, methodical organ recordings on this major new work from Kali Malone; a quietly subversive double album featuring almost two hours of concentrated, creeping organ pieces governed by a strict acoustic and compositional code with ultimately profound emotional resonance. Featuring additional organ pieces performed by Ellen Arkbro and mastering by Rashad Becker, you’re gonna wanna spent time with this one.
‘The Sacrificial Code’ takes a more surgical approach to the methods first explored on last year’s ‘Organ Dirges 2016 - 2017’. Over the course of three parts performed on three different organs, Malone’s minimalist process captures a jarring precision of closeness, both on the level of the materiality of the sounds and on the level of composition.The recordings here involved careful close miking of the pipe organ in such a way as to eliminate environmental identifiers as far as possible - essentially removing the large hall reverb so inextricably linked to the instrument. The pieces were then further compositionally stripped of gestural adornments and spontaneous expressive impulse - an approach that flows against the grain of the prevailing musical hegemony, where sound is so often manipulated, and composition often steeped in self indulgence. It echoes Steve Reich’s sentiment “..by voluntarily giving up the freedom to do whatever momentarily comes to mind, we are, as a result, free of all that momentarily comes to mind.”
With its slow, purified and seemingly austere qualities ‘The Sacrificial Code’ guides us through an almost trance-inducing process where we become vulnerable receptors for every slight movement, where every miniature shift in sound becomes magnified through stillness. As such, it’s a uniquely satisfying exercise in transcendence through self restraint - a stunning realisation of ideas borne out of academic and conceptual rigour which gradually reveals startling personal dimensions. It has a perception-altering quality that encourages self exploration free of signposts and without a preordained endpoint - the antithesis to the language of colourless musical platitudes we've become so accustomed to.
Something special from DDS - the long awaited album debut of avant-Dancehall mutations from Jamaica’s Equiknoxx, already tipped by everyone from Jon K to Mark Ernestus, featuring productions dating between 2009-2016, mastered and cut by Matt Colton, all on vinyl for the first time ever...
Equiknoxx are one of the weirdest, most innovative dancehall squads from Jamaica right now; Bird Sound Power is their debut collective show of strength, packing 12 avant, crooked riddims by core members Gavsborg and Time Cow, plus Bobby Blackbird and Kofi Knoxx, with vocals by Kemikal, Shanique Marie and J.O.E. (R.I.P).
The set was parsed and pieced together by Jon K & Demdike Stare , and now thanks to link ups via Swing Ting’s Balraj Samrai (a longtime livicated supporter), it’s issued on Demdike’s DDS imprint, replete with Jon K’s sleeve design.
Easily identified by the squawking bird idents peppering their cuts, Equiknoxx productions have been big in the dance since Gavin Blair a.k.a. Gavsborg produced Busy Signal’s billboard hit Step Out in 2005, followed by key instrumentals for Beenie Man, Aidonia, Masicka, and T.O.K.
Bird Sound Power is weighted with the potential to open up perceptions of current dancehall thanks to the mad character and broad reference points of its producers, encompassing King Jammy’s foundational digi-dub and Dave Kelly’s Mad House sound as much as rugged New York hip hop and the wigged-out, feminine pressure of Virginia Beach’s Timbaland or The Neptunes.
The oldest tune inside dates to 2009, but the rest are recent dancehall mutations, including a number of exclusives produced in the last 12 months. Each one reps for Equiknoxx’s unique aspects, such as Jordan Chung a.k.a. Time Cow’s brilliantly bizarre, layered arrangements of sawn-off hooks and digi-tight beats, also a result of their distinguished family vibe.
Bird Sound Power exists in a paradox, utterly fwd but classic, and with as much potential to turn new heads onto current JA sounds as Mowax’s Now Thing set back in 2001, which remains a key touchstone for so many contemporary producers. It’s one of the sharpest, most crucial DDS issues yet, check the clips and get sweaty...
Caspar Brötzmann is one of the most unique and innovative guitarists of the last 40 years. With his Berlin-based trio Massaker, he evolved a whole new autonomous approach to writing rock songs, starting from sounds that were widely considered ornamental if not detrimental ‘sonic waste’, such as shrieking feedback and droning overtones. This plethora of sounds were arranged into tracks to sound like breaking concrete, grinding metal, or bursting glass, at once monumental and threatening, impenetrable and hermetic, yet also archaically tender and loving.
"Even today, as the art of noise has reached a level of sophistication that no one could have imagined 30 years ago, Caspar Brötzmann Massaker’s music is resoundingly singular. Ultra heavy riffs and beats, ominous tribal chants and a raw physical force is conjured up by these three sinister and proud minds of their era. Their unhinged, unified stream of energy is captured on these remastered reissues and the results are thrilling.
Originally released in 1992, Der Abend der schwarzen Folklore is the third Massaker album, released by Rough Trade Germany. According to Caspar Brötzmann, the title track and “Bass Totem“ are the band’s most accomplished songs. It’s certainly the most sonicly refined of their albums, recorded during a residency over several weeks at the pastoral site of Conny Plank’s studio near Cologne, and produced by Ingo Krauss and Bruno Gebhard, who had worked with the famed Krautrock producer until his death in 1987.
Not least, ...Schwarzen Folklore also features their new drummer Danny Lommen, whom Caspar and bassist Eduardo Delgado had headhunted at a concert with Lommen’s Dutch prog-core band Gore. Lommen shared their tastes in sheer volume and presence, and “has a completely unique sound to his drumming“, as Caspar marvels, “he plays ultrahard and clear, with authority and no compromise, nothing, not even the most turbulent and speedy beats, sound fuzzy - a statement.“ This, he adds with a smile, would sometimes lead to intense moods during rehearsals, when he overpowered - no small feat - competing with the sounds of Caspar’s guitar.
The Tribe and Black Axis were still if very loosely rooted in some kind of heavy rock. Der Abend der Schwarzen Folklore erases these residues from their genetic make-up - evolving into a free-form noise, strangely motionless like an earthquake rumble, that sounded like nothing else at the time. The opening title song gives the best example with its densely shifting chunk of howling and screaming guitar shreds and grimly determined rumbles from the bass, accented by heavy single beats or massively rattling, yet transparent outbursts from the drums. An impenetrable sense of threat fills the sound, interrupted only by breaks of skinny brooding, giving way to Caspar’s throaty growl evoking a lonely march through hostile wastelands under flaming sunsets. Culminating in an archaic choir chanting about black walls rising - a monstrous cloud of thick high-voltage tension.
Caspar speaks of the heavy nature of the lyrics, inspired by 19th century artist Caspar David Friedrich’s painting “Das Eismeer“ (“The Sea of Ice“) which depicts a shipwreck the icy shores of Antarctica. It deals, of course, with ideas of the sublime in nature - but also “the end of hope“, as the painting was known until the sixties. And indeed, Caspar credits his dark and brooding sounds to the uneasy times. With the wall down, the Eastern block broken, East and West Germany were politically united but emotionally didn’t share much more than a certain angst and uneasiness with respect to the future - which erupted in ugly right-wing riots and violence. Caspar felt the rise of a black folklore that he wanted to address, though he never admitted to it at the time because, he said, he didn’t want to sound like “some naive romantic“. Not underestimating the music‘s gothic values - a weird idea, once you’ve listened to “Schwarze Folklore“.
Southern Lord announce the next Caspar Brötzmann Massaker reissues in the ongoing series, continuing with Der Abend Der Schwarzen Folklore and Koksofen this July. Read on for more insight into these albums, and for information about incoming live dates supporting Sunn O))).
"Caspar Brötzmann is one of the most unique and innovative guitarists of the last 40 years. With his Berlin-based trio Massaker, he evolved a whole new autonomous approach to writing rock songs, starting from sounds that were widely considered ornamental if not detrimental ‘sonic waste’, such as shrieking feedback and droning overtones. This plethora of sounds were arranged into tracks to sound like breaking concrete, grinding metal, or bursting glass, at once monumental and threatening, impenetrable and hermetic, yet also archaically tender and loving.
