First vinyl edition of Scritti Politti’s hip hop-inspired 4th album, originally released in 1999 after a decade long hiatus, and to head-scratching reactions from longer term listeners.
After crafting some of the ‘80s most enduring classics, Scritti Politti’s Green Gartside ended that decade disillusioned with music, and retreated home to the Welsh Valleys where he spent years listening to US hip hop. By 1999 he returned with a hip hop-skooled album ‘Anomie & Bonhomie’ that boldly challenged the band’s legion fans, setting his unmistakably blue-eyed soul vocals to production that leaned almost into rap-metal and pop-punk, and even featured Mos Def guest spots, with one of its highlights ‘Tinseltown To The Boogietown’ being remixed by Pete Rock, Rob Swift and Ali Shaheed Muhammad.
Whew! Montreal’s Light Conductor brings the epic space energy on a pulsating and then sublime 2nd album for Constellation, replete with all that label’s widescreen connotations
Picking up where the pre-pandemic vehicle ‘Sequence One’ left off in 2019, the 2nd mission manned by Stephen Ramsay and Jace Lasek aka Light Conductor continues their trajectory into unfettered psych-kraut-disco-rock zones and beyond into shoegazing synth ambience across a 4-part, 45 journey sure to get the longhairs bristling and reaching for their silver capes.
It’s really all about the opening number here, with ‘Splitting Light’ taking all the time it needs to warm the synth engines and ascend to orbit-breaking velocity, when outta fucking nowhere a holographic Jimmy Somerville bursts into full song, appearing to be overseen by 10CC and Sonic Boom at the mixing desk in a outrageous choral escalation for the ages. Unfortunately it’s a bit of sore thumb, as the rest of the EP never quite achieves those giddy heights again, preferring to terraform vast scenes of textured, off-world ambient and more cliched space music, but it’s all gravy after that flash opener.
First album in five years from Luke Slater’s Planetary Assault Systems, mainlining pure techno in the classic vein of Jeff Mills, Terrence Dixon, Steve Bicknell
Proper tackle built for all night sessions, loaded with hard working highlights in the effortless, pounding drive and glyde of ‘Bang Wap’, the palpitating Chi-style toms of ‘Say It Loud’, the funked up shuffle of ‘If I Die’, and the pulsating throbber ‘The Drag Train’, plus spacier cakes for the cosmic crew in ‘Nano Chameleon’ and ‘Abstract.’
"A figure who needs little introduction to fans of the genre, but whose consistency in the studio and on the road has repeatedly marked him out as true pioneer of sound design and performance with a singular vision, Slater first minted the PAS alias in '93. Since then, a slew of singles and LP's from the industrious artist have made sure Planetary Assault Systems has become a byword for hypnotic, funk-heavy Techno in a purist tradition. Toeing the line between heady, psychedelic material and all out main room fare - Slater's work as PAS captures the very best facets of the genre, with economically selected parts exquisitely arranged and engineered with a shrewd and uncompromising ear for what really makes people move.
On the new LP, Slater draws on studio material but also components recorded during the PAS live show - and he's keen to let fans know the focus is well and truly on the dance floor with this one: Sky Scraping is a loud and unabashed celebration of the formative and familiar environments so loved by the electronic music community, the dark clubs and festivals made special by their unique ability to bring like minded people together.
Sky Scraping kicks off in characteristically dense, psychedelic fashion with Labstract - a slice of classic PAS with cavernous low end and a tight, looping sequence doing the driving work while frenetic drum machine cuts and wide angle synth sirens shift the track onwards from one phase to the next. Follow up One For The Groove showcases the chunkier side of Slater's production as PAS with an infectious 909 pattern propelled on in the high mids by a squelching synth patch. Bang Wap revisits the artist's last outing on Token - a monstrous, unforgiving roller designed with peak time in mind. Say It Loud - the idiosyncratic proto-anthem that accompanied Bang Wap earlier in the year leads the LP onwards, before sequing into new recording Give In - a masterclass in dense, funky, face-melting Techno. Drums take centre stage on If I Die, as the artist returns to the 909 for a marginally slowed down cut that really highlights the artist's connection to and natural affinity with groove and drum machine cuts. Coal thrusts the listener straight back down the wormhole - an extraordinary, driving piece propelled by a guttural lead synth sequence and ghostly drums, before giving way to Run - a dry, pared back recording with plucked, staccato synths that makes for a good contrast to its fathoms deep predecessor. Though not without moments of hysteria in its closing quarter, The Drag Train, featuring a classic, more mono finish begins the wind down towards the LP's close. Nano Chameleon ties up Sky Scraping, a track as forceful as anything that has come earlier on the record - as it approaches its close, a warping lead powers the recording home with shuffling white noise percussion dipping in and out of the sonic main stage before giving way to a delicate, controlled chaos."
