'Mas Amable', our record of the year 2020.
Call it deep reggaeton, avant-dembow, whatever; Mas Amable was easily our most rinsed record of the year, a sidewinding trip through slippery, mutable 90/180bpm metrics for lovers of rhythm and sound of all shapes and colours.
Following the reticulated deep house-paced hybrids of his acclaimed 2017 debut, 'Mas Amable' displays a serpentine guile that surely lives up to Brian Piñeyro’s moniker. Through 50 minutes, he dangles the dance by a fine conceptual thread that ties a constant rhythmic skeleton to subtly shifting tonal and textural variables. We start from shoreside ambience and lush field recordings, into hip-gripping dembow permutations and tripped-out vocals, elegantly and rudely shifting the pressure gauge from a gentle propulsive sway to darker steppers and wavey, whistling melodies, before neuro D&B stabs light up the dance and it all fades out on a deep blue reggaeton tip.
Like a mutable organism imperceptibly transforming before our eyes, ‘Mas Amable’ is both effortless and unfathomable, a heady trip through liquid, morphing tressilo drums and junglist markers that, at their peak, provide ample space for LA Warman’s vocal narration, imbuing proceedings with an eerie prescience and an existentially weary message. It all makes for a unique and richly immersive experience that we said back in April would rank among the definitive records of 2020. And at the end of this brutal, relentless year... here we are.
Ambitious, genre-melting, world-building, poetic Black sonic confuzzion from Brooklyn's L'Rain. "Fatigue" refuses to stay still for a moment, dissolving blues, gospel, jazz, experimental electronics, prog, new age and psych rawk into a luscious, theatrical production that practically jumps from the speakers.
'Fatigue' is multi-instrumentalist producer Taja Cheek's second album and sounds like a fully-realized work in a way that few albums really do right now. Cheek makes pop music, but it's shot thru with a thirst for experimentation that feels vivid, unhinged and completely absorbing. Refusing to stay in a single place for long - her songs are broadly influenced by vintage R&B, classic pop and high-minded prog or jazz fusion, but each is dipped in the sparkling essence of a plethora of wide-ranging sounds and ideas.
'Find It' is bluesy, soulful and driving, but mid-way through melts into screaming ambience, with haunted vocals, distant choirs and lifted horns. 'Suck Teeth' is gauzy, psychedelic and jazzy, with funk bass underpinning Cheek's sensual vocals, but gradually increases the pressure until it bursts into almost vintage metal by the final squeak. 'Two Face' might be our fave, all kaleidoscopic Stereolab-esque wyrd funk, that drifts thru clouds of noise and echoing vocals with surprising grace.
"Fatigue" is charming, smart and brilliantly realized. It sounds huge and shows Cheek's impressive production prowess, but retains a memorable pop simplicity while tackling heady, visceral subject matter and experimenting with wildly divergent production. It sounds like the rich history of Black American music but refuses to be constrained by its legacy, letting loose through culture and pointing to the future with eager caution.
Though it's hard to pick a winner among the estimable Black Jazz catalog, this 1972 release from bassist Henry "The Skipper" Franklin would have to be near the top of the list.
"Franklin got his start woodshedding with Latin maverick Willie Bobo in the mid-'60s and went on to play with The Three Sounds, but probably his most notable gig prior to this debut album was his stint in Hugh Masekela's band (that's Franklin playing bass with Masekela at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival). For The Skipper, Franklin assembled a crack outfit that included a horn section of trumpeter/flugelhornist Oscar Brashear (Bobby Hutcherson, Ry Cooder, Donny Hathaway) and tenor & soprano sax man Charles Owens (Buddy Rich, Horace Tapscott, John Mayall) along with a Masekela bandmate in electric pianist Bill Henderson and ace drummer Michael Carvin (Pharoah Sanders, Lonnie Liston Smith, Freddie Hubbard).
This is such a unique, organic recording that it's hard to make comparisons; definitely a little fusion, a little '60s Blue Note feel, and the usual Black Jazz journey to the more lyrical, pop-inspired ("Little Miss Laurie") and funk-infused ("Plastic Creek Stomp") sides of jazz, but perhaps the best comparison is late-'60s Miles before he went electric. In any case, The Skipper is just a joy to listen to from start to finish, beautifully recorded by Black Jazz producer Gene Russell and blessed with some really fine writing, most of it by Franklin himself. First-time LP reissue and a must-have!"
Penultimate, 5th Stage of The Caretaker’s ‘Everywhere At The End of Time’ series charting severe levels of musical/mental deterioration and sensory detachment through four extended, smudged and hallucinatory side-long pieces.
As we near the end, ‘Stage 5’ sees our protagonist enter a near-permanent state of confusion and horror. Mirroring the endemic deterioration of dementia’s latter phases, were pulled through the most extreme entanglements in the series so far; repetition and ruptures, barely maintaining a connection to waking life and a sense of self.
In the most classic sense, we become witness to an abandonment and dissolution of ego, as the mulch of bygone ‘78s totally loses itself in a way that connotes misfiring synapses failing to properly relay information at advanced levels of the disease.
It feels as though our skull is being scraped out, uncovering hellish layers of accreted sensation and mulched imagery, occasionally recognising calmer patterns, only for them to fray into the ether before it’s possible to parse and dwell on them.
At this point it’s also perhaps worth pointing out the uncannily profound synchronicity between the timelines of ‘Everywhere At The End of Time’ and Brexit, which both started in 2016 and are due to wrap up in spring 2019. It should be no stretch of the imagination to read into their parallel progression from nostalgia and historic/collective amnesia, to progressive dementia and complete obliteration of (the) sense(s).
D.K.’s blissed performance at intimate S. Korean venue The Edge becomes the latest LP on 12th Isle
Following in a familiar vein to D.K.’s enchanted fortcoming Good Morning Tapes EP ‘The Goddess Is Dancing’, the Paris-based producer of Vietnamese descent spies a rolling soundscape of lissom rhythmic contours and finely graded harmonic humidities across the tranquilising expanse of ‘Live at The Edge’.
Everything inside feels to float gradually higher from the ground and hold a mid-air conference of chirruping avian electronics, wilting gamelan-like tones and DMT-breath synth chorales on the A-side, while the B-side introduces purring low end and nimbly stepping percussion until it wins up in massage chamber ambience.
The fourth in a series of six albums from The Caretaker cataloguing the effects of early-onset dementia. Featuring four extended, smudged and hallucinatory side-long pieces - the darkest and most immersive music from The Caretaker to date.
The Caretaker slips into the first “post awareness” stage of Everywhere At The End of Time. The ability to recall singular memories gives way to confusions and horror; the beginning of a process where all memories begin to become more fluid through entanglements, repetition and rupture.
Leyland Kirby connotes the transitory cognitive breakdown of moderate into severe late stage dementia; memories of the good times are recollected in picnoleptic flashes as the music struggles to follow consistent trajectories, instead fluctuating between a fractured mosaic of ideas and elusive emotive gestures, still occasionally able to gather coherent thoughts.
In aesthetic, the sieve-like mindstate of stage 4 vacillates a serene sort of psychedelia with utterly paranoid and petrifying mental subsidence. Smudged traces of sublimated music hall memories give way to shocking tracts of atonality and discord with runaway logic, perpetually tumbling farther into states of mind perhaps best compared with K-Hole-like dimensions or the babble of after-hours psychonautic journeys.
The concision of previous stages is here replaced with wandering, side-long tracts. Three of those are titled Post Awareness Confusions and correspondingly explore and reflect agitated mindsets as they navigate an ephemeral, confusing complexity of structures. The other piece is called Temporary Bliss State and starkly contrasts the other parts in a coherently lush traverse of ambient crackle and glittering melody…
Heartsick boogie aces from Anthony Naples, poking out his first release of 2016 as a sort of autumnal toddy for chapped dancers and reveries of warmer times.
Leaker swivels out on a slow, shifty electro boogie glyde with a steady core of phasing bass and ticking rimshot smudged by psychoacoustically shifty pads; sounds sorta like a sharpened NWAQ joint.
The sluggish jack of Moments Magicos feels more sore, blue, like one of V/Vm’s saltiest new beat tributes, early trance on 33-not-45, or Pye Corner Audio at their gauziest.
