As Plankton Wat, Dewey Mahood uses his considerable guitar prowess to deliver an album that encompasses both the wild, seeking energy of free-improvisation and the deliberate arrangements of more traditional composition.
"With his deft and stylistically varied playing, Plankton Wat’s ‘Future Times’ escapes psychedelic tropes and chemical fuelled alterations and instead celebrates an escape into the natural world. ‘Future Times’ taps into psychedelia’s counter-cultural heritage as music for protest, liberation and imagining new ways of being in this world. “Pastoral drones and swirling psychedelia” - Pitchfork Known for his guitar prowess in modern psychedelic music, specifically with Eternal Tapestry as well as Edibles, Elephant Factory Galaxy Research and Gärden Söund among others. ‘Future Times’ was recorded at Mahood’s home studio Solar Commune, with additions from Dustin Dybvig (Horse Feathers & Edibles) and Victor Nash (Flash Hawk Parlor Ensemble). Features Ash Dybvig on flute."
Enchanting griot tales from West Africa; recorded in traditional settings and spanning nearly half a century, and each accompanied by lilting guitar and koni lutes in a way that you’d never guess when they were recorded
“About a hundred kilometers south-west of Bamako, on the left bank of the Niger River, the Malian village of Kela is known to be home to a large community of griot musicians (jeliw) mostly belonging to the Diabaté family. Their art is recognized throughout West Africa and many griots come from all over the world to stay there, sometimes for several years, in the hope of becoming immersed in it. The six pieces for voice accompanied by guitar or traditional koni lutes were recorded in 1978 (tracks 3 to 6) and in 2019 (tracks 1 to 3), in the same traditional dwelling, which still serves as a "studio". The accompanying booklet contains the testimonies of several important musicians who took part in the recording, and evoke key elements of their universe. Recordings by Bernard Mondet (1978) and Vincent Zanetti (2019).”
‘Working With God’ is the new studio album from Melvins, featuring the 1983 line-up of Buzz Osborne, Dale Crover and Mike Dillard. This is the first time the trio have recorded together since ‘Tres Cabrones’.
"‘Working With God’ is Melvins’ 28th (yes, 28th) full-length studio release and their first since 2018’s ‘Pinkus Abortion Technician’. The band have been one of the most lauded hard rock bands to have helped develop the Grunge and Sludge scenes. The new album is one of their most melodic and playful records - not just another ‘metal’ record, this will translate easily to hard rock and even mainstream rock fans as well. The songs on the album are originals except for their take on Harry Nilsson’s classic ‘Fuck You’ and the well-known ‘Good Night Sweetheart’ that finishes off the album."
John Tejada finds a blissful moment of balance between the new and the familiar.
"Anyone who’s followed his career to date, which has included four previous albums for Kompakt,outings for storied labels like Plug Research, Playhouse and Cocoon and numerous remixes and collaborations – most recently, his Wajatta duo with actor and musician Reggie Watts – will immediately sense the warmth and eloquence that Tejada brings to his gilded, pliant techno and electro hybrids.
But there’s more here, too; an explorer’s glimmer in the producer’s eye, as he gets to grips with new ways of working and being, while offering a reflective opening for the listener, something echoed in artwork by graphic designer and ‘contemplative artist’ David Grey.
“The album was started using tools I was unfamiliar with, which became an interesting exploratory process,” Tejada says.“Staying away from the obvious and having to re-learn simple things was a fun challenge.” You can hear these new creative pulsions pushing the eight tracks on Year Of The Living Dead ever-forward; the album has an unique cast, and though there are trace elements of the genres Tejada has indulged previously, he’s never quite put them together this way before. There’s the dubwise glitter sprinkled across the moody opener “The Haunting Of Earth”, the kind caresses found amongst the deftly woven textures of “Sheltered”, and the churchy melancholy, all hymnal and golden, of “Echoes Of Life”.
Year Of The Living Dead also speaks obliquely to its moment, though Tejada works this implicitly, allowing the strange circumstances of 2020 to cast their inevitable shadow without being obvious or didactic. “The production process began right before lockdown and continued through what felt like a very serious time for all of us,” he recalls. “Not being able to see or touch our loved ones made me feel we are all like ghosts. We can observe from a distance but cannot really be there. We are isolated and alone.” And yet, Year Of The Living Dead’s tenderness offers an out for that anxiety and loneliness, its intimate immensities gifting the album a redemptive and compassionate core."
new Blanck Mass
"What is the utility of pain? Can it do anything but fester? In Ferneaux explores pain in motion, building audio-spatial chambers of experience and memory. Using an archive of field recordings from a decade of global travels, isolation gave Blanck Mass an opportunity to make connections in a moment when being together is impossible. The record is divided into two long-form journeys that gather the memories of being with now-distant others through the composition of a nostalgic travelogue. The journeys are haunted with the vestiges of voices, places, and sensations. These scenes alternate with the building up and releasing of great aural tension, intensities that emerge from the trauma of a personal grieving process which has perhaps embraced its rage moment.
An encounter with a prophetic figure on the streets of San Francisco presented the question of “how to handle the misery on the way to the blessing.” This is the quandary of the impasse we now all find ourselves in, trapped in our little caves, grappling with the unease of the self at rest – without movement, without the consumerist agenda of “new experiences.” The possibility of growth, always defined by our connections with others, held in limbo. Sartre said that “Hell is other people,” but perhaps this is the Inferno of the present: the space of sitting with the self.
A blessing is often thought of as a future reward, above and beyond the material plane. With In Ferneaux, Blanck Mass wrangles the immanent materials of the here-and-now to build a sense of transcendence. Here, the uncanny angelic hymn sits comfortably beside the dirge. The misery and blessing are one."
A Winged Victory for the Sullen, the collaboration between Stars of the Lid founder Adam Wiltzie and L.A. composer Dustin O'Halloran, return with ‘Invisible Cities’, the score to the acclaimed theatre production directed by London Olympics ceremony video designer Leo Warner and produced by Manchester International Festival, Rambert, 59 Productions and Karl Sydow.
"Premiering at Manchester International Festival in July 2019, Wiltzie and O'Halloran were commissioned by Manchester International Festival, Rambert, Brisbane Festival, Hong Kong New Vision Arts Festival, Sadler’s Wells, SMG Live, Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmed Cultural Centre (JACC) and Karl Sydowto to compose the music for the 90-minute multimedia stage show adapted from Italo Calvino’s 1972 novel. Centered on the tense relationship between Kublai Khan, the volatile head of a vast empire, and explorer Marco Polo, ‘Invisible Cities’ brings to life a series of fantastical places and disparate worlds through the medium of theatre, music, dance, design and visuals. Described by The Sunday Times as “a beautiful frenzy of movement”, ‘Invisible Cities’ was originally conceived as a touring project with its last performance in Brisbane, Australia before COVID-19 changed the world as we know it.
Transformed into 45 minutes of breathtaking beauty, ‘Invisible Cities’ opens with the numinous ‘So That the City Can Begin to Exist’, as Wiltzie and O'Halloran draw breath from distinctively enthralling and vastly expansive worlds. The ominous soundscapes of ‘The Dead Outnumber the Living’ contrast with the new beginnings that are presented in ‘Every Solstice & Equinox’, while the jagged and uneasy ‘Thirteenth Century Travelogue’ is one of tension and dread. Elsewhere, ‘The Divided City’ captivates and intrigues while ‘Only Strings and Their Supports Remain’ and ‘There Is One of Which You Never Speak’ are bold roars for survival before the choral ambience of ‘Desires Are Already Memories’ and piercing drones of ‘Total Perspective Vortex’ bring down the curtain on a spectacular and incredibly emotive body of work. Released on their own Artificial Pinearch Manufacturing label, ‘Invisible Cities’ comes as part of an agreement with A Winged Victory for the Sullen’s current label, Ninja Tune.
Releasing their self-titled debut album in 2011 (Erased Tapes), A Winged Victory for the Sullen has developed something of a cult status over the past decade and alongside artists such as Max Richter, Hauschka, Hildur Guðnadóttir and Tim Hecker, are the vanguard of the neoclassical and ambient world and can count the likes of Jon Hopkins as fans.
