"Say what you wanna say, but you have to give Strahil Velchev this: the man's a powerhouse. Recording and playing live under the KiNK alias, he went on to become one of finest purveyor's of funk in techno and house. What it is, by definition, ain't exactly clear. And that is the beauty of it.
KiNK's music is unifying in the best possible way. Channeling the spirit and feeling of a time where it didn't really matter who the faces behind the music were, KiNK plays with the elements of genres and sub-genres as if the future of it all is still wide-open. At the same time it could be accused of retro-fetishism, as much as the Pope himself is infallible.
The pure need to recreate moments, feelings and experience - rather than carbon copies of existing designs - was what started KiNK's production work. Hailing from Bulgaria, it was nearly impossible to get your hands on all the records and music that fed into a system of raves, clubs and record shops that seemed far away from Sofia, and financially it might as well have meant another galaxy. Wanting to DJ without having access to the tracks that spun the carousel meant that you had to create them yourselves. So, here we go with a private bootlegger gone public mastermind and one of the loudest voices in house, techno and beyond.
From KiNK's early productions with Neville Watson to his smash-hit for Ovum, a cerebral album for Macro, tons of remixes & tracks and his mind-bending live act, Playground seems to take all that into a blender. Simultaneously a sound-summary, the harvest of a field of ideas, and the exhibition of an artist in his prime, it also works as a sort of KiNK dictionary: avant-garde soundscapes stand next to boisterous bangers, classic club tracks and peak time emotions find their idiosyncratic and contemplative counterparts – all of it coming down like a torrent in a drought."
Jim Jupp (Belbury Poly) and Jon Brooks (The Advisory Circle) metamorphosize into The Belbury Circle, incorporating their pal John Foxx on two tracks of Outward Journey.
Pulsing with proggy soft trance riffs and draped in nocturnal atmospheres, it’s one for driving your car late at night thru the conurbations, commuter villages and gentrified docklands of a pensive Brexit Britain, turning up two standout moments in the John Foxx-led highlights of Forgotten Town and the beautifully wistful Trees, with plenty of time of reflection over your milky tea on Café Kaput and the twinkly gaze of Departures Inc, with a wistful guitar solo worthy of an Alan Partridge-style despairing breakdown in a lay-by.
Richard Chartier ponders another poignant predicament as Pinkcourtesyphone with Indelicate Slices, the project’s ninth full length, arriving after sojourns to The Tapeworm and Champion Version in recent seasons.
This is contemporary ambient music at its most opulent and intoxicating, sashaying rococo corridors of gold and red velvet smudged to shimmering pink hues, spinning solipsistic thru a permanent twilight zone of pharmaceutical haze, self-medicated and shielded to an omnipresent darkness that lurks beyond the rose beds.
It’s immaculately smashed and illusive music that slips under the skin and stimulates the imagination with uncanny efficiency, emulating none-more-rarified feels between the old world elegance of Romantic Threat and the digital drizzle of In Voluptuous Monochrome, secreting some stunningly sensitive, psychedelic passages in the 24 minute piece Minimumluxuryoverdose and the 12 minutes of OOBE like plasmic suspense of Above Chandeliers, with the systolic pulse of Problematic Interior rendering something like a recording of an anechoic panic room.
35 song set which is also being released via three single LPs. We were gonna write summat on these but decided to copy/paste these sales notes cos they're just too fucking funny. nice one Alan.
"If you really want to know more about the music, search for the LP version descriptions online (I'm sure they were copy/pasted across many websites) where you'll discover a treasure of valuable assessments contained within. This two-CD edition is primarily being made available to facilitate 41 of my 133 'fans' who will be thrilled that it comes out on Compact Disc -- and at an affordable price in comparison to what buying all three LPs would cost. I think I pressed at least 172 copies of this two-CD so there is room for another 39 'fans' to climb aboard my champion ship. I keep hearing that many of the CDs you've acquired in the past don't work anymore. CDs are supposed to rot, scratch and die after a few years and have therefore become a flawed medium. Sounds more like a pragmatic description of humanity to me. But I have thousands of CDs. Some are commercially manufactured discs and the rest are CDRs and every single one of them works.
Yep, I hired a bearded guy from New Hampshire to check them all and many are 10, 15, or 20 years old. But my mother always told me I was blessed. Or perhaps I have a magic CD player? But people used to say the same about cassettes and now tapes are the cat's fuckin meow. In fact, I know a record store owner who recently sold an entire car full of cassettes. So don't bring your CDs when you jump aboard Julijonas Urbonas' suicide roller coaster (which hopefully gets built soon in order to facilitate plenty of you imbeciles) -- leave them behind for others to enjoy. Getting back to my new album, go find my sampler on YouTube if you want to know what it sounds like. It's better than your new album, that's for sure. Maybe I'll have to do a cassette version of this record in the future so that I can write another one of these fuckin' promotional sheets."
Never previously issued on vinyl - a super rare Library Music LP from Japan - the sublime soundtrack for a 1986 runway show of Japan’s Mitsuhiro Matsuda’s Nicole brand.
"Jun Fukamachi’s highly coveted Nicole (86 Spring And Summer Collection - Instrumental Images) album, originally recorded in 1986 for celebrated fashion designer Mitsuhiro Matsuda’s Nicole clothing brand and never officially available before.
Only ever distributed as a limited promotional item offered to attendees and participants of the 1986 fashion show for the Nicole brand’s Spring and Summer collection, Fukamachi’s moody magnum opus has become a sort of Holy Grail for fans of Japanese ambient, jazz, and synth music alike…and rightly so!
Meticulously conceived, smooth and subtle, Nicole sounds like it came from an ethereal land where Erik Satie and Art of Noise lived together, a sublimely cinematic listening experience perhaps best described by renowned Japanese music writer Masaharu Yoshioka aka The Soul Searcher:
If you are driving down the Autobahn at 160 km/h, or even 80 km/h, and Jun’s music starts playing on the car stereo, the windshield will instantly turn into your own personal silver screen.”
Expanded (with 8 new tracks) version of Princess Nokia’s self-released debut mixtape, 1992 including the recently released single G.O.A.T. along with standouts such as the haunting, sharply pointed Brujas and the brassy bang of Kitana.
Assuming you’re cool af and already know the original mixtape, we’ll step right onto the new cuts, covering golden era hip hop in ABCs of New York and the backpacker beats of Goth Kid, plus a pure heat-seeking missile in the stuttering keys and drill bounce of Flava, and checking out on a deep south party flex with Chinese Slippers.
Heads will roll for this one!
With this pair of challenging, longform vocal works - including a recording of Kurt Schwitters’ Ur Sonate which has long been banned from being recorded by his estate - restless sound explorer John Duncan steers the vocal themes of his beguiling LP, This Bitter Earth, into the avant dimensions he’s best known for occupying since the late ‘70s.
Mantra is a 33 minute exposition of extended vocal technique where Duncan’s own vocals are layered and faded across the stereo field in an hypnotic, glacial escalation of density, calving away into a passage of fiercely tempestuous noise and back to the vocals. To be fair, it sounds nothing like the straight-played This Bitter Earth songs, but a transcendent appeal is mutual to both works.
We’re not entirely sure why the state of Schwitters banned recording of his classic, dadaist sound poem Ur Sonate, but Duncan either does/doesn’t give a fuck and so here it is in its psychotomimetic glory, 23 minutes of alien tongue joined by a 14 -part chorus, produced by Yelena Mitrjushkina for Narkissos Contemporary Art Gallery, Bologna, in Duncan’s adopted home city.
On-U Sound compile the first four albums - plus a bonus disc of unreleased dubs - from Adrian Sherwood and Lincoln “Style” Scott’s Dub Syndicate nearly 20 years since any were available on CD. Packaged in fine style with a 24-page booklet of archival photos and notes by On The Wire host and font of all dub knowledge, Steve Barker, consider it a definitive survey of early Dub Syndicate.
