San Antonio, TX’s Der Kindestod speaks in an arcane, extreme, futuristic language of noise and dance music on a hard-edged debut with Rabit’s Halcyon Veil
An integral associate of House of Kenzo, Der Kindestod delivers an acrid taste of queer US dance culture’s mutant fringes on ‘God As Daddy The Deranged’. Firstly whipping up a bitter tornado of ecstatically colourful noise, booming bass, and reversed rhythms in ‘You Don’t Believe Me’, before roping in LEDEF on vocals for the queasy tumult and emosh prang out of ‘Mortal Coil’, and then, outta nowhere slugging hardcore techno against Diane Di Prima’s spoken word on ‘Numb Flesh’.
Ill, blue and blunted techno mutations by the one and only Craig Clouse a.k.a. Shit & Shine
Unusually enough, it’s taken $&$ thus far into 2018 to cough up their first release of the year, and even weirder still, it’s one of their most brooding, blackened and minimalist in recent memory.
The key is the title, ‘Bad Vibes’, explored in nine increasingly evil parts that unfold with all the fun of a vicious acid trip that leaves you clammy palmed and clawing the walls.
No doubt it’s all written from experience, taking us on a frayed ride from the early of Badalamenti/Lynch noir ’n Bass in ‘Bottle Brush’, thru the body-gurning disco of ‘Yeah I’m On Acid!’, to the heart-racing bilge pump of ‘Northwest Pool’, and the honky, Powell-esque clodhopper ’7896’, to take us right down the rabbit hole with ‘Backstage Passes!’, and leave us with the spirit-gnawing noise of ‘Bad Vibes’ and the discoid slope of ‘At The Bar On The Rocks’.
Punch Drunk & Tectonic pay dues to pivotal Bristol duo Smith & Mighty with an unmissable compilation marking 30 years of crucial, if overlooked, influence on Avon bass styles and the UK scene at large. Anyone into dubby strains of breakbeat rave, jungle, dubstep - the ‘ardcore ‘nuum - needs to check this one!
Weighing in 10 massive riddims recorded between 1988-1994, ‘The Ashley Road Sessions’ drills down to the mutant roots of deep, UK rave music as a synthesis of Jamaican dub, rolling hip hop breaks, deep house pads and nagging electronics - a sound that was arguably unprecedented in British dance music for its bias toward proper, wide and glutinous subbass and stoned, rolling structures, rather than wide-eyed nuttiness.
Back in the late ‘80s this sound sort of had parallels in the rolling dance forms of SoYo bleep techno and NYC house, but Smith & Mighty were out on their own in Bristol, a city steeped in Caribbean culture perhaps more than any other in the UK. It was here that Smith & Mighty shaped a definitive Bristol sound at the time when The Wild Bunch and Massive Attack were also coming into their own. It’s maybe stating the obvious that Massive Attack have had the most financial success since then, but ask almost any Bristolian DJ or raver and they’ll tell you Smith & Mighty were the real dons of that era.
‘Ashley Road Sessions’ is another timely reminder, then, where needed, of S&M’s masterfully grooving, deep and rude style. Stepping down the timeline from Bristol Sound Archive’s ‘The Three Stripe Collection 1985-1990’ to the most critical phase of UK rave music circa 1988-1994, you’ll hear acid house moulded for play on proper sound systems, with proper scoops that could recreate the sensuous pressure of their subs and crisp, lithe percussion and filigree moire of FX. Sounds that could equally work in a big dance or a packed, smoky blues, provided the system was rite and nice.
If pushed to pick favourites from this set, we’d highlight the bare bones pressure of ‘Through A Dark Cloud’, where the division between UK steppers dub, D&B and hard techno is only a slight pattern change; also the beautiful slow chuggers’ recoil and spine-tracing arps of ‘Higher Than Tempo’; the skittish jungle dexterity of ‘Filmscore’; the haunting dread dub dirge ‘Tumbling (Death March)’; and the proper ravers’ spesh, ‘Always Be There (Step Up)’, but we’d be remiss to not state it’s all killer, absolutely no filler.
For any with an interest in the history of UK dance music, the technoid links between dub and techno, the Black Atlantic, or who simply like getting red-eyed and having a bubble, this set is 100% indispensable.
Distinctively crafty coldwave technopop metrics from London’s Lia Mice, making her debut on Optimo Music. Go straight to the pendulous form and swirling vox of ‘We Are The Beat’ and you’ll know exactly what to do next.
“Here’s a few words from Lia - "When I moved to London in 2015, many things changed at once - I started going to more techno and electro nights, I changed my live-set setup, and I had access to a fully-equipped recording studio through my music masters programme. At the same time I was reading a lot of books on time travel, not just science fiction but also psychology and neuroscience - like how the human brain perceives time from moment to moment, how we can experience overlapping time, and how we interact with our past and future through memory and imagination. “The Sampler As A Time Machine” is the result of all these new influences coming together. The tracks were developed out of ongoing studio experiments interpreting these different ideas of time travel by using samplers and tape to re-sample and manipulate original music performed by me on various instruments including my voice."
Captivating, lower case pop music from Newcastle-based Competition, coming off like Hype Williams meets Autre Ne Veut at Mica Levi’s art-pop research lab. One spin thru the pinched vocals and sample chicanery of ‘thisisfine.gif’ should alert any keener ears to Competition’s modest, naturally effortless, and comfortably fringe pop nous. Tunes you will return to...
“'You turned into a painting' is Competitions's Slip debut: laser-etched micro-songs of bruised vocals, sample grabs, and tenderised chamber MIDI.
Competition is Newcastle-based Craig Pollard, whose confessional productions also spill into curation and a wider visual art practice (much of it, recently, as one third of the 'Wild Pop' crew).
This mini-album sees Craig atomise songcraft, probing its remnants for signs of soul. Like the post-mushroom recall from which it takes its title, 'You turned into a painting' is a queasy scavenging of the mundane. Pollard's voice achingly wears as he circles through lilting observations; his arrangements squeeze something unctuous from innocuous browser snatches and lowly sample packs, eschewing tricksiness in favour of low-key, loving twists.”
‘Local Guide’ is a super bonny turn of BoC or Offshore-like electronic fancies from North Sea Dialect, here marking their debut with Glasgow’s Numbers powerhouse...
A slightly anxious yet murkily optimistic suite inspired by a move from Glasgow across Scotland (presumably to somewhere by the North Sea), ‘Local Guide’ is a singular album composed in isolation but riddled with other voices and spirits. It’s the sound of industry battered by the elements, and a record that finely relays the sense of introspection associated with long hours captivated by the choppy blue mass that separates Eastern Scotland and North-eastern England from mainland Europe.
From this inhospitable environment, NSD turns a wealth of inspiration into 10 spiralling, foaming and crashing figures that evoke the serenity of rural freedom and the churning might of the sea, transducing image-sound with a viscerally synaesthetic effect that perfuses and sloshes thru the album, from the briny folk tang of ‘Rodent Tribe’ and the bobbing scales of ‘October Horse’ at its fore, thru more tumultuous and fleeting passages of back masked folk song and cold industrial spaces, to pieces of gnarled, salt-eaten electronics with a grippingly expressive quality comparable to Arca and Shapednoise, if they were partial to Tartan.
Ilpo Väisänen pays powerful tribute to Mika Vainio (1963-2017), his friend and creative partner in the legendary Pan Sonic, on a staggering suite of solo production riddled with field recordings of their 2000 world tour.
Treading singular, familiar territory for anyone acquainted with Pan Sonic, the 14 vignettes of ‘I-LP-ON’ invoke the awesome might of Pan Sonic at the crest of their groundbreaking prowess, when they were arguably among the first acts to alloy industrial, dub, ambient and club music into a genuinely new, yet timeless form.
The recordings were made between Kuopio, Barcelona and Karttula, and feature all the hallmarks of Ilpo’s solo practice that also appeared in Pan Sonic - head-caving subbass, scratchy percussion and sublimated tones - with Mika’s presence lingering in the timbral aura thanks to field recordings of their world tour.
