Brilliant reissue of Maria Monti's Il Bestiario, originally released in 1974 and a prime example of the avant-garde art-song of the 1970s.
"Known for her renderings of Italian popular songs, Maria Monti is an Italian singer and actress with a noteworthy career: cabaret singer in the '60s, ambitious avant-garde folk artist in the '70s, and starring in films by directors as such as Sergio Leone's Fistful Of Dynamite (1971) and Bernardo Bertolucci's 1900 (1976).
Il Bestiario is a near perfect emblem of the fascinating territory gained through collaboration. It enlisted the radical poet Aldo Braibanti as its lyricist, features arrangements and synthesizer from Alvin Curran (Musica Elettronica Viva), the baritone saxophone of Roberto Laneri (Prima Materia), as well as the soprano saxophone of jazz legend Steve Lacy.
The result is absolutely stunning, musically unique within the respective outputs of its participants' long and noted careers. Unquestionably one of the most beautiful and neglected albums of its decade."
Boy Harsher’s début LP Yr Body Is Nothing is one of the strongest admissions to the recent wave of EBM and darkwave influenced synth-pop. This is a new edition pressing, following self-released version and a DKA Records release.
Revolving around cinema fiends Augustus Muller and Jae Matthews, Boy Harsher really came into their own on first album Yr Body Is Nothing , which paved the way for the Country Girl EP which landed to resounding cult acclaim on Ascetic House in 2017.
On Yr Body Is Nothing they work the barest essentials into slick (but not too slick) songs specially balanced with a classic mix of dancefloor pressure and emotive pathos, generating strong club potential in the grim burn of Suitor, the tight swerve of Morphine, and the pneumatic strut of Deep Well, but it works even better as an album end to end.
Berlin mainstays, Max Loderbauer (Sun Electric) and Tobias Freund (tobias., Hypnobeat) reprise their exploration of quietly refined electro-acoustic dimensions, variously touching on Satie-esque solo piano works, strung-out desert blues, Lakeland Kirby-like midnight etudes, warbling gamelan-like tones and a spectrum of shadowy integers between them
“A decade has passed since Tobias Freund and Max Loderbauer aka Non Standard Institute (NSI) released their enigmatic collection of ‘non-standards’. Playing with mystery is the name of the game here as well. The new CD, entitled with the code ‘5863′, is the result of collecting creative moments over years and stringing together twenty short pieces that jointly amount to almost an hour of playtime.
Meditative, reflective, introspective, but also occasionally exhilarated… All these descriptions come to mind. But there’s more to the story line which emerges in patient increments as the album unfolds. Music comes mostly in the form of sparse but evocative piano improvisations, layering personal expression and subtle references anchored within the depth of the musicians’ experience. As the cryptic title suggests, the scope of examined experience can be symbolized through dates or years. But what counts for much more here is the sonic narrative itself with all its openness to interpretation. Some of these concise tracks can swiftly transport the listener to iconic harmonies of other musical contexts as they seamlessly relink the piano avant-gardism of Erik Satie with echoes of modern psychedelia and futuristic soundtracks.
As a whole, however, the minimal instrumentalism of NSI is as much about the notes and emotions that punctuate the electronic soundscapes generated by Tobias’ unerring use of studio as it is about the space created between them.”
The surrealist ambient/avant-pop experiments of Anticlines form the most significant solo release to date by Lucretia Dalt. It follows her releases with Human Ear Music, Care Of Editions and Other People - all dispatched prior to 2015 - with her finest, poetic study on the relationships between time-based arts, a.k.a music, and the time scales of geology.
Thanks to the inclusion of her own vocals and a tendency towards simple, melodic leitmotifs, and despite its heavy conceptual roots, the results find a fine line between experimental savouriness and pop sweetness, knitting Latin rhythms with her poetic gestures in the first side, before the 2nd side cannily finds those ideas fragmented, stratified into finer graded layers.
"Anticlines is a volume of poetic theory and sound contemplating the bodies of self above and beneath the earth’s surface. On Anticlines, Dalt conjures a sonic space of speculative synthesis and spoken word where South American rhythms rattle contemporary composition recalling Laurie Anderson, Robert Ashley, and Annea Lockwood. A portion of the proceeds from your purchase will be charitably designated on behalf of Lucrecia Dalt to Tierra Digna, an organization dedicated to the defense of Colombian communities affected by economic policies that violate human rights and devastate the environment. tierradigna.org. Come! Mend!"
Boy Harsher’s début EP Lesser Man returns for a fresh pressing on Nude Club, who are also behind a new reissue of B.H.’s Yr Body Is Nothing album.
Thanks to an achingly tight blend of rictus grooves and perfectly gaunt vocals, Boy Harsher have steadily caught the attention of listeners worldwide, leading to the dispatch of their resoundingly acclaimed EP with Ascetic House in 2017.
This one packs some proper heat, tracing the pair’s metamorphosis from Teen Dreamz into the Boy Harsher of today thru the gothic darkwave elan of Lust and the infectious canter of Modulations, to the hypnotic engine of Pain, and taking in Hi-NRG zingers such as Run beside the drone descent Crimea, and the sore, sludgy synth-pop romance of Love.
RIYL Tropic of Cancer, Xeno & Oaklander, The Soft Moon
In the deeply absorbing Organism for German avant-garde label, Karlrecords, Iranian artist Porya Hatami deftly tempers the sweeter tendencies of Berlin’s Arovane to realise some of the subtlest, most elusive material in either’s catalogue. The original Organism is here packaged with its Organism_Evolution expansion on a 2nd disc
Organism takes shape as a series of 19 silty arabesques, each feeling as though it was sketched in sand and oil, full of shifting patterns that slosh and evolve with a sort of gauzy brownian motion in elemental electronic microcosms.
You can feel Arovane’s intricate harmonic urges practically deferred and diffracted by Hatami’s abstract, granular processing, if effect perpetually staving off the ghosts of convention and keeping the arrangement’s emotive impact wonderfully intangible, only occasionally allowing more discernible melodic and harmonic forms to rise to the surface, before smudging them back into the piece’s quantum flux. Maybe best to imagine yourself as a single particle flushed thru their system, detached of any handrails and left to the inherent logic of the Organism itself.
Their Organism_Evolution takes those ideas to a logical conclusion, growing the sounds into more complex and intricately hyaline, cosmic concrète structures.
RIYL Xenakis, Jim O’Rourke & Kassel Jaeger, Anthony Manning
Slow music maestro Michael Pisaro mans sine tones alongside Philip Bush on piano and Greg Stuart’s percussion in this sublime yet tense triad of time-dilating compositions incisively exploring the relationship between the note and its resonance, action and consequence. Close listening yields great rewards here...
“A mist is a collection of points, while a grid is an organized collection of points. There is the unspoken tension in this work between regular and aperiodic, solid and vague, artificial and organic, order and sprawl. This interplay takes place from one section to the next, and also in the interactions between the parts: between the pianist (Phillip Bush), the percussionist (Greg Stuart), and the sine tones (by Michael Pisaro). It affects the melody and the resonance, the timing and the coordination between parts. The intermingling of shadow pitches and extended resonances creates effects that are at least as vivid as any articulation.
Gradual change is a feature of the entire work, on the most local scale (measure by measure) and on the macro scale as well. Timing, resonance, melody, register, and dynamics are all intertwined in these slow transformations. "The work is essentially about the morphology and topography of this resonance." This recording, like the piece itself, best reveals itself when it is "let loose in an environment," played on speakers rather than headphones, in order to continue to develop its shape.
