Loopy ‘90s techno fire from TN, US-based Max Watts on Entro Senestre’s excellent BANK Records NYC
‘Primal Spirit’ is exemplary of Max Watts' activities in party-turned-label Limited Network, showing the dancefloor a fucking good time between a cut of cantering percussion and disco stabs, a floor-churning techno ace recalling DJ Qu zingers, and a Grain-esque full throttle shakedown, plus Force Placement’s choppier remix on a late ‘90s Jeff Mills or Surgeon tip.
Nervy brokebeat techno, ambient footwork and mutant dembow zingers from Berlin/Vancouver’s Flørist, pushing off the 3rd release from London’s Baroque Sunburst
Carrying on a well-paced and judged release schedule, Flørist follows his TTT 12” and shots for All Caps and Pacific Rhythm with an absorbing sidespin on mutant techno-hall styles. ‘Headrush’ gets the blood pumping with a sharply clipped adjunct to the 160bpm pads ’n bass style of Ilian Tape, all palpitating bass hits and strobing stabs emulating the effect of floating in the middle of a rave (add your own lights and smoke).
The B-side however is reserved for more experimental workouts, teasing out choral motifs and sizzling hi-hat play on an ambient footwork/jungle flex in ‘Untitled 1’, and locking into a DJ Python-esque, minimalist ambient dembow groove in ‘Untitled 2.’
This latest from Livity Sound's Surgeons Girl is a genre-fluxing collision of analog synth transcendence and Bristolian bass weight - think Caterina Barbieri or Suzanne Ciani jamming with Peverelist and you'll get the idea.
Surgeons Girl cites Ciani, Laurel Halo and Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith as influences and has a studio full of analog hardware at her disposal, so we're off to a good start here. But it's how she manages to combine her influences that most impresses about "A Violet Sleep". Rather than simply chug along the established kosmische route, Surgeon's girl infuses analog explorations with a rolling west country percussive shuffle that brings it out into fresh territory.
Opener 'Clouded Temper | Small Steps' ushers us into her world slowly, with chopped vocals spiraling around deep, brassy analog stabs, then we really get going on 'Intimate Advance' that's as euphoric as it is propulsive. There's a progressive, harmonic push that reminds of Nathan Fake and the Border Community stable almost, engineered for prime tears on the floor modes - whenever that floor might exist again.
Dar Disku release their fourth installment of middle eastern records flipped for the dancefloor. Composed of two club-ready edits of popular music from the MENA region.
"Side ‘A’ features Dar Disku’s very own edit of a middle eastern classic ‘Abdel Kader’. Made famous by Rai superstars Khaled, Faudel and the late Rachid Taha, Dar Disku have flipped an alternate cover release by the North African superstar Cheb Mimoun. Taking inspirations from South African bubblegum and Egyptian G Funk, the duo’s edit layers the industry standard Yamaha DX 7 bassline along with a middle east exclusive release ‘quarter tone scale’ Roland. The track explores themes of nostalgia with the ever familiar ‘abdel kader’ but offers a fresh interpretation of what will undoubtedly re-connect listeners with their roots.
Side ‘B’ features a collaboration of two long-standing Dar Disku favourites, Dublin via Saudi Moving Still and Tjade from the Netherlands. Equally responsible for some of the biggest hits across the dance music scene in the last two months (Rush Hour chart topping ‘Koi Jaye and Sidi Mansour) the pair have collaborated to create the italo-esque edit of egyptian pop star Azza Kamal’s ‘Maadna Bkra’. The tape was originally found by Moving Still on a recent visit to his hometown and was later sampled to create the track. Azza’s iconic vocals echo throughout the track with the classic call and response found in the music from his era. Tjade’s signature drums paired with Jamal’s trademark arpeggiator bass create a dancefloor future classic. On a recent visit to the Gulf, Moving Still went on a treasure hunt through the markets of his home town. “ I hadn’t got a chance to listen to all of them but with the COVID-19 lockdow, I began to sift through my finds. The minute I heard Maadna Bukra I texted the label saying “you have no idea what I just found..”. As I got started I already visualised Tjade collaborating on it. Weirdly enough he got in touch and asked if I would be interested in working on an edit together. It’s so lovely to be able to work with someone you admire musically and lockdown shows us that you don’t have to worry about being in the same city. I always believed the two of us would end up working on a song together, and to put it out on a label I believe in and to be able to give back to the community is a wonderful privilege. “
In light of current worldwide events - the importance of togetherness, equality and diversity are more important than ever. Music is one of the tools that enable this and Dar Disku (together in agreement with Moving Still and Tjade) will be donating 50% of profits from the release directly to middle-eastern based charities."
