Björk blooms her most impressive album in a good while with Utopia, featuring co-production by Arca and even a guest spot by Rabit, who both aid in buoying her astonishingly lush and romantic new song cycle. As sincerely optimistic as the title may suggest, Utopia is, by Björk’s own description, her “tinder album”, projecting a positive answer to the tortuous soul-searching of Vulnicura.
We can take or leave a lot of Björk on most days. But this one got us right thurrr. Whether that’s due to the seamless integration of Arca’s virtuosic flourishes, it’s difficult to say. However, the embrace of space and nature, both real and emulated, within Utopia lends an intoxicatingly out-of-body sensation to its songs which beautifully leavens her sometimes overwrought delivery, serving to free up her spirit in the most literal and fascinatingly intangible terms.
Where Arca was brought in at the late stages of Vulnicura to warp its edges, their working relationship immediately spilled over into the recording of Utopia, forging a symbiotic and hugely fruitful relationship with the artist he formerly called his idol. Now creative partners, their powers are multiplied, manifesting the longest single piece of work in either’s catalogue, and arguably their most seductive.
You can literally hear her beaming while she sings over swooping subs, gamer FX and pirouetting harps in Awakening My Senses, whilst the folk phrasing and prettiness of Blissing Me perfectly counters her operatic tendencies. Conversely, the adroit looseness of Arca’s rhythms acutely mirror the expressive meter of Björk’s classical inflections in Body Memory, one of the album’s longest, most immersive highlights, and equally in sweetly fractious form to giddy effect on Losss, which benefits from Rabit’s push ’n pull production.
And even when talking frankly about the darker side of that tinder life in the couplet of Courtship and Sue Me, she pulls off delirious, rugged - but not overbearing - rhythms and skyward-zipping flutes keeping her spirit decidedly up and forward-looking in a way that also informs the album’s heart-cupping conclusion, Future Forever.
'Biophilia' must be one of this year's most anticipated, and lavish album projects.
A number of delays have pushed the release date back, but that was to allow extra input from Leila and Current Value, who join an illustrious production cast including Mark Bell, Matthew Herbert, 16 Bit and El Guincho, plus a full 24-piece Icelandic choir. The results are suitably spectacular, articulating the leading lady's obsessions with virtual reality, physics and nature in ultra-modern and cutting edge fashion. She still sounds like nobody else in the world, and with the multi-dimensional scope of 'Biophilia' Björk continues to represent a questing sonic and artistic vision which many younger artists could well learn from.
As always, it's recommended to forward listening pop fans.
Björk comes to terms with the breakdown of a longterm relationship with some help from Arca, The Haxan Cloak, Antony and Spaces.
It's arguably her most coherent and focused album since 'Vespertine' (2001), her vocals incredibly raw and emotional - understandably in the light of tragic, personal events - yet controlled with near operatic poise and matched by the waking-dream-like qualities of the production's skewed meter and tendencies toward keening, lushly expressive discord. It must be said that Arca really comes into his own here, expanding upon certain rhythmic ideas found in 'Xen' and simultaneously exploring whole new realms of blooming orchestral arrangement rent in HD clarity.
With production work included from Thomas Knack (Opiate), Matthew Herbert, Matmos and Console, and even a sample lifted off Oval’s groundbreaking Systemisch LP, Vespertine is without doubt one of Bjork's most loved albums.
One of the boldest artists merging uncompromising computer music and experimental club music right now, Jung An Tagen returns to Editions Mego with a a thrilling batch of oblique electronics and agitated polyrhythms
Claiming space between Florian Hecker, Rian Treanor and Cam Deas’ styles as his own playground, ’ProxyStates’ brilliantly swings between emulations of big-bang sonics in ‘Spill (False)’ thru to parrying electro-techno patterns in ‘Wreath Products (C#, D#)’, and more regular, sleekly rolled out techno pulses on ‘Wreath Products (D#, F#)’, with the strobing knots of ‘Wreath Products (F#, G#)’, and the absolute polychromatic chaos of ‘Compressions in a Chamber of Hard Light’ bound to shred you mind to ribbons in the best way.
“All of this is done with his usual fearless but mindful approach. His unique exercises with structure, time and sound create an ecstatic familiarity with the sounds while at the same time inducing a creeping physical alienation. In other words, some parts may be rhythmically infectious, others will give you no chance to immerse. The stimulation is astute and continuous, encouraging an out-of-this-world experience.
The main arc of “Proxy States” consists of a 16 against 17 poly-rhythmic synth line that through different intonations of the kick drum always transforms its syntax. This synth line always scales up 1 key, in the middle of the track, foreseeing the upcoming structure. While these tracks (3, 4, 5, 6: “Wreath Products”) follow an almost obsessive-compulsive order, the remaining tracks seem to blow up the structure entirely like the last scenes of the 1970 Michelangelo Antonioni’s film “Zabriskie Point”, creating an event inside the event.
“Proxy States” was impossible to press on vinyl but the fast, sharp and wild grooves of Jung An Tagen’s new album are incredibly synched with the concept of an ever accelerating future.”
Paul Woodford’s Special Request diversifies his bonds into moody IDM/electronica after spending his rave energies on the ‘Vortex’ album
The ‘Bedroom Tapes’ is the sound of Yorkshireman blues; the type of ‘tronica they reach for when there’s no tea bags left and shop is too far uphill, or when chippy’s ran out of scraps. In eight parts he speak to the sundays after, the tuesday mornings when grey matter seeps out of lug’oles onto yer desk as you kling to a kernel of residual happiness from the weekend.
Between the spooling electro bleeps and satin pads of ‘Panaflex Sunrise’, his floating electro scapes in ‘Pineal Gland’, and the muddled harmonic reverie of ‘Entropy’ on the first disc, and thru the sidelong keen of ‘Xenopsin’ to the frazzled, Actress-esque tic of ‘Double Rainbow’ and the shine-eyed twinkle of ‘Phosphorescence’ on the 2nd plate, the ‘Bedroom Tapes’ crucially acknowledge a tender flipside to SR’s usual exuberance.
