Spellbinding, Satie-esque solo piano sprinklings from American composer of contemporary classical music, Michael Vincent Waller, performed by celebrated percussionist William Winant (Vibraphone) and R. Andrew Lee (Piano). Waller has previously appeared on Kyle Bobby Dunn’s recent opus, and released LPs with Recital and XI Records.
"In essence, the sound of the piano comes in two parts: its attack and its decay. The striking of a hammer is followed by the resonance of a string or strings. (Much the same might be said about the vibraphone, as it happens.) This dual quality of sound comes to mind when listening to Moments by New York-based composer Michael Vincent Waller.
Performed by pianist R. Andrew Lee and vibraphonist William Winant, Moments - his third album, following Trajectories (Recital, 2017) and The South Shore (XI, 2015) - draws on Western classical music tradition in its most archetypal forms through its use of modal melodies, triadic harmonies and metered rhythms. Yet the emotional heart of the music is not in attack, but resonance. The afterlife of sounds.
Those elements that can’t be grasped and placed into easy historical categories. Behind his surface attacks Waller finds hazy, edgeless zones that draw us downwards, into introspection - an "inward gaze." Waller’s music is often compared to that of Erik Satie, and there is certainly something Satie-like in its concision, its subtle asymmetries and its lack of ornament. But where Satie’s Gnossiennes, Nocturnes and Gymnopédies were blank canvases, deliberately signifying nothing, Waller’s pieces are vessels to be filled. That is partly an effect of titles: Waller’s pieces on this disc are all ‘moments’ of autobiographical poignancy - memorials, birthdays, homecomings; friends, teachers, family members. We are clearly invited to invest certain emotional expectations into these sounds."
20th Anniversary half-speed master vinyl edition of the Smog classic, ‘Knock Knock’
"Placing this LP on your turntable, you find yourself drawn ever-deeper into the sound - and it’s not just the eternally-stunning co-production from Callahan and Jim O’Rourke, it’s the incredible focus brought by the half-speed mastering work done at Abbey Road, bringing out the highs, lows and even mids that OG fans of this album have taken for granted for too many years. The fresh fullness of the sound now stands as a tribute to the ol’ familiar Smog sensation of being somehow completely unfamiliar.
Back in 1999, Bill was staking out new territory. Issued in the wake of the game-changing ‘Red Apple Falls’, ‘Knock Knock’ upped the ante of the game, pairing his naked portraiture with increasingly delicate nuances in song and arrangement. The people responded in kind, turning out in ever-increasing numbers to shops and venues alike. They weren’t quite singing along with ‘Cold-Blooded Old Times’ yet - that’s a happy post-millennial development - but there was a lot. ‘Knock Knock’ was enough of a tour de force that staging a re-look these twenty years later was a cool no-brainer. With production values at an all-time (for then) high and a team of Chicago-based studio rats (as well as a carefully vetted-and-compensated singing children’s choir) on the case, ‘Knock Knock’ was the most colourful of Smog albums; a record that played like a real-life opera, a story told in song.
Today, songs like ‘Held’, ‘River Guard’ and ‘Hit The Ground Running” are still called for at concerts. Meanwhile, the 20th Anniversary half-speed remaster of the LP allows us to perceive the expansive spaces in tunes like ‘Sweet Treat’ and ‘Left Only With Love’. It wouldn’t have been the 90s without a CD version and the label are re-releasing that in original, non-remastered form. Also, in tribute to where it all came from (but where it definitively wasn’t at the time), they have a cassette version of ‘Knock Knock’ for the neo-lo-fi heads to appreciate."
Ravishing, hyperkinetic AI brilliance from Emptyset, really baring their teeth after the electro-acoustic probes of 2017’s ‘Borders’
Edging ever closer to a post-human conception of sound composition, artist/scientist/researcher types Paul Purgas and James Ginzburg advance from the detectably acoustic tonalities of ‘Borders’ into an unapologetically and strangely poignant futurist sound sphere with their 6th album, ‘Blossoms’. At the core of the duo’s newfound energies lies the emergent consciousness of a machine learning system which they fed with more than 10 hours of racket made on wood, metal and drum skins. The highly dynamic results are effectively the software’s efforts to make sense of their input, and arguably amount to the project’s most thrilling album, bar none.
Developed thru a process of “seeding a software model with a sonic knowledge base of material to learn and predict from”, the duo’s primitivist, haptic, fleshly actions become entangled in a virtual world that ultimately manifests a non-human musicality. Convulsing in 10 succinct parts, the AI’s personality emerges as a synthesis of its parents’ characteristic tastes, resembling a bastard golem or cranky virtual spirit that really errs to the darkside of feelings associated with AI, as opposed to the church/folk-reared and “friendly” aspects of AI explored by, say Holly Herndon’s Spawn, or the more ambiguous styles conjured by TCF’s AI familiar, TCF X (run go check his YT channel!).
Of course, there’s a certain level of discrete manipulation by Purgas and Ginzburg at play in the arrangements (they are still credited with writing and production), but we’re fucked if we can point out where the human and AI inputs begin and end. From the shearing metal tones of ‘Petal’ to the guttural eruptions of ‘Blossom’ and the curiously human-like cadence of ‘Pollen’, thru the bittersweet harmonic shifts of ‘Blade’ and bone-twisting torque of ‘Stem’, we get the feeling that Emptyset have achieved an real ideal of relinquishing control of their music and becoming the ghost in their own machine, and it’s a visceral, vivid pleasure to experience them doing so.
Sound Signature and Peacefrog do the right thing, letting us all get our mitts on this artefact from the afterfuture...
Spanning deepest moments in House, jazz, dub, electronics, melody and soul, First Floor is, incredibly, over 20 years old yet still sets the bar.
Low-slung and spacious as hell, the peak here is the mighty Heal Yourself And Move, one of the deepest and most influential productions in a sprawling catalogue that's not short of classics dunccha know.
As David Fricke points out in his liner notes, this is not just another novelty guest-project, the Krokofant on "Q" is like a brand new band.
"In fact, all the involved are so happy with this album that there´s bound to come more, with a bunch of new material already written. After three albums in a little over three years they felt a need to try something new, taking the band one step further. Especially Tom Hasslan, guitarist and main composer, felt an urge to expand the canvas and sonic possibilities of his writing and playing.
Hasslan´s tunes are perfect vehicles for keyboard player Ståle Storløkken (Elephant9, Supersilent, Terje Rypdal) to present the full scope of his playing; from sheer pastoral beauty to full on jazz skronk. The same can be said about Mathisen, who is given ample room for soloing. The tunes are rich in harmonic structures and melodic hooks, and with the distinctive sax/organ combination it´s difficult not to occasionally think of Van der Graaf Generator in their prime. By introducing Ingebrigt Håker Flaten (The Thing, Scorch Trio, Atomic) on electric bass, work was lifted from Hasslan´s shoulders and a "proper" rhythm section was born, Skalstad and Flaten instantly bonding. As Fricke also notes, ""Q" is their best album, the fullest expression to date of their original design - a drawing of the past forward - with a new strength in numbers"."
Utterly charming Calypso Limonense from Costa Rica by the king of his style, Walter Gavitt Ferguson. Totally remarkable songs salvaged from home-recorded tapes made during the ‘70s and rediscovered in an attic, all awash with background sounds from roosters to road traffic. Folkways fans, this one’s for you!
“99-year-old Walter Gavitt Ferguson from Costa Rica is a humble soul and a living legend, a Calypsonian of mythical proportions. Rooted like an old tree on the caribbean shore, he has never left his home town to look for fame, instead fame did come to look for him. Throughout eight decades, rumours of his musical gifts have attracted people from near and far, contesting Calypsonians, fans, tourists, musicologists, musicians, pilgrims and the President of the Republic. They once even moved a recording studio to his house as he refused to go to the city.
But many years before that, Ferguson used to sell his legendary self recorded cassettes to travellers and music lovers from all around the globe. He never kept a copy for himself and with age started to forget many old compositions. A recently started, international "Tape Hunt" was able to locate 9 such tapes in Canada and rescued 50 of his forgotten songs. Vol.1 of this tropical treasure is now available, resurrected directly from original cassettes of the Calypso King.”
Ambient healing music from Japan. The first in a series tending to the archive of prolific Japanese ambient music pioneer Fumio Miyashita, formerly of psych/prog-rock band Far Out/Far East Family Band.
"In 1969, he was an original member of the rock musical, ‘Hair’, in Tokyo. He formed the progressive rock groups Far Out and Far East Family Band, releasing ground-breaking albums and touring internationally. Always interested in oriental philosophy since studying karate at a young age (he became a black belt in high school), he became interested in oriental medicine after an injury on stage that only healed after undergoing acupuncture. In 1977, he immigrated to the United States, where he continued to study oriental medicine, philosophy, the Chinese Five Elements and also began, in earnest, to research music therapy.
In 1981, he decided to return to Japan, moved to Shinshu Iizuna Highlands and established Biwa Studio. One reason for choosing Iizuna Highlands was because it’s altitude is 1,250 meters and during his studies he learned that this is a very positive and healthy altitude for the human body to reside in. There he created numerous works, including music CD’s and image videos. His passion was for creating music that was helpful to people and his recurring theme in his works was relaxation and healing for the mind and body. He named his music ‘Healing Music’ and he established his own unique style of music therapy."