Disc 1 fixes up The Pounding System  with extra cut, Gather At The River (Bonus Track); Disc 2 features One Way System , including Blood Shed Dub as a bonus; Disc 3 is North Of The River Thames  with Doctor Pablo’s Pablo’s African Blood addendum; Disc 4 is Tunes From The Missing Channel ; and Disc 5 holds Displaced Masters, a collection of entirely Unreleased Versions From The Vault.
Joachim Nordwall’s iDEAL catch Bob Bellevue, sound guy for NYC’s ISSUE Project Room, working hard at the biting point of electro-acoustic feedback with Yamaha Deluxe - a continuation of the powerful, element beauty contained within his Damned Piano 2CD for Anarchymoon Recordings.
Using the Yamaha CFIIIS PE Grand Piano alluded to in the title as a sort of resonant tone generator, Bellevue applies a matrix of speakers, amps, pickups, contact miss, microphones, pedals, and a laptop running SuperCollider, to render the instrument as hardly heard before, wrenching out something more akin to a Stephen O’Malley solo guitar performance, or even an imagined O’Malley duet with Reinhold Friedl.
The session breaks down to five uncompromising live performances, banking a mass of complex, reverberating harmonics from shearing hi-register tones to guttural subduction in the 1st part, then with a more patient temperament in the 2nd, making the grand joanna sound like a primeval, wounded beast in its dying minutes. The 3rd section expresses 20 minutes of liminal, Drumm-like tone control calving into cavernous growls and thunder, and the relatively brief part 4 transitions from barely perceptible bass presence to bone-rubbed shudders, with the 5th track expanding that aesthetic to sound like a location recording made in the bowels of sunken warship.
What does the sun sound like? L’Orange, L’Orange, Gregg Kowalsky’s (Date Palms) first solo album in eight years, might have the answer.
"Its vivid music – sourced from analog synths and mixed on a laptop – arrives in rays of sound that shine skyward. There are many moods in each track, but the overarching aura is one of brightness and optimism. Hence the album title, which nods toward the radiant hue of our life-sustaining star.
The warm atmospheres of Miami (his birthplace) and Los Angeles (his home of 3years) infuse the luminous ambience of L’Orange, L’Orange. Kowalsky points to the album’s second track, “Maliblue Dream Sequence.” Its lapping synth waves mirror the time he spent working on the record at a friend’s home in the beachside city of Malibu. But you can hear echoes of blue “Tuned to Monochrome,” to the rising rhythm of “Pattern Haze,” to the sandy layers of “Ritual Del Croix.”
L’Orange, L’Orange isn’t just about brightness and bliss. It’s also about engrossing your mind – creating an omnipresence not unlike that shiny orange orb whose ubiquity defines our days and whose absence fills our nights. For Gregg Kowalsky, music can have that same kind of overpowering effect. The sounds of L’Orange, L’Orange can calm your nerves, warm your mood, and maybe even enlighten your mind."
Definitive compilation drawing together the original Digital Soundbwoys of Jamaican Dancehall culture, compiled with the help of Steve Barrow.
Reggae music is made to be played in the Dancehall, it is a functionalist music of the highest order and in the early 1980's when producers started switching onto digital instrumentation, and found they could produce far more powerful and effective sounds to play on their friends rigs, the whole culture of Jamaican music changed irreversibly.
This first volume of the two part vinyl set collects a wicked selection of out-and-out classics from Yellowman's 'Bam Bam', Tenor Saw 'Pumpkin Belly', Chaka Demus & Pliers' international 1992 hit 'Murder She Wrote', Junior Murvin's nut crackin' 'Cool Out Son', Ini Kamoze's Taxi sound special 'World A Music', Cutty Ranks' 'Chop Chop' and tonnes more nice-up sounds. Of course there's the obligatory and massively interesting liner notes too from Steve Barrow and the glorious full colour picture sleeves in classic Soul Jazz style. If you're into any form of dance music today, you really have to pay your dues and invest in this wicked set of pure dance history.
Call Super cocks a 2nd album of increasingly squirrelly electronics for Houndstooth, secreting the glittering nuts and bolts of his sound in a more fluid and dynamic brand of ambient techno mechanics.
Arriving three years on from his Suzi Ecto album, and a string of well-received DJ sets, solo 12”s and a collaboration with Beatrice Dillon over the interim, Arpo gathers Call Super’s recent studio thoughts in one place, coursing from mercurial IDM to jazzy flights of fancy and oneiric electro with a meticulous production style that’s become his trademark.
The ghosts of the 4th World, Red Planet martians, Irdiallian enigmas and golden era Warp haunt Arpo’s diffuse dimensions from the first chimes and clarinet plumes of Arpo thru the smoky electro-jazz of Out To Rust, following a silvery thread of logic that weaves between early hours dancefloor mindsets and late hours home listening from the glitchy hunch of OK Werkmeister to the sloshing brownian glitter of Music Stand, embracing Ethiopiques jazz in Arpo Sunk, and gently insistent future electro-funk with No Wonder We Go Under, and the hyaline electro-soul rubs of I Look Like I Look In A Tinfoil Hat.
Acid Jesus was the first of many collaborations between Roman Flügel and Jörn Elling Wuttke.
Situated in Frankfurt's thriving techno scene (and it´s holy label trinity of Playhouse, Klang and Ongaku), Flügel and Wuttke succeeded with their own and unique take on a sound that owed as much to Underground Resistance and the Belleville Three as it did to Sven Väth and Andrew Weatherall.
This epic set includes their best material circa 1992-1998, including a host of previously unrleeased pieces.
Restored and remastered by Chris Carter from 24bit 'baked tape' digital transfers of the original first generation analogue master tapes.
The tragic death of Peter 'Sleazy' Christopherson earlier this year signalled the end of Throbbing Gristle, whose surviving members are currently working to complete their final album before retiring the name. It couldn't be a more appropriate time to revisit their revolutionary records of the 1970s and 1980s, remastered by Chris Carter and reissued on Industrial Records.
Their first proper album, The Second Annual Report is essentially an edited collection of live and studio takes, and still sounds fresh and uncategorisable. 'Slug Bait' has lost none of its transgressive power: the ICA recording foregrounds Genesis P.Orridge's gleefully macabre lyrics (inhabiting the mind of a particularly nasty murderer), while the shorter Southampton and Brighton versions emphasise the minimal synth drones and sampled voices. 'Maggot Brain' sounds like 60s psychedelia that's taken a wrong turn and ended up in hell, while 'Live At Rat Club London' is probably the closest thing on here to the common conception of industrial, all disorientingly looped spoken vocals, brutally mechanized percussion and needling synthesizer jabs, while 'After Cease To Exist''s oppressive atmospherics - taking up an entire side of the original LP - pretty much gave birth to the entire dark ambient genre. The comparatively bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, Kraftwerk-influenced single 'United' - the tune that ushered in a million inferior cold wave pop bands - is included along with its gloriously compressed and distorted B-side 'Zyklon B Zombie'.
It's insane to think The Second Annual Report came out in '77, the same year as Never Mind The Bollocks. Pause for a moment and reflect on that, then press the buy button.
For fans of moody ‘80s pop pomp, Death of Lovers’ 2nd album, The Acrobat packs all the aching emo swoon and synthy licks you could hope for. Think New Order, Duran Duran, John Hughes movies, montages of Reagan/Thatcher economics in effect, and buckets of salty, sugary nostalgia.
“Since the 2014 release of Philly outfit Death of Lover’s acclaimed debut EP “Buried Under a World of Roses”, many wondered if a full length follow-up for the band was even possible – largely due to the extensive touring schedule of Domenic, Nick, and Kyle’s other band: Nothing. But between 2016 and 2017, the four piece band (that includes keyboard player CC Loo) was able to find the time to focus, demo, write, and carve out a stunning new direction and polished sound for the band. “The Acrobat” represents that labor of love, and Death of Lovers have created one of the most eye-opening alternative records we’ve heard in years.
Thoughtful compositions weave driving synths, drums and guitars through lock-step rhythm and nostalgia before shattering into intricate and spacious instrumental breaks. There is a welcome complexity and depth to the tracks, which dance between moody and sweeping to sparkling and bright – creating a beautiful contrast to the honest and dark lyrics.