This CD features 4 never-before-heard versions culled from the original recording sessions. All tracks have been remastered for CD and also includes STL's first ever remix.
"This CD is included with the purchase of the midnight blue 12" re-issue or separately on this limited Limited CD edition, packaged with silver/chrome sticker, housed in resealable poly sleeve and hand numbered. Only 100 of these will ever exist"
Kuniyuki´s 'Earth Beats' RemixesdBy Mr. Fingers (Larry Heard) across 3 remixes totalling over half an hour of Mr FIngers bliss.
Now re-released with a new re-master and new artwork - classic Mr Fingers gear!
Recorded while living off-grid in a French village, Perila's debut album proper is a dissociated, erotically charged throb of curling vocals, glassy synths, creaking environmental concrète, brushed jazz drums and submerged, dubwise subs. Like early Grouper spliced with Kenji Kawai's ominous "Ring" soundtrack, then re-assembled by DJ Spooky, Jake Muir and Vladislav Delay >> it’s properly time warping gear that's ineffably beautiful without being precious or cute.
Since moving to Berlin from St. Petersburg six years ago, Aleksandra Zakharenko has developed a unique hue in the ambient music spectrum. Leagues from the club-adjacent ambient posturing that her adopted city has centered in recent years, Zakharenko's sonic universe is sensual, poetic and narcotic, using elements of musique concrète, drone, dub and noise to reflect a mushy sensitivity that's as mysterious as it is tangible. Her sound has been refined by constant collaboration and her work with Berlin Community Radio, where she assembled regular podcast WET (Weird Erotic Tension) - a fusion of surrealist ambient sound and erotic ASMR poetry. And while "How Much Time it is Between You and Me?" has mostly shelved the spoken word, this muggy air of eroticism still circles her silky drones and subtle rhythmic strokes.
Pinkish clouds of granulated harmony float above a groaning modernist cityscape, expressed in subtly manipulated environmental recordings and occasional rhythms. On 'Time Date', the trace of a beat emerges with the spectral presence of a phantom limb, bubbling eerily beneath muffled, deadpan vocals. Long, psychedelic centerpiece 'You Disappear You Find Yourself Again', levitates fluttering drones that eventually slip from the pineal into neck, activating jazzy fumbles that point towards NYC's long-overlooked illbient zone. 'Memories of Grass' takes another left turn, sounding like Grouper's blurry "Way Their Crept" stickytaped to Eno's fwd-thinking '80s FM synth experiments.
The album's gently vibrating mass of jellyfish hues, vocal shards, and uncannily amplified small sound straddles a fine line between the unresolved nature of her sound and a more poised, certain style of agoraphobic pastoralism, as though she’s absorbing the sights outside her window, while keeping her thoughts intimately indoors. From the evocative track titles to their textured strokes, everything drips with a poetic, synaesthetic sensuality, articulating her sound at its most effective - formulating a perfect listen for anyone who craves the unruly, radical sprawl of art in all its unpredictable, fleshy realism.
Pure summer 2021 heat from South Africa, corralled by Shannen SP for NTS, and packing all the puckered Amapiano hitters you need to know right now.
Scanning the fecund field of South Africa’s prevailing deep house mutation, leading London DJ, Shannen SP plucks out a bevy of unreleased Amapiano zingers that showcase the style’s depth and breadth, spread between devilishly stripped drum trax and plusher works arced with deliciously groggy atmospheres and dusted, soulful vox. Despite clubs being shut in UK for the past 16 months, it’s been hard not to notice the increasing influence of SA’s infectious Amapiano styles on UK dance productions, especially from the likes of Scratcha DVA, Housupa Records, and Renk Groove Records, which makes ‘Amapiano Now’ kinda crucial listening for anyone keeping a keen ear on UK club music in 2021.
Under Shannen’s expert curation, we’re introduced to 17 South African players ranging from rising talent to scene veterans, with young guns such as MaWhoo supplying a lip-bitingly strong highpoint in the bullet-time motion of ‘Mswapheni’ and DBN Gogo holding the finest tension in ‘Possible’ with the breezing vox of Musa Keys and Dinho, and a killer strain of dark trance in ’Shuck N Jive’. In subtle contrast, veterans such as Vigro Deep and production powerhouse Caltronic SA hail a finer blend of deep house - a serious touchstone for so much SA dance music - and more brooding gqom styles, at best in the hypnotic ’Super Star,’ and breeziest on King Jazz’s ‘Lockdown,’ with proper tendon twanging flex in ‘Power Station’ by Teno Afrika, with the sweetest, piano led kiss off by Vusinator looping deepest East Coast and Midwest US house styles back to source.
After 23 years out of print, FSOL’s definitive early ‘90s ambient-epic Lifeforms now returns to its natural habitat. Serving near-dangerous levels of nostalgia for almost anyone who came thru in the ‘90s, Lifeforms is set to soundtrack myriad afterparties and claim its place on a whole new generation of record shelves.
Originally released in 1994, a few years after FSOL had become a household name thanks to their debut LP Accelerator and its standout rave anthem, Papua New Guinea (and not forgetting Humanoid’s Stakker before it), Brian Dougans and Garry Cobain’s project really blossomed into something else with Lifeforms, where they consolidated a wealth of esoteric ideas and philosophies into what was effectively a new manifesto for psychedelic electronic music.
Whether unconsciously and osmotically absorbed, or dutifully studied and cherished by those cognisant of its brilliance, Lifeforms was almost unavoidably ubiquitous at the time, and inarguably worked its way into the popular consciousness in a way that electronic records rarely do nowadays. It was definitely a product of its time, and now, 23 years later, we can safely say it’s kept its charms intact.
Riffing on then-emergent themes of cybernetics, amorphous androgyny and artificial intelligence, together with nods to classic ‘70s psychedelia and kosmische - it features guest spots from Ozric Tentacles and Robert Fripp, and sampled Klaus Schulze - the results tapped into the era’s undercurrent of aerobic mysticism and eldritch new age spirituality to locate an unprecedented confluence of those styles which has influenced swathes of electronic dreamers ever since.
It’s techno-romantic and tech-gnostic in the lushest sense, a utopian beauty flush with the thrill of unknown futures, yet fringed with an MDMA come-down melancholy that’s totally crucial to understanding that era’s play and juxtaposition of energies. Quite simply, though: Lifeforms is an incredibly enigmatic and life-affirming album awaiting your (re)discovery.
Slowtime ambient soul music from the DIY heart of Bristol, introducing Jabu’s new label; do you have peace?
Emerging from the scene revolving Young Echo, No Corner, and Blackest Ever Black (R.I.P.), Jabu trio of Amos Childs, Jasmine Butt and Alex Rendall meet their pals, Vessel, Sunun and Rakhi Singh to conjure an intimate, familial atmosphere and headspace that touches on Lolina-esque dub-bop and screwed soul, puckered with dead sweet vocals by Butt and Bristolian-Colombian singer Daniela Dyson.
A proper low key charmer, this one RIYL Laila Sakini, Teresa Winter, E B U.
A collection of songs / mixtape from Sunun + Jiinx - made up of all their own material, a combination of fully realised songs as well as unheard demos / ideas and alternate versions.
"The mix was compiled by Jiinx over a period of nightshifts - sat in his (now cubed) car with the computer running through the stereo. You can hear the dry eyes as the tape moves through sleep deprived jungle to new-age and ambient interludes - with voices (including Sunun’s own) moving in and out like real world sounds intruding into a dream (there’s also a cameo from Jiinx’s daughter). The tape operates in the spaces between waking and sleeping and night and day - and manages to walk the line between euphoric rave afterglow and sleepless sickness and disorientation. Definitely one for the shift workers / ravers / insomniacs. Dedicated to the roofless Beemer."
Essential reissue of dark ambient deity Thomas Köner's icy 1997 Arctic expedition 'Nuuk' - a stunningly detailed sonic picture of alien territory: gaseous, minimal, foreboding and enduringly evocative. There are plenty of imitators, but only one Thomas Köner.
By the sheer volume of gloomy ambient records being squirted into the world right now, you'd think it was easy music to produce. One listen to "Nuuk" though and it's immediately clear that this isn't the case. Köner is one of the genre's foremost innovators, and his music still sounds complex, remote and completely unique, decades later.