Piero Umiliani's mid-70's album "Polinesia", reissued on Dialogo.
"Piero Umiliani was capable of traveling not only in a physical sense but also with a long series of geographical-themed albums that have always been among his best productions, and his interests weren't just limited to distant Africa, to its percussive sounds and unexplored territories - especially with the Africa and Continente Nero releases.
In his vast and complex discography - including works recorded in his own name, in solo with groups and orchestras, but also under aliases such as Rovi, M. Zalla, The Soundwork Shoppers, Moggi, Catamo - there are excellent space-time excursions such as Genti e Paesi del Mondo, Paesi Balcanici, Il Mondo dei Romani, Storia e Preistoria, Medioevo & Rinascimento, Panorami Italiani and Paesaggi, where the musician could free an unstoppable creative vein that combined an artistic path intimately bound to Italy and to its traditions with the world's sounds (and even more, given the cosmic ventures of Tra Scienza e Fantascienza and L'Uomo nello Spazio).
Among his most adventurous efforts, Polinesia deserves a special mention, since it was fully recorded with glowing percussion and exotic suggestions that remind of Martin Denny, bringing to mind sunny white beaches, Oceania and the famous Bora Bora, defined by the well-known Italian writer and documentary maker Folco Quilici as the most beautiful island in the world. Prepare a colorful cocktail and enjoy the full moon, you already have the perfect soundtrack for that...""
Thirteen tracks from Piero Umiliani out on Dialogo, "L'Uomo E La Città".
"In the intricate panorama of Italian library music, the themes of city, factories, metropolis, work, urbanization and technology have always been among the most fascinating (and used), relying on dozens of fundamental records by composers such as Alessandro Alessandroni, Farlocco, Gerardo Iacoucci, A.R. Luciani, Narassa and many others. The attempt to provide a plausible soundtrack to a continuously and rapidly ever-changing world, especially in the hectic seventies, has often produced masterpieces that combined avant-garde techniques with sounds, risky experimentation with easy-listening songs, the traffic chaos and assembly lines with the silence of the night, the end of the work shift with Sunday's rest.
Piero Umiliani's L'Uomo e la Città perfectly fits into this rich and varied field, an album where our Man is accompanied by a jazz musicians sublime parade that includes celebrities like Bruno Tommaso, Oscar Valdambrini, Dino Piana and Nino Rapicavoli, here delivering the most of a sound that is highly based on the richness of the wind instruments and on the rhythm of the Umiliani-led ensemble.
L'Uomo e la Città is a less risky effort when compared to other releases by Piero Umiliani, but that's in favor of an extraordinary jazz tightness (Rete Urbana, Quartieri Alti, Città Frenetica), but the wish to amaze appears when least expected in the two excellent renditions of Centrale Termica and Suoni della Città, among the best tracks of the album."
Iconic Japanese experimentalist Phew returns to Mute for first time in 30 years with a haunted and strung out set of barely-there vox and submerged synths
“Rising to prominence with the art-punk group Aunt Sally before her first solo release in 1981, recorded at Conny Plank’s studio in Cologne with Holger Czukay and Jaki Liebezeit, Phew isn’t about to go soft on us.
“I wanted to exclude sentimentality,” she says of New Decade. “With the situation at the moment, I’ve got it lucky. Last year, in particular, just being alive was kind of a lucky state of affairs. Being able to openly express how you’re feeling, in spite of all that, is a sort of privilege you have as a musician or artist, and I felt like I shouldn’t abuse it.”
This has been a guiding principle for Phew in recent years, as she has amassed a body of solo work that melds her signature vocals with febrile, droning synthesisers and drum machines. Already well accustomed to working in isolation at home, keeping her voice down in order not to annoy the neighbours, New Decade is a stark and haunted album, populated by voices that intone empty pleasantries in English and Japanese or manifest as wordless shrieks and groans, against a backdrop of fractured, dubbed-out electronics.
Phew explains that there’s a loose concept running through the album, relating to the perception of time. “During the ’80s, and up until the ’90s, things progressed along a line from past to present to future, but I think that’s changed, especially since the start of the 21st century. Personally speaking, I’ve stopped being able to see a future that extends from the present.”
