Don Letts selections for Late Night Tales.
"Cultural polymath - pop star, filmmaker, radio broadcaster, commentator, Grammy winner. Oh and DJ, too. Take your pick from the many coats worn by our selector, Don Letts aka The Rebel Dread.
Born in Brixton, a child of the Windrush Generation, Letts’ slippery and unorthodox career is somewhat hard to define, without taking a few detours around London, New York and Jamaica. He began his working life managing the dauntingly hip Acme Attractions on Chelsea’s Kings Road, where he made a mark with his attitude, dress and, especially, the pounding dub reggae that vibrated the shop’s walls. His first gig as a DJ at the short-lived Roxy in Neal Street, became mythical for turning a generation of punks on to reggae. They in turn hipped him to their DIY ethos resulting in his reinvention as a filmmaker. This led to a shed-load of music videos (Linton Kwesi Johnson, The Clash, Bob Marley) not to mention documentaries on the likes of Gil Scott-Heron, George Clinton and Sun Ra.
There’s a diverse mix of classic and new, with legendary figures like John Holt, The Tamlins and Cornell Campbell, mixed in with British veterans Mad Professor and the irrepressible Dennis Bovell, while (relatively) young striplings Kiko Bun, Emily Capell and Prince Fatty deliver the goods, with laidback Texan groovers Khruangbin also offering an exclusive bass heavy-delight.
The song choices are diverse, from French dubsters’ OBF’s renditions of ‘Sixteen Tons’, the miners’ paean popularised by Tennessee Ernie Ford in the 1950s, to Ash Walker’s refix of Omar’s ‘There’s Nothing Like This’ and ‘All I Do Is Think About You’, immortalised by the ill-fated Tammi Terrell and preserved here by Quantic (the latter two both exclusives). Being a Rebel Dread compilation, there’s a cover (by Wrongtom Meets The Rockers) of The Clash’s ‘Lost In The Supermarket’ while Don’s exclusive, naturally, is a rendition of Big Audio Dynamite’s debut hit, ‘E = MC2’.
“Truth be told I’ve wanted to work with the Late Night Tales crew from the get go. We’re talking nearly two decades such was the allure of their musical aesthetic typified by curators like Nightmares on Wax, The Flaming Lips, MGMT, Trentemoller, Khruangbin and countless others. Now being as old as rock n’ roll (born in ‘56) and having nearly 20 years of Culture Clash Radio under my belt I figured I was tooled up to musically juggle with the best of ‘em. But I wanted to carve out a space that was distinctly my own - something that reflected my musical journey and the culture clash that’s made me the man I am today.”"
Moor Mother ‘fesses her deadliest fusion of jazz, rap, footwork and “anti-trip hop” on her most satisfying album to date, flanked by comrades including Black Quantum Futurism, Brother May, Pink Siifu, among many others.
Building on a resounding reputation established via her jazz-punk ensemble Irreversible Entanglements and guest spots with Justin K Broadrick & Kevin Martin (The Bug), not to mention scintillating solo sides, Moor Mother now mounts something of a defining opus (for now) with ‘Black Encyclopedia Of The Air.’ Issued by gargantuan US label Epitaph, the record necessarily places Camae Ayewa aka Moor Mother’s patented style of “blk girl blues, project housing bop, and black ghost songs” in a global spotlight, where she holds the world’s gaze over co-production by Olaf Melander, with whom she collaborated on 2020’s ‘Anthology 01.’ Although it mostly swerves the punkish burr of her previous sides, the album finds a concentrated coherence in its soulful intensity, all exquisitely calibrated for the late night experience and rewarding repeat, close listening.
Perhaps best considered in a vein with the avant, blue atmosphere of classics by Tricky or Keith Hudson, but ultimately, wholly unique in its cosmic longview; the album unfurls a rich tapestry of textured, spacious production, where Moor Mother’s protagonist is joined by a variegated roll call who echo her worries. The cuts are as deadly as they are deep, tightly binding her multi-disciplinary styles in neck snap trip hop on ‘Mangrove’ with Euclid and Abntonia Gabrila, and linking Curl’s Brother May for sharp barbs on the outstanding, footwork-feathered highlight ‘Race Function’. At it’s core, the cracked drums and alien reverie of ‘Obsidian’ hits hard and weird, while ‘Made A Circle’ drips with blooz like some hybrid of King Britt and Burial vibes, lit by harmonious vocals from Nappy Nina, Maassai, Antonia Gabriela and Orion Sun, and sublime velvet chords, while ‘Tarot’ is the album’s late, mystic masterstroke of melt-on-mind spectral jazz spirits.
A special edition of Tony Allen and Hugh Masakela's 'Rejoice' with previously unheard parts and bonus mixes.
"Rejoice is the classic collaboration between Tony Allen, the legendary drummer and co-founder of Afrobeat, and Hugh Masekela, the master trumpet player of South African jazz. The record, released to great acclaim in March 2020, became the first posthumous release from Masekela, and the last release from Allen, who sadly passed away a month later.
For this Special Edition, World Circuit have gone back to the original 2010 mixes and added previously unheard parts from the 2019 sessions to create 8 reimagined bonus mixes. The CD and LP releases also feature a booklet with sleeve notes and photos.
Rejoice can be seen as the long overdue confluence of two mighty African musical rivers – a union of two free-flowing souls for whom borders, whether physical or stylistic, are things to pass through or ignore completely. According to Allen, the album deals in “a kind of South African-Nigerian swing-jazz stew”, with its roots firmly in Afrobeat. Allen and Masekela are accompanied on the record by a new generation of well-respected jazz musicians including Tom Herbert (Acoustic Ladyland / The Invisible), Joe Armon-Jones (Ezra Collective), Mutale Chashi (Kokoroko) and Steve Williamson."
Legendary master of horror John Carpenter revisits his best-known score on 'Halloween Kills', his first trip back to the franchise since 1982's "Halloween III: Season of the Witch".
Joined by his son Cody Carpenter and godson Daniel Davies (son of Dave Davies of the Kinks), Carpenter finally gets a chance to update his sparse 'Halloween' soundtrack. If you've caught any of Carpenter's recent Sacred Bones releases or seen his run of live shows, you'll know what to expect; Davies and Cody have fleshed out his sound without damaging the simplistic brilliance, and that treatment works just as well here.
The DNA of "Halloween" is still present in every cue - from the minimalist five note melody of the main theme to phasing drum machine doom of 'The Myer's House' - and there's not much added except for the occasional jagged guitar fuzz. But there's not much needed; Carpenter didn't need to go overboard here and the cues have been fleshed out without losing their ominous presence. Let's hope "Halloween Kills" director David Gordon Green takes a similar route with the film itself.
Clemens Bacher returns as Cid Rim.
"A psychedelic ride from the Austrian capital, encompassing modern electronics, choral pop and contemporary jazz.
Clemens Bacher's last album, ‘Material’, was awarded BBC 6Music Album Of The Day, achieving as many as four A-list singles. He won a Gilles Peterson Worldwide Award and attended Africa Express with Damon Albarn and Brian Eno. Collaborator to Petite Noir, kmalumkoolkat and Denai Moore, he caught attention with show-stopping mixes for Sky Ferreira, Chvrches and The 1975.
But it is on his own records that we get a sense of Bacher’s scope. Cid Rim grew up the keystone of the vital club scene of Vienna alongside close friends Dorian Concept and The Clonious. For ‘Songs Of Vienna’ he relocated to London and crafted a new formula which reconciles kraut, psychedelia and jazz into detailed electronic pop.
Behind his impressionistic vocals lie themes exploring Vienna’s privileged place in the world: a safe haven for the European project rich with imperial history and culture. It was only here in the early 21st Century that Clemens and his friends could forge this hyper-specific club scene which still refuses category."
Sophomore solo album from Julia Shapiro (Chastity Belt).
