The Unknowable is a completely improvised, spontaneous group-composed body of music created by legendary saxophone and flute player Dave Liebman together with celebrated percussionists Adam Rudolph and Tatsuya Nakatani.
"Dave Liebman, whose legendary, more than fifty year-long, career has seen him work with Miles Davis, Elvin Jones, John Scofield, Chick Corea, Dave Holland, Bob Moses and Richie Beirach, collaborates here with Adam Rudolph, himself one of the deepest percussionists of the last half century, whose collaborations encompass Don Cherry, Pharaoh Sanders, Bill Laswell, Herbie Hancock, Omar Sosa and several members of the AACM, and with Japan-born percussionist and sound innovator Tatsuya Nakatani. The result of this extraordinary meeting of the minds is music that stems from the worlds of free and spiritual jazz, yet goes beyond; It is incredibly open, has no north, south, east and west, it is simultaneously music of all humanity and of the cosmos."
Certain to claim its place in pop-loving hearts everywhere, ‘Few Traces’ is a glorious introduction to the admirable optimism and romance of Mark Renner’s American songcraft. Few Traces surveys a near decade of Mark Renner’s scarcely released and unreleased material from 1982 to 1990, embracing and evoking the timelessness of his artistic statement: a wordless translation of the individual’s musical experience, met with the poetic expression of being here.
"Mark Renner first encountered punk while a teenager in Upperco, a country town in rural Maryland. Growing up on his family farm, he became a young acolyte of the British exports hitting not-so-distant Baltimore record store shelves in 1979 / 1980 and was baited by an area musician-wanted ad declaring Ultravox a primary touchstone.
This nascent band and a pair of other group experiments flamed out under the typical totem of despotism. In their ashes Renner began recording independently around 1983 with a portable four-track, electric guitar, and classic Casio CZ101 synthesizer. Aside from John Foxx-era Ultravox, Renner’s process was inspired by the period’s electronic pioneers venturing into deeper, romantic pop pastures: Yellow Magic Orchestra, Bill Nelson, The Associates.
With his tools and teachers in place, the blueprints for Renner’s sound were laid out – metronomic, skeletal rhythms built on sturdy yet singular drum machines supporting luminescent guitar and synth lines, Renner’s reverent voice guiding the fables and construction.
Most directly influential, Renner’s enthusiasm for Days in Europa, the third album by Scottish new wave band Skids, would lead to a correspondence and long-distance tutorship with Stuart Adamson. Before Adamson would achieve worldwide success co-founding the group Big Country, a chance friendship with Renner would impart great confidence in the young musician from Maryland, who, after a visit in Edinburgh, would then travel to London to demo an early version of “Half A Heart” featured in its final form on Few Traces.
The sum of Renner’s music is one-part literary, one-part painterly. The artist cites the individualism of Herman Hesse as a guiding force, and there are overt references to W. B. Yeats and John Greanleaf Whittier among other authors. Lyrical themes evoke the presence of the ancient past, much like early Felt songs or the spiritual visions of Van Morrison. (Tellingly, Renner cites Morrison’s 1980s albums made between Inarticulate Speech of the Heart and No Guru, No Method, No Teacher as musical influences.)
Apart from his writing, Renner explored music as a complement to visual language: many of the dream-like instrumental passages presented across Few Traces were originally implemented as sound elements for exhibitions of his paintings. Renner pursued wordless music as a pure aesthetic in its own right, pristinely balanced segues and open-ended compositions that lead to pasture but not without shepherd.
Compiled three decades after the music was originally put to tape, Few Traces collects Mark Renner’s early music but strives not to simplify or reframe it. (Mark is still active making music and painting) The instrumental explorations remain on par with the great ambient adventurers of the period (Brian Eno, Harold Budd, Roedelius), while the vocal and guitar-centric songs crystalize across similar terrains being transversed by Cocteau Twins and The Chills.
Few Traces highlights in intuitive sequence gems from Renner’s scarce discography and archive: the self-released debut All Walks of This Life (1986), the aptly titled follow-up Painter’s Joy (1988), plus early singles, compilation tracks, and exemplary songs that saw no original release. The collection allows an intimate look at an artist growing into their sound and surroundings, finding the in between echoes and spirituality of the individual.”
Anthony J Hart (Imaginary Forces, Basic Rhythm) adopts the Hi Tek moniker as producer for East Man’s Red, White & Zero; a grime/dancehall/ project inspired by London’s vital relationship between mixed, working class cultures, inspired by conversations with theorist and academic Paul Gilroy - alumni of the late, great Stuart Hall. Features bars by Saint P, Darkos Strife, Killa P, Eklipse, Lyrical Strally, Kwan. RIYL The Bug, Blackdown, Alex Deamonds.
“London’s young people have been seen as a problem by governments for many generations now. Their distinctive street cultures stretch back into the nineteenth century when, just like today, a stylish public presence signified danger to respectable people. At that time, Britain’s class conflicts were being re-made amidst all the glorious fruits of a global empire. Divisions like class and sex had different shapes and tempos that hardly resemble the machinery of our increasingly networked and unequal world. Religion, racism and nationalism were all important, but work, exploitation and poverty supplied the fiery core of politricks.
These days, Britain’s imperial wealth and prestige are long gone. Today’s young people are excluded and marginalized, confined and criminalized, yet they remain at the heart of the vital, energetic best of our city. Their energy and imagination drive London’s convivial culture. They duck and dive just like their predecessors. They hustle, they suffer and they survive. Even where knives are common, most of the problems that come up get resolved without murderous violence. The defining experience of their precarious situation is more likely to be fear or anxiety than warfare between gangs. Their violence is more likely to turn inwards on to their loved ones and family members. There are many forms of self harm and self medication.
Yet the space in which those youthful lives unfold has contracted. The scale on which life is lived has shrunk. Moving around can be expensive. Surveillance is constant. Dignity and certainty are difficult to find and hold on to. It can be hard to feel comfortable outside the spaces and places you know best. Those familiar circuits are marked out by the roadside shrines of dead flowers that show just how vulnerable you can quickly become.
We have been losing London to Babylon but we are busy making a new place. The edges of the city have become fertile. The weeds grow up explosively between palisaded concrete boxes and the litter-strewn greenery. This is not zones 1 and 2 where houses and flats are capital rather than buildings to live in. The music that comes out of that edgy world isn’t what it was a generation ago, but it’s still fundamental--necessary for life.
These shocking sounds can be a part of healing and repair while staying faithful to the pressures that forged them. Musicians can’t make a living from their creativity, but their listeners can’t understand this historical moment unless they get to grips with its local rules, meanings and poetry. This is not America. Even without words, this music speaks for itself and tells a story. It calls out to be understood while seeking ways to escape interpretation.
We are always more than either this or that. We are more than either black or white."
Paul Gilroy 2017.
U.S. Girls is the protean musical enterprise of multi-disciplinary artist, Meg Remy, presenting her sixth studio album ‘In A Poem Unlimited’.
"Remy’s second release for 4AD, which also includes ‘Mad As Hell’ - a clarion call for pacifism - was tracked in collaboration with Toronto-based instrumental collective The Cosmic Range and features arrangements by long-time contributors Maxmilian Turnball and Louis Percival. The dizzying buffet of live grooves on ‘In A Poem Unlimited’ represents an inversion of the dusty, sample-based minimal textures of ‘Half Free’, Remy’s euphoric 4AD debut.
Steered into focus by Remy and mixer / co-producer Steve Chahley, ‘In A Poem Unlimited’ features disco employed as a protest vernacular (‘Mad As Hell’), as well as an unrelenting assault (‘Time’); moody, slow-burning funk (‘Velvet 4 Sale’ and ‘L-Over’) and earnest synth anthems ‘Rosebud’ and ‘Poem’, which form the album’s emotional core.
‘In A Poem Unlimited’ features dark meditations reflecting charged atmospheres that directly precede and follow acts of violence. Many of the songs are character studies of women grappling with power; how to gain and exert it spiritually, as well as desperate strategies to mitigate its infliction. Remy also rallies against the public lies told by political and religious leaders and, more crucially, questions the lies we tell ourselves in order to survive. While U.S. Girls, denoting the plural, is no longer a misnomer, ‘In A Poem Unlimited’ may be Remy’s most individually distilled protest to date.