This is reflected in the unplaceable character of her current work. It’s not deliberately retro in the manner of many analogue synth revivalists, nor does Phew waste time trying to catch up with the latest trends. It’s music out of time, resonating to its own peculiar frequency.
New music specialists Apartment House render the tremulous glory and ceaseless drive of Eastman’s 1974 classic on their captivating 2019 recording
Following Frozen Reeds’ 2016 release of S.E.M. Ensemble’s 1974 take, and preceding the more recent iteration by Belgium’s ensemble 0 & Aum Grand Ensemble; Apartment House’s ‘Femenine’ is one of the first modern performances and recordings of the seminal, but long overlooked slice of c.20th avant-classical genius. It lands in the wake of Mary Jane Leach’s concerted and longstanding work in tending to Eastman’s legacy, holding some of the most remarkable classical compositions of its epoch, which has necessarily renewed interest in Eastman's sorely overlooked, yet hugely distinctive, work.
As a gay, black composer in a field dominated by white men, Julius Eastman shattered conventions merely by his presence, and his music was daring and distinctive, offering a more fluidly unified and singularly thizzing adjunct to the kind of repetitious minimalism explored by downtown NYC composers such as Steve Reich and Philip Glass. Eastman was just as adept at working with Arthur Russell on Dinosaur L’s landmark ‘24→24 Music’ and ‘Another Thought’ set as he was working on Peter Maxwell Davies’ monodrama ‘Eight Songs for a Mad King’ or Meredith Monk’s ‘Dolmen Music’ - all revered in their sphere - yet his own, remarkable compositions went practically unnoticed for decades and he ultimately ended up destitute and unsng, living on the streets of Buffalo, New York State.
Only in recent years has ’Femenine’ become recognised for the towering piece of work that it is, and this recording by Anton Lukoszevieze’s Apartment House helps spread the good word. It renders the full piece in all its colourful majesty, driven by insistent sleigh bell percussion and coursing with the purpose of a great river from streams of cello, flute, keys, vibraphone and violin that entwine and lushly gather with a ravishing torrent of ecstasy by the end of its 67’ flow. In effect it does away with notions of beginning/middle/end in a more cyclical, endless form and style that takes on Reich’s African inspirations at a more fundamental level, yet hasn’t been afforded the same sort of critical ear until only relatively recently. Trust Apartment House to handle the material faithfully and with the hypnotic traction we imagine Eastman intended.
Hungarian mystic Hortobágyi graces avant classical titan ECM in trio with his Hortogonals, György Kurtág Jr. and Miklós Lengyelfi for an exquisite elision of deep space and spectralist musicks with remarkable runs into dub techno, for all intents and purposes like some stray ~scape or MVO Trio wonder
Originally issued beyond our peripheral vision in 2009, the trio’s only release to date plugs a hole in our collections that we didn’t even realise existed until recently. Their ‘Kurtágonals’ form a lattice like bridge between disciplines and worlds, discretely weaving formerly exclusive bedfellows into a richly imaginative soundsphere fizzing with influence from Romanian spectralist traditions and Hortobágyi’s worldly research of alternate tunings and modes, as much as the deepest German dub techno abstractions. It’s a totally unexpected but entirely welcome direction of exploration to our ears, seemingly manifesting an idea that we’d wager many of us have longed for, but never heard executed quite so well.
‘Kurtágonals’ is released by Manfred Eicher’s legendary ECM label, highly regarded for their production values, and as such patently benefits from an opulent sound staging, with Hortobágyi assisted in the August 2008 recording and engineering by Ferenc Haász at the Guo Manor, Budapest. Between them they conjure an unfathomably wide and vertiginous soundfield strafed by acéphalic chorales and sliding electronic pitches, and arced with resonant string harmonics, but really given depth by its ultra subtle layers of distant dub chords and padded subbass ballast, both of which we never really expected to hear on an ECM recording, and especially in this sort of seamless, playthru arrangement resembling a dream mixtape.
We could offer any number of add n to x allegories for this sound, but they’d all fall short of the stylistically transcendent end product. It’s simply extraordinary stuff that needs to experienced in highest possible fidelity and with good speakers to reveal its spellbinding nuance.
Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds have produced a truly prodigious quantity of material in their 30-plus year recording career, a fact that is highlighted by this huge, 3CD collection of B-sides and rarities.
