Tidy ultra-minimalism from Finnish composer Marja Ahti assembled from field recordings, analog synths, feedback, tape and digital processing. Bone dry, expertly-engineered electro-acoustic material that'll appeal to fans of Richard Chartier's LINE imprint or heady Touch sublabel Ash International.
'Still Lives' is the perfect title for this third solo album from Ahti, following two albums on the Hallow Ground label. There's a stillness here that feels accented by Ahti's careful processes, as if she's attempting to amplify motionless, empty atmospheres until they resonate. There's little forward motion and no rhythm, but Ahti focuses on microscopic detail, sketching out sonic spaces that feel disquieting and oddly visual.
Winding electrical drones heave and fade into silence, and gentle, intentional field recordings give us a ropeladder into the real world. Using the most minimal palette of sounds, the Swedish veteran experimental artist illustrates how intimate electronic music can be. That's a surprising, and incredibly rare talent.
Floatation tank biz from Samuel van Dijk aka Multicast Dynamics, who this time teams up with Finland-based producer Sid Hille. Recorded at Temppeliaukio church in Helsinki, 'Metamorphosis' is like a prayer to another universe >> RIYL Tangerine Dream, Emeralds, Air.
The world's hardly lacking bubbling cosmic synth music right now, but Dijk and Hille impress here. Split into two 25-minute sides, 'Metamorphosis' was assembled from a performance in 2019, which was then edited in the studio. Dijk handled the swirling synth textures and atmospheres, while Hille added keyboard and theremin, and although the sound is unashamedly retro, it's hard not to get absorbed.
The A side builds from almost silence, with reverberating scrapes and wobbles echoing into the church's far corners. But it's Hille's sublime electric piano work that tips it over the top - it's restrained and peaceful, like the more lifted sections of Air's "Moon Safari" stretched into gaseous ambience. Once the keyboard subsides, Dijk takes hold once more, sparking a mood not unlike Tangerine Dream's eerie early run.
The flip is even deeper and darker, but this time Hille uses a more traditional piano sound. Less effective than the first side, it eventually evolves into carnival rattles and quirky sfx, before closing on Emeralds-esque slabs of analogue bass.
Underground Portuguese/UK nodes, Niagara and Discrepant collate the star-eyed trio’s hard-to-find early works with a particular focus on their beat-less and shimmering cosmic electronic styles.
Forming a natural meeting of mutual spirits, Niagara’s charmingly hard-to-place meld of fizzing melodies and ancient-futurist hardware whims finds an ideal home amid Gonçalo F Cardoso’s roster of oddball adventurers. Unlike their drum-heavy outings with Príncipe and the band’s own label, Ascender, these endearingly off-the-cuff cuts chart more esoteric vectors thru 17 mostly short and vignette like works that showcase their allusively allegorical descriptive abilities, with wavey top lines that echo Drexciya as much as martian folk melodies, and a vaporous spaciousness that calls to mind Atlantic spray and foaming oceans.
Rhythm is still crucial to the set, but their percussion is less pronounced and more smudged into the texture of their recordings here, secreting chattering pulses beneath layers of gauzy synth work and field recordings on ‘Pombal’, and puckered up int he serpentine arps of ‘Esc8’, while the likes of ‘Mégane’ remind of Jamal Moss or Pekka Airaksinen’s jazz glyphs. At best they evoke the feel of a fireside bop on some isolated Atlantic beach with the breezy pads and rippling congas of ‘Espuma’ and the scuffed funk of ‘Mapas’, while the liquid noise of ‘Ponta Delgada’ could b the messy aftermath.
Canadian ten-piece synth troupe Ensemble D'Oscillateurs show off their skills on this meticulous re-interpretation of an excerpt of Pauline Oliveros's 1966 'Jar Piece' and five movements of Else Marie Pade's 1962 masterwork "Faust".
While the ensemble - founded in 2016 by Nicolas Bernier - focused on new compositions on their LINE debut, 2018's "4 compositions", "2 Transcriptions" is a more complicated process. Bernier was tasked with transcribing and interpreting Oliveros and Pade's pieces with help from Estelle Schorpp. The release comes bundled with a digital book that details the process and shows the scores (with additional text from digital preservation researcher Guillaume Boutard and acoustic researcher Caroline Traube), and may help curious synth fetishists employ similar techniques.
The music itself is quite remarkable in its recreation of the established works. Each musician uses old analogue oscillators which generate sine wave tones with two basic parameters: frequency and amplitude. These sounds are similar to those that Oliveros and Pade were employing in the 1960s, so come close to replicating the originals. But since these are new recordings, made with the benefit of contemporary technology, there's a dynamic depth that adds all-important space and precision to the sounds.
Best coast dancers 100% Silk grip Tokyo’s Soshi Takeda for a very Soichi Terada-styled dram of vintage sounding dream house
Previously spotted on the ‘2nd Life Silk’ compilation and a tape for Tokyo’s Dotei Records, Takeda specialises in the most sensuous strains of ‘90s deep house, as exemplified with the airy gems of ‘Floating Mountains.’ There’s a real poetry and adoration of deep house classicism at play here, drawing on the sultriest early NYC and Chicago house music, and the way they were sincerely adopted and adopted by Japanese producers such as Soichi Terada in the ‘90s, and sustained by the likes of Terre Thaemlitz over there in the modern day.
Listen up for hair kissing wonders in the breezing choral pads and congas of ‘Ancient Fish’, and gorgeous beatdown variants in ‘Hidden Wave’ and the trickling carillon melody of ‘Water Reverberation,’ plus a lip-smacking groover ‘Floating Mountains’ for the dance into dawn crew.
Originally released in 1996, "Sirkus" is an off-piste minimal tek belter from sorely missed Finnish maestro Mika Vainio. Completely blown-out kicks scraped up against arcade machine bursts and white noise >> broken and brilliant.
Tekonivel is one of Vainio's lesser-known aliases, but "Sirkus" shouldn't be overlooked. Chirpier than Panasonic's gritty, industrial skronk, this triptych is strictly 4/4 minimalism, engineered for the messiest post-midnight spirals. There aren't many elements, but each one - a breezeblock kick, white noise stab, squelchy monosynth - has been pushed into the red and sculpted to sound completely ruptured from reality.
It's music that makes more sense now maybe, with heightened global anxiety giving the shifting swung patterns and unsettling gurgles an extra sense of relevance. The three tracks aren't super different from each other, and play more like three distinct movements snipped from a long hardware session. But it's not the nature of each composition that's the draw here, it's Vainio's control of texture and expression as he manages to do so much with so little.In Vainio's hands, minimalism becomes a nightmare helix into dancefloor dematerialization.
Kevin Martin teams up with his long-term sound engineer Gorgonn and Brummie industrial shape-shifter Justin Broadrick for this brutalizing three-way split. You should know what to expect by now - and they don't disappoint: rave-inflected ten-ton dancehall, Stott-influenced knackered 4/4 grimness, sub-aquatic Chain Reaction dub. There's even a track called 'Head Deep in Shit'.
Martin's been on a tear in the last few months, releasing a slew of ambient records, a collaboration with Dis Fig and a brand new The Bug album. Now he returns to his G36 project, last spotted back in 2018. It was originally a collaboration with Goh Nakada, aka Gorgonn, but here the material is split between the three friends: Martin, Nakada and Broadrick taking four tracks each.
Martin's opener 'Wrong Place, Wrong Time' is thick with his signature overdrive, while Nakada's 'Sulfur' is comparatively dainty, zeroing in on swinging bass pressure, but sticking to a forceful dub mainframe. When Broadrick takes the reins, introducing himself with 'Dosshouse', he materializes in a space not dissimilar to Porter Ricks' most recent material - all precise modular squelches and side-chained throbs.
This back and forth continues as the trio taunt each other with bass weight, each vying for sonic supremacy. And with track names like 'Body Crusher', 'Annihilation' and 'Meat Grinder Dub', there's nowt subtle in either concept or execution. Apocalyptic, heaviest gear.
