Wonderfully gauzy, minimalist textures and woozy timbral shifts from Aussie sound artist Felicity Mangan, making innovative use of a Hohner harmonica for the One Instrument series.
Joining the likes of Neel and Donato Dozzy on the Berlin-based programme, Felicity showcases a beautifully tactile approach to her instrument that resonates with her background in wildlife recordings, effectively prizing the infidelity of natural sound and intuitive, amateur performance over skilled rigour.
Using The Echo Harp model of harmonica she picked up at a Hamburg flohmarkt in February, 2020, Felicity creates a naturally lush, if lowkey, sort of blissed out sound across ‘Bell Metal Reeds’, coaxing breath thru metal to conjure a groggy airborne waltz of windswept, string-like tones and swaying timbres in the first part, with something more akin to baroque chamber music in the stately progression of the 2nd, before appearing to zoom out and de-focus her sound into 12 minutes of glacial, granular swirls on the 3rd.
It’s only in the fourth and final part that we can identify the source of the instrument as a harmonica, as it takes on a sort of bluesy tone peppered with the sort of glitching rhythmic spasms that recall the strongest early Raster releases.
Maverick electro-acoustic composer Marina Rosenfeld returns to Room 40, host of 2009’s standout ‘P.A./Hard Love’ album, with an investigation of dub plate decay and the haptic, physical interaction of skin, sweat and grime on acetate, with results recalling Bellows, Stephan Mathieu, early Wanda Group
“For over two decades, New York-based artist and composer Marina Rosenfeld has pioneered a specific language for turntable music, based on an ever-expanding collection of dub plates she creates.
The dubplate is a one-off, hand-cut record. Each dubplate can be made to contain any array of sounds decided on by its creator. For Rosenfeld, her discovery of the dubplate in the late 1990s was a pivotal moment, when she recognised the material instability of the medium as critical tool for performance and composition.
On Index, the investigation of this materiality is paramount. The physical intimacy that colors the relation between the hand and the plate is revealed through a very particular reading of the turntable, one which sits in parallel to the more recognised ways in which that technology has been deployed as a performative tool.
This edition features a series of live recordings and related materials that trace the development of Rosenfeld’s tactile approach and her shifting collection of sound materials. The recordings are published alongside a book featuring extensive archival documentation, photography and a long-form conversation between Marina Rosenfeld and Lawrence English.”
High grade hard drum bangers from Fraxinus, long in the works but finally ready for hungry clubs on his newly minted label; Powerplant
Loaded with buffed up new iterations of gear first previewed years ago, ‘Position [Displacement]’ is a definitive solo statement by the UK producer who came thru mid decade with the Her Records gang, helping shape their omnivorous approach to techno as informed by UKB, Jersey/B-More, and dancehall. These six new zingers find their feet in the midst of a scene ripe for his style, deploying meticulously engineered and propulsive bullets that are bound to pique interest across the increasingly trampled-on borders of club music.
As played by M.E.S.H. as fair back as 2017, ‘Source Code’ appears here, subtly retuned for optimal wallop and swagger, while the lethal dancehall techno payload of ‘Pass One’ is absolutely gasping for big room devastation with devilishly timed dynamics and cavernous, offset kicks. On a more playful flex, ’115 (Kondo)’ is defined by its twirling, laser cut lead and effortless rolige, while ‘Larch’ feels like Oni Ayhun doing hard ass gopnik techno, replete with accordion, but his craftiest rhythms are saved for the two bookends with oodles of tightly wound drums in the Leonce-like pressure of ‘Overland’, and the insectoid sidewinder ‘Laced.’
Crankiest industro-dub sludge and skronk from Norn Iron outlier Autumns, channelling everything from Adrian Sherwood to Dennis Bovell’s dubs of The Pop Group to classic coldwave and EBM
Mashing it up in the wake of his latest album, ‘Dyslexia Sound System’, the ‘DDS Dubplate’ goes loose and rude in the echo chamber with the sort of hands-on badness found in his wicked live sets. It hits “that cultural and musical sweet spot when the rockers met the post-punk crowd”, flinging down mucky gobs of wiry guitar and splodgy dub heave in ‘Annoying Fucker’ before evening out to a 4/4 steppers keel rinsed with rusty, ring-modulated noise in ‘Eating on the Ground’, and giving it some EBM leather and swagger to come off like DAF after a few doobs in ‘Never Lasted’.
Prime, bouncing UKF mutations from Fiyahdred - formerly Bamz - with five zingers patently informed by Amapiano as much as the golden era of UK Funky
Packed with self-evident party tackle, the ‘Anyway EP’ christens their new moniker with crafty sidespin on style they explored on jam Supernova’s Future Bounce label as Bamz, and beside Scratcha DVA on the Classix label. ‘Da Mellowdee’ sets it off at a low-key angle with purring vocals, velvet chords and clockwork hip hustle lit off with G-funk lead, while ‘Anyway (Do It)’ commits a slick blend of Amapiano and hushed vox with deadly UKF synth scuzz. ‘Flutey Loopz’ dips to a tuffer strain of UKF/Amapiano, and ‘Tumpin’’ eazes off with a playful echo of DVA’s DRMTRK series.
A new addition to the Hakuna Kulala family, Congolese producer Chrisman torches the borders between gqom, trap, taraxina and Afrohouse on his debut release 'Ku Mwezi' - a potent club cocktail that's one part Slikback, one part DJ Lag and one part DJ Plead = next gen dancefloor futurism.
Erupting in a haze of trance arps, gqom-influenced kicks and convulsing synths, 'Hewa' is an apt introduction to Chrisman's musical star system. Currently the in-house engineer at Nyege Nyege's villa studio - having recently replaced Don Zilla - he brings serious technical knowhow to the kind of cybernetic next-wave intensity familiar from Kenyan wunderkind Slikback, slowing gqom to a ruff crawl, cross pollenating it with Atlanta trap and double-timing it into frenetic hard dance.
The title track offers a curveball; a collab with Egyptian mahraganat alchemist Yunis that evolves from a molasses-slow Cairo template into eerie, synth-led 2CB nightmare fuel. It's a midpoint between 3Phaz's furious electro-mahraganat hybrids and Jasmine Infiniti's aerated, midnight electronix, but without any easy payoffs. 'Lamuka' and 'Mukwano Gwange' lock into a Durban rattle, slicing into the template and introducing weightless vocals and synths, anxious percussion and nauseous atmospherics.
Chrisman once again demonstrates East Africa’s rich seam of delirious club invention. The Hakuna/Nyege axis is basically untouchable, still.
With links to The Trilogy Tapes, Equiknoxx, 12th Isle and basically a shit tonne of foundational stuff in our orbit, Jon K and Elle Andrews finally mint their hugely promising new MAL imprint with an EP of proper dancefloor screwballs by Ausschuss; decimating UKG, dembow and industrial dancehall styles in a mutable volley of devilish club ballistics. If yr into owt by Beatrice Dillon, Equiknoxx, Shackleton to the Nervous Horizon crew - this one’s for you.
Berlin-based sound designer Linus Nicholson aka Ausschuss outlines the new label’s divergent co-ordinates with seven tracks that bend sound designer tekkers to structures that step in the cracks between styles, zig-zagging between crafty permutations of classic and up-to-the moment UK club music, and a world of influence from Angolan Kuduro to Latin dembow and Afro-Caribbean dub, or what is commonly known as hard drum.
