Latest limited edition 12" pressing from Daphni on hiw own Jiaolong label.
There's a tracky flex with off centre kicks and watery hardcore stabs on Hey Drum, then brings the floor up with proggy early ‘90s Sasha vibes in the chord-driven canter of The Truth.
Reissued just after the 30th anniversary of its cinema and LP release, Angelo Badalamenti’s classic soundtrack for David Lynch’s surreal small town crime thriller Blue Velvet is now placed back in circulation via Fire Records.
All the hallmarks of Badalamenti and Lynch’s soundtracks are here, from orchestral string arrangements such as the magisterial Mysteries of Love [Instrumental] and Julee Cruise’s sylvan synth version, thru to Isabella Rossellini’s smoky blues cover in Blue Velvet/Blue Star - Montage and ’50s/’60s influences from Roy Orbison and Bill Dogett, with a choice piece of surreal Lynch/Badalamenti collage in Lumberton U.S.A./Going Down To Lincoln - Sound Effects Suite to boot.
Jezus the Julee Cruise piece is just golden...
Heavyweight, head-boggling drone pressure from two of The Skull Defekts’ slaves, Henrik Rylander and Joachim Nordwall, who both aim squarely at your psychedelic pleasure zones with Focus on the Centre of Your Skull for Nordwall’s iDEAL Recordings.
Along the same trajectory as last year’s Journey To The Centre of Your Mind LP and the Harsh Realities, Broken Bones and Skull Tones tape, this one is a stoically crushing demonstration of noise and techno minimalism at its purest, most affective; rudely intent on massaging or even masticating your grey matter into unstable states.
The four parts of Focus on the Centre of Your Skull draw on a strong heritage of dub, noise, techno and metal yet could never quite be accused of imitating any of them. Rather they cut thru all fields at once to irrigate their own furrow of mutant, roiling drone which exists in a strange paradox of pulsating momentum and aching stasis, eaten away by caustic FX which bluntly work their way in like parasitic organisms.
Great, visceral stuff.
Getting in there just as his new album proper drops, Ben Frost presents his tense soundtrack to Super Dark Times, a new flick directed by Kevin Phillips and hailed as “an unnerving cross between ‘Stand By Me’ and ‘Donnie Darko’” by IndieWire.
Like his work on Fortitude, and his acclaimed A U R O R A album, the Australian composer diffuses scarily close strings thru diaphanous soundscapes to mirror both the film’s imagery and his own internal landscapes.
More specifically, Frost picked a palette of sounds appropriate to the film’s setting in ‘90s upstate New York, generating a temporally sensitive tension that drew on his formative experiences with digital delays, Boss Metal Zone distortion pedals and Peavey Amps that was also pretty ubiquitous to that era.
The results sound like the downstrokes of NIN, threaded with thwarted techno impulses and rent with a gripping sense of digital awe.
Two years since 'Splazsh' topped a stack of annual polls, Actress presents his 3rd, and most coherent album, 'R.I.P' - his 2nd for Honest Jon's.
Despite being a vital cog in the machinery of underground UK dance and electronics since at least 2004 (when he released his 'No Tricks' debut), it's fair to say that it's only in the last few years he's made the shift from cult concern to acknowledged auteur of some repute. His work with Damon Albarn's DRC Music, beside a legendary DJ set at Sonar and killer remixes of Shangaan Electro, Panda Bear and Radiohead all certify the fact; so expectations are no doubt set high for 'R.I.P'.
Produced exclusively on hardware and inspired by Milton's classic poem 'Paradise Lost', he's arranged his most labyrinthine, esoteric release to date; a timeless set of 15 tracks traversing crystallized radiophonics and subterranean Techno with a psychedelic sideswipe that leaves us dazed and beguiled. By assimilating machine-like characteristics - his notions of "seeping yourself liquid into the machinery" and "I'm just an instrument, I'm completely dead when I write" - he's become an interpreter, a symbiotic conduit of semi-lucid visions into the interzone whose revelations contain the potential to manipulate your consciousness in magical ways compared to the prosaic intentions of so much bland and overwrought electronic music out there.
The newfound clarity and fluid narration of 'R.I.P.' makes this the most intriguing chapter in the Actress saga so far - an unmissable experience.
At bleeding’ last, Raime commit their 2nd album to Blackest Ever Black, and it’s every year worth the wait.
Tooth is the result of a fastidious refinement process, chipping away any extraneous elements in order to drill right down to a personalised, uncompromising truth: respectfully consolidating a hive of reference points - the finest filaments of grime, jungle, gothic film soundtracks, and rocking industrial sci-fi - but always with a deeply unique style and pattern.
Hewn from a trad set-up of hacking guitar, samples, and heavily processed drums (from source by Valetina Magaletti, who also played on Quarter Turns…), all helmed by asphyxiating bass pressure, the results were subsequently rinsed in post-production to an inch of their lives. The result is a future-proofed and achingly taut sound; one that acknowledges any flaws in their previous efforts and ascetically twists the screws to a water-tight, rasping, tongue-in-groove finish.
Its eight unyielding tracks render filigree variations on that central theme, each focussed on a subtle yet keenly twisted sleight of syncopation from the opening Om-meets-Mala meditation of Coax to the rictus chatter and gasping stabs of Stammer at the final run out.
The effect is wickedly jarring yet hypnotic, sustaining a vicious, duelling tension between fight or flight between those points; lulling us in with Sun City Girls-like mantra and Jah Shaka-style sub massage in Dead Heat’s arabesque whorl, before ratcheting the tension with a slow, tendon-twitching panic like Albini-meets-Source Direct in Hold Your Line, to lend a sense of temporary resolution with the glinting pads of Front Running.
With Glassed they plumb the sweetspot between Rhythm & Sound, Senking and earliest Swans, but to be honest it all feels like it was leading up to the denouement of Cold Cain, arguably their master opus, parsing the gothic shiver of The Cure ('81 vintage) thru the gullet of ‘05 grime, buoyed off by thee sickest subs to effectively bury this sound beyond the reaches any comers.
We can nary think of another contemporary band whose impact is so directly disproportionate to their empirical output as these arch, vantablack neeks: a lesson that could well be learnt by so many others.
Tooth is a unit; a measure of beauty; an irregularity.
Eomac’s Eotrax shift dimensions with Lair’s haunting debut EP of processed overtone singing and etheric rhythmic experiments, backed with two subtle techno and ambient augmentations from Rrose.
The air-curdled tone of opener, Invoke immediately recalls Akira Rabelais’ use of the Argeiphontes Lyre software - as used on the eternal classic Spellwauerynsherde - but also strangely recalls Underworld’s Karl Hyde in parts, so there you go. Meld sustains that sound in more reverberant yet still static space, whereas Searching In Circles embellishes the same elements with sparse but dynamic pulses pinging around the soundfield like searching radar bleeps, and Incant seems to invert the effect to cavernously, gaunt and hollowed effect.
Rrose treats the material with a faithful hand, leading the ghostly silhouette of Meld to the darkroom on a pulsing string of pearls leash, and then freezing the same elements in a keening microtonal Distillation recalling work by Eliane Radigue.
Frank Maier’s always amazing V-O-D spy a comprehensive overview of Marc Barreca’s probing early phase with his first two tape albums Raw Fish and Green Tea / Surrogate religions  and Currents  made available on vinyl in their entirety for the first time.
There’s material strewn across both plates that appeared on Tape-Recordings 1977-1983, but the vast majority is practically unheard by anyone as the originals were issued in super limited quantity and are nigh-on impossible to track down 2nd hand. If you were seduced by Barreca’s Twilight  reissue on his Savant bandmate K. Leimer’s Palace Of Lights, then this one’s a reel must-have.
