Stunning, previously unheard chapter in the saga of Igor Wakhevitch, a close peer and associate of everyone from Pierre Henry to Yves Saint-Laurent and Pink Floyd, one of the first composers of his generation to make use of Moog, Synthi AKS and ARP synthesizers. responsible for some of the most remarkable synth music known to humankind.
Among the key, pioneering ‘70s artists who brought an epic sense of poetry to the language of avant-garde synth and concrete music which emerged in the ‘60s, Wakhevitch is hailed as a cult figure for his string of classic albums including ‘Logos’, ‘Docteur Faust’, and ‘Let’s Start’ between 1970-1979, as well as production for Terry Riley, and on Salvador Dalí’s opera, ‘Être Dieu’ (‘To Be God’). Most beautifully, he opened up synth music’s 3rd eye to heavy inspiration from Hindu classical music and schools of thought, leading him to spend 30 years in India prior to the construction of this, a masterful chapter in his visionary canon.
‘Kshatyra [The Eye of the Bird]’ is a remarkable, much later work, recorded in the late 90’s on Wakhevitch’s custom Mysterious Island 88 system, and later edited for this release last year. It came to Wakhevitch as a means of mediating and reconciling his ontology (the grandson to victims of the Shoah) and his knowledge of Hindu symbolism, making use of ancient Indian classical modes and the Far Eastern-influenced styles of Jean Claude-Eloy, consistently conjuring heady modes of listening, hypnotic and transcendent, that subliminally yet potently light up the subconscious.
In eight parts he navigates a journey from celestial melody through spirit-engulfing, widescreen black hole synth dimensions and glistening visions of the sublime, before seeming to collapse the firmament into the earth and vice-versa in the chapter’s glorious, durational finale brimming with elegiac church bells, sky-scorching synths and deep abstractions.
Long a cult figure to diggers and listeners in the know, the praise and admiration for Wakhevitch’s music (by everyone from Demdike Stare to Andy Votel and the GRM’s Jonathan Fitoussi) is proportionally inverse to the availability of his music, which remains all too hard to come by. This new album is crucial as a portal to worlds unheard, and a startling introduction for many to one of the most quietly important figures in electronic music.
Edition RZ document the first 30 years of Berlin’s Inventionen festival in this cornucopia of contemporary electro-acoustic composition, including work by Iannis Xenakis, Trevor Wishart, Boguslaw Schaeffer, and Ricardo Mandolini, among many others.
Established by the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) and Berlin’s Technical University, the festival is focussed around presenting premieres of recently composed works alongside “classics” of the genre by Xenakis, Cage, Nono, Stockhausen, and the output of the GRM in Paris, with the subsequent aim of connecting a number of other institutions such as BEAST (Birmingham), CCRMA (Stanford), and EMS (Stockholm).
Marking the festival’s 30th year upon its release in 2012, the box set offers a massive, 17-part DVD rendering the first ever performance of Xenakis’ Bohor using Ina-GRM’s famed Acousmonium speaker array, beside a 75 minute Trevor Wishart suite entitled Encounters In The Republic of Heaven, and the video for Rolf Enström / Thomas Hellsing’s Fractal (1984), whilst the first CD includes the audio of the latter, plus highlights in Takehito Shimazu’s microscopically detailed Zytoplasma, and two Boguslaw Schaeffer pieces, including the remarkable Berlin 80 II, and the 3rd disc, a CD, is given to the diverse, percussive, noisy and poetic Elektroakustiche Musik of Argentina’s Ricardo Mandolini, which proves to be some of the most striking material in the set.
Maja S.K. Ratkje’s spellbinding ‘Sult’ is based on her soundtrack for the ballet suite by Jo Strømgren for the Norwegian national ballet. Leading on from her previous solo LP ‘Crepuscular Hour’, Ratkje is here accompanied by a wildly modified, out-of-tune pump organ in 9 wonderous songs that attest to her non pareil, improvisational brilliance.
Stemming from the ballet adaptation of ‘Sult’, Knut Hamsen’s classic novel about a starving writer in late 19th century Kristiania (now Oslo), Maja’s treatment closely follows its themes in the lyrics and music, but works as a distinctive document in its own right. Under song titles taken from the novel, Maja unfurls surreal, anachronistic scenes akin to a steampunk echo of olde Oslo.
Using an era-appropriate pump organ rigged with metal and PVC tubes, and a wind machine built in, along with resin threads, metal and glass percussion and bow - which she had to learn to play before recording - Maja regales the narration with a fine but beautifully loose grasp of her instrument’s chaotic analog nature, skilfully harmonising with her own, incredible vocal abilities.
Despite having never read the book or visited Oslo, Maja’s music and singing takes us right there, to the same cold cobbled streets where Hamsen wrote his semi-autobiographical account of a starving artist trying to make it, and where you might encounter images that gave rise to Edvard Munch’s ’Skrik’ . Through the resilience of her voice and the queasy, off-kilter shanty feel of the pump organ, Maja most romantically and acutely connotes that atmosphere with the timeless charm of a bard, troubadour or dramaturgist, or quite simply the ambiguous, dreamy nature of the most potent art.
Christian Fennesz relays four compelling deep space images from his unique electro-acoustic microcosmos in ‘Agora’, the Viennese artist’s first album since ‘Bécs’ 
Borrowing its title from the ancient greek word for a gathering place, ‘Agora’ finds Fennesz creating highly detailed, alien ecologies of sound riddled with myriad, interlaced dynamics, but each singular in their scope. They variously transition from wide-open to busy, hyper-populated zones of enquiry and back again, but paradoxically enough all come as the result of one man in his spare room, composing inside a pair of headphones.
Change of circumstances meant that Fennesz couldn’t use his usual studio and by necessity was limited to what was at hand in his spare bedroom-turned-studio - just like the old days when he wrote his first record. These limitations pushed him further to explore worlds of possibility contained within his guitar and computer, with drily functional titles such as ‘In My Room’ invoking ideas from both Alvin Lucier and J.G. Ballard to explore vast realms of reverberant, imaginary space, while ‘Rainfall’ feels to emulate a lush spring downpour over bust city streets, all splitting greys and oil and concrete reflection, and ‘Agora’ radiates into every corner of the synthesised soundfield with gloriously detached, isolationist effect, alongside the bittersweet then and coruscating texture of ‘We Trigger The Sun’.
Kompakt staple Jörg Burger (The Modernist, Burger/Ink ++) initiates a new compilation series, ‘Velvet Desert Music’ with 15 choice cuts strung between traces of rock, folk, country, surf, krautrock and psychedelic contemporary electronic music
“The concept shares some similarities to Kompakt’s Pop Ambient series as unlike a conventional compilation of tracks from different artists, Velvet Desert Music Vol.1 is a collection of music that creates a distinct vibe and atmosphere.
Jörg Burger is responsible for the concept and selection. The styles of music presented on Velvet Desert Music Vol. 1 play a crucial role and influence in his work for many years. Now he has created a platform for these styles. Beside showcasing his own music, Jörg Burger kept to inviting a close circle of friends and colleagues that share similar influences in their work. All of their contributions were specially composed or remixed for this collection.
Velvet Desert Music Vol. 1 features the first new Burger/Ink track since the release of their iconic full length “Las Vegas” on Harvest and Matador Records in 1996.
“Just think...from Sergio Leone to David Lynch, from Elvis in his deepest moments to Johnny Cash somewhere between amphetamine backlash and American Recordings, from Hollywood Babylon to Hotel California, from Mulholland Drive to Paris, Texas. Served with a pinch of Tago Mago and Pink Floyd at Pompeii. Then you know exactly what Velvet Desert Music is about...“ – JÖRG BURGER”
Floating Points’ personal collection of global soul, ambient, jazz and folk treasures form the latest in Late Night Tales series.
"Sam Shepherd aka Floating Points’ music taste is notoriously tricky to define, ranging from ethereal classical at one end to coruscating techno at the other, united only in a firm belief in the transcendental power of music to move hearts, minds and – yes – feet. Similarly, his production career has ranged from early experiments in dance music with breakout records such as the ‘Shadows EP’ and collaborating with legendary Gnawa master Mahmoud Guinia to his expansive album ‘Elaenia’, which met with critical acclaim upon its release in 2015.
This Late Night Tales excursion into the depths of the evening reflects his broad tastes. The globally-travelled producer has collected untold treasures on his travels from dusty stores in Brazil to market stalls near his hometown. There’s the gorgeous ‘Via Làctea’, culled from Carlos Walker’s debut album, Abu Talib’s (Bobby Wright) plaintive ‘Blood Of An American’ and Robert Vanderbilt’s gospel reworking of Manchild’s ‘Especially For You’. Raw soul and feeling oozing from each song’s pores.
