Yves Tumor lands on Warp with his debut album for the label; more popwise and polished than before, still pitched perfectly between the avant garde and the mass market...
Laced with guest vox and production from Croatian Amor, James Ferraro, Oxhy, Puce Mary and James K, on ‘Safe In The Hands of Love’ Sean Bowie a.k.a. Yves Tumor is the liminal, connecting spirit between a unique push ’n pull of samples and original instrumentation, acting like a porous transducer of style, tone and pattern that absorbs and amplifies lost (but not dead) light and energy and turns it into something wholly his own.
Where previous singles such as ‘Noid’, ‘Lifetime’ and ‘Licking An Orchid’ - the album’s core trio - distinctly nodded to Brit-pop and ‘90s ambient-pop pastoralism, the rest of the album curiously unfolds along those axes to take in nods to Warp’s earliest signings, N.O.W. on the introductory fanfare of ‘Faith In Nothing Except Salvation’, while ‘Economy Of Freedom’ opens out into futurist sci-fi soul, and ‘Honesty’ masterfully melds indie-pop and rugged electro-soul.
And it’s that polysemous definition of soul that continues to be the uniting ligature or filament to the rest of the album, from the raging black metal mutation of ‘Hope In Suffering (Escaping Oblivion & Overcoming Powerlessness)’, to big beat-y psychedelia of ‘All The Love We Have Now’, and the white hot, foaming shoegaze distortion of ‘Let The Lioness In You Flow Freely’, all cannily highlighting a sense of emotive mutualism that transcends style, credo, and vibe.
Rezzett own that fuzzy mid-fi electronic sound on a cracking eponymous début album, landing nearly 5 years on from their self-titled EP, also issued on Will Bankhead’s TTT label.
In possession of a sound that feels like exotic birds nesting a vintage studio inside your ear, Rezzett, along with the likes of Jamal Moss, Actress, Terekke and Huerco S., have been responsible for redressing the fidelity of dance music with fairly radical yet subtle incision and insight over the best part of this decade.
Thru various process of attrition, they've made a virtue of purposefully muddy and unclear resolution, embracing and fetishising the infidelities of analog hardware noise for a sort of shabby chic appeal that lends itself to closer attention in headphones as well as a sort of psychedelic friction on the ‘floor.
It’s perhaps fair to say that Rezzett have really come to define that sound at its murkiest, most romantic, and diverse, pulling from house, jungle, garage and ambient noise paradigms to forge something viscerally affective and memorably their own, as experienced between the mottled VHS memory-bank shakes of Hala, in the squirming, sore but lush Sexzzy Creep, and the salty angels tears of Yunus in Ekstasi, with the rusty grime and jungle shanks of Gremlinz and Worst Ever Contender lending a cranky, rinsed out finale.
Out of print on vinyl for over 30 years, Brian Eno’s foundational ambient recording is finally placed back in circulation, newly remastered.
While we could be here all day debating when ambient music really became a “thing” (others may argue it was ‘Discreet Music’ or Harold Budd’s ‘The Pavillion of Dreams), the putative consensus remains that Brian Eno birthed the genre, proper, with ‘Ambient 1: Music For Airports’.
Originally dispensed in 1978, it is perhaps one of the most commonly referenced ambient recordings in the history of electronic music, marking the point where musical composition became conceptually and truly decentered, diffused, and practically taken out of the composer’s hands, yet still conveys something ultimately human; serving to enhance or encourage our unique ability to reflect, meditate (ok, so I saw a video of Goat meditation the other day, so maybe we’re not that unique?!).
Brian Eno’s 6th studio album, ‘Ambient 1: Music For Airports’ was conceived while waiting hours for a flight at Cologne Bonn Airport in Germany in response to the airport’s uninspired sound atmosphere. I’m actually struggling to think of what airports sound like now, apart from cackling hen do’s and crying kids, but we can imagine that ‘70s airport muzak could have been seriously bland. Enter Eno and his cosmic imagination, who imagineered the solution with synths and tape loops, and the help of peers such as Robert Wyatt, who provides the keys looped up on ‘1/1’, along with engineering by Conny Plank and longterm collaborator Rhett Davies.
It’s maybe hard to imagine ambient music without this record. From the radiant serenity of the first part, to the angelic choral drift of the 2nd and 3rd sections, thru to the shimmering, quietly optimistic promise of the 4th part, this is a record that defines the ideal of sublime and contemplative music - sound freed of heavy-handed connotation, and succeeding by way of gentle, unchallenging inference.
Tirzah pursues the slowest-burning soul feels on Devotion, the London-based singer-songwriter’s humbly singular début album, produced by Mica Levi and providing us with total life affirming summer listening - most probably the record we've listened to most this year so far, and one that lingers on and on...
Since her first solo 12”s and thru frequent collaborations with Mica Levi - including the Taz And May Vids  for DDS - Tirzah has quietly blossomed into one of the UK’s most precious and peculiar artists working at the fringes of experimental pop, post-grime and R&B, and Devotion is set to bring her love to a wider audience.
Plaintive and low key, Devotion presents Tirzah’s vocal in the most evocative light, framed by backdrops of bleary-eyed and bent vibes and the kind of half-finished, permanently work-in-progress production style that's become a calling card of her music and her tight knit crew including Coby Sey, Mica Levi and Brother May.
Album of the year? Aye, quite possibly.
Richard D James' classic album from 1992, re-pressed countless times but still sounding as vital as it did way back when. Still probably the most uplifting and nostalgic thing in the AFX catalogue...
Best electronic music album of the late 20th century. A proper gateway drug to the myriad microcosms of Richard D. James a.k.a. Aphex Twin. 100% essential in any collection.