‘In A Poem Unlimited’ album opener ‘Velvet 4 Sale’ concerns a female narrator imploring another to buy a gun for protection, impressing that the only way to change men is for women to use violence. Remy says, “Men are lucky women (and children) have yet to take up arms. And although I hope this never happens and I completely disagree that violence is ever effective, this very idea was ripe for a song."
Made in celebration of the 90th birthday of Musique concrète pioneer, Pierre Henry, this epic collection was personally selected and remastered by the composer himself just prior to his death last year; including nine works released for the first time ever on any format - all remastered by the man himself.
The 12 CD boxset Polyphonies is a mind-blowing summation of more than 50 years work by restlessly pioneering composer, Pierre Henry (9th December 1927 - 5 July 2017) - the undisputed godfather of musique concrète, who laid the groundwork for much of electronic music as we now know it. Counting 29 works, including no fewer than 9 premieres, Polyphonies serves both an historic education and an engrossing reminder of Henry’s influence over developments in 20th and 21st century music.
There’s nothing that we can add to the reams of writing on Pierre Henry. We can only reassert what’s been said in numerous articles, essays and academic texts, that, technically, Pierre Henry was among the most important and ardent manipulators of ‘concrète’ sound - that is, physical sounds extracted from their environment and abstracted through various process of effects, to re-sound or resonate in new, different ways and meanings.
He’s French, so philosophy was always integral to his practice, but the proof is in Henry’s pudding, as his persistent pursuit of sonic spectres and metaphysics brought a world of new sounds into tangible physicality. Whether through animation of inanimate objects, or a re-spatialization of whole scenes of reality, Henry heard a possibility for alteration in almost everything, and acted on his urges with remarkable insightful results.
Many of Henry’s compositions are broadly known to followers of early electronic music, while even casual observers will likely know his Psyche Rock piece as the influence behind Matt Groening’s Futurama theme tune. However, even the most hardcore Henry heads won’t have heard the 9 premieres in this boxset, including the hyperreal dynamics of Chronicles terriennes, the deconstructed piano clatter of Études transcend antes pour un piano imaginaire, his rhythmically seductive Pleins jeux and the atonal fuss of Kyldex, or the deep space radiation of Astrologie, and likewise the entire 12th disc of 2016 "Remixes" (re-masteres, really), completed by the artist before losing he lost his sight. Ears were definitely still working, though!
It’s fair to say that our perception of sound and electronic music may not be the same if it were not for Henry’s way of listening, dissembling and re-sequencing the sound sphere, parsing and re-parsing it for an ever elusive meaning. In the process he’s thrown up more questions than answers which will puzzle and trigger more ideas, most likely for the rest of time.
Spread over a massive six discs and further bolstered by a pretty darn exhaustive book that interviews the surviving members (Williams passed away in 2001), 'Out Of Cold Storage' is testament to the unbridled virility of This Heat - with all the music very much rooted in its era, yet also utterly timeless. Comprised of their five studio albums ('This Heat', 'Deceit', 'Health and Efficiency', 'Made Available' and 'Repeat') plus an incendiary set of live action culled from their 1980/81 heyday, 'Out Of Cold Storage' allows everyone to get hold of these classic recordings in pristine form - a real treat given the eroded bootlegs and mp3s that have been doing the rounds for years.
Born out of the UK crucible that existed in the period immediately post punk (before it earned capitals and morphed into genre all of its own...), This Heat formed through the restless response of three twenty-somethings who felt impelled to document their corner of 1970's London. Already faces at the more severe end of the prog-rock scene, Charles Bullen and Charles Hayward were joined by non-musician Gareth Williams - a catalyst that would see them recording vast quantities of work then editing the results down into consumable chunks of aural fortitude.
Ranging in style from the avant-rock of their eponymous debut, through to the political polemic of 'Deceit', This Heat are spiky without the need to resort to high-kicking comparisons with the likes of Orange Juice et al., with their output always a couple of steps removed from their retrospective peers. Unafraid to disrupt their reputation through creative right-angles, the likes of 'Repeat' and it's central 20 minutes of looped drones and rhythms (think Can in a chiller cabinet) are seemingly at odds with 'Health And Efficiencies' melody etched high - yet rather than cause tension, these juxtapositions merely heighten the band's appeal and allow you a glimpse into moments of creative perfection.
Vast, comprehensive and thoroughly indispensable, 'Out Of Cold Storage' proves that the endless vault combing perpetrated by labels can sometimes come good. Six shades of fantastic.
One of the last, genuinely great, unsung artists of 20th century composition, Roland Kayn (1933 - 2011) - a sometime member of Gruppo Di Improvvazione Nuova Consonanza and the pioneer of what he termed Cybernetic Music - made some of the most breathtaking, intrepidly advanced electronic music ever recorded. The 14 hour expanse of A Little Electronic Milky Way is Kayn’s late major opus and forms a stargate-like introduction to his modular macrocosm, a place where many ideas of C.20th composition, from serialism to jazz and artificial intelligence, collapse into bewildering harmonic, metric and timbral structures practically unprecedented within his field. And mark our words, that’s not hyperbole: this is proper Enter The Void music.
A Little Electronic Milky Way of Sound is Kayn’s first, posthumous release since Multiplex Sound-Art  and forms a staggering summation of his concept and aesthetic, which was first hatched when a series of 1950s broadcasts from WDR in Cologne named The Sound of Electronic Music prompted the then 20 year old artist to think that “a composer, like a painter, could realise his work without the help of other people. That he can handle the material directly and creatively edit it”.
He subsequently completed his studies as an organist (later applied to his work beside Egisto Macchi and Ennio Morricone in Gruppo Di Improvvazione Nuova Consonanza) and farther developed his concept of electronic music under the tutelage of Boris Blacher, Josef Rufer, Fritz Winkel and Oskar Sala (seminal composer of FX for classic Hitchcock flicks) in Berlin, grounding a sound which would come to pre-echo mankind’s push toward a form of AI, and serve to touch the very limits of human-machine imagination and perception.
A few years ago we were left reeling from a chance encounter with Kayn’s work, ironically enough offered up by YouTube’s recommendation algorithm, which pretty much turned our listening lives upside-down and inside-out. A keen investigation of Kayn’s composition ensued, which only confirmed our initial thoughts: this guy is light years out on his path; and how on earth is his music not better known?! We clearly weren’t the only ones to think so, and, now following their re-mantling of downtown legend, Julius Eastman, Frozen Reeds have grasped that task with both hands on this mind-expanding new release.
A Little Electronic Milky Way of Sound effectively charts all aspects of Kayn’s unfathomable, algorithmically weft sound c. the era of his early boxsets Simultan, Makro, Infra and Tektra - from pineal-smudges and clouds of harmonic colour to fractured staccato pulses and keening, outer space dynamics usually only witnessed by Gods or astronauts. Mercurial by definition, elusive in nature, but gargantuan in scope and scale, it sounds as much like the inexplicable abstraction of a half-recalled, formative fever dream as your first K-Hole experience or some transmission from another galaxy, most effectively representing or emulating a sound which exists in our shared cultural imagination, but which has never before been generated, realised quite so vividly, and yet intangibly.
The implications of this sound are multitudinous. On the most fundamental level, he comes as close or closer, and earlier than any other composer to letting his machines speak their own language - and effectively years before Autechre, Keith Fullerton Whitman, the CCRU or Eno probed this same area. On another, connected level, his realisation of atemporal, atonal depth of field and mutably dissolved metrics can be said to consolidate myriad musical forms in a way that’s hardly been bettered (perhaps because so few knew of his examples), hinting at an atomic universality of all things that perhaps even transcends consciousness and gives a fascinating shape and formlessness to some of the C.20th’s most important ideas about AI and that old chestnut; where to next?
The fact that Roland Kayn did all this before most of us were even born, and he and his work still remains sorely unsung, is as humbling as it is frustrating. Kayn’s recordings described the future in prophetic terms and pretty much reset the last quarter of the C.20th in our books, making much extreme electronic music recorded during the interim seem pedestrian by comparison, and likewise makes a lot of deep space ambient seem like a kid’s picture book compared to his Hubble-scoped deep field projections.