For his Shelter Press debut, Thomas Bonvalet aka L'ocelle Mare presents an album that’s considerably more than the sum of its conceptual parts, constructing "anti-compositions" that are - on the face of it - utilitarian rotations through an array of instruments, with a tracklisting that reads like nothing more than a basic gear list. Through some sort of alchemy, the recordings transform into a poetic body of work, an engrossing sleight of hand that lands somewhere between Pierre Bastien’s mechanical installations and the oblique mysticism of sacred music, buried between the notes.
Since his 2006 debut under the L'Ocelle Mare moniker, Bonvalet has gradually moved away from traditional notions of composition and diverted his attention purely to the textural and timbral quality of sound. His tenure playing guitar in various bands - notably Cheval De Frise and Powerdove - provides the experience needed to isolate his instruments, zeroing-in on the gestures of performance - plucks, strums, vibrations - using them to assemble component parts that are essentially free by design.
Flute, piano, strings and various percussive instruments collide with all manner of effects and assorted sound objects like a telephone, metronome - even masking tape, each recorded and assembled through a no-method process that rejects traditional notions of composition. But while the assembly is for all intents and purposes dispassionate - just take a look at the track names - the resulting recordings are a marvel, gradually building into individual mood pieces that betray a buried instinct for harmony.
Take 'Guitare Classique, Métronome, Tambourins…’ as an example - Spanish guitar, pitch bent, a frenzied metronome, an arpeggio, something rattles - a non-linear, complex rendition, a miracle of sound that lands like the most inspirational film music you’ll have heard in years. Or on 'Piano, Banjo, Orgue, Métronome' - a more angular, interesting take on the sort of thing Alva Noto and Ryuichi Sakamoto have tried over a number of collaborative albums - a 3 minute recital punctuated by increasingly agitated piano notes, all moving key changes and brittle strings.
Through its curious construction, 'Sans Chemin’ (literally, ‘without path’) feels to highlight the way our instinctive interaction with harmony, beauty, and dissonance can quickly ignite or extinguish heightened feelings without easy explanation. Perhaps all the pieces here were really made without direction - an aimless meander through sound - or maybe there’s something significantly more intricate and complicated at play. Either way, the result is the same; a richly textured and evocative, often startling transition from chaos and into the sublime, mirroring our own complex existential topographies.
Regis’ deadly slab of gothic hard-body machine funk returns, the blueprint for those shockout British Murder Boys excursions and generally one of the most influential Techno records of all time, here on a newly mastered 20th anniversary edition, once again ready to wallop.
‘Penetration’ practically defined this type of loopy, gnashing techno before a gradated phase shift into sleeker forms of minimalism came to pass during the following decade. It would be nearly 20 years before Regis issued his solo follow-up, ‘Hidden In This Is The Light That You Miss’, with time well spent on developing his roles in British Murder Boys and Sandwell District, among many other things, but ‘Penetration’ stands as a paradigm of Techno’s gothic-toned, gnashing wing in its purest, deadliest form.
Bolstered by Simon Shreeve’s airy remaster, ‘Penetration’ kicks like a thoroughbred. From the stentorian, Latinate drum friction of ‘Get On Your Knees’ to the monotone drone tension of ‘Aftertaste of Guilt’ and ‘It’s A Man’s World’, or the stealth ratchet of ‘Thirst’, it’s not hard to hear hallmarks of Regis’ sound that would inform his run of seminal British Murder Boys productions with Surgeon a couple of years later. Yet cuts such as the shark-eyed drive ‘White Stains’ and the sleazy dark room afterthoughts of ‘Slave to the Inevitable’ distinguish the album as sole property of Regis in his prime, before taking on the mantle of UK industrial music’s renaissance man over the past decade. With 20 years hindsight, it remains a tough, adrenalised energy-rush for the ages - here sounding heavier than ever.
Spunky wave pops from early ‘80s Germany, portraying the sound of the country’s first proper youth movement via bullets by Andreas Dorau, Conrad Schnitzler, Der Plan, Palais Schaumburg, Xao Seffcheque, Die Partei, Asmus Tietchens, Holger Hiller, Populäre Mechanik ++
Rifled from the considerable cabinet of Bureau B, ‘Eins und Zwei und Drei und Vier’ surveys those artists who bloomed in the fallout of ‘70s punk, spanning what became known as NDW (Neue Deutsche Welle) and paralleling post-punk and No wave movements elsewhere, up to the advent of home computing and the whole house phenomenon. OK, Germany had “krautrock” and kosmiche before this lot, that they could safely call their own music, and differed from both their parent’s music and Anglo-British styles, but that was never really a full on youth movement, to the extent that this stuff became. Bending aspects of punk, funk, and early industrial styles with everything from steel drums and cod-reggae, to dadaist tendencies, the youth of early ‘80s Germany put their own stamp on music with equal measures of spunk and ludicrousness that’s gone on to influence countless others.
If you’re after exemplary highlights, run check for the phet-twitch of Moritz Von Oswald, Thomas Fehlmann, Holger Hiller and co’s Palais Schaumburg zinger ‘Wir bauen eine neue Stadt’ for somethgin of a funky mission statement, and clock Conrad Schnitzler’s vocoder-driven motorik bullet for a bridge between he original kosmiche and techno welts, while Austro-German artist Xao Seffcheque can be relied on for the possessed drive of ‘Sample & Hold’, and Berlin’s Populäre Mechanik trade in killer, brittle funk on ‘Muster’, and the pop-punk spirit is kicking on gems from Die Radierer and the prince of NDW, Andreas Dorau.
Timeless, cinematic atmospheres from Belgian bass clarinetist Ben Bertrand, reprising the classic feel of his 2020 side for Stroom with results tipped to fans of Elodie, Blaine L. Reininger, CV & JAB
Trailing in the smoky wake of last year’s ‘Manes’, Bertrand picks up again in airy art house cinema-soundtrack like zones on ‘Dokkaebi’ with five parts that convect the feeling of lofty Brussels apartments and echoic hallways cobwebbed with melancholy melody. It’s a music for luxuriating in contemplation, allowing oneself to be carried away on the glacial contours and vaporous contrails of Bertrand’s bass clarinet, and likewise the exquisitely low-key and lowlit backdrops supplied by Christina Vantzou, Geoffrey Burton, Indré Jurgeleviciuté, and Echo Collective: Margaret Hermant & Neil Leiter, Otto Lindholm.
The first two pieces ideally establish the timelessness of Bertrand’s music with referential nod to c.20th titan Cage’s latter, harmonic works in ‘The Nixe of John Cage’s River’, while ‘O Ignee Spiritus’ more literally uses a Hildegard Von Bingen melody sung to haunting effect, both conveying the scope of his practice. ‘Zeme’ however feels more in a vein of experimental chamber music akin to Christian Vantzou;s work with CV & JAB, and ‘Sora no’ follows the subtle electronic tones to gaze out on a star blanketed canvas, with a barely-there haze of laminal vocal timbres and elliptical clarinet in ‘The Aurae Loops’ glowing at the end and beckoning to repeat the experience.
Anyone nesting their coming autumn listening playlist needs to give this one a whirl.
Portland metal duo The Body join forces with sludgy Montreal trio BIG|BRAVE and the result is... Appalachian folk?
'Leaving None but Small Birds' is an unexpected record. It's a chance for both bands to explore their long-time love of folk and blues music, as they challenge the very idea of what it means to make heavy music. It's an intense sound, but is rooted in American tradition, taking its cues from hymns and folk songs that were assembled and compiled by BIG|BRAVE's Robin Wattie. Once these ideas had been parsed, phrases were reworked to center marginalized characters, focusing on despair and empowerment without losing the inherent traditional qualities of the songs.