Even today, as the art of noise has reached a level of sophistication that no one could have imagined 30 years ago, Caspar Brötzmann Massaker’s music is resoundingly singular. Ultra heavy riffs and beats, ominous tribal chants and a raw physical force is conjured up by these three sinister and proud minds of their era. Their unhinged, unified stream of energy is captured on these remastered reissues and the results are thrilling.
Koksofen (which translates as blast furnace), originally released in 1993, has become one of Massaker’s most popular albums. Like it’s predecessor, ...Schwarzen Folklore, the album took shape in Massaker’s rehearsal room below the Berlin subway station Schlesisches Tor, and was recorded at Conny Plank’s studio near Cologne, with Plank’s former associates Ingo Krauss and Bruno Gephard producing. There’s a different kind of intensity to Koksofen. The features of Massaker’s sound are in full bloom. Mountainous noises tower up and crash down, and tormented sounds rise from ominously seething grounds, haunting the entire song-scape. The feel of doom and dread hangs heavily over the five songs, and the title song rumbles, shrieks and wails, plagued by Caspar’s guttural growls of war, suffering and death.
Caspar recalls one anecdote from shortly after the original release whereby Bassist Edu Delgado called him asking to turn on the TV, thus discovering that “Hymne“ was being used as background music to a report about the death penalty in the US. A different kind of intensity indeed. Reflecting on the album to this day Caspar remarks “Koksofen is still a mystery to me,'' he continues “I can still feel the troubled times in these songs.” - the effects are certainly potent for the listener too. And the album undoubtedly affirms Massaker as the fiercely original and compellingly raw musicians that they are.
French beat maker Debruit meets Kinshasa, DRC’s Kokomo! for an energetic sound compatible with Kuduro but leaning towards dance-pop influenced song structures. Issued by the same label behind SOPHIE’s debut album
“You can trace the seeds of Fongola back to so many different places. It began in Kinshasa, in the Ngwaka neighbourhood where DIY experimental musical instruments are made, and the Lingwala neighbourhood where Makara Bianko sings every night on electronic loops with his dancers and where the band first met. We spent our tours across Europe dreaming about what we wanted to tell the world. It was recorded in makeshift studios we built out of ping pong tables and mattresses in Kinshasa and Brussels. Finally, I spent months putting it all together in Abattoir, Anderlecht like a giant electronic puzzle with pieces that don’t fit and no blueprint.” - Débruit
Signed with independent label Transgressive (Flume, SOPHIE, Let’s Eat Grandma), KOKOKO!’s distorted polyrhythms and spontaneous lo-fi sounds provide a chaotic soundtrack to their home country. When most people think of culture in the Democratic Republic of Congo, it’s The Rumble in The Jungle fight of Muhammad Ali vs George Foreman and the accompanying Soul Power concert with James Brown in the 70s, Mobutu in his abacost and leopard print hat, les sapeurs in their elegant tailoring, and the king of Congolese rumba Papa Wemba. A faded vintage postcard. KOKOKO! represent the antithesis of tradition, and their debut album Fongola - which translates to “the key” - is a torrid, anarchic, youthful journey smashing a new path through modern life in Africa’s third most populous city.”
DeepChord’s Rod Modell lists and tilts at 140bpm+ in his banging solo debut LP for Tresor
Landing 20 years since his 1st Rod Modell release, ‘The Autonomous Music Project’ for Lunar, the ‘Captagon’ album finds Modell breaking his usual 120bpm sound barrier to go headlong for a classic early Chain Reaction style, nodding to a mid-late ‘90s era when the likes of Monolake, Matrix and Erosion (T++) kept pace with the rest of techno, but also kept it deep and hypnotic as fuck. While it’s quite possible this uplift in energy may leave some of DeepChord’s older audience out of wind, for many others it’s a breath of fresh air to his exhaustively explored style.
Through a simple gesture of pushing the tempo, Modell’s sound instantly becomes more urgent, as though woken from its sluggish reverie and now properly up for some aerobic mysticism. Along with the Chain Reaction nods, there’s clear reference to classic Detroit and related gear, from Mike Grant’s Black Noise to full flight Mills trax and Convextion at his paciest. However, Modell’s grasp of layered, subaquatic dynamics really places ‘Captagon’ in a league of its own, with a rinsed out and rinseable dynamic and traction brilliantly transposed from his fathoms deep catalogue of cv313, Echospace, and DeepChord productions with inexorable velocity.
Best thing he’s done in years, basically.
Kyoka and Eomac (Lakker) forge a restlessly rugged style under the fictional moniker Lena Andersson in a striking debut for the Raster stronghold.
Merging their respective styles Kyoka and Eomac patently make a strong studio pairing under their imagined avatar. Stemming from a back and forth session on the Buchla modular synth system at EMS Stockholm, the project has really come into its own with Eomac exacting razor sharp edits on Kyoka’s blend of spiky, freeform textures, sugared vocals and broad palette of field recordings.
There was previously a degree of familiarity between them as Kyoka remixed Lakker’s ‘Tundra’ for R&S in 2015, but here transcend their respective solo work to realise a wickedly sinuous, amorphous body of experimental electronica and crunchy dance trax which, if we weren’t told otherwise, we may never have guessed was made by these two artists.
Taking strong cues from prevailing dembow rhythm trends, the duo work out a range of spiky, crimped dancehall-techno mutations, getting into it alongside Seiki & Mike Watt with the brittle but squirming shape of ‘Middle of Everywhere’, and running thru big highlights in what sounds like Batu and Low Jack getting gritty on ‘Bazu’ and ’37 Years Later’, tucking it where the sun don’t shine in the dark grind of ‘Con Un Cuchillo’ and the cyber-bogle of ‘Anarchy - Joy’, or like some hyper-clipped Amazondotcom or Paul Marmota piece in ‘I Want Her (You) To Call Me Baby.’
This year celebrates the 20th Anniversary of Ágætis Byrjun, the band expand their breakthrough album with demo and archive versions of songs from the album, plus never-before-heard newly unearthed material from the time, rare b-sides and the full 95 minute concert played in Reykjavík on the day the record was released.
An all-time classic, production masterclass - it doesn't get any better.
The hallmarks are all there; Mark Ernestus and Moritz Von Oswald have already set the world ablaze once, twice, three, four times with their work as Basic Channel and the splintering into microscopic, heavyweight offshoots by way of the M series, Main Street, Chain Reaction, Rhythm and Sound and, of course, Burial Mix.
This is, in fact, the second Burial Mix compilation, the first "showcase" concentrating on the label's collaborations with Paul St Hilaire, aka Tikiman, for its opening set of releases. This second installment divides itself into Vocal and Instrumental "Versions" (the instrumentals are collected seperately on a second release), displaying the last seven releases in their entirety, plus "Mash Down Babylon" (a new take on "March Down Babylon"), and features a by-now totally classic collection of tracks.
Lifechanging, foundational bizz.
Sound poet and multidisciplinary artist Félicia Atkinson follows 2017’s cherished ‘Hand In Hand’ album with this spellbinding study on loneliness and intimacy, crafted while pregnant and on tour. Félicia notably draws Sunn 0)))’s Stephen O’Malley into her meso plane on the collaborative 19 minute closing cut ‘Des Pierres’, a quietly startling end to another captivating album from one of the most interesting minds working on the contemporary scene, perfectly encapsulating a sense of uneasy calm in the midst of so much global uncertainty.
To enter any Felicia Atkinson album is to give yourself up to another world where perceptions of time and space subliminally become short-circuited and synaesthetic. Combining illusive electro-acoustic process and meticulously tactile vocals reciting poetry, Felicia’s music rarely fails to provide anything other than an intoxicating experience, and her powers of perception appear to be uniquely attuned on ‘The Flower And The Vessel’. As she states; “this is not a record about being pregnant, it’s a record made with pregnancy”, and as such the results are more ambiguous, riddled with a cosmic web of references to musical memory and onotology, as much as nature and the strange subtleties of the everyday.
The album’s theme of loneliness while touring has historically provided much grist to the artistic mill over the years, but rather than tales of excess and depression, Félicia handles her subject matter more meditatively, using small gestures such as “recording my voice, recording birds, a simple melody” to locate her place in the foreign worlds around her, and in the process answer the questions “What am I doing here? How can I connect to the world?”.