There’s no need to point out highlights - ‘ÄÄNET’ is guaranteed heavyweight and best served cold and in one go for optimal impact.
Tender ambient-pop and neo-classical fluffiness from Thomas Knak (System, Opiate) and Nils Frahm for the spiritual home of such stuff; Berlin’s Morr Music
“"Plus" is a collaborative effort with piano magician Nils Frahm. His purpose-built improvisations on synth, organ and piano served as source material for the members of System (Thomas Knak, Anders Remmer & Jesper Skaaning), who merged his warm acoustic tones with their minimalist digitalism and set out to translate their distinctive clicks ’n’ cuts electronics into vivid soundscapes. Over two years in the making, the resulting nine tracks are as sonically intriguing as they are touching. Ranging from the mellow bliss of the title track to echoes of 90’s and 2000’s electronica and ambient sequences frequented by mesmerizing movements and sounds.”
Immersive, organic mixture of intricate, small sound dub ecology and stoned dream-pop soul from Sunun - backed with a dead cranky Kinlaw remix - marking her debut on the excellent Bokeh Versions after compilation appearance for Limbo Tapes. RIYL Marina Rosenfeld, Jabu, Ossia
“Sunun has a luring command of dials and limbs and drum skins that’s as grounded as it’s mystical - these machines have ghosts in them. Between Ooid’s modulated insect noises and crushed cymbals there are stories of when & why things were recorded that adds an aching humanity to the 5 machine dub pulses on her first official release. People who’ve seen her live have witnessed Sunun’s forest of wires and microphones and harps all feeding her 20 channel desk. She dubs it old-world style, but the results are always forward - making a 22nd century chorus from thousands of years of human feedback. The Sunun ecosystem is perfectly synthesised in Max Kelan’s unsettling VHS body-shot for ‘Dark Just’, filmed on location in Western Super Mare (mostly Pier 2).
Sunun’s a familiar shape in the shadows of Bristol’s sound circuit - from Kuumba Centre to Cosies to Trinity. Her monthly residency on Noods Radio is titled by the mantra ‘Everything is Drum’ - and plays out to a teething Stokes Croft through the studio windows. She first took to the mic at Bokeh Sound w/ Jay Glass Dubs and Avon Terror Corps member Kinlaw (No Corner / Ceramics); who closes Ooid in classic discomix style with a remix of ‘Dark Just’. Ooid predates both their work in Avon Terror Corps by up to 1 year.”
A smart contrast of styles between Georgia’s playfully frenetic polyrhythms and the expansive, improvised greyscale investigations of Giuseppe Ielasi and Nicola Ratti’s Bellows
“The first in a series of split vinyls concerning dependencies, miscommunication and increasing complexity in our media- saturated digital era. Georgia and Bellows inaugurate the decouple ][ series with works between futuristic eclecticism and avant-garde pan-aesthetics, where musical themes flow tangentially. Similar, but without effectively engaging one another. A metaphor for a world of surfaces.
Recorded in Georgia’s Chinatown NYC studio, ‘Tiwala sa buani’ abruptly throw us into freaky percussion clusters constructed from heavily processed sounds which seem to keep in balance just by the magic of repetitions. Justin Tripp and Brian Close’s stylistic fusion acts like an antidote against GPS localization, with sounds and voices more reminiscent of data flowing through a proxy server than an acoustic performance - a myriad of tiny elements resonates with the multi-cultural a-geographic perception of a contemporary metropolis. ‘A Habitual Sway’ (an anagram of the first title) flows more slowly, mixing hypnotic rhythmic percussions loops, melodic sketches and controlled distortions into sophisticated layers. Naïve digital strings pads incursions widen the picture further. Georgia run an NTS monthly residency of oddball electronics.
Digging into their sound archive, Bellows build an immersive Konrad-esque 19 mins of humid and winding electronics with ‘Untitled’. Drawing on years of improvising experience, Nicola Ratti and Giuseppe Ielasi take a puristic avant-garde approach, using tape loops, static, modular synths and field recordings. A subtle nostalgia pervades the whole work - the music sneaks through lush, decadent dystopian visions like in a travelogue. Mallets, statics, cut-up white noise, synthetic kiks and uncannily pitched voices branch out like roots, while digital birds whistle all around in an aquatic atmosphere, perhaps suggesting an ironic take on ‘orientalism’ - down to the river’s delta.”
Bonaventure follows her hyped-up ‘Free Lutangu’ debut with a rugged, bittersweet turn for Planet Mu, including strong ‘floor workouts in a pent-up and driving title cut and the banging ‘Impetus’.
“'Mentor' is a homage to people whom inspire her, a gesture towards engagement and interaction with individuals and subjects she cares about - a research on the responsibility of learning and the process of teaching and sharing information.
The EP is tough and melodic, overtly propelled by rhythms drawn from Kizumba, Tarraxo, Coupé-Décalé and European dance music. She talks about the 'Poles' that make up the sample bank of sounds she uses in her production, I am constantly organising my samples into natural and un-natural sounds, European and African sounds. What’s more the sound feels rippling and subterranean; there’s a strange slime-like alienness weaving it’s way through the mix across the EP, informed in part by Soraya's recent reading list of science fiction, playing on how alien entities penetrate and transform bodies but also themes of how humanity sees mentorship in extra-terrestrial forms of life.
Gentle Opener 'Physarum', named after a particularly intelligent slime has a hopeful melody over drums that could be a dubbed take on trap, as noises stretch out and shimmer underneath, against a muffled human voice. Stirring to life with splintering sounds, 'Mentor' has a martial 138 beat, which rolls out through an elastic, stretchy atmosphere before focusing on synths and a triumphant chorus. 'Nemesis' has pitch-bent keys and bell-like melodies with drums that build and intersect into dense shapes. 'Colony', featuring Debby Friday, is a deep space dive into muffled dubbed electronic voices, crunching, constantly evolving drums, invaded by noise and synthy drones. 'Impetus' mixes insectoid cross-hatching rhythms with hard kick drums and strange voice-like chords, breaking into the kind of loopy, tense sample melodies that recall the heady dread of darkside rave anthems until the creepy metallic scrapes flood in. 'Both' features a shivering repeated mantra written and performed by Hannah Black whom she has collaborated on previously in the performance Anxietina alongside Ebba Fransén Waldhör. When the grounding message of this mantra ends, the mood of the track is lifted through a soaring, curious melody, set against shaky drums. It creates a feeling, which summarises the nature of the record beautifully.”
After leaving us reeling with the electrifying Sounds of Sisso compilation (keep an eye out for more news on that!), Nyege Nyege Tapes introduce a scintillating and darker take on traditional Bugandan drumming with Nihiloxica’s debut battery of percussion and stark synth work.
Revolving around seven percussionists plus one kit drum and a synth, their eponymous debut is a deeply grounded but sparking session recorded in single takes at Boutiq Studios in Kampala, Uganda between 26-29th August, 2017. Seriously, it could hardly be any fresher, and as with all the Nyege Nyege Tapes so far, gives a rare survey of new, and perhaps unpredicted, aspects of East African culture and the way tradition and electronic music are combined in contemporary Uganda - or more specifically the autonomous region of Buganda.
On Nilo we discover a tentative, spooked out meeting of minimal, pointillist drums and dissonant synth pitches that hunch and roll out like some meeting of Mark Ernestus and Coil, before Choir Chops finds its feet with Gqom like stamping punctuation, then attacks with proper, distorted punk attitude in a way that’s bloody hard to ignore on the ‘floor.
On Endongo they chill out a bit with something like a haunted house/kwaito budge driven by swollen, snarling bass and rent to the night sky with discordant, light polluting synth buzz, then Kadodi locks into formation with breathless rush of drums, drums, and well aye, more fucking drums - just how we like it - and saving a killer twist in the tail end.
A proper baddun, this. Don’t sleep!
Wonderfully unpredictable electronic eddies and whorls redolent of natural forms, from Students of Decay label founder Alex Cobb (Taiga remains), fully bringing his Etelin project to life after an offering on Opal Tapes. Great stuff...
