Future Times' Max D and fellow DC mainstay Jackson Ryland team up on a set of improvised, tweaky steppers that straddle the line between Carl Craig/69 and A Guy Called Gerald. Free as fuck and fresher for it.
Beautiful Swimmer Max D and Jackson Ryland have been improvising and overdubbing together since 2018, looking to create quick, dextrous tracks rather than labored studio workouts. This debut long-form release highlights their playfulness and broad musical knowledge, as they work their way through well-worn club sounds (techno, house, 2-step, jungle) without getting hung up on perfectionism.
In fact, the loose, free nature of these recordings makes them sound closer to an early formulation of dance music, when tracks felt as if they could fly off the rails into chaos at almost any moment. Sometimes the duo channel the DIY funk of early Detroit rollage ('Antimatter Circus'), elsewhere it's mind-phasing jungle ('Hops') or brittle breakcore ('Super A').
The record comes into its own though when the two producers morph the edgy alien qualities of SND with Vladislav Delay's hybrid dub and Farben's chiseled jazz funk on 'Slip' and 'Hyperplasticity'.
Sakamoto & Toop are captured in precisely unpredictable, improvised form in their remarkable first collaboration, recorded at St John at Hackney Church, London, 2018.
‘Garden of Shadows and Light’ bears witness to the entirety of the duo’s debut concert, where the pair pay tribute to the aesthetics of Japanese gardening (hence the title), cultivating and exploring a spectra of carefully pruned small sounds for the first half, before blossoming into a lusher, pricklier sort of night garden described with animalistic electric guitar and guttural inside piano sound. It’s a meeting of two weighty musical minds, pitting a rarely paralleled breadth of knowledge and skills spanning decades (upon decades) of work between the fields of film music, pop session work, sound installation and live performance at the service of a deeply immersive, world building style.
It’s the 2nd release of Sakamoto’s work by the church’s related label, ThirtyThree ThirtyThree Recordings, following his duo with Taylor Deupree, and as one might expect, it’s very different to that side’s dreamy minimalism. There's a paucity of ingredients in the mix here, but they’re used to express a more curious mix of atavistic and crafty avant-classical gestures, almost imagining two perplexed cavemen feeling out a menagerie of instruments, or even reminding us to the naturally unpredictable logic of the birds playing electric guitars in Céleste Boursier-Mougenot’s exhibit. They gradually coalesce into thicker chords and syncopations, arriving to the ear as warm licks of lap steel guitar, and then calling into the night via shakuhachi and plangent noise in the 2nd half, always making room for pregnant lacunae and tip of tongue tones that really define the piece and lend its seat edge-but-floating quality.
Maurizio’s ‘M4’ was just so good that Moritz Von Oswald and Mark Ernestus had to extend the pleasure in ‘m4.5’ 
The purring bass and chords feel sunk deeper and drowsier into the mix, lending a duskier appeal which they tease out for just shy of 13 minutes, although it could easily last 10 times that length and we’d never get bored of its luscious traction.
Fluxus bod Philip Corner's time-dilating, spiritual gong drones were recorded back in 1988-89 and still sound completely singular. Deep, percussive and resonant haunt fer fans of Rhys Chatham, Tony Conrad, Annea Lockwood, Z'EV et al.
Back in the late 1980s, experimental composer Corner linked up Korean new age Shaman Hiah Park, who specialized in the art of ritual dance. Corner had been stationed in Korea in when he was in military service, and had immediately been struck by the local traditional music he had access too on the radio. He attended Park's workshops in New York and eventually the two agreed to collaborate, fusing Park's dance with Corner's "metal meditations" techniques he had been developing with gongs.
The duo performed two shows in Europe together, and when Corner returned to New York, he developed another performance alongside his friend Sin Cha Hong, a Korean-American dancer and choreographer. The recordings of all three performances are captured here, and while we sadly don't get to experience the physical portion, Corner's lulling meditative drones are a joy to absorb.
This type of textured, deep listening music is often attempted and rarely mastered - "Gong/Ear: Shaman" is completely in the zone, never obtrusive but also never dull. The sounds Corner manages to pull from the gongs are ghostly, resonant and completely entrancing. We can only imagine what it might have been like to see it in person.