"Zorked (adj.) - what happens when you end up thunderbaked, as in extremely stoned or in any situation where you feel not sober. You can feel so tired you’re zorked. In fact, any state, so long as you’re a little out of it, qualifies. And Julia Shapiro, of Chastity Belt, Childbirth, and Who Is She? much like everyone on this earth with a pulse was zorked on more than one occasion in 2020. In March, she packed up her things and traded Seattle’s late-winter gloom for the perennial sunshine and seemingly endless opportunity of Los Angeles only to be forced into near-total isolation. With nowhere to go and nothing to do, she began working on her second solo album, Zorked. On the resulting batch of songs, we’re given Julia’s vision of Los Angeles: a wasteland melting in slow-motion, a place to commune with ghosts and warped legacies.
Living within earshot of a man who spent his entire 2020 singing karaoke for over 10 hours a day, Julia could write, record, and play an album’s worth of instruments without fear of noise complaints. Her roommate Melina Duterte (Jay Som) transformed their house into a viable home studio, making it easy to fully realize the sound in her head, even at the height of a global lockdown. Taking things a step further, Melina agreed to co-produce the record, pushing Julia to make these new songs sound less like Perfect Version, her rst solo album, or like the songs she performs in Chastity Belt. At the peak of her uncertainty and discomfort, she jumped into the deep end in search of something new and found power in heavy sounds.
This is evident in the first few seconds of album opener “Death (XIII).” Taking newfound inspiration from the namesake Tarot card, drone metal, and shoegaze, Julia layers walls of guitars, bass chords, and programmed drums. “Come With Me,”the album’s lead single, takes inspiration from a mushroom trip gone bad. “Take me to awful places now,” she sings, envisioning heat death as her own eyes stare directly into the sun. On “Wrong Time,” shimmering guitars smolder and levitate, yet she finds herself “stuck inside this hole I’ve dug.” That said, these songs aren’t unbearably sad, nor has Julia become any less of a merciless observer of human behavior. By album closer “Hall of Mirrors,” she’s come full circle. Over fingerpicked guitar, the sense of lost identity becomes all-encompassing.
It’s the sound of a life lived in servitude to digital screens and the psychic damage invisibly done along the way.
Though Julia Shapiro found herself in a near hermit-like existence, writing and recording almost all of the album’s instruments herself and struggling to navigate her place in a city and world rendered nearly comatose, she maintains a sense of humor about all of it. At the very least, “It’s funny to force people to have to say Zorked out loud. Any other title sounded pretentious.”"
Sultriest Afro-Latin and library-skooled space-age/lounge styles from Vanishing Twin, starring stellar cast of Laetitia Sadier, Malcolm Catto and Valentina Magaletti, a.o. on their finely accomplished 3rd album
Led by Cathy Lucas (Interspace Orchestra), guided by library boffin Phil M.F.U. (Man From Uranus, Broadcast), and anchored with tight bass by Susumu Mukai (Floating Points); the band arrive with serious credentials and patently live up to them with the sort of uchronic, hauntological album that smudges and warps the timeline between the ‘60s and now with supremely crafty production at the service of a timeless sound.
With reference points ranging from Broadcast to Sun Ra to Alice Coltrane, Martin Denny to Morricone, Can’s Holger Czukay to meditative Gamelan, The Free Design and Piero Umiliani, the UK based ensemble cycle through space and time in a disciplined but loose form, hustling shimmering cinematic lounge vibes in opener ‘Big Moonlight’ and carried by Mukai’s stretchy bass goop and hovering Hammond organ on ‘Phase One Million’ to killer space breaks that speak to Magaletti and Catto’s class in ‘Zuum’ and the vocodered charm ‘Light vessel’, while ’Tub Erupt’ feels like a darker sibling to Antena.
Sufjan Stevens and Angelo De Augustine release a collaborative album, A Beginner’s Mind.
"A Beginner’s Mind began when the two musicians and Asthmatic Kitty labelmates decamped to a friend’s cabin in upstate New York for a monthlong songwriting sabbatical. Watching a movie to unwind after each day’s work, they soon found their songs reflecting the films and began investigating this connection in earnest.
The resulting album is 14 songs (loosely) based on (mostly) popular films—highbrow, lowbrow and everything in between. They wrote in tandem—one person writing a verse, the other a chorus, churning out chord progressions and lyrics willy-nilly, often finishing each other’s sentences in the process. Rigorous editing and rewriting ensued. The results are less a “cinematic exegesis” and more a “rambling philosophical inquiry” that allows the songs to free-associate at will. Plot-points, scene summaries, and leading characters are often displaced by esoteric interpolations that ask the bigger question: what does it mean to be human in a broken world?
Stevens and De Augustine wrote everything with a deliberate sense of shoshin—the Zen Buddhist concept for which the record is named and an idea that empowered the pair to look for and write about unlikely inspiration without preconceived notions of what a film had to say (The I-Ching and Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies also served as incentives along the way). The movies became rhetorical prompts, with the songwriters letting their distinct reactions and creative instincts govern their process. The underlying objective was empathy and openness, absent of judgment: to observe with the eyes of a child."
Bruno Bavota returns with a new album of electronic explorations and solo acoustic piano works.
"In the early months of 2020, when the COVID-19 outbreak ravaged his home country of Italy, prolific composer Bruno Bavota did what we all would eventually do: isolated and waited. What followed was a year of fear, anxiety, and dread. Eventually, fear gave way to fatigue, and the anxiety metamorphosized into nervous energy. The compulsion to create became more powerful than the compression and weight.
And so were born Apartment Songs and Apartment Loops. Representing two separate but intersecting paths of Bavota’s creative journey, Apartment Songs is a suite of sparse solo acoustic piano works, while Apartment Loops are expansive explorations for synthesizers and outboard effects processors. Though in theory the two sets should sound disconnected and unrelated – given their disparate creative approaches and instrumentation – it’s Bavota’s uncanny sense of melody and space that easily unites them as two halves of a singular vision."
Moor Mother, Rabih Beaini, Tim Hecker, Lucretia Dalt, Greg Fox and many more guest on a haunting tribute to the tragedies that have beset Beirut, Lebanon and are ongoing across Palestine and the Levant.
‘Qalaq’ translates roughly from Arabic to “deep worry” in english and signifies Jerusalem In My Heart’s motives on their first album since 2018. Flocking around sole member Radwan Moumneh, a stellar roll call aid in expressing his sound on a lamenting elegy to the geopolitics and tragedies of the middle east, with each artist’s style seamlessly absorbed into his “dismantled orchestra” of collaborations with coherent results guided by a narrative hand.
The album started as skeletal sketches through-composed by Moumneh, and subsequently divided into sections that were sent to his spars, whose decomposed, fractured iterations were rewoven back into the final body of work by the artist. Its first half is sparked off with the rupturous battery of Liturgy drummer Greg Fox, and tempered by JIMH’s haunting chorales and fine wrought buzuk that percolate across the side, meeting Beirut’s shimmering strings in ‘Istashraktak’, and harmonising with Lucretia Dalt on the dirge-like ‘Tanto’.
Side two’s tracks are all named ‘Qalaq’ and numbered to “represent the degrees of layered and complex violence that Lebanon and the Levant have reached in the last couple of years” as Moumneh states. They forge links with other displaced people via indigenous American signer Alanis Obomsawin on the folk lament ‘Qalaq 1’, and Afro-American jazz-punk poet Moor Mother in ‘Qalaq 3’, with Morphine’s Lebanon-born Rabih Beaini lending a cosmic resonance and gravitas to the buzuk study ‘Qalaq 4’, and Tim Hecker’s aetheric swirl found on ‘Qalaq 7’, before Beirut natives Raed Yassin, Sharif Sehnaoui and Mayss’s glitching voices and angular strings connote a clear sense of confusion and disruption.