Future-proofed by its taut but supple minimalism, ‘Cruise’ is an extension of Ausschuss’ previous rhythm and sound research found on 2018’s ‘Room 1’ mini-album with Milan’s Haunter Records. Ausschuss’ playful personality comes thru in its jostling drums and restless, meter-shifting nature, approaching each cut with a fine equilibrium of razor-sharp discipline and sense of mischief that sees him hop between styles and patterns with a joy-riding sense of fun.
Between the adroitly whirring 2-step syncopation of ‘Bunny Crutch’ and the drunken dembow swagger of ‘PSG 96’, he swangs the spare, enervated dubstep of its title track, which was produced post-rave in a corner of a Belgian warehouse, while the pealing horns of ‘Peak 5’ appears to summon the spirits of hardcore rave in a mutant sort of drill-tipped industrial dancehall, and the post-punk informed tresillo rhythms of ‘Beverly Services’ ricochets like a stray On-U Sound bullet that finds its target in 2021.
No mistake, it's rudely countercultural business, colouring outside the lines of convention in a way that defies categorisation.
The legendary "lost" debut solo album from British singer-songwriter, actor and author Catherine Howe, who recorded "What a Beautiful Place" in 1971 when she was only 20 years old. Produced by jazz pianist Bobby Scott, it's a wyrd folk milestone to file alongside Vashti Bunyan's "Just Another Diamond Day".
When she recorded "What a Beautiful Place", Howe had established herself as an actor, performing in TV shows like "Doctor Who" and "Z-Cars". This helped her get a foothold in music, and she penned her first album to map her biography, drifting from Yorkshire to London and then Dorset. Sadly, the album was only available for a month after it was released, as it tanked independent imprint Reflection Records. Undeterred, Howe recorded a run of further albums, taking a break in the 1980s and '90s and returning to recording in 2005 with "Princelet Street".
In 2007, Numero Group remastered the album using a source copy (the master tapes had sadly been lost), and the wider world was finally able to hear this hidden classic. Howe was so young when it was recorded that her voice sounds almost angelic as it runs through experiences still fresh in her mind. The accompanying music too lifts these songs into blue clouds and over green hills. There's a whimsical quality that reminds of Linda Perhacs or Bridget St. John - if you squint a little, you can even hear the traces of eccentric progressive energy that would electrify Kate Bush a few years later.
Rudely grooving, grubbing, blooz punk beats by the Congolese-Belgian project from singer Nyati Mayi with producers DJ Sofa & Yvan a.k.a. Kra-Z Bertrem
The latest pluck from the Swiss misters at Bongo Joe is a lowkey curveball, exploring a lilting fusion of ‘90s hip hop, folk and dub on ‘Jubilee’, voiced by the freeform, almost scatting styles of Nyati Mayi up top, then digging into a more angular sort of punkish jazz-fusion on ‘Spiribert’, with Mayi channelling a loose Fela as much as Congolese traditions in the vocals, over a busy bassline and almost Ra-esque organ vamp inflections and percussion subtly reminding of Ndagga’s mbalax styles in a proper, tussling groove set to snag ears from any angle.
West African drum and funk fiends, your time! Master Ghanaian percussionist Okyerema Asante ov Oneness of Juju returns for a 20 year follow-up to his part on ‘African Rhythms 1970-1982’, one of the earliest aces on Strut
Nose to tail, it’s 100% bad-to-the-bone grooves inside, shimmying around the square roots of the Afro-American dance dialogue during the years after Asante had cut his teeth playing with Ebo Taylor’s Blue Monks band, and gigging at Fela’s Shrine, which led to him touring with Hugh Masakela and Oneness of Juju alongside James Branch aka Plunky (Ndikho Xaba & The Natives).
Recorded during the golden years of disco and boogie, ‘Drum Message’ strongly bears their traces, but bent with a proper Ghanaian highlife suss and deadly jazz skill, exemplified in the likes of his classic ‘Asanate Sana’ and the bustling upness of his anthem ‘Sabi’, and its deeply concentrated ‘Sabi (Black Fire Mix)’, while ‘Never Fly Away From The Funk’ gets right on the funky nerve, ‘To The Ancestors’ pushes right out into proper rhythmic psychedelia, and oh my days, if you aren’t snagged on the cowbells and whistles of ‘Play a Sweet Rhythm on Them Drums’ you’re a lost cause, basically.
Outstanding debut of intimate, fractious, liminal jazz and avant-classical minimalism from Angela Wai Nok Hui, reflecting on formative years in Hong Kong, and her move to London, with results that work in space between Mark Fell & Rian Treanor’s collab and claire rousay’s barely there enigmas
A real one for attentive listeners, ‘Let Me Tell You Something’ is one of the uncanniest debuts we’ve heard in years. Blessed with an extraordinary, curious sound sensitivity, Angela whispers about feelings on her home city, and associated “thoughts on identity, resistance and memory” across a remarkably absorbing suite, deploying a wide and exceedingly subtle palette of near infrasonic bass, overheard conversations and phone calls, weft with sparing, rhythmelodic percussion in a way that totally messes with our perceptions of time and space.
It’s a music that hovers in the background, but is too crafty to be called ambient, and lingers in a space between late night jazz and avant classical minimalism yet not committed to either. In that sense, and thru her poetic use of diaristic sampling, it’s worthy of comparison with claire rousay’s work, although Angela reserves the right to leap forward with hypnic jerk-like gestures at times that check you’re not dozing off, which would be understandable due to her music’s hypnagogic pull. You’re probably not going to fully grasp it from samples, but take it on trust this is one to blind buy if you’re a fan of subtle surprises, and especially of the daydreaming sort explored in Mark Fell & Rian Treanor’s drowsy but lucid beauty ‘Last Exit to Chickenly’.
Swans’ guitarist Kristof Hahn yields a full course of reverberating drone scapes to Room 40, relinquishing recordings made in the wake of the band’s final shows after reforming. Billowing feedback and amp worship gleaned from an artillery of lapsteel and electric guitars manipulated with loop pedals, at best in the absorbign sonorities of ‘Vogelfluhlinie’ and ghoulish silhouette of ‘My Bed is Spinning’
“Six Pieces, a record that is essentially born from the ashes of the final SWANS reformation line-up tour, uses various found elements, stored loops, thematic notes and other acoustic debris as a means for launching off a series of interrogation into solo guitar composition.
The pieces bare the marks of touring life, sometimes intensely claustrophobic, other moments languid and at times euphoric, each pieces creates a vista of sound that describes a kind of fluid landscape without relying on the perceptual land-marks we might fall back on.
Hahn’s music is one of repetition and unfolding variation, it is unsettled, but never rushed or careless. He knows that music is an art form of time and is not afraid to allow his compositions to build, evolve and finally arrive with a casual sense of hushed determination.”
Barmy and quite brilliant new album from Mira Calix, that cuts thru a ruff clutter of abstract ideas and wildly disparate elements with a digital hotknife, collaging elements from avant garde experimental music, rap, footwork, opera, industrial and dubstep. Somehow the result is coherent and utterly compelling - perhaps her best album yet.
It's easy to forget that Durban-born Chantal Passamonte was the first woman signed to the Warp label, and she's been hard at work doing her own thing since 1996's still-underrated "Ilanga" 12". She's managed to completely avoid classification too, working with experimental electronics and mutant dance forms initially, over the years she's made the transition into installation and theatre work without sacrificing the uniqueness of her voice. So "a̵b̵s̵e̵n̵t̵ origin" follows these decades of invention and reinvention, and is influenced by feminist artist Hannah Wilke's collage works.
