Sarah Davachi provides a shortcut to the sublime with 90 minutes of head stroking quiet music - simply unmissable for acolytes of Éliane Radigue, La Monte Young & Marian Zazeela, Kevin Drumm, Andrew Chalk, AFX’s 2nd ambient set
The 10-part retrospective ’Selected Works I & II’ is an ideal way to mark 10 years of releases by composer Sarah Davachi, whose blessed run of recordings of rare, quiet intensity hold among the past decade’s definitive lowkey works. As her legion followers will surely attest, Davachi’s music is possessed of a deeply uncanny potential to mesmerise and transport the mind to other places, following extended lines of melodic and harmonic thought, rooted in early music, chamber classical, and C.20th American minimalism, to the gauziest, most seductive new horizons of timbre and psychoacoustics.
As with her live shows, Davachi’s recorded music operates at, or just below, the speed of resting thought, with a life-affirming ability to sync one’s senses to hers, prompting the imagination to follow its own nose to wherever it goes. To attentively listen to her work can result in genuine, unfettered zen-like or immanent experience, untroubled by the musical clutter that can distract or more plainly signpost emotions, and give listeners a thruline to the sublime, as felt strongly on ‘Selected Works I & II’,
Drawn from material that predates her debut ‘The Untuning of the Sky’ (2013), and also hail from it, as well as excerpted from subsequent live recordings, tape and CD releases, and a precious trove of unreleased work; it all adds up to the sort of release we would direct newcomers as a perfect primer or portal to Davachi’s world. The calming course of ‘Alms Vert’ opens this set, as it did her debut, staking out her fluency of ancient instrumental tongue in contemporary vernacular, while the just intoned drone of ‘In Grand Luxe Hall’ places her in a live context, exploring links between architecture, psychoacoustics, and spirit that ideally reveals the teeth to her music, somehow akin to the drone chronics of Catherine Christer Hennix. The ‘Gathers’ parts from her lockdown tape for our Documenting Sound series characterises a contemporary porousness to noise and natural world, while the incremental shifts of ‘Neustadt’ proves how her music benefits from durational immersion, but likewise enchants in short form on the exquisite ‘First Triad’ and the beatific ‘A Woman Escapes Cue 4’.
'79/80' examines the earliest days of Plus Instruments, Dutch vanguard Truus de Groot's freewheeling experimental project. This anthology bundles a handful of tracks from her rare debut cassette with archival tracks from the same period. Properly spannered gear, it's an industrial-adjacent boil of broken synths, haunted vocals and sozzled tape noise that plays like a cross between The Shadow Ring, Throbbing Gristle, Wolf Eyes and Tolerance.
De Groot was still a member of cult Dutch experimental new wave band Nasmak in 1978 when she officially established herself as a solo artist, using the name Truss + Instruments for the project. She wouldn't stay solo for long, escaping the Netherlands for New York in the early '80s and bringing in assistance from artists like Lee Ranaldo and James Sclavunos, but this collection focuses on the project's genesis. The bulk of the record is snipped from De Groot's 1980-released debut, trimmed slightly and then fleshed out with unreleased tracks from the same time period. And it's remarkably coherent, sounding just as alien and unique now as it no doubt did back then. De Groot has a way of working that sounds haphazard but endlessly endearing, meshing her bizarre vocalizations with off-kilter beatbox blasts, oscillator squeaks and lashings of tape-damaged noise. It's tempting to call it industrial, but there's more going on here - De Groot doesn't sound as if she's in the thrall of any particular genre or other, but experimenting at her own pace, working out exactly what she can do with her modest setup.
Using a multi-track recorder with "whatever crappy gadgets she could find", De Groot trains her focus on snot and attitude, making songs that sound so battered they could fall apart at any moment. 'Lucky Day' introduced the original cassette and welcomes us to this set, bursting into the frame with hoarse screams and ghosted, saturated synth vamps that splinter into springy echoes. The roots of later noise upstarts like Wolf Eyes are right here, buried in De Groot's mucky tangle of distorted, nonchalant vocals, screaming feedback and irregular rhythms. On 'Herhalingen', she loops a single syllable until it's a pulse, spritzing it with tinny keyboard wails and breaking for a moment to remind us "the show must go on". And on 'True Love Stallion', one of the anthology's archival finds, she turns seemingly random synth bleeps into a detuned lullaby, using a disconcerting hum as accompaniment and stabbing at the keys erratically.
Another of the unheard rarities is 'Improv 1', a short blast of LFO noise that mutates into bleeps and damaged vocals, before 'Dance', 'So' and 'Music-Zak' bring us back to the original release. The latter is a serious highlight, a humid, hummable ditty that sounds like a cheap organ being played underwater. 'Improv 10' meanwhile glues a robotic voice to De Groot's pained screams and electrical fluctuations, and 'Mountain' sounds like a loping dancefloor melter, with a stumbling kick drum set against haunted echoes and distant recorder blasts. Utterly bonkers, this one'll have your head spinning - forget what you know, this is as punk as it gets.
Vestiges of ’90s trance surface in strange, elegiac and unusual forms thru Friday Dunard’s debut album for Köln’s Magazine.
Hailing from the motherland of trance, Friday Dunard is somewhat qualified to riff on its lingering after effects, which emerge as residual traces of rushy arps and nostalgic melodies amid the impressionisic fog of memory across ‘Rhenus Aeternus’. While it starts up with propulsive electro-trance pulses, breakdowns and ecstatic vamps for the club in ‘Aeternus’, the thread of inspiration becomes progressively frayed in a manner recalling Lorenzo Senni via Mark Leckey’s collages as the tracks proceed, variously suggesting the form with the uneasy luft of ‘Ultra Citron’ and threaded into playfully syncopated breaks on ‘In McFit’, or congealed into club-teasing strictures with ‘Lower Beach’. The centrepiece ‘Rhenus’ comes closest to Lorenzo Senni at the afters, and by the time of ‘Upper Beach’ it’s full strung out and dreamlike, with a final flourish of escalating, beat-less, near baroque arp arrangements in ‘Latus et Altus’ surely recalling T C F’s legendary YYAA tape.
Perhaps this makes matters clearer? Then again…: “Friday Dunard pulls the sawtooth from trance. Now he whistles elegiac prayers to mystical rivers on it. He lets it bubble out of battered cans of Monster Energy. He sings a protestant canon with it. And in the end it's trance again. Just like when we were guessing track intros with Ben.K on cue point.de. When Fruity Loops was the actual homework. When PvD appeared on Stuttgart's Schlossplatz, or James in a basement a little further on. Duni shares the river with Karlsruhe, the harbor with the Cologne label Magazine. There, not far from a SPA, the "Gerade" EP docked a few years ago.”
Esteemed synthesist Tom Mudd articulates an uncanny valley between guitar and software with sober but subtly mindbending-and-retuning results on the Glasgow/Manc label run by Adam Campbell and Tristan Clutterbuck - think an AI emulating Tashi Dorji, Derek Bailey or Bill Orcutt
“With sound synthesis in general and physical modelling in particular, there is a deliriously tempting urge to push every parameter to materially impossible extremes as part of a broader effort to enter a kind of floating realm freed of the shackles of history. While this approach can certainly be generative, in Guitar Cultures Tom Mudd is ultimately more concerned with the unavoidable rootedness of sound, the place of the instrument as tool in a complex network of social relations; there is something more subtly profound about treating synthesis as a warped mirror in which is reflected our actual mode of being, which itself bears the obscured histories and origins of the sound-making apparatuses themselves.
In this framework, the material being unfolded—code—is certainly synthetic, easily loaded and transported on a thumb drive; at the same time, that material is already a distorted representation of a “real” object—in this case, the acoustic guitar—itself synthetic in its own way. It is in the tension and interplay between these two poles that the power of the music emerges: this is the sound of one tool actively impersonating another, establishing not so much a glossy uncanny valley as a deceptively intimate self-portrait.
There are shreds and scraps of the recognizable in these sketches: Bailey and Fahey runs, Nancarrow vortexes, and LaMonte Young’s famed piano. However, there is no trace of a flashy “look what I can do” gimmickry here; rather, Mudd seems intent on unfurling the experiment and its sounds in a most clinical and neutral manner—precisely to demonstrate the impossibility of true neutrality
for a tool that is embedded in a particular social metabolism, the very human ideas injected into and fixed within all tools and technologies.
It is in and through this firmly social and historical context that Mudd’s work distinguishes itself from its surface-level compatriots. To establish a tenuous spectrum, Guitar Cultures is neither a study of abstract sound-as-sound nor a milestone in a breathless technical quest for a yet more accurate and “realistic” sound-representation. Rather, in these etudes I hear both the comical absurdity and deeply serious potential in the collective efforts behind these algorithms—which then makes me consider that same dialectic embedded in more tangible instruments, and ultimately even music itself. In the pockets of unexpected beauty that emerge from these digital plucks and twangs, I hear, in distilled form, the joy we have all felt in observing real organization, ideas, emerging from a primordial sou —still in that gelatinous state, just before they ossify and become familiar, even ignorable, once again. Sunik Kim.
Shadowy Swedish producer Civilistjävel! returns with another dubby slow-burner, this time in collaboration with Malmö trio Death & Vanilla.
