Hallucinatory, Peruvian jazz-fusion from pivotal, Lima-based percussionist-composer Manongo Mujica, paying tribute to his departed friend Rafael Hastings how he knows best - RIYL Michael Ranta, Jocy De Oliveira, Laszlo Hortobagyi
‘Del Cuarto Rojo’ is Mujica’s first solo album since 2016 and sees him tie strands of soundtrack composition and improvised psychedelia to evoke the life of his friend, visual artist Rafael Hastings. Collaborators for almost half a century, Mujica and Hastings developed a cross-discipline method of making music and painting inspired by each other, resulting many soundtracks for dance and scores for video works that were crucial in the context of Lima’s creative milieu during the ‘70s. When Hastings passed away at the cusp of the pandemic in 2020, Mujica began the process of preparing sounds and embarking a personal musical journey in honour of his peer, drawing upon all the techniques learned over the decades - from field recordings and sound montage to experiments with jazz and traditional music - to stitch this absorbing psychedelic tapestry.
Working within interzones also explored by Mujica’s collaborators such as Richard Pinhas, Acid Mothers Temple, João Pais Filipe, and Alan Courtis, the album benefits from the depth of feeling also supplied by crackshot players from the Peruvian scene; Pauchi Sasaki (violin), José Quezada (cello), Terje Evensen (electronic effects), Jean Pierre Magnet (Saxophone), Cristobal, Daniel and Gabriel Mujica (sons of Manongo Mujica, on percussion, string and wind arrangements). Driven by Mujica’s mutable percussive tekkerz, they head in pursuit of an elusive muse, deftly evoking the sense of movement thru vast, natural, nocturnal space and the imagination on their trek from the wide open scenes of ‘Desert’ to the concrète jazz roil of ‘Humor negro’, via sumptuous classical string orchestration in ‘Mar’, and big band tropicalia on ‘Cuerpos en fuga’ that logically prepares and lures listeners into the psychedelic funereality of ‘Procession’ and ‘Inciendos’.
Classic, minimalist hardcore techno for megadomes, backed with new remixes by the artist plus Perc, Ghost in the Machine, and Sissel Wincent with Peder Mannerfelt
A true evergreen, sprouted from the seeds of Wax’s Belgian banger ‘Bass Drum & Hi-Hats’, this slightly later 1993 version by Frankfurt’s Marc Acardipane was first released under his Pill Driver alias on Cold Rush Records - a subdivision of PCP - and has since become a stone cold staple of European industrial techno.
Where the original notably features nowt more than a modulated kick drum and hangar-sized reverbs, Acardipane’s own remix reengineers the track with added percussion and signature dive-bombing synthline forged in hell to face-eatign effect. However, Perc keeps truer to the original with an added, shivering backbone of hi-hats and recursive edits, while Ghost in the Machine gets busy with the modulated kicks, and it’s left to Sissel & Peder to fuck with the formula on a loosey goosey, offbeat hardcore trample peppered with vox and sick, haywire synths.
Rusty shanks of dubstep and UKGristle from undisclosed operators on YOUTH, sustaining the label’s swagger after ace drops by FUMU, Authentically Plastic/Emma DJ & Toma Kami, and Hajj already in 2022
Behind a mask of anonymity, NW/HR deploy a pair of hard-bitten cuts that sound like they were unearthed from the bottom of a bin circa 2003, throwing down fetid chunks of shower face halfstep and squashed 2-step swivel that was seemingly too dank, even for the early dubstep/grime cranks. We could be here all day speculating on the producer’s provenance - is it one, or even two, or more sets of mitts, on the desk? - but we’ll suffice it to say they slap in the club.
‘Nuclear Winter’ steps in first with something like an early Skream or Slaughter Mob workout, all oxidised snares and grim, skulking South London atmosphere, nowt flash or clever, but ruggedly rude and sopping with dirt for the dance. ‘Heavy Rain’ arrives in a vein of proto- or primordial Burial styles, depressing the tempo to a thuggish hulk accentuated with groaning bass and sore blue synth pads bound to bring a rictus shower face to OG steppers.
Finally available on vinyl, "You Loved Me" connects Patty Waters' legendary 1960s ESP-Disk albums and her later, jazzier 1990s recordings. Like a spiritual meeting of vintage folk and avant jazz, these songs sound as if they've been cut straight from the heart. Tip!
"You Loved Me" would have been Waters' third album after 1966's "Sings" and "College Tour". Most of the tracks were recorded during a 1970 session with engineer Steve Atkins, and the album has been filled out with unreleased single 'My One And Only Love' and two tracks from a session at Lone Mountain College in 1974. Waters disappeared for a stretch after it was recorded, so hearing it connects the dots in her catalogue. After the first two ESP-Disk albums displayed Waters' teenage longing, her 1996-released return "Love Songs" was a more mature set of trad and jazz standards. "You Loved Me" is the missing link, an album that's far more joyful than its predecessors but more irreverent than its successor.
Waters' unmistakably smoky voice carries the record, but her piano playing is also in sharp focus here, not least on the 14-minute 'Touched By Rodin In A Paris Museum', that uses avant minimal techniques to evoke an artistic visual landscape. She sounds positively entranced on 'At Last I Found You', breathing words with joy and grace around stark, Cage-influenced piano motifs, while on 'My One And Only Love' she circles folk and dusty jazz, reflecting Billie Holiday and Joan Baez at once. Gorgeous, time-stopping music.
After last year's 1971-74 box set release, containing the first four studio albums and for the first time ever this lost 'last' album recording, 'Punkt' gets a deserved and necessary stand alone release.
Known as the "Munich album" by fans, "Punkt" is Krautrock legends Faust's lost "last" album, and has finally been released as a stand-alone after inclusion in the 1971-74 box set. "Punkt" means period or full stop in German, so it's the perfect title for the final (before their 1994 rebirth) set from iconoclastic German pioneers Faust. The band recorded it in Munich after returning from a doomed UK tour - it was supposed to be released on Richard Branson's Virgin label, following their impressive 1973 "The Faust Tapes" full-length, but after ten days of recording Branson never paid the bill for the studio. The band were arrested until their family paid off the studio, and the master tapes were hidden in a secret location until they were dug up decades later.
It feels like a privilege to finally hear the album in all its glory, but its understandable why Faust were misunderstood at the time. "Punkt" is uncompromisingly strange, running through noise rock, jazz, avant electronics, blues and psychedelic skronk sounds with a recklessness that's peak Faust - it's not as cut-n-paste as "The Faust Tapes" or as droned-out as "Faust IV", but is equally as impressive. Hight points come from the long-form 'Knochentanz', that ties muted trumpet blasts to a slowly-escalating beat and layered waves of guitar noise, and the eerie piano-led 'Schön Rund'. Recommended.
Gqom hybridists Phelimuncasi return to Nyege Nyege Tapes for a second album of purple-hued, darkside energies that cross galvanized futuristic productions with frenetic MCing in isiZulu and English. Imagine DJ Lag, DJ Menzi and Byrell the Great in a blender and you'll get a vague idea of what to expect.
Nyege introduced Phelimuncasi to the wider world a couple of years back with a career spanning sampler that was released to much acclaim, but by that point they were already a long-established fixture on their local Durban scene. 'Ama Gogela' brings us right up to speed, allowing everyone outside of their Mlaszi township a chance to experience the sound and energy of one of gqom's most relentless, uncompromising units. Vocalists Malathon, Makan Nana and Khera team up once again with Gqom's most innovative producers DJ MP3 and DJ Scoturn, joined by locals DJ Nhlekzin and DJ Ndakx, alongside South Korea's NET GALA, who dropped the ace "신파 SHINPA" last summer.
The album starts on a delirious tip with 'I Don't Feel Like Legs', a DJ Nhlekzin-produced trunk bumper that lifts Malathon, Makan Nana and Khera's circular chants above a mass of subby womps and party clacks somewhere between Miami bass and classic gqom, complete with frenetic thee-part vocals, police sirens and chat delirium. NET GALA throws down another early highlight with the squelchy 'Ngiphupha Izinto', blasting Phelimuncasi thru rolling ballroom-adjacent snares and bee-sting synths.
'Maka Nana' features guest vocalist Bhejane riding a more traditional gqom blueprint, balancing a slithering drone against a familiar 120bpm bounce offset by those neon vocal chants, while 'Dlala Ngesinqa’ percolates with menace, a winding synth ramping up the tension with increasing intensity, and they leave it to the clipped vocal stabs of 'Uyaphi WeNano’ to present the most unhinged darkside energy on show, deployed at half speed for a tempo madness.
