Epic 100 minute full-spectrum sprawl from Parisian label Promesses with an all-exclusive tracklisting featuring a broad range of talented weirdos including Slikback, Bearcat, Clara!, Oï les Ox, Brodinski, DJ Elmoe, Ronce and many many more, panning from screwed shoegaze wooze to dayglo dancefloor styles and flipped jungle - trust it’s a lot.
Squaring up longtime label fam beside a ruck of new names, Promesses Vol.2 casts its net over the space between contemporary club music and its experimental peripheries, checking for influence from mutations of prevailing Afro-Latin energies as much as screwball hyper footwork-jungle-IDM, and shapeshifting styles that don’t have a name yet.
Aye there’s a lot to get thru, ranging from the super crafty, diffracted arps and metric fucckery of Oï les Ox on ‘La Maj’ and the icy ricochet of Ronce in ‘My Anger has Roots’, thru to ace spots of shoegaze by eydn, Belgian reggaeton fiend Clara! links with tera Octe on the squirmy bump of ‘Monstrous’ and label regular Apulati Bien can be relied upon for the slippery dembow minimalism of ‘Uso Chulo’ beside more up-for-it variant by Sassyggirl produced by Plvybxy. Slikback slays in duo with Sebastian Forrester on a sweltering congo tekno dancehall tip, and Elmoe chips in a proper vintage-sounding footwork gem in ‘O Mey’.
All over the place, and really f good.
Using an array of acoustic and electronic instruments alongside field recordings, Chantal Michelle conducts an anxious ensemble of sounds, inviting comparison to Lamin Fofana or Rachika Nayar.
Her third solo album, 'Broken to Echoes' is Chantal Michelle's attempt to show how beauty can exist even as reality itself seems to disintegrate. She figures this out by offsetting traditionally pretty elements like the soaring choral vocals on opening track 'Departure of Light' with more unsettling instrumentation. 'Breathing Water' appears to grow from feedback and white noise, and vocals from Eliana Glass here sit awkwardly in the empty space, joined eventually by doomy strings and cavernous reverb.
On 'Celestia', Chantal matches black metal-adjacent nursery rhyme synths with oscillating rainfall and distant woodwind blasts, playing up the album's theatricality. But she's keen not to let anything get too distracting - with any darkness there's usually light, and vice versa. 'Blue in Blue' is as refreshing as a fairy fountain in a Zelda game, and while 'Opening' is as dark as anything we've heard from Lustmord recently, the album's title track is comparatively sunny.
Last seen alongside Flora Yin-Wong on the ace "Doyenne 001", Susu Laroche joins the Accidental Meetings family for her sophomore album, using Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea Cycle to inspire her grim dabke abstractions.
French-Egyptian artist Susu Laroche isn't interested in making art that deals in half measures. Her last few releases have wrung out the artistic potential from Georgian monarchs, ancient poetry and 19th century occultists, and this one takes its cues from 'Earthsea', following the narrative of a shadow creature (or gebbeth) and the process of submission or resistance.
On 'Close to the Thing that Fled', Laroche's voice represents both the gebbeth and the soul, using a book of Persian poetry to inspire her lyrics, swirling like thick black smoke around her sludgy dabke-driven productions. Typically for an artist who's produced her own run of tarot cards, her music is hard to decode, veering from nursery rhyme darkness to rugged, bass-heavy rhythmic expression from track to track.
On 'Washing Touch Off' Laroche douses her voice in reverb, comig over like Trish Keenan blurred into a ritual chant that's slowly stripped away to reveal a beating kick drum and faint, choral traces. Dabke drums lead 'The Gebbeths Way' while simultaneously referencing Fever Ray, before Laroche's voice chants like a mystical Eartheater over haunted strings and compressed subs, looping into clouded, disintegrated bliss. Laroche somehow obscures orchestral motifs and squiggly electro elements with the pacing and structure of her songs; 'Find Out' might have been pop if it was handled even slightly differently, but her unsettled rhythms - think Shackleton or Tropic of Cancer - gift it such a high level of tension that it turns in on itself, coughing up a darkness that's almost uncomfortable to behold.
Strong, distinctive work.
Ecstatic’s renowned nose leads to Iraq-born, Tasmania-raised, Barcelona-based Dania and her elegant reflections on displaced cultural identity - following releases for the Geographic North and Superpang labels with a beautiful new set that comes highly recommended if yr into Saint Abdullah, Colleen, Flora Yin-Wong, Klara Lewis.
Born in Baghdad but raised in England and then Tasmania, Dania grew up surrounded by people who didn't look or talk like her. on ‘Foreign Body’ she focuses on this sense detachment from motherland, drawing from her work as an emergency doctor in rural Australia to suggest parallels between how an organism rejects a foreign body, and how a society often pushes out immigrants.
Recording straight to four-track tape in her home studio, Dania blends tape saturated field recordings and snippets of Iraqi musicians from the post-Gulf war era with vocal improvisations and cinematic strings to emphasise the harmonies and dissonances within her cultural symphony. 4-tracked vocal loops and tender modular synthesis are teased into layered scapes that impressionistically evoke Dania’s mindset, conjuring bucolic heart-in-mouth feels on ‘An Island’, and more vertiginous detachment thru the choral arrangement of ‘Adult Third Culture Kid’, while imposing more gnawed sensations thru the textured concrète field recordings and minor key motifs of the title tune.
The album’s most poignant and elusive point comes in the yearn of ’Sprinting Towards the Sun’, and the gauzy resolution of ‘Last Song’’s rumination on self thru the lens of decay and wistful detachment, evoking that liminal feeling of finding yourself in the space between. it's incredibly exposed material, and all the more moving for it.
Myriad tongues enchant from every corner and across the ages on a special one from Demdike Stare’s DDS label; the first in a series of vocal-only mixtapes reaped from 25+ years of record collecting by NYC’s Simon Gabriel of 2 Bridges fame.
Spanning seven continents, Only Voices Vol.1 speaks to its compiler’s personal research via a plurality of languages, accents, styles and patterns. Drawing on decades immured in NYC’s contemporary art scene, digging its book and record shops, and even running a few of them - Good Records and 2 Bridges - Simon Gabriel pits rarified knowledge at the service of a genuinely ear-opening and low-key life-affirming mixtape with acute appeal to the most insatiable listeners.
For 70 minutes he joins dots across far flung voices highlighting the beauty of distinctive vocal traditions and their analogs in art musics. Like previous DDS editions focussed purely on percussion, this one weaves a rhizomic meta-path from a nocturnal scene of spellbinding choral whorls via field recordings of the blues to utterly captivating spirituals that keep us all guessing at every transition.
Even an educated guess would leave us floundering for reference points, so it’s better to take this one on trust and a leap of faith that Only Voices lives up to its modest moniker to the fullest, tipped if yr into anything from Folkways to the Nonesuch Explorer Series, Sublime Frequencies and beyond.
A concréte approach to traditional Taiwanese folk music, flaying field recordings with imaginative electronic processes, laying down a remarkable psychedelic narrative in the process.
Hailing from Taipai and now based in Berlin, Sabiwa released two albums before landing on 'No.16 - Memories of Future Landscapes', a dizzying collection of sculpted field recordings, asymmetric rhythms and unusual vocals. A self-styled audio-visual artist who's written extensively for film and TV, Sabiwa takes Taiwanese folk music as a primary influence, processing her voice alongside awkward environmental sounds to harmonise with music from the Thau, Bunun and Atayal peoples of Taiwan. On the relatively brief opening track, she smears her voice over epic synth pads and corrupted bells, while on the lengthy 'Dog Smells Your Future', she shows more of a recognisable connection to Taiwan.
On 'Christal', she juxtaposes droning Taiwanese traditional sounds with pinprick rhythms that sound like cracking ice - as the piece develops, the rhythms become more frenetic and distorted, throbbing into a wall of serrated sound that almost mutates into searing feedback. 'Hermaphrodite' finishes off the album, splicing Sabiwa's voice into chiming syllables and welding it to dissociated electronics and unsteady deep listening drones.
Good stuff, highly recommended for anyone into the Discrepant catalog, or Lieven Martens' Edições Cn label.
jaaaa soul boy steez from MJB on his first drop of ’23, teasing an hour of frayed late night vibes on the line between Gescom edits and subaquatic Actress funk...
After flashing unreleased tackle in Manchester and Glasgow in recent times, Michael J. Blood leads on from his acclaimed debut album ‘As Is’, and a clutch of Rat Heart & Sockethead jams, with another off-the-cuff salvo cut from his bag of studio tapes. It’s less frazzled than his ‘Blood FM’ tapes, and follows a smokier line of nocturnal thought along the keys and thru the SP-404 with the groggiest late night logic. Trust, as always, that it's a ride, servicing afterparty soirées and wake ’n bakes with the special stuff.