Romantically appealing, faded and lo-fi grubby Dutch wave album about a Dutch/Moroccan couple in the ‘60s. Quite kooky and cute in a way reminding us of Pram, Pierre Bastien, early V/Vm
“'Together we went to visit Annie's in Leiden once. I brought a recorder and a keyboard. Annie told stories and we sang songs. Later when we had to sit inside and I recorded a lot of music at home in The Hague, friend Kim told me to make an album of it. I thought back to Annie who had been inside for years and listened back to the recording of our visit.
Annie met her husband at De Camera cinema in Leiden, about fifty years ago. Where they both worked. One day, Annie had to grab something from the projector. It is dark there, so she didn't see much. Suddenly she felt a hand on hers. Strangely enough, she wasn't shocked. She just felt something special inside and that feeling has never gone away, to this day. It was the hand of her future husband. He told her at that precise moment that he loved her and did so from the first time he saw her. Which in itself was quite remarkable. Since Annie thought he was a nice guy, but otherwise she didn't really know him well either. Moreover, she was a few years older than him (his name was Seban), he was Moroccan and Muslim and it was somewhere in the 60s. Not bad things in itself, but unfortunately in the 60s they thought otherwise. They got married after all and moved in together, in a brand new flat in the Merenwijk in Leiden. A flat and a neighborhood that have since lost their glory. Annie and Seban often went on holiday together with the caravan. They went to Morocco together, where Annie met his parents and family. Annie has converted to Islam. But in her own way. She does not wear a headscarf, for example, but also does not eat pork. Annie and Seban have unfortunately only been together for ten years. The short duration was absolutely not due to their love for each other. It is still there, even though Seban has been dead for some time. In the living room there is a black and white photo of him sitting on the football field downstairs by the flat, next to their German Shepherd Camar. They both look beautiful. Annie looks at it every day, for the happiest time of her life. "If I could, I would take them right back."
Mahraganat screwballs and rugged rap from Egypt’s Rozzma, riding noisy and psychy productions on his debut for XL
Chasing up the style of his 2017 debut with Belgium’s Crammed Discs, Rozzma spits quick fire on the needlepoint stepper ‘Hout’, whereas his voice appears processed with autotune over the panoramic synth flares and rolling percussive melodrama of ‘Ghierek’, and set to nervy, squeaky groove in ‘Sayeb’, leaving the instrumental ‘Hela’ to show off his fizzing microtonal synth vamps and grimy mahraganat production chops.
There are few instruments more uniquely suited to capturing the beauty and ennui of the rural American midwest than the acoustic steel-string guitar. In the hands of a master, the range of evocable emotion and experience is truly limitless. Daniel Hecht is one such master. His 1973 self-released debut album, simply titled Guitar, is an indispensable piece of the endless puzzle that is instrumental Guitar Soli music.
"Guitar was written and recorded while Hecht was living and working on a commune in Madison, Wisconsin. In between harvesting his own food and studying the music of Andrés Segovia and Mississippi John Hurt, Hecht found himself playing host to legendary itinerant street performer, Moondog.
