Almost universally derided when it came out in 1998 (I remember, it was shocking), TNT quickly became like a family member we'd listen to it repeatedly, totally entranced by its quirky combination of jazz, post-rock and experimental electronics.
Okay so some levelled that it was too 'light' and had lost the Kraut intensity of previous records, but it's an album that takes time to truly appreciate and hearing it now it seems bizarre that anyone could dislike it. With one of the most memorable sleeves of the 90s, it features 'Swung from the Gutters', 'I Set My Face to the Hillside' and 'The Suspension Bridge at Iguazu Falls' - combining everything that Tortoise do so well. Classic, innit.
Uniquely disciplined guitarist Oren Ambarchi hustles an all-star ensemble in filigree arrangements of joyous, hyper-rhythmic melodicism nodding to Albert Marcoeur, early Pat Metheny Group, Henry Kaiser’s It’s A Wonderful Life and Steve Reich’s Electric Counterpoint.
Following in the vein of his intricately detailed longform workouts including ‘Quixotism’ (2014) and ‘Hubris’ (2016), the four parts of ’Shebang’ map an iridescent, undulating topography that links widescreen kosmiche with needlepoint precision and compelling fluidity. Taking remotely recorded input from Chris Abrahams (piano), Johan Berthling (acoustic bass), BJ Cole (pedal steel), Sam Dunscombe (bass clarinet), Jim O'Rourke (synths), Julia Reidy (12-string guitar), and Joe Talia (drums); Ambarchi (credited as Dick Wolf) and Konrad Sprenger post-edited the parts into a fleeting flux of staccato chimes, arcing harmonies and densely layered polyrhythms with a naturalistic flow that belies the fact its contributors were strewn across the globe.
Sweetly lifting off with pinpoint palm wine plucks, the album stealthily grows in density and curious intensity with Berthling’s sinuous bassline and Talia’s refreshing raindrop hi-hats guiding the flow down and out, snaking into clear Americana gestures with appearance of BJ Coles’ shimmering pedal steel, and Ambarchi’s puckered blues riffs. By the mid-way point their preternatural balance and surprising turns of phrase are in full effect, with a languid bassline sliding around the peppery percussion gently intensified by Julia Reidy’s Reichian 12-string intricacies, with Jim O’Rourke’s synths rising like early morning mist on a sunny day.
The Necks’ Chris Abrahams cuts avian figures across the keys, and in the final section they lock into the finest lattice, precipitating harmonic progression with the heady effect of a weather pressure front changing at liminal zones, roiling and gyring with Ambarchi and Sprenger’s discrete post-production magick.
Bohren & Der Club of Gore refine and expand their neon lit blend of midnight jazz and dark ambience, finding romance and a sort of redemption in the heart of the abyss.
Musically, the key reference point remains Angelo Badalamenti's scores for David Lynch; a combination of plaintive sax, ominous synth drones and electronic piano situated at the interzone between dream and nightmare. ‘Zombies Never Die (Blues)’ - the first of the three long, immersive pieces that make up the LP - is apt for midnight revelation at the Roadhouse or Club Silencio; but as well as Badalamenti we think also of Tom Waits at his most unhinged and atmospheric, and of The Caretaker's sweeping, serotonin-depleted excavations of memory.
‘Catch My Heart', an unrecognisable cover of German metal outfit Warlock, evokes the decadence and submerged anxiety of 30s Weimar cabaret; vocals come from the band’s longtime cheerleader Mike Patton, channelling Tuxedomoon, Bowie and even the Brinkmann of When Horses Die into a louche but tortured croon. The title track brings the suite to a close, unbearable tension wrought out of a sparse, repeated Rhodes motif and brushed drums, recalling early Tortoise, For Carnation and the desert-dried doom of Earth.
For all these comparisons, Bohren really are like no one else around, and Beileid is the kind of otherworldly, out of body listening experience we live for.
A shining star in the Laraaji microcosm returns for a timely 30th anniversary edition with the Eno-affiliated All Saints, circulating some of his finest, standout zither and synth meditations.
‘Flow Goes The Universe’ was one of Laraaji’s first albums to appear on CD, and so they took the opportunity to recommend its playback with then-new shuffle function or CD track programming to rearrange its sequencing and provide a new experience with each listen. This was also intended to optimise the album’s mixture of durational 25 min works and number of shorter vignettes and silences, the latter of which have been omitted from this first digital edition, but still applies to the remaining eight tracks.
Heard in original sequence, the tracks radiate from the immersive shimmer of the aforementioned 25 min piece ‘Being Here’ to the standout rarity ‘A Cave In England’, with its cavernous 12 minutes of cascading water and arps recorded at Zefferelli’s Ambleside, Lake District, England, and thru to the buoyant aerial strums of ‘Zither Dance’ and its sibling ‘Mbira Dance’, with unmissable highlights in the arcing, angelic scope of ‘Deep Celestial’ and an FSOL-adjunct early ‘90s ambient beauty ‘Space Choir.’
Lifted is a stellar new project sparked off by Matthew Papich (Co La) and Future Times overlord Max D for PAN.
Realised and rendered together with Jordan GCZ and Gigi Masin, among others, LP '1' is an exercise in breaking free of the grid, consolidating a spectrum of congruent ideas and idiosyncratic styles with a beautifully communal spirit putting a contemporary spin on the freedoms of '70s jazz fusion. From initial studio sessions recorded by Matthew and Max in their respective Baltimore and Washington DC studios, they incorporate synth and piano overdubs dialled in from Amsterdam and Venice, hashing out an inter-continental web of hyaline electronics, jazz ballistics and alien dance patterns that surprises and delights with every turn.
Stepping into vividly new territory with the fractious post-footwork spurts of '3D', their kaleidoscopic world twists between the sheer computer jazz fusions of 'Intoo' and visionary 4.1 World house in 'Total Care Zero', glyding on the digitally creamed quintessence of 'Bell Slide' to the intra-dimensional ambience of Gigi Masin's keys and Papich's 3D FX in 'Silver', and adroit Afro-futurist jazz in 'Mint' starring 1432R co-founder Dawit Eklund on bass + synth. On a lysergic level of production detail, '1' is up there with Pete Kember's work on the recent Panda Bear album, but the dextrous grooves and intoxicating jazz vibes place it over the horizon, just beyond Move D's classic Conjoint project or Detroit's Urban Tribe classics.
The classic 12 disc Parmegiani Box Set finally given a reissue by INA GRM, covering the majority of Parmegiani's musique concrète output recorded between 1964 and 2007. Is there a more important, influential, totemic single-artist collection in all of electronic music?
The Wire magazine described this amazing package as "A bargain price treasure chest....containing worlds of inexhaustible spaciousness and strangeness" and, indeed, listening through just some of the 12 cd's included you find yourself drawn into a multi-faceted world of strange sound sources and audio manipulations designed to play tricks on your senses to an extent that has left this reviewer almost paralysed with wonderment.
Parmegiani was mentored by the founding father of Musique Concrète, Pierre Schaeffer. Making use of technological advances that gave the world magnetic tape and microphones, Schaeffer pioneered a method of taking everyday sounds and transforming them into unrecognisable, detached pieces of music with no identifiable sound source, a style that became known as Acousmatic music. Parmegiani was hugely influenced by Schaeffer's pioneering work and Groupe de Recherche Musicale (GRM), the French Radio institution that is often described as the French equivalent of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.
The work Parmegiani would go on to create would make use of these Acousmatic techniques in creating a body of work which is not only one of the most significant of the 20th century, but also hugely influential on a whole host of musical pioneers that would follow in his wake, with Christian Fennesz, Aphex Twin and Jim O'Rourke being notable disciples. These 12 cd's cover the majority of Parmegiani's musique concrète legacy and include pieces recorded between 1964 and 2007.
Hard to comprehend the immersive and often woozy effect of these recordings, ranging from eerie cut-out tape loops through to popular music plunderphonics and proto-distilled-dub that's impossible to absorb in one sitting. L'Œuvre Musicale is one of the most impressive and important collections of electronic music you'll likely ever hear, but also one of the most rewarding.
In the 15+ years that have elapsed since 'Loop Finding Jazz Records' first shuffled out of his ambrosially dusty speakers, Jan Jelinek's most famous album has acquired an almost mythical status. Originally released via Pole's defunct Scape imprint, it now finds new life via Jelinek's own Faitiche label, for a new generation to marvel at one of the finest examples of loop-based electronic music typical of the early noughties.
Taking what reads like a pretty austere set of ingredients, Jelinek's technique revolves around a trio of elements which consist of second long cuts of 1960's-70's jazz recordings, the loop-finding modulation wheel (do your homework!) and the Moiré effect; albeit rendered in the acoustic as opposed to the image and spectral domains.
If all this sounds a bit academic, be assured that on record it is anything but; as crumbling edifices of mealy rhythms slowly pulse into life and swirl around your head like snow storms clashing with a dust devil. Taking sediments of fathom deep static then skimming the best stuff from the top, Jelinek opens through the dampened echoes of 'Moiré (piano & organ)' wherein a slow-motion thrum of spiraling clicks, rustles and analogue tones conspire to give the impression of recondite perspectives that extend well beyond the constituent elements.
