‘Hymn To Moisture’ is the keenly anticipated debut LP proper by Rrose, one of the foremost techno experimenters of this past, strange decade-in-flux. A new high watermark of techno purism and a massive RIYL Pan Sonic, Plastikman, Jeff Mills, Sandwell District, Eliane Radigue, Phill Niblock
““Hymn to Moisture” explores embodiment in natural phenomena by playing with microtonal and unstable tunings, shifting overtones, and integrated modulations that make it difficult to separate tone from noise. Evoking wind, water, rock, and flesh, the album occupies multiple spaces simultaneously: abrasive and tranquil, propulsive and meditative, familiar and alien. It shows an equal reverence for techno pioneers such as Jeff Mills, Pan Sonic, and Plastikman as it does for composers such as Eliane Radigue, Laurie Spiegel, and Phill Niblock. “Hymn to Moisture” is Rrose’s first solo album, and it unfolds with the scrupulous care and patience that defines all of Rrose’s auditory experiments. The album marks the artist’s most refined work to date.
Since its inception in 2011, the Rrose project has spawned over a dozen vinyl EPs on Sandwell District, Stroboscopic Artefacts, Infrastructure, and their own Eaux label as well as three collaborative albums with Bob Ostertag (on Buchla 200E modular synthesizer), Charlemagne Palestine (for two pianos), and Lucy (as Lotus Eater) respectively. A fourth album-length project on Seattle’s Further Records saw Rrose reinterpreting and extending James Tenney’s monolithic 1971 piece “Having Never Written a Note for Percussion” for solo gong. “Hymn to Moisture” is Rrose's first solo album of original material.”
London’s pivotal jazz player and producer Kamaal Williams shows off his record collection for DJ-Kicks
No skimping on the tracklist here, as Williams runs down 29 joints linking rugged London jams from Lord Tusk, Seiji and Hardhouse Banton alongside soul from Steve Spacek, deep jazz house by Tenderlonious and Steven Julien, a brilliant broken beat garage winner in Phil Asher’s ‘Peace and Love’s Comin’, and Dego’s devilish ‘Nuts’, among many, many others.
For anyone below the age 35, this is essentially what every bar and club in Manchester that wasn’t doing hard dance music, “electroclash” or rock music, sounded a lot like circa 2002. Granted though, Williams is picking the cream of that crop here.
Building on the fierce reputation of her early albums, ‘Analog Fluids of Sonic Black Holes’ is the brutally transfixing 4th LP by force of nature, Moor Mother, featuring contributions from Justin Broadrick (Godflesh, Zonal), King Britt, Saul Williams, Giant Swan, and Bookworms...
Delivered with a booming, stentorian confidence, Moor Mother holds the listener’s gaze with frightening conviction of purpose, underlined by the ratchet strength of her Afro-punk-techno-blues-noise backdrops. Alongside guest input from poet/rapper Saul Williams and her fellow Philly native, MC Reef The Lost Cauze, Moor Mother holds darkness to light in a way that edifies and complicates the magick of her art.
In its detailed arrangements and penetrative focus, ‘ Analog Fluids of Sonic Black Holes’ resembles an immersive film sans the visuals, but the range of real and synthetic textures and timbres, coupled with Moor Mother’s central narration bring the music and her ideas to life in a way that visual languages may not fully be able to articulate so fully, while also leaving room for the listener to fill in their own gaps. She’s lost none of the rage that informed her first three albums, but here it feels more tempered and pointed than ever.
From the introductory portal/mental compression chamber of ancient sounding vocals, diaphanous synths and tightening, dissonant strings in ‘Repeater’, the album erupts across the first half, only to slow and crystallize into boulders and ash clouds. Warning flares come early with the bristling noise and wailing vocals of ‘Don’t Die’, and surges into gear with the exceptional Jk Flesh-like slam of ‘After Images’, the urgency of ‘Master’s Clock’ and the sooty rock and rolige of ‘Black Flight’ featuring arresting verse by Saul Williams. From here it runs slower, inward, pulled toward the black hole of ‘The Myth Holds Weight’ and the vice-like squeeze of ‘Sonic Black Holes’, resting the pace for her glaring vocals in ’Shadowgrams’ and the heaving slug of ‘Private Silence’, again recalling JK Flesh productions and making room for Reef the Lost Cauze, and a spirited resolution or recycling of they senses in ‘Passing Of Time.’
As we sit here writing in Manchester, which built its name as Cottonopolis, and thousands of miles from the US, there’s lots of food for thought when Moor Mother talks about her ancestors working cotton fields. We all share a history, but we only acknowledge a fraction of it. The visceral context and nature of Moor Mother’s music is vital in prizing opening ears and minds to history and the way it informs modernity.
Formidable dark ambient se’er Deathprod returns like a rare comet with the keeling “anti-fascist ritual” of ‘Occulting Disk’ - his first solo album in over 15 years - offering a life-affirming warning to the power of negative energy.
Proceeding 2004’s canonical classic ‘Morals And Dogma’, the Norwegian sound design auteur here gathers his uniquely dematerialised productions made in Oslo, Cologne, and L.A. between 2012-2019 under the auspices of an “anti-fascist ritual.” While it’s tricky to identify how that admirable intent relates directly to the music, it’s safe to say that ‘Occulting Disk’ at the least suggests an ideally brooding headspace for reflection on that pressing topic, and, for that matter, whatever else is fuelling one’s existential angst.
Practically picking up where he left us at ‘Cloudchamber’, the incredible closing track on 2004’s ‘Morals And Dogma’, with ‘Occulting Disk’ Deathprod develops his mastery of elemental sonics with the vision of someone who has accessed an atavistic, arcane source of knowledge or energy. Working like an alchemist with his custom-built AudioVirus system, he divines and relays a deep sensorial clarity from a near-permanent state of occlusion, seemingly sharing the visions of a man who has spent the past decade growing his beard on an unforgiving mountaintop amid never-shifting clouds, but who can see clearer than anyone scurrying about, miles below.
Opening with the fog horn blasts of ‘Disappearance/Reappearance’ to continue a core Deathprod theme, the album’s seven ‘Occultation’ parts unfold in a series of dissonant aeolian synth howls that cast Helge Sten’s magick at its most elusive and yet present, tending as carefully to the music’s noisy pinnacles as to its deathly lacunæ, with the potential to turn your body into a massive resonating vessel until his incredible ‘Occultation 6’, and then dissolve your atoms into iridescence on ‘Occultation 7.’ And that all seems like preparation for the Copernican revelation of ‘Black Transit of Jupiter’s Third Satellite’, where he practically immanentizes the eschaton in a jaw-dropping display of electro-acoustic abstraction.
For both new lambs and long-time disciples alike, ‘Occulting Disk’ is an unmissable jump-off point into supernatural, metaphysical dimensions, and one of those rare records that really puts everything else into perspective in light of its radical nature.
Reissue of Ryuichi Sakamoto’s seminal debut album, written in 1978 just as he embarked on a long and fruitful career, both solo and with YMO aka Japan’s answer to Kraftwerk.
In 1978 Sakamoto was a well versed session musician who had completed art school at the start of the decade. He would go on to become quite possibly Japan’s best known and most loved composer, penning all time classics with YMO and alongside the likes of David Sylvian, including his soundtrack for ‘Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence’, while his solo work on razor sharp grooves such as ‘Riot In Lagos’ have been hailed as foundational to hip hop and electro.
As far as debut releases go, ‘Thousand Knives Of’ could hardly be more classic. Taking cues from his interest in Chinese history, as well as his abundant collection of synths, and a will to create music that reflected his Japanese modernity, he forged this singular album of hugely diverse textures, rhythms and imaginary spaces.
From the opening vocoder recital of a poem by Mao Zedong, and its subsequent nods to Herbie Hancock’s worldly grooves, thru his use of synths to describe natural panoramas in ‘Island Of Woods’, to the exceedingly cute, Kraftwerkian proto-electro of ‘Das Neue Japanische Elektronische Volkleid’ and the funky finale of ‘End of Asia’ with its use of fanfare from ‘The East Is Red’, you can rest assured there’s no other album quite like it. 100% influential and all-time classic gear.
Incredible, transfixing avant-classical solo piano and dynamic, puristic synthesis from Iranian-American composer Cameron Shafii. Big RIYL Kevin Drumm, Iancu Dumitrescu, Mika Vainio, Luigi Nono
Following the short-run edition of his ‘DzGI’ tape in 2015, it’s fair to call ‘Corpora Vilia’ Cameron Shafii’s definitive release to date. Consolidating the Ph.D. student and Ge-Stell label boss’s fascinations with the physics of sound, specifically digital synthesis and spectromorphology, Shafii’s 2nd release places exacting techniques at the service of a uniquely refreshing, playful, and genuinely bewildering music.
