Oh my jeffing days, it finally happened! The Japanese edition of RZA’s seminal OST for ‘Ghost Dog’ finally lands to answer our prayers.
One of our most sought-after albums never to appear on vinyl (aside from a sneaky edition you could find at Hardwax if u were sharp-eared), RZA’s first soundtrack, for Jim Jarmusch’s mystic assassin thriller starring Forest Whittaker, has been top of our list since the day we walked out of the cinema after watching it in 1999 as a wide-eyed scrawny 16 y.o. That cinema has since been demolished, but our love for RZA’s score has never diminished, and we’ll happily sit with the looped-up 1 hour version of its ‘Ghost Dog Theme’ that was uploaded by some absolute G to YouTube on given day of the week.
With the benefit of hindsight, it’s not hard to hear the album as punctuating a whole epoch of music and culture, practically executing the final word on sample-driven, old skool beatcraft at a time when rap and hip hop were phase-shifting into the whole jiggy era of Timbaland and The Neptunes, and the old analog world of comic books and Kung Fu flicks on VHS were on the cusp of being consumed into the nostalgia industry - an idea perhaps neatly reflected in the film’s story about an assassin who prefers to follow ancient samurai codes of honour in an era of modern gangsters.
As many have discovered to their annoyance, it’s only this, the Japanese version, that carries the full soundtrack, where other versions were full of crap filler from Wu Tang affiliates. We’re talking some of RZA’s crispiest drum chops, soul stabs, and the most atmospheric work in his catalogue; 35 minutes of lethal neck snappers from the top shelf of ’90s hip hop, and we couldn’t be any more gassed to finally clutch a copy that will be coming to the grave with us.
(RZA voice) Raise your swwwords! Ultimate tip!
After 23 years out of print, FSOL’s definitive early ‘90s ambient-epic Lifeforms now returns to its natural habitat. Serving near-dangerous levels of nostalgia for almost anyone who came thru in the ‘90s, Lifeforms is set to soundtrack myriad afterparties and claim its place on a whole new generation of record shelves.
Originally released in 1994, a few years after FSOL had become a household name thanks to their debut LP Accelerator and its standout rave anthem, Papua New Guinea (and not forgetting Humanoid’s Stakker before it), Brian Dougans and Garry Cobain’s project really blossomed into something else with Lifeforms, where they consolidated a wealth of esoteric ideas and philosophies into what was effectively a new manifesto for psychedelic electronic music.
Whether unconsciously and osmotically absorbed, or dutifully studied and cherished by those cognisant of its brilliance, Lifeforms was almost unavoidably ubiquitous at the time, and inarguably worked its way into the popular consciousness in a way that electronic records rarely do nowadays. It was definitely a product of its time, and now, 23 years later, we can safely say it’s kept its charms intact.
Riffing on then-emergent themes of cybernetics, amorphous androgyny and artificial intelligence, together with nods to classic ‘70s psychedelia and kosmische - it features guest spots from Ozric Tentacles and Robert Fripp, and sampled Klaus Schulze - the results tapped into the era’s undercurrent of aerobic mysticism and eldritch new age spirituality to locate an unprecedented confluence of those styles which has influenced swathes of electronic dreamers ever since.
It’s techno-romantic and tech-gnostic in the lushest sense, a utopian beauty flush with the thrill of unknown futures, yet fringed with an MDMA come-down melancholy that’s totally crucial to understanding that era’s play and juxtaposition of energies. Quite simply, though: Lifeforms is an incredibly enigmatic and life-affirming album awaiting your (re)discovery.
Kode 9 collaborator Lawrence Lek ventures into a fantasy soundtrack sequel to ‘Geomancer’, exploring ideas about love and pop soul in post-human, algorithm-driven AI musics
The full A/V project ‘Aidol’ was previously installed at one of Hyperdub’s acclaimed Ø “club”-nights, and naturally the label deliver its sleekly synthetic soundtrack components as a standalone release that clearly taps into their fascinations with computer game and Far Eastern musics, and emergent forms of sonic fiction. For aesthetic reference points, think neo James Ferraro and Local Action’s Lena Raine releases, Chinese karaoke, and everything from Kenji Yamamoto’s playful melodramas and Nozomu Matsumoto’s uncanny ambient sound design.
““Beware your fans, Diva. First they need you and then they’ll delete you.” AIDOL is the sequel to 2017’s Geomancer. This feature-length CGI fantasy follows a fading superstar, Diva, who enlists the AI Geomancer as a ghostwriter for her comeback performance at the 2065 eSports Olympics. Featuring a soundtrack by the artist, AIDOL revolves around the struggle between humanity and AI for dominance of the entertainment industry. Diva’s quest for fame is set against the contradictions of a fully-automated world, one where originality is no more than an algorithmic trick and machines have the capacity for love and suffering.”
Working backwards from the expanded 2020 edition of ‘Grafts’ and the first vinyl appearance for 2015’s ‘Aftertouches’, Kara-Lis Coverdale finally presents a first time vinyl pressing of her 2014 debut album ‘A 480’, giving a breath of new life to five sublime virtual choral synth studies rendered in the digital sphere, originally released on a 150-copy cassette edition for Constellation Tatsu and unavailable on any physical format since.
Entirely made up of “virtual choirs” - synthetic versions of actual recorded singers that were disembodied, disfigured, and displaced over forty times before finally reappearing through a convoluted process of digital reincarnation - ‘A 480’ essentially catalogues the birth of one of the most distinctive artistic voices of our time. Using fine editing, layering, and convolution of the original material to reshape meaning via minute shifts of repetitive arrangements, the pieces here function effortlessly as a sort of environmental music, but really come into their own on closer inspection, where the slightest alterations ripple with something like a butterfly effect to create cosmically scaled harmonic changes and unique expressions of compressed melodic counterpoint.
The five works oscillate between succinctly pop-tart and stately pieces, and into more expansive, panoramic and meditative parts that offer a glimpse of developments to come later in Coverdale’s oeuvre. Those shorter numbers take in precision-tooled loops recalling Carl Stone’s pop chop-ups in ‘A 480’ and ‘A 476,’ and opiated airborne pulses reminiscent of Stephan Mathieu via Wolfgang Voigt in the darker allure of ‘A 478,’ and act as moments of preparation, punctuation and reflection around the album’s two peaks; the banking noctilucent choral clouds of ‘A 479,’ and the gently thizzing delirium of ‘A 477.’
This deluxe vinyl edition comes with a printed booklet including graphic scores that contain the sources and structuring of the A 480 audio text-files, transformation procedures used to arrange and compose them into their present form, and keyword routes of re-creation. The cover art is by Daniele De Batté, and inside the sleeve you’ll find a blue-cell sticker that can be placed on the grid to recreate the original 2014 version of the cover.
‘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.
Lord Of The Isles, the nom de guerre of Scottish producer Neil McDonald, arrives on Beats In Space Records with Glisk Science, a singular set of songs harvested from a catalog growing and overflowing with music.
"Glisk Science fuses club-ready cuts and beatless excursions that were initially staged in diverse live settings over the past few years. The A-side tracks were created with an ADE performance, and a live mix for Dekmantel's podcast series, in mind. The B-side features two environmental pieces written for a special presentation at the Sydney Opera House.
McDonald embraces and documents the joy of live improvisation on Glisk Science, allowing the machines, the environment, and a decade of writing and performing guide the experience. A glimpse of the sweet spots encountered through free play, now and forever in functional formats."
Abul Mogard’s devastatingly bleak soundtrack for Duncan Whitley’s experimental short film offsets the barren, stony landscape of a small, isolated island against a backdrop of fizzing drone dynamics and indrawn shoegaze inversions. It's perhaps Mogard's most carefully constructed and engrossing set of recordings to date, highly recommended if you’re familiar with Mogard's unique synthesis, or work by Thomas Köner, My Bloody Valentine or William Basinski.