‘Pyrrhic’ is the first ambient album by BNJMN following his string of rhythm-driven techno albums and 12”s over the past decade
Issued on his Tiercel label, ‘Pyrrhic’ sees BNJMN accentuate a side of his music that’s looping been there, in-the-mix, but usually sidelined in favour of dancefloor needs. Across 8 tracks created during the years 2016-2019 in Friedrichsfelde, Berlin, he expresses a mix of formative UK ambient/electronica influences mixed with a detectably Berlin-style melancholy and sexy gloom.
A Björk album is always a major event in the musical calendar, particularly for any followers of experimental music - no other artist can be credited with introducing such an array of avant-garde elements and production techniques so directly into the mainstream.
The same goes for personnel: in hand-picking collaborators from the underground's finest talents Björk has been responsible for drawing the pop chart-following public's attention to the work of Matmos, Zeena Parkins, LFO's Mark Bell and Opiate's Thomas Knak. That's quite some achievement in itself. Only last week she went and put free drumming icon Chris Corsano on Saturday Night Live. I mean, that's just crazy. Also assisting with Volta's percussive backbone are Lightning Bolt's Brian Chippendale and Konono No. 1 (surely Congo's answer to scrap metal merchants Einsturzende Neubauten). What of the album though? Well, after Medùlla's uncompromising interrogation of the timbral identity of the human body, Björk has returned to the kind of outward-looking fieriness of Homogenic. That said, the rickety Afro-shuffle of single 'Earth Intruders' recalls the organic rhythms of 'Human Behaviour', only to segue into the similarly excellent 'Wanderlust' via an incredibly naturalistic, melodic manipulation of foghorn sounds from docking ships. It sounds amazing - like something you'd find on a Touch compilation, but here it is on a Top 40-bound release.
'Wanderlust' introduces one of the album's key elements, the pervasive use of brass, as best put to use on the heart-melting 'Pneumonia', which frames Björk's voice in the pitter-pat of rainfall recordings and a haunting, impeccably phrased horn arrangement. 'I See Who You Are' is almost as good, featuring Min Xiao-Fen's pipa (a Chinese stringed instrument) accompanied by a sequence of subtle electronic bass tones. Of course, Björk 's voice is the star here, and by the song's conclusion she's multitracked herself into quiet choral bliss. It's astonishingly beautiful. 'Innocence' is as playful as Björk's sounded for a while, its stop-start beat assisted by some circuit-frazzled synth work, and penultimate track 'Declare Independence' takes this idea even further, cranking the distortion to Alec Empire levels of Digital Hardcore punk electronics. The final track, 'My Juvenile' is graced with both Tounami Diabatè's virtuoso kora and Antony Hegarty's angelic vocal stylings (this is the second of two tracks to feature Antony) but as with the rest of Volta, this is all very much Björk's show, regardless of how impressive her list of collaborators may be.
Stunning, absolutely essential listening from a truly great artist of our time.
It's been three years since Bjork's last album landed on this planet but it seems just like yesterday. Such was and is the power of that album to remain in your subconscious, days, months, years after you first heard it.
Going through another baffling pre-recording arrangement of ideas Bjork finally hit upon making 'Medúlla' (translated as marrow in latin) an album mostly stripped bare of acoustic and electronic instrumentation. Instead all the music had to come from the human voice (but not in a Bobby McFerrin way :), with this in mind she hooked up with Mike Patton, Rahzel, Robert Wyatt, Kelis, plus other lesser known artists and choirs from the UK and Iceland.
Where music does creep in it's handled by Olivier Alary from Ensemble, Mark Bell, Matmos, Mark 'Spike' Stent (basically Bjork's backroom boys). Track highlights include the glacially electronic shimmer of 'Where Is The Line', 'Triumph Of A Heart' goes back to the 'Big Time Sensuality' vibe connected with 'Debut', with a dope human trombone accompaniment and dual beatbox attack. 'Mouth's Cradle' is about the wonder of breast feeding, an amazing cross pollination of choral voices, rapid tone chord changes and Bjork's voice driven by a kaos pad while a low riding human beatbox from Rahzel bumps this track along. 'Who Is It' is the poppiest track on this album and an absolute blast with Rahzel on amazing multi layered single take beatboxing form. 'Piano II' ventures into what Bjork calls emotional throat singing, wild sounds emit from the mysterious artist Tagaq who features on other tracks in a less confrontational manner - wild. My personal favourite is 'Submarine', a divine collaboration with the godlike Robert Wyatt, beautiful and beyond compare - mysterious and haunting, a musical equivalent of a foggy night by the docks watching the ships slowing swaying side to side. Bjork imparted to the Mixing It crew that this album was in part inspired by 911 and the experience of the birth of her second child Isadora. Maybe 'Medúlla' is not as instantly mind blowing as 'Vespertine' but with a few plays it'll lodge itself in your soul for months to come.
Known for his releases on Sucata Tapes, Paralaxe Editions and Where To Now?, Portuguese “sound activist” Bruno Silva aka Ondness embraces ideas of chance, chaos and ambiguity in a spannered, enigmatic album for Holuzam, the weird, second cousin to the mighty Príncipe label.
Through his minimalist percussive formation, Ondness reminds us of the swung attack and squashed funk of Anthony “Shake” Shakir as channelled through the prism of Raster Noton’s Rn-Rhythm-Variations series; in other words - sharp but loose-limbed for the floor. Or as the label explain so well “ ...pop-up music, constantly moving and fading away, reappearing with a new idea and then leaving it out in the open”
We get going on the fractured midnight keys and drums of “Torre”, before fully getting into gear on "Sem Gente” with its jazz/bassdrum malfunctions reminding us of Atom Heart’s magnificent, bizarrely overlooked Brown album from ’96. 'Mau Vibe’ splinters a tribalist session into oblivion, while 'Casa Fora Fallout' conjurs the spirit of Madteo at his most thrillingly unhinged.
In short; a peculiar, oddly compelling 40 minute session from the wonderful, extended Príncipe family.