The origin of heavy metal lies in blues, so looking at that era and beyond feels like an important and rigorous exploration of the craft, and it pays off. And while 'Leaving None but Small Birds' veers away from both bands' regular sound, it's a profoundly moving record that examines the evolution and history of North American music without blindly relying on third hand appropriation. It's ambitious, challenging and affecting.
Jon Wesseltoft and Lasse Marhaug conduct computer and electronics in a killer 2hr+ piece of glacial, mind-bending raga-like drone for Superpang
So, this is what Norwegians get up to during the winter months of darkness; taking all the time they need to achieve other states of consciousness and visit other planes of bent mind reality via stringent electronic practice. OK, maybe it’s just these two Norwegians, but we’d also be tempted to do this if sunlight fucked off for 6 months or more.
It’s probably accepted that you’re not going to grasp the whole piece from samples, but we can assure that with durational listening the nearly 10 year old work exerts heavy drone traction thru its extremely long arc of phase shifting tones, with results reminding to the concentration of works by Éliane Radigue, or perhaps more aptly the just intonation explorations of C.C. Hennix and the roiling widescreen of Roland Kayn, especially in the burningly intense latter section. Amazing, really.
Sia makes Arca sound pretty pedestrian on ‘Born Yesterday’, gunning for the radio A lists with stadium ready vocals and Arca’s production transitioning between fluttering electronics and rushy techno impulses
Eartheater quickly follows her headline-grabbing Lourdes Leon collaboration 'Joyride' with another dreamy roll of futurist dream pop. 'Scripture' is Eartheater at her best: slick trance arpeggios and tuff 909 womps are the ultimate foil for her unmistakable glissando vocal flexes.
While last year's astonishing "Phoenix" exposed the raw nerves underneath Alexandra Drewchin's evolving style, 'Scripture' finds her placing two feet right back in the cyber-pop pool. It's material that few other artists accomplish quite so convincingly, with not just icy-cool production, but the glimmering, smart songwriting to match. There's an inherent sadness to Drewchin's music, but it's balanced out by chromium-plated sci-fi trickery and a sultry sensuality that feels properly in line with the contemporary global mood.
Illinois’ Forgot Imprint venture End Age’s enigmatic debut of hazy, hashed out figures resembling a ghostly after-impression of Actress or the sound of the workshop when nobody is listening
Hailing from Fukushima, Japan, End Age pursues a deeply uncanny sound on ‘ 宇宙飛行士’full of subtle timbral detail and strange, lurking intrigue that never fully reveals itself. The six tracks are roughly split between mesmerising durational works that follow their own mazy logic, as well as more succinct pieces that are, to be fair, no less oblique in nature, and fascinating with it. Imagine a geiger counter picking up decaying half-life traces of Vanity Records’ oddest, but also picking up traces of Bellows, Actress, and CM von Hauswolff, and you’re in the right arena.
Maxwell Sterling and DJ Plead lend crafty hands to Phillip Jondo’s classy debut melange of soundtrack, dembow, jungle and techno influences, dispensed by Dekmantel
With the intention to blur boundaries between headphone and home listening situations, Cologne’s Jondo ventures an immersive style of sound design benefiting from his heightened rhythmic instincts. In duo with Sterling, who leads on from his albums with Ecstatic and AD 93 in recent years, their ‘Dunkelziffer I’ sets the scene with RPG-like intrigue and sense of world building, flush with classical turns of phrase and rent with crisp electronics, where its part ‘II’ follows with scything dembow rhythms, cute bassline house motifs and streaking trance lines recoiling like Paul Marmota meets TCF.
On ‘Whowhuwho’ he tags in hard drum wunderkind DJ Plead for a round of killer jungle drums that barely touch the floor, kept up with Plead’s signature trills and deftest subbass hits and its airy, owl-like lead - you know all Plead productions are essential already. Russia’s Moa Pillar chases up a string of zingers for for Moscow’s ПИР (Peer) with a tuffer remix full of choppy percussive parries and a tightened up lead line.
Surprisingly warm, tender and soulful flex from Russia’s FAMA87, venturing solo after his FFAA duo with Flaty and a wee gem tucked away on Gost Zvuk’s 5 Years comp
‘Day, night’ firms up as FAMA87’s 2nd solo album, following on 11 years from his first ‘Other Spectrum’ (2010) with a coolly personalised sound drawing from jazz and soul as much as deep house and even D&B, in addition to the more typically brittle, Soviet electronic touchstones associated with Gost Zvuk. By most measures it’s one of the most colourful and even fleshly records launched from the Moscow label, and all the better for it and them, showcasing how far they can push the label’s resoundingly celebrated remit and aesthetic.
Peppered with guest spots from Nocow, who lends dreamy autotuned rap vox to the ’Stay With Me’ vignette, and from the deep house gauze of ‘Raise…the sun’, as well as longtime spar Flaty, who chimes in on the twinkle-toed flit of ‘Romantic Forest’: the album offers a broad canvas for FAMA87’s spirits and descriptive knack to play out, expressing a magisterial sense of space and place in ‘Airport Fog’, and dripping with old skool soul in ‘Dub Gait’, while the album’s puckered ambient moments such as ‘Lirica’ give way to deliciously windswept sensations in ‘Thank You’ and even lean into African influences not often heard in Russian music on the likes of ‘Kalimba’ and the rhythmelodic lilt of ‘Chrome.’
Sean McCann's Recital imprint issues the debut album from his older sister Molly, who uses Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel’s "Das Jahr" as the inspiration for a monthly set of no-frills solo piano recordings that subtly chart a complicated year.
Using a "creaky, slightly out-of-tune upright piano" and the microphone on her phone, Molly McCann recorded herself each month after learning and performing each piece from Hensel's 12-part piano cycle. Hensel composed the pieces in 1841 after a trip to Italy, and McCann brings them into the modern era by using the cycle to urge her to step outside of her comfort zone, as well as to suggest the illusory quality of time. As we all know, 2020 was a year where time lost its stability, accelerating rapidly or standing completely still without warning. So "Das Jahr 2020" works as a breathily subtle reference to a too-close period of upset we're still unpacking.
Musically, it's endearing stuff, and sometimes spellbinding. This isn't the sentimental solo piano bashing that's been de rigeur over the last decade or so, it's complicated and emotionally buttoned down. McCann's lo-fi recording process adds an intriguing layer to the experience; cellphone notes are part of our regular experience now so the sound is familiar and close.
Influenced by horror games, nursery rhymes and gabber, Chinese producer Yikii's first proper full-length is like Tim Burton on mushrooms - like a soundtrack to a Chinese reboot of "A Nightmare Before Christmas" rendered in luscious 4D. Bonkers and brilliant.
Since 2017, Changchun-based Yikii has released over 20 albums and EPs, but "Crimson Poem" is her first fully developed statement. It's an ambitious album that started life as an exploration of microtonality before evolving into a set of quirky, psychedelic songs that pull in ideas from across the spectrum of contemporary culture, from hard dance and avant-pop to traditional Chinese music and drone. But no influence looms larger on "Crimson Poem" than video games. The album sounds completely plugged into the fantasy realm, and uses disparate genre hallmarks with the fizzy abandon of Yuzo Koshiro's "Streets of Rage" soundtrack or CoLD SToRAGE's "Wipeout" score.
Yikii has no intention of making functional dance music and instead channels pop ideas through a narcotic haze of abstract noise, gothic soundscaping, airlock club and chiming classical music. At any point in the album it's like hearing multiple personalities communicating with each other, guided by Yikii's sugar-sweet vocals. There's trip-hop, trance and sadistic industrial noise on 'Disillusionment', Bernard Herrmann-style "Psycho" strings, ambient drone and traditional Chinese music on 'Phantasmagoria!', hardstyle and evil nursery rhymes on 'Afterimage In Ruin', gabber, punk, industrial and classical on 'Scavenger's Daughter', and so much more.