On the album single “The Absolute”, Domenic’s vocals (accompanied in harmony by drummer Kyle Kimball) take on the topics of selfishness and greed - “All in all is trembling fear – bound to fall on bludgeoned bell rung ears. A senseless world of worth, deceived by needing, and the crow who perches on your tongue – reminding you it won’t be too long.”
“Lowly People” is the band’s answer to PULP’s “Common People”, cast through the lens of their own upbringing: the streets of Kensington, Philly – where “Broken glass shimmers like the stars, summer air breeds a certain violence.”
Somehow, The Acrobat achieves warm familiarity while sounding completely new. While the tracks could easily have been included on the soundtrack to every one of your favorite 80s films, there is a fresh perspective and process evident in the songwriting that rewrites the “post-punk” rulebook.”
’90s-styled indie-rock/shoegaze on Big Dada?
“EERA, the moniker of the Norwegian-born, London-based musician Anna Lena Bruland, will release her debut album Reflection Of Youth via Big Dada. Today she shares two tracks, “I Wanna Dance” and “Christine”, showcasing two facets of the upcoming, much anticipated Nick Rayner-produced record. On the upbeat “I Wanna Dance”, the pressures of modern life - financial, romantic and existential - are kept at bay by intervals of good, old-fashioned hedonism. “Christine”, a gentle song about courage, advice and family, is the album's emotional core.
Reflection Of Youth - which was recorded in a studio on a working dairy farm deep in the wilds of West Wales as well as in the producer’s home studio in Cork, Ireland - is an album of visceral beauty and blistering honesty. It is a brave, candid and uncompromising record about finding purpose from confusion and strength in your weaknesses. It’s about learning how to work through your problems and take charge of your own life, instead of relying on others to do it for you. Its ten songs were largely composed in the small hours of the night and are arguably best experienced in that context, when soul-searching and introspection come naturally.
For Anna Lena, the album is a document of a tumultuous chapter in her life. It’s very much about living through your twenties, which in Norwegian society are “the years when you’re supposed to figure everything out.”
Reflection Of Youth follows the release of last year’s eponymous debut EP which received radio support from Huw Stephens (BBC Radio 1), Lauren Laverne and Tom Ravenscroft (BBC 6 Music) as well as critical praise from the likes of The Sunday Times and Time Out New York who included “Drive With Fear” in their Best Songs Of 2016 list.
On Reflection Of Youth, EERA’s sound has already evolved into something rawer, rockier and noticeably angrier. "It was a really odd experience to listen back to the record and realise what I'd made," says Anna Lena. "I was surprised by how different, how much more powerful it felt from the EP. Those songs sounded like I was quietly knocking on the door, trying to get in, whereas the album feels like I'm stepping through it." If Anna Lena set out to achieve anything, she says, “it was to make an incredibly honest record that would give people a real sense of who I am. I think it’s important to be vulnerable, to not be afraid of showing emotion and be open about it with the people around you. We all face problems in our lives, so why not meet them head-on?”
Surely the UK’s most prized punk-funk group, Golden Teacher tighten the screws to loosen your hips with No Luscious Life, an instant-classic debut album of seven incredibly infectious tracks getting to grips with all of GT’s worldly influences, and then some.
Since emerging on Optimo Music to a round of acclaim in 2013, the band have revealed their Green Door Studios home to be an unparalleled hotbed of creativity for themselves and Glasgow’s finest freeks, but arguably keeping a neck ahead of everyone else thru their untamed diversity and skill at refreshing vintage aesthetics.
No Luscious Lie is the strongest, well-rounded testament yet to their sound, kicking off with the ESG space bounce of Sauchiehall Withdrawal to cycle thru influences ranging from Senegalese talking drums - think Mark Ernestus’ Ndagga Rhythm Force on bucky - with Diop, before cooling out with the preppy Detroit funk of Spiritron and the heat-warped Afro-disco soul strut of The Kazimier, reprising the dubby depth of their Dennis Bovell hook-up with Shatter (Version), and playfully bending time ’n space like some Bruce Haack-meets-Craig Leon screwball on What Fresh hell Is This?
Bibio makes his most affective move in a while with the wistful, nostalgic reflections of Phantom Brickworks; an elegant ambient meditation on the intangible aura or spirit that people imbue places with, and vice-versa.
Over the years since Fi, Bibio’s BoC-like (or lite) debut for, we’ve variously heard Bibio as ambient dreamer, soft-boogie whiz, and folktronica bard. However, by swiping away the beats entirely and following his improvisational instincts, Phantom Brickworks seems to dwell at the square root of all those styles, divining and calling forth a ghostly, melancholic spirit which lingered in the background and between the cracks of all his previous releases.
In terms of its autumnal, decayed pallor and silty sense of depth perception, not to mention to obvious themes of nostalgia and memory stimulus, Phantom Brickworks operates in very similar realms of the imagination to The Caretaker, conveying a very particular, elusively eldritch brand of sehnsucht or hiraeth; a feeling that defies concrete description, but you know when you feel it.
No hyperbole; Phantom Brickworks is the loveliest album Warp have released in a while.
While the righteousness of blackness is at the heart of the Rastafarian faith, this collection illustrates how black pride remained a central theme, if not the defining essence, at the very core of all the music created at Studio One Records.
"Black Man’s Pride is the striking new Studio One collection of deep heavyweight reggae featuring Horace Andy, Alton Ellis, The Gladiators, Sugar Minott, The Heptones, Freddie McGregor, Cedric Brooks & more.
In order to understand the centrality of black identity in the music created at Studio One, we need look no further than Clement ‘Sir Coxsone’ Dodd who, who created the first black-owned record company in Jamaica.
In similar fashion Alton Ellis’s defining ‘Black Man’s Pride’ brings up emotions that are at the heart of many of these uplifting songs. Alton Ellis’ birthplace was the Trench Town ghetto of Kingston, also the birthplace of The Wailers, Ken Boothe and many other Studio One luminaries.
Clement Dodd established a musical empire firmly rooted by the core musicians working at Studio One many of whom came out of the Alpha School for Wayward Boys, run by Roman Catholic nuns, whose luminaries include Don Drummond, Johnny Moore, Leroy ‘Horsemouth’ Wallace, Cedric Brooks, Vin Gordon, Tommy McCook & more.Many of the songs featured here come from the transitory phase in reggae at the start of the 1970s. After the exhilaration of Ska and following the cooling down of Rocksteady. While reggae awaited the arrival of roots, Studio One’s vocalists were already producing some of the moodiest music imaginable! Here are 18 heavyweight tunes, both classic cuts and super-rare tunes!"
Beautiful new album from longtime Room 40 friend and collaborator Ueno Takashi
"I confess to being in a state of ceaseless awe when it comes to Tokyo guitarist, Ueno Takashi. I have had the pleasure to know Ueno now for well over 10 years. In that time he has remained a source of constant curiosity and surprise. Just when I think I have the man pegged, he throws out some unex-pected musical gesture that completely catches me off guard. Whether it be his work with Saya in Tennis-coats, or his almost endless stream of solo releases, many of which exist in very short run editions, his mu-sic typifies a tireless desire to explore. Recently Ueno’s curve ball has been his project Off Strings with Vice Japan, where he talks to leading Ja-panese guitarists. It’s an incredible series of interviews, which I heartily recommend checking out.
The re-sults have been quite extraordinary and his session with Haino Keiji a personal favourite of mine. Yet an-other pleasant surprise from this maestro. Over the course of his previous solo recordings for Room40, Ueno has tested very reductive compositional approaches. Each of the records has created a precise and unique approaches to guitar. Sui-Gin, his first solo for us, almost 10 years old, remains one of Room40’s most individual sounding recordings. It’s a col-lection of alien tones, uneasy yet beautiful. To this day I still can’t quite imagine how he drew so much harmonic richness from such a limited palette; one instrument and one pedal. Smoke Under The Water, a title I can only assume maintains at least a little humour about it, is easily the most beautiful record Ueno has made in recent years. Here, the lushness of his playing meets head on this is minimalist compositional heart. This record bares a close attention to detail. That is not to say it is fussed over or seeking some kind of state of perfection. On the contrary this is a record about perfor-mance, about taking a beautiful compositional idea and seeking to document it with the life and breath that is so critical to solo instrumental works. I implore you to listen to one of Japan’s true master’s of his craft."