On Moondog’s insistent urging, Daniel decided to record some of his recent guitar compositions. Released on his own Dragon’s Egg imprint, Guitar fused Hecht’s complex classical preoccupations with his country folk influences. The album eventually found a fan with guitar godhead, John Fahey, who eventually helped land Hecht on the eminent new age/ instrumental label, Windham Hill.
As Hecht’s playing and composition grew in complexity, he found peership with labelmates like Michael Hedges, William Ackerman, and Alex DeGrassi. But it is his debut album that remains the greatest document of Hecht’s talent and ambition in first bloom. A rolling, blissful trip through rural America, guided by the ambitious hand of a guitar master. Morning Trip is elated to release this gorgeous and seminal document of acoustic exploration on vinyl for the first time since its initial 1973 offering."
London’s Kouslin dances around the 100bpm mark in a class batch for Peverelist’s Livity Sound.
Anchored in dancehall and reggaeton’s Afro-Latin tresillo drum patterns, the four tracks of the ‘2020 Vision’ EP are roughed up with warped UK vibes in each part, turning from the acidic drunken master stagger of ‘Sharper’, to the floating bass pressure, stinging drum and lysergic ’tronics of ‘2020 Vision’, and over into a class, cranky nod to Labour firebrand Dennis Skinner in ‘The Beast Of Bolsover’, while ‘Ice’ wraps up with a scuffed sort of ambient dembow hustle.
Simo Cell diversifies his bonds alongside Egyptian singer and trumpeter Abdullah Miniawy in a Fourth World Bass style for Brothers From Different Mothers
Miniawy has previously lent his styles to collabs with Carl Gari for TTT and Whities (now AD93) in recent years, and now finds an ideal foil in Paris-based Simo Cell, who underlines the passionate vocals and touches of Hasselian brass with a range of speaker-smacking rhythms and textured noise.
The bookending works are perhaps most intriguing, working a sort of up-to-date spin on fourth world vibes in the lush opener, and its bitterer closer ‘Weed In The Freezer’, whereas the main body sees the two wrapped in supple club music for home play, at best in the Low Jack-esque warped dancehall of ‘Pending In The Pattern’, and what sounds like early Arabic electronics meets scorched trap drums with ‘Locked In Syndrome.’
Two extended dips into fathoms-deep classical minimalism from Faith Coloccia - the spiritual meeting place between Arvo Pärt and Sunn O))).
Faith Coloccia's work as Mamiffer has always skated the line between the maximal and minimal, juxtaposing the crushing weight of noise and extreme metal with feather-light elements that wouldn't be out of place on an ECM record. On "Mettapatterning for Constellation", this interplay is more evident than ever as she takes a 2016 recording made alongside Aaron Turner and percussionist Jon Mueller and fleshes it out in full orchestral style with the help of Eyvind Kang and Spółdzielnia Muzyczna contemporary ensemble.
The original 4-track recording is 20 minutes of sludgy, atmospheric noise interspersed with drones, bells and Coloccia's haunting piano. This would already be worth the asking price, but it's brought into a new realm entirely by Eyvind Kang and Spółdzielnia Muzyczna, who expand the piece into high definition widescreen. Both versions exist in their own universe, the home-recorded version is fuzzy and fragile while the newer recording is bright, encased in a gleaming perfection. This kind of classical minimalism is approached frequently and rarely mastered, and here Coloccia's restraint is the key; she never allows an element to overwhelm the piece, instead letting everything simmer until it's just right.
Wow OK - this spooky soundtrack to recently-rediscovered 1974 short film "Ô Sidarta" is a doozy, all fuzzy analog synth drones, Popol Vuh/Klaus Schulze wobbles and choppy, dubbed-to-death Luc Ferrari vs. Radiophonic Workshop squeak. Gasping.