His A-side opens with stuttering smoke-belch dubbing that congeals into something like Post’s MASK400 edit of Grace Jones, fraying into Seekersinternational-style sampledelia, bubbling up with early SND chords and rimshot tickles, then slipping under the groove with Claude Young like filtering, and spitting out fish-scaled electrofunk at the other end of the wormhole. For the B-side he eases on a leaner Drexciyan electrodub flex glazed with hydroplaning chords and into hair-kissing jazz-chops and the sort of broken beats circa classique Plastic People.
Mickey J. Blood rules...
Low End Activist’s BRUK host the atom-splitting machine funk of Julia Häller’s Chewlie on a curious and substantial EP showcase tipped to fans of FFT, Basic Rhythm, LCY
Chasing her 2022 introduction on Czech Republic’s Yuku (home to Current Value), Chewlie investigates fine fissures of contemporary beat science à la label mates FFT or Siete Catorce, and the kind of insectoid rhythmic suss and sound design found on aya productions. The ‘Diagon’ EP makes a strong impression thru a combination of obsessive nano-rhythmic detailing and macro-scale dubbing that just about keeps her tightly coiled springs and things in place and easy on the ear.
Initiating with Matrix-levels of cyber-dub futurism in the vaporous-to-glitchy designs of ‘Gas Out Step’ she keeps attention rapt with the reticulated trip hop swagger of ‘Red Ned OK?’ and recalls the most autist levels of Basic Rhythm in the clipped half stepper ‘Drums for Elom’, while ‘Lure’ hints at a playful grasp of the eyrie akin to Moon Wiring Club, and ‘Flood Me’ feels like LCY’s fast-fwd funk gone jazz-blues, next to Dopplereffekt-like choral arrangements and synth physics in ‘Sore’. Impressive.
Whew!!! 333 wheel out the big guns with a 1st vinyl reissue of Horace Ferguson’s red-eyed 1987 digi dub killer, which understandably trades 2nd hand for big bucks due its laid-back, spangled splendour. 100% crucial
“Produced & arranged by the late great Jazzbo (and issued here under license from the foundation deejay & producer's family) the Sensi Addict LP pulls together a selection of vocals recorded between 1984 & 1987 at Michael Carroll's Creative Sounds studio in Kingston, recorded by engineer (and singer & producer in his own right) Paul Davidson. Horace's infectious falsetto can be found riding a collection of Jazzbo's digital rhythms - from the inspired Replay version on 'Jah Order', to the updated take on the foundational Sleng Teng rhythm track on 'Tranquilizer' - representing some of the most forward-thinking production of the period outside of Jammys and King Tubby's Firehouse stables.
The bulk of these rhythm tracks were performed by revered multi-instrumentalist Tyrone Downie (a long-time member of Bob Marley & The Wailers since the mid 70s, who sadly passed last November) alongside Tony "Asher" Brissett - another massively undersung session musician perhaps most notable for laying down the initial Sleng Teng rhythm track for Jammys in 1984. Also on display here are a couple of choice early 80s rhythms, recorded for Jazzbo by Errol "Flabba" Holt's legendary Roots Radics backing band. All of this comes paired with sympathetically reproduced artwork - featuring images of Horace by photographer and reggae documentarian, Beth "Kingston" Lesser.”
Pillar of the Parisian scene, Emma DJ presents a second album/mixtape for Lee Gamble’s UIQ label, a 28-track reading of Tik Tok-ready rap featuring a brace of naif melodies embellished with emosh autotune and starring Rainy Miller, Shyweek, Simo Cell, Tmongo, Torus, Yves Ciroc, Cambyse, Cxoxc, Elliotrdv, Eugène Blove, Low Jack, Nonoekichii and more.
Back in rap mode after a bout of industrialised grime with L.I.E.S., the prolific producer doubles down on the ‘Godrime’ mixtape for UIQ with a new 72 minute set of acrid, syrupy wooze and strung-out emoting carried by puckered hooks and abundance of gobs on each cut. It’s the sound of smoked-out Parisian bedrooms and backseats, smudging the face of mimetic pop-rap into subtly distorted gurns with a contemporariness reflecting mutant rap’s modern hyper-reality.
Like its predecessor, it avoids the concréte clatter of Emma DJ's L.I.E.S. material and instead focuses on airy, inebriated radio trap - the kind of dilated post-sample culture synthetika that lashes Drain Gang with Lil Uzi Vert and Metro Boomin with PNL. Glued together haphazardly but sculpturally, the tape sounds like a heavily stepped-on snowball of the last decade of post-DatPiff iPhone rap, all emosh supersaws, clipped chop snares and downcast AutoTurnt mumbles. Emma DJ holds it together because he balances a passion for the spidery tendrils of localised rap with a robust connection to the Parisian scene; each additional voice helps him assemble a pixelated picture of inebriated DIY shows, low-NRG afters' and stagger'd walks home thru neon-lit Parisian side streets.
Tracks don't so much stand out as morph and heave, spiralling between familiarity and nescience. At any moment you might be time traveling to an EDM-rap roadbump, or to the cloud rap era that launched A$AP Rocky and Playboi Carti on one side of the Atlantic and Yung Lean and his acolytes on the other. For his part, Emma DJ doesn't seem interested in repeating so much as using this language to help tell a story that's decidedly current. He's sentimental about the sound, that much is clear, but it doesn't stop him from putting his own spin on it. 'SZYGI' is paper-thin and awkwardly psychedelic, like PNL through a broken Bluetooth speaker, while 'HRTBRK' is chipmunked sad croons, 'Marvin's Room' dialtone romance and epic, low-n-slow synth drama. 'JCOMPTE BLOOD' is more knotty, sculpting the vocal into a telecommed buzz and letting it surf on oscillating sine waves and a suggestive rhythm that's half East Coast club and half Chain Reaction dub vapor; meandering nursery rhyme 'QTDTB' meanwhile sounds like a laptop dying while it scrubs through a directory of IDM-cum-foley rave stems.
If you're into anything from Arca and Bladee to OPN, Slug Christ and Crystallmess, this one is v much for you.
Isabassi goes on like Brazil’s answer to 33EMYBW with a a debut album of insectoid rhythms and mutated traditions on the label helmed by FFT.
“‘Speaking Things’, the new album from Isabassi, is a collection of highly detailed industrial music examining her singular perspective on rhythm and texture. Through brittle percussion, supernatural atmospheres and astonishing bass power, the Brazilian composer and artist explores a conversational narrative on the first full length Super Hexagon release.”
YOUTH catch sculptor/painter/DIY free spirit Sockethead in scuzziest form, spanking his synths, drum machines & vox into the nuttiest freestyle session; a feral stream-of-consciousness that comes highly recommended if yr into owt from Michael J Blood to Madteo to Actress.
Delivered off-the-cuff in possessed hollers lathered in FX, ‘Auma’ is as close as you’ll get to the heart of Sockethead’s sound in its element. Sharing a mutual, blitzed soul spirit with his bredders Michael J. Blood and Tom “Rat Heart” Boogz, the proceedings often draw outside the lines, spieled with a proper mashed flow that’s a pleasure to follow if u skew to the left of centre: think Madteo meets Ossia at Urban Tribe’s gaff and you’re in the right echo chamber.
Blowing between hip-shot lazer dub chords, krooked Detroit beatdown and mazy reverbs, Sockethead toggles the pressure on and off the bad/good foot into doom-stepper momentum and frazzled drum machine blatz with a radgy flow that speaks to all angles of his influences, absorbed from years as a NQ rat and patron of Manni’s most enduring club nights. If u were feeling his standout ‘Harj-o-Marj’ album or his hookup with Rat Heart’s BodyTronixxx, this one will push yr buttons.
Aye, it’s a madness.
Stunning hour-long soundtrack from Regis and Anni Hogan; a suite of gentle, highly evocative nocturnes that weave and wind through wonderful melodic episodes and glistening atmospherics, landing somewhere between shoegaze bliss and melancholy romance.
Anni Hogan and Regis have collaborated many times before - most notably on the ‘Reversing Into Tomorrow’ tape for our Documenting Sound series, and on Regis’ ‘Hidden in This is the Light That You Miss’ album last year. This score for ‘Hospital For Beasts’ (shot by director Andreas Kiriakou, and acclaimed cinematographer Antonis Kounellas) is on another level entirely from anything we’ve heard from the duo before though. Featuring sounds collected by Karl O’Connor then arranged into original compositions by Hogan, the music here plays out like a fever-dream; every time you think you catch a glimpse of something tangible, it all turns to vapour, blurred into the sublime.
