Possessed, grungy slow blows from Belgrade’s Andria, taking the 2nd bow on MR TC and Lo Kindre’s Phase Group label
Chasing up the label owner’s 2019 inauguration, Andria deals out four super-cranky industrial girders in ‘O O O O O’: getting into proper crud mode with the bilgy pump and clammy atmospheric sound design of ‘Osion’, which turns into a snarling beats by the end; then going on with worm-charming subbass tremors and chattering gargoyles in ‘6h Of Sna’; while ‘the title track swangs out like something unleashed from the ark in Vladimir Ivkovic’s basement; and ‘Komina’ trudges soporific to the runout groove which is the only place you’ll find respite from the demons on this 12”.
New one from Ed DMX...
"When was the last time EDMX served you what you expected? Maybe you drop the needle down in anticipation of some slick boogie-inflected synth pop and get walloped in the face with hellfire techno. Perhaps you were itching for body-popping electro and got cerebrally hijacked by pagan coldwave.
On this latest magnum opus, his first on Queen Nanny. Ed Upton is in the mood to get down low in every sense of the word. On the frequency range, this is a record dripping with lard-fed bass at every turn. The arrangements too are devilishly low in channel count – raw riddims with just a few key ingredients to do the necessary damage. Then there are the tempos, which predominantly set cruise control at 90 BPM and glide.
It’s not hard to tell where EDMX’s inspiration has sparked from on this album – in the spirit of celebrating the compatability of oddball sonics from all corners of the globe, he’s patched his sound into a specific vibe and struck gold with some of the most distinctive riddims you’re likely to hear all year."
Finally, a vinyl version of Susumu Yokota’s ‘Acid Mt. Fuji’ , the 2nd album of ambient-acid-techno by the Japanese legend who sadly passed away in 2015
Delivered via Germany’s Midgar, Acid Mt. Fuji arrives on vinyl at a high point of interest surrounding Yokota's work, and especially these early recordings that were made some years before he went on to pen ambient classics such as The Boy And The Tree.
While patently acid techno in form and style, on Acid Mt. Fuji it’s easy to hear the more tender, esoteric elements which would later come into sharper focus, but the original tracks completely stand on their own merits, too, with some big highlights for anyone scoping ‘90s Japanese house and techno in parallel to its ‘80s synth-pop and ambient nexus, especially in the likes of his ruggedly pendulous yet delicate Tanuki, or the slow acid churn of Oponchi and Akafuji.
First vinyl pressing of Derek Bailey’s groundbreaking improv group Company at the BBC in ‘1983’, originally broadcast during summer that year. For Derek Bailey completists, and anyone snagged by recent Company reissues, or anyone bored with musical convention, ‘1983’ is a prime example of the way Bailey’s Company, numbering a horde of skilled and imaginative players, created a new musical language on the spot during sessions since the late ‘70s.
“Exhilarating, previously unreleased recordings by Derek Bailey and his guests at Company Week in 1983: Jamie Muir, Evan Parker, Hugh Davies, Joëlle Léandre, John Corbett, Peter Brötzmann, Vinko Globokar, Ernst Reijseger and J.D. Parran.
What’s remarkable throughout this album is the respect and affection the musicians show for each other, exemplifying the dictionary definition of ‘company’ as ‘the fact or condition of being with another or others, especially in a way that provides friendship and enjoyment.’
It starts with Landslide, a brilliant, spiky, spluttering, twanging reunion of Music Improvisation Company members Evan Parker (tenor sax), Hugh Davies (electronics) and Jamie Muir (percussion). Next up, Seconde Choix, with Joëlle Léandre’s close-miked prepared bass and Bailey’s acoustic guitar seemingly heading in different directions before coming together miraculously in just four minutes.
The opening of First Choice, a duet between Bailey and Muir, is a revelation for those who moan that the guitarist plays too many notes. His patient and truly exquisite exploration of harmonics is beautifully counterpointed by Muir’s metallic percussion.
On Pile Ou Face (Heads Or Tails) Davies concentrates on his high register oscillators, carefully shadowed by Parker’s soprano until Léandre’s deft, springy pizzicato lures them into the playground. JD In Paradise is a surprisingly delicate wind quartet, with John Corbett’s trumpet, fragile and Don Cherry-like, punctuating the sinuous interplay between Peter Brötzmann and J.D. Parran (on sopranos, flutes and clarinet), while trombonist Vinko Globokar growls approvingly in the background.
Igor Stravinsky’s definition of music as the ‘jeu de notes’ comes to mind listening to Bailey’s duet with cellist Ernst Reijseger (executing fiendish double-stopped harmonics with staggering ease). Technical virtuosity has never sounded so effortless – it is, as its title Een Plezierig Stukje simply states, a fun piece.
On the closing La Horda, Bailey and Reijseger team up with the horns for what on paper looks like it could be rough and rowdy sextet but which turns out once more to be a thoughtful, spacious exchange of ideas, shapes and colours.”
Haai debuts on Mute with a limited 6-track EP of rugged rave rollers and doofers
Exemplifying a current wave of charmingly retro sounding dance music from Australian artists, ‘Systems Up Window Down’ sees Haai follow two 12”s for Coconut Beats - the label arm of the London party series she’s helmed for years - with a festival-ready clutch of dance trax.
Haai’s music doesn’t feel rooted in any particular scene, but rather cuts and pastes into a functional sound that’s a bit house, a bit hardcore breaks-y, and a bit ruff around-the-edges in a mid-rangey, psyche-y rock style.
Lithuanian producer Mantas Povilaika, aka DJ JM with a five-track EP, ‘No Days Off’ – his inaugural record for Nervous Horizon.
"After first starting to emerge on the London club scene radar back in 2015, Nervous Horizon label heads TSVI & Wallwork played some early JM material at their debut London Boiler Room session in 2016, sparking a relationship that has since birthed collaborations on TSVI EPs ‘Sacred Drums’ (2016) and ‘Rambo’ (2018).
After releasing a further two full EPs on NKC’s hard drum label Even The Strong, ‘No Days Off’ forms a natural extension of his work with TSVI, only this time more extensive and detailed. From the anthemic, late ‘90s euphoria of the title-track to the searing club energy of ‘Mad Move’ ft. TSVI to the dark, pulsing techno flicker of ‘Bar Bell’, it is an EP forged at peak time and only tempered by mystical EP closer, ‘Original Taste’ – a track inspired by local Lithuanian club sounds and faraway worlds."
Hard, sleazy industrial dance trax from Italian producer Andrea Natale dressed up as Anna Funk Damage for Cera Khin’s Lazy Tapes
Running the gamut of whirring EBM mechanics to breakneck trance, Lazy Tapes 2nd vinyl release chases up their 2018 Peder Mannerfelt 12” with a club ready brawl in four up-for-it parts.
Up top, the Italian artist channels masticated hardcore rap on the grungy electro-punk flow of ‘Badass Bitch’, beside the clod-hopping clonk and strangulated vocals of ‘Bloodydeath’. Down below, he comes off like one of Parrish Smith’s late ‘90s cybergoth/EBM-trance missiles with the gore-trance trajectory of ‘Elm Street Faster Edition’, before the mechanical rotor-jawed funk of ‘That’s Why I’m Hot’ will serrate the floor limb-by-limb.