Mogard's darkly sublime soundtrack for ‘Kimberlin’ , an experimental film about the Isle of Portland on the English south coast, coincidentally doubles up as metaphor for the mood of an increasingly inward-looking UK and our often desolate mental states. Taking its name from the local word for an outsider or “foreigner”, ‘Kimberlin’ was filmed on location during the months following the referendum of 2016 which lead to the current, purgatory state we find ourselves in the UK right now.
Combining mostly wordless, lingering shots of the Isle of Portland’s bleak and rugged landscape with Mogard’s washed out but richly evocative music, made with manipulated field recordings, modular synth and layered Farfisa organ, the project came to reflect a sense of (be)longing, loneliness and outsiderness that also perhaps uncannily mirrors the putative collective feeling since that darkly historic vote, over three years ago. Taking cues from the evocative poetry of lifelong islander, stonemason and poet Cecil “Skylark” Durston (1910-1996), as well as a news report on the discovery of a mysterious cinema found interred by foliage in the Isle’s cave systems, the merging of image and sound speak to their subject in an organic, impressionistic manner that leaves billowing room for imagination.
Mogard’s soundtrack opens out with a slow-burning, greyscale iridescence, tenderly manipulating the sound of fog horns and bird calls in briny modular spray and gloaming Farfisa organ swells that, when combined with song titles such as ‘Flooding Tide’ and ‘Playing On The Stones’, serve to evocatively connote the film’s subject matter. The results can be heard as echoes in the digital future of an England that’s now difficult to grasp, most hauntingly transposing the meaning of Cecil “Skylark” Durston’s description of the Isle of Portland as a place where “quarry bells no longer ring, except in old men’s dreams” to the ever-present, never-ending riddle of Brexit and its generationally devastating bleakness.
Nairobi, Kenya’s KMRU debuts on Mego with a suite of serene ambient scenes after emerging with Four Tet-like electronica releases in 2019 and recently starring on ‘Alternate African Reality - Electronic, Electroacoustic And Experimental Music From Africa And The Diaspora’
Known as Joseph Kamaru to his pals, KMRU was hailed by RA as one of ’15 East African Artists You Need To Hear’ in 2018 and is a regular performer at Nyege Nyege Festival in Uganda, beside performing at CTM and Gamma Festival. For his Mego release ‘Peel’ it appears he’s been listening to label hero Fennesz, the Austrian experimental guitarist, or Will Long aka Celer, with whom his tracks share a certain, longing melancholy in their long, sighing arrangements of glistening and creaking ambient pads and mournful post-rock/cienmatic elegance.
“The subtle calming atmosphere within Peel belies the compositional prowess as layers of delicate sounds wrap around each other creating a hybrid new form ambient musics both captivating through it’s textural depth and kaleidoscopic patterns. The track titles lend themselves to the themes and mood set within: Why are you here, Well, Solace, Klang, Insubstantial and the title track. This is a deep heartfelt journey with a new strong voice being expressed through the means of organically presented electronic ambient sounds, one which reveals further layers on repeat listens.”
One of 2020’s few saving graces, CS + Kreme hypnotically expand upon the styles of their AOTY ’Snoopy’ in two durational beauties for TTT
Conrad Standish’s serpentine bass work and Sam Karmel’s slanted electronics lay the foundations for two sumptuous works involving vital input from Judith Hamann (Cello) and Dan Luscombe (Lap Steel Guitar), book-ending a year in which their debut album ’Snoopy’ became a sort of downbeat life-raft for many listeners.
‘April Fools’ Day’ is a steeply hypnotic 16 minute piece where CS’ coiled bass guitar and Kreme’s reticulated 808 synch with swirling cello and lap steel strings into a psychedelic Raga, surely invoking comparisons with Coil via Terry Riley to our minds, and most beautifully primed to extend the rare pleasures of their album. ‘Bugged’ follows with a dustier trip into deep psyche-soul country, saddling up 11mins of strolling bass stoked with alien fireside vocals and lolling early ‘90s chill-out room vibes in abundance.
Dancefloor magician DJ Sotofett works up a trio of breezy, stepping’ dubs on a natty 10” for Honest Jon’s
‘Dub Off’ sets the style with mellifluous keys and lush synth pads dubbed to the rafters over clipped steppers’ drums in classic fashion. ‘Dub On’ brings the bass and FX forward for starker but more boisterous effect, and ‘Dub On Dub’ sends it all reeling thru the echoplex, with Stiletti-Ana’s congas, and Sotofett’s keys and synth spannered in all directions, anchored by Haugen Inna Di Bu’s meaty bass.
Finn fulfils a need for deepest pads and driving soul with a string of spine-tracing and slamming pearls on his FINN002 whitelabel.
Taking his yung club shaman role seriously, the Manchester lynchpin cares for the dance with heightened emotional intelligence and get-down drive in ‘Bitter / Sweet’, refining the styles of his 2-track zinger from a couple of months ago, and last year’s uptempo rocket with India, into some super deep Detroit techno soul mutation and Chicago-via-Sheffield disco wampers.
Hands-down, ‘You Know Right’ is an instant classic, with soul-stroking organ pads and deadly bass coming off like The Connection Machine doing speed garage, while ‘Love and Happiness’ gets it right on the UK street-rave nose with skippy drums and jungle nudges dubbed for the blues and basement parties. On the other hand, ‘Scandalous Little Number’ loops out in a Paul Johnson via Daft Punk tip, and ‘Sweet Little Loop’ keeps the club’s chin up with a sound like Shake if he came from Doncaster not Detroit.
There's not much ground that hasn't been covered when you're writing about US doom metal overlords Sunn O))).
Flight of the Behemoth' was released before the duo's world-beating double punch of White One and Two, and doesn't quite have the refined, bass heavy drone insanity that made those albums so darn popular, but as you probably already know, Sunn O))) material is pretty much all indispensable, even the band's demos.
The most interesting thing on offer here though is two collaborations with Japanese noise God Merzbow, who teams up with the boys to create quite menacing noisedrone. This is comparable with his crucial Boris collaborations on Hydrahead, and makes you wonder why the acts have never followed up this collaborative urge.
The record ends on a high (or loooow.) too with a ten minute slice of prime low-end badness, destined to churn your bowels and cause plenty of upset to your long-suffering neighbours.
Killer pair of blunted trips from Moon Wiring Club channelling Boards of Canada, The Other People Place, early AFX and Octagon Man for his Gecophonic label.
Arriving like the first frost of winter, ’Jass Of Thun’ strolls into misty scenes recalling Gerald Donald soundtracking an episode of Sapphire & Steel, all floaty flutes and anachronistic atmospheres, driven by a ticking electro-house groove primed for Victorian opium dens and choose-your-own-adventure antics.
'Supernatural Apricots’ is a craftier little number, rolling out clipped perc with Radiophonic sci-fi pads and keening choral motifs that may summon the ghosts from your attic...
Unmissable LCO recordings of works by radical and prescient 20th century genius Giacinto Scelsi; highlighting the pivotal Italian composer’s uncanny style of microtonal composition inspired by non-Western modes - a huge influence on Ennio Morricone, Gruppo Di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza and contemporary horror music!
One of the most fascinating, peerless, and yet unsung classical music pioneers of the last century, Scelsi is among the most enigmatic in his field. A wealthy aristocrat by birth, Scelsi was able to become a recluse and immerse himself in a singular world of sound during the early-mid 1900s, teaching himself how to play and compose in a totally ascetic yet ravishing style that lead him to discover, as New Yorker Magazine put it; “a world in one note”.
He attended Luigi Russolo’s Futurist ‘The Art of Noise’ concerts in Rome in the 20s, and later studied - but discarded - Schoenberg’s 12-tone serialism in favour of intuitively drawing upon his own senses and experiences of travel, from India to Nepal and Mexico, and eventually coming to distill myriad worldly philosophies and approaches with an intent focus on musical microtones in a way that has rarely been heard with such rigour and focus before or since his oeuvre in the Western canon, at least.
