Experimental guitarist, sound designer and occasional Mika Vainio collaborator Franck Vigroux returns to Raster for an album steeped in 1980s nostalgia, influenced by Polaroid colors, VHS aesthetics, electro pop, and Vangelis.
According to Franck Vigroux, the 1980s was a "terrible time". I suppose we have to agree, even though it was a while ago and we were (mostly) quite young. To Vigroux, the era is best remembered via its most recognizable hallmarks, like the dystopian flicker of Ridley Scott's enduring "Blade Runner" - at the time a complete flop. Vigroux has mapped out his approximation of the 1980s aesthetic on "Magnetoscope", the latest in a proposed series of releases that includes 2020's "Ballades sur lac gelé". If you've heard that album, you'll have an idea of where this one is directed sonically - yet again he employs a tight palette of analog synths, drum machines, and Sähkö/Raster glitches. But on this one, Vigroux is careful to make sure his inspirations are rendered accurately, so we're immediately hit with electro-pop rhythms and synths, and coaxed into the atmosphere with the kind of romantic synthwork that Vangelis was eating off for years.
Opener 'VHS' does exactly what you'd expect, to the point where if you told us this was a horror/sci-fi soundtrack made in the mid-1980s and released it on Death Waltz we'd probably believe you. The glitches might be a little edgy but who are we to doubt, when Charanjit Singh was making acid ragas in 1982. Elsewhere, 'L.A.' sounds as rainy and windswept as the "Blade Runner" dystopia, and comes served with the exact Yamaha CS-80 sounds you'd expect to hear, backed by rolling glitches and twitchy kicks because it's Raster, so why not. It's on 'Station to Station' that Vigroux starts to wander outside of the popular nostalgiasphere for a second, dirtying up the electro-pop formula and capturing some of the loose masonry weight of his noisier material. Elsewhere, tracks like 'Cassette' and 'Nuit' offer spine-tingling minimalist horror vibes, while Vigroux flexes his ambient muscle on 'Steam', maybe the album's most moving track.
The 23rd edition of the Pop Ambient compilation, compiled by Wolfgang Voigt.
"A contemporary product of relentless capitalism has been a trend called slowness for several years now. In order to counteract the perceived fast pace of the times in which we live with a little deceleration, sustainability and relaxation, phenomena such as Slow Food, Slow Travel, Slow Fashion or even Slow Cruising, the tourist sailing of the world's oceans with somewhat smaller cruise ships "away from the mainstream", have been introduced into the world.
That slowness is more than the opposite of speed, that elements, things, sounds that move as if in slow motion unfold a special power, precision, aesthetics and beauty, doesn’t need to be explained twice to ambient musicians. The 23rd edition of the Pop Ambient compilation, compiled as always by Wolfgang Voigt, is no exception, but instead provides the proof."
Vinyl treasure. A heartbreakingly beautiful, eerie elegy to a tragic event, Gavin Bryars’ magnum opus - a pinnacle of the c.20th classical canon - is finally available on vinyl again via Superior Viaduct some half century since it was issued on Eno’s Obscure label.
Gavin Bryars’ Eno-produced ‘The Sinking of the Titanic’ artfully evokes the liner’s in-house band continuing to play as it sank into the North Atlantic Ocean in 1912. Its understated string arrangements and use of Cageian indeterminate strategy set a haunting precedent for later works by the likes of The Caretaker, Akira Rabelais and Stephan Mathieu, heralding the culmination of a phase shift between popular classical music, proper, and its experimental paths beyond convention into realms of pure sonification. No doubt it’s one of those works that simply stops you in you tracks and effortlessly holds the attention for the duration.
The B-side, ‘Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me’ is also deeply regarded for its ebbing tape loop of a London street singer set to strings by Derek Bailey, Michael Nyman and John White. Also of a immediately poignant register, the piece holds in subtle contrast to the tragedy of the other, gradually layering wind and strings to the central motif with quietly devastating effect that has prompted Tom Waits to claim it as his favourite piece of music.
Both pieces are a sterling early testament to Bryars' affective work since the ‘60s, tying up paths with fellow Yorkshireman and jazz-man Derek Bailey and future soundtrack composer Michael Nyman, and leading the way for his formation of the highly esteemed Portsmouth Sinfonia. We kinda hate to say it from this side of the Pennines, but this is truly music of God’s own country.
Galcher Lustwerk's legendary Blowing Up The Workshop mix is finally given a "proper" release and still stands as one of the finest deep house documents of the last decade - all syrup-laced grooves, honey-voiced raps and taut, dusted percussion that owes as much to '90s rap as it does vintage house. Essential listening for anyone into Theo Parrish, Moodymann, Omar-S, DJ Sprinkles - you know the deal.
Originally released in 2013, "100% Galcher" introduced US DJ/producer Galcher Lustwerk in the most virtuosic way possible - a mixtape of completely original material. Despite being featured as part of Matthew Kent's Blowing Up The Workshop series, which often featured more straightforward DJ mixes, "100% Galcher" functionally stood as an artist album, and in its repackaged form - split into 15 discrete tracks. Even at this relatively early stage in his career, Galcher's sound was fully formed; later records like 2019's slick "Information" may have been more lavishly produced, but "100% Galcher" already showed us exactly what the New York-based beatmaker was capable of.
To understand the context when it originally arrived, it's important to cast your mind back to 2013 for a second. Interest in classic deep house had been on the rise, and the dominance of "deep v house" was imminent: Disclosure's popular and vapid debut "Settle" was released that summer. Sanitized, shuffled deep grooves, cleaved from their original context, were now the soundtrack to finance industry parties and destination festivals. So when "100% Galcher" landed it was a blast of cool air on a humid day, a reminder that deep house could be sexy, urgent and impactful, draped in mystery and hard edged, but never losing the subtle shiver of funk.
Tracks like early highlights 'Put On' and 'Outside the Club' connect the past and present in a uniquely creative way, folding together hip-house rollage, p-funk, levitating synth/field recording ambience and Gemini-esque dissonant syn-drum fizz. 'In the Place' more forcefully points towards rap, with a syncopated groove and narcotic rhymes from Galcher, but it simultaneously never lets go of the deep house atmosphere, hypnotizing with jazzy pads and electroid rimshots.
The record is assembled from movements, or small thickets of tracks sequenced together using various "stems" to connect them. These stems are vibey, beatless electronic backdrops - the kind of sounds that usually lurk in the background on Galcher's productions, pushed into the fore. And it's by using these beatless intervals that Galcher connects his vast palette of influences, creating a discernible bridge from faded Detroit-esque burners like 'Enterprise' and 'Cricket's Theme''s jerky funk to the low-lit outro 'Lil Bit o Chocolit' with its "Artificial Intelligence"-via-"First Floor" sexiness. Too good.
Ex-Cocteau Twin Simon Raymonde's 1997 debut is repackaged here with three bonus tracks - unavailable for years, it documents the Cocteau Twins' final moments.
When Raymonde started work on "Blame Someone Else" in 1996, he wasn't sure if he would be working on solo material as Cocteau Twins was still a full-time concern. His bandmates were supportive, even going so far as to perform on a few of the tracks, but by the time it was released in 1997 Cocteau Twins had disbanded - a new era had begun. It was the first album to appear on Raymonde's Bella Union label, out of print for 25 years (it took Raymonde that long to feel comfortable with the songs being out there again), it's been repackaged as "Solo Works 96-98".
Musically it sounds very much of its time - just as Cocteau Twins embraced a more polished style in their later years (as evidenced on "Four Calendar Cafe" and "Milk & Kisses"), Raymonde continues the thought. Early tracks 'It's a Family Thing' and 'Love Undone' echo the popular indie of the day, and while Raymonde's voice is strong it's easy to hear how these tracks fell just outside of the timeline. 'The Seventh Day' is stronger for approaching the late Cocteaus style more wholeheartedly (you can almost hear Liz Fraser cooing the chorus), and the band's late-era drummer Mitsuo Tate shows up on 'In My Place' and a handful more tracks.
Robin Guthrie adds his characteristic shimmer to 'Muscle and Want', while Fraser harmonizes with Raymonde on the gorgeous 'Worship Me', an undoubtable standout. The new additions are surprising: 'Summer's Blue' adds rave-inspired drum loops, 'Left Untouched the Flowers Grow' sounds like it could have come from Les Disques du Crépuscule, and 'Let Love In' rounds off the set with haunted harmonies and a barely-present pulse. Lovely.
