Shadowy Berlin techno stalwarts Pom Pom sell up to Ostgut’s A-TON with a typically enigmatic album of murky ambient, industrial and electronica
For years the preserve of techno neeks and anyone intrigued by the racks of identikit black labelled and sleeved 12”s in X-Berg’s Hardwax and Space Hall racks, Pom Pom has done well to maintain its anonymity in a the current, hyper-commercialised and surface level state of things in techno right now.
Still, nobody has a clue who’s behind the label, apart from maybe A-TON, who bring the artist(s)/label to a wider audience with ‘Untitled II’, which, to our ears, sounds like the work of more than one person, as it ranges from comedown drones to purring electro offcuts and arpeggiated nightflights with a subtle shift in accents that, to be fair, could be the work of one as much as many.
Constellation’s new signing unveils an optimistically-charged new age synth style
“…the twinkling ostinato melody of “A Bright Resemblance” sounds like a satellite signal pulsing through celestial refractions…”
Our album of the year 2018 is Eli Keszler’s ‘Stadium'; an isolationist avant-jazz masterpiece that's both highly complex and entirely accessible. With his close collaborators Daniel ‘0PN’ Lopatin and Laurel Halo smoking in the back seat, on ‘Stadium’ Keszler somehow manages to emulate a feeling of being lost in a crowd, of time slowing down as the world accelerates around you. In a year full of global upheaval and noise - it was the album that offered us the greatest sanctuary.
Painted in diffuse strokes, Keszler offsets rhythmic complexity with spacious Rhodes chords, floating woodwind and field recordings - showing off an expressive grasp of meter and mood while creating a kind of slow-fast simulation that alters your perspective and sense of scale, zooming out from the atomic to a gauzy panoramic view.
Keszler navigates webs of sound as structurally fascinating as a spider’s web or a deep space image of a distant constellation, seemingly moving on eight legs along steep vertical and fast-flowing horizontal axes with a shocking grasp of precision and pointillism that will leave new listeners to his work scratching their heads, wondering how to programme such chicanery electronically. But as longer term followers of Keszler’s work know, the magick is all acoustic and haptic; physically converting impressions of images and emotions into overlapping geometries of geography and psychology - and in this case effectively projecting a singular, inverted form of sonic deep topography, if you will.
While challenging and highly complex in its construction, it’s an album that's also tremendously easy on the ear, effortlessly binding instrumental dexterity with cool blue harmolodic sentiment in a timeless style that could feasibly be dated to any point between the mid ‘70s heyday of jazz-fusion and right now - in the most thought provoking, evocative way. It reminds us of Milford Graves, Jan Jelinek and even Miles Davis at their most smoked out and moody: best enjoyed alone, late at night.
Preeminent sound artists William Basinski and Lawrence English roll out the quietly breathtaking ’Selva Oscura’ as the first fruit of their collaborations spanning the past half decade and more.
Mantled in reference to Dante’s Inferno, ‘Selva Oscura’ literally translates to ‘Twilight Forest’, a title which serves as metaphorical device for the way Basinski and English’s lives in transit have serendipitously crossed paths over the years between Zagreb, L.A., and Hobart, in a variety of situations. On another level it also speaks to the nature of losing one’s way in place and time, which is beautifully reflected in the music’s disorienting, otherworldly ebb and flow flux.
Using a palette of sounds broken down, magnified and inverted from macro to micro scales and vice-versa, and mailed to each other between L.A. and Brisbane, the results map out vast tracts of psychic terrain that shift like the sands of time, with sounds perpetually rearranging themselves on the granular level to render a broader, slow moving tapestry of sublime, anaesthetic quality.
The A-side’s ‘Mono No Aware’ (Japanese for “the pathos things” or “a sensitivity to ephemera”) is a captivatingly transient and hypnagogic work of sferic tones and sprawling wide bass, lulling listeners into a state of lushest melancholy with the allure of a time-lapse video of autumnal weather patterns. ‘Selva Oscura’ follows with a discernibly darker and submersed appeal, as though the clouds have come down to us (or us to them?) and we’re left wandering the firmament, initially swaddled in a creamy grey-pink expanse marbled with pealing partials, before crossing oceanic basses and gently touching down to pinch ourselves.