Scelsi’s work has previously inspired a number of LCO releases and commissions, notably and recently including scores such as ‘You Were Never Really Here’ (dir. Lynne Ramsay, 2017), ‘Alien: Covenant’ (dir. Ridley Scott, 2017) and ‘Suspiria’ (dir. Luca Guadagnino, 2018), and ever since his death in 1988 and subsequent re-discovery by waves of rapt followers, it’s not hard to hear how the unyielding tension of his music has come to suit the atmospheres of psychological thrillers and contemporary sci-fi.
On ‘String Trio’, the LCO’s Galya Bisengalieva (violin), Robert Ames (viola), and Max Ruisi (cello) perfectly articulate the unearthliness of Scelsi’s music in four parts that ideally display how he located an incredibly rich sensuousness in atonalities, and formed a vital bridge (even if it was a bit like the Vasari Corridor and only used by him until the late ‘80s!) between long-standing traditions of Eastern music and philosophy and their blinkered European classical counterparts.
LA-based ambient artist Olive Ardizoni imagines a music to aid in opening communications between human and plant lifeforms. They’re from California; allow it. A must check for fans of Ana Roxanne, Ami Dang, massages, hugging trees (and smoking them).
“Green-House is the project of Los Angeles based artist Olive Ardizoni. Approaching the project with an intentional naivety, they craft songs that find freedom through simplicity. As a non-binary artist, they hope to create a space with fewer barriers as both a performer and a listener.
Their first release as Green-House, “Six songs for Invisible Gardens” was written with the intention of transforming the listening environment and augmenting domestic space. The music is designed as a communication with both plant life and the people who care for them."
Quasar struts from neo classical keys to steppers on a debut for Mala’s Deep Medi
‘Walk’ strikes out on a moody cinematic tip that bleeds into the waltzing skank of ‘Inutile’, but it gets suffer with the chamber step of ‘Ambivalent’ and the grungy mid-range thrust of ‘External Signal Processor’ for the halfstep ravers.
Buttechno dishes up his best since the ‘City 2’ side with a superb set of Russian formula rave noise and cyber-alien ballads for his pals at Moscow’s Gost Zvuk
Ragging it between chewed lip phet-tek and high velocity acid trance via a clutch of bitter and exquisite beat-less squat-chamber works, the diversity and queasy rave urge shared by all the tracks sets ‘Psy X’ up as one of Buttechno’s strongest this side of the hard-to-find ‘City 2’ or his ace soundtrack for Gosha Rubchinskiy.
If the eviscerated mentasms of ‘xsaw’ get your cowie jaw going already you’ll be fish-hooked for the rest, taking in prime scally-tek stompers on ‘the big R’ and the LAE-like ‘AC torches’, plus more skewed variants in the hardbass wallop and pitching vox of ’02’ (wtf is he sampling there?) and the scramble-jack of ‘X-tr’ on one hand. However the majority is given to much stranger, harder-to-place and beat-less oddities that really make the album, from the arpeggiated thought bubbles of ‘2020’, and the xpq?-esque future ambient dance chicanery of ‘the drome’, the John T. Gast alike riddle of ‘dead land’, and hyperrealist sound design drawing brutalist lines with Lee Gamble and FSOL in ‘sirenius’ and ’tranq’.
Top shelf rave for bedroom bruxism. Not to be missed!
Crucial selection of raw, darkside early gqom from pioneering Durban trio Phelimuncasi, setting the gripping vocals of twins Makan Nana and Khera, and Malathon, to cranky technoid club engines by DJ Menzi, DJ Mp3, and DJ Scoturn, all showcased for first time outside South Africa on the ever vital Nyege Nyege Tapes. Unmissable for fans of dark, heavy dance music of all stripes!
For Phelimuncasi's overdue first international showcase NNT follow a number of excursions into this sound from DJ Menzi and Sleeping Buddha for sibling label Hakuna Kulala with a mix of vintage early works and banging new exclusives, including some produced as recently as 2019 in the downtime after the trio’s incendiary performance at the label’s annual festival. Alongside the gqom archaeology of Italian-based GqomOh! label, this lot forms a vital piece of the genre’s history, charting how the vocalists’ conversational, toasting style, itself rooted in local storytelling traditions and the intimidating rhythmic singing of the apartheid-era came to influence their sound, and ultimately set the course for Gqom to come.
Colloquially known as “taxi techno” in the Durban townships, Gqom is a staple sound at NNT’s annual festival in Jinja, Uganda and always brings the best moves out of the SA dancers (and everyone else for that matter). As recently revealed on his shocking ‘Impazamo’ tape for Hakuna Kulala, DJ Menzi is one of the scene’s wildcards, and his productions for Phelminancusi are a big highlight here, counting the heavy call and response lyrics, signature Zulu trills and hard clang of their ‘Private Party’ anthem, the Terminator-stare drones of ‘GQOM Venus Cemetary’ and the desiccated bones of ‘Umgido’ among the comp’s heaviest drops.
Racked up beside an infectious introduction to gone-but-not-forgotten producers, DJ Scoturn with the menacing bell hook and bouncing bars of ‘Umahlalela’, and the starkly martial snares of DJ Mp3’s ‘Sesi Gora’, which sounds like mutant dancehall dispatched via late ‘80s Chicago, this lot is surely more than your RDA of crucial dancefloor energy, and absolutely primed with dense cyberpunk atmospheres for skulking deserted inner cities and counting down to the apocalypse.
Remarkable collaboration between inventor, synth pioneer and EMS co-founder Peter Zinovieff and preeminent cellist Lucy Railton, capturing a life-altering dialogue between two figures with a more than 50-year age gap between them, and with very little shared musical vocabulary. Pursuing common ground through an open-ended series of conversations and experiments, the pair somehow produce what we can only describe as creative alchemy; transforming banal conceptual triggers into a work seeping into almost mystical dimensions, with immense personal resonance.
Initially conceived as a live project between the pair and performed at various festivals internationally between 2016-2017, this 35 minute recording feels like just one possible manifestation of an ever-evolving process, a one-off reproduction of an impossible image. The pair started working instinctively, playing to each of their strengths - Railton’s radical ideas, energy and technique, and Peter's inventive, impulsive thinking. Fuelled by their surroundings and through an exchange of ideas, the process they eventually embarked on saw Zinovieff model a computer-synthesised composition made from a series of Railton’s cello improvisations, creating a complex cluster of intricate parts that couldn’t ever be performed by human hands. Over the resulting web, Railton added solo cello to create a kind of double-helix where you’re never quite sure where one sound begins, or ends.
In essence, Railton’s cello provides a radical variable - a sort of spirit in the machine - which is diffused, inverted and scattered by Zinovieff. At the atomic level: chaos reigns. Zoom out a bit, though, and you start to see filigree detail and shapes emerge. It’s this intangible aspect that makes the piece so much more than just a document of process, or experimentation.
It’s worth noting that Railton is here the catalyst for what can be considered Zinovieff’s definitive work in an illustrious career spanning 60 years; RFG is, remarkably, his first ever album. And despite its unwavering, un-sentimental spirit - it’s an album that ultimately speaks to a very modern human condition; the search for common understanding when there is so much that separates us. Inter-generational differences. Our interaction with, and perception of, the world around us. Our relationship with technology. And despite that very academic-sounding title; our individual need to find and nurture the things and ideas that bind.
Actress comes correct on a 5th album proper for Ninja Tune following a period of creative fecundity which has seen him DJ almost every corner of the globe and collaborate with the London Contemporary Orchestra at The Barbican on a project inspired by Xenakis, among many other things.
Taking its title from the moniker of his home-built studio, AZD forms a deep cartography of the new dimensions discovered between the wires and amid the haze of his equipment, modelling a suite of noumenal dancefloor extractions that could only come from one mind and place.
Turning up nearly a decade since his debut album Hazyville  effectively set in motion a phase-shift of fidelity which has arguably affected an entire spectrum of electronic music, on his 5th album Actress effectively parses a murkier selection of textural clag and heavy-lidded hooks with a more fluid secretion of internalized rhythms and in-built ruggedness.