The new album Pastoral, by Gazelle Twin, exhumes England’s rotten past, and shines a torch over its ever-darkening present.
"Told through a troupe of multi-gender voices, in vernaculars old and new; from the shrill echo of folksong to tabloid-tinged jaunts, the artist aka Elizabeth Bernholz, presents the notion that “there is horror in every idyll, and danger lurking beyond the “quaint” ”. The village square - once host to centuries of public torture - becomes a floral framed postcard, dolled-up for the Summer Fête. A sunny, afternoon walk over the hills unsettles a cloud of angry flies feeding from unidentifiable remains. Bigoted vitriol gently murmurs amidst tearoom chatter, as the neatly framed pastoral picture dissolves into a solemn ennui."
Hypnagogic, transportive collage and ambient composition from bod [包家巷], an L.A.-based A/V artist from the underbelly of “weird soundcloud”, here following up his tape debut for Knives with two durational works, plus remixes by Flora Yin-Wong and M.D. James
bod [包家巷], real name Nicholas Zhu, is part of a new wave of artists and labels including Nozomu Matsumoto and Quantum Natives who are shaping music and art from the virtual realm forward. In ‘The Recurrence of Infections’, Zhu terraforms layered electronics, melancholy chanson, Far eastern instrumentation and sci-fi cinematic tropes in the richly detailed, 38-minute title track, to offer something like the soundtrack to a scrolling tour of his Museum of Virtual Art, while the ‘Infection Supplement’ extends another 9 minutes of abstract, cinematic arrangement recalling the surreal, experiential feel of Kenji Yamamoto’s +you & space x album.
The remixers tactfully reduce ‘The Recurrence of Infections’ into equally strange but succinct knots of nonlinear, amorphous form, with Flora Yin-Wong suggestively limning a calm space at the edge of storm, whereas M.D. James homes in on certain aspects of the vocal and keys, rendering them in a milky ambient light.
Martyn grips YAK for a terrific trio of broken beat and D&B zingers following his standout cut on 3024’s recent V/A 12”
With the switch up from dry footwork-style toms and warm chords into drum funk D&B, ‘Rhodes Island’ brings 3024 right back to root in freshest style. The root-toms reappear as a sorta of leitmotif in ‘Ocean Floor’, but this time on a pendulous broken beat tip underlaid with ‘floor-engulfing subs, and ‘Don Gerno’ pushes that flex farther out for the brukkers, close to Martyn’s own sound, but with exacting edits and recoiling, ricocheting dynamic of his own.
Perdu does smart, rolling Italo-electro and broken house rolige for Optimo Music
Check for the punchy drums and entrancing arps of ‘Road To Yuzu’ for a killer Italo-electro style, and ‘Anxious World’ for a deep acid-Italo-breakbeat style, and ‘Phasing In’ for a stealthier, trippier, cosmic vibe.
Rude fusions of dry techno, hip hop swagger, and ‘floor-melting acid industrialism outta Kazan and Moscow, by the guys behind Opal Tapes’ ‘U S S R (Ur Social Staus Resistance) comp
Spearheading a new movement of icy, tuff dance music from Russia, Yung Acid lead the way with mutated takes on American and UK styles, generating strong moves in the ghetto banger ‘late’ for fans of White material, also with the head-swilling acid-electro flow of ‘Serpentine (Dirty master)’, and their NoLa 3-step electro twyster, ‘Jap’.
‘Wize Music’ is a jaw-dropping introduction to the new age electronic world of Dennis Wise - the missing link between Herbie Hancock’s ‘Rock-it’, Daevid Allen’s Gong and Bill Laswell’s Material, all of whom he contributed to in some form or other. Combine two rare as f**k LPs in one, including ‘Valhalla’ , which was pressed at Dynamic Sounds, Kingston, JA on the same day Big Youth were also cutting a record. If that backstory isn’t enough for ya, the music will send you reeling!
“Perhaps one of the most unique and unlikely exponents of the highly collectible genres of ambient electronics, experimental tape-music and PINA (Private Issue New Age) this English born Jamaican raised sound designer, artist and existentialist furrowed his own ublinkered path through lesser chartered electronic fields for many moons before eventually teaming up with Bill Laswell (with Material) and Daevid Allen in New York to bring self-taught synthesis to Gong during their most oblique periods. Creating two impossibly rare self pressed vinyl LPs of conceptual inner-visionary outer-galactic angular tonal-dronal alien-art soundscapes in the process, the man known under figure shifting guises such as Dennis Wise/Denis Weise/Dr. Wise etc, combined a culture of sound system circuitry and radiophonic trickery adding Tea-pot poetry and sci-fidelity future-folk to his magnetic mesh! Presented here as the first ever dedicated ize Music collection this record combines compositions spanning 1979-1984 in both a solo capacity as well as small-group projects featuring members of the Emerald Web band.
Imagine a comic book where a Funkenstein monster called “Laraaji-Scratch Perry” invaded your record shelf while Komendarek and Holger Czukay kept lookout… Dr. Dennis might be the only one Wise enough to outsmart all of them with his powerful amorphous anaesthetic.”
Another chance to pick up one of our favourite albums released this year; an hour of deeply inspirational House music for the ages that could have been produced 20 years ago, or earlier this year - we’ll probably never know.
Heat is a new double album from Shinichi Atobe for DDS. It follows on from last year’s “From The Heart, It’s A Start, A Work Of Art” set and continues a run of highly enigmatic, acclaimed and completely unparalleled productions that follow their own timeless logic. There’s no sonic fiction involved - this material really does just turn up on a CD sent by air mail from Japan to Manchester, sparse info, no messing, pure gold.
