2.5 hours of proggy euro techno by widely adored veteran Laurent Garnier, the latest in a career straddling five decades. We advise checking for the brooding heft of ‘Saturn Drive Triplex’ starring Suicide’s Alan Vega, the gnarled drive of ‘Closer’ to You’ co-produced by Scan X, and the peak time euro-disco-techno hero theme of ‘Reviens la Nuit’
“Laurent Garnier is one of electronic music’s best-known acts, a pioneering household name responsible for decades of clubland classics. From experiencing the acid-house movement first-hand as a DJ at The Haçienda through to timeless hits such as the breakout ‘Crispy Bacon’ and the enduring ‘The Man With The Red Face’, his tireless enthusiasm has permeated the dance music landscape via six celebrated albums, numerous singles and a relentless touring schedule.
On ‘33 Tours Et Puis S’en Vont’, Laurent Garnier’s first solo LP in 8 years and his most dancefloor-oriented yet, a total mastery of House, Techno, and beyond is on full display. Club-leaning cuts from ‘Liebe Grüße Aus Cucuron’ through to ‘Granulator Bordelum’ all distil his years of warehouse, club, and festival experience into thrilling expressions of musical tension and release.
Vocal-led tracks tastefully borrow from a range of genre influences; from the Hip Hop inflected ‘In Your Phase’ with 22Carbone, an incendiary number that will be firmly burnt into the memory of any attendee of Garnier’s recent DJ sets, to the Punk of ‘Saturn Drive Triplex’, which features vocals from the late Alan Vega, of influential duo Suicide notoriety.
Elsewhere, sprinklings of broken rhythms appear in the leftfield downtempo cut ‘...et puis
s’en Va!’ and Drum & Bass experiment ‘Sado Miso’, offering listeners a further view into his wide-ranging taste.”
The quietly devastating ’Picture of Bunny Rabbit’ forms a long fabled studio sequel of sorts to Arthur Russell’s divine debut and sole album, ‘World of Echo’, offering up nine previously unreleased recordings from the same, enchanted 1985/86 sessions.
Quite simply ‘World of Echo’ is among the most important, groundbreaking avant-pop records of the late c.20th, so the release of ‘Picture of Bunny Rabbit’ after 38 years in the archive is nothing short of momentous. Sourced from a fiercely guarded archive and one of two test-pressings - dated 9/15/85 by Arthur, as supplied by his mother and sister - this posthumous release nestles a radical iteration of Russell's classic ‘In The Light of the Miracle’ and a gobsmacking title song amid its treasures, which are bound to send the late, great auteur’s acolytes reeling upon contact. Honestly it’s once in a lifetime gear; be wowed now or later - up to you - but wowed you will be.
A pivotal node of NYC’s legendary ’70s downtown experimental scene, who uniquely joined the dots between country-folk, contemporary classical, disco, and the avant-garde, Arthur Russell was tragically diagnosed with HIV in 1985, the same year he released ‘World of Echo’. Beyond an inner circle and those in the know, its dreamlike, disembodied chamber-pop was sorely under appreciated at the time, yet has only grown in stature with the benefit of hindsight, becoming name-checked by almost any modern singer-songwriter worth your time. ‘Picture of Bunny Rabbit’, so named for a standout dedication to a pet of Arthur’s pal, now returns us to the waking dream of ‘World of Echo’ decades advanced and maybe a little wiser, more cynical, yet it still hits harder than we could ever have expected.
The nine parts are lovingly sequenced into an album that ideally showcases the humbling halcyon of Russell's genius. Vacillating achingly beautiful, nuanced ‘Fuzzblaster’ instrumentals for amplified cello and keys with songs, proper, such as the whispered folk-blues of ‘Not Checking Up’ and the nerve-knitting strokes of ‘Telling No One’, it all wraps us up in the most human, cathartic embrace. His phasing, skeletal gem ‘Very Reason’ and synaestehtic sensuality of ‘The Boy With a Smile’ are clearly cut of the same cloth as ‘WoE’, and have a similarly beatific effect, but if we’re playing faves the final couplet are just utterly beyond.
With the title song ‘Picture of Bunny Rabbit’ we’re privy to a stunning, tragically unexplored trajectory for his songcraft into glitching dissonance that betrays his roots in the avant-garde and, likewise, offering us hints as to where it could have gone, while the wobbling, plucky raptures of his new version to ‘In The Light of the Miracle’ characterises the open-ended spirit and mutability of his compositions, sounding distinctive as ever thanks to his eternally fragile yet striking falsetto. Alongside 2022’s ’Sketches for World of Echo: June 25 1984 Live at Ei’, this stunning new suite helps build a true picture of Russell’s gift, we're lucky to be able to bear witness.
Siouxsie Sioux’s debut solo album ‘Mantaray’ reissued with new artwork.
"Mantaray saw Siouxsie revel in a sense of freedom, producing something much more expansive than her previous work. The first single from the album, the spellbinding ‘Into A Swan’ proved that Siouxsie was still very much in control. Fans and media alike embraced the record, and the ensuing tour sold out wherever it went. For those who had only dipped into her previous work, a new slew of delights and surprises met them on the record itself and at the live shows.
Siouxsie Sioux has released 16 critically acclaimed studio albums with Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Creatures and her solo debut, Mantaray."
Dedalus Ensemble performs Brian Eno's Discreet Music, Music for Airports, and Thursday Afternoon.
"With Discreet Music (1975), Music for Airports (1978) and Thursday Afternoon (1985), Brian Eno invented a new music genre, Ambient Music, which he defined as "able to accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting."
These versions performed and arranged by Dedalus Ensemble, according to the musicians and the critics who listened to it, goes beyond what we expect from it. A mental base that takes us far away. One of the only music without beginning or end in which we want to stay as long as possible.
Inspired by Erik Satie's furniture music, Cage's indeterminacy and La Monte Young's drones, Eno's series of compositions were based on strict formal protocols bringing the listener into an enthralling world of sounds."
Monte Cazazza is the dark godfather of Industrial music. A notorious performance artist from San Francisco, Monte's credibility is such that he even coined the term Industrial music from his "Industrial Music For Industrial People" quote, which Throbbing Gristle would later borrow for their legendary label.
Since the late 70's he worked as a producer and engineer for TG and Psychic TV among others, besides very occasional releases of his own peculiar music. Released through the crucial Blast First Petite label, on 'The Cynic' Monte gets some shit off his chest, from ultra-bleak doomscapes to narcotic electro and cod-country. 'The Interrogator' is the most overtly dark and atmospheric composition, but there's different strains of darkness to be found in the Ennio Morricone-aping 'A Gringo Like Me' and lyrics like "There's just one kind of man who tells the truth/that's a dead man/ or a gringo like me" or the Nick Cave-ish 'Terminal' with its vividly bleak desert scenery.
The "Dance" tracks are equally unnerving, from the vacant electro of 'Break Number One' or the slow sauna chug of 'What's So Kind About Mankind?' and the finale 'Birds Of Prey' with morose lyrics set to sluggishly-spiked and sombre piano house with a twyst. Well recommended to all tortured souls out there.
Dead City Nights is the seventh album from CUT.
"If you’ve not witnessed CUT storming on stage in the last 25 years I’m not sure you’ve witnessed rock’n’roll in its purest form, an onslaught of concrete punk, garage belters and the necessary dose of sleaze and bravado when the song calls for it. Two guitars, one drum kit, that’s been their formula forever, low-end/high-end, angular, in-yer-face on paper but subtle in execution, confrontational at first but with a heart that looms large, soulful yet fierce. ‘Dead City Nights’ is no exception and maybe marks their highest achievement, chock-full of signature bangers and the usual dose of irony."
This long-gestating box set of electronic pioneer and Coil collaborator Drew McDowall’s solo work takes its title from a technical term meaning ‘plate’ or ‘layer’ most often used in contexts either geological or anatomical: Lamina. He speaks of the compiling process similarly: “Digging into my archives felt like a mix of psychoanalysis and archaeology – uncovering buried things.” The six CD collection includes expanded editions of his four most recent Dais LPs (Collapse, 2015; Unnatural Channel, 2017; The Third Helix, 2018; and Agalma, 2020), alongside a disc of rarities (Undulations and Aberrations) and one of live performances (Entanglement). Taken together, it presents a definitive portrait of McDowall’s cryptic, questing artistry, forever seeking “that sense of stepping over a threshold.”
"The bonus material in particular is revelatory, broadening both the context and complexity of its respective full-length. The fifth disc spans two decades of stray recordings, from 90’s studio experiments to lost comp tracks to sold-out tapes, modular oddities, and rhythmic sketches. Sequenced chronologically, it demonstrates the zig-zagging evolution of McDowall’s sound, colored by formative years collaborating in Coil but extrapolated into freshly forking paths: industrial dub, icy downtempo, tonal devotionals, hexed gamelan, interstitial murk. The suite of live sets, too, is essential listening.