Passamonte compares her studio process to a Scandi-noir detective's office as she assembles her inspirations and influences. Each track on the album is formed using a different collage process that reflects the output of a different visual artist, and yet somehow Passamonte manages to find a connection between each one, assembling a cast of 17 tracks that form a complex narrative.
There's a confident, theatrical quality to "a̵b̵s̵e̵n̵t̵ origin" that feels risky and modern. Passamonte has experience working with theater - she composed for the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2017 - and her stark, recognizable sound has never felt more lavishly displayed. It's a challenging, rewarding and bold work that grabs influence from throughout the artistic spectrum without cynicism or polite restraint - a rare thing.
Smouldering bedroom R&B flex from Brooklyn’s Dawuna, making strong debut moves on the ace O___o? label behind that Ize bullet and LA Timpa’s first record. if u like it slow x dripping in a prince/d'angelo style with a sort of pre-millennial tension/nearly god seam of dread running through it, this is dead, dead strong
Slow baked for a gooey core and crispy texture, and laced with sonic THC, Dawuna’s ‘Glass Lit Dream’ settles on the soul like the time delayed release of a good edible. It’s a finely accomplished first effort, drawing comparisons with everyone from Tricky to Prince at his wooziest and downbeat, to LA Timpa’s gauzy blooz, the meaningful minimalism of Mica & Tirzah, or Leila’s frayed intimacies, yet patently possessed of its own worries. The magick lies in how Dawuna works them out, channelling a quiet stream of consciousness thru velvet vocals, ranging from aching croon to ASMR whispers, and most nimbly stitched to crunchy drums and nagging licks that feel like Burial and Timbaland productions redressed by claire rousay.
Occupying a shadowy fidelity that’s too meticulous to be called lo-fi, but clearly not dripping with typical R&B gloss, the 10 songs hold a broad conventional appeal while boldly reserving the right to switch track at right angles. They play out in mixtape form, crucially bridged with crafty transitions that make it feel like we’re sleepwalking around Dawuna’s dreams between the earthy knocks, domestic rustle and close miked vox of ‘The Ape Prince’ and bruised blooz of ‘The Lethe, The Sea.’ We’re totally snagged on the stranger Afro-Goth R&B lilt of ‘The General’, and the Timba-tight drums and sore vocal motif of ‘Bad Karma’ lay a proper earworm, while ‘Moon, I already know’ is an unmissable piece of gently curdled, alien gospel recalling a tempered, less flamboyant fusion of Arca and Autre Ne Veut to our lugs.
Striking debut of skilful, yet kinda unhinged, a cappella operatic tributes to Cathy Berberian executed with careful abandon by Belgian soprano Sarah Defrise.
"The disk features exclusively a capella pieces which were written for Cathy by some of the most prominent composers of her time. Berio's Sequenza III, Cage's Aria and Cathy's own Stripsody have become new music 'hits', but 'For Cathy' also presents lesser known repertoire such as Henri Pousseur's Phonème pour Cathy, Bussoti's fragment from Passion selon Sade and Entretien, a piece for electronic tape composed by Sarah Defrise as a tribute to Berberian. Sarah took an active part in the editing process of the disk in order to create a coherent sound object, displaying the endless possibilities of the human voice. Cathy Berberian (July 4, 1925 - March 6, 1983) American mezzo-soprano and composer based in Italy.
She worked closely with many contemporary avant-garde music composers, including Luciano Berio, Bruno Maderna, John Cage, Henri Pousseur, Sylvano Bussotti, Darius Milhaud, Roman Haubenstock-Ramati and Igor Stravinsky. As a recital curator, she presented several vocal genres in a classical context, including arrangements of songs by The Beatles as well as folk songs from several countries and cultures. As a composer, she wrote Stripsody (1966), in which she exploits her vocal technique using comic book sounds (onomatopoeia), and Morsicat(h)y (1969), a composition for the keyboard (with the right hand only) based on Morse Code."
Five year follow-up to Eomac’s collage of Arabic music samples and offbeat electronic torque echoing classic, latter Muslimgauze
Returning to the styles explored on his 2016 album for Bedouin Records, Eomac (aka half of Lakker) reprises a brooding blend of disembodied voices and microtonal string tunings powered by thuggish slow techno pulses and a palette of more offbeat, syncopated, Arabic drums.
The project follows on from his debut album with Planet Mu earlier in 2021 with a more self-contained aesthetic and impressionistic sort of storytelling, respectfully evoking his subject with sparingly used sampledelic texturing delpyed in a plethora of ways, from the hypnotic charge of gothic post-punk styled trample and subtle microtonal string edge of ‘Shadows Encroaching’, to a sidespin on mahraganat rhythms and prayerful vox in ‘Oracle’ and the Burial-esque ‘Prayer Pt. 2’, and an excellent flurry of tar-like tons and scuffed dembow patterns in ‘Everything Falls Away’, and the more complex geometric variant ‘Living in a society deigned to break our spirits (but we won’t let them).’
Thick, billowing electronic drones, foley rattles and screwed early Hollywood classical music? This one's a dense proposition - influences range from Milton's 'Paradise Lost' to ancient Rome - but properly reveals itself slowly over repeat listens. For fans of Wolfgang Voigt, Norwegian early electronic don Arne Nordheim, Deathprod or even AFX >> this is really fucking good.
Andreas Gerth and Carl Oesterhelt have worked together for years, both members of the now defunct collective Tied +Tickled Trio, but 'The Aporias Of Futurism' reaches a new level in their careers. The album sprung to life after Oesterhelt began experimenting with a broken CD player and processing it through a ring modulator, with Gerth contributing by adding the sampled sounds of everyday objects. To reference a more distant past, he processed early 20th century classical music and it's the use of creaking orchestral elements - employed not to position the music as "neo classical" or to hint at a culturally accepted form of aesthetic prettiness, but to drag history into the present day and recontextualize it.
The effect is disconcerting, unsettling music that allows both musicians to play to their strengths and use their production and performance experience to mastermind a concoction of synthesis and sampling that sounds as exploratory as the GRM catalogue and as psychedelic and propulsive as Donato Dozzy and Daniele di Gregorio's "Buchla & Marimba". In its most electronic stretches, there are percussive rhythmic bursts that gesture towards Autechre's wired DSP trickery, but set against foreboding, Bernard Herrmann-esque strings while synth tones ring and rattle, metal sheets scrape and clang, and pitched-down orchestral elements recall Wolfgang Voigt's early GAS productions.
It's long as hell, and takes a couple of listens to fully unpack, but it's worth the effort - trust us.
Super kinky reggaeton perreo romance from Arca, prepping the ground for ‘KiCK ii’ - RIYL Sangre Nueva (Florentino, DJ Python, Kelman Duran), Paul Marmota, Wisin & Yandel
Offered up to the club as a celebration of “psychosexual versatility” that explicitly expresses their “transness and nonbinary modes of relating the sexual energy of the collective subconscious”, the results are built to command gyrating hips and beckon eyes shut in the dance, maybe even shameless fucking on the ‘floor?
They’re both flawless bullets and among the most direct we’ve heard from the US-based, Venezuelan wunderkind, locking off gruff ’n sweet vocals on a lip-bitingly tight dembow bump and chiselled snares gilded with sexiest synth pads in ‘Prada’, while ‘Rakata’ tweaks the mode with shriller hardstyle trance licks for a proper infectious appeal.
Fuck, this is strong.
Josiah Wise, aka serpentwithfeet, follows the hearbreakingly good "DEACON" with this sharp EP of reinterpretations, new cuts and bumped-up reworks and new verses from Ambré and Alex Isley.