What’s that cover art about? prob something to do with the balmy material within. So Good, So Right, the 10 minute opener, will force you to forget about all the shite around you for a while. There are also several tracks called Heat; they’re all killer.
This music takes you elsewhere almost immediately; that fan on your desk is basically a summer breeze. In fact, this whole album is absurd; completely effortless; a total classic. Convince us that there’s a more life affirming electronic album this year and we’ll buy you an ice cream....
Temples of Jura roll out a synthy doozy with Fernando Pulichino’s cinematic debut as Filmico.
After releasing records for the past 10 years on modern disco labels including Bear Funk, Internasjonal and Gomma, Argentinian multi instrumentalist Flimico now commits to a classic late ‘70s/early ‘80s soundtrack style flush with warm analog synths owing much to the influence of Carpenter, Badalamenti and Johnny Jewel.
It's done with exacting amounts of emotive push and pull, coming riddled with evocative arps and bristling with bittersweet melodies that beckon eyes shut and a montage-like dream sequence to play out on the back of your ‘lids.
Richard Youngs and co’s Amor mount a full debut album of disco-not-disco with ‘Sinking Into a Miracle’, arriving 18 months after a couple of charmingly sore thumb 12”s. Imagine ACR entering the studio after binging on avant-folk and Liquid Liquid records
““Our time has begun…” Sinking Into A Miracle is the debut album by Glasgow’s AMOR, a quartet of musical travellers exploring the sonic open-ended-ness of dance music. Following two critically acclaimed 12” Single releases, Sinking Into A Miracle is a fully developed treatise on ecstasy and transcendence. Here, Richard Youngs, Michael Francis Duch, Paul Thomson and Luke Fowler are more honed, razor sharp in focus and timing, testing their instrumental prowess on condensed song structures and new, enlightened feelings of expansive hope and bliss.
From the outset it’s an ambitious yet ultimately inclusive journey they are embarking on. Recorded to 24-track tape at Chem 19 and mixed by Paul Savage and Richard McMaster (Golden Teacher), Sinking Into A Miracle retains the elastic grooves of Paradise and Higher Moment, the group’s previous single releases, but relinquishes the classic Philadelphia International tinged sound in favour of more looser rhythmic patterns. There are new depths to the compositions ; a more free-flowing approach to percussion and deft experiments in hybridity, making for a full and rounded, emotionally tinged record. Indeed, there are times when AMOR sound like the lost house band from David Mancuso's Loft parties: Richard Youngs’ uplifting, gospel tinged lyrics talk about moving beyond, universal truths, sailing through the horizon. It’s a wide-eyed optimism Mancuso would perhaps have approved of and which is embroidered with spectral details that begs to be auditioned on large, tweaked out sound-systems.
On Glimpses Across Thunder, Youngs’ piano chords echo early Blue Nile atmospherics before the band take the song into a funked, minor chord territory that feels endlessly searching, never to resolve. Opener Phantoms Of The Sun relies on Duch’s sublime bass line to drive a dubbed out track complete with a utopian flute refrain. Full Fathom Future stomps relentlessly forward on the back of Thomson’s percussion-heavy groove before collapsing into a moving three chord epilogue played on droning string instruments. Heaven Among The Days introduces a more robotic groove to the album, with a short bass refrain bouncing off stripped drum triggers, its dark rhythms reminiscent of the proto-House tracks that were trademarked by Chicago DJ Ron Hardy.
Whilst Youngs contemplates the prospect of heaven in our daily lives Fowler's gliding synthesiers chords underline the more devotional potential of AMOR's music. Sinking Into A Miracle ends with the sublime, Truth Of Life the most expansive and transporting of these compositions. Here the studio as instrument is used to full effect, with the rhythm section in full flow as the melodic elements are twisted, delayed, swaddled in tape echo, delaying gratification before a full, thrilling drop into blissful pleasure.”
Sensuously modern soul beauties from Steve Spacek, one of the most distinctive artists combining Black Atlantic heritage with contemporary electronics and futurist vision
On his first Spacek album since 2005’s ‘Space Shift’, and expanding on the themes of his Beat Spacek LP ‘Modern Streets’ , Steve has us rapt from the opening nanosecs of ‘Natural Shift’ with his use of watery compression artefacts - the modern equivalent of tape hiss - which instantly acknowledges his sound as a product of its times. You might pardon our excitement at this sound when it soon comes into combination with his vocals and patented chord cadence, letting us all know that this isn’t some decadent attempt at reenacting old soul glories or slopping on the gloss to mask a formula - he’s speaking from here and now, seemingly singing a modern bluez down a Skype connection.
Most brilliantly, that fidelity also apples to the rest of the album, with Spacek’s trademark falsetto sweetly occluded in-the-mix, smudged with wickedly slouching, gunky bass funk and the “cheapest” sounding drums. As we said, the effect is felt best in his mesmerisingly unique opener ‘Natural Sci Fi’, but we’re also smitten with the album’s other standouts, such as the grubbing acid funk and in-the-pocket harmonies of ‘Carnival Nights’, and the combination of sloshing, off-key arps and languorous vox on ’Shout’.
There’s little mistaking that this is the finest UK soul record of 2018, and a subtly radical new look for the often conservative Eglo label.
Next on Wolf Eyes’ Warp subsidiary, Lower Floor, the group’s early incarnation face off their current guise
As Wolf Eyes, they anchor 16 minutes of brass and electronic graffiti and snotty vox with depth charge bass hits, nasty as you like for the trip metal fiends. In Universal Eyes mode, they pull back into regressive primitivism with shadowy, greyscale shapes looming out of the murk in ‘Civilised Two’, whereas ‘Civilised Three’ feels more like a surreptitious room recording of some early concrète master in his workshop.