Debut solo LP of discretely inventive music for fictive ceremonies, from Swiss drummer Michael Anklin; deploying field recordings of a hydroelectric dam, metallic percussion and deconstructed bassoon, in absorbing electro-acoustic constructions
Previously appearing on these pages as part of Kilchhofer for Marionette, Anklin now unfurls his personal artistic statement, shaping a palate of resonant sounds into abstract, narrative arrangements that evoke ritual atmospheres and purpose. Landing to these ears somewhere between the sound art on Giuseppe Ielasi’s ace label, Senufo Editions, the kind of kinetic east/west sound-scapes limned by Michael Ranta, or the enigmatic tekkerz of Valentina Magaletti, the album’s seven parts plot an unpredictable course from tonal abstractions of ‘Chiaroscuro’ to the magisterial metallic hymn of ‘Pythia’, taking in a transfixing drone piece shaped from field recordings of ‘Hagneck’, a hydroelectric powerplant next to Lake Biel, and the resounding mystery of ‘Okapi’ which sounds like miners playing gamelan in an alpine cave, along with broken-down bassoon sounds in ‘Exon’ and ‘Zymosis’.
After choice collabs with Valentina Magaletti and Matthew Herbert, explorative drummer Julian Sartorius showcases innovative extended techniques, making acoustic drums sound curiously electronic, for Marionette.
Member of more bands than you can shake a drumstick at, Sartorius here focusses his solo attention on animating percussion to make it produce unusual tonalities that may beggar the listener’s belief. Messing with a principle of early electronic and experimental music, in which artists attempted to shape waveforms to mimic “real” instruments, Sartorius makes his instruments sound “unreal” via a range of deftly applied strategies and organic, hand-played construction. The result is a supremely playful battery of rhythms and sounds that come to resemble a drum machine played by inbuilt insects, or a water-powered synth built from ancient Pygmy schematics by Pierre Bastien.
It’s as if the gridlines of electronic music are contoured more fleshy, quiescent and wobbly, but still just-about holding it all together as the album sloshes and tinkles between the electroid water music of ‘Rollgadi’ thru scuzzy downbeats redolent of Herbert’s concrète textures in ‘Ruuri’ and the minimalist house swing of ‘Zwuri’, to gamelan-like rhythemlodic tones recalling Don’t DJ or Uwalmassa’s innovative Indonesian styles on ‘Fatzikus’ and ‘Parliwu’, or Nicola Ratti’s frayed pulses in stirred in a metal pan on ‘Luur’, or like a mushie-powered MPC workout by Eli Keszler in ‘Treissi’.
Cult Swedish ambient noise avatar Civilistjävel! pushes off the first release on Felt, the promising new label run by Perko, with one of their most opiated and sublimely chilling episodes.
Depending who you asks, Civilistjävel! is either “a figment of the pre-internet era tapping into a similar consciousness as Biosphere, Chain Reaction or early Fax +49-69/450464” or an apocryphal exercise in ambient hauntology, but either way their music feeds into a palpable need for enigma in modern music. ‘Järnnätter’ is their 7th release since appearing outta nowhere in 2018 via Low Company, and adds fine new layers of natural world inspiration and jazzy intrigue to their personalised dream sequence that effortlessly allows you to suspend disbelief for the duration and buy into their ruse-not-ruse.
For ‘Järnnätter’, Civilistjävel! take their cues from the Swedish expression “Iron Night”, traditionally used to describe long winter nights when the frost withers plants and crops. Under this poetically evocative phrase the music manifests an uncannily absorbing ecology of glacial, cracked rhythms and plangent nocturnal pads that, if you squint your ears a bit, comes to limn spirited soundscapes where the sun hardly rises and you can practically feel the frost crystallising on yr whiskers and eyelids. We’ve little doubt that it’s some of the project’s finest work, tapping into an atavistic ambient sensibility comparable with contemporary visionaries ranging from Wanda Group to Werkbund, Mika Vainio and even CC Hennix on their trip from the zonked sublime of ‘A1’ to the nithered nub of ‘B2’ and ultimately the bad belly jazz groan of ‘B4’.
Proper intrigue and stuff.
'Sampler' is a collection of over 300 trumpet pieces, with a series of collaborative tracks on 'Sampled' on which Mazen Kerbaj’s co-composers use sounds lifted from 'Sampler, featuring impressively sourced contributions from Muqata’a, Gavsborg, Marina Rosenfeld, Don Zilla, Deena Abdelwahed, Electric Indigo, and others.
Two albums for the price of one - first we've got Kerbaj's "Sampler" sides, two 20+ minute explorations of techniques he's been perfecting for 25 years. It's stunning material that pushes the trumpet into fresh places -and our preconceptions out the window. If you're a producer into brass there's basically a set of incredibly high quality metallic swooshes, squeaks and whistles on display, which is exactly the starting point for the rest of the LP, where a hand-picked selection of artists piece together their own tracks from these elements.
Deena Abdelwahed is first up, meticulously constructing a piece of searing industrial club music, while sonic alchemist Rrose deploys a disorienting low-lite techno crawler that uses Kerbaj's trumpet burbles to mimic analog synth sweeps and clanging percussion. As expected, turntable guru Marina Rosenfeld takes a more experimental route, dragging the sounds through her idiosyncratic processes and forming them into abstract new shapes.
Electric Indigo makes aquatic moves with 'Mazen's Trumpet', echoing Monolake's precise digital beat constructions but replacing electronic elements with breath, spit and the bell-like clanging of metal, while Equiknoxx's Gavsborg provides the cherry on top, molding Kerbaj's wonked soundset into a killer slow-mo dancehall slither on 'Now Serving #8190'. Aye.
Compelling, incognito ambient/noise jams from a London-based cabal flocking around cellist Oliver Coates. A must check for fans of Alex Zhang-Hungtai, Philip Jeck, Lawrence English
The intrigue, and stuff, is high on this one; a suite of unpredictable improvisations recorded for the sheer fuck of it, and presented mixed down to tape, sans overdubs or edits. All contributors aside from Coates will remain anonymous, letting the music do the talking across a handful of pieces that scale from screwed vignettes to smeared widescreen soundscaping, each blessed with a textural bite and attrition that infects from the first go.
Prizing a lack of conceit or imagery that’s all too rare and much needed in a contemporary scene where artists are expected to be overt narcissists, The Pale Faced Family on the Hill simply do their thing without all the shit modern trappings, and sound better for it. Pivoting live cello improvs by Oliver Coates, the ensemble use a range of strategies, from live sampling/processing to mixing with field recordings and more “esoteric ways of generating sound”, to arrive at a sore, magisterial sound that recalls to these ears the enigma of Philip Jeck (R.I.P) as much as Alex Zhang-Hungtai’s inventive sax experiments.
’Slime light bends 1’ initiates the mystery with a haar-like occlusion of strings and silty distortion that sets the tone for the EP’s two related, durational works, pooling into the cinematic 10 mins of its part 2, and the aching 21 min motherland of part 3, with its nuanced oscillation of dream-like and ‘parish sentiments. The other two tracks act as fine palate cleansers, with ‘Vega’ churning up tempestuous, blistering shoegaze shapes and distorted amp workship, while ‘Clones of Vega’ keeps it wayward on a crushed sort of screw-gaze flex.
Alex Zhang Hungtai joins forces with Essaie Pas' Pierre Guerineau on a gorgeous, spirited soundtrack to Christopher Makoto Yogi's Hawaiian ghost story 'I Was a Simple Man'. Made up of Taiwanese Buddhist ritual recordings, minimalist piano, strobe drones and spine-tingling orchestral material, it's a singular soundtrack that effortlessly connects dots between Harold Budd, Miles Davis, Lynch and Chris Watson.
To accompany Yogi's surreal, dreamlike film, Zhang and Guerineau opted to skate through different cinematic conventions on a 13-part suite that never quite settles into one mode entirely, instead floating between quietly soaring and more insular soundscapes. It's a process that sees the duo draw on a considerable, combined repository of experimental production and emotional intelligence to reflect the film’s themes of mythology, dream logic and surrealism and - remarkably - manages to hang together as a standalone album in the process.
'Let It In’ sets the scene with a quietly orchestral strings x Gamelan movement, before the duo render monochromatic solo piano situated somewhere between the sustained minimalism of Morton Feldman and Harold Budd's dreamy emotionality. This interplay between abstraction and relative formalism is at the heart of the record, and while the duo's experimental instincts refuse to stick to a particular script - sweeping up ideas from basement noise, industrial, dark ambient and beyond - these two guiding poles remain.
While 'Eternal Return’ riffs on Miles Davis’ ‘Flamenco Sketches’, it sharply contrasts with 'The Hollow Tree’s', blood-curdling synth drone, or 'On The Run's horror signatures, piping white noise and feedback through a tremolo effect to create a spirit-rousing EMP-style chug. The same technique is revisited on the more substantial 'Sprit Calling', balanced with bowed metal and woodwind blasts - a sound that’s situated between ‘Eraserhead’ and an Aaron Dilloway tape. But Zhang and Guerineau always pull it back down to earth - 'There Was Once A Time When You Could See' is the album's most peaceful piano piece, providing a calmness that's struck through with fear. Fans of Zhang's phenomenal 2018 album 'Divine Weight’ or his “Love Theme” recordings will be pleased to know there's even some disembodied sax, on the stunning, pitch-black 'Eclipse’.
