Pioneering post-industrialist Asmus Tietchens returns to his Hamburg worksite recordings of 2010 from a more detached, atmospheric perspective for the Universal Exports label ran by Yves De May, Allon Kaye and Roman Hiele
Where the original ‘Abraum’, or “rubble”, recordings on the 2010 release were pure musique concrète that relished the rawness of what he happened upon (a long steel pipe, 80cm wide, gushing with rubble from a worksite), the five pieces on ‘Abraum 2’ render a far more spacious abstraction that resonates with how the original site of recording has come to change over the past decade.
It’s effectively a meditation on the fidelity of memory and the shifting sands of time, executed with the typical lack of sentimentality one might have come to expect from Tietchens work, but nevertheless intriguing for its stony cold sober approach and meticulousness. Fans of isolationist sonics from Thomas Köner to Mika Vainio will surely be in their element among Tietchens’ rich harmonic resonances and haunting spectral convolutions, with only the barest hints of the original works tying it to any one place.
After their ‘Ballads' doozy for Fleetway Tapes, a now-classic mix by Elaine Tierney & Jack Rollo’s DJ duo Time Is Away surfaces on CD with Idle Press, the boutique label run by esteemed Parisian digger DJ Sundae.
Last year, just before pandemic hit, Rollo and Tierney put together an installation in London - a "suggestive municipal environment, activated by sound, to invoke the ghosts of urban improvement." If that sounds impenetrable, don't worry - the long-time NTS residents instead stitch together a typically immersive and inspired collage of found audio, specially made recordings and drones to express their historical urban landscape. Whether you've experienced the installation or not, the mix itself is completely transportive.
Full of portent and weft with visionary transitions, ‘Fable of the Bees’ melts unfathomably romantic, psycho-spiritual jams with a care and intimacy that's an all-too rare commodity. The duo mix sounds with an unsurpassed level of sensitivity for the complexity of collage, yet they manage to achieve it with little to no fireworks; industrial field recordings feed into organ, flute and distant vocals, brief chants and rituals tumble over chamber recordings and cosmic synths, Akira Rabelais' Hildegard von Bingen treatments disintegrate into folk songs that sound as alien as they do familiar. On paper it just shouldn’t work, but as the duo drip left folk and devotional music into electrified ambient, lo-glo club sounds and negative-space jazz minimalism, an ineffably human logic pulls it all together.
You’ll have to go whistle for the tracklist, just let it go and fall into Time Is Away’s endlessly fascinating sound world - always a trip.
Portland metal duo The Body join forces with sludgy Montreal trio BIG|BRAVE and the result is... Appalachian folk?
'Leaving None but Small Birds' is an unexpected record. It's a chance for both bands to explore their long-time love of folk and blues music, as they challenge the very idea of what it means to make heavy music. It's an intense sound, but is rooted in American tradition, taking its cues from hymns and folk songs that were assembled and compiled by BIG|BRAVE's Robin Wattie. Once these ideas had been parsed, phrases were reworked to center marginalized characters, focusing on despair and empowerment without losing the inherent traditional qualities of the songs.
The origin of heavy metal lies in blues, so looking at that era and beyond feels like an important and rigorous exploration of the craft, and it pays off. And while 'Leaving None but Small Birds' veers away from both bands' regular sound, it's a profoundly moving record that examines the evolution and history of North American music without blindly relying on third hand appropriation. It's ambitious, challenging and affecting.
Timeless, cinematic atmospheres from Belgian bass clarinetist Ben Bertrand, reprising the classic feel of his 2020 side for Stroom with results tipped to fans of Elodie, Blaine L. Reininger, CV & JAB
Trailing in the smoky wake of last year’s ‘Manes’, Bertrand picks up again in airy art house cinema-soundtrack like zones on ‘Dokkaebi’ with five parts that convect the feeling of lofty Brussels apartments and echoic hallways cobwebbed with melancholy melody. It’s a music for luxuriating in contemplation, allowing oneself to be carried away on the glacial contours and vaporous contrails of Bertrand’s bass clarinet, and likewise the exquisitely low-key and lowlit backdrops supplied by Christina Vantzou, Geoffrey Burton, Indré Jurgeleviciuté, and Echo Collective: Margaret Hermant & Neil Leiter, Otto Lindholm.
The first two pieces ideally establish the timelessness of Bertrand’s music with referential nod to c.20th titan Cage’s latter, harmonic works in ‘The Nixe of John Cage’s River’, while ‘O Ignee Spiritus’ more literally uses a Hildegard Von Bingen melody sung to haunting effect, both conveying the scope of his practice. ‘Zeme’ however feels more in a vein of experimental chamber music akin to Christian Vantzou;s work with CV & JAB, and ‘Sora no’ follows the subtle electronic tones to gaze out on a star blanketed canvas, with a barely-there haze of laminal vocal timbres and elliptical clarinet in ‘The Aurae Loops’ glowing at the end and beckoning to repeat the experience.
Anyone nesting their coming autumn listening playlist needs to give this one a whirl.
Spunky wave pops from early ‘80s Germany, portraying the sound of the country’s first proper youth movement via bullets by Andreas Dorau, Conrad Schnitzler, Der Plan, Palais Schaumburg, Xao Seffcheque, Die Partei, Asmus Tietchens, Holger Hiller, Populäre Mechanik ++
Rifled from the considerable cabinet of Bureau B, ‘Eins und Zwei und Drei und Vier’ surveys those artists who bloomed in the fallout of ‘70s punk, spanning what became known as NDW (Neue Deutsche Welle) and paralleling post-punk and No wave movements elsewhere, up to the advent of home computing and the whole house phenomenon. OK, Germany had “krautrock” and kosmiche before this lot, that they could safely call their own music, and differed from both their parent’s music and Anglo-British styles, but that was never really a full on youth movement, to the extent that this stuff became. Bending aspects of punk, funk, and early industrial styles with everything from steel drums and cod-reggae, to dadaist tendencies, the youth of early ‘80s Germany put their own stamp on music with equal measures of spunk and ludicrousness that’s gone on to influence countless others.
If you’re after exemplary highlights, run check for the phet-twitch of Moritz Von Oswald, Thomas Fehlmann, Holger Hiller and co’s Palais Schaumburg zinger ‘Wir bauen eine neue Stadt’ for somethgin of a funky mission statement, and clock Conrad Schnitzler’s vocoder-driven motorik bullet for a bridge between he original kosmiche and techno welts, while Austro-German artist Xao Seffcheque can be relied on for the possessed drive of ‘Sample & Hold’, and Berlin’s Populäre Mechanik trade in killer, brittle funk on ‘Muster’, and the pop-punk spirit is kicking on gems from Die Radierer and the prince of NDW, Andreas Dorau.
Steven Raekwon Reynolds is a singer/songwriter and producer from New York City by way of Buffalo, NY. 'Where I’m At Now' is self-produced and self-recorded (save for drums on two songs, driven by the relentlessness of the East Village and the quiet serenity of Edwardsville.
"The abstractions of his earlier musings transform into a warm wave of genreless coherence, drawing influences from across R&B, rock, folk, and pop to build a record that shines in its quiet spaces as much as its sweeping movements. Simply put, Where I’m at Now is an album where S. Raekwon is no longer invested in hiding. These records don’t contain answers, but signals toward what feels like the right direction. This music serves as a gentle, yet intentional reminder that we only need to be who we are in the moment, and we’re worth becoming who we know we can be."
Gabber Modus Operandi, Vessel, KMRU, Kara-Lis Coverdale, Caterina Barbieri, Tygapaw and plenty more offer their own interpretations of Lyra Pramuk's exceptional debut "Fountain" on this bumper remix album. Made up of both new compositions and direct remixes.
While Pramuk's meditative and reflective "Fountain" didn't need any additional assistance, this global collaborative effort is a reminder of its sparkling positivity. The Berlin-based auteur has typically opted for a left-field take on the remix album, offering artists the opportunity to create new work from the roots of "Fountain" or simply sink their teeth into a single track.