At the other end of the music scale are the modernists, such as Québécoise Kara-Lis Coverdale who weighs in with the indelible ‘Moments In Love’, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith whose ‘Milk’ is an exercise in tranquility, while Sarah Davachi’s meditative mix-opener offers respite from a weary world.
We have some exclusive tracks for Late Night Tales; alongside Davachi’s offerings there is also Toshimaru Nakamura’s ‘Nimb #59’, as well as the now traditional cover version. hepherd delved into his childhood
memory for this one, a track taken from the first album his parents bought him, Kenny Wheeler’s ‘Music For Large & Small Ensembles’: Sam offers up his interpretation of ‘Opening Part 1’. Wheeler also contributes horns to Azimuth
track The Tunnel, written and performed by Norma Winstone and John Taylor who, coincidentally, are the parents of Floating Points’ drummer Leo Taylor. Closing the album, Lauren Laverne reads the suitably nocturnal poem ‘Ah! Why, Because The Dazzling Sun’ by Emily Brontë.
“I tried to find music that reflects the stillness of night. And because my musical interests lie all over the place, it’s quite difficult to distil that notion down to just a few songs. I was quite keen to have some electronic music in there but I also really wanted to have some soul music mixed in, so I had to try and find a pathway between all of this different music.” - Sam Shepherd (Floating Points) March 2019"
The mesmerising ’Ilana (The Creator)’ is desert blues maestro Mdou Moctar’s first album recorded in a proper studio and backed by a full band
Whirling at the heels of his live recordings made in Jack White’s Third Man complex, the Tuareg guitarist returns to his spiritual home of Sahel Sounds, flanked by Ahmoudou Madassane (Les Filles de Illighadad) on rhythm guitar, Aboubacar Mazawadje’s percussion, and Michael Coltun on bass, to present his magnum opus 10 some years since his debut album was distributed on SD cards across west Africa.
Mdou got to this point after his self-taught, fiery guitar skills were heard by Christopher Kirkley ov Sahel Sounds, who, after a few phone calls (Mdou dropped the first one, thinking it was a prank), secured Mdou’s ‘Tahoultine’ song for the now-seminal ‘Music From Saharan Cellphones’ compilation in 2010. A string of celebrated LPs have followed, including Mdou’s soundtrack for a Saharan remake of Prince’s ‘Purple Rain’, and now on ‘Ilana (The Creator)’ he finally shows what he can do in a true studio setting, and with bios own band.
The results are wider, more layered, and immersively lusher than anything else in Mdou’s oeuvre, yet they lose none of the in-the-moment “life” found in his rawer, earlier works, or indeed his transfixing live performances across the EU and USA.
Comprising long hours of jamming in the studio, with later overdubs made in Niger, ‘Ilana (The Creator)’ harnesses Mdou and his group’s mesmerising energy in 9 songs, coursing with the kind of psychedelic feel that begs eyes closed and heads-down from the magnetic swiller of ‘Kamane Tarhanin’ thru the wide open blues space connoted by ‘Inizgam’, to the elegant, swaying rhythms and lilting harmonies in ‘Anna’, and a scorching tribute to Tuareg folklore in ‘Ilana’, with incendiary music underlining lyrics about France’s exploitation of Niger’s uranium reserves.
Black Dice cat Eric Copeland runs roughshod around house, disco and techno in his patented ‘Freakbeat 4/4’ style for DFA
Also self-described as “late Night Flight proto tekno”, the tracks are imperfectly caught between avant-rock and messy dancefloor sensibilities in a rub n tug between some of his straightest groves and haywire hooks.
Best of the lot are ‘Pay Off’ which sounds like Larry Heard lost his shit while running through ‘Feel It’ and ended up going well off road, and likewise ‘Beat It’, which could be Arthur Russell doing acid and then making it, and the two squirming 8-bit steppers ‘Falo’ and ‘High Score Zed’.
From Syria via L.A. and upstate New York, K Á R Y Y N makes a strong impression with debut album ‘The Quanta Series’, following a beguiling collaboration with Actress’ Young Paint Ai. No half measures here, K Á R Y Y N is a proper triple threat, writing, producing and performing every track in a dramatic, soaring heart-on-sleeve style of IDM/ambient and operatic pop RIYL Björk, Holly Herndon, Fovea Hex
“Written and recorded over a seven year period, 'THE QUANTA SERIES' tracks K Á R Y Y N’s movements across continents on a voyage of self-examination. Beginning in 2011 following the death of two relatives in Aleppo, K Á R Y Y N left her native LA for Cherry Valley, upstate New York to process her grief in seclusion. During the 18 months she lived in Cherry Valley, K Á R Y Y N wrote two songs for 'THE QUANTA SERIES'. The first was a visceral, emotional piece recorded in one take called 'TODAY I READ YOUR LIFE STORY 11:11'. The second, a musing on impermanence and understanding the impact of our choices called 'SEGMENT & THE LINE'.
Over the years that followed, K Á R Y Y N spent time living in Berlin where she wrote 'PURGATORY', a song inspired by a memory from her childhood spent in the Forty Mountains of Idlib province in Syria. As she travelled, she found inspiration everywhere, leaning into her own familial legacy, feelings of grief and love and observations on human interaction. A deep connection to her lineage is a concurrent theme in K Á R Y Y N’s work, with an interpretation of traditional Armenian folk song 'AMBETS GORAV' present on the album plus a beautiful choral patchwork called 'MIRROR ME' providing an introspective break in the album - a track about "facing yourself, the good, the bad; searching for the parts in us that have been lost."
A wistful, fractal collection of introspective songs built from fragments of other people’s voices, sounds, and music by French/Canadian artist Jean Cousin aka Joni Void
“Mise En Abyme is the second full-length by Joni Void, the avant-electronica project of France/Canada producer Jean Cousin, following his acutely accomplished and acclaimed 2017 debut album Selfless. (#8 Experimental Album of 2017 at Pitchfork, among other accolades.)
Grappling with a cascade of heartbreaks and discontinuities over the past year, Cousin calls the new album a “time-travel experiment”, as he culls sounds from devices and sources spanning childhood to the present (phones, cameras, video games, home movies) to retrieve and reframe subjective memories, histories and “regressions through former selves” through immersion in the evocative potential of the mostly wordless voices of others. The resulting sonic portraits simultaneously convey formally abstract dislocations and highly emotive warmth, interiority, humanity and specificity.
Side A especially highlights these works – the “with people” half of the album, replete with contemplative, melancholic songs, each featuring a deconstructed performance by a different female voice, propelled to varying degrees with additive rhythmic and textural layers. Side B is the “isolation” half: vocal samples continue to make appearances, including Cousin’s own voice on the vertiginous “Voix Sans Issue” and his own lyrics on the computer-narrated text-to-speech spoken word of the confessional “Deep Impression” – but the contrasting vibe is more claustrophobic, anxious and febrile.
Mise En Abyme ends with a throwback to Cousin’s pre-Joni Void keyboard-based works as johnny_ripper on the gorgeous Rhodes piece “Persistence”, while the closing exuberant maximalist jam of “Resolve” fittingly samples every previous song and locks the album into a self-referential recursive sequence.”
Bringing to a close a series which has frankly altered the way we listen to and perceive sound and music over the course of this decade, Jakob Ullmann seals his important Fremde Zeit series with ‘Solo V for Klavier’; a fascinatingly stark and spectral hour-long finale that sets the idea of ‘Foreign Time’ in its most minimalist and broadest setting.
Like the previous instalments, ‘solo V für Klavier’ is interpreted from a graphic score, this time formed from a series of abstract water-colours aleatorically overlaid with transparent sheets marked with black lines, scattered in the manner of oracle sticks to create a pattern determining the duration of sections, their colour and sequencing. Whilst patently super-minimal, the piece’s pianissimo nature is too demanding for just one solo performer, Lukas Rikli, who requires the participation of three assistants who use horsehair on the strings to sustain the soundscape.
So far, so concrete (and the above is only a skim of the full technical requirements), but what occurs arguably falls within the realm of the supernatural and metaphysical. Performed according to Ullmann’s uniquely conjured laws of physics, the work opens an uncanny valley between the object - the grand piano - and subjective perceptions of its sound. It takes several minutes before one might even realise a piano is at the centre of the soundstage - somehow all the action appears to happen in the meridian, in the timbral, in the liminal aura, almost frighteningly connoting a presence but not the actual body that produced it.
It’s only when identifiable chords and strings occasionally loom forward that we can just about make out the fixed physicalities in the room, but in the process we’ve already attuned to Ullmann’s laws of sonic democracy (if you’re doing it properly, the piece should play at just above the volume of environmental sound - hence it works best at night), which makes any instrumental gesture, no matter how slight, appear magnified, animating a microcosmos of sound at the molecular level.
