Like a rare comet, Suicide and Talking Heads producer Craig Leon returns nearly 40 years after his ‘Nommos’ and ‘Visiting’ LPs with their widescreen conceptual follow-up; ‘Anthology of Interplanetary Folk Music Vol.2: The Canon’. Apparently John Malkovich makes an appearance too...
Comprising all new material recorded over the past 2 years, and made using similar technology and tekkers as his ‘80s classics, Leon’s sequel finds him riff deeper on the cosmic lore of Mali’s Dogon tribe of Mali, whose exhibition of art at the Brooklyn Museum in 1973 first inspired him to make ‘Nommos’; a visionary piece of NYC’s new wave/downtown puzzle released by John Fahey’s Takoma, which has re-emerged among the most crucial, revelatory reissues of this decade via everywhere from Volcanic Tongue to Superior Viaduct, and RVNG Intl’s deluxe ‘Anthology of Interplanetary Folk Music Vol.2’.
The ‘Nommos’ Leon refers to are part of the Dogon tribe’s creation myth revolving visitations by an amphibious alien race from the white dwarf Sirius B who came to impart their wisdom on humankind. Resonating with then prevailing new age thought and conceptually pre-echoing Rashad Becker’s ‘Traditional Music For Notional Species’, the project sincerely speaks to electronic music’s ideals of transcendence, both (meta)physical and spiritual, beautifully employing the use of synthesis as a means of divination and hyperstition,
‘The Canon’ leads directly on from ‘Nommos’ and ‘Visitation’, tracing the alien knowledge/arithmetic/energy’s journey from Mali to Egypt and Greece in a narrative arc that unfolds like a map for inner exploration, coursing from the ceremonial chorale of ‘The Earliest Trace’ thru glyphic drum communications in ‘The Respondent in Dispute’, and the panoramic beauty of ‘Four Floods of the Point’, before opening the tantalising wormhole of ‘The Gates Made Plain’, and atomically diffusing into ether with ‘Departure’.
Including contributions from folk sorceress Cassell Webb and apparently even John Malkovich in there, somewhere, the results are worth the wait for any believers who look for signs in the skies.
Praised Icelandic ambient-techno producer Yagya spreads his wings on A Strangely Isolated Place
A key member of Iceland’s Thule crew, and a revered artist in his own right, Yagya is beloved for his knack in turning inspiration from his native Icelandic landscapes into signature, sensitively fluffy but sincerely deep creations that swim somewhere between classic ambient and dub techno styles.
Following from two albums for Delsin and a rare 12” for XOZ in 2018, ’Stormur’ is Yagya’s 7th album proper and a snug fit for A Strangely Isolated Place’s eternally melancholy, dream state aesthetic. It works like a seamless mixtape or production showreel, flowing with a cool conduction of energy between its 10 tracks that’s equally suited to simmering dancefloor sessions or sinking into your sofa.
Fans of everything from Gas to Basic Channel and Brian Eno should find something to appreciate here.
EVOL cough up the intensely hypnotic results of sessions recorded on a Serge Modular Music System at the GRM in Paris, in early 2019. Weighing in at 28 trax wide and 292 minutes long, ‘GRM Trax’ is arguably the motherload of all EVOL releases. It features the OG deco-rave duo applying their unrelenting, uncompromising process to a classic vintage synth with transfixing results ready to open a vast, pulsating wormhole in your living room or wherever it is that freaks like to consume their EVOL (betcha someone does it in the bog).
Pushing the classic early ‘70s synth in a way not previously heard, EVOL make only the slightest envelope shifts in each part, allowing the machine to gurn and chatter in its purest, buzzing vernacular. With such unyielding focus on each tweak, they encourage a total immersion in the sounds’ pure signal and its resonant overtones. We can confirm the effect is extremely uncanny and totally disorientating after headphone ingestion, meaning that once the cans came off every sound in the room will still pulse freakishly.
For the sake of your sanity and the health of your ears, it’s maybe not best to do the whole release in one go - or at least not loudly on headphones - but for those who love to peer into the abyss, we can assure you of a heavily sensational, mind-bending experience quite unlike any other.
The Lioness is the first Jason Molina project to fully turn away from the battlefield folk and deconstructed Americana of earlier Songs: Ohia recordings. At the dawn of the 21st century, the album felt modern. It aligned Molina with a new set of peers — Low, Gastr del Sol, Red House Painters and, most importantly, the influential Scottish band Arab Strap, whose producer and members were crucial in the creation of The Lioness.
"The avant- garde tones and arrangements of Arab Strap are absorbed here into Molina’s songwriting to create what would become, for many acolytes, the archetypal Songs: Ohia sound. Love & Work: The Lioness Sessions, the box set reissue, will serve as the seminal log of the era, complete with lost songs, photos, drawings, and essays from those who knew Molina best. We know Molina was diligent in both love and work. He treated songcraft like a job at the mill, and his approach to romance was not so different.
We know that when he fell in love with his wife, he was dutiful in his adoration. There were strings of love letters and poetic gesture. Included in this edition are replicated examples of this relentless love — an envelope with a letter from Molina, a photograph of Molina and his to-be wife, a postcard, a Two of Hearts playing card, and a personal check for one million kisses. Some of these items were gifts he would send to his new love from the road; others, like the 2 of Hearts, were totems he’d carry with him around this time as a symbol for his burgeoning love. And so, the head-over-heels album that is The Lioness has its workman counterpart. Nearly another album’s worth of material was recorded in Scotland during the album sessions. While similar in tone and structure, the songs seem to deal in the grit and dirt of being.
These are songs for aching muscles getting soothed in the third-shift pub. But they’re also examples of Molina’s diligence as he constructs what would be the essential elements of The Lioness. In addition to these outtakes, we also have a 4-track session made weeks earlier in London with friend James Tugwell. Comprised of primarily guitar, hand drums and voice, these songs are raw experiments that mostly serve to illustrate Molina’s well of words and ideas. But then, there is the devastating Sacred Harp hymn “Wondrous Love.” While he may have had his new love in mind, one can’t help but think of Molina’s legacy as he softly warbles “Into eternity I will sing/Into eternity I will sing.” You don’t have to try too hard to mythologize Molina. He did all the work for you."
One of Drexciya's most sought-after and definitive "storms" finally reissued for those that need it.
Originally released in 2002, 'Harnessed The Storm' yields timeless anthems such as the devastating 'Digital Tsunami' - leaves us an emotional wreck every time - and the unfathomable mystery of 'Under Sea Disturbances' alongside signature enigmas like 'Mission to Ociya Syndor and Back' or the heart-breaking melodies of 'Birth Of New Life'. Trust us and everyone else: it's essential.
Studio Mule’s rotating assembly, helmed by Kuniyuki, cover a clutch of their favourite ‘80s Japanese music from the likes of Yasuaki Shimizu, Dip In The Pool, and Yellow Magic Orchestra.
Sweetly on the money for a growing number of ears attuned to the gems of Japanese pop and electronics, ‘BGM’ is set to introduce a lot of listeners to some classics picks, strewn between the likes of ‘Face To Face’, Miyako Koda’s take on Yumi Murata’s ambient pop ace - a favourite of Visible Cloaks, too - along with a cover of a cover in Nanako Sato’s version of Yukuhiro Takahashi’s take on Burt Bacharach’s ‘The April Fools’, and Miyako Koda’s funked up spin on ‘Carnaval’, a Japanese dance classic by Taeko Ohnuki, produced by YMO.
Nourishing the zeitgeist, ‘Dancing In Darkness’ collects 14 EBM and industrial zingers from the ‘80s by Throbbing Gristle, D.A.F., Front 242, Nitzer Ebb, The Weathermen, Cabaret Voltaire and more
A primer for the budding darkroom fiend, the set runs the gamut from TG’s sewer-creeping ‘Dead On Arrival’ thru to DAF’s strident anthem ‘Der Mussolini’, Chris & Cosey’s eternal gem ‘Exotica’, the puckered EBM of ‘Control I’m Here (S.D.I. Mix)’ by Front 242, Borghesia’s moody nightlight ‘Ni Upanja, Ni Strahu’, and Meat Beat Manifesto’s proto-darkside hardcore ace ‘Radio Babylon’.
An incredible 80 minute wormhole into ritualistic, hypnagogic experiments from riveting dark ambient to freezing rave riffs and SAW II-like tone poems. Puts so much of this kind of music to shame - if you’re into the darker, more harrowing end of drone and Ambient - anything from Kevin Drumm to Dean Hurley or Thomas Köner, this will rule your world.
Key Hospital Productions artist Jim Mroz aka Lussuria ditches the synths for a holistically organic, analogue alchemy in ‘Scarlet Locust of These Columns’, anticipating the mighty shadow of his ‘Three Knocks’ album looming on the horizon. Assembled and executed in 10 days of October and finally realised at Merchant House, South Hampton, Long Island, New York, the album locates Lussuria in elemental and liminal states. Gathering a charged array of instrumentation including flutes made out of human leg bones and a drum made from a skull, he conducts ritualistic experiments that enable him to broach other dimensions and relay the what’s on the other side in a series of riveting dark ambient tales and hypnotic pulses.