Larry Heard ropes in Call Super and Duplex to remix a cut from his Mr. Fingers album, ‘Cerebral Hemispheres’
Mr. Fingers hisself chips in an floating alternate version of ‘Praise to the Vibes’, and a lounging extended version, leaving ‘Crying Over You’ in the hands of the remixers, with Call Super returning a hobbling groove and autotuned vox sealed with wet-eyed synth pads, and Duplex reworking the same elements as a sublime, deep blue acid house elegy to love lost.
Smart and varied vibes from Martyn’s 3024, featuring himself alongside label debuts from Berlin’s lesser-spotted Juniper, UK stepper Yak, and Baltra - collaborator with DJ Boring
Yak plays up to the label’s ruder side with the crunching 2-step drums and percolated subs of ‘Lucid Nightmare’, and Martyn follows suit with the roguish Detroit/South London rave style of ‘Everything Is New’.
On the other hand, Juniper is on day release with the deeply in-the-pocket, writhing acid funk of ‘Constellations In You’, and Baltra rolls out the floating rave depths of ‘Bensalem Owls’.
Forward grime for the present state of affairs, from producer Shy One and MC Kwam
Kwan poetically chats about race, economics, family, police, and everyone’s favourite cheap pub on ’Spoons’, set to Shy One’s supremely inventive and daring grime productions, from the fleeting stabs and skittish beat of ‘Power’ to the cool yet powerful tale of harassment from the dibble set to a brilliant jazz/grime fusion in ‘The Raid’, and, our favourite, the properly wild but refined flex of ’Spoons’ with its spiralling keys and splayed 2-step. Surely one of 2018’s most impressive grime releases?!
Seductively depressive darkwave-pop from Seattle in the rainy North West of U.S.A. RIYL Cold Cave, Tropic of Cancer, Veronica Vasicka
“Bloom Offering is the synth-wave / blighted electronic project of Seattle's Nicole Carr. Having released a handful of well-received cassettes through Clan Destine, Aught Void, and Sinneslöschen, Bloom Offering presents her debut LP Episodes through The Helen Scarsdale Agency.
In her development as an artist and technician, Carr has steadily honed her abilities in sculpting sharply cold electronics and declarative vocals set upon propulsive spines of whipcrack snares and throttled kick drums. Episodes strikes us as the refinement and culmination of those motifs into a compulsive communion with bleak noise, dark-eyed melody, controlled rhythm, cathartic release and emotional drainage. The opening track "Swallow Me Whole" is one of many pyrrhic anthems of resolute disdain for the current social order with its frantic rhythms complicating the moody arrangements. "Venus Shrugged" maintains a stately almost haughty sequence of synth stabs, evoking the sexual politics of the male gaze and any woman who chooses to look for herself. The scornful "Out 2 Get U" was penned as a stark banger of unrelenting, industrial techno in the the wake of the panic and paranoia against the post-Weinstein groundswell of feminine rage; yet in the constant headlines of men behaving badly, Bloom Offering's curse remains necessary.
Episodes questions the positions of gendered power in mirroring back Carr's existential anxiety through her roughly engineered body music and minimal wave shadowplay. For ancillary listening references, Chris & Cosey, Lebanon Hanover, DVA Damas, and the rhythmic facets of Janushoved might of use.”
The brothers Overmono rave between tribalist and ambient jungle-tekno and stepping IDM on return to Whiities
‘Lil’s From’ works out natty, rolling breakbeat edits in a way recalling Peder Mannerfelt’s broken styles, whereas ‘Quadraluv’ rolls out on a flighty mix of ambient techno and rude jungle swerve, and ‘Yell0W_Tail’ swings out into breezy IDM dimensions.
‘Moment’ is a strong current statement of intent from Gudrun Gut, the Berlin veteran who has weathered sea changes from post-punk to techno and indie-tronmcs, and now turns electro-pop, glam rock and avant-electronics to her needs. Make sure to check her cover of Bowie’s ‘Boys Keep Swinging’
“German electronic originator Gudrun Gut’s latest solo collection distills a lifetime of persuasions and obsessions into a compelling 14-track statement: "Moment." Stark, somber, sultry, and clever, the sides slide between ballad and lament, synth-pop and spoken word, anthemic and abstract.
Gut’s background as a key figure in Berlin’s first-wave industrial uprising still casts an aura in the music’s mechanized rhythms and frozen emotional palette but decades of improvisation and collaboration have deepened her sense of composition and melody beyond any easy genre categorization.
If anything "Moment" finds Gut’s muse at its most enigmatic, threading shades of motorik hypnosis, technoid laboratory, coldwave pop, glitchy gauze, and even a gender-bent Bowie cover (“Boys Keep Swinging”) into its eclectic web. It also showcases the depth and detail of her voice, reserved but suggestive, intoning blunt truths and opaque poetry in both German and English.
This is music of history and heartache, modernity and desire, alienation and expression, by a singular creative committed to the complexities of sound. - Britt Brown
Gudrun Gut’s story spans many years, scenes, and sounds, from the “ingenious dilettantes” subculture of early 1980’s Berlin as part of Mania D, Einstürzende Neubauten, and Malaria! to her twilit industrial pop trio Matador into an expansive solo catalog of later work scoring films, videos, and radio plays. Her talents extend beyond musician, however, to include founding record labels (the influential imprints Moabit Musik and Monika Enterprise), club nights (progressive electronic pop collective Oceanclub), and experimental feminist collaborations (Monika Werkstatt).