While the extra version of 'Hyacinth' and 'Amir' feel a bit like filler, new tracks 'Shoot Ya Shot' and 'Down Nuh River' exhibit the same brittle gospel flavors that made Wise's towering masterpiece so memorable and feel like an apt companion. But it's the fresh version of 'Fellowship' that has us in cold sweats.
The original track was the album's low-key standout, and this new version, carried by a sugary-sweet vocal from New Orleans-born vocalist Ambré makes a good thing even better. It's praise music that's worth shouting from the rooftops over - so good.
Vladislav Delay takes a hammer and chisel to picks from Takuma Watanabe's 'Last Afternoon', sculpting the Japanese composer's gaseous, widescreen drones into heaving rhythmic noise dub k-holes in his inimitable style.
Sasu Ripatti's work as Vladislav Delay has subtly guided a generation of experimentally-minded producers into wildly psychedelic musical climates. Here, he flexes once more, transposing Watanabe's soundtrack-ready ambience into completely new locations, welding together compositions and imbuing them with the heaving dub-influenced atmospheres he's been exploring for over two decades.
On 'Clouds Fall x Tactile', he fires distorted bass and corroded staccato kicks over process field recordings and the faint hint of the original tracks' melancholy strings. Clanking machinery cuts thru like falling concréte, and echoes are looped into deathtrap sonic whirlpools of humming noise and resonance. 'Text x Bruges' is completely different - Ripatti fashions a pitch-skwiffed 4/4 floor filler, using microsamples to form a dissonant ritual chant over supple kicks.
There's basically nobody else doing it quite like this.
Guitarist Ben Chasny (aka Six Organs of Admittance) whips up an emotive suite of psych-folk library music on "The Intimate Landscape". A sharp and lushly cinematic set of acoustic vignettes for fans of John Fahey, Robbie Basho et al.
Since the late 1990s, Chasny's name has been synonymous with the resurgence of American folk wyrdness that saw a grip of artists across the continent pick up where John Fahey and his contemporary accolytes left off. "The Intimate Landscape" is his umpteenth full length, but deserves special attention because it was original recorded for library music label KPM and was intended to be used as such. So we find Chasny in a particularly cinematic space, tying uncharacteristically positive acoustic guitar compositions around evocative riffs and ominous textural elements.
The album isn't simply a collection of loose studies, it feels like a selection of related themes - if we didn't know better we might mistake the album for being a complete soundtrack - and can easily be enjoyed from beginning to end. There's a cheerful positivity to these tracks that reminds of the mid-00s nu-folk boom and points to a future that just might be more hopeful than we think. Recommended.
Oxhy & Susu Laroche fuse as Fertile Crescent for Milan’s Haunter with a debut batch of funereal goth songs and flouncy post-industrial steppers
“6G is the child of a hollow moon, unwritten histories of permaculture deities in the levant, pagan conspiracies about haunted birthrights, texts buried in lunatic obscurity, communication with the evil smile of a goddess, bells designed to be wrung three times in the night, childish blood games, farmers with occult crops.
The duo of Oxhy and Susu Laroche have chosen the name The Fertile Crescent, evoking one of the cradles of human civilization as much as a (un)healthy devotion to the power of the lunar cycle. Musically, it reeks of post-industrial folklore ripe with solemn tones and conflicting bits, combined via the mocking dream logic of a trickster spirit. A skeletal presence of melody in a sparse, ceremonial ambiance that can even welcome thunderous rolls of breakbeat, like tapping from the energy of every ritual that has scarred the land in time. Following the record is like attempting at drawing a psychic topography of those same rituals, manifestations, tragedies and games, it’s like mistaking the broadband network for the Ley lines but still succeeding in conquering its occult power.”
The frothy spirit of early AFX looms large and sweet over Kieran Warren’s contemporaneous archival cuts as Atonal - a must check for all fluffy ‘90s ambient admirers
Chasing up the 2020 release of Atonal’s music on the ‘Cithare’ EP, the eleven tracks of ‘Bridge’ hark from the same era, 1990-1994, and were likewise thwarted for a full release, with only a few of them seeing the light of day on a 1994 compilation via J.M. Adkins’ (Electro Music Union) Metatone label. What’s good sometimes eventually rises to the surface, though, as with ‘Bridge’, which finally ‘fesses its bounty of bubbling, bucolic treats, rangng from beautifully curdled Braindance melodies to very classy nods to AFX’s seminal ‘SAW 85-92’ in its highlights such as the warm and fuzzy ‘Codeine’, the crisp electro-breaks minimalism of ‘No Escape’, the snow crunch tread and wintry reverbs of ‘Edina H’ and the sincere homage of ‘Arkanoids.’
““I first met Kieran in about 1992 via a local newspaper advert for a bit of gear he was selling. I drove over to his flat to view the piece of equipment which I can’t remember now what it was. I ended up not buying it but we discovered we had a mutual interest in the same kinds of electronic music like Kraftwerk, Neu!, Throbbing Gristle, Cabaret Voltaire et al and had both bought the first Aphex album. I remember being impressed by the quality and size of his record collection which took up one whole wall of his flat. Also, he had some nice analog gear like an OSCar which also impressed me!
Anyway, we became firm friends and eventually he played me his own music and I thought it was superb (especially how he managed to get a resonant filter sweep out of an Ensoniq EPS16) and at the time Metatone was just starting up and I thought it would be great to put his music out on the label. Unfortunately for reasons I won’t go into here I managed to only put out 2 tracks on the compilation CD and Metatone folded soon after. So please enjoy this sublime album which has been lovingly put together by the guys at Cold Blow”
- J. M. Adkins, July 2021”
NYC-raised Olive T bolts together slippery, void-fluxing nu-techno pressure that swerves minimalism in favor of strip-lite synths and broken, riveted rhythms. A rugged Martyn Bootyspoon rework and dubwise edit from Overland makes this one well worth a closer look.
'Birdin In Space' is somehow the most apt name we can think of for this tempered set of contemporary NYC-wave club musick. There's a lightness that the Euro set just can't touch, and in that, there's a signpost directly to the future. The current NYC scene feels boundless, and Olive T's fresh but sandblasted euphoric techno hybrids are in a league of their own.
Martyn Bootyspoon adds rolling breaks to the levitational title track, giving a tuff backbone to Olive T's stargzing percs, and Canadian producer Overland reduces 'Shimmer or Glimmer' to an echoing squelch that sounds perfectly primed for late-nite movement.
Francisco López explores the hidden sounds of Tenerife on this extended study, layering industrial recordings with expertly recorded environmental sounds to create a mind-expanding alien sound-world.
It feels like a privilege to absorb recordings as detailed and microscopic as these. López is a master of his craft, the Hendrix of the microphone, and brings out subtleties in the landscape that the human ear is barely able to unravel in situ. When he processes these sounds, they're completely cleaved of context, but take on new life as alien textural forms that sound like synthesized rumbles, sub bass or HD DSP processes.
We're dragged through Tenerife here for just over 40 minutes, and there are few sounds that connect us to a lived reality: wind is captured like a ghost trail through a plain, sea water is transformed into fizzing bursts of white noise and industrial machinery becomes a Cronenberg-esque gloop of gooey technorganic body horror.