Perhaps best described as more stripped down and off-kilter than the material on Twilight, Barreca’s Recordings 1978-1979 demonstrate his solo sound taking gaseous shape inspired by the Brian Eno school of ambient minimalism. In the Raw Fish and Green Tea / Surrogate Religions recordings hear him mashing Eno’s inspirations with simultaneous influence, as the title may suggest, from far eastern modes of tuning and spiritual thought, resulting a spaciously but elaborately textured side of frolicking rhythmic electronics and cascading, bittersweet tones swept with glowing chimes and lush microtonal arpeggios, at best in the extended closing whorl of At The Carnival.
The wistful Eastern motifs also percolate into Currents  which again, as the title implies, is all about a natural chi or flow of energy nodding to Eastern schools of thought. Here the music is detectably more layered and frothing with an aesthetic that would later come to the fore in Twilight, making for remarkably sublime moments on In Far Cathay’s spiritualised swoon of flutes and bubbling electronics, or recalling OG Oblique Graph as much as Dopplereffekt in the sheer contours of Duet, and Franco Falsini’s sky-licking kosmiche on Visitors Part III, one of three bonus pieces not found on the original tape (which is impossible to find anyway!).
The Centre Cannot Hold is Ben Frost’s 5th studio album. It was recorded over ten days by Steve Albini in Chicago and represents a pinched, subtler refinement of the billowing structures heard on its predecessor, A U R O R A , as well as a more personalised statement from Frost, who has more commonly been found working to someone film scores for someone else’s storyline with Music From Fortitude and The Wasp Factory.
Accompanied by players Skuli Sverrisson, Nico Muhly, Daniel Lea, and Shahzad Ismaily, and aided by production from Lawrence English, Paul Corley, Daniel Rejmer and Valgeir Sigurðsson; Ben Frost is effectively the triple threat actor/writer/director of his own particular album-cum-movie, rendering a typically melancholic vision of modern ambient and neo-classical storytelling that keens heavy with textural and emotive inspiration from industrial, post-rock and noise paradigms.
The record’s two side openers, Threshold Of Faith and Ionia were issued as single previews of the album, and both offer fair measure of what to expect from the other eight songs, which contract and expand between the scything post dubstep dynamics of A Sharp Blow In Passing and shuddering storm systems of Trauma Theory and the very NIN/Cortini-esque sprawl of Eurydices Heel, to the crystalline ice caves of All That You Love Will Be Eviscerated and the heavy-handed troll-bait epic, Entropy In Blue.
In emotional terms, Frost sums up feelings of apoploptic rage and despair usually only felt when you’ve gone to an outside toilet in Iceland in middle of winter, but forgot the tissue, while the production remains as trustingly tourist friendly as the northern lights. Put this on after GoT while you reflect on another great episode of tits and CGI dragons for optimal effect.
We've been waiting for this one for a while being the Hood obsessives that we are, and here it is - the new album from Chris Adams, aka Bracken.
Day-dreaming dub, ambient pop and downbeats are the order of the day, wrought with that melancholly vibe Adams has been doing so well for over 20 years now.
If you're into Hood, or any of its many offshoots and inter-related projects, or indeed the likes of Moon Wiring Club or Animal Collective, this one comes with our highest recommendation...
No nonsense hard jaw EBM form Phase Fatale, dispensing a proper workout for Jealous God’s 15th release.
Cementing his spot at the top of the EBM techno table, the Berlin-based NYC transplant grinds out the blank-eyed and noisy toil of Breathe and nails a mean af 16th note slammer to the wall in iMirror.
Turn it over and you’ll encounter the beastly trample of Pressure and razor-toothed industrial swang of Cell.
The outstanding maiden release on Pete Swanson’s Freedom To Spend label is a reissue of Michele Mercure’s sublime obscurity Eye Chant (1986), which was originally issued under her then married name, Michele Musser, and has since become a proper collectors item regarded for its patently otherworldly blend of minimal wave, new age ambient and creamy, krauty electro boogie.
In the early ‘80s, with a background working as a cell animator, and hailing from a mid-sized industrial town, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, USA, Michele was embedded in the the town’s visual arts community but suffered for lack of decent music - a familiar whinge from anyone who grew up outside of the big cities - so she made her own wickedly inventive and expressive sound using synths, effects, tape loops, vocals.
Her visual and musical worlds first gelled in a 1983 soundtrack for Samuel Beckett’s Waiting For Godot, followed by three self-released cassettes which built on that aesthetic, creating a richly synaesthetic style of highly visual yet mostly minimalist music.
Released a few years later, Eye Chant was the pinnacle of her output, and is now revealed to the world at large, thirty years later. From the rim we’re sent skyward into the waltzing orbit of Tour De France (Day 2) and kissed with the budget Jean Michel-Jarre vibes of In The Air, handing over to the wistfully primitivist incantation, The Intruder and hitting lightspeed with her soaring soundtrack for a performance art piece, 100% Bridal Illusion, where she calves from ecstatic highs into a scene of tumbling 606 drum machine, seagulls and nods to squabbly free jazz.
The others also live up to her name, almost imperceptibly shifting from glowing microtones to alien noise and slippery, lounging electro fusion with Dream Clock, and then like some salty-curdled ambient stroke in Proteus and the Marlin that uncannily reminds us of mid ‘90s Rephlex charms - think super melodic AFX or Cylob - before melting all over the ‘floor with a wigged-out waltz called Too Much primed for the back room at One Eyed Jack’s.
It’s easy to hear, this is strongly tipped to fans of Julia Holter, Suzanne Ciani, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, AFX, Irdial Discs.
In Pessimist, Blackest Ever Black’s furtive D&B agent submits a killer debut LP recce from the no man’s land between jungle, tekno and greyscale electronics - a definitively Bristolian sound. Forming a logical expansion of the themes explored in his work with the Ruffhouse trio and in solo shots for A14 and Osiris Music UK over recent years, his first album finds him working in acres of negative space to fully indulge his worries for the dance, arguably resulting in a new high-water mark for the D&B album format.
Thanks to a natural predilection for minimalism and a fine tuned sensitivity towards textured, atmospheric detail, Pessimist succeeds where the vast majority of D&B long-players fail; fundamentally keeping our interest without resorting to beating us around the head with the latest plugin acrobatics. Rather, Pessimist uses techniques of stealth and guile to draw in and toy with his prey, resulting a far more intriguing and satisfying dispatch from the dark side of the echo chamber.
Like we say, it’s sculpted as a proper album, as opposed to a clutch of middling bangers, replete with intro, outro and a tempered transfer of energy between the tracks that necessarily curves the listener’s enthusiasm between pockets of dank ambience, dread dub dimensions and rolling, ghostly tech-steppers.
Aside from the bolshy techno of Peter Hitchens and clinical badboy rolige of Through The Fog, it’s all exclusive new material, churning up some robust highlights with Grit’s hunched and grubbing torque, and the stark, crispy Spirals, but we’d have to point to his No Matter What collaboration with Overlook for the LP’s most impressive mutation of pure UK bassbin pressure. If we’ve any gripes, though, it’s from the splashback of his breakbeats that come in half way thru Grit and dominating his Glued link-up with Loop Faction, but apart from those, it’s a proper dark fantasy.
Alternately guttural and ecstatic electro-acoustic invocations from Dais Records co-founder Ryan Martin and the restless Joachim Nordwall ov iDEAL, recorded over a couple of cold nights in a Brooklyn basement, late 2014.