“Hui Terra. The dreamlike shape of the half-heard word, abstracts with faint impressions of bucolic landscape, or handfuls of translucent and brightly-colored gemstones that hold odd, elusive, asymmetrical form. This enchanting, gently surreal debut album from Alex Cobb's Etelin project explores the power and playfulness of impulsive action diffused through electro-acoustic and ambient sound.
This music was created with digital synthesizers and a sampler in the four months immediately following the birth of his first child, a hazy period marked by a lack of regular sleep and a diet of INA-GRM, Nuno Canavarro's Plux Quba (1988), and Microstoria's Init Ding (1995) records that appeared to produce both stimulating and soothing effects on a newborn's nascent consciousness. Recorded and arranged at all hours, this is an album that reflects on moments of tumult and fragility. Cobb sews small sharpnesses and surprises into its movements to uncover different aspects of each sound source, doubling as hypnic starts cast to advance and vary the narrative in subtle and unexpected ways. Sound and atmosphere manifest in eccentric, alchemical fashion, as though forming in processes of sublimation -- solids dissipating into vapor -- and deposition -- clouds resolving and dropping to the ground in piles -- to an obscure and domestic rhythm.
There's the purveying sense of moving within the boundaries of small, hermetic ecosystem. This is underscored and doused by a slow, blooming sense of warmth; growing joy without bombast. Even the more startling textures conceal this same truth and emphasis, such as the alien, sour salt-butter electronic babble in "Little Rig", largely sampled from Cobb's son's voice at just a week old. It is emotional music -- devoted, affectionate, and playful."
Rugged, atom-smashing dubs from Konrad Wehrmeister, debuting on Munich’s Ilian Tape
Following the course of Konrad’s releases for Public Possession and SVS, the Munich native plays out 6 elusive, disembodied and tail-chasing duppies, strafing from the streaking contrails of ‘Eins’ into bristling, splintered steppers styles on ‘GeigerCounter’, then with weightless elan in ‘TDA’, and with a tender, beatless touch in the lovely ‘Vestak’ and ‘Movie’.
After breaking radio silence with the ace ‘Night Theatre Volume One’, Linkwood pushes a super plush Detroit electrofunk on Firecracker
With classic Cybotron/Juan Atkins and Mr. De in mind, the Edinburgh don sparks up the vocoder to introduce a full fat electrofunk swing flared with G-Funk chords and riffs on the A-side’s ‘Fresh Gildans’, giving the new skool electronauts a classic history lesson in the process.
On the B-side he switches to a sort of Juan-styled dub techno abstraction with the crispy, deep-fried flow of ‘Solar Panel’, before slipping into the silky but piquant, Afro-cubed hustle of ‘Another Late Night’ for a more intimate twist of modular tweaks and scissoring syncopation.
Inimitable percussionist Eli Keszler takes time out from 0PN’s ensemble to unfurl the incredible, dextrous rhythms and electro-acoustic jazz keen of his masterpiece, ‘Stadium’ - a spellbinding follow-up to his cherished ‘Last Signs of Speed’ LP and recent duties working on 0PN’s ‘Age Of’ and Laurel Halo’s ‘Raw Silk Uncut Wood’ sides. For us this is one of the defining albums of the year - an isolationist avant-jazz masterpiece that is a total must-hear for late-night listeners and, we reckon, anyone with a pulse and especially recommended if yr into Milford Graves, Max Roach, Han Bennink, Conjoint, Jan Jelinek, Miles Davis...
With both his close collaborators Daniel ‘0PN’ Lopatin and Laurel Halo smoking in the back seat of ’Stadium’, Keszler is the dynamic battery behind a shadow-strafing suite of spidery rhythms and inquisitive jazz gestures, effortlessly binding avant instrumental dexterity with cool blue harmolodic sentiment in a timeless style that could feasibly be dated to any point between the mid ‘70s heyday of jazz-fusion and right now, except for those spectacuarly subtle production flourishes that render this album pretty much indefinable. It’s both highly complex and entirely accessible - in the most thought provoking, evocative way.
Painted in diffuse strokes, darting flurries, and intoxicatingly rich tones, ’Stadium’ shows off Keszler’s expressive grasp of meter, texture and proprioception from myriad angles. Combined with floating Rhodes chords, sighing woodwind and field recordings, the results also demonstrate his uncanny capacity to transmute sound to limn landscapes, architecture and the sensation of being lost in a crowd. In the case of ’Stadium’ he uses this ability to specifically reflect his recent house move from the semi-industrial scape of South Brooklyn to the high rise vistas and street level bustle of Manhattan, beautifully connoting multi-storeyed perspectives and a sense of scale that zooms from the atomic to the panoramic via a gauzy, morphing middle-distance.
Within this space, Keszler navigates webs of sound as structurally fascinating as a spider’s web or a deep space image of a distant constellation, seemingly moving on eight legs along steep vertical and fast-flowing horizontal axes with a shocking grasp of precision and pointillism that will leave new listeners to his work scratching their heads, wondering how to programme such chicanery electronically. But as longer term followers of Keszler’s work know, the magick is all acoustic and haptic; physically converting impressions of images and emotions into overlapping geometries of geography and psychology - and in this case effectively projecting a singular, inverted form of sonic deep topography, if you will.
Perhaps the most wondrous thing about ‘Stadium’ is the way it describes the paradoxical quality of keeping your head amid the chaos - a notion that will surely resonate with inner city dwellers as much as fans of the finest noise, jazz, avant-garde music of all stripes, and is firmly at the heart of ’Stadium’ and its amorphous milieu of sound.
Simply an incredible album.
Presenting richly detailed hydrophone recordings of algae development in the rapdily depleting Arctic, Jana Winderen’s latest research is a fascinating and acutely topical study of ‘Spring Bloom in the Marginal Ice Zone’.
Prefaced by a sobering interview with world-renowned Professor of Marine Science, Carlos Duerte, the album presents headphone and speaker mixes of the title track, offering an immersive sonic inspection of the transitional area between open sea and sea ice, where the world’s biggest bloom of phytoplankton - the micro-organisms that produce half of the oxygen on the planet - accounts for the most critical CO2 sink in the biosphere.
The results are unmistakably foreboding, layering the sounds of blooming plankton with the tense cracks, pops and creaks of sea ice, and the subaquatic sound of bearded seals, migrating humpbacks and orcas, crustaceans and spawning cod, into a properly suspenseful and eerily alien experience.
Near the end of Reagan's first term, the Western Massachusetts Hardcore scene coughed up an insanely shaped chunk called Dinosaur. Comprised of WMHC vets, the trio was a miasmic tornado of guitar noise, bad attitude and near-subliminal pop-based-shape-shifting. Through their existence, Dinosaur (amended to Dinosaur Jr. for legal reasons) defined a very specific, very aggressive set of oblique song-based responses to what was going on. Their one constant was the scalp-fryingly loud guitar and deeply buried vocals of J Mascis.
"A couple of years before they ended their reign, J cut a solo album called Martin + Me. Recorded live and acoustic, the record allowed the bones of J's songs to be totally visible for the first time. Fans were surprised to hear how melodically elegant these compositions were, even if J still seemed interested in swallowing some of the words that most folks would have sung. Since then, through the reformation of the original Dinosaur Jr lineup in 2005, J has recorded solo albums now and then. And those album, Sings + Chant for AMMA (2005), Several Shades of Why (2011) and Tied to a Star (2014) had all delivered incredible sets of songs presented with a minimum of bombast and a surfeit of cool.
Like its predecessors, Elastic Days was recorded at J's own Bisquiteen studio. Mascis does almost all his own stunts, although Ken Miauri (who also appeared on Tied to a Star) plays keyboards and there are a few guest vocal spots. These include old mates Pall Jenkins (Black Heart Procession), and Mark Mulcahy (Miracle Legion, etc.), as well as the newly added voice of Zoë Randell (Luluc) among others. But the show is mostly J's and J's alone. He laughs when I tell him I'm surprised by how melodic his vocals seem to have gotten. Asked if that was intentional, he says, “No. I took some singing lessons and do vocal warm-ups now, but that was mostly just to keep from blowing out my vocal cords when Dino started touring again. The biggest difference with this record might have to do with the drums. I'd just got a new drum set I was really excited about. I don't have too many drum outlets at the moment, so I played a lot more drums than I'd originally planned. I just kept playing. [laughs] I'd play the acoustic guitar parts then head right to the drums.”