Even more so now, in the age of everything at a touch and reams of modular explorers, Kayn’s music formidably generates a genuine, synaesthetically enhanced feeling of the unknown that’s sadly all too rare in modern electronic music, despite being the thing that probably attracted many of us to its putative charms in the first place.
We recommend serious time away from the laptop/desktop and getting right inside Kayn’s matrix, if only at the risk of coming out looking like Niander Wallace days later.
Mule Musiq push off a promising new reissue label, Studio Mule, with 13-tracks of Japanese disco, boogie and soul music collected on Midnight In Tokyo. Compiled by Toshiya Kawasaki. Mastered by Kuniyuki Takahashi.
"At mule musiq, we've focused on shining light on the many aspects of what electronic music can be, putting out house, techno and ambient releases on our main label, while releasing alternative-leaning dance music through our endless flight imprint. but with the launch of our new label, studio mule, we are stepping away from electronic club music for a bit. the label will not be tied to a specific genre, as we will instead focus on releasing any kind of music that we feel is a little bit different and interesting, but somehow make sense in this day and age. for our first batch of releases, we will be focusing on japanese music.
To be honest, i have been watching the recent rise of global interest in japanese musicwith a skeptical eye, not sure of how to feel about all these labels overseas licensing great albums that were birthed in our country. but then, i was told by somebody i greatly respect that i should do something similar with mule, and put our own spin on it, which sounded like a good idea to me. after a period of procrastination, i finally got around to doing it. we are starting things off with a compilation of japanese disco, boogie and soul music that we selected from a modern dance music perspective - the kind of songs that we feel would intrigue music fans across the world.
The compilation starts off with the Afro disco classic "Mi Mi Africa" by harmonica player Nobuo Yagi. "Silver Spot" is a jazzy fusion disco track taken from composer, arranger, and multi-instrumentalist Nobuyuki Shimizu's first album (1980), released when he was 19. The track features singer Epo. "Samba Night" is by vocalist Keisuke Yamamoto and his band Piper, from their masterpiece second album Summer Breeze (1983) -- a delightful city pop number for fans of Tatsuro Yamashita. "Akogareno Sundown" is a Japanese soul classic, sung by singer Haruko Kuwana (sister of Masahiro Kuwana). Produced by Mackey Feary Band, known for the soulful classic "A Million Stars". "Koiwa Saiko (I'm In Love)" is a mellow and groovy track by singer Aru Takamura, the great-grandchild of sculptor Kouun Takamura. It can be thought of as Japan's answer to Cheryl Lynn's "Got To Be Real". "What The Magic Is To Try" is a cult electropop track by Honma Express, a project helmed by producer Kanji Honma. Hailed as Japan's Trevor Horn, he is also known as the producer of legendary techno pop band TPO.
"Colored Music" is a song by Colored Music, a duo of pianist Ichiko Hashimoto and her partner Atsuo Fujimoto. Taken from their sole album (1981), the Japanese rare groove treasure is a mesh of new wave, synth pop, and jazz influences. The dubby electronic new wave disco "Electric City" is a B side of pop idol group Shohjo-Tai & Red Bus St Project's debut 12" single. "Love Is The Competition" is a breezy disco jam by Okinawa-born bilingual artist Hitomi Tohyama, originally featured on her album Next Door (1983). Taken from Mariah project's diva Yumi Murata's first album (1979), "Krishna" is a funky and soulful rockin' disco cut. Reminiscent of Chaka Khan's "I Know You, I Live You", "Live Hard, Live Free" is a song by jazz vocalist Eri Ohno who is known for her work with DJ Krush. "Rocket 88" is a melancholic disco number by singer Minnie originally released through Sapporo's independent label Paradise Records. Closing out the 13-track compilation is Japanese disco staple "Tokyo Melody", sung by Shoody and backed by Tetsuji Hayashi's disco band the Eastern Gang.”
Jonny Greenwood presents an elegantly poised OST for Paul Thomas Anderson’s ‘Phantom Thread’, performed by The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the London Contemporary Orchestra, and an ensemble including himself and Oliver Coates, among others
“With Phantom Thread, Oscar-nominated filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson paints an illuminating portrait both of an artist on a creative journey and the women who keep his world running. Phantom Thread is Anderson’s eighth movie, and his second collaboration with Daniel Day-Lewis. The film’s soundtrack includes eighteen compositions by Greenwood. It was recorded in London with a sixty-member string orchestra conducted by Robert Ziegler and is featured more prominently in the film than any of Greenwood’s scores have been before. In addition to the Academy Award nomination, the Phantom Thread soundtrack is up for a BAFTA and was nominated for a Golden Globe. Its many other accolades to date include Best Score prizes from film critics’ associations in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Francisco, Seattle, and St. Louis.;
The composer spoke to Variety about the process of creating a score that reflected the film’s romance and glamour: “We talked a lot about ’50s music, what was popularly heard then as well as what was being written and recorded. Nelson Riddle and Glenn Gould’s Bach recordings were the main references. I was interested in the kind of jazz records that toyed with incorporating big string sections; Ben Webster made some good ones.” Greenwood continues, “The smaller groups, and solo players, work like close-ups [and] not necessarily to accompany [a] visual, but rather, to focus your attention on and make you feel directly engaged with the characters. The bigger orchestral things often worked best for drawing you back to see the bigger situation.”
Anderson and Greenwood’s previous collaborations include the soundtrack for Academy Award–winning There Will Be Blood (2007), The Master (2012), and Inherent Vice (2014), all released by Nonesuch. Indiewire says of their collaboration: “Paul Thomas Anderson fans are well accustomed to how instrumental Jonny Greenwood’s music is to the auteur’s body of work. Whether it’s the foreboding strings in There Will Be Blood or the discordant percussion in The Master, Greenwood’s original scores expertly capture Anderson’s tones. This fact is especially true in Phantom Thread, which marks the fourth collaboration between Anderson and Greenwood.”
Matthew Herbert shapes his unique instrumental palette to a brooding, autumnal play of orchestral and electronic tones matching the mood of ‘A Fantastic Woman’
“A Fantastic Woman is a 2017 Chilean drama film directed by Sebastián Lelio (Gloria). It was selected to compete for the Golden Bear in the main competition section of the 67th Berlin International Film Festival and It has been selected as the Chilean entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 90th Academy Awards, making the December shortlist.
The acclaimed drama tells the story of Marina (Daniela Vega), a young transgender waitress who moonlights as a nightclub singer, falls in love with Orlando (Francisco Reyes), a divorced man who is a few decades older. As they plan for their future together, Orlando suddenly falls ill and dies.
Marina is forced to confront his ex-wife, who doesn’t want anything to do with Marina and asks her not to come to the funeral. Over the next few days, as Marina tries to get things in order, she has to endure insults and slurs from the police and Orlando’s family members.
Electronic music legend, Matthew Herbert (Herbert, Matthew Herbert Big Band, Dr Rockit…) brings his unique talent and has crafted a wonderful score which mixes classical orchestral elements with more electronic compositions.”
Another totally obscure diamond that we might never have found without Edition RZ’s prompting, and should be strongly recommended to fans of durational, minimal works by Stephen O’Malley, Eliane Radigue, or Jakob Ullmann.
Trauermusiken, or Music for Grief, offers two gravely intense compositions for strings written by contemporary Austrian composer and organist Klaus Lang.First released in 1995 by Lambeart, and reissued by Edition RZ in 2002 (this edition), it ranks among Lang’s earliest works and consists of one relatively short prelude followed by a quietly crushing 69 minute piece.
The five minutes of Der Wind und das Meer, Trauermusik für Bratsche solo (The Wind and the Sea, Music for Grief for Viola solo), performed by Barbara Konrad, foreshadow a glacially unfolding and technically demanding piece performed by the Amras Streichquartett.
In its slow, sustained and keening intensity we’re instantly reminded of Harley Gaber’s The Winds Rise In The North, which was also reissued via Edition RZ. However, Lang’s piece feels like the inverse of that record, trading teeth-chattering high-end for a solemn exploration of lower registers, operating at near-liminal levels of concentration and focus.
It’s yet another totally obscure diamond that we might never have found without Edition RZ’s prompt, and should be strongly recommended to fans of durational, minimal works by Stephen O’Malley, Eliane Radigue, or Jakob Ullmann.
Mats Gustafsson: Tenor, baritone and bass saxophones, live electronics. Johan Berthling: Electric and double bass. Andreas Werliin: Drums, percussion and feedback.