Lawrence English, October 2017
As promised, Throbbing Gristle cough up what is essentially their Best Of… on vinyl for the first time, repackaging and expanding their 2004 CD, The Taste of TG (A Beginner’s Guide to the Music of Throbbing Gristle), with Almost A Kiss, taken from the Part Two - The Endless Not album, which serves to now bookend the collection between 1975-2007 and offer a broader, truer picture of the nonpareil, infinitely influential group’s jagged timeline.
There’s nowt we can add to the mountain of writing already on Throbbing Gristle. But, in context of the release, for the uninitiated, afeared, or just plain ignorant listeners out there who haven’t a clue what TG are about, we advise cupping this album with both hands and drinking deeply, then deciding which of their bloods tastes the strongest, and pitching yourself down the rabbit hole of their corresponding catalogue. Then read Cosey Fanni Tutti’s Art Sex Music to put it all in historic context.
You’ll thank yourself for it soon enough, even if the neighbours don’t.
James Holden and pals converge on a raucous psych-folk-tronica sound presumably meant for cider-soaked harvest festivals and grazing thru fields of magic mushies. Ecstatically giddy and eldritch-tinted stuff.
“Let yourself be transported to a magical other world of instinct and intuition with this bold new set of synth-led folk-trance standards from electronics guru James Holden and his newly-expanded band of fellow travellers The Animal Spirits. A wild ride that unites the characteristic propulsive melodic vigour of his custom-made modular synthesizer system with an unlikely supporting cast of brass, wind and live percussion, the expansive and transformative psychedelic journey of The Animal Spirits is certainly eternal outsider Holden’s most ambitious work to date – but surely also his most direct and accessible.
Since the release of 2013’s epic pagan saga The Inheritors, the kraut-tinged synth-and-drum core of the live touring outfit assembled by Holden to spread his alternative electronic message around the world has picked up several additional members along the way. Legendary jazz band leaders Don Cherry and Pharoah Sanders provided the blueprint for this quest to assemble “something like a spiritual jazz band playing folk / trance music”, but here cornet (Marcus Hamblett) and saxophone (Etienne Jaumet) function as the complement to the star soloist of Holden’s ever-strident synth. Meanwhile drummer Tom Page’s is inextricably bound to Holden's synth care of self-coded interactive drummer-following software, keeping pace with the almost imperceptible – yet unmistakably human – micro-errors in timing which lend live drums their natural magical groove. Thus Holden’s drummer is liberated from the brutal tyranny of the click track and a new organic symbiotic relationship between human and machine is unlocked. Producer Holden’s creative control over the project is absolute, from building his own synth and software, writing the musical backbone and steering his players, to self-recording, self-mixing and eventually also self-releasing the finished collection on his own imprint.
This heady blend of the electronic and the acoustic came into being during the hot and sticky summer of 2016 under the direction of fledgling band leader Holden at his Sacred Walls studio in London. In a bid to capture what he calls the unfakeable “psychic communication” of a group performance, The Animal Spirits was recorded live in one room together in single takes, no overdubs, no edits, in accordance with his own self-imposed dogma.
What has emerged out of these sessions is a genre-blending new form of universal music that feels inherently fluid and alive. Just one example of the record's wide-ranging influences, the relentless, elastic and hypnotic polyrhythms of 'Pass Through The Fire' grew out of Holden’s 2014 trip to Morocco to work with legend of Gnawa music Maalem Mahmoud Guinia. The first song he wrote for the band, 'Pass Through The Fire' took shape over months of pre-show dressing room practice, as Holden set about transmitting the distinctive Gnawa rhythm to drummer Page. It soon made its way into the pair's live shows, adding Jaumet's on-the-hop improvised sax contributions further down the line. Holden says, "This was where I got the idea that songs are just backbones or seeds and the strong ones teach/reveal themselves to the players rather than the other way round."
Phantasy release ‘Reworks Volume 1’, a comprehensive collection of remixes from prodigious DJ and producer Erol Alkan.
"‘Reworks Volume 1’ is a musical overview of what makes Erol Alkan one of his generation’s most iconic remixers. Framing a corner of his career in perspective - a success in taking on any source material and melding it into something of his own. Alkan’s philosophy towards a remix is to ‘re- produce’work as if the original never existed. Avoiding methods like the transplanting of a vocal on a contemporary dance beat, or adding a four-to-the-floor 808 kick drum underneath a rock band, Alkan instead takes a considered approach to build something new that offers a fresh and divergent take on the music in front of him.
This collection of reworks illustrates that his distinct style of remixing is just another layer in what makes Erol Alkan unique to dance music. Unpredictable but equipped with a Midas touch - you never quite know what’s coming but you can count on it to be special, a quality shared between both his DJ sets and his production work. Erol Alkan is a dance music artist with an alternative sensibility, a psychedelic approach and a punk outlook - what makes him stand apart in dance music is what makes him one of the genre’s most enduring and influential artists.
‘Reworks Volume 1’ looks back on over a decade of realigning other artists, including his classic versions of Justice’s ‘Waters Of Nazareth’, Connan Mockasin’s ‘Forever Dolphin Love’ and Death From Above 1979’s ‘Romantic Rights’, remixes that have added new perspective and dimensions to the originals, at times performing alchemy, turning rock into dance music on reworks for Franz Ferdinand, Interpol and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and he’s just as comfortable taking on fellow dance music producers like Lindstrøm, Daft Punk and Hot Chip - a connection which lead to the classic rework of ‘Boy From School’."
Out of print for 17 years, this double CD features collaborations with Coil, Diana Rogerson, Jim O'Rourke, William Bennett, Legendary Pink Dots, Foetus, Current 93, David Tibet, Tony Wakeford, Inflatable Sideshow, Aranos, Chris Wallis/Peat Bog and Tiny Tim.
NWW’s Steven Stapleton corrals 15 of his collaborations with Coil, Stereolab, Diana Rogerson, Jim O’Rourke, William Bennett, Legendary Pink Dots, Foetus, Current 93, David Tibet, Tony Wakeford, Inflatable Sideshow, Aranos, Chris Wallis/Peat Bog and Tiny Tim on the first, long out-of-print volume of The Swinging Reflective, offering a perfect opportunity to catch up for anyone who copped the recently released 2nd volume.
Max Richter’s soundtrack to Disconnect 
Featuring Jason Bateman and directed by Henry-Alex Rubin. Probably best known and loved for the lump-in-throat strings of the lead track, On The Nature Of Daylight, which has become one Richter’s standout moments in a catalogue littered with beauties.
First ever vinyl edition of Justin Broadrick's crushing industrial turns as JK Flesh for Hospital Productions, combining the Suicide Estate and Antibiotic Armageddon releases for a greyscale spectrum of brutalist techno / abyssal acid dub / tramadol tribalism / noxious noise textures that's highly recommended if you're into Regis, Birmingham at night, Kareem...
It's an unflinchingly bleak representation of the world described in hard edged techno and shot thru with moments of affective, synthy pathos. In sonic and literal tone, the record forms a stark reflection on Justin K Broadrick Brummie stomping grounds, using demolished tower blocks as cues for some of the album’s most affective moments, such as the wrecking ball assault of Bayley Tower [New Mix], the rubbled rolige of Stoneycroft Tower, or the ‘marish zumby techno lurch of Bromford Bridge Estate, and all in a way that surely dovetails with the perceptions of anyone who has lived in a built up British area, or anywhere else with lots of concrete and little sunlight.
The other half of the tracks are taken from and titled in reference to Antibiotic Armageddon - the inevitable point when pill-gobbling citizens of the world are no longer protected against old viruses, and new ones. The tone of these cuts is understandably bleak af, too. Tamiflu dry-wretches a windswept passage of bummed-out dub techno breaks, where Squalene [New Mix] glumly follows suit with the clammy synth malaise of Ethylene Glycol and the knee-buckled crawler Thimerosal, which sounds like one of his Godflesh tracks in the process of terrifying itself to death.
