After a series of increasingly inward-looking, conservative LPs since her stunning debut, Julia Holter finally unleashes her imagination in technicolour once again on ‘Aviary’, an expansive observation of the ratchet madness that makes up the world today.
“Aviary is an epic journey through what Julia Holter describes as “the cacophony of the mind in a melting world.” Out on October 26th via Domino, it’s the Los Angeles composer’s most breathtakingly expansive album yet, full of startling turns and dazzling instrumental arrangements.
The follow-up to her critically acclaimed 2015 record, Have You in My Wilderness, it takes as its starting point a line from a 2009 short story by writer Etel Adnan: "I found myself in an aviary full of shrieking birds." It’s a scenario that sounds straight out of a horror movie, but it’s also a pretty good metaphor for life in 2018, with its endless onslaught of political scandals, freakish natural disasters, and voices shouting their desires and resentments into the void
Aviary, executive produced by Cole MGN and produced by Holter and Kenny Gilmore, combines Holter's slyly theatrical vocals and Blade Runner-inspired synth work with an enveloping palette of strings and percussion that reveals itself, and the boundless scope of her vision, over the course of fifteen songs. Holter was joined by Corey Fogel (percussion), Devin Hoff (bass), Dina Maccabee (violin, viola, vocals), Sarah Belle Reid (trumpet), Andrew Tholl (violin), and Tashi Wada (synth, bagpipes).”
Jamal Moss, I:Cube and Jay Daniel supply party-ready remixes of a highlight from Peggy Gou’s ‘Once’ 12”
A summer anthem of 2018, the Korean vocal and sleek deep house pull of ‘It Makes You Forget (Itgehane)’ are turned into a powerful, roiling, psychedelic house number by Jamal Moss, while Jay Daniel dances around and off the groove with shuffled hi-hats and claps synched to tuff bass and G-funk vamps. I:Cube takes the same elements for an effortless sort of Latin deep house ride in a debonaire vocal mix and a much darker, muscular, yet well toned ‘Parallel Dub’ executed with expert panache.
Coil’s cultishly acclaimed Worship The Glitch features the group in dialogue with the ghost in the machine, an element they named ELpH and considered as much a part of the group as any physical member. Aye, you’d probably be right in assuming they were taking a lot of drugs during the creation of Worship The Glitch, and consequently the results stand out among their trippiest releases, comparable with the rugged space of early Pan Sonic and slightly later Mika Vainio releases as much as Philip Jeck’s ambient enigmas or a digital update of David Lynch’s Eraserhead OST. If you like this stuff, we highly recommend tracking down ELpH’s pHILM#1 10”, too!
“"Unexplainable" may well be the best explanation for the members of the UK based electronic outfit COIL. Making a radical shift from intentional accessibility, by means of traditional pop songwriting, to abstract happenstance, Coil had entered into a new phase in their career…uncharted waters utilizing what was then the newest computer technology, digital and analog synthesis and the newly formed ideas that something outside of themselves was steering the ship.
During the studio sessions that developed into what would become “Worship the Glitch”, Coil became aware of random compositions emitting from their gear, and were at odds with constant “accidents” that were perpetually plaguing the recordings. The band called these unintentional emissions "ELpH": a conceptual being that is one part physical equipment, one part celestial being… constantly playing the role of trickster, throwing a wrench into Coil’s methodology. Eventually, these accidents and mistakes were embraced by the band, and the process of misusing audio software to create intentional "errors" was adopted as a musical technique. The acceptance of the "mistake", and the use of discovered mistakes as intentional elements slowly became the drive and concept behind the album, thus birthing the title “Worship the Glitch.”
Originally released in 1995 on Coil’s in-house imprint Eskaton, Worship the Glitch was Coil’s first proper album-length attempt at conceptual ambient composition, with a radical focus on chance. Seamless vignettes of shattered electronics (though ebbing softly and in delicate balance with each other) provide an underlying uncertainty and discomfort to the listener.”
Heavyweight wheeze and trample made on Hurdy Gurdy, Indian Harmonium, bagpipes, strings, and percussion by esteemed french improvisors. Imagine Gurdjieff meets Natural Snow Buildings at Yoshi Wada’s gaff
“La Tène is back with a double invitation to its third full length LP. The hurdy-gurdy/harmonium/percussions trio welcomes two bagpipes (cabrettes and 23” to be exact), and a combo of string instruments (12-string guitar and electric bass).
Beyond the instrumentation, we’re looking at a gang of high esteemed guests: Jacques Puech, Louis Jacques, Guilhem Lacroux and Jérémie Sauvage, whom works are given their due credit (with the La Novià collective and its multiple variations, the France group, Super Parquet, the Standard-In-Fi label, etc.), are at ease with fuelling the traditional ball dance floor (literally in its wooden meaning) as well as questioning it, confortable with sparking dance moves as well as pushing instruments and their sound to their ultimate limits.
La Tène’s music doesn’t alter itself, it is always at the conjuncture between obsessive repetition and fragmented traditional music, hence developing a mineral depth on an obstinate pulse. Where one hears an instrument, its mirror unburdens until the confusion. One lies breathless, only whishing the end becomes an eternal resumption.”
Out of print on vinyl since 1989, the award-winning Kronos Quartet performance of Steve Reich’s momentous ‘Different Trains’ is made available again via Nonesuch, backed with Pat Metheny’s recording of ‘Electric Counterpart’
“On Different Trains, which combines string quartet with taped speech, Reich evokes his American childhood during World War II while also addressing the Holocaust. The New York Times declared it "a work of such originality that 'breakthrough' seems the only possible description."