The results highlight the effective warzones of sonic bombardment and “pollution” we’re all subject to everyday, and most intently offer the invaluable space for retreat we’re all clearly, increasingly in need of.
Perhaps the only good thing to emerge from Brexit is The Matthew Herbert United Kingdom and Gibraltar European Union Membership Referendum Big Band, herein referred to as TMHUKAGEUMRBB, and their album ‘The State Between Us’.
Presented as an album ruminating on what it is to be British in 2018, aside from the obvious shame and embarrassment, it locates a strength in numbers and our eccentricities with a cast of a thousand performers responding to the premature ejaculation of Article 50. Between them, they document an imagined journey on foot across Great Britain thru a mix of elegiac melodies with site-specific recordings of Chequers, a Welsh sheep farm, felled WWII planes, and walks along the Northern Irish border that lend a poetic, historically apt reading of a country entering the grip of madness.
Across the album’s 16 songs Herbert and co pull from every aspect of the past two years of Brexit, from interminable news cycles to a spectrum of British eccentricities, to our intrinsic links with the rest of the world, not to mention the EU. The results frame a contemplative collection of arrangements that, while sadly unlikely to change any Brexiteers minds, may at the least give them pause for thought, to reflect on all the good shit they’re so eager to extinguish.
It would be presumptuous of us to expect that all of our UK customers share our sentiment, but we’d wager a £10 that most of you do, and likewise many of our EU and RoW customers. So in effect we’re probably preaching to the choir. But in case we’re not, and you’re up for leaving the EU - and appreciate British sites like ours, or the wonderfully esoteric make-up of British culture in general - know that this could be seriously jeopardised by the clueless Tory pebbles (and those they’ve hoodwinked) who are clinging like winnets to the arsehole of Brexit. Fuck knows what we can do to remedy it apart form support albums like ‘The State Between Us’, and the wholly sensible idea of a 2nd referendum, come what may (or when May goes).
NYC wave-riders supreme, Xeno & Oaklander reprise their feted blend of drily gyroid-styled vocals, naggingly romantic synths and pointed rhythms in ‘Hypnos’, leading on from strong albums for Wierd Records and Ghostly International
“On their latest album Hypnos and first for the Dais imprint, the duo leveraged the talents of visual artist and live sound engineer Egan Frantz to mix the album. It’s a touch that adds both punch and balance, allowing their inherent conceptual voices to converge into a collage with defined edges and warm, synapses of frequency and beat.
“Musically, Hypnos is a return to polyphony after several years of using strictly monophonic synthesizers,” McBride says about the album’s ethos. “This has brought dense harmonies and a more complex counterpoint to the composition. Staying with the same equipment and processes without the inveterate compulsion to update and refashion allows for a clearly perceivable genealogy with our previous work.”
“I felt the desire to tell mythical stories, I also wanted my voice to sit strongly in the mix,” Wendelbo explains. “I channeled the spirits of 60s French Pop chanteuse Françoise Hardy and 80s New Wave New York icon Tina Weymouth.” Her intentions are best evidenced on the tracks “Angelique,”and “Insomnia,” the former a spry track sung in French, against a springy rhythm. Laden with expanding and contrasting frequency and a penchant for strategic rhythm, Hypnos juxtaposes dance with distance, creating an immersive oeuvre that exudes contrast and control.”
Portishead's Beth Gibbons is joined by the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra for this remarkable album conducted by Krzysztof Penderecki.
Gibbons really doesn’t do things by halves, here committing to singing Górecki’s ‘Symphony No. 3 (Symphony of Sorrowful Songs)’ in Polish - a language she doesn’t speak - after an intense period of preparation in which she not only learnt the lyrics, but also their emotional provenance. Conducted by Krzystof Penderecki, the piece proves a perfect platform for Beth’s lesser heard gift for operatic gymnastics, which, once heard, will beg the question why she hasn't made this kind of recording before.
Most poignantly, we’re left on tenterhooks for the opening 12 minutes of the first movement, until the strings usher in her towering, if fleeting vocal to astonishing effect, before she tempers that drama to a much slower, etheric appeal throughout the 2nd movement, and then with a fine grasp of the nuances of Polish enunciation in the 3rd and final movement, without losing her aching cadence.
Without question, some of the most beautiful Quiet music you'll likely ever hear, compiled in a 4 hour-long triple disc set.
'Fremde Zeit - Addendum' collects five pieces of engrossingly etheric, liminal composition by Jakob Ullmann (1958), the widely acknowledged master of quiet music and cover star of The Wire magazine.
For us, as we'd imagine many others, this is a striking first introduction to the devoted German minimalist's very particular body of work. Comprising 4 hours of barely-there strings, percussions, wind instruments and voices prefaced by the instruction "Please choose, for each piece, the volume settings of your sound system so as to just barely mask the ambient sounds in the room", this is music made for concentrated listening, recorded and specifically designed to give listeners "the opportunity to hear more, and better" by the simple but essential notion that "We hear better because we make an effort to hear better."
With this is mind, we're invited into a sound world which actively, yet effortlessly and sublimely challenges our perceptions of space and time with a compelling, transcendent effect akin to that of listening to music by, say, Eliane Radigue or Morton Feldman, yet with an alien, detached appeal entirely its own. Due to their extended durations - no piece is shorter than 34 mins, and over an hour at the longest - we form temporal impressions which blur the boundaries between our immediate space and the apparent vastness of the recording, teasing our sixth sense to wander on a knife edge of trepidation and somnolence.
Yet, musically, it covers a far more subtle spectrum of emotions and cabalistic atmospheres casting metaphoric allusions to "…antiquity, to the Middle Ages, to the Baroque, to the 20th Century and to the present" by means of its extreme dilation of space/time and anticipation, and relegation of distortion or any untempered gestures.
Once you've heard this music it should come as little surprise Ullmann studied sacred music in Dresden from 1979-1982 - his music could be the lingering resonance of an Arvo Pärt piece played in a huge cathedral, and it carries the weight of history - spanning over 18 years of work, the results are duly, deeply considered.
A revelatory package, whose impact will surely emerge and manifest as slowly, yet powerfully, as the music itself.
On this newly released work Jakob Ullmann combines his appreciation of Cageian principles with sacred composition in utterly riveting ways, resulting in two of the most extreme and uncompromising examples of his “quiet music” - that is, a music which is composed and realised to be played just above the volume of each listener’s ambient background.
And in case you’re not aware of what we mean by “extreme”, we’re talking seriously quiet - bordering on silent - instrumental gestures; the kind of creaks and klangs that, on the most glib level, recall a “ghost” in your house at midnight, while on a more serious, theological level, are intended to heighten the listener’s sense of the unknown, the metaphysical, the spiritual: the sacred.
In both works the ‘hallmarks’ of Jakob Ullmann’s intently defined yet unfathomably open style of composition come to light. On Müntzers stern, a pre-recorded performance of a hymnal text written by the German theologian is played back at barely perceptible volume into the same space where Dafne Vicente-Sandoval translates the graphic score for bassoon. The result is a totally sparse yet breathtakingly pensive piece where it’s beautifully uncertain what we’re hearing - is that the chance sound of a distant plane or Dafne’s bassoon? Are those voices in your head, outside the window, or on the recording? Either way, the barely-there but complex results are genuinely ambiguous, forming a total breakdown of conventions that leave the listener with far more questions than they answer.
On solo II, part of a group of works relating to the notion of disappearing musics completed in 1992 following Ullmann’s conversations with John Cage, the effect of Dafne’s bassoon, recorded in Kartäuserkirche (Bürgerliches Waisenhaus) is even more extreme. Holistically taking into account everything from the thermal fluctuation of the space and the way it affects Dafne’s reed, to its unique acoustic imprint, and by turns what lies outside its walls, the piece directly builds on Ullmann’s dialogue with Cage, and induces us into a sort of lucid dream state where time dissolves, outside becomes inside, and we feel physically sublimated into the piece and its projected timbral architecture.
As Ullmann’s music has come to light beyond the most rarified classical corridors over the last decade (with thanks to its champions such as Stephen O’Malley and Bill Kouligas, among others), the composer’s radical approach and uncompromising beliefs have given us some of the most memorable and perception-altering musical experiences imaginable. We can surely add these two new Ullmann works to that set of life-affirming and quietly challenging experiences.
Incredible, transfixing avant-classical solo piano and dynamic, puristic synthesis from Iranian-American composer Cameron Shafii. Big RIYL Kevin Drumm, Iancu Dumitrescu, Mika Vainio, Luigi Nono
Following the short-run edition of his ‘DzGI’ tape in 2015, it’s fair to call ‘Corpora Vilia’ Cameron Shafii’s definitive release to date. Consolidating the Ph.D. student and Ge-Stell label boss’s fascinations with the physics of sound, specifically digital synthesis and spectromorphology, Shafii’s 2nd release places exacting techniques at the service of a uniquely refreshing, playful, and genuinely bewildering music.