Elsewhere, 'Rocky in the Video Age' instills a gratuitously optimistic blush to the aquatic micro-sound ebb, 'Moiré (Strings)' is a perfect companion to Basinski's disintegrating tape archive, whilst 'Them, Their' represents an aural crease so sleight you can only catch its distinctive gleam from the corner of your eye.
Autechre's classic third album from 1995, reissued for the first time in 15 years...
Completing the triumvirate of early Autechre essentials, Tri Repetae was the duo’s cranky contribution to mid ‘90s electronic music, and, like its predecessors - Incunabula and Amber - a record that completely defines certain aspects of that era for many, us included.
It’s possibly best known for including the peerless electro-trance swerve of Eutow - which could literally kill someone prone to AMSR in the right situations (not a bad way to gan) - whilst the rest of the LP cements some of Autechre’s sharpest, neck-snapping productions.
If you’ve only heard this album via download or streaming, or are only aware of their later gear, you’re in for a treat.
Roland Kayn’s extraordinary cybernetic firmament is brought into sharper focus by Jim O’Rourke’s sensitive remastering on the 2022 edition of ‘Infra’, some 41 years since it was generated at the Institute for Sonology, Utrecht.
Highlighting a true landmark by one of the c.20th’s legendarily unsung pioneers, this first reissue faithfully represents one of the handful of boxsets that brought Kayn’s peerless solo vision to the world between the recently reissued ’Simultan’ (1977) and ‘Tektra’ (1984) sets. Filling in a vast section of Kayn’s known, early cosmos, ‘Infra’ imparts the feeling of a millennia-wide, time-lapsed image of deep space condensed into 3 hours of astronomic roil and intergalactic sturm und drang with uniquely breathtaking results.
On its unfathomably panoramic electronic canvas, shearing masses of modular synth contours calve away to orchestral shock outs and what sounds like Cocteau Twins riffs slowed 1000%, provoking atavistic swells of emotional response as well as pangs of dread-filled futurism from its incredibly lush whorls and monstrous mechanical mastications. In terms of scale and scope, its might is matched by few others in the electronic music field, with forebears in the early electro-acoustic enigmas of Stockhausen and Éliane Radigue, and a lone contemporary in Jaap Vink, all paving the way for descendants such as NWW’s ’Soliloquy for Lilith’ and Jim O’Rourke’s ‘To Magnetize Money And Catch A Roving Eye’, but yet few open the mind’s eye so wide as Kayn.
Marking just over 10 years since Roland Kayn’s passing (1933-2011), it’s great to see the late, great composer receive his overdue flowers in recent years, as fascination with his previous band, Gruppo di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza (ft. likes of Egisto Macchi and Ennio Morricone) has given way to obsessions with Kayn’s uniquely uncompromising solo pathways. With thanks to the archival endeavours of his daughter Ilse Kayn, and Finland’s frozen reeds label, Roland’s visions of a music unanchored from time, space, and - as much as possible - from human input has finally found its audience with a world edging ever closer to the brink his music describes.
Listening to ‘Infra’ it truly feels like Kayn has peered into the abyss, skirting the event horizon of a black hole in order to relay its terrors and beauty to our fleshy messes back on earth. It’s no quick fix experience, but one that needs requisite time and space to become properly immured in its jaws, but when given, the experience wholly swallows ones mind and transports somewhere completely else; subliminally suspending a sense of disbelief and recalibrating one’s proprioceptions in slow-burning, soul-combing and mindblowing form.
Panel-beating techno turmoil by UK producer Conrad Pack for his new label Lost Domain with seemingly vague connections to Kiran Sande's Low Company.
Also known as Deathplate and Horizontal Phase, and for running the SELN label with DJ Gonz, Conrad Pack specialises in a form of propulsive techno stewed in rusty electronics. ‘DOMA4’ is a bristling example of the sound he’s been forging for the past few years, firming up as steely techno roll in ‘Influence’, and pounding to foundry tattoo in ‘Balane’, while ‘Gosplan’ cracks out the warehouse-strength kicks, ‘Paradise’ trades in guttural, unrelenting techno minimalism a la Thomas Brinkmann, and the Milton Bradley-esque swill of ‘Turn’ gives way to the oxidising industrial minimalism of ‘Process’.
Epic 16 hour François Bayle retrospective, an unparalleled document of the key C.20th electro-acoustic and concrète pioneer and director of the hugely influential GRM institution from 1966-1997, where he was instrumental in bringing the Acousmonium speaker array and INA-GRM label to life, among many important, enduring innovations
This 10 year reissue of ’50 Ans d’Acousmagique’ joins INA-GRM’s quintessential boxsets of Pierre Schaeffer, Pierre Henry, Parmegiani, Radigue, and Xenakis in a rare, stellar microcosm of works by twentieth century groundbreakers. At 16 hrs long, and including 228 tracks, it offers a comprehensive overview of François Bayle’s unfathomable catalogue of work between 1972-2012. During this time Bayle was pivotal in altering perceptions of music’s materiality and purpose at the most fundamental and philosophic levels through his work in developing the Acousmonium diffusion system - an “orchestra of loudspeakers” which has become key to the GRM’s facilities in Paris - as well as supporting technological developments (Syter, GRM Tools, Midi Formers, Acousmographe) which are vital to his own remarkable compositions, and his endeavours organising radio broadcasts and events.
Deeply informing and paralleling the history of recorded electronic music during its formative golden years, Bayle’s recordings render an embarrassment of riches for the discerning and explorative listener and historians of vanguard C.20th music. Between the flighty electro-acoustic staging of his avian dreams on ’72’s ‘Trois Rêves D'oiseau’ to the sensually lathered cosmic delirium of 1978-80’s ‘Erosphère’ works, to his beguiling latter tributes to his tutors at the Paris Conservatoire and Darmstadt summer courses, Messiaen and Stockhausen; the overwhelming scope of Bayle’s work, and thus the boxset, is brought into clearer focus by its chronological sequencing, offering a logical pathway thru his incredible projections of imagination.
It bears reflection that figures such as François Bayle created, and then opened, doors of perception for music in the past century that have come to mirror and shape the soundsphere we now inhabit. His innovations in sound spatialisation and the embrace of an acoustic unknown, or acousmagique, underline some of the most fascinating expressions of pathos thru art in our lifetimes, and this boxset is more than enough to send heads reeling into deep time for eons to come.
Maryanne Amacher’s pioneering work with otoacoustic emissions and psychoacoustics inform these deeply uncanny pieces for voice synthesis and improvised electronics from Julia Holter collaborator Scott Cazan
For anyone scratching their head at the technical terminology; OAEs are “sounds given off by one small part of the cochlea when it is stimulated by soft clicking sounds. When the sound stimulates the cochlea, the outer hair cells vibrate. The vibration produces a nearly inaudible sound that echoes back into the middle ear.” While primarily used as a hearing test for babies (according to an audiologist who checked Maryanne Amacher recordings while I did a hearing test), OAEs have been artfully applied to music by the likes of Maryanne Amacher since 1991’s ‘Petra’ for two pianos, with examples of distorted combination tones also heard in Éliane Radigue recordings, and more brutally by the likes of Florian Hecker and Marcus Schmickler in recent decades. We can now add Scott Cazan, an LA-based composer, performer and sound artist with the otherworldly experience of ‘Three’.
Primed to practically freak out anyone who hasn’t heard otoacoustic emissions previously, the results of ’Three’ explore a spectrum of responses to the auditory hallucination reneging from subtly mesmerising to more aggressively invasive and bullish. The first half can be considered as softening up inquisitive lugs with the ringing tones of ‘Three 1’, shatterproof whistle of ‘Three 2’, and the insectoid ecology of ‘Three 3’, before its 2nd half really lets fly, holding a piercing, jagged tension between the ruptured vocals of ‘Three 4’ and wax-emulsifying noise of ‘Three 6’ that’s sure to pique interests of music’s outer limits explorers.
London house lynchpin, DJ IC of the Circle crew, measures out a weighty debut album of UK takes on amapiano, including a bonus track with Mellowbone SA.
Since the end of the 2010s, the hypnotic mid-tempo bop of South African amapiano has held strong sway over UK club music producers and dancers. DJ Supa’s Housupa label, along with the likes of DJ Polo & Razzler Man’s Renk Groove, have led the way for new Black British slants on ama’s prevailing motifs, giving a more spaced out, rolling slant on its signature log drum patterns and oozing subs that have packed out dances in London and across the country. ‘Aquarius’ is arguably this hybrid scene’s most substantial body of work, with a dozen solo aces plus a collaboration with Mellowbone & Blaq Reverse that defines the cross-continental, diasporic sound from a UK perspective.
Basically an up-to-the-minute iteration of deep house, trimmed of the classic sound’s fancier frills, DJ IC’s productions can be heard to resemble bleep techno’s soundsystem mutations of Chicago & Detroit, as much as UKG’s morphed-in-translation take on US garage, or the way OG South African township funk mirrored disco and the ‘780s house phenomenon. DJ IC ties up his bonds in sleekly minimal designs on ‘Aquarius’, launching with the unresolved trancey tension of its title tune and toggling he atmospheric pressure between the balmy’ Bounce’ to the darker, intensified tang of ‘Lekker’, the ruggedly toned bass of ‘The Drop’ and ‘Wooly’, and a big highlight on ‘Whistle Theme’.