Kenyan-born KMRU, who's also currently stationed in Berlin, offers an early highlight with a cross-"Fountain" soundscape that glues Pramuk's elegiac vocals to his own tactile synth fizz and organ-esque low-end bump. And while Hudson Mohawke's expectedly beat-focused rework of 'Tendril' is an avoidable mood-breaker, Kara-Lis Coverdale's fresh composition 'Returnless' is long, lavish and unashamedly glorious, following Pramuk's lead with a trail of purple silk.
Caterina Barbieri also impresses, adding her cascading synth to 'Tendril', while Vessel builds new track 'Fountain (ars amatoria)' out of fragments. Ever the overachiever, Eris Drew contributes not one but two new tracks, the psychedelic, ambient 'Sugarcube Revelations' and dusty house banger 'Everything is Beautiful & Alive'. But it's Indonesian party-starters Gabber Modus Operandi who shuttle Pramuk's music into the most unexpected places on 'Kaca Bulan Baru', a disorientating hi-nrg ritual grounded in Pramuk's sprit-rousing screams.
Trunk celebrates 25 years of uniquely British eccentricity with this wyrd and wonderful set of unreleased gems and better-known catalog classics. Newly discovered sounds from Basil Kirchin's tape archive and - oh yeah - an unreleased cut from Delia Derbyshire make this one indispensable.
This sprawling 33-track compilation highlights the imprint's idiosyncratic accent; it's unmistakably British - snippets from Dudley Simpson's unforgettable "The Tomorrow People" soundtrack and Marc Wilkinson's "Blood On Satan's Claw" OST assure us of that - but zeroes in on the dusty jumble sale quirkiness that's slowly been lost to time.
Nothing makes that more clear than the overdubbed sleaze funk of 'Car Boot Sex Tape' or the vibe-led 'Sunbeam' from Kenny Graham And His Satellites. And since it's a celebration of all things Trunk, there are some surprises in store: a short synth jam from Delia Derbyshire, snipped from a Madelon Hooykaas/Elsa Stansfield film; and freshly sourced sounds from Basil Kirchin's tape archive. Other standout moments are more familiar: John Cameron's title music from "Kes", Tristram Cary's shuffling synth nursery rhyme 'The Electron's Tale' and John Baker's psychedelic 'JB Dubs'.
Official reissue of Ryo Fukui’s only solo piano album, recorded in 1994.
"Sourced from the original masters, this intimate offering from the Japanese jazz legend is available on limited edition 180 gram vinyl mastered at half speed for full audiophile sound, as well as on digipack CD. Both formats come with liner notes by Yusuke Ogawa.
Originally released on CD only by Sapporo Jazz Create in 1994, My Favorite Tune is a beautiful bop adventure which includes two superb compositions that Ryo Fukui wrote as an homage to his belo-ved Hokkaido region, the fan-favorite “Nord” and “Voyage”, a tribute to his mentor Barry Harris ("No-body’s"), alternate versions of his mega classics “Scenery” and “Mellow Dream”, and, last but not least, bewitching takes on timeless gems by Sonny Clark and Avery Parrish.
My Favorite Tune plays like a cool summer night, full of contemplative notes and deep feelings, with Ryo Fukui baring his heart on the piano and displaying the soulful sophistication he is loved for. A true masterpiece completing his amazing discography."
Neo-modernist Mark Fisher acolyte Lee Gamble finally polishes off his ambitious conceptual triptych with a brace of dusty, pensive re-realizations of wyrd dance, hyperreal ambient and warp'd web 3.0 doomsignalling >> proper gurglers fer dissident ravers inside.
Back in 2019 (which at this point feels like about a decade ago) Lee Gamble began his most ambitious project to date, a three-part album that would weave together the loose threads of his varied and often polar back catalog. The conceptual framework was "semioblitz": “the aggressive onslaught of visual & sonic stimuli of contemporary cities and virtual spaces.”
And while we received two weighty transmissions - "In A Paraventral Scale" and "Exhaust" - the third and final piece of the puzzle never appeared, until now. "Flush Real Pharynx 2019-2021" compiles those acclaimed first parts and adds an ample chunk of new material, bringing Gamble's 4K flicker of scanline drone and inverted post-'nuum rhythmic tweakage bang into the post-COVID-19 reality.
If the first two pieces of the puzzle were relatively hopeful ('n brutally cynical) flashes of our capitalism-warped reality, Gamble's new material feels checker'd by dislocated sadness. Given the project's CCRU-wave roots, this makes some kind of perverted sense, and Gamble's use of mucky haunted piano ('Empty Middle Seat') and machine-grade halfstep ('Newtown Got Folded') anchors the nu material in a pensive half-remembered backtopia.
The glinting, polished shimmer of "In A Paraventral Scale" and "Exhaust" is almost gone now, obscured by endless months of digital dust and mental anguish. Transport has stopped, AI has been subverted, and the MDMA rush is completely solipsistic in isolation: what's a contemporary city exactly when u compare 2019 with 2021? Now Gamble casts his mind into the future and channels cracks of light into a new reality's stifling darkness. Who knows what's next, but we ain't going backwards.
Tirzah's second album is a fuzz'd-aut, narcotic dreamscape, all screwed trip-pop soulfulness and buzzing, chaotic layers of harmonic noize and hazy ambience. An even slower burn than her cult debut, "Colourgrade" is subtly surprising and calmly mindblowing - co-produced again with Mica Levi and Coby Sey plus an additional stealth production job from Kwake Bass & Dean Blunt. Yeah, Next level.
There's something about the way "Colourgrade" was recorded that makes each song sound like a memory, or a blast of familiar warmth from another room. But Tirzah hasn't doused her "Devotion" follow-up in cheap nostalgia or genre signalling. She uses memory as a creative tool, to sketch the outlines of songs and emotions in charcoal before she inks her evolving narrative. This time the songs are broadly structured around motherhood, being written after the birth of her first child and right before the arrival of her second. In her own words, they detail the process of "recovery, gratitude and new beginnings."
Since "Devotion" was released in 2018, we've witnessed a resurgence of interest in lo-glo trip-hop flutter, and since lockdown the home listening mood has been amplified. But Tirzah smartly swerves this obvious route, retaining the soulful downtempo loveliness of her debut but pepping it up with dissociated abstraction, pensive glaciality and smoove, slippery romanticism. In contemplating motherhood and the bond between parent and child, she creates musical swaddling that feels soothing but doesn't resort to cheap thrills.
The title track cracks open the record with timestretched words and rubbery synths melted over brassy bass sounds in arhythmic cacophony. Whistles take over completely and the expected beat never arrives; it's like a soulful acapella injected into a mercifully short psychedelic voyage. Advance single 'Tectonic' offers us the decelerated groove we may have been expecting, with icey cold vocals over downsampled funk that's half '96 Tricky and half '21 Taz & Meeks.
At its best, "Colourgrade" is unsettlingly simple. On its surface the Dean Blunt co-produced 'Recipe' is a stark vocal over a squashed half-speed beat, but repeat listens tear the seal off the tub, letting the prismatic warmth of complex emotionality haze into the atmosphere - it's just so good. The album's longest piece, 'Crepuscular Rays' is also its most uncompromisingly strange, with Tirzah's disembodied, mutated voice dripping like strawberry syrup over creamy phased waves of strummed electric guitar.
One of the most satisfying and consistently surprising records we've heard in 2021 so far, "Colourgrade" feels as sentient and unpredictable as the new lives that inspired it. It's gonna keep on growing.
Chock full of humid, resonant soundscapes that bend time and emphasize texture, tone and timbre, Sarah Davachi's latest is her most defining and rewarding full-length to date. We're floored, again - there's nobody else doing it quite like this.
Composed using a Mellotron, electric organ, piano and synthesizers, "Antiphonals" takes all the elements we know and love from Davachi's impressive catalogue to date and refines them into eight tracks of expertly-sculpted deep listening stickiness. If you're familiar with her work, the content won't be surprising, but Davachi's dedication to her craft has resulted in music that feels more and more revelatory each time.
Here, she brings her obsession with the tonal and textural character of early music to the fore, playing confidently with sounds that exist two or three steps from the contemporary sonic spectrum. Her favored outpost is a cocoon of soft-focus resonance, where sounds graze lightly and hypnotize rather than scrape or bruise. It's not background music - this is art that requires attention and understanding to appreciate its layered beauty and subtle complexity.