Spanning everything from the obligatory BBC sessions through to limited edition B-sides and previously unreleased studio material, this career straddling cross-section will act as a treasure trove to signed up members of the Cave fan club, yet will be just as accessible to those for whom the Bad Seeds have always been a peripheral musical entity. Exhibiting why they can headline the main stage at Glastonbury one week then put in a curate's egg performance at some back alley club the next, 'B-Sides and Rarities' shows that music can be esoteric and intelligent without sacrificing its listenability. With Cave's peerless recasting of 'What A Wonderful World' as an after hours, caliginous beast, you soon find yourself getting sucked in to Cave's strangely borderless realm. Gems include the fiercely polemical acoustic version of 'Jack the Ripper', the previously unreleased original casting of 'Where the Wild Roses Grow' featuring Herr Bargeld in the role Kylie would later assume and the full orchestral pomp of the (again unreleased) 'Red Right Hand', a song written for the soundtrack of Scream 3 (you read right...). Not even mentioning the studio out-takes of 'Sheep May Safely Graze' and the utterly heartbreaking piano-led melancholy of 'Little Ghost Song', 'B-sides and Rarities' is exactly what a collection of extra material should be; welcome, intriguing and utterly refreshing.
PART I CD1
1. Deanna (Acoustic Version)
2. The Mercy Seat (Acoustic Version)
3. City of Refuge (Acoustic Version)
4. The Moon Is in the Gutter
5. The Six Strings That Drew Blood
6. Rye Whiskey
7. Running Scared
8. Black Betty
10. The Girl at the Bottom of My Glass
11. The Train Song
12. Cocks 'n' Asses
13. Blue Bird
15. God's Hotel
16. (I'll Love You) Till the End of the World
17. Cassiel's Song
18. Tower of Song
19. What Can I Give You?
PART I CD2
1. What a Wonderful World
2. Rainy Night In Soho
3. Lucy (Version #2)
4. Jack the Ripper (Acoustic Version)
5. Sail Away
6. There's No Night Out in the Jail
7. That's What Jazz Is to Me
8. The Willow Garden
9. The Ballad of Robert Moore and Betty Coltrane
10. King Kong Kitchee Kitchee Ki-Mi-O
11. Knoxville Girl
12. Where the Wild Roses Grow (Original Guide Vocal Version)
13. O'Malley's Bar Pt. 1
14. O'Malley's Bar Pt. 2
15. O'Malley's Bar Pt. 3
16. Time Jesum Transeuntum Et Non Riverentum
17. O'Malley's Bar Reprise
18. Red Right Hand (Scream 3 Version)
PART I CD3
1. Little Empty Boat
2. Right Now I'm A-Roaming
3. Come Into My Sleep
4. Black Hair
5. Babe, I Got You Bad
6. Sheep May Safely Graze
7. Opium Tea
8. Grief Came Riding
9. Bless His Ever Loving Heart
10. Good Good Day
11. Little Janey's Gone
12. I Feel So Good
13. Shoot Me Down
14. Swing Low
15. Little Ghost Song
16. Everything Must Converge
18. She's Leaving You
19. Under This Moon
B-Side And Rarities Part II was compiled by Nick Cave & Warren Ellis and features 27 tracks from “Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!” in 2006 to 2019s “Ghosteen”. Also features 19 rare and unreleased tracks including first recordings of ‘Skeleton Tree’, ‘Girl in Amber’, ‘Bright Horses’ and ‘Waiting for You’."
A1. Hey Little Firing Squad
A2. Fleeting Love
A3. Accidents Will Happen
A4. Free To Walk (With Debbie Harry)
B1. Needle Boy
B2. Lightning Bolts
B3. Animal X
B4. Give Us a Kiss
B5. Push The Sky Away (Live with The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra)
A1. First Skeleton Tree
A2. King Sized Nick Cave Blues
A3. Opium Eyes
A4. Big Dream (With Sky)
A5. Instrumental #33
A6. Hell Villanelle
A8. Life Per Se
B1. Steve McQueen
B2. First Bright Horses
B3. First Girl in Amber
B5. Heart that Kills You
B6. First Waiting for You
B7. Sudden Song
Perky but gauzy ‘80s new wave nostalgia by Chris Stewart’s Black Marble. Glistening with vantage-styled hooks and pulsing synths.
“On Fast Idol, LA-based Black Marble reaches back through time to connect with the forgotten bedroom kids of the analogue era, the halcyon days of icy hooks and warbly synths always on the edge of going out of tune. Harmonies are piped in across the expanse of space, and lyrics capture conversations that seem to come from another room, repeat an accusation overheard, or speak as if in sleep of interpersonal struggles distilled down to one subconscious phrase. At the same time, percussive elements feel forward and cut through the mix with toms counting off the measures like a lost tribe broadcasting through the bass and tops of a basement club soundsystem.