Death & Vanilla's most recent album 'Flicker' was an electrified psych-pop gem, inspired by vintage library music, kosmische and French pop. With ambient dub alchemist Civilistjävel! in control though, the Stereolab/Broadcast glitter of the original material is puffed away, leaving gaseous traces and airy, stifled breaths. Removing most of the instrumentation from 'Find Another Illusion', vocalist Marleen Nilsson's faint cry of "dust" is left abandoned in a tape-garbled pool of disintegrating loops.
He lets more of the song poke through in his version of 'Perpetuum Mobile', focusing on gleaming, library-ready electric piano vamps and echoing vocals that drape over a faint, pulsing kick. But he injects most life into his dub of the same track, reanimating the poppy original with Deepchord synths and a clipped, inverted beat. Ghostly gear - if you enjoyed Civilistjävel!'s recent collaboration with Cucina Povera, this one's a must.
Bread ’n butter L.I.E.S. box bangers by London’s Fabio Monesi, chasing his 2016 cut for their Russian Torrent Versions with eight cold Chicago knockers on main.
The mode is properly dry, propulsive machine rhythm x clambering keys in the classic old skool Chi or NYC style, as heard on WBMX back in the day. You know the score, and Monesi pays up on all counts from the tuff but dreamy ‘Jack The Crow’ to his virulent acid banger ‘Harmony’, the subtly raved up ‘Future Brain’, and bassline-driven jabjack of ‘Moonriver’, with an outstanding twist of electro-bass in ‘Kit The Dog’ and eccied eye-flutter of ‘Critical Rhythm’.
Iceboy Violet mutates drill rap and ambient noise with heavy inspo from desire and fantasy- a sureshot RIYL Rainy Miller, AYA, Blackhaine, Elvin Brandhi, Visionist.
The eminently watchable Iceboy fully takes control of proceedings on ‘Not a Dream But a Controlled Explosion’, following up 2022’s ‘The Vanity Project’, as produced by Nick León, Space Afrika, Jennifer Walton, AYA and others, with their truest self-portrait yet. Entirely self-produced, written and performed by Iceboy, the eight songs star guest vox by Florence Sinclair and Orlando, laced into a potent brew of emosh drill expression unusually heightened by their feel for belly-in-mouth rushes of textured choral pads and distressed tones, often sprung with depth charge subs. It’s another startling futureshock from a scenius that has been cultivated in the gut of Manc clubs and bedrooms over the preceding years, and most vividly, thornily bloomed between the cracks of styles in this decade, most notably via Space Afrika's extended fam as well as Rainy Miller’s Fixed Abode stable.
Like their cohort, and frankly many of the best to do it in Manchester right now, Iceboy hails from elsewhere, but draws strength from a self-organising, DIY community of mutual souls who encourage the best from each other. ‘Not a Dream But a Controlled Explosion’ speaks to the city’s sense of sanctuary, and the freedoms it allows, with a genuinely dare-to-differ burst of self expression. At each turn they twist convention to taste, parsing a crucial signal from the noise between the opening transition of ambient thizz to hungry rap, and a staggering conclusion of ambient bashment, ‘Pablos Cathedral’.
The set’s dreamlike emotional tenor fluctuates in between brooding, weightless poetry in duet with Florence Sinclair on ‘Black Gold’, to cold slugs of shoegaze dancehall in ‘Wounded Coogi’ and a keening R&B elegy à la early FKA Twigs in ‘Refracted’ ft. Orlandor. Throw in an incredibly strong finish with the martial doomhall of ‘Ekklipse’ and gut-punch of ‘Paris, Bradford’, and we more clearly than ever hear the roots and branches of Iceboy’s music as a product of heritage, modernity, and a phantasmic, liminal vision.
Supremely darkside selection by Karl O'Connor featuring exclusives from Regis and Mønic plus a dozen bullets from Pessimist, Overlook, Ipman, Killawatt and more, documenting a very specific moment in the mid-late 10’s where a bunch of renegades from D&B, techno and bass music lurched into a no-mans-land of industrial techno, moody electronics, autonomic D&B, halfstep and noisy bass experiments.
Now almost 20 years into its thing, osiris was established in 2006 by Simon Shreeve as a sort of dubwise cousin to Downwards’ more industrial predilections. Long intertwined with Regis through his label but also their collaborative work as Cub, Shreeve’s eye toward the hardcore continuum bleeds heavy into pretty much all the apocalyptic grot on show, veering from abstract noise textures to fully sunken, bombed out acid bass and peak-time rollers.
We start around 2013 with a pair of missiles from Ipman and Killawatt, the former punctuating pile-driving snares and snarling synths, the latter somehow sounding like a classic Burial woodblock intro turned full moody, red-lining wobbler. Mønic’s ‘Blink’ explores the elastic binds between dubstep and industrial/dub techno on a throbbing slow roller, while Dot Product tread into the sort of post-apocalyptic sci-fi territory claimed by the likes of Roly Porter.
Pessimist’s ‘Pagans’ more or less steals the show, going at it with churning subs and strafing hi-hats, while Overlook’s scowling 170bpm D&B madness ‘Former Self’ is just pure aggy brilliance. The previously unreleased ‘Skin Of The Sea’ from Simon Shreeve & Regis finishes things off with something like industrial slowcore, taking a sort of autonomic template and slowing it down 1000% into a growling crawler full of spacious stabs and scattered snares, deep in the echo chamber.
Wall -to-wall 🔥
Legendary Afro-futurist jazz pioneer Idris Ackamoor regroups The Pyramids at drummer/producer Malcolm Catto’s studio for a typically deep and tuff new session that speaks to their 50 years of heavily rooted jams adjacent to Sun Ra and Pharoah Sanders.
"Recorded between San Francisco and London and brought together by the genius of Malcolm Catto at his analogue Quatermass Studio, the new recording represents another bold step in Ackamoor’s ever-evolving journey in jazz, adding full, intricate scores including string sections and choral elements to the Pyramids’ trademark spiritual Afro-jazz sound.
Driven by the core Pyramids members Ackamoor (sax, keytar, organ), Margaux Simmons (flute), Sandra Poindexter (violin) and Bobby Cobb (guitar), tracks range from hard-hitting commentaries about police brutality (‘Police Dem’) to celebrations of the ancestors and departed loved ones (‘Requiem For The Ancestors’, ‘Re-Memory’) and hazy cosmic journeys, including the album’s title track and the sparkling, experimental closer, ‘Nice It Up’.
‘Afro-Futuristic Dreams’ is mixed by Malcolm Catto and mastered by Peter Beckmann at Technology Works. The superb cover artwork illustration is by David Alabo."
Funkineven & Kyle Hall's transatlantic fist-bumps come repackaged as a doublepack.
As Funkinevil between 2012-2013, Julien & Hall jacked directly into a movement toward the rawest, direct machine music that joined the dots between enduring late ‘80s/early ‘90s Detroit, Chicago, NYC and London traditions. 10 years later their jams still fizz and crack with a livewire energy and remain among the rawest, rudest in either’s cabinet.
Replete with slick jazz-funk intros and outro, the real meat and gristle of the session is their dance trax, following their nose for wallbanging thrust and and nastiest acid in ‘Night’, recalling Jamal Moss’ I.B.M. ace ‘Kill Bill’, whereas ‘Dusk’ plays deep into their debonaire side, punctuating Dâm-Funk-like synth squelch and breezing pads with tart Linn claps, while ‘Ignorant’ lowers the suspension on a Motor City electro steez, and they really let the electro-soul flow for eight minutes with ‘In The Grid’.
Hallucinatory drum and drone trips by Lebanese notables, Raed Yassin, Charbel Haber, and Khaled Yassine, paying tribute to, and displacing, Omar Khorshid’s legendary Arabic surf rock hybrids - RIYL Christian Love Forum, Sun City Girls.
Necessarily returned to attention in ’23 by the awesome Discrepant after its OG 2014 release, ‘Malayeen’ is a strong homage to the enduring influence of guitarist Omar Khorshid, whose slant on Arabic Egyptian belly dance traditions, recorded in Lebanon during the ‘70s, would transcend the genre and spark imaginations far beyond the region for decades to come. The Malayeen trio take artistic license to renew the hypnotic vibrancy of Khorshid’s pioneering innovations on East/West fusion music with a conventional array of keys, guitars, and darbouka, augmented by more unusual addition of turntables, and electronics that stay true to the sound while firing it up for contemporary audiences.
The seven pieces oscillate relatively straight played tributes such as the lonesome guitar solo of ‘Omar’, which also recalls Sir Richard Bhp’s take on Khorshid’s legacy in ‘The Freak of Araby’, to more explicit abstraction of his sound with use of queasy electronic texturing in ‘Nadia’, and a killer, up-to-date slant on his percussive thrust in the near singeli-esque or junglist recklessness of the sped up drums in ‘Dina’. We hear those circles bleed most thrillingly on the 17 minute dervish ‘Samia’, which vividly calls to mind recent exploits in this arena by Thessaloniki’s Christian Love Forum, while ‘Najwa’ could almost be the real thing, with dramatic keys upping the ante for a ravishing onslaught of darbouka breaks and surf guitar fervour.