The 5th and final LP in Alva Noto & Ryuichi Sakamoto’s highly esteemed ‘Virus’ series is treated to a remaster for return to circulation, some 10 years after it closed a prized chapter of their collaborations
Seeing off 10 years of minimalist classical genre-expanding-and-defining records, ’Svmmvs’ is perhaps the most brooding and quietly poignant of the lot. Less than half a decade later they would return for the much-adored soundtrack to ‘The Revenant’, and it’s not hard to hear seeds of that score planted in this one, fraught with a lingering sense of dread and foreboding that perfuses the album from its quizzically bittersweet keys and buzzing tonalities in ‘Microon I’ to the icy scape of ‘Kizuna’ and the gripping narrative turns of phrase in its spine-freezing highlight ‘By This River’.
The elision of Sakamoto’s keys, frozen, suspended, and trembling in time-space by Carsten Nicolai’s glitch techniques, has rarely if ever been bettered, and one can consider this album a real feather in their bonnet.
Fuck what you know of Huerco S, 'Plonk' is his first album in 6 years and switches tack from house and groggy ambient touchstones to a more glassy, iridescent palette of juked electrosoul and chamber-like paradigms.
Touching minds 10 years since his cult early works graced the likes of Opal Tapes and Ukraine’s Wicked Bass, ‘Plonk’ finds him drawing on a formative love of rally cars and experiences over the interim for a more ragged jag that still prizes a sense of heady lushness, but more fractal and bittersweet with it. Of course he’s not been slacking since his now classic album ‘For Those Of You Who Have Never (And Also Those Who Have)’, delivering ample goodies as Pendant and introducing key new artists via his curation of West Mineral Ltd. since 2017, but Huerco S. has taken a backseat until now, returning with a sparing, concentrated energy refracted into light-splitting ambient post-classical figures and splintered steppers that defy gravity with a cannily personalised sort of electro-dub physics.
We’ve long compared Brian Leeds’ work as Huerco S. with the likes of NWAQ and Actress, and those references still somehow apply, as he smartly moves parallel and perpendicular to those likemind auteurs’ evolutions across ‘Plonk'. They all share a patented sense of emotional intelligence and deep funk imagination that percolates their beyond-the-dance tekkerz.
The 10 tracks of ‘Plonk’ sensitively smash the template of ambient techno and IDM for a new decade, allowing new subtly mutated forms to emerge in the cracks. Between the first example of reeling extended melody in ‘Plonk I’ to the dematerialised tonal hues of the 11min bliss out ‘Plonk X’, he offers a thorough but faithful reappraisal of his style, tiling fleeting pieces of beat-less introspection rendered with electro-acoustic strategies, alongside nerve end-dancing, syncopated jitters and gyring hyperspace explorations such as the spine-licking bewt ‘’Plonk VI’ and smudged Autechrian functions on ‘Plonk VIII’, with a surprise turn of drawling cloudrap abstaction on ‘Plonk IX’.
Formed in the early 1980s, Phauss is Carl Michael von Hausswolff and Erik Pauser.
"Von Hausswolff and Pauser, who both operated across sound and installation, used Phauss as a means for deconstructing ideas of composition, situationalism, site-specific works and extended performance methodologies. Across the second half of the 1980s and into the early 1990s, they made connections, through their travels, outward from their homeland into scenes and communities that stretched from the Middle East, through North America and into Asia.
Like their travels, their ways of approaching the work they made was similarly wide-reaching and innately curious. They worked with often quite strict conceptual structures within which they were able to unlock entirely new ways of considering composition and also the material production of sound, through performance, through iteration and through considered experimentation which allowed for failure, just as much as success.
Nya Sverige - Nothing But The Truth is a recording made in the United States whilst the pair were undertaking an exhaustive tour in 1991 alongside Hafler Trio and Zbigniew Karkowski. This, now legendary, tour was both arduous and rewarding. Living in a van for many weeks at a time, travelling between cities with the most modest of means meant Phauss came to know a very particular vision of the United States, one that existed below plain view. Their’s was an experience had at the rawest edges of cities.
Equally the performances they gave, from which this edition is assembled, were raw and quite frankly dangerous. Fire on stage, sparks flying from short circuiting electronics and intense physical rituals guided so much of their work during this tour and looking back at bootleg videos from the time it’s difficult to imagine the work being able to be presented in the modern world.
One of the flyers from their tour reads ‘Extreme Swedish Industrial’, and as familiar as those words might appear now, in 1991 they held a very different resonance. They were unfamiliar terms of reference and the intensity of Phauss’s music maintains that unknowability to this day. This is a profoundly individual work and sets the stage for a generation of musicians who followed them."
Subtly hallucinatory, Burroughsian field recording collage by CM Von Hauswolff and Eric Pauser’s Phauss, stitching abstract meta-narratives from the ether of mid ‘80s Switzerland, Syria, Lebanon, Iran, Pakistan, India, Thailand, The Philippines and USA, Morocco, Algeria, Niger, Benin and Nigeria, with assistance of engineer Zbigniew Karkowski. Reissued for first time in 35 years.
“Audiodrome collects together two discreet works that sit somewhere between field recording, chance composition and experimental soundscape. Both pieces pre-date the widespread arrival of field recording as a creative practice, and expand outward the work that had been developed by musique concréte and other experimental music approaches concerned with the intersections of found sound and composition. Both works were devised using the same working methodology, whereby an alarm would sound every few days and wherever and whenever it sounded the pair would start recording their surroundings. Those raw material became the basis for the pieces.
The first composition Zürich - Zürich is a piece that traces a line around the world, Phauss travelling on a round the world air ticket stopping only in countries where conflict was present. This unsettling journey became a meditation on the evolving state of the world in those moments. Voices, traffic, cafes, radios, transportation system and other incidental environments float into one another in a kind of stream of (temporally incongruous) consciousness.
The second work Alger - Lagos brings to mind some of Brion Gysin and William S. Burroughs tape cut-ups. Street musicians are splice against bursts of radio, roadside conversations and searing blasts of industrial noise captured from aircraft and other unfamiliar sources. It is an unsteadying journey where even the sounds of the everyday feel alien and repositioned. The sounds call to us prompting a sensing that is at its heart utterly fascinated, and fascinating.
The edition includes a book featuring an exhaustive collection of photographs, documents and artworks made by Von Hausswolff and Pauser during their journeys undertaken to complete each of the compositions. Many of these images and artworks have never been published previously.”
Originally composed for a dance performance and installation, 'Black Box 3' is an uncompromisingly reduced set of processed field recordings, drum skitters, and cautious synthetic minimalism.
Mads Emil Nielsen's first "Black Box" release arrived in 2018 on 7"; each edition presents music and sound that the Danish composer originally assembled for theater performances and installations, and the third chapter is no different. This time around, the starting point was material Nielsen had worked on for "Sprækker (Cracks)", a dance performance and installation that was presented in Denmark last year. Based on improvisations recorded with contemporary dancers, Nielsen wanted to guide the listener through a selection of sounds, from synthesizer experiments to everyday sounds and radio archives.
So we're presented with clever, precise tweaking on 'Installation - 2', that obscures chopped-up drums behind synthesized glitches and moonlit field recordings. It sounds like someone jamming in a remote marsh at night, and that's never a bad thing. 'Climbing Plants' is more immersive somehow, molding hissing environmental sounds into billowing dark ambience that sounds almost like dub techno at a quarter speed. Nielsen's command of microscopic percussive elements is impressive, and his ability to weave fine pinprick patterns with undergrowth crunches and insect calls is particularly hypnotic on closing track 'Vibrations'.
To Move is a new project by the trio of Anna Rose Carter (Moon Ate the Dark), Ed Hamilton (Dead Light) and Alex Kozobolis.
"Four-handed piano meets analogue manipulations to absolute wondrous effect from the London based friends.
We're carried into a time and place not afraid to embrace a sense of optimism - even if it comes wrapped in a certain distorted shape. Transporting, blissful tones emanate free of concerns from the unifying keys; at least until the melodies are pulled and dragged from purity to become something wholly else – their own lived life; fitted with obstructions and unpredictability. The intertwining pianos linger like lovers in unison, full of drift, rhythm and life; all while analogue electronics and tape manipulations degrade and move them from their original form and closer towards earth itself.