It’s maybe wisest to take ‘Scarlet Locust of These Columns’ as an initiatory rite of passage for the upcoming ‘Three Knocks’ album. In structure and scale, its 17 tracks are perhaps surprisingly light on the ear, and as hypnagogic as they are impending, vacillating the pressure meter between sky citadel structures in the title track and the choking pound of ’Neo-Savage (Suspicions of Destiny)’ with heavy-lidded wormholes such as ‘With Bated Breath (Bird in Hand)’, segueing from somnambulant shoegaze in ‘Mondala (The Snell Of Power)’ to dry-eyed choral samples in ‘The Mondrian’, and sublime, opiated gauze in ‘White Ties To The Revolution’, or seemingly isolating and freezing rave riffs in meditative space on ‘Feather Duster Put In Place’, beside SAW II-like tone poems and exquisite palls of inclement gloom.
Albums of this kind of atmospheric calibre don’t come along so often. Don’t let it escape you.
Almighty sophomore album by industrial overload Kris Lapke aka Alberich - Hospital Productions’ mastering engineer, scene-defining producer, and right hand man to Dominick Fernow (Prurient, Vatican Shadow, RSE).
Where Alberich’s infamous, 3 hour long ‘NATO Uniformen’  series can be heard as a cornerstone for this decade’s tilt into noise techno experimentation, its follow-up is a bitterly refined and exquisitely crafted single disc bedevilled by increasingly excoriating detail via bombed-out rhythms and eschaton-limning atmospheres. Lapke distills and pokes his most potent ideas into their most succinct, brutalist forms, but also makes room for one durational pulverizer that is on its own worthy of the cost of admission.
A master of calibrating maximalist and minimalist scopes, Lapke has a gift for getting right in-the-mix and pulling sounds to the biting point or allow them to glisten in the periphery; emphasising their grotesqueness, stark beauty and visceral nature in the process. It’s an approach which has elevated him to the vanguard of modern industrial music, evidenced in production work and mastering for Prurient, The Haxan Cloak and Nothing, as well as audio restoration for COUM Transmissions and Shizuka, but rarely felt as strongly or as nuanced as in his solo work.
Between opener ‘Upper Mountains’, casting some of the gloomiest synth pads this side of Silent Servant’s ‘Negative Fascination’, to the entrenched techno of ‘Unity House’ with its asphyxiating, buried-by-mud effect buoyed only by drily resigned vocals, and the aching synth poignancy of ‘No Reference to The Absence of Allegory’ at the album’s charred heart, Lapke's sounds adopt a frightening meaning thru their manacled grip of reality.
But its the B-side that will really see off any half-hearted types, as he sucks us down the title track’s rabbit hole of collapsing techno and lo-NRG vox into the reverberating negative space of ‘Freeze’, and the masterfully dense yet wide open paradox of his closing ‘Radio Op’ transmission.
PAN inaugurate Entopia, their highly promising, soundtrack-focussed sister label, with the tremulous beauty and dreamy ambient detachment of Tujiko Noriko’s ‘Kuro (OST)’
Realised alongside musicians Sam Britton and Will Worsely, experimental J-popstar and composer Tujio Noriko conceived the ‘Kuro’ soundtrack for the eponymous 2017 film which she wrote and directed with Joji Koyama, and in which she also plays the lead role. The film follows the tale of Romi, a Japanese woman living in the suburbs of Paris with her paraplegic lover Milou. Told through personal anecdotes and myths, the story soon turns ominous, reflected as the narrated story and the visual story diverge to reveal an ambiguous space which is subtly coloured and accentuated by the soundtrack’s suggestive daubs of ambient electronics and burnished instrumental tones.
The music was composed during the editing of the film, mostly by Tujiko, but with integral assistance from both Sam Britton and Will Worsely, and her co-director Joji Koyama. Perhaps glibly known as “the Japanese Björk” for her spellbinding, etheric touch, Tujiko brings a wealth of experience to helm in the soundtrack, steering fathoms wide of her pop-related output to work with filigree, layered electronics, organs that are occasionally and imperceptibly meshed with diegetic, rustling sounds from the film. The resulting atmosphere is intoxicatingly gentle yet elusive, evoking themes of claustrophobia and haunting beauty that also lie behind the imagery.
In the film, Tujiko is heard as the narrator behind Romi, but in this soundtrack release her voice is largely reserved to scant, poignant moments of glossolalia or breathy presence, save for one exquisite piece of ambient pop. Nested at the core of ‘Kuro’ is ‘Romi Sings’, where Tujiko appears to duet with the breeze from her window in the album’s most gorgeous vignette. Taken part of the whole, it’s a hauntingly realist denouement for the rest of the soundtrack, and just one of the subtly absorbing, contrasting components that make up the album’s dreamlike nature.
‘Kuro (OST)’ is an ideal first release for Entopia, the soundtrack-focussed offshoot of PAN. Taking its meaning in context of Ekistics - the idea of world-building - and in respect of creative communities both visual and music-oriented, Entopia proposes a promising new space - neither utopian nor dystopic - where the boundaries between installation works, theatre, dance and fashion will fall, just as they have with PAN the parent label.
Ex-Veronica Falls singer/songwriter Roxanne Clifford becomes Patience to express her synth pop tastes to the fullest on ‘Dizzy Spells’; an achingly well-crafted batch indebted as much to Todd Edwards - who co-produced the opening cut! - as New Order, AC Marias, Vince Clarke or Strawberry Switchblade
“Dizzy Spells delivers a debut album that twists Clifford’s songwriting into new shapes and ecstasies. The album dances around melancholy, thrown to the floor like a bad dream to be circled, emerging bright-eyed into the early morning full of hope. The Girls Are Chewing Gum (produced by Todd Edwards) bursts open Dizzy Spells like fresh fruit: sweet and rich with a synth-bass line beamed down from Chicago House heaven. Exquisitely sung by Clifford, it’s a wonderful, funky, instant-classic hinting at sexuality and memories dredged from our bodies’ secrets. The bouncy production expertly renders the addictive power of our ephemeral pleasures. Living Things Don’t Last chases themes of longing and loss, opening up into a life affirming chorus that sings of transience, the passing of time and railing against inertia. It’s the perfect example of a song formula that Roxanne Clifford has almost patented: simple and cutting straight to the point. There are shades of Strawberry Switchblade or French synth pop pioneer Jacno in the happy/sad dichotomy and it is all the better for it.
Dizzy Spells features all three long-sold out singles, embedded in the full depth of Patience’s soundworld they fit like pieces of a puzzle. White Of An Eye, The Church and The Pressure—all recorded in Clifford’s former home of Glasgow—crackle with razor sharp melodies and dancefloor-ready dynamics. There are exciting additions to Patience’s sonic palette, brought into sharp relief on Voices In The Sand. In this song, a plaintive Clifford enunciates a heart-torn plea to the antagonist, a mournful cascade of synths and haunting vocals evocative of AC Marias, a sepia-toned ode to anxiety, “a storm is on the way”. On No Roses, a Vince Clarkesque production belies a sunburnt sadness. Clifford defiantly sings “you would go out tonight, but there’s nowhere you like,” describing a disenchantment with her adopted city of Los Angeles, she longs for home in a singular refrain “No roses… no roses for us.” An ode to English folk singer Shirley Collins, a surprising yet innate influence throughout Clifford’s work. On Moral Damage, former Veronica Falls bandmate Marion Herbain joins Clifford on an anglo-french duet that feels instant and spontaneous, a cutting comment on emotional accountability. More than a vehicle for Roxanne Clifford’s songwriting prowess, Patience is holding our hand through the night, dancing with tears in our eyes, dizzy and spellbound.”
Out of print for 25 years, Stereolab’s retro-pop and indie-rock classic ‘Mars Audiac Quintet’ is back in circulation with a bonus disc of demos and alternate versions, most notably a demo version of Ping Pong!
Out of print for 26 years, Stereolab’s retro-pop and indie-rock classic ‘Transient Random Noise-Bursts with Announcements’ is back in circulatio, remastered from original tapes and with a bonus disk of unreleased demos, outtakes and alternate mixes.
Split between tremulous, frothing structures and grandiose, discordant modular synth music, ‘Teenages’ is the debut from Pakistani-American jazz drummer/percussionist Qasim Naqvi for Erased Tapes, and the vinyl follow-up to his first LP, 2015’s ‘Preamble’ for NNA Tapes
“This album is one singular synergy between Qasim and his machine within a broader milieu of sound, also explored by contemporaries Sarah Davachi, Alessandro Cortini, Caterina Barbieri and also the forefather, Morton Subotnick. At points tonal, textural and rhythmic, over six evolving and growing audio organisms, the album flourishes upwards in stages, from initial micro-sonics to something bigger, brighter and anthemic.
This is Naqvi’s first non-soundtrack release, having previously established himself as a renowned composer for dance, theatre, film and installation-based art, not to mention his role as drummer in lauded trio Dawn of Midi. According to Naqvi, “my past releases like Chronology, Preamble, Fjoloy and Film were made to accompany visual mediums. The music was always written to enhance another form. Teenages is the first album with its own motivating force. It’s a live multi movement work that I recorded for myself.”
With Teenages, Naqvi summoned all the material on an analog modular synthesizer – a voltage-controlled sound generating system comprised of multiple modules. Naqvi built this synth over the course of two years and amassed a collection of works for this album.