In three durational parts, Shafii presents a wealth of micro-edited sounds arranged into radical synthetic symphonies. Structured around deeply uncanny transitions between acoustic and digital spheres, they each reveal inception-like worlds within worlds, using every integer of the sound field to draw ears between his spectral presences and pointillist acoustic strikes with a quietly breathtaking grasp of proprioceptive chicanery.
With ‘Points and Planes of Potential Future Violations’ he establishes a beguiling soundfield foregrounding insectoid electronics over cascading piano arpeggios in the midground, punctuated by percussive violence and leading to head-wrenching chaos recalling Luigi Nono’s ‘Non Consumiamo Marx’ classic. ‘Text 27 (Lise in Fernsehspiel)’ follows, rendering pink hued ambient harmonics centre stage, surrounded by vertically creeping strings while near-infrasonic bass turns the stage to jelly, before ‘Spatial Envy; or Suture and Cut-Pieces’ again extends the strangest timbral combinations and perception-baiting segues.
Ultimately it’s one of those releases that will constantly make you stop and double-check what you’re listening to. It’s floored us each time we return to it, at least. Lovers of leading edge experimental composition of all stripes need ‘Corpora Vilia’ in their listening lives.
Quiet music conceptualist and practitioner, Jakob Ullmann's 2nd release and first with Editions RZ was first issued in 2005.
It yields a single 73 minute piece written for an ensemble of thirteen solo strings and up to three additional solo parts arranged to explore the filigree infidelities of their range between almost "pure", natural harmonics to diffuse noise at the lowest threshold of perception thanks to masterly feats of restrained technicality and the composer's vision.
Of course, this is much more than an exercise in academic or technical exactitude. Ullmann's score elicits the players to play at the edge of their nerves and skill to reaffirm the piece's sureness and manifest the slightest differentiations, sustaining our attention in pensile equilibrium so that the most minor shifts in pace, tone, timbre ensure optimal effect, and live up to the piece's conceptual power.
‘And We Are Passing Through Silently’ is the sublime first survey of reworks/remixes by cult synthesist Abul Mogard, including extended reworks of Brian Eno and Gordon Sharp (Cindytalk), Aïsha Devi, Fovea Hex, Penelope Trappes and more.
Arguably one the bigger enigmas in modern synth music, Abul Mogard has established a reputation for his singular synth works, mostly issued by Steve Moore’s VCO and Alessio Natalizia’s Ecstatic label since 2012. Prized for his slow-building, etheric and beatific style of composition, Mogard has also been in demand as a remixer over the years, and it’s in this role that Houndstooth focus upon, rounding up and presenting a handful of his strongest remixes for other artists, including many on vinyl for the first time. In each case Mogard extracts the artist or band’s essence and diffuses it into his own, billowing soundscapes with a time-dilating, meditative and romantic appeal that’s long been at the core of his synthy magick.
Where Abul’s solo work is purely instrumental, his reworks are the only place you’ll find him handling with vocals, and the best of those are found in ‘And We Are Passing Through Silently’. Perhaps understandably, he’s most impressive when working with other veteran souls. This is most clearly apparent on the 2nd disc, offering a stunning expansion of Gordon Sharp’s plaintive vocal in Massimo Pupillo/Becoming Animal’s ‘The Sky Is Ever Falling’ that surely reminds of his earliest work with This Mortal Coil, while he also deeply enchants with a glacial rendering of Fovea Hex and Brian Eno’s ‘We Dream All The Dark Away’ that sounds like it escapes a Clannad Seance in ’89.
Factor in a vertiginous spin of Aïsha Devi’s ‘O.M.A.’, the gently psychedelic rework of Nick Nicely’s ‘London South’, and a sweetly refined mix of Penelope Trappes, and it’s not hard to hear what all the fuss about, especially if you like Alessandro Cortini or Steve Moore!
"Rounding up divine renderings of songs by Aïsha Devi, Penelope Trappes (The Golden Filter) and nick nicely (heralded by luminaries of the US underground Ariel Pink and John Maus), the album culminates with Brian Eno’s collaboration with Irish avant-folk band Fovea Hex.
Also included is Abul’s brand new rework of Becoming Animal’s ‘The Sky Is Ever Falling’ featuring vocals from Cinder (This Mortal Coil/Cindytalk) and Massimo Pupillo on bass (Zu/Thurston Moore/Stephen O’Malley), exclusive to this release.
A must for fans of Alessandro Cortini, Pye Corner Audio, Fennesz, Gas.
London five-piece Housewives return for more anarchic genre-blending adventures on their second LP, Twilight Splendour
"Bringing to mind the digital meditations of legendary producer Oneohtrix Point Never, Twilight Splendour presents a love letter from an early AI to its owner, its concept-led songs strewn with “ecstatic messages of frustration and a desire to connect”.Since forming five years ago, Housewives have drawn from such diverse scenes as post-punk, jazz, drone, electronic and avant-garde. 2013 saw the release of an eponymous debut EP via Brighton label Faux Discx, while their first-full length record, ‘Work’—recorded at a barn in a desolate corner in the south of France—arrived two years later.
2017 live album FF06116 marked the band’s first collaboration with experimental saxophonist Ben Vince. Following on from these early statements, Housewives are now set to unleash their game-changing new album—turning away from performance-based writing, the human, and facing the cold light of computers head on."
The Necks’ dynamo percussionist Tony Buck helms and pushes equally skilled improviser Massimo Pupillo (Zu) to ritualistic drone zones in their densely absorbing debut collaboration
“Atmospheric and pulsating release TIME BEING/UNSEEN brings together, Tony Buck(The Necks) on drums/percussion and Massimo Pupillo(Zu) on bass.
Tony Buck is regarded as one of Australia’s most creative and adventurous exports, with vast experience across the globe. As a drummer, percussionist, improviser, guitarist, video maker and producer, he has been involved in a highly diverse array of projects but is probably best known around the world as a member of the trio “The Necks”.
Massimo Pupillo (Ostia - Roma) is a bass and double bass player and composer. Best known for being the bassist of Zu, which produced bio 15 albums with labels like Atavistic / Touch n 'Go (USA), Southern (EU), Heads (JAPAN), Ipecac Records (USA), TROST(AT) and numerous singles and split with other labels.”
Laurel Halo delivers a deadly instalment for DJ-Kicks with her 29-track sequence of zingers from overlapping zones of the ‘floor...
With a mercurial yet gritty flow owing as much to UK as Detroit and Durban dancefloor styles, Laurel wickedly and coherently keeps the mix in flux between alternating patterns, textures and subtly emotive tones, lacing her own exclusive parts and those from Nick León, Rrose and Ikonika, into a Lovelacian jacquard of iridescent allure and intricacy.
Alongside her 1 hour mix, all the tracks are available unmixed, with a big Gqom highlight in Griffit Vigo’s ‘A.C.I.D. (Electronic Gqom Mix)’ and to an extent, in Panda Lassow’s mutant, EU take on Gqom ‘Lachowa’, while the likes of Siete Catorce’s haunting latinx ace for Hypermedium, and Group A’s sprung EBm ace ‘Ketabil’ highlight the diversity and cross-floor unity at the core of Laurel’s dancefloor nous.
The viny 13 track set that takes in exclusive highlights such as Rrose’s nose-drip techno in ‘Cricoid Pressure’, along with Ikonika’s industrial funk ace ‘Bodied (OG Mix)’, Nick Léon’s kinky ‘Pelican Dub’, and Laurel’s kicking Detroit styles in ‘Sweetie’. Elsewhere, you’ll find smart picks such as Group A’s overlooked EBM zinger ‘Ketabali’, a freaky spin on Gqom from Panda Lassow, and Siete Catorce’s brooding swerve in ‘Canto’, taken from his EP for Hypermedium.
Duster emerged from a cloud of lonely bong rips to take indie rock to the moon, and beyond.
"Scotch-taped guitars toggle between a chorus of brittle winter trees and a blanket of distorted fuzz. The low rumble of a cardboard box being kicked in a dead mall keeps pace in the background, as muffled, sung-spoken vocals ponder the great mysteries of modern mundanity. Three years of home recording accidents and blown-out 2AM studio experiments are spread across four LPs or three CDs, gathering the short-lived trio’s Stratosphere and Contemporary Movement albums, 1975 EP, singles, demos, and other miscellaneous debris into one escape pod, now free to drift in the endless void of space.