Mutable bassbin explorer Om Unit works around the 150bpm mark in a deft echo of Rian Treanor or Beatrice Dillon’s efforts in the same bracket on this self released volley
Bending aspects of broken beat, garage, electro and dub techno to will, ‘Flux’ serves a fleet-footed session of UK rave pressure between the nimble 2.1-step of ‘Angles’ and the darker garage variant ‘Ramp’, with ‘Rubberneck’ flexing ghettotech electro frameworks, and ’Subway Track’ hingeing around and off the beat in more mercurial syncopations, while ‘Autumn Shadows’ sweeps dub chords into a sped up echo of Vainqueur’s Chain Reaction classics or the styles on Peak Oil.
Butt naked, tracky, straightjacketed 2-step and skudgy bleep ’n bass from London’s SM-LL camp
Patently skooled in SND and Rian Treanor tekkers, the A-side works up brittle claps and staggered dub chords into a mazy, frictional fuss distorted with gritty noise. The B-side settles down a bit for a stringent, strident tussle of flinty drums and shifty bleep melody hingeing around swanging bass and clambering arps like an askew Pan Sonic piece.
Danish guitarist and producer Jonas Munk, aka Manual, follows 2020's abstract "Minimum Resistance" with another resplendent set of frozen, beatless dream pop moods. Imagine Cocteau Twins and Harold Budd's "The Moon and the Melodies" played at half speed.
Munk has been chiseling away at this sound for decades now, carefully working out a way to create a gaseous, ambient approximation of dream pop. At this stage, his sounds are like pillows of soft tonal bliss, tempered with faint traces of wind and rain. It's as if Stars of the Lid decided to make an album dedicated to Slowdive, or Cocteau Twins had collaborated with Brian Eno.
Just check 'Terrain Vague', with its molasses slow string drones set against the gentle patter of rain, or 'Quiet Waters', as e-bowed lead sings over gauzy harmonies. These are moving, minimal soundscapes that might be melancholy, but never lack a beating heart.
Swamp-minded, psilocybin-influenced mutations of trap, dembow and D&B from Naarm nutters Loppy B, aka, if we’re not mistaken, Air Max ’97 and Scam
Playing deep into the crooked styles explored by Air Max ’97’s Decisions label, the duo (trio?) appear to take their cues from handfuls of shrooms and “nightly visitations from swamp sprites and imps” for a batch of grooves that may play tricks on the mind.
‘Grotto’ gets into a sort of mystic groove like Ka Baird and BZMC meets AYA at Boxed (RIP), and the soggy ‘Trench Foot’ tramples around in the space betwixt DJ Python’s dembow dancehall, CS + Kreme and the late hours of a good trip when its gets messy. ‘Eef Shap’ brings DJ MacKeeper™ into the fold for the EP’s wonkiest ace, all stumbling tresillo triplets and pitch bent Clanger chatter destined for the boldest DJs and best backrooms.
Salford psych rawk collective Gnod murder the meaning on their latest set, recorded through a period of confusion and turbulence. Grizzled, acidic sounds 'ere >> RIYL Melvins, Harvey Milk, Electric Wizard, Neurosis.
There's a disorientating boxed-in quality to "La Mort Du Sense", which makes sense given its recording history. The band laid down the demos back in 2019, but when COVID-19 hit Gnod rethought everything - this gave the tracks fresh motion, and noisy, post-punk mettle. In fact, the album sounds as urgent as Gnod have been in a while, harnessing the rhythmic throb of Joy Division and crossing it with the angular oddness of "Gluey Porch Treatments"-era Melvins.
'Regimental' is angry and charged, but ordered - almost dancefloor-ready with its chunky rhythm section, but 'Pink Champagne Blues' strikes a different chord, increasing the temperature (and the tempo) before burning into ten-ton overdriven riffs. The entire album feels as if it's a slow wind-up to the 12-minute finale, 'Giro Day', that seethes and hisses through noisy feedback, ritual drums, bells and cell-melting stoner drones.
Arch hybridizer Kush Arora aka Only Now unstitches and dematerialises Indian Classical conventions into raga doom scapes and militant, Nazar-like kuduro for the indomitable Bokeh Versions.
The 4th Only Now album, ‘Indian Unclassical Vol. 1’ sees Kush draw on his Indian heritage from more oblique perspectives, joining the dots between millennia-old forms of Indian classical and contemporary styles of ambient noise, industrialised dance musick and charred dub. The results express an urge to diversify the bonds of Indian Classical music and keep the form alive by binding it with unfamiliar styles and patterns, galvanising it with hard Angolan-Portuguese club music and rebulding its conventions thru a vast prism of electronic processing to wild and sublime effect.
The nine tracks cover a ruggedly varied terrain defined by Only Now’s taste for acrid noise and sweltering pressure systems, with ancient instrumentation pushed into the red until they scream across the ages, while metallic tabla rhythms are swept into blizzarding ructions of roiling syncopation and swarming attack a la Nazar at his fiercest.
That’s all there in the sweeping tableau of the opener ‘Time Suffocation’, which transitions from bombed out desolation to gorgeous sitar vamps and descends into a Kuduro madness thru its 6 min span, whereas others brutally focus on one aspect, such as the body-swilling percussive torque of ’Slit Ties’ and bullying force of ‘Cavern Trance.’ Apart from those highlights, we’re most struck by the way Kush renders osmotically absorbed styles in blistering new forms, as with the distorted, burning lead of ‘Glory’ and the melancholy depths of ‘Inverted Memories’ and the 10 minutes of pealing, Earth-like sitar on ‘Last Gasp.’
Streamlined drum trax and slippery synths from Helix, back to bang on his spiritual home at Night Slugs
The ‘Hi Dynamik Range EP’ is the Atlanta producer’s first release since 2018 (not counting his 4th batch of ‘Greatest Hits Vol. 4: The Bootlegs’) and catches him doing what he does best; knocking out infectious southern US dance music with panache.
His fine tuned percussion is at stinging best in the electroid shuffle and teetering arps of ‘Arena Boogie’, before he ups the intricacies to Leoncian levels with the kinky swivel and spar of ‘Silver Rumble.’ He gets tops marks for the punning title of ‘Risky Rhodez’ with its slick riff on US and UK dance/road musics offering the EP’s deepest, heads-down cut, while ‘California Orange’ lands right on the hippocampus with a stoned mix of West Coast synth flair and flinty, London-via-NYC drill trills.
Recoiling Swedish techno rufige from Shxcxchcxsh’s Hennes Stenström aka Sstrom for Karenn’s Voam - RIYl Peder Mannerfelt, Blawan, Jasss
Coming with, as the label put it, “four oven baked sherbets” Sstrom’s Voam debut packs a satisfyingly dry wallop and tang over four permutations of their powerfully off-centre and textured techno style. ‘Kiln’ goes on with machine-gunning staccato percussion and chattering synth noise that congeals into a seething mass, before ‘Thermal Decomposition’ foregrounds nagging rave signals over rabid bass muck with a floor swilling intensity.
The rolling groove of ‘Volatile Substance’ makes it the straightest of the pack, but still with a murderous edge of livewire electricity, and ’Solid Residue’ carves back off the bone in flaying meat motor style darked out with moody minor key motifs.
Unmissable, pioneering material from Bay Area original Pamela Z, a composer and performance artist who developed an operatic and percussive looping vocal technique using echo pedals that pre-empted sounds from Grouper, Maja Ratkje, Klein and even "Medúlla"-era Björk. Expressive and still completely singular music that connects Breadwoman with Moor Mother.
Pete Swanson and Jed Bindeman's Freedom To Spend label unearths another goldmine here with a debut reissue of Pamela Z's 1988 cassette "Echolocation". The album showcased a technique that Z had been masterminding for a minute, while she was assembling events in the Bay and using the Ibanez DM1000 digital delay to modify - and almost loop - her voice. Z had spent her life up until that point studying music, performing covers and hosting a radio show in Boulder, Colorado, where she came across the late-1970s DIY experimental scene.