There is plenty of drumming on the dozen songs on Elastic Days. But for those expecting the hallucinatory overload of Dinosaur Jr's live attack, the gentleness of the approach here will draw easy comparisons to Neil Young's binary approach to working solo versus working with Crazy Horse. This is a lazy man's shorthand, but it still rings true. Elastic Days brims with great moments. Epic hooks that snare you in surprisingly subtle ways, guitar textures that slide against each other like old lovers, and structures that range from a neo-power-ballad (“Web So Dense”) to jazzily-canted West Coasty post-psych (“Give It Off”) to a track that subliminally recalls the keyboard approach of Scott Thurston-era Stooges (“Drop Me”). The album plays out with a combination of holism and variety that is certain to set many brains ablaze. J says he'll be taking this album on the road later in the year. He'll be playing by himself, but unlike other solo tours he says he'll be standing up this time. “I used to just sit down and build a little fort around myself -- amps, music stands, drinks stands, all that stuff. But I just realized it sounds better if the amps are higher up because I'm so used to playing with stacks. So I'll stand this time.” I ask if it's not pretty weird to stand alone on a big stage. “Yeah,” he says. “But it's weird sitting down too.” Ha. Good point. One needs to be elastic. In all things. - Byron Coley
Revolving around hot-wired sluggers, Melvin Oliphant III (Traxx), Beau Wanzer and Jason Letkiewicz, Mutant Beat Dance turn out a monstrous debut album packing 25 tracks of zig-zagging, raw electronic blatz for the dancefloor and beyond.
Including more gear than you can shake three sticks at, the MBM posse make up for lost time since their ‘PolyfonikDizko’  outing by throwing some of their strongest gear into the pot and stirring it good and proper for those dancers and DJs who prefer buffets over fine dining. That’s not to say this all ain’t tasty AF, but there is a f***ck tonne of it.
We could be here all day playing favourites, but there are some obvious numbers to highlight and give taste of the breadth of styles on offer. Most unexpectedly, the trippy recursions of ‘From Another Source’ come off like a cyberpunk take on Torsten Pröfrock’s Traktor aces, Funk Groove (skit) sounds like a killer reworking of Prince's Erotic City while ‘Revival 80s’ trades in killer proto-Drexciyan vibes; ‘Midi’ offers proper, scowling darkwave pressure. For the sickest sequencer tweaks, check out the ruddy swerve of ‘Uncanny Ignorance’, and try not to buckle in the psychoactive recursions of ‘The Fear of Future and Euphoria’ or spin your limbs off in the razorblade whirling arps and scissoring rhythms of ‘No Ambition’.
Well-kept enigma, EYE ushers in their most expansive iteration of psychedelic soul with a 6th, self-released session of woozy rhythm and space-jazz vibes.
Where previous outings tended to sprawling 1-sided sessions, and one 2-sider, ‘006’ is a 16-track album showcasing some of EYE’s most DJ-friendly gear in handy chunks that add up to a wickedly loose and trippy listen.
Voices, both sampled and possibly original, crop up throughout the record, ranging from what sounds like a blunted Gil Scott Herron over the smeared subs and glassy-eyed, high-register piquancy of the opener, thru to aching gospel blues vibes and even what sounds like Yukimi Nagano doing psyche rock.
But, judging from the sound of previous releases, the music is all detectably written by EYE (although we still don’t know if that’s a singular or plural), rendering a mosaic-like album fractured into blatz of hot-stepping punk-funk, lo-fi drum machine workouts, and jazzy turns of phrase.
If you’ve been intrigued by the mysterious project but not dipped your toes in yet, this is the one to check.
Airhead comes off like PC Music doing jazzed tribal house and jungle with these two pearls for James Blake and Dan Foat’s 1-800 Dinosaur label
Stepping on from his ‘Kazzt’  ace for Different Circles, Airhead returns to site of his ‘Believe’ release with a cheeky glint in his eye and a wonky swagger on ‘Clatter’, winding up a carbonated and freaky sort of slosh-jack foe the A-side, before ‘Droplit’ straightens up yuh backbone on the AA-side for a wicked spot of tail-chasing jungle breakbeat chicanery.
Thomas Ankersmit, last seen on a pair of excellent albums for PAN and Touch (in 2011 and 2014, respectively) pays tribute to legendary Dutch composer / electronic and tape music pioneer Dick Raaijmakers with an extended study in electronic music, utilising Serge Modular feedback and sine/pulse/random generators, contact mic, and tape speed variation to mirror some of Raaijmakers’ deeply weird experiments. As the label so eloquently explain - despite the abstract nature of the material, a sense of loss somehow pervades.
Raaijmakers is a genuinely legendary figure in the history of electronic music, and Thomas Ankersmit’s fitting homage lands almost five years to the date of his passing, aged 83, in September 2013. Replete with experiments with sounds not found in the music, but generated by the listener’s own ear as a strange side-effect, this extended piece re-contextualizes Raaijmakers’ ideas about composition and spatial experience to focus on the sounds of raw electricity through creatively abused electronics, composing with analogue micro-sounds, and the three-dimensional sound fields; referencing storms, thunder, crashing and falling objects, and distant radio transmissions.
The concept of the recording is directly inspired by Raaijmakers’ thoughts on “holophonic” sound fields to be individually explored by the listener. With this phenomenon, the listener’s inner ears actively generate sounds that don’t exist in the recorded signal, and which can change with a small movement of the head. In other words; it’s unlikely that you will experience this piece of music in quite the same way as anyone else, or that you will experience it that way more than once. And it’s perhaps this sense of transience; of not quite knowing whether what you’re listening to has a real, physical presence, or is a direct result of strange otoacoustic phenomena, that imbues this work with such unexplained melancholy.
Listening to music borne out of conceptual curiosity, it's rare to suddenly find yourself staring into space, thinking about time, about the intangible essence of experience and beauty, of life itself. Homage To Dick Raaijmakers is an exceptional recording; approach with patience and care.
‘Sonder Somatic’ is the debut Bruce album for Hessle Audio. If Monolake came thru in the UK during the post-dubstep phase, his music may have sounded a bit like this one.
“Bruce – AKA Larry McCarthy – is set to release his debut album Sonder Somatic this October on UK imprint Hessle Audio. The album packs 11 singular UK club tracks that evoke a distinctly emotive and dense energy, channelling detailed sound designs, tangled textures and club anthems for 2018 and beyond.
The record is deeply varied in styles, ideas and tempos; from the tight rhythmic groove of album opener 'Elo' to the weaponised onslaught of ominous club cuts 'What' and 'Cacao' - through drifting, meditative techno and the skeletal sound design of 'Ore' and 'Baychimo.' Each track shifts the tonal mood in subtle and distinct ways, whilst retaining a consistent icy sound palette infused with colour and human warmth.
The shapeshifting Hessle Audio imprint is run by Pearson Sound, Ben UFO and Pangaea. For over ten years, through their combined tastes they have continued to unravel and explore the edges of sounds and ideas from the wider dance music scene, across the boundaries of the functional and the experimental, with consistently innovative results. As a long time follower of the label, Bruce wanted to craft an album that continues their singular attitude and approach; incorporating vibes from UK soundsystem music as well as music from his home town of Bristol.
"From being a fan of their work from the very beginning, it's not only the music they have released that has informed my taste/work, but also the journey they have formed through the application of their attitude and approach." - Bruce
Much of Sonder Somatic was shaped by Bruce's own understanding of club culture as a whole, and predominantly his personal relationship with it both professionally and recreationally. The album was partly written as an attempt to capture that rare transformative feeling that can cause you to fully lose yourself in a club space, disconnecting from your immediate environment for a short time.
Sonder Somatic follows EPs for Timedance, Livity Sound, Idle Hands and Hemlock, and comes 4 years after his debut EP 'Not Stochastic' for Hessle Audio. The album pushes the boundaries of what club music can be whilst expertly refining his work as both a club producer and an experimental sound designer. With a unique sense of flair that sets him apart, Sonder Somatic is set to raise Bruce's profile across all corners of the dance world.”