Mesmerising, synth-heavy Nigerian Fuji music from ’88, reissued for the first time by Soul Jazz
“This is the first in Soul Jazz Records’ new series of vinyl-only Afro funk / Afro beat exact-replica, super- rare albums that were previously only ever released in Nigeria. The series starts with Kollington Ayinla’s celebrated 1978 album Blessing, a rare lost classic of Nigerian Fuji music, featuring Ayinla’s sharp political lyrics together with his new band Fuji ’78. Blessing blends the heavily percussive style of Fuji music with a stunning array of modern instruments, including synthesizers, Bata drums and guitars, to create one of the most forward-thinking and heavily danceable sounds ever to come out of Nigeria - a highly successful mixture of profound Fuji rhythms and Fela Kuti-style Afrobeat.
Kollington Ayinla ranks alongside his friend and competitor Ayinde Barrister as the two most important artists to dominate Fuji music from its inception in the 1970s through to the 1990s by which time it had grown to become one of the most popular dance genres in Nigeria. At the start of the 1980s Ayinla started his own record company, Kollington Records, to release his music and remains to this day an extremely prolific artist, having recorded over 50 albums, most of which have never been released outside of Nigeria.”
The UK techno heavyweight puts his back into a trio of big room pounder in tried and tested Blueprint style
Up top the title track picks up a fair head of steam with a fizzing electric lead, seething hi-hats and a bucking power-up second half that calves off into a beat less finale. On the B-side he plays it down with the sinuous, cantering minimalism of ‘Social Acceptance’ and the offset IDM-techno roller ‘Weakness of the System’.
The final part in a series of first-time vinyl editions of previously tape-only releases from Vatican Shadow, 'Opium Crop Airstrike' returns to a vintage Muslimgauze-influenced sound before taking a mad, brilliant turn that somehow reminds us of both John Foxx and DJ Screw. Includes completely new artwork by Dominick Fernow...
‘Opium Crop’ is steeped in nods to Muslimgauze and modern geopolitics and fringed with an aura of clammy, atmospheric terror, just how we like it.
The title piece pushes off across the front with a sort of stately, waltzing rhythm and druggy synth pads recalling John Foxx and DJ Screw as much as Bryn Jones. ‘Hellfire Hidden Tribes’ sinks into the B-side with lagging Dabke rhythm embedded in oily black backdrops, occasionally lit up with vaporous synth stabs mirroring the arc and flash of distant artillery, and leading to an exquisite ambient devotional, ‘Loyal To The Deceased’.
Bassbin-testing pressure and ruckus drums from NH co-founder and hard drum proponent, TSVI
Issued back in 2016, the ‘Sacred Drums’ EP is TSVI’s 2nd EP for his own label. It’s a kilelr, early definition of his hard drum style, squeezing off a barrel of bullets between the bone-rattling subbass shudders, chattering vocal and steel-tipped soca snares of ‘The Healer’, and the loud, punchy smack of ‘Darabukka’ on the A-side, and throwing down a funkier parry recalling Karizma on ‘Assam’s Children’ beside the Diwali Riddim-esque claps of ‘Egyptian Sensation’ on a Mahraganat meets dancehall tip.
Rrose & Silent Servant corral a wealth of exclusive, unreleased avant-garde, experimental electronics in their instalment for the ambient-leaning ‘Air Texture’ series, including exclusive tracks on the vinyl by Laurel Halo, Anthony Child aka Surgeon, Not Waving, Charlemagne Palestine, Luke Slater, Phase Fatale, Function, Octo Octa plus Rrose and Silent Servant themselves (and a tonne more on the digital versions)...
Running to nearly 2.5 hours of music on the CD and digital versions (the vinyl includes 12 tracks), the set sweeps across decades and continents with a variegated spectra of music by 26 artists ranging from the influential Maggi Payne to the enigmatic Abul Mogard and lesser known figures. It’s all sequenced in a way that highlights their mutualities and diverse idiosyncrasies and makes for a quietly absorbing listen riddled with surprises.
As you might expect, there’s a number of ambient/atmopsheric works by prominent techno producers, including the modular explorations of Anthony Child (Surgeon), the pulsating beatless arps of Phase Fatale’s ‘Nightmare in LA’, the petrol-stained tone of ‘Psychic Harms of Economic Deprivation’ by Ron Morelli, and naturally Rrose’s hypnotic smudge of James Fei’s ‘For Bass Clarinet 8.97’, along with a piece of splashy breaks-driven ambient bleeps by Luke Slater, and the floating step of Silent Servant’s ‘New World’.
But some of the strongest parts come by those who’ve longer worked in experimental realms, including the Medieval sounding ambient inquisition of Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe’s ‘8th Continent in 5 Dimensions’, a smart and subtle contrast between pioneering synthesist Maggi Payne’s rugged space music and Lucrecia Dalt’s more tactile, introspective strokes, and the heady expressions of Laurel Halo’s lysergic sphere ‘Dies Ist Ein’ or AGF’s haunting choral chamber work ‘HUM-ILITY’, and the nagging pulses of Laetitia Sonami.
Happa jumps back in the dance with both feet for Whities’ Blue series of mutant club tackle.
After spending recent years on production for David Byrne, steadily building his PT/5 Records, and collaboration with fellow Yorkshireman 96 Back, Happa returns with devilishly detailed dance productions in his twisted style; working up a frothy airborne funk punctuated with dramatic handbrake turns and drizzly dropouts in the rattling trills of ‘Clip’, whilst ‘One Three Five’ swangs out in a sort of 2-step electro style riddled with iridescent melody and persistently in flux between weightless pads and rugged subs.
Sign Libra deftly refreshes new age tropes in a beautifully breezy LP of ambient-dance-pop certain to charm lovers of records by early Grimes, Kate Bush, YMO, Ana Roxanne, Maria Minerva.
Conceived by Latvia’s Agata Melnikova, Sign Libra has quietly impressed in recent years via Antinote’s vinyl issue of her debut ‘Closer to the Equator’ (2018), and a spot on the ‘New Atlantis Vol.1’ comp collated by India Jordan and Deadboy’s label. Now she is set for much wider recognition with ‘Sea To Sea’, a gloriously widescreen suite of ohrwurming melodic motifs and diaphanous vocal harmonies helmed in gauzy, distant dance rhythms to the sweetest, light-headed effect.
Inspired by lunar movements and the link between the cerebral and the celestial - but never really taken too heavily - the album’s nine songs tesselate the same elements in myriad ways. Like twists of a kaleidoscope pointed at the moon, her songs wax and wane between visions of the moon seen by day and in its nocturnal phases, variously turning from full-moon giddiness to peacefully arcing crescents and half-lidded, gibbous hypnagogia.
Where the cloying cliches of too many new age operators detract form their meditative appeal, Sign Libra’s grasp of ethereal and lilting, popwise touches strike the right balance of playfulness and sincerity for us, and we reckon songs such as ‘Sea of Waves’ and the possessed invocation of ‘Sea of Serenity’ will be haunting us for time to come.
Wilted Woman and Christoph De Babalon do frazzled breaks, blunted rave tones and bittersweet IDM electronica as SUDS for their debut with Hank Jackson’s anno label
Following a fecund period of activity for CDB after the 2018 reissue of his classic ‘IYIIIOI’, and subsequent turns with Alter, Lazy Tapes and Bocian, he brings a palette of wizened electronics and brittle breaks to Wilted Woman’s jagged melodic qualities, which have appeared on Alien Jams, Psychic Liberation and Phantasy Sound in recent years.