Trance Below The Streets courses an effluent route underneath the same, sputum-tiled streets that we’d imagine influenced Ron Morelli’s Spit, pursuing a toxoplasmic muse that resonates in the air, sliming from the ceilings and coating the walls of their recording space and channelled right onto the wax. If it was a scratch and sniff record it would smell of mould.
However, for all the clamminess and cold, ceramic finish, there’s soemthing hypnotically magnetic about the way in which the duo musically converse; neither trying to outdo the other, rather allowing the other room to manoeuvre within the frequency spectrum, from the sludgy gathering of energies in Exposing the Absurdity of Superstition to the ecstatic vocal charge which soon calves away to an oppressive, greying battery in of Retrace/Reverse, before the elegant, sashaying repetitions of Ricochet Around The Triptych lure us into a deeply somnambulant headspace with only the slight hint of violence lurking bedside.
Thanks to engineering by Kyle Keays Hagerman and cold mastering job from Kris Lapke (Alberich), Martin & Nordwall’s music is subtly petrified, pensile, frozen in place as a special document of that night in the basement.
Brilliant reissue of Maria Monti's Il Bestiario, originally released in 1974 and a prime example of the avant-garde art-song of the 1970s.
"Known for her renderings of Italian popular songs, Maria Monti is an Italian singer and actress with a noteworthy career: cabaret singer in the '60s, ambitious avant-garde folk artist in the '70s, and starring in films by directors as such as Sergio Leone's Fistful Of Dynamite (1971) and Bernardo Bertolucci's 1900 (1976).
Il Bestiario is a near perfect emblem of the fascinating territory gained through collaboration. It enlisted the radical poet Aldo Braibanti as its lyricist, features arrangements and synthesizer from Alvin Curran (Musica Elettronica Viva), the baritone saxophone of Roberto Laneri (Prima Materia), as well as the soprano saxophone of jazz legend Steve Lacy.
The result is absolutely stunning, musically unique within the respective outputs of its participants' long and noted careers. Unquestionably one of the most beautiful and neglected albums of its decade."
Killer suite of Ruhr region night slugs from Detlef Weinrich (Tolouse Low Trax) and Viktoria Wehrmeister (La! Neu?), mixed and edited by Kunstkopf’s Gordon Pohl and clad in designs by Jan Wagner, director of the Filmwerkstatt in Düsseldorf.
The follow-up to Often Music’s reissue of Serbian synth obscurity In The Moon Cage by Rex Ilusivii follows darker paths into narcotically grinding industrial rhythm and noxious atmospheres humanised by the vocals of Viktoria Wehrmeister, a Mexican sculptor who was last spotted singing in Klaus Dinger’s La! Neu? group of the ‘90s.
Six tracks absorb and reflect the heavy industrial landscapes and history of their locale to convey a raw, austere and shadowy sound strung out between the overworked machinery of The Hill and the burned-out bogle of Comida para Todos, taking in the pensile industrial dubbing of Laquella and swanging tribal slop of Quedarte en route.
Seriously stylish business, don’t expect this to stick around…
Richard D James' classic album from 1992, re-pressed countless times but still sounding as vital and impoirtant as it did way back when. Still probably the most uplifting and nostalgic thing in the AFX catalogue...
Dark Entries present a welcome reminder of Group Rhoda’s art-pop delicacy with Wilderness, the Oakland artist’s first release since her Max + Mara side and the sublime couplet of Out Of Time [Night School, 2012] and 12th House [NNF, 2013] which first brought her to our attention.
Pairing poetically abstract, observational lyrics with exquisitely adroit drum programming and lissom synth contours dripping with hooks, Wilderness forms a subtle refinement of what we remember from Mara Barenbaum aka Group Rhoda’s earlier releases. There’s a fluid, direct simplicity to her work here which betrays its elaborate construction in a way similar to the best Heinrich Mueller productions, with intricately evolving rhythmic calculations blossoming sleek and infectious arrangements certain to spark imaginations at home or on headphones, as well as seduce bodies on the ‘floor.
And just like Heinrich Mueller, Group Rhoda effortlessly remains true to original ‘80s machine styles while patently refreshing their templates with timeless effect. One can hear it in the supple, acidic bent and deliquescent starburst dynamics of Trespass, in the almost digi-dub budge of The Ice House, and like Suicide in Detroit on June, while Mexi Meri is like a perfectly measured mix of Gina X Performance and Arpanet, and sea or Be Sea hints at a certain Patrick Cowley-esque subaquatic electro sensuality.
The curious label arm of Lucerne’s zweikommasieben magazine, Präsens Editionen introduce local artist Bella Winnewisser and Berlin’s L. Zylberberg with this trippy little split tape, making up the label’s 10th release after scattershot releases ranging from a Raime lathe cut to a C60 by Robert Turman.
Both artists are new names to us, at least, and PE-010 gives a subtly enigmatic account of esoteric sounds that should lure listeners you farther down their respective rabbitholes.
Lucerne’s Belia Winnewisser blesses the A-side with a brooding three part suite of concrete electronics and vocals that speak to her background in goth unit Evje as well as the darkwave duo a=f/m with Rolf Laurels, who has previously released on Präsens Editionen. Belia’s Mattress of Wire is a dank display of bruised toms, keening drone and eerie strings, like Bourbonese Qualk at a tea dance with The Caretaker, whereas the percolated ambient steppers drums and choral motifs of Voices comes across like Karen Gwyer meets Kara-Lis Coverdale, and the stark mix of industrial and new age elements in My Life Is Your History feels like a blissed out Burial Hex piece.
The B-side is taken by Chatter from L. Zylberberg, a regular at Berlin parties; Sameheads, Griessmühle, O Tannenbaum. Hers is 15 minutes of ethereal kosmiche electronics with a certain sylvan quality, like strolling a secret garden of artificial flora under synthetic moonlight.
Pete Swanson and Jed Bindeman's Freedom To Spend label return with probably our favourite on the label thus far (and that really is saying something - each one has been a peach) - Richard Horowitz’s incredible suite of electro acoustic 4th world music, ‘Eros In Arabia’ ; written for flute and Prophet 5 and rife with mercurial, avian flights of fancy. This one is a proper find - especially if you’re obsessed with Dariush Dolat-Shahi’s more or less peerless Electronic Music, Tar and Sehtar, or indeed Byrne & Eno’s ‘My Life in the Bush of Ghosts’ or Craig Leon’s ‘Nommos’.
Horowitz has had something of a dual career - on the one hand via this little known but pioneering kind of work, and on the other scoring films in Hollywood (including work on Bertolucci's The Sheltering Sky). The cinematic quality of his material is evident here, but the subtle interweaving of Eastern influences with Western production techniques is incredibly rich with detail and imbues proceedings with an alien, fourth world quality that’s hard to place. Just like Dolat-Shahi managed to intersperse traditional Persian instrumentation with modular overlays in a way that didn’t ever feel contrived, Horowitz’s application of technique comes across as completely intuitive. As the label explain:
"Working in natural succession from end to beginning, “Elephant Dance” demonstrates the central synth and ney node to explore energetic sound patterns Horowitz imagined to be played in the 16th century on the island of Java, around the time Sufi’s may have arrived in Indonesia. Delicately trampling the twenty minute mark, the piece offers an immersive climate of microtones that might, with the primordial matter of love, alter DNA. “Baby Elephant Magic” is “Elephant Dance” but sped up— producing digital baubles that sound less like an Indonesian forest, more like an urban hive of mechanical insect interaction.