Like many of his albums, "Nuuk" is influenced by Köner's time spent traversing Arctic landscapes. It's named after the capital of Greenland, and evokes that frozen landscape using deep, creaking bass sounds, blustering pads and crumbling environmental recordings. The tracks are surprisingly widescreen at times, as subtle harmonies emerge peek through the fog like cracks of sunlight.
'Nuuk (Night)' is as sensually psychedelic as it is glacial, revealing the textural potential of the genre and showing Köner's intense attention to detail as the track heaves and dissipates like icy breath. There are few other artists that come even close to Köner here - Lustmord, Deathprod or Basinski maybe - and even then, Köner's output towers over a land of its own. So essential.
Modern electronic music pioneer Peter Rehberg sculpts a hybrid analogue/digital array the right/wrong way for the visceral thrills of ‘Get On’, his 4th solo album as Pita.
Landing squarely 20 years since ‘Get Out’, Pita’s influential solo debut LP proper, the 2018/19 recordings of ‘Get On’ see him perceptively inhabit and explore the uncanny valley between analog chaos and binary extremity with the same adventurous and inquisitive spirit that has informed all of his work: whether that’s solo; in collaboration with everyone from Mika Vainio, Charlemagne Palestine, Fennesz and Stephen O’Malley; thru to his improvised modular live sets, or his day job running the mighty Editions Mego label.
While Pita arguably made his name as a “laptop” musician in the mid ‘90s, pushing his machines to breaking point alongside the likes of Farmer’s Manual and Russell Haswell, he now favours a more tactile modular set-up that gives him more haptic freedom and uncertainty for live performance, which he has smartly incorporated into ‘Get On.’ The five tracks still bristle with caustic tang in the way we’ve come to expect and adore, but there’s now a nervier jumpiness and live-wire tension to his creations that feels as though he’s getting better to grips with a sort of cyborgian syntax and sonic language.
As always with Pita releases, rhythm is key. It’s exhilaratingly unstable in the combustible fireworks ‘AMFM’ and the tendon-sparking syncopation of ‘Frozen Jumper’, which soon enough introduces the other vital element of his sound; sheer caustic noise. As one of the artists to refine the idea of “noise” at its widest parameters, the glorious tonal abstraction of his following album centrepiece ‘Two Top Five’ can heard as one of 2019’s definitive noise statements, while ‘Aching Moth Pool’ is also one of the year’s most compelling expositions of rhythmic noise. However, if you really want to know where his head is at, the 15 minute ‘Motivation’ yields a transfixing, hallucination of spaces beyond common conception that evince the fact Pita is surely one of the visionary composers of his generation.
R.I.P Peter Rehberg (29 June 1968 – 22 July 2021)
Selected ambient works from ex-NAKED producer Canaan Balsam. Epic, cavernous business for fans for Coil, AFX et al.
"Cruise Utopia" is the first solo work from Canaan Balsam since he left Halcyon Veil industrial duo NAKED, and it highlights another facet of his interests. The metallic grit and grind of NAKED is still there, but is relegated to the background as isolationist melancholy takes hold. Opener 'C.C.C.C' is straight out of the AFX school of ambient ('Lichen' 2.0?) with its wavering sadboi synth flute, but we're quickly fired into different realms with the elegiac 'Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears' and Coil-esque grim droner 'One Rat Short of a Plague'.
The Edinburgh-based artist infuses his work, created over the last three years, with a distinctly Scottish mentality, often juxtaposing his synth compositions with barely-audible spoken word vocals and harsh field recordings. This imparts a sense of space and never allows things to fall too far into new age loveliness, retaining a brisk, mountainous air at all times.
Raime’s offspring Moin pounce on AD 93 with a class debut album propelled by Valentina Magaletti’s seething percussion. No doubt it’s their most direct and experiential recording, bristling with energies drawn from Slint. Shellac and classic post-punk, psych and alt.rock styles plus special ingredients.
Arriving eight years since their turns for Blackest Ever Black, Moin regroup around the core of Joe Andrews (samples/electronics), Tom Halstead (guitars), and Valentina Magaletti (drums) with a definitively upfront sound in ‘Moot!’ Thrown down quick and live and then rendered and textured with Raime’s studio-as-instrument tekkers, their intention was to create “immediate music that isn’t pretending to be anything but”, and the results pay up a fiercely tight but frayed distillation of their band-based influences, landing somewhere between earliest Swans, the yanked noise rock jags of Steve Albini’s Rapeman, and Bill Laswell’s No wave funk experiments with Material, but adhering to a London-style groove discipline that’s underwritten all their best work
It’s perhaps fair to say that this sound is a sore thumb now more than any point in the past 10 years of music’s continuing phase shift from guitar/drums-based rock to electronics, and that’s where Moin’s music gets interesting, feeling torn between paradigms and naturally, deftly darting in the spaces between that stylistic fallout. Guided by studious knowledge and finely honed intuition, they play by their wits more than ever here, lurching from strung-out doom rock mantra ‘No to Gods, No to Sunsets’ via gnashing white-hot guitars and snare attack in ‘Crappy Dreams Count’, to an exceptionally coiled, hi-wire stepper ‘Lungs’ with breathlessly inch-tight precision and unassailable conviction.
It’s all as close as we’ve heard to their rare live shows as Raime - understandable, if considering it’s the same line-up - but clearly with a harder bias toward their rock influences, letting Valentina’s drums and Tom’s white hot guitars breath in synch with Joe’s stabbing samples and electronic smear. It’s effectively Raime unbuttoned, revealing the wiry torso and clacking bones beneath their shapeshifting skin.
Astral Industries illuminate the highly prized first Cotton Goods release by Craig Tattersall (The Remote Viewer, The Boats), first issued on CD in 2009 to present his deeply charming solo work as The Humble Bee, and now impossible to find.
‘A Miscellany for the Quiet Hours’ takes its second bow and a new life on vinyl with the label best known for more widescreen works by Deepchord and Wolfgang Voigt. The Humble Bee’s efforts now lend a finer strain of semi-domestic/pastoral bliss to the label’s catalogue, potentially introducing a new wave of ambient fiends to Craig’s more intimate, nuanced, and ephemeral sort of “background” music, while plugging a gap on the shelves of many others.
Upon its release in 2009 ‘A Miscellany for the Quiet Hours’ marked some of Craig Tattersall’s first solo work beyond his decade of action beside Andrew Johnson (his former bandmate in Hood, now known as A New Line (Related)). It revealed Craig’s richly sound sensitive approach to composition, or even de-composition, and what would become a feverishly sought-after label with Cotton Goods’ releases always snapped up within hours, days of sale. Over 10 years later, the label is defunct, and Craig has gone on to explore myriad other projects, but the textured, patchwork quilting of his first outing as The Humble Bee remains a definitive and modestly contrary classic in the 20th century ambient canon.
Stone cold classic wave gear from the top shelf; Grauzone’s influential debut reenters orbit for a comprehensively expanded, 40th anniversary reissue reminder
Recorded in Bern, Switzerland, 1981 Grauzone are perhaps best loved for two prime reasons; the all time wave club classic, ‘Eisbär’, and the high velocity zinger ‘Film 2’, which both take pride of place in this newly expanded edition - packing the full album plus all other songs from their discography, all sourced from original tapes.
While the band was extant for only a few years in the early ‘80s, their songs have endured to become canonic, evergreen examples of that phase circa NDW, New Wave, early EBM. Fact fans may be interested to know that the band’s Mauro Repetto went on to record many other projects, notably the Synectics records fro Rephlex that got reissued by WRWTFWW’s Musique Pour La Danse sublabel in 2018.
So, aside from the well known nuggets, they’ve also included sweet treats such as the NDW charm ‘Ich Liebe Sie’, the spiky jag of ‘Moskau’, a punkier razz named ‘Ein Tanz Mit Dem Tod’, and more club-ready gear in the revving, Hooky-esque bassline of ‘Raum’, plus appearance of the rare as chuff ‘Film1’ from one of their final releases in 1983.