Capturing a live feeling without the aid of heavy studio production was an important component to this release: “Even though this is ‘electronic music,’ I didn’t want to rely heavily on a computer with an array of plugins, loops and samples, or exhaustive editing as part of the writing process. I wanted to treat this work like a live piece of music and have the natural behavior of the machine shine through and sound huge, like an orchestra of electrical signals.”
Gently stuttering like a time lapse-video of a seed sprouting up from the earth, Intermission sets the scene, before musical motifs begin to emerge on the dancing, bubbling bassline of Mrs 2E, which possesses a playful, infantile quality, like a new-born animal learning to walk after birth.”
A Certain Ratio - who celebrate their 40th anniversary this year - a lavish box set, ‘acr:box’, via Mute, with all material remastered by Martin Moscrop at Abbey Road studios and featuring over 20 unreleased tracks from the archive.
"Following on from 2018’s compilation, ‘acr:set’, the box showcases the diversity of the singles, B-sides and alternative versions of tracks that A Certain Ratio have released but without repeating tracks recently made available. ‘acr:box’ collates everything that fans had been missing from the recent reissue campaign and compliments that with a selection found after a deep delve into the archive to find all the hidden gems that had been talked about over the years but never heard - even a few releases the band had forgotten about.
Looking to make the box set as comprehensive as possible, even the original tapes from the session they recorded for a collaboration with Grace Jones were uncovered and reworked. This session includes the cover version of Talking Heads’ ‘Houses In Motion’, using Jez Kerr’s guide vocals (pre to him becoming the band’s singer). Grace Jones never completed her vocal take after attending one of the recording sessions with the band.
The box set, which marks the 40th anniversary of A Certain Ratio’s debut release, the Martin Hannett produced ‘All Night Party’ (Factory Records’ first single release) was described recently by Record Collector as “a statement of future intentions: to set funk off against nervous angst.” They went on to be hailed universally as pioneers of what became known as ‘punk funk’ thanks to the success of their second single, ‘Shack Up’, represented here via a radio edit from Electronic, featuring Bernard Sumner and Johnny Marr."
John Beltran revives his much-loved Placid Angles alias for a new album on Lone’s label, Magicwire
Last heard over 20 years ago on ‘The Cry’ LP with Peacefrog, and before that on a classic 12” with Open House, ‘Aquatic’ and a seminal Buzz compilation, Placid Angles has since become the preserve of the deepest Detroit heads and fans of intricate, jazzy, melodic techno everywhere.
It’s really not hard to hear how the Placid Angles sound has informed Lone’s nostalgic, gauzy style of breakbeats and techno, especially after ingesting ‘First Blue Sky’. From the aerial breaks and plush sophistication of ‘the title track, thru the twilight garage-techno of ‘Angel’, to the romantic sweep of ‘Vent’, via wild breakbeats and ecstatic divas in ‘Earth and Everything’, in the sub-blushed chords of ‘Bad Minds’, and the stressed ambient tone of ‘1700’, the spiritual kinship twixt Lone and Placid Angels is laid bare for everyone to revel in.
Yves De Mey untangles presets with remarkable harmonic variation via the Modor NF-1, a new polyphonic digital DSP synth developed in Antwerp by Marcel Belmans. If you’re into Autechre - this is a must.
An experimental study in getting the most from a single instrument, ‘Exit Strategies Part 1’ finds De Mey wrestling with the machine in eight parts. Using only a single preset in each cut, he pushes their forms to reveal slight harmonic mutations and in the process focus on the tangible quality of the resulting sound.
From the slippery rhythms and harpsichord like twang of ‘Track 01’ to the boiling noise of ‘Track 02’, thru to proper, curdled Ae dimensions in ‘Track 03’ and ‘Track 04’, the variation is remarkable and just keeps on evolving with the empty-belly beastly growl of ‘Track 05’ and ‘Track 06’, before opening out into calligraphic murmurations on ‘Track 07’, and needling hi-register tones in ‘Track 08’.
The results also somehow recall Theo Burt’s ‘Gloss’, itself an experiment on a single synth which yielded captivating results, and proved in the process - in key with Mark Fell’s mantra - that you really don’t need a studio stacked with vintage analog gear to make unique sounds. If you like the idea of an artist wriggling themselves out of self-imposed straitjackets, this album will almost certainly push your buttons.
Deadbeat & Camara come like it’s dub night at the Roadhouse with a bewitching remake of Cowboy Junkies’ classic ‘The Trinity Sessions’, full of lounging, ethereal vocals underlined by rich dub bass and drowsy guitars, fittingly for Canada’s Constellation
“Trinity Thirty is a celebration and reinterpretation of the much beloved Cowboy Junkies classic The Trinity Session, on the occasion of the album’s 30th anniversary (originally released in late 1988). The idea was spawned when Berlin-based Canadian producer Scott Monteith — best known as DJ and dub-inflected minimal techno-electronica recording artist Deadbeat — heard the Junkies’ Trinity version of “Sweet Jane” playing in an airport a few years back. Viscerally reminded of how much he loved the album, and how surprisingly overground the record ended up becoming (by mid-1989 The Trinity Session would be certified Platinum in both Canada and The United States – truly another era!), Monteith immediately reached out to the band to ask if they had anything planned to mark its 30th birthday. Before Monteith even touched down back in Berlin, the band had replied saying they had no such plans but would enthusiastically support whatever angle Monteith/Deadbeat might want to run with.”
Initially imagining they would run a fair amount of electronic treatments during the mix, Deadbeat and Camara instead found themselves absorbed by the spaces, silences and atmospherics, guided by a spirit of preservation and restraint in further homage to the original. The result is “a less electronic album than we imagined making”: a gorgeous somnambulant collection of ‘covers of covers’, where the reference point is always the Cowboy Junkies original approach, stretched to new and beguiling limits of deceleration and narcotized spaciousness (a sensibility reinforced by the mastering treatment of minimalist dub-techno legend Stefan Betke of ~scape/Pole).
The gauzy, quavering, reverberant slowcore vibes of artists like Galaxie 500, Grouper and Codeine are a key reference point for Deadbeat & Camara’s prevailing aesthetic: clouds of textured drone and hushed vocals drift through cavernous space, where long decays gently warp and distort the melodic vocal lines and the insistently languid percussion, anchored by thick saturated bass tones representing the most overt influence carried through from their electronic music bona fides. Trinity Thirty is a gorgeously sedate, subtly avant-garde and wonderfully reverent re- interpretation of this classic album.”
Planet Mu’s first footwork signing, DJ Nate boomerangs back to the label nearly a decade since his debut EP and album triggered a rush of interest in the hyper Chicago style.
After Nate’s tracks first cropped up on a Dissensus forum thread at the end of the ‘00s, Planet Mu were quickest to his Myspace page, signing what would be most people’s first introduction the evolution of Juke music into its concatenated, battlefloor-ready cousin. The pivotal ‘Bangs & Works’ compilation followed, and with it amazing releases from Jlin, DJ Rashad and Traxman et al, but we’ve basically all got DJ Nate to thank for kick-starting a wider interest in the hyperlocal Chi-town scene.
Since then, DJ Nate has focussed on producing R&B and hip hop, finding a strong local following and even an underground hit outside the Chi with ‘Gucci Goggles’, but two years ago he was paralysed from the neck down in an accident from which he only just recovered.
But he never forgot about the footwork. ‘Take Off Mode’ collects 17 of Nate’s footwork tracks produced over the interim, including many previously uploaded to YouTube. They’re not quite as frenetic as Nate’s early style, but they’ve still got that sweet, almost feminine sort of pressure intact, making gripping use of pitched (up + down), syrupy R&B and soul samples and his own vocal idents woven into mercurial rhythms and palpitating bass.
Amazing CD volume of unreleased work by Martin Bartlett; a British emigre based in Canada for most of his life, where he established Vancouver’s first Gamelan orchestra, and cultivated a singularly beautiful, even prescient style of electronic composition that worked within, around, and against its conventions and restrictions. This CD containing four durational works, is more sprawling than its sibling LP, running raga seemingly play on electronic bagpipes, thru to vast generative noise tracts, and grand orchestral composition somewhere between Webern and Alice Coltrane. A Real find, especially RIYL Roland Kayn, Pauline Oliveros, David Behrman
“Bartlett was a prolific writer, and he expresses himself in fresh, lucid, and wonderfully descriptive prose, offering clear thinking on social aspects of electronic music performance; on the barriers between the performer and the 'black box' and on possibilities for organic systems in electronic music. He also wrote accounts of his sailing trips, treatise on performance practices, and technical academic articles on the systems he built, along with the incandescent manifesto-like piece Electronic Recalcitrant, in which he hoped that electronic music would be imbued with “organic codes of growth and metamorphosis” so that he could “pluck elegant and fleshy electronic sound fish from the frothy algorithmic sea of possibilities”.
Key influences were Pauline Oliveros, John Cage and David Tudor, all whom he studied under. Like many of his generation, he became interested in non-Western compositional and philosophical practices, and in 1981 he travelled to India to study Carnatic vocal music with V. Lakshminarayana Iyer in Madras and then on to Burma, Thailand and Indonesia where he studied shadow theatre. He studied South Asian music with Pandit Pran Nath, gamelan with K.R.T. Wasitidipuro, and closely collaborated with Don Buchla on live performances and synthesiser design. He was particularly interested in the Javanese gamelan, which led to him founding the Vancouver Community Gamelan in 1986. On his travels to Indonesia he made hours of field recordings, many of which are accompanied by vivid narrations on the rituals and ceremonies he was documenting.