Heartless is the new album from Brock Van Wey's epic ambient guise bvdub.
"Those who have been able catch him live have found themselves undoubtedly immersed in sound. With Van Wey's “ebb“ warmly cradling you in juxtaposition to the “flow” that teeters near the thresholds of human aural acceptance. There is no denying it, he excels at and revels in filling spaces with swirling waves of emotive tone. Heartless, for those keeping track, is his 29th bvdub album, origi- nally borne from the intention of reflecting the concepts and experience of a series of live shows from months and years before... a kind of prologue, as it were, that could further explain the painful impetus behind those live forays, and the life he attempted to escape within them.
However, shortly into the writing process, he found Heartless became something more than even he intended: an even greater layered, monumental, and autonomous experience than its original intention - and swept itself into a life of its own.
We've been treated to beat-less bvdub works before, but with Heartless, Van Wey has created something far more monolithic than what has come before it. The album starts as bvdub album's sometimes do: warm washes of sound below the soulfully angelic vocals that Van Wey often gravitates to, this time distant echoes, it seems. But with Heartless this is only your introduction... easing you in before plunging to the deep end. As time passes, what voices existed drown below visceral, amor- phous, unabashed waves of sound that are wholeheartedly more sinister in temperament than his previous works, and the perfect manifestation of n5MD's "heart to hands" ideology."
Following last year's ‘Previously Unreleased’ album and its run of nine weekly 12” vinyl EPs, Trevor Jackson has compiled a second volume of 20 tracks (11 unheard and 9 previously vinyl only).
"The music featured is a collection of reworked demos and unreleased recordings. A hedonistic mix of raw Disco, Dub, Funk, Dancehall. Electro, New Wave & Post Punk that all still sound as relevant today as they did when initially recorded for the debut PLAYGROUP album during 1997 - 2001."
Lindstrøm launches his most concerted pop effort with 4th solo album, It’s Alright Between Us As It Is, neatly incorporating vocals by Jenny Hval, Frida Sundemo, and Grace Hall in a seamless segue of seven sleek and disco-ready songs adapting 40 years of dancefloor history to a timeless but fresh style.
Spire lifts off with lagging ‘70s drums and Vangelis-style synth streaks, tailing off into the lattice of latinate ‘80s arpeggios in Tensions, and a purring beauty named But Isn’t It starring Sweden’s Frida Sundemo, and something resembling ‘90s trance breaks for disco mums and dads with Shinin feat. Grace Hall.
Drift gives room for some twanging instrumental expression, and Jenny Hval voices the album’s most impressive piece with a hushed, cryptic performance on the bittersweet acidic twyst of Bungl (Like a Ghost), fading out into a neo-classical keys and tempered symphonic lift of Under Trees.
Sublime dream-pop beauty from Colleen, a gorgeous and crucial push and pull of experimental urges and pop immediacy. Make sure to check the brain-dancing percolations of ‘Another World’ and her exquisitely off-kilter title track. RIYL Arthur Russell, Teresa Winter, Delia Derbyshire...
Recorded in the wake of the 2015 Paris attack, which occurred just as she was visiting, A Flame My Love, A Frequency, finds Colleen setting aside her trusted viola de gamba to incorporate a Critter & Guitari pocket piano synthesiser and newly acquired Moog filter pedal into her feathered dub propulsion system, buoying her reflections on life and death, and bird-watching, with a creamy, bubbling backdrop that’s perhaps at odds, or even in defiance of personal strife in the preceding year.
Described in avian swoops, zig-zagging arpeggios and aerial shimmers, she flies the fine line between sorrow and beauty in a way that reflects that brutality and grace of the natural world as much as the scenes of Parisian cafes under blue skies which would turn into a bloodbath only hours later. This dichotomy lies at the heart of A Flame My Love, A Frequency, as Colleen navigates a flux of strong feelings between the exquisite instrumental melancholy of November thru to the title track’s plaintive cubist folk keen, emulating the sensation of flapping your wings hard against the headwind with Separating, and offering a sublime, necessary space for introspection with Summer Night (Bat Song), whilst the gently frothing, pizzicato piquancy of The Stars vs Creatures and One Warm Spark lend a more optimistic spin in their wistful shimmers, crucially not forgetting to dream in the face of so much shite.
'The Winds Rise in the North' is a colossal, trance-inducing, yet largely overlooked pillar of 20th century American minimalism.
Regarded no less than a "holy grail" by Keith Fullerton Whitman, it spans 100 minutes of atonal, amorphous string composition scored in four parts for a quintet, here performed by Linda Cummiskey (Violin), Malcolm Goldstein (Violin), Kathy Seplow (Violin), Stephen Reynolds (Viola), David Gibson (Violoncello).
By all accounts Harley Gaber was a colourful fella, a complex American artist, composer and filmmaker who dropped it all not long after release of this 1976 work to become a full time Tennis player and coach. He would return to the arts, and later music, writing soundtracks for his own films before sadly committing suicide in 2011.
'The Winds Rise in the North' is a frighteningly heavy and rewarding master-stroke, giving rise to dense, gripping harmonic overtones which prickle, seduce and get under the skin in a way that few others achieve. Lock the doors, turn off your phone and give yourself two hours with this. You won't regret it.
"We would like to point out that this piece is extremely quiet. Please choose the volume setting of your sound system so as to just barely mask the ambient sounds of the room"
Jakob Ullmann: "voice, books and FIRE is the result of my reflections about the relationship between music and language: language as sound and language as text, the numerous relationships between texts of different cultural and religious traditions, between the work of the human spirit in the present and in the past and the questions arising from the problem of understanding these different traditions, languages and texts and representing them in a present, which has lost knowledge about substantial parts, even of its own tradition and history."
In Jakob Ullmann's 2nd release through Editions RZ, solemn, practically whispered incantations and creaking extended vocal technique of eight singers play in half-lit, wide open mid-air against the phosphorescing resonance of viola, violoncello, saxophone and flute. Recorded 1st July, in the Abteikirche Neresheim. Recommended
New York-based percussionist and sound artist Eli Keszler dropped jaws last year with his unstoppable one-two punch of the ‘Red Horse’ LP on Type and ‘Cold Pin’ on PAN. Admittedly this was the first most listeners had heard from him, but new devotees were quick to fall over each other to grab anything else Keszler had put his name to, so it’s a fan service from PAN that they’ve put together this bumper double CD that collects up all the disparate pieces of the Cold Pin recordings.
The original installation was set up in Boston’s cavernous Cyclorama gallery, and finds Keszler stretching gigantic strings across the walls and letting small motorized hammers ‘play’ them at random intervals. Accompanied by a group of similarly outré minds (Geoff Mullen, Greg Kelley, Reuben Son and wife Ashley Paul) the musicians played to the randomized booming strings, and now, unlike the studio recordings we heard on the previously released LP we can hear the piece in full unedited form, together with the gigantic reverb of the room itself.
Probably the most stunning addition to the original pieces though is Keszler’s recordings of the Cold Pin exhibit he set up in Shriveport Louisiana, where the strings were stretched across two large empty water purification basins. You probably have an idea of how that might sound, but needless to say Thomas Koner’s peerless ‘Permafrost’ might be a good place to start. Elsewhere we’re treated to a full ensemble recording (with the Providence string quartet), which reframes the piece as a defiantly modern re-imagining of Ligeti – dissonant, disconcerting and gruesomely eerie. Even if you’ve already bagged the LP you won’t want to miss out on ‘Catching Net’, it’s yet more proof that at only 28 years old Eli Keszler is already one of the most important voices in the experimental music scene right now. Highly recommended.
Lee Gamble jacks directly into a latent stream of electronic wonder with his dream-like 'Koch' opus for PAN.