Key Príncipe unit Puto Márcio, Lycox, B.Boy and Danifox - aka Tia Maria Produções - return to the Lisbon powerhouse with six driving batida songs and club trax built to shake off worries in the dance
Six years since their formative 2014 debut, on ‘Lei Da Tia Maria’ the group rally around a need for vocals and rude grooves that keep heads up above the madness of the world in 2020 and beyond. Like their first record, all tracks were written and sent over messaging apps from respective bases in Portugal, France and UK, and each testifies to the enduringly positive links between the young Angolan-Portuguese diaspora who have emigrated from Portugal during the 2010’s.
The crew’s 2nd volley channels their concerns and hopes into resolutely upfront dance music primed for better times. On EP standout ‘Xupetsilon’ Danifox shrugs off snide DJ politics, crooning what translates to "you're coming to bite me but you're not a dog" over deep blue chords and pendulous batida drums, while conjuring bleaker, rainy scapes that suit the mood of his lyrics about jealousy and and contempt in ‘Aguenta’, but lets the music do the talking with remarkable results nodding to Drill and bittersweet computer music tones alongside co-producer DJ Lycox on another big one, ‘Mete o Bass.’
Lycox also supplies a romantic kiss to his home city, Lisbon, or “Lisa” as it’s affectionately known, in the lissom shuffle of ‘11h na Lisa’, which shares a svelte lilt with Puto Márcio’s slower, melodic chops in ‘Coisas da Vida’, and DJ B.Boy keeps the vibe tilting up with ‘Kuribotas’, a scudding Kuduro zinger with direct, incendiary effect comparable to P. Adrix bits.
Always killer, right?
Lifted is a stellar new project sparked off by Matthew Papich (Co La) and Future Times overlord Max D for PAN.
Realised and rendered together with Jordan GCZ and Gigi Masin, among others, their debut LP '1' is an elegant exercise in breaking free of the grid, consolidating a spectrum of congruent ideas and idiosyncratic styles with a beautifully communal spirit putting a contemporary spin on the freedoms of '70s jazz fusion. From initial studio sessions recorded by Matthew and Max in their respective Baltimore and Washington DC studios, they incorporate synth and piano overdubs dialled in from Amsterdam and Venice, hashing out an inter-continental web of hyaline electronics, jazz ballistics and alien dance patterns that surprises and delights with every turn.
Stepping into vividly new territory with the fractious post-footwork spurts of '3D', their kaleidoscopic world twists between the sheer computer jazz fusions of 'Intoo' and visionary 4.1 World house in 'Total Care Zero', glyding on the digitally creamed quintessence of 'Bell Slide' to the intra-dimensional ambience of Gigi Masin's keys and Papich's 3D FX in 'Silver', and adroit Afro-futurist jazz in 'Mint' starring 1432R co-founder Dawit Eklund on bass + synth. On a lysergic level of production detail, '1' is up there with Pete Kember's work on the recent Panda Bear album, but the dextrous grooves and intoxicating jazz vibes place it over the horizon, just beyond Move D's classic Conjoint project or Detroit's Urban Tribe classics.
That's our summer listening sorted, then!
On the Cover: Aaron Dilloway: The US noise artist and Wolf Eyes co-founder talks to Emily Pothast about a career of horror and transformation. Plus, Robin The Fog takes a look at tape alchemy in the computer age.
Katalin Ladik: Born in the former Yugoslavia, the uncategorisable experimentalist’s multi-decade career has taken in confrontational performance pieces, electroacoustic collage, vocal exploration, and more. By Louise Gray.
Jana Rush: The Chicago house and footwork veteran engages with the history of jazz on her soulful new album for Planet Mu. By Joe Muggs.
Invisible Jukebox: Wei Wei × Li Jianhong: The laptop and guitar duo improvise their way through a mystery record selection. Tested by each other.
Mabe Fratti: Reconfiguring language with the Guatemalan cellist. By Joe Muggs
Hualun: Sublime soundtracks from the Wuhan post-rock group. By Jake Newby
Andrew Mbaruk: Various identities and useful allusions from the Canadian MC. By Rob Turner
Sunik Kim: The Hong Kong raised artist combats chaos with noise. By Raymond Cummings
Unlimited Editions: purge.xxx
Unofficial Channels: Blast Radio
Global Ear: Crossing boundaries in the southwestern Russian city of Kazan. By Nikita Velichko
The Inner Sleeve: SH Fernando Jr on Wu-Tang Clan’s Enter The Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers
Epiphanies: Andrew Green and Eddie Otchere recall a trip to the urban jungle of New York
Print Run: New music books: Marc Ribot unstrung, discovering Daft Punk, Sun Ra’s poetry, and more
On Screen: New films and DVDs: Jon Davies’s Topology Of Sirens, Philip Hartmann’s From The 84 Days
On Location: Recent live events and streams: M Sage, Streams From Africa, Alex Paxton, Matana Roberts, and more
On Site: Recent art shows: Ryoji Ikeda
Stunning retrospective of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda’s devotional works collated from the private tape archive of the Avatar Book Institute. Seriously, this one's a proper head melter...
Luaka Bop commence a new series of releases themed around the global spiritual diaspora with this superb collection of rare devotional works from Alice Coltrane. Sure, everyone knows how great ‘Universal Consciousness’ (especially after that Superior Viaduct reissue from a few years back) but ‘The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda’ hones in on a period of her life that is less widely-known.
Undoubtedly moved by the passing of her husband John Coltrane in 1967, Alice embarked on a spiritual reawakening that took her out of the public eye and culminated with the establishment of a 48-acre Sai Anantam Ashram in Malibu, California in 1983. This secluded ashram gave Coltrane the freedom to explore her spirituality through music unfettered, performing countless solo bhajans, and group kirtans and experimenting with them and synthesizers using the complex structures learnt from jazz.
These would soon form a series of cassette recordings that were privately distributed throughout the ashram community on Coltrane’s own Avatar Book Institute label. After some rather iffy, illicit vinyl editions of those tapes recorded off YouTube made the rounds, it’s good to hear this music in newly-remastered form from the original masters (by engineering legend Baker Bigsby, no less) on this Luaka Bop collection.
And how vibrant it sounds! There is clearly a vast intersection of styles at play throughout, interspersing the spiritual incantations of the Vedic devotional chants with some unique song structures and uplifting synthetic experiments. You can easily foresee the likes of Flo Po, Antal and Four Tet playing Oh Rama and Rama Guru, two of the more rhythmically-bound kirtans that act as spiritual jazz precursors to Detroit techno with illuminating synths that would make Carl Craig blush with envy. At other times, it is Coltrane’s voice which acts as the guiding force, orchestrating a wonderful harmonious call on Om Shanti.
Hopefully this is the prelude to a wider LB campaign of Alice Coltrane reissues from the Avatar Book Institute era.
Volume II of the debut recording by UK Jazz musicians Ferg Ireland, Nathaniel Facey & James Maddren as Ferg Ireland Trio.
"Birthed from informal sessions in South London around 2013; the Ferg Ireland Trio combines three of the UK’s most exciting musicians. The trio is a vehicle for Ireland to consolidate his influences and explore the Sax/Bass/Drums format with an alchemical blend of intense spiritual jazz, broken beat flavours, angular swing and playful conversations.
This, their debut recording, was captured over the course of a summer’s day in 2017 and the result, stripped of artifice and any studio trickery, represents the pure expression of three great instrumentalists, as well as three great friends. Ireland (Kansas Smittys, Soweto Kinch, Ashley Henry, 22a), Nathaniel Facey (Empirical) and James Maddren (Kit Downes, Jacob Collier, Gwilym Simcock) have been playing together for over a decade, and this is reflected in the telepathy of their musical conversation. The twists and turns of their dialogue delve deep into the dark heart of modern jazz.
The compositions (all Ireland originals) draw on the post bop tradition, with lashings of London’s dance rhythms blended with the new fusion sounds emerging south of the Thames. In the opener ‘Stay Broke’, the Broken Beat scene is a clear reference, but smooth edges are bent into something more raw and ominous. Facey’s acerbic alto sound darts in and out of Maddren’s frenetic, polyrhythmic kit-work and Ireland’s deep, endlessly looping bassline. A soundtrack fit for the dystopian dance floors of the new decade.