’Shuttlecock Fanefare’ weirdly enough reminds us of the label’s near namesake, Anstam in its brooding breaksy lurch, whereas the skizzy, anxious roil of ‘Trauerweide’ is more given to teutonic electronica whims. ‘Sad And Done’ follows that line to a mix of contemplative post-rock electronics and frayed steppers drums, and best of all ‘Mirage March’ wanders off into a mix of scorched halfstep and furtive, medieval-edged RPG atmosphere.
Move D (aka David Moufang) and Benjamin Brunn come across like some kind of minimal tag-team on 'Let's Call It A Day' - bringing their individual styles to bear on a collaboration that is neither clinical nor fussy.
Meeting at Resource Studio in Heidelberg to record 'Let's Call It A Day', the pairing of Moufang and Brunn exist very much in the spaces between the machine's heartbeats - taking an evident cue from the tracing paper schematic of Raster Noton then feeding it through their own vision of stripped beauty. Ensuring that proceedings don't get mired down amongst insular clicks and edits, 'Let's Call It A Day' very much has it's eye on the overtly animated end of the genre - wherein the crystalline beats and pinprick compositions are bathed in rich chord structures that blur the potentially stark environs to pleasing effect. Allowing the dubby techno heritage to bubble throughout, opening track 'C-Sick' bounces around the speakers with necromantic intent - drawing in wisps of electronics and creased beats to form a whole that is energetic without breaking a sweat.
Next up is 'On The Magic Bus', wherein any memories of vomit stained journeys through town on a decrepit double-decker are bleached clean by a crawling web of fidgety resonance and looped beats that install themselves deep within the cranium and refuse to leave. Very much ensuring a human touch is left throughout, Moufang and Brunn's fingerprints are clear to see - as the likes of 'Grains', 'A' and '?' temper the silicon with majestic and sprawling sun-set soundscapes. Detailed, grand and human to the core, 'Let's Call It A Day' proves just how intoxicating binary can be.
Estimable Austrian double bassist Werner Dafeldecker commits his first electro-acoustic full length with an engrossing side of textural roil for Room 40 comparable with enigmas by Kevin Drumm, Emptyset or Cam Deas and primed for deep immersion. The best Room 40 in a while we reckon...
Perceptively highlighting and occupying a space between music and noise in a relatively rare solo outing, Werner Dafeldecker places over 30 years of recording experience with the European and global avant cognoscenti at the service of an unfathomably deep sound bound to quench any discerning thirst for abstract, mystifying electro acoustic music. While perhaps best known as a consummate collaborator who’s recorded with everyone from Fennesz to Valerio Tricoli, DJ Hell and Pan Daijing, this album identifies him as a master not only of the acoustic sphere, but now also electro-acoustic dimensions.
Manifest in a mix of spongiform shapes, bobbing clanks and laminal flows, ‘Parallel Darks’ leaves its mark in two contrasting ways that speak to the breadth and depth of Dafeldecker’s imagination and technical faculties. The first side bubbles up with lacquer-crackling texturhythms that move omnidirectional from an absent centre, working in a perpetual metric flux where, if you squint ears hard enough, harmonic forms appear to emerge only to be consumed by the swell just as quickly. It’s difficult to grasp any sides or centre to the piece and that’s where it really comes into its own in a heavily satisfying, psychedelic manner.
By turns the B-side feels more aggressive and foreboding. Any semblance of meter is ripped like rug from under your feet to model an impossible physics of sound where a keening, billowing black mass teeters on pin legs, fringed by the barely-perceptible sound of human breathing and birdcalls that make for a wonderfully perplexing blend of dark and light themes, and paradoxes of weight/lessness, space/density and dematerialised texture as rhythm.
ISAN’s Robin Saville speaks to the salubrious qualities of a good mooch in a very sweet album inspired by what he sees and feels during his daily perambulations and incorporating field recordings, drones and acoustic instrumentation.
"A lot of things have been written about what happens to the mind when the body starts moving. Instead of reciting poems of the inevitable self-help books, let’s get straight to the point: For many, taking walks on a regular basis is both liberating and empowering. It is not necessarily so much about the exercise, but rather finding one’s own rhythm in life. Robin Saville – of ISAN fame – is such an ambler His walks inspired him to base his third solo album – his first one for Morr Music – on the out of the way places he came to see and experience while being out and about.
Clocking in at just under 40 minutes in total, "Build A Diorama" is both a subtle culmination and a poignant antipode to what Saville has achieved together with Antony Ryan as ISAN. While the aesthetics might seem similar in places, Saville opts for a decisively different pace when it comes to writing and producing. Progress is steady, and change, however, is slow – like looking at a diorama for a long period of time in the ever so slightly changing light or as a flaneur focussing on one particular spot, a found object so-to-speak, waiting for the mind to orchestrate it appropriately, giving it sense and meaning.
Built around quiet field recordings, Saville’s six compositions transform this highly personal and, therefore, difficult-to-convey experience into a comprehensible exploration of beauty. Where ISAN almost exclusively uses electronics, Saville deliberately expands this well-established palette with acoustic instruments like bass guitar, chimes and glockenspiel, aiming for an even more suitable musical manifestation of what the walker sees and feels once he fully engages in his passion. Ranging from blissfully pulsing pads allowing for complete associative freedom ("The Deepdale Halophyte Economy") to the playful minimalism of an orchestra dominated by busy bells ("Bosky"), Saville’s "Build A Diorama" is not just a valuable addition to his musical output, but an essential audio guide for those striving to explore, learn and understand.”
Eminent avant-garde/experimental explorer Oren Ambarchi opens a rewarding new avenue to embrace the warmth and mystic psychedelia of Brazilian music with assistance from celebrated percussionist and Downtown luminary Cyro Baptista. Arriving just after Ambarchi’s 50th birthday, and Black Truffle's 10th, ‘Simian Angel’ sees him yoke back from the forward tilt of his rhythm-driven outings over the past decade in order to focus on his electric guitar playing, with utterly sublime results.
Keening sideways from the unyielding percussion of his last outing ‘Hubris’ , he divines a floating space that recalls the beautifully pensile cats cradle of his early classic ‘Grapes From The Estate’ , only this time with fleshlier, more inviting arrangements. The first half’s ’Palm Sugar Candy’ is pure star-gazing material, with Baptista’s hand-played, self-built percussion drawing us into a horizontal headspace while Ambarchi’s glowing notes gently colour the sky above. Ambarchi gradually opens up a glorious space between that dissonant murmuring and an awning, harmonic meridian, where a voice whispers into the space to gently recalibrate our depth perception, before seemingly turning his guitar into a MIDI-triggering aeolian harp in the piece’s spellbinding, levitating 2nd half.
’Simian Angel’ follows with a more gripping rhythmic pull from the twanging Berimbau, just one of myriad percussion mastered by Baptista (who has previously played with everyone from John Zorn to Derek Bailey, Herbie Hancock and Robert Palmer), before Ambarchi glydes into view like a chorus of the sighing Simian Angels, drawing the piece upwards into thin air, where his guitar melts into piano and columns of warm air carry distant vocals from below. The drums rejoin to mark the work’s final avian swoops in strokes and dashes, triggering MIDI keys in a beautifully colourful sort of jazz fusion call and response, located amid and above a subtropical canopy.
Arriving at the apparent apex of a long and sprawling career in which he's had countless collaborations and gone down a seemingly endless series of creative rabbit holes, 'Simian Angel’ is quite possibly Oren Ambarchi’s most open and generous album to date - a perfect entry point into, as well as highlight of, a recorded catalogue that over the course of more than twenty years has been one of the most unpredictable and rewarding in the game. Bravo.