Originally issued December 2016, re-pressed 2023, classic Grouper, originally released for the winter solstice.
Despite the name, Headache possesses alchemical levels of healing powers as phased electric guitar and that distinctive voice get gradually submerged in a fog of reverb, with what sounds like a xylophone quietly peaking out in the mix.
The B-side, I'm Clean Now, cakes the tape-mangled fuzz on even more, all chorus shimmers and bass counterpoints, the voice layered but defined.
Wire's Bruce Gilbert and Graham Lewis tear London songwriter Desmond Simmons' psychedelic pop to shreds on his 1981 debut, giving it the full Dome treatment and emerging with a uniquely challenging statement. Remastered from tape by Denis Blackham and blessed with re-imagined artwork from the original designer.
Simmons was a close friend of Colin Newman, and had played bass on the Wire frontman's debut solo album, and so his demos where within reach of Gilbert and Lewis. The duo had recently established Dome, a studio-as-instrument project that began with their own material and eventually brought in a few outside artists. Simmons was the first to join the label, and he trusted his songs - described in the press release as "psychedelic guitar pop" - to Gilbert and Lewis, who proceeded to turn them inside out. Many of them are still utterly confusing; peep 'April Waits', a cavernous vocal performance from Simmons that's accompanied by oscillating amplifier hum and faint scratching sounds. We can still make out what the demo might have sounded like, but Gilbert and Lewis turn it into a half-remembered echo - the end result is more like rural folk than radio pop.
'To Be Lost' is more approachable, slithering from gloomy, beatless electro-pop into an angular, post-punk inspired chorus. And on 'Bing Crosby's Hat', Simmons' vocals are gone altogether, leaving just reverberating, regal guitars and intoxicated pads. The album's stand-out is 'By Air Or By Sea', a bizarre, radio-garbled minimalist belter that's carried by a literally breathless performance from Simmons. Apparently he was instructed by Lewis and Gilbert to run around the block before he entered the vocal booth, and his pained tones are pushed far into the foreground, backed by the producers' tremolo crunches, painful guitar skronks and groggy synth bass. This one's way out there, and sadly Simmons never followed it up. We can't help but wonder whether he was traumatized by the production process. Highly Recommended!
Foundational 1975 township jazz side by leading guitarist Allen Kwela, referencing Wes Montgomery and home-grown marabi, sowing the seeds for South Africa’s wellspring of local jazz styles.
“The cream of Johannesburg’s jazz musicians gathered at state-of-the-art Satbel studios to create Black Beauty for the “Soweto” label. Led by guitarist extraordinaire Allen Kwela and featuring the godfather of South African jazz Kippie Moeketsi, the album successfully straddles producer pressure to emulate the commercial success of Abdullah Ibrahim’s Mannenberg, against the musicians’ own impetus to play a jazz they wanted. While the title track “Black Beauty” nods at Ibrahim’s stylings, the magic happens in the three remaining tracks where Kwela and his top-notch band lay down new directions.
Producer Patric van Blerk, sounded disappointed when asked about the sessions, saying that Kwela was his usual strong-willed self, unwilling to be nudged towards the pop trends of the day. “He was a monster talent and deserved much more than he got at the time.””
Ringleader of Mexico City’s Sunday Sunday sessions, Soos weaves between early ‘90s downbeats, acidic sand trample and deep house for Japan’s Mule Musiq
‘Mundo Cute’ is a dead canny title for Soos’ brand of rose-tinted ‘90s nostalgia, and lends a contextual glow to their metaphoric six track transition from dusk to night. It purrs into action with the feline downbeat sway and soft erotica coos of ‘Chula (Dance Mix)’ and gently keeps bodies in motion with the steel drum lilt of its title track, takign it terrace side for the ambient ocean gaze of ‘Disc Jam (Dream Mix)’, before locking into a sublime echo of early Goan trance sand trample in ‘Cool Sbu’ and the modal deep house of ‘Plants Biz’, departing to the Sun Electric-like tone of ‘? (Reprise)’.
The early genius of dreampop pioneers A.R. Kane (aka half of M|A|R|R|S) is summed up in a collected trifecta of 1988-89 Rough Trade LPs and EP that helped pave the way for everyone from Dean Blunt, Seefeel and Slowdive to Coby Sey and LA Timpa.
‘A.R. Kive Box Set’ is abundant assurance of Alex Ayuli and Rudy Tambala’s legacy as A.R. Kane, who famously minted the “dreampop” genre with three releases at the tail end of the ‘80s, after cutting sampledelic dance classic ‘Pump Up The Volume’ as M|A|R|R|S with Colourbox in 1987. Hustling, in their entirety, the albums ’69’ (1988) and ‘“i”’ (1989), plus the EP ‘Up Home!’ (1988), the ‘A.R. Kive’ is a treasure trove for avant pop fiends who can join the dots, as they did, between post-punk funk, dub, jazz-funk, and shoegaze bands such as MBV or Jesus and Mary Chain, to the swelling promise of the late ‘80s dance phenomenon, and beyond. While a resolutely cult act with those in the know, it never fails to surprise us how much they’re overlooked in the pop history books, but this compilation should go some way to rectifying that matter, seeding their ohrwurms in new and old lugs alike.
Hugely notable as artists of Afro-British descent working in styles dominated by bands of often anglo-celtic background, Nigerian-British musician Alex Ayuli and his Malawian-English spar Rudy Tambala brought the psychedelic richness of dub and groove of jazz-funk to prevailing ‘80s rock paradigms with a singular, joyful flourish unprecedented at the time. Directly inspired by a mid-‘80s Cocteau Twins performance on Channel 4, they would initially blag a record deal after lying that they were in a duo inspired by The VU, Cocteaus, Miles Davis and Joni Mitchell, that led to cutting a demo with a drum machine, guitar and dual tape players, that consequentially resulted in Robin Guthrie producing their 1987 single ‘Lollita’, and them ultimately realising the golden trio of records documented here.
In chronological order; the ‘Up Home!’ EP establishes a ravishing blend of noise-pop, dub and politics, variously cocking a snook at M*ggie Thatcher with ‘Baby Milk Snatcher’, and endemic british racism in ‘W.O.G.S’, beside the shoegaze club ace ‘One Way Mirror’, before really defining, expanding their vision on a pair of legendary LPs. 1988’s ’Sixty Nine’ found them in flux between grooving urges and resounding dub noise, as characterised in the Antenna-gone-rogue jangle of ‘Crazy Blue’, the lip-smacking psychedelia of ‘Spermwhale Trip Over’, and etheric peal to ‘The Madonna With Child’, before 1989’s ‘“i”’ became beloved by Balearic, rock, and pop types alike for its ebullient anthem ‘A Love From Outer Space’, thru the trip hop prototype ‘In a Circle’ and balmy steppers dub jangle of ‘Catch My Drift’ via a handful of wicked, abstract palate cleansers and teasers.
Start your obsession right here.
30th Anniversary edition of The Breeders' Last Splash - remastered from the original analog tapes.
"A defining album of the 90s, Last Splash by The Breeders turns 30 in 2023. Recorded by the ‘classic’ Breeders line-up of Kim Deal, Kelley Deal, Josephine Wiggs and Jim Macpherson, and featuring the infectiously appealing ‘Cannonball’, Last Splash immediately became an alt-rock classic, achieving platinum status in the UK and US, and is ranked in Pitchfork’s Top 100 Records of the 1990s.
Entitled Last Splash (the 30th Anniversary Original Analog Edition), this special edition will span two 12” 45rpm vinyl discs, plus an exclusive, one-sided etched 12” disc containing two forgotten tracks from the original Last Splash sessions: ‘Go Man Go’, a track that Kim co-wrote with Black Francis, and ‘Divine Mascis’, a version of ‘Divine Hammer’ with lead vocals provided courtesy of Dinosaur Jr.’s J Mascis.
For this special edition, the original, iconic sleeve art by the late visionary designer Vaughan Oliver has been gloriously reimagined by his long-time design partner Chris Bigg."
Conspicuously sampled by Madlib on Quasimoto's iconic 'The Unseen', Alain Goraguer's score to René Laloux’s trippy 1973 animated feature 'La Planète Sauvage' has been reissued for its 50th anniversary in deluxe, expanded form, re-mixed from the original multi-track tapes and bundled with seven previously unreleased tracks and three alternate mixes.
'La Planète Sauvage' is a cult classic for good reason. The film won a Special Jury Prize at Cannes when it was released, and its bizarre artwork and forward-thinking philosophy has given it a firm hold on the collective imagination; even if you haven't seen it, you've likely seen something that's influenced by it. But it wouldn't be half the statement without Goraguer's feathery, exotica-tinged soundtrack. The French composer-arranger had worked extensively with Serge Gainsbourg and others, and was brought on to pen the score late in the production process, given only a few weeks to complete it. Somehow, that gave him the fuel to write a few core themes that have echoed across music ever since. First sampled in the '90s by KRS One and Big Pun, Goraguer's soundtrack hit a digger's bingo when Madlib chopped elements of it throughout his Quasimoto debut 'The Unseen', assuring the film's status as a late-night, stoner classic.