In three durational parts, Shafii presents a wealth of micro-edited sounds arranged into radical synthetic symphonies. Structured around deeply uncanny transitions between acoustic and digital spheres, they each reveal inception-like worlds within worlds, using every integer of the sound field to draw ears between his spectral presences and pointillist acoustic strikes with a quietly breathtaking grasp of proprioceptive chicanery.
With ‘Points and Planes of Potential Future Violations’ he establishes a beguiling soundfield foregrounding insectoid electronics over cascading piano arpeggios in the midground, punctuated by percussive violence and leading to head-wrenching chaos recalling Luigi Nono’s ‘Non Consumiamo Marx’ classic. ‘Text 27 (Lise in Fernsehspiel)’ follows, rendering pink hued ambient harmonics centre stage, surrounded by vertically creeping strings while near-infrasonic bass turns the stage to jelly, before ‘Spatial Envy; or Suture and Cut-Pieces’ again extends the strangest timbral combinations and perception-baiting segues.
Ultimately it’s one of those releases that will constantly make you stop and double-check what you’re listening to. It’s floored us each time we return to it, at least. Lovers of leading edge experimental composition of all stripes need ‘Corpora Vilia’ in their listening lives.
Larry Gus (real name Panagiotis Melidis) returns to DFA with ‘Subservient’, his fourth release for the label.
"‘Subservient’ sees more pop-oriented than his previous albums, a lush combination of “crisis funk pop and trad Mediterranean grooves.” Lyrics sung in Greek and English address Larry’s overwhelming struggles with being a father, husband, artist, and human in 2019. In the artist’s own words, this album is about “trying to understand empathy and act with it on everyday life,” as well as “the imperative of empathy above everything else.”
‘Subservient’ is sample-free, a first for Larry, who plays every instrument himself: a drum kit, an SM57 microphone, a guitar, a bass, a TE OP-1 synthesizer and a Roland JV-1010 synth module. This is fourth-world power pop, as if Alex Chilton was produced by Eno and Hassell. The thoughtful, upbeat arrangements and gentle vocals are spacious and warm, and tend to offset whatever darker tone the lyrics might imply. Larry confronts more acute tensions, such as being a father in Greece during the crisis, and the parallels of a child’s sicknesses and adult ailments, as well as larger, more existential pressures - the grasp of nostalgia, the weight and meaning of making decisions, and the desire to move from hermeticism towards sociability.
The record graciously explores the nuance that can be found within delineated lines: pop and folk music, rooted in Greek tradition; internal anxieties and empathy expressed outward; the tightrope struggle of living in the present and wallowing in the past."
This is the definitive, 40th Anniversary Edition of The Pop Group’s highly influential and innovative debut album ‘Y’ released in 1979, remastered from the original tapes and (for the vinyl formats) cut half speed at Abbey Road.
"Includes the debut single ‘She Is Beyond Good And Evil’ (also remastered), the 10-track album ‘Alien Blood’ and the album titled ‘Y Live’. ‘Alien Blood’ is the result of the band’s meticulous process of revisiting the original 2” tapes of their studio sessions and recordings, unearthing never-before-heard material, including the studio recording of ‘Kiss The Book’, gloves off version of ‘We Are Time (Ricochet)’ and ‘Words Disobey Me (Dennis The Menace Mix)’ whilst exposing the raw skeletons of iconic tracks such as the original velocity of ‘Thief of Fire (Bass Addict)’.
‘Alien Blood’ reveals the life of ‘Y’ before everything was finalized, exposing revelatory dimensions within these iconic works. The ‘Y Live’ album is an essential addendum to the original release, one that captures all the fierce urgency of The Pop Group’s live performances at the time. Comprised of ‘Y’-era recordings captured at a variety of locations including New York, Manchester & Brussels - the latter on a bill with William Burroughs and Joy Division - ‘Y Live’ exemplifies what had proved so thrilling about The Pop Group. A snapshot of a time when the group were sharing stages with future acolytes including Cabaret Voltaire, Linton Kwesi Johnson and Public Image Ltd, Mark Stewart describes the recordings as attempts to “paint the impossible.”
The Pop Group went on to release two further singles, ‘We Are All Prostitutes’ and ‘Where There Is A Will’ (split single with the Slits) and one further studio album, ‘For How Much Do We Tolerate Mass Murder’, before splitting up in 1981. Mark Stewart from the band embarked on a solo career releasing his pioneering album ‘Learning To Live With Cowardice’ in 1983. Gareth Sager and Bruce Smith went on to form Rip Rig & Panic alongside Neneh Cherry.|
Y is the highly influential and innovative debut album by The Pop Group, released in 1979. In the same year The Pop Group released their single She is Beyond Good & Evil / 3:38.
"The band went on to release 2 further singles, We Are All Prostitutes and Where There Is A Will (Split single with the Slits) and 1 further studio album For How Much Do We Tolerate Mass Murder, before splitting up in 1981.
Frontman, Mark Stewart embarked on a solo career releasing his pioneering album Learning To Live With Cowardice in 1983. Gareth Sager and Bruce Smith went on to form Rip Rig & Panic alongside Neneh Cherry."
‘Athena’ is the debut album from violinist, singer, songwriter and producer Sudan Archives - widely acclaimed for her thrilling combination of styles: powerful and anthemic R&B, electronic music, a violin style inspired by Northeast African fiddling and West African rhythms.
"For ‘Athena’ she collaborated with a wide cast of songwriters, producers and musicians for a sound that is her fullest and richest to date, while staying true to the unique blend of influences that has won her fans around the world."
Dallas Acid is a synth-heavy dreampop trio from Austin, Texas and the first new signing to All Saints Records in a number of years. Having previously collaborated with Laraaji on the acclaimed Arrive Without Leaving LP from 2018, their unique mix of minimalist electronic music with a big ballad sensibility creates gorgeous, utterly compelling soundworlds. “Majestically immersive sound spaces in which to float, wonder, move and trance” - Laraaji
"The sky-gazing wonder of Linda Beecroft’s vocals on the title track recall the breathy intimacy of Mazzy Star, yet draped with almost symphonic banks of synthesizers blinking into infinity, expertly operated by Christian Havins and Michael Gerner, redolent of the deepest end of classic kosmische music. Other tracks such as the instrumental “Circuit Jungle” touch upon the ‘Fourth World’ experiments of Jon Hassell with a mixture of moog abstractions and FX-drenched acoustic percussion. At other points they touch upon the rain-drenched soundtracks of Vangelis and other more mysterious, electronic arthouse film scores.
RIYL: Peaking Lights, Mercury Rev, Cocteau Twins, Laraaji, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, Spiritualized, Moon Duo, Laurel Halo, Panda Bear..."
L.A.-based ambient auteur Yann Novak arrives at a personalised conception of ambient music that reflects his experience with queer culture. Recorded at EMS Stockholm, MESS Melbourne, and his home studio.
“The cover of Slowly Dismantling features the remnants of Hotel Washington, home to the LGBTQ+ community in my hometown of Madison, Wisconsin from the 70s until 1996 when it burned down. It housed a restaurant, a barber shop, a cafe, and an assortment of gay bars that served as a gathering space for the community. I was 17 when the hotel burned down and had only gone to the cafe a handful of times. What I expected to be the formative site for exploring my newfound queer identity was suddenly lost to the past, and I was left wondering how such a space would have influenced me.
What remained in Madison after the fire was only the mainstream version of gay culture. The expressive camp of cinematic cult classics, drag shows, and quotes from pop culture was the language, and I didn’t speak it. Art and music are often identified as "queer” when they share these same core aesthetics, tropes, and character stereotypes. These signifiers have become acceptable ways to to express queerness within the larger heteronormative and capitalist gaze. This further taught me that, though I was queer, what I was making was not.
This led me to withdraw; the alienation that came with my introversion made it hard for me to take up space in the world. As my work as an artist and composer progressed, this lack of self confidence became part of my practice. I began using field recordings as a way for me to limit my decision making. I could shape and mold this source material to an extent, but there was always an external structure. While this allowed me to create work that was autobiographical, I was never totally in control of what I was making; thus, I was never fully visible in the work.
This all changed following a transformative experience at a queer music gathering in the spring of 2019. I was finally immersed in a queer community that existed outside all dominant cultures, finally allowing me to feel seen as queer without any of the shortcomings the mainstream culture would have me believe. The acceptance and community I found there showed me the importance of identifying my work as queer—even if it does not deploy any of the codified tropes mainstream culture would be comfortable with—in order to make another version of queer visible.