Mastered from a mix of crusty cassettes, decaying DATs, and warbly analog tape, Capsule Losing Contact is housed in a moon dusted slipcase with all four albums secured in heavy weight tip-on jackets. An accompanying lyric book guides the listener through Duster’s lo-fi worldview, adorned with the last gasps of an expired golden age as captured on Polaroid and disposable Kodak cameras."
Strong, soulful debut album from Vancouver, CA’s Jayda G, paying tribute to classic Chicago styles in 9 effortlessly distinctive parts - big highlights in the disco come-on of ‘Stanley’s get Down (No Parking on the DF)’, and the brimming broken beats of ‘Sunshine in the Valley’, while ‘Orca’s Reprise’ beautifully points to her new age inspirations...
“The album is a natural progression from a string of EPs both solo and alongside her friend and mentor DJ Fett Burger (Sex Tags Mania), often appearing on the Freakout Cult label the two ran jointly until 2018 and most recently her newly minted JMG Recordings imprint. Also renowned for her high-energy performances as a DJ, the past 12 months have seen Jayda play London’s formidable Printworks venue alongside the likes of Marcellus Pittman, Moodymann and Omar-S; be invited by The Black Madonna to play at her Warehouse Project takeover; and perform at festivals like Field Day, Kala, Melt!, AVA and the xx’s Night And Day.
Growing up some 6 hours outside Vancouver surrounded by an abundance of nature sparked an early interest in biology and the natural world, a passion that has endured and intensified to this day and is inextricably intertwined with her musical output. In 2018 she completed her Masters in Resource and Environmental Management specialising in environmental toxicology, wherein she investigated the effects of human activity on the Salish Sea killer whales (orcas) of Vancouver, in her native British Columbia. It was also the year that she finished recording her debut album as Jayda G: “Significant Changes”. The title of the album was the most used phrase in her final thesis and exemplifies how intertwined her work in science is with her work in music. “I’m trying to bring my two worlds together… to bridge the communication gap, engage people in a new way”, she explains. “I don’t know if people in the electronic music world will want to talk about the environment but I think I should try! I think it’s our duty to use a platform like this in a positive way, that’s our social responsibility.”
“I just want people to feel not so hopeless… there's a lot of really depressing things going on, but people are doing good work out there and finding out really interesting stuff, so I just want people to be informed of those things, so that they feel inspired in whatever work that they do.””
Animal Collective founder Dave Portner spools off a new Avey Tare adventure, apparently still gassed on the psychedelic surreality of AC’s ‘Tangerine Reef’, and with a killer thing for Maurizio’s eternal M5 groove in ‘What’s The Goodside?’
“Cows On Hourglass Pond was recorded between january - March 2018 by Dave Portner at Lauging Gas in Asheville, NC on a Tascam 48 half-inch reel-to-reel tape machine. It follows the 2017 release of Avey tare’s Eucalyptus, and 2018’s audiovisual album Tangerine Reef, a collaboration between Animal Collective and avant-garde coral macro-videographers Coral Morphologic."
Mutant R&B starlet Lafawndah places her vocals front and centre over bashy, technoid backdrops produced by Aaron David Ross (Gatekeeper/ADR) and others on her debut album ‘Ancestor Boy’, following up her recent link-up with Midori Takada.
“The debut full- length album from Lafawndah, ANCESTOR BOY, released via her own label imprint CONCORDIA, is a bracing statement of intent, heralding an artist unbound in scope, scale, and intensity. She opens 2019 with bold single DADDY, plotting new territory onto her own highly personalized map of influence – a map drawing the club, composition, and pop into thrillingly unresolved, ultramodern erotics.
Lafawndah’s 2018 was filled with myriad musical highlights and successes - including a celebrated performance featuring peers Tirzah, Kelsey Lu and more at London’s South Bank in December, growing from her acclaimed HONEY COLONY mixtapes. Meanwhile her heart-stopping inter-generational music & film collaboration with japanese ambient legend Midori Takada in Le Renard Bleu (with KENZO and Partel Oliva) continues to echo into new forms, with a full production performance titled ‘Ceremonial Blue’ premiering at the Barbican, London in April. And streaming now, her achingly beautiful self-directed video for JOSEPH - a lullaby and an ode to newborn life co-written with Jamie Woon and also featuring on ANCESTOR BOY - has set Lafawndah apart as an independent director with a singular vision spanning multiple media and artforms.
Having in her prior self-titled and TAN EPs upturned geography, in ANCESTOR BOY Lafawndah digs deep to unravel geology, mining emotions of the deep past and future. The album’s physicality is elemental; its memory, mineral. It is a becoming- of- age story for a people yet to come, created out of a need to find the others. In the middle of the album’s sonic and lyrical onslaught is the desire to share the uncertainties of growing up when you don’t belong anywhere. Crafted with the aid of fellow travelers Nick Weiss, Aaron David Ross, and James Connolly,
ANCESTOR BOY’s maximalism- it’s overflow of detail, of feeling, of ideas- serves to amplify a frequent lyrical motif: the sensation that one body, one lifetime, isn’t big enough for what you’re feeling. The record is pregnant with memories shared across more than one mind, recalling the storytelling antagonisms of Nina Simone at her most strident and unpredictable. In response, the rhythmic aggressions of her music have grown even more determined and psychedelic, drawing a line in fire between Jimmy Jam’s turnt industrialism on Control and the furious unease of Red Mecca- era Cabaret Voltaire.
With a palate equal parts chrome and dirt, ice and depth, Lafawndah’s finesse with song architecture imbues the LP with an uncanny addictiveness: anthems loaded with trap doors.
ANCESTOR BOY imagines a pop music that is neither imperial nor local, but a freedom of movement; a residue, perhaps, from the album’s nomadic creation between Los Angeles, Mexico City, New York, London, and Paris.”
LP5 is Apparat’s first release since 2013’s Krieg und Frieden (Music for Theatre), and follows two studio albums, II and III (Mute / Monkeytown) by Moderat, the trio he founded with Modeselektor’s Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary.
"Sublime and delicate, the album finds greatness in small things and in unexpected twists; it joins musical fragments together and glows from the cracks in between. For Ring, it is also a document of artistic insight and autonomy. “I was only able to make the record this way because Moderat exists,” he says. “Having a huge stage with Moderat gave me a setting for grand gestures and meant I could unburden Apparat from these aspirations. I don’t have to write big pop hymns here; I can just immerse myself in the details and the structures.”
Still hymnic, LP5 doesn’t rely on dramatic gestures and theatrical amplification, instead it lives off delicately sculpted sounds crackling alongside filigree beeping and twitching.
Like previous Apparat albums, the new release sees Sascha Ring collaborate with cellist Philipp Thimm and on the alb,um you can also hear trombone, trumpet and saxophone, a harp, a double bass and other strings. Tracks were developed over endless group improvisations and lavish orchestral sessions – some of these sessions are only apparent in the final mix as fluttering echoes, just barely noticeable. The album was recorded in Berlin at AP4, JRS, Vox-Ton & Hansa Studios, mixed by Gareth Jones and Sascha Ring.
From elegiac techno to deep orchestral pop ballads, Apparat‘s work has always had a common denominator: an elegance that embraces and gives nuanced layers of detail and a near universal beauty.”
Rotherham rave imp Rian Treanor kicks up to Planet Mu for ‘Ataxia’, his debut album following introductory EPs with The Death of Rave and Warp’s resuscitated Arcola sublabel.
Under the title ‘ATAXIA’, chosen literally for its meaning - “the loss of control of bodily movements” - as well as its figurative, asymmetric quality, Rian sequences ramped versions of his tracks for The Death of Rave along with shockingly forward new gear that plays into his love of Dadaist vocal cut-ups. The result is an immensely playful and beguiling album, cannily messing with listeners’ sense of rhythmic anticipation in a dare-to-be-different style that’s tripped up and put a big daft grin on dancefloors everywhere from Boiler Room in Helsinki to Uganda’s Nyege Nyege Tapes festival.
Where his earlier EPs were mostly improvised, Rian spent more time shaping the tracks for ‘ATAXIA’. Taking cues from his mentor and father, eminent sound artist Mark Fell, as well a rich SoYo rave heritage, he sticks to an economical palette, making each stab, drum and pad count in the democracy of the mix. From these relatively simple, if now more refined elements, Rian’s suss comes into play in the structuring, using his background as a visual artist to create disruptive patterns of angular yet fluid syncopation and irregular symmetries that both allow for and connote a sort of hyper-natural order of chaos.
While resembling the styles of speed garage, synth-pop, bleep techno and extreme computer music that he grew up with, Rian’s pointedly mischievous approach jumbles those styles, using the tactility of Max/MSP to rejig them with more unpredictable and playfully wrong-footing effect, embracing the dancefloor’s radical potential to reprogram minds and bodies.