"Crimson Poem" is a unique record that perfectly encapsulates Yikii's personal world and spectrum of interests. It's surreal and cute, but never cloying and succeeds in being eclectic without ever losing coherence. Yikii's world is often terrifying, but it's never uninviting: imagine Björk, Danny Elfman, Pharmakon, Gabber Modus Operandi and Ziúr shaken into a viscous purple cocktail and you'll have some idea where this one's going.
Official reissue of Ryo Fukui’s only solo piano album, recorded in 1994.
"Sourced from the original masters, this intimate offering from the Japanese jazz legend is available on limited edition 180 gram vinyl mastered at half speed for full audiophile sound, as well as on digipack CD. Both formats come with liner notes by Yusuke Ogawa.
Originally released on CD only by Sapporo Jazz Create in 1994, My Favorite Tune is a beautiful bop adventure which includes two superb compositions that Ryo Fukui wrote as an homage to his belo-ved Hokkaido region, the fan-favorite “Nord” and “Voyage”, a tribute to his mentor Barry Harris ("No-body’s"), alternate versions of his mega classics “Scenery” and “Mellow Dream”, and, last but not least, bewitching takes on timeless gems by Sonny Clark and Avery Parrish.
My Favorite Tune plays like a cool summer night, full of contemplative notes and deep feelings, with Ryo Fukui baring his heart on the piano and displaying the soulful sophistication he is loved for. A true masterpiece completing his amazing discography."
Bay Area new music innovator Loren Rush has worked alongside Pauline Oliveros and Terry Riley, but remarkably little of his work has been made widely available. Sean McCann's Recital attempts to correct that with 'Dans Le Sable', Rush's first new album in over 40 years - a surreal, melancholy fog of opera, orchestra and digital synthesis. Listen and bowl yourself over - it's a total treat.
Best known for his 1970 drone piece 'Hard Music', where three pianists would play a single note to form rhythmically-shifting clouds of sound, Loren Rush is described by Recital as a "deeply overlooked composer". For some reason his work has been absent from the reissue machine until now, and judging by 'Dans Le Sable' it's hard to see why. The opening, title track, was written and recorded in the late 1960s, and weighs in at a hefty 20 minutes. It's a kaleidoscopic work, verging on sound collage but using orchestral and operatic elements that pile up on each other to offset each element's unique characteristics.
Using narration, distant slow piano, faint orchestrals, audience coughs and an assured soprano, the components are oddly combined - in the most startling and satisfying way - overlaid purposefully but awkwardly to enhance contextual resonance. It sounds almost like walking through a music hall as sounds waft over from every direction, finally converging into a dense, textured whole. Rush expands on these ideas with 'Song' and 'Dance', two more experimental pieces that put orchestral sounds - and their possibilities - under the microscope.
'Song' is weightless and eerie, with phrases performed almost randomly to jar and engage, forming hypnotic orchestral ambience that breathes with pregnant suspense. The biggest surprise though is 'Dance', one of the first orchestral pieces to use computer-generated digital synthesis and a jaw-droppingly complex collision of sounds. Bouncing shards of synthesized sound roll and ping around rhythmic percussion and flurries of strings and trumpets: it sounds like the Radiophonic Workshop processing an evening with Fluxus. "Dans Le Sable" is disarming, important music that breathes life into seemingly forgotten history. Huge recommendation.
Skull-cracking terrorcore techno from the Berlin bezzerker, Cera Khin, on her LazyTapes label
‘Demons To Some Angels To Others’ contains exactly the sort of full frontal, cybergoth-toned hardcore techno one might witness Cera play in her celebrated DJ sets. It leads on from her mixtapes with Ossia as the 3rd solo artist plate on LazyTapes, chasing the lead of Peder Mannerfelt and Anna Funk Damage with four high caliber bangers.
‘No Escape’ puts the boot in first, rumbling up with inverted bass drums to get your speakers flapping, and layered up with gnashing guitar riffs, mentasms and vocal samples in a Fifth Era-esque style that permeates the EP, from the doomcore kommando missionhead pressure of ’Do You Believe In Evil’, the horsemen of the apocalypse charge of ‘Full Belly’, and her hammering title tune.
'Mirror Ensemble' is Chicago synth don Brett Naucke's most ambitious album to date; inspired by Andrei Tarkovsky's autobiographical "Mirror", he's assembled a levitational near-orchestral set assisted by Natalie Chami (TALsounds) and Whitney Johnson (Matchess) >> think Ryuichi Sakamoto, Bee Mask or Tangerine Dream.
Naucke describes 'Mirror Ensemble' as his "indie rock record" and came up with the idea for the album after watching Tarkovsky's acclaimed 1975 film, subsequently inviting his close friends Chami and Johnson around for dinner. After showing them clips of "Mirror" he explained what he'd want from their contributions; Naucke would write arrangements and synthesizer parts and Chami and Johnson would embellish the recordings with viola, piano, synths and vocals.
The resulting record is Naucke's most sonically expansive, and that's in part down to the contributions from his ensemble. While Naucke's synths are still at the heart of the compositions, it's the resonant vocals, strings and piano that stretches "Mirror Ensemble" into widescreen, with 'The Glass Shifting' an early highlight, with operatic, reverberating voices hanging like ghosts over Naucke's static rhythms and outer space oscillations. 'Catch Your Breath', meanwhile, is short but anxiously effective, with wordless vocals providing a haunted choir beneath Naucke's Vangelis-like pads and scratches.
The album might have been influenced by "Mirror" but it's "Blade Runner" that feels more apt as a reference - it's not all spectral gloom either, 'Rose Water' is almost saccharine sweet and closing track 'Late-Century Reflection' is a cloud-punching nu-kosmische anthem.
Dead strong etheric elisions of chamber-jazz, trip hop and dream-pop from Bristol’s Tara Clerkin Trio, following up their acclaimed self-titled debut with a new EP of subdued but glowing reveries somewhere between Dominique Lawalrée's intimate parlour music, Third Eye Foundation's atmospheric configurations and the sort of skewed pop we'll always associate with the Laika x Moonshake axis.
The effortless drift of ’In Spring’ is the trio’s 2nd vinyl release after 2019’s eponymous debut and a tape with Dublin’s Weeding in 2020. It’s a distinctly Bristolian affair in its beatdown pacing and smoky atmosphere, which the label themselves compare to the roster orbiting the city’s Planet Records (Flying Saucer Attack, The Third Eye Foundation) in the ‘90s, with hints of a less noirish Portishead, or the sweeter ends of the Young Echo sound.
'Memory' dissolves into the atmosphere, all muted woodwind and organ moans that erupt into a half-time drum warble; if trip-hop is back in 2021, "In Spring" recalls the genre's most low-key and thus enduring moments, while harmonizing with the wyrd-world narco-pop abstraction of contemporary forces Cucina Povera and Leila Sakini.
Their elegant chamber sashay ‘Done Before’ carries Tara’s vocals on beautifully buoyant string and piano phrases trimmed with a sort of tripped sensibility, and ‘Night Steps’ pushes that aspect with crushed drums and filtered vox that feel like Teresa Winter on a Portishead track, and their nuanced range finally reaches into a sort of modal, 4th world lounge style recalling Julia Holter via Air on the impessively accomplished title tune.
A quietly brilliant, memorable record >> Tipped!
C.A.N.V.A.S. co-founder Olan Monk reanimates gothy DIY electro-pop on 'Auto Life', sounding like John Foxx with a fresh coat of paint from Jam City. Pop music for melancholy freaks - we love it.
Musing on the absurdity of fame, performance, recording and stardom, Monk has assembled an EP that feels entirely grounded in the modern age. In 2021, the art of production is democratized reality but performance has become more complex, so Monk laments the death - literal and figurative - of young stars and drives thru bleak glam backdrops as the rain beats down outside. 'Auto Life' is a melancholy collection, struck thru with the lavish flash of Visage and the chunky leftward-punk oddness of Suicide, but grounded in expression, not nostalgia.