Amazing record! Avant-pop enigma Leslie Winer slinks the plasmic, recursive matrices of Jay Glass Dubs in a brilliant but unexpected marriage of husky trip hop and psyched-out dub styles on Your Mom’s Favourite Eazy-E Song for Bristol’s excellent Bokeh Versions.
Finding common, scorched ground between Jay’s gutted structures and Leslie’s abyssal, esoteric insight, YMFEES serves to perfectly highlight the similarities and mutabilities common to both artist’s oeuvres, which have previously shared label space on The Tapeworm, and both share a keen lust for the dankest ends of the dub pool.
With Winer’s lyrics reprinted in swirling ellipses and contoured kerning on the inner sleeve, and presumably (and smartly) designed to mirror the elusive structure of Jay Glass Dub’s arrangements, the listener is offered some kind of star chart thru their no-man’s-land mental dub scapes of ricocheting riddims and droll reportage from the brink of consciousness.
In a dancefloor situation, we’d imagine these tracks to trigger some healthy bewilderment, as bodies get snagged on Jay’s cranky churn and heads spun by Leslie’s stream-of-non sequiturs in Woodshedded, or likewise bullied by the blown-out bass and genuinely spooked, over-the-shoulder vocal of About The Author. However, it’s most likely to be consumed in solitude, which is probably the most appropriate for really getting into the album’s strangest nooks, such as the deliciously OOBE-like detachment of No Famous Actors featuring Winer as HAL-like ghost in the machine, or the masterfully heavy-lidded drowse of Cogged featuring a barely-there Winer suspended above Dubs’ murkiest, hypnotic strokes.
What a beauty?! Don’t sleep!
The collaborative venture of Turk Dietrich and Michael Jones, Belong inhabit a sonic territory that seems perpetually out of sight - giving the same effulgent warmth as standing with your back to a sunset, or glimpsing a blizzard through a frosted window.
Spectrum Spools scan back to the early work of Second Woman’s Turk Dietrich with reissue of his and Michael Jones’ first album together as shoegaze duo Belong. While there’s maybe no obvious connection between the hyper dance music of Second Woman and the romantically sore, heavily textured tones of October Language, look a little further and it’s possible to locate a shared lust for keening transcendence and a lush tension between freeness of expression and discipline of intent between the two projects.
But no worry if that’s not apparent. Just think of it belong as a sublimated MBV or echo of Fennesz and you’ve got the measure of this abrasively beautiful album.
Ethereal house track on white label from uncredited but possibly well-known sources, out via Floating Points' Pluto imprint.
From a golden haze of harmonised chords emerge teasing bleeps, floating organ cradling a purring bassline, unfurling and reading with palindromic structure right back where it came from.
Our guess is as good as yours.
T H I S album - jesus. Stunning collection of torch songs and electro-acoustic dramaturgy - hugely recommended if you’re into Scott Walker, Élg, Félicia Atkinson, Ghédalia Tazartès or Mica Levi. Easily one of the most striking, rewarding albums of the year so far.
The King is a remarkably absorbing collection of enchanted orchestrations and abstract torch songs by Cee Haines aka Chaines, a Manchester-based artist in possession of a starkly singular sonic language, who has collaborated extensively with the London Contemporary Orchestra and had their work performed at The Roundhouse, Union Chapel, Printworks and Tate Modern.
Leading a thematic expansion of Chaines’ OST debut from 2015, their 2nd solo release yields a phantasmic and richly evocative soundtrack-esque series of works written over the past three years, including exclusive versions of commissions by the LCO and Union Chapel, all serving to frame an intimate yet beautifully elusive portrait of a unique artist coming into their own.
In eight parts, Chaines draws a mercurial line that connects the almost bestial intimacy of purring strings and whispered vocals in For Your Own Good to something like Scott Walker-invoking-Fantasia in Eraserhead, conjuring a mutably surreal and mystic atmosphere that keeps listeners teetering between knife-edge suspense and sublime relief as they scale from delectably detailed avant-garde psychedelia in Knockturning to a bout of Grouper-as-spectral-Jazz diva styles of Population 5120, and all in a way that makes the exploded hyaline castles in the sky dimensions of Airship seem totally feasible next to the cavernous avant-techno impulses of Carpathia. Never following a linear path, Chaines are as likely to incorporate doom-laced chamber motifs and asymmetric techno rhythms as operatic vocals and microscopic sounds, always with a sensitivity to the metaphysics of space and spirit which coolly sets their work apart.