The album came to light while Anna and Ed were temporarily residing in the English countryside between 2016 and 2019. Musical weekend visits from Alex turned into the fruitful collaboration presented here. 'To Move' is a compelling musical storyboard with a name that captures the essence of their music better than any written essay could do. This is music to resonate to, music to dance to, music to engulf your being. As for fans of the Sonic Pieces sound – if there is one – this record hits as close to home as it could do."
Geneva's Citron Citron's debut album on 'Les Disques Bongo Joe'.
"Chagrin Bleu explores the melancholy of the night and the joy of a flight under the sun. Songs with transcendent refrains, and synthetic laments with romantic melodies, carried by groove box-like rhythms. An album on the borders of chamber pop, medieval chants and ambient. The lyrics are at times poetic, angry or dreamy.
The first sketches of the album were drawn during the first confinement when time was slowing down. The songs were then recorded in a DIY way by the band in their studio in Geneva during the year 2021. The first sessions were recorded on tape with a Tascam 688, then expanded and edited on computer. Some additional recordings were made with the help of sound engineer Yavor Lilov (L'Éclair) and some guests : Fhunyue Gao on theremin, Sébastien Bui (L'Éclair) for some synth parts.
The album was then worked on and mixed with Jacco Gardner in his Antwerp studio. His analogue world allowed the sound of the album to grow and deepen. With his echoes and tape machines, the mix could be approached in an organic and evolutionary way."
Berlin-based Turkish sound artist Hüma Utku uses psychological research to inform this unsettling set of hybridized analog-digital electronic vignettes, based around doomy strings and Buchla 200 recordings made at Stockholm's legendary Elektronmusikstudion. Bleak, pitch-black shit - inhabiting the same universe as Muslimgauze, Roly Porter or even Silver Mt. Zion.
Described by the label as "a series of sonic essays", "The Psychologist" references Utku's studies in psychology, which she employs to fuel shadowy abstractions of strings and electronics that feel cinematic. There's a careful pace to her productions that sweeps up her influences - from electro-acoustic music to abstract techno and industrial sounds - into a coherent soup of dimly lit orchestral flourishes and gurgling analog electronics. On 'Fuel for the Flames', thick oscillator waves set the mood, before epic double bass strokes mire the track in arcane mysticism. Utku introduces a grinding electronic rhythm on 'Dissolution of I', referencing Muslimgauze or Pan Sonic's jerky noise-inflected industrial shakes, but matches it with grim, grinding strings you'd be more likely to hear in Montreal's Godspeed-adjacent zone.
Across the course of the album, Urku rarely lets up - the tracks reference Carl Jung's theories, and our mind goes straight to the nightmare realm on the foreboding 'Rüya', which literally translates to dream in Turkish. Acidic environmental recordings and witchy vocals are layered with uneasy modular electronic drones, while phantasmagorical scraped strings hint at a realm beyond the real. Elsewhere, Utku leans more confidently into experimental electronics on the lengthy closing track 'Chironian Wound', building a similarly nightmarish landscape from bleeping vintage oscillators and wailing harmonic bass synths. Epic stuff.
I Will Set You Free by Barry Admson, via Mute.
"Initially released in 2012, I Will Set You Free amalgamated elements of Barry’s previous work, resulting in an album that is unmistakably Barry Adamson.
Like many of Adamson’s records, the album is a genre odyssey that jumps from garage rock rock, to blues, to new-wave pop, with the adventurous brass section injecting an acid jazz touch. His overwhelming desire to examine cultural shifts and embrace them within the quest to improve oneself that often centres in Adamson’s art is clearly present in I Will Set You Free. This subsequently makes it a quintessential Barry Adamson record that fits right in with the back catalogue."
Know Where To Run by Barry Adamson, on Mute.
"Barry’s 2016 album, Know Where To Run, was produced by Barry himself and recorded in Brighton with Paul Pascoe, whilst WTNSS mixed and provided additional production at the legendary Dean Street Studios.
The concept behind the album emerged when Barry started taking photos during a Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds North American tour, playing with the idea of traversing different states of the human condition and different states across America. The result was an audio/visual project inspired by these pictures, with the record being presented alongside a curated photobook."
A beautiful new work for processed saz recalling Dariush Dolat Shahi’s Folkways classic, realised for Touch’s 40th anniversary celebrations at Iklektik in summer 2022 .
Working on ground prepared by ‘Arithmetic in the Dark’ (2019) and ‘Isoladrone2020’, pioneering Henry Cow member and art-pop maverick Anthony Moore presents a sensuous investigation of the saz, an instrument he’s “loved and lived with for the last six decades”, extruded thru the digital output of CSound orchestra software.
The results were meant to be performed live at Touch’s 40th anniversary gathering but Moore caught covid and recorded it at home, in preparation for playback at Iklekik. Presented as is, it awns a fine spectrum of the instrument’s tonalities and shimmering timbral properties in a keening formation that gives the impression of moving although ostensibly static, luring into eddying whorls, spiralling ascents and heavenly radiance as the 30 minute piece progresses.
Laura Cannell and André Bosman re-imagine Wintery musical canon that's a million miles away from the mall-poised cheese that haunts the dwindling consumer mallscape each year. Sobering expressive folk history.
Last seen together on 2018's ace "Reckonings" full-length, longtime collaborators Laura Cannell and André Bosman reconvene on "New Christmas Rituals" to imagine a seasonal spread that's significantly unhooked from the commercialised (and Americanised) traditions we endure during Yuletide each year. Europe's folk history is more complicated and far deeper than turkey, Hallmark cards and Bing Crosby; the Christmas we know was conceptualized in Victorian times: Santa Claus (or Father Christmas) was a 19th century import, and Charles Dickens' "Christmas Carol" was first published in 1843, showing the British public how they were expected to act. Long before this, the period was celebrated for 12 days of drinking, eating and dancing; the exchange of gifts was a hangover from the Roman occupation, and many customs pre-dated even that. Drinking alcoholic drinks and welcoming the midwinter period with fire was commonplace in pagan Yule celebrations, and music was undoubtedly another constant.
Cannell and Bosman's celebration of the "new" peers into this unfurling history, juxtaposing compositions like the Victorian-era carol 'Deck the Halls' with earlier standards like 'God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen' (from the 1650s) and Tudor standard 'Green Groweth the Holly', written by none other than Henry VIII himself in the early 16th century. 'O Come, O Come Emmanuel' is even older, translated into English from Latin and originating in Medieval monasteries in the 8th century. Each standard is reinterpreted by the duo in their particular style and performed without vocals; both are self-taught violinists and cut through the technicality of their performance with a familiarity with folk standards and a healthy interest in early music. It gives the renditions a freshness that feels vital, the stiffness that began to constrain church music in the Victorian era is nowhere to be found, and even when they're reinterpreting later compositions, Cannell and Bosman do so with the inebriated lilt of the distant past.
Just as our ancestors had to re-learn Christmas celebrations after aggy puritanism snatched it from our shores, it feels as if now might be a good time to find a new way of interfacing with a tired, deeply commercialised holiday. Cannell and Bosman's music is an antidote to both greyscale, Tory traditionalism and more recent hackery, and like Cannell's solo output this year, it makes fresh discoveries by re-examining the music of our past. If we're forced to memorialise this period and reflect on thousands of years of Northern European midwinter merriment, we deserve a soundtrack that acknowledges its long and complicated history. Sublime music.
Absorbingly paced and inventive electro-acoustic/concrète chicanery by Melbourne’s clarinet improvisor Aviva Endean, giving the ear something to chase with her micro-to-macroscopic proprioceptions.
Dynamically recorded across multiple spaces and hugely variegated in texture and tone, ‘Moths & Stars’ is titled for the artist’s attempt to zoom the ear’s eye between natural intimacy and the sidereal. Fucking with fundamentals of time and space she uses canny microphone placement and feedback systems to poetically mess with the listener’s sense of place and atmospheric pressure in a way crossing lines with the sound arts of Leila Bordreuil and Teresa Winter. In the process Aviva evinces a an underlying narrative by meshing and wrapping perceptions of the abstract with more palpably human vocal tones in a very instinctive and sensually haptic manner where it’s hard not to get wrapped up in the surprising folds and discreet dimensions she delves into.