Of course, Hogan brings over 40 years of experience playing piano and synths for legendary new wave, goth and industrial bands including Marc Almond, Deux Filles, Nick Cave, Jacques Brel, and Barry Adamson, to name just some, so when factored into the romantic gloom of Regis’ blossoming post-techno phase, the elements swirl into something multi-dimensional and new. While we’ve enjoyed everything we’ve heard from the pair so far, they hit on something that’s more fully realised here, producing almost an hour of music that’s in places almost unbearably moving; a flourish of evocative vignettes, a thorny bouquet of keys, heatsick strings, flute and spectral electronics spun out by an encroaching industrial thrum that’s always lurking.
Moving between daylight, dusk, and nocturnal moods, the soundtrack is largely shorn of percussion and tendered by Annie’s classically expressive keys. Imprinted with the tonalities of traditional strings and head-less choral arrangements that hint at ancient Greek musics, the whole thing is set around reverberating room/field recordings, with Anni’s voice echoing through like pretty much nothing we’ve heard before. We’ve literally no idea what the film is about, but trust when we tell you we’ve been in tears just listening.
Ooooosh! Basic Rhythm answers his TTT call-up with 90 minutes of hard-nosed, tensile, minimal D&B/halfstep beat science pulled from his own archive and records by his London crew.
Anthoney J. Hart aka Basic Rhythm hails from London’s Essex borders, where he had a residency playing jungle on Rude FM in the 90’s. In the past decade he’s been intent on reconciling his roots with contemporary production styles and purposes, resulting in the Basic Rhythm project in parallel with his vocal-led East Man output and cranky missiles as Imaginary Forces. ‘Straight From The Bedroom’ arrives in pursuit of his hot shot 12” with Tim Reaper and Sully to stake his territory in up-to-the-second, razor-cut D&B.
For 90 thrilling minutes he racks up a ruthless selection with a severe darkside hunger that genuinely feels like the shadowy spirits of ’93 hardcore, late ‘90s tech-step and gnashing early ‘00s neuro tackle chiselled and screwed for a 2023 crowd who are practically champing at the bit for this kind of uncompromising steez. If you ask us, it’s one of the fiercest sessions of this stuff since Logos’ Reel Torque 19 tape, keener on the cutting-edge halfstep modernism with it. If you’re playing while driving, prepare to add some points to your license - it’s that sort of energy.
The third installment of Light in the Attic’s Pacific Breeze series.
"Pacific Breeze... has supplied the world’s growing legions of Japanese music fans with an expertly curated selection of the most sought-after City Pop recordings—the mesmerizing and nebulous genre of Japanese bubble-era music of the ‘70s-’80s that encompasses AOR, R&B, jazz fusion, funk, boogie and disco. These familiar sounds are spun through the unique lens of optimistic, cosmopolitan fantasy colored by Japan’s affluence at the time. Much of the music has previously been nearly impossible to acquire outside of Japan and continues to captivate listeners with its unique blend of groove-laden escapism, even birthing wholly new genres such as Vaporwave.
Pacific Breeze 3: Japanese City Pop, AOR & Boogie 1975-1987 marks the latest chapter in the famed series and features holy grails plus under-the-radar rarities. The collection bursts at the seams to reveal some of the greatest Japanese tracks ever laid to tape, pushing towards the edge of City Pop to reveal glimmers of the next waves of styles to spring forth from the country’s creative minds. The appearance of Pizzicato Five hint at the emergence of Shibuya-kei while the influence of hip hop and electro as an emerging global trend are also evident here through the prevalence of heavier programmed drum beats on tracks such as “Heartbeat” by Miho Fujiwara.
This volume of Pacific Breeze, like its predecessors, is a female-forward offering with many tracks being voiced by women who would become household names in Japan as actresses and pop idols. Their songs here subvert the norm and brim with an innovative spirit that shatters gender roles in favor of sonic transcendence. Techno-pop classics from Susan, Miharu Koshi and Chiemi Manabe sit alongside sublime funk from Atsuko Nina and Naomi Akimoto while Teresa Noda slides into the mix with a sultry reggae jam. The genre span is stretched wider with hypnotic jazz fusion by Parachute and Hiroyuki Namba, a synthesizer fantasy from Osamu Shoji, and magnetic pop by Makoto Matsushita and Chu Kosaka.
Although not front and center, the visionary members of Yellow Magic Orchestra are still very present on Pacific Breeze 3, with Haruomi Hosono, Ryuichi Sakamoto, and Yukihiro Takahashi taking up producer and musician roles on many of these tracks. Pacific Breeze 3 serves up a captivating musical journey that adds an essential chapter to the iconic compilation series."
Heavy-duty Indian soundsystem carnage by its leading proponent DJ Smiley Bobby, on Uganda’s immense NNT - unmissable for anyone wowed by recent videos of Indian sound clashes, priming the label for incoming heat by DJ TSR.
A proper mazza from Maharashtra State in Western India, DJ Smiley Bobby’s ‘Dhol Tasha Drum Exercises’ presents nearly an hour of up-to-the-second, electronic re-interpretations of ceremonial drums. It’s a full-frontal example of the rave energies in BRIC countries currently catching fire internationally, paralleling innovative mutations of Baile funk in Brazil or from the Svbkvlt lot in China with a ruthlessly rough brand of dancefloor discipline that sharply bends tradition into the hot present. Yr ears will not deceive you - DJ Smiley Bobby’s gear is frankly some of the sickest we’ve heard in a minute and we expect this introduction to be prized by any ravers unsatisfied with Western club music’s increasing tendencies to imitate-not-innovate.
First formed by the late Shri Appasaheb Pendse in the ‘60s, Dhol Tasha Drum exercises were originally performed on a sort of acoustic kettle drum but became electronically adapted in recent years thanks to the likes of DJ Smiley Bobby and peers including DJ Aasif, DJ Ammy, and DJ TSR, the latter of whom is due to drop an album with NNT this year. DJ Smiley Bobby’s introductory session finds the sound at its stripped down and breathless best with a ceaseless battery of drums and percussive madness that truly puts willing bodies thru their paces as the mixtape steps from side A’s 90-110bpm workout to its 150bpm ‘Hard Drum Sound System’ on the flip.
Also kinda mirroring the way DJ Plead has flipped Arabic drum styles, how Bilou XIV have transposed Senegalese mbalax drum patterns onto machine grids, or DJ Diaki’s Malian balani knee-ups, we’re certain this one will light up the pleasure centres of proper dancers everywhere, and dovetail with the sort of thing Beatrice Dillon makes, or anyone who’s been scouting zones where Indian bhangra and UK rave music bump fists, a la Mick St. Clair’s remixes of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.
Cosmopolitan pop from 1920-50s Shanghai, spotlighting a cross-fertilisation of east/west pop and cinema music during a golden age, before it was outlawed by the CCP.
“Shidaiqu literally means “songs of the era”, a term used to describe a hybrid musical genre that first began permeating through the cosmopolitan city of Shanghai in the late 1920s. Blending western pop, jazz, blues and Hollywood-inspired film soundtracks with traditional Chinese elements, the shidaiqu represented a musical and cultural merging that would go on to shape a golden age of Chinese popular song & film in the pre-communism interwar period.
Waiting for Your Return brings together a wide collection of recordings for an anthological overview of the style. Taking in it’s early beginnings in the work of the pioneering composer Li Jinhui – whose 1927 song “Drizzle”, featuring the vocals of his daughter Li Minghui, is often referred to as the first shidaiqu record – through to more polished 1930s & 40s examples, when China’s western-influenced popular music & movie industry reached it’s golden age with the prevalence of the Seven Great Singing Stars (Bai Hong, Bai Guang, Gong Qiuxia, Li Xianglan, Wu Yingyin, Yao Lee and perhaps most prolific of all, Zhou Xuan).
Included in the collection are tracks recorded right up until the music’s demise in Shanghai in the early 1950s – during which time the Chinese Communist Party denounced shidaiqu as “yellow music”, outlawed nightclubs and pop music production, and destroyed western-style instruments – following which, much of these singers would decamp to Hong Kong where many saw further success throughout the 1950s and into the 1960s.”
Deerhoof do their genre-oblivious thing with renewed alacrity and freedom signified by Satomi taking the opportunity to sing entirely in her Japanese mother tongue.
Riddled with hooks and verve that can’t help but raise a massive grin on longtime followers or newcomers alike, ‘Miracle-Level’ is their latest in a fruitful relationship with the fittingly titled Joyful Noise Recordings, placing 30 years of honing thee tightest, most unpredictable chops at the service of a joyride between angular skronk and more tender, jazzy moments of indie-pop whimsy.
Perhaps an acquired taste for some (hands up here), once bitten by their grasp of nerve jangle discord and puckered, bittersweet melodies it’s hard not to be charmed by their conviction and vigour in shattering generic forms. On their 19th studio album, recorded by Mike Bradavski at No Fun Studio in Winnipeg, Manitoba, they patently entertain themselves as much as their listeners as each song hops between frameworks and feels with a preternatural dexterity that never comes off as showy or virtuoso.