"For 20 years Rune Grammofon have made a habit of releasing music that is beyond easy classification, in later years typified by Swedish trio Fire!, consisting of Mats Gustafsson, Johan Berthling and Andreas Werliin. All three are highly accomplished musicians, but Fire! music is not "difficult" in the sense that jazz and especially free jazz is often perceived.
Very much a tight knit unit with three equal players, Fire! has been likened to powerful guitar led trios such as Cream and The Jimi Hendrix Experience, but with Berthling´s heavy, doom laden basslines being such a typical identifier, we can´t help but thinking of Black Sabbath´s debut album when it comes to hypnotic impact. The Hands is the trio´s sixth album and once again displays a totally uncompromising and intriguing mix of (mostly) heavy, dark and intensely burning music whether one decide on calling it jazz or rock.
The album closes on a quiet and reflective note with the appropriately titled "I Guard Her To Rest. Declaring Silence". And we say it´s easily their best so far. Gustafsson, Berthling and Werliin came together in 2008 with the idea of a fresh approach to improvised music, with a number of influences from free jazz, psychedelic rock and noise.
Their debut album, You Liked Me Five Minutes Ago, was released the following year to wide international acclaim. The trio is also their vehicle for rekindling their instrumental skills and playing outside their comfort zones, or collaborating with prestigious guests such as Jim O´Rourke (Unreleased? 2011) and Oren Ambarchi (In The Mouth A Hand 2012). A parallel but no less powerful project is their gargantuan Fire! Orchestra, previously a 30 piece behemoth. Now scaled down to a "mere" 13 piece, and for the first time including a string section, a new album is expected in autumn 2018."
Susanna Wallumrød commits her fourth full suite of cover versions with Go Dig My Grave for her home-baked label.
Working again with Giovanna Pessi, who assisted on her first set If Grief Could Wait, as well as invaluable input from longtime partner/production spar Helge Sten (Deathprod), Susanna demonstrates a rare versatility with singular takes on songs by everyone from Henry Purcell to Joy Division and Lou Reed (including a bonus on CD not found on the vinyl), and with particularly spellbinding results in the latter two of those names.
If we try to pick out why we’re more attracted to the ‘pop’ songs, as opposed to the traditionals such as The Three Ravens or The Willow Song, that may come down to the fact their simplicity seems almost overbearing when rendered in such high-fidelity - almost like receiving a folk performance in a white cube gallery or sterile space, as opposed a barn or pub backroom - yet, conversely, the recordings of Joy Division’s Wilderness and Lou Reed’s Perfect Day become devastating thru their clarity of their conveyance, aided in no small part by feral fiddles and accordion in the former, and embroidered with kalimba and fiddle on the latter.
So yeh, some work, some don’t. But when they do, christ, she’s good.
Incredible collection of mid-late 80’s experimental works from the hugely influential Italian avant-garde composer Luigi Nono, including works for contrabass flute, clarinet, treated voices, strings and electronics.
Editions RZ present a necessary reissue of their 1990 LP release, now backed with three legendary recordings, 'La Terra E La Compagna', 'Caminantes', 'No Hay Caminos, Hay Que Caminar'. Collected, they form a great access point to Luigi Nono's unique, carefully realised, yet unfathomably vast world, one equally informed by avant-garde musical studies and his commitment to socialism.
In the best possible sense, it's very difficult to accurately sum up the sounds inside, other than in terms of a visceral, haptic approach and stunning spatial awareness. Highly recommended.
Editions RZ collects historical recordings of Italy's forward looking and influential Gruppo di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza 1967-75, a collective featuring Egisto Macchi (percussion + celesta), Ennio Morricone (trumpet), Walter Branchi (bass), Franco Evangelisti (piano), John Heineman (trombone + cello), Roland Kayn (hammond organ + vibes + marimbaphon), Giovanni Piazza (horn), Frederic Rzewski (piano), and Jesus Villa Rojo (clarinet).
All skilled players and composers, the Gruppo di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza were formed in 1964 at the initiative of Franco Evangelisti with an aesthetic agenda looking beyond the boundaries of previous improvisational musics. They focussed on production and the qualities of sound itself, employing innovative recording and playing techniques at the limits of their capabilities as performers and composers in order to discover the "new consonance" inferred in their nomenclature.
These ten pieces spanning eight years are highly considered works of art, aware of the Neo-Dadaists attempts to disassemble the concept of a work of art, and instead attempting to expand its parameters as a transitory body of work in flux. We can hear traces of this work reflected in the more forward thinking Italian film soundtracks of the era and to a further extent, in Ennio Morricone's work for Hollywood, in turn casting an influence over much exploratory, non-academic contemporary music.
Editions RZ collect ten early works by the late Morton Feldman (1926 - 87).
They're largely his shorter pieces, spanning compositions made between 1952 and 1959 alongside esteemed peers including David Tudor, Cornelius Cardew, John Tilbury, and János Négyesy. ""In his compositions for piano, which make up a central part of his oeuvre and in which all of his experience is accumulated, it is the play of Feldman's hand whose touch is intended precisely for the 'untouchableness' of sound. The clear character of the 'attack' thus displays the paradox of such playing: it is just as much about concealing the idiosyncrasy of the piano sound, the precise point of attack while, at the same time, the structure and tension of those sounds are formed by the hand." --Stefan Schadler.
Typically nice RZ packaging. Includes the following works: "Piano Three Hands" (1957, performed by Feldman & Tilbury); "Intermission 5" (1952, performed by Feldman); "Vertical Thoughts 2" (1963, performed by Janos Negyesy: violin & Cardew: piano), "Extensions 3" (1952, performed by Feldman); "Four Instruments, 1975" (1979); "Intermission 5" (1952, performed by Tudor), "Piano Piece 1956 A" (1956, performed by Tudor); "Piano Piece 1956 B" (1959, performed by Tudor); "Intersection 3" (1953, performed by Tudor); "Instruments 1, 1974" (1975, 24 minute piece performed by Eberhard Blum: flute, Nora Post: oboe, Garrett List: Posaune, Joseph Kubera: celesta, Jan Williams: drums)."
AtomTM returns to raster to complete his series that has begun with Liedgut and continued with Winterreise.
"The 7 tracks, created in collaboration with russian singer lisokot, are subdivided into 3 pieces of 2 minutes each and 4 pieces of 3 minutes each, intentionally reflecting the 3/4 time of a classic waltz. throughout the release, lisokot’s delicate vocals are put into different relations to atomTM’s rather cool machine music, either complementing or contrasting each other. in the same line, the 3 shorter “leitmotifs” provide the main theme that is taken up repeatedly in the course of the release."
Without question, some of the most beautiful Quiet music you'll likely ever hear, compiled in a 4 hour-long triple disc set.
'Fremde Zeit - Addendum' collects five pieces of engrossingly etheric, liminal composition by Jakob Ullmann (1958), the widely acknowledged master of quiet music and cover star of The Wire magazine.
For us, as we'd imagine many others, this is a striking first introduction to the devoted German minimalist's very particular body of work. Comprising 4 hours of barely-there strings, percussions, wind instruments and voices prefaced by the instruction "Please choose, for each piece, the volume settings of your sound system so as to just barely mask the ambient sounds in the room", this is music made for concentrated listening, recorded and specifically designed to give listeners "the opportunity to hear more, and better" by the simple but essential notion that "We hear better because we make an effort to hear better."
With this is mind, we're invited into a sound world which actively, yet effortlessly and sublimely challenges our perceptions of space and time with a compelling, transcendent effect akin to that of listening to music by, say, Eliane Radigue or Morton Feldman, yet with an alien, detached appeal entirely its own. Due to their extended durations - no piece is shorter than 34 mins, and over an hour at the longest - we form temporal impressions which blur the boundaries between our immediate space and the apparent vastness of the recording, teasing our sixth sense to wander on a knife edge of trepidation and somnolence.
Yet, musically, it covers a far more subtle spectrum of emotions and cabalistic atmospheres casting metaphoric allusions to "…antiquity, to the Middle Ages, to the Baroque, to the 20th Century and to the present" by means of its extreme dilation of space/time and anticipation, and relegation of distortion or any untempered gestures.