The first 10 tracks are barely watermarked with her presence, with opener ‘L’Après-Midi’ acting as a poetic diary entry, where she fills in subsequent pages with a mix of notes both metaphorical and musical, from the unsettling intimations of ’Shirley to Shirley’ inward-spiralling vocals of ‘You Have to Have Eyes’, to the micro-to-macro contemplation ‘Linguistics of the Atom’, while album highlights ‘Lush’ and ‘L’Enfant Et Le Poulpe’ speak to a elusive sense of the pastoral, perhaps as viewed form a distance.
When she finally does meet another tangible soul, Stephen O’Malley, in the 18 minute finale ‘Des Pierres’, it’s testament to both her own vision and O’Malley’s tactile range that his harmoniously strung-out contribution is so seamlessly woven into her parallel dimension, that you may need to be reminded he’s there, sublimated in-the-mix.
Endearingly naif Aussie art-school/post-punk pop from Melbournian J. Macfarlane’s Reality Guest, finding an ideal home on Glasgow’s Night School
““Ta Da” is the debut full length from J. McFarlane's Reality Guest - aka the solo music of Australian artist Julia McFarlane. As a member of the group Twerps, McFarlane has traversed guitar-centric, melodic pop music for some years while honing a highly unique, personal musical language. Ta Da is the first recorded unveiling of McFarlane’s affecting, oblique songwriting panache. Originally released in her native Australia on Hobbies Galore, Ta Da will be released worldwide by Night School in June 2019.
Wheezing into view with a troubled reed instrument set against a s of whoozy synth lines, Human Tissue Act is a foggy curtain the listener is invited to peel back. The dissonant notes are left to dance entwined, with clarinet heralding a Harry Partch-esque mallet percussion interlude. It’s a mood. With no resolution in sight, an audience dragged closer into uncertainty is suddenly drenched with the light of inter-weaving wah wah synth and saxophone. I Am A Toy introduces us to McFarlane’s vocal, an effortless and matter-of-fact, accented statement that quietly takes the reins. While McFarlane’s previous work in Twerps might reference 80s UK and antipodean guitar pop, Ta Da showcases a different influences immersed in psychedelic music and synths. It’s a brilliant, deft concoction swimming in Young Marble Giants-type minimalism washed with bare pop and harmony similar to Kevin Ayers making sense of a Melbourne suburb full of faces half-recognised in the blanching sun.”
Ms. Kanenobu billed as Japan's first female singer-songwriter, and Misora is her debut album from 1972. Originally released on Japanese independent label, URC, the album was produced by the legendary Harry Hosono of Yellow Magic Orchestra and Happy End. The songs themselves all sound like they've come from an American folk-rock background, with 'Leave It To Time' for example, sounding very Judee Sill complete with some vintage slide guitar bolstering its FM-friendly country rock aesthetic.
"The production here is surely a key to this album's enduring appeal, especially in the way the rhythm section is recorded: 'Blue Fish' achieves something close to that Harvest-era Jack Nitzsche sound that Jim O'Rourke (understandably) spends so much of his career chasing. Importantly though, producer, Hosono has found enough different ways of recording a stripped-down acoustic guitar and vocals combo to reinforce each song's individuality.
Oddly, science fiction writer, Philip K. Dick was one of Kanenobu's biggest fans, not only encouraging her to restart her music career in the '80s but actually executive producing her 1981 comeback single, which was planned as a precursor to a full album with Dick at the helm, a plan eventually thwarted by the author's death the following year. Nevertheless, Kanenobu's long-delayed sophomore album was eventually released in 1992. There seems to be so many albums branded as 'lost classics' getting reissued at the moment, but Misora might just be that."
Eminent avant-garde/experimental explorer Oren Ambarchi opens a rewarding new avenue to embrace the warmth and mystic psychedelia of Brazilian music with assistance from celebrated percussionist and Downtown luminary Cyro Baptista. Arriving just after Ambarchi’s 50th birthday, and Black Truffle's 10th, ‘Simian Angel’ sees him yoke back from the forward tilt of his rhythm-driven outings over the past decade in order to focus on his electric guitar playing, with utterly sublime results.
Keening sideways from the unyielding percussion of his last outing ‘Hubris’ , he divines a floating space that recalls the beautifully pensile cats cradle of his early classic ‘Grapes From The Estate’ , only this time with fleshlier, more inviting arrangements. The first half’s ’Palm Sugar Candy’ is pure star-gazing material, with Baptista’s hand-played, self-built percussion drawing us into a horizontal headspace while Ambarchi’s glowing notes gently colour the sky above. Ambarchi gradually opens up a glorious space between that dissonant murmuring and an awning, harmonic meridian, where a voice whispers into the space to gently recalibrate our depth perception, before seemingly turning his guitar into a MIDI-triggering aeolian harp in the piece’s spellbinding, levitating 2nd half.
’Simian Angel’ follows with a more gripping rhythmic pull from the twanging Berimbau, just one of myriad percussion mastered by Baptista (who has previously played with everyone from John Zorn to Derek Bailey, Herbie Hancock and Robert Palmer), before Ambarchi glydes into view like a chorus of the sighing Simian Angels, drawing the piece upwards into thin air, where his guitar melts into piano and columns of warm air carry distant vocals from below. The drums rejoin to mark the work’s final avian swoops in strokes and dashes, triggering MIDI keys in a beautifully colourful sort of jazz fusion call and response, located amid and above a subtropical canopy.
Arriving at the apparent apex of a long and sprawling career in which he's had countless collaborations and gone down a seemingly endless series of creative rabbit holes, 'Simian Angel’ is quite possibly Oren Ambarchi’s most open and generous album to date - a perfect entry point into, as well as highlight of, a recorded catalogue that over the course of more than twenty years has been one of the most unpredictable and rewarding in the game. Bravo.
Paul Woodford’s Special Request diversifies his bonds into moody IDM/electronica after spending his rave energies on the ‘Vortex’ album
The ‘Bedroom Tapes’ is the sound of Yorkshireman blues; the type of ‘tronica they reach for when there’s no tea bags left and shop is too far uphill, or when chippy’s ran out of scraps. In eight parts he speak to the sundays after, the tuesday mornings when grey matter seeps out of lug’oles onto yer desk as you kling to a kernel of residual happiness from the weekend.
Between the spooling electro bleeps and satin pads of ‘Panaflex Sunrise’, his floating electro scapes in ‘Pineal Gland’, and the muddled harmonic reverie of ‘Entropy’ on the first disc, and thru the sidelong keen of ‘Xenopsin’ to the frazzled, Actress-esque tic of ‘Double Rainbow’ and the shine-eyed twinkle of ‘Phosphorescence’ on the 2nd plate, the ‘Bedroom Tapes’ crucially acknowledge a tender flipside to SR’s usual exuberance.
Titans of UK rave culture, Fabio & Grooverider look back on ’30 Years of Rage’, their seminal London club night, with the four volumes charting the ultra-classic and hard-to-find foundations of hardcore, jungle and D&B - the UK’s greatest gift to the world of the past generation.
It’s impossible to overstate the influence of Fabio & Grooverider on UK music and rave culture since they began DJing in the late ‘80s acid house phase. For a generation of UK yoof they are practically household names, and we very fondly remember tuning in to their (now defunct) BBC Radio 1 show to catch D&B before we could legally get into clubs. It’s also probably fair to say they’ve done more for race and cultural relations in the UK than any politician ever has, with their earliest, unprecedented fusions of Belgian techno with UK fast rap, Yorkshire bleep, US house, Caribbean soundsystem culture and London rare groove hustle laying a template that frankly revolutionised dancefloors across the country, bringing people together in the same space who were, to a much greater extent than today, largely, mutually exclusive. We could bang on about their importance all day, but suffice it to say they are the OG’s of UK rave.