Concepts aside, though, ‘ATAXIA’ is a lot of fun. Rian’s dry Yorkshire humour is in full effect in the cut-up vocals of the openings and closing numbers, while the recursive ballistics of ‘B1’ are bound to tie bodies in knots, ‘C2’ advances his absorbingly intricate melodic sequencing, and the rhymelodic chicanery of ‘D2’ ranks among the most stunning, inexorably funky cuts in his catalogue.
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.
Chalk Hill Blue is a record of electronic ruralism channeling lives threaded through the chalk landscapes of Southern England.
“Will Burns is Caught by the River poet-in-residence, and Hannah Peel is a frequent fixture of Caught by the River festival stages – both with the ‘cosmic colliery’ electronica of her solo work, and with orchestral place-rock band The Magnetic North (of which Chalk Hill Blue producer Erland Cooper is also a member.)
As part of their collaboration, Burns, Peel and Cooper walked the landscapes around Burns’s Wendover house together: their chalk-heeled boots tracing shared routes through the rhythms and repetitions of the place. What emerges in Chalk Hill Blue is a site-specific-non-specific record of creative place portraiture; an album that traces elements of a living landscape, and reworks them into something that is as sensitive and finely-observed as it is visionary.
Burns’s words and Peel’s sounds – deftly fused by Cooper’s sympathetic production – channel the minute shifts in the air and atmosphere of a place, and their resulting emotional effects. The spoken words and sound worlds on Chalk Hill Blue often seem to emerge from subliminal processes of call and answer; a fertile blurring of collective inspiration and intention circling this abstracted chalk landscape.
Perhaps if Delia Derbyshire’s later years in Cumbria had been happier then a record like this might have emerged from the fells, or alternatively if Virginia Astley’s gardens had contained a modular synth or two. Other triangulation points might include Hans Joachim Roedelius’s bucolic kosmiche reveries, Joanna Brouk’s new age minimalism, or James Yorkston’s ambient spoken word experiments. Like the butterfly with which it shares its name, Chalk Hill Blue is a rare thing: a glorious electric pastoral shimmer.”
Chicago’s Oozing Wound are a mass of contradictions: weed lovers whose music hits you with its breakneck head banging force. The band deal with nihilism yet remain addictively fun. Their music is equal parts sludge and thrash, noise and riff-loaded rock.
"‘High Anxiety’ is an unabashed mocking of the madness of modern living, its chemical induced adventures and establishment absurdity, deriding the industrial complex behind established institutions such as NASA while savaging those who deny science. Oozing Wound on ‘High Anxiety’ are nihilistic pied pipers making us laugh our way to the apocalypse.
The album finds guitarist and vocalist Zack Weil, drummer Kyle Reynolds and bassist Kevin Cribbin blending their ferocious energy, sonic experiments and blunt lyricism for a pummelling enjoyable headbanger with an irresistible sneer. On ‘High Anxiety’, Oozing Wound’s songs have become more complex, their attacks more ferocious, and bass and guitar lines more captivating.
The album was recorded in four days at Steve Albini’s Electrical Audio studio. The trio ripped through live-tracking and overdubs, leaving space to experiment with new sounds and effects. The band, having an affinity for the complexities of prog music, managed to bring prog elements to ‘High Anxiety’ without sacrificing any of their songs’ punch. Subtle layers of saxophone, flutes and synths were blended into guitar tones, adding depth and texture without cluttering arrangements. Fist-pumping blasts of whitehot riffing become a Trojan horse for sonic weirdness. The resulting recordings are at once some of their most sonically rich, immediate, and impactful."
The whole “five band years = a lifetime” biz trope is justified by the second album from Sydney’s Low Life. Arriving with an aura of anticipation, 'Downer Edn' (read: Edition) feels like a collective document of the band's timeline since their unforgettable debut ‘Dogging’; an album which made enough of a mark on the punk landscape in 2014 to justify a reissue on London's Alter in 2017.
"Recorded over two years and mixed in 2018 by Mikey Young (Total Control / Eddy Current Suppression Ring), ‘Downer Edn’ sees the core trio of Mitch Tolman, Cristian O’Sullivan and Greg Alfaro expand their ranks to a five piece. Dizzy Daldal of Oily Boys & Orion was brought in to reinforce the thick wall of guitars, whilst fifth member Yuta Matsumura, also of Oily Boys & Orion, re-joined the group later to free Tolman up as a dedicated front man for live duties. The hours of studio work have resulted in making the band sound more confident and fully realised, reaching for and finding a sound that was perhaps unattainable 5 years prior. However, lurking behind the bigger vision and polished production, ‘Downer Edn’ is a complex proposition and remains a dark blast of an album. Expansive and cohesive, yet shimmering and rough; something they can be proud to call a definitive statement.
As far as Australian punk is concerned, Downer Edition not only shatters the boundaries applied by that descriptor, it does so with the lushest attack conceivable. Like their (admitted) influence, the enigmatic Ohio legends of obscurity, V3, seldom has the f*** word been sung (repeatedly) in such a believable and poetic manner. The visceral pounding of melodies throughout the album transforms their inspirations; desperation, neuroses, trauma, survival, hooliganism, violence, hope, rejuvenation, and their hometown of Sydney’s full architectural and social scope - from a realm of intangibility to the very, very tangible. In the words of Mitch, "We’re influenced by Sydney as a whole, whether it be the hot and muggy concrete streets of the West and South West, the "glorious beaches" of South Sydney, the racial tensions left over from the putrid Cronulla riots of 2006, the pompous and superficial fake tan/ bleached teeth combo suburbs of Bondi, as well as Sydney's iconography: The Harbour, the Bridge, the Opera House, Kings Cross. All the desperation embedded in and around these areas, including the eternal influx of troubled people looking to get into trouble, is our experience and main influence."
Unified on ‘RBB,’ ruminating on ‘92’, chasing the escape on ‘Rave Slave,’ and unwillingly defiant on ‘Warrior,’ Downer Edition reaches past the wild ride of Dogging - this truly is the album that Low Life have been threatening to make for nearly a decade."
Released in conjunction with Goner Records in the USA and Cool Death in Australia.
The endlessly inventive Matmos keep abreast of the game in ‘Plastic Anniversary’, their hugely playful and charming follow-up to ‘The Marriage Of True Minds’ 
One of modern dance music’s original deconstructionists, Matmos bring a long and mazy history of conceptualised sonic rearrangement to the table in ‘Plastic Anniversary’. As precedents for the current wave of dance music astringents, they maybe have a lot to answer for, but likewise they also lead the way with their fundamentally rhythm-based style inside, using the most ubiquitous of materials - plastic - to shape a ruck of highly personalised and unconventional songs.
“Taking the concept of “broken beat” literally, “Breaking Bread” is a bouncy digital dancehall number built entirely out of the plucked and twanged fragments of broken vinyl records by the Seventies soft rock group Bread. A mini-suite for plastic container, exercise ball and an amplified DNA kit that recalls both 80s pop and the hectic minimalism of Michael Nyman, “The Crying Pill” stacks frantic patterns of saxophone-like sobs onto deep sub bass stabs that are almost trap. Amplifying squishy synthetic human tissue created by the SynDaver corporation as a substitute for human corpses in medical schools, “Interior with Billiard Balls & Synthetic Fat” pairs squelchy electro made out of gross-out substances with tangy melodic riffs. This odd combination of Cronenbergian body-horror and sunny grooves continues on “Silicone Gel Implant”, a skanking number that works rubbery basslines out of, yes, a breast implant, but by the time the plastic flutes snake into the mix, the source becomes secondary to the trance-like form. Side one closes in a more reflective and somber key, with the title track “Plastic Anniversary”, whose cod-medieval martial drums and horn fanfares recall Matmos’ penchant for anachronism circa “The Civil War” before giving way to a close-mic-ed cascade of plastic poker chips.
If side one is playful and poppy, side two is sharper and darker in its implications, and features more live drumming than any other Matmos album. Things kick off with “Thermoplastic Riot Shield” a single-object study built entirely out of the sound of a police riot shield being stroked, rubbed and struck. The resulting sounds are processed into a tense assemblage of harsh noise, deep dub basslines and jarring cuts of silence. On a squeaky loop straight out of a Jacques Tati film, “The Singing Tube” draws out the pinging resonance of a ten foot long PVC pipe played entirely with plastic toilet brushes, and hits a flanged overtone effect not unlike the string compositions of Arnold Dreyblatt. Bristling with whistles and noisemakers and plastic-gloved handclaps, “Collapse of the Fourth Kingdom” bolts a percussive showcase for the high school marching band playing the signature patterns of drumline and Baltimore club onto jarring edits of LEGO bricks clicking into place and weird smears of processed plastic horns. Since plastic was described by its first developers as a “fourth kingdom” beyond animal, vegetable, and mineral, this track heralds the eventual collapse of the political economy that birthed the oceans of garbage that now choke our world. Thinking the dystopian consequences of plastic through to their post-human conclusion, the final track, “Plastisphere” sounds like a field recording of insects and birds and pattering rain and ocean waves, but is in fact a work of digital sleight of hand: every single sound on this track has been artificially constructed out of samples of bubble wrap, Velcro, plastic bags and straws and, tellingly, an emergency stretcher. After a volatile and vibrant suite of poppy plastic electronics, Plastic Anniversary ends in an acknowledgement of the planetary price yet to be paid.”
The last person we expected to mess about with electronics, Pavement’s overlord Stephen Malkmus has done just that with ‘Groove Denied’; the third album credited to Malkmus, and the first to not feature his backing band, The Jicks
‘Groove Denied’ was entirely performed, produced and engineered by Malkmus. It finds him dabbling with synths and drum machines to intriguing effect on a few numbers that pay homage to “Pete Shelley’s ‘Homospaien,’ the Human League, and DIY synth music circa 1982… but he soon enough sinks back into the indie-pop mire and with it my attention ends there. Remarkably, Malkmus worked on this album for 12-13 years, only for for the label to tell him in 2017 that it was’t the right time to release it. We would have trusted their first instinct.
Reissue of The Fall’s ninth studio album, Bend Sinister, originally released in 1986. This edition is titled Bend Sinister/The 'Domesday' Pay-Off Triad-Plus!
"It was the last of three albums in a row produced by John Leckie and was named after a dystopian novel by Vladimir Nabokov.
After the universal acclaim for the previous year’s This Nation’s Saving Grace, Bend Sinister often stands in its predecessor’s shadow. It is a dark, brooding album made at the height of the group’s Beggars Banquet years and many people include this at the top of the list of favourite Fall albums."
Debut solo album by Australian-born, Liverpool-based composer, saxophonist and founder of Immix Ensemble, Daniel Thorne.
"In Daniel’s own words, “Thematically, this music was inspired by birds-eye aerial images and the idea of perspective - how something incredibly complex like a river or the surface of the ocean is reduced to a simple line or shape when viewed from the heavens. The line between natural and man-made becomes increasingly blurred.”
Every strand is fresh, vital and purposeful. The description ‘seamless’ might suggest a smooth, bland fusion, but here elements overlap in intermittent, undulating layers of mesh. Avant-garde, noise, electronics, ecclesiastical, classical, a touch of jazz and traces of Wyatt-style contemporary folk come together, each occupying their own space while acquiescing with the whole.
“Several compositions are derived from ratios and processes, and are highly calculated, while others evolved in a much more organic way. I wanted to create music that blurred lines between acoustic and electronic, organic and synthetic, composition and improvisation.
I’ve long been a fan of studio-based composition, but have always found the infinite possibilities on offer daunting and, often, a stumbling block. To get around this I set myself a challenge of limiting myself to the physical instruments in my possession – a few different saxophones and a bass synth, with no more than four tracks to record them,” he adds.
Lines of Sight follows Thorne’s work as artistic director of the acclaimed, collaboration-focussed group Immix Ensemble. Together with experimental electronic artist Vessel, he co-wrote Transition released on Erased Tapes in 2016, described by BBC Radio 6’s Mary Anne Hobbs as “a remarkable new piece of music”. More recently, he worked with acclaimed modular synth wizard Luke Abbott, to create a four-part suite, which was premiered live in June 2017. Immix Ensemble have also performed special live commissions with Kelly Lee Owens, Dialect, Jane Weaver and Bill Ryder-Jones, among others.
Prior to leaving Australia, Daniel was fortunate to work with some of the country’s leading new music ensembles as both a composer and performer, receiving commissions from the TURA New Music Festival and the Australia Council, as well as being appointed as Composer in Residence at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts. In the UK he was the recipient of the prestigious Dankworth Prize for Jazz Composition, and also undertook a residency at Metal Liverpool, which provided him with the time and space to create Immix."
The Cinematic Orchestra are back with a new album.
"Founding member Jason Swinscoe and longtime partner Dominic Smith have enlisted album contributions from collaborators old and new: Moses Sumney, Roots Manuva, Heidi Vogel, Grey Reverend (vocalist on Bonobo’s 'First Fires’), Dorian Concept and Tawiah (Mark Ronson, Kindness), Miguel Atwood-Ferguson (Flying Lotus, Anderson Paak, Thundercat, Hiatus Kaiyote) features on strings and photographer and visual artist Brian “B+” Cross collaborated with Swinscoe and Smith on the album’s concept. The record was mixed by multiple Grammy winner Tom Elmhirst (David Bowie, Frank Ocean, Adele) in Jimi Hendrix’s legendary Electric Lady studios. The album artwork comes courtesy of The Designers Republic™ (Aphex Twin)."
In print once again in all its glory - little introduction needed here, Skam number 008 repressed several times and still a collectors item, 6 tracks wide, every one a classic...
This 35 minute EP from BoC is arguably their most complete outing, having landed a couple of years before ‘Music Has The Right…’ album and including some of their best material - the brooding Detroit inversion ‘See Ya Later’, the Colonel Abrams inspired ‘Nlogax’, the career-defining “Everything You Do Is A Balloon’ and ‘Turquoise Hexagon Sun’ which would later appear on ‘Music Has The Right’.
Unlike so many of their peers from the era, this stuff has aged well. Perhaps it’s the inherent nostalgia built into these productions, but for our money ‘Hi Scores’ is still the finest half hour of music ever produced by Sandison and Eoin, now bolstered by a remaster and repackage job which feels a bit like dusting off your favourite old jacket and taking it for a whirl.
Compiling the final three albums in the 'Everywhere At The End Of Time' series - 4 x CD's and almost 5 hours of material cataloguing the ultimate descent into dementia and oblivion, using a patented prism of sound to connote a final, irreversible transition into the haunted ballroom of the mind that The Caretaker first stepped into with 1999’s ‘Selected Memories From the Haunted Ballroom’.
Invoking Jack Nicolson’s caretaker character in Stanley Kubrick/Stephen King’s ‘The Shining’ as metaphor for issues revolving around mental health and a growing dissociation/dissatisfaction with the world, the project really took on new dimensions in 2005 with the 72-track, 6CD boxset ‘Theoretically Pure Anterograde Amnesia’, which was accompanied by an insightful unpacking of its ideas by cultural critic Mark Fisher aka K-Punk; a stalwart of the project who identified it (alongside music from Burial and Broadcast) among the most vital, emergent works of Hauntological art - a form of music often preoccupied with ideas about memory and nostalgia (but one distinct from pastiche), and the way that they possibly overwhelm, occlude, or even define our sense of being; ideas that resonate with Fisher’s own assertion that capitalism essentially undermines collective thought, distorts the individual, and has tragically lead to a worldwide increase or even ubiquity of mental health-related issues.
By using fusty samples from an obsolete analog format, and by doing so in the 2nd decade of the 2nd millennium, The Caretaker perfectly and perversely bent ideas of anticipation/expectation with his arrangements, playing with notions of convention and repetition with effect that would lead some listeners to wonder if the same record was being released over and again. When combined with Ivan Seal’s bespoke painting for each release from 2011’s ‘An Empty Bliss Beyond This World’ onwards, the project crystallised as a real gesamtkunstwerk for these times, and one arguably defined by a stubborn and intractably chronic drive against the grain of modern popular culture, or even a refusal of it.
And so to the project’s final goodbye. Drifting from the silty departure of ‘Confusion so thick you forget forgetting’, thru the smudged anaesthetisation of ‘A brutal bliss beyond this empty defeat’, and the abyssal, distant echoes of ‘Long decline is over’, to the increased pauses that punctuate the final side’s piece, ‘Place in the World fades away’, it eventually leads to a final coda that breaks the fourth wall.
Here, with the outside world muted and only the timbral residue remaining like smoke, everything moves as slow as a Lynchian dream sequence - until a conclusion so ineffably sublime occurs that we can’t mention it for fear of waking up.
Killer, mutant techno and brokebeat variegations from FUMU, Turinn, Kassem Mosse, Peder Mannerfelt, Iueke, Broshuda, CVX and many more on Andy Lyster’s Youth label
Congregating friends and label family from the rudest ends of contemporary electronics, ‘Sports’ finds the label consolidating their tastes for neon-flecked, grey area noise and skudged grooves in 16 absorbingly visceral and bittersweet parts.