Beijing duo Gong Gong Gong's genre-melted debut album gets remixed by their fave China-connected producers, including SVBKVLT's Zaliva-D, Yu Su, Howie Lee, Scattered Purgatory, P.E., Angel Wei and more. All over the place, in the best possible way.
On the original album, Gong Gong Gong power through musical genres like Mr. Ben outfits. This remix collection is no different, with each contributor attempting a completely different style. There's Zaliva-D's torched, dystopian club, Howie Lee's electronix-infected Sonic Youth-style noise rock, Yu Su's dubbed-out city pop, Scattered Purgatory's reverberating doom and P.E.'s quirky electro pop and that's only scratching the surface. Beijing is on a tear right now, and some of the world's most exciting sounds are emerging from that fertile meeting-point between global cultures. "Phantom Rhythm 幽靈節奏 Remixed" is an ideal tasting plate.
Ghostly debut from Portland, Oregon-based musician Graham Jonson.
"A student of the Stones Throw catalog (his favorite is Madlib’s Quasimoto), Jonson remains rhythm-driven at heart, trusting his instincts in this new palette of organic instrumentation and verse-chorus structure. Tracks glide and bump with tasteful care to tempo as his scene-building and storytelling knack comes into focus. Jonson’s past material often suited passive listenership, the kind of bedroom-produced beat music that offers secondary utility and function as a companion to primary activities. The Long and Short of It showcases an evolutionary step into a style that uses chops cultivated in that niche that demand a more active listenership. That attention is rewarded with earworms, dazzling production flare, and earnest, genre-spanning songwriting."
For his Shelter Press debut, Thomas Bonvalet aka L'ocelle Mare presents an album that’s considerably more than the sum of its conceptual parts, constructing "anti-compositions" that are - on the face of it - utilitarian rotations through an array of instruments, with a tracklisting that reads like nothing more than a basic gear list. Through some sort of alchemy, the recordings transform into a poetic body of work, an engrossing sleight of hand that lands somewhere between Pierre Bastien’s mechanical installations and the oblique mysticism of sacred music, buried between the notes.
Since his 2006 debut under the L'Ocelle Mare moniker, Bonvalet has gradually moved away from traditional notions of composition and diverted his attention purely to the textural and timbral quality of sound. His tenure playing guitar in various bands - notably Cheval De Frise and Powerdove - provides the experience needed to isolate his instruments, zeroing-in on the gestures of performance - plucks, strums, vibrations - using them to assemble component parts that are essentially free by design.
Flute, piano, strings and various percussive instruments collide with all manner of effects and assorted sound objects like a telephone, metronome - even masking tape, each recorded and assembled through a no-method process that rejects traditional notions of composition. But while the assembly is for all intents and purposes dispassionate - just take a look at the track names - the resulting recordings are a marvel, gradually building into individual mood pieces that betray a buried instinct for harmony.
Take 'Guitare Classique, Métronome, Tambourins…’ as an example - Spanish guitar, pitch bent, a frenzied metronome, an arpeggio, something rattles - a non-linear, complex rendition, a miracle of sound that lands like the most inspirational film music you’ll have heard in years. Or on 'Piano, Banjo, Orgue, Métronome' - a more angular, interesting take on the sort of thing Alva Noto and Ryuichi Sakamoto have tried over a number of collaborative albums - a 3 minute recital punctuated by increasingly agitated piano notes, all moving key changes and brittle strings.
Through its curious construction, 'Sans Chemin’ (literally, ‘without path’) feels to highlight the way our instinctive interaction with harmony, beauty, and dissonance can quickly ignite or extinguish heightened feelings without easy explanation. Perhaps all the pieces here were really made without direction - an aimless meander through sound - or maybe there’s something significantly more intricate and complicated at play. Either way, the result is the same; a richly textured and evocative, often startling transition from chaos and into the sublime, mirroring our own complex existential topographies.
Pioneering post-industrialist Asmus Tietchens returns to his Hamburg worksite recordings of 2010 from a more detached, atmospheric perspective for the Universal Exports label ran by Yves De May, Allon Kaye and Roman Hiele
Where the original ‘Abraum’, or “rubble”, recordings on the 2010 release were pure musique concrète that relished the rawness of what he happened upon (a long steel pipe, 80cm wide, gushing with rubble from a worksite), the five pieces on ‘Abraum 2’ render a far more spacious abstraction that resonates with how the original site of recording has come to change over the past decade.
It’s effectively a meditation on the fidelity of memory and the shifting sands of time, executed with the typical lack of sentimentality one might have come to expect from Tietchens work, but nevertheless intriguing for its stony cold sober approach and meticulousness. Fans of isolationist sonics from Thomas Köner to Mika Vainio will surely be in their element among Tietchens’ rich harmonic resonances and haunting spectral convolutions, with only the barest hints of the original works tying it to any one place.
After their ‘Ballads' doozy for Fleetway Tapes, a now-classic mix by Elaine Tierney & Jack Rollo’s DJ duo Time Is Away surfaces on CD with Idle Press, the boutique label run by esteemed Parisian digger DJ Sundae.
Last year, just before pandemic hit, Rollo and Tierney put together an installation in London - a "suggestive municipal environment, activated by sound, to invoke the ghosts of urban improvement." If that sounds impenetrable, don't worry - the long-time NTS residents instead stitch together a typically immersive and inspired collage of found audio, specially made recordings and drones to express their historical urban landscape. Whether you've experienced the installation or not, the mix itself is completely transportive.
Full of portent and weft with visionary transitions, ‘Fable of the Bees’ melts unfathomably romantic, psycho-spiritual jams with a care and intimacy that's an all-too rare commodity. The duo mix sounds with an unsurpassed level of sensitivity for the complexity of collage, yet they manage to achieve it with little to no fireworks; industrial field recordings feed into organ, flute and distant vocals, brief chants and rituals tumble over chamber recordings and cosmic synths, Akira Rabelais' Hildegard von Bingen treatments disintegrate into folk songs that sound as alien as they do familiar. On paper it just shouldn’t work, but as the duo drip left folk and devotional music into electrified ambient, lo-glo club sounds and negative-space jazz minimalism, an ineffably human logic pulls it all together.
You’ll have to go whistle for the tracklist, just let it go and fall into Time Is Away’s endlessly fascinating sound world - always a trip.
Portland metal duo The Body join forces with sludgy Montreal trio BIG|BRAVE and the result is... Appalachian folk?
'Leaving None but Small Birds' is an unexpected record. It's a chance for both bands to explore their long-time love of folk and blues music, as they challenge the very idea of what it means to make heavy music. It's an intense sound, but is rooted in American tradition, taking its cues from hymns and folk songs that were assembled and compiled by BIG|BRAVE's Robin Wattie. Once these ideas had been parsed, phrases were reworked to center marginalized characters, focusing on despair and empowerment without losing the inherent traditional qualities of the songs.
The origin of heavy metal lies in blues, so looking at that era and beyond feels like an important and rigorous exploration of the craft, and it pays off. And while 'Leaving None but Small Birds' veers away from both bands' regular sound, it's a profoundly moving record that examines the evolution and history of North American music without blindly relying on third hand appropriation. It's ambitious, challenging and affecting.
Kansas City noise rock trio BUMMER release their Thrill Jockey debut, "Dead Horse".
"BUMMER mirror the absurdity of modern life with a balance of dark humor, dejected nihilism and righteous fury. Their music spills out in torrents of skull-crushing riffs, gargantuan bass and caustic howls delivered at breakneck speed with gleeful abandon. Following their split 7” with longtime friends The Body which teased a more focused, lean sound for the group, Dead Horse hones BUMMER’s auditory desolation and scathing gaze to laser-point precision. In eleven short vignettes the trio lay waste to everything in their path, penning a vitriolic overview of life in the American Midwest, a surprising blend of one-star Trip Advisor review and insightful cultural critique."
Danish trio Efterklang return with their sixth album, "Windflowers".