When she arrived in the Bay Area, she wanted to figure out a way to perform vocal music on her own without sacrificing the density or texture present in ensemble work. This path lead her to "Echolocation", the lone recorded document of her '80s material and an exploration of the limits of her voice. Most of the tracks express the techniques that Z used in her live performances: 'Badagada' for example finds Z looping utterances and garbled syllables to create chattering rhythms before adding a siren's call, dislocated wails and lower-register breaths.
It's physical music that feels urgent and alive - mere moments from the brink of collapse. But Z's control gives the recordings a central balance; they could fly off the rails, but they don't. On 'Pop Titles "You"', Z rhymes deadpan over chattering voices blankly rapping "you" - it's a smart, studied deconstruction of pop music that gives us the sense that Z is operating in a universe outside of our own, peeking in at the cultural chaos. She doesn't stop at avant experimentation either, there are fully orchestrated DIY rawk songs - engineered and performed completely by Z of course - and two brilliantly spannered collaborations - mathematician and synthesist Donald Swearingen adds FM rubber to the spiky 'I Know' and Funk Dub Division's Bill Stefanacci garnishes Z's swirling coos with freeform beatbox electricity on 'As In'.
'Echolocation' is a collection of sounds that feels historic: Z was years ahead of her time, with a voice and artistic process that still feels pioneering. Essential music that joins the dots between theater, rap, post-punk, folk and ambient music.
Parisian Kuduro ambassador DJ Lycox kicks the club back to action with six killer, syncopated workouts on the indomitable Príncipe, swaggering between sultry and banging Afrohouse variations
As part of Tia Maria Produções and with his solo shots, DJ Lycox has been a vital player on Lisbon’s finest label since 2014. The ‘Lycoxera’ session leads on from the beatdown kizomba tempo of his ‘Kizas do Ly’ (2020) EP with a return to the quicker meter of his sought-after debut album ’Sonhos & Pesadelos’ (2017), giving the club what it needs as feet return to the ‘floor in late 2021 to dance their worries away.
Cherry-picked by the label from Lycox’s prolific studio output, the EP’s six tracks surely represent a clarion call to the rave, but finely balance a sense of urgency with more tentative, melancholic pathos that smartly reads the room. From its nervy but insistent opening vocal declaration of back to business on the ‘Eu Mbora Dou Bué Show’, thru the breezy lilt of his keys and quizzical top lines in ‘Momentos Unicos’ Lycox coaxes rather than demands, with deeply persuasive results.
The intricate beat science of ‘Rapaz Sinistro’ is bound to snag bodies in its swingeing syncopation of log drums and plucked bass motifs echoing Amapiano styles, while the haughty jack of ’Southside’ follows with immersive soundsphere of water sounds, trumpeting elephants and eagle squawks that transport the city to a jungle mindset. ‘Yoga’ is a standout 3 minutes of deep Afrohouse pressure, eazing tensely infectious drums with coolly poised chords, and ‘Wildin’ is the most concentrated, deeply technoid example of DJ Lycox’s urgent but furtive appeal on what is set to be a definitive solo EP.
Mutant dynamo 96 Back flexes his range on this last in a trilogy of 2021 albums, including a collaboration with Iceboy Violet, tipped to fans of their mutual spirit, AYA, plus Air Max ’97 or Happa.
“Following March’s 9696 Dream mixtape and July’s Flex Time EP, this new album sees 96 Back shine the spotlight on his own vocals for the first time, at points (such as on lead single ‘9 To Find 6’) operating fully in the realms of experimental pop. At other times, such as on ‘Teach Me Tenderness’ and ‘Feel Hard’, 96 Back stretches and processes his vocals to almost breaking point, while album closer ‘Melt You’ sees him duet with past collaborator Iceboy Violet, ending Love Letters on a sombre but romantic note.
That’s not to say Love Letters is fully removed from the dancefloor, however: tracks like ‘Don’t Die’ and ‘Love Compact’ are precision-tooled for the club, while the likes of ‘Felzin’ and ‘Vibrant Colours’ continue to explore the intricate but emotive electronics that 96 Back has been so successful with in the past.
More varied and vivid than any of 96 Back’s releases to date, Love Letters feels like a coming of age moment. It casts its net incredibly wide at points, and it’s an album full of ambition, but it meets every challenge it sets itself — as affecting in its quieter, tender moments as during its dramatic peaks.
In 96 Back’s words: “This is a record I feel like I’ve been trying to write for years, it feels like the most accurate body of work to match the ideas in my mind. Trying to project a lot of the records I hold very dear to me through this lens, interpreting how they sound to me and merging them with ideas of finding the drama and excitement in the full spectrum of emotions on the tip of my tongue, that’s what ended up being Love Letters, Nine Through Six.”
Gritty post-punk outfit Low Life investigate the "disgust and shame" of white Australia and the gloomy reality of betrayed adulthood on their dense third album. Influenced by Michaelangelo, Iggy and the Stooges and the Sydney hardcore scene.
There's a curl of thick, black smoke that surrounds Low Life; their music isn't depressing, but it's filled with anger - the kind of anger that grows from dented dreams, unfathomable reality and fragmented relationships. The band raked in acclaim for their first two albums, 2014's "Dogging" and 2019's Alter-released "Downer Edn". "From Squats to Lots..." is closer to their sophomore album, a record the press release describes as having a "nuanced flavour".
With the grim atmosphere of "Unknown Pleasures"-era Joy Division and Bowie's "Low" (apparently producer Mickey Grossman has a statue of the star in the studio), Low Life conduct a riveting noise that lifts the darkest emotions into almost jubilance. Guitars jangle beneath rugged basslines and thrash-y chords, and vocals lurch from snotty sneers to melancholy cynicism. It's a record that brings to life another side of Australia, one far from what we're accustomed to witnessing in the media. As the band themselves say: it's not for kids.
KID A MNESIA is coming, a triple-album release marking the 21st anniversary of Kid A and Amnesiac, collecting both albums alongside a newly compiled third disc titled 'Kid Amnesiae' which is exclusive to this release and features unearthed material culled from the Kid A / Amnesiac sessions plus alternate versions and elements of Kid A and Amnesiac album tracks and B-Sides, Kid Amnesiae features the never-before-heard "If You Say the Word” and a previously unreleased studio recording of "Follow Me Around.”
These are the formats:
3LP: Three 12" half-speed cut black vinyl pressings of KID A (A/B), Amnesiac (C/D) + KID AMNESIAE (E/F) bonus volume containing unreleased material, in artwork sleeves - available on limited edition Red or Black vinyl.
3CD: Three compact discs containing KID A, Amnesiac + KID AMNESIAE bonus disc containing unreleased material, in artwork sleeves.
Second release in Nonclassical's 'Fieldwave' compilation series, featuring Sugai Ken, Midori Hirano, Ken Nishikawa, Tomoko Hoj, Max Reinhardt and more.
"Fieldwave, Vol. 2 is the second release in the label's compilation series created by broadcaster Nick Luscombe, bringing together artists with field recording at the heart of their work. This second volume focuses on the sounds of Japan, with tracks from Japanese musicians and from British artists who have gathered recordings via trips to Japan.
"I created the Fieldwave compilation series in 2020 as a window to the world of field recordings and wider acoustic ecology, via the work of recordists, sound artists and musicians from around the world", says Nick Luscombe, who compiles the series of releases. "For this, the second volume of Fieldwave, I decided to look to Japan as inspiration – surely one of the most sonically rich places on earth.""