“The microphones became extensions of my instruments, getting right up close to capture the microscopic, creating tones of feedback which captivated me, or zooming out to capture multiple acoustic spaces. My recording and composing process became more intuitive and explorative, another form of play. I could start creating and see where the piece would take me, and notice how new relationships were formed as I folded multiple time/spaces in and over each other.
Sometimes I would begin by gleaning sounds from my archives, and listening to how they could be reimagined and transformed alongside the discoveries my microphones and instruments were finding. In ‘Nightwork’ I wanted to find a way to revisit some microtonal humming that I had recorded for a sound design project, and then discovered the Leslie speaker as a way to spin my bass clarinet sound around the microphones, creating bass tones emerging as waves out of the densely layered pitches. Sometimes a new instrumental fascination, such as the e-bows and magnets on ‘Mirror Signals’ or the binaural microphone feedback on ‘Moths & Stars’ would call for me to find further layers of clarinets and field recordings to be woven into their story.”
Fifteen years after their last full-length, Montreal's Black Ox Orkestar return with a fresh cross-cultural dialog between Jewish and Arabic folk sounds that couldn't be more timely. RIYL Tindersticks, Nick Cave, A Silver Mt. Zion.
Thierry Amar, Scott Gilmore, Jessica Moss, and Gabriel Levine initially formed Black Ox Orkestar way back in 2000, looking to a way to examine their Jewish identity through folk music traditions, singing original compositions in Yiddish and interpreting music from Jewish, Romani and Arabic texts. After two albums, they went on hiatus in 2006, re-appearing earlier this year with a special flexidisc release that confirmed their reunion. 'Everything Returns' is the fruit of their labor, and it's as if they've never been gone. The band's careful, well-studied interpretation of klezmer via Montreal's avant indie-rock scene is still intact, and their political motivations are still just as sharp and incisive. Black Ox aren't afraid to shout loudly of the harmonies between cultures, showing the connections between Slavic, Central Asian, Arabic, and Jewish traditions.
All of this is bracketed by the quartet's seemingly effortless instrumental skill, introduced slowly on the low-key opener 'Tish Nign' with wordless choral vocals, melancholy piano, punctuating double-bass, and Moss's unmistakeable violin. Black Ox get into the groove on 'Perpetual Peace' and it's as if they'd never been gone at all - Gilmore's Yiddish vocals sound rich and emotional, and producer Greg Norman renders everything in such rich dimensionality that it's almost like having the band in the room with you. The most memorable moments feature Gilmore playing cimbalom, a kind of dulcimer; on 'Oysgeforn / Bessarabian Hora', the instrument is used to bring us into the right headspace before the Levine's clarinet takes over and the track fizzes into new-wave klezmer. On 'Skotshne' though it sounds more cinematic, accompanying Moss's teary-eyed violin and speaking wordlessly on themes of perpetual displacement and exclusionary nationalism.
'Everything Returns' is a darkly comic title. It acknowledges the band's long absence, but also speaks of the return of more unnerving elements in society. The album's mood reflects this perfectly, tying up the darkness of contemporary culture into a historical lineage that's grim, but never oppressive.
Midori Takada's "lost" 1999 solo album has been remixed by Takada herself and cut to vinyl for the very first time. If you've only come across "Through the Looking Glass", this one shines further light on her story, bolstering her usual percussion with a side-long team-up with Chinese erhu player Jiang Jian Hua.
When "Tree of Life" was released back in 1999, Midori Takada was a few years away from her YouTube algorithm-powered renaissance. The album was released on CD just for the Japanese market, and it's taken this long to reach the rest of the world. To make sure we get to hear it in its full detail, Takada herself has made a new audiophile mix, and remastered the album completely at half speed. We have to admit it sounds dazzlingly clean and clear - the first side is peak Takada, and shouldn't surprise anyone who discovered her via her bewilderingly popular debut "Through the Looking Glass". Playing marimba, drums, and bells, Takada constructs environmental structures that link disparate cultures via tonality and rhythm.
But it's the second side that has us completely giddy. Here Takada brings in virtuoso musician Jiang Jian Hua, a Chinese master of the erhu, the two-stringed bowed instrument that's commonly known as the Chinese violin. If you've spent any time watching Chinese historical movies or TV shows, it's a sound you'll be extremely familiar with. This material is incredibly unique, fusing Takada's percussive knowhow with Chinese traditional playing that bends to her open-minded approach. The blend of ideas and cultures is so simple and so complex simultaneously, always considered and always deeply moving. Sometimes the music hews closer to Chinese music, like on 'Modoki 1', and at others it drifts into Takada's marimba-heavy territory, with Hua following closely, mimicking Takada's staccato notes with quick, bowed flurries.
Hauntingly beautiful music - a true lost gem!
Attic-recorded folk tales about rural life, and elegies for the death of industry in early ’70s Hebden Bridge, surface for the first time with Basin Rock, who are located further up the Calder Valley in Todmorden some 50 years later.
‘Fireside Stories (Hebden Bridge circa 1971-1974)’ introduces an unheard talent for the first time with a bevy of solo guitar laments and gripping stories about the schisms of class, the trials of romance and decline of industry in a small working class town nestled in the hills between Leeds and Manchester. Written against a backdrop of post-industrial decline, long before Hebden Bridge became a mecca for queer folk and hippies, it’s quite an astonishing collection of work that hs somehow remained out of earshot until now, and especially so when considering the utterly classic quality of song-writing and playing, which recall the tenor of Arthur Russell’s down-home folk works, Robbie Basho’s folk blues, or stumbling across the greatest pub folk session and a pint after rambling in the drizzle. We can practically hear the beards sparking with glee at the promise of this one, and trust it doesn’t disappoint.
“Although you’d never know his age from the world-weary character of his voice, this is the work of a young songwriter seeking a musical identity by trying out several. He begins with dark and detailed narratives. Album opener “Marion Belle” is an evocative tale of mariners adrift upon the waves and within their own hearts; “Tell Me Now” is a harrowing one about a farmer’s son accused of raping and murdering the mayor’s daughter. His assumed guilt is rooted in the class divide: “Such a girl of respect would never have let/ A mere farmer make love to and court her.”
“Sunlight on the Table” is the opposite of a narrative, however, which is to say it’s a song in which nothing happens. Beales fixates instead on the minutiae of a single, interior moment: “Silence in the corridors, a slow tide in my mind/ A mist made up of memories of the ones I left behind.” A talented player by any standard, he attempts a playful Latin experiment on the instrumental “Braziliana.” But the energized album finale “Fireside Stories” may be the standout. He hits every impassioned downstrum with fervor and combines sharpened, singular stanzas—“If your jewels make you sparkle/ And your wine makes you glow/ And my words taste so bitter/ And you’ve learned all there is to know”—with a catalog of momentary images marked by a sensory vividness. It’s easy to imagine him, pen in hand, noting down the “creaking rocking chair and thick velvet curtains and the smell of the pinewood walls.” As such, Fireside Stories captures a gifted and otherwise-forgotten songwriter in amber. Finally dug out of the attic and dusted off, it shines in the light of day.”
Following on from Heavenly Remixes Volume 1 and 2, and Heavenly Remixes Volumes 3 and 4 (Andrew Weatherall Remixes), 5 and 6 are the next installments in Heavenly Recordings' series of compilations.
"As with any good party, the Heavenly office soundtrack evolves track by track like selections from an overheating rebellious jukebox. Any average Monday night (the weekend always starts on Monday, right?) might take in music from the label’s artists that’s just pinged the inbox, freshly minted demos that have piqued curiosity, dusty old 7s by long gone heroes or white label 12s with minimal info scratched onto them in felt tip pen. And playing between those tracks, a bunch of secret sounds from the Heavenly vaults; remixes that write a rich, alternate history of Heavenly Recordings.
Since the first Heavenly recording, there have been striking remixes that reframe the original track. These remakes offer a parallel reading of the last four decades of releases; they take the music to places where genres can be pulled inside out before being reassembled for different dancefloors, or for a different state of mind.
It’s a selection of those secret sounds that make up the latest in this series of flawless compilations. Each presents a parallel reading of the Heavenly Recordings story, a version that’s best heard as the light fades and the furniture gets shoved to one side of the room in decent work places the world over."
Dezron Douglas - a long-term member of the Ravi Coltrane Quartet and recently notorious for his duo project with harpist Brandee Younger - turns in a vulnerable, room recorded, freeform expression of mysticism, magic and faith.