There aren't many surprises on this fresh re-issue, but it sounds fuller and cleaner than ever before. The new mix is sprightly and pops significantly more than the original, and the handful of outtakes and alternate mixes give those of us who already own a copy the nudge to buy it again. 'Le Destin de Terr' is a particular stand-out, reinterpreting the iconic central theme in a fumble of dusted drums and psychedelic instrumentation. You know what to do.
Swedish sound artist and composer Lo Kristenson, a graduate of the Master's Programme in composition at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm (where contemporaries Ellen Arkbro and Maria W Horn also studied), considers tension, impulse and longing on a magnificent debut album for XKatedral, an hour-long immersion in slowly unravelling arrangements for alto flute, baroque violin and baroque viola, highly recommended listening for disciples of Mary Jane Leach, Catherine Lamb, Lucy Railton, Morton Feldman, Pauline Oliveros.
The Swedish word förnimmelser translates to mean both sensations and perceptions. In the context of the album, it signifies the perception of other beings. Alongside Rakel Emhjellen Paulsen (alto flute), Julija Morgan (baroque violin) and Tove Bagge (baroque viola), Kristenson refines her sound over a series of "collective exercises, conversation and experiments," designed to help the ensemble unlearn their rehearsed musical gestures together. The process was explicitly developed by Kristenson to challenge the bodily and musical expectations associated with playing instruments in a traditional manner. To achieve this, it was essential for each musician to focus intensely on the listening process and maintain an awareness of their own body, harnessing naturally occurring friction and resistance to create dynamic waves of musical energy while playing.
The score was provided in fragments, giving the players the option to choose between notated phrases and more freeform directions. Tempo wasn't specified, but an approximate duration was offered for guidance, in the hope that whatever timing would emerge would come from intuition rather than design. Kristensen encouraged each player to think about their breathing patterns, and let that guide their performance. And that's starkly visible on the album's 20-minute opener 'I', where oddly pitched string phrases graze each other softly, strangled to silence periodically to emphasise negative space. Paulsen's ascendent flute tones melt into the strings, and the music appears to balance precariously between folk-y tenderness and sounds more regularly associated with experimental classical minimalism.
Kristensen intersperses these longer, core pieces with shorter, more abstracted compositions titled 'mellanrum', meaning the space in-between. These interludes add an important pause for breath, rupturing the silence with scant, virtuosic gestures. 'III' is almost funereal in tone, but the humanity of each vibrating string gives it a level of uniqueness that's hard to turn away from. Sustained tones waver and warble like strained voices, and tones seem to oscillate against each other, either forming subtle harmonies or languishing in phased dissonance.
Förnimmelser is confident, mettlesome music that asks the listener to reconsider the character of each instrument, but also that of the players and composer. Deep listening not only recommended, but fully rewards.
Karenn’s Voam reach out to Medellín, Colombia’s TraTraTrax + Insurgentes boss Verraco for a crooked line of techno-trance skudge
Responsible for spreading a dancefloor heatwave with his programming of Insurgentes and its TraTraTrax offshoot (Nick León, DJ BabaTr, Tomás Urquieta et al), Verraco simmers his sound to a UK/EU friendly form of tech electronica with subtle trance appeal, sort like Arca gone 4/4, and necessarily kinked with Latin suss.
Singapore's Nat Ćmiel, aka Yeule, lands on Ninja Tune for their fifth full-length, centering their vocals over glittering productions that jerk from post-punk into trip-hoppy ambience. RIYL Sol Seppy, Grimes, Caroline Polachek.
There's a pleasant nostalgia to 'softscars' that transports us back to simpler times. It's not an album that evokes a specific era, it just sounds out of place in a world pocked by distrust, technological breakdown and cynical hopelessness. Yeule's electronically processed vocals are cute but never sickly-sweet, and their adherence to late '90s/early '00s song structures gives their songs a grounding in the familiar that lets their wilder production tics squeal. On the album's title track, they coo over rumbling downtempo bumps, cooly harmonizing while synths squeal and breaks crumble. And on 'ghosts' they pull the tempo down further, singing a schoolyard melody that dips through keys, splitting from quiet melancholy into tempered jubilance.
Yeule even saves space for their weirder inclinations, humming over swung beats and frothing synths on the curiously-titled 'software update' until it blows up and echoes the Pixies' 'Where Is My Mind?' And 'Bloodbunny' ditches the nostalgia for a second, sounding closer to Charli XCX with a reduced, 8-bit dubstep bounce. Funnily enough, the simplest, most effective track is closer 'aphex twin flame', that sounds absolutely nothing like Richard D. James, thankfully.
Reinhold Friedl’s new music ensemble tackle the work of Domenico Scarlatti, reflecting the composer’s radical unconventionality among his c.17/18th peers.
“zeitkratzer director Reinhold Friedl and his ensemble present new compositions, grounded on Domenico Scarlatti’s piano sonata F-minor K.466. Commissioned by the dance company Rubato and dedicated to Mario Bertoncini (1932-2019).
Little is known about Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757). His music is, so to speak, left to its own devices: free, cheeky, playful, sonorous, surprising. Harmonically strolling again and again into unforeseen regions, the ear leads, not the theory; and also the fingers get their right: playful and haptic it goes. Scarlatti explained, "since nature has given me ten fingers and my instrument provides employment for all, I see no reason why I should not use all ten of them."
Freedom, friction and listening pleasure instead of convention: "He knew quite well that he had disregarded all the rules of composition in his piano pieces, but asked whether his deviation from the rules offended the ear? He believes there is almost no other rule than that of not offending the only sense whose object is music - the ear."
Reinhold Friedl applied this principle and composed the music for a choreography by dance company Rubato. Dance music drawn from Scarlatti, who was so inspired by dance music. The material of the piano sonata F-minor K.466 is twisted anew in all its richness, shifted back and forth, declined, frozen, noisified, sound structures extracted, floating. Those who know the sonata, will more than smell it’s shadows. Dedicated to Mario Bertoncini (Gruppo di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza) who was particularly fond of K.466, on which all the music presented here is grounded.
"Wild flowers", Barbara Zubers had once called Scarlatti's music. Let them bloom. “
BAT ruggedly balances neck-snap ‘90s hip hop, dub and ambient psychedelia in a definitive slab capping a decade of uncompromising work in this zone - RIYL early Dabrye, Kaman Leung, Spectre, Lukid, Actress
Call it illbient, ambient dub or whatever you want, this is one of BAT’s best and most woozily engaging long-players. The Portland, OR producer has remained steadfast in his pursuit of the perfectly uneven beat for 10 years now, with significant cuts on Opal Tapes, No Corner, Accidental Meetings and 12th Isle that established his cult reputation.
These dozen new bits typically take their cues from the beat craft of Bomb Squad’s Hank Shocklee and Boogie Down Productions, and could feasibly have come from any period of his work, but there’s a special magic at work on this one that really captures his skewed essence and places it among his most vital - a perfect entry point for anyone sitting on the fence.
While we don’t expect Bomb Squad fiends to be jumping on it, listeners who can join more oblique dots will surely get what his amorphous arrangements are hinting at. His grooves unravel and coil inside themselves simultaneously, loops crumbling into the next bar with a calm yet tongue-tip play of anticipation and resolution that has us rapt for the duration, at least.
Sam Van Dijk (Mohlao, Multicast Dynamics) steps off into killer, mid-tempo to quicksilver ambient electro-techno for Rvshes or CUB fiends.
The brownian dynamic is strong on this one. ‘Waves of Change’ is VC-118A’s 5th album in this mode and marks a decade of chasing the dub techno dragon where it takes him. The mood is calmly held for locked-in listening with a fine grasp of the pressure gauge that keeps it bobbing and scudding subaquatic, replete with the distant echoes of Drexciya that inspire so much west coast dutch electronic music, but modulated at the sort of tempo favoured by Regis CUB or Fishermen and the silty dub chicanery of T++ or Rvshes.
His opener ‘Heat’ is a standout scene setter, flexing flickering drums on a sunken Reese bass drone that carries the cinematic payload of ‘The Deep’ and is diffracted into the subbass ripcurrents of ‘Stream’. The meditative momentum also informs ‘Mothjerboard’ at the core, but comes out quicker in the deep Detroit dynamism to ‘You’, while he pushes to near lightless aphotic zones in likes of ‘Echo Drop’ and comes to the surface for air in ‘euphonic’.
It's been over half a decade since we last heard from Grails, and they return with 'Anches En Maat', a synth-forward cosmic prog blast that's inspired by '80s softcore, soap soundtracks and disco.
Grails, now made up of founder members Alex Hall and Om's Emil Amos, with Jesse Bates, Ilyas Ahmed, and Zombi's AE Paterra, have always made their love of movies pretty clear. Their last handful of records have drawn from vintage Westerns, exploitation movies and '80s video nasties, so it tracks that they should keep looking deeper in the moldy Blockbuster bins, which is where we find 'Anches En Maat'. This is the band's most boisterous, self-consciously corny set to date, bolted together from errant synth riffs, boxy exotica rhythms and disco strings.