Michael Pisaro (b. 1961) is a member of the Wandelweiser collective, an international organization of musicians which he has defined as "a particular group of people who have been committed, over the long term, to sharing their work and working together." Its members have shared an interest in John Cage and experimental music, and extended durations, indeterminacy, and silence have featured in many works they have made; but Pisaro is quick to point out that the members of the collective have a far from uniform aesthetic stance. Pisaro's work over the past decade bears little surface resemblance to the pieces made by other members of the collective apart from a commitment to experimental music and to deeply collaborative processes. Many of the recent trajectories of his work intersect in A mist is a collection of points (2014).”
CUTS - composer and filmmaker Anthony Tombling Jr - releases music from his experimental film ‘EXIST’ for the first time.
"Inspired by a poem by HP Lovecraft, ‘EXIST’ explores night terrors and sleep paralysis. The 40-minute film, described by CUTS as an “existential journey into nowhere” features narration from cult graphic novelist Alan Moore (‘Watchmen’, ‘V For Vendetta’, DC Comics, ‘2000AD’). The film was premiered at Dark Outside, the unique 24 hour site specific festival in the Galloway Forest Dark Skies Park, in 2015; the music hasn’t been made available until now."
Groenland unearth and reissue DAF's 2nd album 'Die Kleinen und die Bösen'.
It predates 'Der Mussolini' by over a year and is actually much more diverse and fruity than much of their later work, yet still adheres to the stringently minimal aesthetics which have always been a prime component in the DAF machine. It was recorded at Conny Plank's legendary studio and hence still sounds amazing...
In the year of his 50th birthday, Earth’s Dylan Carlson mounts his 4th solo album Conquistador, spelling out a signature, disenchanted sound ideal for brooding in the desert while waiting for the eschaton.
Accompanied by Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou on 2nd guitar and production, as well as Emma Ruth Rundle (Red Sparrowes, Marriages), and his wife Holly Carlson (that’s her on the cover), Dylan saddles up another search for the unnamed and unnamable, continuing a journey which has seen various bandmates including Kurt Cobain fall off, leaving Dylan at the lead of his 1 wagon caravan, still fixed on horizons psychedelic and possibly unreachable.
The first Grouper album in 4 years finds Liz Harris stripped of FX, pairing her vocals with skeletal piano gestures in beautifully pregnant space. For anyone familiar with the miasmic fuzz of Grouper’s previous releases, the relative clarity is quietly shocking in effect, revealing her songs and sound at their most vulnerable, and, in the process, locating a newfound strength in fragility.
Grid Of Points was recorded in Wyoming shortly after Liz finished recording Grouper’s Ruins out in Aljezur, Portugal, and on the most immediate level it seems to describe the difference in recording locations between windswept Atlantic coastline and sparse, landlocked insularity. The seven songs were written over a week and a half, with the process curtailed by a bout of what she describes as “high fever”. What remains forms some of Grouper’s most legible lyrics and intimate instrumentation, with each piece framed by stark, unprocessed space working in the same role usually occupied by her billowing sheets of harmonic distortion.
Untreated and unfiltered, Grouper's voice rings plaintively clear, sometimes layered in ephemeral harmonies or curling off with jazz-soul wise inflections shadowed by modest piano phrasing in a crepuscular style that links back to all her previous work. Yet, in places the clarity is such that it almost feels like we the listeners have just been hearing her songs with clogged ears for the past decade and longer.
Ultimately, these results perhaps most acutely resonate with the etymology of Liz’s moniker - ‘Grouper’ as in member of a Fourth Way commune, The Group, which was inspired by the philosophy of George Gurdjieff, whose mystic meditations surely linger in the magick of Grid Of Points.
The striking first realisations of Morton Feldman’s previously unrecorded choral works, performed by The Astra Choir, and directed by John McCaughey. In a stroke of genius, the four previously unheard pieces are presented alongside new iterations of choral works written and recorded by Pauline Oliveros, Warren Burt, Earle Brown, Robert Carl and Will Ogdon during the same era as Feldman’s compositions, each serving to provide rich contemporaneous context
“The intense individuality of Morton Feldman's (1926 - 1987) art and its "painterly" aspect have tended to push his rich output of works into a zone all of their own, surrounded by a moat of stillness. This recording attempts the reverse process - to bring his choral works (the previously unrecorded Chorus and Instruments, Voices and Instruments 1, Voices and Instruments 2, The Swallows of Salangan) into a "gallery" of other choir compositions of his times. Through the interaction with works of other characters and aspirations, mutual illumination might become a new Feldman experience.
Two of the five other works confront Feldman's textless choral singing with words. These, however, carry their own special musical intent. Three early twelve-tone gems [Three Statements] of Will Ogdon (1921 - 2013) move with Walt Whitman "into the wordless . . . away from books, away from art," and reluctantly away from human desire, as embodied in the central poem by Thomas Campion. Robert Carl's (b. 1954) The City brings a transcendentalist layered sound to the mystical reflections of the architect Louis Sullivan, contemplating the natural and the built-human in the lake and city of Chicago.
The notion of wordless chorus fans out in varied directions in the other three works. As one of Feldman's closest associates in the New York School, Earle Brown (1926 - 2002) intrigues us as much for the stark differences from Feldman shown by his abstract choral mobiles (Small Pieces for Large Chorus). The Sound Patterns of Pauline Oliveros (1932 - 2016) are less abstract than their title might imply - moving in and out of singing itself into extended vocality, and towards newly-suggested verbal exclamations of a non-semantic kind. Warren Burt (b. 1949), a former student of both Oliveros and Ogdon at the University of California, San Diego, contributes with his Elegy the most recent piece, also the closest to Feldman's simple successions of chorale-like chords. His harmonies, however, acquire their elegiac qualities from chromatic memories and their contradictions, moving along unfamiliar paths.”
Dense, darkly cinematic drone works from Tehran via Newcastle
"I remember being 6 years old, locked in a closet and screaming and beating on the door until I couldn't feel my hands. I think it's because I didn't want to finish my mashed potatoes.
I remember feeling his rough, dry, red hands all over me. Moving down the length of me in the middle of the night. Putting himself inside of me. Telling me the same thing happened to him when he was my age. I knew crying didn't work. It didn't work all of the other times. I stopped after a while.
It was us in that house for years and then I was gone and I didn't see him again until I was a teenager. After that my mom found out what happened and we sealed off that part of our lives.
We got the news that he'd died alone in that house. It was 3 weeks before anyone found him. There's still a part of me in there with him that I'll never get back.
I've explored this on a few other albums but never in this depth. I didn't feel like I was a good enough writer to tackle something like that. I don't know if I am now but every road led me here. With Siavash's haunting music and never-ending friendship I felt like I could make this journey.
- Matt Finney”
Bonny sings Susanna, to simply try and save the world.
"Sonata Dwarf Mix Cosmos is an old companion of his and with the Chijimi house band +1 they bring it all back home again, this time to the space in Bonny’s place.
“As other practitioners are leaving the room in favor of novel forms of recording and distro and consumption, PALACE, fantastical and real
structures and practices. Like we are allowed into the museum at night. We can make a great essentially live record with great songs and great players because nobody else is? ‘Wolf Of The Cosmos’... is about, as much as anything, direct engagement with recorded music. So step right up to the replicant.” -
Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy is joined by musicians Emmet Kelly (bass guitar, voice, acoustic guitar), Cheyenne Mize (violin, slide ukulele, voice), Chris Rodahaffer (banjo, voice, acoustic guitar) and Elsa Madeline Oldham (juice harp)."