Running to 76 minutes over 16 tracks, it's Gamble's most substantial and arguably definitive work, following the beautifully effective 'Diversions 1994-1996' and 'Dutch Tvashar Plumes' releases for PAN in 2012. Where those records deconstructed the elusive, enigmatic timbre of '90s electronic dance music - jungle, techno, ambient - 'Koch' (pron. 'Cotch' - UK slang for relax) is a sort of 'Pataphysical reflection and projection of what lies beyond; a symbolic, imaginary solution to what could be perceived as a dearth of "soul" in modern electronic dance music, searching for a feeling that's all too often forgotten in current styles. And quite crucially, 'Koch' provides considered answers from a singular, if ever-shifting perspective, at once uncannily detached yet incredibly intimate, with the acute ability to recalibrate the mind's lense between abstract dimensions.
To pick individual tracks apart would be beside the point. The album works as a wormhole, or perhaps how we've come to imagine what a wormhole is from VR representations in movies, TV, and computer games - seeming to dissolve us between first and third person narratives, club and home listening environments, and the fleeting waves of emotion (narcotised or not) which perfuse and colour the hallucinatory spaces between. It's a very timely reminder of electronic music's efficacy in expressing the alien and a contemporary "otherness", and comes with a huge recommendation for immersive heads and dancefloor freaks alike.
Faith In Strangers’ was written and produced between January 2013 and June 2014, and was edited and sequenced in late July this year. Making use of on an array of instruments, field recordings, found sounds and vocal treatments, it’s a largely analogue variant of hi-tech production styles arcing from the dissonant to the sublime.
The first two tracks recorded during these early sessions bookend the release, the opener ‘Time Away’ featuring Euphonium played by Kim Holly Thorpe and last track ‘Missing’ a contribution by Stott’s occasional vocal collaborator Alison Skidmore who also appeared on 2012’s ‘Luxury Problems’. Between these two points ‘Faith In Strangers’ heads off from the sparse and infected ‘Violence’ to the broken, downcast pop of ‘On Oath’ and the motorik, driving melancholy of ‘Science & Industry’ - three vocal tracks built around that angular production style that imbues proceedings with both a pioneering spirit and a resonating sense of familiarity.
Things take a sharp turn with ‘No Surrender’- a sparkling analogue jam making way for a tough, smudged rhythmic assault, while ‘How It Was’ refracts sweaty Warehouse signatures and ‘Damage’ finds the sweet spot between RZA’s classic ‘Ghost Dog’ and Terror Danjah at his most brutal. ‘Faith in Strangers’ is next and offers perhaps the most beautiful and open track here, its vocal hook and chiming melody bound to the rest of the album via the almost inaudible hum of Stott’s mixing desk. It provides a haze of warmth and nostalgia that ties the nine loose joints that make up the LP into the most memorable and oddly cohesive of Stott’s career to date, built and rendered in the spirit of those rare albums that straddle innovation and tradition through darkness and light.
Bruce Russell is a New Zealand experimental musician and writer. He is a founding member and guitarist of the seminal noise rock trio The Dead C and the free noise combo A Handful of Dust (with Alastair Galbraith). He has released solo albums featuring guitar and tape manipulation.
"In summer of 2013, Bruce Russell's daughter Olive Russell uploaded a documentary of her father that she shot and edited herself called "27 Minutes with Mr. Noisy: A Documentary about Bruce Russell" to Vimeo.com. "This will be alien music to many listeners. Guitars tuned to the occult settings of revenants like Skip James and then played with a knife in an uncanny re-contextualising of the sound of beer bottles against guitar strings on the original Metallic K.O.; massively deformed electronics that sound like swarms of static, that sound like the needle eating the vinyl; radio interference; broke down piano; sledgehammer fuzz… this is the sound of taking a live Stooges meltdown as the keys to the goddamn kingdom and as a secret intimation of the arc of the future. Now here it is" Taken from the sleevenotes of 'Metallic OK' by David Keenan, author of 'This Is Memorial Device'.
After a long hiatus, Hyetal comes of age as a dance-pop artist in the mould of Jam City with ‘Youth & Power’, incorporating synths and songwriting by Gwilym Gold and post production by James Ginzburg (Emptyset).
"Coming together over three years since his critically acclaimed last album, Hyetal completes his transformation from off-kilter dance music producer to futurist pop visionary on Youth & Power. 'Previously my approach to writing music was very rooted in escapism,' says David Corney aka Hyetal. 'I began experiencing a sense of detachment in my life which led me to question how healthy this approach was. I wanted music to help me feel connected again.' Wrenching his music free from the 'confines of computer grids' and pushing melody to the forefront, Youth & Power's texturally rich, psychedelic palette is littered with live played synths, electric guitars, drum machines, processed noise and 'some under-loved 70s home keyboards' recorded at Hyetal's South London home studio.
'I'd describe it as experimental pop music,' says Hyetal. 'the sound is in part a return to music I was listening to as a kid, more song- and instrument-based.' Youth & Power is Hyetal's debut as a vocalist, also scrapping samples in favour of live instrumentation and hook-laden songwriting laced with myriad influences. 'I took some time out to teach myself how to sing using an app on my phone. At first I found my vocals worked best for me when there was some distance from the natural sound of my voice so everything was abstracted through a few different processes.' he explains, 'As I became more comfortable singing I decided I wanted to contrast this approach and use some natural sounding vocals that embraced the imperfections'. The album strikes a balance between robotic Kraftwerkian simplicity and soulful organic pop, contrasting the various pitch-shifting and abstracting vocal effects with sharply concise lyrics. Semblances of Hyetal's origins in Bristol's early dubstep movement are still present too, deep inside the album's meticulous rhythm beds. Elsewhere chiming retro keyboard notes and drum machine beats at times recall the likes of Yellow Magic Orchestra contrasting against waves of guitars and noise which bring to mind the influence of Bauhaus and other post punk experimentalists.
Written as a form of catharsis for Hyetal in his search to return his music from detachment, Youth & Power seeps a sense of hope. 'I found from a distance the most immediate workings of humanity can appear extremely brutal', says Hyetal, 'but when looking through this lens you miss the beauty that happens in the moment.'
Redeemer is the brutally seductive debut album by Phase Fatale, a key player in the recent charge of EBM and post punk-informed industrial techno infecting ‘floors from his home city, NYC to his DJ residency at Berghain, Berlin.
In Dominick Fernow’s Hospital Productions, Phase Fatale finds a fitting home for his personalised brand of clinical, rictus rhythm programming and searing synth and guitar lines, adding a vital streak of black and blue electric energy to the legendary label in its 20th year of cultish operation.
In seven parts (and a trio of extended Silent Servant mixes due to come), Redeemer follows the direct, jagged lines of his 12”s for Jealous God and Unterton to a deeply personal realisation of weaponised sonics, upholding a strong tradition of techno as a prophetic exercise or ritual to gird dancers and listeners for the onset of future war. It presents Phase Fatale as an ultimate emissary of electronic violence and domination in the process, steeling the limbic system and muscle memory thru a fine-tuned disciplinarian approach to pharmacokinetics and biomechanics.
Picking from the leather-bound cadaver of industrial dance music past, he reanimates his influences with pointillist precision and unapologetic force. Alloying muscular bass and metallic percussion with wire-combed 16th note synthlines and a barbed perimeter of guitar distortion, his sound can be heard as a metaphorical representation of holding your line against the attrition of a degenerated present.
Each track dances concisely around the 5 minute mark, unfolding a series of densely packed and subtly rendered minimalist/maximalist structures. The shuddering tension of Spoken Ashes opens with banks of rotted chorales against a coalface of hacking stabs, establishing a pent vibe that vacillates precariously thru the adrenalised battery of Operate Within, to the clenched funk of Human Shield and the bombed-out, Alberich-alike Interference, seeming to resolve slightly with the supple roll of Order of Severity, before Beast bottoms out into immolating synth distortion, and Redeemer brings up the rear with a coolly-tempered, stoic form of industrial ecstasy.
Adam Taylor’s emotional, swelling score to “The Handmaid’s Tale”.