‘Live at the Jazz Cafe’ renders a 1 hour long recording of Fennesz performing live at the eponymous venue in Camden, London, on 12th March 2019
The release *almost* shares a cover and material with Fennesz’s most recent album, ‘Agora’, and sees the Viennese shoegazer and celebrated experimental guitarist riffing on elements from that album, effectively rendering its looser, “live” counterpart.
‘Science <> Religion’ is a glorious new example of the slow burning drone ecstasies explored by Téléplasmiste, an inquisitive collaboration between Michael J York (Coil, Cyclobe, Shirley Collins) and experimental UK stalwart Mark Pilkington (Strange Attractor Press)
Invoking references to seminal works by composers including (and not limited to) Robert Ashley, Steve Reich, and Alvin Lucier, the tape operates with a compellingly traction in two 20 min+ parts primed to recalibrate your chakras.
In the first, ‘Science’ they entwine gently keening microtonal sine waves with floating organs and mantric tape loops intoning “love is the law” over primally persistent percussion with a richly meditative effect that draws the ecstatic moment out to near infinity (or 24 minutes), before the 2nd part descends on a more astral sound full of spuming synths, bittersweet bagpipe tones and lonely accordion with a more wide-eyed and spaciously suggestive appeal that glacial transitions and resolves in pastoral, earthly realms and impishly intoxicated synth pulses.
This triple tape box set collects two albums of new, original RSE recordings alongside Low Jack’s 45 minute continuous mix of vintage RSE scenes...
On ‘Panama Canal Left-Hand Path’ Dominick Fernow’s Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement locks its attention to “the bloodshed and blind economics of the (panama) canal and its consequences and absurdity, then and now” in one of the project’s finest dispatches since its early days, With uncanny effect the music evokes its subject with soberly transfixing sound design, explicitly taking cues from Basic Channel’s hypnotic bass undulations to highlight and power a series of rotting electro-acoustic soundspheres, never quite fully letting on, but bringing the sense of trudging linearity and humid menace thru suggestive inference.
In ‘Hunting Down Individual Mosquitoes’ he evokes the feeling of dread with tense, lurking pads offset by natural bird calls - half sleepy, half acutely focussed - before ‘Isthmus Dark Arts (Electricity Arcs Through Rain)’ brings nightfall with screeching parakeets and a booming heartbeat. ‘Demons Tour The Canal’ then finds the perfect tension between blissed synths and distant, warning rhythms, priming for the extended isolation of ‘The Mountain Didn’t Want’ in two parts.
The additional ‘Simulated Thunderstorm’ is Phillipe Hallais’ (Low Jack) seamless 45 minute mix of Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement recordings (same programme plays both sides), originally realised as part of Hospital Productions’ CDMX earthquake benefit. Following his role in the heavyweight ‘Venus Flytrap Exotica’ 7” and the ‘Red Ants genesis’ LP, Hallais proves the logical pick to mix RSE’s febrile vibes, slowly sequencing and layering 45 minutes of material from the project’s earliest to most recent releases.
Wilted Woman and Nick Klein yield their live set recording from Café Kotti in X-Berg, late 2018
The results initially resemble a dialogue between a fog horn and dying car alarm, but progressively become smeared into gunky electronic textures and squabbly rhythm, and are prone to slip down mucky chutes of drone into ambience, huffing up dissonant, mind-bending gasses and and spiralling out into grappling rhythms.
Wilted Woman has previously released a 12” of industrial trax on Alien Jams, and the ‘Fluid’ tape for Primitive Languages, the cult label run by her collaborator Nick Klein, here leading on from his releases for Luke Younger’s Alter and BANK Records NYC.
A strong look for fans of harsh, bombed-out electronics, Ukraine’s SD debuts on iDEAL with a sound primed to be deployed in the scuzziest warehouses and abandoned factories.
As debuts go, ‘Luxury Death’ is a powerfully definitive statement of intent, driving a stake in the ground somewhere between the contemporary skools of JK Flesh, Prurient and Puce Mary, and the grizzled old battalions of Broken Flag and the ‘80s Italian industrial hordes. In that tradition, it’s built to be played LOUD, possessing the sort of biting-point amplitude control and a gauntleted grasp of barbed sonics that will make your speakers tremble with fear.
Raising the tension with sci-fi cinematic strings and drop forge noise blasts in the first, the session sustains a stare down intensity until the end, holding listeners under waves of rhythmic noise with a water-boarding brutality, then leaving us to freeze in muddy trenches, surrounded by shellfire, before ultimately burying the senses with smeared drones.
‘bblisss’ comp contributor Ulla Straus diffuses herself into the sublime, gauzy ambience of ‘Big Room’ for Quiet Time Tapes
Arriving in the glistening wake of instalments by Kareem Lotfy, Debit, and peer Huerco S, ‘Big Room’ is Ulla’s definitive statement to date, convicting a sublime soul through 8 gaseous, harmonised dimensions with sweet highlights in the milky flow of ‘Sister’, and the vertiginous scale of ‘Net’.
The first release on Chained Library, an icily minimal and pointed suite of industrial ambient electronics recalling the styles of Werkbund, Litüüs, The Radiophonic Workshop
Recorded 2012-2013 and first issued on tape in 2014, [..(].’s ‘Unnamed’ session feels only half-human in the best way, as simple gestures appear to become automated and spiral out into slinky permutations of their minimalist parameters, with only the slightest nudges giving variation to their hypnotic shapes. That applies to much of the tape, form the singed gauze of ‘A1’ thru the pulsing arps of ‘A2’ and the criss-crossing liens of ‘A5’, thru the Delia Derbyshire-like tones of ‘B1’, but if you’re still paying attention tot he end you’ll be rewarded with the fuller phrasing of ‘B5’. Enigmatic is the word.
Co-habitant treads on most sensitive melodic nerves in their exquisite debut and sole release for Chained Library
The eponymous Co-habitant release trades in a distinct style of filigree, pealing, high-register electronic minimalism that uses sparse ingredients to absorbingly meditative effect.