Despite its duration, Lamina is a leanly plotted survey, devoid of dead weight. Few artists as omnivorous as McDowall are also as self-editing – his standards are rigorous, and revealing: “While working, I’m always changing things, hacking them away, abandoning them when they don’t work. When listening back I’m looking for a sense of awe and wonder. Otherworldly magic. If I’m not hearing that, I don’t see the point.” "
LCO’s maverick and distinctive player, composer and arranger furnishes ‘Aftersun’ , the award-winning debut feature by Scottish director Charlotte Wells, with a richly melancholic and haunting suite of strings, synths and electro-acoustic nuance.
A principle cellist for Aurora Orchestra, London Sinfonietta, Britten Sinfonia and London Contemporary Orchestra, as well as collaborator with everyone from Mica Levi to Laurie Tompkins, Radiohead and Laura Cannell; Oliver Coates arrives at his score for ‘Aftersun’ with a resounding reputation as one of his generation’s preeminent musicians.
His work on ‘Aftersun’ is testament to a confident assurance in his skill at evoking the subtlest, fleeting, and tenderest feelings with 14 parts that adeptly underline the film’s themes of adults struggling with life, and youthlings coming into their own. No doubt it also works beautifully well as a standalone piece of music in its own right, blessed with an often devastating emotional quality that works to the finest line of restraint and modestly maximising minimalist gestures to effect, and really tearing at the heartstrings when the time calls for it, as on the extraordinary closing sequence of its Bowie riffing ‘Last Dance’.
Swingeing, propulsive Central African dance-pop from 1989, wedding man to machine in lathered triplets fizzing with melody - make sure to check the abundant charms of his anthem ‘Jolie Poupée’ and the instrumental ‘Ye Wo Kombel’ for a delirious club cut.
“Roger Bekono made a deep mark in the contemporary history of Cameroonian music through the four-on-the-floor, ribald intensity of bikutsi. The Ewondo-language dance-pop style that forms an undulating tapestry of interlocking triplet rhythmic interplay came to international prominence in the European “world music” scene as the 90s began. But the relentless sound of bikutsi developed in Yaoundé at the hands of Bekono and many others, as it developed from a village-based singing style performed mostly by women into a cosmopolitan music force that rivaled the popularity of established musics like Congolese rhumba, merengue and makossa. With his unique—some say suave—voice, Bekono contributed much over a period of more than 10 years as part of the evolution of this traditional rhythm-turned-urban dance movement.
It was in the 1980s that the big names in bikutsi emerged. The style began to have international visibility. A multitude of vibrant, young talent appeared on the Cameroonian music scene. There had already been the crucial groundwork laid by the father of modern bikutsi Messi Martin who discovered how to transpose the sound of the traditional balafon (xylophone) to an electric guitar. Bekono sensed that bikutsi was in its golden age amid fierce competition he took his time to prepare his first solo album by working with the big names of the time, from both the old and new generations.
In 1987, Bekono released Assiko 100,000 Watts on LP and cassette. Very quickly the album became a hit with "Biza" and "Assiko 100,000 Watts" receiving radio play. He sold plenty of records and cassettes and toured the nation. This album brought him to northern Cameroon, where met Ali Baba (the father of Soul Gandja, a style of his own design), a rising star of modern music in the region. They became close friends during that period. The album title refers to yet another style of dance and music, assiko, It is important to note the assiko is not a traditional Bassa dance, but rather a dance adopted by Bassa-speaking folks. It is a traditional Cameroonian healing dance transformed into a party dance, especially found among the Bassa and the Beti. It is therefore thanks to this song that Bekono gets invited to perform in this coastal part of Cameroon, Bassa country, where he meets assiko legends Jean Bikoko and Samson Chaud Gar. The song “Biza" also made a lot of noise outside the capital, and even in the Beti villages during celebratory events. Bekono set his sights on international superstardom though. So he began work on his third album, to be released at the end of 1989.
In the middle of 1989, Jolie Poupée was released by the label Inter Diffusion System and aggressively hit the radio, discos and national television. The music video for the title track was on loop on TV. It felt like everyone was talking about it, even artists in adjacent music scenes like makossa. The album came out on vinyl and cassette and remains Bekono’s best-selling recording to this day.”
The exploratory kosmische spirits of Cluster and Conrad Schnitzler loom over Hawksmoor’s rawly pulsing but melodic hauntological modular synth and guitar scapes - one for fans of Ghost Box, Tarotplane, Benge.
“Telepathic Heights is the first album on Soul Jazz Records for the artist Hawksmoor. This incredible new release follows a path along the electronic skyways first created by the German/Krautrock electronic pioneers of the 1970s such as Cluster, Ash Ra Tempel, Roedelius and Michael Rother.
Hawksmoor is James McKeown. He first created 'Hawksmoor’ five years ago as an imaginary hauntological soundtrack, inspired by the six Hawksmoor churches in London. Further releases have followed on Environmental Studies, the cassette-only label 'Spun Out of Control', Castles in Space and The Library of The Occult.
For his debut on Soul Jazz Records, Hawksmoor has created a fascinatingblend of these two sensibilities – a love of German electronic music of the 1970s alongside the British retrofuturism and cultural memory bank aesthetic of hauntology - Ghost Box, Mount Vernon Arts Lab, Advisory Circle, Focus Group etc. Using strictly modular synths (Moog Sub37), electronic drum rhythms, and guitars, Hawksmoor creates an electronic landscaped music world that is both new and old, immediately identifiable and yet utterly unique.”
Slugs of Love from Swedish 4-piece Little Dragon.
"Little Dragon – spearheaded by vocalist Yukimi Nagano – return with an utterly beguiling blend of avant pop on their album “Slugs of Love” on Ninja Tune, inviting outright legend Damon Albarn (Gorillaz, Blur) and rapper JID (J Cole / Dreamville) for collabs. The record features the singles ‘Slugs of Love’, ‘Frisco’, ‘Stay (feat. JID)’ and ‘Kenneth’.
The universally loved (and GRAMMY-nominated) band paved the way for the likes of Billie Eilish, Steve Lacy, Solange and Kaytranada, setting the benchmark for electronic pop and inspiring the new generation to push boundaries and explore new sonic territories."
The legendary collaboration between master percussionist Bonjo Iyabinghi Noah and producer Adrian Sherwood return with their first new studio album in twelve years.
"Originally conceived in 1981 as an attempt to make Brian Eno’s “vision of a psychedelic Africa” exist in musical form, the project has evolved and mutated over the years but all the hallmarks of their classic sound are present and correct on this record: hypnotic hand drums driving rhythms to move your head and feet; coupled with mind-bending arrangements and dubwise production.
Inimitable guest vocals by the award winning Ghanaian kologo master, King Ayisoba lend an extra dimension. An act of cultish proportions, African Head Charge have been compared to Sun Ra “for their same ability to head into the unknown” - Echoes magazine. Recorded between Ghana and the UK, A Trip To Bolgatanga is a triumphant comeback."
PJ Harvey's first album since 2016's politically-charged 'The Hope Six Demolition Project' is a lavish and singular treat, inspired by her epic poem 'Orlam' and littered with Biblical imagery and Shakespearean nods.
How many artists actually reach the ten album mark and still manage to challenge and exceed themselves? PJ Harvey hits that milestone with expected panache, plunging into the folkloric magicl realism of her 2022-released novel-in-verse 'Orlam' (written in Dorset dialect, no less) to inspire a tight 12-track album that sways between mossy real-world landscapes and fantastical, dreamy half-memories. Again co-produced by her regular collaborators Flood and John Parish, the album was semi improvised, intended to be a place of solace for listeners at odds with our destabilised current reality. And like 'White Chalk' - for our money PJ Harvey's finest album - 'I Inside the Old Year Dying' sounds as if it corals fragments of British history into a patchwork of old and new, masterfully avoiding the awkwardness of revivalist folk, mainstream pop or played-out indie rock.
The record starts slowly with 'Prayer at the Gate', a droning crawl of a track that's anchored by Harvey's resonant cries and eccentric vocalizations. With sparse instrumentation and subtle electronic tones pillowing Harvey's voice, it's a suitably gothic introduction that positions us in a crumbling church on a hillside somewhere on the South West coast. 'Lwonesome Tonight' is fried with bluegrass electricity that livens her dialectal lament - lwonesome is a Dorset pronunciation of lonesome, of course - and cautiously guides the album towards lightness. "Are you Elvis, are you God? Jesus sent you to win my trust," she opines. On 'The Nether-edge', Harvey slurs into a voice changer over sloppy, hollowed-out drums and foley clacks, cutting into the looping, synthy ambience with occasional electric piano chords. This one's like Tricky going toe-to-toe with Heather Leigh, all murky textures and sheer vocal range.
'All Souls' is even more skeletal, matching sparse, rhythmic melodic gasps and faint rumbles with Harvey's poetic verses. In time, the veil is removed slightly and cymbals crash into the foreground, leaving Harvey to coil her voice into a gruff, smokey rasp. And with 'A Child's Question, August', one of the album's treasured advance singles, she sings directly to her base, chiseling her last run of albums' doomed folk-blues into a fine point.
'I Inside the Old Year Dying' is another dazzling set from Harvey, filled with puzzles and questions we're likely to be unraveling for the rest of the year.