Master of enchanted, lower case composition Andrew Pekler entrances with his exceedingly lovely ‘Sound From Phantom Islands’ for Jan Jelinek’s Faitiche label.
Going deeper on the imaginative themes of 2016’s ‘Tristes Tropiques’ LP, the USSR-born, Cali-raised, and Berlin-based artist beautifully expands on the ideas of his 2018 installation ‘Phantom Islands - A Sonic Atlas’, and it’s corresponding website - including an online interactive map developed with cultural anthropologist Stefanie Kiwi Menrath - to yield a properly absorbing, quasi-ethnographic suite inspired by the speculative notion of “islands that appeared on historical maps but never existed.”
Using his revered sensitivity for small sound organisation and a carefully attuned imagination, Pekler brings his ideas to life in a way that doesn’t matter if the islands were fictive or not, as the music provides plenty enough warm stimulation to ignite your wanderlust. As previewed in the gorgeous, woolly design of advance cut ‘Description of Rain (Over Frisland)’, the places he supposes are wonderfully user-friendly and dreamy in the broadest sense.
Between the lilting jazz tone of ‘Bermeja’ (out in the Caribbean, don’t ya know), the richly elaborated snapshots of ‘Saxenburgh / Pepys / Aurora’ (in the south Atlantic, out near St. Helena-ish), and the stranded sound of ‘Tuanahe’ (in the South Pacific) Pekler has birthed an album of carefully plotted scenes and sonic coordinates which, while maybe apocryphal, at the very least draw us into their world in a stronger way than the mountains of cliché, rote 4th world “ambient” records currently in circulation.
The label behind Dominique Lawalree’s much-adored compilation pick out a real abstract beauty by cellist Leila Bordreuil for their 4th release, coming off like some dream meeting of Anne Guthrie and Kevin Drumm as overseen by Eliane Radigue.
Recorded in a single afternoon in Brooklyn, Leila’s debut album of unprocessed amplified cello recordings in ‘Headflush’ render an arrestingly detached yet immersive perspective on her instrument - which is commonly known to mirror the range of the human voice. With this is mind, Leila’s recordings speak to a sense of disembodiment or an out of body experience, drawing the instrument’s Ur voice out of itself and into space where she reinforces and makes it sigh thick smoky tones pealing with stressed partials in a way that wouldn’t sound out of place on the ‘Eraserhead’ soundtrack. It’s most excellent.
“Leila Bordreuil is a Brooklyn-based cellist, composer, and sound-artist from France. She accesses concepts as diverse as jazz, contemporary classical, noise, and experimental traditions but adheres to her own vision of sound. The New York Times has described her work as “steadily scathing music, favoring long and corrosive atonalities”. Driven by a fierce interest in pure sound and inherent texture, Bordreuil challenges conventional cello practice through extreme extended techniques and amplification methods. Her composed works frequently incorporate sound-spatialization by way of site-specific pieces and multichannel installations.”
Ryuichi Sakamoto’s ravishing and rare solo piano suite ‘BTTB’ is finally issued on vinyl - expanded, reshuffled, and newly replete with liner notes by none other than Haruki Murakami. Trust it’s swoon-worthy stuff.
Originally released in 1998 and hard to get hold of outside of Japan, ‘BTTB’, or ‘Back To The Basics’ is now reissued on 2LP to mark its 20th anniversary. It’s effectively a definitive edition of ‘BTTB’, reshuffled from the original 2LP pressing to also include ‘Energy Flow’ from the BTTB’ maxi-single, (which peaked at No.4 in the Japanese singles charts), as well as the slippery elegance of ‘Reversing’, both on the vinyl album for the first time.
Tech specs aside, this new edition is a sumptuous testament to Sakamoto’s effortlessly natural, poetic evocations of emotion, by then channelling some 30 years work as an arranger of classic synthpop (YMO, collabs with David Sylvian), and seminal soundtracks (Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence; The Last Emperor) into some of his most stripped down yet affective music, hovering on the line between precise, mindful composition and intuitively fluid improvisation.
While the majority of the material here features Sakamoto playing conventionally beautiful solo piano with magnificent highlights on the likes of ‘Opus’, he also extends into experimental, prepared piano on a handful of pieces, both serene and frantic, such as ‘Prelude’, ‘Sonata’ and ‘Uetax’, cannily resonating with Aphex Twin’s prepared piano pieces on ‘Drukqs’, which were released just two years later.
Enchanting introduction to the exquisite, smoky melancholy of a Japanese jazz and blues singer/songwriter/composer who collaborated with Ryuichi Sakamoto and penned some 30 solo albums, yet is scarcely known in the West.
Born in 1942 in a small, northern Japanese fishing village, Maki grew up during the era of American occupation and cultural imperialism, eventually moving to Tokyo and nurturing a passion for the records of Billie Holliday and Mahalia Jackson, which would lead her to perform on US military bases and cabarets and subsequently cover many US traditional folk and blues for the Japanese market.
With her distinctive voice she's seemingly possessed by the spirit of her heroes - Billie, Nina, Mahlia among them - and apparently had the mysterious countenance to match her unusual aesthetic.
We'll have to take that for granted from Hitoshi Jin Tamura's photos and Alan Cummings' enlightening liner notes, but Maki's music remains the best gauge of her character, taking in big band experiments along with an amazing, sitar-lead psych-out, plus runs into modal, spiritual jazz and the kind of lounge styles that prompt imagery of Bill Murray or some lonely salaryman clutching a single malt in the shadows of a Tokyo bar.
Laurel Halo focusses and diffracts her energies into the hi-tech jazz-fusion advancement of Dust; her stellar 3rd album with Hyperdub following the modern classic Quarantine  and the harder-to-grasp Chance Of Rain .
Whilst fully formed in their own rights, those records now appear to be a playground or warm-up for the stunningly loose yet instinctively coherent geometries and ideas that crystallise, slosh and flit all over this one, and which should surely place Halo among the most enigmatic artists in her astral field.
While swarmed with a daring roll call of collaborators such as Klein, Eli Keszler, Julia Holter, $hit & $hine and Max D, Laurel’s myriad ideas both anchor and form a glowing lattice which beautifully perfuses the whole record, tying together her roots in Detroit techno’s makeup - sci-fi, jazz, electro, japanese electronics, dub and nEuropean concrète - and seamlessly incorporating up-to-the-minute gestures from pop, R&B and 4.1 world dimensions in the most elusive yet insoluble style of her own.
If pushed to reduce that concoction to any one common factor, it’s got to be the sense of keening electronic soul that lights up the whole album, lending a cybernetic sensuality and pathos that’s entirely of its time yet totally transcendent for anyone with ears open wide enough to accept the interrelated nature of all the above references.
It would take a braver scribe than us to properly dissect each track, but the exercise would also be a a little pointless or, at least like like describing architecture thru dance, which funnily enough is perhaps the best analogy; a prism thru which to view the deliquescent R&B physics of Solar To Sun and Jelly at the album’s front, to the 3D weft of tribal percussion and Kraftwerkian bleeps wrapped into the avant-pop structure of Moontalk and the insectoid perspective of Nicht Ohne Risiko, or drifting out of 10th storey windows in the dusk of a hot summer day in Who Won? at the album’s core, whilst Syzygy sounds like an ancient construction site visited by a choir of swooping R&B angels from the future.
There’s little doubt that Dust will be one of our favourite albums for the (hopefully) long hot summer of 2017 and beyond; it’s just a brilliant, imaginative and inspiring piece of work.