The muted crowd noise on lead single 'Fameless' - used like canned laughter in a sitcom - illustrates Monk's vision perfectly. Wobbly synths and crashing, overdriven drums echo over the top, accompanying the main event - Monk's raw, insightful vocals. "Life is full of questions, you don't need to answer them," they moan. "Where you gonna be in three year's time." 'Black Tulip' sizzles with the attitude of Joy Division or early New Order, fired into a Drexciyan electro k-hole.
Our favorite moment is a gruesomely visceral collaboration with Elvin Brandhi and Jam City that excavates the connective tissue between Jam City's latter day glam rawk swagger, Brandhi's scorched earth sound art deconstructions and Monk's slinky, knowing songwriting. Brandhi's mangled voice chatters and squeals, pneumatic kicks pound, euphoric pads gasp for air - this is the future we were promised, right?
Originally released in 1977 on the Cobra label, 'Paradia' is the debut solo album from keyboardist Roland Bocquet who was best known for his work with cult French rawk outfit Catharsis. One for fans of 'Plantasia' mastermind Mort Garson and the Trunk catalogue of oddities, this quirky selection of oddbod Latin pop and wyrd library bossa is a proper find.
Whenever you think all the best library oddities have been flushed out from the basement, another one pops up and reminds us just how much there is out in the world that we're still yet to hear. The latest discovery to grace our desk is this explorative gem that initially emerged on the Cobra label who released French legends like Heldon, Lard Free and Magma side project Weidorje. It's real crate diggers' gold, that will certainly appeal to movie soundtrack obsessives: tracks like jaunty piano-led opener 'Fête' and the synthy, exotica-adjacent title track sound almost like Goblin after a sedative and a blunt.
Elsewhere, 'Djerba' taps into a jaunty Gallic funque mode, and 'La Marche Des Canards' is pure analog silliness that wouldn't sound out of place on the Ghost Box label. Each track feels completely different from the last: 'L'Abeiile' is cosmic bossa, 'Bee Flat' takes a sexy piano ragtime turn, and 'Exotique', arguably the album's high point, is a beatbox-led haunted electronic jammer.
Theo Parrish continues to unhook jaws with this latest deployment of dusted 4/4, dissociated vox, euphoric pads and free-floating jazz levity. Always good, u already know.
We're not sure how he continually does it, really. 'In Motion' is a liquid delight - two tracks of aerated, deep funk that doesn't so much exist as it does flex in its own timestream. 'Don't Play' is feathery and slender, with improvised electric piano shrugs ducking and diving around a driving, inverted 4/4/. Parrish's grooves defy contemporary logic - there's no pumping kick that threatens to strangle the rest of the music, instead he lets the harmonic throb of the other elements launch the track into propulsive euphoria. And when that vocal hits, it feels like a pent-up release of emotion after endless months of frustration.
'In Motion' is even wilder, brushing husky jazz percs around the sort of stargazing Detroit tech pad work that Carl Craig practically patented on "Landcruising". "Emotions, keep you in motion," whispers in the distance as the drums threaten to fall apart completely.
Juke Bounce Werk's DJ SWISHA teams up with Swim Team alum Kanyon on wiry NYC hybrid dance 4-tracker "Club Simulator". RIYL AceMo, Kush Jones, Fauzia, Color Plus.
It's no secret that Brooklyn keeps on taking it right now, and with clubs fizzing back into existence it's New York City's genre-agnostic dance scene that seems most poised to chart a course to the future. DJ SWISHA has been hard at work cultivating a reputation for years now, alongside Juke Bounce Werk contemporaries like Kush Jones and DJ Noir; Kanyon has been a regular fixture too in Brooklyn, working with the influential Swim Team crew and producing with Color Plus before releasing a slew of EPs last year.
'Club Simulator' is an eager, genre-twisted example of NYC's fluxing scene, each track assembled from loose elements of Jersey club, Detroit techno, footwork, jungle and electro. Opener 'Folded' melts breaks and Chicago drill shakes with jackin house stabs, amen breaks and footwork rolls, while 'Luv Track' builds a groove around the Jersey kick and a psychedelic vocal. There's even a tribute to sorely-missed rapper Speaker Knockerz that interpolates the 'Planet Rock' groove and brings it into 2021.
First album from Black Dice in nearly 10 years! With only an early years comp and a 12” for L.I.E.S. over the interim, this is a proper fix of their playfully discordant irregularities for those in need
Now revolving Björn and Eric Copeland, plus Aaron Warren, on ‘Mod Prog Sic’ Black Dice keep tilling the mucky rut of polychromatic noise and grinding grooves that earned them a fearsome reputation around the turn of the millennium and during that wild patch of noise that sloshed over the ‘00s, when they were heavily associated with a fecund Brooklyn scene and the likes of Animal Collective. All much longer in the tooth these days, they admirably stick to their wonky guns on this new batch, churning ‘em out in the space between no wave punk funk, psychedelia, techno primitivism, and good ol’ noise.
The world has changed a fair bit since their last album, 2012’s ‘Mr. Impossible’, with members of that original noise scene becoming major label and Hollywood artists, but Black Dice still have their boots on the ground, albeit stuck to the underside of paving and splashing in the sewers below. Across the twelve track on board of ‘Mod Prog Sic’ they give it some cruddy welly between the fizzing guitars and soggy wallop of ‘Bad bet’, the skudgy bogey boogie of ‘White Sugar’ and the street-brawl electropunk of ‘Downward Arrow’, clod-hopping from the janky lurch of ‘Tuned Out’ and ‘Swinging’ to styles adjunct Wolf Eyes trip metal bong hits in ‘Plasma’, and some properly lysergic acid rock with sputtering drum machines in ‘Jocko.’
Tirzah's second album is a fuzz'd-aut, narcotic dreamscape, all screwed trip-pop soulfulness and buzzing, chaotic layers of harmonic noize and hazy ambience. An even slower burn than her cult debut, "Colourgrade" is subtly surprising and calmly mindblowing - co-produced again with Mica Levi and Coby Sey plus an additional stealth production job from Kwake Bass & Dean Blunt. Yeah, Next level.
There's something about the way "Colourgrade" was recorded that makes each song sound like a memory, or a blast of familiar warmth from another room. But Tirzah hasn't doused her "Devotion" follow-up in cheap nostalgia or genre signalling. She uses memory as a creative tool, to sketch the outlines of songs and emotions in charcoal before she inks her evolving narrative. This time the songs are broadly structured around motherhood, being written after the birth of her first child and right before the arrival of her second. In her own words, they detail the process of "recovery, gratitude and new beginnings."
Since "Devotion" was released in 2018, we've witnessed a resurgence of interest in lo-glo trip-hop flutter, and since lockdown the home listening mood has been amplified. But Tirzah smartly swerves this obvious route, retaining the soulful downtempo loveliness of her debut but pepping it up with dissociated abstraction, pensive glaciality and smoove, slippery romanticism. In contemplating motherhood and the bond between parent and child, she creates musical swaddling that feels soothing but doesn't resort to cheap thrills.
The title track cracks open the record with timestretched words and rubbery synths melted over brassy bass sounds in arhythmic cacophony. Whistles take over completely and the expected beat never arrives; it's like a soulful acapella injected into a mercifully short psychedelic voyage. Advance single 'Tectonic' offers us the decelerated groove we may have been expecting, with icey cold vocals over downsampled funk that's half '96 Tricky and half '21 Taz & Meeks.
At its best, "Colourgrade" is unsettlingly simple. On its surface the Dean Blunt co-produced 'Recipe' is a stark vocal over a squashed half-speed beat, but repeat listens tear the seal off the tub, letting the prismatic warmth of complex emotionality haze into the atmosphere - it's just so good. The album's longest piece, 'Crepuscular Rays' is also its most uncompromisingly strange, with Tirzah's disembodied, mutated voice dripping like strawberry syrup over creamy phased waves of strummed electric guitar.