The ecstatic, hacking guitars and drum kit bustle of ‘Sit Down, Let Me Tell You a Story’ nods to Afrobeat via talking Heads and anime soundtracks, beside a sort of psych-blues sugared by Satomi’s vox, and ‘Poignant Melody’ does just that on one of the album’s more hushed highlights, along with the brushed downstroke of its title piece, and the Brazilian-Japanese lilt to ‘The Little Maker’, and ‘Wedding, March, Flower’, that make a fine contrast with the rowdier shape of ‘And The Moon Laughs’ or the motorik mathiness to ‘Momentary Art of Soul’.
35th anniversary reissue of Rudimentary Peni’s 2nd album of punk snot and spunk, conceptually indebted to H.P. Lovecraft
Rather than repeating the revved-up gothic deathrock styles of their legendary debut ‘Death Church’ (1983), Rudimentary Peni took another five years before they came out with 1988’s ‘Cacophony’, whose 34 tracks paid homage to the life and foundational horror aesthetics of Lovecraft - no doubt a huge influence also on the artwork of RP’s Nick Blinko.
The results are still as short, sharp and fierce as their predecessor album, but also weirder and more narrative-based, with Blinko switching between possessed snarl and spoken word as the music fulminates gothic horrors of pranging, gurning, distorted guitars and pummelling drums next to stranger detours into dirgey gothic prayer on ‘Beyond the Tanarian Hills’ and the manic gibber of ‘American Anglophile in the World Turned Upside-Down’.
Lukid & Tapes aka Rezzett’s sick 2018 début album lands on cassette years after the vinyl edition sold out.
In possession of a sound that we described at the time as something like exotic birds nesting a space echo inside your ear, Rezzett, along with the likes of Jamal Moss, Actress, Terekke and Huerco S. were responsible for re-balancing the fidelity of dance music in the 2010’s, with radical insight over just how much scuzz and fuzz u needed in the dance.
Using various processes of attrition, they made a virtue of purposefully muddy vibes and steered clear of anything like proper resolution, embracing the infidelities of analog hardware noise for a sort of shabby chic appeal that 5 years on sounds prescient and normalised.
Rezzett essentially came to define that sound at its murkiest and most romantic, pulling from jungle, garage and ambient noise paradigms to forge something viscerally affective and memorably their own, as experienced between the mottled VHS memory-bank shakes of Hala, in the squirming, sore but lush Sexzzy Creep, and the salty angels tears of Yunus in Ekstasi, with the rusty grime and jungle shanks of Gremlinz and Worst Ever Contender lending a cranky, rinsed out finale.
DJ 0.000001 runs stacks of unreleased Shangaan missiles in a heat-seeking throwdown for leaders of the African new school, Nyege Nyege Tapes.
Giving us flashbacks to the heat of Honest Jon’s legendary 2010 compilation and its corresponding tours feat Shangaan disco dynamo Nozinja and dancers from Limpopo, DJ 0.000001’s mixtape hustles x-amount of exclusives that harness the sound’s galloping 180BPM energy in myriad mutations made between 2015-2022.
With energetic parallels in Tanzanian singeli and the Balani mix style of Mali’s DJ Diaki, Shangaan Electro is the incendiary and up-for-it party sound of Limpopo, a region of South Africa whose sound famously sped up over the decades to its breakneck current iteration, demanding ever more intricate and spellbinding footwork from its dancers. DJ 0.000001’s summary of Shangaan thru its remixes forms a party-ready rush spanning what sounds like Rian Treanor galvanising the sound with insectoid algorithms, to the adaption of RP Boo’s frenetic Chicago footwork, and punkish spins from the fringes of Nyege Nyege Tapes’ swelling number.
Alvars Orkester was formed in 1987 in Johannishus, a small village in the south-east of Sweden by a group of young boys interested in the mysteries of psychic sickness, mental institutions, industrial music culture and the power of sound.
"For the first very creative years, Alvars was very active within the independent cassette culture scene releasing their stuff (that quite soon drifted from the industrialism inspired by Test Dept, TG, SPK and z'ev to an atmospheric, psychedelic and quite ambient version of noise) on small labels in Italy, Portugal, USA etc.
Joachim Nordwall writes: "1990-1991. In the middle of all teen confusion going on, me and Zwarre had a long creative time together. Recording every weekend, connecting with like-minded (or at least we thought so) people around the world and trading tapes with whoever. Our world was analogue synths, Party Zone late Friday nights on MTV, zines and out-there experimental music. By then, we had a few tapes out and had "Nobody Finds Nothing" being released on the Italian super-label (in our opinion) Biotope Art Organization. We were in the midst of something and recorded "Nuthull" for another Italian top level label called Old Europa Café. However, they did not like it and the tape was abandoned and forgotten. Then years and years later, close to present time, Zwarre was in touch with OEC for some reason and had the master returned." - Joachim Nordwall, Gothenburg, 21 February 2023. "
Anonymous Sextet For Perverted Piano by Ben Glas, an experiential composer based in Berlin.
"Through ephemeral compositions Glas' work questions preconceived notions between the acts of passive hearing and active listening. In seeking to discover open ended forms of music and pragmatic listening perspectives, Glas' compositions focus on the realms of subjective perception and cognition, via the use of acoustics, psychoacoustics and space as tools for sonic composition.
Ben Glas writes… "Anonymous Sextet for Perverted Piano is a conceptual performance piece that combines a traditional grand piano, six long-distance remote controlled vaginal/anal vibrators and the prolonged use of the piano's sustainer pedal.
The six vibrators were strategically (and preparedly) placed atop of the strings of a various grand pianos (and one harpsichord), while random strangers around the globe connected to and operated the sex toys remotely. After the random and unwitting performers had befriended and synced-up with a catfishing account linked to the six individual vibrators and controlled by three different smartphones, they then sent vibrational patterns and pulses to stimulate their assumed target. The then-kinetic vibrators bounced, slid and bopped aleatorically through the tonal possibilities that the piano and piano's soundboard itself permits. The piano's sustain pedal was held down throughout the performance, elongating the triggered notes and the good vibrations.
All tracks on side A are performed by those unwitting performers, while side B's single track was performed with (more than) a little help from my friends (Anonymous (1), Genesis Victoria, Harry Hudson-Taylor and Hayden Dean)." – Ben Glas, Berlin, 16 February 2023."
Recorded in late 2021 and early 2022, Cryptic Lexis features two long-form pieces connected by field recordings made in The Shetland Islands in 2019.
"The wind through a gate on a Bressay hillside is mixed with cascading guitars and minimal electronic percussion on "Confetti for the Flames" and recordings of Bains Beach form the backdrop of "Out on the Coast the Spirits Are". Paris based artist Graziella Torrigiani contributes words and voice to the latter, her text a direct response to the instrumental track."
A New Directive From The Bureau Of Compulsory Entertainment from contemporary Irish guitarist Jonny Dillon.
"Jonny Dillon’s debut acoustic LP ‘Songs For A One-String Guitar’ took the listening public by surprise and the critics by storm when it dropped out of the blue on All-City in 2019. It represented a departure for an artist who was renowned for having the Midas touch when it came to coaxing dance floor fire from all manner of hardware. But fortune favours the brave and temporarily setting the machinery aside and following an acoustic path to the waterfall has already reaped rich rewards for Jonny Dillon.
Just like the debut offering, this a path inherently worth following too, every step of the way. This time Jonny’s singular playing style finds true expression in a sound world expertly shaped by a master of the production craft, John ’Spud’ Murphy in Hellfire Studio. Masters at work, times two. Like all dream productions, it quickly assumes three dimensional proportions and becomes a place to go in and of itself, worth returning and retreating to, time and again.
On A New Directive From The Bureau of Compulsory Entertaintment, his mode of expression is as clear and impactful as the immediate impression the sound makes on us. His is a strong game. He rises to the occasion and fulfils a great need on our part in so doing. We have to give thanks where it’s due. Balms for the soul are hardly two-a-penny in these challenging times but this is a timely one and of a lasting kind too. In stripping everything back and breaking his sound down into the bare component parts of reverberating steel strings on resonant wood, he has tapped into a kind of universal music of the spheres. It’s in tune with the times and more. Big picture sound with heart and soul to match. The iridescent sound he conjures from that same deep is a joyous thing to behold imbued as it is with a kind of light that never goes out. A dozen jewels adorn this timeless creation, each one a glimpse of eternity."
Billed as "the definitive Unknown Mortal Orchestra record", 'V' combines AOR and Hawaiian Hapa-haole music, strangling the songs with up-to-the-minute indie rock production techniques.