Just when you think that everything's been dug out of the cult electronic-music-meets-horror-sci-fi treasure sack, Finders Keepers pop out with this absolute jewel. "Ô Sidarta" was released in 1974 and directed by Swiss filmmaker Michel Jakar, documenting the process of comic artist Philippe Druillet, but it's the soundtrack we're obsessed with, a truly haunting set of avant electronics from "synthesist, sound designer and ethnological instrument enthusiast" Alain Pierre.
Pierre popped up a few years ago on the STROOM label with a reissue of his soundtrack to cult Flemish animated movie "Jan Zonder Vrees", and this short soundtrack might be even better. The album is split into two side-long pieces, the first finds Pierre wrangling creepy samples (crashes, screams, rattling chains, bells, robot voices) and unusual vocals, dubbing them out with Radiophonic FX and adding carnivalesque synth sequences. It's like Delia Derbyshire and being let loose on the INA-GRM catalog at King Tubby's and we don't say that lightly.
On the flip, Pierre takes a kosmische trip with rolling psychedelic analog synth bubbles that sound like "Moondawn"-era Klaus Schulze before mutating into microtonal rhythmic funk that sounds more like Suicide. Finders Keepers describes this one as "space raga" and honestly, we can't disagree. So, so killer.
Quick techno pulsers from Canada’s Hilary Jean aka DJ AADJA on Nina Kraviz’ Trip
Check for the Makina-esque acid tonk of ‘Zappa Valley’ and ‘Ear Bubbles’, or ‘Voices In The Hall’ for some dirtier squat acid squelch, and the all night stompers should be right up for ‘Neuro Erotic’ and the floating acid pelt of ’Still Wired.’
NYC’s Acemo leans on deep ambient jungle and hip hop styles shades away from DJ Python’s ambient dembow/trip hop grooves
Returning to Sonic Messengers after a tidy split with Toro Y Moi’s Les Sins alias, Acemo follows on from the styles of his ‘Mind Jungle’ EP with a wintry suite of slow/fast drum programming and plangent pads that push a lot of our buttons.
From the tip-of-tongue thizz of ‘Low Pressure’ to the neck-warming nods of ‘Res In Beats (R.I.P. Huck & Dilla)’ the EP hits a fine vibe of ‘90s-into-‘20s steez compatible with DJ Python’s ‘Mas Amable’ album in ‘Deep Down (Don’t Drown)’ and the angelic swang of ‘Heavenly’, along with the downy warmth of ’Sundown’, while the bruised jazz-blues of ‘A Ballad For 2020’ is pretty self-evident, and fans of his NYC take on new/old skool D&B should be checking for his ‘Water Bending’ nugget if the idea idea of RZA meets Krust takes your fancy.
Fresh from “sampler” contributions on the amazing Oï les Ox album for The Death of Rave, Furtherset blesses -ous with an immersive suite of tantalising, expressive synthesis landing somewhere between Lorenzo Senni, Pita and 0PN
‘To Live Tenderly Anew’ is the Italian artist’s first solo shot since 2018 and most substantial since a 2015 album written circa his time at the RBMA classes in Rome. It’s not hard to hear how his music resonates with classical Italian renaissance music in the same way as Lorenzo Senni, but there’s also more bite and nervy energy to his music that we’re keen to hear more of after ingesting this one.
The rushy flux of ‘The Logic of a Secret’ is a great place to dive in and find your feet upended, while ‘The Expanding Drama’ betrays an absorbing taste for edge-of-dissonance tunings, and ‘A Prelude to Infinite Directions’ could almost be an expanded detail of an 0PN tapestry. We’re also really feeling the weightless, beat-less rave roller ‘Uncoordinated Delicate Perfection’ calling to mind Pita meets AYYA, and the adrenochrome energy of ‘Choirs of Deception and Truth’ points to much grander ideas on the horizon.
One to keep a close ear on!
Cali-grade halfstep pressures from the new wave on Youngsta’s dubstep bastion, Sentry Records, including his mean link-up with Substance
The Youngsta & Substance cut ‘Nug’ is a serious highlight on some old skool ’06 Loefah step, while Mutely gets grimy cartoonish on the ace ‘Magpie’, Saltus rolls out like a vintage Clams Casino number in ‘Genesis’, and LSN pulls up in his girlfriend’s ride with the slow smack of ’Shotta Kush.’