Gut also works extensively in the technical sector of the recording industry, as a producer. Recent projects have included collaborations with Antye Greie (AGF) and Hans-Joachim Irmler of Faust, participating on the advisory committee for Musicboard Berlin, and performing at The Royal Albert Hall with Âme as part of an Innervisions label night.”
UK techno heavyweights Karl O’Connor & James Ruskin whip out a deadly new OVR session on Downwards
Arriving 2 years since their ‘Easy Prey’ 12”, OVR’s 3rd studio release is defined by its spacious mixing and layered detail in three powerful dancers plus two handy locked grooves.
‘The World Remade’ is a proper juggernaut, rolling thru pelting percussion on 18 wheeler bassline with a pile of jazz mags on the passenger seat. It could easily go on twice as long, but there’s two locked grooves isolating the crunchy bass and gritted drums for DJs who want to properly roll out.
The B-side’s ‘Reversing Into Tomorrow’ tucks into more aerodynamic, stripped down formation, before they cuts loose with foul waves of tarry synth and noise scree in the grim roil of ‘New Departures’ - more of this, please!
Remaster of a 2008 classic ten years after release.
"There's a beating heart buried in the cold landscape of Glider, a warm 4/4 pulse that enervates the album's echoing, looped drones and pulls the listener swiftly through the snow. By pinning barely-there electronic beats to his wisps of guitar melody, the Seattle-based producer turns ambient music into a hybrid strain of breathtakingly intimate, small-scale dance music.
There's a separation of elements in The Sight Below's songs that's almost meteorological in nature: Tendrils of treated guitar trail lazy patterns in the sky like the Aurora Borealis ("At First Touch"), flicker in the distance like heat lightning ("Dour"), or expand and contract like time-lapse cloud formations ("Life's Fading Light"); running along beneath, nearly obscured by the airborne phenomena, is an ever-present beat, which ranges from the mud-puddle throb in "Without Motion" to the tiny, insistent high-hats in "A Fractured Smile." The tracks evolve at a deliberated pace, but as the tones overlap and the rhythms build, time oozes to a halt and hangs in blissfully frost-bitten suspended animation. With Glider, The Sight Below has created a work of vertiginous sonic depth and exquisite melancholy: techno music for a dark, brooding night."
1st new Bitstream 12” in 10 years! The bothers Conner remerge one of the UK’s most cherished electro projects for a strong 4-track EP with the West Coast Dutch G’s at Frustrated Funk
Since their last 12”, ‘The Severed EP’  for Touchin’ Bass, Dave and Steve Connor bifurcated into the Uexkull and Adapta projects, respectively. While they’ve turned out some solid gear individually, their powers are arguably felt strongest when working together, as on the ‘Switch Halo’ EP.
In combo, they massively impress with the dissonant, bittersweet choral synth voices that open up ‘Stream Philter’ and infiltrate its slow, pendulous groove, while the richly detailed and rapid ‘Screens’ also benefits from more hands on deck in its sumptuous kneeing soundsphere. Again those synth voices make a crucial appearance, haunting the elastic, shapeshifting slosh of ‘Tactic’, while ‘Switch Holo’ works with powerful techno-electro hydraulics in a super tight update of their signature styles.
One of 2018’s most reliable labels, UVB-76 Music close the year with a killer quartet of industrial/D&B/techno apparitions by Karim Maas, Pessimist, Overlook and Talker
Titled in tribute to the seminal ‘70s sci-fi conjured by Nigel Kneale for the BBC, The Stone Tapes unleashes dark forces in all four parts.
Kicking off with the trampling, lunky pressure and sweltering spectral noise of ‘Removal Of DECC’ by Karim Maas, it finds Pessimist investigating haunted dancehall vibes with the grungy acidic bogle of ‘Ultranova’, while Overlook follows suit with the depth-charge halfstep bone-rattler ‘Purr’, and Chicago’s Talker twat out the tense industrial techno rolige of ‘Cross Purposes’.
There’s definitely something in the Bristol waters…
The Sight Below’s majestic shoegaze, reworked by a broad range of artists including Simon Scott, Yagya, Biosphere and Acronym
Exemplifying the scope of the set, Simon Scott appears at his sorest and bittersweet with a billowing, coruscating take on ’At First Touch’, and Acronym offers a pounding deep techno remix of ‘Life’s Fading Light’. Other highlights come from Iceland’s Yagya with a heartrate-slowing ambient techno overhaul of ‘At First Touch’, and Biosphere pushes ‘The Sunset Passage’ off into opiated smudge.
Rugged, squashed bass flex from Lamont, following up his Swamp81 and Keysound turns with more stripped down and freaky movies for Loefah’s label
Working at the intersection of dubstep, grime, and house, the ‘Detached’ EP twysts in a unique way from the looping halfstep of ‘Humans’ to the clipped and corkscrewing strut of ‘XIX’ with an infectiously playful style, before getting darker, more aggressive with the title cut, and balancing the percussive attack of ‘Dope’ with heady, slanted electronics and a canny vocal lick that sets it off right.
Stripped-down, proggy acid and slinky electro from Nathan Micay (Bwana), making his 1st foray for L.A.’s ESP Institute
The A-side’s title tune is an effortless, stealthily building acid roller evolving with swanee whistle-like top line, eventually opening out with balmy pads.
On the B-side, he works the louche but punchy swagger of ‘Team Player’, with snaky post-punk baseline accentuated by electroid snares and urging vocoder voice.
Fracture pushes at D&B’s peripheries with the super tight, Footwork-compatible drums of ‘Soundboy get Nervous’ on dBridge’s Exit Records
The clenched title cut imagine a razor-sharp fusion of No U-Turn tech-step rufige inna footwork-style harness; ‘Turbo Toms’ goes on like Mumdance & Logos doing hardcore juke; ‘Makes Me Wonder’ serves tense, body-rolling momentum layered up with ace mid ‘90s techno-trance pads; and ‘No Screwface’ locks off a killer, breathlessly tight tech step sound.