The new release from Ultramarine, "Interiors".
Ian Cooper and Paul Hammond, who had become friends while growing up together in the Essex countryside, formed Ultramarine in 1989. Throughout the 90s their distinctive music, an enticing blending of acoustic with electronic instruments, secured a loyal following and won critical acclaim. Then, throughout the whole of the next decade, Ultramarine lay dormant. Interiors documents their reawakening, with Cooper and Hammond exploring approaches to music-making made possible by recently developed software, designed specifically with live performance in mind.
On Interiors, the roots of that slinky single are laid bare on the purely instrumental track "Find A Way Back." Its two distinct parts stretch out the beats and flaunt those tropical flourishes, shuffling and flexing, vibrant and heady, languid and sultry. This is techno filtered through the fabric of magic realism, an exotically spiced concoction, chilled and ready to be savoured at home.
With the diagrammatic clarity of its punchy thrust and spooling loops "Even When" distils the essence of Cooper and Hammond's way of working with their musical material: layering and shaping, nurturing textures, plaiting rhythms and juggling accents. The cumulative impact is almost sculptural in its physical immediacy and looming presence. In contrast, on "By Return" the duo skew the outcome, projecting a selection of limber figures into dub's auditory hall of mirrors. They are clearly revelling in the reverb, relishing the recoil and decay."
After suppressing his club instincts on the ‘Chameleon’ album, Anthony Naples gets loose and up-for-it in a sort of dembow deep house electro mode.
‘Club Pez’ dispenses five cuts of high grade, hip-swivel gear of a sort not heard from Naples since pre-pandemic times. The wobbly canter and square bleeps of ‘Bonk’ sets the agenda with something like a 2021 update of Nu Groove’s original ’91 NYC house templates, and ‘Drops’ keeps it below the belt with rudely offset jakbeat wiggle. The gritted drums of ‘Pez Anthem’ tuck into a bolshier sort of acid rolige, lit up with scudding rave stabs, and ‘Uni Vibe’ heads off on a proggier trajectory, with the sublime closing stroke of ‘Solero’ harking to DJ Python’s modern classic ‘Dulce Compañia’ album, as issued on Naples’ Incienso label.
Always a salve for the soul, Death is Not the End’s latest turns to folklorist Derek Piotr for a set of hauntingly raw folk, blues and country songs saved from obscurity in the annals of The Library of Congress
“Folklorist Derek Piotr pulls together mountain songs from North Carolina crossing nearly a century. Child ballads and local murder songs sit alongside dulcimer & close harmony singing. The star of the compilation, Mrs. Lena Bare Turbyfill, could have been another Texas Gladden in her own right, but dozens of recordings of herself and her family made in 1939 remained on a shelf in The Library of Congress, until they were unearthed by Derek and presented on this collection. Mrs. Turbyfill's daughter Nicky also makes a notable appearance here.”
Brooklyn-based producer Rena Anakwe uses water to guide her latest full-length, a meditative tone poem assembled from tank drums, singing bowls, synth, fx, vocals and a tape machine.
Music for meditation, especially music intended for psychedelic states, can be a complex prospect. Thankfully, Anakwe seems completely at ease with the form: "Sometimes underwater (feels like home)" is self-consciously new age, but never jarring or awkwardly trite. In fact the album's first proper track 'Sound Bathing' is one of the most subtly beautiful tracks we've heard in this mode for a minute. A 23-minute slab of minimalist gamelan-style microtonality, it's a gentle reminder that less can really be more - as the mind focuses on the resonant tones, vast universes of sound are unlocked.
'Tank Drums and Singing Bowls' is another highlight, employing a similar method but drowning the bowl sounds in cavernous reverb. The title track is split into two parts, and heads into a more identifiably new age-ambient zone, with tape-saturated synth drones and barely audible vocals reminding of a Steve Roach/Grouper collab that will likely never happen.
Shoes off, please; Santilli beckon you to sit back and indulge their lounge jazz and coma-inducing chill out
“Keeping his carbon footprint at a minimum, Santilli sails from Sydney to Hamburg via ten textured vignettes delicately drawn with guitar, bass and organic percussion. Relaxing, reflective and endlessly beautiful, ‘Tidal’ explores elemental inspiration through a humanistic gaze. Whether you know Max Santilli through Ken Oath duo Angophora, previous releases ‘Surface’ and ‘In Circles’, or this is your first time making his acquaintance, you’ll agree he’s right at home on the Growing Bin. The multi-instrumentalist crafts exquisite acoustic music in tune with the finer moments of Windham Hill and ECM; a perfect fusion of talent, balance and the emotion shared by each release on the Hamburg label.
As befits its inspiration ‘Tidal’ is an organic affair, related through bright acoustic guitar, hazy chimes and hand played percussion. Where the Australian draws you in with hypnotic repetition, the subtlety, warmth and tonal variation serve as a welcome reminder we’re living off grid. Though expert fretwork often takes centre stage, especially on the delicate B1 ‘Warm You Give’, it’s the blend of kalimba, woodblock, hand drums and shaker which truly transport the listener through open waters; a rhythmic breeze carrying us through the maritime drones and bowed squall. At times the salt air is spiced with cardamom and cloves (‘Sea’) or lemongrass and galangal (‘Valleys’), as we skirt the Indian Ocean or the Java Sea. ‘Lapse’ provides subtle hints of fourth world jazz as mallets take the lead, leaving the guitar to provide its own shimmering texture.
Clear your mind, clear your schedule and make some time for ‘Tidal’, an opportunity to breathe in time with the planet.”
Avant legend Robert Ashley's defining opera was just recently re-recorded for the first time in decades; but this original recording, released back in 1994, gives us a chance to hear Ashley's original vision, with baritone Thomas Buckner in the lead role. It's a brain-buckling contortion of language, humor and harmony that turns cultural conventions on their head: think David Lynch xJames Joyce x Puccini.
Opera is a tough proposition - the form has traditionally been walled off by its own very purposeful class signifiers and monetary barriers to entry. But those same factors makes it interesting to deconstruct, which is exactly what Robert Ashley did over his career. "eL/Aficionado" is one of his more bizarre works, a part of the "Now Eleanor's Idea" tetralogy that used a spy story setting to explore language, identity and cultural expectations.
On this recording, Thomas Buckner plays an agent, who is cross-examined by a trio of investigators played by Jacqueline Humbert, Sam Ashley and Robert Ashley himself. The vocals dip into spoken word and full-voiced singing, and are set against a Badalamenti-esque backdrop of eerie, TV-lite electronics. It's all very intentional, to help us focus our minds on the themes Ashley attempts to disassemble .
Classified/personals adverts are sung seemingly disconnected from the narrative, but the words are coded, used by Ashley to reflect not only a John LeCarré’ inspired world of espionage, but the economy and accidental poetry of amateur advertising. "eL/Aficionado" is a unique proposition, and while its cultural references have become more opaque, the central messages of surveillance, duplicity, language and identity are perhaps more relevant than ever. Massive recommendation.
‘Zurufe’ is the captivating debut of orchestral drone by Mol Quartetto, who count Hans-Joachim Roedelius (Cluster), Christopher Chaplin, CM von Hausswolff, and Tim Story in their gloaming mass, resembling the late stages of The Caretaker project.