It’s like he’s gotten deeper into the machines, or the machines have gotten deeper inside him - by turns dragging us, the listeners, farther into that zone of inseparable melancholy/ecstasy and stylishly writhing, sweat-burnt and THC-grained rhythms - of the sort that make you dance better no matter your actual capabilities.
He’s totally locked that vibe with the humid, Thriller-esque crystals and heads-down but dandy slam of Fantasynth and will send you reeling with the weightless steppers inversion of Blue Window, whereas Cyn neatly resets to a vintage, crunchy neck snap, before the up-tilt of X22RME intriguingly calves off into short monologue about semiotics sure to catch out the DJs.
Runner sounds naggingly familiar, like a flashback from a post-club Uber ride, and Falling Rizlas is his most attractive chamber-jazz since the R.I.P. phase, leading to a final run that really gets it right between the hardcore-sampling darkside buzz of Dancing In The Smoke, the noctilucent thizz of Faure In Chrome, and the romantic/voyeuristic ambiguity of There’s An Angel In The Shower.
And there you have it; an agitated, emotional, caustic and wickedly lush dispatch from the UK’s most important avant dancefloor mind.
The weighty and heavily brooding debut album from Simon Shreeve’s Mønic project finally lands on Downwards following releases for Osiris and Tresor and those killer remixes from Burial and Regis. Grey, expansive and low-lit industrial landscapes are the order of the day here, a huge recommendation if you’re into anything from Joy Division to Pan Sonic, Tropic of Cancer to GAS or the rain-soaked zones stalked by Burial and The Bug’s Flame duo, Logos and Karim Maas.
Arriving at a time when we’ve long reached saturation point with user-friendly environmental/lifestyle Ambient, 'In a Certain Light’ offers an anxious counterpoint for late night immersion carefully framed with a cinematic attention to detail in lighting, texture and space worthy of The Cure’s ‘Faith’, the defining aesthetic of the Blackest Ever Black label and Karl O’Connor’s own industrial frameworks.
The almost impossibly depressed opening vignette 'From Sun to Sun’ ushers us into a morose, brutalist landscape that descends into the slow motion thud of "Where Can I Find You Now?” sounding like a lost Tropic of Cancer instrumental, while 'Field Work' recalls Vainio / Väisänen / Vega’s incredible ‘Endless’ collaboration and 'Solar Enemy’ deploys tense strings and clipped subs to sharp and deadly effect, like Alva Noto taped on old, worn-out VHS.
It’s the more nuanced cuts that stand out most though; 'Reversed Language’ could almost be an Elodie recording made in the middle of nowhere, outside, in the thick of night, while the title track unfurls from a dense GAS-like thicket into an unsettling Lynchian nightscape on a moonless night, with faint neon lights flickering somewhere far in the distance.
The untouchable Nyege Nyege Tapes turn up drivingly psychedelic visions of AfroLatin techno-meets-traditional-drumming by Portuguese/Uganda band HHY & The Kampala Unit, rendered in immersive widescreen dub and featuring special appearance of the Kampala Prison Brass Band for one of the wildest, heart-in-mouth rhythm trips of 2020
Helmed by Jonathan Saldanha of HHY & The Macumbas, and revolving ghetto activist Florence Lugemwa (trumpet) and percussionist Omutaba, ‘Lithium Blast’ is the latest, unprecedented collision of energies from the cultural fusion-accelerator of Nyege Nyege Tapes Kampala-based HQ. It follows the edits of HHY & The Macumbas’ ‘Camouflage Vector’ set, and the inventive examples of recent works by Metal Preyers, Villaelvin and Rian Treanor, with a cinematically scoped and body-conscious suite of 11 militant yet lush songs that surely prove Uganda’s capital city Kampala is a true epicentre of innovative new music in the modern day.
Committing a sort of futuristic, off-grid trance music for the ages, HHY & The Kampala Unit set out a penetrating vision of street-level cosmogony, intuitively mapping out zones between native drumming styles, techno, and astral electronics in a stunning suite of dubwise 4D starcharts. Guided by ancient, encrypted rhythms and a gripping sensuality, the album flows from its bolshy introduction to the Kampala Prison Brass Band in the fanfare of ‘Bursting Thru The Gates’, to thunder try the rocky rapids of ’Mesh Intensifier’ and chase sequence of ‘Fissure Core Fluid’ with a powerful sense of drama and magnetic dancefloor traction.
Shards of shatterproof ‘80s FM synth lace with swingeing polymetric percussion in the twin tub rinse-out ‘Catastrophism’, and Gazelle-legged rhythms synch with sweeping subs and soaring pads in the title track, but it’s possibly the ravishing electronic lushness of ‘Science of Dust’ and the familiar yet otherworldly hybrid of Florence Lugemwa’s trumpet with supple ambient dancehall backdrops in ‘Shining Star’ that will leave listeners most wide-eyed and mesmerised by HHY & The Kampala Unit’s strikingly natural but hyperreal sound.
A total doozy.
Shamos takes his debut album bow on Youth with a classy set of furtive synths and sneaky drum machine swagger steering away from the ‘floor to your headphones and late night city streets
‘Music For Broken Adverts’ is biased toward the moodier ends of Shamos’ styles for Apron and two self-released tapes on Role Model, taking stronger cues from ‘80s/‘90s cinema and anime soundtracks, offbeat wave and ambient techno, to finesse a fine line of dark cyberpunk moods and grooves.
Dance trax are there if you need them in the staccato electro-breaks of ‘Baby Birds Flying to Satan’, and the scudding lowkey zinger ‘Try Taking To Water’, but they’re best taken as cogs in the machine or scenes in a broader narrative, from the gorgeous middle-distance gaze of ‘Advert 1’, to Caroline K-esque stately procession of ‘FFF’, and like Legowelt meets Pametex in the deep electro creme of ‘Rihiyil’, replete with ace credits sequence ‘Rethink That Conclusion’.
Stunning debut release from Confuso Editions, a new label operating out of NYC/Rio de Janeiro here venturing into the furthest realms of outsider pop with the first ever public airing of recordings by John Zieman, a student of electronic synthesis at Hampshire College and collaborator with Nam June Paik, John Sanborn, and Dara Birnbaum. Distilling 80s midtown sleaze (digi-saxophones, drum machines, listless ballads), we’re once again reminded of the sheer volume and wealth of outsider brilliance lurking in archives, drawers and lofts across the world - there really is no end. Fans of James Ferraro, Ariel Pink, John Maus, Vazz, Stano, Talking Heads, Roxy Music...look sharp!
As far as we can tell the first compilation, or even release, of John Zieman’s music to the wider public, ‘New York City 1980-1984’ spans years of work created after-hours at Manhattan’s now-defunct Intergalactic Studios, covering an era-consistent gamut of itchy new wave machine rhythms and guitars ranging from gangly to jangling and pop-tart, all embedded in cruddy and offcentre FX and synths.
It comes with an amazing backstory too; Zieman took up residence in the studio’s bathroom, using soundproofing foam as a bed in a demolished stall as he began composing on the studio’s Fairlight CMI synthesizer-sampler. Over the following seven months, working commercially by day and recording by night, Zieman produced the tracks which would become the basis for this set of tracks before you.
Revolving the fizzing drum machines of lead single ‘Flying Nine (Dara)’, which first appeared on the soundtrack to Dara Birnbaum’s video piece ‘Damnation of Faust: Evocation’ (1983), the set sprawls out between something like an unzipped Woo with ‘Gamelan Skate’, to ohrwurming off-beat pop in another big highlight ‘Hi-tech Love Song’, alongside more solitary and melancholic charms in ‘Occasional Thing’ and the loping ‘Leave You In The Park’, and something that could have almost appeared on a James Ferraro tape 10 years ago in ’Better When It’s Deeper’.