The duo has gone on to release two further studio albums; ‘Atomos’ (Erased Tapes, 2014) and most recently ‘The Undivided Five’ (Ninja Tune, 2019) and were asked to perform at the BBC proms in 2015 by 6 Music presenter Mary Anne Hobbs. A Winged Victory for the Sullen also scored the music for the independent film ‘Iris’ (2016), directed by Jalil Lespert.
Wiltzie is best known as founding member of drone legends Stars of the Lid, The Dead Texan and Aix Em Klemm and has scored multiple film projects including ‘American Woman’ (2019) starring Sienna Miller, ‘Salero’ (2016¬) and The Yellow Birds (2017). In 2018, he also scored ‘Whitney’ (2018), the estate-approved documentary about the life of the late Whitney Houston, directed by Kevin Macdonald. Elsewhere, his original music has featured in Hollywood films including ‘Transformers: Dark of The Moon’ (2011), ‘Godzilla’ (2014), ‘Like Crazy’ (2011) and acclaimed TV shows including ‘House M.D’, ‘Nip/Tuck’ and ‘Top Boy’. He also collaborated with the late Jóhann Jóhannsson on his scores for ‘The Theory of Everything’ (2014) and ‘Arrival’ (2016).
O'Halloran, a self-taught pianist from the age of 7, began his musical life as a guitarist and formed the much-loved indie rock outfit Dévics with Sara Lov, releasing four albums on Bella Union. As a solo artist, he has composed music for numerous film and television projects including Sofia Coppola’s ‘Marie Antoinette’ (2006) and Drake Doremus’ ‘Like Crazy' (2011) starring Felicity Jones. Demand for his film scores is high and in 2015, he won an Emmy for theme music for the Golden Globe-winning Amazon series ‘Transparent’, starring Jeffrey Tambor. He has also collaborated with film composer Hauschka on numerous films, including ‘Lion’ (2016), with the score nominated for an Oscar, BAFTA and Golden Globe. Most recently, he co-composed the music for the film ‘Ammonite’ (2020) with Volker Bertelmann, directed by Francis Lee and starring Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan."
Planningtorock–aka celebrated gender-queer song writer, composer, producer and director Jam Rostron –has teamed up with Chanel for “PlanningtoChanel”.
"A collaboration between Planningtorock and Chanel sound director Michel Gaubert, the songs found on PlanningtoChanel soundtracked the legendary Parisian fashion house’s Autumn-Winter 2020 show earlier this year. “I always felt that Jam incorporates operatic and cinematic elements to their unique sound,” Gaubert explains. “The Chanel show was inspired by French cinema from the 70’s and 80’s and Planningtorock blessed the show with their sound and gave birth to PlanningtoChanel.”
With four critically acclaimed studio albums of left-field dance to their name – not to mention various collaborations, Operas, film scores and remixes – Planningtorock is a self-taught, non-binary musician, who has spent a decade-plus queering sound and vision as Planningtorock. Planningtorock debuted in the Noughties with 2006’s Have It All [Chicks On speed], finding artistic community among fellow DIY outliers and gender outlaws such as Peaches and The Knife. Their sound – tense, spellbinding dance music with classical flourishes, unexpected brass and pitched-down vocals – have become Planningotorock's signature, earning them a dedicated following.
Michel Gaubert is fashion's leading sound director. Along with producing the fashion show soundtracks for an extensive list of clients including Christian Dior, Valentino, Loewe, Fendi, J.W. Anderson, Proenza Schouler, Acne, Raf Simons and Jeremy Scott, the omnipresent sound director boasted a collaboration with Karl Lagerfeld spanning nearly thirty years, until Lagerfeld's passing in February 2019. Gaubert is also well-known for his mix-tape compilations for Parisian concept store Colette."
Dust-to-Digital close a century wide circle on a real collector’s special, racking up all 84 x B-side songs to the ‘78s originally included in Harry Smith’s pivotal ‘Anthology of American Folk Music’
Smith’s original 1952 series and boxset of country, blues, Cajun, and gospel music from the ’20s-‘30s arrived as something of an anachronism in the ‘50s, but would serve to light the touch paper of interest for this olde timey music that helped spark the whole ‘50s and ‘60s folk revival. It has remained a major touchstone for many ever since, with a resplendent boxset in 2000 also helping to trigger another wave of interest in this sound that, again, arguably influenced another generation of indie-psyche-folk types at the start of this century - heck, it’s fair to say even Taylor Swift is referencing this stuff, via her work with The National’s Aaron Dessner on ‘Folklore’.
Now newly remastered, like their A-side counterparts, these B-sides have also been arranged with the same sequence as filmmaker and record collector Harry Smith’s original set. They span a whole world of merriment and woes from a 100 years ago, taking in multiple barndances and church’s worth of material ranging from Mississippi John Hurt’s lilting folk, the quick Cajun fire of ‘Back To Mexico’ by Carolina Tar Heels, and the likes of Hoyt Ming & His Pep Steppers’ stomping ‘Old Red (Country Dance)’ along with glorious gospel by the legendary Alabama Sacred Harp Singers, and heads down, hard-bitten blues by Blind Willie Johnson.
After a solid run of five studio albums and 2019´s two double live albums, Psychedelic Backfire I and II, Elephant9 had taken their mix of high energy rock and power jazz as far as they could.
"In this respect Arrival Of The New Elders comes as a welcome and most timely addition to their recorded output. More varied, mature and reflective, don´t let the self-ironic (?) title mislead you, they are as groovy as ever, but more structured and less jam oriented, with the longest track clocking in around the seven minute mark. Rather short, by their standards.
Having built a solid live reputation even before their brilliant 2008 debut Dodovoodoo, the trio boasts what is probably the strongest rhythm section in Norway, complemented with keyboard magician extraordinaire, the one and only Ståle Storløkken. And boy, does he excel himself on this album, notably with more focus on the Rhodes than before. That said, this is nothing if not another strong group effort from what has been a very tight unit straight from the outset. Seven brand new compositions from Storløkken and one from Hængsle make way for what we consider to be their finest and most cohesive album to date. Arrival Of The New Elders was recorded by trusted stalwart Christian Engfelt, with early Dungen producer Mattias Glavå handling the mixing duties.Ståle started his musical journey in Veslefrekk with Jarle Vespestad and Arve Henriksen in the 90s, soon morphing into Supersilent with Helge Sten on board.
He´s also a member of Møster! and Humcrush, and have collaborated with a number of artists, most notably Motorpsycho. Nikolai is also a member of Bigbang, Needlepoint and Band Of Gold and have appeared on a couple of hundred records. The same goes for Torstein, an associate member of numerous bands ranging from pop and soul to free jazz. But Elephant9 has always been their special baby."
The first new material from beloved Bay Area new age composer Pauline Anna Strom since 1988. Gamelan-esque rhythmic experiments, mind-expanding cosmic drones and smudgy tropical ambience - all the good stuff.
In the early 1980s, Bay Area-based composer Pauline Anna Strom released a series of beguiling synthesizer albums under the moniker Trans-Millenia Consort. But as the decade drew to a close, she sold her equipment and concentrated her energy on spiritual practices, becoming a Reiki master and counselor and putting the music on hold. That all changed in 2017, when RVNG compiled Strom's early catalog on the anthology release "Trans-Millenia Music", suddenly allowing a wave of new fans the opportunity to hear her inspiring sounds.
This surge in interest prompted Strom to start recording again and "Angel Tears in Sunlight" is the result - a transportive collection of hazy ambience and blissful experimentation that picks up exactly where Strom left off in 1988. In 2020, we're hardly short of new age music, but the mood Strom recaptures here reminds us how unique her sound is. Icy shards of sparkling FM synth cascade over gamelan-esque rhythmic sequences that remind more of Maggi Payne or Laurie Spiegel than Steve Reich; head-frazzling, blurry spiritual ambient tonal work that's only a few paces from Steve Roach's essential early material; and fascinating tropical dreamscapes that sit comfortably alongside Andrew Pekler's sonic universe.
We've had this one on repeat recently - it's a balm in trying times that sits outside time and space, inspiring a peaceful wave of calm.
