Magnum opus-weight album from organist and electro-acoustic composer Anna von Hausswolff, the entire record consists of just one instrument - the pipe organ, and represents absolute liberation of the imagination. It's a masterwork of gothic classical beauty - a must check for fans of Kali Malone, Kara-Lis Coverdale.
‘All Thoughts Fly’ was recorded at Gothenburg’s Örgryte New Church and is heavily infused with the space’s atmospheric nuance, which renders the theatric richness of Anna’s compositions at their most billowing and melodramatic. As her 6th album, it’s also her most confident and strikingly original, following the slow steady procession of her sides for Kning Disk, Touch and City Slang with her most sepulchral and steepled refinement of black metal atmospheres and sacred dirges pronounced with an apocalyptic classical grandeur and iconoclastic experimental daring.
“Notes on the recording process: The organ on All Thoughts Fly is situated in Gothenburg and is a Swedish replica of the Arp Schnitger organ in Germany. It is the largest organ tuned in Quarter-comma meantone temperament in the world. With it’s four manuals, one pedal and 54 stops, it was built as part of a ten-year research project reconstructing 17th Century North German organ building craft. The tuning temperament is an important detail to note here, as it deeply affects the sound and tuning, and thus radically changed the process of creating this album. Anna speaks of a pleasant surprise during recording, the organ's ability to create beautiful "pitching" notes through its stops and air supply system. She remarks “We took advantage of this so most of the pitching sounds and notes that you hear on the album comes from the mechanics of this organ, effects made entirely acoustically." The organ was recorded with two room mics for atmosphere and two pairs of close mics placed inside the organ to capture nuances and detail for further organ sound processing by Filip Leyman in his studio.”
DJ Plead switches gears for a more infectious, slow and deadly percussive whirl on this killer 40 minute session for our Documenting Sound series, mostly recorded on a Yamaha ‘Oriental’ keyboard and inspired by the likes of CS + Kreme’s ’Snoopy’ album and Felix Hall’s dancehall mixtapes. Proper spacious, all-tension-no-release gear from one of the best in the game.
Recorded and sent from his home in Sydney, ‘Relentless Trills’ sees Jarred Beeler aka DJ Plead dismantling his much-loved hard drum club style. Dropping the tempo and conserving energy levels across a suite of smoky, tense works, he matches the waviest microtonal vamps with the signature, rhythmelodic lilt of his drums in a properly hypnotic style.
Equally influenced by vintage dancehall riddims and the inspirational glow of CS + Kreme's psycho-ambient heartmelters, the results sound to our ears like an offshoot of Mutamassik releases for DJ/Rupture’s Soot, or Shackleton slowed to a hash-smoking drift and heading on a Mahraganat tip. A hazy introductory piece of autotuned vocals and digital bass prodding seduces from the front, with the vibe spilling out into deep, spaced-out dancehall pressure with deliriously strong works almost nodding to Timbaland and The Neptunes in ‘RT5’, closing on a mesmerising beatless highlight in ‘RT6’ to seal the deal.
Parisian nutter, Emma DJ knuckles out 13 gristly chunks of mutant dance and gurning industrial electronics somewhere between DJ David Goblin and Low Jack on a cranky batch for Brother From Different Mothers
Like their tapes for L.I.E.S. and Collapsing Market, and collabs with VTSS in recent months, expect flavours for all ogreish ravers without a floor to call home right now, trampling around the no-mans-land between frenchtek, rap and dembow beats, and grimy warehouse steppers welding barbed digital glitches and teeth-grinding noise.
Mor Elian dives into ambient techno waters under her new Alloy Sea alias, with a gorgeous 50 minute session constructed over a year and finalised during lockdown. Strong recommendation if yr into owt from classic Chain Reaction/Din vibes to Shackleton’s sprawling knew age bass experiments.
The first release on Syn Syn, a sublabel of Fever AM, ‘Petrichor’ sees Elian read the room’s need for more sensual pads and looser rhythms across a sumptuous suite of submerged depth-charge basses, systolic thrums and sky-limning synth dynamics that bring her sound design skills to the fore, and out to the peripheries.
In four parts split between two tape sides, ‘Petrichor’ flows seamlessly in long sections like a mixtape, radiating from the start like some meeting of Hallucinator and Jay Glass Dubs, and spinning out into nimble but woozy ambient steppers rhythms a la Vladislav Delay, before puckering into more crystalline new age electronics reminiscent of Selten Erdene, and sprawling out into imaginative ambient techno interzones strewn with alien, Arca-esque choral pads in acres of synthesised room.
File under knew-age dance simulacra.
Dreamy doo-wop and swaying R&B from Jamaica, scanning the roots of what would become ska and rocksteady with early appearances from Jimmy Cliff, Derrick Harriott, and Alton Ellis
“A collection of Jamaican doo wop & R&B records taken from the late 50s and early 60s. These records represent a period in which soundsystems were just starting to dominate the island, with Duke Reid and Sir Coxsone stepping up their rivalry by beginning to make and release their own records rather than rely on US imports for use in their dances. Many of these records are definitely more-or-less imitations of the American records, as the uniquely Jamaican ska sound was yet to take hold - however many of the future stars of ska, rocksteady and reggae were beginning to cut their teeth in the industry on these records, incl. Jimmy Cliff, Derrick Harriott, Alton Ellis and more, and they provide a unique view into the fledgling independent record industry culture in Jamaica that would prove to be unbelievably prolific and unparalleled for an island of it's size.”
Brilliant, baroque midi trippers from Bass Clef on this new one for Slip, highly recommended if yr into owt from Theo Burt to Kara-Lis Coverdale, best we've heard from him yet we reckon!
Ralph Cumbers makes a welcome return to Slip with the sweet drive and unguarded lyricism of 'Orezero': a smiling-through-the tears chaser to 2019's majestic '111 angelic MIDI cascade'. Says Clef:
"'Orezero' is both the prequel and sequel to '111 Angelic MIDI Casacde' in that I'm not sure which ones is Wonderland and which one is through the Looking Glass. So it can stay unresolved as both and neither?
Feels like a strange time to be releasing what might be the most joyous Bass Clef record. Certainly 'One Tree Island' and 'Heavy Lifting Light Wave' are two cuts of happiness, but the kind of happiness that acknowledges and incorporates all the unhappiness that came along the way. Other tracks are a more rarefied kind of joy I guess, I find myself stripping back layers on these tracks to an extent I never would have dreamed was possible for me.
These tracks were recorded in 2019 over quite some time, although each track itself takes no more than 3-4 hours and are recorded live. Editing clears the clutter to reveal the intent, not always obvious at the time of recording. I was pushing myself, again, to focus on harmony, and melody, the two things I think I am worst at, rather than returning to rhythm and texture, the playgrounds I always felt most comfortable in.
Instrument restrictions helped as always – most of the sounds heard are from two ROMplers, much-loathed relics of pre-computer music, loaded with largely un-tweakable samples of acoustic instruments, samples you have heard on a billion records, but hopefully stacked in new combinations this time around. Backed up with Microkorg, a resolutely and extremely popular, yet deeply uncool, digital synthesizer.
The tracks here were originally intended for two different records (maybe that's why the prequel/sequel feeling persists) but thanks to excellent old school A&R in the form of an evolving conversation with Laurie from Slip, together we eventually uncovered one record that I think manages to weave all these threads together. I hope it will bring some smiles to some people.”
A 12 track album, an hour in length, recorded in the space of a week and - for our money - one of the most inspiring things we've heard this year, an intimate fever dream made real, a summoning of rich and complex spirits that reminds us of Dean Blunt x Hype Williams, Paris Texas, Ulla (who plays saxophone on two tracks under the Foamy alias), Grouper, Laurel Halo...
Beloved for her tapes and LPs with everyone from sferic to TTT and Motion Ward, as well as her role running Radio.syg.ma, Perila's productions and curatorial work have been central to the emergence of a new ambient rhizome in Berlin in recent years. The hushed but fractious patchwork of 12 cuts 'Everything Is Already There' speaks to the lowkey breadth and sensuous subtleties of her style, embracing opiated shoegaze, queasy concréte, and blushing ambient soul in a waking-daydream of a session that revels in the pleasures of locating and nourishing one's inner life.