Eternal charmers ISAN investigate the melancholy inner life of their machines with a typically tender touch in a very user-friendly, gorgeous album of burbling electronica.
Arriving just over 20 years since their now-classic debut LP, ISAN’s new side finds that not much has changed in their self-contained world of gilded and exquisitely melodic small sound composition, and nobody’s complaining. Future-proofed by their feel for low-key melancholic ambiguity, they maintain a line of music that’s sweetly primed for warmth.
As ever with ISAN’s music the devil lies in the detail of their recordings. Ostensibly simple and stripped down, there are extremely fine layers of plasmic resonance that inhabit the background and periphery of their elegantly fluid and ribboning arrangements. With the sleight of a master hypnotist they subtly draw the ears in one direction while subliminally illuminating the layers surrounding it, leading the ear’s roving eye to wander the soundfield in slow saccades between their pointillist motifs and strange harmonic remainders.
The effect is just gorgeous, prompting very cute highlights between the kosmische lullaby of ‘Perlon’, and the nimbly star-stepping gait of ‘Ichthyosaur’, along with the crystalline shimmer of ’Strix Aluco’ and the AFXian bliss of ‘Ephemeroptera’, before waltzing you to bed with ‘Calliscope’ and their sighing title song.
Cabaret Voltaire’s Stephen Malinder serves his 1st album in 35 years with ‘Um Dada’, a collection of leftfield house playing with the clonk of classic Steel City club styles, and their influences
“Um Dada opens up with the exact machine-led surrealism that Mallinder recommends in “Working (You Are)”. A thick, stripped back dance floor groove provides the ideal foundation for Mallinder’s eccentric vocal cuts. The frisky chops present an almost twisted irony, subtly bringing to mind the role we’re all forced to play as just another cog in the ever grinding capitalist machine of life. Yet, somehow, the listener is left feeling optimistic. A prime example of simplicity at work.
Tracks such as “Satellite” give a skillful illustration of Mallinder’s adeptness with his musical expertise while preserving his core historical context as only simple reference. The underlying bassline and percussion, coupled with the floating melodies and airy vocal refrain disclose the vulnerabilities of love and loss without a hint of irony or nostalgia.
Um Dada is mischievously idealist, however never loses touch with reality. Offering structure while simultaneously dismantling any and all preconceptions. The spirit of sincerity that sustained Cabaret Voltaire’s lengthy career is abundantly present within founder Stephen Mallinder’s journey through his own whimsical utopian consciousness and staking claim to an identity that is solely his own.”
Several years in the making, and marking 20 years of the cult minimalist project, the richly intoxicating ‘Living Space’ sees Eleh pull back from physical pressures to coax out a more natural cadence and way of arranging that reflects the slowness of plant life and discreet, painterly forms of ambient composition, underpinned by those pristine, deadly subs.
“Following ‘Slow Fade for Hard Sync’ (2009) and Location Momentum (2010), Living Space is Eleh’s third physical release for Touch. Seven years in the making, this new release consolidates the artist’s parallel narrative between a series of vinyl and CD releases for Important Records – where the emphasis is on a minimalist aesthetic – to a visual counterpoint that hints at the cinematic and painterly qualities of the music.
Sound, as a healing force, is an idea as old as the medium itself. Inspired by the legacy and above all the spirit of John Coltrane, Living Space features 5 new compositions that seek to express the beauty of slow change, not only through the microtonal shifts in sound that Eleh navigates but moving with the atmospheric and shape–shifting conditions that the music creates as it interacts with the listening space, whether bedroom or concert hall, each one of them unique.
If the ambition of Living Space is to reflect both personal and collective growth cycles, the experience of its audition has the effect of stopping time. Melodic and harmonic progressions are implied and not stated obviously, to enable listeners to apply their own emotions and feelings to the music.
Using modular and analogue synthesisers, piano, organ, bass and symphonic chimes, Living Space stresses the promise of the CD’s final track – ‘Lighter Touch’ – forsaking the forceful hand for an approach that mirrors the slower and softer exposures of plant life and leaf formations, slow moving waters, not flash floods nor forest fires.”
‘Transmission Suite’ is the first new 808 State album in 17 years, and it’s pretty good!
Recorded at the same Granada Studios where they performed on TV in 1989, ‘Transmission Suite’ sees Graham Massey and Andy Barker reprise their love of late ‘80s Detroit and Chicago records and merge it with new influences taken from the rhythm-riding styles of the Swing Ting clubnight and Jon K/Kelvin Brown’s long-defunct Eyes Down sessions that are so particular to the Manchester dancefloor make-up.
Fair to say they’ve smartly achieved their aim with a strong collection that seamlessly loops their 1989 selves into their 2019 sound, keeping the meter gauge ticking between hot-steppers such as the almost singeli-esque ’13 13’ and the very Rian Treanor-like twitch and parry of ‘The Ludwig Question’, alongside a haul of rugged electro that recalls the current styles of Massey’s former Sisters of Transistors bandmate Afrodeutsche in the likes of ‘Huron’, ‘Landau’ and ‘Carbonade’.
Brilliantly loose-limbed, inspirational solo debut album from Kim Gordon after four decades fronting myriad projects, most notably Sonic Youth, but also with numerous collaborators including Tony Conrad, Ikue Mori, Julie Cafritz, Stephen Malkmus and most recently with Bill Nace as one half of Body/Head.
It’s a raw and effortlessly experimental album, from the red-lining subs of opener 'Sketch Artist' to the tripped out lo-fi Gamelan pop of 'Paprika Pony’, the industrial Berghain grind 'Don't Play It’ and NYC drum machine jam 'Cookie Butter’, it’s a properly, endlessly enjoyable electronic punk album held together by Kim’s sharp lyrics and still completely inimitable vocal delivery - you just can’t f#ck with it.
In lesser hands 'No Home Record’ would be a heavy-handed mess, but - really - it’s the most artful and yet somehow least pretentious record you’ll hear this year - nothing less.
The drowsy nostalgia and summer-days charm of ‘Neighbourhoods’ is another absolute peach from Pete Swanson & Jed Bindeman’s Freedom To Spend, presenting the first ever reissue of Ernest Hood’s sole, outstanding 1975 LP. Big RIYL BoC!
Hazily framed by a mixture of zither, woozy keyboards and sweetly candid field recordings, ‘Neighbourhoods’ is Ernest Hood’s deeply personal and warmly endearing impression of childhood naivety. Previously a figurehead of the Northwest US jazz scene, a bout of polio restricted his guitar playing, so Ernest turned to a gentler sound focussed on “the formation of comfortable memories”, resulting a daydream of an album that recalls fondest memories of long summer holidays, nagging parents, and hours absorbed in kids flicks, cartoons and their sugary soundtracks. sadly that’s maybe not the same experience many kids have nowadays, self-sequestered in bedrooms, congregating on Mmorpg’s, but once upon a time this kind of idyll was real.
Gently coming to life with ‘Saturday Morning Dozing’, the album saunters thru scenes such as ‘At The Store’ documenting kids on a shop stoop deciding what to do with their day and spilling 7up on their peanuts, to the meridian buzz of crickets in ‘August Haze’, and the chufty synth fanfare connoting the buzz of leaving class in ‘After School’, and onto the mischievous frolics of ‘Night Games’, it would take a heart of stone not to melt at the charms of this album. Really, almost anyone will recognise and fall heavily for Ernest Hood’s impressionistic beauty.
Empire of Signs follow Hiroshi Yoshimura foundational 'Music For Nine Postcards' with a much needed look at Makoto Inoue and Yasushi Yamashita’s Inoyama Land project, expanding on their sound heard on 'Kankyō Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environmental & New Age Music 1980-1990' to illuminate material that is even lesser known outside of Japan – some of it presented publicly for the first time, written as the soundtrack to a museum exhibit on slime molds and now making its vinyl premiere after years in the archive.
"A portmanteau of their family names, the “Land” of Inoyama hovers between imagined mythical space and concrete reality, extending beyond physical releases into installations, site-specific sound design and theatre scores. After their famed Haruomi Hosono-produced 1983 release Danzindan-Pojidon, the duo became involved in the budding environmental music business that was taking shape in Tokyo during the development boom of the asset bubble – working directly with figures like Hiroshi Yoshimura (with whom they developed sound design for the International Stadium in Yokohama) and Takashi Sekiguchi (Bamboo from Asia).
Working initially with Munetaka Tanaka’s Sound Process Design (an acoustic consulting company formed by Tanaka with Satoshi Ashikawa, before Ashikawa’s tragic death in 1983), their commissioned work mirrors the sound world first fleshed out on Danzindan: chiming synthesizers, pastoral hues, childhood memory – all pulsing with a distant, emotional resonance. This material – culled from limited CD issues of the material on Tanaka’s Crescent label, Kazunao Nagata’s Transonic Records and self-released CDRs – presents a window into this process, illustrating how Inoue and Yamashita’s idiosyncratic musical identity gelled perfectly with all of the disparate environments of their commissions. Included is music written for the Kankaku (Sense) Museum in Miyagi, an exhibit on slime molds at the National Museum of Nature and Science in Ueno park, the 1977 stage performance Collecting Net (which also included music that would later become Danzindan-Pojidon) and their score for a Tokyo re-staging of New York avant-theatre pioneer Richard Foreman’s post-modern stage piece Egyptology."