Fast Idol is Stewart's fourth full-length album and his second for Sacred Bones. His previous album Bigger than Life was written in the face of cultural shifts in the US, in experiencing these he realised he was not keyed into certain negative sentiments that were bubbling below the surface, which were breaking out into the open. “I chose to try and take the approach of a soothsayer writing from a macro level, trying to find strands of connection between us because it didn’t feel appropriate to create something self referential and gloomy at the time,” he says.
Now, Fast Idol sees him return to a sentiment and process that defined the earlier days of Black Marble, in a return to his intuitive song writing process where songs land as impressionistic snippets of daily conflicts, and people struggle with the challenge of trying to move through the world. “People don’t expect me to be responsible for altering their outlook or mood, they come to hear something that meets them where they are. I trusted on this record that if I stayed in that space and created things from that more mysterious place, it would connect with others.”
Elemental Antarctic field recordings layered and processed to model and evoke the regions’s weather dynamics with hyperreal attention to detail
“From Eugene Ughetti: As Philip was preparing to leave for his second Australian Antarctic Division residency, he invited me to lunch to discuss the possibility of collaborating on a new work. He recounted his first experience on the ice, where the surrounding landscapes seemed to articulate avant-garde percussion works of an epic scale. On this visit, he wanted his field work to explicitly shape the formation of a new performance work with a particular focus on katabatic winds in and around Casey Base station.
Intrigued, I accepted the challenge provided I could create a live performance utilising the same recorded materials of ice, air and water. We undertook an ambitious collaboration with sound, instrument, lighting and industrial designers, a dramaturg and percussionist.
For Polar Force we built an environment, a white inflatable structure reminiscent of a remote research station on the ice. Emanating from outside the space come the complex and foreboding sounds of the natural environment, inside, a live event akin to scientific research in sound occurs. This hour-long performance installation work gives rise to a hyper-realistic sensing of Antarctica, bursting with natural beauty, power and the audible evidence of human impact.”
East Coast minimal wave institution Xeno & Oaklander’s seventh full-length, Vi/deo.
""Vi/deo" further distills their iconic noir synth pop into a streamlined suite of gleaming, graceful retrofuturism. Inspired by ideas of synesthesia, scent, star worship, and obsolescent technologies, the duo of Liz Wendelbo and Sean McBride began conceiving the blueprint of Vi/deo while sequestered at their Southern Connecticut home studio during the pandemic. The context of isolation, streaming, and remote dreaming seeped into their chemistry, manifesting as both homage to and me ditation on a certain cinematic strain of technicolor fantasy: the screen as stage, distance disguised as intimacy, where tragedy and glamor crossfade into one.
Opening with the precision synthetic melancholy of “Infinite Sadness,” the album marks a peak fluidity between the pair’s fusion of analog electronics and poetic melody, both refined and oblique, classic but contemporary. Wendelbo modeled her singing on “a young boy in a choir,” alternately holding notes and whispering them, with the lyrics clear, the voice elevated. McBride’s synthesizers serve as the perfect counterpart, tiered and polished, threading fluorescent architectures of a lost audio-visual age. Theirs is a darkwave of reverie and flickering city lights, swooning and sleek, romantic anthe ms for concrete bohemia, cigarette smoke in rainy gardens, and sound as color (“blue is fast and red is slow”). Vi/deo captures the bittersweet beauty of youth and utopias, the wistful transformation from miracle to memory, where love turns unreal and music becomes myth: “Sounds of the underground / Will echo in future days / Feelings of misery / Will fade into the haze.”"
The dub dentist's deep blue 1974 reggae masterpiece bubbles up on a crucial remastered reissue, available for first time since the 2004 pressings on Mark Ernestus’ Basic Replay. Hudson's mood is tormented and dazed - making for a magnificently and deadly serious album that’s hauntingly unique, unmissable, unforgettable.
Renowned among the greatest roots reggae albums of all time, Hudson’s seminal side now sees a necessary, timely reissue. Still brimming with a dusky blues soul and intoxicating atmosphere, it followed a series of solid-gold productions for Ken Boothe, Delroy Wilson, John Holt, U-Roy and many others, and documents Hudson's removal from JA to London, New York studios and transatlantic audiences, inaugurating a sequence of albums - classics like Pick A Dub, Brand, Playing It Cool - which demonstrated his troubled experimentalism was so much better suited to the LP than the cardinal 7" reggae format.