As Joshua Daube puts it "The compilation stands out as an uncanny reflection of New Wave, at once rooted in its time and place and yet deeply singular. Across the twilight of a smoke-filled bar, Zieman’s edgy synths fix us with a thousand-yard stare, hungry sounds from the wrong side of Port Authority: “can I go back to sleep?” confuso revives these overlooked hypnagogic gems in New York City 1980-1984, which shine across the decades like a streetlight in a snowstorm.”
Outta-nowhere DIY blinder from YOUTH; the sprawling debut album by Manchester-based painter, artist, DJ/producer Richard Harris aka Sockethead, recorded in a caravan on the Scottish West Coast and sweeping from fractal jungle to outsider folk and bruised, squashed soul music, think something like John Bender via Actress and into a Jandek/Robert Wyatt jam, highly recommended if u were feeling similarly singular Northwest tangents from FUMU, Turinn, G.H.
Aside from knocking out scuzzy wee bombs like this album, Sockethead is a member of Manchester’s Return to Zero production/DJ crew with Turinn and FUMU, and also lectures in art at the city’s institutions. This should give both casual and keener observers of the city’s mutant, sounds strong context for the colourfully visual styles on ‘Harj-o-Marj’, which factors in heavy influences ranging from Detroit techno to post-punk, freak beats and screwed rap, to create a rudely shapeshifting amalgamate disciplined with the hands-on craft and tormented soul of John Bender or Jeff Keen, and fraught with the nostalgia and lurking madness of life spent in isolation.
While Richard’s isolation was self-imposed as part of an artist residency in 2018 on the ruggedly beautiful West Coast of Scotland, its sentiment resonates with mindsets imposed by our current lockdown. By turns the 14 tracks move from a “pissed and lonely” Graham Lambkin-like collage of synths and cranky vocals in ‘Genesis Redux’ to psyche-celtic geometric synth visions in ’When I Close My Eyes I See Paint’, via the fractal junglist brainjig of ‘Chaos Portait’, to bittersweet synth-funk meditations on ‘Love Loss Missing Yearning’ and ‘Devotion’, and exceptional segue into screwed psychoactive crud on ‘Jahiliyyah’, plus thee crankiest cyberfolk song you’ll hear in 2020 on ‘Hyena Clan’.
It’s naught but essential listening for fans of Manchester’s best, embodying the misery and psychic bruising of isolation, but naturally blessed with an artist’s creative resilience and knack for transmuting heavy feels into rough gold.
Of all the Sakamoto/YMO reissues, this is the one we’ve waited for the most. Hidari Ude No Yume (Left Handed Dream) was released in 1981 and is here reissued for the first time in decades in its rare Japanese edition - beautifully remastered from the original tapes by Bernie Grundman and sounding better than we’ve ever heard it before, including a 2LP version with a bonus album of instrumental versions pressed on vinyl for the first time ever.
Recorded during a pivotal period for Sakamoto - around the same time as his stunning ‘Bamboo Houses’ with David Sylvian, and in between two classic YMO albums, 'Hidari Ude No Yume basically sounds quite unlike anything he made before or since its release, a sort of anthology of pop interiors made with hi-gloss synths and unexpected edits, from farm animals to simmering, percolated drum machines.
‘Hidari Ude No Yume’ was Sakamoto’s follow-up to the seminal ‘B-2 Unit’, and sees him smudge that album’s angularities into weirder shapes that are somehow both more experimental and oddly accessible. The newly available instrumental versions offer previously unheard perspectives on the remarkably detailed production; including an amazing tweaked-out and extended mix of ‘Relâché’, plus a beautifully slippery mix of the album’s best known highlight, ‘Kacha Kucha Nee’.
It’s a sound that has had countless imitators and acolytes; using the newest Japanese synths, traditional percussion, and his own vocals to create a sort of infectiously rhythmic future-primitivism recalling his work with David Sylvian in the Eastern electro orientation and new wave vocal affectations of ‘Living In The Dark’ and 'Saru To Yuki Gomi No Kodomo’, which also sound incredible in their brighter instrumentals, along with more avant jags into collaged 4th world electro-steppers on ‘Sarunoie,’ and a psychedelic masterwork in the strutting ace ‘The Garden Of Poppies.’
What a record.
First ever vinyl edition 'Being There', one of the final Yellow Swans recordings, widely regarded among their most powerful works. It's a lushly eviscerating, white-hot, elemental noise and dronescape session primed for endtimes, essential listening if yr into anything from Deathprod to Dilloway.
‘Being There’ places listeners at the dilated eye of Pete Swanson & Gabriel Mindel Saloman’s Yellow Swans storm. Originally delivered as an addendum to limited edition copies of ‘Going Places’, its four extended parts still stand tall on their own 10 years later, marking some of the project’s most scorched-earth sensations in billowing widescreen, with an elemental dynamic that leaves us weatherbeaten but somehow renewed with every listen. It’s the sort of collection that demands rapt attention and rewards with a head-swallowing effect.
Like a sonic rendering of the hour after death, the duo appear to expend all their final energies in an almighty black hole collapse of noise and metal viciousness, post-rock yearn, and meditative maximalism that must be experienced in the flesh for optimal effect. From the yawning cosmic jaws of ‘Foil’ with its howling guitars and vocals descending into stygian slow techno, to the gutted shoegaze glumness of ‘Comedy Hypnosis’, to the album’s beautifully worn-out highlight ‘Public Space’, and their summoning of knives-out noise blizzard with ‘Inhabitants’, you’re in the presence of truly mighty, life-affirming material that should rank among your finest American noise sides of the 21st Century.
After crafting one of the most enduring albums of the last few years with 2008's 'Hazyville', Actress sets his sights on the future with a crucial debut for Honest Jon's.
Wheras it's predecessor was composed over a staggered period of many, many years, this album was fashioned in a fraction of that time, lending a tangible symmetry between these shapeshifting tracks that's as loose as it is detached from the rest of the modern herd. Of the 14 tracks he's selected, we've previously encountered the first two, with the unstable space float of 'Hubble' appearing on a shady Thriller 12" and his remix of Various Production's 'Lost' reminding us how good his most overlooked cuts can be.
From here in it's all about that next-level longing, sealing the airlock and initiating pressure sequence with 'Futureproofing', before laying down the robo-boogie with 'Always Human'. Showing a teflon resistance towards easy categorisation, 'Get Ohn (Fairlight Mix)' swerves down a side street into a footwurkin' face-off by cyborgs sliding to a mutilated mix of Jon E Cash and Chez Damier played underwater. Next we hit the erogenous interzone of 'Maze' and that incapacitatingly lush bassline designed to lock into your central nervous system and send shockwaves of piloerection to every f*cking corner of your soul.
After that, we're cynically dumped into the Ferraro-esque Prince tribute 'Purple Splazsh', and on into the Detroit ghetto stalk of 'Let's Fly'. The dissonant robo-crunk of 'The Kettle Men' and closing entry 'Casanova' confirm that if anything, Actress is only suffering from a surfeit of ideas and expanded technical expertise. Proof, if it were needed, that there is a sprawling future beyond the stasis of so much contemporary electronic music.
As we approach the end of 2020, we thought we'd shine a light on a handful of releases we reckon should have had a bit more attention; albums that might have fallen between the cracks for some of you, but which have become missing links between different scenes and feelings for us over the duration of this cursed year. First up is FUJI||||||||||TA, whose iki album offered solace and space for contemplation with one of the most unusual, moving recordings we’ve heard in recent years. Played on a wheezing, self-built pipe organ, Iki unfolds into a set of oddly tuned organ meditations that bridge the gap between sacred music and the kind of smudged vignettes that made BoC's ‘Music Has The Right To Children’ so ingrained in our psyche’s. If there was one record in 2020 that perfectly straddled high art and approachability - this was surely it.