Electric Counterpoint was written for Pat Metheny, who gave the world premiere performance of the piece at Brooklyn Academy of Music's Next Wave Festival in November 1987. The guitarist performs against multiple pre-recorded tape of himself—and "splendidly," said the New York Times. The piece is "filled with jazz and funk-inflected rhythms, reveling in the spirit of American vernacular culture ... [and] finds Mr. Reich capitalizing on his strengths. Here, at the point furthest removed from convention, is where his creative juices flow most freely."
Epic, brilliantly curated two hour collection of new and exclusive material celebrating iDEAL Recordings' (1998-2018) 20th anniversary featuring JASSS, Stephen O’Malley, Jim O’Rourke (an epic 17 minute trance-enducer - honestly worthy of its own LP), Ectoplasm Girls, Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe, Prurient, Puce Mary and many others...
We always say this - we hate comps - they’re almost always shite - but this one’s a bit of a mindmelter, featuring 20 new and exclusive tracks commissioned by label bossman Joachim Nordwall to celebrate the occasion of his label’s 20th anniversary, almost 1 track per year of going against the grain. Trust when we say that Nordwall's selection skills and sprawling network of interconnected artists has yielded a frankly ridiculous tracklisting, including a 17+ minute steamroom special from Jim O’Rourke, a pulsing electroacoustic killer from Stephen O’Malley, a rare new hookup between Prurient and Carlos Giffoni, brand new ambient/field recording peach from JASSS, an amazing fizzing drone tribute to Folke Rabe by Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe, plus Puce Mary and Jesse Sanes aka JH1.FS3 on fine fine form, and just too many others to mention - over two hours of exceptional music.
The story of iDEAL starts out in London 1998, when Nordwall was living the hardscrabble life: working in an underwear shop near Liverpool Street station; living in a filthy Bayswater apartment; scoring industrial records from the Music and Video Exchange; getting drunk in cheap pubs, and dreaming of starting a new record label and platform. He called it iDEAL, and 180 releases, 20 years later, it has become an invaluable node for non-standard, wayward expressions of modern electronic noise in all its mutable variation.
iDEAL’s success and longevity may well be down to the way that Nordwall treated it as a social and artistic home, offering a place where mutually exclusive styles could bed down away from the mainstream or the genre police, and feed into a much larger, work-in-progress definition of fringe music. ‘The Black Book’ extends, in the spirit of the label, an idealised compilation of disparate possibilities connected by a sense of musical mystery and chaotic energy.
"Twenty. Not sure if its worth celebrating, or mourning. Anyways, we decided to compile an album filled with artists we are very close to, others we admire deeply and a few we feel connected to in different ways. THE BLACK BOOK is indeed a celebration, of musical mysteries, energies and connections. Three LPs, six sides of music.”
Long live iDEAL!
Piercingly bittersweet indie-pop experimentalism with a feminist bent, from Jamie Stewart & Angela Seo’s Xiu Xiu and Italian rock unit Larsen
“XXL is the unholy union of Xiu Xiu and Italian experimental band Larsen. Written and recorded in a single week in Italy, Puff O’Gigio is XXL’s fourth album.
Puff O'Gigio is a mythological, genetically modified character - a cross between the notorious Belgian 2-apple sized blue creatures and the equally popular Italian talking and dancing mice.
The album inhabits the same colourful, intersectional world as the character, telling stories of wild animals, dub echoes, feminist art(ists), alternative ecosystems and assorted fetishes. The fantasy themes are matched with equally fanciful music - the album sounds like listening in to someone else’s dream. Powered by a constant sense of yearning and a sense of needing to break free from some unseen chains, this album swings from unabashed pop to clanging experimentalism, to moments of exorcism.
Puff O'Gigio was written and performed by Fabrizio Modonese Palumbo, Jamie Stewart, Marco Schiavo, Paolo Dellapiana, Roberto Maria Clemente, enriched by sonic contributions by Angela Seo, recorded and mixed by Paul Beauchamp at O.F.F. Studio Torino (Italy) and mastered by James Plotkin.”
Reissue of an ace early release from Rephlex, dusted down and remastered for its 2nd wind by Switzerland’s Musique Pour La Danse
Produced by Marco Repetto and Stefan Riesen a.k.a. Synectics, ‘The Purple Universe’ was released in 1993 by Aphex Twin and Grant Wilson-Claridge’s Rephlex. 25 years later it resurfaces, freshly re-cut by Frederic Stader, to reel off 8 lush examples of European techno when it found its soul, circa the the phase shift from rave into its early-mid ‘90s golden era.
There are some real gems inside, none more so than the trance-techno flight of ‘Red Clouds’ and the Infinite-esque ‘Into The Unknown’, but also in their ‘Untitled’ stroke of acid elan, as well as the more esoteric parts, including the creamy ambient acid of ‘Free Sphere’ and the epic deep techno inception of ‘The Final Moment’.
Bad Tracking swills out Ossia & chester giles in two queasy experimental dub remixes for Witten, Germany’s Empty Head Rich Heart
Arriving in the disturbed wake of 2017-18’s introductory ‘XP-3’ and ‘Clanger’ releases for FuuuckPunk and Mechanical Reproductions, Bad Tracking remains an elusive spirit on this plate, compounding the illness of Ossia & chester giles’ with metastasising noise and pure baaad vybz.
Huge Massien rolls out two moody blue LDN house swingers as North Side Vibe Committee
Primed for xmas with seraphic synths, a husky auld vocal and icicle-tinkling rhythms, the A-side’s ‘Everything We call Real (Is Made Up Of Things That Cannot Be Regarded As Real)’ sounds like it was written in the aftermath of finding out about Santa, while the B-side finds him seeking warmth and succour from this disclosure within soukous-flavoured grooves on ‘Ndima Ndapedza Flip’.