The piano on “23/8 for Conlon Nancarrow,” with John Cage technique at play, is played “as fast as possible by a human.” The sounds are driven to derail from the space time continuum. On “Never Tech No Foreign Answer,” a cheap cassette recorder microphone captures the Prophet-5 left to the devices of its master’s inner clock, taking on a frenzied sound form that vibrates in place before bouncing off the tape case walls. Chaos is concentric.
“Queen of Saba” incorporates the vocals of long-time collaborator, Sussan Deyhim. Described as one of Iran’s most potent voices in exile, Deyhim’s work is in both the tradition of Sufis and the late feminist poet, Forough Farrokhzad. Recently Deyhim and Horowitz worked together on a multi-media performance based upon Forrokhzad’s Iranian New Wave film, The House Is Black. Here Deyhim performs a taḥrīr where vocals go low to high without any semantically meaningful words. Horowitz’s associations with great cultural icons of the Middle East, like these women, soften (in)appropriations.
Less aggressive than its predecessors, “Eros Never Stops Dreaming” introduces the bendir frame drum, the feathery wind of the ney floating above its bowing rhythm with effortless mathematics. “Bandit Nrah Master of Rajasthan” begins where the album ends, an ode to Shakuhachi flute players known to indulge in both trance-inducing circular breathing and espionage.
Horowitz is linked with the worldly sound seeking circles of minimalist and avant-garde New York City musicians, especially Lou Harrison and La Monte Young, with whom Horowitz shared Shandar as a record label momentarily. He recorded and toured with Jon Hassell and collaborated with David Byrne and Brian Eno, Jean-Philippe Rykie, and Bill Laswell. Along his travels he befriended Brion Gysin and Paul Bowles, the latter whom mentored Horowitz over decades of correspondence, some of which documents the making of Eros and comes quite literally with this edition.
A record of physical and intellectual love for Arabia, FTS extends this flowing forward and backward – a shimmer that reverses the backward spelling of Ztiworoh. Eros is presented in the ever present. To borrow from a song title, Horowitz remains gainfully employed as an “inter-dimensional travel agent.””
The amazing Sandro Perri brings the likes of Brandon Hocura (Invisible City Editions) and various Constellation personnel on board his Off World vehicle for the 2nd part of an ongoing, esoteric saga which started with the Rashad Becker-meets-Pekka Airaksinen styles of 1.
This time it feels like they’ve located and touched down in the goldilocks zone of some distant solar system, reflected in their turn toward a sort of amorphous space age exotica and kosmiche folk for a whole other notional species.
Clad again in Karl Sirovy’s evocative artwork, this time dating to 1923 and 1931, and geared up with banks of vintage synths including Juno 106, VC-10, EMS Synthi and the krautrock staple, a Syntorchestra farfisa organ, among lots more, the eight players and engineers of Off World generate a sound quite literally dripping with classic reference, tended to with an economy and sound sensitivity that means it could have feasibly been made any time between the late ’60s and modern day.
Out of time and place, the squad embark on recon missions in teams of no more than four on any of the album’s ten tracks, returning with vivid, if abstract, descriptions of imagineered landscapes and cultures that resemble familiar earthly tropes, but somehow different, each according to stranger hybrid scales and rhythmic syntax that fluidly defy our meagre homo sapien powers of perception.
We recommend any daring or budding space cadets simply sign up for a one-way ticket andOff World’s uncanny parallel dimension open up before your keen ears.
Teklife’s DJ Manny steadily ups the footwork ante on his 4th album
Swerving from soulful samples and sweet vibes in Way You Move, to a rush of jungle footwork zingers in You Looking Good and the rumbling torque of Like That, thru intense hyperboogie pressure on Zancrash with DJ Taye to a scintillating 2nd half rush of fresh styles, most notably in the stark darkside flex of Ghost Out and the curdled chromatic warps, Life In This Bitch and If U Want It.
Proper club ammo.
Blasting outta Berlin, Ziúr reps a new wave of artists claiming the ‘floor as a space for freedom and experimentation. It’s a sound that would broadly fall in with an ‘anti-banger’ aesthetic, meshing cues from brooding post-rock electronica, snarky punk and J-pop with spare, deconstructed, spasmodic rhythms nodding to the ghetto styles of Lisbon as much as club music’s avant grade. In effect it’s more like a smart drug than traditional dancefloor/drug analogs; alert and focussed, assuaging ‘easy’ rhythmic gratification or the psychedelic sensuality of rooted dance music which preceeded it.
“Ziúr is one of the most exciting producers to come out of the fringes of Berlin club music in the last few years. A new generation is breaking out of the techno mould and creating in a spirit of freedom and experimentation, taking seemingly incompatible influences and balancing them into a new and exciting sound. Ziúr is also the founder and resident DJ of 'Boo-Hoo', a night championing diverse lineups, reflecting it's creative audience, bringing through the cream of the experimental dance underground. Planet Mu are proud to release Ziúr's debut album 'U Feel Anything?' in collaboration with Objects Limited, a label run by Lara Rix-Martin which releases music by women and non-binary people.
For someone who has previously released just two EPs, the vision of Ziúr's music is advanced and precise. It's music which beckons you into an alternate world; wonderfully alien pop music that eschews conventions. She creates eldrich atmospheres that balance gentle melody and warm pop, in which strange elfin voices sing from other worlds and spiralling rhythms feel like entire structures moving. In the latter half of the record these harden into a pounding, martial symphony of steel, and introduce the kind of rough electronic riffs and guitar samples that betray her background in punk.
'U Feel Anything?' was written as a way to think about music as a tool of enlightenment, a de-conditioning force and the kind of yin and yang that can be summed up in the title of one of the songs 'Laughing and Crying are The Same Things', a track which features Swedish pop singer Zhala, whose vocals straddle twisting beats, space and staccato strings. The album also features a collaboration with Aïsha Devi on the epic 'Body of Light', in which Aïsha's vocals are pitched up and down, manipulated and distorted into wispy angelic tones, setting the tone for the first half of the album. There's a process to Ziúr's music that's informed by this wish to get beyond the small things. She says Putting a relation on what's big and small and certainly meaningless behind our existence; how nothing is everything at the same time etc... it's something that I try to explore again and again by putting myself into a thought process, rather than having everything already formulated.
It's a record of powerful, emotional twists and turns and mind-flipping contrasts that resonate with depth. As Ziúr says I believe you can only tell that something is harsh when you have a soft side to compare it to. If everything is amazing then nothing is, right?”
For fxck’s sake, Ste Spandex mind-dumps his debut album on Cerberus Future Technologies: the home-baked label home to his myriad, nefarious disco activities involving Licking Mirrors, The Zest and Montauk Boys (which could get you locked up in some countries if done at the same time).
The Video Collection follows Spandexedrine’s pair of EP’s for Red Laser Records, and one for Tusk Wax, with 17 tracks harvested from recording sessions at The Brown House and The Boneyard over the last 5 years, including a handful of guest vocals by his bae Sarah Bates and pal Crispy Duck.
Huffing influence from Detroit, Chicago, New York and Brescia, as well as the last 30 years of Manchester club/disco history, he turns gold into potent crud, most often improvised on banks of vintage (read: a bit knackered) hardware and all recorded direct to VHS - Jamal Moss style - for that crudest, shabby chic crunch.