Maria Rossi graces Vladimir Ivkovic’s Offen Music with a special new round of plasmic vocal incantations. This stuff works like a book of spells, we tell you.
Descending from her cloud base somewhere above Glasgow, Rossi presents her most succinct suite of tunes in ‘Seesteyttää’ after a handful of progressively tight and impressive releases with Night School and Primordial Void since 2019. Her sound is now so familiar it feels like she’s been around much longer, channelling to our minds the layered vulnerability of Grouper and the arcane wonder of the Cocteaus, but with a contemporary concision that loosely places her in precious zones also shared by Teresa Winter and Orphan Fairytale.
The four songs here are dense but deeply enchanting, eliding inspirations from Finnish folk via rippling rhythmelodic synths and percussion, and subtlest vocal processing, to sound something like devotional music for an ambient love cult. Somewhere between the plaintive sway of ‘Walthamstow Suokellot,’ the chiming bliss pop of ‘Rushmoren Sipulihoyryt Saniaiset,’ and the ice cave ambience of ‘Selkeammat Vedet’ and ‘Taivaankappaleet.’ we ascended to a higher plane...
A new addition to the Hakuna Kulala family, Congolese producer Chrisman torches the borders between gqom, trap, taraxina and Afrohouse on his debut release 'Ku Mwezi' - a potent club cocktail that's one part Slikback, one part DJ Lag and one part DJ Plead = next gen dancefloor futurism.
Erupting in a haze of trance arps, gqom-influenced kicks and convulsing synths, 'Hewa' is an apt introduction to Chrisman's musical star system. Currently the in-house engineer at Nyege Nyege's villa studio - having recently replaced Don Zilla - he brings serious technical knowhow to the kind of cybernetic next-wave intensity familiar from Kenyan wunderkind Slikback, slowing gqom to a ruff crawl, cross pollenating it with Atlanta trap and double-timing it into frenetic hard dance.
The title track offers a curveball; a collab with Egyptian mahraganat alchemist Yunis that evolves from a molasses-slow Cairo template into eerie, synth-led 2CB nightmare fuel. It's a midpoint between 3Phaz's furious electro-mahraganat hybrids and Jasmine Infiniti's aerated, midnight electronix, but without any easy payoffs. 'Lamuka' and 'Mukwano Gwange' lock into a Durban rattle, slicing into the template and introducing weightless vocals and synths, anxious percussion and nauseous atmospherics.
Chrisman once again demonstrates East Africa’s rich seam of delirious club invention. The Hakuna/Nyege axis is basically untouchable, still.
As far as we can tell this is the first full length collaboration between Mark Fell and his son Rian Treanor, a sprawling, incredibly detailed 90 minute opus that sits somewhere between pastoral/environmental music and plasmic Musique Concrète, recorded in and around their garden in Rotherham, South Yorkshire over the summer last year. We’ve listened to it countless times and still can’t fully get our head round it, we think its one of the most ambitious and intricate renditions of Quiet music you’ll likely ever hear - a huge recommendation if you're into Jakob Ullmann, Arthur Lipsett, Lambkin, Parmegiani, Rashad Becker, Marginal Consort and of course Fell & Treanor’s own work - one to immerse yrself in with zero distractions.
Fractal not fractional, these recordings weave Fell & Treanor’s signature palettes in previously unheard, unpredictable ways; incorporating their interests in the expressive intricacies of Indian Raga music with an inherent sense of Japanese wabi-sabi and a patina of location recordings, to realise a blossoming, allegorical sort of sound bath or sonic garden. The presence of Mark’s parents meant they steered clear of “dance” music or anything that attacked, tempering the sound to an ultra subtle flux of feathered, polymetric percussion, trickling keys, and glowing electronic tones sensitive to their shared family space. Its effect would gently lull Rian’s gran to sleep, and likewise exerts the same influence on us; convecting a zen-like balminess that aligns the chakras and is a genuine wonder to experience.
Time and place melt into an inception-like routine alien to normality, ultimately resembling the patterns of non-linear, cyclic time consciousness Mark had been reading about, and his music with Rian follows this logic; folding in and out of itself with a surreal quality. What start out as sections of location recorded snapshots - people milling in the background, a wind chime, gentle breeze, birds chirping - get slowly augmented by washes of electrostatic, filigree electronics, pulsing subs and sudden percussive bursts, enveloping your ears to transport you to unknown dimensions; somewhere between that Rotherham garden and the furthest reaches of your imagination. For a 90 minute piece of expressionism, what stands out about ‘Last exit to Chickenley’ is how remarkably architectural it is; detailed in every nook, resolved from every angle.
We’ll leave the backstory for you to read in the included liner notes, but in the meantime we urge you to give up a couple of hours of your time to fully immerse yourself in this singular, remarkable album.
The astonishing 90min depths of ‘Ocean’ unveil unfathomable layers to Ukrainian enigma Valentina Goncharova’s vast internal landscapes after two revelatory volumes in recent years. Massive RIYL Okkyung Lee, Teresa Winter, Lucy Railton, Svitlana Nianio & Aleksandr Yurchenko
A large-scale, variegated, and mystically brooding epic, ‘Ocean: Symphony For Electric Violin & Other Instruments In 10+ Parts’ was recorded in 1988 at the artist’s home in the Kose subdistrict of Tallinn, Estonia, and was originally found on the rare, 8CD boxset ‘Document - New Music From Russia - The 80’s’ (Leo Records, 1989).
With keener listeners primed by Goncharova’s preceding sets of ‘Recordings 1987-1991’, this newly resurfaced session grants deeper access to her singular soundworld; a slow-burning hybrid of acoustic and electronic inference that she came to formulate in the decades following her concert violin and composition studies in Kyiv, and subsequently at the Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) Conservatory.
However, most crucially, Goncharova is best considered as a “conservatoire deviant” who would earnestly undo her tuition in a process that led her off an unique path to what became framed as new age music, adopting modern recording techniques, and the freedoms of rock and jazz, that prompted her pursuit of improvised musical expression, and can be heard as a precedent for the likes of Okkyung Lee or Teresa Winter nowadays.
Intuition and stream-of-consciousness are the guiding forces behind the unpredictable wonders of ‘Ocean’. Any sense of logic is incidental, and more a product of the listener’s own attempt to impose narrative on the music, which draws more on a system of symbols and suggestive association, and the nature of language as a free-flowing form, than any fixed coordinates. Practically ‘Pataphysical in nature, the suite looks beyond mainstream contemporary physics, philosophy and fringe scientific research to pose freely-associated answers to open-ended questions on the harmony of the spheres, with self evident results manifest in the way that only music can model.
Ranging from primitive spectralism resonating with the output of Romania’s Hyperion Ensemble in its early stages, thru burbling minimalism, to skull stroking string resonance recalling Lucy Railton’s extended tekkerz, magisterial tape loops of accreted synth and operatic vocals, and its final deep dive into the depths of her soul, Goncharova’s work is radically free of artifice and simply sounds out-of-this-world, but is very much an expression of its most ephemeral, imperfect, unquantifiable nature.
Touted by the label as the scariest, most inappropriate and possibly most influential kids TV music of ALL TIME, Sidney Sager and The Ambrosian Singers’ ‘Children of the Stones’ really is a terrifying anomaly collecting polyphonic vocal drone and “wordless wails” you’d sooner associate with the darkest Italian library records than anything made for children’s television. It’s a real fucking find this one - highly recommended if yr into anything from Delia x Daphne to Demdike.
Accompanied by some excellent liner notes from Stewart Lee, who manages to capture that weird pre-internet feeling of never being quite sure if that moment of weirdness you saw as a kid on tv was real or imagined, you’d be forgiven for putting ‘Children of the Stones’ down as some mad hallucination if it wasn’t for this artefact before you now.
As Lee explains, ‘Children of the Stones’ presumed an intelligence and curiosity “beyond the usual assumptions about the pre adolescent audience” - touching on themes of adult fears and longings, and featuring as protagonists a village of lobotomised weirdos which provide the concept for the score.
Blending unhinged choral work by the Ambrosian Singers, with radiophonic effects and horror film themes that resemble aspects of loftier avant-garde theatrical works of the era, it’s not hard to hear how this stuff could induce phantasmagorias in imaginations not yet overstimulated by the sugar rush of social media and hyper-strobing cartoons.
The whole thing lasts just 20 minutes and includes some 31 parts of music oscillating between echoes of church and theatrical music and richly evocative, dread-filled concrète and psychedelic fantasy that, luckily enough for these times, sound best with the heating off and a musty paperback illuminated by torchlight under the bedsheets.
What a find.
Radical harpist Rhodri Davies revives his 2003 debut solo release with a reissue on his own label as a stark reminder of his uniquely inventive brilliance.
One of the UK’s most vital, versatile, and combustible improvisers since the late ‘90s, Davies has earned a reputation as a fearless explorer of his historic instrument’s range, as applied on recordings with everyone from Apartment House to Richard Dawson & Hen Ogledd, Derek Bailey and even Charlotte Church. On ‘Trem’ we catch fire from a series of concert recordings made at St. Michael and All Angels Church, London, 2001 that manifest his prowess in multiple ways, making the harp gurn, shriek, rasp and sing in forms practically unheard previously from the stringed instrument that has been around, in some iteration or other, since 3000 BCE.