Loneliness, isolation, alienation, the need for connection and community. The salient themes of our times resonate with a haunting, predictive and vital power on the third album from London four-piece Landshapes. Released through Bella Union this November, Contact is an album that digs deep into the past, looks ahead to the future and burns with vivid life in the present, where its mind-expanding soundscapes, beguiling melodies and resonating emotions exude a tremendous in-the-moment vibrancy.
"The title speaks clearly to the album’s themes, as intended. As Luisa Gerstein (vocals, synths) explains, “The working title for a long time was ‘Collapse’, but when we came around to naming it, and having the conversation from our respective isolation, we wanted to give it a name that was more hopeful, and about connectivity. Dan suggested ‘Contact’ and it clicked - Contact with each other; contact with the wider world amidst its unravelling; music feels like a really essential part of that right now.”
Contact took form after extensive touring for Landshapes’ second album, “Heyoon”, where the band’s shape-shifting hybrids of alt-folk, psychedelia, math-rock and more brimmed with brooding beauty. The desire to sustain the focused fluidity and elemental power of their live energy – honed from Green Man to End of the Road and beyond – compelled them to continue playing and writing together, with strict principles to light the way. As Heloise Tunstall-Behrens (bass, vocals) puts it, “We approached this album with the idea of creating more space, simplifying and allowing things to breathe. We also wanted to keep the songs briefer, with fewer deviations.” A few years later, Contact sustains those principles beautifully. The sulphurous sludge-rock guitars and depth-charged synths of “Rosemary” throb with a rapt intensity: while the lyrics reflect on ancestral DNA and the memory-stimulating powers of the titular herb, the physicality of the sound embodies a sense of the past living in the present, registered deep in the gut.
Throughout, Landshapes equip their elemental intimations and exploratory themes with a palpable immediacy. “Siberia” is a psychedelic folk song of ice and fire, its forceful chants set to deliciously lopsided rhythms; direct and mysterious. Testifying to the band’s road-tested chemistry, loose grooves are executed with a limber precision. “Drama” sets its snapshot of, says Luisa, “the imbalance of emotional labour that can happen between men and women” to an alt-R&B funk drift. With Jemma Freeman (guitar, vocals) and Dan Blackett (drums) swapping instrumental roles, “The Ring” is mantric, romantic pop with a troubled heart, its seeming simplicity deceptive. “I suppose it was a love song at first,” says Heloise, “inspired by some friends getting married. For me, it evolved into a feeling of connection with the world and non-human species – a partnership upon which we tend to rely and take for granted but don’t appreciate all the time.” Elsewhere, moods and emotions deepen and diversify. “Real Love Is Dead” sets a tale of break-ups and Tinder to a misty synthetic backdrop. The spare, future-thinking “I’m Mortal” grapples with the question of giving birth in today’s world, treated vocals throwing its core human doubts into stark relief. For Luisa, the amniotic bliss-pop of “Dizzee” frames a reflection on “the specific experience of going to a queer people of colour club night for the first time, and feeling so ecstatic that the space existed, feeling at home, whilst simultaneously wrestling the feeling of being an imposter”.