Once you've heard this music it should come as little surprise Ullmann studied sacred music in Dresden from 1979-1982 - his music could be the lingering resonance of an Arvo Pärt piece played in a huge cathedral, and it carries the weight of history - spanning over 18 years of work, the results are duly, deeply considered.
A revelatory package, whose impact will surely emerge and manifest as slowly, yet powerfully, as the music itself.
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."
A colossal, trance-inducing, yet largely overlooked pillar of 20th century American minimalism.
Regarded no less than a "holy grail" by Keith Fullerton Whitman, it spans 100 minutes of atonal, amorphous string composition scored in four parts for a quintet, here performed by Linda Cummiskey (Violin), Malcolm Goldstein (Violin), Kathy Seplow (Violin), Stephen Reynolds (Viola), David Gibson (Violoncello).
By all accounts Harley Gaber was a colourful fella, a complex American artist, composer and filmmaker who dropped it all not long after release of this 1976 work to become a full time Tennis player and coach. He would return to the arts, and later music, writing soundtracks for his own films before sadly committing suicide in 2011.
'The Winds Rise in the North' is a frighteningly heavy and rewarding master-stroke, giving rise to dense, gripping harmonic overtones which prickle, seduce and get under the skin in a way that few others achieve. Lock the doors, turn off your phone and give yourself two hours with this. You won't regret it.
"We would like to point out that this piece is extremely quiet. Please choose the volume setting of your sound system so as to just barely mask the ambient sounds of the room"
Jakob Ullmann: "voice, books and FIRE is the result of my reflections about the relationship between music and language: language as sound and language as text, the numerous relationships between texts of different cultural and religious traditions, between the work of the human spirit in the present and in the past and the questions arising from the problem of understanding these different traditions, languages and texts and representing them in a present, which has lost knowledge about substantial parts, even of its own tradition and history."
In Jakob Ullmann's 2nd release through Editions RZ, solemn, practically whispered incantations and creaking extended vocal technique of eight singers play in half-lit, wide open mid-air against the phosphorescing resonance of viola, violoncello, saxophone and flute. Recorded 1st July, in the Abteikirche Neresheim. Recommended
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.
Expertly compiled selection of Tudor's essential 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"
This double disc collects eight historically important recordings of essential Iannis Xenakis works, among them some of his earliest, pioneering stochastic composition, and the staggering sound architecture of 'Persépolis'. Highly recommended!
CD 1: 1. ST/48-1,240162 for 48 Instruments, 1959-62 (8:22, WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln; Ltg. Michel Tabachnik); 2. Le Polytope de Montreal for four Orchestras, 1967 (6:18, Ensemble Ars Nova de l'O.R.T.F., Ltg. Marius Constant); 3. Nomos Gamma for large Orchestra scattered among the audience 98 Instruments, 1967-68 (15:17, Orchestre Philharmonique de l'O.R.T.F., Ltg. Charles Bruck); 4. Terretektorh for large Orchestra scattered among the audience 88 Instruments, 1965-66 (14:48, Orchestre Philharmonique de l'O.R.T.F., Ltg. Charles Bruck); 5. Syrmos for 18 Strings, 1959 (11:38, Ensemble Ars Nova de l'O.R.T.F., Ltg. Marius Constant); 6. Achorripsis for 21 Instruments, 1956-57 (5:19, Ensemble instrumental de musique contemporaine de Paris, Ltg. Konstantin Simonovic): CD 2; 1. Persepolis Version "avec mouvement", 1971 (ca. 50:49) [Sound design: Daniel Teige]; 2. Polytope de Cluny, 1972 (ca. 24:25).
Features two long-form tonal compositions, Sovereign of the Center (1972-1974) and the engrossingly slow movement of The Realm of Indra‘s Net (1974), running to 60 minutes total.
"Both works on this CD form, in a manner of speaking, bookends for another piece of mine, The Winds Rise in the North. The first of the two, Sovereign of the Centre, was my initial attempt at putting a new musical way of thinking into an ensemble rather than solo form. The second, The Realm of Indra's Net, builds on musical "discoveries" I made in the course of revising The Winds Rise in the North.
It is a hybrid work in as much as it is an "acoustic-tape piece" (not music concrete): There are four tracks of solo violin mixed down in different track combinations. (The one heard on this CD is a full-track mono version of the work.) Both of these pieces reflect a general shift in my musical thinking, which occurred in 1968 with Chimyaku (Japanese for "barely moving") scored for solo alto flute. It was with that work that I began to compose "slowed-down" music, like slow motion images in film, not merely slow music such as that of Feldman. H.G. July 2009 - January 2010"
'Kompositionen 1950-1972' collects 16 compositions by Christian Wolff. Most of the pieces collected for this portrait of Christian Wolff document the composer’s early activity and were mainly recorded around the time of their composition. Each recording exemplifies the sound gestures from their time.
"Finally I realized that the kind of sound made in an indeterminate situation includes what could result in no other way; for example, the sound of a player making up his mind, or having to change it. In fact, the indeterminate notation I've used is, as far as I know, the only possible one for the kind of sound I should like. And don't forget, we also like to be surprised. ...and the rhythm produced by that situation is like no other rhythm."
Edition RZ document the first 30 years of Berlin’s Inventionen festival in this cornucopia of contemporary electro-acoustic composition, including work by Iannis Xenakis, Trevor Wishart, Boguslaw Schaeffer, and Ricardo Mandolini, among many others.
Established by the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) and Berlin’s Technical University, the festival is focussed around presenting premieres of recently composed works alongside “classics” of the genre by Xenakis, Cage, Nono, Stockhausen, and the output of the GRM in Paris, with the subsequent aim of connecting a number of other institutions such as BEAST (Birmingham), CCRMA (Stanford), and EMS (Stockholm).
Marking the festival’s 30th year upon its release in 2012, the box set offers a massive, 17-part DVD rendering the first ever performance of Xenakis’ Bohor using Ina-GRM’s famed Acousmonium speaker array, beside a 75 minute Trevor Wishart suite entitled Encounters In The Republic of Heaven, and the video for Rolf Enström / Thomas Hellsing’s Fractal (1984), whilst the first CD includes the audio of the latter, plus highlights in Takehito Shimazu’s microscopically detailed Zytoplasma, and two Boguslaw Schaeffer pieces, including the remarkable Berlin 80 II, and the 3rd disc, a CD, is given to the diverse, percussive, noisy and poetic Elektroakustiche Musik of Argentina’s Ricardo Mandolini, which proves to be some of the most striking material in the set.
One of only two CDs to bear his name at the top, Edition RZ’s Michael Von Biel collection presents a hardcore haul from the nebulous 1960s avant garde, including one blinding, 13 minute piece of electronic composition commissioned from Von Biel by Karlheinz Stockhausen - his tutor at Darmstadt - which resulted in him repeatedly breaking the sliders on the desk during its creation! No messing, it’s worth it for that one alone - you won’t find it anywhere else! (just checked youtube and discogs) - but his patent taste for noisy dynamics and twist on convention elsewhere on the CD also make this a bit of a must, if you’re into that kind of thing.
“2004 release. Michael von Biel's musical production at the beginning of the 1960s was clearly marked by the expansion of the musical material. "Quartet No. 1" (1962) and even more, "Quartet No. 2" (1963) are noise compositions whose expressiveness rests essentially on the discovery of new sonic possibilities and performance techniques. Bowing with excessive pressure, playing behind the bridge, leading the bow in a diagonal direction, hitting the tip of the bow on the body of the instrument -- these are the techniques with which the sound of the strings enters into the realm of noise. Whereas in the first quartet, the areas of musical sound and instrumental noise are still largely set off against one another, in the second quartet, the concept of a music based solely on noise is realized without compromise. Both of the compositions Quartet with Accompaniment for string quartet and cello (1965) and "Jagdstück" ("Hunting Piece") for 2 trumpets, 2 trombones, 2 horns, 2 tenor tubas, contrabass, tape, e-guitars and electronically amplified barbecue grills (1966) are based on the contrast of divergent sound worlds. Before attending the composition courses of Karlheinz Stockhausen in Darmstadt for three years in a row starting in 1961, von Biel studied one year with Morton Feldman in New York where he met David Tudor and John Cage. Earlier than for most European composers, approaches in aesthetic thinking which couldn't have been more different from one another collided in his consciousness, and this occurred at a point in time when their music-historical consequence could not yet be foreseen.”