A hitherto-unreleased electronic masterpiece from Roland Kayn, singular pioneer of cybernetic music. Over a period spanning the late 70s through the early 80s, Kayn (1933–2011) issued a quintet of extended works that quietly but definitively redrew the map of electronic music. Informed by cybernetics and a desire to actualise analogue circuitry as an agency in the compositional process, this music adopted a form that can only be described as oceanic, as side after side of vinyl allowed a wholly new vocabulary of electronic sound to find its shape. This set features a staggering batch of mesmerising computer music realised in 1982-83, roughly between his totemic ‘Infra’ and ‘Tektra’ boxsets. Essential listening for fans of Xenakis, Æ, Cam Deas, Jim O’Rourke, Laurie Spiegel.
As co-founder of the influential Gruppo di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza (whose members included Egisto Macchi and Ennio Morricone), and an unparalleled pioneer of algorithmic composition, Roland Kayn made an inestimable and arguably unsung contribution to 20th Century music. Now following the acclaimed recent reissue of his jaw-dropping ’Simultan’ (1977) boxset and the 2017 unearthing of ‘A Little Electronic Milky Way Of Sound’, Kayn’s daughter Ilse has rebooted his Reiger-records-reeks label to unveil ‘Scanning’; a typically brobdingnagian expanse of perpetually amorphous sound generated by unfathomably complex iterations of maths, physics, philosophy and music that advances upon a genuinely post-human conception of sound arrangement.
Remastered from the original tapes by Jim O’Rourke - a long-time disciple of Kayn’s durational works, whose influence can clearly be heard in O’Rourke’s prized ‘Old News’ series - ‘Scanning’ now emerges from a pivotal phase of Kayn’s research/practice to highlight his pioneering grasp of bio-cybernetic communication at its most illusive and elusive. Where ’Simultan’ for example, felt darkly alien, and ’Tektra’ sounds like a black hole, the vast breadth of ‘Scanning’ is best defined by its spectra of impossible, string-like glissandi, cascading in infinitely smooth gradients and tectonic harmonic shifts that recall contemporary examples ranging from Autechre at their broadest (as on the æo³ & ³hæ DVD), thru to the sloshing shape of Cam Deas, and, at times, Dopplereffekt’s immense ‘Calabi Yau Space’ classic taken to Nth degrees.
For those who really like to know what’s going on in the mechanics of Kayn’s music, the boxset is accompanied by Kayn’s own notes, which, while succinct, may still require a Phd in scientific philosophy to properly digest (and same can be said of Massimo Ricci’s fascinating but baffling notes). However, the technical roots of Kayn’s music are not a barrier to entry for anyone with open ears and a taste for actually otherworldly sound. His frighteningly complex grasp of inimitably fluid dynamics and ear-probing tonalities can simply be enjoyed for their richly sensuous qualities and transportive/transcendent potential for altering one’s mindstate, as your grey matter attempts to perceive and compete Kayn’s revelatory series of ever-changing events and alien sonic scenarios. Trust this can have profound effects whether consumed when under the influence of psychedelic substances, or not.
We encourage anyone with the time, funds, and curiosity to immerse themselves in Roland Kayn’s non pareil computer music for some of the most unforgettable, enigmatic, and strangely life-affirming sonic visions imaginable.
Guitar-and-bass duo Gong Gong Gong charge out from Beijing’s underground scene with a distinct vision and sense of purpose.
"The group unites musical cultures, drawing on inspirations as wide-ranging as Bo Diddley, Cantonese opera, West African desert blues, drone and electronic music. On their debut album, ‘Phantom Rhythm’, the locomotive chug of Tom Ng’s guitar combines with Joshua Frank’s thumping, harmonics-laden basslines to conjure an aura of ghostly snare hits and timpani overtones. Over Frank’s enigmatic melodies,
Ng sings in Cantonese, piecing together abstract tales of absurdity, doubt, desire and lust. Synchronized to the point of near-telepathy, the band use their minimalistic tools and idiosyncratic playing style to challenge the notions of rock ‘n’ roll and strip the form down to its bare essentials: rhythm, melody and grit. Formed in 2015, the band’s earliest shows were in Beijing underpass tunnels and DIY spaces - Ng and Frank both being outsiders who call the city their home. Born in Hong Kong, Ng defiantly sings in his native tongue, while Frank, originally from Montreal, has lived in Beijing on and off since childhood."
'Congo Revolution' looks at the explosion of music that came out of the Congo in the years leading up to independence in 1960. Congolese rumba, a wild combination of African, Jazz and Latin influences, created future stars of its now legendary creators – Franco, Grand Kalle, Tabu Ley, Dr. Nico, Papa Wemba - and all feature here in their ground-breaking early groups such as O.K.Jazz, Brazzos, Rock-A-Mambo, African Jazz and The Beguen Band.
"The Congo is in fact two countries – The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC, formerly Zaire) and the Republic of the Congo. Congo Revolution was first released as a sampler 7” box set for RSD, and this expanded release includes a 50-page booklet/double gatefold and inner sleeves containing extensive text explaining the evolution of the music and history of the two Congos, and how music, politics and popular culture intersected at the point of independence from the two Congos’ European colonisers – Belgium and France – through songs such as ‘Vive Patrice Lumumba,’ and ‘MNC Uhuru,’ which celebrated the Congolese independence leader prior to his political assassination.
Also included is the stunning images of the Congolese photographer Jean Depara who documented the Congo’s vibrant nightlife in the period 1955-65 as well as being the official photographer for the superstar Congolese artist Franco up until his death in 1989. Depara also documents the rise of the Bills (Congolese teenagers who dressed as cowboys) and sharp-suited évolués (which later gave rise to the fashion-conscious phenomenon of the Congolese ‘Sapeurs’). These images are reproduced in collaboration with Revue Noire in France."
Follow-up to Penguin Cafe’s 2017 album 'The Imperfect Sea' inspired by the Antarctic, Arthur Jeffes’ journey following in Scott’s footsteps and our penguin friends that reside there.
"Using gut-stringed violins, viola, cello, bass, percussion, upright and grand pianos, synthesiser, harmonium and more, Arthur Jeffes and his cohorts have crafted a vivid series of panoramic sonic landscapes, that are as rich in cerebral poignancy as they are in emotional depth.
Bookended by the atmospheric ambient piano pieces ‘Winter Sun’ and ‘Midnight Sun’, the album traverses glacial minimalism with ease, combining their signature contemporary classical panoramas, such as the melancholic yet upbeat lead track ‘At the Top of the Hill, They Stood...’ and the colossal cinematic piece ‘Chapter’, with the crystalline folktronica on ‘Pythagorus on the Line Again’ — a re-visiting and continuation of the Penguin Cafe Orchestra’s 1993 Union Cafe song on the principles of harmonics.
Handfuls of Night began life after Greenpeace commissioned Jeffes to write four pieces of music corresponding to four breeds of penguins, to help raise awareness for the endangered Antarctic seas . A fundraising evening at EartH in Hackney followed, where Penguin Cafe premiered the four songs named after their feathered counterparts to a sold out audience; the rousing contemporary folk inflected ‘Chinstrap’, the mournful and minimalistic ‘Adelie’, stoic and rhythmic ‘The Life of an Emperor’ and the wistful, string-laden ‘Gentoo Origin’.
“This record started with a core of pieces I wrote specifically about penguins in the Antarctic for a project with Greenpeace in autumn 2018. There are four native Antarctic penguin species – each with their own individual characteristics and natures. I carried on from there to envisage a whole anthropomorphised world, where these penguins had narratives and adventures that we soundtracked”, says Jeffes. But both the album and Penguin Cafe as a project have origins that reach further back:
“In 2005 I was asked to join an expedition re-creating Scott’s last Antarctic trip in 1911 for the BBC, using the same Edwardian equipment. I’m no explorer but I was keen, especially as there’s a family link – Scott was married to my great grandmother before she married my great grandfather. Antarctica by this stage being a protected environment, we swapped to the Arctic circle where we spent 3 months on the Greenland ice sheet, first dog-sledding and then man-hauling just short of 1000 km at 10,000 feet, across ice fields and glaciers. I had lots of time to ponder my life back home. It was then that I decided to get my Master of Music degree and focus on composing music, and also then that I realised that even in the most remote silent places, music can still be a huge part of one’s internal world and imagination. Whilst on the expedition. I spent days playing things back in my head and also writing new things, which I would then try and write down at the end of the day.”
Handfuls of Night’s tones, textures and melodies evoke otherworldly expanses, which at different junctures are either foreboding, awe inspiring or peaceful. There’s subtly morphing rhythmic repetition throughout, somewhere between minimalism, krautrock and the piano-cascades of label peer Lubomyr Melnyk. Jeffes creates a kinetic, circling motion, which drives the album forward in the form of a musical trip that mirrors the physical journey it was inspired by."
Ian William Craig does heart-rending avant-folk with Missy Donaldson in their debut as Minor Pieces. A must check for fans of Cotton Goods, Mazzy Star, Low, Cat Power, “Bonnie” Prince Billy, Grouper, or the corrosive asethetics of Fennesz, William Basinski or The Caretaker
"Retaining some of the textural play and experimentation of Ian’s solo material whilst channeling it squarely within the domain of tangible songwriting, the pair utilise guitar, modified tape decks, bass and synths to fashion deeply-felt songs with their beautifully matched male/ female vocals standing resolutely centre-stage. Taking influence and inspiration from the likes of Low, Grouper, Mazzy Star, Portishead, My Bloody Valentine, Talk Talk and Cat Power, ‘The Heavy Steps Of Dreaming’ sounds at once familiar whilst forging something new, unique and beyond the sum of its influences.