Elsewhere, the trio sound authoritative whilst playing the proverbial out of a New Cross related blues - cat-like on ‘Mel’s Mood’, stately on ‘When You Know’. The latter’s latin-esque drums propels the music forward, even at its most serene moments. Most of the tracks on this record were first takes and have an immediacy that allows Ireland’s assured compositions to take unexpected directions. In the case of Lips, these boil over into a spontaneous furore, the faders left up to capture the vibe. ‘Confession’, the thematic culmination of all these twists and turns, is prefaced by a long brooding intro before the band stretch out with a flurry of burning solos and psychic interplay. The inescapable influence of John Coltrane is at play here, but the spirit of Eric Dolphy and the swing of the Sonny Rollins trio are also in the room."
This lot have released 5 x 12”s anonymously over the last 3 years via Hardwax and there’s no info about them anywhere, pretty sneaky.
They now land on Mana, a label so esoteric it has a flowchart on its website showing you how to get from Luc Ferrari to Nico Jaar in one short leap.
There are 4 long tracks, one per side, each clocking in at 15 mins and each taking time to expand into being. There is persistent water drumming, the a side is all exotic melodica, nature sounds and bells with Flanger-esque bass humps plus some water drumming, side 2 has a very burial mix sounding bassline sat low in the mix to give the water drumming more presence, side C is more reflective and serene tropical vibes, with side D giving it some classic dub pressure and location recordings which we think we once heard Bill Kouligas play on the radio a few years back and which is dope as fuck.
So yeah, it sounds a bit like a k-hole version of Burnt Friedman & Atom Heart’s early Flanger gear crossed with Burial Mix and that incredible water drumming vid dust to digital posted a while back on there tweeter.
Coming off like Gas meets MvO Trio and The Necks, and now packing a whole LP-worth of bonus material, Biosphere’s atmospheric 2005 ambient jazz lather returns, remastered and reissued on his Biophon label for those who may have slept on its deeply seductive charms. The bonus bits beautifully expand on its vibe with moments of windswept BoC-like melody and sublime alternate versions of album evergreens.
“Widely regarded as one of Norwegian electronic music's most important artists, Biosphere's [Geir Jenssen] career spans nearly two decades, several albums, lots of remixes, various sound installations, commissions, soundtracks and even the odd Himalayan summit. You may recognise his work without knowing it, so frequently does it crop up on TV trailers and idents. In the early 1990s he was a pioneer of so-called 'Ambient Techno', but since then, he has refined his sound into something more magnetic and enduring.
Dropsonde' isn't a soundtrack like the interwoven 'Substrata' nor an episodic journey in the way that 'Autour de la Lune' is. Here Geir Jenssen is pushing new directions towards the jazz colours of Miles Davis and Jon Hassell, whilst re-invigorating the pulse and projection of his signature sound: a hypnotic combination of pleasure and dread. The spatial aspects some have dubbed "Arctic sound" but it summons strong feelings, or as Exclaim from Canada put it, "in order to climb higher, you must first go deeper". Jon Savage adds: "As with all of the Biosphere albums, the music draws you in and makes you want to listen and feel. Jenssen's work acts on a very emotional level, one that encourages you to drift away into a haze of images and scenes brought to you by the music, where spectacular beauty hides unseen danger. Intense and moving, but comforting and soothing at the same time."
[A 'dropsonde' is a weather reconnaissance device designed to be dropped from an airplane or similar craft at altitude to take telemetry as it falls to the ground. It typically relays information to a computer in the dropping airplane by radio. The fall may be slowed by a parachute. Information collected by a typical dropsonde may include wind speed, temperature, humidity, and atmospheric pressure.]”
Soul Jazz Records reissue of this very rare album, first released as a private-press LP in 1978 on flautist Lloyd McNeill’s own Baobab Record label in Washington, DC. The album has been out-of-print for 43 years and is lovingly remastered by Soul Jazz Records.
"Tori is a stunning album that blends Brazilian and Latin flavours with deep Spiritual Jazz. The album features a strong line up which includes legendary Brazilian figures such as Dom Um Romao, Nana Vasconcelos and Dom Salvador alongside jazz heavyweights such as Buster Williams, Howard Johnson, John La Barbera and more. These A-team musicians were all regulars in McNeill’s long-running and highly successful resident live group in New York, all set up to blend deep jazz, Brazilian and Latin music together.
Lloyd McNeill is an African-American flautist, painter, poet, and photographer born in Washington, D.C. in 1935. His multi- disciplinary creative life led to encounters and friendships with Nina Simone, Picasso, Eric Dolphy, Nana Vasconceles and other legendary cultural figures.
Lloyd McNeill’s hypnotic ‘Washington Suite’ was originally commissioned as a piece of music for the Capital Ballet Company, in Washington DC. McNeill grew up through the era of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s and his life and work is a reflection of those ideals. In the mid-1960s he moved to France where he became friends with Picasso, working with a number of émigré-jazz musicians whilst living in Paris. In the late 1960s he taught jazz and painting workshops at the New Thing Art and Architecture Center in Washington. In the 1970s he travelled throughout Brazil and West Africa studying music and taught music anthropology in the US."
Heavyweight Dug Out edition, issuing the incredible mid-late '80s Dancehall rarity 'Tempo Explosion'; a run of one-off version excursions on Red Rose's 'Tempo Rhythm' including three head melting dubs.
It's regarded as a masterpiece of reggae's digital revolution and the finest release on Sugar Minott's short-lived Black Victory label, utilising the "sainted" players from the Studio One and Music Mountain, Stony Hill studios in JA, and Lloyd "Bullwackie" Barnes crew at Wackies' White Plains Road studio in The Bronx, NYC. Towering above them all is Minott's opening statement 'Devil Is At Large', laying it out deadly cool and mellifluous amidst squirting, gurgling digi FX and a masterful blend of acoustic and electronic instrumentation.
Further vocals come from Chris Wayne and Willie Williams, but its only the balance of Ras Menilik Dacosta's hoarse boom and astro synth bubbles on 'Free South Africa' that can test Sugar's. On the instrumentals Jerry Johnson's saxed-up version is pure NYC vibes, but it's the trio of stripped synth, drums and FX-driven versions that makes this one so, so special. Jaws will drop at first contact with the skulking 'Slow Tempo', sounding the soundtrack to a missing scene from John Carpenter's Escape From New York set in a smoked-out cyberdub bunker, while the 'Up Tempo' really chisels the rhythm with stunning mixing desk movements, like someone just let Chris Carter in through the back door for a midnight mix session.
Oren Ambarchi teams up with crys cole for this two headed monster of restrained drone and environmental sound. Earth-moving, time-dilating excellence from a couple of the scene's most prolofic and interesting figures.
‘Gallivant’ was recorded live in Canada in February last year, with cole and Ambarchi sat opposite each other at two large tables. Ambarchi played guitar and electronics, while cole used objects and microphones, painting a vivid soundscape that's as controlled and deliberate as it is fetching.
Twenty-minute A-side 'Whether report’ features Ambarchi's subtle guitar plucks and drones melting thru the duration, as cole’s micro sounds augment the piece with a mysterious rattle that's not a million miles from Robert Ashley's pioneering "Automatic Writing". Flipside 'Davide Campari : Pad Ped Kob' is radically different, offering a different view of the couple's collaboration. As the first side's drones fade into silence, environmental recordings rumble into view, with tight, fragile percussion clusters placed like outcroppings of rocks in a calm sea view.
Fantastic stuff - unique and alien, and completely grounded in our decaying natural world.
Ambient sound baths from Carmen Villain, moonlighting on Geographic North with a gorgeous follow-up to her track on the nocturnal 2020 suite ‘A Little Late Night Music’
Carmen Villain is best placed to spell out her take on a seasonal music for the Sketch For Winter series, offering a sublime half hour of sound-sensitive scenes that appear to reflect a transition from cold space to deliquescent thaw over the course of six gently paced, instrumental parts. Any followers of her works for Smalltown Supersound and the sentiments of last year’s ‘Affection in a Time of Crisis’ with Longform Editions will surely recognise the near-therapeutic levels of ambient bliss and understated melancholy that makes Carmen’s music such a delicate treat.