'I Was A Simple Man' is quite the achievement - a contemporary movie score that plays like a standalone piece. It’s neither overwrought nor dispassionate - leaving us struck, once again, by Zhang’s curious touch. We’ve always connected with the musical language he speaks; managing to evoke a world of emotional complexity through his most abstracted, as well as his simplest recordings. This one here, together with Pierre Guerineau, is one of his best.
Released on Throbbing Gristle's Industrial Records in 1979, "The Bridge" was the only album from Glaswegian innovators Thomas Wishart and Robert Donnachie (aka Thomas Leer & Robert Rental), but influenced everyone from John Foxx and Art of Noise to Mute founder Daniel Miller and ABC. Seriously next level day zero DIY electro pop made in a bedsit with hacked together synths and reel-to-reel recorders >> end-to-end killer.
When "The Bridge" was released, there was almost nothing else like it out there. Leer and Rental were true pioneers, experimenting with sounds that just hadn't been touched before and changing the course of British pop music in the process. They had spent most of the '70s surfing thru squats and communes, but headed to London in the mid-'70s to write music, inspired by the growing punk movement.
Their take on punk was a little different - they only had access to the cheapest equipment, so a guitar was twinned with a kids' Stylophone keyboard and mangled with a home-made effects unit. Interestingly, their eerie, fwd-thinking sound did get traction at the time, and after a few acclaimed singles they recorded "The Bridge" for Industrial Records in two weeks using hired gear.
Unlike the surge of electronic pop records that would follow, "The Bridge" still sounds haunted and original. The duo's lack of experience with their instruments and clear interest in texture and noise leads them in constantly odd directions, following spiky punk splatter with shimmering ambience or crunchy noise. 'Fade Away' is like John Foxx thru a distortion pedal, while the seven-minute 'Interferon' sounds more like early BoC or Emeralds.
It's a stunning record that's far more than a mere curiosity of the era; you could feel its influence reverberate across British pop music and beyond in the following decades. Time to discover another forgotten classic then...
Obscure electro-reggae-rock is in the crosshair on Isle of Jura’s latest reissue winner
Orignally dispensed in 1988 and now hard or expensive to find 2nd hand, ‘Hot Rock’ is one of a small handful of records released by Waterhouse-via-Pennsylvania roots reggae band House of Assembly. It’s a wicked bit of post-Sleng Teng digidub with feet in two eras, marrying sugary mid ‘80s soul with updated memory bank of laser zaps, crisp 707 drum machine punctuation, and sampler and FX graffiti that really comes into its own on the dub, while the original is fired up with full vocal, natty synth vamps, and jagged arps that parallel actions from UK to US thru South Africa and Belgium at the time.
Arthur Russell’s prized Instrumentals [1975-1980] suite is served in full on newly remastered platters also including the absorbing noise excursion Sketch For ‘Face of Helen’ and the liminal, minimalist jazz gesture of Reach One along with some of the late, great composer’s finest avant-chamber-pop pieces and sections performed by the CETA Orchestra and conducted by Julius Eastman, claimed by the artist as some of his personal favourite work.
Taking cues from his studies in Buddhism, and Indian and Western classical and folk music in San Francisco, combined with a growing awareness of the American pop consciousness and the wide-open possibilities of minimalist composition, Instrumentals forms an early and timeless testament to Russell’s syncretic consolidation of myriad styles which would have been considered mutually exclusive back then, but which are now thought of as malleable components of a whole thanks to his pioneering, border-crossing principles and refusal of the putative distinctions between ‘low’ and ‘high’ art in music.
To start at the beginning, the rare Instrumentals, 1974 Vol. 1 was written by a then 23 year old composer in response to photos of landscapes and cloudy skies taken by his West Coast pal, a Shingon Buddhist priest named Yuko Nonomura, shortly after Russell’s move to New York City, where he was staying on the sofa of Allen Ginsburg and curating important downtown hub, The Kitchen.
It was there, at The Kitchen where he recorded Instrumentals with an ensemble of legendary luminaries - Ernie Brooks (electric bass), Rhys Chatham (flute), Jon Gibson (alto and soprano saxophone, flute and clarinet), Peter Gordon (piano and organ), Garrett List (trombone), Andy Paley (drums) and David Tiegham (percussion) - all working to his loose commands and gestures, leaving lots of room for aleatoric happenstance and improvisation in a way that blurred the lines between avant orchestral, communal (folk), easy listening and disco/dance ensembles in a way that pretty much nobody else had tried before, perhaps predictably leading some audience members to claim he was diluting proper serious music with pop (groan).
However time has honoured the results as just magic; eternally optimistic in that big-skied Iowan farm boy manner, but with an underlying sense of melancholy to match, while also betraying a rhythmelodic suss rooted in his all-encompassing studies of world musics, much like Reich was doing with African music around that era. It’s heart-melting stuff. Open the windows and let it in!
Likewise, Instrumentals - 1974,Volume 2 holds some of his most sublime, quietly yearning works, which were issued on an unsatisfactory edition on Another Side in 1984, and features here in all its languorous glory.
The other two pieces, meanwhile, play into Russell’s more experimental side, making a noisier, textured departure from the bittersweetness of Instrumentals with the fusion of tone generators and field recordings made on a tugboat in Sketch for ‘Face Of Helen’ - predating and recalling to an extent, Ingram Marshall’s Fog Tropes - before Reach One completes the set with a meditatively cool, playfully lower case, side-long piece for pianists and stethoscopes rendering one of the quietest compositions in Russell’s canon in the process.
As with most everything to do with Arthur, context is key to fully understanding these works in light of musical history, but no prior knowledge is required to sit with and immerse yourself in the iconoclast genius’s presence.
Daydream Nation was Sonic Youth’s sixth full-length, their first double-LP, and their last for an indie label before signing with Geffen.
"Widely considered to be their watershed moment, the album catapulted them into the mainstream and proved that indie bands could enjoy wide commercial success without compromising their artistic vision. More recently, Daydream Nation has been recognized as a classic of its time: Pitchfork ranked it #1 on their “100 Greatest Albums of the 1980s”; It was one of 50 recordings chosen by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry in 2006. This edition of Daydream Nation is released on SY’s own Goofin’ Records and has been remastered under the band’s supervision."
NYC’s amazing Blank Forms Editions give a gripping introduction to Kazuki Tomokawa’s avant-folk vitality, documenting the early years of the “screaming philosopher” via his first three albums, all collected and reissued internationally for the first time - think Nick Drake meets Keiji Haino
Completely new to our ears, Kazuki Tomokawa’s reamarkable vocal range - from raging to soothing - makes no less than a memorable first impression in this comprehensive early years salvo. Spanning three foundational albums for Harvest Records, ‘Finally, His First Album’ (1975), ‘Straight from the Throat’ (1976), and ‘A String of Paper Cranes Clenched between my Teeth’ (1977), the set plunges us into a highly personalised blend of folk-rock and psychedelia, sung, hollered and crooned in the artist’s native Akita dialect, a highly regional vernacular of north Japan rarely heard beyond the prefecture, and even less often set to music.
From the frankly alarming impact of his white hot hollers set to swaying acoustic guitar on ‘The Flower of Youth’ in his debut album, to the possessed wails and almost punk-folk thrust of his 2nd set, and the lysergic shimmer of his 3rd album, Kabuki’s collected works chart a scorchingly singular mind at work, and clearly justify the description of his music as possessing the “personality of a hydrogen bomb” by ultraleft band the Brain Police. After immersing in his ability to erupt from lilting folk to brain-slap psych in ‘Souls’, or unleash streams of fiery psych blues on ‘A Fitting Adolescence’, and practically shred his fingers and throat in the likes of ‘Kill or Be Killed’, we also get a clear sense of why he’s also described as “A poet, soothsayer, bicycle race tipster, actor, prolific drinker”, as music of this sort of striking energy and variety usually comes from a proper character. One can only imagine that a drinking session with Kazuki would be top craic, possibly ending in a raging barney and a song, and it’s not hard to hear why he would be represented by Tokyo’s premier psych/freak label, P.S.F. Records for decades from the ‘90s.
Apron and Pacific Rhythm alum Space Ghost comes correct with a new three-piece funk set that sounds as if it's been dragged out of the time tunnel - pure 1980s smoove grooves, cooked to perfection. Like Dâm-Funk covering Michael McDonald, and just as sick as that sounds.
Superb this one - Sudi Wachspress has been churning out respectable throwback tunes for years, but 'Heaven Sent' is his most convincing set of retro funk/soul/yacht rock we've heard yet. Seriously, if someone told us this was unearthed '80s material we'd fully believe them: from the slippery synths and snipped beatbox grooves of the title track to its unforgettably sensual vocals, it puts you right there. It might be the vocals that are Space Ghost's secret weapon, the Michael McDonald falsetto - most recognizable from Warren G and Nate Dogg's sample-heavy 'Regulate' - is perfectly rendered, and it works.
'Little Bit of Love' and 'Relax Your Mind' continue the vibe accurately, with the latter turning down the tempo significantly, adding FM flutes, bells and ice-cold harmonies for a sex jam that might be among the best Space Ghost tracks we've heard.