Vol.II of Edition RZ’s documentation for the Inventionen Festival which ran between 1982-2010. Following Vol. I, Horatio Radelescu’s String Quartet No.4, this volume collects nine pieces by Hildegard Westerkamp, Salvatore Sciarrino, John Cage, Sainkho Namtchylak, Joe Jones, Giacinto Scelsi, Masanori Fujita, John Driscoll.
Hildegard Westerkampf opens with a ten minute electro-acoustic study based on the sentence from Indian mystic Kirpal Sing, When there is no sound, hearing is alert, which she feathers out ionto Whisper Study (1975-79) from the festival’s 1986 edition. Salvatore Sciarrino’s Sciarrino: Codex Purpureus (1963-83) For String Trio follows in tense, quiet fashion from the 1994 festival.
John Cage’s super sparse Cage: Music For Piano 55-63 (1956) from the 1992 festival is an exercise in purposelessness, following structureless notation - “Nosies were crotchets without stems”. Sainkho Namtchylak’s haunting overtone singing and gong work in, Namatchylak: Roots And Vibrations (1994) comes next, from the 1994 edition of the festival.
Joe Jones Solar Orchestra (1982/90), is a binaural recording of the titular, solar and wind powered installation at work at the TU Berlin, 1990. John Cage’s Music For Piano 78-84 (1956), a piece dictated by the I-Ching, is performed by Herbert Henck and recorded at the 1992 festival.
Giacinto Scelsi’s Scelsi: From 20 Canti Del Capricorno (1962-72) (No. 1, No. 4) For Voice (And Additional Instruments) is written for and performed by japanese vocalist Michio Kirayama, including some remarkable extended technique trills and microtonal singing, recorded at the 1992 festival.
A strong highlight of the set is Fujita: From Jü-Jü-Shin (1986) For 15 Buddhist Monks, a complex 23 minute piece written 1200 years ago for the Shingon-Buddhist sect and recorded at the festival’s 1986 edition. John O’Driscoll’s kinetic sculptural sound installation A Hall Is All completes this volume.
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.
Strong debut album by one of China’s most distinctive new industrial/dance music producers, Tzusing, for L.I.E.S.; portraying the Shanghai-based artist’s full breadth of kinky darkroom rhythms and sleazy cinematic arrangements.
Under the title 東方不敗, meaning Invincible East, the record wraps an armoury of powerful percussion and native instrumentation around a narrative locus based on a swordsman character in a Jin Yong novel “who must make the ultimate sacrifice to attain knowledge and transform”. Coupled with the artist’s own observations on living in, and travelling around, Asia, it’s an urgent and gripping listen with a versatility and varied topography lending itself to DJ use and soundtracking industrial subterfuge alike.
日出東方 唯我不敗 starts out like ’05 sino grime or dubstep from a parallel dimension; Digital Properties trades in secretive choral code at a killer New Beta momentum which decelerates into the the wind-tunnel chug and pealing cyber-tribal chant of Esther.
His signature triplets last heard on A Name Out Of Place wickedly come into play against sheer electric blue synth tone in King Of Hosts; we’re put thru an intense, Americanised club drill in Post-Soviet Models; and Torque Pulsations both literally and physically lives up to its name with a belly and spine-twysting EBM tattoo.
Nonesuch presents the début release of two major new Steve Reich works; Pulse , performed by the International Contemporary Ensemble, and Quartet  played by the Colin Currie Group, who both, respectively, gave the world premiere performances of these pieces.
“Reich says, “Pulse, for winds, strings, piano and electric bass, was completed in 2015 and was, in part, a reaction to Quartet, in which I changed keys more frequently than in any previous work. In Pulse I felt the need to stay put harmonically and spin out smoother wind and string melodic lines in canon over a constant pulse in the electric bass and or piano. From time to time this constant pulse is accented differently through changing hand alternation patterns on the piano. All in all, a calmer more contemplative piece.”
He continues, “Quartet, when mentioned in the context of concert music, is generally assumed to mean string quartet. In my case, the quartet that has played a central role in many of my pieces (besides the string quartet) is that of two pianos and two percussion. It appears like that or in expanded form with more pianos or more percussion in The Desert Music; Sextet; Three Movements; The Four Sections; The Cave; Dance Patterns; Three Tales; You Are (Variations); Variations For Vibes, Pianos and Strings; Daniel Variations; Double Sextet; and Radio Rewrite. In Quartet, there is just this group alone: two vibes and two pianos.
“The piece is one of the more complex I have composed. It frequently changes key and often breaks off continuity to pause or take up new material. Though the parts are not unduly difficult, it calls for a high level of ensemble virtuosity. The form is one familiar throughout history: fast, slow, fast, played without pause. The slow movement introduces harmonies not usually found in my music.”
Marking 20 years of Prurient and Hospital Productions’ concurrent paths, the epic 3 hr 20 minutes of Rainbow Mirror inarguably ranks among Prurient’s most compelling statements. While still the blood child of Dominick Fernow, the album’s massive scope demanded more hands on board, with Jim Mroz (Lussuria) and Matt Folden (Dual Action) lending their expertise before post-production by Shifted and mastering by Paul Corley cemented this towering work of Doom Electronics for the ages.
Offered up as ‘a portrait in perpetual tension’, and housed in cover art created as the first collage in the pre-recording era of Prurient, Rainbow Mirror draws on the project’s roots in order to locate itself in the modern day. What it finds in the process is that little has changed since Prurient and Hospital Productions’ conception in ’97 - the world is still a torrid, evil mess beyond control, and one that needs notions like Prurient to try and define its heaving mass more than ever.
Like Frozen Niagara Falls before it, echoes of the old world riddle the long, stark corridors of Rainbow Mirror, too. But here those echoes are more fragmented, distant and entropically obfuscated, emulating the effect of trying to find your own image in a hall of mirrors, or locating yourself drowning amid the clamour of more than 3 billion other people online, all saying the same, mundane shit at the same time.
With a length and intensity proportionately reflective of the world’s increasing socio-political tension and rate of homogeneity, Rainbow Mirror holds firm as a space to immolate the senses in preparation for the ever nearing eschaton.
Johnny Jewel ov Chromatics returns with the picture postcard-perfect scenes of Digital Rain, his first new album proper since Windswept , which included his work for the recent Twin Peaks: The Return soundtrack.
In the most classic sense, Johnny evokes his themes with beautiful subtlety and clarity throughout the entirely instrumental suite of Digital Rain, using filigree synthesis and a rarely paralleled feel for narrative to convey the sensation of rain on skin or hail on a roof, precisely evoking all the feelings of nostalgia you’d arguably associate with electronic music’s cinematic representations of rain, romance, and enigmatic intrigue.
It’s an ideal album for creating your own movie on the fly, acting as a sort of soundtrack to your life, likely to turn late night drives for a pint of milk into the most dramatic scenarios, or maybe turn your next commute into a Love on a Real Train (Risky Business) situation. Might want to be careful with that 2nd one, though.
One for the lovers.
Detroit dynamo Jeff Mills expands his soundtrack repertoire with the score for And Then There Was Light, a Japanese thriller based on Shion Miura’s novel, Hikari.
Perhaps an unexpected turn from the techno overlord, the results are arguably more palatable than his orchestral suites, and clearly demonstrate his composerly ability to match electronic music with a range of moods, emotions.
For us, the best parts play to his strengths, as with the dextrous rhythm programming and spatial detailing of The Bond of Death, the lilting rhythmelodic cadence of The Little Ones. But there are also some surprising moments in the noisy chaos of The Players Of Consequence and Lost Winners, which give way to a storming appearance of his techno classic Hypnotist in the final climax.
‘Brasil’ was recorded in Rio de Janeiro in 1994 with a host of legendary Brazilian musicians including Sivuca, Raul de Souza and singer Joyce Moreno and has remained one of the key defining early releases from the Soul Jazz record label. Out-of-print for over 20 years, the album has now been fully digitally re-mastered for this new 2018 edition.