Blinding Sun Ra reissue, finding Ra on his newly acquired Crumar Mainman synth (with early drum machine!) in stellar 1978 recordings from the same Italian sessions that birthed ‘Disco 3000’ and ‘The Sound Mirror’
Well known to Ra disciples, but not as much to everyone else who stands by his catalogue and doesn’t know where to start, ‘Media Dream’ is a massive highlight of Sun Ra’s fecund period circa 1977 and 1980 - the peak of his output of new LPs.
Recorded live sometime in January 1978, the album is really most distinguished by Ra’s inimitable use of the Crumar Mainman keyboard, which was then - and still is - a rare model of “string synthesiser” that was only manufactured between the 60s and ’84. It captivatingly lights up the whole LP, from the super dark and grungy blasts that open with ‘Saturn Research’ thru its application as bubbling groove box underlining Ra’s hieroglyphic riffs and Michael Ray’s sharp trumpet in ‘Constellation’, to the wigged out blatz in ‘Year of the Sun’, before spiralling out into gobsmacking double helixes of synth and trumpet and collapsing into alien squabble on the title tune.
A legendary wig-flipper, this!
Detroit don Omar-S drops a hot 7" cut of raw and undiluted tracky styles similar to his recent Sound Signature record.
The A-side track 'Out Of 853 Beats' is lopped from his forthcoming FabricMix and works like a tight little tool for the DJ's. Much the same can be said for 'Hot Ones Echo Through The Ghetto', with a purposeful jack track layered with ricocheting delays and reverbs for a hoods-up trip through Omar-S's ends. Comes pressed on puce coloured vinyl and hand numbered by the man himself.
Hawt and strictly limited!
God bless DJ Nobu for taking the initiative and pressing up a highlight of Pan Sonic’s ‘Katodivaihe’ album, which has, inexplicably, never been released on vinyl
‘Lähetys’ is the cut that memorably crashed in after Hildur Gudnadottir takes our head off with the cello on the opening cut of ‘Katodivaihe.’ From its opening of distress signal bleep patterns and lacquer-crackling noise, comes an almighty, soundsystem-rocking electro-dub-noise pattern regularly overwhelmed with tidal surges of noise that threaten to buckle the whole thing but, nah it keeps on swaggering like the last raver on the planet running down the final batteries in his boombox.
Solid debut LP of cranky IDM, mutant techno and immersive, layered ambience from Amsh
Toiling an industrial space somewhere between Jasss, Scorn and Heith, the introductory LP by Seville, Spain’s Amsh renders a full formed sound subtly defined by its palette of layered, textured field recordings. Inspired by grief and coming to terms with the loss of a loved one, it’s a suitably moody record given to a dark flux of feelings spelt out in a narrative style animated by Amsh’s meticulous, haunted sound design.
A passage of dread voices from beyond opens the LP, giving way to the lurching swagger of ‘Negación’ and the pendulous roil of ‘Ira’. His dark ambient virtues really come into play on the impending gloom of ‘Transición’, and the ruffshod techno of ‘Depression’ recalls Mick Harris’ Fret gear, and the final couplet of oozing subs and sluggish drum slugs into distressed electronics of ‘Emoción Predominante Part1, La Verdad (Rebelión)’ and ‘Emoción Predominante Part2, La Vida’ give a sorely raw sense of closure.
Reissue of Rajan’s under-the-radar, 1984 UK electro-funk missile on Melbourne’s Left Ear Records
The sole release on St. James Records back in ’84, ‘Impossible Dreams’ clearly echoes an NYC disco-not-disco and electro sound a la Material or some Kid Creole cut, but in that sweetly mutated-in-translation style common to the UK/US dancefloor dialogue.
Christian Fennesz relays four compelling deep space images from his unique electro-acoustic microcosmos in ‘Agora’, the Viennese artist’s first album since ‘Bécs’ 
Borrowing its title from the ancient greek word for a gathering place, ‘Agora’ finds Fennesz creating highly detailed, alien ecologies of sound riddled with myriad, interlaced dynamics, but each singular in their scope. They variously transition from wide-open to busy, hyper-populated zones of enquiry and back again, but paradoxically enough all come as the result of one man in his spare room, composing inside a pair of headphones.
Change of circumstances meant that Fennesz couldn’t use his usual studio and by necessity was limited to what was at hand in his spare bedroom-turned-studio - just like the old days when he wrote his first record. These limitations pushed him further to explore worlds of possibility contained within his guitar and computer, with drily functional titles such as ‘In My Room’ invoking ideas from both Alvin Lucier and J.G. Ballard to explore vast realms of reverberant, imaginary space, while ‘Rainfall’ feels to emulate a lush spring downpour over bust city streets, all splitting greys and oil and concrete reflection, and ‘Agora’ radiates into every corner of the synthesised soundfield with gloriously detached, isolationist effect, alongside the bittersweet then and coruscating texture of ‘We Trigger The Sun’.
25 years since ‘Gore Motel’, Bohren & Der Club of Gore hold their smoky line of doom-jazz in a sublime, haunting 10th album that once again taps into that interzone between classic Lynchian motifs and fizzing gothic undercurrents.
The sylvan intimacy of ‘Patchouli Blue’ is a Bohren's ineffable skill at lulling listeners into richly hypnagogic states. As ever they prize a deep sense of cool yearning that hearkens back to the slow burn atmospheres of classic film noir as much as David Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti’s soundtracks, dark ambient and the bluest jazz, plus the doom metal of Black Sabbath, Gore, and their dusty echoes in Earth. It’s surely a velvet cloak for the senses; essentially a heavily tranquilising sound, but one fraught with an existential angst that’s won them a captive audience over the years, and is fully in effect here.
As ever, ‘Patchouli Blue’ is a strictly all instrumental affair and was recorded in Cologne and Mülheim An Der Ruhr - site of all their recordings (bar ‘Mitleid Lady’) since the seminal ‘Sunset Mission’ (2000). It was composed by core members Christoph Clöser (Tenor Saxophone) and Morten Gass (Piano, Engineer, Producer) and is performed by them along with longtime member Robin Rodenburg’s plucked, stalking bass lines in a classically sulky, gratifying way bound to make your glass of single malt taste smokier, sweeter. As such, the album is really meant to be taken in one sitting, but if we’re to point out highlights, the slow rise of slinking drum machine and creeping arps of ‘Vergessen & Vorbei’ is just masterful, as is the distant, burnished, Vangelis-like synth glow and elegiac brass of their last call, ‘Meine Welt ist schön’. Basically it’s dead good for what ail’s ya.
In many ways, ‘Weather’ is the culmination of Tycho’s career as a whole – each prior step taken with intention to land on this new creative ground.
"The past 13 years have seen Tycho evolve from a part-time solo project of a graphic designer (Hansen is known internationally for his distinctive design work as ISO50) into a massively successful and world touring live band. The music, too, has fallen in line with this steep trajectory, and each release has introduced new elements to us, ever expanding into untouched sonic territory.
Hansen on the musical progression of Tycho through the years: “With each Tycho album my goal is to evolve and broaden the sound. After The Science of Patterns (2002) and Past is Prologue (2006) -- two primarily electronic solo efforts -- I began incorporating more organic sounds and instrumentation. Dive (2011) saw the addition of guitar and bass guitar while Awake (2014) took it a step further with guitars pushed to the forefront and the use of live drum performances for the first time. Epoch (2016) honed that sound further balancing the electronic and organic components that defined Tycho.” ‘Weather’ intends to reveal a more human side to the music, with the vocal and lyrical components adding a whole new dimension of warmth and life."