That said, these are some of the smartest, punchiest cuts in his special medicine cabinet, roving from the Italo/dub techno hybrid of Mother Tiger, thru strapping EBM torque in Untitled, to bandy-legged cosmic dub in Orgone Matrix Material and with two highlights in the aforementioned vocal pieces, namely the DMT-affected whorl of Ducky’s First Blast, and particularly Sarah’s spot on the chugging boogie flare, Got To Give The People (Album edit).
Rugged, trance-inflected techno for the thick of the rave from Avatism for Boddika’s Nonplus
Rolling out like a Skee Mask or Zekner Brothers play with the hunched breaks and curdled trance leads of Killign The Hour, then with lethally stripped down drum work in the DJ tool They Should Have Sent a Poet, before bringing it down to darkroom vibes in Assimilation Ritual and the sleazy slug of Things To Do In New York.
Retro-futurist prog-pop made on modular synths.
“In 2017, the musical term “electronic” is nearly obsolete given the ubiquity of computerized processes in producing music. Even so, the prevailing assumption is that musicians working under this broad umbrella must be inspired by concepts equally as electrified as their equipment. Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith has demonstrated in her still-blooming discography that this notion couldn’t be further from the truth, and that more often than not, rich worlds of synthesized sound are born from deep reverence of the natural world. Smith (who by no coincidence, cites naturalist David Attenborough as a contemporary muse) has embodied such an appreciation on The Kid in as direct and sincere a way as possible by sonically charting the phases of life itself. The album, which punctually follows up her 2016 breakthrough EARS, chronicles four defining cognitive and emotional stages of the human lifespan across four sides of a double LP.
The first side takes us through the confused astonishment of a newborn, unaware of itself, existing in an unwitting nirvana. Smith’s music has always woven a youthful thread befitting of the aforementioned subject. Here she articulates it in signature fashion on the track “An Intention,” which serves not only as a soaring spire on The Kid, but on her entire output. There is playfulness here, but it's elevated by an undertone of gravity into something compelling and majestic that is fast becoming Smith’s watermark. The emotional focus of side two is the vital but underreported moment in early youth when we cross the threshold into self awareness. The subject is profound enough to fill an entire album, but rarely makes its way into a single track, indicating Smith’s ambition to broach subtler and deeper subjects than the average composer. This side offers up another highlight in the form of “In The World But Not Of The World” which serves its subject well with epiphanic, climbing strings and decidedly noisy textures over a near-Bollywood low end pulse.
Side three emphasizes a feeling of being confirmed enough in one’s own identity to begin giving back to the formative forces of one’s upbringing, which is arguably the duty that all great artists aim to fulfill. This side ends with the exploratory album cut “Who I Am & Why I Am Where I Am” recorded in a single take without overdubs on the rare EMS Synthi 100 synthesizer. This humble piece of sound design serves as a contrast to side four’s verdant orchestral moments, all written and arranged for the EU-based Stargaze quartet by Smith herself. This final side represents a return to pure being, the kind of wisdom and peace that eludes most of us until the autumn of life. On “To Feel Your Best” this concept is voiced in the bittersweet refrain “one day I’ll wake up and you won’t be there” which Smith intended to be a grateful acknowledgement of life rather than a melancholy resentment of loss. The song has both effects depending on the mood of the listener, and both interpretations are equally moving.
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith belongs to an ilk of modern musicians who are defined by their commitment to creating experiential albums despite the singles-oriented habits of modern listeners, and here she represents her kind proudly. The subjects on The Kid are not simple to convey, and yet through both emotional tone and lyrical content, Smith does just that. There is a similar gravity to both birth and death, and rarely is that correlation as accurately and enthusiastically mapped as it is here. As Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith explores her existence through music, she guides us in gleefully contemplating our own.”
After a trio of standout jungle and UK bass 12”s with Livity Sound and Rupture London, Forest Drive West is absorbed into the Hidden Hawaii fold with a brace of rolling, tribalized dub techno and D&B explorations.
Lending his own shade to the grey area spectrum, FDW’s Persistence of Memory EP scales between two distinct parameters, firstly fingering the dynamics of dub techno and post-dubstep rolige with the hydraulic swing and vaporous chords of Pt.1, and more emphasis on hip-notizing tribal drum cadence in Pt.2, both highly compatible with your Peverelist, Skee Mask, or Batu constructions.
For us, though, the highlight is Pt.3; a masterfully tweaked, deep-end piece of steppers D&B flowing thru different breakbeat patterns with stunning fluidity gelled together by massive dub chord drops and levitating electronic drone.
After leaving us hanging for too long, the enigmatic R&B starlet pays up on the promise of her Cut 4 Me mixtape and Hallucinogen EP with an impeccable album of proper, star-dusted songs about love and life as “…a black woman, a 2nd generation Ethiopian-American, who grew up in the ‘burbs listening to R&B, Jazz and Björk”. Yh yh, count us in!
Sweeping us up in the heart-in-mouth dream sequence of Frontline’s sylvan soul and gently fading with the deliquescent sensuality of Altadena at its curtain close, Take Me Apart is arguably a modern classic blessed with widely resonating appeal. Marking a sublime demonstration of Kelela’s personal development over the years since literally everyone jumped on Cut 4 Me, her first opus is a more mature, layered and more coherent set which defines the difference between a mixtape and album thanks to its fluid logic and and intimately involving narrative structure.
Jupiter allows a moment to catch your breath in its bittersweet pirouettes before the rugged LMK - the album’s lead single - takes hold, triggering an amazing 2nd half loaded with Arca’s tell-tale pitch bends in the boogie knuck of Truth Or Dare and the almost industrially-toned drums and maaaad wide bass on S.O.S., but we’re not sure who’s responsible for the radioactive lead line of Blue Light, or the Burial-esque 2-step of Onanon, and it doesn’t really matter anyway, cos Kelela’s really the star of the show in every part.
Blistering, BDSM-inspired power electronics and transgressive industrial dance from Mykki Blanco-collaborators NAKED, ripping lyrics from Salò over a nailbed of sex sounds and anti-peristaltic convulsions for spine-busting effect. We’d wager even William Bennett or Prurient might be impressed with their efforts here.
The emo, shoegazy tropes of previous NAKED releases are swiped away this time in favour of proper stare-down sonics and eviscerating vocals, coughed up in four tarry black lumps of gristly, hi-pitched noise and ramrod beats designed to leave nobody on the fence.
Taking its title from a masochistic practice where the submissive gives to the dominant partner power and authority over the submissive’s body in exchange for the submissive’s happiness and health - which can also be taken as metaphor for socio-political control - NAKED live up to every letter of that premise, subjecting the listener to a barrage of unpleasantries/ecstasies in the destructive maul of Unleash Me, then drowning them like Yellow Tears in the cistern with the paso-doble flashcore battery of Spit, before sousing ears with incendiary sonics in Disease, and obliterating the senses via tirade of blastbeats and unrepentant squall in Whip.
We promise they aren’t messing about; my ears are seriously ringing right now. Approach with caution/abandon; find your limits.
RIYL Pan Daijing, Croww, Rabit, Whitehouse
A new name on Livity Sound
I-III plays deep into the label’s signature, rolling style with the rippling, Afrocentric drums, Detroit chords and subtle electrical disturbances of Dolce designed to enhance your hustle, then Bun So Nude heads down a slippery wormhole of almost Indian-sounding drum cadence synched to proper, bulbous subs and not much else, but that’s all you need!
Young Marco’s Safe Trip presents darling’s 2nd 12”, contrasting the driving flight of his debut for Voyage Direct with something a little more genteel and tender, all rooted in drum tracks made on a CR-1000 Drum Computer from his grandfather.