"The album was recorded at the height of the first wave of interest in Brazilian music in London in the 1990s. Joyce and a group led by husband, drummer Tutty Moreno, had just been Davis (and future head of Far Out Records) to perform in front f over 2,000 new young fans. Singer-songwriter Joyce had been a living legend in her native Brazil ever since the Bossa Nova movement of the 1960s and had made her first record when she was just 20 and she was described by Antonio Carlos Jobim as “one of the greatest singers of all time.”
Joyce Moreno agreed to be involved in the project to record an album in Brazil produced with a UK sensibility and Tutty Moreno’s group signed up as the house band for the project. Stuart Baker (founder of Soul Jazz Records) and Joe Davis then flew to Rio de Janeiro, searching out studios and rehearsal spaces.
During this time in Brazil more artists signed up for the project, including legendary figureheads of the Brazilian music Sivuca (who brought his own group) and trombonist Raul de Souza. Other key figures included singer / guitarist Celia Vaz, who worked extensively as arranger with the legendary Quarteto Em Cy and drummer Dom Um Romao; Wanda Sá, who played in Sergio Mendes’ original seminal bossa nova group Brasil 65 (during which time she married the artist Edu Lobo) and legendary saxophone / flautist Teco Cardoso, whose bio reads like a who’s who of Brazilian music and includes work with Edu Lobo, Dori Caymmi, Baden Powell, Joao Donato, Carlos Lyra and others.
The final piece to this Brazilian jigsaw was the addition of percussionist Pirulito, whose magically create the massive sound of Rio’s Samba Schools live inside the studio. The album was recorded over one hot summer, mixed in London and then released at the end of 1994.
Over 20 years on and Soul Jazz Records’ ‘Brasil’ album manages to capture both an important cross-cultural musical moment in time between Brazil and London while at the same time sounding as fresh as if it was recorded today. Following the original success of this album Soul Jazz Records’ continued its love affair with Brazil and went on to release a host of Brazilian albums including classics such as ‘Tropicalia’, ‘Brazil 70’, ‘Bossa Nova’, a Bossa Nova cover art deluxe book with Gilles Peterson and releases by Sergio Mendes, Baden Powell, Edu Lobo and more."
Warp original, George Evelyn aka Nightmares On Wax, brings up the label’s Yorkshire roots with his 8th LP Shape The Future. Currently stationed in Ibiza, the sunniest corner of Yorkshire, N.O.W. hells as close as ever to his roots in soul, hip hop and dub with a lush downbeat suite riddled by his subtle but delightful production tics and signature, “Eaze-y” vibe.
Again, N.O.W. proves himself something of a J Dilla or King Britt of UK downbeats - ok let’s just call it trip hop - with a timeless, gently offbeat style of his own, equally adept at bringing in live players as he is chopping out patterns on the sampler and blooming them to life the studio.
You can trust it’s all laid-back as usual on this one, but if you’re looking for highlights keep ‘em pealed for the deliciously slompy beat and soul aura on Tell My Vision featuring Andrew Ashong, or likewise for the dusky string orchestration and swaggering groove of Shape The Future at the LP’s core; an excellent a cappella aside, entitled and presumably starring Tenor Fly; and the Francis Bebey-like Afrobeat-electronic charms of Gotta Smile.
DAF’s Conny Plank-produced 5th LP, Für Immer is the darker, stripped down follow-up to their better known early sides, Alles Ist Gut and Gold Und Liebe.
Like those LPs, it probes a fine, ambiguous line along fascistic imagery and lyrics with tracks such Kebab Träume reflecting on Germany’s relationships with Turkish immigrants, and EBM obsessions with health and beauty manifest in the title of Die Götter Sind Weiß. It’s possibly hard to think of how an act could deal with these topics in the modern day without an avalanche of social media pain.
Things were different back then, though. Or were they? Either way, check out the likes of Im Dschungel der Liebe or Verlieb Dich in mich for some proper danefloor rockets.
Beats In Space pull together volumes I + II of Palmbomen II’s Memories of Cindy together with 11 new cuts from he 4LP boxset, completing a deeply dreamy session of knackered house and gauzy synth-pop among the most defibntivie this scene has turned out.
Operating inside a now-crowded prism, Palmbomen II’s sound still sticks out from the milieu by dint of his sensitivity to textured grooves and a hazy lense of mixing trickery which frames a deeply nostalgic and melodic new age soul at its core.
Palmbomen II’s sound is displayed in all its low-key glory here, bubbling up with subliminally effective grip in the metallic acid tweaks and haunting female vocal of pyrotechnomarco and the gorgeous ethereal hymn, Forever Afsluitdijk, before giving the ‘floor something to bump with in the raggedly dubbed proto-house chops of IAO Industries, and then turning to Troma-style romance themes with Transportzone Meer, and hugging the tape tightly with his frayed, synthy slow jam Dancing & Crying.
It only gets lusher, bittersweeter in the new-to-our-ears 2nd half, which was previously only available in a limited edition 4LP boxset. From the curdled acid dream house squirm of Ultimate Lovestrory Fantasy thru the exquisite choral percolations of Wilco’s Funeral to the rugged rub ’n tug of Disappointment Island and Teresa Winter-esque coos in Cyber Tears and John Hughes movie soundtrack cues of Can It Be this new batch only serve to cement Palmbomen II’s status, right up there with Hype Williams, 1991, lueke, BoC.
On his 7th studio LP, Nils Frahm shows off the results of recording in his new, bespoke studio, based in the legendary Funkhaus on the bank of the Spree in East Berlin. Frahm’s signature, melancholic solo piano works share space with runs into 4th World soundscaping, illusive rhythms played on organs-as-drum machines, and gingerly crafted posh tech house minimalism.
“Since the day Nils first encountered the impressive studio of a family friend, he had envisioned to create one of his own at such a large scale. Fast forward to the present day and Nils is now the proud host of Saal 3, part of the historical 1950s East German Funkhaus building beside the River Spree. It is here where he has spent most of his time deconstructing and reconstructing the entire space from the cabling and electricity to the woodwork, before moving on to the finer elements; building a pipe organ and creating a mixing desk all from scratch with the help of his friends. This is somewhere music can be nurtured and not neglected, and where he can somewhat fulfil his pursuit of presenting music to the world as close to his imagination as possible.
His previous albums have often been accompanied with a story, such as Felt (2011) where he placed felt upon the hammers of the piano out of courtesy to his neighbours when recording late at night in his old bedroom studio, and the following album Screws (2012) when injuring his thumb forced him to play with only nine fingers. His new album is born out of the freedom that his new environment provided, allowing Nils to explore without any restrictions and to keep it All about the Melody.
Despite being confined within the majestic four walls of the Funkhaus, buried deep in its reverb chambers, or in an old dry well in Mallorca, All Melody is, in fact, proof that music is limitless, timeless, and reflects that of Nils’ own capabilities. From a boy’s dream to resetting the parameters of music itself.
Words from Nils, October 2017:
“In the process of completion, any album not only reveals what it has become but, maybe more importantly, what it hasn’t become. All Melody was imagined to be so many things over time and it has been a whole lot, but never exactly what I planned it to be. I wanted to hear beautiful drums, drums I’ve never seen or heard before, accompanied by human voices, girls, and boys. They would sing a song from this very world and it would sound like it was from a different space. I heard a synthesiser which sounds like a harmonium playing the All Melody, melting together with a line of a harmonium sounding like a synthesiser. My pipe organ would turn into a drum machine, while my drum machine would sound like an orchestra of breathy flutes. I would turn my piano into my very voice, and any voice into a ringing string. The music I hear inside me will never end up on a record, as it seems I can only play it for myself. This record includes what I think sticks out and describes my recent musical discoveries in the best possible way I could imagine.”
The crown prince of Japanese indie-prog-pop yields his Mellow Waves LP on vinyl, his first albumin over a decade, arriving some two years since his Ghost In The Shell Arise O.S.T.
"For the uninitiated, Cornelius is the brainchild of Japanese multi-instrumentalist Keigo Oyamada. A performing musician since his teens, Oyamada created his creative alter-ego (the name is an homage to the Planet of the Apes), in the early 1990s from the ashes of his previous project, Flipper's Guitar.
With the 1997 release of Fantasma, Cornelius gained international recognition for his cut and paste style reminiscent of American counterparts Beck and The Beastie Boys and was released internationally by Matador Records. Being called a "modern day Brian Wilson" for his orchestral-style arrangements and production techniques, Cornelius subsequently became one of the most sought after producer/remixers in the world, working with a wide range of artists including Blur, Beck, Bloc Party, MGMT, and James Brown.