Hallow Ground's curious vinyl series takes in an engrossing session by Colin Potter - ov NWW, Organum and Current 93 notoriety - after editions from Andrew Liles, Norman Westberg, and Danny Hyde's Aural Rage.
'Rank Sonata' is most notable for the first physical appearance of 'A Wider Pail of Shale' - which sprawls to nearly 20 minutes of wistful drones and 5/4 drug chug on the A-side and tails off on the 2nd - and is also remarkable for the extra two cuts of elliptical loops, calving noise and gamelan-aping percussion on the B-side.
The long cut portrays Potter in control of sweetly keening synth harmonics and shuffling chug, hypnotic and gently insistent in effect - perfect for your next pastoral rave.
The B-side is great, too, with the recursive gamelan tones of 'And' strongly recalling the work of The Threshold HouseBoys Choir, and the ripping electro-acoustic ecosystem of 'Knit Where' operating somewhere between Bellows and FiS.
Optimo’s JD Twitch cherry-picks classics, rarities and percies from Germany’s original independent post-punk scene from 1979-1985, including necessary oddball grooves and songs ranging from Malaria!’s snotty ohrwurm ‘Your Turn to Run’ to Andreas Dorau’s NDW rocket ‘Fred Vom Jupiter’, an edit of Christiane F’s sleazy ace ‘Wunderbar’, and the killer disko mission of ‘Veb Heimat’ by Weltklang
“This was an era of particular artistic upheaval in Germany; emphasis was placed on expression rather than technical perfection, artistic impact rather than skill. Bands consciously abandoned the English-speaking mainstream with German band names and lyrics. “Although we had a small underground scene, it was very vibrant,” explains Gudrun Gut of Malaria! “Bands like Die Haut, our first band Mania D., Malaria!... we organised gigs ourselves, hung around together in a handful of clubs like Risiko or Dschungel and went to gigs at SO36. West Germany had other regional scenes too: Düsseldorf and Köln around Der Plan and the Ata Tak label and there was the Hamburg side with Abwärts. Germany didn’t have a real music industry like the US or UK back then.”
This new collection is a personal selection from JD Twitch: “The compilation is not designed to tell a definitive story of what was going on in Germany in this era; it is more an arbitrary collection of records I adore from a specific era with a specific attitude that hopefully together sum up some of the musical undercurrents in Germany at that time.”
The package features a host of rare and unseen photos from the period along with extensive interviews with artists including Beate Bartel (Mania D.), Gudrun Gut (Malaria!, Mania D.) Christoph Dreher (Die Haut), Michael Hirsch (P1/E, ExKurs) and Thomas Voburka (Weltklang).”
By a stroke of pure luck, Carola Baer’s intoxicatingly dreamy avant-pop side ‘The Story of Valerie’ is made available for the first time via Concentric Circles, a new label minted by Jed Bindeman - the co-owner of Freedom To Spend with Pete Swanson
Apparently discovered in the goodwill bins of a Portland, OR thrift shop during the short window before said bins are sent to the dump, Carola Baer’s sole album - originally a demo tape for prospective collaboration - came this • close to escaping everyone’s attention, but now takes pride of place as the first Concentric Circles release.
Written circa 1990 on a Yamaha DX7, a Casio CZ-101, and a basic drum machinee while UK-based Carola was passing thru San Francisco on her way to Australia, ‘The Story of Valerie’ is a transfixingly intimate and melancholic affair whose heightened emotive atmosphere was the result of meeting new spirits and foreign partnerships that turned into relationships.
Its 11 songs are hauntingly frank and confessional, delivered in a style unmistakably indebted to early 4AD, but not beholden to it, as Carola is just as likely to err into edge of new age ambient-pop themes perhaps equally comparable with a lo-fi Enya, whilst also interspersed with much more wayward expressions of stressed distortion and even some wild rhythmic experimentation.
Of course, the discovery of ‘The Story of Valerie’ probably isn’t going to change the world, but it is most humbling to know that this kind of brilliance continues to resurface from blind spots everywhere. In the most classic sense of great art, it sometimes takes time to find your audience. In this case 28 years.
Mickey Pearce resets his style slower, kinkier, and more spaced out, with excellent, far-flung vocals by Lena Platonos, Meuko Meuko!, and Poté laced in among his characteristic quirks and playful twists...
“Mickey Pearce is back in business with ‘One Hundred Smiles’, a new album of swaggering UK club music experimentations, and a new label Box Of Toys.
His first album, ‘Michael’ (2016), saw him exploring new territory; crafting a strange and melancholic landscape of beatless textures and leftfield house and techno. Approached with a fresh perspective, ‘One Hundred Smiles’ slows the tempo and ups the collaboration.
“The last record was a reflection of my situation around that time. This one is like stepping out from under a cloud. It’s about the joy of collaboration; meeting and working with new people. It’s also about the ambiguity of smiles, and the complicated relationships we form.”
The album features appearances from rising UK talent Poté, Taiwanese vocalist Meuko Meuko and Greek electronic pioneer Lena Platonos. “Poté is a crazy talent. We’ve done a bunch of sessions and made a load of tracks, two of which ended up here and one of which is going on his next record. Meuko Meuko is an artist from Taiwan. We communicate entirely via Instagram. She’d send me translations of the lyrics in Instagram messages, but I’m still not sure if I’ve chopped them into any sort of sense. The instrumental was called ‘Slime’, and she misread that intentionally or unintentionally to mean “smile” and sent me all these crazy lines about “your lovely smile” and it was just perfect. I love her. Lena Platonos is a legend, and someone I was honoured to work with. The day she told me she had been playing and enjoying the record around her friends was a good day.”
‘One Hundred Smiles’ is the first release on his own label Box Of Toys. The label is named the same as his 2017-2018 radio show series, which featured the album’s guests as well as Randomer, Machine Woman, Airhead, The Maghreban and Object Blue.”
Burning, high-energy funk from Hawaii, 1980. Remastered and reissued on 7” for the first time
“In 1978, Nova performed for Obama. Well, kind of: Nova was the band for the Punahou School prom in Honolulu, Hawaii, and a young student named Barack (known then as “Barry”) was in attendance.
Backtrack to 1976, and Nova was the opening band for Donald Byrd at the nearby Blaisdell Arena. The day was Sunday, June 27. The following day, Isaac Hayes would perform on island for the admission price of $1.
Nova, led by singer Checo Tohomaso, was one of several go-to party bands during the golden era of Hawaii funk and soul music in the mid-1970s through early 1980s.
The band’s infectious gospel-funk-disco can be heard on their sole release, a self-titled 1980 LP that feels like one big party recorded live in the studio. (Check out the Marvin Gaye-inspired “I Feel Like Getting Down” on the 2016 ‘Aloha Got Soul’ compilation on Strut Records).
The story is all too familiar, however: funk band releases LP, the music goes dormant in years to follow, and today original copies sell for hundreds online.
Not long after the album’s 1980 release, Checo met Marvin Gaye, who was living on Maui (where George Benson also resided). Shortly after, Marvin invited Checo and his counterparts to join his multi-city tour across Europe. Videos of Checo rocking keyboards, percussion and singing background vocals for Marvin Gaye’s last European tour can be found online.
Checo, born in Florida yet raised in lush Manoa Valley as well as Okinawa, Japan, now resides in Vancouver, Canada, where he leads the VOC Sweet Soul Gospel Choir and continues to deliver his signature sound: high energy, positive, “sweet soul” music.”
‘Chindia Tower Impalements’ is Âmes Sanglantes’ foul and torrid 3 hour dedication to Vlad The Impaler, the infamous Voivode of Wallachia during the 15th century. Three years after the original tape release, and in parallel with a new 3CD reissue, Hospital Productions see fit to dispense this downloadable version, remastered for purpose by Paul Corley.