As the label explain, their RAGE night was arguably the ground zero for Jungle. "The party was started at London's cavernous Heaven club by Fabio & Grooverider in 1988, at the height of Acid House fever that was making it's way up and down the motorways, slip-roads, fields and warehouses of the M25 and further beyond every weekend, troubling the nation, the police, your parents and the press as it went. RAGE was a different beast, it certainly channelled some of that Acid energy but pitted it against the new and exciting sounds emanating from Belgium, Amsterdam, Detroit, Sheffield, Essex and Hackney and in turn created a new style, a new sonic attitude and energy in the process. Rumbling bass-lines, narcotic synth rushes and roughly chopped and sped-up breakbeats all merged into a style that we now know as Jungle."
This first volume is a tour de force of early rave pressure, charting a course from Leftfield’s deep 1990 bass massage ‘Not Forgotten’ thru Lennie De Ice’s all-time jungle cornerstone ‘We Are IE’, the London mash-up styles of ‘Dubplate’ by Wots My Code, Foul Play’s artful jungle masterpiece ‘Being With You’, and the bawl fwd hardcore of ‘The Future’ by Noise Factory, saving Fallout’s lip-smacking classic ‘The Morning After (Sunrise Mix)’ for dessert.
On volume 2 of 4, ravers are spoilt for choice with a selection running from Derrick May’s metallic Detroit funk in ‘Emanon’ to Q Project’s jungle foundation ‘Champion Sound’, taking in Richie Hawtin’s hoover techno classique ‘Technarchy’ as Cybersonik, Ecstasy Club’s acid house anphem ‘Jesus Loves The Acid’, Nightmares On Wax’s Yorkshire bleep ’n bass staple in ‘Aftermath’, and the deadly feminine pressure of ‘Just 4 U London (Kuff Mix)’ by Bodysnatch.
Part 3 starts with Landlord’s foundational anthem ’I Like It (Blow Out Dub)’ - responsible for the heavily-sampled “Landlord” riff - is locked and loaded next to the eccie-triggering Detroit classic ‘Straight Outta Hell (Hellhound Mix)’ by Tronikhouse, and the ruddy swagger of 33 1/3 Queen’s bugged-out killer ‘Searchin’’, which Fabio & Grooverider call “One of the best tunes of the ‘90s. Superb”
We head to a deeper flex with the tucked hustle of Richie Rich’s spooked ‘Salsa House’ and the crispy, breaks-driven rave soul of Debbie Malone’s ‘Rescue Me (Club Mix)’, before rounding off with Neon’s Belgian rave staple ‘Don’t Mess With This Beat (Instrumental Mix)’, which would come to serve ‘core elements to 2 Bad Mice, while FSOL’s ‘Papua New Guinea’ surely brings a tear to the eye.
There’s some outright all-time classics on the knockout one-two of Brainkillers’ deeeep jungle bullet ‘Screwface’ and an early appearance from Basement Jaxx’s Simon Ratcliffe as Tic Tac Toe with ‘Ephemerol’, while the final side leaves us a mess with Ability II’s seminal ‘Pressure Dub’ into the pie-eyed innocence of ‘Don’t Go’ by Awesome 3. Factor in the Detroit galvanic of the Mayday mix for De-Lite’s ‘Wild Times’, and the bolshy brass of ‘Living In Darkness’ by Top Buzz and you have a definitive taste of an unprecedented time and place in UK culture. To use an old Manc term, it’s the fucking lick.
Salute Fabio & Grooverider each and every.
One of the boldest artists merging uncompromising computer music and experimental club music right now, Jung An Tagen returns to Editions Mego with a a thrilling batch of oblique electronics and agitated polyrhythms
Claiming space between Florian Hecker, Rian Treanor and Cam Deas’ styles as his own playground, ’ProxyStates’ brilliantly swings between emulations of big-bang sonics in ‘Spill (False)’ thru to parrying electro-techno patterns in ‘Wreath Products (C#, D#)’, and more regular, sleekly rolled out techno pulses on ‘Wreath Products (D#, F#)’, with the strobing knots of ‘Wreath Products (F#, G#)’, and the absolute polychromatic chaos of ‘Compressions in a Chamber of Hard Light’ bound to shred you mind to ribbons in the best way.
“All of this is done with his usual fearless but mindful approach. His unique exercises with structure, time and sound create an ecstatic familiarity with the sounds while at the same time inducing a creeping physical alienation. In other words, some parts may be rhythmically infectious, others will give you no chance to immerse. The stimulation is astute and continuous, encouraging an out-of-this-world experience.
The main arc of “Proxy States” consists of a 16 against 17 poly-rhythmic synth line that through different intonations of the kick drum always transforms its syntax. This synth line always scales up 1 key, in the middle of the track, foreseeing the upcoming structure. While these tracks (3, 4, 5, 6: “Wreath Products”) follow an almost obsessive-compulsive order, the remaining tracks seem to blow up the structure entirely like the last scenes of the 1970 Michelangelo Antonioni’s film “Zabriskie Point”, creating an event inside the event.
“Proxy States” was impossible to press on vinyl but the fast, sharp and wild grooves of Jung An Tagen’s new album are incredibly synched with the concept of an ever accelerating future.”
Ace new collection featuring music influential to Keith Haring inc Jean-Michel Basquiat, Yoko Ono, Larry Levan, John Sex and George Condo (The Girls), as well as healthy dose of rare disco, early electro and New York art punk/dance tracks.
"The art of Keith Haring is today one of the most recognisable of any visual artists of his generation, defining 1980s New York during an intense period when downtown artists and musicians collaborated like never before. Haring’s musical inspiration took in the punk/dance downtown sounds of clubs like The Mudd
Club, underground disco at Larry Levan’s Paradise Garage, as well the early days of hip hop and electro.
The album is released to coincide with the opening of the first major exhibition in the UK of Keith Haring’s work at Tate Liverpool, which runs for the next six months. Haring’s many friends included Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol, Madonna, Fab Five Freddy, William Burroughs, Jenny Holzer, Yoko Ono, Grace Jones, Larry Levan, Futura 2000."
The patron saint of maudlin romantics, Liz Harris (Grouper) adopts the Nivhek alias for this suite of freeform, glossolalic elegies, featuring a brief guest turn by Kiwi rock legend Michael Morley (The Dead C, Gate), and jointly dispensed between her Yellow Electric label and Superior Viaduct’s W.25th
In two main movements comprising nine titled parts, Harris typically conjures a sense of stately calm underlined with menacing drones. However, the feeling is less bleeding heart and soporific, and perhaps better defined as floating and airily introspective. It’s a subtle but crucial distinction that resonates with her change of moniker and the widely reverberating dimensions and dynamics of the Nikhek sound.
While the aforementioned guest Michel Morley is notable in his own right, and joined by Gabie Strong and Christopher Reid Martin on the two minutes of ‘Crying Jar’, the work is primarily by Harris, who alternates between steepled choral harmonies and long, plangent sections of gristly synth drone, spindly guitar and instrumental, melodic percussion (maybe marimba or gamelan?) that colours the air with a beaten gold quality. In many ways it sounds like Liz was left to her own devices in an abandoned church and she captured the results, as is, Áine O’Dwyer style, replete with external sounds of birdsong, possible distant road traffic and her visiting friends all detectable in the meridian.
For anyone at this point overly familiar with Liz Harris’ style (hands up, obsessives), this album practically opens a new window to her world, letting fresh air and space diffuse her feels into a more elusive, ponderous way that’s as refreshing as it is uncannily familiar, especially when she drops the vocals for long periods, but one can still imagine their trace there, lingering in the air.
Originally released in November 1981 on Les Disques du Crepuscule, Hommages was recorded in Leicester in February 1981 and produced by noted Belgian new music composer Wim Mertens. The album was conceived as a series of diverse homages to other composers, which include Bill Evans (My First Homage), Ferruccio Busoni and Gustav Holst (The English Mail-Coach and The Vespertine Park) and Percy Grainger (Hi-Tremolo).