It’s an effortlessly smooth and user-friendly proto-house/electro sound compatible with Analord or the best dutch box botherers, coaxing out the analogue bubblebath of JPS Seniori, a gorgeous tropical boogie breeze in Marie, and sweetest braindance romance with Experience 33, then dialling in angelic synth voices and infectious trills on Hide The Petals, and a dash of dusky, fruity flavour in Six Eyes.
Dmitry Evgrafov makes a captivating vinyl debut on Fatcat’s 130701 label with Comprehension of Light following his label debut Collage  and the digital release of The Quiet Observation . Fans of label alumni Max Richter, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Dustin O’Halloran or Hauschka would be remiss to sleep on this one!
Notably accompanied by Abul Mogard on one piece, and Iskra String Quartet (The xx, Radiohead, Jóhann Jóhannsson) for half of the album, with Benoit Pîoulard adding atmospheric detail, Evrgrafov works to the full extent of his still nascent but impressive talents, presenting what he sees as “…a chance to manifest my deepest and strongest belief - the inevitable necessity of some inner moral law that is meant to guide us through daily hardships and make us grow, better, stronger, kinder and smarterer”.
Taking that into account, and the fact that his previous LPs were perhaps better regarded as collections of unconnected material written for commercial purposes - adverts, film, TV etc - it’s therefore best to consider Comprehension of Light as Evgrafov’s definitive artistic statement, displaying the full spectrum of his palette, from grained ambient noise thru rustic string orchestration and feathered solo keys to subtle electronic treatments, all following a redemptive narrative arc that feels like the first proper step in his young oeuvre.
Erstwhile Deaf Center member Erik K. Skodvin aka Svarte Greiner returns with a brilliant, solemn new work a year on from the Moss Garden album for his own Miasmah imprint.
Apart is essentially a suite of pieces for prepared Cello and location recordings, recorded in an abandoned industrial space in Bern, Switzerland, complete with all the aural artefacts you would imagine. As Skodvin explains:
"In autumn 2015 I was invited to perform and stay for a week at the – as it turned out one off - Rebirth Festival in Bern, Switzerland. I was staying at an abandoned farm in the hills, half an hour outside the city with the group of young people responsible for the festival. My room was equipped with a mattress on the floor, some strange paintings, and a lot of spider webs. The view outside was straight into an open field with mostly hills, a forest, and some tents, all of which would be covered in fog every morning. By night I was driven to the venue - an unused industrial building slightly outside of central Bern. Three of the nights there I was given a cello, a sleeping bag, full access to the building, and especially its big open basement space for recording. Something that ended up as both a fruitful and an uneasy experience. The walls were spray painted and the space was scattered with bizarre, elaborate tree / steel sculptures. Most of the rooms were made into some kind of surreal art object, often recalling a sort of Mad Max post-apocalyptic feel.
I realised that getting a clean recording here would be nearly impossible, as the building had a tendency for strange noises, clicks and sounds, seemingly turning itself on and off at random. It was also located right next to the train tracks, which meant I had about 10 minutes of quiet in which to record in between the thunder of passing trains - a lot of recordings were ruined. However, all these off elements somehow had their charm. Having such a big empty space for myself, filled with strange installations and sculptures set up for the festival, was both inspiring and eerie. When not playing and just sitting still, it was unnerving. The lights were on motion detectors and would automatically turn off after 5 minutes without movement, leaving me alone with nothing but a small lamp and my thoughts. Sometimes I wished my imagination would be less vivid, as I´d have an easier time not imagining all kinds of obscure happenings in the shadows. Then again, this is also something that intrigued me so much that I felt no choice but to investigate closer. Spurred by this intrigue/paranoia, I would often walk around the empty building to soak up the atmosphere and check if someone was there.“
That intense sense of isolation seeps through every pore of these wonderfully evocative recordings, situating them somewhere between avant garde composition and minimalist horror, something that’s long been a speciality of the Miasmah label and, indeed, Skodvin’s work - here taken to its most austere, stripped down and rewarding extreme.
Asking for a friend: Is it Quirke as in Pauline, or as in quirky? Nevermind.
Following a 12” for Whities, they return to the site of their debut, Young Turks, with a revision of that EP’s sanguine highlight, redressing Acid Beth with a gauzier, vintaged patina of crackle placing it in the shadows of The Caretaker on his Lizzie Mix.
Oren Ambarchi puts a quid in the jukebox for a 2nd session of Stacte Karaoke, catching the esteemed guitarist riffing on classic rock - and we’re talking Classic, yeh.
A ‘mare for some, manna for others, Stacte Karaoke II is like walking into a outback bar in a parallel dimension, where the jukebox doesn’t glitch but actually starts riffing on and recomposing whatever tune you dial in.
It’s a madness, we tell ya.
Theme plumbs the grey area between dub, D&B, and techno in eleven parts for Samurai Music, site of his Theme EP and Scenes 1-4 back in 2014-15. Trust there’s no major change in his sound, just gritty, moody variations on a Theme, with highlights for fans of FIS, Pessimist or Felix K in ‘Passage 2’ and ‘Passage 10’
“With a sum total of 2 12”s released for Samurai Horo and Red Seal, Theme has a sparse but vital discography. Fusing Dub Techno, Ambient and Half Time Drum and Bass, the Theme style developed as a uniquely Berlin influenced take on 170 BPM’s post autonomic developing progression.
Following a 2 year gap since the last release, the Theme debut LP ‘Passages’ builds on this style by accentuating and extending the ambient ‘passages’ and experimenting with beat structures to create an intricately constructed and textured journey. There is nods to the form that has made the Theme style stand out (Passage 6, 8, 9), beautiful ambient tracks that soothe and guide (Passage 1, 4, 7, 10) but the glue that affirms Passages as an accomplished long player comes from percussive workouts that hover around various BPM’s and genres (Passage 2, 3, 5).
Passages should really feel like the pinnacle of a journey for Theme, but instead it feels like the start of an all new chapter in musical form for a musical nomad who has found solace in leaving behind any constrictions and templates.
If you listen closely to Passage 11, you hear the sound of a new life beating from the womb of it’s mother, a fitting metaphor for the birth of the new Theme.”
Lullabies For Insomniacs go below and beyond into the Japanese underground, compiling the first ever reissue of Yasuo Sugibayashi’s brilliant “rhythmic noise” obscurity, The Mask of The Imperial Family backed by cuts from his two equally obscure and similar sounding 7”s, all originally self-released thru his Mimic Records label.
Inspired as much by Brian Eno and David Cunningham’s studio works as everyday life in Tokyo, Sugibayashi pursued a wide reaching, rhythmelodic sound thru a Roand System 100M synth and reel to reel tape which cannily lived up to his intentions, recalling to us the hustle and motion of a perceived life in Tokyo at a time caught between echoes of tradition and the bittersweet tang of electronic futurism. It sounds like somewhat like NON or Bruce Gilbert might have cooked up if they came thru in the same place and time.
Of course, the Mutant Sounds blog was aware of this one a long time ago, so we’ll leave you with their astute appraisal:
"Both profound and profoundly jaw dropping, the esoteric moves of this massively rare and insanely obscure 300 copy Japanese marvel have until now remained the sole preserve of a handful of heavyweight collectors. It's time to let the cat out of the bag on this one. The dankly cavernous and unsettling acid maneuvers of Dome circa their first three LP's (though absent vocals) are the nearest antecedent I can summon for the principal thrust of the sound here. So too, there's a ritualistic dimension to this stuff thats also a bit suggestive of something like Vasilisk or The Hybryds, though the arcane initiatory atmosphere here is far more penetrating than anything I've heard either of those two muster."