Mind-bending, phantastically dark and complex spectral music for 16 grand pianos, saxophone and electronics, from Romania’s Horatio Radelescu, originally issued on the crucial Edition RZ label in 1990 amidst their rather important early streak of releases. Includes bilingual (German/English) liner notes. RIYL Iancu Dumitrescu, Iannis Xenakis, Reinhold Friedl, Autechre
His solo debut LP upon issue in 1990, the two pieces on Clepsydra / Astray arguably amount to Radulescu’s definitive early works, following an impenetrably technical approach to achieve highly idiosyncratic and distinguished results which place him among the most important practitioners of the tricky-to-define spectral music - a form of computer-aided electro-acoustic composition that “foregrounds timbre as an important element of structure or language” and rooted in earlier ideas by Xanakis, Stockhausen, Varèse et al.
Like we say, by its nature, it’s as tricky to define the parameters of spectral music as it is to define the notion of timbre, but the composer himself has a very good stab at it in the sleeve notes, which are among the most literally technical and baffling we’ve encountered.
However, from what we can make out, the astonishing Clepsydra, written for 16 Sound Icons - or 16 grand pianos tilted on their side and played with bows - is conceptually based around the titular, ancient greek water clock mechanism, and explores a jaw-dropping, flowing spectra of glistening, garrotting and razor sharp strings creating a 22 minute experience akin to K-holing in a gyroscope around a hall of mirrors. Queasy as hell, but rewarding with it for those with a constitution for such stuff.
By contrast the dynamic of Astray, premiered in 1984 and written for identical duos of saxophonist playing six saxes (bass, baritone, tenor, alto, soprano, and sopranino) and another on Sound Icon (grand piano turned on its side), but with each duo playing at different speeds, explores another set of timbral integers with seemingly more space in the mix, to more inquisitive, coolly probing effect.
A remarkable slab by any standards. Recommended!
The seductively low-key synth-pop/house alias of Sven Riger (SVN, Dreesvn, PG Sounds) digs out a vintage batch of recordings made circa his sought-after ‘Rejected’ LP in 2010-2011
Rescued from his HD at the behest of Cologne’s Film label, the eight tracks of ‘Tase’ blush with a similar sort of soft-lit allure and slunky blend of loose drums, smoked-out vocals and smudged vibes as found on his debut, a decade ago.
Recorded onto 16-track tape machine, Riger’s creations writhe and roll in effortless, late-night/early-morning style, from what sounds like a blunted Tin Man on ’Silence’, to something like an imaginary jam between Move D and KDJ with ‘New Light’, or adjunct to Huerco S. in ‘Paradise’, while ‘The Dog’ trades in most hypnotic deep house tug, and it’s hard to avoid the drowsy pull of gems such as ‘Skateboard’ and the Theo Parrish-esque ‘Slide’.
Score to the documentary film 'Living The Light' by Claire Pijman. The subject of Claire’s film is Robby Müller, the unparalleled Dutch cinematographer and poet of light whose work includes: Paris Texas, Dead Man, Breaking The Waves, Barfly, 24 Hour Party People and at least 70 other films. He also produced many still photographs, like these luminous Polaroids on the jacket of this vinyl recording.
"Claire Pijman is also Dutch, and also a cinematographer. Her film is, happily, not a conventional or formulaic documentary, but more a personal essay focused on Robby’s vision, his gathered images, and his approach to light, to storytelling and to life itself. LIVING THE LIGHT has now been screened at numerous important film festivals around the world, and was recently awarded the top prize for best feature documentary at the Netherlands Film Festival.
As SQÜRL approached creating music for Claire’s film, we attempted to be guided by the beautiful and illuminated elements of Robby’s spirit. We tried to channel his love of the special light during ‘magic hour,’ his love of moving images – from trains and cars, the sadness of certain architecture, or the vibrant energy that can be felt emanating from all living things.
So here is Some Music for Robby Müller created by SQÜRL in NYC and inspired by Claire Pijman’s film, LIVING THE LIGHT, and of course by Robby himself; his perceptions, his wonderful presence, his mind, his heart and his twinkling, mischievous eyes -- through which he communicated, and with which he surveyed the same illusive world still vibrating around us.”
– Jim Jarmusch, NYC, October 2019
Remastered and sounding better than ever, ‘Compiled 2.0 / 1981-84’ wraps up the most indispensible bits by Gudrun Gut and co’s all-female German post-punk unit Malaria! - effectively Berlin’s answer to The Slits or The Raincoats and one of the key Neue Deutsche Welle and post-punk units of the era.
Staking a ground zero for Berlin post-punk, Malaria!’s music was a product of the West side of the city’s scuzzy aesthetics and progressive politics. Gathering the powers of co-founders Gudrun Gut and Bettina Koster, plus Christine Hahn, Manon P. Duursma and Susanne Kuhnke, Malaria! hit the ground running with their eponymous debut 12” and soon after a support slot for New Order at Ancienne Belgique in Brussels, leading them to tour venues across the world and become one of Berlin’s most distinctive and influential bands.
This comp spans Malaria!’s vital early years when their sound emerged as a mix of driving punk that veered from No Wave and NDW to skronky, dubbed out disco-punk mutations. Notably including material recorded at Studio Christoph Franke, the legendary Berlin facility behind classics by Tangerine Dream, the results have withstood the test of time thanks to the band’s mix of direct, experimental yet disciplined rawness and studio magick.
From that debut 12” you’ll find the martial swagger and honk of ‘Kämpfen Und Siegen’, and the wilder patchwork dub collage of ‘Dabo’ recalling Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Gray from the same era. Also from 1981, ‘How Do You Like My New Dog?’ is a killer bit of electroid deathrock scuzz, while ‘Pernod’ feels out a jazzy sorta No Wave sound akin to James Chance and The Contortions, and the rudely discordant, nerve-jangle disco-not-disco jagz of ‘Zarah’, ‘Geh Dischen’ and the sly pop brilliance of ‘Your Turn To Run’ cement the NYC connection in recordings made at the city’s Sorcerer Sound.
Cutesy brass music from members of Tokyo’s Tenniscoats and Biobiopatata, served on vinyl with Alien Transistor after a domestic 2019 Japanese CD edition
“Zayaendo is a Tokyo-based brassband, colorful, unique and adventurous...you won’t find any of the typical brass-bands-cliches here, nor are they a free-unit of improvisors…they nothing less then invited their own genre...Zayaendo Music !
Zayaendo was formed in 2016 by Saya (Tenniscoats, Spirit Fest) and Satomi Endo (Biobiopatata) after Saya was inspired by a performance of the acoustic instrumental band Hochzeitskapelle, who she saw in Munich.
The band also includes Tomoaki Saito, Masaharu Seki (sekifu), Takashi Ueno (Tenniscoats), Kiyokazu Onozaki (Andersens, 2B) and other musicians who play with other bands or as solo artists. Zayaendo consists of somewhere between ten and twenty musicians (depending on who is available to play at that time) and forms an orchestra that plays each other’s compositions as well as covers of experimental timeless masterpieces. Since the band play acoustic instruments, their performance venues vary from the street to the forest.
In 2018, the band played at the Alien Disko Festival #3 with their beloved Hochzeitskapelle, where together they took part in a parade through the streets of Munich to celebrate and ring in the festival.”