It is unclear why Bartlett’s work remains unknown. Perhaps it is because it remained largely inside the academy. Perhaps his commitment to live performance and community activity means it was more transient than the work of others. Perhaps his openness about his sexuality played a part in his music not receiving much recognition – one can only speculate. But correspondence in his archive shows that rejection and general lack of interest from labels was a source of great personal discontent, leading to Bartlett working again with the Western Front to release his final opus Pythagoras’ Ghost shortly before his death.
Bartlett died young, of AIDS-related causes, in 1993, but his music remains a rich source of inspiration, and is characterised by an irresistible and unselfconscious charm that renders his sound unique. These selections, along with the companion LP Anecdotal Electronics, and Luke Fowler’s film Electro-Pythagoras, aim to redress this prior neglect, shedding light on this little known personality from electronic music history, who still has so much to say.”
Greg Anderson & Stephen O’Malley’s Sunn 0))) mark 20 years of shaking our foundations with ‘Life Metal’, their 8th studio album and first all analog recording, engineered by none other than Steve Albini.
Under a title that pricks trve metal seriousness (it’s an inside joke about Norwegian metal “sellouts”), ‘Life Metal’ is offered as the closest possible representation of the band’s staggering live prowess. Recorded specifically and intensely over a period of just 2 weeks with Steve Albini at Electrical Audio after initial sketches made in LA - contrasting with the 2 year process behind 2009’s ‘Monoliths & Dimensions’ - their intent was to capture the sensation of physically standing in front of their amps whilst they play, aiming to better convey the sensation of being drenched in distorted tonal colour and ravaged by gut rumbling subharmonics. And it’s fair to say they’ve nailed it, like. The sense of resonant space and blistering air throughout the album is viscerally clear and present, but also manifest in a newfound sense of depth to their wall of sound, which is now almost more coral/spongiform, porous to a broader set of world views, energies and influences, yet still unmistakably Sunn 0))).
Of course, you’ll need a decent amp and speakers to really feel the lower registers, but this is perhaps one of the first Sunn 0))) albums that’s not so brutally dedicated to the low end. While it’s certainly there, a lot of information is also contained within the mid and even upper ranges of their frequency spectrum, most likely due to the way Albini’s entirely analog signal chain - from mic to tape to vinyl, with no DAT used - truly captures the complexity and shuddering movement of overtones emerging form their claw handed riffs. The appearances of trusted allies such as Hildur Guðnadóttir, who provides eerily absorbing vocals in ‘Between Sleipnir’s Breaths’ and a flooring section on the unruly oddity Haldorophone worthy of comparison with Tony Conrad in closer ‘Novæ’, or Antony Pateras’ pipe organ burning into ’Troubled Air’, also serve vital variables that marble and colour the record, lending an elemental iridescence that highlights the depth of ‘Life Metal’s character.
After following these guys for much of their unique artistic trajectory, and paying dues whenever they’re playing live in our city, it’s ever more rewarding to find new subtleties and aspects to Sunn 0)))’s always the same, ever amorphous sound.
Highly respected violinist Laura Cannell, a specialist in early, medieval, and folk music, who has worked with Mark Fell and Charles Hayward, typically blurs the line between improv and composition in ‘The Sky Untuned’
Conceived based on an accumulation of thoughts and feelings over 18 months of commissions, tours and adventures, ‘The Sky Untuned’ was recorded in just one sitting at St. Andrews Church, Raveningham, Norfolk, UK on 10th December 2018. Considered in the platonic ideal of great music, the album finds Laura essentially speaking out loud through her trusted Overbow Violin and Double Recorders, as her music flows with a natural cadence, urgency and intimacy that keeps us rapt with the rustic charm of a master story teller from the sticks.
“THE SKY UNTUNED takes as it’s starting point the theory of the music of the spheres, in which the universe is constantly making sound that humans cannot hear. The music is teased out of the land and sky and performed using Cannell’s signature minimalist chamber sounds, utilising extended instrumental techniques of overbowed violin (with deconstructed bass viol bow wrapped around the violin to produce drone and melody), scordatura violin tunings and double recorders (inspired by medieval stone carvings).
“It is not the result of one commission but a performance drawn from the ideas that have travelled in my thoughts wherever I’ve been over the past 18 months. The ones which wouldn’t leave my heart and head, the ones which demanded to be played over and over through internal speakers, the ones which need to be explored and performed as if it’s the first time every time.”
‘Designer’ finds Aldous Harding hitting her creative stride after the sleeper success of the internationally lauded ‘Party’
"Harding came off a 100-date tour last summer and went straight into the studio with a collection of songs written on the road. Reuniting with John Parish, producer of ‘Party’, Harding spent 15 days recording and 10 days mixing at Rockfield Studios, Monmouth and Bristol’s J&J Studio and Playpen. From the bold strokes of opening track ‘Fixture Picture’, there is an overriding sense of an artist confident in their work, with contributions from Huw Evans Hawkline), Stephen Black (Sweet Baboo), drummer Gwion Llewelyn and violinist Clare Mactaggart broadening and complimenting Harding’s rich and timeless songwriting."
Venerable composer and pianist Charlemagne Palestine revisits his seminal 1976 work ‘The Golden Mean’ in duo with enigmatic artist Rrose, reprising a dialogue started 10 years ago when Rrose was studying at Mills college and looking for a score to Charlemagne’s amazing ‘Strumming Music’…
“In 2018 the Festival Variations in Nantes commissions Palestine to perform The Golden Mean, reworking the piece for two pianists. Palestine chose Rrose to join him in this new rendition of the work. Together, they performed The Golden Mean (reborn as “The Goldennn Meeenn + Sheeenn”) onstage at the main opera house in Nantes -- the sumptuous Théâtre Graslin – with extraordinary results.
The concept of the ‘golden mean’ goes back to the roots of mathematics, and ancient Greek philosophy. It is an important work in the Palestine mythos, embodying his total immersion in the power of the interval. “It’s probably his most systematic work . . . a step-by-step journey through the intervals of the octave,” says Rrose. “When we rehearsed it, we were noticing how each interval is like a universe of its own -- with its own history, emotions, and sonic qualities all mixed up together. Every time you move from one interval to the next, it feels like moving into another world.”
“I love the interval,” Palestine told me in a recent interview. “I love when it plays with itself. That's what I learned from organ musics too. You can just do an interval, and if they're just slightly out of tune with each other, then they shimmer . . . they play themselves. And it sounds like somebody's playing lots of notes. In your ear, it's like an aural phenomenon . . . that's my whole concept. I make something that then does itself somehow. It continues by itself. So I don't have to always be there. And that makes my music a little less egocentric. So there’s more space. Also for the listener — the ear plays with these things, and you're not always being given orders. Your ear isn't given orders all the time of what to listen for.”
Beautifully recorded, with mastering by Rashad Becker of Dubplates and Mastering, The Goldenn Meeenn + Sheeenn feels expansive, radiant and hypnotic, opening new ears to its enduring mystery.
Rrose adds this note to listeners: “Do not focus your attention on the notes being played, but on the ocean of overtones swimming, suspended, overhead, brushing against one another, kissing one another, melting into one another.”
Vancouver lasses Minimal Violence are bang on the £$¥ with the EBM/rave/techno collisions of ‘InDreams’, their startling debut album for Technicolour
We were late to MV’s game, only clocking on with their ‘MVX/U41A’ bombs, but we’re full backing ‘InDreams’, one of the fiercest sets of hardcore techno in circulation this side of Live Adult Entertainment. In nine original productions plus a Cardopusher remix and a Powermoves megamix, they absolutely take the skin off it with a wild-eyed and ruthless barrage of hi-impact heavyweights.
They’re not necessarily remaking the wheel, but we haven’t heard this sound executed with so much gnashing energy and style in years. Trust it’s no piss-weak revivalism or slap-a-tinny-break-on-it dilettantism, but the real fucking thing, ravenous and ravishing, chomping at the bit, not hanging in the smoking area cos it’s actually shit inside, where everyone’s going thru the motions, waiting for a good tune.
‘InDreams’ is rave techno as punk music inspired by sci-fi literature and cinema. It’s highly visual stuff, connoting imagery of cenobites at Thunderdome, darkroom chase scenes and dancers pushing themselves to exhaustion between massive highlights in the hard acid trance peak of ‘InDreams’, the mentasmic gush of ‘L.A.P.’, and the lockjaw scally bounce of ‘June Anthem’ or the clattering skullduggery of ‘Persuasive Behaviour’.
Sometimes, it’s hard for us to reconcile first hand experience of older raves, when folk were far less self-conscious and more up-for-it, with many of rave’s current iterations, but ‘InDreams’ is the kind of record that could bring the joy of utter, unbuttoned abandonment back to the centre of the ‘floor. Just imagine a horde of fleggin’ Morley scallies invading your space. That sort of feeling.
A year has passed since the untimely death of Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson. In tribute to an exceptional artist and musical storyteller, Deutsche Grammophon has compiled a two-volume selection of his most important works. This first part - RETROSPECTIVE I includes seven albums featuring Jóhannsson’s earlier works, including his previously unreleased soundtrack to the documentary White Black Boy.