Carsten Nicolai’s Noton present a masterclass in minimalist electronic discipline with Mika Vainio, Ryoji Ikeda + Alva Noto’s powerfully future-proofed Live 2002 performance, recorded at Newcastle’s Baltic arts centre.
The only known recording of the trio, as far as we’re aware, Live 2002 documents three visionary artists in seamless, indivisible collaboration segueing from sublime drone darkness (Movements 1) thru what sounds like a massive computer server centre playing dancehall (Movements 2 + 4), to fiercely dense electro dynamics (Movements 6) and passages of purest, rolling techno pressure (Movements 8), intercut with bodiless, beatless electronic frequency massages.
Being familiar with each artist’s respective, individual catalogues, we’re pretty astonished at the level of democratic control between the three singular producers. While it’s maybe possible (or pedantic) to pick out who’s doing what, and where and when, ultimately the 45 minute performance is a lesson in subtlety and restraint at the service of generating powerful, coolly organised pressure systems, without recourse to convention/cliché (delete as applicable), offering electronic sounds at the purest and perhaps even egoless. Definitely no grandstanding doofus in front of a massive IPhone screen filtering dull as fuck doofs here.
The Co-Ho people are an ethnic group living in the southern part of the central highlands of Vietnam. They speak a Mon-Khmer language.
"Co-Ho are animists who make a division between two types of supernatural spirits: the first type, with human characteristics, is called "Yang" - these are gods which are worshipped during ceremonies and important rituals to prevent bad luck, which is represented by the second type of spirits, called "Cha" = devils. The music of Co-Ho people serves different rituals and thus there are different styles of gong music, played on both flat and knobbed gongs.
Usually an ensemble consists of six gongs. On this recording, the number of gongs ranges from 2 to 6. On the occasions where music is performed in duo , a small ritual is conducted as a means to show respect to ancestors. If one of the gong players is unable to follow the other one, the player who fails to follow needs to drink rice wine from the vase. For this album, two locations for 2 groups in total were visited. "
The Ede groups live mainly in Tay Nguyen, the central highlands of Vietnam. Gongs are one of the most valuable instruments for Ede people. Each player strokes the back or front of the flat gong by a wooden stick aggressively, to create unique rhythmic patterns.
"However, for this recording, Bamboo instruments such as Cing Kram are played by bamboo-made mallets/sticks. For Ede people, they usually practice with the Cing Kram first, before they play the gong - a sacred symbol and instrument. So, these bamboo instruments are used for their practices and they literally call it as “bamboo-gongs.”
Another fascinating instalment in the history of Jewish recorded music, this time drawn from the Syrena — ‘Mermaid’— record label of Warsaw, when the city in its gloriously diverse, cultural heyday was known as ‘the Paris of the East’, before the devastation of the 1940s
Precious, thrilling 78s thronged with people arguing, soldiering, going bankrupt, praying, dancing to Klezmer, meeting the devil, failing to have sex, complaining about modern girls… and eating. With an informative, richly illustrated, twenty-eight-page booklet.
The Bahnar are an ethnic group in Vietnam, living from the north to the south and northeast of the Vietnamese central highlands. Bahnar speak a language in the Mon-Khmer language group. These recordings were conducted in Dak Doa, Gia Lai Province.
"Bahnar people use both knobbed gongs and flat gongs; knobbed gongs mostly have a rhythmic function, the flat gongs are used for melodies. Usually a gong ensemble comprises 8 or 9 gongs in total (6 flat gongs and 2 or 3 knobbed gongs), but the number of gongs can go up to 20 (10 flat gongs, 10 knobbed gongs) or even 22 (11 flat and 11 knobbed).
For this recording, the musicians brought different sorts of sharpened twigs as drumsticks. the biggest knobbed gong was played with a jackfruits twig. For Bahnar people, gongs - equivalent in value to several water buffaloes - are acquired through exchanges with the people from Laos, Cambodia and with Kinh groups of Vietnam.
Gong music is commonly played among the Bahnar on particular occasions such as harvesting, funerals, buffalo sacrifice, wedding ceremonies, etc."
This recording consists of the music played by the only the female group of Ede (Ede-bih – subgroup of original Ede). They only play the gong on special occasions such as festivals, funerals, and welcoming guests.
Christina Vantzou follows her role in the superb CV & JAB album for Shelter Press with the starkly haunting No.4 in her chrono-numeric series of albums for Kranky.
Her JAB foil, John Also Bennett (Forma) also assists on this one, as do Angel Deradoorian, and members of Belgium’s Echo Collective, all sensitively incorporated into her signature dimension of smoky dream sequence logic and texturally rich electro-acoustic timbres. A strong look for lovers of Angelo Badalamenti & David Lynch soundtracks, Bohren & Der Club of Gore, Global Communication - in other words: night time music.
“Belgium-based composer Christina Vantzou’s fourth full-length for Kranky ventures further into the uniquely elusive and evocative mode of ambient classical minimalism which has become her signature: a fragile synthesis of contemplative drift, heady silences, and muted dissonance. In regards to the new album she speaks of focusing particular attention on the effects of the recordings on the body, and of “directing sound perception into an inner space.”
No. 4 took shape across roughly two years, incorporating a diverse array of musical and conceptual collaborators, including fellow Kranky artists Steve Hauschildt and John Also Bennett (of Forma) as well as Angel Deradoorian (ex-Dirty Projectors), Clarice Jensen, Beatrijs De Klerck, and members of Belgium’s Echo Collective. During the creation process Vantzou wanted to “blur lines of hierarchy,” and thus allowed all ensemble members and technical assistants to add or delete elements. Despite such a spectrum of input the eleven tracks feel distinctly cohesive, weaving elegant textures and resonant open spaces within a twilit landscape of eclectic instrumentation: piano, harp, vibraphone, voice, strings, marimba, synthesizers, gong, and bells.
Vantzou describes the recording process as one of prepared spontaneity: that is, “having plenty of ideas ready to explore going into the session, but with enough time to depart from those ideas and see what happens.” This mindset of premeditated exploration informs the album’s emotive textural intuition, with hushed drones and delicate gestures eliding in the periphery of the mix. She cites sleep and “the loosening of time” as two formative practices in her private and professional life, which manifests in the quietly hallucinatory properties of Vantzou’s music. No. 4 feels both endless and ephemeral, immersive and immaterial. It’s a music of horizon lines and half-light, mapped with feeling and foresight.”
This is absolutely belter: a genuinely never-before-heard collection of punk-funk oddballs by Stretchmarks, the short-lived but dead good Manchester band fronted by Matt Wand and Rex Casswell of plunderphonic pioneers Stock, Hausen & Walkman and fuelled by a rhythm section with previous form for both Nico and Blue Orchids. It’s the kinda stuff Manc-y wet dreams are made of - funky as f*ck, feral and devilishly effective, and totally set to light up a lot of grins on those familiar with Mancunia c.1989-1991 as much as classic Material, Pere Ubu, ACR, ESG.