Inspired by Hieronymus Bosch, disco, Captain Cook, drone metal and pop, Ruban Nielson has plenty to say on his fifth UMO record. So much in fact that it's a double album that takes Nielson's unmistakable production style to its logical conclusion. If the band's combo of vintage mic/FM transmitter vocals and redlined instrumentation has helped define an era of indie rock, 'V' pushes everything the Kiwi band stands for to its limit, sculpting their songs into crumbly remnants of a soon-to-be distant aesthetic. For the moment, it's still novel and serves the band well, elevating their quirky songs in the same way a film camera might boost the emotional resonance of a set of holiday pics.
Opening track 'The Garden' is based on Bosch's 'Garden of Earthly Delights' but isn't nearly as horrific as that might sound. Nielson's vocals are squashed into a helium shriek, accompanied by Marr-like riffs and drums that'd be lo-fi except for the fact that it's obvious they've been thru numerous processes to sound so rickety. But the sound Nielson is able to approach is quite marvelous, mimicking vintage US AOR while simultaneously critiquing its excesses by leaning on distortion, saturation and compression. 'Meshuggah' is another highlight, sounding like Michael Jackson (or Michael McDonald?) dubbed to a rotting cassette tape. It's a lengthy album, but packed to the gills with purposefully grotty, perfectly manicured pleasures.
Right on the sweetspot between lovers, rub-a-dub, and early digi pressure, Robert Ffrench’s 1985 dancehall holy grail becomes the 2nd drop on Death is not the End’s reggae reissue label, 333 following a new edition of Devon Russell’s ‘Darker Than Blue’.
“Pioneering artist and producer (and cousin of the late, great Pat Kelly) Robert Ffrench was born in central Kingston in 1962, recording his first records in 1979 at the age of 17. Coming out off the back of a slew of roots & early dancehall-style 45s cut with a wide range of producers thoughout the early '80s, the Wondering LP's release followed closely after two acclaimed LP sets ('Showcase' produced with Lord Koos & 'The Favourite' for Ossie Thomas' Black Solidarity label - plus a split showcase LP with Anthony "Gunshot" Johnson for Jah Thomas' Midnight Rock label).
Ffrench would write and produce the Wondering LP himself in it's entirity, laying down the tracks at Herman Chin-Loy's Aquarius & Michael Carroll's Creative Sounds studios with the help of engineer Christopher Daley. Representing the sound of an artist first confidently striking out on their own, the album elegantly mixes a classic rub-a-dub & lovers rock-inspired sound with nascent digi-esque flourishes. It boasts an enviable list of contributors too, incl. Sly & Robbie, Dwight Pinkney, Robbie Lyn, Nelson Miller (Burning Spear) and Ronald "Nambo" Robinson among others, with Beres Hammond also providing backing vocals in places.
Following the release of Wondering, Ffrench would continue to write and produce, soon after releasing two further self-produced LPs for Edgar White's Parish label - and founded his own 'France' label in the late 80s, through which his productions would start to hit big, most notably alongside Courtney Melody on 'Modern Girl', and with US rapper Heavy D on the track 'More Love'. Robert's productions released through later label 'Ffrench' would go on to boast the cream of the crop of dancehall artists throughout the 90s and early 2000s, and he is often credited with discovering Buju Banton (producing his first single "Ruler" on the Stamina riddim). Ffrench is still actively producing music of his own to this day.”
Taut jazz-techno improv from London’s experimental underbelly, teasing apart and resolving in real-time the strictures of conventional style and pattern.
“теплота is the London-based duo of Grundik Kasyansky & Tom Wheatley. Their work interrogates the haptic, social and liberating relationships with technologies old and new; using feedback synthesizer and computer-acoustic bass, they fuse a spontaneous interplay orthogonally over cyclical structures, with techno as perpetual fulcrum.
Following their debut HEAT/WORK on Cafe Oto’s TakuRoku label and the monthly ЭС research series, Skynned land on Accidental Meetings. Half techno, half free jazz, the music is both hypnotic and open-ended, relentless and ephemeral.”
Sick death metal mixtape mayhem from cult duo Scheich In China for the reliably uncompromising V I S label - a must if you clocked that DKR pearl for The Trilogy Tapes, the $hotta Hardcore session, or just for anyone attuned to the meditative wonder of music at the extremities.
As you might have clocked from Scheich In China’s logo or the intense gnarr of their music, death and black metal is a key touchstone for Alsen Rau and Philipp Meiers’ duo. On ‘Death Mix’ they explore that influence in-depth across 90 minutes of white-out blizzard axe work and hell-for-leather vocals that are making the flu throat wince right now.
Perhaps it's a symptom of growing up with replays of a strobed-out roadhouse or maybe it's the counter-intuitive link between relentless metal riffage and meditative drone - but we find this shit healing / life affirming to the extreme - an acceleration of energy that in our mind at least blurs into an almost Raga-like singularity that makes us feel zoned out and v alive. You still with us? get this tape, it’s the shit.
Properly absorbing electronic enigmas from Zaheer Gulamhusein (Xvarr, Waswaas) and Justin Tripp (Georgia), following their noses down the rabbit hole into aether-chamber interzones adjacent to Coil, Conrad Schnitzler, Werkbund, and Jeff Mills’ deep space missions.
A strong case of two artists transcending the sum of their parts, String present an immersive exploration of the unknown, realising a “virtual vacation” from which they never returned. Their quest somehow made it into the mitts of Hamburg’s V I S, where it follows the label’s Ditterich von Eulberg-Donnersberg (Werkbund) album with uniquely engaging findings from the brink; eight tracks rendered in swirling sci-fi noir tones, siren-like chorales and plangent off-planet pads scried with a kosmiche twinkle in their 3rd eye. In other words: the sort stuff you may well have come to these pages for.
In its elusive fluidity and unfathomably spatialized scope, we find the duo fusing to project a sound that, without prior notice, would be difficult to attribute to either artist. There are no doubt traces of Zaheer’s new age toned work as Xvarr and the microtonal shimmer of Waswaas, and likewise Tripp's mutant sensibilities carried over from Georgia, but they’re distilled to a darker substance than anything we’d come to expect.
It’s not so much gothic dark, more dark as in full of negative space, with a richly meditative appeal that threads their hardware improvisations from the Millsian deep space intrigue of ‘Phase Transition’ thru the eldritch eeriness of ‘World Line’, to the illusive choral motifs of ‘Fringe’ and oceanic abstraction of ‘From the End to the Beginning’, with glimmers of a more lush, idealistic hope in ‘Plus Operator’ and the cinematic ‘Degrees of Freedom’ that beautifully moderate the journey.
Karl O'Connor’s Downwards mark 30 years in the game with a 30 track / double tape edition featuring label classics, rarities and exclusives, including material from label boss Regis, his pal Surgeon and as a duo in British Murder Boys, plus Tropic of Cancer, JK Flesh, Veronica Vasicka, Female, Ann Margaret Hogan, Fret, Robert Hampson and many others.
Originally founded in 1993 to release the results of Karl’s sessions at the studio of Mick Harris (Napalm Death), Downwards effectively picked up the baton from Birmingham’s early metal, techno and industrial heritage and have run with it ever since. ‘Spasms and Savagery’ finds them still gassed on the thrill of dank electronic mood music for dancing, crying and screwing.
The tapes include magisterial synth music from Simon Shreeve (Mønic, CUB), thru Anni Hogan’s solo piano blooz, William Bennett freaking the fuck out of Russell Haswell, and of course girder strength techno by Surgeon, Female and British Murder Boys, plus archival nuggets attributed to Karl O’Connor aka Regis - the dark ambient noise pollutant ‘Day One’ as Farmer & Karl (an exclusive, early recording from pre-Downwards days, 1988), and we would speculate the recording of Brummie workmen admonishing each other for necking Frosty Jacks on the job, plus a killer new CUB work ‘Informal Beauty’ with Mønic, who also supplies an extra-reticulated remix of Regis’ ‘Blood Witness’.
Never one to rest on their laurels or bask in the gurn of adoring techno nuts, the label has also often wormed into weirder ends, as characterised by Robert Hamspon’s grinding Chasm dub of Veronica Vasicka, or the opiated slug of Karl’s work with Einstürzende Neubauten’s Boris Wilsdorf and My Disco, resonating with the industrial clangour of Nitzer Ebb/DM producer Paul Kendall, while Justin K Broadrick aka JK Flesh brings it home to roost with the knuckle dragging stottish‘Offering’.
We’ll leave it to Karl himself to tell it like it is.
“I’m incredibly sorry for wasting everybody’s time. all artists included here are no strangers to the black embrace of loneliness and have spent all their whole “careers|? crawling around the woodwork of pigeon holes. Not one of them fell into those holes and I love them all for that, the useless bunch of sillies.”