The A-side’s swaying figure in ‘a.003’ is a particular highlight that we could easily listen to on loop for hours, while the B-side has us utterly rapt with the transition from mechanical rhythmelody and fascinating reverberant overtones in ‘b.002’ thru the isolationist SAW II tingles of ‘b.003’ and the sallow ripples of ‘b.004’.
A real gem, this one. Don’t sleep!
Hypnagogic raga drone electronics and mutating, distorted rhythms from L.A.-based experimental musician Byron Westbrook, yielding two compatible improvisations that have stood the test of time in his archive. RIYL David Behrman, M Geddes Gengras, Matt Carlson
“Nearly all of my recorded music is pieced together from organized edits of various improvisations of some sort, via a composition process that generally involves cut/paste and superimposing those to a point of precision. Over time I’ve been curious about what gets lost in that process, in terms of representing how things develop over time and spontaneity. In 2016, I found myself with a 20-minute improvisation that felt distinguished in it's raw form, mistakes and all. It felt like a more guttural, gritty approach that represents how I actually “play” as an instrumentalist, which is something I’ve consciously downplayed in previous work out of preference for spatial and environmental elements. I sat on the piece for a while, then a year and a half later, when a second improvisation materialized that felt familial to the first, it seemed that a work had completed itself. Voice Damage is a bit of an exposure of the exploratory aspects of my process, where I’m not really thinking in terms of music composition or preconception, just playing in the moment as an instrumentalist.”
A restless Slip deliver their fourth release of 2019 with Brad Henkel & Yoshiko Klein’s mercurial debut, tracing etheric lines from scrabbly haptic noise to wistful ambient via 4th world peals and midnight jazz vibes.
Unfolding in two durational halves, ‘Merry Peers’ appears to be an ironic moniker for the duo’s modest, coy and quiet style of composition. Using Henkel’s trumpet, plus synth, daubs of voice, and carefully applied FX, they form a microcosm unto themselves, one that takes in three minutes of visceral extended technique and piercing high register tones, before fading into the thing proper - a sublime arc of ambient synth pads infiltrated by blithe self-help slogans, and leading down the garden path to phosphorescing blooms of dubwise, 4th world jazz, Vangelis-like synth brass flares, and dilapidated ambient-pop song.
The effect is richly dreamlike comfortingly lonely, and smudged in all the right places for a perfectly elusive grip on the duo’s waking reality, stemming for the immersion in Berlin’s fecund underground. There’s no real big statement or difficult concept behind ‘Merry Peers’, just a wry expression of the strangeness and melancholy of the human condition that will surely resonate with daydreamers and lovers of anything from Felicia Atkinson or Teresa Winter.
Collapsing Market poetically chart speculative zones between myth, science and the imagination with the first release on The Benchmark Files, a new series highlighting the work of local french underground artists. From found sounds to ambient zones, junglist edits to distilled vocal narration reminiscent of Anne-James Chaton, the whole thing has a dystopian mixtape vibe that's both evocative and unsettling.
Metta Sound Peace is the sound project helmed by Pierre Edouard Dumora, whose AV work has previously been shown at the Centre Pompidou and Yale Art Gallery. On ‘Zanclean’ he takes inspiration from the eponymous catastrophe event some 6 million years ago, when the Mediterranean basin was refilled by the Atlantic after 600,000 years as a salty stretch that allowed large mammals including primates to cross from North Africa into Europe. Dumora however sets this event in the future (a not so distant one, geologically-speaking), using a mixture of electronics, field recordings and voices - ranging from ASMR-like whispers and mouth sounds to scrambled text-to-speech and synthetic syrens - to limn this uncanny valley on the horizon.
Like a messenger dialled back in time to the age of extinction rebellion with a cryptic tale to tell, ‘Zanclean’ speaks of a world populated with myths and non-human entities, where furtive, hacked-up voices inhabit shadowy ambient space, machine-like voices converse in scrambled code and crystalline arps, and lush jungle fantazias appear like Ballardian mirages, where his careful use of textures and editing conjures the feeling of a world in flux between states from extreme dryess to puckered, bittersweet and salty, and all with a fine grasp of the new, new age consciousness.
Joachim Nordwall and sound artist Henrik Rylander’s drone duo give it a thousand mile glare on a killer album of works for feedback and analogue synths.
Coughed up on Industrial Coast, an ace tape label from N.E. England, ‘Your Skulls Are To Us What The Sun Is To You’ is an absolute pleasure for the prickly isolationists out there. In four tracts the Swedish pair coax out gloomy masses of greyscale drone from hardware, traversing from beating low end frequencies and static swells in the first, then wade thru viscous waves of analog sludge in the 2nd, surrounded by a rusty meridian glow of industrial clangour.
In the 3rd section, plunging oscillators conjure a wickedly pensive sci-fi atmosphere befitting of a scene from Bladerunner or Alien (Ridley Scott went to art college on an industrial coast, dontyaknow?!) but where everything is slowed 500% and achingly pregnant with terror for the duration, before the dense, reverberating industrial drone of the final tract nails the gare stare (north or south) with proper, end-of-the-earth intensity that draws us ever more unsociably into its blackened churn.
Joachim Nordwall aka The iDEALIST gets right inside the echoplex in ‘Early Tactical Experiments’ for the Industrial Coast label.
In line with Nordwall's recent run of dubwize material, including a killer 7” and the charred dub pressure underlining the Joachim Nordwall album of collaborations ‘Communication Is The Key’, his ‘Early Tactical Experiments’ are still rudely stripped down and brutish, but also now more technoid and lithe.
Whether placing listeners in a ricocheting matrix of splayed drums and bass (‘A Hopeful Dub’), testing out longer-form dub-techno structures (‘The Lowest Form of Your Mind’ + ‘Fire In The Mind’), getting gunky and loose (‘Dub On Arrival’), or pushing dub to its logical limits (‘Zoned Out Deep Zone Son’), he just can't help but apply his taste for extreme, disruptive, or hallucinogenic sounds and forms throughout the album, and that’s one of the big things we love most about his music.