Chaines find themselves amid exemplary, boundary-morphing company on the Slip label, whose diversity finds a common strength in the will to express something of a pathos beyond easy comprehension, yet which can be felt and understood immediately and instinctively by anyone with an open mind and a thirst for the new.
Redeemer is the brutally seductive debut album by Phase Fatale, a key player in the recent charge of EBM and post punk-informed industrial techno infecting ‘floors from his home city, NYC to his DJ residency at Berghain, Berlin.
In Dominick Fernow’s Hospital Productions, Phase Fatale finds a fitting home for his personalised brand of clinical, rictus rhythm programming and searing synth and guitar lines, adding a vital streak of black and blue electric energy to the legendary label in its 20th year of cultish operation.
In seven parts (and a trio of extended Silent Servant mixes due to come), Redeemer follows the direct, jagged lines of his 12”s for Jealous God and Unterton to a deeply personal realisation of weaponised sonics, upholding a strong tradition of techno as a prophetic exercise or ritual to gird dancers and listeners for the onset of future war. It presents Phase Fatale as an ultimate emissary of electronic violence and domination in the process, steeling the limbic system and muscle memory thru a fine-tuned disciplinarian approach to pharmacokinetics and biomechanics.
Picking from the leather-bound cadaver of industrial dance music past, he reanimates his influences with pointillist precision and unapologetic force. Alloying muscular bass and metallic percussion with wire-combed 16th note synthlines and a barbed perimeter of guitar distortion, his sound can be heard as a metaphorical representation of holding your line against the attrition of a degenerated present.
Each track dances concisely around the 5 minute mark, unfolding a series of densely packed and subtly rendered minimalist/maximalist structures. The shuddering tension of Spoken Ashes opens with banks of rotted chorales against a coalface of hacking stabs, establishing a pent vibe that vacillates precariously thru the adrenalised battery of Operate Within, to the clenched funk of Human Shield and the bombed-out, Alberich-alike Interference, seeming to resolve slightly with the supple roll of Order of Severity, before Beast bottoms out into immolating synth distortion, and Redeemer brings up the rear with a coolly-tempered, stoic form of industrial ecstasy.
An excellent Arvo Pärt primer...
"Arvo Pärt creates music of deceptive simplicity, and listening to his work can be a transformative experience. Imagine taking your ears on a retreat, and you’re some way to understanding why his work is so popular.
The Estonian composer underwent his own transformation in the 1970s, having explored dense avant-garde music in the early part of his career. He put himself through an eight-year creative exile, and emerged with a new, purer voice. The Arvo Pärt that many people are devoted to today (including R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe and Björk) creates music that cleanses. A sonic detox."
Raw but balmy recordings of electrified desert blues from Agadez, Niger south of the Aïr Mountains in the Sahara
“Etran de L'Aïr play a style that captures the contemporary sound of Agadez, incorporating vastly different musics into their repertoire. While Tuareg guitar follows a predictable format, Etran breaks convention and throws a third guitar into the mix. The two lead guitars solo on top of one another, in constant dialogue, with a crashing response from the drum. There is a bubbly underwater warble that emerges from reverb and crackly amps. It's electric party music, surf rock, from a place that is all beach. They differentiate themselves from the other wedding bands: "We play our own folklore, not like the other artists in Agadez. Our music is based around traditional Takamba...and we listen to a lot of Malian music. Not Tinariwen, but musicians like Ali Farka Touré and Oumou Sangaré."
Etran de L'Aïr is not just a musical group, but a family collective. The group was formed in 1995. Agadez was much smaller then, few homes were electrified, and guitars were rare. "When we first started to play in weddings," Abindi explains "we only had one acoustic guitar, and for the percussion, we hit a calabash with a sandal." As new technology found its way to Agadez, they band adapted, amplifying the acoustic guitar with a transducer microphone, acquiring electric guitars, and finding a drum set. As the family grew, so did the band, integrating the younger siblings into the musical group.