FUMU follows his cultishly-acclaimed debut CD for Youth with the hardware-wrestled ambience of ‘Assessment’ and the Pump-like metallic roil of ‘FM’, while Modern Love's Turinn provides two salty highlights in the cracnky-ass hip hop lurch of ‘yu dnt’ and his Muslimgauze-like offbeat, ‘ehektrow.’ Also keeping it in the family, Shamos knuckles out the gristly downstroke of ‘7 Man Town’ and Yugen Disciple supplies the album’s very lushest moment with the early ‘00s electronica styles of ‘First Sighting.’
However the set really comes into its own when Youth diversifies its bonds, bringing in a 2nd circle of mutual souls such as Kassem Mosse with the dreamy buoyancy of ’Silica Gel’, the febrile gamelan of Iueke’s ‘ewt’, some tender minimal wave with ‘Ballad D’Amour’ by RVDS, and the clinical rufige of Gischa Lichtenberger, who all lend a broader range of pattern and texture that keeps Youth’s remit thrillingly wide open and unpredictable.
Having stated on many an occasion that Hardwax affiliates Pete and René, aka Scion, understood and played Basic Channel material in the way it was intended to be played, the release of Ableton's 'Live' software convinced Mark and Moritz that the time had come to try something new out.
And that's precisely what this CD is - components from all 9 Basic Channel 12"s, (plus some choice cuts from related project Rhythm and Sound and remix work for Carl Craig), weave in and out of the mix, flawlessly spliced together, remodeeled and reshaped with a deep understanding of the BC sound and a look towards its future.
The first cut employs fragments from Cyrus's 'Inversion', 'Mutism', 'Radiance III' and the Basic Channel reworking of Cral Craig's 'The Climax' - 4 classics, re-modelled to create something new, somewhere between mixing and remixing - and that's just the opening sequence. Flowing from first moment to last, it's a bit of a benchmark release that not only serves as a testimony to one of the most treasured and beloved catalogues in all of electronic music, but also illustrates that technology really can be about more than just presets and self indulgance.
Fans of Basic Channel will melt into this CD on first play, those of you new to the label will do well to give this a listen and understand exactly what all the fuss has been about...
Mecca, Saudi Arabia’s Msylma follows his standout vocal on Zuli’s acclaimed ‘Terminal’ album - The Wire magazine’s #2 AOTY, 2018 - with a compelling coming-of-age tale, sung in beautiful classical Arabic and meshed with a stark palette of electronics and percussion by himself, Zuli, 1127 and Karim El Ghazoly for Rabit’s Halcyon Veil. RIYL Fatima Al Qadiri, Scott Walker, Omar Souleyman...
Profoundly original, but steeped in millennia of both Pre-Islamic (pagan) and Islamic theology and Arabic tradition, Dhil-un Taht Shajarat Al-Zaqum is a unique album no matter which way it’s approached. With a dramatic sense of purpose at the album’s core, its 11 songs propose a work of literary fiction that draws upon a rich knowledge of pre-Islamic and Quranic poetry.
Myslma spells out a subversive take on existential angst, charting a transition from a romanticised childhood, thru the rising self-awareness of adolescence, to problems with parents and the sardonic cynicism of adulthood, before looping back to childhood, and resolving with a burned-out, sore conclusion. Naturally, anyone who doesn’t speak Arabic (or even classical Arabic) will have trouble comprehending the lyrics literally, but with thanks to the impassioned intonation of his vocals, and the connotations of his starkly evocative backdrops, non-Arabic speakers should have no problem grasping the album’s emotional pull.
Whether channelling a sort of R&B/soul spirit in the aching delivery and floating chords of opener ‘Inqirad (Rihab-U Dhakir)’, singing from the middle of a weightless grime skirmish in ‘Min Bab AlKamal-i w AlDawam’, then floating on organ tones in ‘Hazat-u-L-Waraq’, or scaling the lofty heights of ‘Astaqi AlGhamam’, it's a unique and startling despatch.
Helado Negro returns with This Is How You Smile, an album that freely flickers between clarity and obscurity, past and present geographies, bright and unhurried seasons. Miami-born, New York-based artist Roberto Carlos Lange embraces a personal and universal exploration of aura – seen, felt, emitted – on his sixth album and second for RVNG Intl.
“Lange describes the album as the soundtrack of a person approaching you, slowly, for 40 minutes. In “Fantasma Vaga,” one of the first songs he wrote that set his approach for the album, a ghost wanders in from the low end, building a fuller form with each shaking step. Whirring, stops and starts of an eco espectral, may be musician trying to imitate, synthesize, the sound of a haunting, or a ghost itself trying to render the human voice. Lange often visualizes meeting strange beings, the odd encounters that occur in the creative process, a sound form of manipulation, in which who, or what is changing whom, becomes unclear.
This Is How You Smile invites listeners on a walk through the changing colors of early mornings and evenings, writing, recording, or hearing a friend, a figure emerges, and there you are.”
With ‘On Time out of Time’, William Basinski makes audible the sound of black holes decaying across 1.3 billion years of time and space.
It’s no mean feat, taking recordings made with the Interferometers of LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) at MIT and turning them into two sublime, voluminous and mesmersiing pieces - the 40 minute ‘On Time Out of Time’, and a more succinct, even beautiful 9 minute piece with the mouthful of a title ‘4(E+D)4(ER=EPR)’. They’re both strong visions from Basinski, but we reckon his 2nd piece is going to see most play.
“‘On Time Out of Time’ is a suite of works originally commissioned for the 2017 installations ‘ER=EPR’ and ‘Orbihedron’ by artists Evelina Domnitch and Dmitry Gelfand (in collaboration with Jean-Marc Chomaz and LIGO) for the exhibition, ‘Limits of Knowing’ at Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin by curator, Isabel De Sena.
These works utilise, among other things, exclusive source recordings from the Interferometers of LIGO ( (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) capturing the sounds of the merging of two distant massive black holes, 1.3 billion years ago."
Unseen Worlds follow their amazing Laurie Spiegel reissue with a captivating album of avant, shaggy dog stories by Robert Ashley collaborator Sam Ashley and German instrument builder Werner Durand
“I’d Rather Be Lucky Than Good is a new recording collaboration of Sam Ashley and Werner Durand. Sam Ashley’s mystic parables imbued with benevolent humor are drawn from a lifelong pursuit of a present-day shamanism. Werner Durand’s wind work on invented and traditional instruments stems from the minimalist tradition, routed through his own unique studies of obscure world musics.
The two artists first met in Berlin in 1984 while Sam was touring Atalanta with Robert Ashley’s opera company, with whom he was a principle vocalist for many years. Sam Ashley’s work has appeared on other Unseen Worlds releases (J. Jasmine: My New Music) and in solo and collaborative performances alongside “Blue” Gene Tyranny and other artists across the world.
Werner Durand, also active since the late Seventies, performs music for saxophones, Iranian ney, and self-made wind instruments. He is a linchpin figure in the experimental music scene in Germany and abroad following formative studies with Ariel Kalma and Gilbert Artman in Paris, Indian Classical Music with Kamalesh Maitra, and Iranian Ney with Ali Reza Asgharia. He has worked notably with David Behrman (Music With Memory), Arnold Dreyblatt (Animal Magnetism), Muslimgauze, Henning Christiansen, Catherine Christer Hennix (Born of Six), David Toop, and Amelia Cuni (Ashtayama, Diasporagas). He also was a longtime employee of Ursula Block’s gelbe MUSIK (Broken Music).”
ECM artist Arild Anderson wraps his double bass to Clive Bell’s intoxicating Asian woodwind, punctuated by Mark Wastell’s sparing percussion in their ‘Tales Of Hackney’ improvisation for Confront’s Core Series
The resulting 50 minute work, in 9 parts, was extracted from a 10 hour recording session in the titular East London district, late summer 2017. It was edited, mixed and mastered by Rupert Clervaux and with Mark Wastell, who also handled production. From the original session, they divine a series of hard-to-define scenarios as enchanting and heady as a dusky stroll thru Hackney, reflecting a synaesthetic conflux of phosphorescent light and drifting smells, flowing like its mosaic of multi-purpose dwellings riddled and teeming with life, occasionally implying a noirish, even voyeuristic stealth in its more haunted, furtive moments, while others connote a spangled wooziness, and yet more absorb and speak to an idea of London as a humid melting pot, inarguably linked to the Far East as much as downtown NYC, but solipsistically revolving its own dream.
Liv’ - which preceded ‘Minus’ by several years - is a previously-unreleased studio album
"Recorded over three days at Sarm West (Bob Marley, ‘Exodus’) live from start to finish (with additional vocals and saxophone added at a later date) by Daniel Blumberg on Steinberger guitar, harmonica and vocals; Billy Steiger on violin; Kohhei Matsuda on monosynth and Tom Wheatley on double bass."