NYC’s amazing Blank Forms Editions give a gripping introduction to Kazuki Tomokawa’s avant-folk vitality, documenting the early years of the “screaming philosopher” via his first three albums, all collected and reissued internationally for the first time - think Nick Drake meets Keiji Haino
"In the 1970s, Kazuki Tomokawa catapulted into Tokyo's avant-garde scene with his cathartic and utterly electrifying performances. Straight from the Throat finds the musician in his truest form: as the "screaming philosopher" he would come to be called—cynical but fair, cheeky and melancholic, and looking at the world with truth-seeking eyes.
In Straight from the Throat, Tomokawa shrieks and shouts and wallows with ritualistic abandon—his avant-folk stylings are cosmic and, at times, well to ground-shaking rock. He speaks of adolescence, passing hearses, and wedding chapel cars in a poem to his younger brother, Tomoharu, and watches ice melt on the Mitane River with spring's turn. Tomokawa's sound is, as Kiichi Takahara would later dub it, "I-music": revelatory and deeply intimate songs that turn to the everyday and the interior. They are portraits of a man in search of meaning, who is taking stubborn control of his life by doing so."
Corrosive concréte noise fug from Estonian alchemist Mihkel Kleis, who splays ugly close-mic'd vox, horror movie synths and white noise bursts over screwed 'n damaged drum machine malfunctions and hard-edited squeals. Properly spannered material and not for the faint of heart - RIYL John Wiese, Aaron Dilloway, Pharmakon or Lussuria.
It's almost a slur to refer to Ratkiller's music as simply noise, but "Leather Squeaking Softly" is noisy as fuck. The Estonian producer - who moonlights as a museum security guard - adopts the aesthetic of industrial noise music, but augments it with the surrealist blur of sound collage as he haphazardly chops together angular jazz drums, melting ice recordings and filtered analog synth wails. It's like hearing a particularly adept DJ crack their fingers and take some risks on four decks, or like pushing yer head into a room while a band soundchecks, a radio is left on, a fridge is wide open and a CRT TV is flickering in the corner playing VHS tapes endlessly. Kleis describes the tape as a "rare glimpse into visions of being stuck in a whirlpool of forgotten debris and plastic remains, discarded non-recyclable objects and broken hi-fi equipment,".
The first side lurches thru soundscapes with conviction, cut-and-pasting garbled moans over ritual rhythms, and electrified car-crash/glass smash sounds over looped electronic pops and doomed FM drones. This isn't anonymous noise tape meandering: there's a palpable signature to Kleis's dense collages, harnessing the binary crunch of Mego's early catalog and drainpipe groan of a 1980s industrial tape simultaneously. But it's his carnivalesque, mischievous sense of excitement that makes "Leather Squeaking Softly" stand head and shoulders over the litany of noise albums. There's no self-satisfied posturing here, Kleis appears to be having fun challenging our expectations, inserting unanticipated blasts of sound and then removing them just as quickly as they appear
The second side is noticeably more psychedelic than the first, descending deeper into Kleis's sonic volcano with synthesized factory clangs, throaty gurgles, baby screams and tormented music box jangles. If this sounds nightmarish, it definitely is - but Kleis's sense of humor prevents it from feeling self-consciously dark. It's moody music, but produced with an awareness (and unique skill) that ends up fitting more snugly alongside the most delirious Aaron Dilloway jams, or John Wiese's hardcore-influenced concréte inversions. If you listen close enough, there's even a faint air of Fonal records' mystical forest psychedelia. Exactly our kinda shit, basically.
NYC’s amazing Blank Forms Editions give a gripping introduction to Kazuki Tomokawa’s avant-folk vitality, documenting the early years of the “screaming philosopher” via his first three albums, all collected and reissued internationally for the first time - think Nick Drake meets Keiji Haino.
"At the tender age of twenty-five, while he was working part-time at an Italian restaurant in Tokyo's Kamata district, Kazuki Tomokawa released his debut record, fittingly titled Finally, His First Album. While he had already penned hundreds of songs, including his first single "Try Saying You're Alive!," written on a long train ride past fields and rice paddies, it was this recording that introduced Japan to one of its most unique musicians of the postwar era.
Each track, as record label exec Kiichi Takahara writes in the LP's liner notes, is not a song but a "flesh-and-blood human being," birthed by the singer-songwriter and the raw, guttural cries that would become a hallmark of his incomparable sound. These songs are lullabies for the lost, staring not into the void but—as the fourth track declares—from inside it.
Multiple tracks are performed in Tomokawa's native Akita dialect, a distinct and highly regional vernacular of northern Japan seldom heard outside the prefecture—and even more rarely heard in music.
Tomokawa's lyrics locate profound interiority in the rituals of everyday life, and are sung against sparse folk arrangements of tender, lilting chords—a prelude to the rock and electronic stylings to come in later years. A self-proclaimed "living corpse," Tomokawa wallows, whispers, shouts, and cries, yet still, through his existential doubt, asks to be heard."
12 extraordinary tracks from the timeless genius of the New York underground...
Following up Soul Jazz's excellent retrospective on Arthur's disco material - now things really start getting serious. Mostly the material here is derived from two unreleased albums worth, a 1985 test pressing entitled 'Corn' and a long planned album for Rough Trade, worked on between 1986 - 90 and eventually shelved when Russell became too ill to complete, or let go of his material.
Arthur's curious, optimistic vocal - lifting us away from the corporeal into true mantric territories - is just completely inimitable and life affirming. The lyrical preoccupations with american upbringing and life could perhaps be found in an imaginary midpoint somewhere between Frank O'Hara's 'Lunch poems' and Billy Collins. His beloved cello and drum machine experiments still sound vital and completely innovative. Check 'Calling All Kids' for the beautiful Walter Gibbons remix, bringing us full circle back to the disco Arthur held so dear.
Russell emerges head and shoulders above, standing on the outside looking in, but glad of the fresh air.
Full sunken drone acousmagique from a lokey promising new Swedish artist, Incipientum, tipped for fans of Organum, NWW, Jeph Jerman, Litüus.
When iDEAL introduce a new artist to the fold it's always worth paying attention, and Incipientum is a real one. Hailing from the bowels of Gothenburg’s underground, he makes a virtue of harnessing stark negative space and energy to his will on ’Study in Still Life’, which appears as his 2nd release and debut album, proper, after an early, super-limited CDr. Trust it’s not some overbearing drone wallow, though, instead expect a fine play of dark/light that reveals itself with full immersion.
Settling on the mind somewhere between the original post-industrial spectralism of Organum or NWW, and the likes of Lambda Sond or Litüus’s eerie chamber-like styles in the contemporary era, Incipientum trades in a very uncanny language of resonant minimalism, all shadowy tone and vaporous timbral suggestion that appears to flicker before the ear’s eye and create the eeriest sense of depth perception from ostensibly static elements.
Opener ‘The Object Of’ plumbs unfathomable, abyssopelagic subharmonics, before appearing to rise toward the light over its 12 min duration, where ‘Conveyed Visions’ feels just below the surface, bathed in refracted moonlit timbres that play out a shimmering isolationist nocturne, shoring up somewhere like a BoC vignette. ‘Orientation’ is the suite’s succinct sort of palate cleanser, introducing hallucinatory voices, and logically leads to relative relief of ‘The Object Is Terrifying’, ascending from the depths to an immanent calm, yet fraught with aleatoric interference that keeps us rapt and anticipating his next moves.
Stroom go trance with reissue of two obscure 1993 Belgian rockets primed to re-enter club orbit.
Pushing the tempo beyond anything we’ve yet heard on the amazing Belgian label, Nosedrip rifles his country’s abundant trance archives for rare gold here, locking and loading Furyon’s sci-fi-toned missile ‘Trance Exploder (Trance Out)’ on a new trajectory for 2022, beside the rollicking, iridescent pulse and pads of ‘Trance Atlantic Flow’ by Anymus. Cowie jaws at the ready.
Pan Daijing's latest is an almost hour-long recording snipped from her five act opera that premiered at the Tate Modern in Autumn 2019. A blend of brassy vocals and noisy, industrial electronics, "Tissues" is the most ambitious work yet from the Berlin-based artist. RIYL Diamanda Galas, Robert Ashley, Anna Homler.
There's an ethereal quality to "Tissues", as crystal-clear voices sing expertly in a mixture of old and modern Chinese across Daijing's dense, burning noise. She uses the opera form very carefully, no doubt aware of its fringe status in experimental music circles. It's a mountain that many have tried to climb and few have conquered, outside of established legends like Robert Ashley. But Daijing shows here that she's not just competent, but literate with the form; her writing is smart and paced well, and the way she balances the libretto with her usual grind of meshed oscillators and pedal FX is an achievement on its own.
Four of the acts are here spliced together here into a continuous composition that's intended to be listened to from beginning to end. There are four singers - a counter-tenor, a soprano, a mezzo-soprano and Daijing herself - and their voices tangle in-and-out of each other, almost indistinguishable from one another. Hearing it without the visual cues from the full show adds a level of thematic complication, but there's plenty to decipher - Daijing's composition allows us to consider not just the use of the voice but the character of the voice itself. Each singer flexes their voice like rubber, displaying a humanity that's only occasionally revealed in industrial or noise music.