There is an established hierarchy in Tuareg society, and this is reflected in the wedding scene. The best wedding contracts are awarded to musicians with social standing, tribal affiliations, and family connections. Suffice to say, Etran does not belong to the upper class. "They make music for people who don't have money," says manager Madassane. "If a wedding can't afford the expensive musicians, they hire Etran." So while the band continues to gig constantly, outperforming all other bands in Agadez, they still find themselves in dire straits, confined to a DIY aesthetic of out obligation. Their drum kit is dented and the cymbals are cracked, with bites taken out of them. The amplifiers could just have well have been excavated from desert sands. Nevertheless, the band not only makes the equipment work, they make it sound amazing.
This is Etran's debut record. They claim to have written over 40 songs, but none of them have been released until now. This session was recorded live, outside of their family compound in the outskirts of Agadez. The impromptu performance drew the entire neighborhood out of their houses - eliciting the audible clapping, shouting, and ululation. It is here as it was played, outside, with all the enthusiasm and passion of an evening at the end of the raining season one day in Agadez.”
RVNG Intl mint their promising reissue label, ReRVNG with the superb first anthology of Michele Mercure’s home-brewed synth-pop and electronic experiments circa late ‘80s/early ‘90s.
It’s actually a co-release with Freedom To Spend, the Pete Swanson and Jed Bindeman-helmed reissue label that Michele kicked off with her acclaimed ’86 debut ‘Eye Chant’ in 2017. Following the mood of that long overlooked side, ‘Beside Herself’ collects 19 further songs and instrumental pieces from hard-to-find tapes, documenting a creative development from her earliest, skeletal guitar, rhythm box and tape loop sketches through the era of her mutant, theatrical synth moves on ‘Eye Chant’ and beyond.
“Michele is a natural collaborator and has made music for all sorts of contexts, film, theater, dance, etc. You get that impression though this set, you hear different sonic collaborators, but you might also be able to pick up on one track being more kinetic, another more cinematic, another taking wild turns that may be due to edits or changes in a performance or just because she made some interesting choice here or there. Spend a little time with “An Accident Waiting To Happen” or “No More Law In Gotham City” and you’ll be taken on a bit of a ride through different movements, sounds, concepts, concerns, all in about four minutes. Some of this music is functional, some of it is dysfunctional, it’s all good.
For those familiar with Eye Chant, you’ll hear some familiar elements in Beside Herself. You’ll find the cool synthesizers and beautiful samples, storytelling through pop gestures, an apparent dedication to technological and aesthetic experimentation.”
Sunn 0)))’s entrancing, crushing doom metal totem ’White1’, entirely remastered by Matt “The Alchemist” Colton for its 15th anniversary edition, including the beastly rarity ‘Cut Wood(ed)’ from their rare-as-heck ‘White’ box
Notably featuring guest appearances from Julian Cope and Joe Preston, White1 is an exceptional highlight of Sunn 0)))’s near-sacred catalogue of doom metal drone recordings. Originally intended as an acoustic album, the recording session took a different route towards psychedelic electronic experimentation, with the results originally issued in 2003 on CD and as a now sought-after 3-sided LP packaged in a pillowcase and including a sleeping pill.
In the same year of its release, this reviewer popped their Sunn 0))) cherry at Autechre’s ATP, which was nothing short of a life-changing revelation, seeing Julian Cope prostrate, front of stage, surrounded by candles and dry ice, flanked by axe-wielding druids clawing the most monstrous riffs this teenaged bean had ever heard.
On disc, you might not get the full visual glory of O’Malley, Anderson, Ritter, and Cope on stage, but provided you crank it loud enough at home, you can now come closer than ever to the void of White1, from Cope’s foul mouthed induction in the 26 minutes of My Wall, to the brainfeezing blend of traditional Norse vocals and the super rare appearance of Joe Preston’s achingly tight drumming on The Gates of Ballard - one of scant few Sunn 0))) cuts to feature percussion, and which still makes us want to knock down skyscrapers - and right thru the subharmonic ritual of A Shaving of the Horn That Speared You.
Always pushing it one step farther, this release also now includes the abyssal dimensions of Cut Wood(ed), their 2003 collaboration with Ulver which didn’t make the original LP, later found on the White box in 2006, and now retrospectively added to this definitive edition of a staggering masterpiece.