Hailing from a musical family, Hudson trained as a dentist but found his calling in the studio, establishing his own label Imbidimts with a recording of Ken Boothe’s ‘Old Fashioned way’ before going on to work with legendary singers John Holt, Delroy Wilson and Alton Ellis, and toaster deejays U-Roy and Dennis Alcapone, who he produced in a trademark lean and mean, bad to the bone bass and drums style. ‘Flesh Of My Blood’ would come out on Brent Clarke’s Tottenham based Atra label, and marked an early highpoint of his work, melding strong soul influences with reggae proper in a supremely moody vibe that’s lost none of its late night pull.
We advise running straight to the flickering guitar licks and heads down bass of its definitive centrepiece ‘Darkest Night’, with its ohrwurming chorus for the strongest flavour, also found reduced to essentials on the dub with masterful touches of glaring synth, but anywhere you look, it’s pure gold. From the spectral electro-acoustics of ‘Hunting’ evoking midnight jungle atmospheres, to the lissom reggae soul of ‘Testing My Faith’ and the shimmering depths of his dubwise ’Nocturne (Talk Some Sense Version)’ it’s all cut of peerless cloth and holds treasures awaiting to be found.
NZ underground legend Roy Montgomery's third album this year is his darkest yet. 'Rhymes of Chance' is moody dream pop in the mode of Scott Walker or Talk Talk's Mark Hollis = gorgeous, singular music.
'Rhymes of Chance' is a minimalist pop monster, featuring some of Montgomery's most viscerally tear-jerking material. The first side is taken up with the six-part epic 'Rhymes of Chance'; the first two parts feature Montgomery on vocals, wailing over his patented shimmering guitar clouds. It's affecting, melancholy music that only takes on more character when regular collaborator Emma Johnston is brought into the fold on the fifth part.
Johnston's finest moment is on the flipside's 'Losers March' though, a loosely swung, organ-led dirge that sounds like folk music for the ferry ride down the river Styx. It's almost like Beach House on -8%. On closing track 'Aspiratory', a dedication to Mark Hollis, her voice is pulled to pieces by Autotune and frozen in time over bellowing, skyward drones. This is bizarre but unshakeable music from an underground original - if you enjoyed the last two installments "Island of Lost Souls" and "That Best Forgotten Work", you're gonna need this. Montgomery is still an underrated, overlooked treasure, we feel constantly blessed that he's gifting us with such a bounty of new material.
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.
"M_Sessions" is offering some rare originals by Mania D., Malaria and Matador for the 40th anniversary, as well as contemporary versions performed by Monika Werkstatt.
"Monika Werkstatt seemed the perfect choice for new interpretations. Founded in 2015, comprising female electronic musicians and producers from the entourage of Monika Enterprise and Moabit Musik. The loose collective played dozens of improvised concerts around Europe and released a studio album and live recordings in everchanging artist constellations.
The M_Sessions involved Pilocka Krach, Beate Bartel, Midori Hirano, Mommo G, Lucrecia Dalt, Antye Greie-Ripatti, Natalie Beridze, Annika Henderson and myself. Here the form of interpretation is focussing on keeping the freedom of their improvised work and adapting it to the collective appropriation of songs. I cannot imagine a better reinterpretation of the material with its real life ups and downs and with its enthusiasm.
The original core team of Beate Bartel, Bettina Köster, Manon P. Duursma and myself selected "Rare Originals" from the repertoire of the 3 bands where we saw special relevance and beauty - these tracks are on LP2. We rediscovered live tracks, living room recordings and demo versions from our times long gone. (G.Gut)"
Roberto Carlos Lange’s beautifully beatific Latinx pop-soul warms the cockles on his debut Helado Negro album for 4AD; a slow burn celebration of his South American heritage and nostalgia for the ’80s club music he grew up with
In loving pursuit of the style he’s developed over handfuls of albums for Asthmatic Kitty and more recently RVNG Intl., ‘Far In’ sees Helado Negro further burnish his rose-tinted sound with a sense of intimacy that stems from spending lots of time at home and getting deeper into his sound during lockdown. Referencing a “youth growing up in South Florida listening to 80s club songs, and their return sampled in 90s hip hop”, his 15 songs wash over one with the wooziest daydreaming quality, knitting languorous Latin rhythms to shimmering melodies in a way that, to our ears at least, somehow feel like christmas in a warm place, everything soft focus and lilting with a perennial familiarity that’s seductively disarming and effortlessly comforting.