Pulled together from live recordings of shows at The Millstone, basement sessions down in Withington, and from various rehearsal sessions in rooms across the city, The Stretch m-ARKhives contains the best of this bunch’s efforts during the period that everyone putatively associates with baggy kids and ecstasy pipes. Basically, Stretchmarks were a sort of antithesis to what they called “the ‘baggy plague”, and it’s fair to say with hindsight that their live-wire mix of funk chops, punkish vocals and electronic blatz succeeded in creating an excellent alternative to the usual suspects. Only thing was, at the time, only a few people gave a flying fxck about Stretchmarks and they never made a proper record to prove their anti-thesis.
Fast forward nearly 30 years to now, and, by all rights, Stretchmarks should find their audience in a scene that’s been primed to tell wave goods from wave bads after a decade absorbing YouTube rips, blog posts and a deluge of reissues. Hence it should be easy to detect their flashes of devious genius inside, from the mad mix of upclose whisper and distant holler on the roiling Puddle Of Love, thru to the nipped Afrobeat-punk meter of All The Same, the free jazz mind splash of No Way, and the helpless madness of Let’s Get Weird with its bestial grunts and instantly memorable lyrics intoning “let’s get weird/you and me/in my kidney shaped swimming pooooool.”
Ultimately, The Stretch m-ARKhives is yet another example of how history always favours the winners, in this case The Cranky Tuesdays and The Bony Losers, at the expense of the interesting crud that happened beyond the sight of scenesters and there mainstream, of which this LP is a perfect example.
These songs originate from the city of Sanaa, the sheikdom of Lahej and the port of Aden.
"This record contains oudh playing, percussion and singing from Yemen. The three Kawkabani brothers sing traditional poems and play oudh (lute), double drums, tambourine and, occasionally, the kanoun (zither). They were recorded in Sanaa in 1973. The oudh player Hassan al Zabeede and his double drum playing brother sing songs in the Lahej style and were recorded in Taez in 1973."
‘Challenge Me Foolish’ is an almost lost album of µ-Ziq material circa 1998-99, an era that saw Mike Paradinas release ‘Royal Astronomy’ on the now defunct Virgin subsidiary Hut records, and also tour with Björk.
"It’s an era of his music that’s definitely worth re-exploring, in which Mike went against the grain by producing music that was baroque, melodic and whimsical, while the IDM movement he was lumped with made instrumental music that was often neurotic and complicated. His taste for melody and dreamy beauty above roughness and intricacy confused people who were hanging on too tightly to the rules. He even brought in Japanese vocalist Kazumi, adding an extra human touch.
‘Challenge Me Foolish’ is something of a companion to the Royal Astronomy record; arguably even better given the fresh ears selecting the material. It’s imbued with a confident sense of pastoral colour, and a gentle optimism, utilising bells, studied orchestral arrangements and airy synthesisers that sit the album somewhere between, Jean Jacques Perrey (the French electronic composer whose whimsy was always balanced with serious innovation and chops) and the colourful, optimistic soundtracks of Joe Hisaishi. There’s a strange sense of the old and new throughout, the sentimental and utopia, with nary a hint of darkness. Even when the album dips into the hyperkinetic rhythms of jungle, the melodies and mood still retain a sense of gentle warmth. Dive into peak time Paradinas."
Minimal techno boss Phillip Sollman cues up a smart 22-track DJ mix
Features cuts from his Efdemin alias, Pom Pom, Margaret Dygas, Inland, Steve Bicknell, Konrad Sprenger and many more for Curle, following from last year’s experimental excursion Gegen Die Zeit for Dial’s Sky Walking label.
Andi Toma and Jan St. Werner return with their most inventive album to date, Dimensional People.
"The new album finds the Berlin-based duo reunited with Thrill Jockey, a powerful aesthetic partnership marked by such seminal albums as Radical Connector (2004), Idiology (2001), and Niun Niggung (2000). After a series of notorious dance floor releases, Dimensional People reveals them working deep within their own vernacular, digging into fertile terrain of their inexhaustible vault of digital and acoustic experimentation, and charismatically making elemental components new again. This album makes clear how their craft is of discovery, of finding new contexts for places, sounds, memories, sensations, ambiences, technologies, relationships, and of course, people.
A number of prolific guests joined the production: Justin Vernon (Bon Iver), Zach Condon (Beirut), Spank Rock, Aaron and Bryce Dessner (The National), Swamp Dogg, Eric D. Clarke, Lisa Hannigan, Amanda Blank, Sam Amidon, Ensemble Musikfabrik, and about 20 more musical collaborators. The cast of characters are as unique as they are vast, clearly a rich quarry for the prodigious duo.
Dimensional People, initially titled new konstruktivist socialism, gives each participating guest a platform to imprint the album as whoever or whatever they want to be: a narrator, a perfect moment, a jam, an ensemble member, an abstract sound, a multiple persona, a mood, a soloist. Originally premiering as a spatial composition using object-based mixing technology playing with the possibilities of sonic design and collective musicianship, the recording expands upon these ideas. Dimensional People expresses itself as a dynamic 50-piece orchestra, telling a story in sound. Each player is a multifaceted character, the recording an imagined stage, and the production is direction, lighting, and setting changes. Mouse on Mars offer sound as a means to encourage open-minded societies, aided by cutting-edge technology including their own MoMinstruments music software or a spatial mixing technique called object based mixing, with which a spatial version of the work was created. It is a conceptual puzzle composed around one harmonic spectrum within one rhythmic scheme, mostly in the tempo of 145bpm (inspired by Chicago footwork, so the dance floor is not entirely absent). Looking ahead, Dimensional People will also be realized through installation, presenting the work as an immersive listening experience, as well as performance.”
Forest Bathing, or Shinrin-yoku, is a term that means “taking in the forest atmosphere.” It was developed in Japan during the 1980s and has become a cornerstone of preventive health care and healing in Japanese medicine. “Taking in the forest atmosphere” became the inspiration for A Hawk and A Hacksaw’s newest album.
"Their forest bath of choice is the Valle De Oro National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. This new album features ten original compositions by Heather Trost and Jeremy Barnes. The opening track “Alexandria” features Barnes on the Persian Santur, an ancient hammer struck dulcimer, and Trost’s string and woodwind melodies. The composition evokes the long trader’s route between what is now Bulgaria and the wealthy cities of Istanbul and Alexandria. The band has always had a bird’s eye view of this part the world— looking for the connections between places and even eras: a belief in the power of music to reach across borders and unite. The band is based on the idea of collecting music and inspiration through travel.
They are not of a place, but their music evokes places along a route. This is not urban music. It’s rural: songs of the woods and roads where there are no sidewalks or street lamps to light your way. While the bulk of the music heard on this record is played by Barnes and Trost, they do have some incredible guest performances, namely the clarinet virtouso Cüneyt Sepetçi, from Istanbul, Hungarian cimbalom master Unger Balász, and closer to home, Chicago trumpeter Sam Johnson, Deerhoof’s John Dieterich and Noah Martinez, of the band Lone Piñon."
Opal Tapes wrest an unusually emotive suite of studies in alternate tunings from Bálint Szabó (12z) in succession with their Leaper  release and his previous work for Nico Jaar’s Other People. Think Arthur Russell’s Tower Of Meaning unravelled and riddled by Ashley Paul and NYZ. It’s arrestingly impressive stuff
“It is profoundly moving and as compelling as anything you’ll find around at the moment." (Brian Morton - The Wire Magazine)
Following his widely-acclaimed record Leaper, Gosheven leaps again and continues the never ending quest he started, to share the hidden treasures of alternate tunings. Bivaq is a natural continuation of Leaper: it is still an utterly personal record that places vulnerability in the heart of the things while it shares end-of-the-world spirits and creates unusual atmospheres of parallel universes. It is an imaginary shelter where one can feel comfortable, far from the maelstrom of the outside world, and can take a rest, collect the intuitive and creative powers while gazing at the Earth.