Carla Dal Forno yields her self-released cover versions tape, ‘Top Of The Pops’, which was previously only available on her 2018 US tour
Recorded on the cusp of winter/spring, it features Dal Forno placing a gently haunted spin on personal pop & wave favourites by The B-52’s, Rénee, The Kiwi Animal, Liliput, Lana Del Rey, and The Fates.
Stripped down to their essence, the songs provide a fine showcase for Carla’s strong yet plaintive vocals and skill in painting and framing her subtle instrumental backdrops. The results are most alluring in her skeletal reduction of the B-52’s ‘Give Me Back My Man’, with its seaside town-in-winter ambience, and in the dark blue stripe of her take on Lana Del Rey’s ’Summertime Sadness’, but we’re sure you’ll all have your own favourites.
Sold out at source. Think quick if you’d like one.
Australian selector Lauren Hansom wafts a slow soul and funk mixtape from the tropical lagoons of Amsterdam for Berlin’s Altered Soul Experiment
Richly playing into an idea of the ‘Dam as a tropical archipelago hosting myriad, worldly voices both organic, classic, and synthetic, modern, Lauren’s mix comes on in warm waves of skronky, downtempo soul-jazz, dubbed-out hustle, Japanese synth-pop and balmy Afro-Caribbean seduction, just the sort of gear you’d expect to hear on her Red Light Radio shows.
“Flowing through the multiple aesthetic veins she keeps delving in with equal poise and panache, life itself speaks out - and the many changes that accompanied her change of landscape, from Sydney to Amsterdam - "moving home, people leaving, new people, adventures, uncertainty, surprise", et al. Imagine staring at the slo-scudding clouds and the abstract drawings of long-haul planes' vapour trails listening to this, trying to map the distance that cuts trajectories apart and joins seemingly splitting lanes together again. "It is the journey of life and my life as it seems; it is through music and through this tape that I can share with you some of those moments that have gone by. I hope with this, you can step into my mind, my world and take the journey with me."
The latest in a series of remastered archive releases on Fonolith from Neil Scrivin (aka Phono Ghosts and Meatbingo).
"Recorded during the winter nights of late 2004, ‘Stars and Rumours of Stars’ explores the duality of inner and outer space by way of digital soundscapes, reverb-heavy textures and crunchy percussive elements. From the chilly, wind-swept ambience of ‘Skywatch’ to the interstellar rush of ‘Omni Voyager’ and cyclical hypnotic groove of ‘The Power of the Spiral’, SAROS illustrates a moonlit meandering into darkened woods for encounters at the interstices between worlds."
Two of the great unsung protagonists binding Manchester’s DIY scene unite for this limited edition release taking in some of the many multidisciplinary interests the pair have been involved with as sound and visual artists.
John Powell-Jones is perhaps best known for his work in the creative arts and as a visual designer and printer for projects as diverse as Mogwai, Jamal Moss, Delroy Edwards, Raime, Moon Duo and Demdike Stare, as well as a technical demonstrator in printmaking and Risograph techniques at the University of Salford. Alongside his most recent work in sculpture, Powell-Jones has also had a number of music releases for the Sacred Tapes label since 2014.
Craig Tattersall needs little introduction round these parts, having been involved in numerous projects close to our orbit since the late 90’s as part of Hood, The Remote Viewer and The Boats, as well as running the much loved (and missed) Cotton Goods label.
This release emerged as the result of a sound art and print workshop the duo ran together at the University of Salford, based on a premise of capturing sounds during the process of printing. The resulting prints would act as both 'sketches' of the workshop, but also as gestural marks that would replicate those sounds, like a visual score.
Making use of contact mics, tape loops, manipulated radios/cassettes and an altered turntable to make the sound, the pair then used different mono printing and dry point etching techniques, as well as an old typewriter to make the images.
The A-side starts off baring the hallmarks of classic location recording; all clicks and whirrs, it slowly develops into a mesmerising, whirling drone piece. But it’s the b-side that envelopes in warmth, a sublime study in stillness and beauty that’s quite the contrast to the rattling, microscopic chaos of that opener. Over the space of almost 20 minutes, Tattersall and Powell-Jones bridge between celestial and personal dimensions with ease, creating a kind of barely-there rendering of the sublime that recalls everything from William Basinski to the quiet music of Jürg Frey, an effect heightened by the ferric quality of the recording...
Andy Votel and Sean Canty of Demdike Stare reunite for one of their occasional mixtape specials, a proper pearl riddled with unidentifiable shots of avant-garde, jazz, mechanical music and dream sequence sonics, recorded at exhibitions of Votel's' “fake lore” paintings/collages in Leeds and Gothenburg.
The latest in a long and highly collectable line of collaborations released sporadically over the last decade, alongside their work together as NeoTantrik and Slant Azymuth, these two solo mixes, while recorded 1000 miles apart, share a mutually restless spirit and are both riddled with a whole world of cut-up fragments of unknown provenance.
Canty’s side was captured in Leeds, 1/2/2019 and is the more oblique, full of insectoid percussions and off key discord, while Votel’s was recorded at Folkteatern, Gothenburg, and invokes a more highly cinematic, worldly feel that most acutely evokes his “fake lore” aesthetic, reducing influences of European science-fiction art, scholastic illustration, post-pop-art, Plakatstil and mid-century graphic design - the same influences that can be seen through his visual work.
If you’ve ever picked up any of the mixtapes these two have been involved with over the years, or indeed if you’re a Finders Keepers/Demdike head - you’ll know that this stuff is gold. Don’t miss!
Asher Levitas sequences unreleased and unheard material from the excellent Paper Dollhouse into a 30 minute mix.
Drifting between electronics and spectral vocals, descending into noise but kept from the brink with sublime turns of phrase, the mix also incorporates field recordings made in-between the group’s North London and Suffolk studios to lend a displaced sense of psychogeography. B-side plays it all backwards...!