The earliest of the pieces here (appropriately titled 'My First Homage') was penned in 1978 for a performance at The Kitchen in New York as a tribute to the work of jazz pianist Bill Evans, and features some beautiful harmonic exchanges across its captivating quarter-hour duration. Both 'The English Mail-Coach' and the quite stunningly beautiful piano and percussion of 'The Vespertine Park' were inspired by Ferruccio Busoni, and you can hear a certain neo-classical approach in these works, although they remain firmly rooted in the 20th century.
Significantly, this remastered edition of the album includes two bonus recordings: 'Out Of Zalieski's Gazebo' and 'Danse Dieppoise', both compositions drawn from the same period of Bryars' work.
Christian Wolff was a close associate of John Cage and his artistic circle, which included fellow composers Earle Brown and Morton Feldman, the pianist David Tudor, and the dancer and choreographer Merce Cunningham. Cage relates several anecdotes about Wolff in his one-minute Indeterminacy pieces. These two discs reveal Wolff as a composer fully exploring, in different ways, the continuum between music which is highly fragmented, embracing extended silences [composed or indeterminate], to that which is more progressive and seemingly driven, albeit taking in disarming and unconventional routes.
"As a body of repertoire, these works are remarkable for their freshness of musical thought and energy (John Cage considered Wolff to be the most 'musical' of the experimental composers).
In all my performances of Wolff's music i aim for interpretations that both interest and surprise me, allowing the notations to lead me to new ways of playing and thinking about music, whilst at the same time trying to lead the notations toward the unexpected..."
So the vault has finally been properly cracked open for this first collection of previously unreleased original version and guide tracks Prince put together for other artists. For us, the real draw here is Prince's own version of ‘Make Up’ - but there are pearls aplenty throughout.
Straight to the good stuff; Vanity 6’s ‘Sex Shooter’ and ‘Make Up’ - the former a classically lascivious purple funk number, the latter one of the most singular, hooky and weird productions in Prince’s entire catalogue; here imbued with extra androgynous brilliance with his own staccato delivery, Sheila E’s 'The Glamorous Life’ featuring those killer, incessant Linndrumm claps, and The Time’s ‘Jungle Love’. Basically, everything sounds better with Prince on it.
'Manic Monday' and ‘Nothing Compares To You’ are also here, as well as Martika’s 'Love… Thy Will Be Done’ and much much more - and while some of these tracks may not be the first thing you’d race to find in the Vault, they still offer a fascinating insight into Prince’s songwriting process, altering his vocal style to the brief, perfecting every note.
But yeah, even just for ‘Make Up’, this is essential gear.
It’s 1989 in Chicago, House is sweeping the world. Mickey Oliver, radio and club DJ star with the Hot Mix 5 and owner of the (now legendary) Hot Mix 5 Records decides to drop a compilation on M Records, a division of Hot Mix 5 Records he created in 1988.
“Sweet House Chicago” is the result - a perfect snapshot of Chicago in the late Eighties (all the way down to the front cover picture taken at one of Mickey’s gig). It features 8 incredible tracks produced by the who’s who of Chicago House at the time: Dj Pierre, Mickey Oliver, Phortune, Ralphi Rosario and more…
The track “I Need A Beat” being an actual Larry Heard production that was made for Mickey Oliver.
So here it is, reissued for the first time by Still Music, on a yellow colored vinyl DLP while the CD includes two bonus tracks including the magnificent “Anticipate 12” Remix” by Mickey Oliver.
Chicago’s House has never been so sweet!"
Tense interplay of grandiose prog noise and ascetic, Mika Vainio-esque minimalism
“New full length album by France’s most singular contemporary composer. Reflecting on ancient culture’s use and reverence for emblematic monuments which most often represent myths and stories, the album’s narrative has been infused with such symbolic and depicts an envisioned mythology, unfolding through it’s 10 aural pieces. Franck Vigroux‘s music is unique and comprised of tectonic tension, pulsating rhythms and abrasive analog textures like few can produce. Applying his own calculated personal signature in his sonic explorations his distinctiveness comes not only by his unique approach to sound but also by his incorporation of new media practices and performing arts into his A/V work.”
A spoken word and music project by Belbury Poly, writer Justin Hopper and folk musician Sharron Kraus . Based on live performances of Hopper's 2017 book 'The Old Weird Albion', it’s a poet, autobiographical and psychogeographical account of his experiences at Chanctonbury Ring on the West Sussex Downs.
"The album is a blend of folk, electronic music, poetry, prose and environmental sound. Kraus’s electro-acoustic soundscapes and songs interweave with Hopper’s rich, intimate narration. Musically it moves effortlessly from the traditional to the avant-garde with Belbury Poly contributing music and production throughout and bookending the work with a memorable theme tune.
Finding its spiritual home on Ghost Box, the project is reminiscent of a lost era of poetry and music albums, like David Cain and Radiophonic Workshop's The Seasons. It comes artfully packaged in a style that recalls a poetry and music for schools LP, with a nod towards 1960s Topic folk anthologies."
The first authorised reissue of this hugely sought-after 1976 album of moog music for plants...
"Hearing Plantasia in the 21st century, it seems less an ode to our photosynthesizing friends by Garson and more an homage to his wife, the one with the green thumb that made everything flower around him. In the mid-1970s, a force of nature swept across the continental United States, cutting across all strata of race and class, rooting in our minds, our homes, our culture. It wasn’t The Exorcist, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, or even bell-bottoms, but instead a book called The Secret Life of Plants. The work of occultist/former OSS agent Peter Tompkins and former CIA agent/dowsing enthusiast Christopher Bird, the books shot up the bestseller charts and spread like kudzu across the landscape, becoming a phenomenon. Seemingly overnight, the indoor plant business was in full bloom and photosynthetic eukaryotes of every genus were hanging off walls, lording over bookshelves, and basking on sunny window ledges. The science behind Secret Life was specious: plants can hear our prayers, they’re lie detectors, they’re telepathic, able to predict natural disasters and receive signals from distant galaxies. But that didn’t stop millions from buying and nurturing their new plants.
Perhaps the craziest claim of the book was that plants also dug music. And whether you purchased a snake plant, asparagus fern, peace lily, or what have you from Mother Earth on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles (or bought a Simmons mattress from Sears), you also took home Plantasia, an album recorded especially for them. Subtitled “warm earth music for plants…and the people that love them,” it was full of bucolic, charming, stoner-friendly, decidedly unscientific tunes enacted on the new-fangled device called the Moog. Plants date back from the dawn of time, but apparently they loved the Moog, never mind that the synthesizer had been on the market for just a few years. Most of all, the plants loved the ditties made by composer Mort Garson.
Few characters in early electronic music can be both fearless pioneers and cheesy trend-chasers, but Garson embraced both extremes, and has been unheralded as a result. When one writer rhetorically asked: “How was Garson’s music so ubiquitous while the man remained so under the radar?” the answer was simple. Well before Brian Eno did it, Garson was making discreet music, both the man and his music as inconspicuous as a Chlorophytum comosum. Julliard-educated and active as a session player in the post-war era, Garson wrote lounge hits, scored plush arrangements for Doris Day, and garlanded weeping countrypolitan strings around Glen Campbell’s “By the Time I Get to Phoenix.” He could render the Beatles and Simon & Garfunkel alike into easy listening and also dreamed up his own ditties. “An idear” as Garson himself would drawl it out. “I live with it, I walk it, I sing it.”
But as his daughter Day Darmet recalls: “When my dad found the synthesizer, he realized he didn’t want to do pop music anymore.” Garson encountered Robert Moog and his new device at the Audio Engineering Society’s West Coast convention in 1967 and immediately began tinkering with the device. With the Moog, those idears could be transformed. “He constantly had a song he was humming,” Darmet says. “At the table he was constantly tapping.” Which is to say that Mort pulled his melodies out of thin air, just like any household plant would.
The Plantae kingdom grew to its height by 1976, from DC Comics’ mossy superhero Swamp Thing to Stevie Wonder’s own herbal meditation, Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants. Nefarious manifestations of human-plant interaction also abounded, be it the grotesque pods in Invasion of the Body Snatchers or the pothead paranoia of the US Government spraying Mexican marijuana fields with the herbicide paraquat (which led to the rise in homegrown pot by the 1980s). And then there’s the warm, leafy embrace of Plantasia itself.
