John Tejada finds a blissful moment of balance between the new and the familiar.
"Anyone who’s followed his career to date, which has included four previous albums for Kompakt,outings for storied labels like Plug Research, Playhouse and Cocoon and numerous remixes and collaborations – most recently, his Wajatta duo with actor and musician Reggie Watts – will immediately sense the warmth and eloquence that Tejada brings to his gilded, pliant techno and electro hybrids.
But there’s more here, too; an explorer’s glimmer in the producer’s eye, as he gets to grips with new ways of working and being, while offering a reflective opening for the listener, something echoed in artwork by graphic designer and ‘contemplative artist’ David Grey.
“The album was started using tools I was unfamiliar with, which became an interesting exploratory process,” Tejada says.“Staying away from the obvious and having to re-learn simple things was a fun challenge.” You can hear these new creative pulsions pushing the eight tracks on Year Of The Living Dead ever-forward; the album has an unique cast, and though there are trace elements of the genres Tejada has indulged previously, he’s never quite put them together this way before. There’s the dubwise glitter sprinkled across the moody opener “The Haunting Of Earth”, the kind caresses found amongst the deftly woven textures of “Sheltered”, and the churchy melancholy, all hymnal and golden, of “Echoes Of Life”.
Year Of The Living Dead also speaks obliquely to its moment, though Tejada works this implicitly, allowing the strange circumstances of 2020 to cast their inevitable shadow without being obvious or didactic. “The production process began right before lockdown and continued through what felt like a very serious time for all of us,” he recalls. “Not being able to see or touch our loved ones made me feel we are all like ghosts. We can observe from a distance but cannot really be there. We are isolated and alone.” And yet, Year Of The Living Dead’s tenderness offers an out for that anxiety and loneliness, its intimate immensities gifting the album a redemptive and compassionate core."
The Stereolab collection we've all been waiting for: a follow-up to 1998's fab "Aluminium Tunes", compiling a bunch of rare material from 1999-2008 including outtakes from beloved albums "Dots and Loops" and "Mars Audiac Quintet".
Stereolab's blend of early electronic noodling, French pop sexiness, suave lounge posturing and Krautrock's rhythmic thump has had us obsessed for decades. Back in 1997 when they released "Dots and Loops", they had reached a creative high-point, working with Tortoise's John McEntire in Chicago to come up with a sultry collection of space pop / post rock goodness that was a much-needed antidote to the laddish guitar music plaguing Europe at the time. Since the early '90s, the band would routinely collect up their rarer releases - EPs, remixes, B-sides - in "Switched On" compilations, the last being '98's excellent "Aluminium Tunes". Now, following the remastered reissues of the first three volumes in the series, they have put together a fourth, collecting rare material from '99-'08 and bundling it with outtakes from the "Dots and Loops" and "Mars Audiac Quintet" recording sessions. Phew.
This is hardly a set of second rate offcuts either, 'Lab fans know that much of their best material is hidden away on their weirder short-run releases, so having access to the long-deleted mini-album "The First Of The Microbe Hunters" again is just a joy. That seven-track release kicks off the album, dragging you immediately into band's turn-of-the-millennium tight sweater shakes. From there, we get tracks from tour 7"s, a few compilation cuts, a track written for a documentary about synth pioneer Robert Moog and even a dancefloor track that Tim Gane describes as "upbeat and party-ish". If you haven't heard these tracks before, we're jealous, and if you have it's still nice to have them all remastered and assembled together neatly in one place.
Cutting edge computer music from Iranian “boy band” Ben & Jerry; a gloriously messed up first shot on Parsa and Ramtin Niazi’s Tehran-based Active Listeners Club
After spanking us around the lugs with a gush of tapes for New York Haunted, FLUF and Co-Dependent in recent years, Parsa Jamshidi and his partner in crime Ramtin Niazi posit themselves as pinups for a generation of screen-tanned listeners in ‘Formant Fry’, where they manipulate the unique units or properties of speech known as “Formants” with brilliantly abstract narrative chicanery that’s not frantic but deeply psychedelic, and complemented by a mind-bindingly tip-of-tongue remix by DJ Water.