'Everything Is Already There' arrives not long since Perila's action in Critical Amnesia's 'ambient supergroup' with her pals, Exael, Huerco S., Ol, VTGNike, and uon, and contains some of the most developed, free and textured work in her small but precious catalogue. She emerges like a ragged spirit from the viscous tronics of 'Time Swamp', and shapeshifts from urgent street-corner poetry in 'Pocket Full Of Nothing' to take in damaged ambient blues recalling Loren Connors on 'Riot In A Cornfield', with her descriptive sensitivities in lushest, illusive effect on the likes of 'On A Roof' and the gauzy aerial drift of 'Reality Scan'
Stunning, stunning album.
Marc Richter turns Twitter’s infinite scroll of lockdown horrors and mindfarts into a sort of concrète mixtape collage mixed up with reworked materials and unauthorised edits.
Ahead of his next LP, entitled ‘Oocyte Oil & Stolen Androgens’, this 44’ suite captures the uncanniness of 2020 lockdown, when Black To Comm was metaphorically “paralyzed just like everyone else”, and would often turn to Twitter for a source of info and other people attempting to assuage their miseries.
Captured snippets of “people playing their instruments at home (in *their* kitchens), anti-vaxxer car demos, people shouting & swearing at each other in streets & supermarkets” thus become raw materials for Richter to pebbledash his noumenal canvas, colliding fragments of unfinished projects and older recordings in convulsive gobs cranked out quickly and unfussily, veering from bouts of sore jazz discord to fleeting new age synth promise and scenes of aggy, needling frustration and even Arca-esque alien hymns.
Yeah, proper good this.
Motorik, kosmiche bleeps and alien dissonance from Shapes, the solo project of Phantom Horse’s Niklas Dommaschk, landing somewhere in orbit of Felix Kubin and Harmonious Thelonious
“As one half of Phantom Horse, his long-serving electronic duo with Ulf Schütte, Niklas Dommaschk co-produces beautifully muted, Kraut-inspired jams that seem to soundtrack fictitious TV ads for wondrous imaginary household appliances, e.g. a calmly efficient, if slightly unsettling kitchen robot with an integrated lava lamp feature.
In contrast, Shapes cuts tracks down to size – nothing here is longer than five-and-a-half minutes. Also, Dommaschk has turned up the treble, the prominence of the higher frequency spectrum adding bite and menace to these deceptively simple synth polyrhythms.
Whereas opening track “Benzin” (German for “Petrol”) manages to conjure the paradoxical image of something or someone meandering with urgency, “Einzeller” (German for “single-celled organism”) channels a John-Carpenter-style pulse, complete with horror sound effects. “Interference” is a truly effective representation of the term, with piercing, but quiet tinnitus frequencies set above a beat as sparse as it is crunchy. “Two Stones”, by contrast, offers a kind of robotic wistfulness whereas closing piece “Energies of the mind” fizzes out like a jumble of toy keyboards attempting to score a science programme - and failing, but instead revealing some much grander emotional truth.
This is the sound of breaking some kind of inner lockdown, of turning inwards and then projecting parts of murky inner shadows outward, as well-defined and sometimes lurid shapes, individually clear, but still in the process of becoming organized into a complete whole. The unfinished is what excites us the most. May the shapes never find their slot in the jigsaw puzzle.”
Key neo-ambient label Motion Ward invite Russia’s Air Krew for an absorbingly gauzy, dreamy album bound with bittersweet new age and experimental electronic energies - think The Durutti Column, Jefre Cantu-Ledsma, Emeralds, early 0PN and Soviet cinema music...
Air Crew is a collaboration between St.Petersburg/Moscow’s Sergey Podluzhniy, Lena Tsibizova and Piper Spray, who make their fully fledged debut here after tape comp turns with wannamarchi.club and Athens’ Radio.syg.ma. While couched in shoegazy terms, there’s also clear influence from classical chamber music and cold kosmiche synth to their romantically sore style on ‘Discuss and come back’, which oscillates between styles, often subliminally so in the course of a single track.
Soused in tape fuzz and swirling harmonic richness from front to back, you can really feel the touch of multiple, familiar hands coming together in a way that feels absent from solo recordings and nourishes other needs, like when they vibe out on the opiated dream-pop of ‘Second Heart Failure’ and the bleached lushness of ‘Without Pastoral’, while the cold DMT blast of ‘Dictionary’ and chilly chamber strokes of ‘Thank you for a fish’ burble with a human quality, and they prove crafty off-dancefloor smarts like a zonked Andy Stott in the gyring stepper ‘Types of crickets’, and floppy brittle bones swoon to ‘Sorry but I still love this track’.
Lakker run their ‘Época’ album thru a barrage of filters and studio sorcery for a dank, chopped and screwed dub version.
Vulturing on their bones and gristle of their last album, the duo worked at Chris “Kamkaze Space Programme” Jarman’s Soundcraft Spirit ‘Studio’ 24-8-6 mixing console to reclaim and regurgitate ‘Época’ and the carrion of their extensive catalogue in a slower style nodding to DJ Screw via Mica Levi and Demdike Stare with grungey, cinematic results.
The hour long mixtape tape renders a lesser-heard side of Lakker, going hands-on-the-desk for an immersive testament to their live remixing and manacled sound design chops. Original elements are torn apart, restructured and rearranged into a maze of classic delays and FX, forking from darkside synth pressure to gutted electro-acoustic spaces and concrete rhythm that sets into petrified feedback by journey's end.
Unmissable introduction to Portmore, Jamaica’s G Sudden, riding hard and sweet on warped dancehall and soca rhythms supplied by Seekersinternational, sent in cooperation between the reliably rooted-but-fwd Duppy Gun Productions and London’s Bokeh Versions
The latest in DGP’s series of recordings pairing vocalists from the island with under-cover and far flung producers is a sterling example of their hybrid experiments and strongly tipped to fans of the crackshot Sikka Rhymes set or ‘I Jahbar & Friends’ soundclash from 2019, and anything blessed by Seekersinternational for that matter.
With vocals recorded at DPG’s studio in Spanish town, G Sudden is ideally placed in production settings by Manila/Canada’s Seekersinternational, who temper their more cut-up tendencies to roll out a mix of vibrant, deep fwd rhythms unafraid to switch up the dance, running a deftly heavy sound between the Equiknoxx-meets-Prince styles of ’Skin Get Bun’, a jukin’ soca killer in ‘Gran a Day’, and what sounds like a psychedelic Digital Mystikz on ‘Tings Hard Dub’.
Includes one solo track by each artist and one collaboration track, as well as two new collaborative edits of salford electronics 'deconstruction' track.
NYC >> Salford connections back in effect on this half hour collaborative session. Head straight for "We Have Come To Bring Rain (Summer Solstice Terror)” a stylistic swerve which is basically the closest Dominick Fernow has come to channelling T++, all tumbling, staccato rhythms that remind us of those killer Dynamo 12”s on Din - properly strong gear.
"Armed Police Guard Revellers At Stonehenge” is more downbeat and moody - a sort of Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement via John Carpenter night terror vibe, while the closing two versions of ‘Deconstruction’ are peak time rollers, classic Vatican Shadow style.
Pete Swanson and Gabe Saloman prize Duh Yellow Swans druggily zonked 2003 release from the YS archive for a spit and polish remastering job revealing its itchy mix of drone, BM vocals, and needling drum machines.
Originally dished up on CDr by Collective Jyrk, the 17 year old material of ‘Duh Yellow Swans’ is future-proofed by its amorphous, outlandish nature which stood out from the milieu back then as it does now. The first side is a must-check for any listeners who've been snagged on the solo works of Wolf Eyes’ Nate Young or Aaron Dillowway over the years, offering a grotty development of washed-out drone wheeze and jangling guitars that increasingly bristle and growl, until the addition of sizzling drum machine and throaty BM vocals take it somewhere else entirely, like some grizzled pre-echo of mad screamo-rap fusions to come. The other cut is given more to weathered noise and clattering railroad rhythms, with sleeting shards of white hot distortion and skeletal percussive clacks building in intensity before locking into a nad-crunching swagger.