“Âmes Sanglantes means "bloody souls". Nowhere else in Âmes Sanglantes' sprawling and massive wild/punk/junk discography has this idea been more focused than on the epic and original Chindia Tower Impalements, as well as on cult tapes like Anti-Anti (1999), Mega Star Barbies, Violation, and the immense and impossible 12-hour-long Crackdown cassette box from Hospital Productions last year. This newly remastered version is the definitive document revealing the cruelty of the Wallachian landscape myths and realities. Dracula vs. Vlad Tepes... Caustic, brittle, and eerie, the six long-duration tracks secure Âmes Sanglantes as one of the most original and overlooked extreme electronic monikers of the '90s North American cassette underground.
Distorted but textural where the voices of young androgynous screams mingle together with chirping birds and wolf breath. It's the subtle layering and tape splicing structure beneath the crust that elevates this above the average "noise" recording. You will have to dig and claw past the walls built out of clay bricks, but beyond that is a rich and subtle world of loops equal parts Georges Braque and William Basinski, like collapsing scaffolding melting and crumbling on top of each other. This is rotting electro-acoustic studies where one can see a portrait float to the surface in the rippling and muddy puddles. Shockingly, after nearly 100+ cassette-only release since 1996, this comes forward as the first Âmes Sanglantes compact disc. A true student of the '90s, you'll find a stunning presentation that is equal parts in reference to Cold Meat Industry as well as Japan's Alchemy Records. So open up the old CD changer, light a few candles, and a pour the red wine for an epic that revives the imagination of times lost and losses yet to come. RIYL: William Basinski, Incapacitants, Brighter Death Now, and the early works of Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement. Remastered by Paul Corley (Oneohtrix Point Never, Ben Frost, Prurient).”
Armchair dwellers succour from A Strangely Isolated Place, marking 10 years of melancholy ambient/classical whimsy with ‘Full Circle’, a 17-track compilation of tracks by artists key to the label’s history an aesthetic, all pressed to vinyl for the first time
“The music presented in this compilation is probably the closest distillation of what has inspired ASIP over the past ten years. The ASIP website and its many versions; blog posts; guest mixes; even some of the older archived (now hidden) posts, were revisited to find the perfect tracks to put forward.
There was however, a few limitations in mind: (1) It had to be a track previously written about or featured in some capacity on ASIP from 2008-2018. (2) The track has previously not been released on vinyl. (3) The artist isn’t currently a part of the ASIP label family.
The end result isn’t a compilation of rarities, b-sides or label exclusives that you may have expected at a typical ten year milestone. Instead, it’s a compilation of music that has helped define ASIP as many people know it today. From drone and space ambient; to shoegaze inspired guitars; nostalgic electronica and melodic synthesizer music, Full Circle presents many of the elements that have been captured over the past ten years on A Strangely Isolated Place.
Pressed into the grooves of this record is some of the finest music to grace my ears that I felt passionate enough to feature on ASIP in the past, and now once more on vinyl - Ryan.”
It's that time of year again isn't it, and although we don't seem to get snow anymore in England (damn you global warming!) we are still just about capable of celebrating the birth of the guy who invented Coca Cola...
Stevens takes some of the classic traditional sounds of the season and places them next to compositions of his own to create something genuinely heart-warming and enjoyable without ever becoming cheesy or overwrought. Starting in 2001 and going to 2006 these songs have been pieced together with love by Stevens and his friends year after year, and that's what makes them so effective - his version of 'We Three Kings' might be heartbreaking, but his own composition 'That was the Worst Christmas Ever' is one of the most crushing pieces Stevens has ever put his name to, perfectly summing up the hopes and dreams of the season....
Colin Potter’s vaulted classic ‘A Gain’ bubbles up for reissue with Joyful Noise, presenting its first ever reissue proper of a UK synth classic (if we discount the augmented compilation of ’Entering Again’ released by Sacred Summits in 2014)
Recommended to Joyful Noise for reissue by Benjamin John Power (F*ck Buttons), who states “…the lines are simple but perfect… It’s incredibly well constructed”, Potter’s best known release prior to joining NWW is a totem of British synth music, an economically constructed yet lush-minded LP of spindly arps and blossoming harmonies that gives us life everytime we hear it.
From the steep 10 minute introduction of awe-inspiring arps and pinched melody in ‘On Entering York Minster’, to the heart-rending, proto-0PN flourishes of ‘Rooftops’, thru his scudding kosmiche piece ‘You Tell Me’, to the passage of curdled drone, scratchy drums and dissonant funk in ‘Mainland’, this is a 100% purchase for fans of England’s hidden reverse and far beyond...
Official reissue of Ryo Fukui’s highly sought-after masterpiece Scenery (1976), sourced from the original masters.
"Unquestionably one of the most important Japanese jazz albums ever recorded, Scenery reveals Ryo Fukui as a miraculously brilliant self-taught pianist fusing modal, bop, and cool jazz influences for a very personal, dexterous and game-changing take on classic standards made famous by Bing Crosby and John Coltrane among others. From "It Could Happen To You" and its serene and calm intro which magically flows into a jubilant and upbeat piece, to the out-of-this-world piano solo of "Early Summer", or the incredible teamwork of "Autumn Leaves" where Fukui leads Satoshi Denpo (bass) and Yoshinori Fukui (drums) into groove heaven, every single note on the album oozes precision, confidence and flair and every single section slides seamlessly into one another, creating a supreme and elegant blend of jazz. Often compared to McCoy Tyner or Bill Evans, Ryo Fukui was a genius in his own right, a true master of his craft whose perfectionism gave birth to some of the greatest music ever recorded. Scenery is his magnum opus and an absolute must-have.
The Hokkaido wizard-pianist followed Scenery with the soulful gem Mellow Dream (also available on We Release Jazz) in 1977. He then focused on improving his live skills, often performing at Sapporo’s Slowboat Jazz Club (which he co-founded with his wife Yasuko Fukui) and releasing 2 live albums. Ryo Fukui sadly passed away in March 2016, leaving behind a legacy of works that is sure to captivate jazz lovers for generations to come."
Impressively weird spins on boogie, dub, house and traditional Japanese themes from Yoshinori Hayashi, who’s built a solid rep in recent years via outings for Going Good and Jheri Tracks, leading to this standout debut album on Smalltown Supersound.
“Previous work by the Tokyo-based producer has been called “a complex patchwork of studio gear, live instruments, dusty jazz records and smartly cut library sounds, whose textures are soft and inviting. But its arrangements are constantly ruffled, squeezed, brushed and pinched—which is to say, nothing stays still for long” (Resident Advisor).
Hayashi presents his self-described “collage expression” throughout Ambivalence, which he produced and played in its entirety. Album opener, “Overflow,” is a club track inspired by Cecil Taylor. It’s freeform nature sets the tone for the album’s cosmic, hypnotic, and almost ritualistic approach.
Hayashi has studied under Japanese avant-classical composer Mica Nozawa. When not DJing, he works in a record store in Tokyo.”
Official reissue of criminally overlooked Japanese jazz gem Mellow Dream (1977) by Hokkaido pianist wunderkind Ryo Fukui, released in conjunction with the its legendary predecessor Scenery, sourced from the original masters.
"Firmly standing on the foundation he laid down with Scenery, Ryo Fukui continues his exploration of modal, bop and cool jazz sounds with meticulous grace and absolute mastery. As its title suggests, Mellow Dream ventures into slightly mellower, more soulful, and sometimes more contemplative territories (the Bill Evans-reminiscent "Mellow Dream" and "My Foolish Heart") while still packing the commanding punch Fukui’s work is loved for, as heard on the amazingly bombastic "Baron Potato Blues" or the gigantic McCoy Tyner/John Coltrane-influenced "Horizon" which sees each member of the trio (Satoshi Denpo is on bass and Yoshinori Fukui is on drums) demonstrating their virtuosity for 9 exhilarating minutes. With his sophomore album, Ryo Fukui swings from melancholy to vibrant joy with ease, reminding us that jazz is best served with a pinch of blues, and displays an immensely rare combination of pure talent, unique personal approach and focused discipline. The man undeniably deserves a spot in the pantheon of all-time great jazz pianists.