Over the course of its 8 tracks - from the opening bars of ‘Rothko’ to the resonant closing lines of ‘Shipbreaking’ - the duo move fluidly between voices, shift from moments of overwhelming power to perfect points of stillness; from acoustic balladry pared down to the sparsest of means to thick, tumbling swells of tape and electronics or billowing synth trails. At both album and song level, it’s a work of contrasts and combinations; of broad, bold dynamics. Masterfully crafted, the lyrics are rendered with an almost painterly approach and reveal a palpable joy in the richness of language and its capacity to conjure resonances, to hold moments close and to patch together meaning from life’s scattered detritus."
Reissue of Satoshi Ashikawa’s classic of Japanese environmental/ambient/minimalism, Still Way (Wave Notation 2) - The Wave Notation series also includes Hiroshi Yoshimura’s Music For Nine Postcards album.
"The album, available on vinyl (first time since 1982) and digipack CD (with one bonus track), comes with a cover artwork by Hiroshi Yoshimura and liner notes by Midori Takada, Satoshi Ashikawa himself, and Irish producer Gareth Quinn Redmond (whose Still Way-inspired album Laistigh den Ghleo is being released simultaneously on WRWTFWW). Initially released in 1982 as part of the Wave Notation series*, Still Way is, without a doubt, a seminal Japanese environmental/ambient/minimalism album, often mentioned alongside Midori Takada’s Through Looking Glass and Hiroshi Yoshimura’s Green as one of the genre’s most important pieces.
"Like the moment of stillness, after the wind passes through the garden, when the rain stops for a brief second…" Notably inspired by Erik Satie’s Furniture Music and Brian Eno’s ambient work, Satoshi Ashikawa aimed to compose music "intended to be listened to in a casual manner, as a musical landscape or a sound object…not something that would stimulate listeners but music that should drift like smoke and become part of the environment."
The result is simply phenomenal, subtle minimalism and emotional elegance exquisitely orchestrated by Satoshi Ishikawa and his team consisting of his wife Masami Ashikawa (on flute), Midori Takada (on vibraphone), Yuko Utsumi (on harp), Tomoko Sono (on piano), and Junko Arase (on vibraphone)."
Turntablist and sound artist Maria Chávez turns in her first continuous full length audio work. “Plays” is a DJ mix CD that doesn't feature any tracks. It is a remix of a work whose original doesn't feature recorded sound. It is a minimalistic yet complex electroacoustic work, literally built from scratch, bootstrapping sound out of sheer silence: creatio ex nihilio.
"The story of this album starts with a record given to Chávez as a birthday present. It is Stefan Goldmann's 'Ghost Hemiola', a double vinyl set of empty locked grooves. The record contains no sound whatsoever other than the vinyl's own surface noise.
Chávez's work with records and turntables usually features a rich layer of recorded audio which is transformed, cut up and rearranged by a wide range of fearless physical manipulations. By contrast 'Ghost Hemiola' is a blank canvas, unveiling her craft in its purest form, unobstructed by any audio content other than the sounds of the medium itself.
Breaking up the medium is happening both ways here, literally as well as figuratively. Unlike with her live performances, for "Plays“ Chávez employs digital processes extensively, zooming into minute details of sound and the artefacts of both mediums, the tangible vinyl record and disembodied digital audio. Narrowing down shards of sound to extremely short frames creates metallic timbres, reverberating quasi- spaces and percussive layers. Slowing down the tempo until sound halts at one sample of its digital representation brings forth emergent frequencies, which Chávez then uses to play melodies – vaguely resembling her analog technique of playing melodies by skipping a stylus back and forth across a test tone record.
This thorough investigation of the unobstructed vinyl medium with digital means is distilled into a one hour composition on this album. By the way – Chávez and Goldmann share the same birthdate."
Released digitally in July, Angel's Pulse is a mixtape from Dev Hynes aka Blood Orange, something of an epilogue to his critically acclaimed 2018 album Negro Swan.
"‘Angel’s Pulse’ includes collaborations with Toro Y Moi, Kelsey Lu, Arca, Porches, Ian Isiah, Justine Skye, Tinashe, Project Pay, Gangsta Boo, BennY Revival and BROCKHAMPTON’s Joba."
Tom Jenkinson (Squarepusher) and James McVinnie (Bedroom Community) team up for this Arts Council funded collab.
"The compositions were commissioned by No-Nation with PRSF for Music and debuted as ‘The Secret Life of Organs’ in 2016 with a run of live dates in the UK supported by Arts Council England. The original pieces have since been revised to make up ‘All Night Chroma’. Performed at the Harrison & Harrison organ of the Royal Festival Hall by James McVinnie. Composed and produced by Tom Jenkinson of Squarepusher.
James McVinnie is known as one of the world’s leading organists. His work as a performer encompasses music from the 16th Century to the present day. He is a member of Icelandic record label Bedroom Community. He has collaborated with many leading figures in new music, including Philip Glass, Angelique Kidjo, Nico Muhly, Martin Creed, Richard Reed Parry, Bryce Dessner, Darkstar, Hildur Guðnadóttir, David Lang and Sarah Davachi, many of whom have written large scale works for him."
Eighteen months since their first issue, Woe To The Septic Heart!'s long delayed 2nd release finally dawns upon us.
Comprising entirely new and previously unreleased Shackleton material - including collaborations with vocalist Vengeance Tenfold and musical spars Andreas Gerth (Tied & Tickled Trio) and Kingsuk Biswas (Bedouin Ascent) - it's also his most shocking and invigorating body of work. What strikes us first and foremost is the newfound vitality and visceral impact of his sound here. Any signature murk is replaced with a lysergic lucidity and rendered in widescreen 3D that consumes the senses with ultra-vivid potential.
The CD entitled 'Music For The Quiet Hour' features your venerated protagonist and his mystical interpreter, Vengeance Tenfold in the extended format we've long wished to hear them, astral projecting cut-up passages of Tenfold's apocalypse-baiting text over five meticulously crafted sonic topographies which stretch to the periphery of the mind's eye and ever further into inky blackness. This combination of poetry/spoken word and dark ambience clearly calls to mind Deathprod's 'Reference Frequencies', but the choking bass pressure and timbral cadence are innately Shackleton, just presented in a vital new form. But, perhaps the most subtle yet striking new element is the wheezing, scaling tonal spectrum siphoned through the Italian drawbar organ module which inspired the title of 'The Drawbar Organ EPs'.
Effectively forming an album in their own right, it's here that we find more condensed, rhythmically structured episodes reminding of his recent live shows - which are, in our humble opinion, the finest in the world right now. Meditating on late '60s/early '70s Reich-ian rhythm phasing, stained with carmine Italian horror vibes, driven by wanton Junglist and post-punk torque and enveloped by a universal consciousness alluding to Alice Coltrane, it will take longer than we have right now for these tracks to settle in fully, but we can assure you that they're of the rarest, most precious substance. Unmissable.
Boy Harsher find a fine line thru EBM and darkwave synth-pop with ineffable élan on their debut for Ascetic House, neatly benefitting from mix and master by Maurizio Baggio (The Soft Moon, Merchandise). Deluxe reissue of the sought-after Ascetic House EP including 4 bonus, previously unreleased tracks.
Their Country Girl EP sounds like it was dialled in direct from 1986, with sleek, rolling bass arps, glass-eyed gynoid vocals and lusting synth pads seemingly construed for the dry-iced runway of the mind. It could just as easily soundtrack a hi-end fashion show as lure you into a redlit basement, feeling out immaculately realised vibes between the effortless flow and ache crooning of Motion thru the wickedly skizzy light/dark/light twist of Country Girl, to the early ‘90s synth-pop sensuality of Underwater, and with super infectious freestyle inflections that funk up and counter Jae Matthews’ perfectly aloof vocals in Westerners.
Kristin Hersh achieved a music and publishing first when her eighth solo album was initially released as a multi-media book in 2009. Hersh’s “poetic, provocative and puzzling songcraft” (The Washington Post) makes ‘Crooked’ a stunning record.
"The resplendent, melancholic ‘Flooding’ came to Hersh in the form of song but was also a premonition of the imminent death of close friend and musician Vic Chesnutt. Mainstay in her recent live shows, ‘Mississippi Kite’ is snarly and unsettling whilst the spectral psychedelic tones of ‘Rubidoux’ stem from a 50foot Wave car ride and a late-night recording session. The songs still lead the way hitting Hersh fully formed but it’s her beguiling raspy vocals paired with guitar, and any other instrument that she chose to play on this album, that has a beautiful intensity that’s jarring, unpredictable and inherent in her music. “She's still as powerful a presence as she ever was.” Pitchfork.
UK underground star Felix Lee breaks thru with a long-awaited and lushly formed debut album on Planet Mu, flanked by peers including Ecco2k, Yayoyanoh, Oxhy and Kamixlo
As an early collaborator with Elysia Crampton, organiser of London’s influential Endless events and NTS show, and previously producing under the 5tarb01 and Lexxi aliases, Felix Lee has been a pivotal underground figure for the past decade.
With ‘Inna Daze’ he finally presents a definitive self-portrait full of introspective, strung out feels, melancholy melodies and low-key bumps turning strains of reggaeton, R&B and drill to intimate purpose. It’s essentially emo and trip hop for 2019, but with some ruder leans to club music in the likes of ’Still Torn’ and the ripping synth leads of ‘Slow Decay’, both featuring Oxhy, as well as the bolshy militancy of ‘Smoke’ with Kamixlo.