One of the most satisfying and consistently surprising records we've heard in 2021 so far, "Colourgrade" feels as sentient and unpredictable as the new lives that inspired it. It's gonna keep on growing.
Albums like this don't come around very often. Recorded between 1995 and 2005, "Walatta" drapes Brenda Ray's vocal stylings over a set of percolated, digital riddims, assisted by Tamoki Wambesi founder Roy Cousins, Scientist and Prince Far I, with overdubbed pixiphone, chimes, clavinet, vibraslab, Flexatone, whistle and synths creating a magical, mystical space. A modern classic in our book - bit like hearing Broadcast in session with Augustus Pablo or King Tubby.
Brenda Ray cut her teeth playing as part of DIY pop outfit Naffi Sandwich (as Brenda Kenny, with Paul Catchpole and Sir Freddie Viadukt), combining post-punk and dub and subtly influencing a wave of experimental music in the process. It was this interest in reggae that drew her to The Royals' Roy Anthony Cousins, and during the 1990s she helped him remaster and reissue material from his influential label. During this period, Cousins suggested that she use the master tapes of these roots classics as the basis for a solo album, so she set about dubbing airy multi-tracked vocals and instrumentation (melodica, keyboards, whistle, koto and percussion) over some of the Tamoki Wambesi catalogue's best productions.
It's hard to explain just how well this unusual blend of styles works. It helps that Ray, who handled the production herself, was so familiar with the source material and so reggae literate, so the end result isn't musical tourism, it's pure fusion. Ray's vocals hark back to a magical era in pop history, and she doesn't ever attempt to emulate reggae vocalists, augmenting the bass-heavy productions with something completely different. The tracks feel like 1960s exotica or lounge music shipped off to Jamaica for a summer vacation and dipped in the island's reverb-drenched production nuance before looping back thru the UK. And it's not just her vocals that lift this material into the clouds, it's the library-esque percussion and completely leftfield instrumentation.
On its own, these elements might sound awkward, but there's an unexpected harmonization with the blunted Caribbean backdrop that sounds too perfect for words. Ray's impoossibly clear and sultry vocals rub against triangle chimes on 'Star Light', but fizz into a different universe when rolling xylophone hits at the mid-way point. 'Sweet Romance' is a soft, earworm lovesong that evolves into pure psychedelia when Ray adds koto plucks and synth wobbles over the echoing rhythm. In the wrong hands there's no way this would work, but there's passion and understanding behind this decade-long project - the end result is an album that sticks to its guns so resolutely that there are no duff moments. It links the history of reggae into the gauzy world of Brum lounge experimental darlings Broadcast (seriously we can hear traces of "Haha Sound" right here) and even Andrew Weatherall-era Saint Etienne.
Japanese dubstep OG Prettybwoy follows his fwd-thinking 'Tayutau' syfy club excursion with remixes from Mr. Mitch, Cooly G, Pinch and DJ Q. All killer no filler...
Firstly, if u missed the original album u should remedy that, it's airlock club gold, gassed up with wyrd pop nrg. Once that's sorted, make ur way to this remix pack that loops Prettybwoy's recent stylistic shift back to the Brit-wave bass scene he cut his teeth exploring. Mr. Mitch's version leads the EP, and the versatile, shapeshifting producer locks onto Prettybwoy's pressurized kicks for direction, reshaping them into a heaving, post-Andy Stott sidechained throb. It's the vocals from miles that push the mix over the edge tho, grafting a soulful, psychedelic limb to the melancholy, bass-heavy alt pop form.
Cooly G's take on 'Island' removes the track from its tangle of industrial machinery, leaving barely a trace of the original in her lilting neo-funky shakes. DJ Q takes lIlI's smoove vocal from 'Destination' and gives it the choppy Todd Edwards treatment, injecting his expected bassline grin, and Pinch finishes things off with a dystopian sub-heavy roller that moves closest into the neon-lit landscape of the original album. Good stuff all round.
Oakland's Space Ghost blends the spiky Cali attitude of Dâm-Funk with Lone's fuzzy euphoria and Larry Heard's fathoms-deep romance on his third album, "Dance Planet".
Sudi Wachspress' sound set, his attitude and his funk positivity just brings visions of the Californian coastline and its neon-lit cities, prividing a perfect backdrop for a full-length of brittle contemporary house. Wachspress has previously released on Aquarium Nightclub and Apron, and brings this experience with him on "Dance Planet", channeling his engineering knowhow into a hopeful set of fizzy throwback froth.
He's at his best when he catapults himself into another era: 'UFO' is a 1980s MTV groover via Sony Playstation loading screen, and 'Emotional Healer (Back Room Mix)' sounds is an accurate reimagining of sunny, plastic-wrapped US house. "Dance Planet" is endearingly throwback - it's far from lo-fi house, but uses similar sounds to reach a very different destination.
Swans’ Kristof Hahn blooms diaphanous, sky-razing guitar drone scapes and commands masterful feedback sculptures, preparing the ground for his forthcoming full length proper with Room 40
“From Lawrence English: In 2012, I had the good fortune to be in Sydney when SWANS toured on the back of their most recent master work The Seer. The show was, as one would expect, an all out consumption of body and ears.
Before SWANS took the stage however, Kristof Hahn performed a solo set. It was in many respects a stark contrast to what would come from SWANS, but it also laid bare the role Kristof plays in the group. As Kristof moved through the phases of his performance, he staked out a territory of tonal and timbral activity that was deeply revealing, not just of the very personal language he had developed for his instrument of choice, but moreover for how he created unexpected pairings between harmony, texture and even melody.
Hahn’s music is one of repetition and unfolding variation, it is unsettled, but never rushed or careless. He knows that music is an art form of time and is not afraid to allow his compositions to build, evolve and finally arrive with a casual sense of hushed determination.”
Oslo-based Japanese grindcore-turned-power tech scientist Eri Fuzz-Kristiansen blazes a wonky trail on this latest short-form set, thematically following her Diagonal offering "Cross Modulation" with more post-Pan Sonic/Merzbow extreme rhythmic industrial expression.
Harder than a paving slab to the face, "Behind of Digital Images" grabs hold of grindcore's hi-volume immediacy with both hands and sublimes it into a fresh, rhythmic form. The six tracker is overflowing with nauseating scrapes and mind-pummeling, squelching percussion; there's no melody here, it's hard, pneumatic rhythm, grinding industrial texture and sheer decibels. And while there's no trace of IRL instrumentation, Eri wields her electronics with the force of a stage full of amplification, a pedal-board full of distortion units and a handful of guitar strings.
'Photogene' is all death rattle scrapes and bubbling, malfunctioning bleeps, 'Actuate' builds into a splatter of rhythmic chaos, and 'Virtual Image' gilds dissonant bleeps with crunching AE flutters and serrated hats. 'Iginition' is our pick, a swaying near-dubstep knife-edge display of low-end intensity that sounds almost like Scorn facing off against Florian Hecker. Completely frazzled bizz for taps aff power electronix thrill seekers.
The heads-down R&B hustle of ‘The General’ forms the killer lead cut from Dawuna’s outstanding debut album for O___o?, after the labels unmissable drops by LA Timpa and Ize
One highlight among many addictive cuts off ‘Glass Lit Dream’, the burnished drums and ghostly backdrops of ‘The General’ feature in its longer original and clipped radio edits, both dripping with Dawuna’s aching croon, slapping the soul somewhere between Prince and his label mate LA Timpa’s cracked, low-lit, softly upper register vox. Combined with those lip-bitingly strong drums and trickling keys, it’s dead special slice of timeless but present-facing R&B that should, by all rights, bury itself into the wider consciousness like the absolute ohrwurm that it is.
Drawing on Egyptian mythology, Afrofuturism and radical politics, Kenyan DJ and producer Makossiri impresses with an unhinged rattle of pneumatic techno, industrial noise, post-punk and experimental club sounds. Like the best Hakuna Kulala material, it's tough to classify, or ignore.