Without prior knowledge of context, you might be hard pushed to identify that Davies is even playing a harp, such is the dynamic range he elicits across ‘Trem’. His opener ‘Cresis’ makes haunting use of the church’s acoustic character in an unpredictable play of echoic negative space ranging from bat sonar like pips and half formed melodic structures resembling tortured choirs, thru to more gnarled evocations of doom metal, whereas the rapid plucks and vamps of ‘Undur’ hint at the instrument’s middle eastern provenance, and the album’s titular highlight also wields tape and percussion in a disorienting blizzard or noise masking its origins. In the tantalising high register tone and struck body of ‘Beres’ we hear traces of Romanian spectralist settings, and again a return to metal gnar in the buzzsaw grind of ‘Plosif’, while rupturing passages of near silence in ‘Berant’ and simmering it down to circling embers on ‘Atam’.
One of those releases that makes you feel like no other music exists for a hot minute, Dean Blunt returns with a second Black Metal album for Rough Trade, delving deeper into his unfathomable yet completely approachable and direct take on visceral x melancholic folk-pop. Spoiler: It’s really fucking good.
Aided on most of the songs here by Joanne Robertson’s vocal counterpoint and Giles Kwakeulati King-Ashong’s skittering drums, these songs once again connect to AR Kane’s distinct approach to the avant grade thru imperfection. In effect, it feels like Blunt manages to squeeze all the sterile sheen out of overly tasteful music, leaving a throbbing mass of flesh, blood vessels, nerve endings - exposed and beautiful. It’s what AR Kane called ‘Kaning’ (see Dhanveer Singh Brar’s excellent 'Beefy's Tune’ book for more on this) - and effectively provides a vital riposte to a world in which so much “art" is presented and consumed as a form of numbing.
And that riposte requires no explanation - a personal narative woven with little concession to anything - there’s not even a tracklisting or credits on the physical formats, instead Blunt’s ideas are wrapped up in a succession of first grade earworms, string sections here and there, billowing subs - all melancholy and ambiguous bliss.
"Flaws are discontinuities that act as tiny fissures, allowing the dim and distant, diffused gem light of pre-creation to slip thru - it is this that music existed for - a signpost, a reminder, a note.” Rudy Tambala / A.R. Kane
Black Metal 2 is as real as it gets.
Cosey Fanni Tutti's attempt to integrate Delia Derbyshire's style with her own is a dense, fascinating listen, using the Radiophonic Workshop composer's original notes for guidance on a full length suite of engrossing mood pieces.
Cosey finds a subtle meeting point between her slithering electronics and Derbyshire's future-facing oscillator and tape transmissions. Unlike her last album, 2019's "Tutti", there's none of the industrial percussion that reminded listeners how instrumental she was in shaping the sound of British electronic music. Those hypnotic synth textures that have always been central to Cosey's music sound even more poignant when colligated with Derbyshire's unmistakable sonic fingerprints.
The problem with finding enough music to accompany a full-length movie about Derbyshire is that the composer didn't record a great deal of original pieces. Those we have access to - the original "Doctor Who" theme and classics like 'Blue Veils and Golden Sands' and 'The Delian Mode' - are too well known to keep reusing again and again. So Tutti went to Derbyshire's notorious tape archive - a box of 267 reel-to-reel tapes and thousands of papers - entrusted to the Radiophonic Workshop's Mark Ayres after she died. Most interestingly, the archive also includes notes from Derbyshire about how she fabricated her sounds, allowing Tutti to visit similar sonic spaces using her own arsenal of synthesisers and tape machines.
From the opening track Cosey stamps her own signature, playing her beloved Cornet thru a dense fog of reverb, with percolating electronics doing their thing somewhere down below in the aether. Radiophonic markers extend throughout the album, through delay and reverb, then a creeping low-end that brings us into Derbyshire's world. Cosey rubs her industrial wares against Derbyshire's library rhythms on tracks like 'Four Bebe' and the squelchy 'Brainwaves & Clogs', and while there are throwback moments, for sure, by the end of the album you feel like you've witnessed a full collaboration between two peerless innovators. Cosey x Delia? Imagine that.
Transfixing, Rastafarian roots reggae mysticism from Cedric ‘Im’ Brooks & Count Ossie’s force of nature unit, returning to orbit on its 50th anniversary edition - 100% essential for fans of Nyabinghi drumming, Dadawah, The Congos, Sun Ra, John Coltrane
Out of sight for too long, save for its 2016 Japanese pressing, ‘Grounation’ rightfully takes its mantle as a foundational expression of Afro-rooted, soul-jazz spiritual consciousness heard thru the prism of Jamaican music. Led by master Nyabinghi drummer Count Ossie (and his African Drums ensemble of crack Rasta players), coloured with the joyful, quietly lamenting, and powerful sax of Cedric ‘Im’ Brooks, and voiced by the poetic declarations of Brother Samuel Cayton; the sprawling body of work is a landmark of Jamaican music that Soul-Jazz respectfully compare with Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On’ in terms of its historic impact and a cultural statement of that time, when a rising African diasporic consciousness was emerging and disseminated in the early ‘70s via its most vitally transcendent medium; music. Just jaw-dropping, hauntingly life-affirming stuff from any angle. Deserves a place on every self-respecting music lover’s shelf.
“The Mystic Revelation of Rastafari group came into existence at the start of 1970s, the union of two artists of equal repute – Count Ossie and his African Drums and saxophonist Cedric ‘Im’ Brooks’ and his group, The Mystics. Both Ossie and Brooks were alumni from the great Studio One Records.
Master drummer Count Ossie and his collective of Rastafarian drummers performed for Haile Selassie on his momentous visit to Jamaica in 1966. Cedric Brooks came out of the Alpha Boys School – the fertile breeding ground of musicians who dominated the Jamaican music scene from the 1960s onwards; Tommy McCook, Don Drummond, Johnny Moore, Headley Bennett, Johnny Osbourne, Yellowman, Leroy Smart, Bobby Ellis, Joe Harriott, Eddie Thornton, Vin Gordon, Rico Rodriguez, Owen Gray, Leroy ‘Horsemouth’ Wallace and more.
The Mystic Revelation of Rastafari’s ‘Grounation’ is a massive opus, a work of profound musical genius that tells the story of Jamaica through music and words. The album is a cornerstone in the history of reggae, a unique and other-worldly album the like of which has never been made since.”
After 10 years of rollicking techno velocity, Blawan squeezes his gritty modular sound into ruder, more syncopated styles on his first adventure with XL.
Now Barnsley’s 2nd best export after Rate My Takeaway, Jamie Roberts aka Blawan comes into his own on ‘Woke Up Right Handed’, running a devilishly swanged out sort of UK machine funk that’s best characterised in the EP’s highlight ‘Close The Circle’, and which percolates thru it’s wiry but big boned grooves; pranging out in the spiralling synth leads of ‘Close The Cycle’ and manhandled with a manacled electro grip in ‘Gosk’, with a superb, experimental twyst on the dembow style dialling up early Arca and paralleling Mosca madnesses in the chewy roil of ‘No Rabbit No Life’.
Tirzah's second album is a fuzz'd-aut, narcotic dreamscape, all screwed trip-pop soulfulness and buzzing, chaotic layers of harmonic noize and hazy ambience. An even slower burn than her cult debut, "Colourgrade" is subtly surprising and calmly mindblowing - co-produced again with Mica Levi and Coby Sey plus an additional stealth production job from Kwake Bass & Dean Blunt. Yeah, Next level.
There's something about the way "Colourgrade" was recorded that makes each song sound like a memory, or a blast of familiar warmth from another room. But Tirzah hasn't doused her "Devotion" follow-up in cheap nostalgia or genre signalling. She uses memory as a creative tool, to sketch the outlines of songs and emotions in charcoal before she inks her evolving narrative. This time the songs are broadly structured around motherhood, being written after the birth of her first child and right before the arrival of her second. In her own words, they detail the process of "recovery, gratitude and new beginnings."
Since "Devotion" was released in 2018, we've witnessed a resurgence of interest in lo-glo trip-hop flutter, and since lockdown the home listening mood has been amplified. But Tirzah smartly swerves this obvious route, retaining the soulful downtempo loveliness of her debut but pepping it up with dissociated abstraction, pensive glaciality and smoove, slippery romanticism. In contemplating motherhood and the bond between parent and child, she creates musical swaddling that feels soothing but doesn't resort to cheap thrills.
The title track cracks open the record with timestretched words and rubbery synths melted over brassy bass sounds in arhythmic cacophony. Whistles take over completely and the expected beat never arrives; it's like a soulful acapella injected into a mercifully short psychedelic voyage. Advance single 'Tectonic' offers us the decelerated groove we may have been expecting, with icey cold vocals over downsampled funk that's half '96 Tricky and half '21 Taz & Meeks.
At its best, "Colourgrade" is unsettlingly simple. On its surface the Dean Blunt co-produced 'Recipe' is a stark vocal over a squashed half-speed beat, but repeat listens tear the seal off the tub, letting the prismatic warmth of complex emotionality haze into the atmosphere - it's just so good. The album's longest piece, 'Crepuscular Rays' is also its most uncompromisingly strange, with Tirzah's disembodied, mutated voice dripping like strawberry syrup over creamy phased waves of strummed electric guitar.