On Bloodline, Steven Julien a.k.a. Funkineven explore a charmingly personalized sonic ontology under his own name for the 2nd time following 2016’s self-titled album, coming into his own with a wickedly expressive meld of jazz-fusion and machine music.
Bloodline is concerned with paying dues to Steven’s ancestral roots, but it’s also an acknowledgment of influence of new age synth styles, Japanese electronics and the history of East London raving, adding up to a sound that’s brilliantly timeless and distinctly his own.
It’s a sort of hauntological soundtrack, if you will, traversing in a range of jump-cuts and fades from the filmic synth atmosphere of Hunt to a killer 303 + Linn drum combo in Roll Of The Dice, and ruggedly debonaire electro-bass on Bloodline, before swerving hard into mutant jazz-funk with Apache. The vibe then takes a super sweet turn with the percolated electro-funk of Queen of Ungilsan, and wraps up with the classicist ‘80s boogie-meets-new age strokes of Temple Rd.
L.I.E.S./ Gravats mainstay Krikor Kouchian presents his soundtrack to the ‘Building Arnold Schwarzenegger’ documentary by Jérôme Momcilovic & Camille Juza, pressed up on limited edition tape.
As with Kouchian’s previous string of soundtracks including ‘Pacific Alley’ and ‘Saudi’, he demonstrates a keen ability to subtly underline visual aspects with his restrained yet suggestive arrangements.
The Cali boogie spinners ‘Gold’s Gym’ and ‘Building Muscle’ surely evoke a West Coast U.S. swagger, and the grand strings of ‘The Running Senator’ are suitably stately, while the muscular bass arps of ’T-800’ could almost be an offcut from Brad Fiedel’s OG ‘Terminator’ scores, and ‘memories of Conan’ perfectly nails the schlocky camp of the big man’s fantasy classique.
Killer retro-futuristic wares, big recommendation if you're into John Carpenter, Terminator OST, YMO!
The trio of Stephan Crasneanscki, Simone Merli, and Kamran Sadeghi,aka the Soundwalk Collective, are based between New York City and Berlin, their efforts span fine art and music, digesting anthropological, ethnographic, and psychogeographic study, through the lens of electronic sound - recording, processing, and synthesis. Marking the debut of the new imprint Dischi Fantom, Transmissions - a four LP anthology, gathers four previously unreleased studio compositions into a single sprawling set.
"Transmissions is a distillation of sonic worlds - its source material and recordings linked to specific locations, natural or artificial, collected by the trio over long periods of investigation, travel, and field work in the Mediterranean basin, the Black Sea, the Rub’ al Khali Desert, and the region around Odessa. Cacophonous and often chaotic, images drift in and out of view - the sounds of nature, captured frequencies, ambience, radio intercepts, voices, music, archival recordings - the list goes on. A careful ordering of chance encounter, captured in the search for beauty the chaos of the world. Across Transmissions' works - Ulysses Syndrome, Medea, Empty Quarter, and Bessarabia, emerges a startling post-modern realm. A sonic bubble of non-linear narrative, where concrete meaning eludes the ear - continuously changed by the listeners themselves. Published in an edition of 300 copies, and accompanied by a booklet (amazingly designed by Fabrizio Radaelli) which includes Black-Winged Night, an essay by David Toop, as well as a conversation between the Soundwalk Collective and Dischi Fantom founder, Massimo Torrigiani. A stunning start for the label, and a brilliant effort by one of the most interesting projects in the contemporary scene, this is one not to miss.
“I hear this displacement of refrains. I am not fixed within signs but adrift within signals. Like a bat or a dolphin, I hear scanned frequencies otherwise inaudible to my human limitations and these voices and tones captured from the aether seem to me to be our equivalent of those voices of gods who spoke ‘words that flew’; music asserts its regional and cultural affiliations and yet at the same time it drifts unmoored in the ocean of sound.” David Toop
Perhaps the most ambitious and absorbing album yet from Lawrence English, featuring a whole host of friends and collaborators including Swans’ Norman Westberg, The Necks’ Chris Abrahams and Tony Buck, Mats Gustafsson, Werner Dafeldecker and The Angels of Light’s Thor Harris. It’s an arctic, ice-cold meditation rendered in the most beautiful drone and semi-orchestral variants - think somewhere between William Basinski, Akira Rabelais and Badalamenti at his most terrifying. A huge recommendation.