Almost half of the tunes were triggered by the extensive work with a group of contemporary dancers-choreographers and later became the score of the group's still running performance "Deeper". Not surprisingly the music served as an essential part of this ungraspable visionary work.”
Keith Kenniff’s output as Goldmund has established him as one of the preeminent composers of minimal piano-based ambient music alongside peers like Hauschka, Dustin O’Halloran, and even Ryuichi Sakamoto, who himself once described Kenniff’s work as “so, so, so beautiful”.
"Hyperbolic as it may sound, Goldmund’s newest collection Occasus may be his most exquisite yet. Where his previous recordings trod faithfully and sincerely on paths of dimly lit, polaroid-esque nostalgia, Occasus deepens the undeniable aesthetic that was hard-won over eight previous Goldmund albums, while expanding the palette to include desultory clouds of synthesizer and a tastefully distressed analog sheen.
The word Occasus means downfall, end, or the rising and falling of heavenly bodies. The title is apt in more ways than one: while the emotional tone of the album denotes bittersweet feelings of conclusiveness, it also perfectly soundtracks the quiet moments when we look up to the sky, and humbly relearn the smallness of our lives as cosmic objects churn slowly overhead with bewitching indifference. Occasus feels deeply personal, private, and hushed yet simultaneously grand, colossal, and profound. Remarkably Kenniff is able to capture micro and macro with equal fidelity.
Tangential to prior Goldmund material, there are a few moments of Occasus that feel dark and menacing like “No Story” and “Thread”, both of which broach urgent paranoia, and provide a refreshing counterweight to the idyll typical of the project. Kenniff’s music has always been unquestionably gorgeous, but seeing it set against an occasionally manic backdrop makes the moments of light shine that much brighter. Even when elements of Occasus play by the rules harmonically, they tend to unfold with a satisfying level of rhythmical disregard. “I like mistakes, I like when things don't go perfectly,” says Kenniff of his wabi-sabi ethos, “I do have a tendency to want for things to be perfect and precise, but I have to also realize that a lot of things I like about music and art are very rough and impulsive, the slight imperfections that give something or someone a unique voice.”
To that end there are few artistic voices as distinct as Goldmund’s. Using only a few simple ingredients (piano, synthesizer, reverb, and a little more) Kenniff’s sound has become so universal that you'd be forgiven for not knowing who it belongs to. Knock offs be damned, every Goldmund recording is cut from an inimitable fabric woven out of emotional intelligence, honesty, vivid imagination, and skillful restraint. Occasus is another strong chapter in an ever more gratifying catalog.”
Cult noise alchemists Skin Crime leave a fresh mark on Hospital Productions with 'Ghosts I Have Been,' following the label’s 20CD boxset release Case Studies In Early Taxidermy . Emerging at a fecund juncture in the Hospital Productions’ catalogue, Skin Crime’s latest miasmic pall serves a disciplined and elemental definition of ‘noise’ dynamics at their abstract, affective and invasively visceral best.
“Ghosts I Have Been is the first album from the supreme atmospheric noise band Skin Crime since their colossal 20-CD box set collection on Hospital Productions in 2015. Anyone who attended the Hospital Productions 20 Years Festival in New York City and saw Skin Crime perform their first live show in nearly 15 years will understand the deep masterful balance of tension, texture, and dynamism that has been the signature since the early '90s of this cult and collectible project. A defining characteristic is the fact that Skin Crime is a band with multiple members which brings live space and intricacy to a genre otherwise isolated to the confines of stagnation.
Ghosts I Have Been exhibits the usual mix of concrete sounds with raw electric noise slowly and seamlessly building into crescendo. Unlike the early obsession with various forms of butchery, Ghosts I Have Been shows the darker more austere side of the subject matter of decay, small rural towns, an antique shop with an uncanny selection of dusty old books of stories you might rather not know about, or an old library which seems eager to open its doors to readers but reluctant to open them.”
Berlin-based Tobias Lisius débuts his fearsome Liziuz alias with this bleak AF 2 hour invocation of ambient techno noise for his neighbourhood cranks at Hospital Productions.
On Disc 1’s Interaction Personelle (Ambient Version) he pursues an elusive mixture of industrial and kosmische ambient techno themes in a seamless, viscous roil of ideas, easy on the distortion but full of scurrying detail and noxious space. Disc 2 yields a farther 50 odd minutes of material that skulks around the idea of techno as dance music for the first half, before picking up momentum with mucky synth swill and clustered beats in the final third.
“After a series of committed live performances in Germany, Berlin-based producer Liziuz delivers his stunning debut album for Hospital Productions, Geschichten Des Lebens. Presented on two discs with two interpretations of the same epic track with one in ambient form and one in techno form. Geschichten Des Lebens is an album that requires patience with deep rewards. Liziuz is a new name emerging from the contemporary Berlin electronic underground. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Liziuz has isolated himself in solitude, meticulously crafting long-form landscapes simultaneously industrial and psychedelic. RIYL: Dedekind Cut, Gas, Lussuria.”
RIYL: Popul Vuh, Henry Flynt, Arthur Russell, CAN, La Düsseldorf, Tony Conrad & Faust, Broadcast, Terry Riley & Alice Coltrane…
"A twelve-faceted sonic inquiry into celestial cycles, the rhythms of the natural world, and the illuminating nature of darkness, the accompanying album Bellowing Sun is the majestic culmination of Fennelly’s immersive explorations of the natural world’s sensory dimensions and the dialogues between musical traditions—acoustic and electronic, vernacular and avant-garde.
The solitary compositional genesis of the piece, and a significant portion of its early recording (before tracking and mixing sessions with John McEntire of Tortoise), occurred at Bean’s home atop a dune of fine quartz “singing sands” on the shore of Lake Michigan. Sonically, Bellowing Sun is both kaleidoscopic and telescopic in nature, offering a radiant palette of rhythmic, textural, and tonal complexity, as well as rapid shifts in scale, from the intimately corporeal to the dizzyingly cosmic.
All four J’s—Jaime, Janet, Jim, and Jon—appeared together on Undying Color, but have since solidified into a formidable, cohesive unit, a true band capable of increasingly expansive arrangements. Though divided into twelve movements, or aspects—zodiacal sectors, perhaps—the piece functions as a heroic, integral whole. The album’s sequence reveals a dynamic push and pull between contemplative stasis and headlong momentum, imparting a palpably physical mass to the cataracts of sound.
Bean sings on half of the tracks, including early stunner “Matchstick Grip” and the spectacular closer “Pause to Wonder.” Whether articulating words or intoning phonemes, her powerful, lucent voice elevates the proceedings to a devotional plane whenever it emerges from the saturated field of sound."
In a smart turn of events, Daniel Avery’s second album scales between lush ambient downstrokes and signature, rolling techno for a sublime dialogue between the ‘90s and now, all aided and abetted by guests including Teresa Winter, Manni Dee, and James Greenwood (Ghost Culture).
As lushly prefaced by the Slow Fade EP, Avery’s Song For Alpha continues to diversify his bonds in sublime style, strafing from slow acid to rolling and purring techno and back again with a time-dilating and immersively expansive effect that lends itself as well to headphone travels as smoky afters with a pack of pals.