In the works for a decade, ‘iki’ is a unique release from nose to tail. It features FUJI||||||||||TA’s first recordings in nine years, over which time he’s got to grips with a self-built pipe organ that he crafted in 2009. The unique instrument features only 11 pipes, has no keyboard, and is powered by an air pump called a “fuigo” based on a traditional blacksmith’s model. Its sound is simply enchanting, and sensitively brought to life by the artist, who has evidently spent his time well in taming the instrument and bringing out its sublime, warbling harmonic and timbral qualities.
The overarching influence for ‘iki’ is traditional Japanese gagaku, the slow and elegant form of classical court music extant since the 7th century. In this context, FUJI||||||||||TA’s four pieces unfold with a graceful, if abstracted logic, imaginatively expressing a sound that one could easily imagine mirrored by graceful movements on stage, or enacted by much more phantasmic, anime creatures in the mind’s eye.
Within the first minute of ’keshiki’ our eyelids are drawn to half mast and we’re swept into an impossibly fragile and serene headspace as FUJI||||||||||TA gently coaxes out melodic figures over a long, sustained base note while the gentle clack of his pump appears to resemble a knackered butterfly beating its wings for the last time.
With ‘nNami’ the instrument’s capacity for beating low end frequencies really comes into view in a way recalling Eleh’s electronically generated wonders - but trust there’s no electricity involved here! - resulting in some dead uncanny harmonic chaos, and ultimately ‘osoi’, which sounds something like a BoC synth pad slowed down and recreated acoustically, also pulling the same trick on the ear to sublime effect, whereas ’sukima’ perhaps resembles organ music in its most classic, austere form, but in a way as familiar as a fleeting dream.
Unmissable for fans of Kali Malone, Eleh, BoC, Áine O’Dwyer, Yoshi Wada...
Astral Industries comission Wolfgang Voigt and Rod Modell (aka Deepchord) for expansive interpretations of original material by Krautrock visionary Peter Michael Hamel. Original artwork by Theo Ellsworth.
"Peter Michael Hamel emerged from the 70s Krautrock scene dreaming of “the blue flower growing between the milestones on the road to a future world-music”. A truly visionary artist who worked and studied with John Cage, Morton Feldman and Terry Riley, his 1980 Colours of Time LP - an epic, sprawling, 22-minute saga - was hailed by The Guardian’s Rob Fitzpatrick as “an absolute masterpiece of skull-bursting, synth-led ambient minimalism”.
Thirty six years on, Astral Industries reinterpret Hamel's original vision with remixes from two contemporary heavyweights - Wolfgang Voigt and Rod Modell (aka Deepchord). Each expansive interpretation invites you to step outside of reality and into an alternative imagination of Hamel's future world, spiralling into the colours and slowly out of time itself. Original artwork by Theo Ellsworth and a massive thanks to Peter Michael Hamel & Eckart Rahn."
Darkside D&B reflux from the Christoph De Babalon vaults, snaring seven cuts produced 1993-1998 and absolutely essential for fans of late ‘90s/early’00s breakcore rufige a la DJ Scud, Venetian Snares, Karl-Marx-Stadt, Digital Hardcore
Cold-rushing back to the styles circa CDB’s classic album ‘If You’re Into It, I’m Out Of It’, A Colourful Storm follow their previous archival excursion ‘Exquisite Angst’ with another clutch of wraithlike darkside phantasms from Hamburg, which, while not quite the centre of D&B during the era, still produced one of the sound’s most prized bastard sons with De Babalon’s take on the UK-born genre. Away from the scene’s quick moving trends, De Babalon forged his own take equally inspired by bleak classical scores and black metal atmospheres, but retaining the rhythmic innovations - if with his own, bone-clacking and gutted DIY style - in a way that escaped many other producers outside the main hotspots.
It’s unmissable for the 9” masterwork of darkcore strings and skeletal hardcore breaks in ‘No Man’s Land’, while ‘Toteninsel’ and ‘Blkue Hours’ are deadly strong pieces of gloaming BM ambience, and the likes of the title track’s ravishing bladesaw breaks and the vintage Ambush-style pressure of ‘Combine’ are straightup essential checks for the hardcore doom ravers.
Stunning dream-pop/post-punk side from New Orleans’ MJ Guider, galvanising her shoegaze sound with industrial rhythms sounding out between Cocteau Twins, Tropic of Cancer and Seefeel in an amazing sophomore album for eternal dreamers at Kranky
Arriving four years after her ‘Precious Systems’, which benefitted beautifully from studio mixing rendered by Turk Dietrich and Josh Eustis ov NIN/Second Woman esteem, ’Sour Cherry Bell’ channels a more pronounced sense of southern Gothic mystique and late ‘80s industrial noir for Guider’s follow-up. We’re not certain who’s behind the mixing/mastering this time, but it certainly sounds like Second Woman’s spacious sensitivities come into play, perfectly suspending the vocals in endlessly diaphanous reverbs and giving special attention to the percussion and synths in an electronic/ambient-techno sense that’s seamlessly incorporated and feels like a subtle, but necessary update and mutation of its influences, rather than straightforward homage.
From the cavernous introduction of ‘Lowlight’ through to its supine closer ‘Petrechoria’, the album really comes alive with amplivication, tactfully enveloping the senses with sheets of processed guitar, or set against starkly booming drums in ‘The Steelyard’ and ‘FM Secure’ that conjure the steepest sense of dread, surely recalling Elizabeth Fraser and her amazing meeting with Seefeel’s Mark Clifford, while ‘Body Optics’ and ’Simulus’ feels like a gutted HTRK, and ‘Quiet Time’ could almost be mistaken for Tropic of Cancer, but that keening production is just something else.
Can anyone have enough Bullion in their life? Nope! The master of pop-not-slop works his patent magic like some holy offspring of Fad Gadget, Kraftwerk and Robert Wyatt on a classy debut for US indie Jagjaguwar
While it may appear from the title that Bullion has changed his mind since 2016’s ‘Heaven Is A Wonderful Place’, his new EP still brims with a classic ‘80s poptimism that’s hard to shake and needed now more than ever.
Between the strolling synth-pop and shrugging lyrics of ‘Heaven Is Over’ to the dusky yacht bop of ’Strike a Light’, thru the blue-eyed soul balm of ‘Thirty Two’, to those subtle Linndrums and full sail arps and guitars in ‘Yawn’, or the fantasy AM dial cruise of ‘Loving Furlong’, Bullion’s crystal-cut songwriting and studio finesse is in full effect here, hopefully heralding a new album on the horizon.
Lovely Music’s cult chamber classic by the late, great “Blue” Gene Tyranny, cosmically coinciding with his recent exit from this mortal coil (*January 1, 1945 - † December 2020).
Robert Nathan Sheff, aka “Blue” Gene Tyranny, was a pivotal figure of the late 20th century US avant-garde whose catalogue joined the dots between the likes of John Cage, David Behrman, and Robert Ashley on one hand, and the likes of Peter Gordon, Iggy Pop and Laurie Anderson on the other; a spectrum of diverse composers and musical dynamos whose stylistic breadth speaks to the versatility and singularity of Tyranny’s instrumental talent and conceptual vision.
Tyranny’s 1978 solo debut ‘Out Of The Blue’ remains a perennial cult favourite, existing on the sweetest, inventive edges of rock, pop and avant-garde composition in a manner that was entirely characteristic of the amazing Lovely Music, Ltd. label, with whom he’s most closely associated. Quite simply, there’s little out there that matches ‘Out of the Blue’ for sheer charm, placing a deep knowledge of experimental and pop music’s internal workings at the service of a ripely melodic and dreamlike suite with results awaiting discovery by new ears.
The Basic Reshape of Carl Craig's 'The Climax' is without question one of the finest remixes of all time. Seminal 12" from Basic Channel....
It's a definitive, driving, hypnotic club killer that rebuilt the tribal mastery of the original into a logic-defying display of bass shuffles and aquatic percussion that kills us every time/
"Remake" Basic Reshape from 1994 relates to "Remake Uno/Duo", Carl's sample-based re-interpretation of Manuel Göttschings epochal E2-E4. Basic Channel take a radical, abstract, sample-free approach with a breathtaking slow motion groove under a multilayered sound sphere.