Flanked by George Burton on piano, Joe Dyson Jr. on drums, Emilio Modeste on horns and Melvis Santa on vocals and percussion, Dezron Douglas manages to capture an atmosphere that's all too often missing from contemporary jazz. He's been notorious as a bassist for years, playing with Pharoah Sanders, Louis Hayes, and Ravi Coltrane, and in Makaya McCraven's Universal Beings. But "ATALAYA" is a chance for Douglas to do things his way, and he goes for a simple, stripped down approach, recording his tight crew in a room to capture the energy and emotion without too much studio trickery to dilute things.
Free, vulnerable and intimate, it's the perfect way to interface with Douglas's double bass playing. If you enjoyed his notorious Force Majeure collaboration with Brandee Younger, "ATALAYA" highlights his more poetic, ambitious side.
Tyondai Braxton's Telekinesis – an eighty-seven-piece work for electric guitars, orchestra, choir and electronics – via New Amsterdam and Nonesuch Records.
"Featuring the Metropolis Ensemble conducted by Andrew Cyr, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus conducted by Dianne Berkun Menaker, and chamber choir The Crossing conducted by Donald Nally, Telekinesis is the first studio recording of the work.
Telekinesis is the result of a co-commission by the Southbank Centre London and Musica Nova, Helsinki Festival. The world premiere took place on April 18, 2018, at Queen Elizabeth Hall with the BBC Concert Orchestra and BBC Singers, followed by a performance at Helsinki Festival by the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra. André de Ridder conducted both performances.
Braxton calls Telekinesis “the latest and largest example of intersections between my electronic music and notated music, both sonically and philosophically.” Throughout the recording and production process, Braxton sought to “create an environment where electronic instruments and acoustic instruments coexist in a place that feels balanced and organic.” In co-production with Andrew Cyr, the orchestra, choir, and electronics were tracked section by section at Oktaven Audio in Mt Vernon, New York from August 2021 to March 2022 by engineer Ryan Streber. This allowed for a hyper-detailed mix session with Seth Manchester at Machines with Magnets in Pawtucket, RI. As a studio recording, the mix recreates how an orchestra would be placed (with some exceptions) but is exaggerated in its width and in the closeness and depth of certain instruments surrounding the listener."
Remastered edition of 'We Are Him', part of the first instalment of the Angels Of Light reissues on Mute.
"Michael Gira formed Angels Of Light after the conclusion of Swans in 1997. We Are Him was initially released in 2007 and features Akron/Family (Dana Janssen, Miles Seaton Cooper, Seth Olinsky and Ryan Vanderhoof), along with Kristof Hahn, Phil Puleo and Bill Rieflin. The record is about getting by and trying to survive with a family and a faith at a time when “the dogs...howl as the street fills with blood.” - Micheal Gira/Young God Records.
On the making of the album, Michael Gira says “We Are Him began with my usual vows to keep things simple this time, finally, and I failed once again to live up to the task. I went into the studio with Akron/Family as backing band (as they had been on Other People). We recorded all the basic tracks in a week. They played drums, bass, guitar, piano, and backing vocals. Despite Akron's valorous efforts and fine performances, things sounded thin and tentative to me, so I started calling my friends to help me flesh things out.”
TSHA's debut album ‘Capricorn Sun’, via Ninja Tune.
"The record delivers on the promise of her previous EP’s and Singles with 12 tracks that perfectly encapsulate the emotive blend of underground electronic and hook-laden pop sensibilities that have led to her being one of the most talked about new artists of the past few years.
‘Capricorn Sun’ is both a statement of where she is right now as an artist and producer, but also a reflection of time she spent writing and recording the album, and the impact of global events, familial upheaval and personal struggles during that period. Lead single “Giving Up” features TSHA’s partner Mafro, and was written during a period of strain between the couple.
As you move through the album’s remaining tracks there are noticeable shifts across moods and emotions - ranging from the more upbeat and positive “The Light” and “OnlyL” through to moodier cuts like “Anxious Mind” and the brooding “Dancing In The Shadows”, both of which feature vocalist Clementine Douglas. Other tracks hold significance for particular points in TSHA’s life, such as the previously released single “Sister”, written during lockdown after finding out she had an older half sister via her estranged father, and “Water” which picks up on TSHA’s love of the Malian Griot singing traditions (as evidenced on previous single “Demba ft. Trio Da Kali”) and features Grammy-winning vocalist Oumou Sangaré."
Digitalis's Brad E. Rose (aka The North Sea, Charlatan etc) debuts on Room40 with his most rapturous collection yet - six tracks of bewitching, blissed-out synth drones that bear up to comparison with AFX's "Selected Ambient Works II", Steve Roach's "Structures From Silence" or Brian Eno's "Apollo".
Tulsa, Oklahoma-based Brad E. Rose has been quietly churning out music for decades at this point, working under so many different monikers and in so many different outfits it's been hard to keep track. Apart from heading up the beloved but now defunct Digitalis imprint, Rose also runs The Jewel Garden, where they've been releasing mostly their own private press-style material since 2020. "Annular Silhouettes" is Rose's first non-Jewel Garden solo drop in ages, and sounds like a subtle summation of their recent loose musical threads. Written in "the depths of 2020", the material is Rose's attempt at creating a love-letter to the place where they grew up, created in the house where their grandparents lived for over two decades, only a few minutes walk from their childhood home.
Tulsa is a complicated city with often uneasy politics, but Rose's view is holistic, empathic and sensitive - their memorial is melancholy and sometimes even cold, but never lacking hope. The album is split into six separate pieces that play together as a whole, all made in the same style with the same instrumentation. It's more of a continuing thought than an assembly of different tracks; Rose acknowledges that they enjoy the feeling of not completely knowing what they're doing, and letting their subconscious thoughts guide the creative process. Certainly that gives the music a level of spiritual kinship with Aphex's seminal "Selected Ambient Works II", which was allegedly partly written in lucid dream states. Rose's compositions are nowhere near as dark, but strike a similarly ambivalent mood that feels nostalgic, but not completely rooted in the past.
"Annular Silhouettes" sounds like an elongated take on Brian Eno's "Apollo" classic 'An Ending (Ascent)', and Rose uses the soft-focus synth tones to represent the sun rising and setting across Tulsa's wide, flat plains. It's hard not to be moved.
For new initiates and avant-garde fiends alike, this Xenakis collection renders a breathtaking survey of works by the radical composer, theorist, architect and engineer, spanning the period 1956-1974 and featuring some of the greatest works of the 20th century, including the awe-inspiring sonic architecture of ‘Persepolis’.
Inarguably one of the most important composers to blend electronic process and classical orchestration, Greek-French artist Iannis Xenakis made an indelible impression on the 20th century with his staggeringly complex feats of musical engineering. Regularly cited as an influence by composers ranging from Florian Hecker thru Autechre and Reinhold Friedl, Xenakis’s polymath pursuits in hybridising music, architecture and mathematics generated a bewildering array of sounds and structures which have rarely, if ever, been bettered in terms of their sheer scope, scale and technical ingenuity.
It’s possible to break down Xenakis’ approach to composition, and its results, as an extension of his experiences in armed combat, fighting for Greece’s left wing liberationists against the German army and later the British during WWII, with the latter leaving him blinded in one eye. He would eventually leave Greece in 1947 after graduating university with a degree in civil engineering, and before he could be conscripted into the Greek army, who didn’t look favourably on left wing sympathisers. Moving from Greece to Paris left him with a sense of guilt at betraying his friends, and a sense that “I had to do something important to regain the right to live. It wasn’t just a question of music - it was something much more significant.”
That significant something turned out to be a mind-blowing, multi-disciplinary oeuvre practically unprecedented in the history of music, architecture and art; a radical synthesis of ideas which embraced new technology and abstraction as a means to realise and create a new world in the aftermath of WWII. Like the Italian futurists before him, Xenakis would draw on the chaotic soundfield of war, and combined with a strong knowledge of experimental classical music and a special nous of maths, Xenakis’ subsequent studies with Olivier Messiaen and work with Parisian architect Le Corbusier would prompt him to composing groundbreaking new music during the 1950s.
This 2CD contains works from that era, stretching right back to the pranging clangour and jet-like eruptions of Achorripsis [1956-57], an early example of his stochastic style of composition, thru the dizzying, chronic dynamics of Syrmos , and to some of the earliest work composed by a computer, the 7090 IBM, in ST/48(St/48-1,240162).