Julie Byrne makes homespun, lushly orchestrated folk pop that's as fleetingly beautiful as a dream. RIYL Jessica Pratt, Grouper, Marissa Nadler or Angel Olsen.
Since Julie Byrne's last album, 2017's 'Not Even Happiness' she's been through severe personal trauma, losing her close friend and collaborator Eric Littmann, who passed away during the recording of the album and whose production anchored its predecessor. Byrne describes 'The Greater Wings' as a love letter to her chosen family, and says "being reshaped by grief also has me aware of what death does not take from me." And although the suite of songs is pocked with sadness, it's also hopeful, light-hearted and occasionally transcendent.
The opening, title track is all open-hearted, orchestral folk-pop, led by Byrne's smokey voice and delicate fingerpicking. It's not hard to hear why she's connected with so many listeners - she writes functional pop music, with all the hooks and earworms that you'd expect, but dressed in the drapery of Nashville, with lavish instrumentation to reinforce her spartan core elements. On 'Moonless' her voice is contorted into a hoarse whisper, crying over slow piano and cinematic swoops, while 'Summer's End' loses the guitar and vocals altogether, placing cascading harp sounds over wind chimes and distant, synthesised pads.
But those radio pop moments are where she shines brightest: 'Flare' is subdued but ornate when it needs to be, led by Byrne's joyful tones, and 'Hope's Return' sounds like a more theatrical counterpart to Grouper's game-changing 'Heavy Water'.
The Voice of Theseus by Yann Novak, via Room 40.
"The Voice of Theseus is my attempt to explore the obstacles I face in processing external sensory information. If I have trouble perceiving reds and greens, if I have trouble hearing certain frequencies, if I don’t interpret written language in a standard way, how closely can I experience reality in the way that others experience it? The album asks the listener to question how their unique means of perception and interpretation might differ from that of others.
For The Voice of Theseus, I asked two of my favorite vocalists to assist with this experiment. Both Dorian Wood and G.Brenner recorded vocals for me to manipulate throughout the album. If their original audio is Theseus’s ship, the changes I make to their voices are like the Athenians replacing each of the original vessel’s pieces. And so, how far can these vocals be pushed while still remaining attached to the vocalists’ identities? Where lies the separation between the source materials and the objects they’re used to create?
The myth of Theseus’ ship allowed me to tease at the nuances of how reality can be observed, interpreted, and altered in an indeterminate number of ways; it can be dismantled and rebuilt, many times over. And yet, because of my internal circumstances, a perceptual insecurity remains. As flexible as the true nature of an object or moment may be, inaccuracy looms. There’s no real way to know how great the disparity is between my observational experiences and another’s, and no clear limit of how many pieces of our shared reality can be altered—before it stops being just that. - Yann Novak "
Reissue of the rare 70’s folk-jazz record from Toronto based artist Beverly Glenn-Copeland previously released on the Canadian GRT imprint.
"The debut release by Afro-Canadian singer, songwriter, and cult figure within new age experimental sounds, has been long sought after. The soulful jazz release, was original recorded in 1970 alongside musicians Dough Bush, Don Thompson, Terry Clark, Lenny Breau, Jeremy Steig and Ray Charles collaborator Doug Riley a.k.a. Dr. Music. Written when he was 26, the album is a testament to Copeland's stand-out songwriting, and earnest, beautiful vocal talents, fitting into the realms of spiritual folk.
Born into a musical family in Ottawa Canada, Beverly Glenn-Copeland studied the classical piano repertoire, after being brought up listening to his father playing at home. Following his studies, Copeland moved on to songwriting, in order to weave all the different musical cultures he had come to love. He is best known for the 1986 release Keyboard Fantasies, re-issued in 2017 by Invisible City, a record described as a mixture of "digital new age and early experimental Detroit techno." Now going by his name Glenn Copeland after gender transitioning, the singer songwriter also made a name for himself writing children's music for TV shows Sesame Street, and Mr. Dressup.
Referring back to his debut record, Copeland states: "I was a fresh-faced kid of twenty-six when I wrote these songs, only a few years out of the classical music world in which I had been immersed since childhood, performing the European classical song repertoire in concerts both live and for radio broadcast. So I sold my oboe, bought a guitar and began tuning it in wild and wonderful ways to more easily find the chords I had no idea how to find in the regular tuning. I didn't want to study anymore. I just wanted to write."
ANOHNI's sixth studio album is a soulful, politicised soundtrack to activism that stands in opposition to toxic systems of control, inspired by Marvin Gaye's charged 'What's Going On'.
ANOHNI brings the Johnsons out of retirement for this new set, doubling down on her commitment to queer liberation with a refreshed nod to Marsha P. Johnson, whose face is featured on the album's cover. This time around, ANOHNI collaborates with Amy Winehouse producer Jimmy Hogarth, who brings the simmering soul out of her magical songs. In fact, the sparseness of the production is remarkable, leaving space between feather-light guitars and gently urgent drums for ANOHNI's voice to ring out confidently and take full focus. The relative darkness and disconnectedness of 2016's award-winning 'HOPELESSNESS' is nowhere to be found; here, ANOHNI sounds inspired and motivated by the process of renewal, so it's hardly surprising that she looked back to her earliest inspirations, in this case Marvin Gaye's 'What's Going On', for guidance.
And while 'My Back...' isn't just a tribute to Gaye, it immediately captures that album's distinctive mood. 'It Must Change' opens the album with soulful tenderness. "The truth is that our love will ricochet through eternity," she calls over bittersweet electric guitar strums and dusty drums. It's not a one-off either, the winning blend of vintage instrumentation and impassioned vocals carries through the rest of the record: 'Can't' is warm and affecting, and 'Scapegoat' is a heartbreaking, low-lit anthem that gushes into country-flecked, slowcore grandeur. On 'Rest', ANHONI's sublime falsetto is matched with delicate twangs and skeletal percussion, while on the lengthy 'Why Am I Alive Now?', she questions her existence, wondering about the natural world over exotica keys and curling orchestrals.
Comprehensive 5CD box set collecting Tindersticks' film scores for the films of Claire Denis, 1996-2009 - 75 tracks clocking in at over 3 hours of pure low-lit 'artmelters that amount to - in our opinion - some of the most memorable soundtrack work of our time.
Ever since a chance meeting in Paris many moons ago, Nottingham's preeminent misanth-romantics Tindersticks have been providing quietly breathtaking instrumental scores for acclaimed French director Claire Denis. Compiled by Constellation, these six feature-length soundtracks will appeal to committed fans, but really deserve to find a wide audience far beyond as they represent some of the most memorable low-lit soundtrack work of the era.
Like the films they were made for; 35 Rhums, L’Intrus, Vendredi Soir, Trouble Every Day, White Material and Nenette Et Boni - the band’s evocative pieces are all about the accumulation of detail, and build slowly to crushing emotional climaxes. Denis is so often preoccupied with landscape and the individual's place within it, and Tindersticks respond with treatments that navigate the intimate and the expansive: somewhere between smoked-out brush-stroke Jazz, pastoral folk and modern classical, with shades of the most austere 90s Americana and post-rock, with guitar, harmonium and chamber strings prominent throughout.
For us it's the soaring, drum-driven material from Denis's most recent picture, White Material, that hits hardest, but really it's all crushing stuff, and rewards deep immersion.
Caterina Barbieri somehow recalls both Laurie Spiegel and Lorenzo Senni on her staggering debut album, with ‘Ecstatic Computation’ yielding her most striking and accessible experiments in pointedly explorative synthesis
Working at the point where deep, learned R&D meets sophisticated expression of soul, ‘Ecstatic Computation’ is one of those rare LP's that comes close to divining the ghost in the machine. In further pursuit of the themes underlining Caterina’s ‘Patterns of Consciousness’  and ‘Born Again In The Voltage’  records, here she uses more complex sequencing techniques and pattern-based operations to generate the kind of vivid, hallucinatory trance states that many electronic music followers arguably spend their lives seeking.
With ‘Ecstatic Computation’ Caterina’s basically mastered the art of extracting a contemplative wonder from her machines, creatively using formal process to manipulate the listener’s temporal and proprioceptive senses, subtly distorting our perception of time and space with spellbinding and psychedelic effect. Most crucially, just like her fellow Italian composer, Lorenzo Senni, Barbieri achieves this effect through minimalist means, with a certain magick lying in the way she allows her machines’ full voice to speak as fluidly as the languages of classical music, but with the immediacy of Trance.
From the vertiginous scale and epic breadth of ‘Fantas’, thru the intensely expressive miniature ‘Spine of Desire’, to the balletic agility of ‘Closest Approach to Your Orbit’, Barbieri veritably dances on our nerve endings, before swiftly inverting that headlong futurism with the chamber-like design of ‘Arrows of Time’, featuring vocals by Annie Gårlid (UCC Harlo) and Evelyn Sailor, and wrapping up with the visceral ecstasy of ‘Pinnacles of You’ and a spine-freezing finale ‘Bow of Perception’.
It’s glorious, life-affirming stuff, sure to send her audience stratospheric.