Super rare deep spiritual jazz album with a heavy Brazilian influence featuring Nana Vasconceles, Dom Salvador, Portinho, Cecil McBee and more. Originally released privately by the artist and flautist Lloyd McNeill in 1980 and out of print for nearly 40 years.
"Lloyd McNeill is a cultural polymath – a multi- disciplinarian flautist, painter, academic, poet, and photographer – who has worked with everyone from Mulatu Astatke to Nina Simone, Eric Dolphy and Nana Vasconcelos (and as a painter was befriended by Picasso!). McNeill grew up during the era of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s and his life and work is a reflection of those ideals. All of his music was only ever released on his own private-press record label, echoing the Civil Rights and African-American themes of the era - black economic empowerment and self- sufficiency – and there is a beautiful spirituality in all his music."
A certain magic floods the room when free improvisers of the highest order get together to make music. And when said improvisers are also kindred spirits who know and can anticipate each other's moves, a kind of wonderful telepathy takes over.
"Such was the case when enigmatic Japanese noise legend Merzbow (Masami Akita) got together in the studio with fellow countryman Keiji Haino and Hungarian drummer Balazs Pandi for Become The Discovered, Not The Discoverer. For their second encounter for RareNoise Records, following 2016's An Untroublesome Defencelessness, the three intrepid improvisers explore a threshold of sound so blisteringly intense, that it passes into a zone of divine cacophony.
Comprised of four lengthy, uninterrupted suites, each containing dense, sometimes harsh sonic onslaughts, Become The Discovered, Not The Discoverer is fueled by Merzbow's cathartic sheets of electronic sound and guitar, Haino's slashing guitar, bass and vocal work and Pandi's pummeling intensity on the kit."
A definitive edition of Philip Corner’s ‘The Judson Years’, spanning works for tape, electronics, and instrumental-vocal from a vital period during the early ‘60s. Includes stellar avant-garde cast revolving Ayo, David Behrman, Malcolm Goldstein, Dick Higgins, Joe Jones, Alison Knowles, Jackson Mac Low, Charlotte Moorman, Nam June Paik, and Chieko Shiomi, and more
“It's hard to overstate the importance of Philip Corner. For more than half a century he has been a cornerstone of the American musical avant-garde. Once a student of Otto Leuning, Henry Cowell, Olivier Messiaen, and Dorothy Taubman. A founding member of Fluxus, Corner made waves fast, creating a body of singular work, both on his own and within ensembles like Gamelan Son of Lion and Tone Roads, founded with Malcolm Goldstein and James Tenney, which has cut its way across the decades. Among Corner's most fascinating works are those created between 1962 and 1964, during the period when he was resident composer at the Judson Dance Theatre, one the great occurrences in the emergence of avant-garde dance, movement, Happenings, and performance art. Even today, it stands among the most important examples of collaborate create exchange in the history the American arts. Alga Marghen present a three-CD box, issued in early 2000s by and now out of print, gathering much of the work created during these important years in Corner's career, signed by the composer himself.
Alga Marghen's triple box gathers On Tape From the Judson Years, and More from The Judson Years (Early 60s) Instrumental and Vocal Works Volumes 1 and 2, bringing you to heart of Philip Corner's brilliant practice and mind. Across the first disc Corner's tape works -- complex textures and sonority coming to life. The second disc is of an entirely different sort, featuring works created with a great many of Corner's closest collaborators and friends. Recorded at Judson, 1965, the disc features a knock-out cast of Ayo, David Behrman, Philip Corner, Malcolm Goldstein, Dick Higgins, Joe Jones, Alison Knowles, Jackson Mac Low, Charlotte Moorman, Nam June Paik, and Chieko Shiomi, and more. The third disc takes the ear further afield, with "Everything Max Has" (1964), a performance of Max Neuhaus solo recorded at the ONCE Festival (1965), captures the composer and percussionist taking down an overwhelming amount of equipment. It also includes Big Trombone (1963), with Jim Fulkerson improvising over tape collage, "Homage to Revere" (1962) a work for an ensemble of copper-bottom kitchen utensils, and "Punkt" (1961) for an ensemble of staccato sounds, and a number of other astounding works from the era. As a totality, Alga Marghen's three-CD set of Corner's years spent at the Judson Theatre, are a mind-boggling entry into an overwhelmingly exciting moment in time.”
'For Burdened and Bright Light' is the fifth full-length album from A-Sun Amissa. This new work builds on the foundations of previous record Ceremony in the Stillness (2018), incorporating some of the heavier, distorted, guitar oriented themes but this time fuses them with broken, crumbling electronic beats and primal drone movements.
"The result is two long-form pieces of work that take time to unfold and multiple listens to truly digest what is on offer. The music of A-Sun Amissa has evolved some-what naturally over the years, drawing from elements of dark-ambient, post-rock and minimal doom but always with a leading experimental edge and a huge amount of room to push the boundaries back as far as possible. For Burdened and Bright Light feels like the next logical chapter in the journey.
Essentially A-Sun Amissa is the project of Richard Knox (Gizeh Records founder, The Eternal Return Arkestra curator and member of The Rustle of the Stars, Shield Patterns and Glissando) who has utilized a vast array of other musicians throughout the group’s previous records. This time around though it’s almost exclusively the work of Knox who continues to embed his typical DIY approach in writing, recording and mixing the entire album, alongside providing the artwork. On a sonic level For Burdened and Bright Light is the furthest Knox has gone in terms of production, depth and working with a more diverse palette of sounds. A-Sun Amissa’s distinct atmosphere remains intact however and the result is a more immersive, ambitious, adventurous record of conflicting emotions as the theme of the work tackles the contradictions of being human and explores the duality of light and dark, hope and despair. The two compositions found here are underpinned by vast ambient passages that are drenched in distortion and reverb, slowly unfurling before more industrial, kinetic sounds are introduced and heaving guitars come to the fore.
As ever, there’s a melancholic dissonance that resonates throughout, repetition is key and moments of dread are paired with shafts of light as these two monolithic pieces unravel themselves over the course of forty minutes. The clarinet work of Claire Knox features prominently and ranges from huge, droning, orchestral overtones in the opening section of Breath by Breath to a wild, free-jazz explosion in the middle of Seagraves. The addition of David Armes’ lap-steel for the first time brings a discordant and haunting element to the sound and builds on the recent live work this trio have done together. A-Sun Amissa has never been a project to repeat itself and with For Burdened and Bright Light they continue their long and patient journey into the abyss."
The stunning next instalment in PAN’s Entopia series is an audio document of Anne Imhof’s acclaimed ‘Faust’ performance at the German Pavilion of the 2017 Venice Biennale - awarded the Golden Lion for Best National Participation. It’s a dramatic, rich and complex album that within the first three pieces alone transports you into multiple dimensions - from the distorted electronic burst of 'Opening March’ - something like Autechre’s 'Second Bad Vilbel' slowly unravelling, to the funereal, Nico/Desertshore-like hypnosis of 'Medusas Song’ and the soaring, elevated Vangelis-like synthwall of 'Red Scape’. It’s remarkable stuff that encapsulates PAN’s rich and important curatorial role, navigating multiple cultural strands with results that somehow push the same buttons for us as Yves Tumor’s 'Serpent Music’, which was such a shock to the system when it was released a couple of years ago. Impossible to define, endlessly rewarding music.
Part documentation, part elaboration of the live event, the 83 minute album to ‘Faust’ blends candid sonic snapshots with original arrangements in a magisterial suite that presents a detached yet immersive concision of the several hour performance seen by thousands over the course of the Biennale. Aesthetically comparable to the gothic sensuality of Nico’s seminal ‘Desertshore’ as much as torchlit Bach fugues and the tormented instrumental soundscapes of Scott Walker or Björk, the soundtrack acts as a timelessly evocative counter to the mix of brutalist and banal, casual realism - conveyed via a mix of imagery, dance, Dobermans and performers loafing around, checking their phones, masturbating - intended to reflect contemporary German life in Imhof’s performance-based exhibition.
Rendered in 18 parts, the dramatic music for ‘Faust’ was conceived in a band-like process by Anne Imhof with her close collaborators Billy Bultheel, Eliza Douglas, and Franziska Aigner during the months running up to its premiere. It hinges around three pieces ‘Medusa’s Song’, ‘O.W.E.N.’ and ‘Queen Song’, sung in distinctive ominous baritone by Eliza Douglas and Franziska Aigner, whose plaintive delivery lends a crushing, classic levity to the recordings, while the parts in between are coloured and textured by a mix of fleeting, abstract electronics, baroque funereality and beta-blocking doom numbness realised by Billy Bultheel. Vacillating sounds captured during performance as well as studio creations, the results are in flux between polyphonic antiquity and polymetric complexity, providing a hauntingly anachronistic, airborne spirit that connects and locates the performers within the space’s starkly transparent, modernist dimensions of raised reinforced-glass floor and steel ledges attached to high walls.
Bought to life with mixing by Nanni Johannsson at Berlin’s famous Hansa Studios, and Ville Haimala (Amnesia Scanner), the soundtrack to ‘Faust’ is weft with a deep sense of sadness and contemplative torpor that speaks acutely to the work’s central themes of power, complicity, and vulnerability, and seamlessly absorbs the listener in its headspace for a remarkable, transformative hour.