“My mom had a lot of plants,” Darmet says. “She didn’t believe in organized religion, she believed the earth was the best thing in the whole world. Whatever created us was incredible.” And she also knew when her husband had a good song, shouting from another room when she heard him humming a good idear. Novel as it might seem, Plantasia is simply full of good tunes. Garson may have given the album away to new plant and bed owners, but a decade later a new generation could hear his music in another surreptitious way. Millions of kids bought The Legend of Zelda for their Nintendo Entertainment System back in 1986 and one distinct 8-bit tune bears more than a passing resemblance to album highlight “Concerto for Philodendron and Pothos.” Garson was never properly credited for it, but he nevertheless subliminally slipped into a new generations’ head, helping kids and plants alike grow.
Hearing Plantasia in the 21st century, it seems less an ode to our photosynthesizing friends by Garson and more an homage to his wife, the one with the green thumb that made everything flower around him. “My dad would be totally pleased to know that people are really interested in this music that had no popularity at the time,” Darmet says of Plantasia’s new renaissance. “He would be fascinated by the fact that people are finally understanding and appreciating this part of his musical career that he got no admiration for back then.” Garson seems to be everywhere again, even if he’s not really noticed, just like a houseplant."
Knox-Om-Pax lets the light into his cavernous spaces with a light-footed album influenced by Berlin techno and L.A. sunshine and featuring cameos by Silvia Kastel and Nightwave
“On ‘Ways Of Seeing’ Konx-om-Pax has switched up the mood and hit gold. He has made an album that is filled with joy and sunshine, saturated with the classic feel of Berlin Techno. Tom Scholefield has moved on from the dark ambient and brittle rave of the first two Konx-om-Pax albums, which were a reflection of his hometown Glasgow's electronic music scenes. After a recent move to Berlin, the textures of Glasgow's musical strains have fused into an accessible and friendly mix of poppy melodic electronica built from a stricter 'less is more' sound pallete, closer in spirit to the music of his adopted city. It is also a record which was made in opposition to recent music he has been hearing, in particular the troubled, dark and noisy experimental music coming out of Berlin. Tom wanted to focus on more joyful qualities, making this a record imbued with warmth and happiness, a panacea to the darkness and disorientation all around in 2019.
Having a social scene full of producers has also influenced the album. The opening track 'LA Melody' came from staying with Ross Birchard (Hudson Mohawke) at his house in LA, hanging out in the glorious sunshine with him and Lunice working on tracks. "Initially Ross asked me to write some melodies to use in a project he was producing, but I ended up liking it so much I decided to keep the riff. I generally write music alone, but being around other producers gave me a certain excited energy that reminded me of after-parties back in Glasgow where Ross and myself spent our youth together. Spending time in Clark's studio also helped me improve my workflow and sequencing the album by seeing the way he does things". On 'Säule Acid' he collaborates with Silvia Kastel and in 'I’m For Real' the vocals of Glaswegian DJ/producer Nightwave filter around the track.
Stripped away to just the good bits, 'Ways Of Seeing' is a pleasure to listen to.”
A Lovely Music touchstone, ‘Trust In Rock’ is what happened when the ‘70s West Coast experimental avant-garde made rock music. Now issued for the first time, this is a proper piece of history that would come to inform Lovely Music’s earliest releases...
“Trust in Rock documents the last evening of an epic concert series held at Berkeley’s University Art Museum in November 1976, featuring an all-star ensemble of the Bay Area’s most unclassifiable musicians performing works by “Blue” Gene Tyranny and Peter Gordon. Tyranny’s cycle “No Job, No Warm, No Nothing” contains songs “concerned with influence, trust, self-reliance, and having to re-do what is true for you;” three songs by Gordon, with lyrics by Kathy Acker, are complimented by two earlier instrumental works. Their combined band crossed styles and institutions and time, and was assembled from the effervescence of the Bay Area scene in the 1970s. It included Gordon on saxes and the RMI Synthesizer; Tyranny on the piano; local video-performance artist Patrice Manget on vocals; Carl Young on saxes; composer-performer-guitarist Paul Dresher, who played in Tyranny’s band Edge of the Road along with percussionist Gene Reffkin; Steve Bartek of the Mystic Knights of Oingo Boingo on bass; and Mills College student Janet Cuniberti on the funky Clavinet and RMI Synth. Though some of the works on Trust in Rock also appear on Gordon’s Star Jaws and Tyranny’s Out of the Blue, many others are available here for the first time. Trust in Rock contains nearly two hours of what Ear magazine called “NEW MUSIC FOR ROCK BAND.”
Except: by 1976, the idea of a capitalized “New Music” had increasingly lost its punch for Tyranny and Gordon. Rock and Roll, likewise, was nearing an apparent generational expiration. The way out of this impasse was trust in rock, which was both description and command. Rock, for this all-star cast of Bay Area heads, became a perpetual revolution that could be serious, playful, polemic, focused, technical, and lovely. And you can hear it in the music: Tyranny’s songs swing from intimate and profound to blissful and joyous, with solos on saxophone, piano, synthesizer, and electric guitar over interlocking rhythmic and melodic cells; an ecstatic performance of Gordon’s “Machomusic” gives a single pitch the real Rock’n’Roll treatment; and Acker’s lyrics on “God’s a Man,” “When Baby Gets Wet,” and “Cloves and Cinnamon” pulse with transgressive sexual energy. This is neither New Music nor Rock as anybody had previously understood those terms, but something else entirely—a kind of transcendent synthesis that audibly reveled in its newfound energy.
On Trust in Rock, Tyranny, Gordon, and their band played at, with, and through not only the generic boundaries of New Music and Rock, but also the stylistic boundaries of minimalism, jam bands, and punk. Tyranny had quit Iggy Pop’s band in 1973; Gordon had already moved to New York and began playing with Arthur Russell and Rhys Chatham. That night in the University Art Museum, playing saxophones and and synthesizers, they were not afraid to trust in rock to get them where they needed to be. This was a band that was not afraid to “listen to the interior state of something,” as Tyranny later put it: they put their trust in rock, and this album lets us hear what happened.”
‘The End of Radio’ collects Shellac’s two previously unreleased Peel Sessions, recorded 10 years apart in 1994 and 2004
“The 1994 session was recorded at BBC Maida Vale Studio 3 and originally aired on John Peel’s BBC Radio One show in July of 1994. The four songs were recorded to 24-track and then mixed to stereo on the same day. While a studio version of “Crow” was released in October of 1994 on the band’s debut album At Action Park, studio versions of “Canada”, “Disgrace”, and “Spoke” would not appear on any Shellac albums until much later (1998’s Terraform and 2007’s Excellent Italian Greyhound) - making the 1994 Peel Session recordings the only official recordings of these songs for several years thereafter.
The 2004 Peel session is a “Live From Maida Vale” session recorded live to stereo in front of a small audience at BBC Maida Vale Studio 4. It originally aired in December of that same year. As with the 1994 session, this recording includes songs that were previously unreleased and would not appear as album versions until years later. (Album versions of “The End of Radio”, “Steady As She Goes”, and “Paco” were released in 2007 on Excellent Italian Greyhound.)”
Emahoy Tsegue-Maryam Guebrou was born into a prominent literary Ethiopian family in 1923 and partly educated in Europe. She studied piano and violin but political problems in her homeland led to an unsettled and peripatetic youth.
"Dispirited by events in her life, she found consolation in religion and became a nun. Although dedicated to teaching at an orphanage, she nonetheless found time to create a series of slightly jazz-influenced, neo-classical pieces, many of which are showcased here. The material is culled from two LPs that were released in 1963, when she was 40 years of age.
Meditations on bible themes and the beauties of nature were her favourite subjects and her compositions were often built around recognizably Ethiopian melodic structures. But they also reveal refracted shards of what would certainly be cited as influences if only it could be established she had ever heard the works of Count Basie, Oscar Peterson, Keith Jarrett, Abdullah Ibrahim and especially, Eric Satie."