The Scottish post-rock faves return for their umpteenth album of cinematic quiet-loud melancholia. Nowt new, but as reliable as a Honda Civic.
It's a little worrying to accept that Glaswegian Slint devotees Mogwai are 25 years old. At this point they're basically an old friend and their latest full-length is packed with the elements that have kept them on our collective radars for the last quarter-century. There's the vocal led slowcore sadness that elevated "Come on Die Young" ('Ritchie Sacramento'), "Rock Action"s fuzzy mix of lite electronix and distorted riffs ('Here We, Here We, Here We Go Forever'), the euphoric synth-led glow of "The Hawk Is Howling" ('Dry Fantasy') - even the Sonic Youth-esque fuzzpunq of their crucial earlier material gets a look-in on 'Drive The Nail'.
And while the band may have started life as a patchwork quilt of sleeve-worn references, a couple of decades later they just sound like Mogwai. That reliability is frankly refreshing. "As the Love Continues" doesn't really add anything new, but it doesn't have to, it's just good.
Just before the end of the year 2020, a mere 12 months, after the release of their “No Treasure But Hope”, Tindersticks surprised everyone with mentioning a new album to be released in 2021.
"Stuart Staples was already nurturing seeds for a different kind of Tindersticks album before lockdown halted their tour in early 2020, singer. If 2019’s “No Treasure but Hope” saw the band rediscovering themselves as a unit, the follow-up reconfigures that unit so that everything familiar about Tindersticks sounds fresh again. “Distractions” is an album of subtle realignments and connections from a restless, intuitive band: rich in texture and atmosphere, it lives between its open spaces and details, always finding new ways to connect with a song.
If it’s an album that resists easy summation, at least one thing is clear: though it isn’t untouched by the lockdown, “Distractions” is not ‘a lockdown album’. As Staples says, “I think the confinement provided an opportunity for something that was already happening. It is definitely a part of the album, but not a reaction to it.”
Kiwi drone pop mainstay Roy Montgomery celebrates four decades of activity with a fresh set of shimmering moods, joining the dots between Slowdive's "Pygmalion" and Vangelis's legendary "Blade Runner" OST. Seriously it's that good.
We're not sure why New Zealand's Roy Montgomery isn't more widely appreciated; he's been working tirelessly for forty years at this point, and while his particular brand of exquisite dream pop is still consigned to the underground, his imitators are too numerous to mention. "Island of Lost Souls" is the first of four albums slated for release this year and serves as a welcome reminder of his compositional skill and restraint. Comprising four long tracks, the album is a sequence of dedications to some of Montgomery's biggest influences. Opener 'Cowboy Mouth (For Sam Shepard)' sounds like an effervescent shoegaze reimagining of Jean-Michel Jarre's "Oxygene", but considering the recently-passed American playwright and actor, you could almost hear it alongside Terrence Malick's "Days of Heaven", humming gently over the infinite sunset.
Each piece is built from transcendent layers of reverberating guitar, dense with harmony and dancing with flutter. If My Bloody Valentine showed one extreme this suggests another, a crushing quietness where extremity is found in meaning, resolve and discipline. This is never more evident on the album's epic closer, 'The Electric Children of Hildegard von Bingen (For Florian Fricke)', a track that honors the Popol Vuh founder and godfather of kosmische music, influenced by the 2nd century nun who inspired hundreds of years of music, science and theology. Musically, Montgomery wears his Fricke appreciation on his sleeve here, evoking fond memories of "Hosianna Mantra" with rhythmic, chiming strums that whirlpool into a blissful, transcendent abyss.
This is a cosmic corner of the musical universe that's often visited but rarely respected or explored successfully. For some reason, the crossover with new age attracts rogue elements, but hearing Montgomery in his comfort zone just reminds us how supreme the dream pop/kosmische crossover is when approached with sincerity and caution.
This one's going to be on rotation for a while - it's divine.
Star Feminine Band are a group of 7 girls, aged between 10 and 17 years old, from Natitingou, a remote town in the north of Benin.
"In 2016 they responded to a local radio call out to take part in a series of music training sessions. Previous experience was not necessary. Indeed, none of the girls had come close to a guitar, microphone or drumkit before. In just two years, with tutoring by local musician André Balaguemon, the girls rapidly honed their craft, bonded like sisters (2 of them are) and were rehearsing regularly in their studio space presented to them by the local mayor of Natitingou. And so, completely unplanned, came an idea to record these impressive musical moments and with the help of a Frenchman Jeremy Verdier, working locally at the time.
The songs, such as "Femme Africaine", are an incredible combination of African musical styles - from highlife and Congolese rumba - with a dash of psychedelia and rock, all with a dynamism and freedom that could only be created by the youthful and all-girl group. Their songs are mainly about the conditions of African women, including forced marriage, female circumcision, and their dream of freedom They speak about the need and duty to educate girls and allow them to become independent woman."
For the past couple of years the Disciples label has been exploring the early tape archives of Warren Defever aka His Name Is Alive, a wealth of home recordings that he amassed whilst growing up in suburban Michigan, prior to signing to 4AD in the late 1980s.
"These records have charted the development of their sound over 3 roughly chronological volumes - All The Mirrors In The House in 2019, Return To Never in 2020, and we're now bringing the trilogy to a close early in the new year with third and final volume, Hope Is A Candle.
This 4CD boxset that anthologises the whole series. A disc for each album in the trilogy, plus a bonus disc which collects together the best tracks from a series of mail order cassette companion volumes that Defever compiled to go alongside each LP - 6Teen OK, Return Versions and Ghost Tape EXP, and a 36 page book."
Stunning archival material from groundbreaking percussionist Michael Ranta - a collaborator with Stockhausen and Conny Plank, highly regarded for his bridging of East/West avantgarde movements - here playing to the breadth of his style between 1971-1978
’Taiwan Years’ supplies another highlight to the Metaphon label (Timo Van Lujik’s home of critical Ranta reissues since 2010) with three durational recordings demonstrating Ranta’s seamless, freeform but disciplined, meld of concrete electronics with Eastern traditions and a singular sort of psychedelic, rhythmic minimalism. Just as he previously had us rapt on the ‘Ranta / Lewis / Plank’ boxset, and a few years ago with the incredible ballet soundtrack ‘Die Mauer’, Ranta’s metric and spatial sensitivities are just breathtakingly uncanny on this collection, too, speaking to a genuinely remarkable sense of timing, tone and proprioception that makes his recordings here comparable with the elemental works of Annea Lockwood as much as David Behrman’s inquisitive minimalism, or the esoteric psychedelia of his former collaborators, Takehisa Kosugi and Toshi Ichiyanagi.
In chronological order, Ranta’s ‘Taiwan Years’ covers the period before he would settle down as the resident composer, percussionist, and instrument handler, at Asian Sound in Cologne. It opens in 1971 with ‘Kagaku Henka’, a slow, beguiling 18 minutes of mind-bending electronic tones and microcosmic rhythms recalling Group Ongaku and Marginal Consort works, before really drawing us into his style of ultra sound-sensitive psychedelia on a 1973 recording of thizzing electronics and location recordings of distant drums and vocals that calls to mind Roland Kayn meeting Peter Christopherson circa The Threshold Houseboys Choir era. And 1978’s ‘Bei Nacht’ ideally brings the set to a close with a pineal-squeezing stretch of gamelan and resonant synth magick that will keep dreamers right at the edge of a hypnic jerk.
CD comp of those fire L.A. Producer 10"s that came out a decade ago. Photo art from B+ . DOPE. TIP!
"Back in 2010 we released a series of 10" records from L.A., the series featured 22 artists across 11 records representing the various generations and approaches that made up the beat scene, both in LA and around the world. On every cover was a snapshot of the city viewed through the lens of L.A. based Irishman, Brian Cross AKA B+. To mark a decade we have compiled and remastered 24 tracks from the series. "
Catherine Lamb’s duo piece for quarter tone bass flute and double bass encourages listeners to dwell on the moment, here performed by Rebecca Lane (quarter tone bass flute) and Jon Heilbron (double bass), with recording by Adam Asnan at Andreaskirche, Berlin in 2019.