Through her latest, ‘Titanic Rising’, Weyes Blood, aka Natalie Mering, has designed her own universe to soulfully navigate life’s mysteries. Manoeuvring through a space time continuum, she plays the role of melodic, sometimes melancholic, anthropologist.
"Tellingly, Mering classifies ‘Titanic Rising’ - written and recorded during the first half of 2018, after three albums and years of touring - as The Kinks meeting WWII or Bob Seger meets Enya. The latter captures the album’s wilful expansiveness (“You can tell there’s not a guy pulling the strings in Enya’s studio,” she notes, admiringly). The former relays her imperative to connect with listeners. “The clarity of Bob Seger is unmistakable. I’m a big fan of conversational songwriting,” she adds. “I just try to do that in a way that uses abstract imagery as well.” The Weyes Blood frontwoman grew up singing in gospel and madrigal choirs. (Listen closely to ‘Titanic Rising’ and you’ll also hear the jazz of Hoagy Carmichael mingle with the artful mysticism of Alejandro Jodorowsky and the monomyth of scholar Joseph Campbell.) ‘Something To Believe’, a confessional that makes judicious use of the slide guitar, touches on that cosmological upbringing. “Belief is something all humans need. Shared myths are part of our psychology and survival,” she says. “Now we have a weird mishmash of capitalism and movies and science.
There have been moments where I felt very existential and lost.” As a kid, she filled that void with ‘Titanic’. (Yes, the movie.) “It was engineered for little girls and had its own mythology,” she explains. Mering also noticed that the blockbuster romance actually offered a story about loss born of man’s hubris. “It’s so symbolic that The Titanic would crash into an iceberg, and now that iceberg is melting, sinking civilization.” Today, this hubris also extends to the relentless adoption of technology, at the expense of both happiness and attention spans. But Weyes Blood isn’t one to stew. Her observations play out in an ethereal saunter: far more meditative than cynical. To Mering, listening and thinking are concurrent experiences. “There are complicated influences mixed in with more relatable nostalgic melodies,” she says. “In my mind my music feels so big, a true production. I’m not a huge, popular artist, but I feel like one when I’m in the studio. But it’s never taking away from the music. I’m just making a bigger nspace for myself.”
Craig Tattersall unspools a gorgeous new tape of disintegrated piano meditations and dusty lower case ephemera for Belgium’s Dauw label. It’s been over 4 years since we last heard from him and over 20 since we were first introduced to Tattersall’s uniquely brittle productions, first as part of Hood and The Remote Viewer, and subsequently as one half of The Boats and at the helm of the hugely loved Cotton Goods series. Despite being a constant presence around us throughout these last two decades, this just might be the most delicate, beautiful music we’ve heard from Tattersall to date.
‘things are sweeter when they’re lost’ is a fittingly melancholy notion for the music inside. On the A-side it’s a dreamily searching, silty flux of piano notes peeling in slow motion. Strings drift over, connoting cold breezes and infrasonic, spectral presences, but the effect is far from menacing, it’s more a tranquil shade of sublime, like those hours after midnight when the meridian sounds of road traffic and human life have ebbed off into the distance and you’re left with the sighing creaks of a room.
The sound is remarkably different on the B-side. Here the air gradually thickens with murkier sub-harmonic distortion, bordering on a seething sense of aggression relative to most of Tattersall’s other output, pushing the grim murk to a logical entropy that precipitates elegiac pauses for reflection and warbling closure.
There are so, so many operators out there who’ve clearly tried to divine the same atmosphere and mindset, but Tattersall has somehow always struck a different, more authentic note for us. He evokes the memory of some distant, formative music suspended in time and outlined in vague, half-remembered shapes, filled with love.
Endearingly wistful, psychedelic ambient-pop from Zero Years Kid, an Irish-Belgian duo, for Lakker’s Eotrax label. If Morgan Buckley, OD and the weirdos in Rathmines made music with Jameszoo, it might well sound like this freaky batch…
““I wish I was two dogs, then I could play together”
Zero Years Kid is a brand new Belgian / Irish pop music duo featuring Flemish vocals in a unique meeting of experimental music and R&B.
Their debut album Ongerijmde Rijmen features 16 songs that portray in various ways the Dutch word 'miltzucht' – an elusive feeling of discomfort, dissatisfaction with the world. Lyrically and formally inspired by Dutch writers Godfried Bomans and Michel van der Plas, ZYK follows in the lineage of overcoming their confusion with the world with humor, the self effacing, and the unintelligible. Whether humbly ('Verloren in de taal', 'Kleine handjes') or through feigned confidence ('Vloeiend en precies uitdrukken', 'De laatste loodjes'), this new project wants to find hope when faced with confusion.
Although more frequently known for their works with European improvisors Han Bennink, John Butcher and Henri Texier, with this new album ZYK (Joachim Badenhorst/Sean Carpio) want to lose themselves in the translation of language, mixed genres and technologies; to present an album of songs that profess to an instinctual and playful reading of the world; to tie a rope to a vision.
"Een touw aan een visioen knopen””
Rabit’s overproof, killer mixtape tribute to DJ Screw; Houston’s late, great pioneer of chopped and screwed hip hop. It comes as a prelude to Rabit's incredible new album 'Life After Death' which is coming this October.
Eric C. Burton a.k.a. Rabit also hails from Houston and has long named Screw’s radical style of slowed down and Codeine-infused rap and pop edits as a major influence on his own productions. ‘Cry Alone Die Alone’ was first issued online on 27th June - the famous date of a none-more-classic Screwed Up Click recording - and finds Rabit pulling back for a tarry hour of slurred rap and shoegazing electronic haze in keeping with the spirit of Chopped & Screwed. By the time RiRi crops up on side 2, it’s quite obvious this one is unmissable.
The heaviest mixtape you’ll hear in 2018.
A cult star of the UK underground, Yeah You’s Elvin Brandhi strikes solo in stunning fashion with ’Shelf Life’ for C.A.N.V.A.S., hot on the heels of their wide-scoped ‘Cipher’ compilation.