Karl O'Connor, 2023.
Duane Pitre and Eleh present two extended drone collaborations precisely based on pure intonation utilising the prime numbers: 1-3-5-7.
The slowly unfolding results don't require a thesis in musicology to be enjoyed. Taking inspiration from the vibrational waves of sound, gravity and water, the duo yield seemingly naturally evolving layers of pure sine waves evaporating the kind of shimmering harmonic overtones that one breathes in and could practically and bathe in. They're graceful, seductively somnambulant and nuanced pieces of work, certainly not challenging, and provide a great sense of calm, centred stillness bound to reward patient listeners in dividends.
Jefre Cantu-Ledesma ventures into a radically discombobulated new sound with a staggering first solo album in four years - a huge RIYL Huerco via Actress.
Since the turn of the millennium Jefre been instrumental in re-shaping the tone and spirit of the OG shoegaze template via his influential Root Strata imprint, his solo recordings and releases as part of Tarentel and The Alps, collaborations with Liz Harris (aka Grouper) as Raum, and a pair of albums with Félicia Atkinson for Shelter Press.
‘Poverty’, however, is a radical departure, embracing a disorienting clutch of amorphous ambient-technoid drifters that leave his more conventional roots for dust. It’s one of those albums that makes us feel like we’re tiny lumens swilled with sand and jelly in a kaleidoscope, unable to trace the endlessly morphing shapes around us. Bolstered by biorhythmic machine pulses owing to the loosest ends of experimental Techno, the music here is given to a rich flux of elusive harmony and dynamic texturing that sounds like Actress at the tail end of the heaviest session, all smoke and shimmering, rhythmic gloop.
In 11 parts he streams a particular sort of delirium from the underwater trance bliss of ‘Name Myself’ to its full-sunken closer ‘Dead Body Blues’. We get snagged on the briny post-club rip-currents and harmonic hypnagogia of ‘FA Song’, while ‘Circles’ feels like floating in water, gradually smothered by waves. He references his roots with a literal nod to Grouper on ‘Torn Ocean (For Liz)’, the sun-bleached ambient daze of ‘Shame’ and ‘nervily activated thizz of ‘Smile Shaped Bird Shit’, beside coruscating acid oddities like ‘Non-person’ and the illbient flip of the title tune - all in service of an elusive, weightless mood.
‘Poverty’ is the best we’ve heard from Jefre, a mere three decades into his career...
3 Feet High and Rising is the debut studio album by hip hop trio De La Soul and was released on March 3, 1989.
"It marked the first of three full- length collaborations with producer Prince Paul, which would become the critical and commercial peak of both parties. Critically, as well as commercially, the album was a success. It contains the singles, "Me Myself and I", "The Magic Number", "Buddy", and "Eye Know".
The album title came from the Johnny Cash song "Five Feet High and Rising". It is listed on Rolling Stone's 200 Essential Rock Records and The Source's 100 Best Rap Albums. When Village Voice held its annual Pazz & Jop Critics Poll for 1989, 3 Feet High and Rising was ranked #1. It was also listed on the Rolling Stone's The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Released amid the 1989 boom in gangsta rap, which gravitated towards hardcore, confrontational, violent lyrics, De La Soul's uniquely positive style made them an oddity beginning with the first single, "Me, Myself and I". Their positivity meant many observers labeled them a 'hippie' group, based on their declaration of the 'D.A.I.S.Y. Age' (Da. Inner. Soul. Yall).
Sampling artists as diverse as Hall & Oates, Steely Dan and The Turtles, 3 Feet High and Rising is often viewed as the stylistic beginning of 1990s alternative hip hop (and especially jazz rap).
An absolutely essential slice of Hip Hop history that’s been unavailable for some time."
ONO host the physical edition of Uģis Jansons’ debut LP; a mixed bag of solo piano, lo-slung trip hop, synth-pop and electronica hailing from Riga, Latvia’s DIY scene.
Coinciding with the release of ‘Rīga Īpaša’, a survey of artists from his home city co-compiled with ONO, Jansons showcases his solo work on ‘NAKTHTTPS’ with a subtly psychedelic sort of micro-dosed DIY pop and beatdown moods & grooves. It spans jangly solo piano blues in ‘KLAVRĪT’ thru night owl jazz-tronica glitch on its title tune, with wistful trans toward electro-folk with crafty, layered vocal harmonies on ‘PLKST 1 13 5’ or ‘WAVESTATE’, and John Foxx-like synth-pop in ‘UPE’, keeping the formula curiously uneven with offset electro-jazz like a strung out Jimi Tenor in ‘KNTRLE’, and a nugget of downbeat trip hop ‘JĀ’ that exemplifies the variation and coherence of his vibe.
Flora Yin-Wong's new label/publishing house Doyenne ("for new forms, objects & the divine feminine") debuts with a fine split from multidisciplinary artist Susu Laroche and Yin-Wong herself: deploying a side of Laroche’s killer dungeon dabke followed by Yin-Wong’s astonishing, subterranean fever dreams.
We're excited about Doyenne. FYW has promised that her new label will handle more than just music; the second release is set to be a book about the tradition of singing to spirits featuring contributions from YL Hooi, Cucina Povera, Christina Vantzou and Lucinda Chua, and after that Doyenne will release photography, metalwork, poetry and illustrations as well as music. But the first release establishes the imprint's sonic foundations, and who better to rise to that challenge than Yin Wong and her London-based French-Egyptian pal Susu Laroche, who is also well versed in releasing art across multiple mediums, from making her own tarot cards, to producing films made with music by Mica Levi and Blackhaine.
Like Yin-Wong, Laroche infuses her sounds with context - her previous releases were lashed to ideas about 19th century occultists, trance states, ancient poetry and gender-fluxing Georgian monarchs. The tracks presented here have been left to marinate in the same gooey cultural oils; 'Hold Your Tongue' is precariously divine, unfolding gracefully from gusty vocal twists into bewildering dabke murk. 'Hours' is more asymmetric and hooky, sounding uncannily like Fever Ray as if produced by Shackleton, casually drawing us into a cycle of ritualistic chants, hand drums and acidic synths that suggest a levantine cyberpunk parallel history, with all the high-minded artistic exposition that might suggest.
Flora Yin-Wong follows last year's installation-led examination of the harmony between Daoism, paganism and Catholicism 'Sacro Bosco' with two immersive oddballs that strike a balance between spiritual nihilism and emotional abstraction. And - honestly - she just gets better with every release. If her Modern Love album ‘Holy Palm’ emptied her archive of years worth of field recordings, the tracks here are on a whole other level of madness.
‘Acid / Answered Prayer’ opens into the most desolate landscape imaginable, with ungodly howls and found sounds gradually multiplying in intensity. It could all go power ambient, but instead our ears are directed to the thrum of strings buried somewhere way down in the mix, all sparkling beauty illuminating the rot around it. So many people try their hand at this sort of textural/gothic ambient - but very few have done it at this sort of primal, deeply believable level.
The side ends on a short coda that in the space of 90 seconds folds from splintered Bill Orcutt-style broken guitar strings and thumb piano and into a sort of music box lullaby swallowed by apocalyptic industrial electronics. it makes no sense, and therefore makes all the sense in the world.
It’s hard to get excited by new labels when there is such a glut of new ones emerging pretty much every day, but Doyenne has a real shot at being a thing. We’re locked.
Death Is Not The End compiles hybrid pop from Shanghai on this bumper new set.
Death Is Not The End turn their attention to shidaiqu music, a term that literally means "songs of the era" and describes the music that emerged in Shanghai in the 1920s as a fusion of pop, jazz, blues, showtunes, and traditional Chinese elements. It's music that defined an era of Chinese culture before communism, and "Waiting For Your Return" works like a historical guide, featuring what's referred to as the first shidaiqu record - Li Jinhui's 'Drizzle', featuring his daughter Li Minghui - and plenty of material from the 1930s and 1940s.
The compilation stops in the 1950s before the music was outlawed by the Chinese Communist Party, who deemed the genre "yellow music", banning nightclubs and production houses and destroying Western instruments. The genre wasn't done though, many performers moved to Hong Kong, where shidaiqu continued to grow through the next few decades. If you're looking to get a relatively digestible guide, this is a great starting point.
Pö debuts on Hakuna Kulala with a furiously innovative mix of industrial/post-punk electronics, looped vocals, and ethereal, psychedelic transmissions that sound like a cross between Fever Ray, Grouper and Gabber Modus Operandi.
On ‘Cociage’ French-Ghanaian artist Pö builds on her work alongside Congolese producer Rey Sapienz in Poko Poko, channeling her voice through a pedalboard of effects and turning it into delirious pads and thumping, mechanical rhythms. The album is a personal summation of various different musical strands, assembled by an artist who's content to straddle borders. So 'The Reaping' sounds kinetic and rhythmic, built around furious kicks and Pö’s looping chants, while 'Klafouti’ pipes gurgled words through a voice modifier, smearing its remnants over a break that's so smashed it's barely a rattle.