Lawrence English carries the weight of the world in the emotive blows of Cruel Optimism; his tortuous yet somehow triumphant follow-up to the Wilderness of Mirrors (2014) LP, which was conceived prior to the present socio-political sh*tstorm, and attempts to present “a meditation on these challenges and an encouragement to press forward towards more profound futures”.
Inspired by the title of a critical text by American theorist Lauren Berlant, whose analysis of the contemporary crisis points to the elusive promise of neoliberalism - particularly its inherent sense of hauntological trauma - Cruel Optimism is offered by English as a reflection “on how power consumes, augments and ultimately shapes two subsequent human conditions: obsession and fragility”, and does so in a way that viscerally resonates with the long-standing, recurring themes of his work: deferred ecstasy, textural decay and the way they affect perception.
Galvanising strength through collaboration, as opposed to the solo introspection of Wilderness…, English elected to work with a number of his peers for this record, who all gauzily serve to enrich these recordings, which each carry the subtle, if distinct presence of plural spirits in the mix. Object Of Projection is especially hard-hitting, recalling Deathprod’s life-changing Treetrop Drive with its looped refrains, albeit here submerged underneath a tonne weight of sonic detritus that triggers nostalgia and dread in the most evocative manner imaginable - perhaps the most astonishing 5 minutes in all of English’s by-now sizeable catalogue of work.
English carefully consolidates every element on this album within the democracy of the soundfield; we may be able to discern the crucial gestures of Norman Westberg’s clanging chops in Hammering A Screw or smudged into the soberly grand dimensions of Requiem For A Reaper/Pillar Of Cloud and the waking dread of Somnambulist, but, in effect, thru English’s enigmatic processing, his ego is properly sublimated into the ether and as vital as any other to the record’s sense of swelling, aching communal pathos.
Jordan GCZ (Juju & Jordash, Magic Mountain High) delivers with a proper Dutch/Detroit techno funk twang for Rush Hour
The A-side is a high velocity, hi-tech jazz ace in the model of Mad Mike / Juan Atkins / Orlando Voorn - all propulsive synth vamps and needlepoint 909 funk - whereas the B-side tracks were recorded at the WORM Studio in Rotterdam and take a tuffer tack into deep techno with ‘Yellow Jackets Descend’ (a premonition of the Gilet Jaune movement?!), and slo-mo cosmic chug with ‘Minor 7 Resin’.
Clarice Jensen, artistic director of the American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME), makes a gripping first solo mark on the cello with 'For This From That Will Be Filled', an expansive suite of Cello recordings alongside filigree electronics and tape loops designed to highlight and perceive the instrument’s unique fidelities. It notably features one striking work conceived with the late Jóhann Jóhannsson.
Ushering in Miasmah’s 12th year of operations in the nether fields of modern composition, Clarice’s début is exemplary of the intense, slow-burning aesthetic which connects many of the label’s releases. It unfold in four parts of languorously void-touching ideas, scaling and sustaining a sublime tension said to “explore the variable differences between acoustic and electronic sound as well as depiction of the simulated and the unconscious.”
Using an array of methods ranging from FX pedals to multi-tracking and tape loops, Clarice both gently and ruggedly severs the sound from its source and contrasts it against its own grain, conjuring a contemplative effect akin to gazing out of a bus or train window at night, with light reflecting and scattered at odd angles, distorting the view and providing fleeting, surreal glimpses of new dimensions in the process.
The effect really first comes into play on BC when the string cycle gradually disintegrates with the wilting warble of a GAS or Basinski work, whilst her performance of Cello Constellation, a work for multi-tracked cello and sine tones written for Clarice by Michael Harrison patiently shows her ability to distress the instrument, make it keen like a choir of cosmic banshees, before the staggering title track occurs on the B-side, from a glacial traverse of icy dissonance and cascading borealis light to something like the drone of a sub arctic seed bank nestling humanity’s future in the deepfreeze of For This From That Will Be Filled (B).
Beatrice Dillon & Call Super toy with the dance in two supple, slinky riddims in a killer collaborative push ’n pull for Hessle Audio.