It sounds as though her Norwegian/Chilean spar, flautist Johanna Scheie Orellana reprises her role from the Longform Editions release on opener ‘Everything Without Shadow’, blowing wistful lines thru Villain’s richly evocative synth pads, before her narrator/sound designer skills leads the way from the padded snow crunch and sleety slosh of ‘Two Halves Touching’ like PInkcourtesyphone’s protagonist gone wandering around winter gardens. ‘Things That Are Solid’ follows to sustain the vibe with warmer baubles of synth melody as the textures feel to melt at the edges with ‘Agua Azul’, gently warmed by the arrival of supple percussion and the return of Orellana’s languorous flute.
Ruskin barrels down the modular techno wormhole in a mode shared by likes of Surgeon and Blawan to place his first bootprint on 2021
Where the cursed 2020 saw him active in The Fear Ratio duo with fellow UK techno baldy Mark Broom, who he also knocked out the ‘Basement Sessions’ with, he gets back into the techno groove with the shoulder rolling swang and swarming synth noise of ’Shortcut’, next to the gristlier chew and streaking Detroit-via-London techno strings of ‘Hang Up’, saving a slithering payload of mouth-wateringly dissonant, curdled synth pads for ‘Drums Eyes’ that ranks among the best we’ve heard from him beyond club dimensions.
Hard working techno tools from US and UK machines, Truncate and Ruskin for the latter’s label
Tight and tangy, ’Sketch 1’ rolls out heavy kicks and bleeping radar code, before they get more twusted with the psychoactive lead and pelting pace of ’Sketch 2’, and increase the funk with the Rob Hood-like bass swivel and tweaky, pitch bent synths in ’Sketch 3.’
Detroit visionary Terrence Dixon scans stellar new horizons on the awe-inspiring 3rd chapter of his most cherished, foundational and inspiring album series.
Roughly once a decade since 2000 the pioneering Afrofuturist has offered a new landmark of deep, electronic music, and ‘From the Far Future, Pt. 3’ stakes one of 2020’s - and probably the next decade’s - leading examples of Detroit techno at its furthest, most experimental limits. This series of albums has consistently been the place to go for Dixon, and by extension the 313’s, most unruly but truest works, dashing between broken drums, dissonant alien synth tones, and the deepest recesses of the warehouse mind in a rudely distinguished calibration of Motor City mechanics. For us he’s right up there with the city’s deepest heads like Jeff Mills, Drexciya, Mad Mike, or Howard Thomas for producing some of that sound’s most vital, uniquely expressive machine music.
Dixon’s latest landmark sees him double down on the proprioceptive depth with acres of abstract, spatialised synth work while fine-tuning and ruggedly fucking with rhythmic conventions. From the black hole sensations of the album opener to abandoned space station ambience of ‘Found In Space’ and ‘Remarkable Wanderer,’ and the uncharted planet atmospheres of ‘By Land’ or ‘Rotation (Delay Mix),’ he has that side absolutely on lock, and in a way that lends proper cinematic cadence to the album’s flow of raggo muscle car drive between ‘Don’t Panic,’ the warehouse donuts of ’Spectrum of Light,’ a strobing deep technohouse centrepiece ‘Unconditional Love,’ and the widescreen warehouse-in-space scope of ‘Out of Darkness.’
Slamming Detroit techno funk from the minimalist master on his spiritual home, M-Plant
One of the few heart-warming sights from lockdown was Jayda G bringing Liverpool to a crescendo with ‘Never Grow Old,’ and so we’ve Rob Hood to thank for that glimmer of hope. He’s in upfront fettle here, leaving the vocals aside but holding his line of uptempo, hardworking machine funk in both parts with the stringently clipped chords and claps of ‘On the Case,’ and nagging reps of ‘The Deal.’
Italo-disco don Robotnick bequeaths archival remixes of his classic ‘Computer Sourire’ to reissue label Tempo Dischi
Famed as much for his funky little finger as his taps-aff DJ sets in Manchester, Robotnick is a guaranteed party starter, and so are his tracks. Originally issued on 12” in 1983 (and also on his first album ‘Ce N’est Q’un Début’ (1984) beside the GOAT ‘Problèmes D’Amour’), the funky budge of ‘Computer Sourire’ appears here in a rudely acid overdriven remix with some extra pep in the arps, and also as a tweaked out edit by Tempo Dischi. It’s also backed by one of our very favourite Robotnicks; the instant gratification of ‘Dance Boy Dance’ with its blushing pads, breathy vox and loping acidic bass line that made it a staple on Chicago’s legendary WBMX radio.
Originally released back in 2001, "Bodily Functions" is one of Matthew Herbert's best-loved albums, assembled from sampled detritus and human sounds woven together by Dani Siciliano's smoove, jazzy vocals. Proper.
Before "Bodily Functions", Matthew Herbert had used household clatter to bring 1998's "Around the House" to life. But with this modern classic, he headed into more squeamish territory only moments after Matmos had used liposuction sounds to flesh out "A Chance to Cut is a Chance to Cure". But where Matmos's album was bold and sometimes impenetrable, to a casual listener, the tracks on "Bodily Functions" might sound just like smoky, jazzy house music. It's only when zoomed in that the coughs, groans and belches become obvious.
Two decades later, and Herbert's technique might not be anywhere near as novel as it was, but the album still sounds exemplary. Sampling is far more accessible than it's ever been, but it's not the methodology that makes "Bodily Functions" worth listening to, it's the songwriting. Dani Siciliano is the album's not-so-secret weapon, and her lyrics and vocal performance lift tracks like 'It's Only' and 'Suddenly' into hallowed territory.
In 1996 Thomas Köner and Andy Mellwig’s resoundingly influential debut Porter Ricks album arguably altered the shape of techno as we know it. Now on its 25th anniversary, Mille Plateaux serve a timely reminder of its oceanic might, nearly a decade since it was last reissued by Type
Arriving in the wake of early deep techno explorations by Basic Channel on that duo’s Chain Reaction label, ‘Biokinetics’ made techno’s grid even more fluid and elusive, and in the process brought techno as a concept closer to the unquantifiable clinamen of communal drumming as much as abstract early electronics. The all important, driving slosh of their sound would ripple thru myriad strains of experimental techno ever since, and can be heard echoed in the seasick structures and submerged ambient plangency of everyone from later Richie Hawtin and Rrose to Cam Deas or Helm.
Sluicing material from three 12”s issued between 1995-1996, the album was practically unprecedented in its scope. This can be attributed to the visionary sound design skills of its navigators, combining Thomas Köner’s arctic isolationist sensibilities with Andy Mellwig’s fine-tuned tech-nous, as applied to earlier Async Sense 12” with Gerhard Behles (co-founder of Monolake and Ableton Live) and in his 1995-1998 day job as mastering engineer at Berlin’s D&M. This confluence of hardware knowledge and wetware intuition lead them to a remarkable synthesis of styles defined as ‘Biokinetics’.
Bookended by a pair of pulsating, 12 minute ambient masterpieces in ‘Port Gentil’ and ‘Nautical Zone’, the set also touches on something like a form of gamelan noise with ‘Biokinetics 1’, and the purest systolic whale heart throbs in ‘Biokinetics 2’, while containing some of the heaviest dub techno for clubs in the hypnotic writhe of ‘Port Of Call’ and the salinated steppers special ‘Port of Nuba.’
In the age of rote business techno played by freshly inked, black clad bores, it’s records like ‘Biokinetics’ that remind us of what techno was and can be - music to make you shut your eyes and move.
15 shots of plugged-in dance energy from the north of Uganda - melodic vocals meet driving machine rhythms, traditional instruments and nagging synth leads, featuring Otim Alpha and a bigggggg recommendation if yr feeling Shangaan Electro, Soca, Singeli...
Nyege Nyege Tapes spotlight the charming, young style of Electro Acholi from the Luo of Northern Uganda with a compilation of zippy rhythms and ear-worm hooks by 15 artists including Otim Alpha, whose ‘Gulu City Anthems’ introduced the fast and melodic sound to the world at large
Electro Acholi is the plugged-in version of traditional Acholi courtship songs from the region around the cities of Gulu and Lira, in an area spanning north Uganda and southern Sudan. This compilation surveys the sound’s golden years circa 2003-2008, when a brutal civil war in north Uganda meant that traditional, larger wedding ensembles of up to 25 players were too costly, and younger producers with access to Fruity Loops and video editing facilities stepped in to fill a gap in the market. Using samples and synthesis, they created custom, sped-up versions of traditional songs and performed them at the ceremonies, leading the sound to spill out into local nightspots such as the Alobo Night Club and the Opit Travellers Inn.