On one level, its aesthetic and effect can be taken as a sincere nod to the hauntology of UK dance music, revelling in its phosphorescent ambient afterglow and beautifully distilling the paradoxical nature of being locked in your own world within a sweaty mass of dancers, whilst also conveying the detachment of perception between generations who experienced the original rush, those xennials who came in its slipstream, and a current generation raised on YouTube clips of the original.
On another level, he’s also tapping into a far more ancient, arcane thread of tribal ritualism and new age thought, of which Rave music, like the psychedelic movement of the ‘60s, is a manifestation of timeless esoteric desires that erupts in mass popular consciousness. In that sense, from the name to the cover artwork, Song For Alpha pursues a similar spirit to Ami Shavit’s In Alpha Mood, existing in a wider vein of hypnotic synthetic music with James Holden’s The Animal Spirits and AFX’s SAW volumes.
But that’s all another way of saying that the album, from the lissom Plastikman acid strokes of Stereo L thru to the diaphanous ambient techno of Endnote, which features a gasp of Teresa Winter teased into cirrus drones, is just a lovely example of that nostalgic but forward facing thing UK dance-as-folk music does best.
A new album of exclusive, previously unreleased material from The Caretaker released in memory of and for Mark Fisher, the legendary writer, cultural theorist and pioneering blogger (k-punk) who passed away on the 13th January 2017. Copies of this release were given to all attendees of The Caretaker's Barbican performance for Unsound Disclocation last week. There are now 400 more copies available - please noite that ths edition isn't numbered or signed. 100% of proceeds from this release will be donated to MIND, the mental health charity - so if yr thinking of flipping these - please don't.
Ever since he wrote the extensive liner notes for The Caretaker’s Theoretically Pure Anterograde Amnesia boxset in 2005, Mark Fisher was instrumental in contextualising the complex, abstract nature of The Caretaker’s music to beguiled listeners across the world. Along with the music of Burial and Broadcast, for example, The Caretaker’s output fell under what Fisher described as “Hauntology” - a portmanteau of haunting and ontology which is rooted in Derrida’s study of the failure of Marxism and the left - which Fisher applied to contemporary culture, distinguishing merely “nostalgic” and revivalist culture from hauntological art and culture which is typified by its “refusal to give up on the desire for the future.”
The Caretaker’s work, including this billowing new longform piece, has always resonated with and fed into Fisher’s ideas, so we could hardly think of a more fitting send off from Leyland Kirby’s cherished vessel. We wholeheartedly recommend this CD, and also reading all of Fisher’s work - from his collected writings for The Wire and other publications, to his daringly seminal Capitalist Realism: Is there no alternative?, which proposes a direct link between increased diagnoses of mental health problems and the incessant trudge of capitalism, and suggest a way beyond the assertion that “it is easier to imagine an end to the world than an end to capitalism”.
A cherry-picked 56-track overview of the pivotal and influential dance music craze which emerged from clubs in Antwerp, Gent and Brussels c. 1987-89 in parallel to scenes out of Chicago, Detroit, NYC and the UK.
Arriving in the wake of multiple T.S.O.B. (The Sound of Belgium) volumes, this 4CD features a strong haul of nuggets not included on those sets - including a number on CD for the first time - while also broadening the definition of New Beat to locate the syncretic style’s roots and branches within synth-pop, EBM, house, and techno; from early influences such as Graham Lewis’ stylish synth-pop classic Pump , thru to to PN’P’s proto-hardcore slammer Poison  and taking in Belgium-built New Beat staples such as Ghostdanjce’s searing Ghostbeat (New Beat Mix) or Erotic Dissidents’ Move Your Ass And Feel The Beat (Instrumental) alongside imported anthems, Reese & Santonio’s Rock The Beat and The Rude Boy Keith Farley’s Give Yourself To Me.
We could bang on about the tracklist all day, but suffice it to say that the inclusion of total pearls such as Chayell’s relentless Don’t Even Think About It, White House White’s Oddball Harry, and Twice of Love’s grim acid grinder The Birth (the B-side to 24 Hours From Culture), and La Rolls’ Foolz Moonz Roolz means you’re saving a few hundred bob from the buying 2nd hand vinyl, at the very least!
Leyland Kirby's The Caretaker returns with a long-in-the-making soundtrack to acclaimed filmmaker Grant Gee's documentary about German writer WG Sebald.
'Patience (After Sebald)' is a multi-layered film essay on landscape, art, history, life and loss - an exploration of the work and influence of German writer WG Sebald (1944-2001), told via a long walk through coastal East Anglia tracking his most famous book 'The Rings Of Saturn'. Much like The Caretaker's oeuvre, Sebald's works are particularly focused on themes of memory, both personal and collective, making Kirby the ideal candidate for this score.
Grant tasked him with soundtracking responsibilities, but rather than thrift shop shellac, the source material for 'Patience' was sourced from Franz Schubert's 1827 piece 'Winterreise' and subjected to his perplexing processes, smudging and rubbing isolated fragments into a dust-caked haze of plangent keys, strangely resolved loops and de-pitched vocals which recede from view as eerily as they appear. Mastered by Lupo at D&M, the album is adorned with another specially commissioned painting by Ivan Seal.
James Kirby's work as The Caretaker has always dealt with the suggestion of haunted memory and the obscuring of temporal motion, and this - perhaps his most iconic album - made that more explicit than ever, with titles that reference amnesia, Alzheimer's, past life regression and other such memory misfires and short circuits.
Musically, this album might be compared to Philip Jeck's manipulated vinyl tracts, featuring similarly oceanic swells of crackle and dust, with faded pianos or big band sounds wafting wraith-like across the mix. After conjuring the sinister atmospherics of The Shining with his debut album Selected Memories From The Haunted Ballroom, The Caretaker has been chasing this idea of sound leaving its indelible mark on a space and time, so consequently these creepy, semi-dissolved musical passages sound no more tangible than shadows, and the album for the most part comes across as some sort of séance held via wax cylinder.
C L A S S I C.
The label that gave us that killer LP of Iranian Classical music from Morteza Hannaneh last year return with this curveball album of midnight anxiety and ambient trauma by ssaliva following on from releases for Leaving Records, Ekster, Vlek and Purple Tape Pedigree, among others. Highly recommended if you're into Oneohtrix, Arca, Mica Levi...
Pulling together material from blink-and-miss Bandcamp releases along with previously unheard works, WYIN coherently highlights a broader period of work than any of ssaliva’s previous releases, framing a probing and adventurous spirit at work in its element; modern digital ambient composition.
Coming off the back of Collapsing Market’s reissue of Tschashm-e-Del, an archival radio play of Persian Classical music conducted by the label’s grandfather, their first ssaliva entry keeps the label outlook as mutable as ever with a natural focus on atmosphere and feelings connoting existential angst and solitary psychedelia. It’s a product of the contemporary environment, which, more than ever, is bleakly electronic and at the mercy of rabid socio-economics, as symbolised in the sleeve’s illustration of a financial trader’s open palm, contrasting with the front cover’s zoomed in image of blood-spattered textures.
In six parts he just about keeps his head above the waves and acres of negative space, firstly buoyed by choral voices in Danger Came Smiling, then against the discordant fulgurite of Hell/Home, which both make the sublime timbral relief of a that much more effective, in the same way that the hyperreal, acrid sensation of For All I Care, the crystalline dimensions of 2drown and the spiralling, elusive complexity of b reflect and express the modern world with an intangible accuracy perhaps best compared to Arca.