One of the most inventive, well produced, original and hard-hitting records of the year. There are echoes of The Fall, Can and Sonic Youth but wrapped in something new. F#cking bravo.
“In many ways the idea behind the album was to make an audio representation of the house.” And this enigmatic manor becomes Girl Band’s sonic playground: to place yourself within a space and to work with that space harmoniously. Dan continues, “We recorded all the drums twice: once on the landing and once in the cellar [The Well of Souls] and during production we could actually cut in between both these sounds.” ‘The Talkies’ vacillates between being big, ambient and atmospheric to suddenly terribly intimate and up close.
‘The Talkies’ is living, breathing, in a continual state of metamorphosis. It encompasses everything there is to love about Girl Band while simultaneously causing an exciting level of discomfort. The moaning and sawing guitars, atonal blankets of sound, abstractive lyrical repetition, chugging snare and ascending / descending snakes and ladders noiserock guitar deliver something that is so distinctively Girl Band. ‘Eregenis’: Album closes to steady breathing. It drips with catharsis, slow and mindful and purging over the familiar key and darkly syncopated grooves which closes the door to Girl Band’s sonic universe and brings ‘The Talkies’ to its first and final silence."
19th Annual survey of Cologne's Kompakt powerhouse, featuring mostly exclusive tracks from Jörg Burger, Jürgen Paape, Reinhard Voigt, Rex The Dog, Justus Köhncke, Extrawelt, Gui Boratto and many more.
"You may ask: "In the day and age of streaming playlists and the omnipresence of freely available mixes, what's the use of a label compilation?" The answer is simple: labels still serve as a dearly needed filter mechanism in this tsunami of music we're facing every day.
Labels strive to establish trust between artists and listeners. They're like your favorite restaurant around the corner. On the spur of the moment, you might find more excitement in that hip place that just opened somewhere else. But when the novelty fades, you'll always return to your sanctuary. The safe place where they know your name and the last drink is on the house. KOMPAKT has become such a place for generations of fans and artists alike. And the TOTAL compilation series serves as its menu: always changing but instantly recognizable.
As per usual TOTAL is a collection of the past years biggest tunes, the creme de la creme of KOMPAKT's steady output of 12"s topped off with eight exclusive unreleased tracks that are also available on the 2LP vinyl edition of TOTAL 19. With JÜRGEN PAAPE, the notorious VOIGT brothers, THOMAS/MAYER and JÖRG BURGER - all founding fathers are on board. Legacy artists SASCHA FUNKE and JUSTUS KÖHNCKE make their long-awaited comebacks, the latter with a kinky Patrick Cowley homage called "Mindless Sex Track". Cologne young blood JULIAN STETTER nails the starry-eyed, romantic KOMPAKT signature sound with his remix for an up and coming local pop outfit called ALBERT LUXUS. Fellow Colonian JONATHAN KASPAR makes his label debut with his slinky track "Renard". DJ BALDUIN definitely is one to watch in 2020. His massive "E.W.B.A." transcends the friendly populism of an ancient Love Parade anthem while capturing the sincere spirit of today's electro revival. REX THE DOG's "Vortex" and TOM DEMAC's "Serenade" perfectly showcase why KOMPAKT is still one of the most played and charted labels in electronic music today. In a scene that is more fragmented than ever these two producers delivered true consensus hits that are cherished on all sizes and shapes of floors beyond genre boundaries.
The second half completely belongs to a whole new breed from our beloved SPEICHER series such as ANNA, YOTAM AVNI, EXTRAWELT, RAXON, BLACKRACHAS, JOHN MONKMAN and LA FLEUR alongside our full time members PATRICE BÄUMEL, KÖLSCH and GUI BORATTO. The energy levels are way up and the mission reads clearly: We'll never stop dancing this way." MICHAEL MAYER
A big summer anthem for antisocial types, Hecker’s ‘Inspection II’ probes the listener’s perceptions of sonic materiality and quantum dynamics in his drily humorous and head-bonking fashion that we’ve come to fear and adore.
“Florian Hecker's latest CD release continues his work with computational techniques for analysis and resynthesis. In Inspection II we hear the progressive reconstruction of original source material using algorithms based upon human hearing and designed to capture timbral characteristics of sound.
As the source is iteratively extracted from featureless noise, a complex ongoing dialogue commences between formal model and empirical experience of sound. Like Charon, the boatman who ferries souls of the dead across the styx, Inspection II crosses perpetually from one bank to the other: from the formal anticipations of analysis to the unexpected artefacts of synthesis.
In Robin Mackay's libretto, recited by a synthetic voice, this inspective dialogue is transferred to the introspective psychoanalytic situation, where the continual re-narration of the self creates further disturbances and transformations—to attain a definitive image of oneself would be to face one's own death. As discussed in Amy Ireland's essay Beside a Cold Statue commissioned for the CD sleevenotes, this process, whose symptomatology is recognisably that of masochism, sees the coldness of the formal model subverted as Hecker's continual resynthesis delivers up a series of harsh, tantalising, and bewildering textures and timbres: 'the resynthesized sound is more intractable, more disorienting, and more empirically obscene—a contingency that always disrupts the plan […] synthetic progeny, nourished on nothing but ice and noise…'.
"Inspection II" is a very particular composition which deserves a privileged position not only in relation to attempts to exhaust and remove the unknown borders of the sonic universe, but also among the various endeavours of Expanded Psychoanalysis. By transcending the unique authority of Freudian discourse, by alienating and synthesizing the dialogue of analyst and analysand, by penetrating the realm of that babble that is the obvious origin of human language and communication, designated by Jacques Lacan as lalangue, "Inspection II" discloses a space beyond representation, and hence beyond sense, intelligibility and significance.
In order to imagine the inconceivable and unattainable unconscious of an apparently amorphous real that lies outside the structured network of reality with its mediating instances of the imaginary and symbolic orders, Florian Hecker's project suggests an all-pervading realm of sounds and noises considered as one of the purest utterances of existence. Closing the screen of the cerebral computer, psychoanalysis emerges as the hard disk's synaptic music, echoing the big bang of our psychic genesis. — August Ruhs (Psychiatrist, Psychoanalyst, University of Vienna)
Florian Hecker is an artist who works with synthetic sound, the listening process and the audience's auditory experience, traversing performance, installation, and publications. Since 1996 he has exhibited and performed internationally.
Amy Ireland is a writer and theorist based in Sydney, Australia. She teaches philosophy in the Writers Program at NIDA, is co-convenor of the philosophy and aesthetics research group Aesthetics After Finitude, and a component of the technomaterialist, transfeminist collective, Laboria Cuboniks."
In his first album for Village Green, Max de Wardener toys with the ancient and the modern, teasing dreamlike waves and ethereal tonalities from early-to-mid-century instruments such as the Ondes Martenot, Cristal Baschet, Buchla Music Easel and Oberheim OB6.
"With a list of collaborators in the album’s credits including none other than prodigious jazz drummer Moses Boyd, it’s an inspired fantasy opus in which de Wardener melds by turns these resonant juxtapositions. Time travel has rarely sounded so compelling. Fans of early synthesis, kosmische and ambient sounds will find much to enjoy here."
On his stellar debut LP for Mute, NIN keyboardist and formidable solo artist, Alessandro Cortini taps into a poignantly melodic yet ascetic vein of his prized, gauzy style. 'Volume Massimo,' combines his fondness for melody with the rigour of experimental practice that follows on from 2017's universally acclaimed album ‘Avanti. 8 tracks of deftly arranged synthesizers saturated with sonic artefacts and luscious pop sensibilities.
Surely well known to you lot for his trio of LPs with Important and a duo for Hospital Productions between 2013-2015, ‘Volume Massimo’ marks a more pointed, melodic evolution of Cortini’s sound without losing sight of what made his solo work so gripping in the first place. It’s also worth noting the striking resonance of this new record with his work in NIN, as the relatively tighter, pop-wise arrangements feel to condense the wider arcs of his previous records into more concise structures that strongly recall the band’s harmonic aura, while the addition of textured guitars and pulsing undertow make it all sound a bit like NIN wrung thru a psych folk filter and produced by Pye Corner Audio.
Leading on two years from Cortini’s ‘Avanti’ LP and following a pair of 2018 collaborations with Lawrence English and Merzbow, he strips it all down to fundamentals on ‘Volume Massimo’ with a typically precise approach to the qualities of tone and texture in his music. In eight parts he coaxes his classic analogue synths and Fender and Ibanez guitars to copulate in loving, writhing formations of rhythmelodic cadence where melody and rhythm are inseparable, equally balanced sides of the same equation.
The LP’s first side lures us into this intoxicatingly dense yet minimalist aesthetic with the quietly engrossing synth chatter of ‘Amore Amato’ , which builds to a heart-swelling peak before calving off into the furtive cinematics of ‘Let Go’ and a massive highlight in the bittersweet romance of ‘Batticuore’ at the album’s core. That song feels like watershed for the rest of the LP, as ‘Momenti’ stealthily brings the underlying, lysergic folksiness to the fore and in a jangling coda, while ‘La Storia’ pushes that rustic ruggedness farther into a sort of kosmiche wilderness, and, ultimately, to crawl thru the cave systems of ‘Sabbia’ and the burned out sleep tone of ‘Dormi.’