It sounds like the kind of record you'd expect to find presented on 180g gatefold vinyl in 10 variants, reclaimed from a vault in deepest, darkest Italy. The band are clearly keen listeners, and make a racket that's alarmingly era specific. Slippery analog basslines rumble under dramatic guitar riffs and tense drums, and swooping orchestral sounds crash over emotional wails. For instrumental music, this doesn't half pack a gut punch. If you're into Finders Keepers, STROOM et al, give this one a closer look.
50th Anniversary edition of Conrad Schnitzler's Rot, his first solo LP from 1973.
Nothing short of a milestone in the history of electronic music, 'Rot' marked a radical point where man and musical machine became far better acquainted. Schnitzler was already integral to the genesis of both Tangerine Dream and Kluster, both bands born of the Zodiac Free Arts Lab in West Berlin during the pivotal year of 1968. By 1973, the convergence of subversive, counter-cultural philosophy and his studies under German Fluxus member and avant-garde artist Joseph Beuys converged in the stark, uncompromising logic of his solo debut.
It's a monolothic statement, shirking academic praxis and forging an instinctively steely sort of psychedelia embracing Beuys' "extended definition of art" to act as a bold conduit for the alien and, quite importantly, "new music", harnessing sounds made possible by analog synthesis. With this album he physically shaped a new soundworld, unafraid of using all of his machine's atonal and motorik capabilities to express something elemental and uniquely nuanced like little else before or since. Quite simply, it's heavier and more psychedelic than almost anything else from the same era, and yet somehow does it all with a wry sense of groove which was essentially a sort of proto-Techno, making it a crucial addition to any connoisseur's electronic music collection.
Catalyst of the kuduro phenomenon, Angola’s DJ Znobia gets his long-overdue flowers with the first of a four-volume deep dive into his archive conducted by the awesome Nyege Nyege Tapes - 100% crucial for DJs/dancers feeling Príncipe stars, Nazar, M.I.A., Fever Ray
Arguably the most influential African producer of the past 30 years, Sebastião Lopes aka DJ Znobia forged the kuduro (meaning “hard ass”) sound with early versions of FruityLoops software against the backdrop of a civil war that has been documented, for example, in Nazar’s hi-tech echo of the OG sound.
Galvanising traditional styles of semba, kilapanga, and kazukuta with a technoid chassis between the late ‘90s and mid ‘00s at home in the Barrio Do Rangel music (shantytown) of Angola’s capital, Luanda, Znobia forged a virulent, energetic sound that spread like wildfire to the rest of the world during the nascent blogging era of the internet, grabbing attention of M.I.A. who enlisted him to produce ‘Sound of Kuduro’ from her pivotal album ‘Kala, and resulting in consequent releases with early kuduro disseminators Enchufada and Diplo’s Mad Decent. Then, practically nowt until NNT stepped in for this unmissable session, sifted from some 700 unreleased tracks to give a proper handle on Znobia’s templates for kuduro and its sexier sibling, tarraxinha.
In parallel to FL-produced movements of grime or bassline in UK, baile funk from Brazil, or merengue in the Caribbean, kuduro represented the voice of African and Afro-diasporic modernity; an upfront and incendiary dance sound that selectively updated the past for jacked-in, jacking bodies of a new era. While nowadays perhaps best known internationally for the work of DJ Marfox, Nervoso, or Niggafox on Lisbon’s Príncipe, the seeds of kuduro are clear to hear in Znobia’s productions. Catapulted by slamming kicks, and syncopated with pinging percussion, screwy soft-synths and sampled vox, Znobia’s style still sounds ruthlessly upfront and fresh decades later, and never more primed for western dancefloors ever drawn to the rudest, ruggedest dance music finesse.
For peaktime players, the series’ full throttle kuduro cuts are unmissable, but a big part of its appeal owes to the number of revelatory, slower tarraxinha bits, too. For every high pressure bomb like ‘Zambinamina’, the 4/4 grime-esque ‘Wo’, body-bouncing ‘Cuba em Angola’, and the utterly ratchet kuduro-noise of ‘Pausa’ or ‘floor-animating ‘Tom e Jerry’, there are slow screwed zingers such as the ‘U uu’ with its noirish strings and clipped strut, or the shades-on ‘Esfregado’ with its jagged rave riffs - not to mention the porno-sampling ‘Piqueno’ - each set to a molten, dancehall and dembow-compatible 95-100bpm.
Along with the likes of Príncipe’s early Lisbon scene survey ‘DJs DI Guetto’ and DJ Marfox’s Revolução 2005-2008’, consider this unprecedented set of DJ Znobia trax absolutely necessary listening and historic tackle for anyone tracing the rhizome of contemporary Afro-diasporic dance music, and its links to hybrid western pop music of M.I.A. or Fever Ray, in the C20th.
Black Twig Pickers and House And Land's Sally Anne Morgan endeavors to create new folk forms on 'Carrying', evaporating Appalachian folk traditions into warm, personal songs that dig deep into the emotions surrounding the birth of her first child.
For Morgan, songwriting is a spiritual process, a way for her to connect with her deepest feelings and connect to the wider world. 'Carrying' is a reflective record, made while she went through a number of significant life changes, but it's far from glum. With help from Pelt/Black Twig Pickers drummer Nathan Bowles, guitarist Andrew Zinn, Wooden Shjips guitarist Ripley Johnson and bassist/engineer Joe Dejarnette, Morgan reimagines well-worn folk tropes, playing guitar, fiddle and banjo and singing emphatically of her experiences. The songs are lavishly orchestrated and engineered, reminding us of Will Oldham's tight, tidy arrangements, but still embody the homespun charm of vintage Americana.
'Dawn Circle' is an early highlight, a lengthy jam that accentuates the unique qualities of Morgan's expressive vocal delivery. Playing intricate guitar riffs alongside Bowles' boxy rhythms, Morgan freewheels into impressionistic harmony. She comments that her process is almost religious, and the influence of praise songcraft is intensely apparent here. The instrumentation isn't always particularly traditional either; Matthew O'Connell adds synthesizer and tape loops to the elegiac 'Streets of Derry', a song that starts off simply enough but rolls into sublime, euphoric ambience.
Let the guessing games begin with a 3rd and final instalment of Light Sounds Dark's 'Crossed Wires' series stuffed with pulsing minimal wave, industrial scuzz, ambient vapours and fizzing synth-pop melodies.
Once more unto the tubes for Light Sounds Dark, sluicing high grade, low fidelity zingers from fuck knows where into a compilation that typically plays out like a lovingly hand-crafted mixtape from your deepest digging pal. There’s a discernible focus on pulsating instrumentals here, with no vocals to give the game away and leave everyone humming their melodies to shop counter clerks in hope of IDs. There’s one that sounds uncannily like a Chris & Cosey tune, and some really spangled, campy disco prancers sequenced along with fluttering pastoral arp escapades and dérives into sputtering drum machines and bloozy rock ’n roll riffs, also nestling one lush organ vibe out, but always returning to the eternal machine throb.
333 play it nice ’n easy with Nairobi Sisters’ warm roots reggae breezer and its haunting dub after shelling a load of digi-dub-dancehall zingers
Currently racking up one of the finest programmes of 2023, Death Is Not The End’s 333 series keep them coming with this reissued slice of ’75 sweetness, running the funky reggae sway of ‘Promised Land’, with Nairobi Sisters’s drifting, close vocal harmonies swaying over reggae soul breaks and chicken scratch guitar, laced with nyabighi drum rolls that bubble to the fore in the stripped back and subtly dubbed B-side version.
Schnitzler’s pulsating 1980 industrial electro kosmiche bullets are reloaded for a new century
Featuring two zingers co-written with Wolfgang Seidel (Kluster, Popülare Mechanic, Eruption) ‘Auf dem schwarzen’ is a standout number in one of electronic music’s most singular and distinctive catalogues.
The tang of potent German wizz is strong on this one, fuelling four cuts of propulsive motorik rhythm, vocoder vox and aerodynamic arps between the optimistic uplift of its title tune and the cosmic turbulence of ‘Elektroklang’, with the additional presence of Seidel (Schnitzler’s bandmate in krautrock supergroup Eruption) helping to simmer the swagger and up the fizzing synth mania of ‘Fabric’, and the spiralling vortex of ‘Der Wagen roll’, which surely recalls bits from Chris Carter’s ‘Spaces Between’ album of the same year.
Psychedelic Speed Freaks Asahito Nanjo & Munehiro Narita aka High Rise fill the tank and let rip on a long-out-of-print ’92 psych and garage rock zinger, including two bonus cuts
Beloved for their scene defining 1984 debut ‘Psychedelic Speed Freaks’, Nanjo & Narita collapsed free jazz, psyche, and garage rock into a potent brew between 1982 and 2002. ‘Dispersion’ emerged at the mid way point of their arc and trades in a rowdier adjunct to their oft cited peers Les Rallizes Dénudés or Keiji Haino’s Fushitsusha, pairing gas-guzzle bass guitar revs with percussive fury and copious feedback that gets hairs standing on end.
We can practically smell the sweat and amphetamine on opener ‘Outside Gentiles’, before they take the long road on ‘Sadducees Faith’ with howling solos giving way to a clattering mid way collapse and swaggering 2nd half. The LRD comparisons are most apt in ‘Nuit’ and destroyed quality of ‘Deuteronomy’, while the thunderous psych blues blow-out ‘Mainliner’ is the sort that puts a scissor kick in your step. The bonus cuts are exceptionally crude and brilliant, with ‘Monster A Go Go’ also reminding of a wilder Om, and ‘Induced Depression’ gets the blood up, we tell thee.