Dave Aju winds up a avant-jazzy house session for Accidental Jr on occasion of their 2nd anniversary
‘Max at Masonic’ kicks off with a razor sharp sort of drum solo track helmed by heavy subbass; ‘Everybody’s Watching’ folds in some melodic colour and vocals encouraging listeners to “dance like everyone is watching”; while ‘O.O.O.’ signs off into plush deep house vibes, and ‘Telekuneko’ lays down a tuff tribal house groove.
Daniel Avery and Richard Fearless float their new merger, PSSU, on the latter’s Drone label
On ‘307309’ they recall classic early-mid ‘90s Aphex Twin and Autechre vibes with haunting pads and bruising electro drums, while ‘Fabricated From Steel’ heads down a long dark techno tunnel.
Detroit, Chicago and Paris-indebted deep filter house from Pistol Pete on Bristol’s Idle Hands
Clearly well-versed in Shake, Soundhack and Pepe Bradock styles, Stockholm’s Pistol Pete brings a vibe in all three parts: simmering the ‘floor with washed out piano chops and raw swang in ‘Orphan’; toying with deferred soul gratification in ‘Lundgaten’; and getting right under the skin swiththe mesmerising chords and devilishly offbeat hi-hats of ‘Esqpads’.
First ever digital issue of Chris Carter's solo follow-up to the legendary 'Spaces Between'
Originally issued on LP in 1985, 'Mondo Beat' stars one of the Throbbing Gristle lynchpin's most recognisable solo tracks, the proto-New Beat and Industrial classic, 'Moonlight', plus five further tracks of highly advanced productions, taking in the flash stabs and body-contorting beats of 'Real Life', the extra-tropical electro elan of 'Noevil', experimental cut-ups on 'Nobadhairdo', and the noisy, psychosexual EBM tripper 'Beyond Temptation'. We need say no more; this is a total must-have for all wave psychonauts and techno dancers!
Copenhagen’s Fluf look close to home with Mads Kjelgaard’s field recording study of insect noise in Croatia, with results remarkably resembling mechanical, synthetic sound.
“Like a heavy blanket it covers the mountain valley. It seeps in from everywhere: piercing trills, screams and grains. The insects are awake. They want to eat, they want to drink, they want to sing, they want to fuck. And so, they excite their mechanic bodies.”
Feted producer/engineer Randall Dunn etches his name in the pantheon of doom with ‘Beloved’, his first solo vessel following over 400 credits on records by Sunn 0))), Earth, Tim Hecker, and Six Organs of Admittance, among so many others. Highly recommended if you're into Vangelis, 0PN, Scott Walker, Wolves In The Throne Room...
Active in the producer/engineer/mixing seat since 1996, Dunn’s tact with early analog and digital synthesisers and feel for instrumental integrity is key to a vast swathe of modern classics from the doom realm. On ‘Beloved’ he finally puts those prized skills at the service of his staggering debut album, poetically framing vocal and instrumental offerings from Zola Jesus, Shahzad Ismaily and Eyvind Kang, a.o., within vast, parallel, electro-acoustic dimensions shot thru with shocking emotive pathos.
Inspired by the wisdom of age and a period of psychic stress, ’Beloved’ truly renders the full, magnificent scope of Dunn’s 3rd eye. With a cinematic/psychedelic grasp of dramaturgy that perhaps only comes from subsuming one’s own vision at the service of others, his first solo side unfurls a billowing tapestry in seven parts, finely limning a sort of hellish opera a la latter Scott Walker or, indeed, his own work with skilful scene setters, Wolves In The Throne Room.
Shoring up in desolate synth space with opener ‘Amphidromic Point’, visually mirrored in O’Malley’s cover art of a warped beach scene, the album evolves purposefully into the ante-chamber music of ‘Lava Rock & Amber’, making stunning use of a string trio plus clarinet, Buchla easel and Minimoog, before delivering the stone cold blow of Frank Fisher’s pre-dawn blues vocal and Carpenter-esque synth strokes on ‘Something About That Night’. In terms of sheer scale of space and haunting potential, however, the keening chorales of ‘Theoria/Aleph’ strongly resonate with classic ventures by Phurpa and John Avery, and Zola Jesus proves the perfect candidate to close out with her soaring vocal on ‘True Home’.
Expanded reissue of ’Snakedressed’ , by Klink’s legendary Dirk Ivens as Dive, backed with choice cuts from the same era, including collaborations with Kirlian Camera and Controlled Bleeding
Salvaged from the wastelands of late ‘90s EBM/Industrial, ’Snakedressed’ speaks to a time when this style was out in the woods compared to its earlier golden phase. All the hallmarks of Dirk’s sound are in place - snarling vox, lugubrious drums, dank atmospheres - but to be honest it sounds dated by this point.
However, the bonus disc is well worth checking, highlighting four cuts from his ‘Obsession’ collaboration with Kirlian Camera, including the titular EBM-pop song, plus two pulsing zingers from the ‘2/3’ compilation on Germany’s Hands Productions, and the Carter Tutti-esque 20 minutes of ‘Glow In The Dark’, an obscure Portuguese split release with Controlled Bleeding.
Continuing a home run of zingers on Jai and Anup Paul’s Paul Institute, Rutheven lets his soul flow on the memorably infectious ‘Hypothalamus’...