The Yellow Swans reissue drive continues apace with their throttled 2003 throwndown as Detestifi Yellow Swans given the remastered treatment for 2020 and posterity
Landing in the wake of vital reissues for ‘Going Places’ and its ‘Being There’ bonus disc, this one drags up their 2003 Collective Jyrk session for the hairiest heads, dispensing severely warped alloys of psych-noise, wild American hardcore, and pummelling rhythms with a pineal squeezing force.
The first side is some of the most zonked and turbulent cosmic chaos this side of Pat Murano’s Decimus jags, letting it all hang out in glorious gangly and frazzled form hingeing around nagging machine pulses for the first half, before slipping into more zonked, eyes-in-back-of-head psych modes. Flipside they attack with a filthy squelch, doing a sort of mad scuzz with a genuinely mind-unravelling quality and infectiously grotty motion, then splintering off perpendicular into shattering hi-end squeal and caustic licks that take the skin off it, we tell ya..
“Change is inevitable if you’re lucky,” says guitarist / vocalist Alex Edkins while talking about ‘Atlas Vending’, the fourth full length album by Toronto’s Metz. “Our goal is to remain in flux, to grow in a natural and gradual way. We’ve always been wary to not overthink or intellectualize the music we love but also not satisfied until we’ve accomplished something that pushes us forward.”
"The music made by Edkins and his compatriots Hayden Menzies (drums) and Chris Slorach (bass) has always been a little difficult to pin down. Their earliest recordings contained nods to the teeming energy of early ‘90s DIY hardcore, the aggravated angularities of This Heat and the noisy riffing of AmRep’s quintessential guitar manglers but there was never a moment where Metz sounded like they were paying tribute to the heroes of their youth. If anything, the sonic trajectory of their albums captured the journey of a band shedding influences and digging deeper into their fundamental core - steady propulsive drums, chest-thumping basslines, bloodyfingered guitar riffs, the howling angst of our fading innocence.
With ‘Atlas Vending’, Metz not only continues to push their music into new territories of dynamics, crooked melodies and sweat-drenched rhythms, they explore the theme of growing up and maturing within a format typically suspended in youth. Covering seemingly disparate themes such as paternity, crushing social anxiety, addiction, isolation, media-induced paranoia and the restless urge to leave everything behind, each of Atlas Vending’s ten songs offer a snapshot of today’s modern condition and together form a musical and narrative whole. The song sequencing follows a cradleto- grave trajectory, spanning from primitive origins through increasingly nuanced and turbulent peaks and valleys all the way to the climactic closer, ‘A Boat to Drown In’. The lyrics speak to this arc as well, with the songs addressing life’s struggles all the way through to death, as Edkins snarls “crashed through the pearly gates and opened up my eyes, I can see it now” before the band launches into the album’s cascading outro.
While past Metz albums thrived on an abrasive relentlessness, the trio embarked on ‘Atlas Vending’ with the goal to make a more patient and honest record - something that invited repeated listens rather than a few exhilarating bludgeonings. It’s as if the band realized they were in it for the long haul and their music could serve as a constant as they navigated life’s trials and tribulations. The result is a record that sounds massive, articulate and earnest. Bolstered by the co-production of Ben Greenberg (Uniform) and the engineering and mixing skills of Seth Manchester (Daughters, Lingua Ignota, The Body) at Machines with Magnets in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, Metz deliver the most dynamic, dimensional and compelling work of their career."
A crushing testament to the might of Yellow Swans resurfaces in their 2020 reissue campaign, newly remastered and ready to hug your head like a xenomorph. RIYL Wolf Eyes, Astral Social Club, Decimus.
Straccato drum machines and whelming walls of noise define the six tracks, each drawn from releases with Scratch and Sniff, Hung Like A Horse?!, and Collective Jyrk, and tiled together into a crushing portrait of Pete Swanson and Gabriel Mindel Saloman’s legendary noise duo. Expect swampy swells of noise driven by brittle percussion and muscular bass, prone to morph into jagged post-techno steppers and pounding tramples.
"Titles and artwork always had a lot of work to do: they had to both be open enough and specific enough to matter. With titles we decided early on to just leave it blank or “untitled” if we didn’t have a name for the track. Why force it? I tended towards the melodramatic, while Pete preferred subtle poetics. I could usually persuade Pete to go with a more over-the-top title if it was an interesting enough reference to music or literature. In the case of this record, a reference to the Talking Heads cleared this hurtle, but it also felt like the right title for a “Live” album recorded in the same moment as the revelations around Abu Ghraib, the Haditha massacre, the devastation of Fallujah. How do you make art or perform when this shit is happening? I wanted this record to be remembered as a document of trying to make art about freedom while breaking from the patriotic hegemony and general complacency of that moment. “
A crushing testament to the refusnik noise might of Yellow Swans resurfaces in their 2020 reissue campaign, newly remastered and ready to hug your head like a xenomorph. RIYL Wolf Eyes, Decimus, Prurient
Slowly banking, whelming walls of noise define the six tracks, framing a crushing portrait of Pete Swanson and Gabriel Mindel Saloman’s legendary noise duo at their claw-handed best. Expect dense thickets of distortion pitted with distant vocals for a heavily body-gurning and phosphorus-burn impact that brilliantly doesn’t know when to let up. Ideal for beckoning the neighbours over for a brew/barney.
"Recorded during our second EU tour, our first one was between Neon War and Psychic and this is between psychic and At All Ends, embracing the murk, moving away from beats and towards density. I remember this tour being soundtracked by Sade’s Love Deluxe and just wanting to embrace that slowness and beauty. Which I think gets touched on here, so does some more metal and no-wave tendencies in the guitar playing.”
Pivotal ambient metamorph, Special Guest DJ aka uon distills previously unheard works by his coven of atmospheric imagineers, lending a duvet-diving episode to our Documenting Sound series.
‘Spring / Summer 2020’ was sequenced and recorded at the Berlin apartment of Shy (Special Guest DJ, uon, Ghostride The Drift, Caveman LSD), who, in recent years, has emerged as a crucial catalyst of new ambient music with a string of cherished and influential releases via their Experiences Ltd. label and its xpq? and bblisss offshoots. Their tape draws specifically from this cluster of labels and affiliates, pooling previously unreleased pieces by Perila, Ulla, Ben Bondy, OL, EL2, Nikolay Kozlov, Huerco S., Pontiac Streator, Ophelia xz, Jason Graf, Pascäal, JJ and JS in a bittersweet tape primed to soundtrack depression naps for its duration.
There’s no tracklist to go from, but you can trust that all artists share a mutually meditative vibe throughout. Shy elides their respective gestures into a vaporous dream sequence of drifting harmonic hues, ASMR whispers and temple-rubbing pads, occasionally bumped with offbeat ephemera, and faithfully unfurling with a time-slipping, illusive, and deeply heavy-lidded quality that underlines the scenius of the new Berlin ambient movement. Needless to say you probably know the style, but unless you’ve got access to Special Guest DJ’s HD, this is a must check tape for the growing number of ambient fiends in need of atmospheric therapy.
Class debut batch of warped algorithmic IDM from WEȽ∝KER (Wet Locker), aka Manchester’s Dujat and Joe Beedles, sprouting strange new computerised forms for fans of Æ, Lee Gamble, Kindohm, Sote
Presented by Berlin’s intrepid Conditional as “a voyage into the warm heart of computer music”, following the label’s sympathetically skewed turns from Kindohm and William Fields, WEȽ∝KER’s ‘GULP’ marks a leap forward from what we last heard of Joe Beedles, who appears here to spark off new Manchester artist Dujat in a prism pushing style that wickedly tesseracts with their adventurous labelmates while lending a vital streak of strange, computerised “soul” to their flux.
The 9 tracks make a perfectly oddly proportioned body of work that feels like a semi-artificial organism coming to life over the course of the album. From a polychromatic tonal soup ‘velarized’ is laced with pangs of stringy synth emotion and a bodygurning muscular-skeletal structure, replete with with ligaments and glowing flesh. Crucially a throaty voice emerges that comes to haunt the album as a feral variant in ‘razzi’ and the Autechrian techno of ‘(self titled)Chugg’, while their organism seems to grow in emotional intelligence and complexity with the lusher surges of ‘hinterhioj’, and the schizzy switches between alien BM atmosfear and grizzled rhythms in ‘ATLAMS’, and the IDM-as-hyper jazz fusion bursts that close the album, and surely leave us looking out for their next instalment.