It’s a piece that only reveals its message with durational, immersed listening in order to inhabit and process its extra subtle shifts from timbre to pitch. The work appears to require the pairing to converse in etheric, sustained drones that hold to a soft, wavering tension, but mainly operating around lower end frequencies in a way that doesn’t demand attention but rather seduces it like dreamily mellow sirens on a rock that we, as listeners, circle from a distance.
The sound follows in spirals drawing us closer in but somehow keeping the its gauzy smear of tones at arms length in the most beautifully elusive, hypnagogic terms. Trust there are no snags or hypnic jerk moments, just a steady orbit without resolution that leave us floating and strangely calmed.
Ivkovic & Smagghe are bang on the nose with a personal love note to ’90s-‘00s electronica rounding up cheap bin gems from I-F, Cylob, The Back Dog, Funckarma, Seefeel and many more from a hazy, inspirational era
Depending your age and location in the late ‘90s, the terms electronica and IDM probably have shifting meaning to every listener. Vladimir Ivkovic and Ivan Smagghe both worked in record shops during this phase and their proximity to the good stuff is evident across ‘A Future Of Nostalgia’, with 12 tracks that exemplify the cross-section of shoegaze/ambient/acid/electro/breaks which emerged from the more unconventional artists of that pivotal era. Trust it’s not intended as any sort of comprehensive survey, but more a personal mixtape style selection, highlighting classic and rarities they look back upon most fondly, surely turning up more than a few obscurities that will have bypassed even the most ardent connoisseurs and owners of moth eaten Warp t-shirts.
It’s been amusing to see a wave of insatiable all-night (and day) house types digging this sound in recent years, so the timing of ‘A Future of Nostalgia’ could hardly be more apt for anyone diversifying their bonds beyond the usual grooves, just as the original tunes would have appealed to a motley cross-section of, as they put it “pop kids getting through to the dancefloor via Aphex Twin and nerdy house heads dissolving their four to the floor into the futuristic world of Warp compilations” back in the day.
If you’re looking for highlights, tip-of-tongue obscurities such as Zugzwang’s lilting beauty ‘Euphonic’ and Marcia Blaine School For Girls’ folksy whirligig are right up there for the lip-smacking daytime dancers, while Move D and co’s I.F. turn for Fax is tipped for couch-inclined gouch-outs along with Replicant’s kosmiche arp trip ‘Analiz’, Abfahrt Hinwil’s ‘Tech 7’ is prime MDMA trigger material, and Marco Passarani’s ‘Ixora’ flings us right back to far more innocent, wide-eyed times.
Spacious, Pan Sonic-adjacent minimalism on NOTON from Italian producer Saele Valese. Like Sleeparchive or Alva Noto trapped in an abandoned underground factory - a vibe, basically.
If you've ever fancied icy minimal techno at half speed with a bit of gothic horror thrown in, "IVIC" is the album for you. It basically sound slike like a 45RPM Container 12" banged down to 33, with Deathprod slung in and out periodically.
The tracks were written over a five-year period and recorded live to DAT in attempt to sidestep the possibility of revising the final recordings, so everything feels quite tactile, despite it being sparse. The beats are fairly static for the most part, but echo with menace - it almost sounds as if everything was recorded in the hull of a shipping container. Cinematic would be a good descriptor, sure, but really this is a power electronics record with a different soundset...
"private LIFE comes as the result of Virginia Wing living through, and with, huge personal emotional and mental traumas. It is a document of how the very process of music creation in a group can be of huge therapeutic benefit to people."
"The three members of Virginia Wing have explored the depths of their creative and artistic inspirations within performance, production and composition, and have made a candid and brash pop record that speaks clearly about hope, desperation, impulse, addiction, urge and shame. More tumultuous than its predecessor, private LIFE knocks hard. The evolution of Virginia Wing’s sound continues to build on the broad creative flow of the last album whilst being another audacious contribution to contemporary pop. The drums are huge and playfully unquantized. Edits are both assured and heavy handed, the instrumentation lightly mediates the two and finds itself on the edge of collapse alongside them. The icy facade of Merida Richards’ words are still front and centre, but are contrasted by dense, multilayered improvisations, vying for attention throughout the record.
Virginia Wing’s last record opened its arms into euphoric light, private LIFE invites you through a door and closes it. It examines what we’re doing at night, on our own, after work. What we do to enjoy ourselves, to cope, to be together, to be alone. It shines a dim blue light on what might be happening, causing us anxiety, stress and desire."
John Carpenter returns with another collection of shlock soundtracks "for the movies in your mind." Kinda good though?
It's been five years since Carpenter last released a collection of "Lost Themes" with Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies, but time means pretty much nothing when you've been trotting out quality (and ridiculously influential) synth-laced movie music since the 1970s. There aren't exactly any stylistic surprises here, a bit of refinement though - since "Lost Themes II", Carpenter has been on tour for the first time ever so that seems to have loosened him up a bit.
These new tracks might be the best latter-day Carpenter material we've heard, and he's finally struck a balance between the new and the old, the digital and the analog. It's as if he's finally unified the chunky rawk stylings of his later work (hello "Vampires") with the icy, minimal doom of early classics like "Assault on Precinct 13" and "Halloween". Here's to "Lost Themes IV", we're ready.
‘Morton Feldman Piano’ is a major 5CD collection of virtually all of Feldman’s music for piano, performed by Philip Thomas with a tactility befitting of this extraordinary, quiet, intimate music. It’s the most extensive survey of Feldman’s piano music since John Tilbury’s long unavailable 4-CD set was released 20 years ago, including several pieces which weren’t included there, and three works which have never been released on disc before at all.
Feldman was part of a radical group of experimenters, alongside the likes of John Cage, Christian Wolff and Earle Brown, who looked beyond the strictures of serialism to innovative with and embrace aspects of chance and “indeterminacy” in their compositions. Most often associated with the piano, Feldman is perhaps best known for his perceptively time-slowing later works, but this boxset presents the widest angle possible on his approach to the piano, spanning surprisingly cranky recordings from the 1940s thru to the exquisite delicacy of his acclaimed ‘Triadic Memories’ and ultimately ‘Palais de Mari’ in 1986. Feldman died in 1987, leaving behind a remarkable catalogue that has previously been tackled by John Tilbury in the 4CD set ‘All Piano’ (1999), which is now long out of print and trades for triple figures on the 2nd hand market, making this boxset of Philip Thomas’ Feldman interpretations an even more indispensable collection.
Accompanied by pianist Philip Thomas’ lucubrate and extensive book of notes on Feldman’s music, its development, unique notation, and his close personal relationship with it, ‘Morton Feldman Piano’ methodically and artfully unpackages the great composer’s often forbiddingly vast oeuvre for anyone looking for a way in or seeking to enrich their knowledge of his life and work. In great depth, Thomas writes about Feldman’s holistic approach, recognising the connection between ears, mind, and fingertips which resulted in the music’s quietly extreme dynamic, and which singularly revolutionised historic approaches to the instrument thru the artist’s attempt at refusing attack in the notes - essentially a near-impossible idea when considering that the piano is a percussive instrument, and needs to be hit to be played. The sensitivity of the results are quite astonishing, and most beautifully executed and evidenced in Thomas’ playing throughout all 31 pieces included.
While the later works will be well known to even the casual Feldman follower, and are sure to entrance newcomers, his early and mid-period works between the late ‘40s and into the ‘60s provide a fascinating grounding for his sound and style, ranging from a solemnly inquisitive ‘Untitled piano piece’ (1942) to the almost jazzy flourishes of ‘Illusions’ (1949), thru to his increasingly sparser ‘Music for the film ‘Sculpture by Lipton’’ (1954), and up to the barely there ‘Piano Piece’ (1964) before he took a 13 year hiatus from writing for solo piano (although he would still write parts for piano in larger ensembles), only returning to it with ‘Piano’ (1977).