With both producers really coming into their own over the last few years, Beatrice with an acclaimed run of 12” and LP issues for our 12X12 series, The Trilogy Tapes and Alien Jams, and Call Super for Dekmantel and Houndstooth, these two new collaborations firm up the strongest dance moves in either artist’s catalogue.
Inkjet is a proper UK-meets-Berlin gem lodged somewhere in the system between T++’s dynamic steppers and the kind of grubbing grooves explored by Batu and the Timedance lot, persistently mutating with a darkside dancehall-techno science that recalls a synaesthetic analog of PKDick’s scramble suits.
In sweet contrast, Fluo works with a more tempered sort of deep garage swing, dialling in hovering jazz chords on the nimble first half before unexpectedly switching into a rolling tribal house groove with cascading bleeps and lovely resolution.
Chris Carter plugs a large gap in his discography with ‘Miscellany’, containing a previously unreleased batch of cosmic ‘70s synth abstractions, plus the first ever vinyl pressings of ‘‘Disobedient’ and ’Small Moon’, as well as a new edition of his classic ‘Mondo Beat’ . For any self-respecting fan of Throbbing Gristle, X-TG, Carter Tutti, or CTI, this is a genuinely essential motherload direct from source.
Arriving in the wake of the influential synthesist’s ‘Chris Carter Chemistry Lessons Vol.1’, this boxset extends a necessary catch-up to many listeners, as well as a salve to collectors who can now complete their Chris Carter vinyl collections. Between the four respective albums inside, Mute survey the years prior to Carter’s pivotal debut ‘The Space Between’ , which was recorded in the run-up to TG’s original demise, and the years post his participation in the short but extremely bright early phase of the world’s most notorious band.
The ‘Archival Recordings’ disc is perhaps of greatest interest, historically and artistically. Spanning 1973-77, it covers the years just before, and after, Throbbing Gristle’s conception, when Carter was clearly in thrall to kosmische and psychedelia, but not beholden to them. Across 13 parts, Carter’s take on space music and pulsing early electronics is definitely less whimsical, much darker than other music of that period, progressing chronologically over the LP to reveal a full embrace of electronic music’s dark allure by the time we get to the hellish miasma of ‘See Sick’ .
However, if we follow that chronologic logic beyond his years spent in TG (1975-1981), it’s clear to hear that Carter’s music becomes less dark and more sensual, funked and melodic with the languid lines and supple rhythms of ‘Mondo Beat’, including the classic ‘Moonlight’ which would become a dance anthem around Europe and the US (and reissued by Optimo in 2011). Skipping a grip of classic CTI and Carter Tutti material, that logic also extends to ‘Disobedient’ and ’Small Moon’, issued over 1998 and 1999, and exploring inquisitive strains of sound design more mystic/etheric, than outright dark, noisy or “Industrial” - all quite symptomatic of late ‘90s PMT.
Surprise drop from Shackleton, his first of 2018, following up ’Behind The Glass’ on this Woe To The Septic Heart! label
There’s a discernible Far Eastern bent to both tracks, nodding in the direction of Indonesian percussive styles from Uwalmassa or Senyawa, but still with that outernational nous that also lends it to comparison with Ekuka’s Ugandan thumb piano recordings or Psychic Warriors of Gaia style tribal techno.
‘Furnace of Guts’ is a mercurial, polychromatic flow of stuttering voices, glinting high register percussion and wriggling bottom end feathered into increasingly noisy, knotted formations, while ‘Wakefulness and Obsession’ is more potently hypnotic, droning and viscous.
With production work included from Thomas Knack (Opiate), Matthew Herbert, Matmos and Console, and even a sample lifted off Oval’s groundbreaking Systemisch LP, Vespertine is without doubt one of Bjork's most loved albums.
Wonderful suite of archival gamelan minimalism from Bay Area practitioner Daniel Schmidt.
Recital dip into the personal archives of Daniel Schmidt, an integral scholar in the development of American Gamelan. After studying Javanese gamelan at California Institute of the Arts in the early ‘70s, Schmidt set about creating a West Coast movement based around an aluminium version of the instrument – the Berkeley Gamelan - forged of his own design. He’s since gone on to build numerous gamelan instruments, theorise on it’s compositional qualities, collaborate with Lou Harrison, Jody Diamond, and Paul Dresher, and currently teaches at Mills College San Francisco.