One of the most satisfying and consistently surprising records we've heard in 2021 so far, "Colourgrade" feels as sentient and unpredictable as the new lives that inspired it. It's gonna keep on growing.
Inspired by a road trip through South Dakota's desolate badlands, John Also Bennett put together his latest solo LP using a lap steel guitar, Yamaha FM synth and field recordings, using long-form microtonal drones and tones to evoke the windswept plains and sparkling, empty landscape. Think Susan Alcorn or Daniel Lanois in a panoramic vista that’s never quite what it seems.
Struck by the startling landscape around him while driving through South Dakota and its “remnants of an ancient seafloor mixed with the ash of a volcanic eruption, eroded over millennia and now resembling the tangled folds of earth’s brain” - JAB put together the initial sound concept for the album based around a lap steel guitar, Yamaha SY77 synth and field recordings. Developing the sounds further when he relocated to to the cliffside village of Livaniana on the island of Crete, Bennett devised a technique to transform his lap steel sketches into MIDI notes, which he subsequently fed into his synthesiser to fill out the complex, resonant tones. And it's this semi-generative sound that characterises the album: the backbone is ethereal, experimental lap steel improvisation not unlike something Susan Alcorn might have come up with, but rendered through an unusual blend of instrumentation that sounds like Ry Cooder’s Paris Texas transposed, relocated and melted by the Cretan sun.
The most generous track is 'Nowhere', a 15-minute proof of concept that lays out Bennett's method and paints a stark horizon. Here, silence, pace and duration are key to Bennett's pealing tones, plucked and then extended by subtle electronics. On ‘Spectral Valley’ - the notes are channelled through an emaciated brass band, duetting with what sound like laser swords. It's a majestic, impossibly sad, beautiful four minutes of music. Bennett's use of field recordings is almost as fine-drawn, deployed as subliminal reminders of the subject matter, used to hint at the windswept American plains as Bennett's guitar simmers into nothingness. Footsteps interrupt the aptly titled 'Badlands', allowing us to grasp the arid landscape as a rhythmic crunch underpins glissando wails. It’s a ghosted form of Americana, re-considered from the distance of a different continent.
There's a level of melancholy that feels measured and disconnected throughout - animals wail, insects hiss in gentle contemplation - or is that really what we’re hearing? It’s a poignant and beautiful album that provides no easy answers. Sunset has never sounded so desolate - or so disconcertingly beautiful.
Frankfurt standard bearer for sexy, noirish, industrial body music Benedikt Frey tweaks out class spins on early ‘90s darkside breaks, grungy electro and early techno with typical flair
‘Recall’ marks Frey’s full-fledged solo flight with Tel Aviv’s Malka Tuti after compilation and remix appearances. The four trax son a fine spectrum of recombinant, uchronic styles that reimagine original styles as they never happened. His title tune’s rolling breaks, Reese bass and gloaming pads feels like early ‘90s Joey Beltram recording for PCP, whereas the offbeat swag of ‘Wonky System’ tests out a sort of early/proto-Goa-adjacent blend of breaks and entrancing arps, and ’40hz’ lends a sexier, spiralling slant to that Frankfurt-via-Goa style, and ‘Troll’ leans toward a sort of Meat Beat Manifesto club style with sharp break and booming subs wrapped up in an aerobic mystic haze.
Jon K and Elle Andrews’ MAL imprint returns with a new LP from one of the London experimental underground's best kept secrets, Rory Salter aka Malvern Brume. His music is rare, eccentric and mysterious - somewhere between Coil's bleak ritual magick and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop's most experimental, minimal fringes.
Malvern Brume operates just beneath the radar, occasionally turning up at Café OTO lineups and on a smattering of releases for Low Company, Alter, Infant Tree and Kasual Plastik - but he’s never one to shout too loudly about his work. ‘Body Traffic’ is his most interesting set to date, laying bare a process melting found sounds, field recordings and spoken word into throbbing, pulsing rhythms. It’s an evocation of a fraught mindset during the early weeks of lockdown in 2020; sequestered in his flat next to a trainline, the infrasonic - and more audible - rumbles of rolling stock and a nagging sense of dread infecting his ambiguously discomfiting recordings.
Operating in a headspace that values world-building and vivid, visual emotionality, Salter’s careful melodies are familiar - the distant, weeping melancholia of 1970s British TV hangs off the recordings like net curtains, and his atmosphere loops into experiments that weave through bare traces of industrial music, blank-faced electro pop, and hedonistic Brummie techno, all reduced to a cinder.
The mood is set on the bellyaching resonance and crawling walls of the title tune, while 'Through Beaked Fog Horns' is drowned beneath morning mists: lopsided synth drones choke and drift, percussion mutates into inebriated bubbles, and tape-f*cked environmental whirrs create an atmosphere that’s hard to decipher in one take.
‘Moss Spines Clenched’ follows cryptic stains on peeling flocking, and the icy creep of ‘Tense Branches Waver’ quivers beyond a cracked windowpane. The artist’s voice appears from beneath a cardboard box fort in the imaginary world of ‘Cornered Into Sleat’ as a distant drum beats out a marching thud and traffic squeals are sculpted into chirpy whistles, before ‘Bri Dun’ resolves the eerie tension in an OOBE-like ascent above the dado-rail and across the tracks, watching himself fade into a dissociative bliss.
"All chatter falls quiet…” Salter murmurs thru saturation and white noise. It’s a sound that’s gonna stick with us for a while.
"Dubplate Specials" from King Tubby's Hometown Hi-Fi out on Jamaican Recordings.
"King Tubby's Hometown Hi-Fi was one the great Sound Systems in Jamaica. It also proved a fantastic outlet for the Dub Plate Specials cut at Tubby's studio, providing exclusive cuts to be played out and to intice the dance's audience. The tracks at the time were mainly cut over producer Bunny 'Striker' Lee rhythms, that Bunny stored at Tubby's studio which was in fact his home, 18 Drumilly Avenue,Kingston, Jamaica.
The versions were given exclusive plays at Tubby's sound before some finding their way on to vinyl, as the b-side version cut to it's a-side vocal, proving so popular that the records were often brought for its version side over its vocal counterpart. Jamaican Recordings have compiled a selection of cuts that were all tried and tested on Tubby's Home Town Hi Fi Sound System and worked a great set of Bunny Lee's rhythms in fine style."
Uhh this is so next level! Polish artist Antonina Nowacka came up with the idea for ‘Lamunan’ while exploring a cave in Java and singing into the resonant void. When she returned to Warsaw, she looked for a space that had similar sonic properties and found an old fortress, recording a set of eerie choral compositions that bend time and dance thru perception. Unmissable work that’s essential listening for fans of Akira Rabelais, Grouper, Sarah Davachi, the Stroom label, Arvo Pärt or Lyra Pramuk.
We're destroyed by this one; the concept alone is enough to pique our interest, but it's the sound that elevates ‘Lamunan’ to another level. Nowacka's use of reverb and resonance is mindboggling, lulling the listener into a completely unique soundworld that's bold, minimal and effortlessly soulful. The album's title is the Indonesian word for "dreaming" or "fantasy" and that accurately describes the mood.
The magic and mystery of the Javanese cave where ‘Lamunan’ was conceived floats from each composition, in spite of the fact that they were recorded in a Polish fortress. In actual fact, the new location gives the pieces enhanced meaning, bringing in the influence of European sacred music and purpose-built resonant spaces to the forefront. The songs sound ancient and mystical, but also focused and modern, chiming in tune with the charmed minimalism of composers like Sarah Davachi and the mythic vocal ritualism of Grouper and Cucina Povera.
It’s a gorgeous, unique album that shouldn't be missed under any circumstances // bold and precious music like it doesn't come around too often.
Mark Fell & Gábor Lázár’s masterclass in shearing computer hyperfunk is one of its decade’s best; a peerless exploration of displaced dancefloor meter and warped chromatic tone, with mind and body-bending results. Finally re-issued in new artwork to sate demand.
Still in a zone of its own, ‘The Neurobiology of Moral Decision Making’ is the result of Mark Fell’s trip to Budapest in 2014, where he and his acolyte, Gábor Lázár practically unravelled the vernacular of contemporary computer and club musics and re-stitched them into brilliantly new & devious designs. Decimating elements familiar to 2-step, footwork, electro, flashcore and f*ck knows, they arrived at a mutual conclusion of sleekly turbulent minimalism in 10 jaw-dropping permutations that dance in the integers of rave music. In the process they effectively re-programmed limbic and motor systems in-the-moment with a wickedly diffractive sense of rhythmic anticipation and shockingly crisp sound for a pinnacle of modern experimental dance music.
With benefit of hindsight, we can now hear this album as a watershed moment for both artists, and this style of production. Since its release, Mark has notably moved away from the sound to work with acoustic instrumentalists, while Gábor has firmly picked up the baton and run with it on the likes of 2018’s ‘Unfold’ album, and more recently ‘Boundary Object’ with Planet Mu. It’s not hard to hear it as a logical peak of Mark’s practice in this mode, solo and with SND, as much as a springboard for Gábor’s future work, while also catalysing a new wave of operators ranging from Rian Treanor to Kindohm, Kirk Barley’s Church Andrews, and Rhyw, who’ve all harnessed these sort of energies to their respective wills.