Yet for all the technicality and philosophy surrounding Feldman’s compositional process, it remains to be said that his music is strikingly easy on the ear. With a little focus and patience in the right mindset, Feldman’s music has the capacity to lead the thinking mind into unusual places, and as his catalogue proceeds, it becomes an increasing pleasure to find the notes flickering, illuminating contrasts with the shadows of his lacunae.
Rolling, panoramic soundtrack from Dirty Three’s guitar whisperer Warren Ellis for Arno Bitschy’s documentary. Fair to say he evokes the subject beautifully and clearly, and quite literally with the well-placed samples of dialogue.
“The Australian musician (Dirty Three, Bad Seeds, Grinderman) has scored a number of high-profile films (‘The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford’, ‘Hell or High Water’, ‘The Road’) and his latest score is for ‘This Train I Ride’, a documentary film directed by Arno Bitschy.
“My idea was to record, collate and produce the music on trains, in the spirit of the women in this documentary. Brian was so encouraging with this approach and told me about a train journey he had taken in the 80’s with no fixed destination. Over the next month I sat with my computer, loops, iPhone, Reface DX synthesiser and forgotten ideas and composed the music on the Metro and Eurostar and in various hotels while working on Ghosteen. I would send the pieces to Arno from the train, or wherever I was located, and he edited them into the film.” - Warren Ellis
The film tells the story of women hopping freight trains around America. The film follows the life-journeys of these women living on the fringe in a rapidly changing country, in their quest for identity, freedom and finding their place in the world.”
When this record was first released, Pavement were starting to get some mainstream attention here in the UK thanks to bands like Blur citing them as a major influence. Consequently you'd get surreal TV moments like Jayne Middlemiss interviewing Stephen Malkmus and co. on The O-Zone and telling the band that they sounded out of tune. Oh, the indignity. Brighten The Corners spawned memorable singles 'Stereo' and 'Shady Lane', which helped raise the band's profile further in mainstream circles, whilst memorable Peel Session and Evening Session recordings for the BBC did the rounds too. Listening through Brighten The Corners you're reminded of just how formidable Pavement sounded as a rock band: as wordy and nerdish as they might have been, they could also kick out the jams with the best of them, taking a firm grasp of classic rock band dynamics and cranking up the fuzz where necessary. Significantly, when the band hit the chorus on 'Stereo' or break into their stride during 'Transport Is Arranged' there's nothing ironic or half-hearted about the unrestrained power-chord posturing. Another thing that strikes you about all this is that Pavement lyrics, however wilfully obscure they might tend to be, always seem to evade clever-cleverness or mere empty wit - there's a genuine warmth and meaning at the centre of these colourful labyrinths. Recommended to anyone who's a fan of having a good time, Brighten The Corners is boundlessly entertaining and still startlingly fresh eleven years on.
Hugely necessary first time reissue of Sun Ra’s rare as chuff 1983 side, containing the timeless/timely anthem ‘Nuclear War’ available on original format and CD
At a glance, there’s only one 2nd hand copy of the OG album available for nearly a grand, so we can almost hear the Ra fiends furiously clicking for the new pressing of ‘A Fireside Chat With Lucifer’. It’s most renowned for the expletive-laden, proto-hip hop call-and-response chorus of ‘Nuclear War’, whose message is still a rallying call for conscious stewardship of the planet today, but also revolves some lesser known but no less haunting works between the the deep bluesy jazz hush of ‘Retrospect’, gilded with Sun Ra’s organ, as well as the etheric groove ‘Makeup’, and 20 minutes of staggeringly unpredictable turns in the title tune.
Don’t think twice; it’s a must!
Pairing post-minimalist master Daniel Lentz and the spectral tenor of Ian William Craig, the 16th edition of FRKWYS inter-generational couplings is a starkly beautiful suite of elegiac keys and warbling tape textures - a strong RIYl Harold Budd, Tape Loop Orchestra, Willim Basinski
Accompanied by a soon come documentary on the pair by director Eli Welbourne, ‘In A Word’ sees Craig & Lentz undo each other in brittle but sublime style that, as the label eloquently put it, “embraces erosion and the potential of its loam left behind.” It’s surely one of the subtlest charms on the long-running and illustrious roll call of the FRKWYS series, highlighting the timeless, otherworldlyy intent and transportive power of two artists who respectively emerged some 30 years apart, but patently share a sense of pathos that resonates for the ages.
In nine pieces they spell out a hauntingly lived-in sound, evoking a sort of parlour music for creaky abandoned dwellings, imagining a post-dinner performance of ghosts that emerge from cracked wood panels and tatty curtains in once-splendid settings, seemingly convening around a dilapidated grand piano with chipped keys and peeling walnut wood, to play out lamenting nocturnes rendered in mildewed harmonics and fizzing dissonance, with Craig’s beautifully faltering, vulnerable vocals vacillating folkwise and classical spirits.
The first album in six years from German indie-electronic mainstays The Notwist. Gorgeous widescreen alt-pop for anyone who misses the homespun goodness of genre-classic "Neon Golden".
Around for over three decades, The Notwist have helped steer the direction of electronically-augmented pop with the influential "Neon Golden" and its follow-ups. "Vertigo Days" is the band's first full-length in a while, and finds them on fine form, still softly spoken, still charming. Fans of the band's more recent records and releases on their quietly ace Alien Transistor will find plenty to sink their teeth into - not least the Stereolab-in-dub flavors of stand-out track 'Ship', that features Tenniscoats' Saya on vocals.
Elsewhere they explore fuzzy psychedelia with the sweet, smudgy 'Oh Sweet Fire' and hit another high point with 'Al Sur', feat Juana Molina on vocals and electronics for a clattering left-pop u-turn.
"Vertigo Days" is a varied record; it's pop music certainly, but pop that draws from krautrock, Brazilian psych, dusty cult movie soundtracks and vintage British folk as music as it does experimental electronic music.
Camila Fuchs get help from Spacemen 3's Pete Kember to assemble wyrd pop songs that sound like an electro-charged Björk or Jenny Hval. Very nice.
'Kids Talk Sun' is Camila Fuchs' third album, and finds the duo looking back to childhood for inspiration. The result is a bright, breezy collection of brittle electronic pop songs, anchored by Camila De Laborde's signature vocals, that curl around Daniel Hermann-Collini's The Knife-adjacent compositions like bottled smoke. This time around, they rope in super-producer Pete Kember who pushes their songs into widescreen, giving the sheen necessary for that mythical next level.
It's charming stuff from beginning to end, reminding fondly of Jenny Hval's excellent "Blood Bitch" or The Knife's "Silent Shout", but retaining a dark energy that sings of contemporary woes. Recorded in the countryside outside Lisbon, there's a sense of isolation fused with a natural connection. It's electronic music, sure, but there's an organic quality that's echoed in Laborde's voice, that phases sensually, bridging the gap between the physical and digital realms. With the trip-hop revival back in full force, "Kids Talk Sun" sounds present, relevant and cathartic.
SOPHIE presents one of 2015's defining records with the immaculate electro-pop of 'Product'.
Since emerging with a flash remix of Auntie Flo's 'Highlife' in 2012, SOPHIE has infused a minty fresh digital air to modern pop music with a procession of stunning solo singles, co-productions for PC Music's QT, and production credits for Japan's queen of J-pop, Namie Amuro, Mad Decent's LIZ and erm, songwriting for Madonna's 'Bitch I'm Madonna' alongside Ariel Pink.
We'll assume you're already au fait with the record's previous singles - the ecstatic, 'Bipp' and heart-rinsing emultion of 'Elle', or the textural hyper-sensuality of 'Lemonade' and 'Hard' from 2014 - so we'll skip to the new stuff. Msmsmsm ratchets her sound with ambassador-grade trap potency, whilst 'Vysee' sounds like '07 electro-bassline updated by Florian Hecker for a Japanese sex hotel. But it's the final run of cuts that really sends us reeling; 'L.O.V.E.' leaves everyone for dust with its visceral production values, teasing melodies and pointillist edits, whilst the lazer-crafted 'Just Like We Never Said Goodbye' is one of 2015's strangest bubblegum pop hits-in-waiting, or at least one of its most hyper-affected sensations.