The kind of tune that will call to mind a dozen others that you can’t place a finger on, ‘Hypothalamus’ is an instant anthem of the kind that should be A-listed on commercial radio in a perfect world, and makes up for so much overblown, too-many-cooks soul currently in circulation.
‘Hypothalamus’ will forever remind us of the long, hot summer of 2018, when climate change became ever more apparent, and all we could do was hum its hook for days on end.
Holy grail German post-punk zingers reissued via Stefan Schneider’s TAL, following on the heels of their killer Konrad Kraft reissue
Originally issued as one disc on Klar! 80’s 3LP ‘Massa’ set in 1981, Roter Stern Belgrad’s 3 tracks are an amazing example of Afro inspirations worked into early industrial frameworks.
Right up there with unruly classics by CH-BB, Din A Testbild and Liaisons Dangereuses from the same era, these tracks perhaps even more feral and far out, but properly anchored in amazing rhythms, as you’ll hear between the snaking minimalism and stressed metal sounds of ‘Afars & Issas’, on the wickedly agitated drum programming and cranky electronics of ‘Wegwerfliebling’, and the transfixing mix of possessed hollers, gnashing drums and motorik bass in ‘Abend-Stern-Chant’.
2018 marks the 40th anniversary of Bauhaus. To celebrate, Beggars Arkive are reissuing six records from the band’s catalogue on special edition coloured vinyl.
"Formed in 1978, The legendary and hugely influential quartet hailed from Northampton, England and is comprised of Peter Murphy, Daniel Ash, David J and Kevin Haskins. The dark, dramatic music that they made, possessed far more force, variety and playfulness than the ‘founding fathers of goth’ tag that is always attached to them.
‘Crackle’ is a best-of collection of songs. Contains the studio version of ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’. All Music described it as “an excellent single-disc overview of the group’s brief career, containing all of their essential songs, from ‘In The Flat Field’ and ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’ to ‘Ziggy Stardust’ and ‘Burning From The Inside’ …it’s nice that there’s finally a thorough retrospective of the groundbreaking goth quartet” and Pitchfork said it is “a fine retrospective of the material that both Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson claim was a ‘major influence’ of their music.”
Alex Zhang Hungtai frankly takes our breath away with Divine Weight; a sublime, spine-freezing suite of weightless, beat-less sax compositions uncannily resembling ambient synth and organ works. It was released on download formats earlier in the year, but is now finally given the vinyl pressing it so richly deserves - for us it stands out as one of the most emotionally complex and quietly devastating albums of the year.
From Taipei via Canada and now based in Portugal, Hungtai brings a worldly wealth of experience to Divine Weight, which unfolds at an opiated pace with some of the lushest smoke curl dynamics we’ve had the pleasure of huffing in years. Only his second solo outing under his own name, following an acclaimed stretch of Dirty Beaches releases and last year's incredible Love Theme set, as well as an appearance on David Lynch’s Twin Peaks (The Return), Divine Weight keens with a supernatural metaphysics that’s impossible to place.
Pierrot sets the scene in a perfectly elusive way; reminding us of Arve Henriksen with its mournful, pitched brass and breathless dynamics - completely devastating despite being utterly restrained. Matrimony unfurls jaw-dropping choral percolations, before really blinding us with the curdled dissonance of This Is Not My Country - proper lump-in-throat material - and a coruscating vignette Yasumatei, before committing the ultimate payload of the 20 minute long Divine Weight, where all those ideas rise to the occasion in a magisterial swell of affective harmonics that we’re not ashamed to say reduced us to tears.
Unending love for this one.
SOPHIE lights up 2018 with ‘Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-insides’, an exhilarating début album of upfront dance-pop, epic ballads and shocking electronic production that grasps the modern zeitgeist with jaws and both fists
Landing some 6 years since her ironically titled debut Nothing More To Say, over which time the artist has produced records for Madonna, Charli XCX and Vince Staples (among others), Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-insides renders a full frontal experience that’s set to define the scene for years to come.
SOPHIE’s understanding of the links between avant-garde and pop cultures is dramatically in force across the album, matching the hyperreal pop stun of PC Music chop for chop, but also pushing the prism farther in favour of her own, equally hyperreal image. The results are comparable with Autechre and EVOL records as much as Taylor Swift or The Pet Shop Boys, veering from warped pop perfection to brutalist electronics and breathtaking rhythmic energy often in the space of a single track, brilliantly embracing contradiction as a tool of expression in a way that feels bang on the money right now.
Her trifecta of lead singles, It’s Okay to Cry, Ponyboy, and Faceshopping gild the album’s entrance with some of the strongest pop sensations felt in recent years, before matters take a dramatic turn with a plunge into the beatless trance ballad Is It Cold In The Water?, and the subsequent chest-bursting R&B gospel of Infatuation, which both appear to massage the senses in preparation for the album’s shock-out 2nd half.
In Not Okay, she pairs knock-out electronics with the sheerest rave mentasms in delirious 3D, before utterly gobbling your swede in the breathtaking, atonal wormhole of Pretending, and promptly spiralling into the vacuum-packed banger Immaterial, then embracing the Whole New World/Pretend World in a kill-‘em-all 9 minutes of endorphin-rushing dance-pop genius that’s effectively the 2018 anthem we were all waiting for.
Issued for the first time on vinyl, the great poet of musique concrète Luc Ferrari limns a sensory immersion into the streets of Madrid on ‘L’escalier des aveugles’, a radio play commissioned for Spain’s national radio and broadcast in 1991 as part of the ‘European Day Of Music’ programme
As the 8th release on Mana, the label helmed by both Blowing Up The Workshop’s Matthew Kent and British Library curator Andrea Zarza, Ferrari’s rich evocation of a Madrilenian night keeps the label's remit nicely open-ended, following releases from the Japanese avant-garde and techno’s leftfield in 2018.