As "Tissues" unfurls, the vocals dissolve into guttural sounds, squeals and whines, and the searing electronics reduce down to a dull, bell-like chime. The roles are subtly reversed as Daijing draws our attention to the range of the human voice. There's a sense of calm as everything simmers to a whisper, but when the electronic elements fade away to nothing, the voices surface again - clear and in perfect harmony.
Debut raft of Buchla Easel synth recordings from Basel-based sound artist Janiv Oron.
Chasing up the themes and aesthetics of Noémi Büchl’s mutable modular suite ‘Matière’ on Swiss label Light of Other Days, Oron’s first solo album, proper, follows his nose for rugged rhythms and the sort of timbres that make the mouth water. Over the course of its six tracks he gets right inside the machine’s mind to eke out its singular voice, deployed in various forms oscillating from bucolic sci-fi scenery to grubbing, Afro-rhythmic syncopation, and bolshier technoid primitivism.
Key to proceedings is Oron’s background in hip hop and dance musics, which patently informs the record’s rhythmic procession in its highlights of thistly, thumb piano-like rhythmelody in ‘Gold Yellow’, and with a swingeing electro-steppers heft on ‘Black Brown’ possibly destined for experimental club DJs, while ‘Purple Black’ sends us reeling with what sounds like a possessed Sufi ritual music, all blazing horns and dervish drums.
Robert Hood’s minimal techno blueprint back in circulation for first time since 2010.
Originally despatched in 1994, Robert Hood’s debut album ‘Internal Empire’, along with his ‘Minimal Nation’ 2x12” for Axis in the same year, found Detroit techno stripped down to sleek, whirring mechanics in a way that would irrevocably influence the next generation of producers.
The album is perhaps most highly regarded for the clinical, bleeping cadence of ‘Minus’, which, along with the slippery subaquatic motion and synth washes of ‘Home’, the skudgy grind of ‘Chase’, and the pace-setting ace ’Spirit Levels’, marked a pivotal turn from the distorted, macho styles of European and Midwest techno toward a supremely classy, precision-tooled and more elegant form borne in the home of techno.
Unmissable gear for anyone watching techno looping back to its formative, accelerated phase!
NYC’s amazing Blank Forms Editions give a gripping introduction to Kazuki Tomokawa’s avant-folk vitality, documenting the early years of the “screaming philosopher” via his first three albums, all collected and reissued internationally for the first time - think Nick Drake meets Keiji Haino
"In a generation of musicians that came of age in postwar Japan, Kazuki Tomokawa stands as a pioneer of radical individualism, with a sound marked by shocking intimacy and blistering honesty.
In A String of Paper Cranes Clenched Between My Teeth, Tomokawa creeps "ever more inward," as Kiichi Takahara writes in the record's original introductory text—embracing an attitude pervasive amongst musicians of the time who interrogated the prosaic and the profound alike, eschewing politics and society in favor of an "attitude of total self-containment."
Tomokawa recorded the album over the course of a month—from August 24 to September 25, 1977—at Tokyo's famed Onkio Haus studio in the bustling Ginza district. The arrangements, accordingly, are amped up: paired with the Black Panther Orchestra, Tomokawa's "screaming philosopher" vocals find their match with the orchestra's electric guitar, bass, piano, tuba, and ground-thumping drums played by the Brain Police's Toshi Ishizuka—who appears on Tomokawa's first three records and remains his collaborator to this day."
Death is Not the End teams up with folklorist Derek Piotr once more for this bumper archive of North American folk music, this time focusing on every version they could find of the ballad 'Lamkin'. It's a fascinating study that displays how a standard was able to shift and evolve as it moved from person to person over the decades.
The first recording of 'Lamkin' Piotr discovered for this archive was dubbed in 1937 in New Jersey, and featured 93-year-old Lydia Gyderson. Her vocal performance is gloriously imperfect, enhanced by recording artifacts and the room itself, but it sets the pace for a set of versions that enshrines the lore of a song that passed through communities across the USA. Many of these renditions haven't been heard by anyone but the original recordists since they were taped, as they're an archival project rather than an exploration of aesthetic perfection. So on 'Beau Lamkins', we can hear a 1939 recording of 73-year-old Aunt Nancy Prather, who stops to chat and cough between pitchy, muffled verses.
The newest recording was made by Piotr himself last may, and having a contemporary version - sung by 69-year-old Bobby McMillon in North Carolina - gives us at least a reference for the rest of the material. It's a tough proposition to listen to from beginning to end, but an invaluable resource with a fascinating narrative.
Proper industrial club crud from Croatia’s Fiume, chasing the mucky dragon of his Panzerkreuz tape into a new batch of filth for L.I.E.S.
Variously known as Le Chocolat Noir, Jasmin Yas, and part of Lab Personnel, Croatia’s Jasmin Mahmić here specialises in a brand of extra grotty post-industrial EBM sleaze under the Fiume moniker. Playign directly into L.I.E.S. particular brand of machine-made crankiness, the eight tracks alloy processed vox with rictus drum patterns and X-amount of smeared synth distortion, resolving in serpentine slugs of darkroom sleaze.
Putting a stanky foot forward with the squelchy swag of ‘Indiscutible (Fogwave Edit)’, the whole thing plays out like a queasy drug trip, taking in the astringent electro thizz of ‘Wind Cooling the Sisak Iron Metal Factory Heat’, and harnessing proper cyber-punkish grot in ‘Post-Human’, beside the rotten live-wire synth tone of ‘Celebration of Tears’, the Shitcluster-esque audness of ‘Rain Becoming Streams’, and something like Alan Vega at the end of his tether in ‘Wasteland Blues’.
Pure LA stardust from Alex Ho, serving a suave, full-bodied taste of his monthly party and NTS radio show Moony Habits via eight twinkle-toed yacht boogie and terrace-side pearls
Satin-cut and soused in atmosphere, Ho’s debut album is a melt-on-mind treat for those who like it smooth and sensual. Melding his cirrus falsetto soul vocals with feathered synth pads and keys, the vibe is unmistakable from the opening crimson synth flush and latinate shuffle of ‘Miss Suzuki’ to the dawning panorama and murmuring rhythms of ‘TYFC’, sashaying thru inch-tight emulations of a classic, grown-up ‘80s soul style a la Dam Funk or Nite Jewel that equally evokes imagery of Brian de Palma flicks as much as David Hockney’s seductively inviting pool portraits.
Make sure to check for high grade drip between the skin-tingling glow of ‘Idle Eighty’, the instrumental synth-pop soul élan of ‘Mark’, and sweetest echoes of Ryuichi Sakamoto in ‘College Crest Walk’, and the balmy coos of ‘Neary’.
Properly overdue reissue of Hydroplane's long out of print 1997 debut album, a beguiling concoction of lo-fi pop, shoegaze, early electronic blips and billowing ambience. So good!
Back in 1997, Aussie jangle pop outfit The Cat's Miaow formed Hydroplane after their drummer headed to London. They filled the gap by using samples and tape loops, and developed a startling new sound that gave a new resonance to Kerrie Bolton's cool, deadpan vocals and the band's hybrid experimentation. The self-titled album works because it refuses to stay in the same spot for too long, lurching from bit-crushed breaks and dry guitar plucks on opening track 'Wurlitzer Jukebox' to mucky noise and regurgitated piano guts on 'Piano Movement with Percussion', before settling into a dream pop groove on the beatless 'Song for the Meek'.
The album's best moments though are when they ignore songs altogether, like on the sci-fi tinted analog synth jam 'I Hear a New World', or 'House Warming', a ghostly spoken word track accompanied by a wavering electronic drone. The band recorded this material in their Brunswick flat using a bare-bones setup including a Jupiter 4 synth, sampler and tape equipment, and the album was released at the time only in the US on CD. Now it's available again, it feels like high time to rediscover a band that nestle comfortably between Slowdive, Stereolab and Hood.
Ana Roxanne follows up the much loved "~~~" with a beautiful full-length for Kranky, joining dots between the label's past and present with heartbreaking, resonant sounds that join the dots between Alice Coltrane, Labradford, Grouper, Midori Takada, Julee Cruise and beyond.
Ana Roxanne grew up obsessed with her mom's collection of 80s and 90s R&B CDs, singing along to them while also training her voice more formally in a church choir. Later, she was introduced to Hindustani classical music and - while studying at the prestigious Mills College - started to work with synthesizers as a homage to the devotional music of Alice Coltrane. All these connecting threads are present on "Because of a Flower” - an album that’s more than the sum of its many constituent parts.
Displaying a remarkable aesthetic range and coherence, Roxanne's influences and reference points are so varied that listening through the album is like reading a diary or a book of poems. Opening with a spoken word piece snipped from a harmony textbook, we're transported to a different world as billowing drones drift into view while Roxanne's voice echoes above.