Prolific bass alchemist Sam Shackleton and Polish clarinetist/producer Wacław Zimpel team up with Hindustani classical vocalist Siddartha Belmannu on this breathtaking follow-up to 2020's 'Primal Forms'. High vibrational gear for advanced psychedelic explorers, this one's a fine addition to Shackleton's rapidly swelling canon - it's like ritual music assembled with the sensibility of Talk Talk, Zbigniew Preisner and Leaving Records' Arushi Jain.
Shackleton's had a pretty astonishing year already, if you've been paying attention. His last EP as The Purge of Tomorrow (Spring's 'The Other Side of Devastation') was a gorgeous, gamelan-led longform experiment, his full-length collab with DJ Scotch Egg 'Death By Tickling' was a chance for him to let loose with more dancefloor-focused material, and last month's collaboration with Heather Leigh as Flesh & The Dream is some of the most devastating gear we've heard from him in years. 'In The Cell of Dreams' again pairs him with hard-working Polish player Wacław Zimpel, whose pristine woodwind meshed with Shackleton's innovative bass explorations on 'Primal Forms' just a few years ago. Here they pick up where that album left off, adding transcendent voicework from Belmannu.
Shackleton starts us off on 'The Ocean Lies Between Us' with tender-but-stargazing metallophone hits, gently blending in pitch-fucked punctuations and watery echoes. Belmannu's raga pierces the psychedelic fog masterfully, warbling in the foreground before Zimpel's faint orchestral wisps add a melancholy narrative twist. Shackleton has approached Northern Indian classical forms before, but this is his most successful fusion. At this point in his evolution, the producer's expertise is implicit, he has little to prove and lets his sparse instrumentation take a relative back seat to his collaborator's chilling contributions. There's a constant rhythm, but it's gaseous and hazy, serving just to underpin Belmannu's powerful vocal performance and Zimpel's ghosted drones.
It would be hard to label the music as minimal, but there's not an element out of place. Like 'The Other Side of Devastation', 'In The Cell of Dreams' captures the blissful euphoria of Talk Talk's seminal 'Spirit of Eden', but diverts the energy in a different direction. The trio's use of raga forms, Eastern European and Baltic sacred music (think Arvo Part) and Indonesian traditional sounds isn't an arbitrary fusion, it connects emotions, histories and most importantly, people. It's deeply sensitive, transcendent material that we've had on repeat since it landed on our desks.
Sun Ra’s seminal cosmic jazz vessel and totem of Afrofuturism returns from orbit on a 50th anniversary edition as part of the Verve By Request Series.
Really the one Sun Ra record that should need little introduction, ‘Space is the Place’ is most commonly hailed a legendary touchstone of Afro-American expressionism that heralds their metaphoric situation as akin to aliens on another planet. It has since become his most widely known and beloved recording and a massive inspiration on successive generations of artists, dancers, and theorists over the decades who’ve delineated its themes and thrust into myriad progressive forms of music, art and literature, from the likes of Drexciya to 4Hero, Jamal Moss and Kodwo Eshun, who each take a distinct reading of its interwoven mythology and ravishing stylistic hybrids.
The spirit-rousing 21 minute title piece is fully in place, beside the big band swing and clatter of ‘Images’ and the cool metric slosh of ‘Discipline 33’, before letting rip with the wild cosmic atonalities of ‘Sea of Sounds’, the life-giving jazz-dancers jam ‘Rocket Number Nine’, which each help define its mischievous zig-zag between the consonant/dissonant, and unique place in between the popular imagination’s conceptions of jazz, rock, and the avant garde, for anyone not yet smitten with it.
Adela Mede returns to Warm Winters & Mappa with this brief two-tracker, looping operatic vocal phrases over tense drones and squelchy analog electronics.
Mede's debut 'Szabadság' examined the vulnerability of her voice, setting her vocals - sung in English, Hungarian and Slovak - against effervescent electronics. In contrast, this single demonstrates a lighter hand; the electronic elements are more subtle, and Mede's vocals are markedly more pronounced. On the opening track 'Száz Fele Nézek' she repeats a phrase like a mantra, wailing in the background accompanied by moody accordion drones. And on the flip, she whispers a moving drone lullaby, harmonizing with herself over swampy synths and submerged woodwind.
Legendary Congolese guitarist Kahanga Dekula (aka Vumbi) makes an infectious noise on his debut solo recording, playing tangled soukous phrases alongside field recordings and tinny beatbox rattles instead of his usual full band. Revelatory material.
For the last four decades, Vumbi has been playing lead guitar in various bands throughout East Africa and Sweden, where he's based now. He learned how to play guitar by listening to Congolese icons like Dr Nico and Franco on the radio, eventually moving from the DRC's Kivu region to Tanzania, where he joined Orchestra Maquis and became a fixture of their shows. When he relocated to Stockholm, he joined forces with Ugandan Sammy Kasule to form the Makonde Band and Ahmadu Jarr's Highlife Orchestra, before forming his own outfit The Dekula Band in 2008. But until now he's never recorded a solo record. That took the intervention of Swedish producer Karl-Jonas Winqvist, who'd heard Vumbi perform many times, even releasing The Dekula Band's debut album in 2019.
'Congo Guitar' is a refreshingly open set of recordings, made quickly in two days and fleshed out with just a few extra instruments and backing vocals, and Winqvist's aging drum machine. Opener 'Afro Blues' is particularly inviting, setting Vumbi's impassioned playing against a humming environmental recording, with car horns standing in for percussion. 'Maamajacy' meanwhile is closer and more intimate, a playful whirl of inviting melodies set to a spartan rhythm from Winqvist's beatbox. Vumbi elaborates further on the generous 'Zanzibar, Kinshasa & Vällingby', overlaying his guitar parts into an orchestral thrum, and he goes a step further on 'Weekend', introducing hypnotic bass melodica sounds from Winqvist. Ending on the self-explanatory 'UN Forces (Get Out of the Democratic Republic of Congo)', he plays banjo, highlighting the link between the popular American instrument and its African roots.
The Vladimir Ivkovic marshalled Offen Music hail another label debut with Phillip Otterbach’s diaristic illbient drone missives dialled in from the brink of sleep.
‘Correct Me If I Am Incorrectly You’ feels as though it emulates the sensation of post rave, post session, when one is trying to catch some Z’s but the powders and potions won’t let you. It follows from Offen’s introduction to Kinzua’s squashed club music and the cranky debut of Fritz Catlin (23 Skidoo) and Simon Crab (Bourbonese Qualk) as Big Daddy, with one of the label’s most abstract impressionistic turns, all strung out guitar meditation and collaged, textural samples that sweep frazzled, supine minds into opiated, liminal dimensions.
We’re not sure if the track titles are apocryphal or not, and the blurb’s playing suitably oblique - “Remember Cowboy Bob, Salaryman and Gary Floyd in that opium den in Fischeln?” - but their time stamps appear to span more than 30 years of sketches from the archive, and likewise parallel rave and dance music’s lingering after effects. ‘Sept 18, 92’ outlines a curious conception of queasy ambient romance that lists like restive bodies and minds between the OOBEy shape of ‘Jan 25, 03’ to the white hot, shearing guitars of ‘Apr 22, 04’ and uneasy blues meditation ‘Okt 01, 21’. A sense of respite and the gear wearing off comes with the final third of Loren Connors-esque plangency calving to stoner rock riffs in ‘Mar 27, 16’, and the final 10 minute krautrock fusion blow out of ‘Aug 18, 95’.
Debut crackshot of jacking, rude house kinks and hyper-saturated soundsystem dubs on the 3rd volume of Porridge Bullet’s Sunda School series...
Dancing in the footsteps of Ajukaja and Tapes + Nikolaienko, LLL makes robust first moves that slot perfectly with the sort of psychoactive club suss we’ve all come to expect from Tallinn, Estonia’s Porridge Bullet. The sounds of Chicago via UK and Euro ‘floors come on strong in the swanging bass heft and weekend peacockery of ‘Friday Rituals’, while the squashed Kemetri-style beatdown budge of ’92’ offsets the mode, which gets back into the swang with ruddiest Jack Rabbit or Bam Bam acid in ‘Yyyeah Exactly’, and a lip-bitingly darkroom special ‘Valu-e’ to leave us gagging for more.
Pastoral-hued electronica for the club by Berlin-Singapore duo YS, on a buoyant flex somewhere alongside Pender Street Steppers, RAMZi, Will Long.
‘Brutal Flowers’ is the YS’s debut and the 4th release on Jank Inc. and Walden S.’s Berlin-based Pace Yourself label. It is a fine example of club energies moderated by ambient instincts in the ‘90s AI model set by likes of AFX and refracted into myriad subgenres over the past 30 years. In 2023 the YS slant on this sound faithfully incorporates aspects of footwork and garage mechanisms as much as its original junglist and downtempo breakbeat impulses and more floral ambient embellishments for a sound that represents the one looping into the other.