"Every year as spring arrives, a sea of tiny flowers blossom across the Danish forest floor. They’re an explosion of colour, a symbol of hope and change, disappearing as quickly as they arrived and exposing the constant cycle of nature. They are known colloquially as windflowers.
For over twenty years, Efterklang have been pushing the barriers of experimental, electronic, emotional chamber-pop. Announcing their sixth studio album Windflowers, their first for City Slang, the Danish trio of Mads Brauer, Rasmus Stolberg and Casper Clausen continue a creative journey that’s brought them closer together, even as their lives grow apart. Channelling the motifs of hope and change its namesake flora represents, the album sees their many years of collaboration and experimentation distilled into some of their finest and most direct melodic moments to date.
With their ability to bring in guests and session musicians restricted, Efterklang had to challenge their usual creative process and accept their own limitations. Recorded over the course of five trips to residential studio Real Farm on the island of Møn, south of Copenhagen, the genesis of Windflowers was back to basics and became an exercise in putting their vast and dynamic experience to play. The album finds Casper singing in English again, for the most part. It’s rich and intimate, the sound of three friends finding each other at a time when the world around them felt unstable. The record is about existing, alone, together and in nature. It’s about reconnecting, and letting each other grow.
After all their years together, Mads, Casper and Rasmus share the real intimacy of family. Windflowers is proof that connection and community can triumph over adversity, and the result is something truly beautiful."
Timeless, cinematic atmospheres from Belgian bass clarinetist Ben Bertrand, reprising the classic feel of his 2020 side for Stroom with results tipped to fans of Elodie, Blaine L. Reininger, CV & JAB
Trailing in the smoky wake of last year’s ‘Manes’, Bertrand picks up again in airy art house cinema-soundtrack like zones on ‘Dokkaebi’ with five parts that convect the feeling of lofty Brussels apartments and echoic hallways cobwebbed with melancholy melody. It’s a music for luxuriating in contemplation, allowing oneself to be carried away on the glacial contours and vaporous contrails of Bertrand’s bass clarinet, and likewise the exquisitely low-key and lowlit backdrops supplied by Christina Vantzou, Geoffrey Burton, Indré Jurgeleviciuté, and Echo Collective: Margaret Hermant & Neil Leiter, Otto Lindholm.
The first two pieces ideally establish the timelessness of Bertrand’s music with referential nod to c.20th titan Cage’s latter, harmonic works in ‘The Nixe of John Cage’s River’, while ‘O Ignee Spiritus’ more literally uses a Hildegard Von Bingen melody sung to haunting effect, both conveying the scope of his practice. ‘Zeme’ however feels more in a vein of experimental chamber music akin to Christian Vantzou;s work with CV & JAB, and ‘Sora no’ follows the subtle electronic tones to gaze out on a star blanketed canvas, with a barely-there haze of laminal vocal timbres and elliptical clarinet in ‘The Aurae Loops’ glowing at the end and beckoning to repeat the experience.
Anyone nesting their coming autumn listening playlist needs to give this one a whirl.
Spunky wave pops from early ‘80s Germany, portraying the sound of the country’s first proper youth movement via bullets by Andreas Dorau, Conrad Schnitzler, Der Plan, Palais Schaumburg, Xao Seffcheque, Die Partei, Asmus Tietchens, Holger Hiller, Populäre Mechanik ++
Rifled from the considerable cabinet of Bureau B, ‘Eins und Zwei und Drei und Vier’ surveys those artists who bloomed in the fallout of ‘70s punk, spanning what became known as NDW (Neue Deutsche Welle) and paralleling post-punk and No wave movements elsewhere, up to the advent of home computing and the whole house phenomenon. OK, Germany had “krautrock” and kosmiche before this lot, that they could safely call their own music, and differed from both their parent’s music and Anglo-British styles, but that was never really a full on youth movement, to the extent that this stuff became. Bending aspects of punk, funk, and early industrial styles with everything from steel drums and cod-reggae, to dadaist tendencies, the youth of early ‘80s Germany put their own stamp on music with equal measures of spunk and ludicrousness that’s gone on to influence countless others.
If you’re after exemplary highlights, run check for the phet-twitch of Moritz Von Oswald, Thomas Fehlmann, Holger Hiller and co’s Palais Schaumburg zinger ‘Wir bauen eine neue Stadt’ for somethgin of a funky mission statement, and clock Conrad Schnitzler’s vocoder-driven motorik bullet for a bridge between he original kosmiche and techno welts, while Austro-German artist Xao Seffcheque can be relied on for the possessed drive of ‘Sample & Hold’, and Berlin’s Populäre Mechanik trade in killer, brittle funk on ‘Muster’, and the pop-punk spirit is kicking on gems from Die Radierer and the prince of NDW, Andreas Dorau.
Steven Raekwon Reynolds is a singer/songwriter and producer from New York City by way of Buffalo, NY. 'Where I’m At Now' is self-produced and self-recorded (save for drums on two songs, driven by the relentlessness of the East Village and the quiet serenity of Edwardsville.
"The abstractions of his earlier musings transform into a warm wave of genreless coherence, drawing influences from across R&B, rock, folk, and pop to build a record that shines in its quiet spaces as much as its sweeping movements. Simply put, Where I’m at Now is an album where S. Raekwon is no longer invested in hiding. These records don’t contain answers, but signals toward what feels like the right direction. This music serves as a gentle, yet intentional reminder that we only need to be who we are in the moment, and we’re worth becoming who we know we can be."
BADBADNOTGOOD return with their new album, "Talk Memory", a psychedelic jazz record that explores balance and harmony through musical improvisation.
"Collaborators include legendary composer Arthur Verocai and contemporary icons such as Terrace Martin, Karriem Riggins and Laraaji."
Singer and electronic musician James Blake releases his fifth studio album Friends That Break Your Heart.
"A concept album, Friends That Break Your Heart includes 12 tracks with collaborations with SZA, JID, SwaVay, and Monica Martin."
Gabber Modus Operandi, Vessel, KMRU, Kara-Lis Coverdale, Caterina Barbieri, Tygapaw and plenty more offer their own interpretations of Lyra Pramuk's exceptional debut "Fountain" on this bumper remix album. Made up of both new compositions and direct remixes.
While Pramuk's meditative and reflective "Fountain" didn't need any additional assistance, this global collaborative effort is a reminder of its sparkling positivity. The Berlin-based auteur has typically opted for a left-field take on the remix album, offering artists the opportunity to create new work from the roots of "Fountain" or simply sink their teeth into a single track.
Kenyan-born KMRU, who's also currently stationed in Berlin, offers an early highlight with a cross-"Fountain" soundscape that glues Pramuk's elegiac vocals to his own tactile synth fizz and organ-esque low-end bump. And while Hudson Mohawke's expectedly beat-focused rework of 'Tendril' is an avoidable mood-breaker, Kara-Lis Coverdale's fresh composition 'Returnless' is long, lavish and unashamedly glorious, following Pramuk's lead with a trail of purple silk.
Caterina Barbieri also impresses, adding her cascading synth to 'Tendril', while Vessel builds new track 'Fountain (ars amatoria)' out of fragments. Ever the overachiever, Eris Drew contributes not one but two new tracks, the psychedelic, ambient 'Sugarcube Revelations' and dusty house banger 'Everything is Beautiful & Alive'. But it's Indonesian party-starters Gabber Modus Operandi who shuttle Pramuk's music into the most unexpected places on 'Kaca Bulan Baru', a disorientating hi-nrg ritual grounded in Pramuk's sprit-rousing screams.
Piero Umiliani (as M. Zalla)'s 1972 album, "Africa".
"Piero Umiliani's Africa was released in January 1972, a years-ahead record that includes the prog-tinged black rhythm of "Africa To-Day", the 'fourth world' inspiration coming from Jon Hassell's "Green Dawn", the 'exotic' references in Martin Denny's style ("Lonely Village", "Echos"), the electronic new wave (hearing is believing!) of "Sortilège", the folk music ("Rite", "Folk-Tune"). An incredible album summarizes sounds and styles that will make the fortune of much more celebrated and popular musicians and artists."