Ruddy EBM sleaze form Succhiamo, returning to Antinote with a 6-track dancefloor slap down
Leading on from their super rudimentary debut, there’s more glistening EBM flesh on show in ‘Mani In Fuoco’, firing off some strong dancefloor bullets in the scaly, serpentine writhe of their title track, and at a rapid tilt recalling Nitzer Ebb’s ‘Alarm’ in ‘Desiderio di violenza’, and what sounds like Marie Davidson meets Beau Wanzer in the clenched, metallic funk of ‘Vecchio’.
Techno producers Kwartz and Question merge as Body Unknown with a powerfully rolling grey area incursion for Horo
The kind of gear that will churn up a room properly, it contains serious highlights in the acidic hydrolixx of ‘Wound’ and the sloshing, dirty brownian motion of ‘Gestalt Perception’ with its squawking synth lead.
Super bass-heavy Miami house dopiness from Greg Beato, trotting out his 2nd 12” in nearly as many weeks on his Ni Un Pero label
Named after the Miami-Dade jurisdiction he hails from, ‘Dade’ - also meaning to walk unsteadily - is a fine title for Beato’s sound on this EP, a blend of worn out drums underlined with heaving subs and sealed in muggy atmospheres.
His album aside, this is the most varied set in Beato’s catalogue, holding a line between the swaggering groove and furtive feel of ‘Tres’ with its grunting subs, thru the bleached out dub house lushness of ‘Cero’, and the head-high ‘Cinco’, to the tremendously weird whirligig of ‘Hasta’ and a grubbing oddity named ‘El Fin’.
Deep, hammering acid house mutations from Miami’s Greg Beato on his Ni Un Pero label
Leading on from his L.I.E.S. and Apron Records jams, Beato rides his machines roughshod on both sides, fusing virulent 303 with crunchy kick, ticklish rimshot and floating chords in ‘Chingo’ up top, then working right on the rid-lining biting point with the playfully daft stride of ’Tricky LSD’.
Scorching, playfully grooving jazz peach from 1979 Japan - the only recording made by Mitsuaki Katayama, released on the legendary Johnny’s Disk Record.
“Studio Mule present a reissue of Mitsuaki Katayama Trio's First Flight, originally issued in 1979 on Johnny's Disk Record. Johnny's Disk Record is an independent jazz label run by the owner of jazz cafe Kaiunbashi No Johnny, located in Rikuzentakata City in Iwate prefecture, Japan. The legendary label released a string of albums of high quality but down-to-earth music, spanning from modern jazz and avant-garde jazz to left-field pop. Albums such as Farewell My Johnny/Left Alone (1980) and Aya's Samba (1978) have reached cult status among fans as some of the best works to come out of the Japanese jazz scene.
This debut album by drummer and actor Mitsuaki Katayama is a Japanese jazz masterpiece consisting of five original compositions. The no-filler album includes the tracks "Unknown Point", a danceable jazz samba with tight and powerful drumming and the melancholic "Arizona High Way", a tune that perfectly epitomizes what Japanese jazz is about. "It's Over" features beautiful piano work by Kichiro Sugino, a promising pianist who tragically succumbed to a chronic illness and couldn't fully realize his potential.”
Dancefloor magician DJ Sotofett works up a trio of breezy, stepping’ dubs on a natty 10” for Honest Jon’s
‘Dub Off’ sets the style with mellifluous keys and lush synth pads dubbed to the rafters over clipped steppers’ drums in classic fashion. ‘Dub On’ brings the bass and FX forward for starker but more boisterous effect, and ‘Dub On Dub’ sends it all reeling thru the echoplex, with Stiletti-Ana’s congas, and Sotofett’s keys and synth spannered in all directions, anchored by Haugen Inna Di Bu’s meaty bass.
First ever reissue of Indifferent Dance Centre’s post-punk bullet ‘Flight & Pursuit’, and the woozy dirge of ‘Release’.
The 2nd release on Ran$om Note’s Outer Reaches gives a new life to the eternal charms of ‘Flight & Pursuit’, a one-off beauty recorded and released by Chichester’s Indifferent Dance Centre in 1981 and treasured by heads ever since...
“Both ‘Flight & Pursuit’ & ‘Release’ were made in the midst of a ‘happy chaos’, on a day which IDC recount as one where demands for ‘more echo!’, the sound of whirring black effects boxes – courtesy of their producer Alan Williams - and of offhand laughter all ran across one another. Recorded live in only a few takes they both indicate a level of modesty, candour, independence and intuition that proved to be the defining traits of both the music IDC made and the outlook they adopted.
With only ‘Flight & Pursuit’ compiled on the Hyped To Death CD compilation ‘Messthetics #108: South Coast D.I.Y. '77-81’ back in 2011 the original 7” vinyl has begun to command inflated prices in the usual places. With this reissue on Outer Reaches that state of play is thankfully redressed.”
Utopian pop nous from Free Love, the Glaswegian pairing of Suzanne Rodden & Lewis Cook who were previously known as Happy Meals
Back on their Full Ashram label following Happy Meals’ ‘Apéro’  and 12”s for Optimo and Night School over the interim, the duo reprise a psychedelically enriched style of songwriting aimed at lounging dancefloors and pop romantic longing for a new fix.
Their 8 songs bubble with colour and breezy warmth, fanning out from the woozy charms of their Johnny Jewel-esque lead single ‘Playing As Punks’, to take in Night Jewel-alike balmy boogie in ‘Pushing Too Hard’, along with the classic synth-pop brim of ‘Et Encore’ in a way recalling Premiere Classe’ ‘Poupee Flash’, and wending on thru the Peaking Lights-like ‘Et Avant’, and proper Italo disco class in ’Tomorrow Could Be Heaven’ and ’Synchronicity’.
Dave Aju winds up a avant-jazzy house session for Accidental Jr on occasion of their 2nd anniversary
‘Max at Masonic’ kicks off with a razor sharp sort of drum solo track helmed by heavy subbass; ‘Everybody’s Watching’ folds in some melodic colour and vocals encouraging listeners to “dance like everyone is watching”; while ‘O.O.O.’ signs off into plush deep house vibes, and ‘Telekuneko’ lays down a tuff tribal house groove.
Melt-on-the-mind, spiritual jazz-funk, reissued for the first time by Switzerland’s High Jazz. RIYL John Coltrane, Pharaoh sanders, McCoy Tyner and Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Roy Ayers
“Ambiance’s first album released in 1979 on Da Mon Records, Los Angeles. Amazing private spiritual jazz-funk/fusion LP, now hard to find. This album is magnificent in its entirety, no fillers. Some of the best fusion on record!
Led by saxophonist Daoud Abubakar Balewa who studied formal classical music and received instruction from Frank Mitchell (Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers) and Jackie McLean (Blue Note records), Ambiance incorporates Brazilian and Latin flavours with a righteous and soulful Afrocentric jazz edge.”
Theo Parrish conducts a live take on his ‘First Floor’ album classic from Myele Manzanza (drums), Mark de Clive-Lowe (piano, keyboards, electronics), and Scott Maynard (double bass)
Guided by a sketch of the original ‘Love is War For Miles’, and the following notes - 1) start with unrecognised fragments 2) find our way into the rhythm 3) hit the melody four times 4) deliberately break everything and look for the unknown 5) find our way back home - the trio properly cut loose for ‘floors that like to be challenged, while Theo contributes an extra jazzy splash.
‘Ambient 4: On Land’ is Brian Eno’s eighth solo studio album and the final instalment of his foundational ambient series that started with ‘Music For Airports’
Recorded between 1978 and 1982, ‘On Land’ sees Brian Eno take a decidedly darker turn, using samples and tape loops from the cutting room floor of previous sides to create a soundsphere of seamlessly shadowy ambient drift.
Perhaps most intriguingly here, Eno found the synthesiser to be of “limited usefulness”, and turned his attentions to physical objets, such as pieces of chain and sticks and stones, to shape what is effectively a form of ambient concrète music, rather than the gentle synthy lushness it’s more commonly associated with.
Featuring guest contributions from Jon Hassell (trumpet) and Bill Laswell (bass guitar), and engineered by ‘Danny’ Lanois, ‘Ambient 4: On Land’ is a total classic of eldritch-tinted, British ambient pastoralism, with all the dark underbelly that notion entails.
Ruggedly variegated debut LP of Detroit gear from the keenly watched Black Noi$e, with additional production by Footworker DJ Taye and FXHE’s John FM
Showcasing the full extent of his style, ’Illusions’ follows from a 12” with Portage Garage Sounds and a hip hop EP with Navy Blue to check off all corners of Rob Mansel a.k.a. Black Noi$e’s sound.
Between its 10 tracks he proves equally adept at slow, mid, and fast tempos, and a fine range of moods, best heard in the crooked beatdown swang of ‘Ninety6’ with DJ Taye and John FM; in the Robocop techno of ‘Jump Off A Building’; with the uptempo Jit hydraulics of ‘Pandemic’, and on a nasty-ass drill depth charge, ‘B Lvde III’.
The Kingston/Manchester axis comes correct with a killah family affair from Equiknoxx and Swing Ting.
On the nice ’n nasty Rum & Buckfast Riddim, Rtkal, Shanique and Fox trade bashment commanding bars in a mix of classic but up-to-the-second party vibes.
Synkro takes cues from the ancient Japanese tradition of Gagaku on his 2nd self-released 12”
A-side ‘Gagaku’ is a genteel dramaturgy of Synkro’s signature harmonic progressions, drizzly atmospheres and fragile 2-step beats executed with patience and elegant. B-side, German D&B producer Frederic Robinson offers an early James Blake sort Airhead-like remix of ‘Gagaku’, beside a floatation tank-ready ambient passage, ‘Cloud Musik’.
Not sure how he does it, but John Tejada packs roughly 10% more punch than the average producer in everything on show in the Therapy EP; rubbing out some super rugged electro-dub-house swerve and wonky tech-house up top, and then with a defter breakbeat hustle and a melodic nerve tweaker on the other side.
Amazing, sui generis actions from Poland’s Mołr Drammaz duo and drummer Jacek Tokarski, taking in Coil-esque electronic abstraction, free jazz and ambient sound poetry under their broad wingspan on the 1st volume in “an undefinable series” unearthed by LFI
No strangers to the strangest strains of modern music, Lullabies For Insomniacs’ catalogue marbles thru the murk to highlight overlooked delicacies from spaces between the avant-garde, the DIY, and the occult. Mołr Drammaz’ ‘Times Before Emojis’ lies right in the middle of that triangulation, rounding up a baker’s dozen audities conceived in Poland between 1996-2012, mostly on their Mik Musik.! label. And, like their label name, the duo employ an equally free use of punctuation in their music, a refreshingly free-spirited, psychedelic style that sits in great company on LFI beside the likes of Sugai Ken, László Hortobágyi, Dino J.A. Deano.
Sequenced for sensory immersion and riddled with surprises, the compilation keens thru a number of reverberating digital drone pieces before shredded glitch gives way to a muddy systolic thrum and scrambled vox - all quite in/unhuman, before they suck us into what sounds like Smegma with a jazz drummer, and whorls of possessed tape loops. Turn over and it only gets more mercurial, vacillating vortices of Autechrian complexity with rabid batacuda rushes, surreal solo piano vignettes and fractured toytronica, culminating in the LP’s straightest but almost weirdest cut in the hobbling avant-pop of ‘Song Instead Of Grass’.
Somewhat of a return to the sparse, pared-back sounds of ‘Seven Swans’. While it sounds like a memory, it does not trade on pastiche or nostalgia. Each song begins with a fragile melody that gathers steam until it becomes nothing less than a modern hymn. The album accomplishes the rare thing that any art should achieve, particularly in these noisy and fragmented days - by seeking to understand, Sufjan makes us feel less alone…"
Architect of the present future, Chris Carter goes retro hauntological on CCCL Volume One, his first solo album in 17 years.
Since his previous album, released in the last century, he’s been busy taking his influential duo with partner Cosey Fanni Tutti to a natural close, and likewise seeing thru their trio with Nik Colk Void, while at the same time diversifying his bonds with remixes of the contemporary field, from Factory Floor to Nisennenmondai and Perc. Here, however, the enormously pivotal artist paints a sonic self portrait indulging an unswerving thing for the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop and the malleability of modular synths, all with a mixture of wide-eyed, youthful innocence and high end studio nous executed to nostalgic degrees.
In the classic framework of hauntology, Carter’s nostalgia is for a lost, assuaged or thwarted synthetic future he experienced explicitly and cosmotically growing up during the ‘space age’, when synthesisers were vehicles for interstellar and interdimensional travel and acted as the connective ligament of counter-cultural likeminds across the world, so its easy to understand why he can’t shake that feeling here.
Like a grown up kid with all the kit he could ever dream of, Carter brings his ideas to life in uniquely tactile style, working like a sculptor with broad palette of amorphous materials that continue to react and mutate after he’s fixed them in place, at his legendary studio in Norfolk. Each of the 25 tracks feels to offer a window onto worlds of encrypted kinetic energy, fulminating figments of the imagination which come to life in shapeshifting, plasmic forms made all the more “real” and hyperstitious thanks to his application of AI like vocaloids which populate the album, cropping up as alien sirens, glossolalic darkroom murmurs, and fully-fledged “singers” in their own strange right.
The result is a uniquely absorbing album tied together by Carter’s smart internal logic, a mazy manifestation of bio-electronic feedback systems that gives voice to the machine as much as the man operating it in a way that will really speak to followers of classic electronic music.
Jesus this album is incredible. Heather Leigh channels Kate Bush and Coil via lapsteel guitar and staggering vocals on a her new album for Editions Mego. Following her previous solo LP ‘I Abused Animal’ for Stephen O’Malley’s Ideologic Organ with a record that few beyond her inner circle could have predicted. Epic in scope, devastating on impact. Do not miss this one!
“Heather Leigh takes her Throne as queen of pedal steel with a suite of heartbleed ballads cauterised with burning riffs. After the rawness of its precursor I Abused Animal, Throne is a record of late night Americana and heavy femininity; intimate love songs smoked in sensuality. The songs on Throne are woozy, gorgeous and uncomfortable, smothered in thick layers of bass but lifted by multitracked vocals. These are rich song forms that stand in contrast to the stripped down steel in her duo with Peter Brotzmann.
Prelude To Goddess sashays in wearing leopard print jeans under the twinkling fluorescent illuminations of the British seaside, like Brighton Rock with extra bass. It is followed in by Lena – arguably Leigh's Jolene – a perverse love song soaked in a subversive sexuality, weighed down with a heavy pulse. Soft Seasons is anchored with sunken beats shrouded in wailing, growling steel and an earwormy melody. Gold Teeth, the longest track on the record, crests and breaks in waves; ecstatic peaks balanced and echoed by melancholic troughs. It soars on an updraft, and from cosmic heights dives seaward into a gnarly and riotous pedal steel breakdown, before catching the breeze again.
Days Without You and Scorpio & Androzani are shorter, intimate songs, in the latter the synths seethe and the steel bows and bends as Leigh's voice falters above a Greek chorus of shadows and reflections. But this isn't autobiography, and Throne departs on Days Without You, a confrontationally unfinished romantic song, anxious with half-thoughts and missed connections. It glides into the night on stilettos leaving unanswered questions, in a fug of psychic disturbance and lovesick sensuality.
Leigh's artwork (which she photographed and designed) is a visual mirror of the songs on Throne. It is an album of cosmic echoes, abstractions and introspection, of characters and stories that make up Leigh's first best pop record, its melodies and hooks set alight with the fiery core of her unique and distinctive pedal steel. - Jennifer Lucy Allen, 2018”
Grandiose synth compositions from the Posh Isolation barracks...
“Cut from the same cloth as last year's double-cassette, 'Like All Mornings,' Vanessa Amara's new album trails shorthand piano pieces and wilted strings through magnificent, electro-acoustic surrounds, often settling into buzzing, syncopated reveries.
'Manos' takes its name from an abbreviated term of endearment. Spoken in this form, it's an affectionate and inclusive gesture from friend to friend, or indeed from gang member to gang member. Vanessa Amara seemingly take their cues from either usage. Their new album feels hesitant to reveal its parts, and is perhaps a document of the limits of what can be revealed, a memorial to its own process as it winds itself in and around its delicately hued landscape.
Though beginning with a morose gait, the album quickly turns over. And revealing its softer self, the clarity of the moving string arrangements hang in the air like fine mist. Everything settles against surfaces as the day breaks, opening up the space, though eventually condensing into the unnerving crescendo of the album's final piece. A recurrent, gentle whirring, much like a gramophone’s needle, tracks through much of 'Manos.' It carefully steadies the listener into a mode of measuring duration, a meditative self-awareness that delivers Vanessa Amara's world.
Always intricate, and effortlessly tender, 'Manos' is an album as textural as it is melodic, and it is certainly the most exquisite suite of works to have been presented by Vanessa Amara thus far.”
Nina Kraviz and friends ring in 2019 with eight blistered acid / techno bangers
Both Buttechno tracks, the cochlea-pinching ‘Rostokino Acid’ and his helter skelter ‘Dubstepping Progression Fast’ are well worth your time, as is The Mover’s gothic noir spike ‘Track One’, and the crazed warehouse pressure of ‘Soviet Film’ by label newcomer Vladimir Dubyshkin.
Italian library disco business from the main man Alessandroni, dug out and dusted down by Rome’s Four Flies reissue label
Sure to grease the ‘floor for anyone with a kink for vintage Giallo soundtrack sleaze and funk, ‘Background Disco’ was composed by Alessandro Alessandroni in 1976 as the soundtrack to the movie ‘Frittata All’Italiana’, directed by Alfonso Brescia.
The strutting title cut comes in vocal and instrumental mixes, edited for dancefloor potential, as with the R&B-vibing slow dancer, ‘I Get You In My Mind’.
Canny braindance gymnastics from the Colundi pioneer on Clone’s DUB sublabel for IDM and related electronica
Landing one year on from ‘The Colundi Sequence Volume 2’ compilation, Perälä turns out some of his smartest drum programming and trippy tones in ‘Sunshine 1’, none more so than the steel drum band-goes-acid styles of the 5th track, his 2-stepping introductory number, and the Astrobotnia vibes of track 4.
ASC explores the depths of his sci-fi ambient imagination with part 2 of the steeply introspective ‘Trans-Neptunian Objects’ sessions
Trailing in the astral wake of his excellent 2x12” ‘The Outer Limits’, James Clements a.k.a. ASC returns to the farthest quadrants of his vast inner cosmos, where he takes as long as he needs (between 8-12 minutes) to fully scan his widescreen panoramas.
By jettisoning his percussive anchor, ASC frees himself up to explore heady, swirling scenes of shimmering tonal gradients and gaseous hues of colour. But, where so many artists working with these kind of palettes can tend to bore us to death, ASC imbues his scenes with a rich underlying sense of romance and sci-fi suspense, effectively exacting that classic idea of electronic music - a soundtrack for the mind’s eye, for mental travel. We’d wager it’s what NASA staff listen to on their days off.
Rude, swaggering dubstep infiltrated by US hip hop flavours
Leading on from his ‘Dyrge’ for Black Acre, Commodo bowls back to the bosom of Mala’s Deep Medi with sparking drums and offset subs synched to a crystallized sorta Reichian riff in ‘Rikers’, but the B-side leans heavier toward deep south styles, placing a canny UK style spin on woozy trap and Memphis pressure systems.
Lisbon’s Niagara revive their Ascender label with a wheezing, woozy session of salty Atlantic house music following their Ímpar 12” for Príncipe earlier in 2015.
Technically the label’s 2nd release after 2014’s 506 CDr, the Ascender EP breezes four cuts of bittersweet electronics yoked to fudgy, misshapen house grooves, zig-zagging from the heady wow-and-flutter of See with its fizzing kaotic harmonies, thru the chromatic disco psychedelia of Beto to the splashing, curdled jackers trip Hexe and free-blowing oscillators of Ara.
Very fair to say this 12” sounds like nowt else we’ve heard this year.
RIYL Jamal Moss, Noleian Reusse, Black Zone Myth Chant
Wickedly damaged acid jack traxx from Novo Mundo, the first act not called Niagara to release on Lisbon’s Ascender label.
In the sun-baked mode of previous Niagara 12”s, this soundalike session turns out two hypnotic blocks of natty acid, stepping up with the flying hi-hats, zig-zagging 303 lines and dubbed-out chords of Dezembro and then locking into a more bucking formation with the monotone jack tackle of Leviathan, and cooling off to the glassy chiefs of Arsenale.
‘Another Life’ is Amnesia Scanner’s hyperreal début album for PAN. The Finnish production/design duo’s most significant release locates their EDM/pop voice proper after a string of prism-pushing singles, EPs and mixtapes issued since 2015 by Young Turks and Gum Artefacts
Bending EDM pop with warped sound designer sensibilities and a sci-fi visionary’s lust for post-human possibility, Amnesia Scanner’s music has come to define its era with unflinching form. They embrace the most compelling, even grotesque aspects of hyper-commercial dance-pop with an accelerationist alacrity that’s also shared by the boundary-realigning styles of fellow artists such as Arca and Sophie, who, like AS, started out in the sound designer’s playground of mid-’00s electro and tech-house minimalism, but have evolved into something mutant, transcending and redefining conceptions of humanity in their music.
Informed by a singular perspective on technology and the way it mediates contemporary experience, ’Another Life’ is ostensibly binary in the extreme - you’ll probably either love or hate the upfront garishness and unapologetically cybernetic nature of their music. But on another level, the character of AS’ synthesised voice, known as Oracle, and their warped pop conventions, both inherently play with ultra contemporary ideas of ambiguity in a way that’s symptomatic of a socio-political climate dominated by notions of gender fluidity and fake news. In effect ‘Another Life’ can be heard as an attempt to locate the analog nature of human sensation within computerised systems.
The results are effectively an exaggerated, syncretic synthesis of current Caribbean dance-pop, nu-metal, and trashy electro-punk with all elements turned up to 11 on their virtual amp, presenting a shockingly surface level reflection of contemporary culture that’s revealed a line in the sands of time between listeners of differing generations, and how they read meaning into their music. In other words, AS are the ‘ugly’ sneakers of modern music.