One to watch for all IDM electronica dreamers and earnest futurists, then.
Haunting-but-soothing ambient metaphysics from Andrew Hargreaves (The Boats, Tape Loop Orchestra), blessing AD93’s Syon series with his barely-there presence on tape - RIYL Stephan Mathieu, William Basinski, The Caretaker/The Stranger
Leading on from a pair of ‘Returning’ volumes as Tape Loop Orchestra, Andrew makes a relatively rarer outing under his own name here, rummaging around his cabinet of curios to patch together acephalic chorales, distant street noise, and thee clammiest layers of spectral drone in his signature style, as he outlines below:
“[Pouring Salt into the Sea is] A reconstructed assembly of sounds that never existed together in actuality. Sounds pulled from the air and placed in juxtaposition - new meanings for old sounds brought together from the air of temporality. Sound is a presence that remains unseen. Recordings built from reproductions of reproductions, to become an object for reproduction, a way to move/envelope time and carry forth an essence of an event (that perhaps never existed).”
The results make a fine follow-up to AD93’s previous ambient suite by Dylan Henner, sharing something of Henner’s dreaminess, but with a more washed out, brooding and crepuscular sort of Moorland atmosphere native to both his music and the likes of Demdike Stare’s recent collab with Jon Collins. If you’re a veteran of these pages you’ll no doubt be familiar with Andrew’s work, and should have no doubts what to do next. But if you’re an ambient noob dipping your tootsies and feeling your way out there, welcome to a whole parallel world unto itself in Andrew Hargreaves music.
Immersive sleepwalker dance trax to work you like a ghostly marionette, drifting off the desk of cult NYC figure J. Albert via Illinois’ Forgot Imprint
Albert’s patented style of spectral, serpentine breakbeat chicanery is in superb effect right here, pursuing the tail-chasing breaks and heavily blunted atmosphere of his ‘Pre Formal Audio’ 12” into four elusive new flexes. His syncopation of cascading subs, starscream stabs and scything 2-step breaks in ’Starship Bibble Kush’ is right up there with his best, while the frothed greyscale soul of ‘Bubbly’ could easily be mistaken for an early Actress joint, and ‘Grip’ shows off a lush mastery of gutted dub dynamics he shares with likes of Jay Glass Dubs or Topdown Dialectic.
From their lockdown ‘hood to yours, Bookworms, Félicia Atkinson, Space Afrika, CV & JAB, JD Emmanuel, Jefre-Cantu Ledesma, Roberto Carlos Lange, Sugai Ken, Ka Baird and many more offer room for reflection with a highly empathetic set indebted to Ernest Hood’s spellbinding 1970’s proto-ambient album ‘Neighbourhoods’.
The curatorial antenna of Freedom To Spend’s Pete Swanson & Jed Bindeman glow bright on this set, which takes Ernest Hood’s early mesh of drowsy, everyday field recordings and gauzy synths as the jump-off for a project spanning continents and which comes to highlight a mutuality between far-flung spirits that transcends time, space and place. Looking in every direction for contributors, the collected results most beautifully resonate with the everyday but dreamy qualities of Hood’s original work and make a damn fine set for the times in their own right.
It’s crammed with notable inclusions so we’ll get right into it. Fresh from issuing a standout mixtape Space Afrika yield a superb, Burial-esque collage of pads and fractal crackles woven with traces of the duo’s current homes in Europe, while new age synth pioneer JD Emmanuel gifts a rare archival excursion with the richly evocative scenes of ’Shenandoah, Texas’, and you can trust Dolphins Into The Future guy Lievens Martens to relay the uncanniness of his home in Belgium via ‘Five Elements, Five Repetitions’.
Félicia Atkinson can be counted on for theee most sanguine scenario of keys and hushed street noise in ‘The Willow’, and Bookworms supply an absolute killer with some of the strangest, most detuned AFXian keys and under-the-porch feels with ‘Fluctuations In Temperature’, while Todd Barton tends to the subtlest transitions between spaces in the David Toop-esque enigma of ‘Ashland Ambience’.
All proceeds from the first edition of this collection will benefit the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development, a coalition of community groups across New York City using research, advocacy, and grassroots to build equity and justice in their neighborhoods and citywide. ANHD’s mission supports lower income and working-class communities by developing affordable housing, an essential effort during the COVID-19 pandemic, where low-income, BIPOC communities have been hit the hardest. Member organizations of ANHD have provided 80,000 units to this date, and homes for almost 100,000 people.
Formed by Swiss post-metal veterans from Knut and Abraham, strom|morts' goal is to compose music inspired by their Alpine environment and its weather, which glides over impassive mountains, evolving with the seasons. Such a landscape encourages deep listening – minimalist musics whose subtle evolutions reveal themselves over several minutes, disturbing the perception of time passing or even provoking, through deep and sustained concentration, a meditative state.
"strom|morts write: "Clock Resistance is all about time and chaos, reflecting the behaviour of nature around us, embodying the cycles of life and death. The sinister yin yang of strom|morts symbolising the source and the end of everything we have known so far. Two drones were composed as an embodiment of this concept. This record was mainly made with modular synths for their flexibility, but you can hear here and there the ghost of a Moog Voyager. One drone is totally synced, the other one is free. One side's got a guitar, the other one is synths only. Achieving symmetry, the two drones have the same timing." –strom|morts, Conthey, Switzerland, 19 May 2020.
Lucy Railton renders a sublimely haunting impression of Berlin made in early Spring 2020 for our Documenting Sound series of sonic postcards from all corners of the globe.
Essentially a recording of a world-renowned cellist duetting with the S-Bahn outside her apartment in Prenzlauer Berg, ‘5 S-Bahn’ utterly steals our hearts in the simplest, most evocative way. Playing with, thru, and against the atmosphere of Berlin in spring during lockdown, Railton captures scenes that feel timelessly nostalgic but also uncannily eerie, taking a reading of the city’s pulse that may feel at once familiar yet surreal and latent, pregnant with an unresolved and restless quietude.
Across the 41 minute work Railton describes the slow daily arc of life under lockdown in a usually bustling Berlin slowed to stasis. Quite brilliantly, her voice and her musical gestures become fleeting ephemeral presences as much as the birdsong, passing trains, planes overheard, and the gorgeous church bells of P’Berg, which all unfold and recede in languorous turns. It reminds us of the exquisite, seemingly effortless location recordings used in Hitchcock’s ‘Rear Window’ - ambient sound in the truest sense of the word; suggestive of life just outside our field of view; close - and out of reach.
Lucy’s esteemed ear for ghostly haptics serves to search out an underlying poetry in the ubiquitous and everyday, highlighting the serene yet dread-filled uncanniness of a usually bustling Berlin awakening from winter into the torpor of lockdown.
Original isolationist Lasse Marhaug assumes his natural disposition in an incredible, dread-filled snapshot of life recorded April 1st and dialled in from Oslo for our Documenting Sound series.
A behemoth in the Norwegian Metal, noise, jazz, electronic and experimental scenes for nearly 30 years, Marhaug is something of a polymath - appearing and collaborating with countless artists (Sunn O))), Carlos Giffoni, Merzbow, Maja Ratkje, John Wiese and many, many others), he’s a highly sought-after producer with credits on records by Jenny Hval, Hilary Woods and Okkyung Lee, as well as a photographer, visual artist, writer, magazine publisher - basically he’s done - and is doing - it all.
Lasse was born and raised above the Arctic Circle and made his name up there via the international mail-order scene before moving to Oslo, so he clearly knows a thing or two about life communicating from under virtual lockdown or isolation. His tape here documents an hour of music recorded on April 1st 2020 (and later deftly edited) that provides a glimpse of just how deep his talent runs, using a stripped down set-up of guitar, turntable and synths in much the same grizzled and intuitive way that’s practically unchanged from his formative, teen-aged days in the cold, cold north.