Fuck knows nobody is ever going to make literal sense of what they’re up to, but taken on an instinctive, face-value level, the music is delivering us feels unfelt beyond the craftiest forms of computer music and experimental composition, recalling sensations we’ve had when listening to everything from Jim O’Rourke’s most wigged out ‘Old News’ slabs, to the mercurial forms of Justin Meyers’ ‘Struggle Artist’, or like some auditory analogue to digital visual techniques of data moshing.
In other words: the best sort of headf*ck.
Forty-two (!) one minute minimal musical photographs that sift through dubby, glitch-heavy rhythms and colorful drones.
Originally released back in 2002, "Aerial Riverseries" is an attempt by glitch-dub deity Frank Bretschneider to develop a musical equivalent to Olafur Eliasson's series of photographs that depicted river banks seen from the air. Bretschneider uses his usual palette of sounds - clipped beats, crisp, glitchy sound design and eery FM drones - to evoke Eliasson's use of color, all brown, green, yellow and gold. Rather than feel like a disjointed selection of loops, the tracks phase into each other as if it's one long composition made up of imperceptibly shifting elements, utilizing the fractured dub and uneasy synthetics of records like "Curve" and morphing it into a painterly gallery piece that avoids tropes or stylistic traps. Intense.
Following a rare fallow year, Paradox locks off the step for Sneaker Social Club with two signature breakbeat twysters
Joining the label’s pasture of D&B and soundsystem veterans, Paradox plays it deep and blue in both parts, warming up with the dubbed-out rolige of ‘Octa4’, and a smart hybrid of bouncing dub techno chords and limber, live breaks on ‘Proceed.’
Cabaret Voltaire is Richard H. Kirk and ‘Shadow of Fear’ was the band’s first studio album in 26 years, released in 2020.
"The single ‘Shadow of Funk’ delves deeper into Cabaret Voltaire’s arsenal of “vocal samples, harsh rhythms and threatening detonations” (Classic Pop). Three brand new tracks released on Curacao coloured vinyl with digital download code included."
The precision tooled but playfully haphazard minimalism of Frank Bretschneider’s debut album resurfaces on the pivotal Mille Plateaux label over 20 years since it was conceived
Far from Bretschneider’s first work, which dates way back to the mid-‘80s, ‘Rand’ is technically the first under his own name, and pays witness to the birth of a compositional style and aesthetic that he would come to define with his releases and role in co-founding the Raster-Noton label beside Carsten Nicolai (Alva Noto.)
Hailing from former communist East Germany, Bretschneider’s music is patently inspired by the austerity of life behind the iron curtain, working with a greyscale tonal palette and the most sparing bleeps in a way that sometimes sounds like he can’t find a pfennig for the meter, or is at least being very frugal with the supply. But despite their bleakness, his creations are always full of character, allowing his modular systems and machines to express their quietest, internal thought, which range from barely-there morse code to more playfully rhythmic spasms.
“The 20 tracks of the album are the result of a computer based, modulated synthesizer system. There is no difference between sound and composition anymore. One sound may represent the whole track. Tracks are not created by classic sequencer technology, but all movements, series of sounds, and orders of tones are the result of unorthodox connected Synthesizer modules (LFO’s, oscillators, filters, amplification). Developed sound-events, which are mostly chaotic and accidental, are brought into ‘form’ by special controllers. The result is minimal, often sketchy tracks, which are more constructed than improvised and are most often finished after the idea of the track is crystallized. Fragments of minimal structure are added slowly and carefully, sometimes taken out and then put back in after further thought. Other beat fragments seem lost and out-of-place, until low frequency clicks are locked in. Even if the albumis contemporary electronic music, it is still inspired by the idea of new and experimental pop music.”