In January 2019, at the invitation of fiddler Hans Kjorstad, Alasdair Roberts travelled from his home in Glasgow, Scotland to Oslo, Norway, where the two men convened with five additional Scandinavian musicians at Riksscenen, Oslo’s centre for Norwegian traditional arts and music.
"Thus newly-formed, the group worked on arrangements of songs - self-written and traditional - from Alasdair’s back catalogue, in preparation for performances at Riksscenen as well as at ALICE in Copenhagen, Denmark and the bucolic western Danish island of Fanø. The group was named Völvur (The Seeresses), a reference to the ancient Icelandic apocalyptic text Völuspa (The Prophecy of the Seeress).
In January 2020, Völvur visited England and Scotland, to perform with Alasdair Roberts at Cecil Sharp House, London and at Platform, Glasgow, the latter as part of Celtic Connections festival. The group had new material - freshly written songs by Alasdair and several traditional Norwegian songs sung by Marthe Lea - and over a couple days at Sam and Rachel’s Studio in Hackney, laid down the music which now flows forth as ‘The Old Fabled River’. The musicians who make up Völvur - Marthe Lea, saxophone, clarinet and voice, Fredrik Rasten, guitars and voice, Andreas Hoem Røysum, clarinet, Egil Kalman, bass and electronics, Jan Martin Gismervik, drums, percussion and the aforementioned initiator of the project, Hans Kjorstad on fiddle - are a busy and artistically inquisitive group, involved in a diverse range of projects with a wide variety of musical interests, from folk and jazz to free music, modular synthesis, microtonality and beyond.
They make an ideal pairing for such voyages in the alchemical world as Alasdair pursues in his own music. On ‘The Old Fabled River’, Alasdair Roberts og Völvur meld their worlds: fiddle and vocal styles formed in the Norwegian valleys blending now with exploratory clarinet, saxophone and metallic bowed guitar drones, now fashioned into baroque folk arrangements. In one case, instrumental accompaniment is laid aside, as three voices locate a questing fullness harmonizing together."
Footwork mainstay DJ Manny steps out from the shadows with this towering and incredibly unique cross-section of Midwestern dance styles and luv'd up R&B. Imagine a potent concoction of DJ Rashad, Carl Craig, LTJ Bukem, Janet Jackson, Timbaland, The Other People Place and Frankie Knuckles, and you'll have an idea what "Signals in My Head" is giving.
Maybe the most ambitious footwork full-length we've heard since DJ Rashad's game-changing 2013 tome "Double Cup", Manny's first proper set since the Teklife-released "Greenlight" is a celebration of the evolution of Black American dance music. He's still young, but Manny is no newcomer having gone from dancing to party promoting and then production. And when he finally released his debut "Kush On Deck" in 2010 with DJ Rashad's assistance, he'd already been on the scene for a decade.
With "Signals in My Head", Manny wanted to attempt something that hadn't been done before and bless the genre with romance. This sentiment gushes from opener 'Never Was Ah Hoe', that loops joyful, euphoric vocals over dilated footwork kick flurries and clattering breaks. When it liquifies into halftime, the production sounds closer to something you might hear on a Kehlani album, all muted sensuality and tuff, sparse neo-soul percussion. 'U Want It' is an even clearer statement, interpolating the chorus from Ginuwine's enduring sex jam 'Pony' and blessing it with dreamy Detroit synths and playful, stuttering drums.
It's at this point where the album artfully switches gear with 'You All I Need' and 'Club GTA', suddenly dipping into the pure ecstasy of Carl Craig's "Landcruising" or "More Songs About Food And Revolutionary Art". 'Good Love' and 'Signals In My Head' meanwhile retain the MDMA glow while injecting a hearty dose of influence from LTJ Bukem and his peers' rugged-but-emotional liquid D&B shuffle.
'Signals In My Head' is a progressive, motivated album from an artist who has been active in footwork for two decades. Now he rises above the confines of the genre to sit alongside fellow scene-agnostic Black club innovators like AceMo, MoMA Ready and Kush Jones, while paying tribute to the storied history of Midwestern club and American R&B. Breathless from beginning to end.