Lasse’s free-ranging taste for raw, crumbling noise textures and scowling drone scuzz is in strong effect on four skull scraping and apocalypse-baiting works. Whether describing huge glacial events and a lack of Vitamin D in the noisy transition of ‘Exiles’, or more sensitively evoking a sense of ambient sehsucht recalling Kevin Drumm’s classic ‘Imperial Distortion’ on ‘Family', or plainly baiting the apocalypse with the magisterial string drones of ‘Perfect Places’, Lasse’s music conjures scowling moods that enact a solidarity for outsiders as much as a frank admission that life’s always been a bit crushing, and we just have to get on with it.
Gabie Strong is the founder of Crystalline Morphologies community imprint, dedicated to releasing experimental sound works by historically underserved Los Angeles women, queer and non-binary artists. She has been working in experimental music since the early 90s.
"The recordings on this cassette document a series of live performances from 2017-2019 in which the Los Angeles artist Gabie Strong asks, "What does the body sound like when it is making its own music?" A hard-of-hearing interdisciplinary artist, Strong asks us to consider that hearing is subjective, based on how the brain translates the reception of sound. Each track documents a performative questioning in which Strong suggests that being deaf is not living in silence, but rather it is navigating a highly complex and nuanced soundscape of noise that is audible only to the deaf body.
For Strong, deafness comes from her own skull working against her, closing off external sounds and sending scrambled messages back to her consciousness. Captured at Ende Tymes 9 Festival of Noise and Experimental Liberation, Land and Sea Oakland, Volume at Coaxial and the Sagehen Creek Field Station Experimental Forest, Strong layers the kinetic sound of contact mics running over her body and through her hair, ambiguous vocal utterances and amplified guitar feedback to create a visceral soundscape of her body."
New on Kassem Mosse's Ominira label.
“Hadj Sameer gifts us with sonorous collages that scale up to another dimension while our humble surroundings sprout under the influence of a select array of new-music jazz composition tings. Science & growth, baby. 80 minutes of contemporary & vintage accoustronic selections on pro-dubbed tapes.This project is about the duality in between wild natural jungle (side 1) & and urban jungle or life of a modern human being (side 2)."
The first time Richard Francis and Frans de Waard met was in Tokyo, Japan and they talked a lot. The second time was in Boston, USA and they danced all night long. The third time was in Nijmegen, The Netherlands and they recorded a lot of music together. During the course of a very long day they recorded in Frans' studio using a small modular set-up, Korg MS-20, computer, tapes and field recordings, all captured on a multi-track tape where it kept sitting for quite some time before Frans decided it was time to make heads 'n tails out of it. The usual process of editing and mixing resulted in the release that is now called "Retired Dilettantes". No track titles as both sides are to be seen as one composition all together. From delicate static and complex electrical textures to the bursting of loud drones.
"Richard Francis is a sound artist working with electronics and field recordings. He has released solo and collaborative albums on Senufo Editions, Entr'acte, Glistening Examples, Korm Plastics, Banned Production and Aufabwegen. Recent collaborators include Frans De Waard, Ralf Wehowsky, Anla Courtis, Bruce Russell, Mattin, Jason Kahn and Francisco Lopez. His works have been performed, presented or exhibited at Issue Project Room, New York; Uplink, Tokyo; ZKM, Karlsruhe; Werkstatt fur Improvisierte Musik, Zurich; Adam Art Gallery, Wellington; IMA, Brisbane; The Toff, Melbourne; St Paul St, Auckland; Tuned City, Berlin; Alt Music Festival, Auckland; Te Tuhi, Auckland; Cave 12, Geneva; Radio New Zealand National.
Frans de Waard (1965) has been producing music since 1984 (Kapotte Muziek, Beequeen, Goem, Zebra, Freiband, Shifts, Modelbau, etc.). In 1984 he started his own record label Korm Plastics, releasing music from Arcane Device, Asmus Tietchens, Jim O'Rourke among others. He has worked for the pioneering Dutch label Staalplaat (1992-2003) and since 1986 as a reviewer for his own publication Vital (now Vital Weekly), a magazine which has been an online source for underground music since 1995, and which celebrated its 1000th issue in 2015. In 2016 Timeless published in France his first book, an autobiography of life in Staalplaat titled This Is Supposed To Be A Record Label. His interests in music creation ranges from ambient to noise to what he describes as 'silly disco music'. He has played concerts in Europe, USA, Canada, Russia and Japan, and collaborated with Steven Wilson, Jaap Blonk, Andrew Liles, Radboud Mens, Keiji Haino, Pan Sonic and others."
Demdike Stare rake over the embers of their recent ’Sketches of Everything’ album with guitarist Jon Collin to present ‘Fragments of Nothing’; a windswept collection of strung out blues that we reckon makes for some of their best low-key work; gorgeous, highly evocative sonic tapestries for the times.
Further teasing out vintage, arcane threads of connection between Deep-South porchside styles and their native brutalist blooz, Demdike sound absorbingly comfortable in this strung out mode, with the deftest hands on their noumenal loom spinning Jon Collin’s expressive guitar licks into acres of cranky, ghostly space to offer a starker and more blunted nocturnal perspective on the album’s dusky panoramic scenery.
Extracting an elemental Ur-state, the duo draw upon a deep well of inspiration from the rugged beauty of the Pennine landscape to invoke a steeply immersive style of folk-blues abstraction. Across two sides they rustle a ragged, whiskey soaked and red-eyed tapestry of ideas, variously recalling darker echoes Loren Mazzacane Connors and even Stephen O’Malley solo sides across the 45 minutes of their spirit-guiding trek.
Pick your poison - mushies, peyote, banana skins, whatever’s to hand - saddle up, and prepare for an engrossing chapter in the Demdike saga.
Highest grade computer dance music from Kindohm, diffracting aspects of footwork, noise and hyper drill with a proper, warped futurist bent for Prague’s Gin&Platonic - a total must-check for fans of Æ, Mark Fell, Beatrice Dillon, Gábor Lázár, Gooooose.
Chasing up Mike Hodnick aka Kindohm’s superb ‘Meme Booth’ for Conditional - one of 2019’s best - the four tracks of ‘Deserted Reclaimed’ ‘fess up further results of his experiments with live-coding tekkers and the TidalCycles environment (Haskell). To varying degrees, all four cuts are thrillingly gut-wrenching in rhythm and tone, finding the keenest balance of screwface funk and edge-of-sanity psychomimesis, with a tangible, heart-punching soul that often evades the more obtuse IDMers, but Kindohm makes an absolute virtue of here.
The two ‘Deserted’ cuts are the nastiest, bearing his teeth with an acrid alacrity in the gurning atonal lunges and quiescent footwork of the first, and really shredding it up in a snake pit of metallic rhythms and piercing tones in the 2nd. By contrast the others are sweet, with the reticulated pirouettes and plonging tronics of ‘Reclaimed’ coming off like DJ Python coiled up with Autechre, and then the weightless, gyring torque and breathless pads of ‘2’ to leave us reeling in hyperspace.
Effing and blinding essential!
Cairo's 3Phaz fires a killer missive for our Documenting Sound series, following his crucial volleys of searing Mahraganat hard drum mutations for Cairo Concepts and 100copies, with appearances alongside Kareem Lotfy, DJ Haram, DJ Plead, EEK, Islam Chipsy and Zuli.
Over the course of 45 minutes 3phaz reconfigures his sound to rudely hypnotic levels that are slower, more screwed, salted with noise to taste. Inspired by themes of “introspection, mundane repetition, anxiety, and uncertainty” the results bristle with a glowering force, screwing electro-chaabi like something from a hazy late ‘90s Houston, while going over-easy on the distortion with an eye-wobbling crunch.
The tape’s title ‘Instant Dry Yeast’ is perhaps a good metaphor for the music’s coarsely ground and fundamental roughness, piling forth drily rising microtonal drones, mechanically reclaimed hardcore techno loops and jiggling chaabi drums that sound like an echo of Muslimgauze finally allowed to escape a battered FX unit, tipping the scales between militant snare rolls, dread bass and trippy tonal abstractions that recall adjacent actions from DJ Plead, 33EMYBW or Nazar, as much as the likes of 1127, Ain or Arca.
Qoso aligns your chakras with a killer half hour collage of tripped out dance music and downbeats spliced with self-help tutorials and new age simulacra.