After releasing the outstanding Scenery and Mellow Dream back to back, Ryo Fukui worked on developing his live skills, often performing at Sapporo’s Slowboat Jazz Club (which he co-founded with his wife Yasuko Fukui), and even releasing 2 live albums. He sadly passed away in March 2016, leaving behind a legacy of works that all jazz lovers should explore."
David Tibet pairs his apocalyptic prognostications with plush pastoral backdrops ranging from unsettlingly rose-tinted to beautifully melancholic, supplied by Andrew Liles, Ben Chasny, and various, nefarious associates of Coil, including bagpiper Michael J. York and Ossian Brown (Cyclobe)
““The Light Is Leaving Us All” is the new album from Current 93, everyone’s favourite Hallucinatory Cuneiform SuperGroup.
Three years in Her Making and Shaping, “The Light Is Leaving Us All” Spells WithIn Her 11 tracks.”
The Cradle is the artistic alias of New York City-based musician Paco Cathcart. His latest album 'Bag Of Holding' presents a more serene version of Cathcart's guitar-and-voice based songwriting, integrating orchestral arrangements, spirited collaboration, and brilliant production techniques to give way to The Cradle's most singular and focused work to date.
"In addition to working as a recording engineer focusing on analog mediums, Cathcart has honed his craft over the years as a member of bands such as Big Neck Police, Shimmer and Climax Landers, all the while prolifically crafting nearly 30 personal solo albums and experiments across various labels and self-releases. 'Bag Of Holding' takes all of these experiences and uses them thoughtfully to build a masterful, proper full-length album of highly personal and expressive orchestral pop compositions."
Epic, brilliantly curated two hour collection of new and exclusive material celebrating iDEAL Recordings' (1998-2018) 20th anniversary featuring JASSS, Stephen O’Malley, Jim O’Rourke (an epic 17 minute trance-enducer - honestly worthy of its own LP), Ectoplasm Girls, Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe, Prurient, Puce Mary and many others...
We always say this - we hate comps - they’re almost always shite - but this one’s a bit of a mindmelter, featuring 20 new and exclusive tracks commissioned by label bossman Joachim Nordwall to celebrate the occasion of his label’s 20th anniversary, almost 1 track per year of going against the grain. Trust when we say that Nordwall's selection skills and sprawling network of interconnected artists has yielded a frankly ridiculous tracklisting, including a 17+ minute steamroom special from Jim O’Rourke, a pulsing electroacoustic killer from Stephen O’Malley, a rare new hookup between Prurient and Carlos Giffoni, brand new ambient/field recording peach from JASSS, an amazing fizzing drone tribute to Folke Rabe by Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe, plus Puce Mary and Jesse Sanes aka JH1.FS3 on fine fine form, and just too many others to mention - over two hours of exceptional music.
The story of iDEAL starts out in London 1998, when Nordwall was living the hardscrabble life: working in an underwear shop near Liverpool Street station; living in a filthy Bayswater apartment; scoring industrial records from the Music and Video Exchange; getting drunk in cheap pubs, and dreaming of starting a new record label and platform. He called it iDEAL, and 180 releases, 20 years later, it has become an invaluable node for non-standard, wayward expressions of modern electronic noise in all its mutable variation.
iDEAL’s success and longevity may well be down to the way that Nordwall treated it as a social and artistic home, offering a place where mutually exclusive styles could bed down away from the mainstream or the genre police, and feed into a much larger, work-in-progress definition of fringe music. ‘The Black Book’ extends, in the spirit of the label, an idealised compilation of disparate possibilities connected by a sense of musical mystery and chaotic energy.
"Twenty. Not sure if its worth celebrating, or mourning. Anyways, we decided to compile an album filled with artists we are very close to, others we admire deeply and a few we feel connected to in different ways. THE BLACK BOOK is indeed a celebration, of musical mysteries, energies and connections. Three LPs, six sides of music.”
Long live iDEAL!
Black Merlin largely and unexpectedly drops the beats and commits to a cinematic, sub-tropical phantAsia with ‘Kosua’, a lush yet dread-filled album dedicated to the mystery of Papua New Guinea, the world’s 2nd largest island, and one of it’s most unexplored. A must check for fans of Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement
“Back in 2015 George Thompson AKA Black Merlin started a deep love affair with the remote island of Papua New Guinea. After his first album ‘Hipnotik Tradisi’, released on Island Of The Gods; George was intrigued to find a place drenched in culture and untouched by the western world.
In 2016 George planned his first solo expedition, venturing out to meet the Kosua Tribe. Over the course of the next two years George would record the sounds of the Kosua people. From their daily lives, ancient dance customs and wildlife. During one of these trips he spent 14 days alone in the jungle, getting in and out of the Mount Bosavi crater and further 3 days inside recording and filming his experience. These recordings and experiences formed the basis of his second album, Kosua.
Pop subversives Beth Roberts and Andrew Hargreaves (The Boats, Tape Loop Orchestra) pose their 2nd album as The Mistys with ‘Pregnant Mannequin’, following some five years on from their debut album ‘Redemption Forest’. It basically sounds like an incredible, saccharine shoegaze/dreampop album recorded to a salvaged D90 tape that's about to disintegrate, warbling in and out of time.
Referencing a wealth of pop archetypes via their uniquely claggy, recombinant filter to render a new vision for subversive pop music, Beth Roberts’ sugary vocals are smudged and buried deeper in the mix, processed with fizzing textures that only add an extra poignancy and a sense of struggle to the classic pathos of her voice. In key, Andrew Hargreaves lends some of his most sharpened, devastating hooks, bringing their project closer to a polysemous conception of ambient-EBM-pop.
The formative experience and naivety of 2013’s ‘Redemption Forest’ album has given way to a newfound complexity over the five year interim. It’s there in the sense of gauzy ambiguity that oozes through the record’s synth, drum machine and vocal construction, with results that speak to a mix of uncertainty and determination, asking and answering ideas of imposter syndrome that can sometime undermine the urge to self-expression.
The diaphanous scale of ‘Bite Marks’ welcomes us into their distant, yet familiar world, where the tape worn cadence of Beth’s vocals leave indelible marks on the mind in ‘Womb’, and ‘Velvet Water’ leads us down a pinched ginnel of darkwave pop, to arrive in the stately air of ‘Heat Death’. At their most forceful, they’re still a pair of tender souls, though, as in the push and pull of tempered rage and romance in ‘Cut by Degrees’, while ‘Celluloid Skin’ sees them offer a warm, fuzzy embrace of shoegaze-pop akin to The Cocteau Twins heard underwater, and the dark blue swells of ‘Blades and Boardwalks’ and ‘Metabolisms’ reveals their natural affinity to what was once called Witch House, and can now be heard as a modern form of cold wave or gothic synth-pop - styles that take their pleasure from a feeling of negative ecstasy, an effective inversion of ‘poptimism’.
Proper bittersweet and addictive pop feels on this one...
Serious grey area D&B pressure from db1, Forest Drive West, Entire and Nekiya on Ruffhouse’s killer label, UVB-76
Entire takes pole position with the lumbering yet deft halfstep rolige and sonorous sound design of ‘Two Spirits’ alongside the isolationist dancehall inception of ‘Dream Within A Dream’ by another newcomer, Nekyia.
Passing over to slightly more experienced hands, Forest Drive West insightfully toys with D&B schematics in the billowing negative space and pinched percussion of ‘Inverse’, beside the dread cold steppers drill of ‘Duppy Pulse’ by DB1.
Polish ambient composer Bednarczyk gracefully boomerangs back to Room40 with the diffuse structures of ‘Illustrations For Those Who’ nearly a decade on from his early couplet of ‘Summer Feelings’ and ‘Painting Sky Together’ landed on Lawrence English’s label
“Across the late 00s, Tomasz Bednarczyk created a series of acclaimed ambient recordings that married the unsteadiness of archival technologies with an extensive palette of pastoral timbres. These recordings quietly set a particular tenor of work for a new generation of Middle Eastern European ambient composers.
Following these recordings however Bednarczyk’s energies were re-directed with his time being split between a multiple of more techno oriented electronic music outings.