Never has a defrosting refrigerator or a dripping pipe sounded so poetic as on Anne Tardos’ entrancing ‘Gatherings’ recordings, which now become a crucial part of Sean McCann’s Recital programme alongside the label’s modern classics by Sarah Davachi. Proper find.
Recorded at various points over 1974-1981 in NYC, the enigmatic mix of observant location recordings and layered vocal improv in ‘Gatherings’ was originally issued on tape in 1982 as part of the New Wilderness project’s Audiographics series; a little-known treasure trove of avant-garde art music explorations including great works by Annea Lockwood, Phillip Corner, and Charlie Morrow (who provides the sleevenotes here), which only recently celebrated its 50th anniversary.
Coincidentally, we stumbled across ‘Gatherings’ after falling heavily for Recital’s R.I.P. Hayman side ‘Dreams of India & China’, which lead down the rabbithole to New Wilderness Audiographics and inevitably their Anne Tardos tape. No hyperbole, our first meeting with ‘Gatherings’ supplied one of those rare, subtle epiphanies when the music gets right under your skin and you can’t shift it. Under the unflinching gaze of a fixed position microphone, Anne’s recordings of her refrigerator dripping while defrosting had and still have us rapt to their elemental pulse, and when she started singing you could put a fork in us, we’re done!
Heard from inside the fridge in a way that pre-echoes Peter Rehberg & General Magic’s ‘Fridge Trax’ by decades, ‘Refrigerator Defrosting’ happily and most poetically gives new meaning to Peder Mannerfelt’s idea of “domestic techno”, while Anne’s documentation of ‘Pipes at 110 Mercer, November 1974’ uncannily resembles the irregularities of a free jazz drummer at his loosest, or even playing off some algorithmic bleep track dialled back in time from Mark Fell. It’s literally just a fridge dripping and the heating pipes playing up, but somehow it’s one of the most thrilling listens in recent memory.
Factor in the deeply strange tape compositions of 1980’s ‘Seven-Layer Song’, the other dimensional drone of ‘Voices of Video’, and the voyeuristic 10 minutes of ‘Real Sleeper / Real Dreamer’ and you have one of those most elusive beauties, an avant-garde obscurity that’s never testing and simply, utterly, strangely life-affirming in its dreamy evocation of everyday reality.
Sugared avant-pop classic, originally on Lovely Music in 1978, remastered for its 40th anniversary.
“”Blue" Gene Tyranny’s first album from 1978 (originally one of the first Lovely Music releases) is here – beautifully remastered, with new artwork. Blue is a Grammy-nominated composer and pianist who has performed on records by Robert Ashley (Perfect Lives), John Cage, and Laurie Anderson, yet this is quite different.
Composing for what is essentially a chamber rock ensemble, a cast of female vocalists, and himself on the Polymoog and RMI synthesizers, Blue has created a song-cycle that reflects his intensely melodic and free piano technique in a polished studio record. Out of the Blue elegantly combines adventurous New Music technique, the style and appeal of pop music, and the grace of classical music to form an unclassifiable and totally revelatory whole. Endearing, exciting, familiar yet unlike anything else – this is a very friendly record.”
Issued posthumously, ‘Petra (1991) For Two Pianos’ is the first ever vinyl pressing of music by Maryanne Amacher (1938-2009), one of the early “gurus” of electronic music, who is revered for her explorations of “otoacoustic emissions” - acoustic phenomena where the listener’s ears produce audible sound.
One of a handful of Maryanne’s works for tape, ‘Petra (1991) For Two Pianos’ joins her seminal Tzadik CD releases ‘Sound Characters (Making The Third Ear)’  and ‘Sound Characters 2 (Making Sonic Space)’  as only the 3rd official release of Maryanne Amacher’s remarkably unique music. However, where her first two albums were crucially created with electronic sources, this one aims to generate the same effect with two acoustic instruments simultaneously presenting pure tones, and in a way links her otoacoustic exploitations back to the phenomenon’s discovery by 18th century Italian violinist, Giuseppe Tartini.
This much anticpated Blank Forms release of ‘Petra’ is a recording of its American premiere on May 4th, 2017, at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church on West 20th Street, NYC, performed by Marianne Schroeder, a Swiss pianist specialising in New Music, and Stefan Tcherepnin - great-grandson of the legendary Serge.
Originally commissioned for the ISCM World Music Days in Switzerland, and written for two pianos, ’Petra’ forms a unique extension of Amacher’s electronic working methods, requiring a poised precision and patience from the players who segue from glacially reverberant serenity to passages of ragged dissonance, taking the music into realms shared by Amacher’s inspirations, Giancinto Scelsi and Galina Ustvolskaya, while also subtly manifesting the piece’s literary influence from sci-fi writer Greg Bears’s short story of the same title, where the gargoyles of Notre Dame come to life and breed with humans in an apocalyptic future.
The first part is ashen solemn, but struck thru with flashes of exhilarating high register colour, with lots of spooky action found in between the notes, where one can practically feel the church’s architecture impressed in-ear like a watermark. The 2nd part is much more dynamic, riddled with surprises and shadowplay, turning dread-heavy and rhythmically forceful before Schroeder and Tcherepnin gently bring the notes down like leaves on a slow-spiralling autumnal descent, conversely amplifying an uncanny space between the keys and leaving listeners utterly enchanted, aware of their space and presence in a deeply unique manner.
Martin Brandlmayr is an Austrian percussionist, composer and electronic artist, known as a solo artist and for his work in groups such as Radian and Trapist. ‘Vive Les Fantômes’, his first step into radio art, originally aired on SWR (German National Radio) and earned him the Karl Sczuka Prize for Works of Radio Art 2018, the highest achievement for works of radio art in Germany.
"Martin Brandlmayr on Vive Les Fantômes: “The work is based on snippets of interviews, rehearsals and performances by people whose work had an influence on my artistic path: Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Billie Holiday, Jacques Derrida, Chris Marker and many more. The process involved searching, discovering and creating connections among the material and resulted in a network of sound-objects that appear repeatedly changing their shape throughout the piece. Communication is constructed across different rooms and times, beyond the borders of language and music. ‘Vive Les Fantômes’ is not only a piece of music, it’s rather acoustic cinema with a non-linear narrative layer organized by scenes.”
It’s been 20 years since we heard Smog’s ’Spanish Moss’ for the first time and every Bill Callahan record since has f#cked us up. This is his first new one in years and is quite possibly his best. Supremely beautiful music...
"As you listen to ‘Shepherd In A Sheepskin Vest’, a feeling of totality, of completeness, steals over you, like a thief in broad daylight. Of course it does - you’re listening to a new Bill Callahan record. The first one in almost six years. First, it’s a different kind of record. Bill’s now writing from somewhere beyond his ‘Eagle’-‘Apocalypse’-‘River’ headspace and ‘Shepherd In A Sheepskin Vest’ is very much its own beast. The songs are, by and large, shorter and there are more of them. It took almost all of the previous three albums to add up to that many. Plus, twenty’s a lot of songs.
After ‘Dream River’, Bill’s life went through some changes. Good changes - marriage and a kid - but afterwards, it was suddenly harder for him to find the place where the songs came, to make him and these new experiences over again into something to sing. His songs have always been elusive, landing lightly between character study and autobiography, as the singer-songwriter often does. This felt different, though. After 20 years of putting music first, he wasn’t prepared to go away from it completely. Or was he? The lives of a newlywed, a new parent, they have so much in them - but writing and singing, it was his old friend that had helped him along to this place where he’d so happily arrived. Was there room for everybody? While sorting it all out, he worked on songs every day - which meant that for a while, there were lots of days simply confronting the void, as he measured this new life against the ones he’d previously known.
It informed the shape of the album. Moving gradually from reflections upon the old days in ‘Ballad Of The Hulk’ and ‘Young Icarus’ to the immediacy of the present moment in ‘Watching Me Get Married’ and ‘Son Of The Sea’, Bill traces the different life lines, casually unwinding knotty contradictions and ambiguities with an arresting stillness. The sense of a life thunderstruck by change infuses ‘Shepherd In A Sheepskin Vest’ - the songs wander from expressions of newfound joy and great contentment to other snapshots, considerations of the not-joy that we all know. Unsettling dream-images and mythic recollections are patiently received; the undertow of the past is resisted, pulling against it instead into the present, accepting revolutions of time and the unconscious as a natural flow.