Strong new album from Josh Eustis’ Telefon Tel Aviv, ten years on from ‘Immolate Yourself’ with a heart-wrung episode injecting introspective synth pop and ambient post-rock soul into keening, minimalist frameworks patently nodding to Mark Fell, Gábor Lázár and Vladislav Delay, and warmly comparable with Thom Yorke’s solo work.
"The return of storied Southern Gothic electronic entity Telefon Tel Aviv is as unexpected as it is impressive. Their three influential albums of the 2000’s—Fahrenheit Fair Enough, Map Of What Is Effortless, and Immolate Yourself—charted an increasingly turbulent and textured vision of post-IDM synthetic songcraft, until the sudden passing of founding member Charlie Cooper in 2009 ceased the project, presumably forever.
During the decade since, co-founder Josh Eustis has performed with, produced, mixed, and mastered countless artists, from high-profile institutions (Nine Inch Nails, Puscifer, Apparat) to underground fixtures (Belong, Vatican Shadow, Drab Majesty, Tropic Of Cancer), in addition to his own solo and collaborative work in Sons Of Magdalene and Second Woman. But years of reflection and processing gradually seeded in him a desire to revive TTA and venture a fourth full-length, in the spirit of what they started: Dreams Are Not Enough.
From the shuddering software oscillations of the opening piece, “I dream of it often,” the classic Telefon palette of hyper-modern sound design and smoky nocturnal emotion feels vividly revitalized. The songs stand apart but belong together, threading a veiled narrative of loss, anger, and age—the crumbling of constancies, shifting sands slipping through the hourglass.
The album’s fragmented track titles relate a recurring dream that’s haunted Eustis since childhood, based on a murky incident during a family vacation to a remote Alabama coastline when he was eight. In the dream he swims alone through the waves past the sandbar to where the ocean shelf abruptly drops away into a gradient of infinite darkness; awed, he peers into the depths and sees himself down at the bottom, mouth open and eyes blank, standing motionless like a corpse.
An undercurrent of eerie melancholy flows through the album, manifested in shivering widescreen meditations, depressive twilit modern pop, and devotional industrial abstractions. Melodies emerge and evaporate; rhythms lock in step then fracture and fade; centers cannot hold. “A younger version of myself” deftly encapsulates the unique poignancy and shadowplay of this TTA iteration, shuffling on a hypnotic rhythm with the swing of backwards looping tape as Eustis croons a lost, liminal lament about lost time. “Standing at the bottom of the ocean” sinks even more minimal, subliminal electricity crossfading into skeletal soul built from ghostly bass, smeared chords, and naked voice, before ebbing away in a cyber-screwed downtempo outro.
Eustis speaks of wanting Dreams Are Not Enough to evoke a sense of emptiness, of cutting unnecessary elements from each mix, to convey this as a solitary work—framing an absence. A document as much of what’s not there as what remains."
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.
Nahawa Doumbia is one of Mali's defining vocalists of the last four decades. Her work journeys through progressive stages of musical evolution and sonic vogues, making it hard to summarize or even comprehend. She's played a part in popular music since the late '70s, as her version of Wassoulou music developed from vocals-and-guitar duo into full-scale touring bands packing a bombastic, electrified punch.
"As Doumbia puts it, "My music has changed multiple times to this day…The more I progressed in my musical career, the more instruments I have had accompany my songs." Awesome Tapes From Africa will release Doumbia's debut recording La Grande Cantatrice Malienne Vol 1 this August, building on the success of the label's first-ever reissue back in 2011, Doumbia's La Grande Cantatrice Malienne Vol 3. This seminal classic, which is still sought-after in Mali today, will finally be available for the first time internationally with remastered audio on LP, CD, Tape and Digital formats. The recording looks back to the beginning of Doumbia's long career, when she was performing in a simple voice and acoustic guitar format. This was before she added bass and drums, and finally the electric guitar and synths for which she became known more recently. Released in 1981 by the excellent Côte d’Ivoire-based AS Records, the singer was barely 20 years old when it was recorded.
She was accompanied by her future husband N'Gou Bagayoko on acoustic guitar, whose style echoes the nimble runs of traditional kamele n'goni players. The stark simplicity of this highly intimate recording-the audible room acoustics, the occasionally in-the-red vocals-do not obscure the mature strength of her voice. On Vol 1 Doumbia performs her songs with the tenacity and hunger of a young artist on the cusp."When I think about it, first, I am reminded of how long ago it was. It’s one of the albums that I love most because it reminds me of my youth. I was so young and my voice was light and joyful. I still listen to some of those songs today. I am really proud of that first album because that’s where it all began.
It shows me how far I’ve come in my personal and artistic life; it gives me the courage I need to keep going forward, and makes me appreciate all the years of dedication and hard work I put into my musical career."These early songs are rhythmically built around Bagayoko's sensitive guitar, as his fingers brush the fretboard and gently outline the melodies. Although this record predates the singer’s use of percussion, the driving skeletal didadi rhythm is apparent in the songs. Later albums like Vol 3 further prioritize her hometown didadi beat and the result made her famous."
The Daydream Library Series of records and tapes is the independent house label of Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth) and Eva Prinz's publishing imprint Ecstatic Peace Library. The Daydream Series was established in 2018 to provide a label for emerging musicians, both local and international.
"The Daydream Library Series release Angeltalk by Katherina Bornefeld, best known as "Kat", the drummer of Holland's long-running and legendary anarcho-punk experimental noise n' rhythm rockers The Ex. Unbeknownst to most, Kat is a practicing sound healer of note and this album is a sonic meditation of spirit music where the mind and body embrace into sentient peace. A beautiful wholly other experience of listening where the essence of vibratory love comes to play.
"Releasing Katherina Bornefeld's debut recording Angeltalk is a dream come true for Eva and I at Daydream Library. As huge fans of Kat's band The Ex we were enchanted by the fact that she herself is a practicing sound healer. We asked her to present a recording of her work and she delivered a gorgeous and deep spirit musical meditation CD. Listen, soar, sleep, dream, awake into positive vibrations." --Thurston Moore
Whirling microtonal synth dervishes, electro-chaabi-compatible rhythms, and cool breeze vibes from hot and dusty Mauritania, north west Africa - a must check for fans of Luka Productions or Islam Chipsy!
“Ahmedou Ahmed Lowla plays instrumental electronic keyboard in a style known in Mauritania as WZN, or in Arabic simply “music.” Born into a musical family tradition (his father is a renowned tidnit player from Traza), today Ahmedou Ahmed Lowla is one of Mauritania’s most premiere keyboard performers. Soundtracking lavish weddings in the countries capital, Ahmedou has earned a reputation for his evocative theatrics, accentuating notes with by playing with his elbows, or tapping the keyboard with his head.
Terrouzi presents a future vision of Mauritania WZN. Indulging the digital keyboard for all its plastic sounds, accompanied with the thump and clash of programmed electronic drums, Ahmedou’s style is difficult to place. Ancient classics are transformed into baroque freakouts, with a flurry of shredding over microtonal pitch bending notes in the signature WZN style. Not content to rest solely in tradition, Ahmedou leans heavily into outernational pop music, creating anachronistic pieces that veer from 90s slow jam R&B, to bass heavy boom bap and minimal trap. A standout entry in synth music from the Sahara.”
Afrodeutsche provides Skam’s best release this decade with Break Before Make; the British-born Ghanaian/Russian/German artist’s début album of Detroit-inspired hardware jams
For the better part of two decades in Manchester, Henrietta Rolla-Smith a.k.a. Afrodeutsche has been a fixture in the city’s underground currents, but this is the first time she’s properly revealed her solo music, making for a mesmerising addition to the legacy of Manchester’s most notorious electronic music label.
Clearly nodding to Detroit’s seminal electro-techno sound, both implied in her pseudonym’s reference to UR’s Afrogermanic; and explicitly in her moody, raw, machine-made style: Afrodeutsche exerts a a deadly and unique spin on classic styled with an effortlessness that’s not common to Skam’s typical taste for frenetic arrangements. However, on the other hand, the inherent hip hop leanings of her slower grooves, and a mutual passion for bittersweet electronics is patently self-evident across the 14 tracks of Break Before Make.
As with her ace live shows, the tracks are all built from a combination of improvisation and preparation, the result of so many years of honing her hardware intuition so she can fluidly speak and emote thru the keys and wires. In that sense, each cut unfolds with an off-the-dome linearity, with reticulated rhythms sidewinding under chromatic lixx that variously keen, layer and chatter with a sci-fi cinematic sort of encrypted abstract narration.
Essentially, it’s an unmissable album for anyone who’s been entranced by the myriad projects of Gerald Donald a.k.a. Heinrich Mueller, or anyone who enjoys interpreting machine music with proper funk and dark, yet playful soul.
Montreal’s pivotal motorik/gallic rock unit rouse from 15 year hiatus with a wonderful charge of spiralling, noisily electronic swells in their 4th album for Constellation.
Revolving core Constellation players including Roger Tellier-Craig and Jean-Sébastien Truchy of Set Fire To Flames, the original Fly Pan Am squad were instrumental in establishing the label’s much-loved, explorative post-rock style between 1998-2005 alongside key acts such as Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Many years on from that phase, the band now find new energy in their recombination of well trodden tropes, using elements of musique concrète and minimalism to frack and prize open new angles on the krautrock and ‘60s french pop styles that richly influence their sound.