There are no real standouts or big moments, rather "Antiphonals" is a single long-running excerpt of Davachi's sonic thesis that plays continuously without a defined beginning or a defined end. It's a privilege to spend time in her world, listening to sacred music melt into prog rock and sensual, experimental drone into blurry neoclassical ambience. There are plenty of musicians who attempt to reach this jewelled nirvana, and precious few who get close - Davachi is currently sitting near the center. Breathtaking.
Zbigniew Preisner’s super influential soundtrack to Krzysztof Kieslowski’s 'La Double Vie De Veronique’ available on vinyl once again. No schmaltz/overly produced tug-at-the-hearstrings Netflix nonsense here - 100% real deal brilliance.
At one point in time we had the VHS copy of La Double Vie De Veronique stuck inside an old player and subsequently ended up watching it many many dozen times - so its influence here is no doubt magnified, but nonetheless - what a record. If you’ve not seen the film - go do so at once - but irrespective, this score features some of Preisner’s best work, from the mythological 'Van Den Budenmayer’ choral pieces to the exquisite, dappled solo-piano melancholy of 'Les Marionnettes’ and the austere, mournful energy that seeps through each of the ’Theme’ works.
Cinematographer Slawomir Idziak famously used many different shades of yellow filter to elevate the un-real mood of the film, and it translates perfectly to this score - in our opinion an absolute modern great to file next to work by Goran Bregović for Emir Kusturica, Alberto Iglesias for the films of Julio Medem and Nikos Mamangakis’ sprawling work on the Heimat films.
The Invisible’s lynchpin, Dave Okumu steps out with a suave solo debut album of jazz-sparked hip hop neatly incorporating piano chops by his peer, Duval Timothy and strong nods to J Dilla
After more than a decade of supplying his talents to records by everyone from Amy Winehouse to Ed O’Brien (Radiohead), Tony Allen, Theo Parrish and Jessie Ware (he co-produced/co-wrote her Mercury nominated album, Devotion); Okumu plays it deadly cool and beatdown on his definitive personal statement to date. ‘Knopperz’ wears its influences proudly, with Timothy Duval’s slinky keys, and slompy drums and sirens patently hailing Dilla, but the rest is all him, hustling a hypnotically low-key and smoked out sound slanted to the twilight hours and beyond.
Keeping it fully instrumental and allowing his melodic personality to ooze thru the grooves and moods, the pacing is effortless, luring us in with the balmy bump and lyrical piano turns of phrase in ‘Son of Emmerson’ and coolly accommodating attentions between the groggy jazz-blues of ‘Ballpark’ to the melancholic sign-off ‘Don’t Die’, with his Dilla worship in evidence on the red-eyed nod of ‘Trouble’ and wickedly stumbling drums of ‘RTN.’
ATFA on their A-game with a debut album of Amapiano aces by Native Soul, the teenaged, Gauteng-based duo of Kgothatso Tshabalala and Zakhele Mhlanga (DJ Zakes)
Arriving in the vein of ATFA’s arguably overlooked zingers by Teno Afrika and DJ Black Low, Native Soul’s efforts should be set to catch fire with a rapidly expanding global audience for Amapiano, or at least its fervent UK fanbase. The tracks are perfectly calibrated with that Amapiano dark/light suspension system, balancing the trilling bass below the waist with atmospheric pads that get up in yuh head and grip the dance like little else right now. The pace is of course locked to SA’s favoured mid-tempo deep house velocity (we’ve heard stories of SA turntables with the pitch locked off at +4, lol), which to be honest does sometimes feel unusual in UK clubs, but soon enough locks everyone into its lathering groove.
Native Soul’s take on the still evolving genre displays a reserved emotive intelligence mature beyond their years, holding it down and lip-bitingly restrained in the tightest style. We’ll maintain that the best dancers we’ve ever seen hail from SA, and it’s perhaps no surprise when they’ve got this kinda gear to practice with; coming with tendon-tuning nuance in the hip-shot string stabs and puckered torque of ‘Ambassador’ ft. Ubuntu Brothers, and tucking in tight in-the-pocket on the brooding ‘United As One’, and with pure pensile suss in the delayed gratification of ‘Way To Cairo’ while the furtive progressions of ‘Letter To Kabza De Small’ and belly tightening hustle ‘End Of Time’, like much Amapiano, feel really strangely attuned to the tension and efficient energy conservation themes of the times.
In other words it’s a fucking massive tip!
Livity Sound mark a decade of skin in the game with a comp pulling focus on their roster of rhythmic misfits in 2021.
Originally founded as an outlet for Pev, Kowton, and Asusu’s like-minded soundsystem techno oddities in 2011, the label’s scope has gradually expanded over the intervening decade to embrace an emerging movement of non-standard bassbin operators such as Batu, Hodge, Bruce and Simo Cell via the Reverse label (Dnuos Ytivil), and nowadays stands at a busy intersection of globally related styles loosely termed hard drum, or bass music.
YOUTH host Significant Other’s glum but resilient meditation on love and loss, a broodingly therapeutic debut album that straddles IDM and industrial Ambient signatures, reminding us of work from Bola to Jay Glass Dubs, Spectre to classic late night Rob Hall mixes.
Sharing a different side of his sound to that heard on club-cut 12”s for Spe:c, Oscilla Sound and anno over the past few years, Significant Other here dwells on feelings that “emerged from moments of extreme passion and pain", patching new and archival material to work thru a mental fug of ambient noise laments and crankily dubbed out illbient lines of thought.
The pacing is stygian and the atmosphere near still, betraying a depth of suppressed emotion that he processes over the album’s eight tracks. ‘Demonology’ evokes a hash haze contemplation with its patina of Burial-esque vapours and incidental crackle, and ‘The Future Doesn’t Exist’ taps into a classic vein of screwed NYC downbeats a la Spectre, showing off a killer instinct for crushed hip hop drums also explored on the weighty swang of his ‘Love Beat.’
‘Residuum’ doesn't fall into outright doom, preferring to skirt the event horizon of a black hole and keep the chin bobbing up with the vulnerable yet hopeful tones of ‘Pendant’, also in the Loren Connors-esque midnight peal of ‘Drifting In The Third Person’ and the elegiac closing sequence ‘Perpetual Care’, with its piano and string led coda.
Steven Ellison's first feature-length anime soundtrack is an endlessly satisfying jeweled box of delights, with Vangelis-esque vintage synth sparkles rubbing up against carbon-blasted trap, dusty tape warped funk and psychedelic electro-jazz.
It makes complete sense that Ellison would end up scoring a project as idiosyncratic and ambitious as LeSean Thomas’ anime show about a lone Black samurai in feudal Japan. The Los Angeles beat scene innovator cut his teeth doing short bumps for edgy US TV animation channel Adult Swim - home of Ellison's beloved "Afro Samurai" - so surely a project like this was always on the cards. And he's knocked it out of the park, blending a lifetime of nerdy musical influences, from the spiritual jazz of his aunt Alice Coltrane and the bouncy early electronic weirdness of Raymond Scott to the neon strip club pulse of Mike Will and the MPC-fried swing of Mobb Deep's Havoc.
There are 26 cues on the extended album, and while the tracks might lack the duration of those on his proper albums, their heart and mood speaks volumes. Ellison sounds completely untethered, like he's finally got the chance to pay tribute to a life spent jamming tunes and watching cartoons. He's in his element, and that gives the project a warmth and honesty that's hard to ignore. Fans of everyone from Adrian Younge and Emeralds to Ricci Rucker and Tangerine Dream should investigate immediately.
Contemporary classical minimalist Jürg Frey transmutes the poetic landscape observations of Gustave Roud (1897-1976) into haunting chamber works for Another Timbre.
Gustave Roud was a poet from the French-speaking part of Frey’s native Switzerland. He studied literature at the University of Lausanne and realised he didn’t want to return to life as a farmer, instead returning to live with his sister in the family’s farmhouse for the rest of his life, mooching in the countryside and mountains, detailing his thoughts in what would become a three volume Collected Works, as well as diaries and critical writings, plus lesser known work as a photographer.