Xiu Xiu’s Hyunhye Seo commands avant-garde piano clatter and drone noise conceptually relating to the mysterious life cycle of eels in her 2nd solo album on Room 40
‘Eel’ continues Hyunhye’s fascination with long slippery objects from 2021’s ’Strands’ across two sidelong works that better weave and consolidate its constituent parts. Where ’Strands’ delineated into sides of drone and piano, respectively, ‘Eel’ binds them with a slow-burning, seething intensity and more psychedelic sensibilities, resulting the oceanic noise waves and psychological horror piano discord keeling into end-of-rope abandon on ‘Eel I’, and the relative respite of the calm before the storm in ‘Eel II’, which soon calves into blizzarding industrial noise just-about-harnessed form the edge of the abyss by her command of the whip and bridle.
“A Note From Hyunhye Seo: Every year, the eels arrive in Sargasso. The eels that sprang to life when the sun god Atum warmed the Nile, the eels generated within the entrails of the earth, from the rubbing of the rocks and dew drops on riverbanks, they travel thousands of kilometres to Sargasso to breed. Their larvae, eels of glass, move to freshwater homes, crawling across land or up waterfalls if necessary, breathing through their skins, to get to where they want to go, although no one knows exactly where or why. Sometimes, they eat snakes and birds. After decades, when they're ready to breed, they stop eating and develop sex organs, and they travel back to Sargasso. If they can't go back to Sargasso, they never fully mature. They just stop ageing.
No human has seen eels breed. Freud dissected over 400 eels in search of eel testicles. Aristotle thought they grew from earthworms in dirt. No one knows why they go where they go, or how they find their way back. Creatures of mud and rain, fluid in time and age, unabashed in its metamorphosis, unknown yet always found.”
The debut from 15-piece South African-Mozambican ensemble IzangoMa is an electro-acoustic fusion of spiritual jazz and splintered analog synthesis that dissolves local folk flavors into a lysergic slop of electrified rhythms, tangled riffs and passionate vocals.
IzangoMa started its evolution when vocalist and keyboard player Sibusile Xaba met percussionist and electronics whizz Ashley Kgabo in 2016. Sibusile had been running workshops in Mozambique and wondered what it might be like to incorporate them in the music he and Ashley were working on, and the music began to take on a life of its own. Across 11 tracks, they work not in a top-down fashion, but let the music develop from the sprawling ensemble. "Even this idea of this music being a voice of remembering the feminine energy," Sibusile says. "That wasn’t there. It developed as the music was leading us. And funny enough, every song is talking about mothers. This wasn’t something that we planned."
The band's tracks don't adhere to any established rules, soaking up township styles like pantsula and bubblegum, and blending them into a Sun Ra-style cacophony of jazz and manic electronics. On 'Birds (Of a Feather)' IzangoMa sound as if they're funneling heaving soundsystem sub bass and frenetic drum machine gulps into a moonlit ritual, and 'Q & A' is minimal and dubby, blessed with woozy oscillations and unsettling environmental whirrs. But the band are clearly in their element when they're allowed free reign to jam - the 14-minute 'Mgung u Ndlovu' begins with a cloud-punching horn solo, but quickly fractalizes into an ecosystem of rustling bells, surreal synths and rattly, unstable rhythms.
Transgressive Records reissue the debut recording from Beverly Glenn-Copeland.
"Long out of print recording from Beverly Glenn Copeland. A modern jazz-folk masterpiece originally recorded for CBC and released as a private promo only pressing, remastered and re-cut for this release by Guy Davie, featuring "Don't Despair" and "Durocher"."
Anthony Pateras' A Dread of Voids on Another Timbre.
"Two beautiful recent works for ensemble by Australian composer Anthony Pateras, one performed in Naarm / Melbourne, Australia, the other in Berlin."
Blackpool’s VHS Head adapts his freakish ferric electro sleaze to soundtrack an imaginary sci-fi set on the Fylde coast.
Raised on ‘80s video nasties and the sound of seafront arcade machines in the UK’s most beloved, if knackered, resort, VHS Head has made a virtue of his home town’s putative reputation since the ‘Video Club’ EP and via subsequent albums ‘Trademark Ribbon of Gold’ and ‘Persistence of Vision’. Comparable with the likes of Moon Wiring Club for a sense of bloody-minded, retrofuturist approach and results that speak to a certain sort of northern eccentricity and nous, his records are held in high acclaim by us and other freaks hailing to this region, not to mention far beyond, and ‘Phocus’, following the story of its titular protagonist, is arguably VHS Head’s magnus opus.
Racking up pop cultural nods to Cronenberg’s ‘Videodrome’, Max Headroom, Sir Patrick Moore-era Games Master, along with more personalised, osmotic absorption of Blackpool’s neon glow and incessant soundspshere, the album is densely turgid with possible reference points, but its the way that VHS Head makes sense of them (or messes them up) that matters. With little to no room to breathe in his data-rich arrangements, it’s a a seriously hallucinogenic and thrilling ride that summon all the sugar rush and booz-a-delic quease of a weekend jag in Blackpool’s underbelly during a fantasy period of the ‘80s that never quite existed, or only in Ade Blacow’s mind and the likes of Gescom.
Recorded between 1976 and 1979 by Ragnar Johnson and Jessica Mayer, 'Spirit Cry Flutes...' is the third and final part of Ideologic Organ's trilogy of music from Papua New Guinea, shining a light on lesser-heard ceremonial music made with bamboo Jew's harps, flutes, voices, gongs and resonating tubes. Bewitching and completely singular stuff.
If you heard Ideologic Organ's previous two sets of recordings from Papua New Guinea, 2018's 'Crying Bamboos' and its predecessor 'Madang / Windim Mabu' that was sampled by Björk on 'Utopia', then you'll already know how great this one's gonna be. The music was captured by Johnson and Mayer while they were stationed in the Eastern Highlands and Madang provinces of Papua New Guinea on an anthropological research residency. Shadowing local musicians, they recorded ceremonial songs made with instruments that have characterised the region's culture for aeons, highlighting the Ommura people's relationship with their environment. For the most part, the instruments were fashioned from materials growing nearby: bamboo shaped into Jew's harps, flutes and resonating tubes, garamut wood fashioned into log drums or slit gongs, and yams carved into ocarina-style fertility flutes.
The music itself developed around various ceremonies, which were central to Ommura life. They staged countless different rites to promote fertility and good harvest, initiate men and women into their gendered roles, cure illnesses and commemorate marriage, birth and death. Johnson and Mayer were welcomed into the culture, offered the chance to record music that's rarely been heard outside of Oceania. It's hard to believe that these sounds have sat unreleased for so long - it's music that can teach open-eared listeners about the emotional and physical forces behind tonality and rhythm, outside of West-warped logic. The first disc mostly centers the peculiar (and relatively familiar) sound of the Jew's harp, an ancient instrument that's believed to have originated in Siberia. Heard completely unaccompanied, we can perceive clearly why the sound was so important and resonant, capable of generating peculiar tones and rhythms simultaneously.
But it's the disc's final track, an almost 25-minute recording of a male initiation ceremony, that has us in pieces. Recorded outside the men's house, we can hear chants and voices in the distance while peculiar water flutes, 'crying baby' leaves and bullroarers create wavering clusters of whoops and wails. It sets us up remarkably well for the second disc, where we experience a more varied set of recordings ranging from vocal chants ('Suwaira Ihi') and flute jams ('We Nama') to drum-led ensemble pieces ('Waudang') and tonally vertiginous breath experiments ('Maner 2').
A seriously deep dive, highly recommended for anyone who thinks they've heard it all.
Pure DM and ‘80s neo-noir worship by Arizonan siblings Body of Light, produced by Telefon Tel Aviv’s Josh Eustis - strapping synth-pop that wears its heart on its sleeve proudly; the sound of small town tristesse, home movie nostalgia, and hormonal angst puckered into propulsive dance music and synth-gaze instrumentals...
“The latest by Arizona desert brotherhood Alex and Andrew Jarson aka Body of Light further hones their smoldering strain of tempestuous synth-pop into a transformative suite of anthems, reveries, and reckonings: Bitter Reflection. Written in the wake of 2019’s neo-EBM classic, Time To Kill, they sifted inspiration from hidden moments within their own arcana – childhood tapes, home movies, abandoned demos – asking themselves the question: “How can we make this grow?” Sampled snippets of voice, noise, synth, and field recordings flicker in the periphery of these 11 tracks, murmuring like nostalgias half-forgotten, or displaced memories. It’s music pulled between twin flames of truth and desire, romanticization and reality, catharsis and control, born of a bond sealed by years, dreams, and blood.
Working with Telefon Tel Aviv co-founder Josh Eustis in Los Angeles, the brothers incorporated an expanded array of live instrumentation – piano, bass, saxophone, acoustic guitar – in addition to vintage Akai samplers, Moogs, and archaic hardware, giving the album an eclectic, unpredictable palette. Opener “Get It Right” showcases their impressive refinement: sleekly cold drum machinery builds to a swooning chorus of synths and piano, then suddenly slips into a dream sequence bridge of strummed guitar and echo-shrouded vocals, before surging back to the main melody. Throughout, the songs shift gears and moods in evocative ways, as if bending to fleeting thoughts or lengthening shadows. Simmering synth lament “Strike The Match” captures the Jarsons’ unique technique of co-crafted lyrics, accruing meaning as the world turns; though written long before, the track ended up being recorded the day Russia invaded Ukraine (“I fall asleep to the candlelight / things will be different but not tonight / it wouldn’t be like you to strike the match / over and over, I can’t understand”).”