On ‘Over the Clouds' the album steps into a different realm entirely. Here Pö adds a new dimension to new age music, humming gently into a vocoder and looping her reverberations over the top. Grouper is the most obvious point of comparison, but Pö’s combination of French chanson and West African pop gives it a bite that feels undeniably fresh. On 'Nuit Blanche' her cloud of vocals hits peak density before stumbling into a bit-crushed thump; assertive French words crack over the top w/ urgency.
Our highlight is the widescreen closer 'Galivanting', though, a track that wrongfoots us with lysergic, insectoid ambience before mutating into an airlock nightmare, Pö using her voice to command a robotic army of synthetic moans and flittering synths. It's horrifyingly beautiful stuff.
The debut album by East-Sussex raised, London-based guitarist, composer and producer Peach Banquet (aka Jonathan Palmer).
"'Rubber Leaves', a collection of solo guitar improvisations, invokes the feeling of jumping into a cool river in a heat-fogged daze, with meandering guitar lines that bubble and multiply like frogspawn before evaporating immediately into the ether. Recommended if you like Matsuo Basho's travelogues / haikus, John Frusciante's 'To Record Only Water for Ten Days', or Knobs youtube guitar pedal demos."
ONO take the pulse of Riga’s musical underground with 13 works by artists largely unknown beyond their local scene; Elizabete Balčus, Uģis Jansons, Rudens Lapas, Bēdu Brāļi, Ivars Bez F, Imants Daksis a.o.
‘Rīga Īpaša’ was programmed by ONO’s Michael Holland with Uģis Jansons after the pair marvelled at the richness of Latvian music, and specifically the Riga scene surrounding Uģis’s recording studio. Considering that ONO have introduced the world to the likes of Tom Boogizm (pre-Rat Heart) and Marlene Ribeiro’s Negra Branca, plus myriad Manchester outsiders and DIY types over the years, we can trust that their cherry-picking skills are also on point here highlighting a wavelength of work running from fever-dream folk-pop to synthy torch songs, Grimes-like electro-pop, psych-soul and wayward styles that fall between generic integers.
The baker’s dozen pieces document a slice of Riga’s creative spirit in 2022 with results ripe for anyone snagged on the likes of Estonia’s Porridge Bullet, Finland’s Fonal label, or Stroom’s repeat returns to the region. Elizabete Balčus sets the tone with a captivating piece of ambient spiritual folk-jazz ‘Švamme’, and Waterflower’s radiant dream-pop electro work ‘Būrī’ helps define the survey’s breadth of style, along with standout highlights such as the DIY oil of ‘Freckles’ by OFF ME ON, the enchanted croon of Imants Daksis on ‘Spoks’, and the wickedly queried, curdled discord of ‘Klaviirs (Short Fuzzy Mix)’ by the set’s co-compiler Uģis Jansons, and the gothic post-punk jangle of Bēdu Brāļi.
A jaw-unhooking followup to Japan Blues’s recent album for DDS that runs at nearly twice the length of its predecessor, this astonishing tape is a fantasy regression session that folds resonant gongs and dense field recordings into snatched shamisen twangs, smudged enka and minyo recordings and gurgling, hypogean noise like some early C.20th Japanese answer to US folk blues. If you weren’t already spun out by the first one, this companion piece is guaranteed to unravel your proprioceptive senses and leave you with the uncanniest sensations of motion sickness of time travel, unchronic nostalgia or déjà entendu, haunting like The Caretaker and Chris Watson in an endlessly oblique matrix of reverb, echo and delay.
Howard Williams’ 5th Japan Blues excursion delves deeper into recordings made with singer Akari Mochizuki and Tsugaru shamisen master Hibiki Ichikawa for Demdike Stare’s DDS label. While the original album was already a deeply disorienting and heady experience, this addendum pushes the envelope farther into an oblique hall-of-mirrors where lonesome, plangent traces of Akari Mochizuki’s vocals ricochet down long corridors of layered field recordings and etheric folk-dub.
Elements that seem airy and identifiable in the first few minutes bleed into waterlogged environmental recordings and Mochizuki's sonorous song, before Williams' own words nudge into the foreground. A ghostly sonic vapourtrail curls around his words like smoke, and the extended piece takes a rickety rail into Sheol, zooming into the grit and muck, letting dissociated echoes pop and crack in place of a melody. By the final moments of the first side, we're left with isolated gong tones pulled from their usual context and placed alongside drowned percussion and mossy whistles.
The album's second side is more angular and rhythmic. Mochizuki's voice sets the scene again, disintegrating into woodblock percussion, birdsong and buried organ vamps. Again Williams uses a spoken word segment to signal a stylistic sea change, his words blurring as tempestuous growls intersect vibrations and off-world drills. We're not submerged completely this time, Williams and The Dengie Hundred keep a few limbs outside the murky blackness, letting Mochizuki's voice echo out and into drums that lead us into an abrupt, ritualistic end.
Intensely tactile music, 'Compainion Peace' is an exercise in cultural exchange that's impressionistic, compassionate and completely unforgettable.
The Heat Crimes label follows that incredible debut album from The Ephemeron Loop (as featured on countless EOY lists) with a twisted tape from Japanese ex-punk popon, swarming from psychedelic noise to Nkisi-esque kongo tekno impulses with unshakable conviction.
popon makes a convincing racket on ‘bubu’, grinding all of her influences into a fine paste, and using a handful of synths, samplers, small instruments and her own voice to drill noise into pulsating club rhythms. Mostly improvised, the music is a little like Giant Swan if the Bristol duo swapped factory strength 4/4 techno for the winding syncopated psychedelia you might expect from the Timedance imprint or artists like CCL and Rhyw, screwing rabid children’s voices, keeling banks of reverberating atonality and thunderous percussion into five overproof parts that beckon the apocalypse.
Opener 'Knock' exposes us to popon's love of hi-density chaos, boiling over from a curt, electrified simmer into a raging prism of metallic scrapes and ear-gouging distortion. She takes a left turn with 'Banana' directing screeching ghostmode synths into rattling upper-register rhythms that eventually cede to beating kicks, while bubu’ delivers the deadliest blow of all thru stampeding, double-time drums that run ruffshod somewhere near to Authentically Plastic on drills overseen by Masami Akita.
Seething club terror and animist energies par excellence.
Stunning liturgical shoegaze from Kranky’s Melissa Guion aka MJ Guider, originally released a couple of years back on a limited tape and now available once again in a new edition for 2023. Fuelled by pulsing drum machines, bells and an exceptionally expressive voice, it hits so many buttons for us all at once so as to feel like we’ve known it a lifetime, reminding us of sections of Cocteau Twins, Seefeel, Tropic of Cancer, Preisner’s ‘No End’ score, Cranes - but still in possession of its own unquantifiable spirit.
Recorded as a music score to ‘Known Mass. No. 3: St. Maurice’, a collaboration with friend and choreographer Ann Glaviano, ‘Temporary Requiem’ makes use of the traditional Latin requiem mass across 6 movements designed to help transport “the congregation” to the dreamworld. The 10 minute opener ‘Kyrie: The Stained Glass Windows in Their Original Order’ opens from choral drones into a sort of rumbling dreampop reminding us of AFX’s reworking of Seefeel’s ‘Time To Find Me’, the melodic lead supplied by a padded bassline wrapped around countless layers of texture and sweeping, filtered hi hats. ‘Gloria: Small Dance of Gratitude’ re-purposes the thudding kickdrum opening Cocteau Twins’ ‘When mama was moth’, but swerves through a vocal keychange into something else entirely, all detached vocal yearning somewhere between love song and lament.
Guion's vocals have always been impressive but feel especially devastating here, leaving enough space for each sound to respire; ducking around slow-motion beatbox cycles and queasy electronics. She binds her biographical litany of inspirations into a coherent blast of pseudo-plainsong and ethereal post-punk, her voice tripping from morose low-registers into layered choral cascades that genuinely made this listener bottle up in a gulp. When we reach 'Sanctus' - the album's shortest piece, a tape-rotted chant dissolves into an angelic aria. It's an apt preface for 'Benedictus', the moment we're shifted into gnarly droning landscapes of distended drone and saturated distortion.
Somehow the tenor adjustment works, deepening Guion's narrative and drawing parallels between vastly different forms of post-Catholic musical expression - there's truly no light without darkness. On the finale 'Agnus-Dei', she bolts together both strains of expression, singing over walls of harmonic guitar fuzz and a drum machine that sounds like machinery pushing through sandstone blocks. The noise abates before the track dims to a flicker, as Guion's operatic wails spiral deep into the pious abyss...