In the best sense, this is a record that should divide opinion like few others, and which side of the fence you land on says a lot about your grasp of current, mediated culture. For our 2p, it's the sexiest, most provocative, and uncannily tactile grip of tunes we've heard in years; a massive recommendation!
This is it, the anticipated collaboration between legends MF Doom and Madlib.
The vibe is spread across 22 separate skits/tracks each produced by one or both heavyweights. Opening the Villainy is 'The Illest Villains' a very Doom styled sample skit, lots of TV voiceovers and a storyline about Madvillain which is cut and spliced to perfection, recalling King Geedorah's 'Monster Zero'.
'Accordion' starts the fray proper, an accordion loop drops an almost laxadazical vibe over the beat, while MF styles over the top, namedropping Dastardly and Mutley and Joe Tex, before 'America's Most Blunted' deploys a psyche break with some genius samples lifted from what must be a goldmine Marijuana awareness record.
A collab between 2 of the finest people in hip hop, with some fly guests, a classic for the ages? 100%
Ryuichi Sakamoto’s ravishing and rare solo piano suite ‘BTTB’ is finally issued on vinyl - expanded, reshuffled, and newly replete with liner notes by none other than Haruki Murakami. Trust it’s swoon-worthy stuff.
Originally released in 1998 and hard to get hold of outside of Japan, ‘BTTB’, or ‘Back To The Basics’ is now reissued on 2LP to mark its 20th anniversary. It’s effectively a definitive edition of ‘BTTB’, reshuffled from the original 2LP pressing to also include ‘Energy Flow’ from the BTTB’ maxi-single, (which peaked at No.4 in the Japanese singles charts), as well as the slippery elegance of ‘Reversing’, both on the vinyl album for the first time.
Tech specs aside, this new edition is a sumptuous testament to Sakamoto’s effortlessly natural, poetic evocations of emotion, by then channelling some 30 years work as an arranger of classic synthpop (YMO, collabs with David Sylvian), and seminal soundtracks (Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence; The Last Emperor) into some of his most stripped down yet affective music, hovering on the line between precise, mindful composition and intuitively fluid improvisation.
While the majority of the material here features Sakamoto playing conventionally beautiful solo piano with magnificent highlights on the likes of ‘Opus’, he also extends into experimental, prepared piano on a handful of pieces, both serene and frantic, such as ‘Prelude’, ‘Sonata’ and ‘Uetax’, cannily resonating with Aphex Twin’s prepared piano pieces on ‘Drukqs’, which were released just two years later.
Factory Benelux presents a remastered CD edition of Circuses and Bread, the seventh studio album by Manchester ensemble The Durutti Column. Originally released by Factory Benelux and Factory in 1986, the original 9 tracks have now been expanded with 6 bonus pieces.
"Self-produced by Vini Reilly at Strawberry and Revolution studios, the album saw Durutti playing as a quartet, with Reilly on guitar, vocals and keyboards, Bruce Mitchell in drums and percussion, John Metcalfe (viola) and Tim Kellett (trumpet).
‘The music ends up being very simple,’ Vini told NME. ‘People can dismiss it as being very simplistic, easy listening or whatever. It’s very honest, it’s very personal. People say it’s ambient, and it’s like Eno. I don’t like that, because the music’s made to be listened to, it’s not wallpaper.’
Of extended piece Blind Elevator Girl – Osaka, Vini adds: ‘The music really writes itself. For example, we’re in Osaka, in Japan, getting in this elevator. It’s very crowded with all these Japanese businessmen talking about distribution deals, and going on and on. On this lift was a beautiful Japanese girl, in an immaculate uniform. Each floor we arrived at, she’s starting talking Japanese, obviously saying what was on each floor. We went higher and higher, and finally we get to the top. And then, sort of walking out of the elevator, I suddenly realised she was blind... It got to me, this girl. It was incredible. So maybe a day later, I was thinking about that, and the whole tune came out. And every single piece of music is like that.’
Bonus tracks include Italian-only EP Greetings Three, scarce compilation track The Aftermath, and a previously unreleased working version of 1987 single Our Lady of the Angels produced by the late Stuart ‘Jammer’ James. "
Sakamoto combines classical symphonic composition with experimental music and Japanese traditional sounds on his score to Bernardo Bertolucci's 1994 film 'Little Buddha'
"In 1987, Ryuichi Sakamoto played in The Last Emperor and also composed the original soundtrack to the movie, which won him an oscar. In 1990, he contributed to the musical score of The Sheltering Sky and the movie received the Award Golden Globes of the Best Original Score. Moreover, Ryuichi Sakamoto obtained a major part in 1983 in Furyo (Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence), a production by Jeremy Thomas. He also composed the original soundtrack to the movie."
Fifth studio album from Still Corners.
"Building on 2018’s SLOW AIR, Still Corners return with an album about the myth and folklore of the open road. In a world where everyone thinks all the corners of the map are filled in, Still Corners believe there's something beyond what we see and feel, something eternal in the landscape of those never-ending drives.
With the shimmering desert noir sound the band has become known for, THE LAST EXIT takes you on a hypnotic journey, one filled with dilapidated towns, mysterious shapes on the horizon, and long trips that blur the line between what’s there and not there. Greg says, “We found something out there in the desert – something in the vast landscapes that went on forever."
THE LAST EXIT consists of eleven beautifully crafted songs with organic instrumentation, clean-toned guitar, spacious drums and the smoky croon of Tessa Murray. Album highlights include “The Last Exit”, “White Sands” and “Shifting Dunes” all of which evoke the vast space of the desert and rolling unconcerned skies."
The final performance by legendary electronic music catalyst Mika Vainio depicts the Pan Sonic co-founder at his blistering best only months before he passed away in 2017
‘Last Live’ is demonstrative of the singular way in which Vainio harnessed elemental electronics to his will. Recorded at Cave12, Geneva, on 02.02.17, the set is presented here post-edited by Stephen O’Malley and Carl Michael Von Hausswolff, at EMS, Stockholm, to unleash a definitive blast of raw electronic forces that speak unflinchingly to the unpredictable nature of his improvised noise. Quite simply, Vainio is unmatched in his field for this sort of work, and this session stands as testament to the inspirational conviction and devastating effect of his music.
While it may not be immediately apparent on first listen, Vainio’s music has long drawn influence from myriad, intense forms of music. Be it techno, delta blues, dub, black metal, or sheer isolationist minimalism, it was all there, collapsed into a black hole of sound that could be as bloody-minded as it was heart-rendingly sensitive, often in the space of one cut. ‘Last Live’ portrays these unapologetically human characteristics in Vainio’s typically frank yet oblique manner, with each section candidly expressing polarised extremes of sound, from the first part’s transition between jack-licking drones to skin-tearing distortion, while the 3rd and 4th capture him at his most rhythmically disaffected, strongly recalling the almighty, juddering forces of his ‘Kilo’ (2013) album.
Lilting, melodic Malian pop by one of the most popular singers from Wassalou region, highly regarded for producing some of the best signers in Mali
"The meaning of “Kanawa” is so simple. We see our children trying to cross the ocean all the time. I said that many of our children die in the ocean and some of them while crossing the Sahara. Some climb over the wires across the borders and they have gotten shot. We have asked them not to leave and instead stay home. But I ask them why do they leave their country? Why do they decide to go? They said that they leave because of the family situation or problems, poverty, and unemployment. We told them if ever they are to leave, they should privilege legal ways.
They should abide by laws vigorously when they are to emigrate. That’s better than hiding in boats or adopting other illegal means. I ask them to stay and work in their country. So that we can help each other find a solution to this problem. I call on the UN and African leaders so that we can coordinate our efforts to find a solution, to create jobs for them so that young people stop leaving. This song is about that message and I chose it as the title of my album because I like it. My choice is because it is very meaningful and it is something we see on a daily basis. I chose it in order to alert and sensitize everybody about this question of illegal immigration. To sensitize our brothers and sisters. It is a message. That’s why I chose it as the title of my album so that everybody can learn from it and also so that there is a reduction in the number of people emigrating. To sensitize them so that some can stay home and grow the land. Leaving is not the only solution. That’s my message."
First new solo material from Martin Gore in half a decade, packs a gnarled tang where it matters.