Maestro asserts deepest ties between SA amapiano and UK house, gilded with on-point etheric vox by Buddha Boo for London’s burgeoning Housupa crew
Officially the sound of summer 2021, amapiano’s influence on UK dance music can’t be overstated right now, and we’re absolutely all for it. DJ Supa D’s Housupa now comes correct again with Maestro’s debut for the label, laying out the deliciously woozy pads and bubbling bass of ‘Glow’ in its supreme vocal mix starring Buddha Boo’s perfectly measured vocal floating over pensile bass and organ motif in duskiest, hypnotic SA style. There’s an instrumental if you need to extend the pleasure, but we strongly tip the vocal mix.
Darkside consists of Chilean electronic musician and vocalist Nicolás Jaar and American multi-instrumentalist Dave Harrington.
"Jaar and Harrington first met while studying in Providence through their common friend and saxophonist Will Epstein. In the summer of 2011 they toured Europe and Australia in support of Jaar’s breakthrough debut album ‘Space Is Only Noise’. Upon returning to Providence, they continued to write together, releasing their self-titled EP in 2012 and their critically acclaimed debut album ‘Psychic’ on Matador Records in October 2013.
The album was met with glowing reviews, including a 9.0 from Pitchfork and The New York Times calling it “the soundtrack to a lost David Lynch sci-fi movie.” In the summer of 2018, Harrington and Jaar rented a small house on Lenni-Lenape territory, which is present-day Flemington, New Jersey. The group spent a week there, making a song a day. While it would take another year and a half to complete their second album, six songs from the band’s new record, ‘Spiral’, were written and recorded during this initial session. “From the beginning, Darkside has been our jam band. Something we did on days off. When we reconvened, it was because we really couldn’t wait to jam together again,” says Jaar. Harrington echoes this, “It felt like it was time again,” he said. “We do things in this band that we would never do on our own. Darkside is the third being in the room that just kind of occurs when we make music together.”
Sultry, poised, gothic post-punk meets lilting dream-pop courtesy Anika, chasing up collabs with Shackleton and Tricky in a keenly awaited sophomore long player.
Officially the follow-up to her acclaimed, eponymous 2010 debut with Beak>, ‘Change’ arrives a decade later as a worthy counterpart brimming with the kind of melodramatic but droll delivery and classic-sounding chops that made her first LP so striking. On 'Change' Akina opts to work with Swedish producer Martin Thulin (Exploded View), who flew from Mexico to Germany during lockdown to enhance the album’s lustrous backdrops and shadowplay of styles, where Anika’s plaintive delivery variously reminds us of Nico, Trish Keenan, and Tropic of Cancer’s eerie drone-pop float.
Song to song Anika finds her shapeshifting style from the swaying post-punk stepper ‘Finger Pies’ to a meld of Julee Cruise and Nico on the mopey but positive title tune, while at the album’s apex ‘Sand Witches’ expresses her feelings as an immigrant in Germany in time honoured eldritch fashion, and ‘Freedom’ see her get down with scuzzy goth rock urges.
Proggy UKG and grime experiments from producer/DJ/animator Murlo, pushing his prism in cartoonish IDM ways on his Coil Records label
Saturated in ripe colour and leaving no two bars wanting for detail, ‘Unearth’ sees Murlo’s work get increasingly finicky and complex and further from the ‘floor, approaching more of a fantasy gamer soundtrack style than club music, although still keeping ties via his overegged funk chops.
To be frank it’s really not sitting right for us, with too much icky sugar rush and conventionally consonant arrangement to really push our experimental buttons, or enough groove to move us; ultimately landing in an IDM style that makes us do the Drake nah face.
Beautifully serene and contemplative, ‘Landscape Architecture’ sees classical minimalists Christina Vantzou & John Also Bennett describe quizzical scenes on their follow-up to a sterling 2018 debut for Shelter Press, all mixed and self-released on the duo’s Editions Basilic imprint and now available on vinyl for the first time. It’s a suite of blurry dreamscapes made with flutes, piano, hazy environmental recordings, subs and subtle fx, a perfect companion for works by Félicia Atkinson, Alice Coltrane, Jim O’Rourke, Luc Ferrari, Deaf Center, Pan American.