"Taylor is a film score composer based in Long Beach, California known for his subdued, emotional, and minimalistic scores. He has become a prominent and sought after composer in the indie film space, most recently scoring BEFORE I FALL from director Ry Russo-Young.
“The systems are the antagonist of the series, a relentless and indifferent force that is slowly disfiguring society and the inhabitants of Gilead,” Taylor explained. “I thought about it like waves of sound, waves that slowly grew in volume and dissonance until it overcame the senses.” This score will appeal to fans of Brian Reitzell’s “Hannibal”, along with more acoustic works by Clint Mansell and Cliff Martinez."
Kjetil André Mulelid – piano Bjørn Marius Hegge - double bass Andreas Skår Winther – drums
"Following in the footsteps of In The Country and Espen Eriksen Trio, Kjetil Mulelid Trio is the third piano trio to appear on Rune Grammofon. Although they can be placed in the same musical landscape, it´s also fair to say there are certain obvious differences. There´s a solid dose of youthful playfulness and curiosity at work here, at the same time they show an assured maturity that belies their age (26, 26 and 29).
The music is based on compositions by pianist Mulelid - inspired by everything from psalms to free jazz - but there is also room for collective improvisation. It can be energetic, rhythmically complex and harmonically rich, but also intimate and with a beautiful melody. They work purely with acoustic sounds and timbres and are constantly reaching for new ways to express themselves within these frames."
Alessio Natalizia aka Not Waving rides the wave of a lifetime on his magnum opus, Good Luck.
His second album for Diagonal is an emotional but fiercely optimistic LP of skewed cathartic dance-pop written in the midst of these dark and uncertain times, fine-tuning 20 years of recording and rave experience into a vibrant, pop-ready statement that’s never felt so necessary.
It abandons the sensitive streak hinted at on Animals, his debut LP for Diagonal, to pursue a creative hunch for concision and social unity. This new perspective drives the album’s flux of emotions and guides what some may find to be a utopian outlook, wrapping his trademark experimental urges, clever song arrangements and winking edits in a larger narrative: a new system, if you like, that offers a way out of the contemporary condition towards something pure, sweaty and wild. After all, rave ‘floors were conceived for many as a way to forget/abandon the dark undercurrents of late 80s political turmoil.
The record is constructed as an album proper and follows a novel narrative: from the ego-pinching computer punk of Me Me Me, which jabs it into action, to the new wave thrust of Tool [I Don’t Give A Sh*t] and the ambient flush of Roll Along With The Pain Of It All [I’ll Text U], Natalizia clearly delights in taking us on a frenzied ride, but he never forgets his fondness for contemporary club culture [see the fulminating iridescent EBM-pop of Where Are We — with Marie Davidson guesting on vocals — or the acidic punk jabs of Watch Yourself].
Good Luck is a thrillingly positive record — like a big slice of pink and blue sponge cake, it’s delicious, sweet, creamy and wonderful. And that’s the thing: even the title feels like a much-needed injection of optimism, a return to the utopian ideals of rave. Contemporary politics/culture/life/love/music/media seem to be infected by a feeling of impending dread — of fear, alienation, division. Perhaps it’s the job of artists to present an alternative vision for the world [and music] rather than simply to reflect one’s reality back into the echo chamber of their own lives.
Sound artist Tomoko Sauvage adds the gorgeous, elemental waterbowl recordings of Musique Hydromantique to a wonderful run of 2017 releases on Félicia Atkinson & Bartolomé Sanson's Shelter Press. Quite possibly the most soothing hour of music you'll experience all year
It will become hard to believe once you’ve heard it, but all sounds on the LP were improvised with acoustic technique and recording - meaning no electronics, edits or overdubs - whilst they effectively sound like the microtonal output of some unique, natural synthesiser affected by subtle variables such as temperature, architecture, humidity and human presence. If Philip Corner and Eliane Radigue ever made a record together, it may well sound like Musique Hydromantique.
Using a set-up of hydrophones (underwater mics) and porcelain bowls filled with varying amounts of water, developed by the artist over the better part of this decade, Musique Hydromantique forms a meditative, experimental study in rhythm and pitch which resonates with gamelan and ancient divination techniques as much as it does with minimalist modern electronics. The results are utterly captivating in their fluid timbres and plaintively plangent structure, rendering the elusive, ever-changing and hypnotic phenomena of moving water in three diverse states or sonic sculptures that patently demonstrate a deep, underlying and innate connection between the performer, her medium, and the listener.
Clepsydra - meaning ‘water clock’ - most closely resembles a form of gamelan practice, or, even some form of minimal electronic music. For ten minutes she renders a series of exquisitely variegated sonic glyphs gestured from her struck bowls and hands changing the quantities of water, and by extension, the pitch of each bowl. Tomoko makes a real virtue of everyday sounds, resulting in a time-dilating passage of smooth glissandi, elegantly unshackling our internal clocks from the anticipation of quantised convention.
Fortune Biscuit follows in a very different style. Here, the brownian flow yields a remarkable micro-ecology of sounds that almost mimic animals, cyborganic mechanisms and insect choruses, yet they were entirely generated by a piece of porous terra cotta (biscuit) dipped into water. The scuttling patterns are perhaps understandable in that context, but we’re utterly baffled how they also make those pealing, arcing harmonic partials. In the final, 20 minute piece, Calligraphy those techniques serve to gel and diffuse her water-based sounds in even more bewildering fashion, as she employs the 10 second reverbs of an old textile factory to render her delicate, subaquatic sounds in a play of fractious drips, haptic rubs and their resonant feedback, feeling to melt time entirely and open a tranquil space for divination of your own senses in between those perceptions of time and tone.
This is a record that seems to have been designed to promote ultimate well being, it will completely engulf and subsume your senses and keep your attention rapt from start to finish. And we'd echo Tomoko's request that you listen to it at the start or end of the day for optimal results - far healthier than a spliff or night cap and will set your mood like some kind of ancient tuning fork.
Prodigal avant synth-pop star John Maus - an important early collaborator with Ariel Pink (who guests here) - returns to the scene he was instrumental in setting with Screen Memories, marking up his first album since We Must Become The Pitiless Censors Of Ourselves  and one of the most addictive records of the year thus far.
The palette remains mostly unchanged from his chain of previous Maus classics, as written for and released by Upset! The Rhythm and Ribbon Music during the ‘00s. But the tone, timbre and layering of his synths, drum machines and vocals in Screen Memories are discernibly tweaked for emphasised flavour and emotive affect. The results find Maus better expressing his contemporary concerns thru the prism of outmoded equipment, giving voice to the truth of timeless, absurd matters in an ever-more personalised style of pop articulation.
Under the wonderfully evocative header Screen Memories, a title which simultaneously conjures reflective, nostalgic imagery and possibly suggests a sort of picnoleptic reaction to the hypermodern narcissistic condition, Maus parses his own image and sense of self from the TV ‘snow’ or distortion of reality. It appears as a self who can’t escape the formative digital tang of the ‘80s which underlines so much of the modern world, yet a one who lives and dreams in the here-and-now.
It’s a supremely smart demonstration of avant-pop as playful metaphor, with Maus merging/duetting ever closer to his fine-tuned synth as a form of basic AI, occupying a strange harmonic uncanny valley of phosphorescing shadowplay between his probing hooks, bathing in the plasmic timbre or temporal and cognitive dissonance of late capitalism.
The Basic Channel don meets the folk musicians of Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan for a beguiling exchange and fusion of traditions crossing paths between haunting acapella vocals, virtuosic instrumentation and sublime, dub-wise 4th world panoramas.
Locating MVO diversifying his bonds along outernational vectors, just like his BC bandmate Mark Ernestus with Ndagga Rhythm Force or Obadiah, the results form a series of studio portraits and wistful, impressionistic abstractions. They transport us to a place well off the usual map, to rugged lands once crossed by The Silk Road, where preserved, ancient traditions still reveal ghostly traces of the voices and sonic cultures which passed thru them.
The original arrangements of Ordo Sakhna range from complex, airborne string flights to nerve-jangling mouth harp pieces and a few stunning acapella pieces, which to our untrained ears resemble both Middle eastern, Indian classical and Chinese traditions, whilst the Drums track would appear to catch MVO in lissom fusion with live percussionists.