As I worked through Slowly Dismantling, it became a liberation from and a reinterpretation of myself. It allowed me to shed my insecurities and routines: grounding my work and process in something outside myself. Instead I choose to utilize digital and analog synthesis, recorded at my studio in Los Angeles and reprocessing recordings captured at MESS in Melbourne and EMS in Stockholm. Using pure synthesis allowed me to make decisions that were totally my own and present an album that is more personal and honest than any before it.
Slowly Dismantling stands as a reminder that nothing is static; the world is ever-changing, just like our identities. It is an invitation to explore other modes of consciousness and the self, and it is these perpetual changes that make liberation possible.”
Mechanical Fantasy Box is Cowley’s homoerotic journal, or as he called it, “graphic accounts of one man’s sex life.”
"The journal begins in 1974 and ends in 1980 on his 30th birthday. It chronicles his slow rise to fame from lighting technician at The City Disco to crafting a ground-breaking 16-minute remix of Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” to performing with Sylvester at the SF Opera House. Vivid descriptions are told of cruising in ‘70s SoMA sex venues to primal highs in Buena Vista Park and composing pornophonics in his Castro apartment. The entries are introspective and show a very out-front, alive person going through the throes of gay liberation post-Stonewall.
Patrick Cowley was one of the most revolutionary and influential figures in the canon of electronic dance music. Born in Buffalo, NY on October 19, 1950, Patrick moved to San Francisco in 1971 to study electronic music at the City College of San Francisco. By the late ‘70s, Patrick’s synthesizer techniques landed him a job composing and producing songs for disco diva Sylvester, including #1 hit “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)”. Cowley created his own brand of peak-time party music known as Hi-NRG, also dubbed “The San Francisco Sound.” By 1981 Patrick had released a string of his own dance 12″ singles, such as “Menergy” and “Megatron Man”. That year, he co-founded Megatone Records to release his debut album 'Megatron Man'. Meanwhile, Patrick was hospitalized and diagnosed with an unknown illness, which would later be named AIDS. Recovering for a spell, in 1982 he composed two more #1 hits, “Do You Wanna Funk” for Sylvester, and “Right On Target” for Paul Parker, as well as a second solo album 'Mind Warp'. His life was cut short on November 12, 1982, when he passed away two weeks after his 32nd birthday from AIDS-related illness.”
‘Mechanosphere’ is Cam Deas’ abstract yet poignant 2nd album exploring ideas of rhythmic dissonance and head-spinning proprioceptions for The Death of Rave. Following directly from his cultishly-acclaimed mini-LP ‘Time Exercises’, which was surprisingly deployed in Richie Hawtin’s recent ‘CLOSE COMBINED - LIVE’ mix and hailed as “Holy F#ck-What is This?!?” by Brainwashed, his new album applies rich polychromatic colour to his signature rhythmic constructions with a greatly heightened emotive traction and broader appeal while only going deeper on his radical ideas about the fundamentals of sound and composition. Big recommendation if you're into Autechre, Xenakis, Ligeti, Rashad Becker.
Using a computer-controlled modular synth, Cam takes the simple idea of layering pitches in multiple tempi to Nth degrees, resulting in a sensational and warped sense of temporality and gravity-defying physics. Effectively placing pitch on a scale in a similar way to Conlon Nancarrow’s player-piano programming or even Ligeti’s famous metronome experiment, Cam explores solutions to the problem of grid-locked linearity, or at least perceptions of it, by effectively ripping the rug from under electronic music convention to make his music appear as though in perpetual freefall, or a process of omnidirectional contraction/expansion that never quite resolves - always the same, ever different.
In ‘Mechanosphere’ listeners effectively navigate through the music by a loose means of pattern recognition, picking out accentuated kicks and hits that pierce thru Cam’s incredibly dense swells of endless metallic tone. But where his ‘Time Exercises’ LP was unreservedly abstract and emotive in an alien sense, his follow-up practically sounds as though aliens have developed a form of 3D midi folk-jazz or court music for bacchanals and spiritual reasons.
From the vertiginous scale of ‘Ascension’, thru the the jaw-dropping hyper stepper ’Slip’, to the controlled chaos of ‘Reflect, Deflect’, and ultimately the deeply solemn yet discordantly lush finale of shearing metallic pitches in ’Solitude’, Cam offers an often shocking and ever fascinating grasp of electronic music’s potential to relate hard-to-communicate but intuitively felt ideas to the body and emotions. It’s a sober but incredibly wondrous sound, and only confirms that Cam’s seismic stylistic transition this decade from preeminent, post-Takoma 12-string guitar player to visionary synthesist was certainly worthwhile.
The Heat Equation is a heavyweight 100 page book and CD set showcasing a new portfolio of photography work by Joséphine Michel alongside a live recording of Mika Vainio's final performance in the UK, featuring all new material intended for his latest solo CD for Touch.
"Following their previous collaboration on the 2015 release Halfway to White, Michel and Vainio had been planning a follow-up production, and in March 2017, Michel visited Vainio in Oslo to show him the first examples of the photographs she had been taking with this in mind. Shortly before Mika's untimely death in April 2017, the project took a turn.
The new Touch recordings were nearing completion but his hard disk had crashed and the project would need to be restarted. The collaboration turned into a parallel narrative between Michel's perusal of quasi-scientific imagery, captured from museum collections and locations in France, Japan and Peru, and the legacy of Vainio's musical vision, the tension between its heat and its icy precision. Included in the book is a postcard of Michel's tender portrait of Mika Vainio taken at this Oslo meeting. If 'Halfway to White' was an exploration of Michel's notion of sonic photography, this new book presents a vision of a world on the edge of discovery - whether it be born of science, medicine, space travel - with 'The Heat Equation' hinting at the transformation of feelings and matter.
In August 2016 Vainio performed a blinding set at the Contra Pop festival in Ramsgate, which was recorded off the desk for the purposes of the festival's annual compilation CD. With Contra Pop on hiatus in 2017, it wasn't until June 2018 that the festival organisers contacted Touch to introduce the idea of the compilation. At which point, as if miraculously, Vainio's counterpoint to Michel's work rematerialised in the form of this live festival recording. Remastered by Russell Haswell, Mika Vainio's new music is the equal of anything he released in his lifetime. Bound in a linen cover with foil blocking, Michel's photography is expertly printed on 200gsm Arctic Silk. Accompanied by an introductory text by artist Jeremy Millar, "The Devouring Drop", art directed by Jon Wozencroft and the latest development in Touch's new series of "ear books"."
A wonderfully icy but lush expression of synthy nordic soul flush with soaring dynamics and devilishly detailed arps from Lindstrøm
Comparable with the ‘Principe Del Norte’ trips by his regular spar Prins Thomas, the style of ‘On A Clear Day I Can See You Forever’ can also be heard as a nordic echo of Berlin School kosmiche or cinematic Vangelis styles.
The title track is suitably scaled in the image of vast snowy mountain ranges and unfathomably deep fjord gorges with swooping and soaring arps gymnastics beautifully enacted over moonlit backdrops, before ‘Really Deep Snow’ comes to land in scenes of richly padded, ribboning bass punctuated by an icicle-tapping pulse. Flipside he repeats the formula of beatless then pulsating in the transition from dawning, iridescent arp melodies on ‘Swing Low Sweet LFO’, to the sublime, slinky shuffle of ‘As If No One Is Here.’
Gutted that carnival is another year away? Get right on this unmissable compilation of digi Soca-Dub and plugged-in Calypso from the experts at Soundway Records, coming off like the missing link between South African bubblegum and Kwaito, Latin Freestyle, Surinamese bubblers, Italo-funk, Zouk, rare groove boogie, US/Euro-house, and digi-dub proper. Too many highlights to mention!!!
“Compiled by Soundway Records founder Miles Cleret, along with DJ and collector Jeremy Spellacey, Body Beat comprises 17 obscure Soca B-side versions, dubs, instrumentals and edits as well as vocal tracks influenced by disco, boogie, house-music, soul and the more conscious lyrics of roots reggae.
Owing as much to New York, Toronto and London as to the Caribbean cities of Port of Spain, Bridgetown and Kingstown, the compilation traces the genre from its explosion in the late 1970s right up to the period just before contemporary soca became established around the end of the 1990s.
Filled with up-tempo tracks from start to finish, the lead single of the compilation "I Want Your Love" by Peter Britto is a soca-house number which originally came out on NYC-based label Hometown Music. Soca was originally a re-invention of Calypso music; a genre that in the 1970s was fast becoming usurped around the Caribbean by Jamaican reggae and American soul, funk and later disco.