We hear parallels with Will Long x BVDub’s ambient jungle in ‘Untethered’, and likewise Long’s Celer in the melancholic panorama ‘Autumn’s OST I’, lodged beside the sort of dubbed downbeat ambient slosh practised by RAMZi in ‘Pilgrimage I’, with standout turns of hair-kissing ambient gouch-out on ‘Something That’s Beautiful’, and the scuffed, spongiform UKG baubles of ‘On a Train in 2035’.
Good Morning Tapes with a vinyl pressing of Gi Gi’s blissed Ambient-Jungle session ‘Sunchoke’, cycling thru feathered permutations of New Age and dubwise styles thru richly-textured delicacies and sunkissed Trip Hop signatures, tipped if yr into classic Sabres of Paradise, Art of Noise, Future Sound of London, Terre Thaemlitz, William Orbit, The Orb.
Easy on the ear and with overflowing levels of serotonin, Gi Gi is a snug fit for the label; sanguine but just the right side of soporific, with a vibe that dials up echoes of classic downtempo Balearic crossed with turn-of-the-century trip hop somewhere between Olive’s ‘You’re not Alone’, William Orbit’s once ubiquitous ‘Strange Cargo III’ album and early Terre Thaemlitz - with a sound sensitive soulfulness and warmth.
Jazz drums, guitar and midi-flute conjure bright blue skies and cirrus streaks in ‘Dawn Song’, while ‘two ones’ doubles the tempo on a swaying jungle flex that also perfuses the hazier hues of ‘Ambergris (Blue)’ and dances around the links between deep house, ambient and D&B like Terre Thaemlitz’s classic ‘Tranquilliser’ (1994) in the lilting congas of ‘Asp’, caressing strums of ‘Lisle’, and the piano-led ambient blues of ‘Sunchoke.’
The last gasp of summer, right here.
Japan's EM Records with one of its most essential and memorable bullets, compiling material recorded 1979-83 by Brenda Ray who cut her teeth playing as part of Liverpool’s DIY wavey-dub-punk outfit Naffi Sandwich, and whose early solo work is compiled on this by-now hugely influential set. Huge recommendation if you’re into any late 70’s/early 80’s dub-punk-bossa mutations, anything from Antena to Maximum Joy, Vazz, The Raincoats, The Slits.
'D'Ya Hear Me!' surveys Brenda’s raw avant and DIY sound, mostly recorded straight to tape with no rehearsals at Cheshire's Naffi studios between 1979-83, squeezing the most out of rudimentary gear. As she explains; "Bands in London, Bristol etc, were using the top studios/equipment, and doing things properly as rehearsed bands. Naffi never rehearsed - it would have taken away the magic! Naffi were completely do it yourself and low-fi, a secret society releasing secret hits!"
The arrangements, lyrics and production here are just completely singular and inspiring, influenced by her native North West locales of Liverpool and Manchester and their record-devouring fanatics - soaking up everything from Pharoah Sanders and Ornette Coleman to dub, dancehall, rockabilly and imported soul - and an assortment of musicians who were hungry to pull into unchartered waters. It’s just one of those rare records that’s as full of memorable songs as it is boggling production stylings - a real special one from an era full of them. Apparently, even Nico was fan... !
Cécile Schott's first double album is a magical and sprawling collection of all-electronic movements made using a single synth and a collection of delay pedals. Her first all-instrumental album since 2007's 'Les ondes silencieuses', it's an emotionally-charged and deeply human set of experiments that reminds us of Raymond Scott, Delia Derbyshire and more recently, Lau Nau.
It's an incredible achievement to keep releasing new music without repeating yourself, but Schott's been challenging herself ever since she followed her sample-based debut 'Everyone Alive Wants Answers' with the lush, instrument-led 'The Golden Morning Breaks' in 2005. Her last run of albums found her exploring songwriting, meeting her fallible vocals with dub and electro-samba rhythms on 2021's excellent 'The Tunnel and the Clearing'.
For 'Le jour et la nuit du réel' ('The day and the night of reality'), Schott initially wrote the album with vocals, but as the songs evolved into suites, she realized that the synthesizer was all she needed to express herself. Using a Moog Grandmother monosynth alongside a Roland Space Echo and a handful of delay pedals, she set about working on an investigation of perceptions of reality that's split into two sides: day and night. "To me, the capacity of synthesis to alter - subtly or radically - the physical embodiment in sound of the same series of notes is akin to how, when given new information about a person or a situation, we can reevaluate our initial perception of what we thought was the "reality" of that person or situation, sometimes drastically so," she explains.
Schott calls the process here a "human-machine hybrid style", using non-quantized sequencing and off-beat delay vortexes to create lilting rhythms that suggest dub without attempting to mimic its familiar step. Each piece is split into brief movements, or variations on a theme, beginning with 'Subterranean', a three-part swirl of bleeps and wiggling oscillations that fritters away to almost nothing. 'The Long Wait' is a complete contrast, drawing on kosmische and structuring its synth sounds into arpeggiated sequences that seem to fold in on each other, transforming into warbling echoes, while 'To hold and be held' is a playful, filtered set of melodic rhythmic phrases that twinkle like staccato string plucks.
As the album descends into night, the music gets significantly more moonlit - not dark, exactly, but starry and crepuscular. 'Be without being seen' is the first taste of this dusky material, but the lengthy 'Les parenthèses enchantées' is the focal point, five lengthy variations that twinkle romantically, sounding as spiritually charged as Popol Vuh's 'Affenstunde'. On the opening movement, Schott weaves molasses-slow melodies through a pool of delays, and on the third segment, it begins to sound like a chorus of nocturnal creatures singing to each other in twilight. Schott has outdone herself with this one, using synthesized thickets of sound to express a level of emotionality that often eludes electronic music - if you enjoyed Lau Nau's stunning '5 x 4' then this is the perfect companion.
Kath Bloom's 2005 comeback album - her first official release since 1984 - is finally (whoops) back in print. RIYL Bill Callahan, Loren Connors or Gillian Welch.
Bloom hadn't intended to quit music, it's just the way things panned out. She had begun recording with Loren Mazzacane Connors in the mid-1970s, but after producing six well-regarded but underground albums she moved to Florida with her husband, not returning to the studio until early '90s. In 1995 she was contacted by Richard Linklater, who wanted to feature 'Come Here' in "Before Sunrise" and it was all the encouragement she needed to record in earnest again, putting together a slew of CDRs and tapes. 'Finally' emerged in 2005 and compiled selected cuts from Bloom's run of CDRs, showing her development as an artist and the lilting folk loveliness that had always characterized her music.
Her voice is still astonishing; if you've only heard Bloom's earliest work, hearing her a few decades later is a healing experience. It's that same voice, but with the wisdom of experience, struck through with life lessons and interlocking stories. Tracks like 'It's Just A Dream' and 'Can't Rise To Your Feet' immediately stand out, foregrounding Bloom's songwriting ability and her gentle guitar playing. But the weirder, more meandering moments like 'Sand In My Shoe' go even harder for us, reminding us of Joanna Newsom or Diane Cluck.
Dubstep choirboy James Blake gets back to his club-adjacent roots with a 6th studio LP balancing tremulous vox, burnished trap and UK rave inspirations, including co-production by Mount Kimbie and interpolations of The Ragga Twins, Snoop Dogg and The Neptunes
Proceeding a slew of recent work with pop and rap notables such as K*nye West, Rosalía, Bon Iver, Metro Boomin, Frank Ocean, and Travis Scott, ‘Playing Robots Into Heaven’ locates James Blake surrounded by partner Jameela Jamil, and longtime pals Mount Kimbie, for a grown-up take on the naïf melodies and heart-flutter UKG/dubstep beats of his early works with Hemlock and Hessle Audio.
Set in place by Matt Colton’s mix/master, Blake’s signature, forlorn falsetto lights up an 11-song suite of twinkling electronic motifs and padded rhythms ornamented with classical keys and samples plucked from classic rave and R&B. As one of the few dubstep-deriving artists to really transcend the sound and “break” the US, Blake has inevitably come in for flack from the diehards who think he diluted the sound. But likewise he’s arguably at least partially responsible for translating it to international pop as much as rave audiences, and ‘Playing Robots Into Heaven’ is patently his clearest attempt in years to consolidate the two.
Allowing for the romantic, schmaltzy waltz of ‘Asking to Break’, a co-production with Jameela Jamil, and return influence from his pop spars across the album, he’s not breaking any molds, but does leave his imprint on them, at best in the playful rudeness of his Ragga Twins-sampling ‘Big Hammer’ and the Burial-esque flip of The Neptunes’ production for Snoop’s ‘Beautiful’, in ‘I Want You to Know’, with sweet highlights in the aerial glyde of ‘Night Sky’ and the lissom swing to ‘Fall Back’ that make it the sort of record we’d bite our tongue at if fancied by a younger sibling or wean who didn’t know better.