Perhaps best known for her improvised rap/noise project Yeah You alongside her dad, Gwilly Edmondes, the artist known as Elvin Brandhi is a vital creative force to be reckoned with on ‘Shelf Life’, hacking and splicing frazzled electronics and her own voice into utterly singular, mutant designs that could hardly have come from anyone else.
There’s so much going on that we’re kinda lost for words and left reeling from it all. But if we allow our ears to defocus a little, structures begin to emerge from the chaos, kinda like a T-1000 flailing in molten meckle. Variously, we hear a wild flux of crushed flashcore rhythms a la Croww woven with free-metered vocals and Wanda Group-like gunk in ‘Empty Weeping’, while ‘REAP SOLACE’ recalls an Arca or Lotic piece twysted inside-out, gut spilling, before ‘I SAID IF’ runs roughshod with DJ Scud-style Yardcore and Merzbow-esque shards of electronic noise. And just as you think you’ve got a grip, ‘IMBRED WAILE-OCDC’ invest it all, setting blown-out percussion in acres of negative space with discombobulated pop vocals and blasts of dissonance, then ’Skype Warp’ closes the account cannily close to Klein with a burning but elusive, avant sense of soul.
Jaws will drop at the feet of this one. Highly recommended!
New from Sucata Tapes (Discrepant), comes a mini album by Gonçalo F Cardoso's most experimental and retro avant-garde moniker, Papillon.
"After an LP back in 2013 (S/T) and a 2-part tape (Aqueducts) for Dinzu Artefacts in 2016, the Henri Charrière inspired alter ego hasn't been the most prolific of late. He now returns with 7 mini-vignettes full of mood swings, silly 'ambiances' and made up stories to make you dream and wonder (why?). Featuring contributions from Mike Cooper (Guitar) and Yannick Dauby (Field Recs and Modulators).
This mini-album will be the precursor to Papillon's swan song aka final album (Le Banco) to be released on main label Discrepant early 2020. For now recline on your burnt up sofa chair and enter the schizophrenic trip wonderland of Papillon's Cercueill Flottant.
Artwork by the ever talented Evan Crankshaw."
New from Sucata Tapes (Discrepant), comes a new project by Berlin-based artists Pedro Silva (turntable percussion) and Stefan Brunner (guitar and field recordings).
"The Hour of the Wolf is an improvisational piece based on an associative storyline, written by Stefan Brunner and divided into 8 chapters. We invite you to look at the score http://hourofthewolf.org while you play this tape."
Outernational fever dream psychedelia and free jazz from Portugal on Discrepant’s Sucata sublabel
"It could as well be an ethnographic soundtrack from another planet as the trio of Mestre André (saxophone, electronics), Bernardo Álvares (contrabass) and Raphael Soares (drums) dwelve deep into the outer realms of what jazz/electronics music can sound like.
Urban shamanism, magical practices and ancient/future world views collide in unsuspecting ways on this out there tape.
An unique sound from an unique trio, 'Alförjs has a very special place among what is out there of more intriguing and radical in this final stretch of the 21st century's second decade."
‘Mãe D’Água’ is a live recording of Lisbon’s Mestre André (laptop) and Carlos Godinho (objets) conducting research into aural alchemy, using an array of hand-played objects and the vast reverb of an old water tower in the centre of Lisbon to conjure this naturalistic but surreal 30 minute soundscape.
"Banha da Cobra is a project of Lisbon based artists Mestre André (laptop) and Carlos Godinho (objects). Stream of research and electroacoustic sound intervention, Banha da Cobra starts from the sonic imaginary of handcrafted, ritualistic and traditional activities and landscapes. The compositions are made as sound ruins, based on an ecology between the sustainability of the sound nature of the found - structures, places, objects, etc. - and their appropriation and transformation.
The collecting inherent in this project of archaeological character is complemented with processes of alchemical manipulation like musical creation in real time. On Mãe D'Água, Banha da Cobra present a live recording of their concert/performance on a 4x4 channels system at Mãe d’Água, 21st of September 2018 within the context of Lisboa Soa festival. Mãe D'Água (Mother of Water) is an old water reservoir located in the center of Lisbon. It used to be the main reservoir for Lisbon being fed by a massive 19th Century aqueduct."
Early 1930s ryukoka recordings from Japanese geisha Kouta Katsutaro.
"Emerging during the early stages of the recording industry in Japan, the ryukoka style adopted some western classical, blues & jazz elements into traditional Min'yo folk music. Kouta Katsutaro would become one of it's most popular proponents, and along with another popular geisha singer, Ichimaru, forms the basis of a period dubbed the "Katsu-Ichi Era”.”
Closing the unoficial New Weird Portugal tape batch on Sucata Tapes is Eosin aka Diana Combo with a mixtape of crackling and droney vinyl mixed with Field recordings recorded outdoors on a later summer afternoon in Alentejo. In Diana's own words:
''This piece was made during a residency in Elvas (Alentejo, Portugal), in the context of the first edition of the festival A Salto, in July 2016. Each one of the invited artists for this residency was given a specific place where to develop a work to be presented during the festival. I spent a week at Fábrica Frutas Doces, a small “factory" dedicated to the preparation and confection of prunes and plums in syrup. Some families have been linked to this sector of activity for several generations, as is the case of Luís Silveirinha family, the current owners at that time. Frutas Doces isn't the only factory of this kind but it is the only one operating exclusively in an artisan way. There, Luís and his only employee (back in the day the team of workers was larger) were cooking the plums, adding fire to the already high summer temperatures of around 40 degrees Celsius. This has to be done when the plums are collected, preserving the fruits at their best, so there is no escape from hell.
I recorded bits of our exchange of words while they were doing their job. At home, I worked with a collection of vinyl records and made a composition using ones and the others. It was like I was creating the tone, a certain voice of the space, a construction that becomes a new reality of it. Like a register of its possible soundtrack, one which means from the space and is crystalized by the manipulation I make over my perceptions of that place during that period. At the same time, I joined Beniko, a visual artist, for the creation of her performance to be presented as the opening of A Salto, and one thing influenced and inspired the other. The piece I have made was presented as a live composition using the pre-recorded bits, at the terrace of the Fábrica in a late afternoon that was surprisingly mild. I decided to name the recording of this piece For Beniko, as she was an inspiration and remains as a beautiful memory of the time spent in Elvas.