Lead single "I Want Your Love" is the most recent track on the compilation, being released in 1998, and features the recognisable soca synth beat, along with Caribbean steel drums and horns - but with the obvious influence of New York's booming house scene, making it an ultimate crossover track for club dancefloors and carnivals alike.”
Seahawks take Woo under their wing for a suite of washed and deeply cliched balearic chuff
“Emotional Response and Ocean Moon come together for a special collaborative release, where Seahawks take the music of WOO on a journey to the inner sanctum. Immersive, psychoactive and phased to perfection.
For those who know not the music of WOO, prepare to behold a rare and magical incarnation of transcendent beauty.
Perhaps Seahawks most spaced out voyage since Vision Quest One: Spaceships Over Topanga Canyon, ‘Celestial Railroads’ is a psychedelic odyssey that goes way beyond the norm. Like Spaceman 3 remixing the KLF’s Chill Out or Vangelis’ ‘Earth’ covered by Acid Mothers Temple.
The floor is of blue clay
The walls of rain falling
The doors are of cloud
Wind is the windows
You know there is no ceiling
(Ursula K. Le Guin)
Breathe deep and journey on.”
The Way Forth, a new folk opera from Rachel Grimes, encompasses lush layers of voices and orchestrations in an experiential, non-linear investigation highlighting perspectives of Kentucky women from 1775 to today.
"Inspired by a treasure-trove of family documents, photos, and letters spanning several generations, Grimes began in 2016 to research some of the more vexing questions that came to the surface about these people, places, and events. Fueled by intuition, travel to visit family, photographing, and filming present day rural Kentucky life, the research led to many more questions: What is missing? What is not being said here? What did she really think and feel? Primary historical accounts routinely glossed over people without titles or voting rights, and dehumanized most others by referring to them as objects of desire, savages, or slaves. Further examination formed a framework for trying to reconcile her state’s history and how it relates to the westward expansion and settlement of the United States and ultimately how an era of domination, denial, and pain is reflected in the complex culture of today.
The songs that make up The Way Forth weave back in time through a postcard, a personal account of a long life on a farm, traces of folk tunes, names, places, and rivers, all woven into an emotional fabric of yearning, nostalgia, grief, and the rich intimacies of everyday life. Initially solo voices are heard above vivid orchestrations, expanding with the choral voices of the community through fragments of traditional church music and popular tunes. The scope widens to include a modern male narrator’s reflections on a place battered by greed, civil war, bigotry, and the exploitation of natural resources. Through music, voice, and film, The Way Forth honors the emotional legacy of the silenced, the holistic, the beauty in quotidian life, and explores the eternal grace and redemption of time, as symbolized by the great Dix and Kentucky Rivers.
Instrumentation includes piano, harp, strings, choir, lead vocals and narrators. Special guest collaborators include Stephen Webber (SITI Company), Timbre Cierpke (SONUS), Joan Shelley, and Nathan Salsburg. Experimental film created in collaboration with Catharine Axley."
Perfectly rustic, cinematic and Autumnal compositions for strings, wind and electronics from Adam Wiltzie (Stars of The Lid, Mercury Rev) and Dustin O’Halloran’s AWVFTS, minting their debut on Ninja Tune after much loved sides for Erased Tapes.
“Purveyors of contemporary ambient and electronic inspired music, A Winged Victory for the Sullen make a bold return on new album “The Undivided Five”. The pair, made up of Dustin O’Halloran and Adam Wiltzie, have created iconic film scores and forward-thinking ambient groups, releasing a series of game-changing records for Erased Tapes and Kranky. On “The Undivided Five” they rekindle their unique partnership for only their second piece of original music outside of film, TV and stage commissions, creating an album that channels ritual, higher powers and unspoken creative energies. Their fifth release (following their debut album, two scores and an EP), they embraced the serendipitous role of the number five, inspired by artist Hilma af Klint and the recurrence of the perfect fifth chord.
This album sees them create bold new work built on their foundations in ambient and neoclassical. Since their 2011 self-titled debut, the duo have emerged as part of a much-lauded scene alongside peers like Max Richter, Hildur Guðnadóttir, Tim Hecker and Fennesz. Their 2014 album “Atomos” was the product of a commission to score a new performance by Royal Ballet choreographer Wayne McGregor, while 2016’s “Iris” was the score for director Jalil Lespert’s thriller, “In the Shadow of Iris”. They count the likes of Jon Hopkins among their fans, who included ‘Requiem For The Static King Part One’ on his 2015 Late Night Tales compilation. They composed the score for Invisible Cities, a specially-created performance to herald 2019’s Manchester International Festival, and have played some of the world’s most celebrated venues, including a sold out Boiler Room performance at London’s Barbican, and a 2015 BBC Proms show curated by Mary Anne Hobbs at the Royal Albert Hall.”
Commissioned in 2013 by La Rochelle International Film Festival. Ott is internationally known for her Ondes Martenot playing; instead she decided to work with acoustic instrumentation, of skin, of hammers, of breaths... playing piano, percussion, gong, with Torsten Böttcher adding hang, kalimba & didgeridoo.
"Nanook of the North tells the daily life of the Eskimo family living in Hudson Bay. Fights for life, constant shifts, fishing, seal hunting... The spectator shares the life of the family of the far north. "The magic of the film lies in the fact that they are themselves and that they are not comedy. They are." says Robert Flaherty. Christine Ott's sober compositions combined with unusual timbres by Torsten Böttcher marry these images together and bear witness to a great simplicity and humanity.
Ott met Böttcher in 2011. She was impressed by his hang drum playing. Torsten has collaborated with renowned world music players, jazz formations and also orchestras. They first collaborated for Ott's Tabu soundtrack, created in 2012 and released in 2016 on Gizeh, also as part of the labels Dark Peak Series. One year later, Ott and Böttcher co-composed this new live soundtrack - again on a Robert Flaherty movie, travelling from the south of Bora Bora to the far north of Nanook.
This very acoustic set is deeply linked to the rough life of Nanook and his family. The setlist is mainly balanced between Ott's piano pieces (the main theme Nanook, Kayak Fragile, Lights) and Böttcher's hang lead works (Family, Igloos, Tâches ménagères). We can feel in the compositions and in their playing the sincerity and the beauty of each gesture of Nanook's daily life. One of the highlights of this live recording is the haunting duet Première chasse / Walrus hunting, in which Ott's bouncing piano playing is perfectly responding to the groove of Böttcher’s hang, in an almost jazz influenced sequence.
Ott & Böttcher reworked this creation during 2018 in Strasbourg. This recording is a bit shorter than the stage version, but keeps the movie's frame. And at the end, the last piece ...Et le blizzard resonates as a magnificent repetitive track in this majestic but relentless North; Nanook died of hunger, two years after the shooting, during a particularly disastrous hunting expedition. But we are not about to forget his radiant face and his courage for eternity."
An album of new versions of classic tracks by a classic band – and yet so much more besides. Formed in Amsterdam in 1980, Minimal Compact were part of the original post-punk explosion. The band developed a unique mix of propulsive rhythms, spacious basslines, rich keyboard textures, mesmeric guitar lines, and vocal melodies with a Middle-Eastern inflection. They sounded like nothing that had gone before.
"Now they have reconvened, together with producer and long-time collaborator Colin Newman (Wire), to finally capture their music in its true brilliance. Several of the band’s signature songs have been re-recorded using a mix of live recordings and studio tooled performances. The result is an album that radiates vitality and class.
Highlights include live favourite ‘Statik Dancin’’ with its barbed hooks and irresistible groove. The bright, tender optimism of ‘My Will’ is especially moving, with Spigel’s vocal at the fore. Then there is ‘Take Me Away’, with its tightly coiled hypnotic guitar lines edging towards mania. The album climaxes with a brand new song, ‘Holy Roller’"
Top dogs Justin Broadrick & Kevin Martin meet Moor Mother to revive their Zonal alias some 20 years after the project’s CDr demo album first appeared on Avalanche.
Essentially conceived in 2000 as a follow-up to Techno Animal, the Zonal beast is now reawakened as a joint vessel for Broadrick & Martin’s grouchiest drones and bass with added vocals by an indomitable Moor Mother, who is right on the cusp of dropping her best work in the ferocious ‘Analog Fluids of Sonic Black Holes.’ In combination they amount to a proper force of nature, albeit a super slow and cantankerous one, creeping up from the peripheries to dominate the senses with their choking style of water-logged dub noise.