Vibes from village recording sessions in Senegal between Swedish musician Karl-Jonas Winqvist and residents of Toubab Dialaw, centre of Senegal’s bohemian art scene
Warped, soft-focus cosmique jazz from Senagal's Wau Wau Collectif - a sick fusion of sounds; West African dub one moment and devotional jams the next.
Hailing from the small fishing village of Toubab Dialaw in Senegal, Wau Wau Collectif make music that sounds unashamedly positive. "Yaral Sa Doom" is a collection of recordings that jumps through ideas fluidly, but coherently - dub reggae and jazz sounds are omnipresent, but sprinkled into a vibrant, instrumental concoction that dips into kosmische music, beatbox rap and more avant garde forms.
The backbone is West African folk music and hearing these instruments and forms - like Sufi prayers and fishing songs - repurposed is just a joy. As a lot of the world sinks into introspection and soul-searching, it's refreshing to hear music that seems to celebrate the very act of creating.
Gloomy deconstructed club x dark ambient rushes for fans of early Aisha Devi, Abyss X, NON etc.
Baroque and grandiose, with more than a hint of religious self-flagellation in its melange of awkward choral elements and saturated basement bumps, "Black Leaf" is one for the Northern Electronics / Posh Isolation axis. It reminds of the early days of deconstructed club, before everyone had decided to push the tempo up to 200bpm and make hardstyle; instead we've got terse, spacious rhythms made up of hideously overdriven beats and breaks that sound like they've been recorded on the other side of a courtyard. It's gloomy stuff, especially the gurgling vocals on 'But My Heart Was Slipping' - one for the goths out there. Love y'all.
Two hour-long workouts from percussionist Hamid Drake and his long-time collaborator bassist William Parker, alongside London's Black Top (Orphy Robinson and Pat Thomas) and Elaine Mitchener. Blistering!
Damn this is deep; "Some Good News" is a trans-Atlantic collaboration that finds a sweet spot between Hamid Drake and William Parker's legendary rhythms, Black Top's experimental electronics and Elaine Mitchener's avant garde vocal runs. The group clearly enjoys performing with each other as they broach calypso forms and Sarahan rhythms with a sense of humor and hypnotic, spiritual sense of timing. 'Put the Brakes On' winds from psychedelic organ and xylophone into off-planet synth fx and guttural vocal tricks from Mitchener. 'Some Good News' is even wilder, as Black Top duet with Mitchener, mimicking her screams with chirping synth sounds as Drake and Parker thump alongside.
Gut-punching politics inseparable from the music, steeped in revolutionary ‘60s/‘70s jazz, soul, funk and symphonic Blaxploitation soundtrack styles.
“The American Negro is an unapologetic critique, detailing the systemic and malevolent psychology that afflicts people of color. This project dissects the chemistry behind blind racism, using music as the medium to restore dignity and self-worth to my people. It should be evident that any examination of black music is an examination of the relationship between black and white America. This relationship has shaped the cultural evolution of the world and its negative roots run deep into our psyche. Featuring various special guests performing over a deeply soulful, elaborate orchestration, The American Negro reinvents the black native tongue through this album and it’s attendant short film (TAN) and 4-part podcast (invisible Blackness). The American Negro - both as a collective experience and as individual expressions - is insightful, provocative and inspiring and should land at the center of our ongoing reckoning with race, racism and the writing of the next chapter of American history.”
new Blanck Mass
"What is the utility of pain? Can it do anything but fester? In Ferneaux explores pain in motion, building audio-spatial chambers of experience and memory. Using an archive of field recordings from a decade of global travels, isolation gave Blanck Mass an opportunity to make connections in a moment when being together is impossible. The record is divided into two long-form journeys that gather the memories of being with now-distant others through the composition of a nostalgic travelogue. The journeys are haunted with the vestiges of voices, places, and sensations. These scenes alternate with the building up and releasing of great aural tension, intensities that emerge from the trauma of a personal grieving process which has perhaps embraced its rage moment.