Ferrari methodically worked with the commissioner, José Iges, then director of Ars Sonora on Spanish National Radio, to select La “Cuesta de los Ciegos” (the Staircase of the Blind), a flight of 254 descending steps that join Calle Segovia and Calle de la Morería, as his locus of investigation. Historically named after the blind musicians who played and begged for alms on the steps, it provides a uniquely transitional space or platform for Ferrari to symbolically render his magick around the notion, “Radio, by nature, is blind… how do we enter the stairs of the blind?”
Together with a number of female voices sourced from theatrical backgrounds, Ferrari lead us up and down the stairs, with the sound of clacking heels and the tip-tap of a white cane providing a subtle leitmotif that winds between the voices, occupying multiple roles as guide, translator, commentator and actress. Layered with electronics and cut with sharp fades-to-black that connote the blind experience, the results are a feast for the senses, most nimbly treading the line between waking and dream life, and with a sensual subtlety akin to the memory-jogging quality of perfume, or the balmy fragrance of citrus fruits on a warm evening.
Features exclusive tracks from Pan Daijing, Lanark Artefax, Peder Mannerfelt, Tomoko Sauvage, Pye Corner Audio, Sophia Loizou, Abul Mogard, Par Grindvik, Roly Porter, Hodge, Gazelle Twin, Shapednoise, Batu, Yves De Mey, Kangding Ray, Ian William Craig, Christophe De Babalon (on vinyl only) and many others.
"Twenty six artists producing the cream of leftfield electronic music have been given a brief: to take the phrase “in Death's dream kingdom”, or the whole of TS Elliot's poem as inspiration. Vibrating with vivid sonic references, the poem is a feast for the ears, which makes it a ripe subject for musical interpretation.
Not an album in the traditional sense, it brings together a seriously diverse array of talents into a coherent whole with a vivid aesthetic reverberating through it. It occupies a similar space to the great home listening electronica acts of the 90s – FSOL, Global Communication, the Artificial Intelligence axis – but there are no throwbacks here: this is radical in sound and thought. Dark music for dark times."
Jai and Anup Paul pluck out this deep pop pearl from Hira, one of the newest recruits to their Paul Institute label...
Cut from similar, purple cloth as label CEO Jai Paul, ‘Red Light Drive’ finds yung Hira glowing in the middle of sparking Linn drums and cruising cyber-bass strokes, working a proper classic yet futuristic pivot that puts a lot of contemporary boogie into stark relief.
Having lived with this song for 6 months now, we can confirm it’s one 2018’s strongest ohrwurms. As in addictively strong.
Hypnotic, stripped down techno from Bryce Hackford, joining Andrew Lyster’s Youth label for a 3-track session after their incendiary FUMU release
The A-side is a proper, unassuming slow burner in the model of Levon Vincent, with tinfoil hi-hats tapped in over a booming kick and webbed with spidery electronics sure to induce some eyes shut moments in the club.
On the flip he channels that momentum somewhere shoreside with claggy, smoky atmosphere and distaced field recordings lending a fine depth perception, before the final cuts dawn a deep, rolling, tribal house trance replete with chants and a rising chord sequence from the Carl Craig playbook.
Very canny pop pomp from Reinen, a new character on the Paul Institute, produced by label CEO, Jai Paul
Orchestral synth strings and squashed drum machine underline a magnificent mix of percolated chorales and elegant verses, like Annie and Kate Bush performing at a grand ball, with the incidental sound of captains of industry and wankered toffs cropping up in the background.
Just try dislodging that chord sequence from your head after ingestion. At the very least you’ll get your money’s worth.
Techno’s arch, dark alchemist Juan Mendez rolls out a powerful 2nd Silent Servant album with ‘Shadows of Death and Desire’ , arriving some six years after his ‘Negative Fascination’ side triggered a sea-change toward EBM and gothic sonics in a way that’s never been felt more strongly. The album also features the unlikely reappearance of longtime collaborator and vocalist Camella Lobo of Tropic of Cancer.
Over the past two decades the storied, L.A.-based producer has made his presence felt both by stealth and frequency. From his earliest work on LA’s Cytrax thru his pivotal role on early Tropic of Cancer releases and as recording and visual artist with Sandwell District, then later as the go-to-guy for fusions of post-punk, industrial, EBM and techno with DJ sets and releases as Silent Servant, Juan Mendez’s myriad efforts have inarguably exerted an enormous influence over contemporary techno and dark electronics.
With his sophomore album Silent Servant presents an affirmation of his prowess with properly physical effect, wielding some of the most strapping arps, possessed vox and moody pads in his catalogue. In contrast with ‘Negative Fascination’, its influential predecessor, the seven tracks of ‘Shadows of Death and Desire’ are defined by a toothier drive and bite, moving with shark-like momentum thru ruggedest club functions while allowing little room for anything like beat-less reflection or downtime.
Locking in with ‘Illusion’, he pursues singular, writhing permutations of EBM, industrial and post punk moods; taking in slathering highlights with the agitated bruxism of ‘Harm In Hand’ and the rotor-jawed syncopation of ‘Damage’, along with the trampling drone-dirge of ‘Loss Response’, and the needling panic attack dynamic of ’24 Hours’, before drifting off centre with the glorious, swingeing torque of ‘Glass Veil’, and a swooning goth finale in ‘Optimistic Decay’ which sees mendez reunite with longtime collaborator and vocalist Camella Lobo.
Exquisitely rendered in-the-mix by Joshua Eustis, we can practically guarantee that if you fell for the first album, this one will push your buttons hard, too.