But it’s Xenakis’ ’60s/‘70s work where his genius is mst evident, from the breathtaking scope of Polytope De Montréal  - written for four orchestras in the same space in the French Pavilion at Expo ’67 - to the gobsmacking dimensions of his seminal Persépolis , which was realised for the Shah of Iran, plus the frankly terrifying, computerised wormhole of Polytope De Cluny [1972-74].
We can’t reasonably describe this set as anything other than indispensable for fans of electronic music from its inception to the modern day.
Remastered edition of 'The Angels of Light Sing ‘Other People’', part of the first instalment of the Angels Of Light reissues on Mute.
"Michael Gira formed Angels Of Light after the conclusion of Swans in 1997. The Angels Of Light Sing “Other People” was released in 2005, produced by Gira and featured Akron/Family (Dana Janssen, Miles Seaton Cooper, Seth Olinsky and Ryan Vanderhoof).
On the making of the album, Michael Gira says “This album is different in many ways than what I’ve done in the past. There’s no general band “sound” here. The instrumentation is arranged in each song to fit the subject. Each song is its own world, a place for the people in the songs to live. I intentionally eschewed long instrumental passages, crescendos, that sort of thing – I’ve done enough of that, and I’m tired of it. The songs say what they have to say, then end."
30th Anniversary Edition of The Cure's ‘Wish’, originally released in 1992.
"The Cure’s 9th studio album reached Number 1 in the UK Album Chart on its release in April 1992. It also reached Number 2 in the USA, where it was nominated for a Grammy in the Best Alternative Music Album category.
The first single to be released from the album, “High” was released in March 1992 and reached #8 in the UK Singles chart, but the album is probably best known for the 2nd single, “Friday I’m In Love” which reached #6 in May 1992. The 3rd and final single from the album was “A Letter To Elise” which peaked at #28 in October 1992."
Ireland based American songsmith Peter Broderick's Piano Works Vol. 1 (Floating in Tucker’s Basement) — a comprehensive album of solo piano recordings.
"A comprehensive collection of Peter Broderick’s piano work to date, these recordings were originally captured in Berlin to accompany the 2017 sheet music book Piano Works Vol. 1. The book contains 20 pieces for solo piano and a download code to access new recordings of all 20 pieces. Up until now, the only way to hear these recordings was to purchase the sheet music book.
This release sees the original recordings receiving further treatment and processing by Tucker Martine in the customised echo chamber of his studio in Portland, Oregon—the region where Broderick grew up. The clean and unaffected original recordings were intended for educational purposes, so for this release Erased Tapes founder Robert Raths suggested to ‘throw the recordings into the well’, for a more dynamic and conscious listening experience."
A.G. Cook huddles PC Music’s hyperpop chums on a 3rd best-of group pose as the label approaches its 10th year, featuring Danny L. Harle, Hannah Diamond, Lil Data, Hyd, felicity, easyFun, and all your faves.
While it’s sometimes too easy to write off PC Music as a posh in-joke, it would be remiss of us, and you, to overlook their strongpoints in turning out factory-milled hard diamonds of pop and experimental dance music that undeniably cut to where matters.
For every annoying TikTok dance meme-type beat, there’s dead strong moments such as the synth pop of ‘Party’ by Planet 1999, the radgie makina nod of ‘Burnnn’ by Lil Data, or Hyd’s classy arena pop banger ‘Skin 2 Skin’, and at best, the bossman A.G. Cook recycling his studio work with Charli XCX on the obsessively detailed squealer ‘Xcxoplex’.
This is one of the few instances of Korean Classical Court music that we’ve stocked, and every time it stops us in our tracks. To our native western sensibilities the music is captivatingly slow and dissonant, and with a measured, stately quality of its own. These recordings of compositions made in the 15th century are totally fascinating, maybe an acquired taste, but arresting any way you hear them.
"Yŏmillak is the most extended piece of orchestral court music surviving in Korea and it has for many centuries been used for royal processions and at banquets. Yŏmillak is the piece notated in the oldest surviving Korean score - a score contained in the Annals of Sejong, written in 1454.
The piece originally consisted of ten movements, but three were discarded over time, leaving just the seven movements heard here, and different variants evolved, distinguished in terms of orchestration and size; two of the later (19th century) versions, Kyŏngnokmugang Chigok and T'aep Yŏngch'un Chigok are contained here. The final piece, Sŏilhwa Chigok, is an additional orchestral suite."
Edition RZ introduce Italian composer Clara Iannotta (1983) with a captivating debut release on the Parallele series manifesting her particular interests in music “as an existential, physical experience — music should be seen as well as heard.”
A Failed Entertainment is named after its central 16 minute composition, commissioned for and composed in collaboration with the Paris-based Quator Diotima, and premiered at the Festival Klangwerkstatt held in in Kreuzberg’s Kunstquartier Bethanien, November 2013 - when and where that recording was made.
The piece is significant not only as the first Clara wrote upon undertaking a residency at the DAAD artists-in-Berlin programme during early 2013, but also in the way it captures the wholly contemporary range and fractious dynamic of her compositional style; with particular focus on dead fine high registers, achieving using an array of sources and techniques including polystyrene blocks, harmonicas wrapped in silk, and the birdcalls of grouse and quail, as well as the way she pursues the tailing decay of each sound - discovering life where others may heard disintegration.
The other six pieces on the CD, each performed by a different ensemble, range as far back as Al Di Del Bianco (2009) - which was written as an undergraduate, studying under Alberto Solbiati in Milan - and up to pieces from 2014, including the nuanced, sonorous ecology of Intent on Resurrection - Spring or Some Such Thing and The People Here Go Mad. They Blame the Wind, a delicate ten minutes for trio and music boxes inspired by poems from Irish poet Dorothy Molloy.
Most preciously, A Failed Entertainment feels fresh, taut and urgent without ever becoming overbearing. Your attention is recommended.
In 1998 the ever-revelatory Edition RZ issued this 1st CD collection of works by Franco Evangelisti (1926-1980), who’s perhaps best known as founder of Gruppo di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza. However, beyond the most crenellated realms of modern composition, his name hardly rings a bell, but judging on the dynamic strength and depth of sounds inside, it really should for anyone with an interest in pioneering Italian avant-garde movements.
We’d fairly speculate he’s not as well known as other Gruppo members such as Morricone or Macchi due to his music’s relative difficulty and lack of commercial appeal. However, just like the work of group member Roland Kayn, there is a worldly, far-out wonder and probing scope to these recordings that warrants much closer inspection if you want to peer beyond Italian library music into its avant garde abyss.
“This two disc retrospective features studio audio-footage and lab-experiments, featuring performers Aloys Kontarsky, David Tudor, Eberhard Blüm and the LaSalle Quartet. Spanning the last 40 years, virtually all forms of post-1950 invention are represented here from the pure electronics of "Incontri di fasce sonore, composizione elettronica" (recorded at the WDR, 1957) to the stuttering orchestral developments of "Ordini, strutture variate per sedici strumenti" (composed in 1955, presented here as a 1993 recording by the Ensemble Streumentale de Camera). A key player in the field of pan-stylistic modernalia.”
Uneasy field recordings of ostensibly empty spaces by Ukraine’s Edward S. and Argentina’s Anla Courtis, captured in steppes now on the frontline of war, and at ancient ends of the earth.
Next on I Shall Sing Until My Land Is Free, following their Muslimgauze and Merzbow issues, is their most literal, if impressionistic, evocation of Ukraine’s sprawling landscape. Paired with Anla Courtis’ piece that highlights similarities with the arid steppes of his native Argentina, the pair of stark soundscapes extend invitations to immerse in nothingness. Of course, it’s not just nowt, as the sounds of birds, wind, and grass are amplified and impressionistically swept into imaginary structures, and one can’t help but wonder, especially in Edward’s work, how that landscape in between Kherson and Mariupol, and north of Crimea, now sound after 9 months of war.
In Edward’s own words: “Many years ago Alan Courtis and I started swapping audio recordings we made in deserted places known as "steppe". I recorded many in South Ukraine, on the last spot of the European virginal steppe known as "Askania Nova". Alan found his sounds in Patagonia, Argentina, it's another steppe territory, another part of the globe. Both are unusual places to get some interesting field recordings.”