‘The Third Chimpanzee EP’ holds Martin L. Gore’s first outing since the eponymous ‘MG’ album in 2015, and arrives 40 years since his earliest roles as one of DM’s founding members and primary songwriters. The five tracks pay testament to a perennially searching spirit still in the process of hunting for the perfect synthetic sound arrangements, but taking “perfect” to mean strangely expressive and uniquely textured synthesis, as generated by his formidable racks of gear.
Melodic and harmonic pop conventions are out of the window, and replaced by a taste for rawest elemental synthesis in all five parts, turning up some heavily satisfying grot recalling Wolf Eyes’ trip metal styles in ‘Howler’, and a ruddy sort of electro-dub chug on ‘Vervet’, along with some curled eastern tunings in ‘Capuchin’, and the elegiac fanfare of ‘Howler’s End.’
We bow down MG.
‘Kin ell, The Body; U OK, hun? Lee Burford and Chip King’s cultishly adored project appears to take absolutely no prisoners on their first recordings since 2019
Marking their first solo jag after ‘I Have Fought Against It, But I Can’t Any Longer’ in 2018 (they’ve collaborated with Thou and Uniform over the interim), the duo deal in their most obliterated music with a concentrated, unflinching style that feels utterly fucking necessary right now.
Everything seethes in the red at a venomous biting point, with guitars, drums and electronics congealed into a mass of matted skin, hair and blood, with vocals alternately wretching with a BM wretchedness, hollering for dear life, or buried down in the belly of it. They’re perhaps matched for sheer ruthlessness by fellow Providence, Rhode Island residents, Black Mecha and Wold, but even still they’re on some scorched earth all of their own in this monstrous creation.
Ryuichi Sakamoto presents his original soundtrack to Rage「怒り」, a Japanese murder mystery by Korean-Japanese director Lee Sang-Il, his second film adaptation of popular novels by Shûichi Yoshida.
Predating Sakamoto’s work on the immense, panoramic OST for The Revenant with Alva Noto and Bryce Dessner, his score to Rage is a far more intimate and finely melancholic affair, reflective of the film’s shifting themes exploring identity and the malaise of contemporary society.
The main title theme is a memorably symphonic swell of lustrous strings and keys riven with he heartbreaking emotion Sakamoto specialises in, while the rest of the suite is swept between grand instrumental gestures and subtler electronic gilding, feeling out a filigree spectrum of emotions from noirish paranoia to genteel, glitching romance themes.
40th anniversary edition of NWW’s darkly beguiling 3rd album, seeing Steven Stapleton go solo in a slowly spirit-gnawing side of collapsed concrète jazz cut-ups that recall pre-echoes of Mica Levi and Demdike Stare at their most zonked
‘Merzbild Schwet’ documents Stapleton left to his own devices in the studio later in 1980 after bandmates Heman Pathak and John Fothergill left due to dissatisfaction with their collaborative efforts on ‘To The Quiet Men From A Tiny Girl’. The results, in their own way, are perhaps more detectably coherent, in the sense that this is the sound of one man’s mentalism, and not the combination of three who can’t decade who’s weirdest. As such, it’s a real warper, with one side seemingly nodding to a classic Neu! B-sides from behind lysergic eyes, and the other striking deep into a vein of theatric avant-garde.
Recycled from hacked and spliced jazz samples, the A-side’s ‘Dada x’ slops over the front with knackered drums and smeared brass tones that recall the B-side to ‘Neu! 2’ (itself crafted last minute in the studio, using slowed down samples of the same record’s A-side) as much as Micachu & The Shapes’ & London Sinfonietta’s ‘Chopped & Screwed’ session, with additional stirrings from a French pop record adding to the oddness in a way that also recalls Ghédalia Tazartès and that amazing Joseph Hammer side for PAN.
‘Futurismo’ is a very different beast though, stretching out 24mins of pineal, searching-in-the-dark atmospheres that feel like they strayed from an avant garde theatre work or modern classical conservatory, with pealing woodwind and arcing spectral keys paving the way for mind-bending corridors of patchworked sci-fi vocals, shatterproof industrial clangour, and Stapleton's patented plasmic electro-acoustic audness.
James Yorkston and The Second Hand Orchestra came to be after the blossoming of a long-term friendship between James Yorkston and Karl- Jonas Winqvist, the Swedish music producer, leader and conductor of The Second Hand Orchestra.
"That communal feeling is apparent across the entire album. Recorded and mixed in Sweden over the course of three days, with a selection of musicians Winqvist had brought together, including Peter Morén (Peter, Bjorn & John), Cecilia Österholm (one of Sweden’s best-known nyckelharpa players), Emma Nordenstam (piano & cello) and Ulrika Gyllenberg (violin). The studio approach with The Second Hand Orchestra was entirely improvised around Yorkston’s songs and the only song they heard in advance was ‘Ella Mary Leather’; Yorkston didn’t want to direct anyone too much but instead allowed for a welcoming, instinctive, free-spirited and joyful atmosphere. ‘The Wide, Wide River’ is a soothing, warm and sublime listen whilst also highlighting Yorkston’s skills for songwriting, collaboration and as a musical conductor. The record takes in past loves, advancing age and friends now gone, whilst also containing some of the most sanguine songs Yorkston has ever made."
For fans of Four Tet, The Chemical Brothers, Jamie xx, Bonobo, Caribou / Daphni, Aphex Twin.
"Belfast-born London-based duo Bicep (Matt McBriar and Andy Ferguson) release their hotly anticipated ten track second album ‘Isles’, via Ninja Tune. Two years in the making, ‘Isles’ expands on the artful energy of their 2018 debut ‘Bicep’, while digging deeper into the sounds, experiences and emotions that have influenced their lives and work, from early days in Belfast to their move to London a decade ago. Lead track ‘Apricots’ is steeped in a shimmering bath of warm synths, its spare percussion and arresting vocals bring big room chills while still evoking something lost or forlorn."
"When Nils Frahm kicked off his world tour at Funkhaus Berlin in January 2018 to bring his highly acclaimed studio album All Melody to the stage, an ambitious journey was just to begin: Over the next two years, Frahm played more than 180 sold-out performances, including the Sydney Opera House, LA’s Disney Hall, the Barbican in London, Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie, and several big festival stages around the globe. Yet the stunning setting of Funkhaus Berlin, renowned for its vintage grandeur and outstanding acoustics, and also home to Frahm’s magnificent studio where All Melody was recorded, had occupied a unique place in the artist's heart.
In December 2018, Nils Frahm eventually returned to Funkhaus Berlin to host another set of four shows, tickets sold out within hours. Frahm’s friend and film director Benoit Toulemonde — a collaborator since 2011 — captured the concerts on film, only using handheld cameras, and employing techniques he had mastered for the famous concert series La Blogotèque, which featured some of the world’s most popular artists. Tripping with Nils Frahm is an illustration of Nils’s lauded ability as a composer and passionate live artist as well as the enchanting atmosphere of his captivating, and already legendary Funkhaus shows: An extraordinary musical trip – rare and exclusive, close and intimate, bringing a unique concert experience to the screen.
"It was about time to document my concerts in picture and sound, trying to freeze a moment of this period where my team and I were nomads, using any method of travel to play yet another show the next day. Maybe tonight is the night where everything works out perfectly and things fall into place? Normally things go wrong with concerts, but by combining our favorite moments of four performances, we were able to achieve what I was trying to do in these two years of touring: getting it right! When you hear the applause on the end of the film you should know that I was smiling happily, being a tad proud and feeling blessed to share these moments with you.
Much love, Nils"
Classy debut album of horizon-scanning but intimate chamber compositions by Elori Saxl, seamlessly weaving a range of classical orchestration with field recordings and electronics
‘The Blue of Distance’ sees Elori draw listeners between the Adirondack Mountains in summer, and the middle of Lake Superior at the depths of winter, for a cinematic album that expresses a palpable sense of nostalgia and hope. Its title is inspired by Rebecca Solnit’s observation that faraway mountains appear blue due to light particles getting lost over distance, as outlined in ‘A Field Guide to Getting Lost’, and Elori uses that phenomena as metaphor for the music’s curious sense of physical detachment/immersion and elusive familiarity, meshing recordings of a 6 piece ensemble (Violin, Viola, Cello, Clarinet, Flue, Oboe, Bassoon) made in summer, with their re-sampled images, re-recorded thru the foot of ice beneath her on Lake Superior, to create an absorbing blur between place and space, and between physical gesture and artificial resonance. A quiet-minded one for fans of Ian William Craig, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, or the evocative, descriptive powers of Goldmund.