‘In My Arms, Many Flowers’ captures the American Gamelan movement in its nascent state, the result of a personal invitation for Recital boss Sean McCann to rifle through three boxes of Schmidt’s studio and live recordings committed to cassette between the late ’70s and early ‘80s. What’s immediately striking here is how Schmidt deviates from the traditional Javanese style of gamelan composition, instead seeking out the minimalist movement of North America for guidance.
Making use of a primitive sampler borrowed from Pauline Oliveros (RIP), lead track And the Darkest Hour is Just Before Dawn pairs a sumptuous looped string arrangement with Schmidt’s delicate caresses of the Berkeley Gamelan which build with quiet melodic complexity into something quite wonderful. The title track sees Schmidt augmenting the mysticism of his Berkeley with the bowed strings of a rebab, another traditional Indonesian instrument, deployed to signify a bird that “calls from far away.”
Ghosts is one of two compositions done solely with the gamelan, Schmidt leading a procession of players using traditional techniques on a detailed 14-minute recording of percussive dexterity and intricacy that highlights the spiritual powers of the instrument. Faint Impressions offers a sombre finale, the ringing melodicism of the Berkeley gamelan set to a backdrop of an understandably captivated audience.
Men of many monikers Jordan Czamanski and William Thomas Burnett cover a spectrum of styles with the rapidfire rhythmelodies, choral synths and dank ambience of ‘Setting The Scene For An Island Battle’
Adding up to something like a short-film soundtrack, the pair shape up a progressively pensive episode travelling from the fluttering, ritualistic charge of ‘Krazy Kalimba’ and the mesh of pygmy-esque electronics and bubbling choral voices in ‘Island Life’, to the reflective ambience of ‘Pitter Patter’, before matters take a dark turn into the Giallo-ish strings and slunking groove of ‘Incoming Fire’, and the cold palpitations of ‘Survey The Scene For Survivors’.
BOC's much loved second album proper.
The blueprint is similar, with short interludes scattered across and in between the 'full tracks', starting with the opening 60 seconds of 'Ready Lets Go' - a distant wildlife documentary soundtrack in glorious childhood technicolour.
'Music Is Math' features spoken fragments, a vocoded refrain, simple and evocative melodies, '1969' is another spine-tingler, ever so slightly out-of-tune and drenched in sweetness.
Geogaddi also offers up some new developments - 'Gyroscope' features an uncharacteristic tribal rotation of drums put through the BOC system, sounding like a lost tape unearthed and carefully restored, retaining the mark of nostalgia that directs BOC tracks so instantly to that part of the brain reserved for its earliest memories.
'The Devil Is In The Details' also follows new turns, bringing to mind Autechre's 'Overand' : subliminal use of rustling found sounds over a single delayed synth progression.
Whacked-out techno fresh from Seoul, South Korea - perhaps the first techno 12” we’ve ever stocked from that region?!
I.M.J.U.S. or IchMariaJesusUnsereSchuld to give them their full title, venturesa flighty mix of techno sub-styles on their debut 12”, ranging from a glassy beatless etude thru the pulsing, spectral abstraction of Welcome To Scientology and the hardcore techno tristesse of After Orgie, and seeking out more abstract vectors in a grungy piece of electro, and one strip of escalating bleep techno.
Spellbindingly gentle and atmospheric acoustic recordings of two Tuareg ladies from rural Niger singing and playing guitar, then joined by their pals for a joyous 17 minute dance piece. Really no need to describe this any further, it’s just perfect
“Sublime recordings from rural Niger. Two very different sides of Tuareg music - dreamy ishumar acoustic guitar sessions, and the hypnotic polyphonic tende that inspires it. Guitarist Fatou Seidi Ghali and vocalist Alamnou Akrouni lead the troupe, named after the village. Recorded in the open air studio of the desert.”
Fellow dark and heavy techno souls, Paula Temple and Lakker’s Eomac shell down two unruly and schizzily emotive techno tools on Eotrax
In tandem they roll out rudely offset rhythms and aching melodies lashed with distorted synth snarl on ‘Gestirn’, before ‘Kralle’ catches them socking it to the big rooms with screeching harpy synth streaks and bone-crunching kicks that collapse into thee sickest, noisy breakdown.