Typically sung in his bilingual mix of Spanish and english, no matter which language he chooses, Lange’s music conveys the feeling clearly. In key with the notable refinements of his songwriting style over the past decade, ‘Far In’ reaches a new high watermark of classicism as he enters his 3rd decade of releases, nesting a melange of nods to Tropicália, Fleetwood Mac and Beck in his butter smooth transition from the strolling strums of ‘Wake Up Tomorrow’ with its harmonious vox by Bon Iver and Kid Cudi collaborator, Kacy Hill, thru to the glyding yacht rock disco of ‘Aureole’ and the gently insistent dreambop of ‘Outside the Outside’, with bucolic semi-acoustic magic in ‘Wind Conversations’ and Mazzy Star-like tristesse of ‘Thank You Forever.’
Liz Harris's 12th album is a heart-melting anthology of songs written over the last 15 years. A mixture of 'Dragging A Dead Deer...' emotional rawness and 'AIA' -style tape-dubbed sonic fog, it's a timely reminder of why she's one of the crucial underground voices of the era.
When Harris's early Grouper material began to emerge thru the cracks in the wall of wyrd folk CDRs and hand-made cassette tapes, we could already sense it was something different. There was a bare quality to it that set it out of time: this was music that sounded as harmonious with Slowdive's melancholy shimmer as it did with the Olympia and Washington DIY set. 'Shade' is a career-spanning set that accurately charts her evolution thru the years, running a course that broaches ambient music, Laurel Canyon folk, grunge, dream pop, and everything in-between.
Her music is unified by its unique spirit and personified by Harris's voice - a ubiquitous element that's sometimes an elasticated, ghostly whisper and at others a spiraling coo. On opening track 'Followed the ocean', it's an assured driving force, but her powerful tones are reduced to glowing cinder beneath the burn of overdriven, tape-distorted noise. Words are present, but indecipherable - it's like hearing a song taped from radio and endlessly re-duplicated for heightened ghosting. The fog dissipates on 'Unclean mind', harking back to 'Heavy Water' with a grunge-y strum and angelic moans.
'Shade' is a good title, because the interplay between openness and insularity lies at the heart of the album. From track to track is sounds as if Harris is revealing herself and then retreating under a blanket of tape hiss. 'The way her hair falls' is so clean you could hear a pin drop, making out every nuance in Harris's voice. The biggest surprise is the album's closing track 'Kelso (Blue sky)', where her vocals are finally given a grand treatment, drenched in reverb but completely tangible. The result is a glimmering slice of lingering acid folk that sounds divorced from time and space.
Swans’ guitarist Kristof Hahn yields a full course of reverberating drone scapes to Room 40, relinquishing recordings made in the wake of the band’s final shows after reforming. Billowing feedback and amp worship gleaned from an artillery of lapsteel and electric guitars manipulated with loop pedals, at best in the absorbign sonorities of ‘Vogelfluhlinie’ and ghoulish silhouette of ‘My Bed is Spinning’
“Six Pieces, a record that is essentially born from the ashes of the final SWANS reformation line-up tour, uses various found elements, stored loops, thematic notes and other acoustic debris as a means for launching off a series of interrogation into solo guitar composition.
The pieces bare the marks of touring life, sometimes intensely claustrophobic, other moments languid and at times euphoric, each pieces creates a vista of sound that describes a kind of fluid landscape without relying on the perceptual land-marks we might fall back on.
Hahn’s music is one of repetition and unfolding variation, it is unsettled, but never rushed or careless. He knows that music is an art form of time and is not afraid to allow his compositions to build, evolve and finally arrive with a casual sense of hushed determination.”
Wickedly crude but skilful no-input mixing board business from a boss of that discipline, Toshimaru Nakamura
‘Culvert - No Input Mixing Board 10’ is the umpteenth exposition of Nakamura’s improvised and eternally inventive practice since he switched to this style from guitar noise with 2000’s self-explanatory ‘No-Input Mixing Board’ CD. Its 8 parts see him reflect on the hidden waterways that underline his home region around west Tokyo, generating discrete burbling streams of mulched feedback that metaphorically resemble the culverted streams that nobody sees underfoot, yet necessarily course with energy, as in many built environments. In his home region these hidden streams are often topped with artificial brooks that overlay their route like a “double decker river.”
While sitting on a bench beside one of the artificial brooks, Nakamura was prompted to make music that reflects these secret veins. Each of the eight parts gushes with an allegorical brownian motion apt for the concept, and also recalling K2’s torrential forms of junk metal cut-up, but also perhaps implicitly speaking to the threat of rising sea levels which would surely seep up from the Pacific thru these coastal waterways with a destructive attrition akin to this music.