With 2002's Point, Cornelius' music took a quantum shift, going from sampling "found sounds" to looping organic elements and creating lush soundscapes. Using water drops as the rhythmic backbone of "Drop" on his vocoder-infused cover of "Brazil", the album dazed and amazed fans and set the path for the next phase of his career.
2007 brought this philosophy to an even higher level with the release of Sensuous. Cornelius' live shows are known around the world for spectacular visuals (all perfectly synchronized to the performance), custom lighting that doesn't simply augment the performance, but becomes another instrument within it, and a full band of equally talented and diverse players.
The companion piece to the album Sensurround + B Sides, earned the nomination for "Best Surround Sound Album" at the 2009 GRAMMY Awards.
The summer of 2016 saw the release of Fantasma Remastered, on Lefse Records. The package, a 2LP reissue of his classic album, also included 4 additional outtakes and earned Pitchfork's "Best New Reissue".
Cornelius has recorded music for Edgar Wright's Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, scored the anime mega-film Ghost in the Shell Arise, performed as the backbone of Yoko Ono's reformed Plastic Ono Band, played the Hollywood Bowl with Yellow Magic Orchestra, and co-wrote and produced the Japanese artist salyu x salyu."
Avant-garde Japanese vocalist Phew follows her sublime Light Sleep for Mesh Key with this album of purely vocal works combining extended vocal technique with Dadaist sound poetry and complex, alien electronic processing.
Voice Hardcore a deeply strange and surreal listening experience, which flits a fine line between real, natural recordings and their warped reflections, gauging a wide space for free expression and, by turns, interpretation, which requires no understanding of the Japanese language in order to grasp its otherworldly beauty.
RIYL Kurt Schwitters, Toru Takemitsu, Joan La Barbara.
Geir Jenssen offers a very handy scan of hard-to-find Biosphere cuts c. 1991-2004 on his Biophon label, the latest in a comprehensive reissue agenda which has turned up some real charms so far.
The set ranges from his earliest dalliances with bleep techno rave, superbly so in the sub-loaded killer Hypnophone  off an obscure Norwegian rave compilation, thru to the coruscating ambient loops of Reef  for the Gonzo Circus magazine, taking in gorgeous Lynchian ambience with The Third Planet  and floating ambient structures redolent of X-Files atmospheres in The Seal & The Hydrophone , while catching him at his most wistful and cinematic with Bird Watching , and his subsequent, post-2000 turn toward textured ambient neo-classicism, such as the spectral interceptions of Vi Kan Tenka Digitalt, Vi Kan Tala Digitalt , the stark but sensuous lushness of Valchirie , and his organ work, Visible & Invisible  for Touch.
Definitely not just for the fans, this is a discreet slice of ‘90s ambient history for lovers of icy electronic romance.
Necessary 1st vinyl edition of Laraaji’s 1984 new age devotional suite. Effectively gospel soul in the key of Om, written and performed on Casio keyboards, depending on your disposition it’s either worthy of comparison with Arthur Russell, or an extended Tim and Eric sketch. Take your pick…
“Vision Songs Vol. 1 (1984) is the LARAAJI album like no other, located at the intersection of new age and gospel, his outlier and magnum opus, the feel-good DIY tape of the century. Casio synth jams recorded at spiritual retreat guest rooms and a tiny bedroom on the Upper West Side, lysergically-spectacular anthems for a continually arriving new moment. “Channeled from the sky,” humbly offered as digital download for the first time, this is where this is going on, this is where this is taking place, this is how this is going on. Is this very clear?”
Expansive new opus by one of the world’s leading film soundtrack composers...
“Cycles 7-16 is a natural progression from Matt Dunkley’s deubt solo album, Six Cycles, released on Village Green in 2016. Like the debut, it was recorded in Berlin with the German Film Orchestra Babelsberg. With this album, however, Matt pushed himself further, expanding his writing horizons.
As well as being almost double the length, this album boasts a broader sonic palette than its predecessor, such as the full symphony orchestra on ‘Cycle 12’ or the seven solo pianos used on ‘Cycle 14’. On others, Matt returns to his classical roots, using a string chamber orchestra on ‘Cycle 11’ and ‘Cycle 16’.
Touring and travelling over the last two years, influences arose from spending time in different cities and places. The wintry, tense ‘Cycle 7’ was inspired by an early morning in Berlin, while ‘Cycle 15’ was written whilst on a conducting trip to Norway.”
Gorgeous 2nd album from Glasgow’s Happy Meals, dispatched via the ever-tantalising Night School a few years on from the duo’s equally endearing debut, Apéro (2014). If you're into Young Marble Giants, Vazz, Antenna, Pram etc, you'll love this.
Fruit Juice can be broadly but cleanly divided in two parts; on the hand they effortlessly charm with slower, creamily kosmiche pop pieces such as Run Round, which sounds a little like Quarantine-era Laurel Halo gone minimal wave, and the woozy psychedelic spell-casting of Fruit Float, which could be imagined as Julia Holter meets Iasos; whilst on the other hand they excel at a smartly pop-wise late ‘80s house and synth-pop style, marking up delicious gallic acid pop in If You Want Me Now and the Deux-styled Suivez Moi, and a real standout portion of mind-bending metallic techno-dub-pop in Now That You Have Me.
Chicago Ghetto House staple Jana Rush delivers a properly rugged debut album of footwork on Lara-Rix Martin’s Objects Limited.
Notably entering the world of DJing at age 10, and making her first productions only 3 years later - some of which ended up on Dance Mania alongside DJ Deeon - Jana’s recent tilt into footwork, documented on the warped, febrile designs of her MPC 7635 EP as JARu in 2016, places her not only as one of the scene’s few female operators, but also one of its rudest and most idiosyncratic.
Pariah is Jana’s first longform statement and it bangs from every angle. percolating stammering vocals on lip-bitingly tight typewriter beats, Midline Shift gets it going with a style comparable to the headier oddness of Jlin and the stripped fundamentals of RP Boo in a mutable aesthetic which informs each part of the album, variously flipping from hardass pressure in the slicing tessellations of Beat Maze to floating, chords-driven lushness in Divine and the levitating structure of Chill Mode, but also tending to Chicago’s jazz and spiritual music roots with the hyperventilating flute chops of ??? ??? and the soul-infused belter Old Skool.
However, the big highlights for us appear in the super tuff clench of Break It and Rapid Fire, where she’s not afraid to strip it right to the bone, and likewise the two freaky af 303 turns, namely No Fuks Given and Acid Tek 2, before it all comes together in staggering, lush form with the jungle/juke throw down Frenetic Snare at the LP’s close.
Factory Benelux highlight Vini Reilly’s acclaimed fusions of guitars and electronics circa 1987’s The Guitar and Other Machines Deluxe with remastered expansion of the original LP including his Live At The Bottom Line New York and a bonus disc of Related Works including the rare, Italy-only Greetings 3 EP.
The Guitar and Other Machines Deluxe was produced by Stephen Street, who’s maybe best known as a longtime producer/co-writer for Morrissey, and also features Reilly’s longtime associates Bruce Mitchell and viola player John Metcalfe.
It was written in response to a christmas present of “a load of electronic instruments” from Tony Wilson to Vini Reilly, who remarked at the time “I never dreamt of getting into this electronic thing, and I struggled and fought and stayed up til half seven in the morning and really worked on it. I know that Tony’s got this vision and I persevered. And I found a way of using a sequencer that isn’t like New Order – it’s my way, and it’s my music."
The results make one of Reilly’s most precious recordings, with highlights cascading from the front with Arpeggiator, thru the meditative hash haze of Jongleur Grey, to elegant wonder such as English Landscape Tradition and particularly the three bonus tracks from original CD release, notably the pulsating 28 Oldham Street (location of the now-boarded-up Dry Bar) and the delicate mingle of acoustic and electronic tones in Catos con Guantes.
As if proving his workings out for the album, you can also hear many of the album tracks played on Live in New York 10/1986 plus later recordings made at WOMAD 1988, while the Related Works disc holds some real gems in the spine-freezing styles of Vini’s Greetings 3 EP, especially his guitar and viola duet with John Metcalfe, All That Love And Maths Can Do.