Justin K Broadrick is best known as a founding member of Godflesh, one of the first bands to combine elements of extreme metal and industrial music, but has also maintained a parallel career as a producer, producing records and remixes for groups such as Pantera, Isis, Mogwai and Pelican. Since 2012, he has been releasing hard techno music under the solo moniker JK Flesh.
"He has also been creating slow, hazy, and deafening music under the moniker Jesu since 2005 and here he returns with 'Terminus', the first full length stand alone album from Jesu since 2013's 'Every Day I Get Closer To The Light From Which I Came', and follows the experimental Jesu EP 'Never'.
Terminus thematically was inspired by the concepts of rejection, dependency, nostalgia, and ultimate loneliness. Musically exploring the entire gamut of the Jesu oeuvre since it's initial inception; dream pop, shoegaze, electronica and non aligned/non genre specific heaviness."
Basic Channel present a full 14 minute version of 'Q-Loop' backed with first ever vinyl cuts of 'Q 1.2' and 'Mutism' - previously found on the 'BCD' (1995) and Scion's 'Arrange And Process Basic Channel Tracks' releases.
Need we say any more?
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.
Despite the break, this album can be seen as a direct follow-on from his previous Drag City albums - most closely resembling 1997's Bad Timing given its lack of vocals and the continuous passages of steel-strung acoustic guitar-led arrangements.
Jim's cycle of Drag City albums (this being the first not to take its name from successive Nicolas Roeg films - following that logic this one should have been called Castaway) is one of the most revered bodies of work in American alternative rock.
Seldom do you hear so much dynamic breadth in a contemporary record; this is not one of those releases that's had every ounce of life compressed out of it, instead O'Rourke leaves the quiet parts quiet and the loud parts... marginally less quiet. This is an album that's made according to old-fashioned principles, presented with vintage levels of clarity and warmth that benefit from being turned up for full appreciation. A decent amount of cranking will reveal countless layers of instrumental threads, and according to the great man himself there are around two hundred tracks used up in the recording of The Visitor - and that's two hundred tracks he's played himself.
The Visitor is an auditory feast featuring acres of guitars, immaculately pieced together percussive elements, and all kinds of subtle yet elaborate arrangements for strings, horns and keyboard instruments. John Mulvey really hit the nail on the head when he recently described this as "a kind of folk symphony, a heavenly realisation of modern composition rescored for Laurel Canyon habitués", and it certainly feels every bit as substantial and gratifying as that assessment alludes. Don't leave it so long next time, please Mr O'Rourke.
Autechre drop ‘Plus’, the ruder counterpart to their brooding ’Sign’ album, rinsing squashed drums and harsher textured tones in a newly aerated, noisier sort of sound design.
If you were left glowing but still hungry for some rufige after ’Sign’, this album’s for you. Their staunchest North Manc C++Boy attitude is in spine twisting, neck snapping effect on nine unusually raw cuts that bleed dank air and squeeze melody from scuffed and scaly surfaces. It’s definitely still AE, but allowing for more space and finer graded textures in the mix, from their juiciest sloshing basses, to the rusted drums and iridescent, aerosolised timbres in a subtle new mutation of their sound.
As we commented with ‘Sign’, it feels like they're haunted by their older forms on ‘Plus’, but still inexorably pulled toward a futuristic unknown. We can feel those opposing forces at action in the stunning hyperstep dynamics and almost nostalgic ken of ‘X4’, which is one of the album’s durational highlights along with the totally absorbing concrète setting and avian chirrups of ‘ecol4’, and the quicksilver techno slipperiness of ‘TM1’, while the likes of ‘7FM ic’ deliver sharper shocks of impossible limb movements, and ‘marhide’ epitomises a noisier approach with straight-jacketed electro extruded thru some kind of imaginary airlock, saving bittersweet touches for the extended melodic thoughts of ‘lux 106 mod’ and the aspartame flavour tang of their beatless roller ‘ii.pre esc’, which is bound to become a favourite.
A mesmerising, mystic new age audity from Hungary, 1987 - starring the touch of László Hortobágyi - resurfaces from cult British-Russian jazz label Leo Records after 33 years in the wild - RIYL Suba/Rex Ilusivii, David Toop, Suzanne Kraft
Reissued on the artist’s own label, Fodderbasis, home to a string of recent self-reissues, ‘Snapshot From The Island’ imaginatively trips out into a no-person’s-land of new age ambient and jazz expression, terraforming a highly personalised sonisphere likely to appeal to listeners who like to get their mental boots muddy and seek out long-forgotten peaks of the ‘80s experimental backwoods.
Born in, and working from, Budapest, Tibor Szemző carved out a niche in music for film and installation starting with ‘Snapshot From The Island’; his first solo album and a landmark in the modern Hungarian experimental canon. He’s credited with practically everything you hear, performing its flyaway flutes, reticulated drum machine rhythms and electronics for the most, while another Hungarian legend, László Hortobágyi supplies synth gilding to two of the album’s highlights, as well as recording and mixing the whole thing, which surely places it not far from his own solo work.
The 24’ title track is a panoramic beauty, very gradually emerging like a dawning vista to take in rolling cascade of slow drum machine patter and flutes that gather into echoic ravines and ceremonious, mystic vocal drones, then overgrown with the sound of elephant calls and squally noise murmuration. ‘Water Music’ meanwhile is a minimalist work for tape looped and phasing flutes in a Reichian vein, and ‘Let’s Go Out and Dance’ brings it right down to lushest pastoral jazz terrain with some superbly slinky drum computer work landing not so far from styles you’ll find on International Anthem nowadays.
Autonomic synth-pop by Donato Dozzy and Eva Geist, expanding on the retro-futurist allure of Dozzy’s Men With Secrets album with a full LP of needlepoint arps and laser-guided grooves landing somewhere between IDIB, dBridge, and Italian potpourri.
“Raster presents »Il Quadro di Troisi«, a project by Andrea Noce (Eva Geist) and Donato Scaramuzzi (Donato Dozzy). The record is a colorful ode of an Italian scented vision, overflowing of details and profound intensity. The contemporary world condition, the pandemic in Italy and around the world define »Il Quadro di Troisi« as a unique and right-on-time release.
This record is a enigmatic collaboration between the two Italian natives Andrea Noce and Donato Scaramuzzi. Andrea Noce takes lead on the vocals, with Donato Scaramuzzi carving the dreamlike soundscapes of the record. The record was born with a correspondence between the two artists about the late actor and director Massimo Troisi, and this exchange soon became an inspirational source of identification. Andrea Noce’s lyrics are sensitive and multi-faceted, they perfectly cling to the musical phrases and flow like a filmic monologue from the oeuvre of that very Troisi.
In a highly creative and confident manner, entire decades of national music history are comprehended and transformed into the here and now. The record takes its cue from the italo-disco, synth pop tradition corroborated by the contribution of artists such as the legendary Twilight Music co-founder, Paolo Micioni, as well as Stefano Di Trapani who wrote »L’ipotesi«. With »Il Quadro di Troisi«, Noce and Scaramuzzi prove their eclecticism, and passion for their home country.
»Il Quadro di Troisi« is a collaboration between Raster and the Milan-based festival Terraforma. With this release, the first with a purely Italian focus on the label, Raster celebrates its long standing relation with Italy and the Italian audience, encapsulated in the label's project ›Electric Campfire‹ held in Rome for ten years. Terraforma is an international experimental and sustainable music festival taking place since 2014 in the park of Villa Arconati, where Dozzy has been invited at every edition in different forms, DJing, live performing both in solo and with Voices from the Lake (together with Neel).”
Steffen Basho-Junghans is a Steel-String guitar maestro that has spent the last 50 years honing his craft. Growing up in the wild and natural landscape of Thuringia, in GDR Germany has greatly inﬂuenced his work and connection to nature.