In early 2018, following the success of his New Rome project released in 2016, Bednarczyk began exploring a new approach to his more atmospheric works. Using an incredibly reductive set-up, he took single sources and exploded their potentials. Through a process of layering and synthesis, he was able to create incredibly minimal, yet dense sound textures from very singular materials. Within a matter of weeks he had devised a new way of approaching his more ambient compositional interests.
Illustrations For Those Who is the result of this first investigation. Each piece is singular in nature, in that its source is one synthesiser or instrument. The resulting pieces though are anything but singular. Rather, each of them maintains a detailed and rich sensibility built around complex cycling of sonic materials.
This edition marks out an important new direction for Bednarczyk and firmly asserts him as a continued force for ambient music emanating out of Eastern Europe.”
Electro-wave survivor Caroline Hervé a.k.a. Kittin (f.k.a. Miss Kittin) finds her place in the current scene with ‘Cosmos’ - her first album in five years - marking a strong, variegated debut for San Francisco’s Dark Entries
The original queen of ’00s electroclash cuts a elusive, haunting figure in ‘Cosmos’, largely leaving the dancefloor behind in order to better explore more oblique influences from the fringes of the last 40 years of electronic music.
Dropping the “Miss” prefix from her name (which was only added in the first place by party promoters, not by herself) signifies a return to Caroline’s roots and sharper, yet broader, definition of her own sound.
Essentially liberated from preconceptions attached to her prior work, Kittin pursues a strongly cinematic sort of sci-fi narrative format in ‘Cosmos’ that richly resonates with her influences, ranging from Jean Michel Jarre to Dopplereffekt.
From the track titles such as ‘Multiverse’, ‘Last Day on Earth’, to her stranger-than-fiction study on Trump in ‘#Metoo’, and especially in her finely sculpted, physical, organic electronics, Kittin really comes into her own on ‘Cosmos’.
Piping hot from her knockout ‘Throne’ album, Heather Leigh joins the bellows-lunged Peter Brötzmann for a nerve-biting, romantic, and heavily arresting set of duets improvised on woodwind, brass and lap steel guitar .
“There is complexity in simplicity, and Sparrow Nights is Peter Brötzmann and Heather Leigh's most enduring record to date, and their first studio album. A series of emotionally rich and boldly elucidated tonal and timbral exchanges played like compositions on pedal steel and reeds, the tracks (released as a 6 track LP and 10 track CD) are cold-forged minimalist blues motifs dragged from instrumental laments.
After three years playing together Brötzmann/Leigh's connection and understanding is by now both cerebral and deeply invested in the physical and sensory possibilities of their combined sound, while retaining a melancholic distance. Within this duo there is fluidity – neither is the anchor – and these recordings sound with as much variety as the sea. At times Sparrow Nights carries the clarity and poeticism of still water and open horizon ("This Word Love"), and at others it contains the elemental and ferocious roar of white water breakers on black rocks ("This Time Around").
On their previous three live albums (Ears Are Filled With Wonder, Sex Tape, Crowmoon) the duo have developed an intimate and intense language that manifests here as a focus on power and control, where figures blasted of unnecessary decoration are drawn from the shadows and smoke of collapse. The studio setting also allows Brötzmann to bring a broader range of reeds than in live scenarios: where previously he has played primarily tenor, clarinet and tarogato with Leigh, here he delivers the heat of alto and the low pressure of bass saxophone and clarinet.
Brötzmann’s duo with Leigh continues to trace a fresh new arc in his trajectory, and this release also falls at a time when Leigh releases Throne, her most song-based record to date. Here as a studio duo they play a new-old blues for times of complexity, noise and chaos, continuing to redefine and re-sound possibilities for improvised music.”
Scowling throwdown from Overlook, making his 2nd lunge on UVB-76 this year with four tracks of petrifying sound design and squashed, grey area rolige
Working shades away from his recently minted Carrier duo with Positive Centre, the ‘Public Image EP’ finds Overlook moving away from D&B structures to a more smudged no-person’s-land at the juncture of techno, noise and darkside dance music.
‘Déjà Vu’ gets U in the mood with a bone marrow-freezing descent into cavernous space inhabited by swarming nanobots, before the session gets underway properly with the trampling flow and keening drones of ‘There Was Truth and There Was Untruth’ building to a fierce head of pressure that carries into the rip current techno of ‘The Totem That Guides Us’, before he attempts to drown the senses with water-boarded rhythms that withhold the restraint and flood forth like a stampede of metal-hooved stallions by the end of ‘Public Image’.
Barn Owl’s Jon Porras (Elm) arrestingly redresses his sound from the ground up in ‘Voices Of The Air’, a diaphanous new album of tempered ecstasies crafted with the multi-timbral voices of the Yamaha DX7 synth
“Taking the Yamaha DX7 as his main instrument on Voices of the Air, Porras read about John Chowning's work with FM synthesis, where a sound waveform's frequency, called the carrier, is modulated with a frequency similar in range. The result is a nuanced and multidimensional voice, and the possibilities are endless. Yamaha specifically licensed Chowning's creations for the DX7, and Porras spent a sleepless weekend poring through the manual, figuring out how to build textures. Taking a conscious step away from improvisation, Porras used these new sounds "as a plastic source to shape and mold." He stacked, arranged and adjusted through digital synthesis and effects. "The process felt like mixing paint to get the right color and texture, then laying down a brushstroke, each day returning to the canvas to build on something I left there from the day before," says Porras.
Once he had the basic structures he experimented with them in live performance,e took the stand-up comedian route with new material and tried out performing it live, (kinda weird esp in the experimental music context ha) seeing what worked, what provoked reactions in the audience, how to perfect each composition to its ideal form. This process went from June 2017 to February of this year, when into he recorded the album at Gary's Electric Studio in Greenpoint with Al Carlson to record the album. Voices of the Air broadcasts these intricate balance of sounds that slowly set together like wet concrete. In their final forms, Porras has created an album of delicacy and power, one that is only fully realized by a listener ready to allow it to take full effect.”
Deerhoof plays the music of the shining!
"Stanley Kubrick has a troubled past with Deerhoof. An argument over whether Eyes Wide Shut was good almost broke up the band in 1999 and again in 2003. When Famous Class suggested a 7" of music from The Shining, the band waffled for three years about whether they thought they could do it justice.
But once a Halloween release date was proposed, Deerhoof couldn't resist. They got the score to Bartok's "Music For Strings, Percussion and Celesta" out of the library, and transcribed one of the 20s songs straight from the closing credits. Music that in the movie echoed from some ghostly, gilded past takes on a more urgent character in Deerhoof's versions, as if to underscore that the horrors of white supremacy, oligarchy, and domestic abuse are alive and well in 2018 America."
Pact Infernal’s Nastika piles forth a charred style of techno war funk for Horo
The middle-eastern horns and whirring rhythms of ’Yajna’ bear a striking resemblance to ‘Array The Troops’ from the Ancient Methods album in the best way, while ‘Black Sun in East’ stealthily brings the blood up with precipitous, widescreen sound design and powerful percussion.
‘Sati’ starts off in the shadows before again seemingly saddling up the same battalion as the Ugandan Meff’eads, and ‘Black Sun in West’ sets a scene of cadaver-trampling techno and carmine skies with a victorious feeling sinking in the gut.
Deep house torch carrier Kyle Hall plays it cool and grown-up on ‘Equanimity’, including engineering/mastering assistance from veteran hands Glenn Underground and Todd Fairall (The Roots, Slum Village) on two highlights,
Strong vibes at every turn on Kyle Hall’s first outing of 2018, using some proper technical nous to get right inside and optimise his grooves for the enduser. Up top that results in the full bodied drums, bass warmth and filigree, granular details of ‘Katastematic Pleasure’, ably brought to life in the mix by Glenn Underground, beside the subtly rugged, glancing funk flex of ‘4WRD Motion’.
On the B-side he works clipped drums and haunting jazz-soul choral cadence with lip-biting synth vamps in ‘No More Moon’, which benefits from gilded mix engineering by Todd Fairall, before ‘Ghosten 4 A 2nd X’ slinks low on plush, rounded subs and smoke curl chords in a superb piece of midnight 313 funk.