Working somewhere in between the self-contained, mutant worlds of Krikor and Low Jack, fellow French producer Qoso shows a canny sleight of hand in his abstract narrative transitions between rugged rhythms and immersive atmospheres, presenting a rawly refined image of the styles on his last album ‘Printemps-été’ following the experimental techno blatz of last years 12” for TTT.
Strafing from ambient pads to fusions of footwork and daft YouTubers, lushly screwed jungle and Discovery Channel ephemera, it’s got a sort of modern day pulpy Quantum Leap quality to the timeline jump-cuts and more smudged vaporwavey passages, eventually fading into the sort of late ‘90s hiphop and warped-lense, mushie blue electronica referenced by DJ Python or Special Guest DJ/uon.
Laila Sakini dials in a deliciously mysterious round of smudged trip hop and spiritual jazz urges for our latest Documenting Sound edition. It's a properly yearning, nostalgic trip; sort of Blue Lines meets Laurie Anderson & Peter Gabriel’s future fantasies, and we're obsessed with it.
Like previous series contributor Jonnine, Sakini hails from the foothills of the Dandenong Ranges outside Melbourne, where she wrote ‘Strada’ - an absorbing session of blunted loops and smeared samples naturally inspired by a DIY set-up and an understandable, unfulfilled urge to play - and be - outside.
Drawing on what’s to hand - Bass Clarinet, Saxophone, her brothers borrowed guitar and a bank of samples - Sakini channels her curfewed frustrations and a heavy sense of the blooz into a ruggedly hypnotic and lucid suite of tracks that ultimately helped her assuage a lockdown-induced malaise, offering up the resultant sensory properties for you, too.
Like many of us pushed to reflect on life during this cursed year, nostalgia seems to be a symptom we’re all prone to and which oozes out of ‘Strada’, providing a tangible sense of lust and memories shared (by coincidence or design) with fellow Australians Jonnine/HTRK and CS + Kreme. From the nightfall of chamber trip hop in ‘La Macchina (The Car Drive)’ to the weightless Blade Runner rave scene hallucination of ‘Fiorucci’, and the ponderous bassline of ‘Stephens Secret’, Laila totally taps into that vein of strung out Antipodean soul that we love so much, and could hardly be better summed up in the starry-eyed gaze of ‘Towards The Opaline Sky’.
If you’ve been privy to Laila’s ace ‘Figures’ tape with Lucy Van, or the eye watering ‘Vivienne’ LP earlier this year, expect similarly seductive work, edged with a poppier, closer-to-home feel and ultimately, heavier hit.
Manchester & UK club institution Swing Ting cap a decade of productions and parties with super sweet debut album ‘100 Dances’ - titled after their admirable tally of raves around the city since 2009.
Fronted by hyper-connector Balraj Samrai and accomplice Ruben Platt, the Swing Ting family spans vocalists, producers, toasters and DJs, many of whom appear in some form on ‘100 Dances’. Taking in early doors warm-up vibes, thru to peaktime steppers, all in the bright and never-aggy style they’ve made their own, the album speaks directly to the good times vibe that Swing Ting cultivated in every aspect of their output, always prizing positivity over nastiness (although their dances weren’t shy of rowdiness, now and then). It’s a dead sweet send off to one period in their rule, distilling the vibe to preserve it for future consumption.
Save for the blissed titular opener, it’s an entirely vocal-led affair, much like their dances. Trusty host Fox graces the ‘90s R&B hustle of ‘Coming Through’ alongside Evabee and [ K S R ], and Equiknoxx’s Shanique Marie lights up the head high bashment closer, ‘Give Thanks’, while Manchester legend Trigga voices the ruder bubble of ‘Swagger’, and Midlands don RTKal shares the mic with Poppy Roberts’ Lovescene on the romantic flex of ‘Feel It’. But perhaps our favourites are the low key burn of ‘Drama’ featuring near-ASMR levels of soulful chills from Thai-Chi Rose’s, or the exceedingly deft touch of ‘Like You Know’ with Dublin’s Gemma Dunleavy.
Since they started up in a sweaty basement in 2008, and nearly ended this writer’s days with a toppling speaker cab in a Chinese karaoke bar in 2009, Swing Ting have long held an admirable line between Manchester’s UK urban heritage and and up-to-the-second waves from Africa, the Caribbean, and the US in a way that’s entirely, humbly inclusive, not exclusive: a lesson that can be learned by too many new promoters who take, take, take and rarely give back as much as these guys.
A seriously deep and heavy mix of ’96-’98 techstep meticulously sequenced and blended by Logos to cover the key strain of D&B at its late ‘90s zenith.
Following Raime’s mission deep in the jungle on ‘If This Is A Dream I Don’t Ever Want Wake Up’ earlier this year, Logos shifts the ‘nuum-bar to ’96-’98 for 90 minutes of the tightest, nastiest techstep by key architects of the style which dominated the best UK raves around 20 years ago. This sound is a proper formative touchstone for us so the DJ had to be totally on it: Logos was a natural selection - we’ve heard him rinse this sound out before and it’s very clear to hear techstep is a strong influence on his productions - but even still, his mix has knocked it clean out of the warehouse.
From the era of computer virus to the age of corona virus, OG late ‘90s Techstep appeal has only gained with age like the best vintage, and Logos’ Reel Torque Vol. 19 is a masterclass in the style: perfectly pressure gauged and methodically laid out in a way that highlights how its unparalleled mix of High Black Secret Technology, rave art and autist engineering physics laid the template for so much technoid, syncopated UK body music in its wake; from El-B’s dark garage experiments to proto-dubstep, thru a whole wave of new D&B disciples and mutants such as Pessimist or AYA, to the rolling industrial tekkers of Regis, and on an international scale from T++ to Peder Mannerfelt, and the rollicking experiments of Slikback and 33EMYBW.
Trust this mix is the absolute lick, serving the choice cuts of this era with nano-tight mixing and pacing that properly does them justice placing them in ideal context primed for home raving workouts in lieu of a club or warehouse for the foreseeable.
Polish sisters Mentos Gulgendo channel a mix of Diamanda Galas and someone undergoing spirit possession during the Middle Ages, cocking a snook at more po-faced organ music with 6 tracks of absurd, nagging, devilish rhythms and piercing tones for Slip. Mad and v good this.
Using the Unitra Estrada 207 AR organ, which appears to be popular in, or at least native to, Poland, as well as their own voices the pair fit in well with the spectrum of neuro-diverse sounds found on Slip, the UK’s bastion and safe house for modern avant outliers.
To avoid confusion, which is likely with this one, the sisters state: “Mentos Gulgendo shares its name with a fictional philosopher and author of the “harmless lunatics” theory, which states our universe has been created by the representatives of the cosmic madhouse. The madhouse’s representatives used the finest and most subtle electromagnetic waves to weave a field of transcendental beauty penetrating the structure of each other. The field expanded, invading the solid structures of rationality and therefore transforming the traditional form of identity into a liquid, unsustainable fat.”
If we’re to make any sense of it for you, the music resembles the more psychotomimetic ends of Paul DeMarinis and Carl Stone, only slanted with a more penetrative, animystic power that may send you fleeing or loopy in ‘Gromokulis’, while the avant-operatic-folk miniature ‘Usoronka’ only intensifies matters, beside the alien morse chatter of ‘Gila’ and pickled pirouettes of ‘Bariszbatu’ in a way that you won’t find on 99.99% of the organ music in circulation right now.
Killer mixtape from 67’s DJ and UK drill don Bempah, supplying up-to-the-second selections for Felix Hall’s Chrome label following the label’s 7” reissue of Edison Electric’s hugely influential Acid Hall productions.
Repping for South London, Bempah is the DJ for UK drill pioneers 67, and his monthly NTS show Scary Things regularly ranks amongst the station’s most popular programmes. While UK drill first emerged in the mid ’10s as Albion’s offshoot of the Southside Chicago style coined by Chief Keef and Yung Chop at the start of the last decade, its London cousin has evolved into a closely related but distinct genre of its own in recent years. It’s the real sound of the roads, reclaiming the idea of “UK rap” from dodgy 8 Mile style ciphers and stodgy beats to a formula of razor sharp rhythms, glyding bass, and bars about gully life in London that (perhaps predictably) have parts of the mainstream UK media clutching their handbags in horror, while the wider music media have typically been caught napping on one of theee major movements of the last few years.