The multiple MVO dubs are a huge attraction, too. None more than the jaw-dropping Facets, where drums are swept in mountainous dynamic across the stereo field, joined by Hassell-esque dream tones and twanging mouth harp in one of the master’s most abstract, mercurial works in memory, whilst Bishkek, May 2016 catches them in live form at the Kyrgyzstan edition of Unsound festival, and the rolling Draught, and its version frame the spirits of Ordo Sakhna in his signature dub techno style, with results comparable to Shackleton when he removes the straight kicks.
“On Mikrojazz, their cutting edge joint project for RareNoise Records, German saxophonist Philipp Gerschlauer and guitarist David Fiuczynski explore the world of music that falls between the cracks of the tempered scale. Joined by jazz drumming legend Jack DeJohnette, fretless electric bassist Matt Garrison and microtonal keyboardist Giorgi Mikadze, this daring crew creates dreamy, otherworldly soundscapes on tunes by Gerschlauer like aptly-titled Hangover and LaMonte’s Gamelan Jam along with a swinging microtonal tune “Mikro Steps“ and other originals like Fiuczynski’s MiCroY Tyner, Zirkus Macabre and Lullaby Nightmare.”
Without question, some of the most beautiful and arresting quiet music you'll likely ever hear, compiled in a 4 hour-long triple disc set.
'Fremde Zeit - Addendum' collects five pieces of engrossingly etheric, liminal composition by Jakob Ullmann (1958), the widely acknowledged master of quiet music and cover star of The Wire magazine.
For us, as we'd imagine many others, this is a striking first introduction to the devoted German minimalist's very particular body of work. Comprising 4 hours of barely-there strings, percussions, wind instruments and voices prefaced by the instruction "Please choose, for each piece, the volume settings of your sound system so as to just barely mask the ambient sounds in the room", this is music made for concentrated listening, recorded and specifically designed to give listeners "the opportunity to hear more, and better" by the simple but essential notion that "We hear better because we make an effort to hear better."
With this is mind, we're invited into a sound world which actively, yet effortlessly and sublimely challenges our perceptions of space and time with a compelling, transcendent effect akin to that of listening to music by, say, Eliane Radigue or Morton Feldman, yet with an alien, detached appeal entirely its own. Due to their extended durations - no piece is shorter than 34 mins, and over an hour at the longest - we form temporal impressions which blur the boundaries between our immediate space and the apparent vastness of the recording, teasing our sixth sense to wander on a knife edge of trepidation and somnolence.
Yet, musically, it covers a far more subtle spectrum of emotions and cabalistic atmospheres casting metaphoric allusions to "…antiquity, to the Middle Ages, to the Baroque, to the 20th Century and to the present" by means of its extreme dilation of space/time and anticipation, and relegation of distortion or any untempered gestures.
Once you've heard this music it should come as little surprise Ullmann studied sacred music in Dresden from 1979-1982 - his music could be the lingering resonance of an Arvo Pärt piece played in a huge cathedral, and it carries the weight of history - spanning over 18 years of work, the results are duly, deeply considered.
A revelatory package, whose impact will surely emerge and manifest as slowly, yet powerfully, as the music itself.
Brian Shimkovitz returns to SA with pure house heat from Professor Rhythm. Check for infectiously slower parallels to the NYC garage/house and New Beat phenomenon of the late ‘80s in the strident, acidic ‘Leave Me Alone’, the piano house lixx of ‘Kancane Kancane’ and the tuffer push of ‘Zama Zama’
“Professor Rhythm is the production moniker of South African music man Thami Mdluli. Throughout the 1980’s, Mdluli was member of chart-topping groups Taboo and CJB, playing bubblegum pop to stadiums. Mdluli became an in-demand producer for influential artists (like Sox and Sensations, among many others) and in-house producer for important record companies like Eric Frisch and Tusk. During the early '80s, Mdluli projects usually featured an instrumental dance track. These hot instrumentals became rather popular. Fans demanded to hear more of these backing tracks without vocals, he says, so Mdluli began to make solo instrumental albums in 1985 as Professor Rhythm. He got the name before the recordings began, from fans, and positive momentum from audiences and other musicians drove him to invest himself in a full-on solo project. It was the era just before the end of apartheid and house music hadn’t taken over yet. There wasn’t instrumental electronic music yet in South Africa. As the '80s came to a close, that was about to change.
Professor Rhythm productions mirror the evolution of dance music in South Africa. They grew out of the bubblegum mold—which itself stems from band’s channeling influences like Kool & the Gang and the Commodores—into something based on music for the club. His early instrumental recordings First Time Around and Professor 3 mostly distilled R&B, mbaqanga and bubblegum grooves into vocal-less pieces for the dance floor. Musically, these were a success and commercially the albums all went gold. There were countless bubblegum albums flooding the marketplace, with nearly disposable vocalists backed by mostly similar-sounding rhythm tracks. Most of the lyrical content was light and apolitical. But the keyboards used formed the musical basis for what would come next.”
Remastered edition of Throbbing Gristle's best known and most suavely subversive LP, the one that completely re-defined the meaning of industrial music.
Referencing the band's influences outside of the avant-garde - among them ABBA and Martin Denny - it's the most outwardly accessible thing they ever recorded, but it's not without its harder, grimier moments, like the pummelling 'Discipline', with P.Orridge barking orders at you like the SM drill sergeant of your nightmares.
The shorter instrumentals are especially satisfying: we open with the droning, dysphoric ambience of 'Beachy Head' (think Eno's On Land via Lustmord), a paean to the suicide hot-spot that appears on the album's cover, while 'Tanith' and 'Exotica' sound like a seriously strung-out, sleep-deprived jazz ensemble channelling Aphex's Selected Ambient Works II.
Of course it's the "pop" numbers which stand out: Gen has never sounded so drolly superior as on 'Convincing People' and 'Persuasion', while the Cosey-vocalled, Carter-helmed 'Hot On The Heels Of Love' remains an absolute game-changing masterpiece, its influence on techno, disco and electro-pop as profound and palpable today as it ever was.
Stop listening to what you're listening to, and listen to 20 Jazz Funk Greats instead.
Visionist returns with his combustible 2nd album, Values; an intense meditation on themes of “machismo and effeminacy, self-deprecation and self-love”. The results are blisteringly compelling and affective quite unlike muxh else in circulation, bar maybe Arca’s music.
After leaving an uncanny impression with his debut album Safe for PAN, which was his bold attempt at modelling and resolving the onset and dissipation of anxiety or panic attacks - and perhaps circumvent the safe-ness of so much other music from the UK grime and electronic scene - this time he moves forward, emboldened by that experience to ‘fess up searing emotions in a way not normally associated with grime, or even cisgendered blokes for that matter.
At this point, we’re not even sure if it is grime anymore, as he’s seemingly transcended to somewhere else entirely, dissolving its stylistic rigidity and entangling elements of classical composition, computer music and trance into bold new forms in order to better convey his feelings and art. In doing so, and by grasping thornier issues head on - albeit in abstract style - he leaves himself vulnerable to critical value systems not usually associated with the club and road paradigms of grime, and does so with admirably unflinching, steadfast conviction.
Of course, without accompanying context listeners may not be aware of all that, but context in this kind of art is important, and when held up against it, the outpouring of emotive chamber keys and megadome trance gestures in instrumental songs such as Homme and Made In Hope sorely live up the conceptual thrust, while the album’s sole (human) vocal track Your Approval channels it ambiguously thru Rolynne’s gender fluid R&B voice. Likewise, his roiling, blasted rhythms undermine grime’s rigidity - which have pretty much become pop currency, not underground and experimental like they once were - on the convulsive New Obsession and No Idols in an almost sado-masochistic manner.
Just like Safe, there’s a a density of detail and information in Value that’s going to take a while to settle in, but it ain’t hard to tell this is a viscerally thrilling, refreshing piece of work which stands out far from the field, for what it’s worth.