“C'est ça is a brilliant return to form for Fly Pan Am – an album of renewed vitality and experimentation where rock structures underpinned by J.S. Truchy’s trademark rapid-fire bass and Félix Morel’s disciplined, ascetic drumming are submerged beneath waves of processed guitar by Roger Tellier-Craig and Jonathan Parant, with fluorescent noise treatments and sonic vandalisms wrought by all four. “Distance Dealer”, “Each Ether” and “Interface Your Shattered Dreams” nod to important influences like MBV and Hüsker Dü, while collapsing into/out of themselves in various ways. “One Hit Wonder”, “Bleeding Decay” and “Discreet Channeling” vault some of Fly Pan Am’s earliest reference points into the present: namely, the intrepid proto-Kosmiche of This Heat and Can, and later style-adjacent torchbearers like Boredoms, Flying Saucer Attack and Trans Am.
But Fly Pan Am have always and reliably been much more than the sum of their influences and of their own constituent parts. C’est ca is terrific slab of restless, conceptual, psych-cosmic noise rock that could come from no other band, forged by four musicians with long histories both together and apart. Following years of sonic exploration in all sorts of other projects and guises, whether in rock/punk/pop groups like Pas Chic Chic, Feu Thérèse, Avec Le Soleil Sortant De Sa Bouche and Panopticon Eyelids (to name just a few) or through a wide range of experimental electronic and audio-art projects – including Roger Tellier Craig and J.S. Truchy each with solo releases on Root Strata, and Truchy having run the Los Discos Enfantasmes label for several years – Fly Pan Am have reconvened with all four original members and made a new record sparkling with the creative buzz of lifelong artistic intensity, dialogue and friendship.”
‘Studio One DJ Party’ is the latest installation from the mighty Studio One Records catalogue. A wicked new collection of the finest DJs and toasters including Prince Jazzbo, Dillinger, Dennis Alcapone, Michigan & Smiley and Lone Ranger, as well as a host of lesser known artists and rare cuts from Studio One.
"From the earliest days when Clement ‘Sir Coxsone’ Dodd ran his Downbeat soundsystem up and down the length of Jamaica, DJs and toasters such as King Stitt and Count Machukie were always a part of the sound of Studio One, introducing new records and exciting audiences with catchphrase lines such as: “No matter what the people say these sounds lead the way / It’s the order of the day from your boss deejay” (King Stitt). So when DJ emerged as a distinct reggae style at the start of the 1970s, Studio One were, as always, way ahead of their competitors.
Legendary artists of the calibre of Dillinger, Dennis Alcapone and Prince Jazzbo all queued up to record for the equally legendary label. At the end of the 1970s, as dancehall exploded onto the island, Clement Dodd was once again able to maintain Studio One’s position on the throne as the number one sound in the Jamaica, fighting off upstart competitors such as Channel One and Joe Gibbs who tried to replicate Studio One’s unique sound. During this period Clement Dodd released a series of stunning dancehall releases from young DJ/dancehall artists at the label including Lone Ranger and Michigan & Smiley.
This selection spans the early 70s up until the mid-1980s, from the earliest days of deejay toasting right up until digital dancehall, ground-breaking tracks over the finest selection of the ultimate Studio One rhythms and tracks. Studio One DJ Party includes specially commissioned sleevenotes by Chris Lane, founder of the legendary British reggae label Fashion Records, as well as fantastic original artwork commissioned by the illustrator Ski Williams."
Curveball debut from North London’s Loraine James on Hyperdub, injecting garage soul and playfullness into late ‘90s/early ‘00s style glitch electronica. Imagine Klein jamming with SND and Laurel Halo.
“Raised in the multicultural and mind-broadening London borough of Enfield, Loraine James grew up hearing everything from steel pan music to Metallica, from jazz and electronica to drill and grime, and the results of this exposure can be heard on ‘For You And I’. In part the album explores the complexities of being in a queer relationship in London - “I’m in love and wanted to share that in some way … to make songs that reflect layers of my relationship.” – and as a whole ‘For You and I’ is rhythmically free flowing and sprawling, with melodies that evolve into rippling keys, feeling like a live jam session with a jazz mentality, contrasting the delicate and abrasive.
Opener ‘Glitch Bitch’ is a warm ear-worm, brandishing swirling textures with undulating keys and compressed percussion, with an introspective theme revisited soon after on third track ‘So Scared’, whose glitched percussion and syncopated dub bassline build to a frantic meltdown melody. On ‘London Ting // Dark As Fuck’, inspired by Dizzee Rascals's ‘Boy In Da Corner', James explores the darker side of her production with her frequent collaborator Le3 BLACK laying verses over the skeletal track. ‘Hand Drops’ is an instrumental, about public displays of affection in a queer relationship. ‘Sensual’ reflects on intimacy with vocals by UK singer Theo, who's lyrics capture love and gentleness over a soft, minimal production of ethereal keys and scattered glitches. The albums’ title track is also the most colourful, it’s ecstatic and effusive chaos driven by fervent synths expressing elation and the joyful side of her relationship, while ‘My Future’ is a more reflective moment, where warping synths wash in and out with compressed kicks, as the artist considers the dangers that may come with her relationship : “I wanna tie the knot / But the rope is dangerous”. ‘For You And I’ is a deeply intimate and personal offering, expressing happiness, anxiety, joy, sensuality and fear through a vivid sound palette and an experimental sense of rhythm.”
A collection of three extended compositions by Thurston Moore recorded between 2018-19. This collection represents a period of reflection on spiritual matters, collective musical friendships, and a time and space universally, without words or languages to distract from meditation.
"Alice Moki Jayne" is a new composition from noise guitar explorations honoring Alice Coltrane, Moki Cherry, and Jayne Cortez. These female partners of jazz musicians brought spirituality into the lives and music that has most inspired Thurston Moore. Recorded in Brussels in 2019; Personnel: Thurston Moore, James Sedwards, Jen Chochinov - 12-string electric guitar army; Deb Googe - Baritone bass, truth, and soul; Jem Doulton - Magick drums; Jon Leidecker - Electronic Wobbly love; Christophe Albertijn - Engineer. "8 Spring Street" is a personal homage to Glenn Branca, the title an address is in New York City, the apartment where Thurston first visited his mentor to rehearse. Recorded in London, UK in 2019; Personnel: Thurston Moore - Electric guitar; Syd Kemp - Engineer. "Galaxies" is an orchestral piece of music, with Moore as conductor and composer. Twelve guitarists are arranged as if one instrument, exploring the vast emotional depths present in twelve strings.
Taking inspiration from a poem by Sun Ra, "Galaxies" ponders our place in the universe as we stare into imagery offered by satellites via space agencies. Recorded in London, UK in 2018; Personnel: Thurston Moore, David Toop, Susan Stenger, James Sedwards, Deb Googe, Alex Ward, Jen Chochinov, Jonah Falco, Rachel Aggs, Joseph Coward, Eugene Coyne, James McCartney - Guitar Army; Beetmol Troy and Matt Tag - Guitar technicians."
Altid Sammen (meaning “always together”) is deep and sonorous, steeped in the sonic experimentation that has long been their trademark since Tripper, the Danes’ 2004 debut. As bold and ambitious in scope as their last collection of songs, Piramida, Casper Clausen (vocals), Mads Brauer (synths, electronics) and Rasmus Stolberg (bass) have taken another creative U-turn, this time fusing baroque instrumentation with their signature expansive sound.
"Efterklang’s last release, Piramida, centred around a ghost town in the Arctic, was a grand and all-encompassing project that spawned a movie, live album and a series of unforgettable shows (including a live debut at the Sydney Opera House). Their final performance in Sønderborg – the southern Danish town where the band grew up – marked a closing of a chapter, for Piramida and for Efterklang.
“We needed a break from the album and touring routine, and we needed a break from Efterklang,” says Clausen. “After the Sønderborg show, things felt very exciting – and a bit scary too. We could think freely, and move in new directions again, just focusing on the things that excited the 3 of us.” That break saw the trio explore projects outside of the group’s confines. Together they co-wrote and performed an opera with friend and composer Karsten Fundal (LEAVES, The Colour Of Falling) as part of the Copenhagen Opera Festival. Meanwhile, Clausen, Brauer and Stolberg reunited with Efterklang’s touring drummer Tatu Rönkkö for a new band, Liima. In sharp contrast to Efterklang, they scaled down the music process, creating songs in a day, and released two records of icy, grand electronic pop, ii (2016) and 1982 (2017).
What lured them back as Efterklang was another off-kilter collaboration, this time with B.O.X, a Belgian ensemble founded by lute player Pieter Theuns that performs new music with baroque orchestration. Initially invited by Theuns to compose music for a joint performance, the experience inspired and invigorated the trio to return to the studio for a new Efterklang album proper. For perhaps the first time in the band’s history, they took a less-is-more approach to Altid Sammen, engaging on a more primal and emotional level. The album also sees the trio break from tradition with Clausen singing in his mother tongue some of his most personal lyrics thus far.
“Altid Sammen’s songs are about belief and togetherness,” Clausen says. “Not in a religious way – none of us are believers of a defined religion. The words are searching for meaning in intimate relationships, in nature, in death and eternity. The bonds we create; to gather, hold hands, sing or share a moment together. We’re all connected, across nations, age, sex and gender. We come together with all of our backgrounds, and we move apart in all sorts of directions, always together.”
Harpist Hélène Breschand performs two challenging works by Eliane Radigue and Kasper T. