Turntablist and composer Mariam Rezaei completes her ambitious, pithy triptych with 'BOWN', her debut for the Heat Crimes imprint. Flipping the concept of turntable-based music on its head, she fractures free jazz, noise, death drone and operatic fragments into a broken tangle of spinbacks, pitchbends, loping rhythms and perverted side-eyes. Featuring collaborations with Teresa Winter, Luka Koenig, Alya Al-Sultani, Bobby Glue and Gwily Edmondez, it's crucial listening for anyone into Maria Chávez, Evicshen, Marina Rosenfeld, Stock, Hausen & Walkman, I-Sound or Philip Jeck.
Billed as the central part of a triptych, 'BOWN' boasts some of Rezaei’s most pressing and rewarding work to date. It’s one of those albums that doesn’t get swallowed up by its own concept, harnessing extreme technical prowess fuelled by deep, sometimes visceral emotional and mental energies that reach a terrifying climax on the brilliant ‘Glass Bastard’ featuring Teresa Winter and Guttersnipe drummer Bobby Glu, an almost phantasmagoric counterpart to Flower/Corsano Duo's frantic improvisations that sounds like the sort of thing you’d reopen the Nurse With Wound list for.
‘It COULD be jazz' - a droll answer to a comment Rezaei received at last year's London Jazz Festival - is next, finding her kinetic and fired-up, using her command of the turntable to chop into raucous horn solos like Peter Brötzmann or Albert Ayler after a particularly heavy night. Bobby Glue provides drums again, but here Rezaei doesn't restrain herself at all, scrubbing rhythms out of spunky rattles.
On 'HMMM', she takes the human voice and queers its natural vacillations, bending it wildly as the pitch slides like some unstable Gregorian chant. Glitches and skips remind us of the process, as thick, syrupy subs rumble below, while the composer shifts voice between operatic wail and barely-there hum. Retaining the vocal theme, Rezaei adds animalistic howls from YEAH YOU's Gwily Edmondez on 'GEORDIE SPICE', transforming his feral squeals into high-pitched chirps and distorted machine whirrs. A celestial invocation rises from the noise, before clattering percussion rocks through the aether, demolishing the track with irregular bumps and scratches.
'MARIAMBA', uses Lucas Koenig's rounded woodblock hits to focus dramatic, saturated organ drones and scratchy loops. Like a demented 1950s Hollywood soundtrack put through a mangle, it's theatrical but deeply self-aware, zeroing in on the textural qualities of the instrumentation. On 'I WANT U 2' London-based soprano Alya Al-Sultani brings yet another element to the table, her echoing wails working like a counterpoint to dextrously scratched spoken phrases. It's dizzying, provocative stuff that never shies from its most experimental inclinations, balancing extreme technical fluency with humour and thematic weight, leaving you with many unanswered questions. Oh and there’s a track called ‘IDIOTIC MUSIC PEOPLE CUNTS’ which is something i’m considering tattooing on my face.
Phenomenal stuff, biggup.
On his fifth solo album, Jake Muir dissolves X-rated gay sleaze flick soundtracks into a shimmering suite of subdued orchestral flourishes and surreal cosmic psychedelia, a real heady trip that comes highly recommended if you’re into Pinkcourtesyphone, Perila, Andrew Pekler, Brian Eno.
Back in 2020, Muir put together a 90-minute mix for Honey Soundsystem, blending tracks from Kelman Duran, DJ Olive, Daniel Lanois and Terre Thaemlitz with obliquely camp dialog samples from vintage gay porn. The idea was to represent queer sexuality in a looser, more experimental manner, grazing the super-sensory pleasure of the bathhouse experience and the illicit joy of cruising without getting too self-serious while doing it. The mix was so popular that Muir followed it up with a weightless sequel two years later, and began developing the concept into a proper album, using more samples of music and dialogue, eventually performing the piece at the esteemed GRM as part of their FOCUS #4 concerts alongside work by Eliane Radigue, Folke Rabe and Chris Watson.
Bathhouse Blues is split into two side-long pieces that wash and ripple with nervous tension and discreet salaciousness. Opening with a familiar theatre sting, there are echoes here of kosmische and experimental electronics on 'Cruisin’ 87', fashioned into puddles of syrupy, back-room ambience. Occasionally we hear lascivious words thru the fog, men mumbling to each other before sex. "That's beautiful," a voice mutters over a dusky cricket chirp on 'Pipe Dream'. "It is," another replies.
Muir's sonic treatment is suitably explicit, like a 1950s Hollywood jump-cut to a train going into a tunnel; he takes the whole-body, mutual release of queer sex and interprets it with heady gestures, peppering jazzy rhythmic frostings into basins of skewered drone and gurgling synths. His sound is coloured by the pleasure of physical touch, a mussy flux of high frequency scrapes and caresses juxtaposed with woozy, dubbed-out fondles and thrusts. Who said the GRM was buttoned up?
Investigating the musical possibilities of MP3 compression artifacts, Jim Reeve-Baker stitches a dream-world out of hauntingly familiar threads, using low-bitrate encoding to belch out unexpected harmonies and surprisingly colorful noise.
Like Lee Gamble's 'Diversions', this is one of those records that you'll swear must have been done before. We've been oppressed by digital compression for decades at this point; the MP3 codec has been used since the mid-1990s, and anyone who downloaded music from the internet back then will know how bad those early rips could be. This wasn't a world when you could simply boot up Soulseek and have access to a treasure trove of 320kbps gems - downloading 128kbps files was the standard, we had dial-up modems and phone bills. So hearing these oddly comforting artifacts is like time traveling; we know the sounds, but Reeve-Baker manipulates them masterfully, forming the uncanny chatter and glassy tones into nauseous, pitch-drifted symphonies.
There's a level of digital echoing that's present in all of this material. A sound appears and its ghost isn't far behind, spluttering in the background like a hollowed-out version of its former self. The MP3 was criticized in the early days because its lossy quality resulted in oddities like this that stripped the music of its roominess and soul. Here, Reeve-Baker captures the essence of an era that's rapidly being reshaped by opaque nostalgia; these weren't things we wanted, but they were the things we got, nonetheless. Turned into xenharmonic drone and noise vignettes, the sounds are given a new lease of life; we never knew we wanted to hear this, but it turns out we absolutely do. Big RIYL Oval or Microstoria.
2 hours of outlandish inharmonic electronic convolutions and doomy orchestrations generated by multidisciplinary Turkish artist Özcan Saraç.
‘Manifestations of Natural Phenomena’ is a furnace blast introduction to the uncompromising work of Özcan Saraç, who has proceeded over the past decade from installation artist working across the world to release his work in the physical and digital domains since 2022. The set plays to the range of Saraç’s sound, characterising fascinations with radical electronics between the head-scrambling hyper chromatic whorls of ‘Time (0,0)’ thru to crushing, militant percussion and minor key string arrangements ripe for a cyberpunk flick soundtrack on its numerous ‘Motion’ parts, and another, finer, strain of investigation in the ‘Space’ pieces that trade in deeply trippy stereo diffusions of sound on the threshold of perception.
Unnamed operators stress-test their machines on a properly bilgy dispatch by London’s anonymous SM-LL collective
The session churns out four gobs of uncompromising synth gunk permutations with a particularly bad-minded appeal. ‘SDT’ pitches into darkside electronics and ‘DTE’ feels like they’re waterboarding a computer. ‘DSD’ harnesses the grottiest synth juice and squeal, and ‘DT’ leaves in no doubt this is one of SM-LL’s grimmest.