Piero Umiliani's 1975 album Continente Nero.
""Continente Nero" is the perfect flip side of "Africa" (1972), an album that significantly expanded Piero Umiliani's music perspectives, incorporating partially explored rhythmic variations already used in "Percussioni ed Effetti Speciali" and "To-Day's Sound". It does so by taking inspiration from a tradition that starts from the divine Fela Kuti and reaches the amateur and field recordings by musicologists such as David Toop, but also from the Afro- American jazz history of Art Ensemble of Chicago, John Coltrane, Max Roach and hundreds of others."
Deerhoof return with a studio album recorded in individual isolation, 'Actually, You Can', on Joyful Noise Recordings.
"Over eighteen boundless albums as experimental as they are pop, Deerhoof has continuously quested for radical sounds and daring storytelling. Galvanized by the challenge of unifying many styles of music, Deerhoof landed on their next record’s concept: baroque gone DIY. Actually, You Can is a genre-abundant record that uses technicolor vibrancy and arpeggiated muscularity to offer a vital shock from capitalism’s purgatorial hold. “In the United States now, to be a moral person means to be a criminal, whether it has to do with a general strike or forming a union or Black Lives Matter protests,” clarifies Saunier of the album’s countercultural embrace of liberation. “If you follow the rules, you’re guilty. That’s the spirit we were trying to express: an angelic prison bust, a glamorous prison bust.” It’s a condemnation of America’s mundanity, replacing violence with the heartfelt power of mutualism.
With state lines and oceans separating band members, Deerhoof not only reinvented their sonic and thematic credo, but also their recording process. Deerhoof’s players are not strangers to home-recording their individual parts, and have long embraced composing via file trading. But 2020’s halt to touring kicked off their longest separation from playing together, foregrounding new priorities. As the group’s combined demos became increasingly layered, bassist and vocalist Satomi Matsuzaki put her foot down, insisting the new album should replicate concert energy. Visualizing the quartet on huge stages with past tourmates Radiohead and Red Hot Chili Peppers, Saunier fugue-arranged his bandmates’ complex demos into songs to make an audience smile and dance. He sought out far-traveling delays, heavy playing, and unique panning to evoke the power of outdoor music. Matsuzaki scrutinized spots that would betray the conceit, eliminating anything that took away from the sound of onstage grandeur. “We spent so much time imagining playing together in the process of recording, it’s almost like a false memory of us playing this music together,” Saunier marvels.
For Deerhoof’s members to continually uncover new corners of their own talent requires deep wells of gratitude, not only for each others’ creativity but for the freedom their career affords. But by embracing each other’s art with curiosity, Deerhoof authors a musical alphabet that continues to astound and inspire, a unique lexicon expanding limitlessly with each album. For new listeners and decades-long devotees, Deerhoof’s electrifying, generous approach to collaborative worldbuilding on Actually, You Can is an emboldening call to support our communities with renewed strength, infinite love, and the resilience to keep exploring."
After appearing on more than 400 albums as a sideman and session player, multifaceted guitarist and instrument collector Geir Sundstøl released trilogy of his own compositions. Now he is back, with a follow-up to Norwegian Grammy-/Spellemannpris- winning album Brødløs.
"St.Hanshaugen Steel offers an extraordinarily wide range of genre references, and takes us further into Sundstøl’s original and distinctive soundscapes. With clear cinematic features, Sundstøl displays an ever impressing variety of instruments, sliding from the deep and rough bass harmonica to the sharp, circus-like marxophone. In between, multiple layers of glimmering steel. guest appearances by the angelic Sølvguttene boys’ choir bring utter goose bumps, while other parts of St.Hanshaugen Steel might induce the darker chills of Nordic Noir."
Official reissue of Ryo Fukui’s only solo piano album, recorded in 1994.
"Sourced from the original masters, this intimate offering from the Japanese jazz legend is available on limited edition 180 gram vinyl mastered at half speed for full audiophile sound, as well as on digipack CD. Both formats come with liner notes by Yusuke Ogawa.
Originally released on CD only by Sapporo Jazz Create in 1994, My Favorite Tune is a beautiful bop adventure which includes two superb compositions that Ryo Fukui wrote as an homage to his belo-ved Hokkaido region, the fan-favorite “Nord” and “Voyage”, a tribute to his mentor Barry Harris ("No-body’s"), alternate versions of his mega classics “Scenery” and “Mellow Dream”, and, last but not least, bewitching takes on timeless gems by Sonny Clark and Avery Parrish.
My Favorite Tune plays like a cool summer night, full of contemplative notes and deep feelings, with Ryo Fukui baring his heart on the piano and displaying the soulful sophistication he is loved for. A true masterpiece completing his amazing discography."
Trunk celebrates 25 years of uniquely British eccentricity with this wyrd and wonderful set of unreleased gems and better-known catalog classics. Newly discovered sounds from Basil Kirchin's tape archive and - oh yeah - an unreleased cut from Delia Derbyshire make this one indispensable.
This sprawling 33-track compilation highlights the imprint's idiosyncratic accent; it's unmistakably British - snippets from Dudley Simpson's unforgettable "The Tomorrow People" soundtrack and Marc Wilkinson's "Blood On Satan's Claw" OST assure us of that - but zeroes in on the dusty jumble sale quirkiness that's slowly been lost to time.
Nothing makes that more clear than the overdubbed sleaze funk of 'Car Boot Sex Tape' or the vibe-led 'Sunbeam' from Kenny Graham And His Satellites. And since it's a celebration of all things Trunk, there are some surprises in store: a short synth jam from Delia Derbyshire, snipped from a Madelon Hooykaas/Elsa Stansfield film; and freshly sourced sounds from Basil Kirchin's tape archive. Other standout moments are more familiar: John Cameron's title music from "Kes", Tristram Cary's shuffling synth nursery rhyme 'The Electron's Tale' and John Baker's psychedelic 'JB Dubs'.
The third LP from San Francisco's Cindy, "1:2".
"Cindy is a band built around the singing and guitar playing of Karina Gill. She became a musician only recently, having sat on the sidelines while ex-partners and friends made their stabs at it. Gill describes a chance encounter with an abandoned Squire Strat left in the basement by a previous tenant, “mummified in electrical tape with the remnants of a burrito on the head stock”, that led her to begin carefully strumming her way through simple chords and making her own songs. After one interesting self-released LP, still finding their footing, the band made the masterful and buzzed-about Free Advice, which went from a limited cassette on local SF label Paisley Shirt to vinyl pressings on Tough Love (UK) and Mt St Mtn (USA).
Cindy’s third LP arrives in quick succession, the quietly devastating 1:2. Jesse Jackson on bass, Simon Phillips on drums and Aaron Diko on keyboards weave the perfectly thin web behind Gill’s slow Velvety strums and murmured melodies. The rhythm section brings the crude flow, while the keys add subtle and surreal counterpoint to the withering world Gill depicts in her lyrics. “Songs tie together seemingly disparate things by the logic of mood,” Gill tries to explain. This isn’t dream-pop sunshine bliss; half-closed black drapes hang on the window where the narrator stares into the middle distance. “Sometimes you say you’re feeling small/You plan all day for your own funeral”, she intones in Party Store. Gill has a way of halting her phrasing that makes it feel like her thoughts are gently tumbling into the abyss. It’s this unsettling quality mixed with the hazy atmosphere that makes Cindy’s new LP 100% addicting and the perfect antidote to comfort listening."
Neo-modernist Mark Fisher acolyte Lee Gamble finally polishes off his ambitious conceptual triptych with a brace of dusty, pensive re-realizations of wyrd dance, hyperreal ambient and warp'd web 3.0 doomsignalling >> proper gurglers fer dissident ravers inside.