Erik Satie recitals by pianist Satsuki Shibano - originally the 3rd in Satoshi Ashikawa’s foundational environmental music series, following his ’Still Way’ and Hiroshi Yoshimura’s ‘Music for Nine Postcards’
Freshly reissued for the first time as part of WRWTFWW Records’ Japanese obsessions, ‘Wave Notation 3: Erik Satie 1984’ is an arch example of how Satie’s furniture music was adored and influential in the Far East, holding particular appeal with their naturally elegant simplicity.
In Satsuki Shibano’s performance of some 26 vignettes and fuller bodied works it’s not hard to hear a bridge between Western classical and the Japanese environmental ambient sound, breezily swept between multiple takes on Satie standards ‘Gnossienne’, Gymnopedie’, and ‘Vexation’, to the airborne waltz of ‘Danses de travers’ and the wist of ‘Nocturne’.
Following the release of the Love Is Still Alive EP, Slovenian group Laibach present their album and soundtrack for Iron Sky : The Coming Race.
"The Coming Race (dir. Timo Vuorensola, 2019), was the follow-up to the film Iron Sky (2012) in which Nazis plot to take over the world after lying dormant in a secret military base on the dark side of the moon. Laibach were commissioned to compose the music for the Finnish dark comedy, which achieved cult-status and raised more than $1 million via crowdfunding, with their original soundtrack being widely acclaimed.
The Coming Race see’s humanity trying to survive on the former Nazi moon base, but as supplies are running low, a small band of survivor’s journey to the hollow Earth's core where a power is buried that could save or destroy mankind. Along the way they must fight an ancient shape-shifting reptilian race to save humanity.
This soundtrack is as epic and cinematic as the first, providing a musical journey of orchestral scores with bonus songs featured on the CD and download, including the track ‘The Coming Race’ that adds Slovenian Grammy winner Amaya’s powerful vocals into the Laibach mix."
Ash Nav drop a real stunner with Phil Todd’s perpendicular spiral into psychedelic space between Herbie Hancock, Mike Cooper, Jeff Mills, and The Ephemeron Loop’s kosmiche vectors,
‘One From Then Another’ catches Todd on a solo mission for the suitably named Fourth Dimension label, who’ve been running even longer than Todd’s tenure of Ashtray Navigations since the mid ‘90s days of Betley Welcomes Careful Drivers. A session that we bet will benefit from a tab on the tongue before hitting play, but no doubt hits lush without it, it breaks down across two long sides with Todd’s guitar guided by funky motorik machine music, traversing fiery psych blues and blowing out into cosmic black holes and symphonic synth scapes on the 28 minutes of ‘Drink The Moment/Thin Fox Legs’, before simmering the energies to a spangled, lilting momentum that remarkably evokes Mike Cooper jamming with Jeff Mills and shores up in head-spinning jazz-fusion psychedelia.
He’s not messing about.
Hull-based quartet BDRMM twist together ambient music, shoegaze and club sounds on their second full-length, sounding like latter-day Radiohead, 65daysofstatic, or even Mogwai.
BDRMM's last album 'Bedroom', released on Sonic Cathedral in 2020, established the band as shoegaze hybridists, as likely to reference My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive as they were AFX. 'I Don't Know' lands on Mogwai's Rock Action label and advances their map of influences, bringing in dancefloor pulses and ambient textures to spice up their proggy, multi-faceted compositions. Opening track 'Alps' is among the record's eerier moments, made up of noisy, frozen synths and skittering beats - it almost sounds like early Artificial Intelligence gear or day zero trance until Ryan Smith's soft tones bring us crashing down to earth.
With a trip-hop inspired low-slung beat, wobbly analog synths and twanging electric guitars, 'Be Careful' sounds more like Radiohead, building up into a Slowdive-esque thrum of dainty harmonics. On 'We Fall Apart' they adopt a Can-like motorik beat, using Smith's Yorke-ian tones to add euphoria to the mix, while they fold electro-lite beatbox tweaks into 'Hidden Camera', sounding like M83 or Radio Dept.
Vini Reilly’s rhythmellifluous 1998 album - Factory Records’ swansong - returns on a remastered and expanded 25 year anniversary edition with abundant testament to his classic early phase.
‘Time Was GIGANTIC... When we were kids’ was first issued 18 years after Reilly’s debut ‘The Return of The Durutti Column’ (1980) and is considered a swansong for his peerless early run of recordings and the Factory Records label at large. The album depicts Reilly as porous as ever to broad influences from Indian and ambient musics and shaping them into broadly appealing, sophisticated meld of folk, country, classical and pop musics.
It depicts the guitarist regularly hailed among “the best in the world” by likes of Brian Eno, John Frusciante, The Avalanches, The Chromatics, Johnny Marr, and John Cooper Clarke, at a late mid-period crest of his powers twirling lyrically tongue-tip electric guitar top lines layered with tabla, synths and Eley Rudge’s vocal counterpoints in the lushest, timeless style.
This 2023 edition features the original 11 songs, including highlights in the billowing ambient-pop of ‘Organ Donor’, the college radio friendly jangle of ‘I B Yours’, his heart-in-mouth beauty ’Twenty Trees’, and the lovely kids choir accompaniment of ‘Highfield Choir’ augmented by no fewer than five bonus songs, It’s Your Life, Babe, Kiss of Def, In the City, New Order Tribute, Drinking Song, with extensive liner notes by Factory Records and band expert James Nice, and its original artwork revisited by the original designers 8VO (Mark Holt and Hamish Muir).
Concréte and shoegaze collide on this beautiful album from Stefano Pilia & Valerio Tricoli, on a highly atmospheric tip somewhere between Neil Young’s ‘Dead Man’, early Mogwai and Giuseppe Ielasi’s ferric avant-blues.
Pilia and Tricoli have been playing together for long enough to instinctively know how to react to each other's improvisations. "Cantor Park" features Pilia playing live on guitar and modular synth, reacting to Tricoli's freeform tape manipulations. Tricoli eventually took the recordings to his studio in Munich, where he sculpted them into a balanced album. The duo were initially informed by mathematician Georg Cantor’s theories of the infinite, forming modern concréte soundscapes that bristle with cosmic energy. Tricoli's tape flexes set an initial pace, and Pilia joins with warbling drones, adding crashing waves of shimmering, lonesome guitar.
Pilia's love of harmonic romanticism is shown, but always tempered by Tricoli's keen processes and disruptive tape techniques. Similarly, Tricoli's relatively austere psychedelic sounds - reflected on the mindboggling "Say Goodbye To The Wind" - are lightened by Pilia's post-rock sensibilities. It's billed as their most spontaneous piece of work, and the lightness certainly feels like both artists out of their comfort zone - in the best way imaginable.
John Carroll Kirby's Blowout was written on a stay in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica.
"Between 5am wake-up calls from oropendola birds and psychedelic sunsets, he wrote Blowout, inspired by the local people, music and nature. Though its songs are joyful, that joyfulness is tinged with melancholy. Kirby says, “Blowout is about enjoying yourself even though life is tough, before the candle blows out.”"
Iconic American jazz drummer Paul Motian, who's collaborated with Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett and Bill Frisell, has six of his best-known ECM sets collected on this gigantic box set: 1973's 'Conception Vessel', 1975's 'Tribute', 1978's 'Dance', 1979's 'Le Voyage', 1982's 'Psalm' and 1985's 'It Should've Happened A Long Time Ago'.
'Conception Vessel' was Motian's first album as a bandleader, produced by ECM's Manfred Eicher and featuring none other than Keith Jarrett on both flute and piano. Motian's percussion lies at the heart of each track, not only grounding each piece rhythmically but showing the strength percussion has to shape our listening experience, with bells and chimes nestling alongside restrained, dynamic rhythms. The most outstanding cuts on this one are 'American Indian: Song of Siting Bull', where Motian approximates Native American folk sounds, and 'Inspiration From a Vietnamese Lullaby', the chance Motian needed to break out of his comfort zone and let loose with a barrage of freeform drums.
On 1978's 'Tribute', Motian adds his flair to pieces from Ornette Coleman and Charlie Haden, interspersing them with blistering original post-bop compositions and enlisting help from Paul Metzke, Carlos Ward, Charlie Haden and Sam Brown. While on 'Dance', Motian works in a trio with saxophonist Charles Brackeen (who's played with Don Cherry and William Parker) and bassist David Izenzon. Here Motian's skill is fully on display, his rhythms ratified by Izenzon's double-bass plucks and compositions woken by Brackeen's lyrical horn workouts. Brackeen returns on 1979's 'Le Voyage', alongside Jean-François Jenny-Clark on bass, and by this point in his career Motian has seemingly embraced a more languid mood. Minimal and effervescent, the album avoids the fireworks of Motian's earlier albums, bringing out sonic textures rather than discernible themes.