Burial-esque blunted garage meets shoe gazing ambient textures and subtle, traditional Iranian influences on the Texan label who brought you S U R V I V E (Stranger Things)
“Austin based ambient electronic producer VVV (aka Shawhin Izaddoost), returns to Holodeck with his second full-length album Shadow World. Following a wave of hype from his early 2017 cassette Why El Paso Sky, Izaddoost is back with his signature style of half-time swing rhythms and dense, atmospheric soundscapes. After several cassettes, EPs, and compilation appearances, VVV’s long awaited follow up to 2011’s Across the Sea (Fortified Audio) is here. Izaddoost’s vocabulary on Shadow World has expanded to include extensive samples from classic Iranian instruments in addition to his usual interplay of dark melodies and 2-step dance beats. VVV’s precisely curated tonal palette and percussive themes make Shadow World his most cohesive and accomplished release thus far.
Shawhin Izaddoost established himself as VVV in 2010 and has since maintained a prolific output of ominous yet catchy down tempo electronic music. VVV’s unique voice across an evolving repertoire has earned him a vast international following as well as a deep catalog of digital and physical releases. Shawhin combines his love for audio production and studio engineering with his background in piano and guitar to compose addictive arrangements teeming with understated complexity and originality.
Shadow World is the result of VVV’s efforts to focus work on a fully encapsulated LP with recurring motifs and source material. Shawhin has carefully designed each piece to be a movement within a continual whole, making this record a thoroughly realized concept rather than a collection of individual songs. VVV’s abstract mixture of fractured hip-hop and house beats on tracks like “Give it Time” and “Spellbound” are infectious, supporting layers of ethereal yet unforgettable vocal hooks. Interspersed within the propulsive dance tracks, ambient songs like “Circuit” and “The Descent” are vast and cavernous, momentarily relinquishing attention to Izaddoost’s sophisticated and nuanced sound design. The unified vision and refined details on Shadow World makes the new album stand out as the peak of VVV’s discography.”
Larry Conklin bought his first guitar, a Gibson J-45, in 1970, after he got out of the army. "I taught myself to play. I wrote songs and instrumentals (at that time Bert Jansch was my guiding light). I listened to a lot of people - Leo Kottke, John Renbourn, Django Reinhardt, Lonnie Johnson, Robert Johnson - and especially Rev. Gary Davis, who played only with his thumb and index finger as I did."
"Larry's first record, Jackdaw was self-released in 1980 and includes beautiful solo 12 string acoustic guitar tracks, as well as gentle acoustic duets with violinist, Jochen Blum. Larry met Jochen in Florence, Italy, in 1980 and commented that "his violin playing put excitement into my music. It was special. I pressed 300 copies and sent them out into the world."
Larry wrote "The Diamond Cutter" in 1978 while going to Seattle Community College, in a creative writing course. The inspiration for the song, according to Larry "was a girl who wrote a poem to a departing lover - You only deal with cut glass. I deal with diamonds. I introduced myself to her as the Diamond Cutter." In 1985 while living in Berlin, Larry got a letter from a woman in Seattle who informed him that Charles Royer was running for a third term as Mayor of Seattle and that "The Diamond Cutter" was being used as a campaign song. Royer won, November 5th 1985.
Post-Jackdaw, Larry moved to Europe and in 1987 began recording for Tukan Records. In the 21 years that he lived in Europe, Larry toured and recorded with John Renbourn as well as blues artist Sidney ,Guitar Crusher, Selby. Larry returned to the United States in 2002 and now lives in Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii. "My ambition these days is to work up the perfect set list, an evolving challenge, but on any night when I am playing in Hilo I will play "The Diamond Cutter". It's on my set list. It somehow led me here."
Pan Sonic's Ilpo Väisänen, Dirk Dresselhaus (Schneider TM) and Oren Ambarchi break down to the soul of noise with a new album dedicated to Mika Vainio. If you’re into Vainio, KTL or Ilpo’s brilliant solo work under his own name or as Liima / Piiri, this one's a doozy.
Collectively, die Angel model a complex physicality through raw, elemental inputs, exploring a flux of reactive feedback processes and mutating, unstructured sonic states generated from crackling fusions of electronics, drums, electric guitar and field recordings warped and riddled with FX. They basically sound like Pan Sonic at their most intricate and visceral.
The opening Roha transcribes barely-perceptible shifts in the stereo field with the kind of molecular detail you’d expect to find on a Rashad Becker production, before Terminen Kevat and then Kitka plug into a more amplified dimension that recalls Stephen O’malley at his most contemplative and motorik.
Silvaticum harks back to a classic Pan Sonic sound - at once primitive and somehow transmitted from the future - but it’s the sloshing brownian motions on the brilliantly towering 15 minute Entropia North that tips us into billowing, white hot feedback with scintillating effect.
The amorphous results document and describe a freeness of energy travelling from body to machine and diffused across alternating acoustic environments. Each of the players here works as controlled, external variable interacting with the different acoustic conditions to tempestuous impact, convulsing between squashed, recursive diffractions to sublimated jazz drums and feedback chaos without pausing for breath...
R.I.P. Mika Vainio.
It’s All True is an opera-in-suspension from New York ensemble Object Collection based on the complete live archives of iconic underground band Fugazi.
"Grounded upon the DC post-hardcore outfit’s 1987-2002 Live Archive series, composer Travis Just and writer/director Kara Feely’s work uses only the incidental music, text and sounds, none of Fugazi’s actual songs. An obsessive leap into 1500 hours of gig detritus – random feedback, aimless drum noodling, pre-show activist speeches, audience hecklers, police breaking up gigs – is the foundation of an ear-body-and-mind-flossing 100 minutes for 4 voices/performers, 4 electric guitars/basses and 2 drummers. It’s All True is overloaded, maddening, mundane, properly funny, and a radical incitement to action.”
Keiji Haino, Oren Ambarchi and Stephen O’Malley re-merge their untouchable Nazoranai trio for a crushing third dispatch from the farthest limits. Bestowed with one of Haino’s brilliantly portentous titles, it unfolds thru a bi-hemispheric 50 minutes of firmament razing hurdy gurdy, guitar and electronics underpinned by sub-harmonic bass and absolutely possessed percussion that reminds us of the almighty power of music at its most elemental and affective.
‘Nazoranai’ - meaning ‘not repeating’ in japanese - defines the group in opposition to free improvisation, or ‘sokkyo’ in Haino’s native tongue; signifying a more meticulous, measured approach and style that’s still balls-to-the-wall, yet consciously sidesteps the cliched traps of ‘free’ convention.
From the seedlings of Ambarchi’s cleansing chimes and precise, angular drum hits in the tense first few minutes, O’Malley’s guitar becomes a massive, looming presence rather than any definable shape, moving in viscously diffused synch with the percussion to provide swelling oceanic/nebulous dimensions for Haino the harbinger to express his worries on a Hurdy Gurdy - an instrument that he has only really played on a handful of his myriad recordings.
They take all of the first side and well into the second to develop this tempest before Haino’s gut-wrenched vocals appear at the point when they achieve orbit-breaking velocity. Out there, Haino comes into his own with apoplectic vocal convulsions and tear-out guitar matched by Ambarchi’s bombardment from all angles in the soundsphere, with O’Malley a prowling, thunderous presence at the perimeter.