Broadrick & Martin’s scorched ground is now more dense and sodden, spreading out to uncertain ground which Moor Mother holds with glaring declarations of her signature blues and quantum futurism for the first half of the record. The 2nd half is then given to elemental instrumentals with heavy duty results, seeing Broadrick & Martin throw their full, combined weight in six speaker worrying trudgers laced with scathing levels of distortion.
We hardly need to stress that this is like manna for all red-eyed types who’ve never gotten over that late ‘90s illbient phase, as well as those who’ve picked up on its spirit thru contemporary echoes in Kevin Martin’s hybrids of industrial music, experimental dub, and cyberpunk dread as King Midas Sound and The Bug, or Broadrick’s JK Flesh and Jesu outings.
After 5 years on the downlow, Teebs returns with a 4th album of dusty ambient and dream-pop themes mixed with soulful hip hop for Brainfeeder
“The wait is finally over for new music by Teebs, aka Mtendere Mandowa. It’s been 5 years since his last body of work, but 25 October will mark the release of his next full length album “ Anicca”. With the help of a host of musical friends including Panda Bear (Animal Collective), Sudan Archives, Ringgo Ancheta aka MNDSGN, Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, Anna Wise, daydream Masi, Former Boy, Pink Siifu, Jimetta Rose and Thomas Stankiewicz, the 4 7 minute LP fuses Teebs’ signature bright and fluid productions with the grounded and colorful elements of his collaborators.”
Unexpected, and ace, electronic deconstruction and rearrangements of acoustic jazz recordings from Berlin’s Grischa Lichtenberger on the very unjazzy Raster label. Somehow sounds like everyone from Shit & Shine to Squarepusher, Carl Stone and Patten.
“Grischa Lichtenberger's music stands for broken rhythms, for high-density manipulations that emphasize the digital and fractal nature of its working process. A mindset that grew closer to contemporary jazz in recent years. Since free jazz, this genre also sought to overcome musical standards and looked for possibilities of an individual artistic expression. Within this context, the collaboration between Lichtenberger and jazz saxophonist Philipp Gropper as well as the resulting album are documents of this development. It also offers both musicians the opportunity to expand their familiar environment by breaking with expectations. The foundation for Re: phgrp were pieces from the album Consequences by Philipp Gropper's band PHILM which Lichtenberger reinterpreted without giving up their original character. He rather looked for figures, subjects, and reference points in the compositions to reflect and condense them. As Consequences was recorded with all the instruments in one room at the same time (like a classical jazz recording from the 1950s), the extraction of individual instruments was a challenge which Lichtenberger took up with shifts, distortions, and rearrangements of the original temporality of the material. Except for a few synthesizer sounds and an additional piano recording, he remained largely true to the source material, even though the tracks develop their own unique voice throughout the album. Re: phgrp (reworking consequences by philipp gropper's philm) will be released in cooperation with Whyplayjazz in a limited edition of 500 CDs. The cover was screen printed and shows a compositional notation by Grischa Lichtenberger. The album marks the beginning of an encounter between Lichtenberger and Gropper that promises to continue in joint improvisational concert situations and further recordings in the future.”
Michael Gira and an epic caravan of players (Ben Frost, The Necks, Baby Dee, Anna and Maria Von Hausswolff ++) head for the horizon in Swans’ 15th studio album. Gira’s vocals rasp with muzzled ennui, while the music keeps in tow, striking on widescreen themes of big country Americana with typically discerning production.
“SWANS Leaving Meaning is the band’s fifteenth studio album, the follow up to 2016’s The Glowing Man. Written and produced by Michael Gira, the album features contributions from recent and former Swans, members of Angels of Light as well as Anna and Maria von Hausswolff, Ben Frost, The Necks, Baby Dee and Jennifer Gira.
Michael Gira explains, "Leaving Meaning is the first Swans album to be released since I dissolved the lineup of musicians that constituted Swans from 2010 – 2017. Swans is now comprised of a revolving cast of musicians, selected for both their musical and personal character, chosen according to what I intuit best suits the atmosphere in which I’d like to see the songs I’ve written presented. In collaboration with me, the musicians, through their personality, skill and taste, contribute greatly to the arrangement of the material. They're all people whose work I admire and whose company I personally enjoy."
Cut ’n paste japesters Negativland cock another snook at contemporary culture, speaking thru myriad, sampled-voices questioning the state of play over a selection of skronky, organically technoid grooves and semi-pop songs. Fans of Herbert, People Like Us, Porest or advanced daftness need apply
“What is True False? It's more than two things, and as of 2019 it's also a new album by the semi-legendary multimedia collective known as Negativland. True False is a full length return to all original music that you could almost mistake for actual songs -- albeit ones sung by dozens of sampled vocalists who have never met -- and is a prime example of what we used to call experimental music, but now just call social media. It's your own inescapable subjectivity made catchy as we witness the entrenched political beliefs of left and right cleanly switching sides in under one generation. It’s the first Negativland album to come with a lyric sheet, and a reminder that we need more than just one memory before we can safely tell anyone else that this is not normal.
Is this a concept album? The first of two interconnected double albums, True False musically tackles concerns that will be familiar to any surviving fans of the band: our nervous systems, our realities, and the evolving forms of media that inevitably insert themselves between the two. A series of seemingly random topics are slowly woven together: shootings, bees, the right's rules for radicals, climate control, dogs pretending to be children, the oil we eat, and the right of every American to believe whatever they want to believe -- your brain's ear lets nothing remain entirely random. It’s not the content, it's the edit that shows us what we all know to be true, and it's the things that one is most tempted to enjoy as harmless entertainment that often turn out to be living animals. Splicing together Occupy mic checks with US militia rallies, FOX news hosts with ecoterrorists, and your own sanity with the home viewing habits of Negativland's lead vocalist, the Weatherman, when you put the word True next to the word False, a broader reality reveals itself.”
New York based duo Tempers, comprised of Jasmine Golestaneh and Eddie Cooper, have been diligently carving out their own unique niche within dark indie, electronica and synth-pop circles since their formation.
"Tempers third full-length album, Private Life, successfully progresses their cinematic aesthetic into a moodier and more introspective landscape. Private Life opens with “Capital Pains”, a lonely incantation that echoes the human desire to envy other people’s lives and endlessly chase our own insecurities. Surreal, isolated atmosphere backed by upbeat rhythm and melancholy refrain projected from “Capital Pains” perfectly set the tone expectation for Private Life. “Peace of Mind” crawls along as a dramatic dirge with Golestaneh imparting matters of loneliness and solitude, always looking from the outside and complemented with Cooper’s haunting resonance.
The character behind songs such as “Sleep” and “Push/Pull” break from Tempers signature synth-laden post punk notoriety, instead switching to a more somber songwriting style that settles down between downtempo dream pop and despondent soundtracks. Behind the backdrop of driving electronics and magnetic verse, Private Life deconstructs and reimagines the ideas behind despair, love, loneliness, and hope. While most people would simply reflect on nostalgia, Tempers stands alone in their unique methods, fictionalizing their ideas through sound and vision to create soundtracks for everyday affliction."
“Daniel Pioro’s playing is the sound in my head when I write for the violin” Jonny Greenwood
"'Dust' is a collection of music for solo violin and electronics. Daniel describes the record as “a full exploration of the sound world a violin allows. The electronics meld with, lift, surpass and dance around the organic rawness of the strings. The piece is all my years of not conceding or diluting myself to the needs of others, compressed into one long musical expression. It is hope and birth and death and melancholy.”
A serial collaborator, album track Elsewhere was written for Pioro by renowned UK composer Edmund Finnis before its premiere at the Southbank Centre’s inaugural DEEP∞MINIMALISM Festival in 2015. Following a long period of close collaboration, Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood wrote Horror vacui, a solo violin concerto for Pioro and 68 strings, to be performed for the first time at the BBC Proms in September 2019. Pioro’s repertoire also includes contemporary composer Thomas Adès’ cosmic violin concerto, Concentric Paths. And through his close work with Icelandic composer and producer (and founder / creative director of Bedroom Community), Valgeir Sigurðsson, a partnership of mutually fruitful creativity has taken his deep, learned musicality still further, both in the studio and onstage.
It’s from this deep, resonant understanding of contrasting sound and frequencies and the balancing of a broad palette of textures and style that Dust arises. The stunning “Particles” bears witness to a dramatic staccato battle with powerful electronic spasms, before “Rest” provides a breath of hope and abandon. This isn’t a record that tugs at heart strings, but music that sears into the soul, finding more complex emotional relationships. Daniel’s music finds solace in the inexplicable parts of us, the scar tissue left when conflicting emotions collide, and the willingness to explore what haunts and comforts us, deep within.