From there, we're ushered through muted guitar phrases, drum machine loops, disintegrating dialogue snippets - all coalescing beneath Ana Roxanne's spectral voice. Each track is markedly different, but the album hangs together so perfectly it's almost impossible to separate a single moment from the sublime whole - it is many things and one complete entity simultaneously.
Anyone enthralled by classic Kranky, dreampop, or the introspective pop fissures of HTRK will likely find a world of rich comfort inside this one - in our book a modern classic.
Legendary UK rave project N.A.D. returns to the fray with four trax of calculated electro pressure
Firm favourites around here (and everywhere else) for their ‘Distant Drums’ classic of 1990, Mustafa Ali & Tony Thorpe’s (aye, the KLF producer) duo test their electro mettle in four different ways for their patrons at Rush Hour. ‘Cometh the Butlerian Jihad’ gives it some proper, trunk rattling Kraftwerk-via-Miami bass pneumatics, whereas ‘Machine in the Ghost’ gets wild and freaky with the decimated step sequencing on a sort of hyper halfstep footwork tip, replete with vocoders in an LA style that also informs the Egyptian Lover-styled flex of ‘Utopia Dystopia’, and our percy, ‘Pax’ drops the tempo to work up piquant trills and arcing arps primed for next weekend.
Nerve-tweaking techno pressure from the Token boss on James Ruskin’s powerhouse label
Now a fully fledged producer after running Belgium’s leading techno label for 15 years, Kr!z shows off his freshly cut teeth in four parts of driving, classically-skooled techno. There’s a fine piece of piquant arps synched with sizzling hi-hats and rolling kicks in ‘Vortex’, plus the unyielding jack of ‘Mirage’, frenetic but minimalist Millsian drive in ‘Neutrino Systems’, and the bleep techno stealth attack of ‘Levitate’.
Arch Berlin techno interrogator Stefan Goldmann explores polymetric rites of percussion in a smart break with his more gridlocked work, landing somewhere between Monolake, Logos & Felix K or Mark Fell in the process.
Putting experimentalism back into Berlin techno tropes, Goldmann explores more unusual meters (13/17, anyone?) and timbral characteristics of his paradigm in pursuit of a more expressive style of production. The filigree attention to detail of his previous works is not lost, but found displaced into mazier, abstract constructions that, to be fair, may not get one on their toes like a peaktime set, but are bound to elicit more curious reactions from the harder-to-please sound designer types and ravers/DJs looking away from line-dancing tradition.
The seven tracks appear to progressively bind their elements tighter over the course of the album. The 13 over 17 patterns of ‘Nayba’ really jog and tease the muscle memory with command of your finest ligaments and tendons, prepping bodies for the Rian Treanor & Ocen-like impulses followed on ‘Oyotung’ and distilled into sparkling syncopations on ‘Lorino’, while ‘Yukagir’ and the cosmic long of ‘Aypn’ push right out into spectral electro-acoustic abstraction. It begins to come together in subtler, sloshing, West African-style hustle meets dub techno dynamics of ’Tiksi’, and ultimately in the buzzing, grubbing techno urge of ‘Valkumey’.
Twin Peaks and Melrose Place fiends beware: Lynch protégé Dean Hurley meets the none-more-enigmatic Romance for a spellbinding, scanline-obscured examination of VHS-frazzled post-vapor euphoric melodrama on a feature-length episode resourced from YouTube’s shared memory banks, on a limited edition special.
Since joining forces with David Lynch on 2007’s 'Inland Empire’ as a sound supervisor, Dean Hurley has worked with the cult US director on the majority of his projects, mostr famously as a sound designer on 2017's unforgettable ‘Twin Peaks: The Return'. On his own, Hurley has carved out a niche for a unique brand of burned melancholia that joins the dots between crumbled NYC illbient and stonewashed ambience - as heard on 2020's ace "Concrete Feather". Meanwhile Romance, whoever they, he or she might be, has spent the last few years proving to us that high and low art can exist simultaneously in perfect harmony, most recently sweeping Celine Dion samples into gut-wrenching Tarkovsky-esque mistral forms on the incredible 'Once Upon A Time'.
Together, the duo divine a masterstroke of concept and execution, ‘In Every Dream Home A Heartache’ celebrates the pulpy, melodramatic appeal of daytime soap opera, and its now nostalgic allure, thru a finely smudged lens of rearranged samples from YouTube. Embracing the genre’s curdled glamour and heart-rending tension from temporally displaced, hauntological perspectives, the duo draw on rich online archives as well as personal repositories for a contemporary classic that echoes the groggy air of The Caretaker and Pinkcourtesyphone’s valerian vapours via mistily soft-focussed nods to Angelo Badalamenti and Mark Snow.
Bathed in absorbing soft focus and the faint promise of menace in the air, the 13-part suite drifts scene to scene with a heart-in-mouth quality and flicker of intrigue that evokes the genre’s hyper-melodramatic examinations of moral conflicts, secret relationships, adultery, and familial turmoil amidst the mundane landscape of the domestic interior. Like the work of Hurley’s peer, David Lynch on the original Twin Peaks series, he and Romance wrest a poetry from banal conventions conceived to keep viewers hooked, dangling us by a silvery thread with their gripping yet ephemeral limning of life and death narratives and navigation of nostalgic chicanery.
A smudged masterpiece, no less.
Well, this is just lovely; Hiroshi Yoshimura’s soothing electro-acoustic ambient suite, Music For Nine Postcards  is made available outside the Japanese market for the 1st time, unfurling the Tokyo-based artist’s delicate, minimalist masterwork inspired by Satie, Schaefer and Eno to whole new generations in need of blissed sonic respite. Unless you’re a bit wadded or simply helpless to the charms of early ‘80s Japambient records and bought a dead expensive original, it’s maybe likely that you’ll only get to hear this one via YouTube otherwise, so the opportunity to hear this beauty in full fidelity, at a reasonable price, is not to be missed!
"Despite his status as a key figure in the history of Japanese ambient music, Hiroshi Yoshimura remains tragically under-known outside of his home country. Empire of Signs–a new imprint co-helmed by Maxwell August Croy and Spencer Doran–is proud to reissue Yoshimura’s debut Music for Nine Post Cards for the first time outside Japan in collaboration with Hiroshi’s widow Yoko Yoshimura, with more reissues ofHiroshi’s works to follow in the future.
Working initially as a conceptual artist, the musical side of Yoshimura’s artistic practice came to prominence in the post-Fluxus scene of late 1970s Tokyo alongside Akio Suzuki and Takehisa Kosugi, taking many commissioned fashion runway scores, soundtracking perfume, soundscapes for pre-fab houses, train station sound design – all existing not as side work but as logical extensions of his philosophy of sound.
His work strived for serenity as an ideal, and this approach can be felt strongly on Music for Nine Post Cards. Home recorded on a minimal setup of keyboard and Fender Rhodes, Music for Nine Post Cards was Yoshimura’s first concrete collection of music, initially a demo recording given to the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art to be played within the building’s architecture.
This was not background music in the prior Japanese “BGM” sense of the word, but “environmental music”, the literal translation of the Japanese term kankyō ongaku given to Brian Eno’s “ambient” music when it arrived in late 70’s Japan. Yoshimura, along with his musical co-traveler Satoshi Ashikawa, searched for a new dialog between sound and space: music not as an external absolute, but as something that interlocks with a physical environment and shifts the listener’s experience within it.
Erik Satie’s furniture music, R. Murray Schafer’s concept of the soundscape and Eno’s ambience all greatly informed their work, but the specific form of tranquil stasis presented on releases like Nine Post Cards is still difficult to place within a specific tradition, remaining elusive and idiosyncratic despite the economy of its construction. This record offers the perfect introduction to Hiroshi’s unique and beautiful worldview: it’s one that can be listened to – and lived in – endlessly."
FInland's experimental electronic dynamo Luke Lund marks 10 years of skin in the game with a devilish album for Superpang, dedicated to Henri Chopin.
A follow-up to notable recordings for Youth and Fluf, beside dozens on his Terranean Recordings, ‘Kuriton Liha (Unruly Flesh)’ is offered as a study in “spectral poetry, delving into ontological questions at the borderline between human experience and artificial organisms.” It lives up the properly shapeshifting nature of his music with a highly elusive suite of free sound poetry, or “asemic tapestry” - a form of wordless free thought with semantic content, encouraging listeners to fill in the gaps for themselves.
The results are predictably unpredictable, with stray phonemes threaded thru the most complex wormhole vortices and smeared on the surface with a dizzying sense of proprioception that may leave some users suffering vertigo. Crucially, though, it’s not a mess, with each tracks deploying familiar elements in bewildering permutations according to an underlying logic that’s there if you care to try and follow, and fill in the gaps yourself.
Listening to this latest album from Liz Harris’ Grouper project it’s easy to forget how much of a hard sell her music was back when 'Way Their Crept’ landed with us back in 2005.