Musicians from Belize, Ghana and Glasgow reprise their charming cross-cultural project for Optimo’s Autonomous Africa label, which was set up in 2012 with goal of raising awareness and funds for music of the African diaspora
Revolving members of the Green Door studios (Golden Teacher and Whilst) plus young music makers from adjacent sides of the Atlantic, ‘Youth Stand United’ shimmies from shimmering xylophones and harmonised vox in ‘Tsormemanya’ to cosmic bop in ‘Let’s Go’, with a massive highlight ‘Diloeshutubui’ riffing on a soul disco classic, thru to the “Joe Meek-meets-William Onyeabor” flex of ‘Gidi’, and rolling reggaeton in ‘United We Stand’, and the space-age gospel pop of ‘Nobody Knows’.
“Proceeds from Youth Stand United will go towards a scholarship fund for musicians from Tafi Atome, Ghana.”
The amniotic grit of ‘Tough Cunt’ is one of Louis Johnstone aka The Hers’ (aka Wanda Group) most curious early releases, originally transmitted back in 2012 on a small-run tape release and now given new life on the excellent Death Is Not The End label for the first time on vinyl. Committed during his golden early phase that also generated ‘Piss Fell Out Like Sunlight’ and ‘My Grandad Never Died On A Boat In Russia And His Brother Not On Land In North Africa’, the 13 tracks of ‘Tough Cunt’ convey an uneasy, solitary state of mind held in atmospheric suspense between layers of peeling, lo-fi field recordings, tape loops and live, playthru performance mulched in a hypnagogic flux.
Like a slippery cyborgian cousin to Graham Lambkin and The Caretaker, or even Gas and Jan Jelinek, Louis operates on the liminal edge of familiarity with a rough grasp of (de)composition applied to arrangements that appear to drift in and out of consciousness, connoting the effect of a memory blipping from daily sensory overload and struggling to fill in the cracks with warm flushes of skull-scraped endorphins.
It’s pretty hard to argue with Louis’ techniques of seduction. From the Gas-like swell and the crepuscular creep of the first parts, he gets right under the skin and stays there, pulling into the golden glow of ‘Super 32’, keening to the stately drift of ’92 Inside an Escort’ and getting it right on the nose with his transition from the olfactory synaesthesic timbre of ‘Everyone Gets Everything he Wants’ into heavy Lynchian clag on ‘You Will Not Remove Shit’ in a way that beggars the question; why the fuck has he not been commissioned for a film soundtrack by now?
One of the most important concrète recordings of all time; Bernard Parmegiani's breathtaking 'De Natura Sonorum' is thankfully reissued in its entirety for the first time.
It's a beguiling feat of spatially diffused concrète dynamics and precise electronic processing providing entry to an extraordinarily vivid and otherworldly soundsphere perfused with sheer, isolated tones, acousmatic alien scree and sudden percussion organised with an abstract yet palpable sense of dramatic narration and timing.
These are rare and incredible sounds, plucked from nature and reformed in a hyperreal ecology with its own measurements of gravity and energy informing their momentum and trajectory within fractured dimensions. Whilst ostensibly as far from pop and dance music as you'd think, the sparse and deliberate coordinates of these musical schematics or sound designs in fact feed forward into much contemporary music when considered in relation to the sampler-chopped and flung dynamics of say, '90s hardcore and jungle, thru to the simulated hyperspace of Monolake and the aerodynamic geometries of Total Freedom's Ableton sculptures.
Ultimately, it's the perfect entry point for anyone intrigued by the crenellated climes of institutional electro-acoustic music, and on a much broader level, a jaw-dropping listen for anyone into the further reaches of electronic and experimental composition.
Steve Roach’s foundational and best loved/most sought-after ambient tape series ‘Quiet Music’ arrives on vinyl via Telephone Explosion, yielding his serene conception of music “created in respect for silence”
Recorded between 1983-1986 and issued in ’86 in successive volumes, ‘Quiet Music’ sees Roach expand on Eno’s ideas of ambient music in a soundtrack for Richard Leon’s ‘Wildflowers’ video. Also taken by a fruitful new age spirit in a style that would become his hallmark and also parallel the tranquil electronic simulacra of Japanese ambient environmental music, Roach evokes beautifully bucolic auditory scenery stroked with tender melody in a way that suggests, implies rather than tells, a story about nature and childhood naïveté.
“Flowing like the breath of a sleeping child, Steve Roach’s third recording of quiet music evokes the high, clear streaming of stratospheric clouds. Flue and synths blend in this deep and peaceful ambience, creating a sustaining atmosphere of timeless simplicity. (Try listening to this quiet music at a slightly lower volume.)”
Foundational techno business from 1993, documenting Mark and Moritz pelting ‘em out live at 145bpm at Waschhaus, Potsdam and setting the template for a whole genre for 3 decades (and counting) to come.
The titular A-side is a monstrous minimalist pounder built for maximalist effect; drop it at the right time and the effect is intensely powerful. On the B-side ‘Phylyps Base’ is a more concise version giving more room for the low end to boom out, and ‘Axis’ focuses on martial 909 percussion in a very Millsian or UR style.
Every home should own a copy!
Honest Jon’s cough up their stash of original copies of Steve Beresford’s first solo record, ‘The Bath of Surprise’ (1980) - a strong look for anyone into their Derek Bailey and Company reissues, or seeking the square roots of free improvisation, noise, post punk and UK experimental music.
Produced by Beresford’s bandmate in General Strike, David Cunningham, and featuring artwork by another notable band member, David Toop, ‘The Bath of Surprise’ is a bonkers record in a quintessential, eccentric english style chucking everything from the bathwater to the kitchen sink into its thrillingly scrappy vignettes on the A-side, while the B-side sees him stretch out on everything from a piano (with a toy piano inside) to a mutant little dub-shot employing euphonium, Astro-phaser and flugelhorn.
Just ogle at that equipment list: acoustic guitar (with microphone and battery amplifier), percussion, piano, synthesizer (toy), euphonium, trumpet, toy piano, drums, whistling, bass, cymbal, drums, ukulele, cymbal, tape (previous performance), electronics, piano (with toy piano inside), and performer (with whirled bee, whirled tube, clarinet mouthpiece, footclickers, blechtrommel, giggle stick, musicbox, bath water, nailbrush, body, tubes, reeds, balloons, cowbox, musical toothbrush, duck call, electronic bird, squeaky chops, chicken box, toy record player, plastic horn, talking telephone, astro-phaser.
Burning gospel techno, UR style, from DJ John Collins, reissued for its 10th anniversary
The big A-side blends the fruity acid percs with searing, Mad Mike-alike organ vamps to brilliantly conflate club and church vibes (if they aren’t the same thing to a lot of folk), while the B-side’s ‘All We Need’ cuts deeper and funkier with a swinging good times groove built from chicken scratch guitar and flushes of warm Detroit strings.
Total gems both of them!
The label behind Angel Bat Dawit’s amazing debut present a glorious side from persistent jazz innovator Jeff Parker (Tortoise), melding deeply soulful charm with naturally explorative leanings operating at similarly loose but focussed levels of intuition and dextrous freedom across his swirling ‘Suite For Max Brown’, but with plusher recording and production values.
Preceded by a 7” that signalled this LP would be special, ‘Suite for Max Brown’ lives up to its promise with a canny mix of supple, live chops and Parker’s own sampling/editing tekkers that makes the LP feel at once fresh and vintage. Manning electric guitar, plus all sorts of percussion (drums, glockenspiel, pandeiro), and electronics (sampler, Korg MS20, Roland JP-08, midi), as well as Mibira and vocals, Jeff is flanked by a hand-picked band of Interantional Anthem regulars on strings, brass, drums and vox for a sophisticated and deeply cool iteration of 2020 jazz music.