No doubt the tunes still scare the shit out of DJs with their spasmodic flux, but brave cnuts will recognise the genius on show and let instinct kick in, finding proper club shockers in the slippery 2.1 step whorl of ‘Track 2’ and the scudding dancehall accelerationism of ‘Track 6’, while advanced adventurers will get theirs in the greased straightjacket laser-intensity of ‘Track 7’ or the devilish dexterities of its closing 12 minute zinger. It’s all just blindingly strong stuff for insatiable ravers and computer music neeks alike, properly future-proofed by its makers’ unyielding tenacity and visionary ingenuity.
Third and final Worst Edits session in the series from the don Jamal Moss, deploying an hour and a half of unmixed bullets made to let u LARP as The Sun God himself demolishing and rebuilding New Wave, Chi-house and Disco in that inimitable, deadly style.
Vol 3 deploys 1.5 hrs of his heaviest heat, executed in a style directly inspired by Ron Hardy DJ sets and the styles heard at Chicago clubs Jamal was a patron of during the late ‘80s and thru the ‘90s. As we’ve already mentioned, even eulogised; Jamal’s extended DJ sets are little short of life-changing/affirming experiences that make most other DJ sets pale in comparison, and that’s in part due to the devilish, unpredictable swerve of his edits, as you’ll hear here. Ye ye they’re rough and f*cked around the edges and that’s what makes them so untouchable.
Jamal brings a seriously deep knowledge and unique frame of reference to every edit in a way that just cannot be sniffed at. Yet again we’re mostly stumped for track IDs, but can guarantee they’re all zingers if you’ve a kink for this kind of thing (read: you love dancing), including unmissable chops of MBO & Klein and John Cooper Clark in it along with incendiary, tracky lathers, cavalcades of Afro-Latin percussion, and jaw-wobbling peakers, plus an incredible 15 minute disco-funk rug cutter, and machine gunned disco stutters to polish you off.
Uwe Zahn returns with another weighty slab of waxy ambience that's rooted in his advanced sound design techniques.
Zahn has been prolific in recent years, collaborating with artists like Taylor Deupree, Mike Lazarev and Porya Hatami, and developing a style of composition that links back to his beloved early work without repeating it. 'Sinter' is a set of beatless tracks that don't completely avoid rhythm, but concentrate most on Zahn's obsessive sound design - a key feature of his music since the very beginning. On 'Glimmer' we can hear a flicker of the finely-tweaked romanticism that drew us to 'Atol Scrap' all those years ago, but Zahn has a more peaceful resolve at this stage in his career, and the microscopic whirrs and hip-hop inspired beats have been replaced by heaving clouds of white noise and crunchy waves of synth.
'Muster' is more in line with the faded output of Taylor Deupree's 12k imprint (where Zahn has released some of his most recent records), and 'Wendung' is a tearful and gaseous answer to Brian Eno's 'An Ending'. It's when Zahn punctuates the heady atmospheres with staccato sounds - a key facet of his beatless work since the legendary 'Minth/Neel' 7" - that we get weak at the knees. Just check the brief but beautiful 'Skaal' or the dubby and spinetingling 'Decay'.
Greek genius Christos Chondropoulos’ stunning debut for The Death of Rave finally lands on vinyl - an incredibly imaginative masterwork rich with quartertone melody and meticulously chiselled production, shaped into a future-folk songbook that deeply expands on his wonders for 12th Isle and The Wormhole. Highly recommended if yr into Paul DeMarinis, Rashad Becker, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Kara-Lis Coverdale's 'Aftertouches', Jonathan Bepler’s soundtracks for Matthew Barney, Black Sabbath or Aphex Twin. Floors us every time!
Continuing Christos’ singular fascination with, and reappraisal of, Ancient Greek modes, ’Relics’ further excavates the deeptime topography of Greek music prior to the ban of “oriental” or 1/4 tone microtonal modes nearly 100 years ago.
Clandestine, euphoric, hyperreal and otherworldly; it takes shape as faintly familiar forms of new age folk, avant-techno and metal musicks, but with an alien appeal that treats the past almost like another planet, never mind a foreign land. Christos studiously raids the past for lost treasure, navigating his tuned instincts as an improvising percussionist, and lover of non-Western composition, to create a uniquely absorbing soundworld that resembles an AI’s dreams after ingesting encyclopaedia entries on thousands of years of Greece prior to 1936. In the process, the album acutely questions his and our relationship to the past, and what has become lost in translation with reliance on prelaid templates and the “wisdom” of elders.
Bursting to life with the iridescent arps and new age AI chorale of ‘First Love Fereter’, and concluding with bone-clacking raverie of ‘Jungle X’, the album offers a stunning advance of the themes and aesthetics in Christos' previous records, from the self-released free jazz of ‘Fingerpainting’ (2013) to 2021’s 12th Isle released ‘Athenian Primitivism.’
Thanks to meticulous detailing, ‘Relics’ allows a finer play of textured light and almost tangible - yet entirely generated - voices into his music: most strikingly on the sublime songcraft of ‘Regret’ and ‘I Dream Of You’, while the likes of ‘Asham’ are bathed in deeply uncanny atmosphere, and his percussive proprioceptions are most heightened in the delirious battery of ‘War Horns’ and ‘Sacrifice’, with ‘Cyber Crust’ calling up demonic, cthonic pagan spirits resembling Black Sabbath undergoing regression therapy.
Low's thirteenth album is a brutally overdriven, but slow-as-fuck offering from a band who resolutely refuse to stay still. Unlike 2018's "Double Negative" it's not soft and hyper-electronic, "HEY WHAT" is distorted but achingly beautiful - like church songs banged thru a broken radio and blown speaker cones.
Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker's dueling vocal harmonics are at the center of the album, spruced up by sparse sonic elements that sound so fucked they're almost completely unrecognizable. Is it guitar, drums, synth? It's hard to tell as chaotic, fractured sounds buzz and break off beneath Parker and Sparhawk's melancholy chorals. Opener 'White Horses' sets the stage, with mic hiss and axe fuzz slowly breaking into stuttering ear-bending electronics.
It's music that feels dangerously experimental, but never loses the magic of Low's idiosyncratic songwriting in the lead clouds of white noise, wobbling subs and ear-splitting fuzz. This time around Low have found a comfort zone making devotional music that forces itself thru our era's deafening cultural cacophony, finding a place of euphoric resonance. It's proof that a band can exist for nearly three decades and still find relevance in change, self-exploration and sonic rehabilitation.
Ingenious footwork cut-ups for imaginary dancefloors by Sasu Ripatti (Vladislav Delay) on the 1st of 5 x 10” platters that matter for his Rajaton label - obviously a massive RIYL SND, Rian Treanor, RP Boo, DJ Rashad.
An utter masterclass in sample flipping and whipping proper, fantasy dancers into a frenzy, the introductory session belts out four labour-intensively precise, polymetric options for club movement. They each follow the spangled vectors of recent years exploits on Planet Mu albums, and the frenetic footwork of his shots on the Ripatti series, with a more explicitly dancefloor styled brief. Where his groundbreaking disco/deep house cut-ups as Luomo 20 years ago were cubist echoes of OG Chicago and Berlin club music, this lot updates the steez with obsessively disciplined diffractions of contemporary, sped-up Chi-funk, aka footwork, at the service of deadly ‘floor function.
Plucking and rearranging parts other people’s records and his own banks of instrumental chops, Ripatti imagines your body gyring, flexing, and brukking in free space like some 3D animator-cum-futurist club wizard. It feels like the wilder freeform funk and hardcore gnash of his recent records were a form of R&D for this sound and the ultimate fantasy space of the club, which still holds a uniquely idealist space for expression to his imagination and the wider cultural consciousness.
On ‘Please Come Out’ he fucks with Luomo/Daft Punk disco chops with a meter messing 120-into-160BPM torque prime for the canniest DJs, and the gasping ‘Wicked’ severs soulful vocals and feathered chords onto RP Boo-style typewriter percussion, spun out in ravishing swang. ‘Workign With’ follows a darker hunch of DJ Rashad-style footwork raunch with needlepoint focus, and ‘In My Head’ leaps off from the whirring mechanics of latter SND and Rian Treanor’s more maximalist edits to keep feet barely touching the ground in a sort of hyper-rugged ballet.
Put your “cheeky” 2-bit club edits in the toy box, kids; this is the real deal.
Autechre's classic debut album from 1993.
Autechre’s peerless debut album, Incunabula is reissued as a facsimile copy of the original, 1993 release, replete with silver-printed gatefold jacket.
We’re not going to bang on about this too much, but you should know by now that Incunabula is one of the cornerstones of modern electronic music, one of the pinnacles of the British rave epoch and among the most life-affirming records ever, bar none.
Aye, it’s 100% essential.