Daniel Pioro is rapidly gaining recognition as one of the most groundbreaking violinists of his generation. Based in London and Edinburgh, he has performed as soloist with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the BBC Philharmonic, the London Contemporary Orchestra, and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. His recording career has seen him collaborating with artists from different musical paths, and most recently he can be heard as soloist on Jonny Greenwood’s scores for Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master and Phantom Thread, and Jo Yeong-wook’s acclaimed soundtrack to the BBC’s adaptation of The Little Drummer Girl."
Posthumous LP of lush Susumu Yokota sketches written around ‘The Boy And The Tree’ (2002), newly dusted down and issued to mark the 5th anniversary of his untimely departure.
Widely adored for his quintessential contributions to Japanese ambient electronica in the ‘90s and ‘00s, Susumu Yokota passed in 2015 after along battle with illness. His legacy is suitably sustained with ‘Cloud Hidden’, a lovely collection of 10 unfinished but charming works which are here adapted and remained by Jon Tye; proprietor of the Lo Recordings label behind many of Yokota’s most prized releases.
Following Mark Beazley of Rothko’s discovery of a DAT of sketches dating to before Yokota’s fan favourite ‘The Boy And The Tree’, Jon Tye has done his best to “honour the spirit and legacy of Yokota’s work by completing the tracks in a way which I thought he would approve”, resulting a 10 tracks suite that sensitively forms an illusive yet tangible bridge between the artist and his unfinished collection.
Working under a quote taken from Alan Watts’ book ‘Cloud-Hidden, Whereabouts Unknown’, the set comes together with a suitably dreamy resolution, drifting from frayed and gently febrile rhythm excursions to passages of schizoid carnival music and doom belch, and thru to Vangelis-like synth-brass scaping, desert-at-night guitar strums, and more psychedelic, pre-dawn ritual invocations.
Electro-acoustic explorer John Chantler expands his timbral horizons with a subtly dynamic suite recorded at INA-GRM, Paris; Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg; and 1703, Stockholm, in a commission for the GRM’s François Bonnet.
Chantler absorbingly pays attention to the nanoscopic and macro details of his sound here in a vast cosmic entanglement of subatomic chatter and arcing harmonic structures that describe a real head-fuck of awesome electronic abstraction. On the surface it can appear formidably alien, but those parts always lead somewhere sweeter and gratifyingly inquisitive.
“Australian born, Sweden based artist John Chantler returns to Room40 with his fifth solo edition. 'Tomorrow Is Too Late' was commissioned by INA GRM for their Présences Électronique festival in 2018 and sees Chantler significantly expand the horizons of his acoustic palette. Moving from subtle microtonal movements to passages of intense harmonic saturation, Tomorrow Is Too Late is his most dynamic work to date. A powerhouse of reductive intensity that bares witness to Chantler’s uncompromising sonic articulations.”
One opera singer teams with one experimental musician!
"La Diva Christina Van Peteghem on voices and Pierre-Jean Vranken everywhere. They are Quasi Una Fantasia! Noise, classical guitars, exquisite melodic songs, minimalism, neoclassical, avant-garde are the medium and the message. There is no need of more explanation, it's Quasi everything!"
Featuring 10 original pieces of instrumental music by PJ Harvey, as well as two new songs written by Harvey and sung by Gillian Anderson and Lily James.
"On composing this score, Harvey says, “I have always loved stories, and so to compose music to support and enhance a story being told is a challenge I enjoy. I also love the freedom that working instrumentally can give me without the constraints of song form. “For ‘All About Eve’ I chose to work with my long-time collaborator James Johnston as he has a soulfulness and sensitivity to his playing that inspires me. I also worked with Kenrick Rowe who has a versatility to his drumming I knew I could experiment with until I found what was right.”
Floating Points links jazz and electronica on his 3rd studio album, ‘Crush’, following from ‘Elaenia’ and a handful of interim club excursions. From milky ambient to woozy garage and modular experiments.
“Fresh from the release earlier this year of his compilation of lambent, analogous ambient and atmospheric music for the esteemed Late Night Tales compilation series, Floating Points’ first album in four years, Crush, twists whatever you think you know about him on its head again. A tempestuous blast of electronic experimentalism whose title alludes to the pressure-cooker of the current environment we find ourselves in. As a result, Shepherd has made some of his heaviest, most propulsive tracks yet, nodding to the UK bass scene he emerged from in the late 2000s, such as the dystopian low-end bounce of previously shared striking lead single ‘LesAlpx’ (Pitchfork’s ‘Best New Track’), but there are also some of his most expressive songs on Crush: his signature melancholia is there in the album’s sublime mellower moments or in the Buchla synthesizer, whose eerie modulation haunts the album.
Whereas Elaenia was a five-year process, Crush was made during an intense five-week period, inspired by the invigorating improvisation of his shows supporting The xx in 2017. He had just finished touring with his own live ensemble, culminating in a Coachella appearance, when he suddenly became a one-man band, just him and his trusty Buchla opening up for half an hour every night. He thought what he’d come out with would "be really melodic and slow- building" to suit the mood of the headliners, but what he ended up playing was "some of the most obtuse and aggressive music I've ever made, in front of 20,000 people every night," he says. "It was liberating."
His new album feels similarly instantaneous – and vital. It’s the sound of the many sides of Floating Points finally fusing together. It draws from the "explosive" moments during his sets, the moments that usually occur when he throws together unexpected genres, for the very simple reason that he gets excited about wanting to "hear this record, really loud, now!" and then puts the needle on. It’s "just like what happens when you’re at home playing music with your friends and it's going all over the place," he says.”
Sal Principato (Liquid Liquid), Shabazz Palaces, Tune-Yards, and Xenia Rubinos guest on Battles’ 4th studio album of mathy, scattershot percussion and cranky melodic calculations.
“Battles return this autumn with Juice B Crypts on Warp Records to follow their complex, mind-bending predecessors Mirrored, Gloss Drop and La Di Da Di. Their latest album is a sensory overload of information that throws everything you thought you knew about Battles into flux once again. Battles redefined line-up puts Ian Williams (Keys, Electronics) and John Stanier (Drums) at the core of the covertly named Juice B Crypts, which was produced and mixed by Chris Tabron (Trash Talk, Mobb Deep, Ratking).”
Clams Casino, Oliver Coates, Julianna Barwick and Brian Reitzell join in the melancholy frolics of Jacques Greene’s 2nd album of proggy garage trance with LuckyMe
“A bold step forward, Dawn Chorus is also Greene’s most collaborative project to date, featuring additional production and instrumentation from film composer Brian Reitzell (Lost In Translation), cello by London’s Oliver Coates, additional production from Clams Casino and original vocal contributions from ambient artist Julianna Barwick, rapper Cadence Weapon and singers Ebhoni and Rochelle Jordan, all sampled, processed and stitched back into the album.”
Matana Roberts returns from an extensive, celebrated live tour with the fourth volume of her deeply personal but resoundingly immersive ‘Coin Coin’ chapters.
The onetime member of Exploding Star Orchestra looks south to Memphis and the memory of her grandmother (that’s her on the cover) for a typically passionate investigation of her roots, using a patented combination of storytelling and ethnography brought to life with free-metered vocals and strong echoes of early blues, jazz and cajun music.
Make no mistake though, it doesn’t sound old, but raucously psychedelic, contemporary and avant-garde in a totally peerless fashion. Matana’s legion followers hardly need to be told this, but if you’re new to her sound and keen to dip in, expect a helluva journey. Seriously feels like we’ve drunk a gallon of moonshine after listening to this one.
Empire of Signs present the premiere compilation of dreamy work by Masahiro Sugaya, an unsung mainstay of Japan’s ambient environmental music or kankyō ongaku scene in the ‘80s.
A big influence on the likes of Visible Cloaks, Masahiro Sugaya’s music is part responsible for a wave of exquisitely serene Japanese ambient inspirations that have taken hold of contemporary ambient trends thanks to the YT algorithms being very fond of his classic 1982 template ‘Music For Nine Post Cards’. Now following from Empire of Signs’ 2017 premiere international edition of that classic suite their ‘Horizon, Vol.1’ set delves deeper into his catalogue to pluck out a further eight works for their first release outside of Japan.
“Almost completely unknown in the west, Masahiro Sugaya has been composing and producing music since the 1980s in an exceptionally wide range of fields and practices. From arrangements for musical acts like the acoustic guitar duo Gontiti to acousmatic diffusion at spaces like Paris’s Groupe de Recherches Musicales (GRM), Sugaya's reach is almost exhaustive in its breadth, but it was in the 80s bubble-era kankyō ongaku scene that he first found his musical voice. Horizon, Volume 1 presents a window into these works, culled from Sugaya’s early scores for experimental Tokyo theatre group Pappa Tarahumura.