Oh my jeffing days, it finally happened! The Japanese edition of RZA’s seminal OST for ‘Ghost Dog’ finally lands to answer our prayers.
One of our most sought-after albums never to appear on vinyl (aside from a sneaky edition you could find at Hardwax if u were sharp-eared), RZA’s first soundtrack, for Jim Jarmusch’s mystic assassin thriller starring Forest Whittaker, has been top of our list since the day we walked out of the cinema after watching it in 1999 as a wide-eyed scrawny 16 y.o. That cinema has since been demolished, but our love for RZA’s score has never diminished, and we’ll happily sit with the looped-up 1 hour version of its ‘Ghost Dog Theme’ that was uploaded by some absolute G to YouTube on given day of the week.
With the benefit of hindsight, it’s not hard to hear the album as punctuating a whole epoch of music and culture, practically executing the final word on sample-driven, old skool beatcraft at a time when rap and hip hop were phase-shifting into the whole jiggy era of Timbaland and The Neptunes, and the old analog world of comic books and Kung Fu flicks on VHS were on the cusp of being consumed into the nostalgia industry - an idea perhaps neatly reflected in the film’s story about an assassin who prefers to follow ancient samurai codes of honour in an era of modern gangsters.
As many have discovered to their annoyance, it’s only this, the Japanese version, that carries the full soundtrack, where other versions were full of crap filler from Wu Tang affiliates. We’re talking some of RZA’s crispiest drum chops, soul stabs, and the most atmospheric work in his catalogue; 35 minutes of lethal neck snappers from the top shelf of ’90s hip hop, and we couldn’t be any more gassed to finally clutch a copy that will be coming to the grave with us.
(RZA voice) Raise your swwwords! Ultimate tip!
New Amsterdam and Nonesuch Records release Tristan Perich’s Drift Multiply as part of the partnership between the two labels. Drift Multiply, Perich’s largest work to date, is performed by fifty violins and fifty loudspeakers and is conducted by Douglas Perkins.
"Scored as one hundred individual lines of music, the piece blends violins and speakers into a cascading tapestry of tone, harmony, and noise. The violins perform from sheet music, while the speakers are each connected to custom-built circuit boards programmed to output 1-bit audio, the most basic digital waveforms made of just ones and zeroes. “I am interested in the threshold between the abstract world of computation and the physical world around us”, Perich explains.
New York–based composer Tristan Perich’s work is inspired by the aesthetic simplicity of math, physics, and code. The Wire describes his compositions as ‘an austere meeting of electronic and organic’. 1-Bit Music, his 2004 release, was the first album ever released as a microchip, programmed to synthesize his electronic composition live.
As a composer, he has received commissions from Sō Percussion, the LA Philharmonic, Vicky Chow, and more, as well as an award of distinction from Ars Electronica for his work for violins and 1-bit electronics, Active Field. As a visual artist, his audio installations, video works and machine drawings have received commissions from the likes of Rhizome and L’Auditori in Barcelona, and his artwork has been exhibited internationally, including the Museum of Modern Art, VOLT Festival, the San Diego Museum, and bitforms gallery."
A colossal, trance-inducing, yet largely overlooked pillar of 20th century American minimalism.
Regarded as a "holy grail" by the likes of Keith Fullerton Whitman, it spans 100 minutes of atonal, amorphous string composition scored in four parts for a quintet, here performed by Linda Cummiskey (Violin), Malcolm Goldstein (Violin), Kathy Seplow (Violin), Stephen Reynolds (Viola), David Gibson (Violoncello).
By all accounts Harley Gaber was a colourful fella, a complex American artist, composer and filmmaker who dropped it all not long after release of this 1976 work to become a full time Tennis player and coach. He would return to the arts, and later music, writing soundtracks for his own films before sadly committing suicide in 2011.
'The Winds Rise in the North' is a frighteningly heavy and rewarding master-stroke, giving rise to dense, gripping harmonic overtones which prickle, seduce and get under the skin in a way that few others achieve. Lock the doors, turn off your phone and give yourself two hours with this. You won't regret it.
On this newly released work Jakob Ullmann combines his appreciation of Cageian principles with sacred composition in utterly riveting ways, resulting in two of the most extreme and uncompromising examples of his “quiet music” - that is, a music which is composed and realised to be played just above the volume of each listener’s ambient background.
And in case you’re not aware of what we mean by “extreme”, we’re talking seriously quiet - bordering on silent - instrumental gestures; the kind of creaks and klangs that, on the most glib level, recall a “ghost” in your house at midnight, while on a more serious, theological level, are intended to heighten the listener’s sense of the unknown, the metaphysical, the spiritual: the sacred.
In both works the ‘hallmarks’ of Jakob Ullmann’s intently defined yet unfathomably open style of composition come to light. On Müntzers stern, a pre-recorded performance of a hymnal text written by the German theologian is played back at barely perceptible volume into the same space where Dafne Vicente-Sandoval translates the graphic score for bassoon. The result is a totally sparse yet breathtakingly pensive piece where it’s beautifully uncertain what we’re hearing - is that the chance sound of a distant plane or Dafne’s bassoon? Are those voices in your head, outside the window, or on the recording? Either way, the barely-there but complex results are genuinely ambiguous, forming a total breakdown of conventions that leave the listener with far more questions than they answer.
On solo II, part of a group of works relating to the notion of disappearing musics completed in 1992 following Ullmann’s conversations with John Cage, the effect of Dafne’s bassoon, recorded in Kartäuserkirche (Bürgerliches Waisenhaus) is even more extreme. Holistically taking into account everything from the thermal fluctuation of the space and the way it affects Dafne’s reed, to its unique acoustic imprint, and by turns what lies outside its walls, the piece directly builds on Ullmann’s dialogue with Cage, and induces us into a sort of lucid dream state where time dissolves, outside becomes inside, and we feel physically sublimated into the piece and its projected timbral architecture.
As Ullmann’s music has come to light beyond the most rarified classical corridors over the last decade (with thanks to its champions such as Stephen O’Malley and Bill Kouligas, among others), the composer’s radical approach and uncompromising beliefs have given us some of the most memorable and perception-altering musical experiences imaginable. We can surely add these two new Ullmann works to that set of life-affirming and quietly challenging experiences.
Black Ark In Dub is another piece of Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry’s limitless musical puzzle.
"Featuring a bedrock of deep and heavy rhythms recorded at the Black Ark just before its demise, Black Ark In Dub features bass heavy spooky dub deconstructions of ‘Jah Love Is Sweeter’, ‘Ethiopia’, ‘Lion A De Winner’, ‘Open The Gate’, ‘Guideline,’ and ‘Mr Money Man’, along with an embellished dub version of Ras Keatus I ‘Dreadlocks I’ and the much sought after ‘Guidance’ a longime Jah Shaka killer exclusive to this set.
Originally released in 1981 the hard to find Black Ark In Dub remains a frozen sonic timepiece, captured at the beginning of the end of one era and poised at the start of another. This re-mastered release adds Lackley Castell ‘Jah Love Is Sweeter’ (vocal cut to the opening track ‘Jah’) plus Black Ark Vol. 2 the follow up album to the acclaimed Black Ark In Dub that unsurprisingly for an Upsetter release took a different path. More vocal oriented the album features extended dubwise cuts of Caol Cole’s ‘Ethiopia’, The Originals ‘Got To Be Irie’, Junior Byles ‘Mumbling & Grumbling and The Inamans ‘How Deep Is your Love’, along with an alternate take of the Silvertones roots classic ‘Give Thanks’ with flute overdub and a couple of solid do-overs from Third World man Bunny Rugs."