His work ‘Askanian Virgin I’ leaves much to imagination with its gloaming pads and reverberant bleakness resolving to a more sublimely dark tension over the course of 12 minutes, and Anla’s part reflects this stranded bleakness in ‘Askanian Virgin II’ with a finely detailed atmospheric snapshot of Patagonia, where life still goes on in the elements and the unidentifiable sounds of its feathered and four-legged inhabitants.
Quiet music conceptualist and practitioner, Jakob Ullmann's 2nd release and first with Editions RZ was first issued in 2005.
It yields a single 73 minute piece written for an ensemble of thirteen solo strings and up to three additional solo parts arranged to explore the filigree infidelities of their range between almost "pure", natural harmonics to diffuse noise at the lowest threshold of perception thanks to masterly feats of restrained technicality and the composer's vision.
Of course, this is much more than an exercise in academic or technical exactitude. Ullmann's score elicits the players to play at the edge of their nerves and skill to reaffirm the piece's sureness and manifest the slightest differentiations, sustaining our attention in pensile equilibrium so that the most minor shifts in pace, tone, timbre ensure optimal effect, and live up to the piece's conceptual power.
Edition RZ present Hermann Scherchen’s “realization” of J.S. Bach’s late period chamber work, Musikalisches Opfer or Musical Offering, which was completed by Bach in 1747 and is here recorded under Scherchen’s direction in Berlin, 1949, some years after he returned to city, and before he quit the Berlin Broadcasting radio station due to rival cold war sides jamming their signals.
Apparently comparable to the famous Goldberg Variations and the Art of the Fugue compositions (which is lucky, ‘cos they’re the only Bach bits these ears are ((sorta)) familiar with), Musikalisches Opfer was written in dedication to Prussian King Frederik the Great, and also includes a fugue theme penned by the King, which Bach treated “according to all the rules of counterpart”.
Scherchen’s “realisation” - so called as the studied master of Bach’s compositions (some 20% of his recordings were Bach compositions) preferred the term over “interpretation”, which implied, for him, a reliance on emotional reading - is a studiously technical representation of the original work arranged for instruments that were available in Bach’s day: 2 violins, viola, violoncello, flute, oboe, English horn, (oboe d’amore ad lib.), bassoon and harpsichord.
The results are, or course, utterly timeless. Would sound great mixed with some Bassline or Monta Musica, though.
Expertly compiled selection of Tudor's performances of works by John Cage, Morton Feldman, Christian Wolff, Sylvano Bussoti spanning 1955-1963.
"Includes "Music For Piano 21-36", "Variations 1", "Variations II", "Winter Music", "Piece For Four Pianos" (including performance by Feldman), etc. Essential document. "David Tudor, pianist -- a profession, a vocation, a life. From 1950 until around 1965, David Tudor was the epitome of the pianist who could simply play anything. In fact, David Tudor was no longer a name, but an indication for instrumentation as dozens of pieces were written 'for David Tudor.'
As early as 1960, after having conquered all of the challenges posed by serial piano music, Tudor began to differentiate between composers who filled him with life and those who left him cold -- the focus of his repertory became crystallized. The main criterion for his choices were shaped by the part he would play as interpreter in the composition. He distinguished carefully between having a free choice among prefabricated parts -- generally called aleatoric, as for example, Stockhausen's 'Klavierstück XI' (dedicated, as his 'Klavierstücke V-VIII', to Tudor) -- and indeterminate actions. In the first case, they have a tendency to 'put me to sleep,' whereby pieces that are less limiting led him to say, 'I feel that I'm alive in every part of my consciousness.' The program of these CDs portrays these distinctions." --Frank Hilberg"
Natalie Mering's fifth album is an open-hearted, devotional suite of dreamy, Laurel Canyon-inspired pop - one for fans of Joni Mitchell, Patsy Cline, or Aimee Mann.
2019's "Titanic Rising" launched Weyes Blood, aka Natalie Mering, into the stratosphere, whether she wanted it or not. But before the album had even had a chance to really settle, Mering was experiencing an unusual sickness (spoiler: it was an early case of COVID) and stuck in isolation. "And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow" is the second in a proposed trilogy, described by Mering as "an observation of things to come." And while that could suggest an internalized trek through the anguish of isolation, it's in fact relatively upbeat - Mering's songs are confidently open-ended, approaching tricky subjects - narcissism, Buddhism, imprisonment, pain - and infusing them with lightness and firm Californian musical history.
She might be based in NYC now, but Mering's music still sparkles with the kind of West Coast sunshine that made the music of Joni Mitchell, Linda Ronstadt, and David Crosby so endlessly enduring. Like her predecessors, Mering is able to buoy her anxieties and stresses with taught, breezy instrumentation and, if not a 'devil may care' attitude, then one that's lighter than you might expect given the material. It's actually uplifting to hear someone approaching pop music with so much emotional complexity, and while the songs are familiar - even the production throughout is a love-letter to studio standards that have long since declined - Mering's warmth makes listening unchallenging and deeply rewarding. File alongside last year's brilliant (and underrated) Marissa Nadler album "The Path of the Clouds".
One of the UK’s most distinctive avant-garde voices, David Aire’s Vindicatrix is up to theatric hi jinx on his realisation of a soundtrack to Ho Tzu Nyen’s multidisciplinary installation exploring histories, cosmologies and ecologies of SE Asia via the figure of the Malayan tiger - RIYL Scott Walker, David Tibet, Diamanda Galas
“In the Pre-Colonial Malayan world, the tiger was a medium for ancestral spirits. It was sometimes feared as a harbinger of disease, death and destruction, and sometimes regarded as a guardian. Shamans, vagrants, and sometimes descendants of royal blood were believed to have the gift (or the curse) of turning into tigers. This symbiotic relationship between humans and tigers was broken in the 19th Century with British colonialism, a period of ecological upheaval in which Malayan tigers were massacred. But the tiger is a master of metamorphosis, and its physical death only called forth its resurrection in new forms, with which it continued haunting the British colonialists during the Pacific War and its aftermath.
One or Several Tigers condenses this complex weave of history, ecology, anthropology and mythology into an operatic duet sung by a pair of digitally created figures. On one side, there is Coleman, Irish servant of the British empire, official surveyor and Superintendent of Public Works and Convicts in Singapore – an agent of reason, order, imperialism and capitalism. On the other side, there is the Malayan tiger – an embodiment of chaos and nature unbound, and a conduit of ancestral and magical forces. In their fateful encounter in the forested heart of Singapore in 1835, the tiger spared the humans. After all, the survey team was mostly manned by prisoners from the Indian subcontinent who had been pressed into corvée labour on behalf of the British empire. However, the tiger made sure that it destroyed the theodolite – the most expensive instrument used for the survey mission.
Vindicatrix plays the parts of both colonial surveyor and (were)tiger, singing and speaking from various points of transformation and dialogue between animal, surveyor and narrator, within a soundworld that evokes images from the “seasonless tropical Hell” of the jungle, to the Javanese courts of Mataram – clattering polyrhythms, contorted 19th Century orientalisms, nightmarish caterwauls and fragmentary vocal treatments. The lines between human and animal, reason and magic, and history and folklore begin to blur.”
Rune Grammofon mainstay Hedvig Mollestad joins forces with legendary 12-piece Trondheim Jazz Orchestra on her latest prog-jazz-metal opus. RIYL Jaga Jazzist or Motorpsycho.
Since Hedvig Mollestad's last albums (2020's "Ekhidna" and 2021's "Tempest Revisited") both won a Norwegian Grammy, she had something to prove with "Maternity Beat". The first big shift is that her band has been expanded; Trondheim Jazz Orchestra, who have worked with Chick Corea, among others, provide the instrumental accompaniment and offer Mollestad new colors to decorate her eccentric prog-ish compositions. We get to hear the full spectrum on the second part of 'On the Horizon', where Mollestad's funk-flecked guitar weaves between complex drum rolls and waves of horns, building into a crescendo that's as tonally complex as it is bombastic. Clearly if notation-heavy jazz-metal isn't your thing, this is gonna be a struggle - but if it is, few artists are attempting to push as hard as Mollestad does on "Maternity Beat".