An encounter with a prophetic figure on the streets of San Francisco presented the question of “how to handle the misery on the way to the blessing.” This is the quandary of the impasse we now all find ourselves in, trapped in our little caves, grappling with the unease of the self at rest – without movement, without the consumerist agenda of “new experiences.” The possibility of growth, always defined by our connections with others, held in limbo. Sartre said that “Hell is other people,” but perhaps this is the Inferno of the present: the space of sitting with the self.
A blessing is often thought of as a future reward, above and beyond the material plane. With In Ferneaux, Blanck Mass wrangles the immanent materials of the here-and-now to build a sense of transcendence. Here, the uncanny angelic hymn sits comfortably beside the dirge. The misery and blessing are one."
Vital figures in folk, classical, improv, and experimental fields, violinist Laura Cannell converses with cellist Kate Ellis on the 2nd instalment of their series charting 2021 in sound
Meeting for the 4th time on record after ‘The Feral Lands’ salvo and preceding editions of this series (if we include their ‘Winter Ritual’ as prologue), the English and Irish collaborators channel a palpable sense of sorrow and an inherent rustic air in the four pieces found on ‘February Sounds.’ Recording took place remotely in their respective homes in Suffolk (Laura) and Essex (Ellis), documenting their innermost feelings, elided and unedited, in spontaneous performances composed by their emotions.
In opener ‘The Bellowing’ they appear to summon the sounds of wounded animals heard across wide and wild landscapes, with Ellis’ cello describing guttural feels, whereas ‘The Riverbank’ is as its title evokes, sublime and pastoral, with overlapping streams of burbling thought. ’Sun Drops Closer To Earth’ brings nightfall with phosphorescing string resonance juxtaposed against gorgeous wordless vox, and ‘Follow Me To The Lantern Marsh’ holds a line into more frightful scenes of bittersweet, overbowed discord that delivers the brain-freeze we’ve come slightly addicted to in Cannell’s music. Honestly, this stuff just makes most other string music seem contrived and aloof by comparison.
After shots for Ascetic House, Granite Mask does grimacing industrial techno slugs and cantering EBM kinks for Newcastle’s Opal Tapes
Carrying its industrial club weight from L.A. via the Toon, ‘Time Elapsed’ plays hard but fair in 8 murky variations on a theme. The DJs looking for EBM finesse will find it between the fllthy mid-tempo sleaze of ‘Peel it Back’, the noise gnash of ‘Open Wound’, and the sore 16th note arp burn of ‘Gauze Patch’, and ruder dancers will find a class sparring partner in his snaking syncopation of thuggish kicks and blunt force percussive trauma in ‘Basement Light.’
Deep, philosophical and emotionally rich piano, clarinet, percussion and vibraphone musings that sketch out a magically realist portrait of our troubling modern era.
Portuguese pianist Tiago Sousa follows 2015's solo piano album "Um Piano nas Barricadas" with this heady set, based on themes of nostalgic escapism, repetition, temporality and other existential concepts. Don't worry if that sounds like too much to get stuck into now, the tracks here are pensive, but can be enjoyed without having a working knowledge of Heidegger, Camus or Kierkegaard. Souza's skill is in his attention to the texture of the sounds he works with - the anxious squeal of the clarinet, the distant rush of cymbals, the familiar twinkly of piano - and his arrangements are minimal, but always engaging. "ANGST" is a pensive and expressive exploration of the modern condition and it's enchanting.
As Plankton Wat, Dewey Mahood uses his considerable guitar prowess to deliver an album that encompasses both the wild, seeking energy of free-improvisation and the deliberate arrangements of more traditional composition.