Back in 2019 (which at this point feels like about a decade ago) Lee Gamble began his most ambitious project to date, a three-part album that would weave together the loose threads of his varied and often polar back catalog. The conceptual framework was "semioblitz": “the aggressive onslaught of visual & sonic stimuli of contemporary cities and virtual spaces.”
And while we received two weighty transmissions - "In A Paraventral Scale" and "Exhaust" - the third and final piece of the puzzle never appeared, until now. "Flush Real Pharynx 2019-2021" compiles those acclaimed first parts and adds an ample chunk of new material, bringing Gamble's 4K flicker of scanline drone and inverted post-'nuum rhythmic tweakage bang into the post-COVID-19 reality.
If the first two pieces of the puzzle were relatively hopeful ('n brutally cynical) flashes of our capitalism-warped reality, Gamble's new material feels checker'd by dislocated sadness. Given the project's CCRU-wave roots, this makes some kind of perverted sense, and Gamble's use of mucky haunted piano ('Empty Middle Seat') and machine-grade halfstep ('Newtown Got Folded') anchors the nu material in a pensive half-remembered backtopia.
The glinting, polished shimmer of "In A Paraventral Scale" and "Exhaust" is almost gone now, obscured by endless months of digital dust and mental anguish. Transport has stopped, AI has been subverted, and the MDMA rush is completely solipsistic in isolation: what's a contemporary city exactly when u compare 2019 with 2021? Now Gamble casts his mind into the future and channels cracks of light into a new reality's stifling darkness. Who knows what's next, but we ain't going backwards.
Explosions In The Sky’s first soundtrack since 2014.
"Following nearly two years of global touring in support of their adventurous and acclaimed album, The Wilderness (2016), Explosions In The Sky paused on the future to reflect on the past. Celebrating their 20th year as a band with a pair of remastered reissues of early beloved classics – How Strange, Innocence (2000) and The Rescue (2005) – they embarked on a memorable series of anniversary concerts in 2019. It was around then that Explosions In The Sky was approached to craft the score to a new documentary about a place with which, as native Texans, they were very familiar: Big Bend National Park.
That documentary, Big Bend: The Wild Frontier of Texas, premiered on PBS in the United States as well as on a variety of networks in other countries in early 2021. The hour-long film intimately follows the lives of native animals amid expansive aerial views of the iconic desert landscape that makes up one of the grandest natural wonders in the world. The band set these sights to an inspired, melodic, and meaningful blend of acoustic guitar, slide guitar, strings, piano, bells, and drums that feels as alive and diverse--and vast and lonely--as the place it depicts.
Big Bend (An Original Soundtrack for Public Television) takes that mesmerizing score and recontextualizes it as a standalone album. Those brief cues have been expanded and transformed into a thoughtful, gorgeous full-length album that recalls some of the band’s most magical and memorable moments from their storied history.
Big Bend: The Wild Frontier of Texas is a film that explores the past and present of the vast, complicated landscape that still holds countless mysteries yet to be uncovered. In Big Bend (An Original Soundtrack for Public Television), Explosions In The Sky pursue a similar approach to their own past and present, and find inspiration in all that has yet to be discovered."
Tirzah's second album is a fuzz'd-aut, narcotic dreamscape, all screwed trip-pop soulfulness and buzzing, chaotic layers of harmonic noize and hazy ambience. An even slower burn than her cult debut, "Colourgrade" is subtly surprising and calmly mindblowing - co-produced again with Mica Levi and Coby Sey plus an additional stealth production job from Kwake Bass & Dean Blunt. Yeah, Next level.
There's something about the way "Colourgrade" was recorded that makes each song sound like a memory, or a blast of familiar warmth from another room. But Tirzah hasn't doused her "Devotion" follow-up in cheap nostalgia or genre signalling. She uses memory as a creative tool, to sketch the outlines of songs and emotions in charcoal before she inks her evolving narrative. This time the songs are broadly structured around motherhood, being written after the birth of her first child and right before the arrival of her second. In her own words, they detail the process of "recovery, gratitude and new beginnings."
Since "Devotion" was released in 2018, we've witnessed a resurgence of interest in lo-glo trip-hop flutter, and since lockdown the home listening mood has been amplified. But Tirzah smartly swerves this obvious route, retaining the soulful downtempo loveliness of her debut but pepping it up with dissociated abstraction, pensive glaciality and smoove, slippery romanticism. In contemplating motherhood and the bond between parent and child, she creates musical swaddling that feels soothing but doesn't resort to cheap thrills.
The title track cracks open the record with timestretched words and rubbery synths melted over brassy bass sounds in arhythmic cacophony. Whistles take over completely and the expected beat never arrives; it's like a soulful acapella injected into a mercifully short psychedelic voyage. Advance single 'Tectonic' offers us the decelerated groove we may have been expecting, with icey cold vocals over downsampled funk that's half '96 Tricky and half '21 Taz & Meeks.
At its best, "Colourgrade" is unsettlingly simple. On its surface the Dean Blunt co-produced 'Recipe' is a stark vocal over a squashed half-speed beat, but repeat listens tear the seal off the tub, letting the prismatic warmth of complex emotionality haze into the atmosphere - it's just so good. The album's longest piece, 'Crepuscular Rays' is also its most uncompromisingly strange, with Tirzah's disembodied, mutated voice dripping like strawberry syrup over creamy phased waves of strummed electric guitar.
One of the most satisfying and consistently surprising records we've heard in 2021 so far, "Colourgrade" feels as sentient and unpredictable as the new lives that inspired it. It's gonna keep on growing.
3 album set from Robert Curgenven: Bardo (longform), SPECTRES and Bronze Lands (Tailte Cré-Umha).
"The 3 albums that comprise this set all, at their heart, concern air and the attendant inter-permeability and fluidity of volumes. Be they discretionary or open volumes, architectural or spatiotemporal, each volume is subject to the specificities of: their resonance; the concomitant movements of volumes of air; their locational context and adjacent spaces. The 3 albums present different harmonic, gestural and durational possibilities to encourage us to step out of the perceptual frameworks that enclose us.
Each album offers a unique instrumental foundation: experimental turntable techniques interwoven with piano & pipe organ harmonics (Bardo); resonant architectural interventions articulated by custom-made oscillators in post-Communist architectures and their locational context (SPECTRES); extended pipe organ techniques with an accompanying soundsystem that plumbs architectural harmonics and corporeal resonances (Bronze Lands). These works entreat us to think and hear beyond the structures enclosing each instrumental- and performance- approach – the turntable body, the architectural, the pipe organ, the speaker enclosure itself, even the confines of an audience as a gathering – and to also consider these longform works as an inter-related suite of aural and conceptual worlds."
Over the last twenty five years Robin Rimbaud – Scanner has traversed the experimental terrain between sound, space and image, connecting a bewilderingly diverse array of genres – a partial list would include sound design, film scores, computer music, avant garde, contemporary composition, large-scale multimedia performances, product design, architecture, fashion design, rock music and jazz.
"‘Fibolae’ offers up a world that splinters between melancholia and penetrating energy. Combining digital technologies, software and live instrumentation it is both a rhetoric of mourning and a celebration of music to empower. Warm, organic, sensual, passionate and frequently angry, it’s an album that radiates with possibilities.
As to the meaning of the title, ‘Fibolae’? There is none. It was a word that appeared to Scanner in a dream, at a time of great challenges in his life. The fact that his unconscious mind could conjure up such inventions that offer no history and context was appealing and yet it was suggestive, playful and open."
Zbigniew Preisner’s super influential soundtrack to Krzysztof Kieslowski’s 'La Double Vie De Veronique’ available on vinyl once again. No schmaltz/overly produced tug-at-the-hearstrings Netflix nonsense here - 100% real deal brilliance.