Scaling from a balmy 106bpm in the likes of Brother Q & City Boy’s slinky bumper ‘Can Deg Ming,’ to pelting uptempo styles embellished with local instrumentation, such as Pro Lagwee’s ‘Rwot Moo’, and the quick, all-electronic backing to the call-and-response vocals of ‘Kolo (Dog Mix)’ by Opiyo Twongweno, the set affords a privileged insight to modern Acholi music usually omitted from the “world music” racks. Now for the first time, pioneers of the style such as Bosmic Otim and the breezy swang of ‘Bandera pa kaka’, Lakoc Jojo with the cracking stepper ‘Apiyo Nyara’, or the mellifluous Lady Grace Atim and her acidic banger ‘Adoko Gwok’ take their place alongside Otim Alpha to present the best of Electro Acholi to keen-eared dancers everywhere.
Effectively a continuation of NNT’s ongoing archaeology of the Luo people’s sonic culture, following the roots excavation of Langi Griot and thumb piano player, Ekuka, and the branches of Otim Alpha on his single string fiddle and drum machine, ‘Electro Acholi Kaboom’ is an unmissable, even rare, survey of a critical, metamorphic phase shift between ancient, analog worlds, and digitized modernism.
Absolute killer gear from techno mutant Pavel Milyakov (Buttechno) and explorative sax player Bendik Giske, the first release on Smalltown Supersound's highly promising new offside jazz label, Le Jazz Non Series. If yr into owt from Colin Stetson to Beatrice Dillon to Lynch/Badalementi or Alex Zhang Hungtai’s work as Love Theme - this is a must.
Milyakov & Giske are both strongly regarded in their respective scenes - Milyakov for his dare-to-be-different techno, and Giske for a remarkable debut LP ’Surrender’ and collaborations/interactions with Caterina Barbieri, Laurel Halo and many, many others - and their pairing here provides a burningly intense form of hybrid electro-jazz that feels vitally restless and searching.
Produced remotely over the course of 12 months between Berlin and Moscow, the album’s seven pieces portray the duo at an early crest of their collaborative, creative powers, revelling in the thrill of invention and innovation with Giske’s physical, improvised prowess matched for fleeting unpredictability by Milyakov’s bespoke modular systems.
The results are tangibly brittle but in an immersive, world-building fashion that speaks to the openness and mutuality of their visions, trimming any excess fat and never testing attention spans, they move in quick steps between searingly emotive bursts of energy and naggingly rhythmic jags, skipping from peaks of breathtaking flightiness to cavernous skronk and ghost-in-the-machine divinations with elemental logic and dexterity.
On his first solo mission in 2 years, Parris pedals between stepping house and swanging ambient brokebeats in a lush new addition to his prized discography.
Leading on from last year’s tracky duel with Call Super, ‘Polychrome Swim’ sees Parris in wonderfully ebullient, buoyant mode, deftly throwing his weight with the Cooly G-esque UKF roller ‘Harajuku Girls’, before slipping into a sort of slipstream between DJ Python’s ambient dembow and late summer West London broken beats on ‘Yūrei’ and really opening up and out into arcing pads and thizzy breaks on the excellent ‘Aqua Serge’.
Extraordinary debut study on race and sexual politics in the USA from emergent composer and Harvard music professor Yvette Janine Jackson, yielding an unmissable introduction to her immersive style of electro-acoustic composition and radioplay opera forms - RIYL Matana Roberts, John Cage, Terre Thaemlitz, Sun Ra.
Contrasting one side of haunting atmospheres evoking the feel of below-deck on a slave ship, with one side of politically pointed concrète and jazz spasms, ‘Freedom’ is among the strongest debuts in this field we’ve heard in years. The latest from the musical wing of NYC’s Fridman Gallery, Jackson’s visionary first record is like little else in the contemporary sphere, placing a hugely varied electro-acoustic palette of strings, keys, electronics and vocal samples at the service of a timeless, avant style of storytelling, and with a personalised depth and purposeful pacing that leaves us rapt. As one may be able to gauge from its themes, it’s not an easy listen, but it is one that divines a portent strength in its poignant sadness and the artist’s skill in theatric suggestiveness.
Critically ‘Freedom’ manifests as part of the artist’s search for an “African American aesthetic for electroacoustic music that speaks to all people in order to foster conversation about contentious subjects.” The first side spells out a quiet but truly harrowing 22 minute transition from creaking drones, whispers and whimpers, to seasick string dissonance and noise with a patience that evokes the scale and terrifying nature of the ordeal suffered by African slaves, and with a queered coda that really sets it from a modern perspective.
Expectations set, Jackson upends them on side B’s mix of liminal electronics ruptured by original jazz arrangements and the sampled equivocations of prominent African Americans religious figures on LGBTQIA+ people. The voices of comedians and a president are presented, mangled and straight, in initially hypnagogic forms that become more fractious, juxtaposed against passages of rolling drums recalling Varese’s ‘Poème Electronique’ and a quasi-speed Parmegiani as much as Milton Graves works, or particularly the piece’s touchstone; John Cage’s 1942 radio play ‘The City Wears a Slouch Hat.'
Jackson is pushing the prism of African American electroacoustic music in fascinating, exemplary ways that we can only hope opens the door for more artists to follow her lead. For now. we have this absolute marvel to pore over and absorb.
Yves Tumor lands on Warp with his debut album for the label; more popwise and polished than before, still pitched perfectly between the avant garde and the mass market...
Laced with guest vox and production from Croatian Amor, James Ferraro, Oxhy, Puce Mary and James K, on ‘Safe In The Hands of Love’ Sean Bowie a.k.a. Yves Tumor is the liminal, connecting spirit between a unique push ’n pull of samples and original instrumentation, acting like a porous transducer of style, tone and pattern that absorbs and amplifies lost (but not dead) light and energy and turns it into something wholly his own.
Where previous singles such as ‘Noid’, ‘Lifetime’ and ‘Licking An Orchid’ - the album’s core trio - distinctly nodded to Brit-pop and ‘90s ambient-pop pastoralism, the rest of the album curiously unfolds along those axes to take in nods to Warp’s earliest signings, N.O.W. on the introductory fanfare of ‘Faith In Nothing Except Salvation’, while ‘Economy Of Freedom’ opens out into futurist sci-fi soul, and ‘Honesty’ masterfully melds indie-pop and rugged electro-soul.
And it’s that polysemous definition of soul that continues to be the uniting ligature or filament to the rest of the album, from the raging black metal mutation of ‘Hope In Suffering (Escaping Oblivion & Overcoming Powerlessness)’, to big beat-y psychedelia of ‘All The Love We Have Now’, and the white hot, foaming shoegaze distortion of ‘Let The Lioness In You Flow Freely’, all cannily highlighting a sense of emotive mutualism that transcends style, credo, and vibe.
Rezzett own that fuzzy mid-fi electronic sound on a cracking eponymous début album, landing nearly 5 years on from their self-titled EP, also issued on Will Bankhead’s TTT label.
In possession of a sound that feels like exotic birds nesting a vintage studio inside your ear, Rezzett, along with the likes of Jamal Moss, Actress, Terekke and Huerco S., have been responsible for redressing the fidelity of dance music with fairly radical yet subtle incision and insight over the best part of this decade.
Thru various process of attrition, they've made a virtue of purposefully muddy and unclear resolution, embracing and fetishising the infidelities of analog hardware noise for a sort of shabby chic appeal that lends itself to closer attention in headphones as well as a sort of psychedelic friction on the ‘floor.
It’s perhaps fair to say that Rezzett have really come to define that sound at its murkiest, most romantic, and diverse, pulling from house, jungle, garage and ambient noise paradigms to forge something viscerally affective and memorably their own, as experienced between the mottled VHS memory-bank shakes of Hala, in the squirming, sore but lush Sexzzy Creep, and the salty angels tears of Yunus in Ekstasi, with the rusty grime and jungle shanks of Gremlinz and Worst Ever Contender lending a cranky, rinsed out finale.
Stunning, revelatory set of sweeping electronic composition by the late Mitar Subotić, a.k.a. Rex Ilusivii (The King of Illusions), dug out by Salon Des Amateurs resident Vladimir Ivkovic to mint his Offen Music imprint.