"With his deft and stylistically varied playing, Plankton Wat’s ‘Future Times’ escapes psychedelic tropes and chemical fuelled alterations and instead celebrates an escape into the natural world. ‘Future Times’ taps into psychedelia’s counter-cultural heritage as music for protest, liberation and imagining new ways of being in this world. “Pastoral drones and swirling psychedelia” - Pitchfork Known for his guitar prowess in modern psychedelic music, specifically with Eternal Tapestry as well as Edibles, Elephant Factory Galaxy Research and Gärden Söund among others. ‘Future Times’ was recorded at Mahood’s home studio Solar Commune, with additions from Dustin Dybvig (Horse Feathers & Edibles) and Victor Nash (Flash Hawk Parlor Ensemble). Features Ash Dybvig on flute."
A big look for fans of the DRMTRK series; Hyperdub MVP Scratchclart links with Razzler Man, Scottie Dee & DJ Polo, LR Groove and KG for grimy/butters hybrids of UKF with SA gqom, Amapiano and Afrohouse styles.
Teaming up with Razzler Man, he gets down on a wicked blend of warped UK garage bass with Amapiano-style horns and percolated drums in ‘Razzclart’, while UKF OGs Scottie Dee and DJ Polo lift a leg with him on the darker pressure of ‘Banx Skanx.’ A classic sort of weirdo grime dub informs the wilder tangle of dancehall samples and sirens in ‘Murderer’s Reprise’, and KG lends some slicker calibre with the mellow chords on the drum-shy doozy ‘Baga DMs.’
Brooding UK garage-techno rollers and steppers from Jossy Mitsu, graduating to their solo debut after a mean shot on the ‘Frass FM 5’ comp
‘Odyssey’ creeps into action with icy, trimmed 2-step and proto-grime energy that they galvanise into a steely steppers techno style on ‘1997’, and tease out into bolshy breakstep with ’Turismo’, and tuck away into dark, whirring garage mechanics on ‘Ø.’
Comedy, topical grime flips by scene stalwart Lolingo in a crisp and daft style for the playful DJs
On ’Looney Tunes’ he chops the classic cartoon ident into club TNT with a few extra gunshots and sirens for measure, while ‘Bill Gates’ turns chunks of 50 Cent’s ‘I Get Money’ and cash register bings into a hard 8-bar jabber.
DMX Krew rejoins Hypercolour’s stable for veteran electronica racehorses with a bleeping electro-house toned set in his signature melodic style
Broadly weighted between strolling house pace and bouncing electro energy, all the hallmarks of DMX Krew’s tried and trusted style are in place, checking off squeaky Braindance tunings on the A Guy Called Gerald-esque charms of ‘Unconnected’, and early AFXisms in the squidgy strut of ‘Dejected Ambient Twerp’, with tangier electro tackle in ‘Torpedo Tube’ and discoid flair of ‘Sounds Good.’
Chevel does an unexpected turn of chufty cosmic big beats for Houndstooth, paving the way for an album with the London-based label
Initially sounding like one of 0PN’s KGBMan cut-ups, the introduction of splashy rock drum breaks and surging kosmiche synthlines takes it somewhere cornier, ’80s, and reeking of ledge Phil (Collins).
Kung Fu-style dubstep chops from bassbin lamb, Kwizma and trusted hand, Nomine
With strong nods to classic Horsepower Productions and dank late ‘90s/early ‘00s stoner vibes, they set the scene with dubbed martial arts film dialogue and step off into proper, deep and nasty halfstep with chiselled percussion and ‘floor-scooping subs.
Grimbient soundscrapes and industrial foggers from the Malmö duo. Seriously moody.
Död's third album for Opal Tapes, "Just Död It" is a darker-than-the-new-Batman-movies selection of blustery drone, half-audible acid and industrial scraping that feels right in line with how everyone's feeling at the moment. The duo of Jurko Haltuu & Benjamin Syra can't contain their misery on dirge rollercoasters like the chirpily-titled opener 'Favorite Moments From 2020' and funereal doomer 'Empty Streets'. On 'Life Eternal' they start to bring in a more obvious acid techno throb, but even that's struck through with a sense of impending nausea that's hard to shake. Happy hardcore it ain't.