After immersing in Roud’s work, Frey composed this collection in his honour, as he explains: “I first encountered Roud’s work more than 10 years ago, and the impact of his work on my music has been profound. I feel a close relationship to a poet whose mode of operation and sensitivity make a precise resonance in me. It’s a unique poetry that speaks from beginning to end of searching for the essence. I would like to compare his mode of work with that of a painter. Every day he went out, not with an easel, but with his notebook, and he wandered through the landscape as a flaneur, observer, writer, laying the foundations of his work with his notes. For me his work constitutes a kind of ‘field recording’, not with a microphone and sounds, but with his soul and body, recording his environment in the broadest sense. He perceived existential dimensions in the finest nuances of the weather, the landscape and its inhabitants, and made it the basis of his work.”
With quietly gripping results, Frey - and Stefan Thut (cello), Dante Boon (piano), Andrew McIntosh (violin), Regula Konrad (soprano), Stephen Altoft (trumpet), Lee Ferguson (percussion) - sensitively limn the Roud’s work with a painterly play of light and space, and quite literally thru the track titles, with the most enchanting of these bringing it all together, strings, wind, percussion, and transfixing vox based on Roud’s words, in the otherwordly evocation of ‘Farbiose Wolken, Glück, Wind (2009-11).’
Jürg Frey is present in his 7-piece Ensemble Grizzana, performing a suite of more conventional works that go easier on the silences.
The 2015 double album features Frey on clarinet surrounded in various arrangements by Mira Benjamin (violin), Richard Craig (flute), Emma Richards (violin), Philip Thomas (piano), Seth Woods (cello) and Ryoko Akama (electronics), performing 19 works written 2009-2014. Less prone to long, searching silences, as found on Frey’s more radical works, the music is still borderline liminal, but largely held back from ephemerality.
Frey’s clarinet is accompanied by Seth Woods’ sallow cello in the set’s beautiful opener ‘Petit Fragment De Passage’, which becomes a recurring piece performed by various configurations, from the perspectives of Ryoko Akama’s organ and Philip Thomas’ Piano keys, a string duet by Emma Richards (Viola) & Mira Benjamin (Violin), and Richard Craig (Flute) with Emma Richards (Violin) again, each as quiet captivating as the other.
But their strengths lie in the assembled ensemble pieces, which locate a tremulous democracy between their various voices in ‘Fragile Balance’ and the watercolour landscape of ‘Extended Circular Music No.8’, and with remarkably rich effect in the titular seven-part suite. Fans of Philip Thomas’ quietly unmissable ’Morton Feldman Piano’ set for Another Timbre will no doubt be charmed by his solo performance here, ‘Lieues D’ombres’, and in trio with Seth Woods and Frey on the haunting 30’ work ‘Area of Three’, and we’re reminded to the sacred sublime tension of Jakob Ullmann’s quiet music in the mesmerising hush of the ensemble’s ‘Ferne Farben.’
Last seen sparring with Lucy Railton, pianist Kit Downes here duels with composer and pianist Matt Rogers. Evocative, physical music that bridges the gap between improvisation and composition for fans of Keith Jarrett.
'Premonitions of the Unbuilt City' is based on Matt Rogers' opera "She Described it to Death", which was reduced to piano by Christopher Mayo before being arranged and edited by Downes and Rogers. With Downes adding his signature improvisation, the piece took on new life - something that no doubt inspired the change of title. It's a virtuoso performance from both players, who appear to be locked in debate as they trade harmony and texture between two pianos. Anyone into the slickly accomplished ECM catalogue - particularly Keith Jarrett's recordings - would do well to check this one.
Philip Thomas’ spellbinding solo piano performance of ’Circles and Landscapes’ is a result of Jürg Frey’s residency at Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (HCMF), 2014
As with his masterful renditions of Morton Feldman found in the unmissable 4CD boxset, Thomas’ performance of these six Frey pieces bring the composer’s work to light with requisite precision and care at St. Paul’s Hall, University of Huddersfield, 4th and 5th August 2015.
Oooosh! Deadly Afro-funk from Benin, 1974 sees light of day again with Acid Jazz, to the relief of anyone put off by the triple figure 2nd hand prices.
Available for the first time outside of Benin, Nigeria, the cult side contains some of the deepest and earliest roots music issued on the Albarika label. It’s dominated by the 13 minute lead cut of inimitably Wets African drums synched to fiery psych guitar licks and balmy vocals in ‘Gan Tche Kpo’, which is surely enough to take the head top off any Afrobeat lovers, while the soulful slow jam ‘My Love’ strips everything right back to the tightest sway and almost garage-soul-styled guitars with a duet between wordless croon and sax that says it all.
‘Gnonnou Ho’ picks up the pace with spikier, stepping drums and melody that feels to look East to these ears, recalling Ethiopiques and much farther Eastern vibes on a lilting psych-funk groove, and ‘Min E Wa..We Non Dou’ keeps it up there in an eight minute special for the dancers hashed with wild electric guitar, organ and horns .
Montreal art rockers Suuns follow last year's hazed and phased EP "Fiction" with a more substantial, electronic and skeletal collection of timewarping sounds and ideas.
'The Witness' might be Suuns' chilliest, most anxious set yet. Its 7-minute opener sounds closer to a Radiophonic Workshop jam or a 1970s documentary soundtrack than anything from the band's back catalogue, with talkbox vocals only breaking the squishy wall of analog synth at the midway point. It's a curious choice, but works well, coming across like a prog rock power move rather than post-Radiohead avant electronic posturing.
The band's stoner rock cred is still more than intact. Vocals are rubbery and harmonized, often slapped across inverted rhythms or over slithering industrial synth arpeggios, sounding like Jean-Michel Jarre or John Carpenter, but lifted into Beach Boys territory. The sloppy noisiness of their previous records is still present in spirit, but now a DIY electronic spirit is the primary focus, and on angular, druggy tracks like 'Timebender' and 'Go To My Head' it really works.
Proc Fiscal does his genre origami with grime, drill, jungle, footwork and vaporous ambient styles in a plush 2nd album for Hyperdub
In pursuit of the mercurial magick previously found on his string of acclaimed, daring 12”s and debut LP ‘Insula’ (2018), he returns with a charmingly effusive new volley of 14 cuts that sparkle with restless, fractious detailing and whirring rhythm mechanics. Like his label mates Lorraine James and Lee Gamble, it’s effectively IDM, as in he can’t help but go to town on his grooves and express a probing “intelligence” or curiosity in the embellishments. The results may be too busy for some straighter club heads, but fizz with ingenuity for others, and surely nobody can argue that he’s not got that classic Scottish feel for funk locked down.
In another time, ‘Siren Spine Sysex’ could have been prime Rephlex material, showing off a devilish mastery of inch-tight drum programming and non-standard electronic tuning in each part as the album cascades and skids between lilting downbeat opener ‘Anti Chesst’ and the salty noise convolutions of ‘Roman Fatigue.’ It finds him filleting drill’s glyding bass and hollow-tipped snares in aerial footwork styles on ‘Convaerge Iana’ and the skittish ‘Met Path Thoth,’ with a crafty cut of R&G vocal thizz in the centrepiece ‘8 Mgapixel See Thru Phone,’ alongside a warped, tangy take on Afrobeats in ‘Thurs Jung Youtz’ and ‘Her In.’ His playful wits are in best effect on ‘The Most Beautiful Irish Song,’ which sounds a bit like Todd Edwards doing a giddy jig, and comes complemented by the Carl Stone-esque levels of glitchy vocal processing on ‘Leith Torn Carnal,’ with the album’s sweetest treats coming in the relatively laid-back but mutant minor key drill swag of ‘Auld Peop.’
Vital narrative-led field recording work captured in the Amazon rainforest by Aussie recordist and Room40 boss Lawrence English. Utterly captivating stuff that places us in the center of a misunderstood part of the world and allows us to appreciate its rare, complex beauty.