Remastered to sound clear as a dead still night under a full moon, Carsten Nicolai & Ryuichi Sakamoto’s seminal minimalist masterpiece returns to the water on its 20th birthday
2002’s ‘Vrioon’ is a best-in-class example of late C.20th classical chamber minimalism and precision-tooled electronics, reassessing their roles and interrelations at the cusp of a new era. Its seven sections pay witness to Sakamoto and Nicolai subtly building on the examples of their super minimalist late ‘90s works, spanning installations and loop-based electronics, with a plusher (yet exactingly pruned) palette of chamber piano keys and ultra-precise electronic tones that genuinely sounded like a sort of future had a arrived. With hindsight, it was soon easy to gauge the influence of their innovation on a wave of imitators in their wake, and ‘Vrioon’ still stands as a a masterclass in elegant reductionism and a sterling example of how not to throw out the baby with the bathwater.
In its seven sparing parts Sakamoto dials down his classical skills to an emotive, quizzical quintessence comparable with Morton Feldman, while Carsten Nicolai adapts the icy asceticism of his previous works to provide filigree juxtaposition and sympathetic contours to the piano notes’ crisp attack and wilting decays. The results are simply free of pretension and are soberly, nakedly honest in their execution and effect; conjuring lucidly reflective and melancholic, yet, ultimately ephemeral, structures that are future-proofed by their razor sharp minimalism and timeless sense of patience. Trust, if you’ve not immersed in it before, there are genuinely rare pleasures to be discovered in this recording.
‘John Tchicai With Strings’ is a shocking slab of contemporary jazz from onetime sparring partner for Albert Ayler, Don Cherry and John Coltrane, among many others, here delivering electro-acoustic magick in-the-mix, released in 2005 and finally available on vinyl. It's a wholly unpretentious but quietly inventive classic of our time.
Danish-Afro-American saxophonist John Tchicai brings decades of experience playing with everyone from John Coltrane to Han Bennink and Derek Bailey to the table in a constantly surprising album that may well reconfigure what you know about jazz. Here flanked by Treader’s John Coxon and Ashley Wales of Spring Heel Jack fame on piano, harpsichord, electric guitar and percussion, plus Mark Sanders (Jah Wobble) on drums for a trio of cuts, Tchicai’s sax is the connective tissue that fuses its play of themes and mood, from avian freeness to romantically dusky chamber styles, to heart-breaking tristesse and stately introspection.
Tchicai floats with an enviable, gravity-defying, figurative freeness that comes with a virtuoso’s ability to project and transcend themselves instrumentally. But he’s not playing solo, and the supporting cast all play crucial roles in establishing the conditions for noumenal flight, from the way Coxon’s swooping string and percussion samples buoy and egg Tchicai to unfurl his wings in ‘Lied’, to the haunting, red velvet Lynchian backdrops painted in piano behind ‘Test Piece 1’, and the beautiful play of fading light conjured by sallow strings and bowed cymbal on ‘Formalism’, while the remarkable closing couplet of ‘Lullaby’ and ‘These Pink Roses’, with its poem narrated by Steve Dalachinsky, surely seal the album’s absorbingly lyrical or cinematic nature.
Back once again and lovingly remastered, Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto's second collaboration - originally released in 2005 - still sounds just as icy, calm and deceptively melancholy as it did almost two decades ago. Includes an exclusive previously unreleased track on the vinyl version.
Carsten Nicolai started his collaboration with Sakamoto after the two met in Tokyo following Nicolai's first Japanese tour. A year later, the German minimalist was asked to rework Sakamoto's piano recordings for a compilation assembled by Japanese magazine Code Unfinished. The duo's chemistry was immediate, and this initial project kickstarted two years of musical back-and-forth that resulted in "Vrioon", their 2002-released debut. "Insen" appeared three years later, and was developed as the duo attempted to turn an isolated compositional process into a functional and unpredictable live performance.
The material here is broadly similar to their debut; Sakamoto performs on piano and plays in a style we've come to expect: sustained chords breathe into tiny flourishes that straddle European and Japanese musical traditions. Nicolai meanwhile is markedly restrained, backing Sakamoto with his signature rhythms, but chopping and editing more than adding too many additional sounds. The music is directed mostly by Sakamoto's glacial piano performance, that hands Nicolai's often emotionless digitalism a sorely-needed beating heart.
For anyone who's already familiar with the material, the new Calyx Studio master sounds great, and the inclusion of 'Barco' on the vinyl edition makes it an essential purchase for completists.
Liz Harris (Grouper) and Jefre Cantu-Ledesma join forces for a second time on an impossibly downcast new album of tape-dubbed, smudged and forlorn songs memorializing their friend and collaborator Paul Clipson, R.I.P.
The last time Harris, Cantu-Ledesma and Clipson performed together was in 2016, at Marfa Myths festival in Texas. They spent time in the studio the week of the festival, but shelved the material until Clipson tragically died in 2018. "Daughter captures a strange time spent in the desert, later added to, edited and finally made sense of after we lost the friend we’d been there with," Harris writes in the album's notes. It's a somber set, intended to be absorbed as a whole.
The two artists carefully splice human/environmental elements with resonant piano and stretched guitar drones, tape hiss with whispered, indistinct vocals and the distant whirr of an 8mm film projector. With its requiem qualities in focus, the constituent parts of Harris and Cantu-Ledesma's compositions take on an almost spiritual quality: on 'Revolving Door', piano notes hang like chiming church bells, footsteps tread the pebbles and grit; and when birdsong cuts in harshly on 'Daughter'. it sounds like a kind of ascent. 'Lullaby’ plays like a distant memory, a music box taped to dictaphone, melting past, present and future, guiding us to the stunning 20-minute closer, 'Passage', a frozen meditation for piano, grain clouds and weightless hum.
It's a fitting way to consider and appreciate Paul Clipson's life and his years of creative companionship with the duo; although it’s undeniably and resolutely sad, cracks of joyful radiance continue to permeate throughout, perhaps representing the light that Clipson brought to so many.
A bit of a missing link in Low’s discography, 'Bombscare' has been unavailable for almost two decades, originally released in late 2000 on Tugboat (Glen Johnson’s Rough Trade subsidiary), it’s now been reissued on vinyl by John Coxon and Ashley Wales’ remarkable Treader imprint and provides a bit of context for last year’s roundly acclaimed 'Double Negative’.
It’s mostly about the title track here really, Coxon and Wales’ (aka Spring Heel Jack) provide the sublime, electronic backdrop, offsetting Mimi Parker and Alan Sparhawk’s vocal harmonies and Ed Coxon's strings in a way that, 20 years on, feels woven from the same fabric that made 'Double Negative’ so striking, but which at the time felt disconnected from much of what we knew of the band. Listening to it two decades on - it’s a total revalation, and a testament to Spring Heel Jack’s prescience.
The other three tracks are vintage Low - especially the harp-adorned, morose 'So Easy (So Far)’ - a real heartstopper, in the vein of their finest, hushed tearjerkers.
The first of five-EP's in a series finds Sasu Ripatti splitting his usual rattling dub constructions into their component parts, touching on the advanced minimalism of early albums like 'Anima' and reaching towards a new future.
Ripatti shows absolutely no signs of slamming on the breaks - this first installment was composed quickly in November, while the Finnish innovator was hiding in his studio from the world's troubles. He wanted to revisit some states of mind he had explored early in his career instead of pushing continuously outward, and it drew him back to his earliest mode of production, harking back to his 'Anima' phase.
Over three tracks, Ripatti pulls apart his soundset completely, stopping time and refusing to lock into the grid. Vaporous textures bounce across the spectrum, percussion rolling through in irregular bursts of electrical buzzing and dubbed-out soundscapes. 'Three-Room Problem' falls even deeper into the abyss, obscuring itself beneath looping industrial noise and timestretched detritus. Ripatti has been tweaking his sound obsessively since the early Chain Reaction days, but here he sounds as if he's taking a pause for breath, luxuriating in the moment.
Our fave Delay in a while.
Possession-soundtrack legend Korzyński does feral medieval psych rock on a mind-spanking salvo of unreleased cues and themes for Diabeł, a 1972 historic-horror directed by his longtime accomplice Żuławski, and notoriously banned by Poland’s communist government. The sound design calls to mind everything from When’s plague-infected BM template ‘The Black Death’ to aspects of Ákos Rózmann, but with a funky unchronic psych bent like they dropped acid in How To Kill a God. Fucking nuts!
“Wipe your blade clean. The bloodline of Eastern European kosmische and groundbreaking, grinding cinematic psych rock finally emerges from fifty years of forbidden forestland to fill your thirsty grails. Poland’s prime progressive provocateurs Żuławski and Korzyński finally expose the jagged roots of Possession and The Silver Globe and give the devil his due via this historical vinyl release.
If an opening strapline that reads “Forget everything that you thought you knew about the history of psychedelic rock and horror movies” appeals to you, then further potentially hyperbolic phrases like “Lost Grail” and “Banned Forever” will surely clinch the deal, leaving the hugely significant wider context of this dream come true release surplus to requirement. But as we hope you have come to expect from Finders Keepers releases “The devil is in the detail” and the fact that any mention of the perpetually elusive original master tapes to a 1972 project entitled Diabeł and the phrase “Holy Grail” have become synonymously associated only adds the twisted irony that surrounds this genuine masterpiece of both aforementioned fields.