"The phenomenal Jóhann Jóhannsson was, in his own words, “obsessed with the texture of sound”. Together with a serious dose of creative inspiration, that obsession enabled him to distil music into primal forms. He had a gift for bringing together highly complex themes and starkly contrasting musical ideas with both apparent ease and striking emotional directness. The composer died a year ago at the age of just 48. Deutsche Grammophon is now celebrating his legacy with a two-part retrospective project which will encompass all his major works, along with a previously unissued soundtrack album. The first part of this special edition will appear on 26 April and will comprise seven albums and a hardcover book.
Born in Reykjavík on 19 September 1969 Jóhann Jóhannsson was involved with music from an early age. As a young man he played in various rock and pop bands and was part of Iceland’s indie scene, before eventually deciding to focus on writing music rather than performing. His debut album, Englabörn, which came out in 2002, reveals that even at that early stage, he was already a master storyteller, a composer who could translate feelings and emotions into powerfully atmospheric soundscapes and compelling musical portraits. Jóhannsson gained international renown for his 2013 score for the film Prisoners – just two years later he won a Golden Globe and an Oscar nomination for the score for The Theory of Everything. A second Oscar nomination followed in 2016 for the thriller Sicario (2015). He went on to write the scores for the science fiction film Arrival and for The Mercy – the latter album was released shortly before his death; further Hollywood projects were in the pipeline.
A pioneering figure in the contemporary music scene, Jóhannsson ignored the barriers between classical and electronic music. By fusing together Minimalist elements, traditional forms, symphonic expansiveness and both acoustic and electronic sounds, he created not only hynotically lyrical images, but also an entirely new musical idiom.
The selection of early works that have been chosen for Deutsche Grammophon’s RETROSPECTIVE I show Jóhannsson to have been a composer of imagination and versatility in equal measure. The earliest recording is Virðulegu Forsetar (2004), an hour-long elegiac work for eleven-piece brass ensemble, percussion, electronics, organ and piano, recorded in Reykjavík’s Hallgrímskirkja. The soundtrack album Dís features an exceptional array of artists, including members of the bands The Funerals and Singapore Sling, and singer Ragnheiður Gröndal, who all give intensive voice to Jóhannsson’s melancholy narrative. And in the Endless Pause There Came the Sound of Bees – which weaves together orchestral writing with electronic synth sounds in unique style – was written to accompany the animated short Varmints, while The Miners’ Hymns is the audiovisual masterpiece that resulted from a hugely productive collaboration between Jóhannsson and American filmmaker Bill Morrison. The documentary soundtrack Copenhagen Dreams is Jóhannsson’s tribute to the city in which he was living at the time – a moving sound collage for string quartet, clarinet, celesta, keyboard and electronics. As for Free the Mind, it was written to underpin a documentary about the power of meditation, and is evocatively scored for orchestra, piano, percussion and electronics.
A special inclusion in this first retrospective volume is Jóhannsson’s score for White Black Boy. Previously unreleased, this is the soundtrack for the Danish documentary of the same name which sensitively tells the story of Shida, a Tanzanian boy with albinism who is taken away from his parents and sent to boarding school, in order to be kept safe from witch doctors who would otherwise target his body parts and blood.
This vibrant and revealing musical portrait of Jóhann Jóhannsson is accompanied by a hardcover book containing essays by Wyndham Wallace and John Schaefer and a generous selection of photos of this most modest of artists, providing further insight into his life and work."
Ravishing, dramatic and rambunctious chops from sax virtuoso and Joy O collaborator Ben Vince accompanied by Micachu, Rupert Clervaux, Merlin Nova, Valentina Magaletti and Cam Deas. Definitely one of the strongest WTN? drops in memory. RIYL Diamanda Galas, Chaines, Karl D’Silva, Colin Stetson
“‘Assimilation’ dives right in with Vince assuming downtown skronk, perfectly complementing the commanding no-wave theatrical vocal prowess of Merlin Nova. ‘Alive & Ready’ serves as an avant-garde energy blast, launching us into orbit.
Ben’s next spatial movement glides towards ‘What I can see’, a collaboration with Mica Levi, here donning her Micachu moniker to deliver her signature downcast experimental pop dexterity across Vince’s beautifully treated sax scape. The results are a moving, considered, crafted piece which undeniably nods towards Arthur Russell’s ‘World of Echo’, encompassing that same timeless, ethereal beauty.
Mica and Ben’s moment of longing melancholy is short lived, as we’re shuffled along to ‘Sensory Crossing’, a collaboration with Rupert Clervaux in which he evidences his groundings in Jazz percussion, experimental electronics, and deep interest in ethnomusicology - further exploring and expanding on the basin navigated during his collaborative album with Beatrice Dillon ‘Studies I-XVII for Samplers and Percussion’ to create a blanket of bubbling, wired, frenzied yet fluid motorik groove. Vince’s improvisation here remains restrained throughout, conversing with Rupert’s movements rather than attempting to shadow or overshadow them, an idea which perhaps is cemented in his exclamation that “Collaboration, and also the wider idea of 'communicating' in general, is, for me, assimilating the other, becoming the other, at least temporarily, to forge a point of connection. When we are able to let down our barriers, let ourselves affect and be affected, we can truly communicate.”
‘Tower of Cells’, another percussion led collaboration features drummer Valentina Magaletti (Editions Mego), and sonic explorer Cam Deas (Death of Rave). Magaletti’s immersive, hypnotic, & deep styling holds firm Deas’ synth transmissions & Vince’s wandering, brooding, layered sax drone across 10 minutes of truly refreshing alien Jazz – Think the Necks mixed by Scientist on this one.
‘Assimilation’ rolls us out in fine style with Vince riding solo. Fluttering tonal Sax lines build and build before become interspersed with layers of fourth world styled exotic flurries. Held together by a single perpetual hypnotic bass thud ‘Assimilation’ brings to mind the similarly exotic experimental works of Muslimgauze & Jon Hassell. This final track essentially serves as a space for some reflection, joyously winding down a journey which manages to truly make the ethereal and the intense run alongside each other in perfect harmony.”
Tindersticks’ Stuart A. Staples supplies his superb 5th work for a Claire Denis film with the OST for ‘High Life’, including a Tindersticks song sung by the film’s lead, Robert Pattinson
For Claire’s first english language film, Staples reflects its noirish pathos and sci-fi thriller themes with a suitably dark, sexy and suggestive suite of “void” drone vignettes created in long studio experiments with his Tindersticks bandmates plus Dave Okomu (The Invisible) and Seb Rochford (Sons of Kemet) a.o. on array of tactile, acoustic and electric instruments, accompanied by vocals from the BBC singers and a string orchestra.
Together they effectively worked “in the darkness”, with players only given minimal or even no direction in the recording process, in order to convey the sensation of moving into the absolute unknown of a black hole. Together they arrive at an open-ended conclusion that’s simultaneously pensive and languorous, static and transitory, alternating the effect of making listeners feel like a speck of fluff in cold expanse of space, pregnant with dread, with shocks of visceral violence in the deathly metal rupture of ‘Rape of Boyse’ and the tremulous beauty of ‘Willow’, a plush downstroke of Tindersticks genius steeped in early Scott Walker vibes.
New music ensemble Eye Music interpret ‘Sapporo’, a seminal, minimalist, graphic score by Toshi Ichiyanagi - the elder statesman of Japanese avant-garde composition, who was famously married to Yoko Ono during the late ‘50s
‘Sapporo’ is considered a classic of the ‘60s trend towards graphic notation, which emerged in the wake of Webernian serialism, and from the intersection of west and eastern musical philosophies catalysed by John Cage, as a way of freeing up music in key with the social, sexual, economic and political revolutions of that important post-WWII era.
The piece requires each performer - in this case Eye Music’s 11-piece ensemble employing everything from analog synths to psaltery bow and umeboshi pit, and kitchen faucets - to play from one page of graphic notation, with each performer aleatorically synching at some point in the piece, but hardly ever at the same points in any two performances.
In effect it’s totally open-ended, with no fixed start or finish point, with this 2006 recording going to just over 50 minutes, whereas previous iterations have lasted only 15 minutes. According to the score’s long, straight lines denoting sustained tones, angular lines describing glissando, and dashes calling for short sounds, the piece if played at slower paces, naturally opens out to reveal long pauses amid its naturally gentle topography, where plateaus intersect sliding descents and elide with inclines and a range of punctuating ephemera, recalling the graceful logic of a Japanese garden turning from dusk to night.
Minimalist german vocalist Marianne Schuppe breaks down the definition of a “song” on ‘Nosongs’, her super sparse follow-up to 2015’s ‘Slow Songs’, further distilling/reducing that album’s themes for the estimable Edition Wandelweiser Records
Accompanying herself with lute and uber-bows in 11 ‘Nosongs’, Marianne vacillates english and german language in phrases that linger on the air, leaving lots of tenebrous silence and space to the imagination in a way that becomes just as crucial as the tangible sounds to the album’s hypnotic yet barely there pull.
Like probably at least a few others, we’re left wondering wtf are Uber Bows (Google’s providing no help), but that’s also the most trivial mystery about ‘Nosongs’, whose enigmatic appeal is genuinely timeless, bringing the age old craft of a bard or singer of myriad stripes, right down to their essence. Like any folky worth their Arran sweater collection, she has the transfixing quality of a singer who can silence a barn or room and draw the audience deep into her own world. But this really isn’t folk music, and what she’s doing appears to defuse more lofty avant-garde vocal music and bring it down to a plaintiveness that also implies some calm, religious, and devotional connotations, although they aren’t really there either.
What we’re left with feels like a cycle of songs seemingly shorn of sentimentality, yet remaining beautiful in a relatively popular sense, with only precisely chosen words and the subtlest of instrumental gestures that, through her precise enunciation and slow, careful cadence, maybe speak volumes more than artists who simply let it all out, which is nonetheless a valid approach. In other words, she’s doing for vocal music what Morton Feldman and Giacinto Scelsi have for instrumental piano music.
From the top shelf of UK soundsystem culture, Soul Jazz pull up a cracking selection from the Fashion Records archive, running classic Dancehall, Jungle and Lovers Rock from Cutty Ranks to General Levy, Carlton Lewis, Top Cat and Janice Walker
Between the early ‘80s and late ‘90s Fashion Records were crucial players in the dialogue between Jamaican, Caribbean music and the sound of UK’s urban centres, and their influence would spill over to become a cornerstone of British dance music culture.
“While nearly all other UK reggae labels focused on releasing Jamaican music, from the early days of Island and Trojan in the 1960s, through Island and Virgin in the 1970s and Greensleeves that came up in the 1980s, Fashion’s focus was firmly on music produced in the UK. This unique British perspective shaped both lyrical content and musical fashion. And like all the great music labels, from Studio One to Blue Note, Fashion was able to create a significant roster of its own artists.
Amazingly for a small independent label, a number of Fashion artists achieved mainstream UK chart and crossover success, including Laurel & Hardy, Smiley Culture and General Levy. But although this success was welcomed, crossing over into the mainstream was never the main focus for label owners Chris Lane and John McGillivray (who also runs the successful Dub Vendor record shop), whose starting point was always primarily focused on producing quality music first.
In the early 1980s, Fashion Records captured the rise of the emerging British dancehall scene in its ascendency. The large roster of first generation British-born artists and MCs on the label, including General Levy, Papa Face, Smiley Culture, Bionic Rhona, Asher Senator, Laurel & Hardy, Top Cat and many more, often gave a unique and sometimes humorous British lyrical perspective to Fashion releases, discussing everyday subjects, from police harassment to road safety.
Throughout much of the 1980s and into the 1990s Fashion continued to release an almost relentless array of UK dancehall releases as well as continuing with lovers rock and the occasional dub releases. Then, in the mid-90s, with the dancehall and reggae releases still coming on strong, Fashion released a superb series of early jungle tracks linking Jamaican and British MCs and dancehall artists with young jungle mixers, remixers and producers. By this time dancehall artists General Levy and Cutty Ranks had become the staple vocal samples of literally hundreds of white label jungle records and Fashion took advantage of this, often getting young producers to work in exchange for sample clearances.
This album is a subjective and scatter-gun ride through some of the many unique and heavyweight tracks to come out of the Fashion stable - some classics, some lesser-known, all 100% killer.”
Efdemin discovers his folk-techno voice on ‘New Atlantis’, with results not dissimilar to a Richard Youngs experiment, or indeed, Efdemins’s recent collaboration with Oren Ambarchi and Konrad Sprenger, who also appears inside.
“Over eight tracks, New Atlantis oscillates between fast, kaleidoscopic techno, multilayered drones and acoustic instrumentation, fusing for the first time Sollmann’s deep dancefloor productions as Efdemin with his sound art and experimental music projects. The latter include 2017’s Harry Partch- inspired Monophonie performance and 2018’s Panama / Suez EP with Oren Ambarchi and Konrad Sprenger.
Long drawn to utopian musical traditions, Sollmann took inspiration for New Atlantis from Francis Bacon’s unfinished 17th century novel of the same name, which describes a fictional island devoted to social progress through the synthesis of art, science, technology and fashion. In the story, Bacon imagines futuristic ‘sound houses’, which contain musical instruments capable of recreating the entirety of the sounds of the universe; a 400-year-old prophesy of today’s digital sonic reality.
Through Sollmann’s lens, Bacon’s vision ebbs and flows over 50 minutes in varying speeds and colors, emerging as a tapestry of different utopian musical traditions – through billowing synth lines, early Detroit techno, resonant wooden percussion, trance, droning organs, dulcimer, electric guitars, hurdy-gurdy, just intonation, poetry, hymns and murmuring voices.”
Analogue synth wizard Martin Jenkins returns to Ghost Box with a glorious vision of retro-futurist electronics in ‘Hollow Earth’, the sequel to ‘Stasis’ 
At just under 1 hour long, ‘Hollow Earth’ weighs in as one of PCA’s most significant, broadest artist albums (as opposed to compilations). It finds the widely beloved project reeling inwards after the extrospective exploits of his ‘Stasis’ LP to reflect on themes of “subterranean exploration and submerged psychologies.”
Gassed on the spirits of Berlin skool synth improvisation and the new age chuff-on that informed early ‘90s house music, the album unfurls as a nightflight over undulating internal topography, roaming from signature slow techno wonders to weightless, vocodered waltz in ‘Descent’ and furtive, ghostly shapes in ‘Claustrophobe’, before raising the energy level with strident dance tracks such as ‘Mindshaft’ and ‘Core sample’. But it’s int he later quarters that we find some of the most precious material, such as the deliciously moody atmosphere and sylvan slink of ‘Dancing Shadows’, the mind-bending noise sculpture of ‘Quad Tape Substrate’, and his Carpenter-on-quaaludes emulation, ‘Buried Memories’.
20 years since his Planet Mu debut, Leafcutter John brings his ecstatic prog-electronica virtues to Border Community for a bright and spacious album of driving krautrock rhythms and intricate melodic fancy wrought around field recordings of the Norfolk coastline and the North Sea
“During the summer of 2017 exiled Yorkshireman Leafcutter John returned to his one-time home of Norfolk (having graduated in Painting from Norwich’s School of Art and Design back in 1998) and set out on foot along the sixty mile section of Norfolk Coast Path which runs from Hunstanton to Overstrand, trusty audio recording device in his pocket. “And very soon the physical act of walking began to make me think about music,” he explains. “My footsteps dictated the tempo and imagined melodies accompanied me as I slowly moved along the increasingly wild and magical stretch of coastline. Stresses of the city were replaced by the fall and rise of the North Sea and endless salt flats. Sounds from the environment filtered in and I would stop often to record what I was hearing around me.”
Back home in London, the hours of amassed field recordings would form the backbone and inspiration for a whole album worth of outpourings from John’s six-years-in-the-making modular synth. From the evocative sound of sea birds on Pillar and Stepper Motor to the colourful conversation from a country pub in This Way Out, the apposite selection of samples which made the final edit provide the perfect jumping-off point for John’s synths to soar with abandon, at times uplifting, frenetic, haunting, hypnotic or meditative, but always atmospheric and with unstoppable propulsion.
“Above all else, I wanted the album to exude a sense of constant forward motion but at a very human scale,” says John. Thus drummer friends Tom Skinner (Hello Skinny) and Sebastian Rochford (long-time collaborator in the twice Mercury Prize-nominated band Polar Bear) were roped in to lend their suitably clattering human momentum, on Doing The Beeston Bump and Dunes respectively. Working in tempos to match his walking speed throughout - “whether trudging along a rainy shingle beach or running up wildflowering clifftop paths” - Yes! Come Parade With Us is perfect traveling music, and once unleashed upon the world is sure to provide the soundtrack to plenty more journeys to come.”
A highly evocative, smudged take on shoegaze drone from Jefre Cantu-Ledesma, a release that marked a radical rethink of the classic dream-pop template when it was released in 2010, taking an impressionist's brush to established ambient traits.
Love Is A Stream joins the dots between My Bloody Valentine and drone-pop figureheads like Tim Hecker and Grouper, sculpting noise and feedback around gauzy vocal shimmers that expand the horizon far into the unknown.
Although its component parts spring from the fiery embers of molten synthesizers and tape saturated guitar tones, the album derives its luxurious textural presence from submerged vocals supplied by the likes of Type boss John 'Xela' Twells, Lisa McGee and Maxwell August Croy.
You can just about make out those lost voices roaming around the pulverised mix of 'Stained Glass Body' and the billowing 'River Like Spine’ - though it's impossible to make any single element out given how melted and fluid the mixing is, bringing a frail human element to an album that otherwise sounds entirely not of this Earth.
Aggressively charged mutations of IDM, EBM, and EDM
“‘Calibrate’ proffers the highest of fidelity, with blockbuster sci fi levels of production value and bombast. Donoso channels sonic spirits across fluro pointillism, futuristic industrial tribalism and more serene moments of synthetic reflection.
Having never courted accessibility, Donoso remains as unbending as ever in his approach and unwavering in commitment to his craft. Calibrate takes Donoso’s polymetric abuse and sound design to all new extremes. Conflicting rhythms and swathes of electronic debris move in tandem, to create pieces that expand and contract in on themselves.