Each track plays like a mini opus, and the album itself is a double so Mollestad has time to let us fully appreciate her intentions. Moments like 'Little Lucid Demons/Alfons' are bombastic but familiar, while 'All Flights Cancelled' leans into metal more forcefully, playing jammy electric guitar against Trondheim's explosive, noisy throb. When the album phases into full prog, it's like traveling in time - Mollestad's skill is in reigning this in, and emerging with a coherent, quirky set.
The Toon’s foremost folk troubadour sounds like nobody else on a wild thicket of proggy baroque folk songs brimming over with melody and sung in the thickest Geordie tongue.
‘The Ruby Cord’ is musical storyteller Richard Dawson’s solo follow-up to ‘Republic of Geordieland’ (2020) and last year’s ‘Henki’ hook-up with Finnish prog-folk-rock warriors Circle. The seven-part suite features some of his most ambitious songwriting to date, most notably in the 40 minute opener ‘The Hermit’, whose sprawl of dusted folk-jazz, proggy vamps and soothing Geordiecana sets the table for a feast of localised delicacies drawing on the North East of England’s rich folk heritage and perennial outsider status.
Perhaps an acquired taste, Dawson’s music has won over a cult following down the decades since his 2005 debut and now sounds more confidently uncompromising than ever, heralding his background in Newcastle upon Tyne, and its distinctive brogue, with a typically effusive batch of ballads, jigs and fantastical tales about augmented reality and the way history informs the future, set to acoustic guitars, massed choral harmonies, and cosmic electronics.
Pole returns with another busted, bass-heavy woozer after 2020's unexpected "Fading". His most jazz-inspired record to date, it's stripped to the bare bones, assembled with brushy acoustic drum sounds, broken synthesizers and gut-wrenching subs.
When Pole emerged after a five year absence with "Fading", he sounded creatively refreshed. Informed by the perception of his mother's dementia and the concept of memory, he attempted to replicate musically and succeeded in revitalising his idiosyncratic burned dub signature. "Tempus" picks up where its predecessor left off, not necessarily hinging itself on the idea of memory, but of time, attempting to fold the past, present and future into itself. For an album that appears to suggest byzantine complexity, the end result is almost chillingly unadorned. Stefan Betke has pulled back his already slight sonics to an impressive whisper of bass, percussion and occasional embellishment - the itchy, distorted interference that wrapped his cult debut trilogy in torn netting is all but gone, leaving behind an icy silence that feels futuristic.
'Tempus' is a smart, considered album that works conceptually because Betke is able to reference his past without aping or repeating himself. The early album tracks are more cautious in their approach, helping to reconcile the past and present: opener 'Cenote' for example submerges Betke's sizzling white noise percussion almost completely, hinting at the album's jazz influences without being too forceful. 'Alp' is far more direct; Betke's bass is separated from its '70s dub template and oozed into bizarre jazz/exotica zones alongside clipped electric piano fades and freeform, hollow drum hits. On 'Stechmück' we get the full reveal, as Betke integrates the logic of his genesis, using a malfunctioning Minimoog instead of his namesake fritzed Waldorf 4-Pole filter. The dying, detuned synth tones speak directly to Betke's past, underpinning his fine-ground dub backdrop.
'Firmament' isthe album's most unexpected track, using short piano stings alongside analog synth womps and loose rhythms to evoke the emotional architecture of jazz. It's moody, blunted material that sounds almost like a contortion of Bohren & der Club of Gore's doomed Badalamenti-inspired smoke; Betke is less descriptive with his sounds, but the mood is unmistakable. Lengthy closing track 'Allermannsharnisch' is just as cinematic, touching a noir-ish lounge swagger with mind-altering low-end animation and unsettling psychedelic effects.
Next level material - if you've been ignoring Pole since the early days, now's the time to take another look.
Written and recorded between 1972 and 1982 in Western Oregon, Back to the Woodlands is a previously unreleased album made by Ernest Hood. CD edition also includes its contemporary Where the Woods Begin.
"A visionary combination of field recordings, zithers, and synthesizers, Back to the Woodlands offers an unprecedented depth of access to this singular artistic mind.
Where Neighborhoods, a nostalgic opus, drawing from a well of collective memory of the 1950s, is defined by traces of human activity, Back to the Woodlands leaves the modern world behind, delving into Hood’s love for nature. Only recently discovered in his archives, the album dramatically expands his concept of “musical cinematography,” imagistically triggering states of sensory memory from within its zither and synthesizer melodies, intertwined with field recordings made during Hood’s extensive travels throughout Oregon. If Neighborhoods is a retreat into the gauzy joys of a romanticized past, Back to the Woodlands is an immersion in the timeless sanctuary of the natural world."
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.
28-track primer survey of UK’s DIY synth-pop, post-industrial, and new wave experiments, packing 2018’s Vol. 1 with a further set of 15 aces by likes of 23 Skidoo, The Future, Clock DVA/T.A.G.C., Eric Random, Konstruktivists, Ian Boddy, John Avery, Bourbonese Qualk.
“This isn’t simply another synthpop compilation, or some nostalgic frippery, but an eclectic mix of acts that were experimenting with newly available technology at a time when the punk scene had imploded and the music press was busy coining new genres as an attempt to continue its legacy, although synth-pop in part arose from punk rock, it abandoned punk's emphasis on authenticity and often pursued a deliberate artificiality, drawing on the critically derided forms such as disco and glam rock. Although electronic experimentation had been explored in the decades before, it was still considered ‘alien’, "eerie, sterile, and vaguely menacing", and even downright, ‘austere and fascistic’.
It may have taken the likes of Gary Numan or Depeche Mode et al to switch the record buying public to synthesizer music, but bubbling underground were a myriad of experimenters recording in relative secrecy in Industrial cities like Sheffield or post-war London, at a time when the Tories came back into power and utterly altered the political landscape, and produced a generation of, ‘Thatcher’s Children’ (selfish, arrogant and materialistic). The antidote seemed to be quiet rebellion in the shape of dark and alienating soundscapes by acts that are now considered ‘pioneers’, or achieving cult status, in a new era of throwaway pop and trite ‘new wave’ impersonators.
Many of the acts herein will be familiar with followers of synth or industrial music, some perhaps lesser known. We’ve also included slightly ‘later’ works by artists that were already firmly established in the early 80s as a comparison, and for the pure arrogance of it. It’s an attempt to rekindle those heady days of experimentation and to encourage new generations to rebel and forgo the fashionable posturing that comes with anything vaguely ‘interesting’."
Anatolian psych-folk fire and balm starring the angelic Derya Yıldırım and her band, Grup Şimşek reprising classic ‘70s styles with a timeless vivacity
While the quintet were all born between the ‘80s-‘90s, Yıldırım and Şimşek could easily be mistaken for a band twice their age on 3rd album ‘Dost 2’. ‘Dost’, loosely translating as ‘friend’, signifies the familial quality of their recordings, which pull from various aspects of the psych, folk, jazz and funk styles perhaps best associated with Selda Bağcan to our ears via the Finders Keepers reissue programme of a decade ago, or the likes of Derdiyoklar İkilisi, who, like Yıldırım, share a German-Turkish provenance.
A strong look for those oriented to East-West fusion styles, the eight songs play to a sultry and seductive scheme, with Yıldırım’s lush bağlama, or saz, and lilting vocals supported by dusted grooves of drums, synth, organ, guitars and flute, with additional instruments and the backing of Die Vorletzten Formen der Hausmusik choir.
Animal Collective's Panda Bear and ex-Spacemen 3 alchemist Sonic Boom turn lavish rock 'n roll intros into fully-fledge pop songs that come across like a Beach Boys album jammed in a busted cassette player.
Just before lockdown began, Pete Kember (aka Sonic Boom) grabbed a selection of his favorite rock 'n roll records and made his way to Portugal to link up with Noah Lennox (aka Panda Bear). The duo had worked together before - first on Lennox's 2011 album "Tomboy" - but never collaborated to this extent. The idea was simple; Kember wanted to create songs using his favorite rock 'n roll intros, which he sampled and looped to act as the foundation for Lennox's songs. So on single 'Edge of the Edge', we can hear Randy & the Rainbows’ 1963 track 'Denise' circling into the ether before Lennox adds his chirpy and characteristic sun-bleached harmonies.
Each song employs more or less the same formula, balancing the lo-fi tartness of the peak blog era (2007?), the Beach Boys' brightly-illuminated Cali psychedelia and what could basically be described as US hauntology: the stonewashed sound of a long lost past that forecast a future that's never been more unattainable.