It's hard to believe that 'Juicy Juicy' is Makossiri's debut release, her productions are anything but rudimentary. She's clearly had an expansive and diverse musical education, and channels her expertise as a DJ into her wide-ranging productions; the title track sets her vox - somehow in the same sphere as Warrior Queen’s killer album sessions with Marina Rosenfeld - over rolling kicks and clanking metallic percussion, while 'Lifeline' decompresses into a musical airlock of thumping drums and acidic DSP and 'AEIOU' pastes BLAQ BANDANA's laconic flow over an overdriven punk-trap exo-skeleton that sounds as if it's been cut from rusted metal sheets with a bandsaw.
Things only get stronger from here: 'Moving On' sounds like Makossiri's Hakuna Kulala labelmate Slikback but with a chaotic punkishness expressed in the collapsing prismatic rhythms and fuzzy low-end rolls, while Tek Ha' switches the pace completely, pushing an Afro house rhythm into the void and using echoing vocal loops to conjure a moonlit ritual.
Makossiri saves the best for last with 'Ossiris Drums', drawing on Egyptian themes to construct her version of Cairo's innovative mahraganat, building hollow, propulsive rhythms and slowly feeding in grinding, disorienting white noise.
Visionary boffin Novo Line flashes his club teeth on 4th album ‘Racconti’, putting his dual Amiga set-up thru its paces in thee craftiest ways, as found on his exceptional records for Ecstatic - RIYL AFX, NYZ, Belgian new beat
Doing it for the Protofuture label from his native Berlin, Novo Line plays into their wayward tastes with 14 top shelf sluggers, working restless drum patterns and needlepoint arps in variegated mutations that resemble his touchstones, ranging from Belgian new beat, to math rock, and Brazilian music, but with an unmistakably personalised, recombinatory slant. While it may feel increasingly difficult for contemporary artists to find new life in old gear, especially when generations have already had their go, that’s exactly what Novo Line does with each release, and we’re surely here for it.
We’re particularly struck by ‘Gin Tonic’, a sore thumb of jagged, pitched blues guitar amid the album’s purely electronic material, that uncannily reasserts thoughts we’ve had about Novo Line’s approach to outmoded gear being akin to UK and US blues revival players finding and voicing new nuances of tone in equipment that was thought rinsed out long before them. If you can follow? Whatever, it’s just one killer among many mesmerising cuts, with other big highlights in the carmine dripping psychojak of ’Sudore’, with some killer broken beat/experimental Italo drum trak styles on ‘Il Deca Nel Calzino’, and his arps at mesmerising best in ‘Late Nite’, while new beat/EBM/industrial nuts will gets theirs in the crazed closer ‘Early Morning’ and his signature slow meat motor, ‘Cannetta.’
Japanese drummer Tatsuhiro Yamamoto transitions from tip-of-tongue minimalism to computer noise and roiling widescreen scapes in a spellbinding 35’ work for the Superpang series
Highly regarded for his work with everyone from Jim O’Rourke to Phew, Keiji Haino and Oren Ambarchi, here Yamamoto plays to the theatric side of his talents with an immersive single piece that makes room for a varied palette of sounds that explore the extent of his background as drummer. He spends the first 14 minutes or so at the threshold of perception, teasing out a lingering, resonant decay from melodic steel drum strokes that feel like we’re sinking in extreme slow motion, gradually gathering a head of more nagging metallic rhythms around the mid-way point, and shredding out into decimated patter and silence in a dramatic mid section.
The final part feels to resonate with Keiji Haino’s most etheric ventures, bending resonant drones around a serpentine drum line with a ritualist feel evoking Japanese stage plays as much as some kind of Holy Mountain-esque desert atmosphere, with thanks to Riki Hidaka’s lonesome, searching guitar tendrils.
Etch makes ace use of Delia Derbyshire and Barry Bermange’s ‘Dreams’ recordings and spooked vox in a brokebeat acid context for Dutch label, Tempo Records
Kudos is due for splicing samples of Delia’s trauma recordings into the 1990-style breakbeat acid tumble of ‘Dodgy Acid Trax’, and ‘Blood on the Mound’ also makes good use of spectral vox in a harder amen rinse out. ‘Int%^1___’ sees him trim back to a pendulous sort of dancehall swang, and ‘All Circles Vanish’ lathers up a techier sort of ’96 jungle sound recalling a shivering Krust production, with ’Soft Fog Dystopia’ dialling up the dry ice pads on a groggier sort of rave reminiscence.
bblisss specialists special guest dj and Ben Bondy’s Berlin/Brooklyn duo, xphresh, debut a lush volley of shatterproof jungle accelerators and RPG intrigued illbient beatdown on the newly minted 3XL division of Experiences Ltd, finding a gaseous spot somewhere between DJ Crystl’s pioneering ambient hardcore and NWAQ x Final Fantasy
‘xephon’ is a dream fusion by two distinctive, dextrous catalysts of the current flux between dance and ambient poles. In five shots they careen from sublime junglist tension to subaquatic dub wooze, disembodied shoegaze and cyberpunk illbient gunk with a wickedly unresolved, fractal quality that’s a real pleasure to sink into. As pillars of a scene that’s emerged and helped reshape, displace definitions of “ambient” and “dance” music over the past few years in particular, their collision of energies here feels to model a lush form of quantum mechanics; evoking the sensation of existing in multiple states of emotional and physical excitement simultaneously.
Scaling between the gyring junglist roil of its title track and the post-club gouch out of ‘eikon’, xphresh hit squarely between their dilated 3rd eyes with a proper, rushy thizz. The ephemeral ballistics of ‘xephon’ are effectively congealed into the charged sot-dubstep plasma of ‘myst’, while ‘luh’ passes out into radiant choral bliss on the “up” side, contrasting with a deep sink into the queasy belly of 4 Hero’s Macro Dub Infection all-timer 'The Paranormal In 4 Forms’ on ‘scum break’, before they yield to the mazy emotional rip currents of their closing beauty. At each stage it’s easy to pick out their reference points, but their natural ambiguity and restless style means their coordinates are never fixed, always in search of an elusive ghost particle that’s in the shine-eye of the beholder.
Métron introduce Good Morning Tapes' S. Korean ambient duo Salamanda to their fold, small méasures with a gently radiant suite of rhythmelodic fancies.
’Sphere’ doubles the label’s tally after Fern’s ‘Music For Baths Vol.1’ with a bouquet of minimalist but colourfully synthesised studies that never outstay their welcome. The two lasses, Uman Therma (Sala) and Yetsuby (Manda) are close friends, and it shows in the lilting, natural fluidity of their work on ’Sphere’, rolling out eight strips of ribboning melody inspired by Steve Reich, and tied in effortlessly resolving moebius loops that could simply play away all day on loop in our heads.
There are some similarities with the work of, say, Đ.K., but Salamanda keep it much lighter, frothier, and easy on the mind here in a style that cleanly resonates with their charming tape for Good Morning Tapes.
Whew! Arca on absolute fire here, following a pair of lockdown volleys with 3 minutes of propulsive experimental reggaeton
No ballideering here; it’s all upfront drums, vocals and scything synths ramped for optimal madness in your favourite club spaces, designed to untangle your tingle.
claire rousay debuts on Shelter Press with a stunning configuration of her unique dream cartography, weaving field recordings and voice notes with layered strings and synth work for a heartstopping deployment of ambient intimacy.
Preceding a debut album proper for the label due soon, '17 roles (All Mapped Out)’ takes us on a journey from a ringing railroad crossing and domestic rustle, thru quietly glorious inner landscapes and into reverberating x pastoral strings and lambent pads that coalesce to attune the ear to claire’s aural purview with half-heard riffs on friends, life in the digital realm, and the afterlife. Set to the slightest but most transfixing shifts in tone and texture that possess an incredible capacity to bring you to tears, often unexpectedly, her everyday sounds are magnified to gently distort their meaning and heighten their sensuality, effectively glimpsing the firmament from far away in a sort of waking dream gaze.