At one point in time we had the VHS copy of La Double Vie De Veronique stuck inside an old player and subsequently ended up watching it many many dozen times - so its influence here is no doubt magnified, but nonetheless - what a record. If you’ve not seen the film - go do so at once - but irrespective, this score features some of Preisner’s best work, from the mythological 'Van Den Budenmayer’ choral pieces to the exquisite, dappled solo-piano melancholy of 'Les Marionnettes’ and the austere, mournful energy that seeps through each of the ’Theme’ works.
Cinematographer Slawomir Idziak famously used many different shades of yellow filter to elevate the un-real mood of the film, and it translates perfectly to this score - in our opinion an absolute modern great to file next to work by Goran Bregović for Emir Kusturica, Alberto Iglesias for the films of Julio Medem and Nikos Mamangakis’ sprawling work on the Heimat films.
New album by electronica producer Ulrich Schnauss and the Engineers guitarist Mark Peters, 'Destiny Waiving'.
"Hailing from Kiel in North Germany, it's now 20 years since the electronica prodigy Ulrich Schnauss released his debut album. His second, 'A Strangely Isolated Place' cemented his reputation as both a pioneer and an artist who routinely creates inspirational music that is adored by many. As a full time member of Tangerine Dream since 2014, his lifelong passion for their work inspired a creative resurgence for the band, resulting in their most successful new album for over 30 years, 2017's 'Quantum Gate'.
Liverpool born guitarist (and founder of the dream pop outfit Engineers) Mark Peters shared a similar musical path, exploring ambient textures and effect laden songwriting via a series of blissful albums for the band. In 2017 he released his first solo album, 'Innerland' which was enthusiastically received by BBC6 music and later included in Rough Trade's top ten best albums of 2018.
'Destiny Waiving' completes a collaborative trilogy that began with 2011's 'Underrated Silence' and followed by 2013's 'Tomorrow Is Another Day' (Schnauss also became a full time member of Engi-neers at this time). Initial sessions began at Ulrich's East London home studio in early 2017 and final mixes where completed there in late 2020. Despite it's extended conception, most tracks where com-pleted during 2017, in part informed by improvisational sets in London, Dublin and St James' Church in Birmingham (as part of the Seventh Wave electronica festival).
Despite these exercises in exploration, 'Destiny Waiving' is perhaps the most focused and concise collection of all three releases. Ranging in tone from precognitive foreboding to soaring optimism, the album delicately hones a particular atmosphere that is unmistakable in their work."
The Invisible’s lynchpin, Dave Okumu steps out with a suave solo debut album of jazz-sparked hip hop neatly incorporating piano chops by his peer, Duval Timothy and strong nods to J Dilla
After more than a decade of supplying his talents to records by everyone from Amy Winehouse to Ed O’Brien (Radiohead), Tony Allen, Theo Parrish and Jessie Ware (he co-produced/co-wrote her Mercury nominated album, Devotion); Okumu plays it deadly cool and beatdown on his definitive personal statement to date. ‘Knopperz’ wears its influences proudly, with Timothy Duval’s slinky keys, and slompy drums and sirens patently hailing Dilla, but the rest is all him, hustling a hypnotically low-key and smoked out sound slanted to the twilight hours and beyond.
Keeping it fully instrumental and allowing his melodic personality to ooze thru the grooves and moods, the pacing is effortless, luring us in with the balmy bump and lyrical piano turns of phrase in ‘Son of Emmerson’ and coolly accommodating attentions between the groggy jazz-blues of ‘Ballpark’ to the melancholic sign-off ‘Don’t Die’, with his Dilla worship in evidence on the red-eyed nod of ‘Trouble’ and wickedly stumbling drums of ‘RTN.’
"Mark Hawkins has dug deeper on ‘A New Normal’ representing a landscape of electro-funk, body-rocking house, experimental electronica, euphoric pop and reflective chill out all underpinned by his melodic sensibility."
ATFA on their A-game with a debut album of Amapiano aces by Native Soul, the teenaged, Gauteng-based duo of Kgothatso Tshabalala and Zakhele Mhlanga (DJ Zakes)
Arriving in the vein of ATFA’s arguably overlooked zingers by Teno Afrika and DJ Black Low, Native Soul’s efforts should be set to catch fire with a rapidly expanding global audience for Amapiano, or at least its fervent UK fanbase. The tracks are perfectly calibrated with that Amapiano dark/light suspension system, balancing the trilling bass below the waist with atmospheric pads that get up in yuh head and grip the dance like little else right now. The pace is of course locked to SA’s favoured mid-tempo deep house velocity (we’ve heard stories of SA turntables with the pitch locked off at +4, lol), which to be honest does sometimes feel unusual in UK clubs, but soon enough locks everyone into its lathering groove.
Native Soul’s take on the still evolving genre displays a reserved emotive intelligence mature beyond their years, holding it down and lip-bitingly restrained in the tightest style. We’ll maintain that the best dancers we’ve ever seen hail from SA, and it’s perhaps no surprise when they’ve got this kinda gear to practice with; coming with tendon-tuning nuance in the hip-shot string stabs and puckered torque of ‘Ambassador’ ft. Ubuntu Brothers, and tucking in tight in-the-pocket on the brooding ‘United As One’, and with pure pensile suss in the delayed gratification of ‘Way To Cairo’ while the furtive progressions of ‘Letter To Kabza De Small’ and belly tightening hustle ‘End Of Time’, like much Amapiano, feel really strangely attuned to the tension and efficient energy conservation themes of the times.
In other words it’s a fucking massive tip!
Livity Sound mark a decade of skin in the game with a comp pulling focus on their roster of rhythmic misfits in 2021.
Originally founded as an outlet for Pev, Kowton, and Asusu’s like-minded soundsystem techno oddities in 2011, the label’s scope has gradually expanded over the intervening decade to embrace an emerging movement of non-standard bassbin operators such as Batu, Hodge, Bruce and Simo Cell via the Reverse label (Dnuos Ytivil), and nowadays stands at a busy intersection of globally related styles loosely termed hard drum, or bass music.
YOUTH host Significant Other’s glum but resilient meditation on love and loss, a broodingly therapeutic debut album that straddles IDM and industrial Ambient signatures, reminding us of work from Bola to Jay Glass Dubs, Spectre to classic late night Rob Hall mixes.
Sharing a different side of his sound to that heard on club-cut 12”s for Spe:c, Oscilla Sound and anno over the past few years, Significant Other here dwells on feelings that “emerged from moments of extreme passion and pain", patching new and archival material to work thru a mental fug of ambient noise laments and crankily dubbed out illbient lines of thought.
The pacing is stygian and the atmosphere near still, betraying a depth of suppressed emotion that he processes over the album’s eight tracks. ‘Demonology’ evokes a hash haze contemplation with its patina of Burial-esque vapours and incidental crackle, and ‘The Future Doesn’t Exist’ taps into a classic vein of screwed NYC downbeats a la Spectre, showing off a killer instinct for crushed hip hop drums also explored on the weighty swang of his ‘Love Beat.’
‘Residuum’ doesn't fall into outright doom, preferring to skirt the event horizon of a black hole and keep the chin bobbing up with the vulnerable yet hopeful tones of ‘Pendant’, also in the Loren Connors-esque midnight peal of ‘Drifting In The Third Person’ and the elegiac closing sequence ‘Perpetual Care’, with its piano and string led coda.
Steven Ellison's first feature-length anime soundtrack is an endlessly satisfying jeweled box of delights, with Vangelis-esque vintage synth sparkles rubbing up against carbon-blasted trap, dusty tape warped funk and psychedelic electro-jazz.
It makes complete sense that Ellison would end up scoring a project as idiosyncratic and ambitious as LeSean Thomas’ anime show about a lone Black samurai in feudal Japan. The Los Angeles beat scene innovator cut his teeth doing short bumps for edgy US TV animation channel Adult Swim - home of Ellison's beloved "Afro Samurai" - so surely a project like this was always on the cards. And he's knocked it out of the park, blending a lifetime of nerdy musical influences, from the spiritual jazz of his aunt Alice Coltrane and the bouncy early electronic weirdness of Raymond Scott to the neon strip club pulse of Mike Will and the MPC-fried swing of Mobb Deep's Havoc.