These transcendent expressions are wedded translucently to the music. Acknowledging the uncertainty in which the songs were assembled, Bill went to the studio alone, unsure if he could find what he was looking for with a band riding along - because who knew how long it would take? This allowed the fluidity of his song-thoughts to be laid down with the right feeling. Once there was guitar and vocals, the other parts came. Matt Kinsey’s guitar partnership is an essential relationship within the music, as is Brian Beattie’s acoustic bass - but also, Bill found himself overdubbing parts himself for the first time in many years, which lent the songs an episodic drift, as if he’s passing through rooms while singing.
In its final mix, ‘Shepherd In A Sheepskin Vest’ glows incandescent - an entirely acoustic arrangement, sounds and stories shifting seamlessly, almost like one big song made of a bunch of new stories - the kind that only Bill Callahan thinks to sing. It’s a joy to hear from this old friend - informing all the lives that we’ve led in the hearing."
As light as a warm breeze on skin, Earthen Sea’s latest album for Kranky ‘Grass and Trees’ showcases Jacob Long’s natural sensitivity for low-key, enchanting electronic sound craft.
Bobbing gently in the wake of 2017’s ‘An Act of love’ and ‘A Restless Gaze’ outings, Earthen Sea’s ‘Grass and Trees’ channels a liminal mix of spatialized, organically warm-sounding tones that run into each with the quality of watercolours, as characterised in the sleeve art. But where previous Earthen Sea outings were yoked to a regular pulses, there’s a finer push and pull of syncopated, latinate rhythms that works under the surface of ‘Grass and Trees’, lending the whole album a delicious slink that pulls listeners right into its wavey motion. Fans of Gas, Strategy, Beatrice Dillon, or even those breezy Werkbund bits, need apply!
“Jacob Long's reductionist rhythmic ambient vessel, Earthen Sea, ebbs towards a more purely elemental state on his second excursion for Kranky, Grass and Trees. He describes the creative process as one of "simplifying things as much as possible," designing uncluttered spaces traced in nothing but breath, field recordings, and "sounds that could be played by hand but weren't." The results feel decentralized but dynamic, low-lit evocations of ambiguous nocturnal environments - dub techno disassembled into stray pulses and spare parts. It's a music both interior and infinite, languorous yet transformative, made in the outer boroughs of a metropolis but attuned to its own liminal wilderness.
Long's vision is a grounding one, rooted in the physical body but attuned to larger currents: "In response to living in a fairly hectic city, and at a very hectic time for the world at large, creating something more drawn back and restrained felt appropriate."
Avant-garde composer and student of La Monte Young, Marian Zazeela and Jung Hee Choi, Ellen Arkbro renders sustained and harmonically opaque chords on her stunning second solo album for Subtext. More minimal and extended than her 2017 debut ‘For Organ and Brass’, 'Chords’ is a focussed study in a gradual manipulation of acoustic timbres, using subtle synthesis of organ and guitar through two extended pieces bound to generate uncanny sensations to anyone familiar with the conventional tone of her chosen instruments.
Although underpinned by mathematical rigour, Arkbro draws direct connections to sacred music through a strict method of reduction, stripping away elements in a process she likens to a sculptor chipping away at stone. What’s left is primed for a kind of mind-altering osmosis, where the listener gradually fills in the gaps, or as she tells the most recent issue of The Wire “…what you pay attention to will change what you hear”.
Influenced by her teachers and the spirit of New York’s 1960’s Downtown scene, Arkbro is meticulous in her process and use of unusual tunings to reveal strange, sustained sounds that seem to continuously change shape. This pursuit of a kind of sonic “emptiness” belies the often unearthly spatial dimensions she manages to conjur, making highly perception-based sounds that have an almost supernatural quality.
The results sit somewhere between sacred and industrial music, a listening experience with highly meditative, spiritual, sometimes disturbing qualities - quite a remarkable achievement.
Will Long aka Celer is at his patient, stately, ambient best on ‘Xièxie’, a subtly poetic suite melding locations recordings made in Shanghai with diaphanous, layered synths that elusively yet beautifully bring his subject to life
“A week before leaving, I bought a dictionary and phrasebook. Covered in rain, during the days and even the nights, Shanghai was lit in a glow, a mist turning to a constant grey fog. Buildings lined with neon and lcd screens flashed, and from around corners and behind buildings, the night was illuminated much the same as the day. Cars separated the classes, their horns voices punctuating the streets, as pedestrians in groups loosely scattered the streets, talking and walking on speakerphone.
Standing by the metro escalators, there in the square with the overhanging trees of a park, there is construction all around. The buildings seem to be climbing into the darkness at this very moment. Leaving behind and moving forward. We seem to know everything already, our illusion of experience. I imagine taking your hand, I imagined taking your hand, and the lights in the subway flicker as we go deeper. Transit bookmarks each experience, every daydream, and in the end they're interchangeable and indistinguishable between reality and imagination. Try to remember which is real.
To Hangzhou the maglev reached 303 km/h, the towering apartment buildings hunch under construction, passing by in blurs on the flat farmland landscape. I fell asleep, as you were dancing but to no music. The lilies on the lake nodded in the rain, dipping into the water. There was a Wal-Mart near the hotel where I won a pink bunny from a claw machine. I remember the beauty of the architecture of Hangzhou station, birds swirling around the pillars near the top, the echoes of the deep station interior, and the laughing at being lost. There at least we have each other, that memory, or that daydream.
Everything moves faster than we can control. Days are just flashes, moments are mixed up but burned on film, and all of the places and times are out of order. If it could only be us, only ours. If it was ours, if it was us. Sometimes everything goes faster than you can control and you can't stop, much less understand where you are. I bought a dictionary and phrasebook, but "xièxie" was the only word I ever got to use.
- Will Long, January 2019”
Sarah Davachi’s ‘Pale Bloom’ sees the preternaturally gifted composer return to her first instrument, the piano, with ineffably graceful results that incorporate vocals to spine-chilling effect.
Served in the wake of a series of albums where Sarah tested her improv mettle on everything from pipe and reed organs to analog synths - garnering a cult following in the process - her first album of 2019 confirms a versatile and bountifully prolific artist at work.
Recorded at the famed Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, CA, the first side is a three part suite ‘Perfumes I-III’, with the title a perfect allegory for the way her music diffuses and intoxicates with the quality of warm skin radiating gentle energy. She spends the first part coaxing keys into solemn figures and willowing overtones, seemingly in duet with her parallel, ghostly self or perhaps the spirit of Bach, setting the scene for one of most quietly devastating vocal appearances in recent memory when her (?) rich countertenor appears from nowhere in part II, channelling a richness and dreamy strangeness that transcends early choral music, torchlit blues-jazz and the kind of apparitions conjured by Akira Rabelais. The final part III of pealing drones and ultra sparse keys feels like a cats cradle to rest your head and reflect on the exquisite beauty of what just happened.
The B-side’s 21 minute piece ‘If It Pleased Me To Appear To You Wrapped In This Drapery’ provides a fine contrast and counterpoint to the sublime nature of the A-side. Here Sarah uses slowly descending and softly vibrating string pitches to conjure a more visceral, even dissonant sound that achieves something like the keening wow and flutter of a detuned analogue synth, gripping our attention like a master narrator regaling the saddest story of their life.
Don’t hesitate with this one. An essential for late night romanticists.
Nearly 30 years since their debut, Plaid remain supple in their exploration of crafty syncopation and off-key IDM harmonics on their 10th studio album
Yielding their first new material since 2016, ’Polymer’ sees Ed Handley and Andy Turner locate ever more playful electroid angles to their sound while getting further under the skin of its mechanics and making it writhe and pucker from the inside out.
The preceding single tracks ‘Maru’ and ‘Recall’ account for two of the LP’s biggest highlights, along with the tendon-twang funk of ‘Drowned Sea’, and a signature piece of fluffy melancholy in ‘Dancers’.