As a teenager, Sugaya would visit the avant garde hub of record/book shop Art Vivant run by Satoshi Ashikawa of Sound Process, guided by Ashikawa’s recommendations into the worlds of experimental composition, jazz and ethnographic music. It was there he also met musician Yoshio Ojima—the two would become close friends and contemporaries, working within a circle of Tokyo musicians that also included Midori Takada, Hiroshi Yoshimura and Satsuki Shibano. Ojima, an early adopter of new musical technology, would introduce Sugaya to the possibilities of composing with computers, synthesizers and samplers, which would become a trademark in Sugaya's early works. Surprisingly, the sound sources on Horizon are entirely digital, showcasing Sugaya’s ability to organically recreate complex musicianship approaches via keyboard using hyper-realistic samples. Much like Ojima and Yoshimura’s work, the results eschew electronic music’s usual coldness for something more warm and inviting, the feeling of a human in deep conversation with technology.
Flourishing within the boom of experimental theatre subsidized by corporations during the bubble economy, Pappa Tarahumura forged a unique dream-like style that merged performance art, modern dance and fantastical installation-like stage sets. Sugaya fashioned multiple soundtracks for their productions in collaboration with director Hiroshi Koike, the first two of which, The Pocket Of Fever (熱の風景) and Music From Alejo (アレッホ - 風を讃えるために), he self-released in 1987 on cassette, handing them out at Tarahumara performances. The third, The Long Living Things (Zoo Of The Sea) (海の動物園) followed in 1988 as a CD on Yukio Kojima’s ALM records. Aside from his brief inclusion on Light in the Attic’s Kankyō Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environmental & New Age Music 1980-1990 (compiled by Empire of Signs’ Spencer Doran), Horizon presents this work outside of Japan for the first time.”
130 year old Tchaikovsky chorales are rendered sublime and ghostly by Craig Tattersall & Emmanuel Witzhum, aka E And I, on a hauntingly gorgeous 2nd release for Letra Rec - the label set up by Craig and The Boats’ Andy Hargreaves for “closer listening.” A big look for fans of Stars of The Lid, Pinkcourtesyphone or William Basinski.
Proceeding in stately fashion from Kira Kira’s mantric soundscapes, Letra Rec’s 2nd CD lives up to the label’s aim to “allow listeners to fully immerse themselves in the music” with an unbroken 43’ piece that draws you in and holds you there for what feels like eons. Using techniques transposed from print and copy making (a speciality of Craig Tattersall), the duo subtly create a facsimile of Tchaikovsky’s Nine Sacred Pieces - a series of choral works written between 1884-1885 - which they treat to create a gauzy sense of detachment between the religious connotations of the source material and the music’s elemental, emotive pull, in the process effectively resulting a collection of songs that are the same but new, dreamily different.
While neither half of Tattersall and Witzhum can actually sing (or in a way that you’d want to hear at least), it’s fair to say that their musical voices and thoughts are conveyed thru the music, and in a way that resonates richly with their slow-cooked and secular, spiritualist worldview. They achieved this effect thru handling the original choral voices, in their own words “…like an audio photocopy working with only contrast and zoom.” With a little bit of maths, digital editing and analogue tape work, they were able to open acres of billowing space where their own presence manifests as the decaying ephemera of time, metaphorically suggesting the haunting quantum effect of being at once within, yet detached, from the music, and by turns applying that effect to the listener, who may well be transported to an out of body experience.
New music specialist and guitarist Cristián Alvear sensitively brings Catherine Lamb’s work for solo guitar and electronics to life with intoxicating results for Another Timbre.
Originally written with pedal steel guitar in mind, Catherine’s composition is animated with extreme subtlety by Alvear on the classical guitar, working an infinite cycle of four, overlapping “environmental” chords against an algorithmic response of shimmering electronics. The guitar and electronics proceed to intersect at strangely poignant junctures that describe the piece’s title, resolving in elliptical cadence that seems to also describe the vector of our heads to an imagined pillow, as we struggle to keep our eyes open and deny the piece’s hypnagogic traction for its duration.
The artist behind The Boats, Tape Loop Orchestra, and The Misty’s entwines his myriad pursuits in a haunting book of found images and two-word poems, plus a 39 minute swell of spectral music featuring vocals by Beth Roberts.
With ’Concrete Handbag’ Andrew Hargreaves effectively distills his various artistic interests into a form of fictive memory that will appear differently to each participant or listener. Presenting a range of found images, recombinant wordplay, concrete poetry, music and field recordings that will be familiar to listeners in some ways if you’ve followed any of his projects over the years, he creates a mazy soundsphere of suggestive cues pulled from the mists of non-time and intended to jog the user’s memory to make new connections between the images and sound, and in turn create their own form of a third narrative or fictitious memory bank.
Acknowledging the formation of memory as fluid, permeable, and ever in flux, his series of prompts reach back to early ideals of recorded music as a portal to bygone dimensions in a way that echoes Marconi’s own attempts to ultimately divine Christ via residual, entropic traces of sounds that never actually die, but just keep fading out. While Hargreaves isn’t really bothered about listening to the big man, he is intent on getting you to listen outside yourself, to have an empathy for voices in the ether, and his beautifully evocative series of cues, both visual and aural, are bound to gently colour the imagination and conjure hidden meanings and connotations with each and every recipient.
Pretty solo piano recordings by Italian Bavota, whose music has appeared on popular playlists and high profile TV placements in recent years
“Bruno Bavota – the young, prolific Italian composer whose music has often been labeled with earnest, adjective-laden descriptors such as “disarmingly sincere” and “extraordinarily emotional” – has experienced a self-imposed creative transformation over the past few years. Where his early records were pristine, piano-driven expressions of universal themes, his more recent works have found him in a place of thorough meditation and self-examination. As Bavota explains, “While at the beginning of my music and career, I focused on crystal clear piano sounds, eventually all the time spent at the piano day after day changed my sense of the piano itself. I started to see the piano like a living instrument.”
Get Lost is Bruno Bavota’s first studio album since the 2016 release of Out of the Blue helped thrust him into that peculiar world of anonymous but significant success via high-volume streaming playlists and high-profile TV placements. Out of the Blue marked the beginning of Bavota’s drift from immaculate, traditional piano music. If Get Lost isn’t a complete reinvention, it is at the very least a radical new direction. Rather than obsess over the sound of the piano itself, Bavota now explores the sounds around the piano – the resonance, the silence, and the acoustic ambience of the living, breathing space in which the piano resides. He employs an array of outboard effects pedals and processors to not just capture those sounds that are often overlooked, but to sample, loop, and reposition them as central figures in a story.
Bruno Bavota gave Get Lost its name when he found himself drifting deeper into the darker side of his music. Inspired by a familiar observation of modern life, Bavota confessed, “I think people are becoming more selfish and don't seem to have time to listen to other people who need to be heard. We don't show much empathy.” Much like Bavota’s evolving approach to the piano, he has discovered profound purpose and influence in the people and places least visible but most meaningful.”
Grandiose electro-acoustic composition from Munich’s Sophie Schnell aka Pyur, refining the styles heard on her 2016 Hotflush debut into a mix of distended, crunchy IDM-techno swarmed with symphonic chorales and strings. RIYL Zoe McPherson or Roly Porter
“Munich’s PYUR (Sophie Schnell) makes her Subtext debut with “Oratorio for the Underworld”, a nimble odyssey through vivid, otherworldly dreams. Growing up immersed in her family’s work as shamans, Schnell draws on the techniques and stories of her upbringing, through which ephemeral forms, stories and colours seep into her sound—a synthesis of hyperreal sound design, dramaturgy and classical composition.
PYUR’s fascination with the space between life and death is expressed through the weaving together of the organic and sublime in a dramatic exercise in expansive sonic worldbuilding. The LP is a form of storytelling in which Schnell reimagines and takes on the roll of psychopomp, ushering the listener into a borderless realm. She relays rich legends while warm, airy timbres (courtesy of cellist Teresa Alvarez and violinist Juan Zalba Fuentes) serve as guides throughout.
Working largely in isolation over a period of two years, Oratorio for the Underworld is a document of “inward archaeology,” and marks an intimate yet grandiose journey through the psyche, exploring the ecstatic emotional boundaries between life and death, and body and spirit. Over the two year period, Schnell constantly found herself inventing new and unconventional compositional techniques with which to keep her writing dynamic—a process key in countering her own obsession with the mythos of Oratorio.”