"Being on the eastern side of the then still standing Berlin wall meant that seventeen year old Steffen Junghans had to teach himself the guitar by listening to the rare and much coveted dubbed-cassette tapes that managed to make it over the wall. ‘outside’ music might of been hard to come by but ensured that he had to go ‘inside’ and carve his own special path. While John Fahey’s Takoma-school of American Primitive can be heard in his playing, none can be held in higher esteem than his name-sake Robbie Basho. He was so taken by the spirituality within Robbie Basho’s music, complimented by the power of the 17th-century Japanese poet Matsuo Bashō’s poetry that he took on the name ‘Basho’ to ensure Robbie’s name and (more importantly) the power of his music was not forgotten."
After their acclaimed 2014 debut album as a duo, Anja Lechner and François Couturier widen the scope of music even further.
"The duo sings in a voice of its own, be it with original compositions, free improvisations, drawing upon a Bach cantata or an Argentine folk lament or subtle inclusion of works by Henri Dutilleux, Giya Kancheli or Anouar Brahem. Having internalized influences and repertoire the German cellist and the French pianist not only locate atmospheric and expressive connections among far-flung sources, but also create new music that reflects and refracts its inspirations."
Ooooof, it's been a while since we last heard from Pole but the German reductionist dub innovator has found his mojo again and this is his finest slab in ages. Proper frazzled low-end treatments for blunted exotica darlings.
It's been five years since Stefan Betke dropped a full-length, but to be honest we haven't been too interested since 2000's "3", the third and final part of Betke's trilogy of albums that still sound like little else. Those records helped light the touchpaper for a generation of young producers to experiment with dub sounds in a freeform electronic context, and while it burned out quickly the traces can still be heard fizzing through. Betke reissued the trilogy earlier this year and has now followed it up with "Fading", recapturing the unsurpassed essence of those early jams without repeating himself.
Inspired by the idea of memory loss as he watched his mother suffer from dementia, Betke wanted to connect ideas of the early Pole albums to his contemporary practice. And that's exactly how "Fading" sounds: the skeletal, decomposing dub sound that was so idosyncratic in 1998 is still present, but Betke fleshes it out with a mature worldliness that brings in elements of exotica and the subtle whisper of distant, half-remembered pop. That's not to say there are riffs (there really aren't, it's pure vibes from beginning to end) but yr transported to a world where oddly familiar elements are wrapped up tightly in tape hiss and white noise.
Like on those first few albums, Betke's rhythms feel elastic and in constant flux. Drum machine sounds and sonic detritus become pretty much interchangeable, melting into each other to create a highly distinctive sound universe. There's an element of nostalgia for sure - the glassy, polished (im)perfection of the early 2000s Mille Plateaux set is very well represented here - but Betke brings it into contemporary dimensions, updating the frame without losing its soul. It's the sound of a dying supercomputer on a distant world, if that supercomputer had learned about Earth's pop culture solely by listening to Jamaican soundsystem music of the 1970s and 80s.
A new entry into Thomas Fehlmann's lengthy catalogue, Gute Luft collects music from The Orb member's score to the 24-hour documentary film 24h Berlin.
The productions assembled here sound boldly modern and executed with Fehlmann's familiarly expert ear. This being a documentary about Berlin, it's inevitable that the depth charge low-frequencies of dub-techno play an important part in the soundtrack's narrative, but there's so much more to the tracks here: you'll encounter some Pop Ambient style material - as on the heavily compressed string sections of 'Falling Into Your Eyes' - and lots of textured melodic content, something you'll hear spiralling around within virtually every corner of this album.
'Wasser Im Fluss' is a highlight, at once bringing to mind Pole, Biosphere and Basic Channel, yet there's something about the way it's all put together that's specific to Fehlmann. The same could be said of 'Speeding', with its neon-lit deep bass convulsions and gaseous, swirling ambient details, or the heavily layered, spongy shuffle of 'Cityscape'. Gute Luft flows brilliantly as a fully fledged full-length, and despite being conceived as a soundtrack it probably ranks as one of Fehlmann's finest solo albums.
The superb, cybergunky results of an artist’s residency by two leading rhythmaticians, Don’t DJ & NWAQ, push far beyond their respective club boundaries on debut recordings for Belgium’s Meakusma
Hitting square between the eyes of their respective, grooving styles, ‘Fashion’ catches the German/Dutch duo consolidating freeform improv approaches into a pineal-squeezing style of psychedelic electronic noise that transcends the sum of its parts, and to the point you might never guess they’re behind it.
Recorded live at Vanessa’s place and at Meakusma Festival, the recordings are over easy on the distortion in a way that we’ve never heard from other artist before. And it sounds like they’re having top craic doing it, combined with unnerving avant-punkish vocals channelling John Bender and some kind of voice-in-the-head spirits, and a selection of rotted beats that still don’t give the game away, nodding more toward Nate Young or Aaron Dilloway than their usual vibes. It’s perhaps only at the shine-eyed ’Vanessa’ and whirligig harmony of ‘White Lies’ that they appear closer themselves, but only a glimmer of it, and it’s simply a strange pleasure to hear them go off road with such unexpected, intra-dimensional results.
Vladislav Delay’s Chain Reaction masterpiece resurfaces for a remastered 20th anniversary edition. Answering the prayers of dub and electronic fiends everywhere, this long overdue vinyl edition of ‘Multila’ acts both as a reminder of Sasu Ripatti’s pioneering work and a primer on his early practice.
Technically the Finnish artist’s 3rd album, 2000’s ‘Multila’ offered a looser limbed, sensuous take on dub techno as much informed by the Finnish climate and landscape as the templates of Basic Channel, SND, and the deep house styles established between the late ‘80s and during the ‘90s.
It’s an immensely immersive work that prizes the qualities and infidelities of analogue production nose to tail from hardware to tape and D&M’s revered all-analogue mastering facilities, which up until this reissue has only previously been available on vinyl spread across the 'Ranta' and 'Huone' 12"s. Anyway, the Keplar label remedy that issue right here with Rashad Becker’s remaster which faithfully combines to present the album as it was perhaps always meant to be heard.
Between the submerged, coruscating crackle of ‘Ranta’, the soothing tone of ‘Raamat’, and the 22 minutes of semi-organic, lissom swing and ambient smudge in ‘Huone’ on the first disc, to the water-logged tumescence of ‘Karrha’ and the 16 minutes of head-swilling textural abstraction and saline buoyancy in ‘Pietola’ on the 2nd disc, you’re in the presence of pivotal, peerless material that effectively splits the difference between the GRM, King Tubby, and Huerco S.
Takk features the singles and fan favourites Glósóli, Hoppípolla and Sæglópur. Pressed on 2 x 12” and including a single sided etched 10” this beautifully packaged record is composed of a debossed gatefold sleeve with a single die cut page that holds the 10”. Takk… has been out of print for over a decade.
"Takk… - Sigur Rós’s fourth album and the one where they finally got happy, albeit in their own inimitable and deeply inscrutable, north Atlantic way. This is the record that gave the world ‘Hoppípolla’, a song which cemented Sigur Rós’s reputation for being the go-to band for anyone wanting a sense of wonderful possibility in their film/TV show. The record also harboured moments of definitive Sigur Rós drama in singles Glósóli and Sæglópur, and high beauty in Sé Lest and Svo Hljótt.
Takk…. - which means “thank you” in the band’s native Icelandic - quickly became the band’s biggest selling album around the world, fuelled by Hoppípolla’s usage in the BBC’s Planet Earth nature series. Sung in a mixture of Icelandic and the wordless Hopelandic, Takk… was recorded by the band with producer Ken Thomas in 2005 at their Sundlaugin studio in the Icelandic countryside. The vinyl record comes packaged on 2 x 12-inch, plus 1 x one-sided etched 10-inch single. The album artwork is the original debossed and die-cut sleeve, with printed inner bags, all done to the band’s exacting specifications and pressed on heavy weight vinyl."