A journey through Calibrate is an exercise in instability and failure; its aggressiveness serves as a warning against the urge to seek safety on common ground, and its entire approach seems to display a hostility towards the increasingly homogenized nature of new electronic music.”
You Know What It’s Like is the quietly breathtaking debut album from Carla Dal Forno ov Tarcar and F Ingers - an incredible debut which tip toes the finest line between contentment and aching vulnerability in head-turning fashion.
Her voice is exquisitely fragile but poised and confident with it; representing an unshowy resolve which, despite its gothic chic, actually feels fresh and necessary - operating counter to contemporary glitz and glamour with clear allusions to her heroes, such as Nico or Anna Domino.
Prefaced by two single tracks, the departing dream of Fast Moving Cars and the ghostly nerve pincher What You Gonna Do Now? the album also features six new songs clocking in at just under half an hour, following a bedsit slug trail from the mildew sprawl and nitrate bubble of opener Italian Cinema to the ‘floor-stalking sleep house thud of DB Rip and a deep drifting instrumental, Dry In The Rain, strewn with melodica-like pipes and cobwebbed in acoustic guitar strum like some dusty eldritch dub of A C Marias.
In the album’s twilight hours, Carla really comes into her own on the title song, flitting between Crepulscule-esque songcraft and slow-rocking traces of UK dub, her vocals urgent but nevertheless nonchalant, before Dragon Breath recedes back into the mists of chamber music and she proceeds to pour a potent, near paralysing nightcap and shuffle away from the screen down a long corridor, fading to black in The Same Reply.
We’re utterly smitten, this could turn into a proper addiction.
16 hours of peerless, important works by Eliane Radigue relating to her work with the ARP 2500 synthesiser between 1971-2000. Prior to this period, Eliane worked exclusively with feedback on tape and oscillators, but her work from the ‘70s onward is defined by an uniquely meditative and transcendent grasp of microtonal minimalism which has latterly come to place her among the 20th century’s most esteemed and truly inimitable composers. Bearing in mind that Eliane realised this fathomless body of work in her Paris apartment away from professional recording studios, only makes it resonate more strongly with the idea that Eliane was a genuine outlier whose uniquely sober work divined an unquantifiable yet ultimately human nature in electronic music.
"Eliane Radigue was born in Paris. She studied “musique concrète” techniques at the “Studio d’Essai” of the RTF under the direction of Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry (1956-57). She was married to the painter and sculptor Arman and devoted ten years to their three children. She then worked with Pierre Henry, as his assistant at the Studio APSOME (1967-68). She was in residence at the New York University School of Arts (1970-71), the University of Iowa and the California Institute of the Arts (1973) and Mills College (1998). She has created sound environments using looped tapes of various durations, gradually desynchronising.
Her works have been featured in numerous galleries and museums since the late 60s and from 1970, she has been associated to the ARP 2500 Synthesizer and tape through many compositions from Chry-ptus (1970) up to L’Île resonante (2000). These include: Biogenesis, Arthesis, Ψ 847, Adnos I, II and III (70s), Les Chants de Milarepa and Jetsun Mila (80s) and the three pieces constituting the Trilogie de la Mort (1988-91-93). Since 2002, she has been composing mostly acoustic works for performers and instruments. Her music has been featured in major international festivals. Her extremely sober, almost ascetic concerts, are made of a continuous, ever-changing yet extremely slow stream of sound, whose transformation occurs within the sonic material itself.
Radigue found her musical voice through the decisive encounter with “musique concrète” and its founding fathers. With Pierre Schaeffer, first, and then Pierre Henry, with whom she learned and perfected the art of tape recorders. She then developed a unique style by herself, freely continuing the exploration of electronic sounds, progressing with tenacity through her musical quest, without worrying about current trends or fashions, paying no attention to creeds or dogmas. An isolated course, out with fashions and institutions, such a singular and intense music, so remote from everything..."
Deluxe 3xCD box set edition of Obey the Time, the eighth studio album by Manchester ensemble The Durutti Column. Originally released by Factory Records in December 1990, the original 10 tracks have now been expanded to no less than 43.
The Durutti Column’s overlooked foray into early ‘90s acid house, techno and Balearic dance resurfaces, expanded with bonus discs of related material, and packaged with notes by Tony Wilson. In 1990, gassed on ecstasy fumes and weed pills, Reilly pulled influence from Acid House, rave and Balearic dance music into his singular style of lolling, latinate guitar playing with lovely and commonly overlooked results.
Aware of what could be done with a sampler - where one chord could trigger myriad more at the push of a button - Vini mostly self-produced ‘Obey The Time’, with some help from local studio whizzes such as Bruce Mitchell and Keir Stewart. The resulting album revolved natty acid house aces such as ‘Contra-Indications’ with Vini sailing over its rude machine groove, along with the balmier. dubbed-out ‘Fridays’, plus the utopian bliss of choral synth voices and Afro-Latin groove in ‘Neon’, while this reissue also includes ‘The Together Mix’ by local rave heroes Together (of ‘Hardcore Uproar’ fame), as well as Keir’s schism jungle mix ‘Kiss Of Def’, and the shimmering synth voices of ‘Zinni III’ exclusive to this boxset.
On the 2nd disc is a stack of ‘Related Works’ including a Select Magazine megamix of the album, plus compilation tracks ‘Dry’  and ‘Red Shoes’ , plus songs from unreleased albums, while the 3rd disc documents The Durutti Column’s concert at Manchester Uni’s Whitworth Hall, 23rd June 1990, aka ‘The Acid Guitar’.
Summer’s coming and this boxset could hardily be handier.
Arvo Pärt has become something of a yardstick by which so much contemporary classical music has been measured, and 'Alina' is arguably his most understated and beautiful piece of work.
Für Alina was first performed in Tallinn in 1976, and has become one of Pärt’s most-loved and widely appreciated works - regarded by many as an early, defining example of his signature tintinnabuli style. In the years since its release, Pärt has become the most performed living composer in the world, his approach to religious music seeping deep into our cultural landscape, from the avant garde to the mainstream.
Rendered with nothing more than piano and violin, this definitive ECM version from 1999 features Vladimir Spivakov, Sergej Bezrodny, Dietmar Schwalke and Alexander Malter providing alternate versions, handpicked by Pärt himself from recordings that were originally several hours long. It’s a masterclass in simplicity; an almost painfully beautiful rendering of emotional landscapes that, in the wrong hands, could have (and has, on many occasions, by so many) turned to schmaltz.
For better or for worse, 'Spiegel Im Spiegel' and 'Fur Alina' have both come to be seen as blueprints for a specific strain of solo piano and classical minimalism designed to manipulate and heighten emotive states, as seen in so many films, adverts and idents. In that respect, one could argue that these pieces are indirectly responsible for numerous heavy-handed, emotionally empty, easy-on-the-ear abominations over the decades. And yet, if you listen carefully, Pärt's ability to distil so much emotion and spirituality into his work from so little is ultimately impossible to emulate; regardless of how many times you've heard them, these pieces never cease to transport you elsewhere.
If you're new to Arvo Pärt, Alina is perhaps the perfect entry point for exploring his monumental, peerless canon.
Pascal Dusapin was born 29 May 1955 in Nancy, France. His music is marked by its microtonality, tension, and energy. A pupil of Iannis Xenakis and an admirer of Varèse, Dusapin studied at the University of Paris I and Paris VIII during the 1970s.
"His music is full of "romantic constraint », and he rejects the use of electronics, percussion other than timpani, and, up until the late 1990s, piano. He wrote 8 operas and an important pieces for ensemble and solo instrument. Here is for the first time his complete work for viola.
A unique artist, Pascal Dusapin continues his musical journey, formal and yet never dogmatic, offering his fiercely emotional music through a great range of diverse forms."
Phill Niblock's Music For Cello collects three pieces from the 70's and early 80's, performed by cellist David Gibson. Since the late sixties Phill Niblock has been composing long-form acoustic drones with a focus on the rhythms and overtones that rise from closely tuned instruments. His highly original and influential music is an exploration of timbre, microtonality, stability, duration and psychoacoustic phenomenon.
"3 to 7 - 196 is very direct, aggressive, and gritty. The overtone patterns that are produced by the proximal pitches become more prominent with louder volume. So please, play this piece very loud. This was the first piece of mine in which the musician was precisely tuned, in which I chose exact pitches in hertz. We used a sine wave oscillator and frequency counter for the tuning.
Descent Plus has four cello tones descending one octave over twenty-two minutes, from 300 hertz to 150 hertz. David Gibson played these tones without lifting his bow from the strings, constantly retuning. I made four different scores, manually changing an oscillator to which he was tuning, for each track's recording. For the revision, we added six more tracks, with David playing long tones which were not descending. The second part of the recording was made nearly twenty years later.