Bempah’s ‘Drill Mix Vol.1’ arrives in a long tradition of dialogue between US and UK rap, with the original American style now evolving in its UK translation with traces of grime and Afrobeats, leading its London-accented spin to be adopted by the likes of Pop Smoke (R.I.P.) and to lesser/greater extents Drake. Bempah’s exclusive picks and fluid mixing prove why he’s a crucial catalyst in the scene; sequencing both UK and US voices and toggling the pressure gauge from industrialized to spaced-out and paranoia, skulking vibes surely familiar to anyone who lives in UK inner cities, or the scene’s ever growing number of online observers. With drill already infiltrating the charts as major labels scramble to get a piece of the pie, trust this tape is full of the prime, uncut crud you won’t hear on commercial radio any time soon. Fair to say that UK drill could hardly be a more apt, unflinching soundtrack to the pure worries of modern life.
The time had come, Angel Olsen realized in the fading summer of 2018, to take her new songs out of the house. Olsen’s 2016 marvel, My Woman, had been a career breakthrough, but it catalyzed a period of personal tumult, too: a painful breakup, an uneasy recovery, an inadequate reckoning.
"At home in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, Olsen penned songs that finally grappled with these troubles, particularly love—how forever is too much to promise, how relationships can lock us into static versions of ourselves, how you can go through hell just to make someone else happy. These heartsore explorations shape Whole New Mess, Olsen’s first solo album since her 2012 debut and an emotional portrait so intimate and vulnerable you can hear her find meaning in these crises in real-time.
At least nine of the eleven songs on Whole New Mess should sound familiar to anyone who has heard All Mirrors, Olsen’s grand 2019 masterpiece that earned high honors on prestigious year-end lists and glossy spreads in stylish magazines. “Lark,” “Summer,” “Chance”—they are all here, at least in some skeletal form and with slightly different titles. But these are not the demos for All Mirrors. Instead, Whole New Mess is its own record with its own immovable mood, with Olsen working through her open wounds and raw nerves with just a few guitars and some microphones, isolated in a century-old church in the Pacific Northwest. If the lavish orchestral arrangements and cinematic scope of All Mirrors are the sound of Olsen preparing her scars for the wider world to see, Whole New Mess is the sound of her first figuring out their shape, making sense for herself of these injuries.
Considered alongside All Mirrors, Whole New Mess is a poignant and pointed reminder that songs are more than mere collections of words, chords, and even melodies. They are webs of moods and moments and ideas, qualities that can change from one month to the next and can say just as much as the perfect progression or an exquisite chord. In that sense, these 11 songs—solitary, frank, and unflinching examinations of what it’s like to love, lose, and survive—are entirely new. This is the sound of Angel Olsen, sorting through the kind of trouble we’ve all known, as if just for herself and whoever else needs it."
Laura Cannell makes a remarkable debut appearance as Hunteress with a suite of synth-pop, moonlit torchsongs and kosmische folk-pop chorales recorded at home in Suffolk, England, where she swapped her typical recorder and violin in favour of synths and vocals for a stunning, properly surprising entry to our Documenting Sound series. If yr feeling anything from Nite Jewel to Chromatics, Teresa Winter to Julia Holter, this one's for you.
Best known as a freely improvising instrumentalist, Laura’s work - both solo and in collaboration with everyone from Rhodri Davies to Mark Fell and Polly Wright - is a regular source of wonder to our ears. Her 2019 album with Polly Wright, ’Sing As The Crow Flies’ was one of that year’s most charming discoveries, introducing Laura’s vocals for the first time in a suite of duets that channelled lost and forgotten voices of women from Norfolk’s rural sprawl and historic marshlands. Now recording as Hunteress, Laura’s vocals really come into their own on ‘The Unshackling’, playing off and around a newfound electronic palette that uncompromisingly expresses her sense of the ancient and arcane in a plaintive yet life-affirming and present manner that’s key to her music’s unique appeal.
Inspired by her nascent singing exercises in an Essex church with her friend, journalist and broadcaster Jennifer Lucy Allan, and further galvanised by her experience working with Polly Wright, Laura’s voice blossoms in remarkable and unpredictable ways across the 10 songs of ‘The Unshackling’. As fate would have it, we catch Laura at a real turning point, taking our commission to document her thoughts and feelings as the cue to conjure a mix of quietly spellbinding slow synth dervishes and achingly raw, crepuscular hymns.
Interwoven with perfectly unpolished moments of panoramic beauty and a penetratively dark sense of mystery, the results are, we’re sure many of you will agree, pretty breathtaking - a rare source of heartfelt spiritual succour in these times.
Regis and Ann Margaret Hogan channel the weight of the world in a gorgeous and multi-layered salon suite made with electronics, Wurlitzer organ, shortwave radio signals, bells and Hogan’s baby grand Piano, recorded earlier this year for our Documenting Sound series.
The exquisite misery of ‘Reversing Into Tomorrow’ proceeds with quietly heart clutching keys, organ and bleary atmospheric ennui dialled in from Karl O’Connor and Annie Hogan’s respective homes in the Wirral and London. Regis, always a way with words, looks at this time period this way "I’m at my mom’s, drinking all day and on the Dole… it’s 1986 all over again”. It’s droll, but the music here is anything but - there’s an underlying hope to the wandering wistfulness and obtuse angles we're thrown into.
Worthy of both Karl and Annie's repertoire - having worked with everyone from Nick Cave and Marc Almond to Kraftwerk’s Wolfgang Four, Lydia Lunch and Deux Filles over a stellar 40 year arc - ‘Reversing Into Tomorrow’ witnesses Annie's Kawai baby grand, ‘60s Wurlwitzer organ, Glockenspiel and bells coalesce with the subtle presence of Karl’s grouchy and impending atmospheres. Unfurling at a conversational pace that’s prone to erupt with strong feelings, the pair keep the vibe skilfully tempered via a timeless choice of weaponry, which places their work in a sort of perpetual interzone of sozzled melancholy with a strong sense of the unreal.
Far reaching comp/collage/mixtape featuring over 100 minutes of previously unheard material from the extended Ecstatic family including Jay Glass Dubs, Dean Hurley, Abul Mogard, Maxwell Streling, The Head Technician aka Pye Corner Audio, Maria Spivak, Serpente, Not Waving and many others, including some unknown/anonymous contributions from the far side.
’Zero Is More Than Nothing’ was conceived by Ecstatic as a communal project to alleviate the looming depression triggered by events this year. In response to a request to make a tune in less than a week, his mates - and their mates - supplied a spectrum of haunting, restless, and heart-punching compositions that perhaps live up to the maxim that times of crisis precipitate vital art, resulting in a properly engrossing cross-section of emotional electronic music in the wide-reaching aesthetic that Ecstatic have made their own in recent years.
From Not Waving’s own cosmic synth thought bubbles to Lynch collaborator Dean Hurley’s ‘80s atmospheric builders, the Coil-esque chamber string arrangements of Maxwell Sterling and Ecstatic co-founder Sam Willis’ Primitive World, the compilation is mixed with seamless finesse in the style of a crafty story-telling, peaking the contrasts and mutual conclusions between myriad tales from the twilight zone.
Practically the whole label roster are involved, both offering material and roping pals into the fray, which explains the welcome appearances of Violeta Azevedo, Felisha Ledesma & Angelo Harmsworth, Functionário and Elle a.o., alongside regular aces such as Novo Line and Head Technician (Pye Corner Audio) up in it, with a murmurating energy swaying between introspective, astral-minded and by the end a more searing selection that gives way to ambient stasis in a knowing metaphor for our collective states of mind this year.
Feelings are empathetically high on this one.
Lynch protégé and Twin Peaks sound designer Dean Hurley coaxes an incredible puzzlebox of atmospheres and mood pieces in a killer contribution to our Documenting Sound series, perhaps its most cinematic and neon-lit instalment thus far. It sounds like a smudged and overdubbed copy of the BoC Maxima tape, with added iridescence.