A favourite of Four Tet’s, Entourage Ceremony of Dreams: Studio Sessions and Outtakes, 1972-1977 is a glorious portrait of the American ambient ensemble active in their early phase, shifting along the East Coast between Baltimore, Millbrook, New York, and back again.
Like their pair of Folkways releases, Untitled  and The Neptune Collection , the vibe is mostly free spirited, optimistic, utopian, but nicely held in balance with more wistful, melancholic flights of fancy, particularly on the two brooding parts of their soundtrack for a Danish theatre production of Cleopatra.
“Sampled by Four Tet, their name whispered in reverence through the decades, Entourage forged bold musical ideas on their two rare '70s Folkways LPs. Now, collected for the first time, 30 previously unreleased tracks from their archives. Notes by J.D. Considine, and by sole surviving Entourage member, guitarist Wall Matthews.”
Architect of the present future, Chris Carter goes retro hauntological on CCCL Volume One, his first solo album in 17 years.
Since his previous album, released in the last century, he’s been busy taking his influential duo with partner Cosey Fanni Tutti to a natural close, and likewise seeing thru their trio with Nik Colk Void, while at the same time diversifying his bonds with remixes of the contemporary field, from Factory Floor to Nisennenmondai and Perc. Here, however, the enormously pivotal artist paints a sonic self portrait indulging an unswerving thing for the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop and the malleability of modular synths, all with a mixture of wide-eyed, youthful innocence and high end studio nous executed to nostalgic degrees.
In the classic framework of hauntology, Carter’s nostalgia is for a lost, assuaged or thwarted synthetic future he experienced explicitly and cosmotically growing up during the ‘space age’, when synthesisers were vehicles for interstellar and interdimensional travel and acted as the connective ligament of counter-cultural likeminds across the world, so its easy to understand why he can’t shake that feeling here.
Like a grown up kid with all the kit he could ever dream of, Carter brings his ideas to life in uniquely tactile style, working like a sculptor with broad palette of amorphous materials that continue to react and mutate after he’s fixed them in place, at his legendary studio in Norfolk. Each of the 25 tracks feels to offer a window onto worlds of encrypted kinetic energy, fulminating figments of the imagination which come to life in shapeshifting, plasmic forms made all the more “real” and hyperstitious thanks to his application of AI like vocaloids which populate the album, cropping up as alien sirens, glossolalic darkroom murmurs, and fully-fledged “singers” in their own strange right.
The result is a uniquely absorbing album tied together by Carter’s smart internal logic, a mazy manifestation of bio-electronic feedback systems that gives voice to the machine as much as the man operating it in a way that will really speak to followers of classic electronic music.
There was a time when The Third Eye Foundation was the mirror of the world from which the group drew its substance. But the reflection faded and dirt accumulated so it only provided deformed images and gradually became the world's shadow.
"This willingness to look at and express images and words about humans and their environment has since been embodied in the completely open face of its founder, Matt Elliott. Thus, The Third Eye Foundation is a discrete entity, the opposite of what Matt Elliott may otherwise represent. In 2010, The Dark (IDA 071CD) already portrayed this state of affairs. Today, Wake The Dead is banging the last nails into the boards that make up the barricades. Wake The Dead is like a key which attempts to open the doors of memory. Waking the dead is not a question of meaning but rather of sensations. Free will and free thought have no place here -- in the universe of The Third Eye Foundation, humans are no more than a simple product of their environment.
This may seem extremely violent and dehumanizing but it is not the case at all. You need to get rid of your certainties, empty yourself, and put yourself on the same level as those considered to be "the other". And that's probably the greatest quality of an album like Wake The Dead. Its abstract compositions are without a format and thus implicitly participate in the deconstruction of the imaginary, of all logical forms which we sometimes cling to without even knowing why. It offers something essential in its unpredictable approach: the possibility of letting go without this ever being judged as an admission of weakness. In a way, Wake The Dead is an album without a beginning or an end. Its melodic variations instill themselves without the listener realizing, and then progressively changes the listener's perception of the work. The 40 minutes of throbbing, hypersensitive dubstep that make up the record are not aimed at sending a message to the mind; The intention is to make souls dance and to unite them. Personnel: Matt Elliott - all instruments, vocals; David Chalmin - additional keyboards, vocals, drum machine, manipulations, effects; Raphaël Séguinier - drums; Gaspar Claus - cello."
Moon Gangs return with a starry-eyed suite of synth themes intersection Indian raga, pulsating kosmiche and Carpenter-esque sci-fi cinematic themes
“'Earth Loop' is inspired by both classical music and the film scores of 80s sci-fi and horror classics such as Terminator, Videodrome and Phantasm, as well as those of electronic pioneers Tangerine Dream and Popol Vuh. Young's childhood was spent playing CS4 and Amiga games, and discovering their soundtracks. An ode to these formative years, 'Earth Loop' casts ambient, analogue synth arpeggios against cinematic drones resulting in an evocative, nostalgic soundworld that's as invigorating as it is foreboding.
“Earth Loop mainly came out of jamming with synths. The mixer I use is an old Tascam 144 so if things are sounding good I just hit record and get it to tape. Everything started as big long rambles recorded live that are then trimmed down into something more concise. Inspiration-wise I’d been listening to more classical stuff, a lot of chamber music for strings, and I think that shows in the string section-y bits. Although they’re all synths, not actual strings.
It was recorded all over the place over quite a long time which I guess is why there are a lot of different ‘moods’ on it, rather than it being a document of a specific period of time/place. I also started building a field recording library over the last couple of years so there’s quite a bit of that in there, but they’re generally processed and run through synths so they’re not too recognisable”. - William Young, Moon Gangs
One of the more ‘extreme’ Edition Wandelweiser releases is Michael Pisaro’s ‘Sometimes’ as performed by Colectivo maDam, who feature a lone solo female voice flanked by three musicians on electronics. The score only allows for occasional sustained vocal and electronic tones of varying, but mostly short length, each separated by contemplative lacunæ where we presume you’re intended to imagine or fill out the harmonies implied by the sparse stems yourself. This near-silence forms the bulk of the work and leave the listener largely in a state of suspense, anticipation.
“this piece was, as the title indicates, the first of the 34 pieces that would eventually become the harmony series. in this and all the other pieces in the series, i attempted to create the conditions for a harmonic situation without giving any actual notes. the main stimulus for this was swell piece (for alison knowles) (1967) by james tenney (one of the postal pieces). i had reason to perform that piece several times in 2003/4 and marveled at how any group we assembled would find the "right" harmony without anything being said. so sometimes was the first piece i made that tried to do that: by specifying only numbers and durations of tones and the pauses between them. it is dedicated to tenney."
Edition Wandelweiser co-founder Jürg Frey presents the starkly beautiful minimalism of ’24 Wörter’, a song cycle based around the album’s evocative song titles, and performed by the trio of Regula Konrad (soprano), Andrew Nathaniel McIntosh (violin), and Dante Boon (piano). They’re mostly very succinct works with no detectable fat to trim, forming a gorgeous, dreamlike archipelago of experimental contemporary classical compositions...
“Jürg Frey in conversation with Thomas Adank:
JF: The 24 words are the titles of the individual pieces, and they are at the same time the entire text. They are also a list that shows how the piece gets from a beginning to an end. It is, in a sense, a cycle not simply a collection of pieces - a cycle which begins, makes a journey and ends at a different place.