For those fastidious enough to pursue the hunt, these unearthed recordings represent the crowning glory of the lifelong unison of Maestro Andrzej Żuławski and filmmaker Andrzej Korzyński, two genuine mavericks of Polish experimental cinema who challenged artistic and societal norms, on both sides of a politically restricted regime and on an international artistic stage, without compromise. Friends since childhood, Korzyński and Żuławski may have become divided by limelight and geography (Żuławski the intrepid emigre), but they remained united in their kaleidoscopic creative vision, resulting in a fractured stream of troublesome and mind-bending golden era collaborations such as Possession, The Silver Globe, and Third Part Of The Night. This long-awaited liberation of the psychedelic masterpiece known as Diabeł finally completes the duo’s full vista with what many consider the most vital piece of the prism.
Takahiro Kinoshita's companion album to the recent 'Kaibou Zukan', 'Makafushigi' is darker and far more blown-out than its predecessor - properly damaged Japanese electronics.
'Makafushigi' distances itself from its lengthy predecessor by abstracting bizarre rhythms and dimly-lit electronics into long-form experiments that fizz from dark ambient wailing and cavernous instrumental clangs into unclassifiable and bizarre rhythmic sequences. The 17-minute title track is particularly worthy of close examination, slipping gently from wavy overdriven synth drone into harp-like plucked weightlessness, before transitioning into downtempo beatbox skitters and wooly electronic gurgles.
There's a mix-like quality not to "Makafushigi" but to each separate track. 'Onore' subverts the corrupted DNA of a Yellow Magic Orchestra track into a stretched-out exploration of form and function, shifting from simmering noise into arpeggiated electroid fluctuation, while closer 'Heiwa' sounds like a mislaid Sähkö cut, pulsing like a broken fluorescent tube and dissolving into chaos before it grinds to an industrialized halt.
The first of two volumes, Strut zoom out across Sun Ra’s near half century of 7”s singles for an unprecedented, definitive purview on the late, great cosmic jazz pioneer’s myriad meteorites spanning lounge pearls to purring bops, dreamy doo wop and inimitable modal psychedelia, including alternate takes and versions, all 65, 3.5 hours of them. Christmas just came late or very early for Sun Ra acolytes!
“Strut present the definitive collection of singles released by Sun Ra across his illustrious career, spanning 1952 to 1991. Released prolifically during the 1950s and more sporadically thereafter, primarily on the Saturn label, the 45s offer one-off meteorites from Ra’s prolific cosmic journey, tracing the development of his forward-thinking “Space-Bop” and his unique take on jazz and blues traditions. The collection is hugely varied, ranging from Ra’s spoken word recitations and his early work with Chicago vocal groups to the different phases of his Arkestra, small group and duet recordings. The singles are also unpredictable vehicles for Ra’s music, combining different tracks from different sessions and occasionally making available music which was recorded many years beforehand.
As with his LPs, most 45s were only pressed in small runs and have since become extremely rare and sought after. Only a small handful of copies of ‘Love In Outer Space’ b/w ‘Mayan Temple’ and ‘The Blue One’ b/w ‘Orbitration In Blue’ have ever been seen; some have only been discovered in physical form in recent years; some were planned and pencilled but allegedly never made it to vinyl (including ‘Saturn’ and ‘Velvet’ from the Jazz In Silhouette LP) and some appeared as limited one-off magazine singles and posthumous releases, including ‘Hell #1’ aka ‘Out There A Minute’.
The set is the most comprehensive collection of Ra’s singles to date. Sleeve note writers Francis Gooding and Paul Griffiths brilliantly illustrate the role of the single within Ra’s career and break down each release with detailed track by track notes. Working with Sun Ra LLC and Sun Ra archivist Michael D. Anderson, Strut has also assembled the best possible master sources for each track.
All formats feature fully remastered tracks, rare photos, original 45 artwork, Francis Gooding’s extensive sleeve notes, an interview with Saturn Records founder Alton Abraham by John Corbett and detailed track by track and session notes by Paul Griffiths.”
Tomás Urquieta, Imaabs and Practice form like Voltron to initiate cr1s1s, an unpretentious dancefloor-focused project that swerves complexity in favor of pure visceral rave pressure.
We didn't fully see this one coming that's for sure. Longtime collaborators Urquieta and Imaabs might be best known for their futuristic hybrid dance deconstructions, but as cr1s1s, alongside LOÉ (aka Practice), they take aim at a different target completely. On their second release "El fin de un mundo común" they engineer a short, sharp proof of concept, nailing the pummeling Berghain-ready bussed kick grind on opener 'Genesis' just to prove they can. It's nihilist maximal techno sure, but cr1s1s offer up enough humor to distance themselves from the Euro set, something that develops as they barrel into the skittering, industrial 'Vulgar', and the hard trance and breaks-inspired 'Balance'.
The latter track is a clear standout, lurching from serrated x arpeggiated synth mayhem into choppy dislocated amens and subtle rhythmic trickery, never losing the throbbing 4/4 groove. Versatile Monterrey beatmaker Regal86 turns up for a remix of 'Genesis', flipping the dungeon techno original into a zippy ghetto tech-inspired belter.
High grade Afro-club zingers by Zambian producer She Spells Doom on DJ Pitch and co’s acclaimed All Centre - RIYL Leonce, Scratcha DVA, Cooly G, Príncipe.
Hailing from Lusaka, Zambia in south-central Africa, She Spells Doom has released internationally over the past half decade with the likes of incubator label Car Crash Set and more recently on Tresor’s 30th anniversary comp. This 2023 EP follows previous lines of offbeat Afro-techno and heat-warped synths in three properly compelling club cuts that scale from the shark-eyed, Leonce-like snares and sharply tucked bass swerve of ‘Bossano’ to an outstanding bit of pendulous, mid-tempo dancehall recalling M.E.S.H.’s lean, muscular slant on tarraxho and batida in ‘Manta’, and a crackshot piece of UKF-adjacent house in ‘Penza’ that feels like Dub Organiser era Cooly G or Ikonika’s sped-up Ama mutations. Proper class!
A masterclass in modern folk-techno fusion, pitting Acholi fiddle virtuoso Ocen in the turbulent yet disciplined computer matrices of Rian Treanor with jaw-dropping effect for East African powerhouse, NNT
Uganda meets UK in devilishly ingenious style on ‘Saccades’, the long-in-the-works result of Rian Treanor’s 2018 residency at Nyege Nyege Tapes’ Kampala-based studio incubator. Thousands of miles from his Rotherham home, Rian forged a vital creative kinship with Acholi fiddle player Ocen James, using physical modelling software techniques to create a virtual instrument based around the tunings of the a’dungu, an arched harp, as well as the nah or nag, that allowed Rian to “jam” with Ocen’s rigi rigi, a single string violin.
Under a title that ideally sums up the rapid, rhythmelodic flux of their pointillist percussion, plucks and strokes, ‘Saccades’ throws down some of the most exhilarating outernational treks of recent times. Within a system allowing for Rian to react in real time to Ocen’s expressive chops, they play off each other in utterly beguiling styles that effectively bridge ancient Nilotic tradition with up-to-the-second computer muzik, via free jazz and deep fwd club tekkerz.
Across 9 original zingers, and a surprisingly straight-played Farmers Manual remix, Rian & Ocen harness a scintillating rhythmic energy and ingenuity, diffracting tradition into modernity between the cluttering polyrhythms of ‘Bunga Bule’ and dusk-hailing soundscape of ‘Casascade’, with properly thrilling results in the needlepoint stepper ’Tiyo Ki’, and creakiest free jazz on ‘As It Happens’, plus whorls of iridescent folk-techno futurism in ‘The Dead Centre’ and ‘Agoya’ sequenced beside more haunting use of curdled timbres on ‘Memory Pressure’, or rowdy ceilidh-like party music in ‘Rigi Rigi’.
We were lucky enough to witness an early live iteration of this improvised jam on stage at NNT’s 2018 festival, and can now marvel at the finished product; a radically fluid fusion of what were previously, mutually exclusive styles, projecting the historic, systems-based examples of David Behrman, or indeed Mark Fell’s algorithmic duets with instrumentalists, to the centre of the dancefloor. No hype, it’s simply the best record we’ve heard from Rian or Ocen - a new high water mark of cross-cultural collaboration that makes our head top fizzy as fuck.
Crown prince of the Manc dance, Chunky throws down the first sign of loooong-anticipated debut album, ‘Someone’s Child’ due on Floating Points & Alexander Nut’s Eglo.
Shiver my timbers this is shit hot!!! The Zimbabwe-born, Manc-raised rapper/producer tends to the roots and branches of his sound with utterly inimitable results, pairing biographical bars with a unique brand of playfully grimy, post-dubstep UKG swang cemented in Afro-rhythmic nous.
Surely the only artist in his field who can ride rhythms by A Certain Ratio as adeptly as sets from Loefah or Hessle Audio, his steez is just peerless in ‘Dancin' On Tables’ as he reflects on shotting, his mother, and school days - lyrically conscious but not overbearing - and switching up the flow and cadence between singjay, drill, fast-chat and pure Manc swag every 32 bars. Then there’s his production, bare-bones but with proper subbass tremors and wavey hook that buries itself in the memory. Judging by the strength of this one, we could be on for an instant classic in the full LP package.