'Psalm' is even more horizontal, featuring Motian's first collaborations with legendary guitarist Bill Frisell. Also joined by Joe Lovano and Billy Drewes on sax and Ed Schuller on bass, it's cosmic gear that's guided by Motian's drumming, exploding into post-bop mayhem on tracks like 'White Magic' and the blown-out 'Boomerang'. But the more meditative jams have us in cold sweats: 'Fantasm' is like a call from the great beyond, lifted by Frisell's pitchy drones, and 'Yahllah' is a moving, slow-paced lament that glances Jon Hassell's Fourth World experiments. Frisell is also included in Motian's trio for 'It Should've Happened...', with Joe Lovano on sax. One of Motian's best-loved recordings, it's an ECM classic that's just levitational - if you need just one album to set you off on the journey, it's this one you should start with.
Doom metal supergroup Khanate - Stephen O'Malley, James Plotkin, Alan Dubin and Tim Wyskida - return after a 14 year absence with their heaviest set yet, three extended blasts of viscid, malformed guitar, pained vocals and drums so slow they're practically static.
Sometimes a shock to the system is exactly what you need, and that's exactly what we're treated to with 'To Be Cruel', a surprise release from a band we assumed was dormant. Khanate formed back in 2000, when labels like Southern Lord and Hydra Head were forging new paths for heavier, rock-informed sounds. Building on the early template laid out by Black Sabbath and later Earth, a slew of bands slowed their roll to a glacial scrape, letting chords ring out into silence and riffs ponder over gut-churning bass prangs. Khanate were always among the scene's most experimental proponents, guided by Stephen O'Malley and James Plotkin's voracious appetite for innovation and sonic heftiness. But it was Dubin's vociferous tones that set Khanate apart from their peers, and his earsplitting, post-hardcore scream roots 'To Be Cruel', giving O'Malley, Plotkin and Wyskida the solid base they need to conduct a symphony of wrought iron.
Comprising three epic 20-minute tracks, 'To Be Cruel' is long, but its duration feels crucial to the album's mood. The music induces a meditational state from the first moments of 'Like a Poisoned Dog', exhaling slowly through wavering guitar and synth tones, cautiously preparing us for Dubin's gruesome vocalisations. His voice is accentuated by Wyskida's metronomic slaps, shrieking with the power of hell itself while O'Malley and Plotkin stretch metallic scrapes into extended oscillations. It should be a breath of fresh air for anyone who's been following Sunn O)))'s latter day flirtations with the sublime. There's no trace of kosmische here, as the four-piece chug through tracks that sound locked into the US hardcore/post metal canon, not diverging from the road but repaving it instead.
Somehow 'It Wants to Fly' is even slower, struggling to overcome its painful slither into the underworld. Here Dubin sounds possessed, screaming "down, down, we're going down" as if promising damnation. Never overly theatrical, he straddles the delivery of Henry Rollins and David Tibet, sounding emotional but mystical. The rest of the band seem content to let him cook - every minute adds more flavor. The final track gives us a satisfying bones-n-all conclusion, propelling Dubin's screams into even heavier places, backed by Plotkin's brooding electronics and O'Malley's squealing feedback. Effortlessly heavy, 'To Be Cruel' is a walking victory lap from Khanate, not just a reminder that they're still around but proof there's still life in doom metal yet.
Gina X Performance, Birth Control and Guru Guru dynamo, Zeus B. Held enters the early ‘80s in a reissue of his final solo album before a 30 year hiatus - a mazy trip that feels caught between prog, krautrock, new wave and disco phases
Quite the odd confection, ‘Attack Time’ sees Zeus B. Held attempt to consolidate his various strands of work, from chops in prog band Birth Control, to his disco club anthems with Gina X Performance, against the glare of an emerging MTV sound. It is sometimes successful in its efforts, as with psyched drug chug of ‘Enfant Terrible’, his lysergic country swag in ‘Cowboy on the Beach’, the glam electro-pop tune ‘Drive My Car’ or sleaze of ‘Magic Circles’. But it’s also just frankly daft and corny on a lot of counts, as in the prog pomp of ‘Raise Your Gun’ and chuff of ‘Eurode’, or OTT prog-boogie-woogie ‘Test’.
“With Attack Time’ by sound tinkerer Zeus B. Held, Bureau B is re-releasing one of the most exciting records of the original experimental Kraut-pop period. After various stints, including prog band Birth Control and underground dance tipple Gina X Performance, he also put out a string of solo releases. ’Attack Time’, originally released on Aladin in 1981, gave Zeus B. Held the opportunity to experiment sonically outside the mainstream and subversively undermine the hegemonic MTV sound of the early 1980s. Unfortunately, the album was a commercial failure at the time. So it’s all the nicer that it’s now being brought out into the world again with all its supposed contradictions between enraptured New Wave, cosmic electronics and weird rock grooves.”
Naarm-based doom metal duo Divide and Dissolve make music to soundtrack a revolution, and their new full-length is their most charged deployment to date, splicing dissonant sax squeals and orchestral flourishes with brickwall riffs and molasses-slow drums. RIYL Sunn O))), The Body, Boris, Deathprod.
Divide and Dissolve's last album 'Gas Lit' was a decolonialist milestone that used the language of sludgy doom metal to approach themes of white supremacy, indigenous rights and Black liberation. Duo drummer Sylvie Nehill and guitarist/horn player Takiaya Reed claimed at the time not to listen to much metal, but were aware of its power to hit listeners with furious, impassioned sonics. 'Systemic' picks up where its predecessor left off, examining "the systems that intrinsically bind us" and asking for "a system that facilitates life for everyone". Like 'Gas Lit', 'Systemic' was produced by Unknown Mortal Orchestra's Ruban Neilson, who tweaks Reed and Nehill's eccentric fusion of jazz and metal into tight, kinetic passages of free-flowing orchestral ambience and ear-pummeling drone rock.
It's a mix of styles that in the wrong hands could have been overblown or melodramatic, but Reed and Nehill avoid all such pitfalls, concentrating their energy on energy, expression and sonic density. So while opening track 'Want' is a tape-futzed, beatless experiment, 'Blood Quantum' starts like Benjamin Britten, diving from faint instrumentation into dark-hearted riffage that's got the bite of Melvins' enduring 'Gluey Porch Treatments'. The duo slip into a hardcore mode on the nippy 'Simulacra', dragging from rapid-fire guitar-and-drums destruction into mercilessly downtempo sways until there's nothing but sustained, distorted guitar tones. Then on 'Indignation', Reed and Nehill bring us to the opera house once more, conjuring magic from wiry woodwind chirps that inevitably cede to the duo's cacophony of overdriven guitar and machine-strength percussion.
It would be way too simple to label Divide and Dissolve as simply a metal act, their philosophy and sonic fusion is way too advanced for those kind of labels. Their music is jazz, in a sense, but uses familiar beats and techniques to embrace the sheer weight of extreme music. In their hands it's a blunt instrument to hammer out messages that are too important to leave as mere nuance. It's a remarkable achievement.
Canaan Balsam uses dusky, cinematic strings and emotive spoken word passages on their second solo full-length to evoke an isolationist mood where light just peeks out from beyond the darkness. RIYL Dean Hurley, Romance, Machinefabriek or Perila.
Since leaving Halcyon Veil double-act NAKED, Canaan Balsam has constructed an alternate musical universe. First explored on 2020's 'Cruise Utopia', they used field recordings, found sounds and a plethora of tools to make modern devotional music, a mid-point between celestial new age sounds and shadowy industrial ambient. 'Eternity lies within or nowhere' propels Balsam's dusted, isolationist wisps to the next level, focusing its energy on the blurred line between connectedness and solitude. They cite religious intensity as a key influence, and that devotional mood buoys the album, led by Balsam's low mumbles and ornate Hollywood noir strings.
The music's fusion of darkness and celestial light isn't far from Romance's kitsch ambient melancholia, or Dean Hurley's Lynchian soundscaping, but Balsam's approach is a little more folk horror. He describes it as "music you could wear like an amulet, like a spell, like a religious medal around your neck,". On 'A passive apocalypse' he drawls almost too quietly over rousing strings that become choral phrases, as if leading a quiet sermon in a church's back room. Psychedelic electronics slice through the drone, as crashing waves of noise bring us to a crippling crescendo before the track fizzles out with muted organ blasts. 'Eternity lies within or nowhere' is the best of the bunch, evolving from day zero side room chordage into a saturated, tape-damaged fizz that practically calls to the heavens.
Swedish composer Magnus Granberg's 10th set for Another Timbre is a delicate collaboration with Apartment House that prioritises sensitive improvisation, nodding to Schubert and Cole Porter in the process.
Growing up, Granberg studied the saxophone, immediately sensing an affinity for jazz and most formatively, discovering a passion for improvisation that remains with him to this day. At this stage in his career he concentrates on classical minimalism and mostly plays piano (he uses a prepared instrument on 'Evening Star...'), but the composer's jazz roots still lie at the heart of his process. The piece was inspired by Franz Schubert's 'Abendbilder' and 'So in Love' by Cole Porter, with the rhythmic elements coming from the former and the tonality ripped from the latter, but the way Granberg instructs his players to interpret the material is pure jazz. He's been trying to work out a way to control the improvisation of an ensemble without losing harmonic coherence for years, and has developed a method that allows the musicians to choose pre-written material in real time by listening and reacting to the other members of the ensemble.