Alone with the Sound the Mind Makes by Koleżanka on Bar/None Records.
"While koleżanka's previous album, Place Is, was about life on the road and the people you meet living out of a suitcase, the new album is all about being alone at home. The voices that you hear in your head when you remember what it was like to hang out with friends. The drinks shared and the stories remembered."
A Manchester Soundsystem special, compiled from original recordings made at house & Blues parties between 1988 and 1996, fully connecting dots between early Manchester pirate radio culture and its latter-day experimental fringes - spliced together and dubbed into the void. Trust - it’s the lick.
Capturing the fabled Manchester soundsystem scene in its 1988-1996 heyday, the tape follows a sort of meta-narrative culled from multiple mixtapes recorded at the legendary Broadway, Stereodan, Soul Control and Splinta Blues Parties, slinking between sections of boogie soul and R&B, mad bashment edits and proto-house lit with MC chat and sloshing over with sirens and FX.
Anyone that lived in the area at the time will know that the story goes much deeper, Blacker, and far more eccentric than the standard Factory/Madchester narrative makes out, and this set of recordings reinforces the importance of those mostly undocumented days. Crammed with underground tunes that were run parallel to the hardcore, house and techno mainstream, played in a soundsystem style and notably slower, heavier in a way designed to hold the pressure in smaller spaces - there was no looney dancing for fear of jawing the lass next to you, or spilling Black Velvet on the next man’s new leather creps.
Space Afrika's Josh Reid recalls hearing Broadway tapes vibrating through his childhood home when he was growing up - in his bedroom he'd just hear traces of bass and the interconnecting sirens, crashes, and shout-outs, all elements that later went on to form the backbone of the duo's own compositions. It's music that addresses a sound and a community that's been low-key directing Manchester's creative energy for years - we're not overstating this; MCR musical royalty and the producer behind the greatest jungle album of all time A Guy Called Gerald cites Moss Side's soundsystem parties as a formative influence.
Listening now, decades later, it's easy to put the pieces together. Tracks cut between pliable riddims and ethereal, soulful calls; into blunted proto-trip-hop grooves lost in dense spirals of bouncing space echo. Bristol might get credit for placing its cultural foot forward as soul, reggae, and funk was filtered thru the collective British wyrd melancholia, but Manchester's stamp is made plain here. It's a different vibe altogether: cloudy, poetic, with an edgy whiff.
Best believe there’s no other tape quite like it, the closest you’ll get to a night out in Moss Side 30 years ago.
Khotin harks back to simpler times with 'Release Spirit', melting warm electronic tones into beats that sound as if they're wrapped in a mud-stained drug rug.
Dylan Khotin-Foote had already shifted his focus towards softer sounds before the pandemic, lockdown just made the switch more complete. 'Release Spirit' is his attempt at a full-length to define this new era, combining the dusty lo-fi squiggling of his beloved early material with the softpacked haze of the ambient techno and IDM era. Using crusty old gear like a Casio SK-1, Khotin effectively captures that early oughties Neo Ouija/Merck sound on opening track 'HV Road' (seriously it sounds like Brothomstates) before pivoting to sandy psy-tronica on 'Lovely'.
The album's most successful excursions hover around the Artificial Intelligence era: 'Home World 303' sounds like Higher Intelligence Agency, and Tess Roby starrer 'Fountain, Growth' is like Pentatonik reworking Chicane.
Jonnine Standish of HTRK returns with a divine third solo release of humanist pop and ornate (im)perfection with the down-home strums and gentility of ‘Maritz’ for DJ Sundae’s Idle Press, following cult turns for our Documenting Sound series and Good Morning Tapes.
Written and recorded at home in the Dandenong Ranges outside Naarm, Australia, with a spectra of scavenged instruments, ‘Maritz’ takes its title from the maiden name of Jonnine’s mother - “the most haunted word I know” - which signifies the music’s childlike innocence and spiritual provenance, wrapped in supremely blunted azure vapors and ruff, mossy fuzz.
Using bass guitar, a broken Swiss metronome, an oddly tuned wooden stringed instrument, recorder, Halloween charm bracelets and a homemade glockenspiel found at “an abandoned highschool in the hills”, plus spare additional instrumentation from Conrad Standish, James Rushford and Maria Moles, the eight songs of ‘Maritz’ span gonzo snapshots of domestic songcraft blessed with the sort of blissful melancholy that has long made Jonnine’s work such a staple of our musical diet.
Stripped to the barest essence of vocals and animated objets, the songs float daydreamy between the unforgettable lilt + hook of ‘I Put A Thing In Your Pocket’ to a pair of gorgeous baroque dub-bops fleshed with wavey recorder-as-melodica in ‘Tea for Two (Boo)’ and ‘Portrait’, while ‘There’s Nothing There’ is the sort of delicacy that we’d imagine Audrey Horne would play in private, and the groggy recorder set to offbeat metronome in ‘Three Spider Bites’ parallels the eerieness of recent work by Jonnine’s pal Laila Sakini - pushed even further into corporeal fantasy. ‘Blissfully Unaware (of you)’, meanwhile, most closely resembles the instrumental wonder of Matt Johnson’s The The at their most emotionally blitzed.
Like her last album ‘Blue Hills’, ‘Maritz’ is distinguished from Jonnine’s HTRK gear by a relative absence of studio embellishment or dynamic, preferring to leave songs lingering in a room-recorded air that conjures the feel of Alan Lomax folk recordings in the field, with incidental subtropical sounds carried thru open windows. Brittle and timeless, these are songs with an unhurried logic that feels antithetical to modern pressures, just happy to exist in their own temporal space.
It’s a rare privilege to spend time in Jonnine’s company. Pull up, and lean in.
‘Raspberry Hotel’ is the long-awaited solo debut LP by cellist Semay Wu, who’s best known as longtime player with Homelife, here left to her own devices on ravishingly inventive improvisations made in Glasgow.
A regular presence in NW England since the ‘90s with Paddy Steer’s Homelife, Semay Wu’s illustrious discography takes in work with everyone from Paul Heaton and King Creosote to The Owl Ensemble. Her first solo album is collaged from a week in a Glasgow studio, generating eight parts of unpredictable instrumental experimentation from her trusty cello plus a range of toys, electronics and everyday objets. The results form a semi-live showcase where runs of in-the-moment thought are ruptured with fleeting jump-cuts and spangled with a distinctive playfulness that will charm lovers of free music and sculptural sound art by artists ranging from Okkyung Lee to Rhodri Davies or Andy Votel, Sean Canty & Doug Shipton’s mixtape collages.
Working to her own lysergic logic, the album treads the finest line of frenetic and disciplined, from a blend of melancholy, rustic cello and squabbling electronics in ‘Midnight Peony’ to the pranging mechanisms and speaking-in-tongues expression of ‘Beauty Sleep’. She persistently pulls the rug form under the listener’s feet between purely documentarian snapshots oaf concentrated blatz on ‘Gut Wend’, to the poltergeist concrète frolics of ‘Ceremonial House’, and a standout ‘Eau Reader’, which takes its title from a commissioned poem, written by Juana Adock, and quietly recalling a more frayed echo of claire rousay’s domestic scenarios - appearing to make the washing-up melodic, and turning textured with the sounds of electric razors, chopped with what sounds like deft tape methods..
Another brilliant full-length from Duane Pitre, who continues experiments in just intonation - RIYL Kali Malone, Pauline Oliveros, or Sarah Davachi.
While he was writing a piece for experimental brass ensemble Zinc & Copper, Pitre chanced upon a technique that interested him. He wasn't able to use it for the piece he was working on, but he set aside the idea and implemented it while writing 2021's excellent "Omniscient Voices" LP. While working on that album he recorded multiple takes of the process, and 'Varolii Patterns' has been assembled from a small set of those takes. Using an eight-voice synthesizer tuned in just intonation (a xenharmonic tuning method that uses whole number ratios for its intervals, in contrast to the Western standard equal temperament), Pitre harnesses not only tone but rhythm, overlaying pulsing oscillators to create dizzying structures.
Pitre's drones are expertly sculpted, as becomes quickly evident on opening track 'Varolii Pattern 10-1'. His whispered electronic waves throb with the gaiety of early 20th century experiments and sound just as rigorous. The unusual tuning is pronounced, but it's the rhythmic ideas that keep us coming back: it's not completely obvious what he's doing at first, but as each track develops sounds enter the frame that appear to pulse on top of each other, setting up unusual polyrhythms. This is most stark on 'Varolii Pattern 8-11', that sounds like a melted approximation of Raymond Scott's soothing sounds. There's a warmth to it and a familiarity too, but Pitre subverts our expectations, bending the harmonics and upsetting the pulses into interlocking blips and moans.