Carla dal Forno’s keenly anticipated 2nd album pays dividends on the promise of her debut, returning a gorgeous, stately suite of chamber pop that certifies her among the most vital songwriters in her field. Tipped to fans of Nico, HTRK, CS + Kreme, Dome, Julee Cruise...
Forming an exquisitely pruned bouquet of midnight wildflowers, ‘Look Up Sharp’ makes the shrugging pop of Carla’s debut LP ‘You Know What It’s Like’  feel almost naif by comparison. With her vocals cleanly poised high in the mix, as though throned in a wide, high-ceilinged room lofted above the city, Carla speaks to a sort of resigned state of mind, coolly coming to terms with a sense of impending doom that resonates with early post-punk concerns over nuclear war and how the old world informs the present.
It’s perhaps best seen as an exercise in snatching relief from the jaws of misery; an idea is conveyed in the plaintive reserve of her vocals and the urge of the album’s title, and arrestingly enunciated between the album’s most immediate standouts, from the driving gothic succour of opener ‘No Trace’, to the elegant self-realisation of ‘I’m Conscious’, leading her to similarly downbeat but not beat conclusions as HTRK in the smoky shuffle of ‘Took A Long Time’ and the quietly optimistic closer, ‘Push On.’
Concept machine Jeff Mills dives into the Axis archive for a 42-track compilation spanning eons of his classic techno and sci-fi inspired themes, including previously unreleased material
‘Sight Sound and Space’ is presented as an expression of Mills’ “deep-seated thoughts” on synaesthetic relationships between the visual, auditory, and proprioceptive senses. It logically breaks down those three aspects over corresponding CDs, with respective commentary and explanations for each selected track contain in the attached booklet.
Disc 1 ‘Sight’ illuminates 12 harmonically sound tracks drawn from Mills’ CDs, DVDs and soundtracks, ranging from the floating structure of ‘Perfecture’ off the ‘Metropolis’ EP, to the tense and furtive strings of ‘Deckard’ from the ‘Blade Runner’ EP, and dream-sequence ambient prisms such as ‘Sleepy Time’ and ‘Multi-Dimensional.’
On disc 2’s ‘Sound’ he rounds up a pointedly technoid, driving clutch of cuts taking in the almighty thrust of ‘The Bells’ along with the textured polyrhythmic swinge of ‘4Art’, plus his dramatic ‘Spiral Galaxy’, the Jamal Moss-compatible churn of ‘Jade’, and cryptic ancient-futurist drum code in ‘Spiral Therapy’ and ‘Flying Machines.’
Disc 3 finishes up in ‘Space’ with some of Mills’ most abstract, cinematic astral probes. The ‘Introduction’ to his ‘Fantastic Voyage’ CD parts the way for previously unreleased gear in the tense detonations of ‘Mercury (Residue Mix)’, the iridescent shimmy of ‘Unreleased002’, and the dematerialised textures of ‘Outer Space’ and ‘Unreleased005’, along with killer, subbass-heavy styles in ‘Stabilising The Spin’, deep space romance in ‘Planet X’, and neck-craning avant-classical sound design in the grand staging of ‘Medians.’
First ever re-issue of this 1983 classic full of near-ambient arrangements that float in a space between The Durutti Column, Steve Cropper and Ashra from Steve Hiett, the "master of recontextualization."
"For the first time since its inception 36 years ago, Steve Hiett’s elusive Down On The Road By The Beach is finally made available outside of Japan. Most recognized in the fashion sphere as an English photographer and graphic designer, Hiett‘s transportive audio portraits amplify his serpentine guitar to the infinite blue, recorded across Paris, Tokyo and New York with no coastline in sight. Now widely celebrated as a desert island disc, very little is actually known of its unfathomable genesis.
A career devotee of Brian Wilson’s ground breaking harmonies, Hiett shot The Beach Boys for Rolling Stone - as well as The Doors, Miles Davis and Jimi Hendrix (in one of his final performances at the 1970 Isle Of Wight Festival) - while establishing himself as a fashion photographer. Decamping to Paris in 1972, he began what would become 20-year collaborations with Vogue Paris and Marie Claire, printing his signature warm, saturated and vibrantly hued snapshots.
In 1982, representatives from Tokyo’s Galerie Watari visited him to propose a solo exhibition. Asking if he could insert a 7” of original music into the back of the exhibition catalogue, Hiett laid down ‘Blue Beach - Welcome To Your Beach’ in a Parisian radio station, playing all of the instruments himself, and two more cuts in New York with Yoko Ono, The Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan hired-gun Elliot Randall. Once dispatched, the phone began ringing off the hook with requests for him to fly to Tokyo. Assuming these long-distance callers were wanting him to check proofs for the book, it wasn’t until he arrived that he discovered CBS/Sony had facilitated an entire album. Heitt hastily gripped some petty cash, bought a guitar and retreated to his hotel room to start writing.
Entering the studio the following day, he was further surprised by a waiting room of session players known as Moonriders - one of Japan’s most acclaimed rock bands of the 1980s. Intimidated by their indecipherable sheet music, Hiett suggested Randall join them and with money being no object for major labels at the time, his wingman was on the next plane out of New York to finalise the high production indulgence. "
Shimmering AOR-style instrumental balm from storied photographer Steve Hiett, who has shot Jimi Hendrix, Sophia Loren, Miles Davis, Uma Thurman, The Hollies and many more. One for Ned Doheny or Mike Cooper fans
“Three emotional years in the making, Be With and Efficient Space finally present Steve Hiett’s Girls In The Grass. Pressed alongside the long awaited reissue of his one-shot masterpiece Down On The Road By The Beach, these ten balearic soul instrumentals are of equal necessity; unrivalled beauty rescued from the fashion photographer-guitarist’s Paris Tapes (1986-1997).
Remastered for public pleasure by Simon Francis, these private moments are adorned with Hiett’s singular photography and feature typically idiosyncratic liner notes from Mikey IQ Jones.”
A master of intense but barely-there music, Dale Cornish completes a 5-album cycle for Entr’acte with the spellbindingly skeletal and sexy gestures of ‘Enhex’.
Started in 2012 with ‘Glacial’ and taking in the deco rave minimisations of ‘Xeric’ (2014), ‘Ulex’ (2015), and ‘Aqal’ (2017), Dale’s Entr’acte run has consistently, playfully toyed with ideas of anticipation and stylistic convention in electronic music for the best part of this decade. With ‘Enhex’ he yields one of the most forceful instalments with the same strict methodology that we’ve come to know and love about his music.
Sonically ascetic as Mark Fell and as rude as Russell Haswell, but with a queered tactility of his own, Dale continues to plough his own groove in ‘Enhex.’ From the spittly, gasping blatz and gut punch kicks of crowd favourite ‘Enhex Pattern 1’ he does it singularly throughout all 9 cuts. Whether diffusing boomy bass hits and flickering rimshots into acres of nothingness on ‘Enhex Pattern 2’, coming like a stoned Alva Noto in ‘Enhex Pattern 4’, really crushing on your cochleas with ‘Enhex Pattern 5’, or dancing with killer, ricochet dynamics in ‘Enhex Pattern 8’, Dale very knowingly moves in between the lines of convention, locating canny routes of investigation which, for all their ostensibly minimal construction, open vast playgrounds and suggest slightest prompts for the listener’s imagination and body to cut loose.
Special Request answers the question “what if Jam & Lewis signed to Metroplex?” with the 3rd and final instalment of his 2019 album cycle.
Arriving in the glistening wake of his ‘Vortex’ and ‘Bedroom Tapes’ sides, ‘Offworld’ completes the trilogy with a unchronic suggestion of ‘80s soul meets Detroit electro, with results that lean into melodic AI electronica and glyding late ‘90s “breakbeat” trance.
Fair to say that Paul Woolford aka Special Request nails the vibe with dead on with the combo of Midway’s ‘Set It Out’ vocal applied to rocking 808 in ’237,000 Miles’, while he takes it deeper with the smooth R&B/electro-soul shimmy of ’Shepperton Moon Landing’, along with lazer-zap electro and Plaid-like melody in ‘Offworld Memory 3’, the lush nose-drip dissonance of ‘Front Screen Projection’ and ‘Are End Of The Moon.’ The bashy breaks and acid of ‘Morning Ritual’ are a mishit but ‘Floatation (SR Offworld Mix’) pulls it back with a fine marriage of Twin Peaks-meets-Italo House keys, NASA comms, and Wild Bunch-era breakbeats.