Summing II (one of four parts) is mellow and sonorous. David plays two strings simultaneously, one of which is retuned for each successive recording of that pair of tones. This is a mix of an eight track tape. It's better played loud also." - Phill Niblock from liner notes
‘Panopticon Specularities’ is an ambitious and complex feat of avant-classical chamber architecting rooted in Turkish politics and cultural identity, effectively thawing the “frozen music” of the Hagia Sofia’s 1500 year old architecture. It is the bold debut proper by Berlin-based composer Turgut Erçetin for the ever-searching Edition RZ
Istanbul native, Turgut Erçetin (1983) studied composition and completed his doctorate studies at Stanford University. His work engages with sound as sonic entities that interact with time and space, with an inherent focus on acoustics and psychoacoustics. He uses computer-aided compositional processes to realise unique impositions of space and place that question notions of physicality and metaphysics: employing a highly technical approach to stage practically impossible soundscapes, bringing the meridian sounds of Istanbul - seagulls, ships horns, street noise, the muezzins’ call-to-prayer - and the uniquely purposed Byzantine architecture of the Hagia Sofia, once a venue for singing, then an Ottoman mosque, and now a museum where music is banned, via the CCRMA facility at Stanford, and into the performance space of a Berlin church.
Unable to actually use the Sofia Hagia for recording, Erçetin did the next best thing and modelled its architecture with a computer after gauging its space with sine waves and balloon pops. In the recordings they found the Hagia’s acoustics created specular reflections, localised echoes that highlight specific places, particularly int he 56-metre high dome, which gave the impression of sound descending from above, or from heaven itself. Applying this ancient crafty way of manipulating audience perceptions to the relatively modern idea of F-prisons, smaller cells introduced in Turkey in 2000, as a way of disrupting, segregating prisoners, stymieing their communications, he arrived at the belief that “one could be resilient and free form the solitude to which one is condemned inside and outside, as long as one can move.”
The four works in ‘Panopticon Specularities’ bring this idea of freedom of movement within space - and spaces within spaces - to light in remarkable ways that will have ears and eyes wandering across the whole soundsphere, bewildered and rapt. In effect he’s reverse engineering Goethe’s notion of architecture as “frozen music” by using the reaches of technology to “thaw” and make the building’s music liquid again. Directing four spatialized chamber ensembles in the same space, together with pre-recordings in anechoic chambers, to create a complex space of interaction between gendered voices, both human and instrumental, to wonderfully conflate the ideas of the Panopticon - an 18th century British prison design whereby all points are visible from the centre - and public squares where people of all social strata would see and be seen, establishing their identities and social status in the process, in turn revealing the power of freedom of movement.
A mix of modern noise makers and experts in ancient music put the Italian Futurists’ original Intonarumori instrument thru its paces, while Einstürzende Neubauten’s Blixa barged provides spoken word commentary and history of the instrument and noise
“This album contains seven compositions, created by the Opening Performance Orchestra, Blixa Bargeld, Luciano Chessa and Fred Möpert. All the pieces relate to the theme of Futurism and employ intonarumori, instruments invented and used more than a century ago by the Italian Futurists in their noise compositions.
The Art of Noises, pertained to the entire 20th century. Published in 1913, in response to Francesco Balilla Pratella's Manifesto of Futurist Musicians, Russolo's text encompassed the fundamental ideas for the new music of the modern age. Radical ideas required original compositional approaches, as well as new types of instruments - hence the Futurists opted for the intonarumori.
The two quotations prompted us to give thought to creating compositions in which we would return to the early 20th century, when noises as means of musical expression emerged for the very first time. The typical instruments used by our ensemble, the Opening Performance Orchestra, are laptops, by means of which we conceive our fraction music, which can be briefly characterised by the slogan no melody no rhythm no harmony. Constructing three intonarumori, writing our own pieces for these instruments and performing works by other contemporary composers - Blixa Bargeld, Luciano Chessa and Fred Möpert, represented for us getting into close contact with the beginnings of the musical avant-garde, as well as returning to the historical roots of the music that had served as the basis of noise in art.”
Stunning debut by L.A.-based violinist Zachary Paul, of Touch’s mentorship scheme, yielding an elemental, time-bending suite of studies exploring the paradox of stasis/movement, and working in a rich vein of minimalism that reaches back thru Pauline Oliveros, Tony Conrad, and La Monte Young
In three durational parts ‘A Meditation On Discord’ introduces a promising and timeless new musical voice, showcasing an expressive range and style porous to nature and the elements. The opening, 30 minute live recording ‘Premonition’ starts anxiously jagged but beautifully warms up as he channels the sun beating down on the Desert Daze festival stage, opening out into the kind of curdled tunings that make our heads fizz, and which we imagine must have sounded incredible in open space. Another live piece ‘Slow Ascent’ follows, glacially coning from wide, lo lying into a peak of looped voice and strings, before the album’s single studio recording ‘A Person With Feelings’ plays to his full range, segueing from luxuriant to atonal with discernibly electronic designs cut to purpose as the soundtrack to a short film by Tamer Smith. Trust we’ll hear more from this bright star in future.
“"'Premonition' (October 12, 2018) was recorded on the first day of Desert Daze music festival. For this performance I tuned my violin in open G (G-D-G-D) for the very first time. The afternoon was warm and bright, but storm clouds, yet to be seen at the time of this recording, loomed on the horizon. My improvisation began in the present moment, reflecting the vibrations of the sun. Once locked in with these higher frequencies, the instrument took control and painted the evening. This performance was both a premonition of night and an astral projection towards the clouds crawling towards the festival grounds, catalyzed by an instrument resonating with the frequencies of the earth. 'Slow Ascent' (February 23, 2018) was recorded at Human Resources, Los Angeles, for an event celebrating the release of Yann Novak's second album. This performance was an inverted guided group meditation. In front of my biggest audience to date, I was extremely anxious. Rather than letting my nerves lead the way, I fed off of the energies of the audience, letting their patience, calm and warmth guide the instrument. 'A Person With Feelings' is a score for a short abstract film to be released in 2019. A modern trance film, the piece follows a young actor's internal journey. The soundscape reflects the arc of the film and showcases the textural range of my instrument." --Zachary Paul
Following his ambient atmospheric project, ‘Phantom Brickworks’, Stephen Wilkinson returns to the path of structured songwriting last explored on 2016’s ‘A Mineral Love’.
"Ribbons yields folkloric charm with an organic palette, incorporating a mostly acoustic-led approach exploring ‘60s and ‘70s psychedelia, soul, ambient, electronic and field recordings. The title ‘Ribbons’ is extracted from the most electronic-leaning track on the album, ‘Pretty Ribbons And Lovely Flowers’. On the track, haunting, processed female vocals illuminate a route through dark ambience and a repeating earthy distorted chord sequence. Referencing the endless ribbons of analogue tape and film used in his music, photography and cinematic work, the album artwork is designed by Wilkinson, where his portrait offers a window onto an English woodland scene with spring bluebells adorned with ribbons.
Wilkinson’s folk influences span ‘60s and ‘70s styles from Britain, Ireland and America; he mixes influences of homegrown acid folk with the dreamy harmonies of its Californian counterpart. He also pays homage to his past J Dilla and Madlib-inspired works, this time drawing influence from the eras and records those producers sampled - such as ‘60s and ‘70s Dionne Warwick, Dee Dee Sharp and other soul artists - but rather than relying on sampling records, Wilkinson creates his homages from scratch with appropriate instrumentation."
Current 93 have dreamt a new album, Invocations Of Almost, using music from her FuturePast and her PastFuture, to accompany David Tibet’s art exhibition, Invocations Of Almost.
"The CD version of Invocations Of Almost is 59-minutes long, as it is launched on David’s 59th BirthDay, March 5, whilst he is in LA for the official opening of his show on March 9. There will also be a vinyl LP edition, which sings a slightly shorter version, mixed specifically for the 12”. The music on Invocations Of Almost will be played on a continual loop in The Begovich Gallery whilst the exhibition is open."
Italian techno producer Jacopo Bacci supplies his pulsating and steeply immersive 43 minute work ‘Throw Light Upon’ as a typically unexpected curveball on Joachim Nordwall’s iDEAL Recordings
Offering a masterclass in how to bridge deep ‘90s and modern techno spheres, ‘Throw Light Upon’ is all about extra subtle modulations of rhythm and tone, and in a way that is too often forgotten or lost-in-translation by current skools of techno praxis. The seamlessly sequenced 44 minute work reminds us the pure pleasure of locking in and staying there, recalling a time before dancefloor patterns were disrupted by health & safety, when a couple of garys and a pack of tabs would see you right for 6 hours spent in the control of a single DJ who could work you like a marionette.
This isn’t a DJ set, but it works very much like the ideal of a fluid deep techno selection, stealthily layering and introducing new motifs that form and recede around a rolling 4/4 ballast, incrementally and almost imperceptibly shifting gears to conserve energy and motion. Like an intangible scent or motif that jogs the memory, ‘Throw Light Upon’ subliminally gets inside the head and under the skin to remind of pure, classic techno from Plastikman, Mika Vainio’s Ø, Donato Dozzy, Nuel.
Breakcore hero/weirdo Bogdan Raczynski coughs up his first LP in over a decade with ‘Rave Til You Cry’ for Disciples, following their two Black Lodge releases.
Back in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, Bogdan was a staple of the drill ’n bass scene, one a number of artists using tracker software to make the fastest, wildest breakbeats after D&B peaked and went pure neuro 2-step. He was also, and presumably still is, very fucking tall.
Many years later, he’s hardly changed, as ‘Rave ’Til You Cry’ catches him in gymnastic form across 18 tracks of kinetic rhythms and strange electronic atmospheres comparable with a fusion of Aleksi Perälä’s odd tunings and Christoph De Babylon’s brittle jungle styles.