Having stated on many an occasion that Hardwax affiliates Pete and René, aka Scion, understood and played Basic Channel material in the way it was intended to be played, the release of Ableton's 'Live' software convinced Mark and Moritz that the time had come to try something new out.
And that's precisely what this CD is - components from all 9 Basic Channel 12"s, (plus some choice cuts from related project Rhythm and Sound and remix work for Carl Craig), weave in and out of the mix, flawlessly spliced together, remodeeled and reshaped with a deep understanding of the BC sound and a look towards its future.
The first cut employs fragments from Cyrus's 'Inversion', 'Mutism', 'Radiance III' and the Basic Channel reworking of Cral Craig's 'The Climax' - 4 classics, re-modelled to create something new, somewhere between mixing and remixing - and that's just the opening sequence. Flowing from first moment to last, it's a bit of a benchmark release that not only serves as a testimony to one of the most treasured and beloved catalogues in all of electronic music, but also illustrates that technology really can be about more than just presets and self indulgance.
Fans of Basic Channel will melt into this CD on first play, those of you new to the label will do well to give this a listen and understand exactly what all the fuss has been about...
Melodica-fuelled digi-dub fizz and cumbia-tinged house from those Portuguese freaks, Niagara.
You kinda never know what’s next from these guys and the Combos EP lives up to expectations, going off-road into rattlesnake cumbia-dub with a flighty melodica lead pushed high and forward in the mix on Ida, whilst Volta steers that vibe onto a loping 4/4 rubbed with wooden scrapers and then leaves us int he desert with Calor.
Senyawa stir primordial spirits in the cosmically heavy doom and psych explorations of ‘Sujud’, the Indonesian duo’s stellar debut with Sublime Frequencies.
Since arriving to global underground acclaim in 2015 with the ‘Menjadi’ LP on Rabih Beaini’s Morphine Records, Senyawa have established themselves among the most beguiling acts in circulation right now by meshing traditional Indonesian music with elements of doom metal and free improvisation to realise a sound truly without precedent.
Judging by what we’ve previously heard from Rully Shabara Herman and Wukir Suryadi’s duo, ‘Sujud’ is unmistakably their definitive and most powerful album yet. Across seven tracks they explore phantasmagoric scenes of throat singing and abyss-staring doom guitars on the incredible ‘Tanggalkan Di Dunia’, alogn with paralysingly haunting psych-folk on the title track, before jamming gibber-jawed vocals and churning metal riffs on ‘Perjuru Menyatu’, and rounding out with the possessed vocals and grunting guitars of ‘Kembali Ke Dunia’.
“Sujud, their premier release on the Sublime Frequencies label, is the latest chapter of this very special and singular sound of the past, present, and future. The basic theme of the record can be summed up with one extremely powerful Bahasa Indonesian word, Tanah, which translates to "soil-ground-land-earth". Shabara's vocals are an expressive force, conjuring spirits from the soil with a deep humility and respect for the land and their existence in the universe. Suryadi has built a new guitar for these tracks and pushes the Senyawa sound into new territory, utilizing delay, loops, and other effects creating grounded backdrops of folk metal, punk attitudinal, and droning earthscapes - providing Shabara the perfect context to explore his whispering poetry and jagged, sharp-as-a-kris animistic powers. There is simply no other sound like it and Sublime Frequencies is thrilled to present this new direction in their discography.”
Wolfgang Voigt commits one of GAS's most darkly sublime albums with 'Rausch', which arrives nearly one year on from Narkopop to remind us his position as the prince of ambient techno.
Meant to be listened to from end to end without interruption, but also included as seven discrete parts for those who need them, Rausch unfurls in diaphanous form along a depressed heartbeat march of padded kicks swept with distant horns and string swells in the faithful, time-honoured style of Wolfgang Voigt's finest recordings.
The difference lies in the feeling conjured by these swollen crests of abstracted instrumental textures and timbre. Rather than dreaminess or tranquilised melancholy, this one feels portent, impendingly stygian, as though summing up humankind’s incessant trudge toward a bleak unknown horizon, resulting in the emergence of sounds more akin to Sunn 0))), with his entrenched kicks struggling to break the gloom, and poetically losing out in the end.
Following a sold out run of Salm Vol.1, Arc Light Editions closes the year with a second volume of Gaelic psalm singing. The recordings documented here are from the same psalm singing sessions as the first, and both together represent a complete collection.
"This is music that is transcendent and together, about the individual and the earth, movingly spiritual with or without belief. The sound comes in great waves, swells of sound that break and roll around the space. The texture relies on the individuals: this is group singing where the individual is preserved, elevated, but together.
The recordings of Gaelic Psalm singing presented in the release are among the best ever captured. They document a living tradition, a form of religious singing from the Hebrides in Scotland, which is still practiced in Lewis. In Gaelic psalm singing, a precentor leads, and from here voices follow, moving together in great swells like the murmurations of birds.
These recordings of Gaelic Psalm singing were originally made over two evenings in the Back Free Church on the Isle of Lewis in October 2003. The singing was spontaneous and totally unrehearsed. The recordings are now presented on vinyl for the first time by Arc Light Editions. A precentor leads off with the first lines of a psalm, and the congregation follows, some faster than others, and each one remains discernible. In his notes to the original release, Calum Martin writes that the form, called precenting (where one person puts out the line and the congregation responds) while not exclusive to Gaelic free church traditions, is in Lewis particularly influenced by the pibroch style of free ornamentation. It’s through this, he says, that the distinctive emotional swell of sound emerges. The sound relies on the congregation’s individual responses to the melody and the individual precentor’s leading. The musical term is free heterophony.