The smooth fusion of ‘Max Brown’ off the aforementioned 7” single now closes the LP, but before you get there, the album will charm your socks off in 10 ways. On the A-side he puckers up a selection of succinct bewts, stroking MS20 subs under loping drums, guitar vamps and Ruby Parker’s serene, lilting vox on ‘Build a Nest’, and going all J Dilla with the sample/edit cut-up of Otis Redding on ‘C’mon Now’, before lurching into devilish jazz-funk breaks in ‘Fusion Swirl’, then melting the vibe with a gorgeous take on Coltrane’s ‘After The Rain’, alongside dreamy electronic vignette ‘Metamorphoses’. On the B-side however it sounds like they returned from lunch (and perhaps a spicy zoot) with a much more laid-back, woozy appeal explored thru Parker’s signature, quietly joyful electric guitar and spongiform MS20 bass on ‘3 For L’, while ‘Go Away’ simmers on the good foot for classy ‘floors with Makaya McCraven’s drums synched to Parker’s vox, sampler and chiming, almost highlife-esque guitar.
As with everything we’ve heard on IARC over the past few months (admittedly since being wowed by that amazing Angel Bat Dawid debut), Jeff Parker’s contributions fall squarely within the label’s focused yet broad appeal and properly rooted styles, offering the sort of Jazz slab that will seduce fence-sitters and light up harder-to-please beret wearers.
Angel Bat Dawid is an enigma; her debut album 'The Oracle’ (released earlier this year on tape) is a total anomaly. Dawid recorded, overdubbed and mixed the album on her own after a brain tumor diagnosis disrupted her music studies, she plays every instrument you hear (except for some drums), appears on the cover and produced every flawless twist and turn you’ll find inside. 'The Oracle’ is basically a head-slapping, tear-jerking introduction to the spiritual jazz cosmos of an artist who has become one of Chicago’s most revered and ubiquitous players in recent years, beckoning classic comparisons with everyone from Sun Ra to Nina Simone, or Matana Roberts to Moor Mother in the modern day, but ultimately revealing her own path with shockingly natural ease.
From the opening bars of ‘The Oracle’ it quickly becomes apparent something special is about to happen, and that feeling burns until the end of the LP. Variously designated as “celestial psalms, spiritual jazz experiments & homemade hymns” on the obi strip, Angel is truly channelling something from above and beyond in her incredibly earthy but skyward style.
One gets the feeling that music comes as naturally as breathing to Angel. So it makes sense that she favours singing and playing the clarinet, but that’s only half of the story to ‘The Oracle.’ Apart from the sizzling drums on ‘Cape Town’, Angel remarkably plays all other instruments on the record, as well as overdubbing and mixing everything by herself, too (not to mention appearing on the front cover), which is a rare proposition in many musical fields, not to mention free jazz, which often favours recording engineers and post-production to “get it right.” Safe to say that Angel gets it more “right” than most thanks to her proximity and ease with the material, and the way she ultimately conveys her experience with an unbroken sense of urgency and concentration.
From the quizzical melodies and effected vocals that flow out of ‘Destination (Dr. Yusef Lateef)’ to the incredible catharsis felt at the close of ‘Cape Town’, and cemented in her subsequent closer ‘The Oracle’, the album leaves us ragged and with a lump-in-the-throat, with thanks to the rarely paralleled conviction and utter freeness of her playing and arrangement. Frankly, fans of everything from John and Alice Coltrane to Ornate Coleman, thru the South African styles of Ndikho Xhaba & The Natives and up to Matana Roberts are bound to be bowled over by the ancient but timeless emotive clout of Angel’s solo debut. Incredible.
‘Workaround’ is the singular debut album proper by Beatrice Dillon; an eminent rhythm fiend whose productions and DJ sets are prized for her patient, fluid grasp of space, texture and devilish, syncopated UK club styles. It's almost impossible to articulate just how hard we’ve fallen for this one, but trust that for our money it’s the most vital album we’ve heard in recent times, effortlessly playing to both forward/club and pop-styles without ever feeling like it’s trying too hard to do either.
Counting her most finely sculpted work among its 14 tracks, ‘Workaround’ is the definitive yet most open-ended statement of an aesthetic Beatrice has worked toward for the past decade. Entirely running at 150bpm, but rarely repeating any one pattern, the album works in a fractal not fractional style of rhythmelodic suss that acknowledges a world of influence from African, sub-continental and Caribbean musics, as well as contemporary electronics, and how they’ve all feed into the unique prism of UK club music.
Recorded over 2017-2019 at studios in London, Berlin and New York, and featuring a wealth of tactile guest input by everyone from Kuljit Bhamra (tabla) to Pharaoh Sanders Band’s Jonny Lam (pedal steel guitar); Laurel Halo (synth/vocal); Lucy Railton (cello); Batu (percussion); Hemlock’s Untold, Morgan Buckley and Senegalese Griot, Kadialy Kouyaté - Beatrice deftly absorbs their instrumental colours and melody into an interlinked body of work that suggests immersive, nuanced options for dancers, DJs and domestic players.
Also taking core inspiration from literary and non-musical ideas such as James P. Carse’s book ‘Finite and Infinite Games’ and its central tenet that “an infinite game is for the purpose of continuing the play”, along with English painter Bridget Riley’s essays on grids, colour, and light perception, plus margaret Glyn’s 1907 text on ‘The Rhythmic Conception of Music’, the album operates within a finely crafted, self-sufficient system that favours functionality over anything “esoteric” or mystic.
Of course with such a wide ranging set of influences it requires a steady hand and mind to tesselate the myriad angles of her influences without making a mess of it, and Beatrice’s soberly controlled approach and fixed, minimalist, temporal framework sets the ground for a completely revelatory, crisp, syncretic consolidation of instrumental and synthetic vibes that will speak to the broadest dancefloor church and future-proof the album for a long time to come.
Viewed from any angle, Workaround is tight and brimming with vitality. Using dub’s mutability, but leaving aside its dread aspect, it yields a supple yet solid, elegantly rugged club choreography that dances between Bhamra’s floral tabla rolls to lissom sort of synth-pop with Laurel Halo, and best of all, a killer run of fizzing steppers that somehow wrap up the physics of Artwork’s ‘Basic G’ with the disruptive flux of Rian Treanor, matching the in-the-pocket funk of Ricky Villalobos and Mark Fell’s ‘Multistability’ ideas, while nodding to the swingeing syncopation of Mark Ernestus’ Ndagga Rhythm Force and the deeply gratifying percussive anticipation of Photek or DJ Plead. For our money, a masterpiece - no less.
Proper space cadet Steve Moore supplies a superbly dramatic synth and guitar soundtrack for ‘Bliss’, Joe Begos’ 2019 psychedelic vampire horror feature. Make sure to check for the almost rave-ready beatless bass roller ‘You’re Not Going To Die’, the heart-racing thump of ‘Nobody Comes’
“Critically acclaimed multi instrumentalist STEVE MOORE (ZOMBI) presents the score to the 2019 feature film "Bliss". From pulsing, panic-inducing freneticism of tracks such as "The Bite" to calm and contemplative melodies and guitar leads endearing the listener to the film's lead character,"Bliss" sees STEVE MOORE at his most dynamic, intense, and nuanced.”