While English is likely best known at this point for his transcendent and ear-splitting drone plates like "Wilderness of Mirrors" and "Cruel Optimism", it's his understated field recordings that have always fascinated us most. "A Mirror Holds The Sky" is a selection of untreated recordings gathered in 2008 in the Amazon over a period of several weeks, chopped down from over fifty hours of audio. It's layered, textured sound that's as mind-alteringly elaborate as any pioneering electronic work (think Morton Subotnick or latter-day Autechre) but exists completely in the natural realm.
'The Jungle' eases us into a world that might be familiar to anyone who's spent significant time with Werner Herzog's "Aguirre" or "Fitzcarraldo". The Screaming Phia takes a lead role here, calling indiscreetly over the hum and buzz of insects and other birds. But as the album digs further into the rainforest, more unfamiliar sounds are unearthed. 'The River' seems to exist both underneath and above the water, capturing the swirl of insects that flutter on the surface. 'The Island' is more unsettling still, with implacable animal gurgles that build into a chorus of groaning, dissonant rasps noisier and more desolate than any noise tape.
On 'The Shore', innumerable insects fashion layers of hypnotizing drone that lull you into near meditation, while 'The Tower' magnifies these sounds further, breaking the illusion. The record is constructed so perfectly; English works like a documentary filmmaker, using real life footage but forming a narrative anybody can hook themselves into.
It's a towering work from a consistently engaging artist that truly celebrates the raw sonic power of the natural world - and is an album to file alongside Chris Watson’s still incomprehensible/incomparable 'Outside The Circle Of Fire’ - it’s that good.
Beautiful meditation by Barbara Monk Feldman, performed by the GBSR Duo with Mira Benjamin.
One of only a handful of releases bearing her name, ‘Verses’ yields a five-part suite written by Barbara Monk Feldman between 1988-1997, and performed here with extreme sensitivity by George Barton (percussion) and Siwan Rhys (piano), with Mira Benjamin (violin). The dates of the works tell us it was all written in the wake of the late, great minimalist Morton Feldman’s passing, in 1987, and they effectively see Barbara continue her husband’s quietly resounding, radical practice during the proceeding decade. Morton’s legion followers will surely recognise the level of liminality from his work in Barbara’s five compositions, which patently share a patience, pacing and appreciation of painterly qualities in their music’s lingering notes and longing strokes of suggestive tonal colour.
As Barbara states in interview accompanying the release, ‘Verses’ takes its logic and nature from her observations of “what is inside and what is outside. The everyday life and tragedy of what goes on around you.” The sublime results are the lucid manifestation of a rich inner life, and speak to her awareness of the porous borders between perception and instinct. They tenderly model her feelings on spaces, places, and the elusive ephemerality of colour, drawing links to the sculpture of Giacometti, the transient qualities of Cezanne landscapes, or the mystical side of Wittgenstein’s thinking and logic, to most subtly emphasise the intangible, encouraging one to really occupy the space between the notes, and meld into the gradated harmonics of decay.
Arvo Pärt has become something of a yardstick by which contemporary sacred music has been measured, and 'Alina' is arguably his most loved and imitated piece of work.
Für Alina was first performed in Tallinn in 1976, and has become one of Pärt’s most-loved and widely appreciated works - regarded by many as an early, defining example of his signature tintinnabuli style. In the years since its release, Pärt has become the most performed living composer in the world, his approach to religious music seeping deep into our cultural landscape, from the avant garde to the mainstream.
Rendered with nothing more than piano and violin, this definitive ECM version from 1999 features Vladimir Spivakov, Sergej Bezrodny, Dietmar Schwalke and Alexander Malter providing alternate versions, handpicked by Pärt himself from recordings that were originally several hours long. It’s a masterclass in simplicity; an almost painfully beautiful rendering of emotional landscapes that, in the wrong hands, could have (and has, on many occasions, by so many) turned to schmaltz.
South Korean-born, LA-based producer, rapper and singer Park Hye Jin impressed with her "How Can I" EP and Clams Casino, Blood Orange and Nosaj Thing collaborations. "Before I Die" is a mixtape-like effort that combines disparate flavors of hip-hop and dance with sunny K-pop vocals and riffs.
'Before I Die' attempts a lot, but struggles to escape its cascade of influences. Park Hye Jin sounds most comfortable when she works in a house mode. Opening track 'Let's Sing Let's Dance' is the album's most successful track, her voice is assured whether singing or offering deadpan phrases and the production is propulsive and effective. But when she veers into overworked rap subgenres ('Before I Die', 'Where Did I Go') it gets a bit murkier.
It's not all bad news: 'Good Morning Good Night' is a blissful downtempo cut, and 'Can I Get Your Number' interpolates LA's short-lived jerkin' sound in a respectful way. But "Before I Die" is just too disjointed to fully lean into.
Mark & Moritz entrust their Basic Channel output to Pete and René (aka Substance & Vainqueur) who create a sort of immersive label mix featuring components from all 9 Basic Channel 12"s plus some choice cuts from Rhythm and Sound, remodeeled and reshaped in classic style.
The first cut employs fragments from Cyrus's 'Inversion', 'Mutism', 'Radiance III' and the Basic Channel reworking of Carl Craig's 'The Climax' - somewhere between mixing and remixing - and that's just the opening sequence. Flowing from first moment to last, it serves as a testimony to one of the most revered catalogues in all of electronic music - hugely enjoyable if you already know and love all contained within, and a good entry point for n000bs - if there are any left by this point.
Emerging from the chaos and destruction of post-gentrification NYC, "How the Garden Grows" is a jagged, angry record that bricks YVETTE's gloomy industrial pop into a desolate tower block basement.
Recorded in 2016 in fits and starts, "How the Garden Grows" documents not only a changing New York City but also the demise of YVETTE as a duo. The band was initially formed by Noah Kardos-Fein and drummer Rick Daniel in 2012, but as this album was being recorded, Daniel departed, leaving Kardos-Fein to carry on the project on his own. This event is documented on the album's woozy ambient outro, where you can hear Daniel open the studio door and leave.
The rest of the record was put together with both musicians and strikes a more familiar tone, with Daniel's propulsive rhythms giving a tuff edge to Kardos-Fein's reverberating chants and zippy electronics. It's cold, unusual material that sometimes sounds like a poppier take on Lightning Bolt's daring power duo noise and Animal Collective's ritualistic post-Beach Boys chants.
'Mirror Views' is a substantial minimalist tome from LA-based composer Byron Westbrook. Taking cues from Maryanne Amacher and Luc Ferrari, Westbrook sidesteps the cosmic synth shimmer of this year's 'Distortion Hue' and moves into long-form deep listening territory, using tape-dubbed field recordings, white noise and disorientating drones.
Clocking in at a hefty 72-minutes, 'Mirror Views' is not for the faint of heart. It's a departure for Westbrook, not necessarily for his practice - those that have seen him perform will have no doubt experienced this aspect of his work before. For our money it also might just be his most convincing album to date, a collection of delicate, careful field recordings and subtle tonal elements that places Westbrook solidly alongside his heroes and the greats of the genre.
It's a fully immersive work, not just in its duration but in the absorbing character of the sounds he creates and the narrative it inspires. The piece 'Mirror View' itself is split into three distinct sections, and the first develops over 20 minutes from marshy field recordings that dwell on barely-audible sloshing and insects' rhythmic chirps. Slowly, Westbrook introduces indistinct voices and feedback tones that transform a natural world into an unsettling alien landscape.
The shorter second part offsets these tones with white noise that mutates into crashing waves, but it's Westbrook's careful editing that pushes the track into transcendence. At times it's not completely obvious what he's doing, if anything, but focus your listening and you can just about make up the tiny shifts in noise and texture that create distinct rhythms and disorientating hallucinatory effects.
On the final piece, Westbrook turns up the gain a little further, conducting an orchestra of fine tones that act as a warm, harmonic finale before the environmental recordings return for one last coda. It's masterful deep listening material that displays the possibility for experimentation within the wider field recording spectrum - we urge you to check in.
German renaissance man Niklas Wandt digs his way thru psychedelic, jazz, world, funk and kraut moods on "Solar Musli", arriving on a hectic, borderless sound that refuses to stand still for a moment. Imagine Sun Ra jamming with "On the Corner"-era Miles, Florian Schneider and Felix Kubin.