TA: If I had to categorize this list of words, it seems to me they are addressed to quite different areas. Herzeleid (Heartbreak) for example, sounds old-fashioned, Einsamkeitsmangel (Lack of Loneliness) almost sounds like a neologism, as do Halbschlafphantasie, (Half-Sleep Fantasy) Sehnsuchtslandschaft (Landscape of Longing), Vergessenheitsvogel (Bird of Oblivion). Others, such as Tod (Death), Schlaf (Sleep), Glück (Happiness), Wind (Wind), are very often used in everyday life. Did you, as you compiled this list, consider these categories? Or did you tell yourself a story that made these words necessary?
JF: I was thinking in categories. At first I really wanted to make an even more rigid sequence. As it now stands, with the long words at the end and the short words in the middle, you can still feel a little of this structure; also at the beginning, which has many words with "e" and "ei". However, now it is not so strict. The words developed lives of their own, and this displaced some of the original structure. Some are everyday words, others are made by combining words, and some words found individual paths into the piece, including some very personal things. L'oiseau d'oubli ("Vergessenheitsvogel",Bird of Oblivion) comes from Edmond Jabès and is a tribute to this author I adore. But I also think that here Jabès has given me the perfect word.
TA: This piece consists of 27 parts, two of them being instrumental. The 24 words were set to music in pieces that are between 30 seconds and four minutes, and the words appear at most twice each in each piece. Again a fairly rigid structure?”
Graceful, barely-there, and enchantingly serene, Voice with Harp was written by German composer, keyboardist, musicologist and educator Eva-Maria Houben, and is performed by Tatiana Kuzina (soprano), and Christine Kazarian (harp).
A patient exercise in time dilation, Voice With Harp unfolds in five movements starting with the longest single piece, a sublime 15 minute instrumental Aeolian Harp, which appears to be an attempt at recreating the classical instrument’s wind-played elemental unpredictability under controlled conditions. We’d re commend listening to this one with the window open for best effect.
The other works are relatively shorter, generally between 3 and 5 minutes in length, and feature Tatiana Kuzina reciting texts by Eva-Maria and Felix Timmermans; three works opening with a sparse harp notes followed by vocal in Adagio, then in longing duet on Hatid, and two also accompanied by piano, before culminating with the five-part Songs For The Island - a sorta sublime inversion of The Vengaboys We’re Going To Ibiza .
Max Richter presents a properly widescreen album befitting of the panoramic cinematography in Hostiles, a 2018 feature by directed by Scott Cooper and starring Christian Bale, set in 1892 as an evocative study of fraught relationships between Cheyenne people and the American army.
The composer himself states “The landscape is a huge part of this film”, adding that “It offers this sort of medium for the characters to find their story in, but it’s all held in this extraordinary landscape, which can be populated also by music.”
Coming off the back of Richter’s first Emmy nomination for Taboo, his Hostiles soundtrack finds the UK composer drawing from avant garde techniques in order to paint a soundscape of textures and lush orchestrations, and not just wide-angled shot littered with emotive signposts.
In a sense he’s encroaching on territory recently explored by Scott Walker’s The Childhood of a Leader and Alva Noto & Ryuichi Sakamoto’s OST for The Revenant - a sterling addition to that section of your collection, then.
Clarice Jensen, artistic director of the American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME), makes a gripping first solo mark on the cello with 'For This From That Will Be Filled', an expansive suite of Cello recordings alongside filigree electronics and tape loops designed to highlight and perceive the instrument’s unique fidelities. It notably features one striking work conceived with the late Jóhann Jóhannsson.
Ushering in Miasmah’s 12th year of operations in the nether fields of modern composition, Clarice’s début is exemplary of the intense, slow-burning aesthetic which connects many of the label’s releases. It unfold in four parts of languorously void-touching ideas, scaling and sustaining a sublime tension said to “explore the variable differences between acoustic and electronic sound as well as depiction of the simulated and the unconscious.”
Using an array of methods ranging from FX pedals to multi-tracking and tape loops, Clarice both gently and ruggedly severs the sound from its source and contrasts it against its own grain, conjuring a contemplative effect akin to gazing out of a bus or train window at night, with light reflecting and scattered at odd angles, distorting the view and providing fleeting, surreal glimpses of new dimensions in the process.
The effect really first comes into play on BC when the string cycle gradually disintegrates with the wilting warble of a GAS or Basinski work, whilst her performance of Cello Constellation, a work for multi-tracked cello and sine tones written for Clarice by Michael Harrison patiently shows her ability to distress the instrument, make it keen like a choir of cosmic banshees, before the staggering title track occurs on the B-side, from a glacial traverse of icy dissonance and cascading borealis light to something like the drone of a sub arctic seed bank nestling humanity’s future in the deepfreeze of For This From That Will Be Filled (B).
Fred Welton Walmsley III (Lee Bannon) completes his esoteric ambient metamorphosis with Dedekind Cut’s melancholic Tahoe album for arch American electronic drifters, Kranky Records - home to some of the some of the finest atmospheric ambient works of recent decades by Stars of The Lid, Loscil, Tim Hecker.
In key with Kranky’s heritage, Dedekind Cut very neatly plays to the label aesthetic on Tahoe with a widescreen suite of slow, windswept synths layered into expansive harmonics evoking cinematic and psychedelic sensations. They range from pop-ambient pockets of bittersweetness to more brooding tracts of durational immersion, with each connected by an overarching feeling of sadness or unresolved strife.
It’s all very much what you’d expect from a Kranky release, until you start paying closer attention. Where Kranky’s chorus of ambient angels have often spent decades on their craft, developing personalised timbral sensitivities and sound identities, the shapeshifting Dedekind Cut’s newness to this particular field is betrayed by the more elusive reach of his soundsphere, but the artist makes up for a lack of tonal richness by conveying his intent more directly thru the arrangement and overall feeling, or soul connoted by his compositions.
Frankly, Lisbon’s Príncipe are just showing off with this fever-inducing 23-track showcase of their full crew in heaviest effect; including stacks of label debuts and strong showings from their core players.
Mambos Levis D’Outro Mundo is accompanied by a quote from Guinea-Bissauan and Cape Verdean liberationist Amílcar Cabral, which points to the label’s social-democratic ideals and is worth reposting here:
“As to strategy, we learned in the struggle; some people think that we adopted a foreign method, or something like this. Our principle is that each people have to create its own struggle. Naturally, we have something to learn from the experience that can be adapted to the real situation of the country. But we bettered our struggle in the culture of our people, in the realities of our country, historical, economical, cultural, etc, and we developed the struggle, supported by our people which is the first and main condition: the support of the people.”
Within that spirit of independence and celebrating the reality of cultural struggle, the set approaches the ‘floor - an unparalleled site for cataylsing cultural expression - from myriad angles, flipping from wild-eyed, raving futurism in DJ Lycox’s Dor Do Koto to the aerobic mysticism of Swaramgami from the scene’s pivotal producer DJ Marfox, to whacked-out techno by Niagara, whilst also making enchanting introductions to the breezed out roll of Dadifox or the Gqom-like darkside hustle of DJ Safari’s Tempo Do Xakazulu, and the romantic flex of DJ Ninoo & DJ Wayne.
Basically there’s loads of reasons you need this lot in your life. Highly recommended!