And it’s that bass presence that really offsets and makes this one such a monster - lending a plasmic propulsion that’s harder to grasp than Ambarchi’s spiky drums or Haino’s screech, billowing out of the speakers in a way that really does represent the pressure of his live performances, even with relatively meagre amplitude. That sub-harmonic dimension remains rock music's most elusive and enigmatic quality, so kudos to O’Malley and his cohorts for harnessing it here with so much imagination.
The Collection is an intimate survey of Italian minimalist Nicola Ratti (Bellows) in his element, conducting dusty knocks and electro-acoustic effervescence in a play of greyscale tones and rhythmic irregularities at his Milan studio. Featuring material recorded over a number of years, it’s best considered as summary of Ratti’s personal favourite, unreleased highlights of the past few years, focussing on stray, ostensibly unconnected pieces which, when collected, represent a mosaic of his artistic development and the underlying aesthetics of his identity.
Hand-picked by Ratti, The Collection peers into every nook and niche of his elusive style, from fidgeting small sounds redolent of Bellows, to booming slow techno and rolling, reactive dub mutations primed for the ‘floor, each giving a canny insight to the personalised intricacies and underlying inputs of his texturhythmic sound.
It’s the kind of music that the machines may make behind our backs or once we’re all gone. But, as it stands, it’s all the work of one man sequestered in his studio with his worries, facing banks of gear and often wondering what the f**k am I going to do today? That may not be instantly detectable to the listener, but as Ratti stresses in the promo text, this is an unspoken aspect of the recording process which belies each of these recordings, if only to him.
These outside pressures of artistic endeavour vs capitalist realism thus serve to inform the material’s agitated nature and emotional ambiguity, there in the itchy yet sanguine feel of L2, laced into the quizzical probe of L6, diffused thru the recursive dub-tech system of L1, or rendered in perfectly elusive, gaseous fashion with R401, which arguably defines his sound as uniquely suggestive not prescriptive.
Moon Field is a brilliant suite of electro-acoustic jazz abstraction by eminent Portuguese guitarist and electronic composer Rafael Toral.
A relatively rare solo release - his 2nd of 2017, following a five year hiatus - Moon Field looks beyond Toral’s Space Elements series to a stranger sonic state of hovering stasis, with carefully nipped guitar gestures framed against a shapeshifting mass of modular synth crackle, eliciting the sensation of music beamed in from another star system. Followers of Oren Ambarchi or Jim O’Rourke need apply right away.
“On Moon Field, Rafael Toral breaks new ground, it is his first edition that moves outward, beyond the Space Program series. This collection of three extended and interlocking works, marks the beginning of a transitional period into a new phase.
Building on the explorations of his almost decade and a half of work with the Space Program, Mood Field seeks a more open sensibility and integrates a range of new elements and new directions. These elements reposition the potential interplays of his chosen musical elements.
“Moon Field was originally written for live performance by a configuration of the Space Collective 3,” Toral explains, “It was with Ricardo Webbens on modular synths, Riccardo Dillon Wanke on electric piano and myself on electronic instruments. While working on it, the piece revealed a strange hovering quality, a kind of stasis. It's alive and awake, like all the recent Space Program music, but doesn't seem to want to go anywhere. The music wanted to be something very peculiar and I changed it a lot in response to that. It also revealed what I find a kind of nocturnal mood, as if we were listening to alien signals with satellites crossing the sky under the moonlight.”
Moon Field’s middle section, The Horizon, sees Toral entering a broader acoustic field. The piece weaves a fresh examination of the ambient music he worked on between 1987 and 2003 with the fabric of post-free jazz-inspired phrasing with electronic instruments. The results extend the free roaming aspects of the Space Program and mark out a distinctive and deeply personal approach to sonic atmospherics. This is the first step into a much larger, richer universe.”
Italian techno artist and mastering engineer Neel continues the momentum of The Vancori Complex and Late Night Innominate, Volume Two into these pulsating constructions for Belgium’s Token label, helping mark up his most active year for releases on record.
Check Calcata for the purest subaquatic pulses; Re. Vox for deadly drip-off techno tang; and the deliquescent fluidity of Bassiani and Treja for more Millsian/Hood sorts of minimal bleep techno akin to his Voices From The Lake gear with Donato Dozzy.
Lung Dart’s endearingly solemn, soulful debut album, As I Lay Drying is reworked at the hands of 12 peers and label mates from PRAH and Kit Records
Ranging from the total tonal abstraction of Michael Speers’ take on Caliope, to the Lynchian atmosphere of Bianca Scout’s edit of Healthy Functional Tissue, thru the slinky, flickering rimshots of Haddon’s house reshuffle of Wrung Out, and footwork and jungle refits from Classic Coke and 8Ball.
Tokyo’s Kouhei Matsunaga with a lucidly crisp set of breakbeat techno an electro tricks for DFA Records continuing his world tour of labels after 12”S with PAN, Important, Raster-Noton, Diagonal, L.I.E.S.
The prolific multi-monikered artist covers a usual breath of nuance across the 8 tracks of Exit Entrance, weaving between Rian Treanor-esque, avian electronic mixed with crunchy garage in Meeting to fiercer, grungy pressure recalling Diamond Version in Dignity, taking in a glassy beatless apex with Notice and a killer lash of bendy acid techno with Dented.
On his 2nd EP for Tresor, BNJMN refines his sound to a sort of keening, grittily textured greyscale techno.
Body Reflections Pt.2 steadily scales his sound from expansive, booming techno ambient techno recalling earliest AFX in Undulations, thru the slower, decayed techno bulk of Lyra to a Ben Frist-like sore point of tectonic noise quake and noise in Earth Shock, expelling any reserves of energy in the heavy-lidded but still-driving Severance, to the anxious resting point of Ghost Faction, which is arguably the most impressive ambient work in his catalogue.
Innovative, inventive ambient improvisations and prepared compositions dating from early ‘80s to late ‘90s - somewhere between Jim O’Rourke, Arve Henriksen and Mike Cooper. Mastered and cut to heavy vinyl at Brandenburg Mastering. Includes liner notes by the artist
“This is a collection of works from British musician GP Hall, recorded between 1994 and 1999.
For over four decades, guitar in hand Hall encountered many styles; jazz, blues, flamenco, rock, folk, and classical improvisation. All contributed to the creation of his unique style. Emerging from the British blues boom of the 1960’s, he then followed a long and winding path through various scenes and cultures. In Spain, he was Influenced by flamenco master Manitas Del Plata before touring Europe with Liverpool band Casey Jones & the Governors. He was commissioned three times (twice by The Arts Council of Great Britain) for original music and was immersed in the avant-garde scene of the 1970’s as an improviser, a pioneer of electric flamenco and a composer of large-scale ensemble pieces. During the 1980’s Hall turned his focus to soundtrack music before reinventing himself as the solo performer he is today.
With this strong foundation he branched into a tactile expression of his craft, discovering a new style which he called industrial sound sculptures. These sonic compositions are performed on electric and acoustic guitars as well as the six-string bass and are played with various techniques and implements including slides, battery fans, the psaltery bow, razors, toys, Velcro and crocodile clips which are fed through sound processors to create a rich sonic environment.”
Hypnotic minimal techno from Tresque, who’s maybe better known as Geneva’s experimental improvisor D’Incise, who has changed tack to techno with heavy, physical effect in the Lensomni EP.
We haven’t really heard anyone go so hard in the pursuit of minimal techno like this since the ‘00s, with unrelenting, brain-bugging effect recalling Thomas Brinkmann or Wolfgang Voigt’s more abstract angles in the steely monotone grind and barely perceptible shifts of Terapung-Apung, and wickedly offset polka pump in the disciplined march of L’Esvelh.