On 'Evening Star...' he works with Apartment House for the first time, despite teaming up with Anton Lukoszevieze in the past. Granberg admits that working with such a capable ensemble was freeing - in only 10 minutes of rehearsal he was convinced they'd be able to handle his direction. And the results speak for themselves, the finished piece is dramatic and dynamic, but constantly evolving. Granberg's prepared piano drifts cautiously through the ensemble's restrained accompaniments, with Lukoszevieze on cello, Bridget Carey on viola, Simon Limbrick on vibraphone and percussion, Chihiro Ono on violin and Heather Roche on clarinet. It's patient music that rewards careful listeners; the more you're able to concentrate on the diaphanous notation, the more you come to appreciate the pregnant pauses and crucial negative space. Slow listening.
Black Duck brings together three pillars of the Chicago music community: guitarist/bassist Douglas McCombs, guitarist Bill MacKay and drummer Charles Rumback.
"Black Duck is a gallery of sonic tapestries, unbound by any genre constraints while also utilizing genre touchstones. Challenging what a trio of two guitarists and a drummer can do, pieces move from breezy shuffles to stormy blues rumbles to gorgeous textural drones. Playing entirely improvised live sets for years helped develop the trio’s acute senses for one another, knowing precisely how to listen to the others and bolster whatever direction they move in. Steeped in each other’s voices, Black Duck entered the studio with engineer/producer John Hughes III with only three tunes written prior, one by each member, and the remaining pieces took shape much as their live performances, improvised on themes or simple motifs.
McCombs’ “Of the Lit Backyards” is a meditation on the adaptability of human beings, turning the glow of newly reconfigured outdoor spaces, safer to gather in during lockdowns, into swaying western americana. MacKay’s more urgent “Delivery” carves jagged melodies through a rolling bedrock as waves of distant chords pull the ensemble deeper into the unknown. The resolute thud of Rumback’s “The Trees Are Dancing” makes use of space as it gradually grows more dense and colorful. The improvised pieces bring an equal amount of subtle touches and delightful surprises as their more composed counterparts. “Lemon Treasure” builds from an anxious beginning into an ecstatic swirl and “Second Guess” tapping into freeform revelations akin to labelmates Jim White & Marisa Anderson’s collaborative work. The maximalist “Thunder Fade That Earth Smells” whips up a tempest of percussive showers and washes of fuzz where the spare “Light’s New Measure” exhibits some of the album’s most delicate and subtly powerful movements.
Black Duck captures a band already deeply in tune with one another. McCombs, Rumback, and MacKay each have distinct musical voices that are instantly recognizable, yet blend seamlessly with one another. Their time performing together, playing to the moment and reading each other and the spaces they’re in, formed a fluency between the trio which allows them to follow each other down winding paths and short tangents alike. Black Duck’s debut is a testament to that fluency, an expedition led by three veterans into alluring worlds bathed in myriad splendors."
Rudely bass-boosted beats by Hud Mo accomplice Lunice, tagging in Zach Zoya, Cali Cartier, DAGR, Yuki Dreams Again and Drtwrk
“OPEN is the second album from Lunice - acclaimed Montreal producer and 1/2 of TNGHT with Hudson Mohawke. It has been 6 years since his debut CCCLX. The concept of the project "OPEN" refers to an approach in creating art that focuses on the natural human ability and behaviour of intuition, instinct, openness, flexibility and adaptation. This project is the end result of practising all of these behavioural traits with the combination of keeping a conscious and healthy relationship with time and space. For OPEN he has concentrated on making a more dynamic album than its predecessor - every track translating to the live show or a dj set. The collaborators on this album Cali Cartier, Stargate, Zach Zoya, Yuki Dreams Again, DAGR and Grammy winning producer DRTWRK (Kanye West, Lil Wayne, Joyner Lucas, Denzel Curry etc) are a showcase of dynamic new rappers and young producers who all match Lunice’s energy as he takes you on a bizarre ride through the Montreal underground.”
Seth Horvitz's second Rrose album is a gloopy, sensual miracle, advancing the techniques they've been refining for over two decades and re-imagining minimal techno by harnessing the tactile gestures of deep listening music. Plenty of people have tried this, few have passed the muster: absolutely indispensable if yr interested in anything from Plastikman and Pan Sonic to James Tenney, Pauline Oliveros and Charlemagne Palestine.
We've always been drawn to Horvitz's productions, from their early glitch-heavy experiments under the Sutekh moniker through to their surreal, technoid collaborations on Sandwell District with legendary avant-garde player Bob Ostertag. But it was when Horvitz decided to advance their craft by studying at the prestigious Mills College that their solo productions began to move in time with their ambitions. Horvitz started learning piano at the age of 30, and felt as if they'd missed out on a proper musical education. DJing and producing for years, they'd began to lose interest in techno and attempts to infuse more musicality into the genre had been mostly fruitless. So hearing music like James Tenney's 'Spectral Canon For Conlon Nancarrow' while they were attending Mills was an opportunity to consider the sonic space of techno from a different perspective. On finishing their studies, Horvitz began to focus on subtle harmonic elements, leaving behind chords and melodies in favor of texture and pure sound.
If you heard 2019's brilliant 'Hymn To Moisture' you'll already know how expertly the producer was able to map out their new direction, and 'Please Touch' completely refines those ideas, honing into techno's body-focused sensuality while retaining its predecessor's alluring, psychoacoustic magick. 'The Joy of the Worm' lays out their concept neatly, melting a familiar, shifting beatbox rhythm - that's not a million miles away from Plastikman's hyper-minimal masterpiece 'Spastik' - into xenharmonic drones that usher us into a velvet-draped space where movement is mandatory. Slipping to the left of techno's established logic, Rrose imagines a world where the kick drum isn't the driving force behind the music, destabilizing the supposed hierarchy of sounds by prioritizing pure feeling. "Rrose follows the lead of the sound(s) rather than trying to impose on the flow of the sonic material," the album's press release states. "Each move changes the parameters of a track's evolution."
Typically, Rrose refuses to be locked into any kind of rhythmic stasis. The effervescent dancefloor pulses of the first two tracks are immediately vaporized on the horizontal 'Pleasure Vessels', that retains the same gooey sensuality while eliminating the beat. Like an early Vladislav Delay track chiseled into a whispered kiss, it's dubby but not aesthetically so, resisting the usual flexes to land in a zero BPM miasma of inverted body music. Lead single 'Spore' brings the raw techno throb back, but casts it in a new role, underpinning elusive acid wiggles and unruly pitch-fucked risers that dig into the brain like a leucotome. Rrose's skill here is in knowing exactly how a dancefloor works; a veteran DJ, they've developed an understanding for what exactly it is that guides us to move, and when it might work best. So when they interrupt the flow with quivering synth tones or undulating bass, it feels as if it's exactly what our body desires at that given moment.
Even the album's tracklist sounds as if it's assembled to mimic a psychedelic night out, staggering from the first movements and rejuvenating side-room breaks into the final act's low-lit machine funk. 'Spines' is so low-end focused that it reminds us how unimportant the 909 kick might be, losing the expected thud in whooping subs that pirouette between labyrinthine, metallic whirrs and dizzy psychoacoustic effects. And Rrose never shies away from swing - far from an academic exercise, 'Please Touch' is completely in touch with its physicality, not as an excuse to induce a march to a uniform rhythm, but to provoke us to let loose and find harmony in the glorious abstraction of free movement. We'd be hard pressed to find a contemporary techno album that's both so delicate and so deliciously erotic.
Shadow Ring frontman Graham Lambkin returns with his first proper album in seven years, an extended "transatlantic meditation" that tries to make sense of the artist's move back to the UK after almost two decades in the USA. Solo piano music has rarely felt more fragile, or hypnotic.
Graham Lambkin's way of approaching the piano is typically idiosyncratic; he knows its cultural weight and his listeners' preconceptions, and still approaches it with anarchic nonchalance: he's as likely to strike arrhythmically at its guts or record the slamming down of a broken pedal as he is to play discernible phrases or motifs. The album was recorded between New York and East London early last year, as Lambkin considered his move back to a post-Brexit Britain after spending 20 years on the other side of the pond. He'd recorded 'Lindus' with Shadow Ring between Kent and Florida in 2001 when he initially emigrated, so 'Aphorisms' acts as its mirror, a wide-angled view of displacement from the opposite perspective.
Since it was recorded in two separate places, there are two pianos that blur into one-another on 'Aphorisms'. One was situated in the Blank Forms studio in New York and one was in Lambkin's London home, and he purposefully overlays both in an attempt to capture the essence of rooms that have directed his writing over the years. In fact, the spaces themselves are just as important as the instrumentation; while the piano provides focus, it's the reverberation and empty, open air that truly directs the sound. On 'Slave Painting', key strokes are blunted into a faint, melodic drone, swamped out by room tones and spruced up with garbled speech and sibilant, breathy improvisations, while on 'Limp Test' the character of the instrument's wooden body and the sound it makes bouncing through space when struck is as crucial as Lambkin's garbled instructions.