Her eerie, layered mix of bare vocals, guitar and tape delay didn't quite fit in with what anyone else was really doing on the scene back then - and it completely knocked us out even if no one was buying it. By the time her breakthrough ‘Dragging a Dead Deer…’ arrived on Type three years later she was more or less playing to a baying mob hungry for any little morsel she cared to throw their way, her (by now) more fleshed out shoegaze variants marking her out as a natural outsider who had managed to tap into some kind of collective melancholy, her songs both hugely affecting and yet somehow emotionally opaque. Last year’s 'The Man Who Died In His Boat’ collected previously unreleased material from the ‘Dead Deer’ era and, despite it essentially being an assembly of offcuts, still managed to sound as coherent and bewitching as any of her ardent followers might have imagined. ‘Ruins’ is Harris' first new album proper in several years and - to no one’s surprise - is just utterly sublime.
The opening and closing tracks excepted, Harris’ instrument of choice here is the upright Piano, delivering a sequence of songs that feel utterly bereft and lonely, intended by Harris as “...a document. A nod to that daily walk. Failed structures. Living in the remains of love.” There are also found sounds (you can here a microwave switching itself back on after a powercut in the background), and the room recordings lend an effervescent quality to the recordings that somehow magnify the sense of timelessness. ‘Ruins' is book-ended by two instrumental pieces, the pulsating field recorded opener ‘Made of Metal’ and the 11 minute closer ‘Made of Air’, an instrumental, ambient piece recorded at her mother's house way back in 2004. Together, these tracks make for another sublime 40 minutes spent in Liz Harris’ company, a precious distraction from the clutter and noise of the outside world.
Prime 1983 UK soul and electro-boogie numbers now available on their first reissue.
Scrolling back to an early heyday of UK funk and soul before house was even conceived, Take Three’s combo of lovers rock vocals and debonaire machine funk lies at the square root of so much UK dance music to come. South London sisters Jackie & Jean heron and Marlene Richardson gild the original and New York Dance mixes with gorgeous vocal harmonies that demonstrate the hairs-breadth difference between styles, laying it down glamorous yet rude in the UK-ready Extended Mix, and with more funk in the trunk on the breezy but tuffer NYC mix, while ‘Breaker’s Night’ strips it all back to cascading, dubbed-out fundamentals for dancers and DJs to get busy with.
A momentous UK hardcore/bleep-techno classic back in circulation, newly remastered and cut with a reshuffled sequence by Blank Mind.
It’s hard to overstate the all-time classic status of Earth Leakage Trip’s ‘Psychotronic EP’. Stamped with the fortuitous catalogue number Shadow 1, the EP is best loved for its foundational highlight ‘No Idea’, a template-firming collage of samples from a novelty record and the film Poltergeist, set to oozing subs, gull squawks and thee nattiest bleep rhythm of its time.
It’s a sterling example of the shift from original, utopian acid house of ’87 to a more fucked embrace of the dark side by ’91, balancing dummy-sucking naïvete with a grimmer UK edge that would come to infiltrate rave music over the coming years, perhaps reflecting a paranoiac mindset that came hand-in-hand with the comedowns of guzzling high grade eccies.
No doubt it’s a sort of turning point for ‘90s UK dance music, precipitating reams of darkside hardcore and brooding dance music in its wake. Let’s be honest, the other two tracks aren’t that great, but ‘No Idea’ more than makes up for them.
The late, great Jóhann Jóhannsson’s contemporary oratorio makes its long-awaited premiere with Deutsche Grammofon as a posthumous recording by ACME with Theatre of Voices, overseen by Francesco Donadello and Paul Hillier.
A staggering testament to Jóhannsson’s unbound vision for classical and electronic music, ‘Drone Mass’ is arguably among his most ambitious, timeless compositions, and comparable with minimalist classical works by Arvo Pärt and Henryk Gorecki. Originally premiered in 2015 at the Egyptian Temple of Dendur, NYC’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, it sadly remained unrecorded by the time Jóhannsson passed in 2019. However, his friends and longtime collaborators have made sure the work now comes to light, with the American Contemporary Ensemble (ACME) teaming with Denmark’s Theatre of Voices, conducted by ECM regular Paul Hillier, and produced by Francesco Donadello, who worked with him on ‘The Theory of Everything’ soundtrack and ‘Englabörn & Variations’, among others. The result is a fitting tribute to Jóhannsson’s legacy of visionary orchestral composition, and the way he seamlessly refreshed that crenelated paradigm with modern electronics.
This 2019 recording, made at the Garnisonkirken in Copenhagen, sees the composer’s myriad interests dovetail in breathtaking form. Taking his cues from the so-called ‘Coptic Gospel of the Egyptians’, part of the Nag Hammadi library discovered in 1945, as well as longheld fascinations with large-scale vocal works and the elemental might of drone music, the nine part work is a momentous achievement from any angle. Its pair of introductory vocal pieces, ‘One is True’ and ‘Two Is Apocryphal’ manifest a keen focus on Renaissance polyphony, with particularly haunting effect in the latter. They prep the ground for a remarkable feat of musical dramaturgy, calling in cavernous, sliding string pitches to match the banking chorale of ‘Triptych in Mass’, while ‘To Fold & Remain Dormant’ elevates the work further with its integration of aching electronic drone noise. There’s a truly jaw-dropping centrepiece in stately swell of electronics and deeply uneasy string pitches of ‘The Low Drone Of Circulating Blood Diminishes With Time’, with ‘Moral Vacuums’ providing necessary respite and catharsis, before the vertiginous flight of vox and bitterly textured noise in ‘Take The Night Air’ gives way to a finale worth the journey in ‘The Mountain View, The Majesty Of The Snow-Clad Peaks, From A Place Of Contemplation And Reflection’.
It doesn’t bear imagining what music Jóhann might have written recently if he was still around but, with pieces like this one, his work on this planet is more than enough already.
Crucial selection of raw, darkside early gqom from pioneering Durban trio Phelimuncasi, setting the gripping vocals of twins Makan Nana and Khera, and Malathon, to cranky technoid club engines by DJ Menzi, DJ Mp3, and DJ Scoturn, all showcased for first time outside South Africa on the ever vital Nyege Nyege Tapes. Unmissable for fans of dark, heavy dance music of all stripes!
For Phelimuncasi's overdue first international showcase NNT follow a number of excursions into this sound from DJ Menzi and Sleeping Buddha for sibling label Hakuna Kulala with a mix of vintage early works and banging new exclusives, including some produced as recently as 2019 in the downtime after the trio’s incendiary performance at the label’s annual festival. Alongside the gqom archaeology of Italian-based GqomOh! label, this lot forms a vital piece of the genre’s history, charting how the vocalists’ conversational, toasting style, itself rooted in local storytelling traditions and the intimidating rhythmic singing of the apartheid-era came to influence their sound, and ultimately set the course for Gqom to come.
Colloquially known as “taxi techno” in the Durban townships, Gqom is a staple sound at NNT’s annual festival in Jinja, Uganda and always brings the best moves out of the SA dancers (and everyone else for that matter). As recently revealed on his shocking ‘Impazamo’ tape for Hakuna Kulala, DJ Menzi is one of the scene’s wildcards, and his productions for Phelminancusi are a big highlight here, counting the heavy call and response lyrics, signature Zulu trills and hard clang of their ‘Private Party’ anthem, the Terminator-stare drones of ‘GQOM Venus Cemetary’ and the desiccated bones of ‘Umgido’ among the comp’s heaviest drops.
Racked up beside an infectious introduction to gone-but-not-forgotten producers, DJ Scoturn with the menacing bell hook and bouncing bars of ‘Umahlalela’, and the starkly martial snares of DJ Mp3’s ‘Sesi Gora’, which sounds like mutant dancehall dispatched via late ‘80s Chicago, this lot is surely more than your RDA of crucial dancefloor energy, and absolutely primed with dense cyberpunk atmospheres for skulking deserted inner cities and counting down to the apocalypse.
Incantations is a collection of visual and sonic experiments centred around the idea of score as spell, curated by Seance Centre and featuring Tomoko Sauvage, Gavilán Rayna Russom, Félicia Atkinson, Beverly Glenn-Copeland and more.
Finally, a concept-driven compilation that's actually an interesting idea done well. Inspired by the idea of spells and incantations, Canadian label Séance Centre asked a handful of their favorite artists to collaborate by coming up with a spell and interpreting that as an incantation. Tomoko Sauvage starts things off by reinterpreting a salt painting from Benjamin Kilchhofer, translating his forms and runes (used as the album's cover) using her hydro harp. The sound is magical, exactly like you'd hope an incantation might - watery and organic but intensely otherworldly.
Mona Steinwidder's Museum Of No Art composition 'Textile Trance' does what it says on the tin, building a blunted groove from repeating tonal blips, vocal chants and shakers in response to Mehrnaz Rohbakhsh's drawing, a meditation on "textile, pattern and code." Listening carefully, it's hard not to sink into the careful repeating phrases and project these exact patterns - who said trance had to be big room? Gavilán Raynor Russom's 'Shadows Cast By Moonlight' is a collaboration with poet Dani Spinosa, who created a typewriter poem inspired by the witch goddess Hekate, a figure Russom had incidentally been researching and teaching. Her sonic interpretation is typically dense, touching the alien early electronic landscapes of Daphne Oram and puncturing the mood with demonic oscillations.