There are 26 cues on the extended album, and while the tracks might lack the duration of those on his proper albums, their heart and mood speaks volumes. Ellison sounds completely untethered, like he's finally got the chance to pay tribute to a life spent jamming tunes and watching cartoons. He's in his element, and that gives the project a warmth and honesty that's hard to ignore. Fans of everyone from Adrian Younge and Emeralds to Ricci Rucker and Tangerine Dream should investigate immediately.
Contemporary classical minimalist Jürg Frey transmutes the poetic landscape observations of Gustave Roud (1897-1976) into haunting chamber works for Another Timbre.
Gustave Roud was a poet from the French-speaking part of Frey’s native Switzerland. He studied literature at the University of Lausanne and realised he didn’t want to return to life as a farmer, instead returning to live with his sister in the family’s farmhouse for the rest of his life, mooching in the countryside and mountains, detailing his thoughts in what would become a three volume Collected Works, as well as diaries and critical writings, plus lesser known work as a photographer.
After immersing in Roud’s work, Frey composed this collection in his honour, as he explains: “I first encountered Roud’s work more than 10 years ago, and the impact of his work on my music has been profound. I feel a close relationship to a poet whose mode of operation and sensitivity make a precise resonance in me. It’s a unique poetry that speaks from beginning to end of searching for the essence. I would like to compare his mode of work with that of a painter. Every day he went out, not with an easel, but with his notebook, and he wandered through the landscape as a flaneur, observer, writer, laying the foundations of his work with his notes. For me his work constitutes a kind of ‘field recording’, not with a microphone and sounds, but with his soul and body, recording his environment in the broadest sense. He perceived existential dimensions in the finest nuances of the weather, the landscape and its inhabitants, and made it the basis of his work.”
With quietly gripping results, Frey - and Stefan Thut (cello), Dante Boon (piano), Andrew McIntosh (violin), Regula Konrad (soprano), Stephen Altoft (trumpet), Lee Ferguson (percussion) - sensitively limn the Roud’s work with a painterly play of light and space, and quite literally thru the track titles, with the most enchanting of these bringing it all together, strings, wind, percussion, and transfixing vox based on Roud’s words, in the otherwordly evocation of ‘Farbiose Wolken, Glück, Wind (2009-11).’
Jürg Frey is present in his 7-piece Ensemble Grizzana, performing a suite of more conventional works that go easier on the silences.
The 2015 double album features Frey on clarinet surrounded in various arrangements by Mira Benjamin (violin), Richard Craig (flute), Emma Richards (violin), Philip Thomas (piano), Seth Woods (cello) and Ryoko Akama (electronics), performing 19 works written 2009-2014. Less prone to long, searching silences, as found on Frey’s more radical works, the music is still borderline liminal, but largely held back from ephemerality.
Frey’s clarinet is accompanied by Seth Woods’ sallow cello in the set’s beautiful opener ‘Petit Fragment De Passage’, which becomes a recurring piece performed by various configurations, from the perspectives of Ryoko Akama’s organ and Philip Thomas’ Piano keys, a string duet by Emma Richards (Viola) & Mira Benjamin (Violin), and Richard Craig (Flute) with Emma Richards (Violin) again, each as quiet captivating as the other.
But their strengths lie in the assembled ensemble pieces, which locate a tremulous democracy between their various voices in ‘Fragile Balance’ and the watercolour landscape of ‘Extended Circular Music No.8’, and with remarkably rich effect in the titular seven-part suite. Fans of Philip Thomas’ quietly unmissable ’Morton Feldman Piano’ set for Another Timbre will no doubt be charmed by his solo performance here, ‘Lieues D’ombres’, and in trio with Seth Woods and Frey on the haunting 30’ work ‘Area of Three’, and we’re reminded to the sacred sublime tension of Jakob Ullmann’s quiet music in the mesmerising hush of the ensemble’s ‘Ferne Farben.’
Last seen sparring with Lucy Railton, pianist Kit Downes here duels with composer and pianist Matt Rogers. Evocative, physical music that bridges the gap between improvisation and composition for fans of Keith Jarrett.
'Premonitions of the Unbuilt City' is based on Matt Rogers' opera "She Described it to Death", which was reduced to piano by Christopher Mayo before being arranged and edited by Downes and Rogers. With Downes adding his signature improvisation, the piece took on new life - something that no doubt inspired the change of title. It's a virtuoso performance from both players, who appear to be locked in debate as they trade harmony and texture between two pianos. Anyone into the slickly accomplished ECM catalogue - particularly Keith Jarrett's recordings - would do well to check this one.
Philip Thomas’ spellbinding solo piano performance of ’Circles and Landscapes’ is a result of Jürg Frey’s residency at Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (HCMF), 2014
As with his masterful renditions of Morton Feldman found in the unmissable 4CD boxset, Thomas’ performance of these six Frey pieces bring the composer’s work to light with requisite precision and care at St. Paul’s Hall, University of Huddersfield, 4th and 5th August 2015.
Oooosh! Deadly Afro-funk from Benin, 1974 sees light of day again with Acid Jazz, to the relief of anyone put off by the triple figure 2nd hand prices.
Available for the first time outside of Benin, Nigeria, the cult side contains some of the deepest and earliest roots music issued on the Albarika label. It’s dominated by the 13 minute lead cut of inimitably Wets African drums synched to fiery psych guitar licks and balmy vocals in ‘Gan Tche Kpo’, which is surely enough to take the head top off any Afrobeat lovers, while the soulful slow jam ‘My Love’ strips everything right back to the tightest sway and almost garage-soul-styled guitars with a duet between wordless croon and sax that says it all.
‘Gnonnou Ho’ picks up the pace with spikier, stepping drums and melody that feels to look East to these ears, recalling Ethiopiques and much farther Eastern vibes on a lilting psych-funk groove, and ‘Min E Wa..We Non Dou’ keeps it up there in an eight minute special for the dancers hashed with wild electric guitar, organ and horns .
Proc Fiscal does his genre origami with grime, drill, jungle, footwork and vaporous ambient styles in a plush 2nd album for Hyperdub
In pursuit of the mercurial magick previously found on his string of acclaimed, daring 12”s and debut LP ‘Insula’ (2018), he returns with a charmingly effusive new volley of 14 cuts that sparkle with restless, fractious detailing and whirring rhythm mechanics. Like his label mates Lorraine James and Lee Gamble, it’s effectively IDM, as in he can’t help but go to town on his grooves and express a probing “intelligence” or curiosity in the embellishments. The results may be too busy for some straighter club heads, but fizz with ingenuity for others, and surely nobody can argue that he’s not got that classic Scottish feel for funk locked down.
In another time, ‘Siren Spine Sysex’ could have been prime Rephlex material, showing off a devilish mastery of inch-tight drum programming and non-standard electronic tuning in each part as the album cascades and skids between lilting downbeat opener ‘Anti Chesst’ and the salty noise convolutions of ‘Roman Fatigue.’ It finds him filleting drill’s glyding bass and hollow-tipped snares in aerial footwork styles on ‘Convaerge Iana’ and the skittish ‘Met Path Thoth,’ with a crafty cut of R&G vocal thizz in the centrepiece ‘8 Mgapixel See Thru Phone,’ alongside a warped, tangy take on Afrobeats in ‘Thurs Jung Youtz’ and ‘Her In.’ His playful wits are in best effect on ‘The Most Beautiful Irish Song,’ which sounds a bit like Todd Edwards doing a giddy jig, and comes complemented by the Carl Stone-esque levels of glitchy vocal processing on ‘Leith Torn Carnal,’ with the album’s sweetest treats coming in the relatively laid-back but mutant minor key drill swag of ‘Auld Peop.’