Reprising the lucid dream-like dimensions of their debut ‘Thoughts Of A Dot As It Travels A Surface’, CV & JAB assuredly trace a line between etheric whimsy and a spellbinding sort of atmospheric mastery on their sophomore sequence. Fashioned from petalled classical and jazz keys blended with woodwind, richly enigmatic electronics and gently aleatoric intersections of street noise and bird song with water sounds, the album’s 10 parts and bonus track limn a drift through what they evocatively term as “remote thought gardens and conceptual collonades” to deeply trippy effect.
Recorded over the course of three days during a residency in Brussels, the album is detailed with a sure-handed directness as ephemeral as spring light, appearing like a dream that lingers on the mind’s eye with its own perpendicular sense of time and space. That effect has long been key to Christina Vantzou’s work, from solo to collaborations with The Dead Texan and Heinrich Mueller, and it’s now clear that JAB shares this gift for elegantly supposing and luring listeners into their ever-curious explorations of ambient classical metaphysics.
The duo recall the rapt effect of Félicia Atkinson’s poetic compositions in ‘Down a passageway’, while the brooding allure of ‘Phantom Tunnel’ remind us of the quizzical nature of Catherine Christer Hennix’s style, whereas the more explicitly electronic works such as ‘Pungent Lake’ and ‘The maître d’ is dead’ capture the sort of laminal ooze and woozy effect of Jim O’Rourke’s amazing 'To Magnetize Money And Catch A Roving Eye’ 4CD in a more concentrated form.
Influenced by Steve Reich and Terry Riley, bass clarinet player Ben Bertrand creates a foggy universe of fuzzed-out ambient sound and rich organic woodwind texture. One fer anyone into Jon Hassell, Arve Henriksen, Bendik Giske et al.
Calm and subdued, "NGC 1999" feels like the soundtrack to a chilly Northern European indie flick that never was. Bertrand uses his bass clarinet to lead the charge, but augments the sound with subtle electronic treatments that bridge the gap between the organic and electronic realms. The result is minimal but not dreary music - it's warm and refreshingly upbeat at times, with a wavering sincerity that's not unlike theremin legend Clara Rockmore.
Upper Wilds are Dan Friel, Jason Binnick and Jeff Ottenbacher.
"Dan Friel is a pillar of the NYC underground and arts scenes, having performed alongside Lightning Bolt and Black Dice, as well as collaborating with string quartet ETHEL and indie game Bleep Space. Upper Wilds channel Friel’s unbreakably ebullient spirit into mountainous rock music dripping with molten fuzz. The trio’s exploration of the interstellar expands in parallel to their increasing levels of bombast and precision. ‘Venus’ synthesizes the experimentation of debut ‘Guitar Module’ (2017) and the thunder of 2018’s ‘Mars’ into ten lean chunks of cosmic rock laden with scorching hooks. Mastered by Sarah Register, who has mastered Grammy nominated records for The Shins, David Bowie and Meshell Ndegeocello, among others."
Lawrence leaves the ‘floor for dust in a free-floating suite of ambient jazz following the lead of his ‘Birds On The Playground’ LP and Sky Walking release
Extinguishing the flickering drums and purring basslines of his signature deep minimal house style, Hamburg’s Lawrence beautifully explores his ambient side again on ‘The City Of Tomorrow,’ snuggling into a warm and user friendly space between ambient, new age, and jazz that feels right for the times and echoes vibes from Ana Roxanne to Ulla and the neo-ambient cohort.
‘Dawn’ breaks with glowing, cottony organ chords that set the pace and feel of the EP, which sashays from the twinkling carillon of its ‘Interlude’ and shimmering ‘Mermaids’ vignettes into deliciously sloshing domestic percussion recalling a melted take on Move D’s ‘Kunststoff’ album in ‘Sloth,’ and gems to rest on the bed of levitating static and curling choral pads in ‘Aalto.’
Dry, barrelling D&B punishments from Italy’s Last Life, chasing up his 2020 debut album for Samurai
The ’Horde’ EP comes on heavy and pressurised with the drop forge dancehall D&B and tense drones of ‘Trial,’ leading into the mauling mentasms and brittle roll cage of the title tune, and needling arps approximating a nastier take on Donato Dozzy’s D&B in ‘Hidden,’ with some cold clanking Ruffhouse alike steam-rolige reserved for ‘Troglodith.’