Across almost 40 minutes we transition from aerosolised synths to romantic chromatics, thru to NWW-style severed rhythms and fading glimmers of hope, ‘Concrete Feather’ epitomises Hurley’s prized knack for nuanced instrumental story-telling in the finest and most engrossing style we could imagine. Against the backdrop of the Hollywood film industry that has primed us for as long as we can all remember, the music spans a panorama of lush, mirage-like choral pads and starry flickers thru to gloaming nightmare sequences and screwed drums, while touching on some of the dankest synth tones this side of his ‘Anthology Resource’ volumes or indeed his soundtrack work for Twin Peaks: The Return. It’s full of dread and a slowly unfolding sense of tragedy.
“Having a regular practice of recording is probably the single most important element to my craft. It’s a way of dropping indiscriminate mile markers while constantly moving forward in time without ability to pause. Over the years, working for David Lynch taught me a great deal about this and the concept and importance of experimentation. I’ve found myself clinging to those lessons during this time and using them as tools for both productivity and balance. His notion of experimentation is a simple one, yet incredibly profound. It was one of the very first words I heard him say during our initial meeting, and I never stopped hearing the term daily over the subsequent 13 years working together. An ‘experiment’ can provide a legitimate mental back-entrance into the act of creation. It can position an approach toward discovery as opposed to effort, and eliminate the thought that one needs to ‘will’ something into existence. It also aids in calming the judgmental side of a brain from stepping on/interfering with expression…after all, experiments are not about success or failure, they’re simply about learning. In the Lynch school of thought, multiple experiments then become firewood…and with firewood, one can not only build but actually sustain a fire…even turn it into a multiple-acre blaze or more.
The practice of daily experimentation really creates your own dictionary of sounds and ideas. In a sense you’re always documenting the time you’re moving through, so when you reach for raw material to make something larger, it’s deeply reflective of where you’ve been, what you’ve been through and who you are. Recorded sound to me is a lot like growth rings in a tree: it is residual moments in time etched onto a medium. As soon as that distinct moment has passed, it’s recording exists as a partial reflection to learn from. This current moment in time will be an interesting one to look back upon. For me, it has no doubt been this craft of practice that has provided the anchor.”
Dean Hurley, Spring 2020
Akira Rabelais revels in confusion and introspection through a bizarre, brilliant, hour-long transition from shredded rap to room recordings, spoken word and solemn ambient stasis, recorded at home in Chicago for our Documenting Sound series and throwing us through a hyperreal wormhole.
Rabelais’ Argeïphontes Lyre software (also used by Terre Thaemlitz, Biosphere and others) has long created an elevated sense of mystery to much of his work - from his incredible re-contextualisation of Hildegard von Bingen’s 12th century mysticism on Spellewauerynsherde, to a classic re-imagining of Harold Budd’s ‘Avalon Sutra’ commissioned by David Sylvian for his Samadhisound label back in 2004. For ‘Context In The Moment’, however, the mood is altogether more humid and slippery.
Initially erupting in fractal rash of grime, rap, club and soul cuts that sound like browser tabs bleeding into one, the mood soon settles into a more curious, cryptically unsettling vibe with wafts of piano drifting up from the street haze into an audiobook reading of Borges’ magic realist classic The Library of Babel intermingling with sounds wafting into Rabelais’ world; life, slowed down.
The b-side is an altogether different beast, throwing us into the Hollywood Hills, all under-the-surface tension and barely-there atmospherics in a simmering, Lynchian vein that could also be a Burial piece slowed 900% with its scattered, sleepy strings and dispossessed strums. The outside world ceases to exist, instead the gaze turns inwards; transfixed on stillness and the sudden flash of the unknown.
No doubt about it, 2020 has produced the strangest vintage.
The second volume of Kevin Martin's 'Frequencies for Leaving Earth’ series is a 10 track / 50 minute ascent into airless frequencies written for mellotron and sub bass and making repeated use of Shepard tones for an elevated sense of weightlessness and disorientation. The Tarkovsky references are even more apt for this one, highly recommended for Solaris/Stalker freaks as well as anyone into the music of Iancu Dumitrescu, Ligeti or Harry Bertoia’s sculptural Sonambience.
Martin’s credentials go far beyond his best known work as The Bug, his discography extends deep into myriad projects and collaborations that date as far back as the late 80’s, he’s been a player, a writer, a compiler and a vocal enthusiast for a vast array of genres and underground movements for as long as we can remember, and his intersection with what’s now lazily termed ‘Ambient’ dates at least as far as his work with Experimental Audio Research, on the mighty (and still, somehow, little known) 'The Köner Experiment’ in 1997.
'Frequencies for Leaving Earth Vol 2’ follows the pulsing, slo-mo pacing of the first with a more petrified formation, rendered in monochromatic shades that are austere and discomforting. Martin references Techno Animal’s ‘Re-entry’ as a direct antecedent, as well as his full length ’Sirens’ which was released on Lawrence English Room40 label last year - both in the vein of ambient detachment Martin is fast becoming known for, although for our money you can easily imagine Roger Robinson’s instantly recognisable drawl riding over 'Escape Velocity’, making us think of King Midas Sound’s peerlessly creepy ‘Solitude’.
Sean Canty and Andy Votel explore new territory within the realms of broken music, mechanical composition, spoken-word and noise collage with the help of multi disciplinary artist and longtime cohort Rick Myers, feeding Pre-Cert's gothic ambience into more unnerving corridors. We’re very here for it.
Myers is Votel's longest running collaborator (and co-author of his very first releases in the mid-90’s) and alongside Sean Canty the trio find a genuine and naturalistic plain to create some of the collective's most bizarre and beautiful installations yet. Devised fast and loose via cassette overdubs between Manchester and Massachusetts, and further expanding the syncopated vocal work found in Myers' very limited "Obstacle #69: Sentences In A Magnetic Field" from 2019, the two longform pieces that make-up this release are narrated by Myers in a way that sounds like a forlorn John Cooper Clarke riding some abstracted, unheard and unfathomable b-cinematic sound design.
Inspiring an ongoing practice of automatic non-musical sound composition while drawing long term influences from lesser known sound-art projects, such as Milan Grygar's Acoustic Drawings in Prague or Hungarian sound poet Katalin Ladik, and Swiss-German mainstay Dieter Roth, this first soundset reduces the trios reactions with dense and elongated results, piloting this ongoing series under the name HUMAN ENGINEERING. This limited cassette release, housed in artwork based on Myers personal work, proceeds an upcoming vinyl project under the same name, while providing a welcome addition to each members catalogue via Pre-Cert, Popular Mechanics, Demdike Stare, Cacophonic and Rick's own printed work for Primary Information in America, Neives in Zurich and his own Northampton MA based Editions Muta forgery.
Heavy as your life, Kevin Richard Martin yields some of his most potent atmospheric work this side of last year's crushing King Midas Sound album 'Solitude' with an immersive 3hr+ payload of ambient drone meditations on his Intercranial Recordings - the last 3 volumes in this series.
‘Frequencies for Leaving Earth’ have become a reliable source of doomy succour that arguably matched the mood of the times over these past 6 months, finding Kevin Richard Martin effectively conjuring the kind of skin-crawling but opiated ambience that made the King Midas Sound album ’Solitude’ a modern classic. In place of Robinson’s aching voice, Martin’s atmospheres poetically say it all without saying it; deploying his decades of studio-as-instrument expertise in a manner that touches on so many reference points - from BoC to Deathprod, Grouper and Thomas Köner - but infused with his own, enervated but resilient spirit.
With this bumper set of 3 x tapes spanning over 3hrs of music, Martin more than doubles the project’s output and allows ample room for sinking in/synching to the glowering tonal shifts of his take on ambient mood music. For long time followers of Martin’s work, it’s as close as you’ll come to the strung-out feel of his ’90 recordings, buy he here pushes the levels of barely-there sensuality to a sort of starkness and existential torpor that exceed anything in his catalogue.
It’s not all pure gloom, and the magick of Martin’s music lies in the way he can shift from sinking stomach feels to elusive glimmers of optimism, with each of the tape’s half hour sides playing out beautifully subtle tonal gradients that range from tracts of slow moving, shivering tones to more diaphanous noise topographies that each prove a master at work behind the controls.