Mol Quartetto introduce themselves in the most elusive, spectral terms on their first venture, a sort of hybrid, semi-improvised version of a performance at the Arnulf Rainer museum in Baden, for the MoL festival. The 45 minute piece features original recordings made in situ, where the players were sequestered in separate rooms, using the centuries old bathhouse-turned-museum’s marble clad pools and walkways as a giant acoustic reverb unit for communication between Roedelius’ grand piano, synths and tapes, Chaplin’s orchestral choir samples and synths, von Hausswolff’s Nepalese location recordings and oscillators, and Story’s sound design. However, someone forgot to push record on Chaplin’s line out, and the results were shelved until he re-recorded his parts, which were re-amplified by Story, along with the other parts, back into the museum space, resulting this richly ghostly interplay of resonant impressions and afterimages.
Mixed down from some 30 mic tracks, the final piece evokes the feeling of drifting palatial settings that could just as easily be The Overlook as Marienbad, doubtlessly conjuring a dreamlike, OOBEy sensation and perspective of place and space that deeply stimulates subconscious responses. As we say, The Caretaker’s latter stages are a clear reference point for us, and also Stephan Mathieu’s manipulation of ancient 78s, but it’s the natural acoustic complexity of the resonant reverberations that really sets this one apart, perhaps best compared with something like Howlround’s ‘The Ghosts of Bush’, and serving to smudge each performers parts into an insoluble whole where we can only pick out the most fleeting, glancing impression of Roedelius’ keys, or Chaplin’s orchestral chorales, which are seamlessly subsumed back into the mass by Story.
It’s a sound of incredible, rarified substance and ambiguity, absolutely primed to get lost in and detach oneself from reality for the duration. Seriously, you’ll want to return to its haunted corridors and halls over and again. A proper trip, this.
Lee Gamble’s UIQ unveils a killer new 26 track, hour long tape of smoked-out rap and electronix by pivotal Parisian DJ/producer, Emma DJ, hustling a gang of leading local heads on his first foray into slow sludge styles and chasing up cult mixtapes for L.I.E.S., Brothers From Different Mothers, and Collapsing Market.
Constructed entirely as one-shot iPhone recordings, ‘godrime’ sees Emma DJ prove their cult calibre, and the diversity of their style, with a first batch of syruppy productions after establishing a fierce reputation for club music. Borne out of a period of intense isolation, and joined by, deep breath - Bambounou, Cambyse, Eugene Blove, Lemaire, Kamilya Kuspanova, Lediouck, Lily Standefer, Maoupa Mazzocchetti, Nono Ekichii, Otro, Pierre Dagba, Swan Meat, Tmongo and Ivre Ciroc - the results showcase the exploratory underbelly and flipside of the Parisian club scene in 2021, bridging brooding rap with soul crushing electronics in a proper, fugged out, late night style.
The 26-track album-cum-mixtape feels like being admitted into the inner circle of the Parisian scene, a fly-on-the-wall of heads down sessions where the mic and zoot circulate, smoky air trembling to cold quaking subs lit by screen glow and blipping LEDs on the mixer. It’s a heady experience, dank but womb-like in its low-key pressure and cocooning vibe, coolly navigating the peripheries of screwed emo-rap in ’991 OBI 1’ and the Salem-esque ‘Malicorne’, and vaporised into soul strung haze on ‘Bag Eye’, with a gallic romance bleeding thru on ‘Amor V2’, whereas ‘Fuck Le Diable’ dials up the agg to seethe on the biting point, and Swan Meat contributes to its dankest look in ‘Slowswan.’ - a real killer.
Following releases for The Tapeworm and 12th Isle, Christos Chondropoulos lands on The Death Of Rave with this incredible album of "Athenian Primitive” riffs on ancient Greek music and proto-techno prisms, highly recommended if yr into Paul DeMarinis, Rashad Becker, Jonathan Bepler’s soundtracks for Matthew Barney, Black Sabbath or Aphex Twin.
Continuing Christos’ singular fascination with, and reappraisal of, Ancient Greek modes, ’Relics’ further excavates the deeptime topography of Greek music prior to the ban of “oriental” or 1/4 tone microtonal modes nearly 100 years ago.
Clandestine, euphoric, hyperreal and otherworldly; it takes shape as faintly familiar forms of new age folk, avant-techno and metal musicks, but with an alien appeal that treats the past almost like another planet, never mind a foreign land. Christos studiously raids the past for lost treasure, navigating his tuned instincts as an improvising percussionist, and lover of non-Western composition, to create a uniquely absorbing soundworld that resembles an AI’s dreams after ingesting encyclopaedia entries on thousands of years of Greece prior to 1936. In the process, the album acutely questions his and our relationship to the past, and what has become lost in translation with reliance on prelaid templates and the “wisdom” of elders.
Bursting to life with the iridescent arps and new age AI chorale of ‘First Love Fereter’, and concluding with bone-clacking raverie of ‘Jungle X’, the album offers a stunning advance of the themes and aesthetics in Christos previous records, from the self-released free jazz of ‘Fingerpainting’ (2013) to 2021’s 12th Isle released ‘Athenian Primitivism.’ Thanks to meticulous detailing, ‘Relics’ allows a finer play of textured light and almost tangible - yet entirely generated - voices into his music: most strikingly on the sublime songcraft of ‘Regret’ and ‘I Dream Of You’, while the likes of ‘Asham’ are bathed in deeply uncanny atmosphere, and his percussive proprioceptions are most heightened in the delirious battery of ‘War Horns’ and ‘Sacrifice’, with ‘Cyber Crust’ calling up demonic, cthonic pagan spirits resembling Black Sabbath undergoing regression therapy.
Feast thy ears on Sun Ra and the Mythic Science Arkestra at their most raucous in ‘The Paris Tapes 1971’, capturing the legendary bandleader shooting Farfisa lazer zaps from the hip and orchestrating a properly tempestuous Arkestra
Operating at the square root of jazz and Black noise, ‘The Paris Tapes 1971’ shockingly documents Sun Ra & The Mythic Science Arkestra in blistering form, driven by a cavalcade of drums through none more exhilarating renditions of classics such as ’Space Is The Place’ and a jaw-droppign ‘Love in Outer Space’ alongside outrageous blasts of solar flare energy in Ra’s pair of untitled keyboard and synth solos. It’s all 100% likely to take your eyebrows off and leave jaws swanging, capturing the 27-piece ensemble of instrumentalists, dancers, and light operators, stirring the very welcoming Parisian crowd to rapturous applause. Of course, the dancers and lights are outta sight here, but there’s no mistaking the levels of energy in the room which one could easily imagine would come with some a spectacle for the senses.
Crucially, this set yields Sun Ra at an early crest of their radical powers, only three years after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, and effectively expressing, or even exorcising, all the rage, trauma, and disrespect experienced by Afro-Americans in the years leading up to, and including 1971. Sun Ra’s music evidently carries that historic depth charge of energy for the times, rallying a battery of players to double up their instruments - most play some combo of woodwind and/or brass, synth, keys, with percussion - and double down their message of what is possible by cultivating a glorious, highly disciplined sort of supersonic, harmonically chaotic jazz that unmistakably, if cryptically, speaks to the struggle for liberation and recognition of their music’ roots in Africa and branches in contemporary America.
Drum fiends, musical historians, and allies of Black music need this one in their lives. Staggering stuff.
Koreless’ 2014 recordings with a string quartet at BBC maida Vale see official release with Young in the wake of his striking debut album
We much prefer his electro-acoustic work, but these arrangements for real, acoustic instruments and players highlight the timeless romantic, emotive pull and hiraeth of his sound, which draws from the landscape of his native Anglesey in North Wales, not far from Snowdonia.