The Mankunku Quartet's 1968 album 'Yakhal' Inkomo' clocks in at just over 30 minutes of jazz perfection. This compact, and to-the-point, album would sit comfortably in amongst some of the best works in the catalogues of any of the quintessential jazz labels such as Blue Note, Prestige and Impulse.
"'Yakhal' Inkomo', however, was originally released on the South African record label World Record Co., which resulted in it becoming an elusive and sought-after piece for jazz collectors. First press copies sometimes fetch as much as £1,000 on the collectors' market. It has been long regarded as one of the finest South African jazz albums and DJ / broadcaster Gilles Peterson cemented this when he included it in his "best of genre" focussed radio show, 'The 20 - South African Jazz'.
On the sleeve notes, Ray Nkwe the producer and the President of the Jazz Appreciation Society of South Africa writes "This is the LP that every jazz fan has been waiting for" and Ray was not wrong, it's a stone-cold timeless jazz classic."
One of those releases that makes you feel like no other music exists for a hot minute, Dean Blunt returns with a second Black Metal album for Rough Trade, delving deeper into his unfathomable yet completely approachable and direct take on visceral x melancholic folk-pop. Spoiler: It’s really fucking good.
Aided on most of the songs here by Joanne Robertson’s vocal counterpoint and Giles Kwakeulati King-Ashong’s skittering drums, these songs once again connect to AR Kane’s distinct approach to the avant grade thru imperfection. In effect, it feels like Blunt manages to squeeze all the sterile sheen out of overly tasteful music, leaving a throbbing mass of flesh, blood vessels, nerve endings - exposed and beautiful. It’s what AR Kane called ‘Kaning’ (see Dhanveer Singh Brar’s excellent 'Beefy's Tune’ book for more on this) - and effectively provides a vital riposte to a world in which so much “art" is presented and consumed as a form of numbing.
And that riposte requires no explanation - a personal narative woven with little concession to anything - there’s not even a tracklisting or credits on the physical formats, instead Blunt’s ideas are wrapped up in a succession of first grade earworms, string sections here and there, billowing subs - all melancholy and ambiguous bliss.
"Flaws are discontinuities that act as tiny fissures, allowing the dim and distant, diffused gem light of pre-creation to slip thru - it is this that music existed for - a signpost, a reminder, a note.” Rudy Tambala / A.R. Kane
Black Metal 2 is as real as it gets.
Several years in the making, and marking 20 years of the cult minimalist project, the richly intoxicating ‘Living Space’ sees Eleh pull back from physical pressures to coax out a more natural cadence and way of arranging that reflects the slowness of plant life and discreet, painterly forms of ambient composition, underpinned by those pristine, deadly subs. And yeah, that second track basically sounds like one long extended Reese Bass - we ain't complaining.
“Following ‘Slow Fade for Hard Sync’ (2009) and Location Momentum (2010), Living Space is Eleh’s third physical release for Touch. Seven years in the making, this new release consolidates the artist’s parallel narrative between a series of vinyl and CD releases for Important Records – where the emphasis is on a minimalist aesthetic – to a visual counterpoint that hints at the cinematic and painterly qualities of the music.
Sound, as a healing force, is an idea as old as the medium itself. Inspired by the legacy and above all the spirit of John Coltrane, Living Space features 5 new compositions that seek to express the beauty of slow change, not only through the microtonal shifts in sound that Eleh navigates but moving with the atmospheric and shape–shifting conditions that the music creates as it interacts with the listening space, whether bedroom or concert hall, each one of them unique.
If the ambition of Living Space is to reflect both personal and collective growth cycles, the experience of its audition has the effect of stopping time. Melodic and harmonic progressions are implied and not stated obviously, to enable listeners to apply their own emotions and feelings to the music.
Using modular and analogue synthesisers, piano, organ, bass and symphonic chimes, Living Space stresses the promise of the CD’s final track – ‘Lighter Touch’ – forsaking the forceful hand for an approach that mirrors the slower and softer exposures of plant life and leaf formations, slow moving waters, not flash floods nor forest fires.”
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.
Afro-Latin and library-skooled space-age/lounge styles from Valentina Magaletti's Vanishing Twin, starring a stellar cast on a finely accomplished 3rd album, highly recommended to the spectral/motorik crew, from Broadcast to Stereolab.
Led by Magaletti (Moin) and Cathy Lucas (Interspace Orchestra), and 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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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'.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.’
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.
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.
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.’
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.