A drummer, producer and DJ, Wandt has presented WDR 3's Jazz & World program for years, DJing in Düsseldorf's Salon des Amateurs and recording with bands such as Oracles and Stabil Elite and working on synth pop as Neuzeitliche Bodenbeläge. "Solar Müsli" is his most chaotic solo record yet, an album that attempts to flatten his life of wild, diverse influences and unpick a musical puzzle.
It's a thrill ride, veering from quirky, psychedelic free poetry ('Der gläserne Tag') to sprawling, percussive funk ('Lo Spettro'), unhinged free-jazz kraut-pop ('Küsnacht') and quirky early electronic experimentation ('Solar Müsli'). It's best looked at as the work of a particularly limber DJ - Wandt writes and plays like he's mixing with four un-synced decks, wandering thru rhythm, structure and genre like an intrepid explorer.
HTRK mint their new label with a perfectly formed 5th studio album - in our opinion a career best - finding the duo stripped to a quietly cathartic, windswept arrangement of bare vocals rent with spectral webs of guitar and synth in a modern, classic, wholly inimitable style that will lodge itself deep in your heart. AOTY gear especially recommended if yr into anything from Dean Blunt to Mark Hollis, Gillian Welch to Slowdive.
Recorded in their native Dandenong Ranges, Australia earlier this year, ‘Rhinestones' contains some of HTRK's most aching/gratifying songwriting secreted in subtly plangent sheets of dubbed guitar, synth pads and crackling 808s that foge a sort of quasi-Americana that feels both intimately familiar and entirely new. It’s an album that seems to have been precision-tooled for tortured romantics and atomised souls, reverberating with a gentle pathos that’s therapeutic to succumb to.
The metaphysical soul of their songcraft somehow bleeds out more clearly than ever, infusing every song from the heartbreak pucker of ‘Kiss Kiss and Rhinestones’ to the intoxicating, spirit-catcher sway of ‘Gilbert and George’ with the tumescent glow of MDMA-tingled flesh and the uncanniest air of déjà vu. All nine songs land with a level of sound sensitivity that reveals every shimmering string, pad and echoic snare contrail like a halo around Jonnine’s voice, which regales tales of love, friendship and the mysteries of the night with an observant, diaristic directness that has a devastating emotive clout.
In key with the times, the songs feel like the soundtrack to emptied cities, casting gothic shadows in the spellbinding reverbs of ‘Valentina’ and mottled beauty of ’Siren Song,’ with the fragged ketrock of ‘Fast Friend’ imagining a séance with Prince and Anna Domino, while Conrad Standish (CS + Kreme) lends bass guitar gilding to the empty saloon sashay of ‘Real Headfuck,’ and ’Straight To Hell’ basks in a transition between the golden and crepuscular hours. Oh - and 'Sunlight Feels like Bee Stings’ - what a title?!
For real, no other band do it quite like HTRK, and ‘Rhinestones’ feels like their purest iteration, conjured in a mist of feeling, love and inebriation.
Patience is a virtue that Chilean guitarist Cristian Alvear beautifully understands and commands in his reading of Jürg Frey’s quietly demanding 2016 work for Another Timbre
With an opener counting just 8 (if we’re not mistaken) solitary notes spaced across 2 minutes, ‘guitarist, alone’ clearly sets its stall from the outset. As with its conceptual forebear, Frey’s ‘Pianist, Alone’, the 53 track double album typically follows in the footsteps of Frey’s 25 years of composition with a license to luxuriate in lacunæ and take the notion of minimalism to its rarified extremes.
Operating at a geologic scale of events, the results are beautifully contemplative on a number of levels; fundamentally offering the listener acres of room for meditation, but rather than anything Buddhist zen-like, where one is encouraged to think of nowt, the music suggests its recipient follow its lingering cadence, and ponder the relationship between the notes and moods they evoke, which may well lead to unusual patterns of thought.
Aye, we’re not going to go thru the whole thing with you, but we can tell say it’s a beautifully sanguine experience that requires a level of quiet time and space - both increasingly rare commodities for many of us - to really get into it, but you have those to spare, then it’s a real pleasure to let yourself wander its warm, still midnight garden.
On their opulent first outing since 2015, the MVO Trio embrace negative space and dematerialised jazz dynamics for a sterling debut with Modern Recordings (Pat Metheny, Craig Armstrong, Hendrik Weber) and a new lineup that now includes Laurel Halo and German jazz drummer Heinrich Köbberling. V highly tipped if yr into Carl Craig's Innerzone Orchestra or Move D's Conjoint.
Typically rooted in extended, improvised jams, the lissom and grooving results were teased into their final form by Moritz at the mixing desk, where he imbues the playing with an effervescent spatial nuance and deftly spotlights its ear-catching peculiarities as the trio naturlly explore and inhabit the interstices of rolling Afrobeat structures, modal Detroit jazz/beatdown, and airy ECM minimalism.
Picking up in the ether where ‘Sounding Lines’ left off in 2015, the deep presence of erstwhile trio member Tony Allen (RIP) is adroitly channelled by Köbberling’s shuffling stick work, and decorated with blushing organ chords and vibes laid down by Moritz, who finds an ideal foil in Laurel Halo’s electronic gilding. In unison they hold a sublime tension that’s driving but floating, placid yet thizzing with cool energy as they cycle thru harmonically sonorous permutations of a dubwise jazz techno.
From the pointillistic percussion and vapours of the opener, the set arcs low and wide from passages of spiralling organ to swingeing depths, coalescing at the mid-way point with a proper jazz techno vibe recalling Moritz’s early works with Juan Atkins, and traveling to almost 4Hero-esque hi-tech jazz abstraction and back into the pocket with natty rhythms that resolve into proper, heads-up techno.
A surreal and carnivalesque lost French classique that's somewhere between Cocteau Twins, Nuno Canavarro and Leila, "Chaleur Humaine" originally emerged in 1992, the debut release of sibling duo Danielle and Didier Jean. Anyone into hypnagogic pop, fractured new age experiments or '80s FM synth soundtracks needs to hear this jaw-dislocating Rosetta stone.
Uman's music spidered out thru various new age and global sounds compilations in the 1990s, but at this point the fwd-thinking duo are mostly forgotten, and in need of re-appraisal. After three decades, "Chaleur Humaine" sounds prophetic in its use of sounds, establishing a mood that's as dreamy and pristine as Enya's canonized run, as prismatically awkward as Portland MIDI fanatics Visible Cloaks and as chilling and evocative as Richard Band's schlock horror soundtracks.
WIth a sound that teeters between identifiable pop forms and more challenging expressions that draw on experimental and new age concepts, like the lilting 'Mémoire Vive' and Badalamenti-esque 'Aubade'. it's an album that's jam-packed with gorgeous sounds that seem to refresh with each track, skating close to plasticky exotica but never drifting into parody, pre-empting the shift from DIY rawk and folk sounds into hypnagogic pop and synth modes in the mid-'00s.
The recent obsession with neo-new age forms has resulted in some avoidable lost idols, but 'Chaleur Humaine' is a serious treasure trove of ideas and raw expression that bottles the chaotic analog-to-digital era with no small amount of panache. Anyone who's enjoyed Belgian node STROOM's extraordinary stretch of quirky electro-plated lounge-pop treasures won't wanna miss this.
10 years since his debut, Container holds his line of bolshy, distorted machine rhythms for Alter.
Bringing his studio recordings closer than ever to the sound of his cultishly praised live shows, ‘Scramblers’ is as much mucky fun as the nippy motorbikes it’s named after. With the possible addition of some new software or bit of kit that gives this record a really nasty edge, he tears out between the evil revs of the title cut hacking up pure electro-punk havoc with ‘Nozzle’ and jabs like Rian Treanor on PCP with ‘Mottle’ and ‘Queaser’, with he spring-loaded rage of ‘Haircut’ and the scum bucket razz of ‘Duster’ there to clean any meat left on your dancing bones.
Low's thirteenth album is a brutally overdriven, but slow-as-fuck offering from a band who resolutely refuse to stay still. Unlike 2018's "Double Negative" it's not soft and hyper-electronic, "HEY WHAT" is distorted but achingly beautiful - like church songs banged thru a broken radio and blown speaker cones.