On the generous 'Trilogy of Embers' - one of the album's two long-form compositions - Lambkin swerves slightly from the spartan setup, overlaying samples to animate an illusory ensemble. The piano is still present, creaking under lavish, cinematic strings and jumbled radio static that couches Lambkin's musings and freeform, animalistic expressions. When it finally rings out in earnest, it sounds as if it's being floated out to sea, maybe shipped to another country for relocation.
The album's second disc is more developed and in many ways more piercing: opener 'Porpitus' is particularly memorable, bleeding wooden creaks over unstable, blissful choral drones and unsettling, robotic whispers, and 'Cannon Hill' is grim and horror-struck, squeezing the dread out of thrilling piano vamps and spine-tingling footstep recordings.
But it's the lengthy title track that contextualises the album's spread of unmoored expressions - over almost 20 minutes, Lambkin turns his piano into a drumkit and a set of power tools, using it to create drones and scratches that are as absurd, challenging and brilliant as anything the academic set might claim to dream up. It concludes with a sinkhole spiral of jazzy pseudo-brass, tumble-dried drums and elegiac musicbox tones that echo into nothingness - what better way of mapping out your trip from a big old rock all the way back to the hard place. Deep as fuck.
Wand's Cory Hanson sounds like Jim O'Rourke covering Bonnie "Prince" Billy on his third solo album, the imaginatively titled 'Western Cum'.
It's hard to imagine what Hanson was thinking tagging his record with this title. A quick listen reveals a tightly-produced set of alt-country rock jammers - that'll be the Western covered, but we're still waiting for the Cum. The album is Hanson's first foray into country and to be fair he makes a heroic effort, lavishing his compositions with the kind of knots you'd expect to find on Jim O'Rourke's brilliant 'Eureka'. On lead single 'Housefly', Hanson imagines himself as a fly, bringing the outside world indoors and decorating his imagery with twanging riffs and rousing percussion.
Hanson is at his best when he's able to flex his prog chops, like on 'Driving Through Heaven', a long instrumental cut that seeps through tempo and key changes like a Don Cabellero track. There's not a lot new here, but it hits all the same.
Stockholm-based pianist and composer Shida Shahabi follows 2018's acclaimed piano-led 'Homes' with a suite of orchestral ambience that'll be sure to appeal to anyone into Stars of the Lid, David Darling, Max Richter or A Winged Victory for the Sullen.
On her debut album, the Swedish-Iranian artist used her piano to craft fragrant, homespun vignettes that were a testament to her skill with the instrument. Here she takes a different approach, focusing on texture and duration, offsetting her assured playing with cello from Linnea Olsson, double bass from Gus Loxbo and vocals from Julia Ringdahl, Nina Kinert and Sara Parkman. Shahabi prepares her piano in a unique way, using felt to dampen the notes and tape delay to stretch them against other sustained instrumentation. Initially, the music sounds startlingly close to Stars of the Lid's epochal 'Tired Sounds...', but as the album develops, it pulls away from its influences and begins to bask in its own moonlight.
The title track is a particular highlight, melting purposely from ornamental, cinematic strings and repeating piano phrases into soaring chorals. But it's at 'Aestus' where the album's energy shifts, highlighting the vocal performances that bring levity to Shahabi's slow-moving compositions. Sounding a little like Sara Davachi or Max Richter, the piece reflects the composer's film work - she recently scored Charlotte Le Bon's 'Falcon Lake' and Teresa Sutherland's 'Lovely, Dark, and Deep'. It's not all completely acoustic either, 'Tecum' is blessed by synthesized elements that can't help but remind us of Vangelis's 'Blade Runner' score, and Tree Mountain' is a fog of murky drones that works as an apt closing title sequence.
Michael Gira and co unleash energies pent by the pandemic and cancelled tour dates with an album recorded in Berlin and issued on the auspicious occasion of their debut LP’s 30th anniversary.
‘The Beggar’ is a typically doom-laden Swans album that finds salvation thru Gira’s classically country, folk-rock and gospel-styled vocals and his phalanx of collaborators, including erstwhile Swans bandmates and members of his Angels of Light ensemble, with Ben Frost handling his cinematic production.
For a towering highlight, we direct thee to its extraordinary 43 minute part ‘The Beggar Lover (Three)’, where the more classic arrangements give way to Swans’ feted avant instincts with pitching, cosmically-scoped and Roland Kayn-like strings introduce a mix of spoken word, thunderous banks of blast beat drums, head-less chorales and pure noir rock visions comparable with latter Scott Walker and Barry Adamson.
Micheal explains, “after numerous pandemic-induced cancellations of tours for the previous Swans album leaving meaning, and an apparent bottomless pit of waiting, waiting, waiting, and the strange disorientation that came with this sudden but interminable forced isolation I decided it was time to write songs for a new Swans album and forget about everything else. They came relatively easily, always informed by the suspicion that these could be my last. When I finally was able to travel, songs in hand, to Berlin to work with my friends recording this record, the feeling was akin to the moment in The Wizard of Oz when the film changes from Black and White to Color. Now I’m feeling quite optimistic. My favourite color is pink. I hope you enjoy the album.”
Manchester jazz-funkers, Secret Night Gang's sophomore album “Belongs on a Place Called Earth”.
"“Belongs on a Place Called Earth” is a record birthed from the emotional rollercoaster the world collectively faced over the past few years, as a result of the pandemic. A time which cultivated self-reflection and profound life questions leading to an evolution for the Manchester natives.
This new record is undeniably a fresh & bold new sound, with the leading purpose of permeating hope & light through their music. In continued strength to strength, Secret Night Gang are carving their own lane across the British jazz & street soul scene and this upcoming album, is set to take them to new heights."
A big one for the fast and weird club crew; Berlin’s Unity Vega chases a head-turning debut with their first album of warped, mutant footwork for fans of Jlin, Vladislav Delay, The Ephemeron Loop or Second Woman.
‘Two Sword’ pushes Unity Vega’s envelope across a tumultuous nine tracks. Where their debut was defined by its skew on footwork and singeli-type rhythms, this one rinses deeper into noise and multi temporal abstraction that may scare the line-dancers but will thrill the loose-limbed.
Their title tune enacts a sort of cosmic footwork cloud rap tumescent with keening shoegaze inspiration, and the bullet-riddled ‘Escape Hell’ keeps it breathlessly high, evoking the sensation of raving feet barely touching the ground that gives the whole album it’s unique physics. That weightless body flex is also most palpable in ‘First Landing’, the giddy helter-skelter of ‘Circle of Cicadas’, in the hyper-articulated motion of ‘Ixtlan’,and elegantly balletic on ‘Secret Keeper’, contrasting smartly to the likes of his gyring beat-less beauty ‘Dekalog’, and the pendulous beatdown slosh in ‘Under the Gun’ which ideally temper, diffract the album’s momentum.
New music specialists Apartment House render the tremulous glory and ceaseless drive of Eastman’s 1974 classic on their captivating 2019 recording
Following Frozen Reeds’ 2016 release of S.E.M. Ensemble’s 1974 take, and preceding the more recent iteration by Belgium’s ensemble 0 & Aum Grand Ensemble; Apartment House’s ‘Femenine’ is one of the first modern performances and recordings of the seminal, but long overlooked slice of c.20th avant-classical genius. It lands in the wake of Mary Jane Leach’s concerted and longstanding work in tending to Eastman’s legacy, holding some of the most remarkable classical compositions of its epoch, which has necessarily renewed interest in Eastman's sorely overlooked, yet hugely distinctive, work.
As a gay, black composer in a field dominated by white men, Julius Eastman shattered conventions merely by his presence, and his music was daring and distinctive, offering a more fluidly unified and singularly thizzing adjunct to the kind of repetitious minimalism explored by downtown NYC composers such as Steve Reich and Philip Glass. Eastman was just as adept at working with Arthur Russell on Dinosaur L’s landmark ‘24→24 Music’ and ‘Another Thought’ set as he was working on Peter Maxwell Davies’ monodrama ‘Eight Songs for a Mad King’ or Meredith Monk’s ‘Dolmen Music’ - all revered in their sphere - yet his own, remarkable compositions went practically unnoticed for decades and he ultimately ended up destitute and unsng, living on the streets of Buffalo, New York State.
Only in recent years has ’Femenine’ become recognised for the towering piece of work that it is, and this recording by Anton Lukoszevieze’s Apartment House helps spread the good word. It renders the full piece in all its colourful majesty, driven by insistent sleigh bell percussion and coursing with the purpose of a great river from streams of cello, flute, keys, vibraphone and violin that entwine and lushly gather with a ravishing torrent of ecstasy by the end of its 67’ flow. In effect it does away with notions of beginning/middle/end in a more cyclical, endless form and style that takes on Reich’s African inspirations at a more fundamental level, yet hasn’t been afforded the same sort of critical ear until only relatively recently. Trust Apartment House to handle the material faithfully and with the hypnotic traction we imagine Eastman intended.