Arc Light Editions has worked directly with DR Macdonald at the Bethesda Hospice and Calum Martin on this release, and we thank them for their time. A portion of the profits from this release go directly to Bethesda Hospice, in accordance with the original release."
DJ Sotofett joined in an Afrobeat session by Versatile bossman Gilb’r and previous collaborators Maimouna Haugen, Haugen Inna Di Bu & Stiletti-Ana
Played, mixed and mastered for authentic ’70s earfeel, ‘C’Est L’Aventure’ is a proper rug cutter wrapping up Stiletto-Ana’s virulent congas with drum programming by Sotofett and Gilb’r and funky bass vamps by Haugen Inna Di Bu, moving in three distinct sections use to take the ‘floor with them. The B-side dub is a peach; all West African percussive fluidity and psychedelic layers of synth and organ, leading to an extra spicy organ coda in the final third.
Enigmatic collective De Leon, known for a pair of cult tape releases on the Aught label, casts the 3rd release on Mana, following their sides by Pierre Mariétan and Benedict Drew with a display of rippling rhythmelodies and sloshing patterns, including some ripped from their Blowing Up The Workshop mix and all bound to resonate with fans of Shackleton, Don’t DJ, or Burnt Friedman.
Blurring distinctions between field recording and electro-acoustic performance in a gauzy sort of esoteric dance music, De Leon have worked coolly and obscurely in pursuit of an outernational spirit since their pair of tapes for /\\Aught in 2014-15. On Mana they pick up where we last heard them on a mix of exclusive productions for the BUTW mix series, rendering material from that set along with gear produced around then, or even more recently (we’re not sure to be honest, they don’t give much away).
The vibe is essentially a sort of trans-cultural moiré of ideas, converging elements of gamelan, West African tribal drums and Native American pipes in six seamless dream sequences that feel at times like Villalobos conducting Marginal Consort or at others like a naturally occurring delta of plugged in new age techno which has mutated in order to inoculate dancers against rigid metric conformity.
Spectral songcraft from Swiss trio Tout Bleu, charting a curious journey sure to appeal to followers of ÉLG, Gazelle Twin, The Velvet Underground, Coil
Bending drone-pop, darkwave electronics and keening jazz, rock and folk elements to their will, Simone Aubert’s Tout Bleu forge a form of, in their own words “Atmospheric No Wave”.
The results were recorded at Black Bunker Studio in Geneva, documenting Simone’s jibber-jawed glossolalia in a number of brooding situations, at times sounding like a call to prayer for far flung Mongolian tribes, at others resembling a sort of Japanese gagaku, and most often with an acutely trippy, heavy-lidded hypnagogic effect that leaves us subtly weirded out.
Raw and wincingly bittersweet, Niagara’s pendulous grooves blush like they were freshly bruised onto the vinyl in 37, the latest edition on the trio’s Ascender label.
In the wake of their São João Baptista EP for Príncipe, they carve out four parts of see-sawing hooks and crimped grooves doing the raw house thing quite unlike anyone else.
Their arrangements are practically disco in terms of live, lithe movement and lack of looping structure, leading the dance between the itchy boogie of Tó and the lushest grasp of deep fried dissonance in 12, before nodding to Jamal Moss’ cubist psychedelia with the lacquer bubbling scree and nerve-biting tone of Paradela, or the Birds Songs For Amelie vibes of Jordão.
Dreamlike second collaboration between Félicia Atkinson and Jefre Cantu-Ledesma, a deeply affecting play of contrasting textures, densities and space that comes very highly recommended if you’re into Ryuichi Sakamoto’s collaborations with Alva Noto, La Monte Young, GRM’s 1970’s output, classic 4AD/Cocteau Twins, that incredible Autechre remix of Tortoise, or indeed Félicia Atkinson's scene stealing Hand In Hand album from last year...
‘Limpid as the Solitudes’ is the steeply immersive second collaboration between Félicia Atkinson and like-minded, explorative spirit Jefre Cantu-Ledesma. Both highly regarded for a sensually tactile approach to sound, they bring the best out of each other in an abstract, spectral form of songcraft indebted to shoegaze as much as concrète dreamscaping, millennial glitch works, and downtown drone classics.
Following from Felicia’s superb ‘Hand In Hand’ album and Jefre’s ‘Fragments of a Season’ side with Alexis Georgopoulos (Arp), the Franco-American duo humbly dissolve their egos into a sublime suite of hypnagogic drowse belied by a sense of widescreen detail and unpredictable arrangements that simultaneously beckons eyelids to half mast whilst encouraging listeners to remain in the waking world. This gentle push and pull of forces is a wonder to undergo, with an uncanny capacity to make time feel elastic, even polymetric and vertiginous.
To describe the album as ambient would indicate a much too passive engagement with the sound - leave it to play in the background and you’ll miss a lot of the joy. Felicia and Jefre describe the record as a series of postcards - “things and sounds that happen vertically as a slow ascension, vessels communicating in dreams”.
The first half breaks down to three pieces where fractured snatches of field recordings emerge over viscous drone beds and diffuse daubs of original instrumentation. Together, they resemble a form of sonic picnolepsy of overactive minds (yours and ours), where we attempt to fill in the gaps of their keening and precipitous collage of field recordings and original instrumentation, but soon enough succumb to their dream logic between he fragrant open space of ‘And The Flower Have Time For Me’, and the swirling axis of ‘Indefatigable Purple’, where Félicia’s ASMR murmurs mingle most beautifully detached bass pulses under a canopy of smudged keys.
But to be honest that all feels like preparation for the subtly keeling sensation impressed by the B-side, a 17 minute drift into vaporised sentiments that requires the connective tissue of your body and massaged senses to become complete.