We gotta admit we were pretty surprised when we heard Low's last full-length. The band has always played with perceptions of their influential slowcore sound, but "Double Negative" was a death-defying drop into territory usually inhabited by artists like Andy Stott and Newworldaquarium. "HEY WHAT" subverts expectations again: Low stick with "Double Negative" producer BJ Burton but drive him to hone in on a completely separate aspect of their sound.
Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker's dueling vocal harmonics are at the center of the album, spruced up by sparse sonic elements that sound so fucked they're almost completely unrecognizable. Is it guitar, drums, synth? It's hard to tell as chaotic, fractured sounds buzz and break off beneath Parker and Sparhawk's melancholy chorals. Opener 'White Horses' sets the stage, with mic hiss and axe fuzz slowly breaking into stuttering ear-bending electronics.
It's music that feels dangerously experimental, but never loses the magic of Low's idiosyncratic songwriting in the lead clouds of white noise, wobbling subs and ear-splitting fuzz. This time around Low have found a comfort zone making devotional music that forces itself thru our era's deafening cultural cacophony, finding a place of euphoric resonance. It's proof that a band can exist for nearly three decades and still find relevance in change, self-exploration and sonic rehabilitation.
Colin Potter’s legendary ICR host the debut issue of powerful drone improvisations by London’s Jason Barton aka BArTc
Hand-picked and mastered by synth master Potter (NWW) for this release, the 13 tracks of ‘Insubstantial As Ghosts’ evidently share a realm of fascination with Potter’s own work. They are richly textured and immersive tracts of seemingly organically occurring electronics where its composer feels more like a fleshy medium for the circuit boards than the guy in charge of what’s happening.
In waves of thick, viscous tone he seamlessly consolidates raw synth sounds with field recordings, sometimes breaking off into unexpected pockets of inquiry, but more often helming to tunnelling vectors that drag its listeners into properly zonked head spaces with purpose and dread, perhaps best felt in the mighty traction of ‘Energy Field’ and the vertiginous dimensions and thousand yard stare dynamics of ‘Looking Into The Abyss’, recalling to our minds everythign from Potter’s work with Nurse WIth Wound to Giancarlo Toniutti’s grinding hypnagogia.
FUJI||||||||||TA's new album is a time-dilating soundtrack to butoh dancer Kentaro Kujirai's 'Gingan Arahabaki', and might just be his deepest work to date. Watery environmental recordings wash against resonant tones from the Japanese instrument builder's unique DIY pump organ = completely singular, evocative sound to file alongside your Kali Malone, BJ Nilsen and Davachis.
For “Gingan Arahabaki”, Kujirai looked to the life of his writer grandfather and painter father - who died only days after the show's premiere - to develop a performance rooted in memory and identity. Fujita responds by playing slow and careful drones with his custom-built pipe organ, mimicking the body's movement with glassy resonance and evocative tonal variations, overlaying more recognizable sounds to paint a time and place lost between history and perception.
Waves rumble and crash far in the distance on opening track 'Umi', growing closer and gaining clarity as the piece develops. It almost feels as if we're walking through a cave, greeted by the guttoral animal groans of Fujita's pipe organ. On 'Taki', Fujita plays with high-frequency tones like an inverse Sunn O))), and meets these with gentle koto plucks and strums, suggesting a fusion of Japan's past and present. Closing track 'Ibuki' returns to rumbling waves, but this time the organ sounds are harder to place, and eventually lost in the water.
'Arahabaki' is a poetic, theatrical work even without Kujirai's physical accompaniment; anyone who enjoyed last year's "Kōmori" or the artist's stunning run of Bandcamp drops should grab this immediately; it's the opposite of "power ambient" somehow - minimal, unashamedly beautiful drone pieces whose power lies in its context and gestural quality. It's an immersive, revitalizing listening experience.
Very canny breakthru debut album from John Glacier, expressing her East London soul with executive production by LA-based Vegyn - a strong look for fans of Coby Sey, Tirzah, Mica Levi, Dean Blunt
‘SHILOH: Lost For Words’ frames Glacier’s singular sort of punk poet rap in 12 concise cuts that lay out her sound at the fringes of electronica, indie-pop and rap, proper. A remarkably diverse but collected whole, the album’s variegation owes to its plethora of like-minded producers - Vegyn, Holly, Psychedelic Ensemble and Tn_490 - who keep the ground shifting woozy and curious at Glacier’s feet, underlining droll lyrics about her hopes and dreams with suitably hazy, suggestive beats, at best in the over-compressed Dean Blunt styles of ‘If Anything,’ the sweetly skewed soul of ‘Trelawny Waters,’ and must-check highlights on the crystalline rap of ‘Boozy’ and the screwed jungle blues hymnal ‘Some Other Thing.’
“John Glacier says she chose her stage name because she's "icy". But, like her pitch-shifted vocal and deadpan stare, that dissembling coldness is shattered by the blistering reality of her lyrics. Everything she writes, in her punk-poet electronic pop songs, is viscerally vulnerable. Her debut album, produced with fellow London-born, LA-based producer Vegyn, is what she calls a "selfish" record, documenting "how I feel, what I'm going through, and where I want to go in my life." But like everything John touches, even this answer shapeshifts, revealing itself to be something unexpected by the time she's finished speaking. SHILOH is a document of healing and evolution that John created over the course of a year. Each track is a reflection of a moment, captured fleetingly, showcasing a different face of John Glacier. "The songs are all completely different spaces," she notes, but the common theme of the album is reflection, and processing – like chipping away at ice.”
Nomadic drum outlaw Stefan Schwander hitches his wagon to Bureau B again for a strong follow-up to the streamlined contours of ‘Plong’
For over ten years Harmonious Thelonious has ploughed a singular, strident path thru a plethora of outernational percussive styles, distilled into his own groove. With ‘Instrumentals’ he follows the subtle readjustments of 2020’s mesmerising ‘Plong’ album with a greater focus on effortlessly rolling structures, consolidating a world of influence from Pan African, South American, Antipodean and Middle Eastern percussive styles with a proper, fine-tuned sort of minimalist, motorik German suss rooted in the perpetual electronic drive of his native Düsseldorf.
Oblivious to trend, the eight supple fusions drums and widescreen flatland atmospheres are a very canny exercise in rhythmic world building, articulated in a drum language bound to be understood by moving bodies. With no tricks or stunts, or less gritty textures than early works, the tracks flow with a glistening quality, unfolding in nuanced permutations of sultry, tango-like elegance on ‘Beiläufige Muziek’, or knitting thumb piano-like rhythmelodies and pealing horns into swingeing syncopation on ‘Halb Ding’ and ‘Apakapa’, while saving a massive highlight for the heads down and shoulder bouncing ‘Yusuf’, which appears to imagine an elision of indigenous Australian and Kurdish Dabke reference points to our ears.
Inimitably eclectic figure Richard Youngs effectively sings thru his Spanish guitar strings upon return to Richo’s Fourth Dimension Records
‘Iker’, pronounced “eeker” and translating from Basque as ‘Visitation’, showcases Youngs’ lyrical solo guitar prowess at its stripped down best in a vein of practice shared by John Fahey and Sir Richard Bishop. It’s the most serene of his sides for the label, and absorbingly porous to his environment, very subtly incorporating street sounds and bird song, tape loops and synth that enliven the spare, afternoon air of the recordings and lend extra nuance for attentive listeners to lose themselves in, before becoming more noticeably foreground in the final part..
Dntel returns with a collection of 10 pop-infused vocal hymns. "Away" is the second of two Dntel albums to be released in 2021 by Morr Music in collaboration with Les Albums Claus.
"Jimmy Tamborello AKA Dntel is a musician who changed pop music forever – and still works in this never-ending labour of love, both effortless and highly focused, constantly tweaking the universe of our musical perception. Whether beatless or uncompromisingly embracing the limelight of collective ecstasy with one of his most remembered tunes "(This Is) The Dream Of Evan And Chan", his almost forgotten anthem "Don’t Get Your Hopes Up" or his work as James Figurine. "Away" features 10 of these extravaganzas – uniting his audience once more in hope and future-bound optimism.