'In The Moon Cage' captures six lush and spellbinding shots of previously unheard material realised by the Serbian producer circa 1988, framing a vast, digitally-rendered world perfused with Eastern-enchanted vocals, amorphous synth scapes, balearic bird calls and plangent ambient guitar work tripping lines between abstract, esoteric styles best associated with Coil, Muslimgauze, or even JG Thirlwell.
Like many other listeners, this is our first introduction to the work of Subotić, who was born in the Former People's Republic of Yugoslavia before latterly transferring his lauded production skills to Brazil, where he died in a studio fire in 1999 on the eve of release for his 'São Paulo Confessions' LP as Suba.
What remains with 'In The Moon Cage' marks him out as a sorely missed talent, mixing classical training and a keen taste for cutting-edge sounds with a timeless spirit, manifest in a spatially diffuse, yet intensely emotive and detailed sound. Kudos to Offen Music for rescuing this collection from obscurity, it's a real beauty.
Perpetually keeping us on our toes, a Colourful Storm assemble previously unreleased works by cult Swiss synth-pop and NDW legend Christian Pfluger aka Die Welttraumforscher, essential listening if yr into owt from Cleaners From Venus to Skanfrom, Stano to Frederik Schikowski and The Kitchen Cynics.
Pfluger's sorely unsung, naïf pop recordings - loved and cited as an influence by everyone from Felix Kubin to Yello’s Dieter Meier and astronaut Hans-Joachim Roloff are introduced here with a kind of primer for newbs, packing sterling, previously unreleased examples of his endearingly oddball, near-mythical NDW style, perfectly distilling the oneiric appeal of the lo-fi imaginary universe he inhabits.
Since the early ‘80s he’s dished out dozens of releases spanning records to films and illustrations, mostly on his label, Das Moniflabel, but thanks to his German language lyrics, Pfluger’s music has been largely reserved to German speakers who perhaps best pick up on the subtleties of his wit and pathos. However, the sharply melodic instrumentals and vocal delivery are so timelessly enigmatic, that his music is surely ripe for wider appreciation by new ears.
The spirit of early ‘80s DIY craft is integral to the charm of Die Welttraumforscher music, imbuing his fanciful arrangements with a kitchen sink quality so prevalent in UK post-punk at the time. Daily life, or “coffee, cake, and comets” as he pithily puts it, provides the impetus behind each vignette-like song; channelling the eccentricities of waking life via guitar, synth, drum machine and tapes into discretely self-contained songs that sound as though they were recalled from a dream while still rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. As far as introductions go, one could hardly ask for a more carefully assembled, immersive entry point to this secretive, fantastical microcosm.
A Colourful Storm’s Fleetway Tapes sublabel follow up that crushing ’Time Is Away’ tape with this super satisfying curveball from Andy Mac, offering over an hour of spirited vibrations that come highly recommended if yr into Beatrice Dillon, Awkward Corners/Chris Menist, Peverelist.
A decade since Andy Mac committed his crispy debut productions to Peverelist’s Punch Drunk he's cultivated a rocksteady rep for working rugged, minimalist grooves with bags of rude soul. On ‘First & Last, Sennen’ he weaves roots and branches of classic Bristol styles into his first physical mixtape, tracing a jagged line from prevailing interests in vintage Jamaican dub and Caribbean rhythms, and their distant echoes in post-punk, cosmic drug chug, and AOR oddities, across a tight selection certain to have nerds itching for track IDs.
it’s properly slanted and enchanted gear, planting its feet in dusty, lilting calypso and nonchalant South American grooves, toggling the groove with effortless suss, shuffling weight across continents and epochs with proper percies drawn from a venn diagram of NDW, post-industrial, and downtown NYC records whose names may elude and tease even the most ardent heads. In the best sense, each cut sets up the next, creating stepping stones through offbeat and lesser trodden regions of dub and dance music from the past 60 years.
On her followup to 2017's "Shaneera", Fatima Al Qadiri dematerializes into a k-holed fever dreamscape, rotoscoping classical Arab poetry and breathing new life into secret histories. It's properly singular material that unveils a mystical connexion between early music and the sensual, hyperreal worlds Al Qadiri has been navigating since "Desert Strike".
Al Qadiri's productions have always been uncompromisingly futuristic, from the spiraling, plastique mallbient of genre-shifting early banger 'Shaytan' to 2017's "Shaneera", a ballroom-flecked celebration of history's evil queens. Here she time-shifts a few centuries into the past, using the classical poems of Arab women to galvanize a suite of echoingly spare songs that sound like music from the courts of the Abbāsid Caliphate after a decadent cybernetic makeover. It's daring stuff, approaching her canon's sensual thrust of Middle Eastern and contemporary near-collapse Western influences with impressive prudence.
It was while writing the soundtrack to French Senegalese director Mati Diop's 2019 movie "Atlantics" that Al Qadiri trialed many of the ideas foundational to "Medieval Femme". "Atlantics" was a ghost story rooted in the contemporary world, while "Medieval Femme" is a contemporary story that breathes life into the past, like an eerie robotic diorama or a meticulously hyperreal 3D modeled virtual world. These concepts aren't completely new for Al Qadiri, but her command of narrative has clearly been refined; it would be trite to call "Medieval Femme" a soundtrack to an imaginary movie (it ain't post rock, luv), but it undoubtedly tells a story.
Evocative medieval instrumentation sits at the heart of the album, often completely unadorned, but is disrupted periodically by electronics. Sometimes a synthesizer mimics a flute or vocal part, and occasionally a vocal will cut through the ether before sparse, club-lite percussion reminds us we're in the 21st century. It's a balancing act that Al Qadiri masters without sacrificing the sparse fallibility of her most enduring work.
A melancholy tribute to historic yearning, "Medieval Femme" is Al Qadiri's most rewarding album to date, and one of the most unique and unusual records we've heard this year so far. Think Dariush Dolat-Shahi, contemporary bardcore YouTube covers, Michael Nyman, Björk, Aïsha Devi, Arca... yeah.
Ravishing, dream-like debut by Okkyung Lee’s chamber ensemble, placing a rarely paralleled instrumental guile and imagination at the service of Shelter Press’ beautiful series of carefully hand-picked editions.
Rendering Lee’s first recordings with the Yeo-Neun Quartet, an experimental chamber ensemble established in 2016 and also comprising Maeve Gilchrist (harp), Jacob Sacks (piano), and Eivind Opsvik (bass), ‘Yeo-Neun’ distills the multiplicities of Lee’s decades of solo and collaborative work and diffuses it thru her cello and fellow players to realise a radical mixture of contemporary classicism and fearless experimentation. It’s the ultimate example of Lee’s inimitably calm but unpredictable style, wrapping up myriad aspects of chamber, jazz and folk musics with sentimental melodies and melancholy touches that betray a core influence from the popular Korean ballads and emotive traditional forms of her youth.
Under a title that loosely translates to ’the gesture of an opening” in Korean, Yeo-Nuen is focussed on discretely lush arrangements, but prone to combust at noisy, avant angles that keep the album safely clear of concrete genre taxonomy. Lee and her ensemble work tightly within a broad set of sonic reference points, elegantly navigating the far flung cues she’s absorbed over decades of intensive touring schedules that have seen her play across the world with everyone from Mark Fell to Ellen Fullman, and appear on recordings by artists as diverse as Jenny Hval and Swans. In those contexts, Lee has developed preternaturally-heightened instincts for improvisation, but the recordings of ‘Yeo-Neun’ appear to consolidate this finely honed grasp of spontaneous combustion with a newly realised, stately feel for composition that’s at once calm and gripping.
Born of a life on the move, the music understandably helms to its own sense of time and pace and allows listeners into the rich inner life that sustains an artist on the road. Between the tender resignation of ‘here we are (once again)’, the Alice Coltrane-Like sweeps of ‘another old story’, the visceral tonal ruptures of ‘in stardust (for kang kyung-ok)’, and the enchanted vision of ‘facing your shadows’, it’s hardly felt more like a privilege to bear witness to an artist laying her soul bare, and so sharply articulate and express her sense of individuality and connection to the world. Frankly. it’s jaw-dropping stuff.