C.R. Gillespie’s 'Invitation To A Clog' is one of the compilation's most unusual tracks, described as "Roman Gamelan" and inspired by a score from bricolage artist Andrew Zukerman. The score itself was a collage of occult symbols and sigils, and Gillespie reinterprets that mood using jerky minimalist rhythms and gestures, interrupting his blurry pulses with squeaks and clangs. Scott Gailey meanwhile interprets a pudding recipe from Yu Su, recreating the texture in an otherworldly soup of field recordings and pitch-fucked synth. And the record concludes with a chant written by writer-activist adrienne maree brown, narrated by the legendary Beverly Glenn-Copeland.
All in all, it's a compilation well worth diving into - a concept that feels as if it's inspired its artists to experiment, and most of all, connect.
Roses and buckets of champagne to Local Action on their 10th anniversary (give or take) comp, marking more than a decade of sophisticate UK/US dance dialogue with label highlights from all the gang gang
Under Tom Lea’s expert guidance, Local Action has become a premier home of UK club music since its inception. Rooted in UKG’s ‘nuum splinter, and keenly supportive of its offshoots and American DNA, the label has both mirrored and steered trends over the decade, with plenty to show for it here, throwing down a diverse volley of Transatlantic bangers and genre benders from contemporary leading lights, including a number who cut their teeth on the label before going on to rule the dance both sides of the ocean.
Ripping it right back to early days, Mosca’s broken beat/2-step spin on T. Williams’ ‘Heartbeat’ gives us nostalgia for the days of decent MDMA, and Slackk’s wavey grime shanty ‘Blue Sheet’ hails the label’s involvement with the grime renaissance. DJ Q’s UKG hair-kisser ‘All That I Could’ and two Finn pearlers ’Sometimes…’ and ‘Do What You Want Forever’ locate the label’s key links with northern souls, and paved the way for likes of India Jordan, here with the Orbital-meets-Thomas Bangalter type zinger ‘For You’, while the likes of Liverpool’s E.M.M.A., with her synth waltz ‘Into Indigo’, and the likes of Loft (aka Aya) and 96 Back showcase just how wavey the label can get. The label’s other key strand of US club music is meanwhile repped strongly by Jersey club pioneers DJ Jayhood with the bumpy banger ‘Hands of Ya Hips’, and scene-leading queen UNiiQU3 on ‘Macrodosing’, with Martyn Bootyspoon keeping it freaky on the darkroom fructose frolics of ‘Lickety Split’, and the label’s most prominent artist Dawn Richard cementing the square root of it all in upfront US R&B.
Diving deep into post-industrial scuzz and warehouse racket, FUMU racks up the deadliest, most skewed takes on dancehall rave noise and polluted ambient panoramas on his bristling new one for YOUTH, reflecting his roots in Teesside’s mix of Bladerunner-inspiring landscapes and natural lushness as much as his skooling in the rugged underbelly of Manny’s rave scene. If yr into owt from Gescom to Andy Stott to Mika Vainio - your time.
FUMU is a member of the Return to Zero production/DJ crew with Turinn and Sockethead and follows his 2018’s ‘Sinuate’ debut with an aggy album of percussive wreckers and abrasive x beautiful industrial soundscapes compiled from his archives (a new album proper will follow soonish) and originally recorded around 2015-2018 at 'the tube’, the studio he shared with Turinn. It revolves around a classic interplay of light x dark themes crafted thru panel-beaten rhythms and sore electronics that are brusque and brutalist by design but not without an attentive pathos, where decaying, weathered textures and restless rhythmic variations coalesce in uncomfortable harmony.
Cold, skull-scraping noise and voices from beyond introduce the LP on ‘Nu,’ before the brooding tribute ‘4 Mika’ lures us into the album’s instrumental narrative. Through jump-cuts, black-out fades and picnoleptic edits the album unfurls its secrets thru the bruised bumps of ‘Inna Tough’ and sci-fi electro scud of ‘Unlmtd Potential,’ twysting up mutant hardcore techno on ‘Its All Steel’ and belly-quaking power electronics on ‘Cloud Head,’ with ruthless yardcore noise in ’Skhs Pt 11’ giving way to a heart-swallowing closing sequence of ‘Bye’ via the gnawed new wave machine funk of ‘Recordingtapes’, and the shutdown masterstroke of curdled arps and plangent pads in ‘Extra 10.’
Get in pal.
Queer deep house pioneer Terre Thaemlitz hustles her entire DJ Sprinkles solo catalogue beyond the seminal ‘Midtown 120 Blues’ album in a crucial 19-track set of NYC-via-Tokyo gold, including many tracks popping their digital cherries for the first time.
‘Gayest Tits & Greyest Shits: 1998-2017 12-inches & One-offs’ sums up twenty years of action deep in the bowels of house with a precious suite drawing from rare and hard-to-find pearls scattered between the late ‘90s and end of the last decade. They span the specificities of a sound rooted in the gay scene of NYC from the late ‘80s onward, testifying to the minimalist, bass-heavy style that Sprinkles played at DJ residencies in transsexual clubs and would later take to Tokyo after moving there at turn of the millennium. For our money they’re some of the strongest, most distinctive deep house cuts of our time, holding true to the fundamentals of a style that would become mistranslated, misunderstood, and coopted by successive waves of deep house dilettantes.
Newly collected and presented in tandem with the ‘Midtown 120 Blues’ reissue, the 19 heavyweight club grooves still kill the old way, focussing on proper jackers drums and sphincter-tickle levels of subbass sparingly ornamented with samples in purist integrations of function and politics that don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. From the earliest Sprinkles cuts in ’Sloppy 42nds’ (1998), a tribute to the 42nd St. transsexual clubs destroyed by Walt Disney’s buyout of Times Square, and 2001’s ruddy nods to that classic Adonis motif in ‘Bassline.89’, thru to proper red-lit basement pressure in ‘Glorimar’s Whore House’, puckered darkroom suss in ‘Kissing Costs Extra’ or ‘Masturjakor’, and up to the heart-punching 10min+ reworks of his Terre Thaemlitz material, it’s a totally unmissable set for proper house heads and far beyond. It’s a document of phase-shifting times helmed by one of the most interesting and important artists of our age.
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Stefan Betke aka Pole’s hugely influential debut LP of frayed dub experiments resurfaces for a 20th anniversary reissue, taking us back to smoked out nights at the turn of the century and some of the finest post basic-channel dub echoes ever released. Essential listening if you’re into anything from Rhythm & Sound to Vainqueuer, Jon Hassell to Jackie Mittoo.
As legend goes, Pole took his name from a malfunctioning Waldorf 4-Pole filter which produced hisses and pops which weren’t really controllable or predictable, much like a living organism. Betke realised the potential and came to alchemically morph and render them with judicious FX dubbing into a groundbreaking sort of minimalist electro-dub that sounds exceedingly good with a spliff and glass of booze. Working somewhere between the variants of abstract techno on Chain Reaction and Mille Plateaux’s cutting edge minimalist strains, Pole’s first trio of albums inarguably helped lay the foundations for dub techno as it’s come to be known and are held in the highest regard by practically everyone who owns them.
The Pole aesthetic is patently laid out in ‘1’, where his organic clicks ’n pops come out to play accompanied by lilting organ and jazzy bass channelling Jackie Mittoo via Jon Hassell and Rhythm & Sound into a uniquely, gauzy, gaseous state. So strong was the impact of the album on the late ‘90s underground, they even generated a “pastiche” that was unwittingly issued (and subsequently deleted) by Fat Cat on their split series, but was purportedly made by V/Vm in a snidey but frankly hilarious prank, albeit one that demonstrates just how ubiquitous and influential Betke’s sound was at the time. More than that, it’s fair to say the 20 year cycle hasn’t rinsed out the appeal of this triptych one bit; it remains one of electronic music’s most enigmatic and strangely moving, tactile bodies of work.
Burial with his most substantial release in years, over 40 minutes of fizzing seasonal crackle and ultimate wooze.
Practically album length by other standards, the 'Antidawn EP’ plays thru five parts in 44 mins, unravelling a sequence of signature, crackling samples and vaporised soul strokes that play deep into his soundtrack-like collage style. It’s a real one for midwinter consumption, with the capacity for a sort of introspective romance that holds its own without explanation. Ye ye anyone hoping for another Untrue will have to go whistle but, for the diehards, it’s another surefire salve for frayed nerves and burned out heads.
Nose to tail it’s proper central heating for the soul, convecting a palette of pop and film dialogue snippets weft with ephemeral organ vamps and dabs of ‘80s/’90s synths that hazily throw back to frosted lens vibes that were canon to a generation who’ve perhaps slipped into older age by this point, some 16 years since Burial first struck a nerve. ID hounds will have a field day attempting to unpick its constituent parts, but suffice it to say, it’s predictably evocative gear that feels like an extended tease; you’ll just have to listen till the end to see if those woodblock drums ever make an appearance, we ain’t sayin.