"I grew up with 80s techno-pop – these influences always come through in my music", Jimmy writes from Los Angeles. For this album, though, "I was thinking more of 80s indie pop or labels like 4AD. It is a mix of those influences along with trying to figure out what elements of my own discography I still connect with. I wanted it to reflect old Dntel records as well as the techno-pop band Figurine I used to be in. I have always considered my music basically being techno-pop, but not referring to pop as popular music – I just like pretty melodies. But with the Dntel moniker, I never had the ambition to produce music for a really big audience.”
It is exactly that looseness in approaching music which makes Tamborello’s style of composing so unique. On "Away" he combines a healthy dose of distortion with the most-sticking melodies, vocals and bitter-sweet lyrics he ever came up with – performing all vocals himself, with the help of technology. "My voice has a limited range. When I applied this vocal processing it seemed to bring out the emotions more. I don’t see it as the same as the more artificial, autotuned style of modern pop music. I think it still sounds like it could be a real person singing, just not me."
Using this technique, Dntel disembodies himself from his own art, welcoming all kinds of interpretations re. his current state as an artist. "Somehow this processed voice feels closer to how I see myself than my normal voice, for better or worse…", he writes. Pop music is a fragile entity, making its kingpins vulnerable. Many emotions reveal a lot of the originator’s personality –this is something one has to be prepared for. On "Away", Jimmy Tamborello finds the perfect way of marrying his unique musical personality with both the demands and possibilities of pop music. Just listen to "Connect" and you’ll know what we’re talking about. A perfect, yet timeless album for less than perfect times."
This collection of damaged subsonic headmelters was originally released back in 2001 under the CTI moniker, and used Carter's 1970s and '80s Throbbing Gristle rhythm tapes to inspire industrial vignettes that have been used on countless installations, TV ads and Hollywood movie trailers since. Still so far ahead of the game - frozen ambient void soundtrax.
This second collection of ambient reworks takes his pioneering Throbbing Gristle sounds into a sub-aquatic cave of watery textures, rumbling sheet subs and chattering alien echoes. It's not drone material by any means - Carter retains the rhythmic push of his TG beat tapes, but flexes them in dilated time, reminding of Thomas Köner or Kevin Drumm.
Tracks don't so much play from beginning to end as twist thru the perceived audio field like weightless blunt smoke diving between hi-frequency whirrs and lo-end growls. It's music that can pretty much only be enjoyed on a decent set of speakers or headphones - the original release read "not mono compatible" and "contains sub-sonics and resonant frequencies which lower specified audio apparatus may find difficult to faithfully reproduce".
But if you're in possession of a half-decent setup you're in for a treat. There are few artists who possess Carter's wizardry working in this mode. As a pioneer he changed the game, but he also rarely repeatshimself. Billed as "ambient remixes", these eerie versions are several steps removed from the cloying ambient music that clogs up playlists and soundtracks. Carter's take on the genre exists in negative space and hinges on dub flavor, hypnotic texture and pure sonic confusion. It's next level shit, from beginning to end.
‘Yellow’ is the life-giving debut album opus from pivotal London jazz player and band leader Emma-Jean Thackray, channelling sacred strains of everyone from Sun Ra to Alice Coltrane and even Funkadelic
Cementing a solid reputation as a catalyst of London’s jazzy groundswell in recent years, Thackray gathers a crack squad of the city’s finest for 14 variegated tracks deeply informed by ‘70s jazz fusion, but just as prone to veer off on cosmic or P-funk tangents. Recorded over the past 12 months of strife, ‘Yellow’ ultimately conveys a message of positivity thru classically schooled means, drawing upon examples of high black art, and effectively where they came from, to offer a whole vibe for those in need.
Hailed by the label as “exactly like the sort of thing we’ve been longing for over the last 12 months: a transcendent, human, shared experience” we’re inclined to agree; ‘Yellow’ is just the ticket to clear the murk with its cloud busting bursts of harmonic colour, plush vocals and elastic bounce. We advise checking for the effervescent bustle of ‘Third Eye’ at its core for a proper spirit lifter, and looking out for Sun Ra-esque gems in the cosmic beauty of album opener ‘Mercury,’ while dancers will be charmed by the bubbling takers of ‘Venus’ and the swingeing rug-cutters ‘Rahu & Ketu’ or ‘Our People.’
The architect engineer of Industrial music, Chris Carter (TG, X-TG, CTI, Chris & Cosey) turns classic early works inside out in an Electronic Ambient style on the first of reissued volumes with Mute.
Effectively rendering his seminal solo debut album ‘The Space Between’ in hyperspace, Carter measures distance travelled between the end of the ‘70s and 2000AD with ‘Electronic Ambient Remixes One.’ Originally issued under the CTI alias that he shares with creative and life partner Cosey Fanni Tutti, the album exemplifies his switch from angular manipulations of bespoke hardware to a mixture of hardware and computer-based systems, practically melting the tensile hard edges of his early classics with infinitely smooth gradients and more sensual pulses that reset their meaning from club and living room laboratories to a headier abstract metaspace.
For anyone familiar with Carter’s 1980 debut album, it’s all the more remarkable to hear those tracks utterly transformed and transposed into their reflections here. Unrecognisable from the originals, Carter translates their original post-Industrial vernacular into an alien language of vaporous signs and suggestive textures, dematerialising any semblance of fixed structure in favour of sheer amorphousness and floating amniotic sensation somewhere between lush and unheimlich. But for anyone unfamiliar with the originals, we’d even advise doing them in reverse chronology to hear what were once deeply futuristic forms emerge from Ur flux and vice versa.
Finders Keepers' 3rd volume of Ilaiyaraaja tunes offers a bounty of south subcontinental '80s electro-disco-pop. While their previous collections have homed in on his work with the "Tamil Nightingale", K.S. Chitra, and "The Electronic Pop Sound Of Kollywood 1977-1983", this one follows in the same vein as Bombay Connection's excellent 'Fire Star: Synth Pop & Electro-Funk From Tamil Films 1984-1989' or Cartilage Records' amazing 'Play That Bat Mr. Raja' compilations with 17 songs selected for their dancefloor potential.
Drawn from a collection of over 4500 (and counting) songs mostly written for original soundtracks hardly known outside of his home region, 'Ilectro' follows up Raja's appearance in the Olympics opening ceremony of 2012 with a techno-coloured burst of sonic joy bound to thrill with its crammed arranegments and highly idiosyncratic application of early DX7 synths and cut-up drum machine patterns to traditional raga-style melodies and typically emoting vocals. To this extent his music can be likened with Charanjit Singh's acidic ragas or even the electronic orientations of early adopter Ilhan Mimaroglu in Turkey. Yet, ultimately, as you'll hear, this music is in a league of its own, augmenting Western pop ideas and electronics with a unique accent individual to gayaki style Carnatic music and the bombastic emotion of Kollywood cinema.
Charming expo of mbira music from Zimbabwe, 1983, charting its symbolism during early years of the country’s independence and as a means of contacting the spirit world
Showcasing the playing of Ephat Mujuru, the descendent of a respected spirit medium and master of the mbira dzavadzimu - “a handheld lamellophone used in Shona region to make contact and receive council from deceased ancestors” - the four pieces on ‘Mbavaira’ document Ephat working with a newly formed band, The Spirit of the People on their 2nd album of acoustic mbira music.
While named for the Shona for something like “chaos”, the album was intended to foster unity between Zimbabwe’s two dominant ethnic groups, the Shona and the Ndebele, and arrived on the country’s only label Gramma Records as one of few commercially issued mbira recordings at the time, and was practically received as a pop record, an immediate quality that it carries thru into 2021.
Ephat tragically died from a heart attack at Heathrow Airport in 2001, aged 51, en route to perform and teach in the US, and ‘Mbavaira’ is a lovely testament to his legacy, flowing free with four tracks of complex rhythmelodic colour and soulful vocals by his uncle Mude, sweepign from he lilting dealign music of the title track to the trad hunting song ‘Nyama Musango’ (Meat in the Forest) via the swingeing hustle of ‘Kuenda Mbire’ *Going to Mbire) and the more brooding tone of ‘Mudande’, named for a remote northern village in Zimbabwe.