Look for evidence of the band’s live power and you will find them manifested forcefully on “Let Me Be”, an inside-out critique of white male self-entitlement set to a whirligig of organs, chants and fuzzy math-rock guitars. Born from a jam session on tour, the wordless harmonies and guitar-strafed lurches of “Just A Plug” add cathartic jolts of electricity. “It feels like a release and a chance to vent,” says Heloise, “even without lyrics the sentiment is there!” Finally, “Conductor” diverts that energy into a serene reverie on time and the body, its expansive imagery anchored in the immediacy of sensation. After the voyages of self-discovery on their 2013 debut, “Rambutan”, and the wide-open reach of “Heyoon”, Contact pays testimony to Landshapes’ questing spirit. Recorded live at Soup Studios when it was in Limehouse, the album’s freshness reflects a strict resistance to, says Luisa, “over-cooking in the studio”. New tools helped flesh out the soundscapes, Jemma notes: “actual synths”, a Boss Dr Rhythm drum machine, and fresh guitar pedals enrich the sonic palette without gratuitous studio interference. Meanwhile, storied sound wizard and producer Kwes became, says Heloise, “sort of a fifth member”, helping to take the songs “to a new realm”.
As Jemma says, “We had a strong idea of wanting to keep a raw feel to the work, and that we wanted external ears to play a guiding influence and add a new voice once we had built the foundations. The sense of previous preciousness was something we could dispose of, as we had more confidence in our ability to play and write. I think it made us bold.”
Landshapes, then: reach out, make contact. "
C.C. Hennix realizes Stockhausen’s ‘Unbegrenzt’ in a jaw-dropping addition to her revelatory series of unheard archival works issued by the honourable Blank Forms Editions and Empty Editions
Following resounding acclaim for releases of ‘Selected Early Keyboard Works’ and ‘Selections from 100 Models of Hegikan Roku’ in recent years, Hennix’s percussive, electronic take on ‘Unbegrenz’, recorded in 1974, calls for the Swedish polymath to intuitively, poetically interpret a series of 15 text pieces written by Stockhausen in Paris during May 1968. The results reveal her uniquely jazz-honed instincts and feel for affective tunings channelled into an extraordinary 50 minutes of roiling, deep inner space music abstraction calls to mind everything from Marginal Consort to Michael Ranta, Pauline Oliveros and Roland Kayn, but laced through with a elusive, darkly immanent spirit that keeps us utterly transfixed to everything C.C. Hennix deems worthy of release.
Hennix’s take on the canonical Stockhausen work, issued in 1969 on Shandar, applies her instrumental and compositional rigour to the original, gutting its frillier bits and rendering a more minimal version tense with intrigue and controlled, biting-point feedback. Stockhausen’s original score instructed to “play a sound with the certainty that you have an infinite amount of time and space,” and Hennix takes that cue remarkably to heart, providing an alternate score that collapses her deeply engrained jazz skills, forged in Stockholm’s renowned ‘60s scene, into darkest vapours of computer noise, anti-anticipatory percussion and keening, perpendicular drones strewn with recitations of text fragments from the millennia-old Hevajra Tantra.
We can’t explain it but there’s something so visceral about Hennix’s work here, and elsewhere, done in a way so many early electronic recordings somehow dont quite measure up to, making it vital nearly half a century later.
Japan’s masters of rock and noise face off in ravishing, symbiotic form on their 7th collaborative album
Eighteen years since their first meeting on record (‘Megatone’), the hybrid unit clearly have lots more energy to expend on ‘2R0I2P0’, with Merzbow shelling signature, wildly overgrown, high-register noise squall to complement Wata and Takeshi’s shrieking guitars, and lend a sharp tonic contrast with the album’s slower, more melodic moments.
The album’s title translates to ’Twenty Twenty R.I.P.’ and is intended as both an elegy for a shitty year, and a catalyst for change, or as they say: "This work becomes a monument to the requiem of the previous era. From here, a new world begins again." As such they take the full limit of playing time - 78 minutes - to scythe thru strains of pulsating quasar rock and absorbingly harsh electronics, starting out all folksy and soothing with ‘Away from You’ before banking up to sky-clawing guitar leads and clamorous noise, sometimes letting Merzbow set the way ahead, as on the crushing ‘Coma’ and the sensory smother of ‘Jounrey’, and locking into freewheeling metal on ‘Absolutego’, but saving their finest for the two longer pieces of epic terraforming, ‘Evol’, and ’Shadow of Skull.’