Blurt’s Ted Milton and Graham Lewis ov Wire/Dome assume their grouchiest post-punk lounge lizard slouch as Elegiac with a 2nd EP primed to grab fans of owt from James Chance to NWW, Suicide, Gen P-O or Burroughs
‘Meet My Stalker’ is the duo’s follow-up to a 2021 self-titled debut that outlined their Dadaist dad craic as proper no wave punk funk delivered with a snarl. The four new cuts make no concession to that sound, rubbing out coarse dubbed, fossil-fuelled grooves and off-the-dome vocals with a psycho-funk and jazz swagger that belies their veteran ages and makes many younger acts seem tame by comparison. They bring a wealth of experience to the table and send half of it scattering to the floor as they go heads down and outright rude with the revving basslines and possessed avant rock behaviour.
Enabled by co-producer Sam Britton, Milton & Lewis maintain a mean energy from the off, wielding sozzled sax lines over snake-hipped rock ’n roll bass and hypnotic industrial dubbing on ‘He Folds’, with Burton reeling off non sequituurs into the ether, before really laying it down with the crunching groove pugilism and scorn of ‘Boat’. It cools down on the B-side to let the lyrical refrain “It’s a wind-up” ring true over more tempered no wave thrust, and unleash an extended version of album highlight ‘Vancouver Slim’ that lets the prowling bass and sax skronk breath better, dubbier.
Traces of Jersey club, Detroit techno, ghettotech and special Washington D.C. spices gets chewed up and spat out in livewire jams by Amal, James Bangura & Nativesun’s Black Rave Culture
The trio juggle the drums properly on their 3rd, most substantial, and arguably significant outing since debuting in 2021 a s assailable of House of Altr. All tracky and built to sweep the club, they initially play it cool with the percolated, atmospheric pressure of ‘Full Circle’ and finely toggle the gauge between militant Afro-bounce on ‘Blood Omen’, to itchy Detroit tekkerz recalling Claude Young in ‘One Way Ticket’ and the dub chord-riding ‘Dat Jaunt Go Pt.2’ and ‘Track Hawk’, before dialling up the Jersey jiggle on ‘Crazy Legs’ and ‘Amtrak’, and harder still with the Jersey x Drill winner ‘Run It Up’. The hard ghettotech electro knocks of DJ Assault inform the bone rattling ‘Blowin O’s’. Strong!
Breakthru debut album of meter-messing, cuboid electronic music for the club from a cult UK talent - RIYL Actress, Beneath, Novo Line, Lee Gamble, Rian Treanor.
Building on nearly a decade of work for Beneath’s Mistry and alongside Gramrcy, Gaunt’s first long player ’Blind at the Age of Four’ is an unusual album of asymmetric structures, weirdly expressive tones and spatial convolutions that speak to the far reaches of UK club music. It is specifically a tribute to his dad, David Adrian Warne (1959-2014), who suffered the same, rare, congenital eye condition - Thiel-Behnke Corneal Dystrophy - that left a young Gaunt prone in bed in darkness, and helped shaped his synaesthetic relationship to sound. The music follows with funky and brilliantly odd juxtapositions of rhythm and noise that uniquely press on the mind’s eye and conjure amorphous shapes in the smoke and strobes of an imaginary club.
Turning the extra-musical to weirdly wired purpose throughout the album, Gaunt imprints his sensibilities at every turn from the staggered orchestral warm-up ‘Jack?’ to the dense vocaloid chatter and swanging ‘80s FM funk of ‘Because I’. The Korg M1 riffs of ‘Favourite Memory’ evoking Kassem Mosse or Actress’ ‘Maze’, and sprayed freehand in ‘Composition 001’, with wicked echoes of clonking Sheffield bleep in ’Sweet’, and literally in the curdled brain matter of ‘Memories Talk’, but always with an uncanny valley of displacement. He strafes into skewed cyberdub on ’Syncopate’, and pulls out a deep club roller in ‘Un’, while pushing into Novo Line-like messing with of OG computer grids on ‘Rear View Spectate-or’, and picnoleptic strobes of Lee Gamble’s future-regression sessions on ‘Lesser You’, leaving us with the strangest motion sickness of time travel.
Bare-boned x darkside Chi jack trax by Duke n Cliff on Delroy Edwards’ cult label
On their sole dispatch of 2023 so far, L.A. Club Resource play it close to their chest with the first shots by Duke n Cliff. The internet is offering little to no background on their provenance beside links to a Furry’s reddit (not going there) and Cliff Richard duking it out with The Backstreet Boys for xmas No.1, so we’ll wing it and guess it’s either Delroy hisself (sounds like it!) or some unarchived juice from a Chicago basement. Anyone’s guess!
We’re talking coldest Jamie Principle pads and Santos-style tape-warped bass with janky blues keys on ‘Overdubbed Drums A Piano And A Synth’, and ruggedest The Jit-style jab jack in ’Skoolhouze’, jibber-jawed wall-banging in ‘Go Kid Go’, and the the kind of acid that removes teeth plaque in ‘Presence of the Past’, with mouth-watering levels of dissonance recalling Jamal Moss and Africans With Mainframes in ‘Sympte Frequency Move Ya Thang’, and a flourish of woozy Virgo Four-like suss in ‘Ethereal’ to leave you grabbing at names while clawing the walls.
Tom Boogizm pulls deeper into his thing on a new double album of scuzzed blooz and late night drifters, his second Rat Heart album this year, deployed in highly personalised formations recalling the arcane wonders of Arthur Russell, Labradford and Vini Reilly, shot thru a haze of smoke.
We’ve said it countless times, but if you ain’t paying attention to Tom Boogizm’s output, you really should be. Most of you know the deal by now; he ain’t married to a style, or sound, or era, equally at home playing punk, drill, grindcore, Jungle, folkways - whatever. Rat Heart has been home to his most loose and rewarding endeavours over the last couple of years, culminating in a pair of Rat Heart Ensemble albums that properly knocked us sideways - our album of the year last year ”A Blues”, and a stunning followup ‘Northern Luv Songs 4 Wen Ur Life’s A Mess’, released at the start of spring this year.
For ‘The Pamela Peanut Kitchen Sessions’ he reconvenes, Peanuts in tow, for an album of opposing energies, from electric blues to transcendent drift, all uppercase, wry-lipped track titles, with an emotionally melted core. Using pretty much just electric guitar, pedals and his voice, the songs here wind around the aesthetic progressions of Arthur Russell, manc style, running deep into the red with bare emotion. In fact, IT WAS A JOINT EFFORT SO I HAD TO DO IT ALL and HERE WE ARE (LAAAAAA) sound like Russell following up World Of Echo with an album of electric pop dirges, they’re that good.
And then things take a turn, halfway thru, with a trio of songs that clock in at almost 40 minutes between them, arcing from a sort of urban desert blues to properly smudged slowcore and into iridescent ambient, shot through with visions of manc backstreets filmed in the glow of night. There’s nowt mannered or urbane to see here, just pure expression, from one of the low key greats of our time.
Loraine James lets her influences run wild on her third Hyperdub volume, sampling DNTEL, Telefon Tel Aviv and Lusine on tracks that dig into her emotional core. Featuring guest appearances from Marina Herlop, keiyaA, Corey Mastrangelo, Eden Samara, George Riley and Contour.
The first taste we had of 'Gentle Confrontation' was '2003', the album's most personal track - a sombre, beatless memorial that drapes James' newly confident vocals over a bed of dreamy oohs and ahhs. "It's about my dad who passed away 20 years ago," she revealed on Twitter, "and my mum being the best parent ever." The track sets the pace for a charged set she says she should have written as a teenager, with its source material reflecting that time in her life. As anyone who's dug into her back catalog before - from her acclaimed 'Reflection' and 'For You and I' full-lengths to her hazier gear as Whatever The Weather - will already know, her earliest musical passions were early noughties emotronica and math rock. So on tracks like 'Glitch the System (Glitch Bitch 2)' and the sardonically titled 'I DM U', James casts her mind back to material from her teenage heroes like DNTEL, Baths and Lusine, capturing their ethereal shimmer while redirecting the mood with contemporary twists and turns.
On DNTEL's 2001 album 'Life is Full of Possibilities', he worked with vocalists like Mia Doi Todd, Meredith Figurine and Deathcab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard, inadvertently setting the pace for a deluge of albums that followed. James continues the thought, weaving similar structures but adding fresher voices, like NYC-based keiyaA, whose characteristic tones lift 'Let U Go' into the heavens, soaring over James' syncopated, Telefon-sampling rattle. PAN's Marina Herlop whispers sweet nothings on 'While They Were Singing', turning her voice into a choir to offer an emotional counter to James' Merck-ish skittering percussion and calming sine tones, while Eden Samara follows her memorable performance on 'Reflection' with the poppy 'Try For Me'. On 'I'm Trying to Love Myself', James samples DNTEL's melancholy 'Anywhere Anyone' looping Mia Doi Todd's voice as she murmurs "I love you," her heart directly on her sleeve.
But 'Gentle Confrontation' shines brightest when it pulls us back into James' private fantasies, like on the Aaliyah-esque 'Speechless'. Here James sounds as if she's underwater, pushing her hard-swung rhythms through deep water while George Riley adds low-lit, smokey words. Similarly, on 'Cards with the Grandparents', James talks and sings, recounting personal truths over evocative field recordings and abstracted, tumbling foley beats. It's these moments that give us the best porthole into James' world, a space that's getting more vivid with each and every release.