As with claire’s myriad releases during the past few years, her music’s low-key treatise on loneliness, friendship and existentialism has uncannily come into its own this year, appealing to atomised souls seeking connection thru music. This one in particular feels to strongly capture and characterise a mix of fleeting and torpid emotions in a way that evokes the passage of time and the fragile sense of place in the world like nothing else you’ll hear on the scene, like a rare orchid poking out from the crumbling facade of ambient convention.
One of the past year’s most watchable series sees string virtuosos Cannell & Ellis describe the changing of the seasons with remarkable attuned improv instincts.
After a hauntingly gorgeous ‘August’ starring Stewart Lee and Rhodri Davies, their ‘September’ volume feels almost giddy and light-headed in the opener ‘Another World’, before the weather changes round their slow yielding folk keen of centrepiece ‘On Sacred Roman Ground’, culminating in the airborne waltz of ‘Ancient Moons.’
““Producing this amount of music together has been enlightening, we could not know how our collaborative language would develop, and we are still learning. This month features highly charged and transitional sounds as summer peaks and autumn appears on the horizon. We also debut one of the exploratory real-time compositions we made playing live for the first time together - On Sacred Roman Earth”.
Not only have our livelihoods changed, but our opportunities to connect with each other and with audiences have too. These EPs now act as a direct monthly performance between us and our listeners. We create and present the music to each other, it is always surprising, we evolve it and shape it and enjoy the moments of making before letting it go.”
September Sounds was recorded live inside a rural 15th Century church in mid-Suffolk, and remotely between Suffolk & Essex and in September 2021. It is part 9 of a series of EP releases which are written, recorded and released every month throughout 2021. This month features Cannell’s signature evocative violin, voice & alongside Ellis’s deeply expressive cello, bass and octave violin playing.”
Crafty ear floss from Japan native Aono Hirofumi for Illinois’ Forgot Imprint, working somewhere between Pita and Jefre Cantu-Ledesma
The 28-minute playtime of ’Summer Wars’ gives ample room for A0N0 to explore the full range of his palette, revealed in waves of granular texture that cumulate into vicious walls of noise, just as easily as they disperse to moments of genuinely lush pathos.
It’s a conception and execution of noise that we’ve not heard done quite like this for some time, recalling the oblique computer music of Pita one minute, then the textured, ravishing nostalgic gauze of Jefre Cantu-Ledesma the next, or maybe even better compared to Pita’s work with Fennesz and Jim O’Rourke (Fenn O’Berg) at its best. Patience rewards right here.
Almost a decade since his classic album ‘Noi No’, NYC’s Madteo runs amok on Honest Jon’s with nine tracks of groove graffiti, scrawling on disco, hip hop, house and garage styles with inimitably thrifty, freehand tekkers
With the dance gee’d up by Madteo’s ’Str8 Crooked’ batch - his first 12” in years - 'teo continues to express a mix of deadly cool and charmingly frazzled dance trax in his patented rug-slipping/rug-cutting fashion on 5th studio album, ‘Head Gone Wrong by Noise.’ Club music by nature, but with an abundance of detail and chicanery that will come to light with headphones and home listening, it’s another masterclass in how to do it your own way with nary a fuck given for norms, but still loadsa love for the original forms.
Whether turning deep disco boogie into a psychoactive lather, as on ‘Since Man Crawled Out of The Slime’, or voicing the buzz in his head on ’Not This, Not That’, he simply can’t help but do it with properly slanted style. Upending the contents of local record shop bargain bins into a bucket-headed smoke out, the results spell out a sort of slippery, noirish soundtrack to nocturnal jags between greasy dive bars and backstreet pick-ups, getting progressively lost to its own lowlit world in the most absorbing way.
His avant B-boy/soundboy chops are at full flex on the slompy bomb ‘Big Stack Attack’, and framed at his longest and loosest in the album’s core trio of mazy jazz-house joints between ‘Deserts of Social Isolation’, the rangy swang of ‘Freeze The Cheese’ and the deep fried drums of ‘They Rolled Over For Him And He Rolled Over Them’, with a real future classic in the air-step strut of ‘People Impersonating Persons.’ Fans of everyone from Shake to Actress, Demdike Stare and Theo Parrish who don’t know this G owe themselves a check. Everyone else; you know the score!
Good times dynamo Finn slips into deep garage house mode for his classy first shot of 2021
As heard in his recent comeback DJ sets, ‘A Good Place’ sees him toggle the vibe to a halcyon vision of UK house as the sum of its US influences, replete with early Northern Soul samples, and a soupçon of northern UK melancholy, ‘cos that’s just how we like it - we may be giving away a secret here, but southerners might not know we have special backrooms where you can have a private weep and a Bovril, just ask for keys at the bar next time yr up on safari.
‘A Good Place’ sets it off with a cockle-warming, dubby distillation of deep piano house with memorable vocal idents, and ‘Getting Off (It’s So Good)’ gives a tender hybrid of NYC dream house and Sheffield bleeps, while ‘R U Well’ dials up the Northern Soul samples on a woozy garage house swang, and the warm sentiments carry thru to his twinkle-toed ace ‘We Better Make A Move.’
Following up 2016's ace 'Ragga Preservation Society', murky British Columbia collective SKRS revisit the project, liquefying Canadian-Jamaican jungle dubs and soundclash samples into mazy hi-velocity 'ardkore drips. One fer fans of Lee Gamble, Mark Leckey, Duppy Gun and Rhythm & Sound - featuring Second Woman, Roger Robinson, wzrdyAV and DJ Wundrkut.
With every dancefloor producer and their weed carrier attempting to shoehorn amen breaks and hoover bass into their tracks, it's refreshing to hear a crew doing it from the heart. Seekersinternational have been turning heads for years, and their latest full-length is a reminder of their attention to detail and commitment to excavating the rich seam between jungle and dub. Like its predecessor, the album looks to the past to chart a course into the future, re-aligning samples from the crew's collection of radio rips, Canadian-Jamaican ragga-jungle tape boxes and soundclash recordings, reshaping their source material into bonafide club electricity.
The album opens with an orchestra of samples that welds Basic Channel's looping dubwise textures to hoover blasts, atonal stabs and deejay shoutouts as if it's a proof of concept. 'Worldwide' subsequently mutates thru soundsystem forms with the plastique efficiency of Arca or the post-cynical surrealism of Dean Blunt. Beatless but not lacking rhythm, it introduces the album's palette without spoiling the rush of the first drop, a ratcheted break-led downtempo boom over a minute into Roger Robinson vehicle 'Kill-A-Milli'. It's at this point that you're made acutely aware of SKRS experience as selectors - there's no rush to reach for a track that'll show its cards immediately 'cuz they're building a narrative.
The album rarely stays in a single place for too long; as the ragga jungle blur of 'Kill-A-Milli' evaporates into sirens, eerie chimes introduce 'RingRingRiddim' with a digidub bassline and a looping vocal. 'SoundboyThunderbolt' glues both sounds together, lurching from loose ragga into tightly edited jungle and squelchy dancefloor rave saccharine. Second Woman, the collaborative moniker of Belong's Turk Dietrich and Telefon Tel Aviv's Joshua Eustis, pop up with an assist on 'TrussUBad', augmenting SKRS' hi-contrast collage with fluttering electronics and airlock-ready algorithmic dub robotix.
SKRS save their most intense moments for the album's second half: 'JamFlexEdit, Pt. 1 & 2' is one of their most upfront hard-hitters yet, a rush of chattered rave samples, organ stabs and choppy breaks that spins full-circle into dada sound collage in the minutes before it fades into silence. Closing track 'SoundTekOva' is just as intense, alternating breaks in and out of focus as if you're dipping yer head in and out of water.
A dense, swaggering set, it plops us down in a front row seat for a firework display that demonstrates the permeating influence of Jamaican soundsystem culture on dance and experimental music.