Listening to the piece is a way to go back in time, relocate there and remember the period of its creation. Sounds can bring images, other sounds, feelings, smells and taste to memory in a way that is so acute and live, even when the material that documents that certain reality is a construction of it, quite afar from its figurative or realistic representation.''
Diana Combo, January 2018
Armed with just a backpack sub-woofer and an around the neck mobile modular, Jeff Blank set off to the outer Mongolian reaches, seeking out his Parvita. His rippling sound vibrations resonated back and forth bringing love, fertility and devotion (all at the optimum level of 80db of course).
"Jeff's Landscapes are a collection of new and previously unreleased music, all of which was recorded originally for his own lantern-lit, incensed bong cavern. But here big Jeff shifts the emphasis from the bong to the gong, and you can hear a more experimental, electronic focussed sound that echoes that same early Eno intake that he would take in on a daily basis in THE shop, whilst then fitting elderly shoppers with their Clarks correction shoes."
The Death of Rave present the hypnotic first recorded evidence of Black Mecha performing a Black Mechanical DJ set of exclusive material, captured from the cockpit while he navigated The White Hotel’s tardis-like dimensions in Salford, mid December 2018
Black Mecha is an alias of Fortress Crookedjaw, also commander of arch black metal outsiders, Wold. The project was birthed in 2015 with ‘AA’ for The Death of Rave, and has since explored the void between extreme black metal, EBM and industrial techno for Metal bastion Profound Lore, as well as New Zealand’s Independent Woman Records, and their own vent; Internal Masonry Publications.
This tape renders a recording of Black Mecha’s first Black Mechanical DJ set captured direct to microphone with no edits. Performing with the crowd to his back, Black Mecha proceeded to charge the air with deadly-focussed intent, powerfully iterating what he terms “Mentation Electronics”; maybe best understood as a transcendence of noumenal energy into meta/physics - or what is also known as hyperstition.
Simultaneously eviscerating and yet life-affirming to attendees, the performance unleashed dark cosmic forces upon a crowd who were hypnotised into submission for the duration. You had to be there. But if you weren’t, this tape renders a tangible yet elusive document of that night - 60 minutes of pummelling bass ricocheting a Lower Broughton warehouse, interjected by shoooming smoke machine and cries of ecstasy/pain from those who crawled out of the woodwork to witness this rarely paralleled alignment of energies.
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.”
Rabit brings together all three volumes of his killer mixtape series tribute to DJ Screw in one set, duplicated to military grey tape. While volume 1 has previously been available, this is a first physical appearance for volumes 2 and 3. Syruppy, seriously fucked chopped & screwed edits of Sade, Araabmuzik, Tirzah, AFX, Lana, Enigma, Riri , Lil Boosie ++++
Like DJ Screw, Rabit also hails from Houston and has long named Screw’s radical style of slowed down and Codeine-infused rap and pop edits as a major influence on his own productions. On the first volume, ‘Cry Alone Die Alone’ he pulls back for a tarry hour of slurred rap and shoegazing electronic haze in keeping with that OG spirit.
Part 2, Bricks in a Drought features Sade, Aaliyah, Riri and Ciara slowed down into the mix along with Araabmuzik and more, nailing a proper, dusky, stoop-side sound in 11 parts underlined by the wooziest, gelatinous subs and smudged with glistening compression artefacts to hold listeners under its slow, heavily warped spell.
Part 3, The Dope Show, finds Lil Boosie, AFX, Tirzah, Enigma and Lana Del Rey slopped in-the-mix with a special measure of psychedelia and asphalt-grain ruffness. Where the first two instalments were strictly rap focused, this one’s a bit looser with the style, marrying some of the most notable, contemporary female voices with super rugged and bittersweet backdrops.
His compound of Lil Boosie and AFX makes us do that thing chefs do when they like da sauce, and he evens manages to make Lana Del Rey palatable in two crashing dollops, while the screwed downstroke of Tirzah’s ‘Gladly’ demands to be heard by anyone who fell for ‘Devotion’ (all a y’all, innit?!), and really, that Enigma track was aways begging to get screwed.
Vibes for eons.
Influential Texan producer Rabit rounds off his DJ Screw tribute mixes with a deadly 3rd volume staying true to the OG, slow and woozy Southern hip hop style
On the 3rd piece of the trilogy, Lil Boosie, AFX, Tirzah, Enigma and Lana Del Rey are slopped in-the-mix with a special measure of sizzurp styled psychedelia. Where previous instalments were strictly rap focused, this one’s a bit looser with the style, marrying some of the most notable, contemporary female voices with super rugged and bittersweet backdrops.
His compound of Lil Boosie and AFX makes us do that thing chefs do when they like da sauce, and he evens manages to make Lana Del Rey palatable in two crashing dollops, while the screwed downstroke of Tirzah’s ‘Gladly’ demands to be heard by anyone who fell for ‘Devotion’ (all a y’all, innit?!), and really, that Enigma track was aways begging to get screwed. Vibes for eons.
Rabit kneels at the altar of DJ Screw with ‘Bricks In A Drought’, the killer 2nd drop in a trilogy dedicated to the late, influential Texan pioneer of chopped ’n screwed hip hop.
Staying true to Screw’s OG aesthetic, Rabit continues to pursue that slow, viscous Texan sound across 50 minutes of slow down R&B, soul and rap steeped in codeine and sprite vibes.
Slackening Sade, Aaliyah, Riri and Ciara into the mix along with Araabmuzik and more, Rabit nails a proper, dusky, stoop-side sound in 11 parts underlined by the wooziest, gelatinous subs and smudged with glistening compression artefacts to hold listeners under its slow, heavily warped spell.
Right about now, there’s hardly a better, sweeter soundtrack to the world melting around us.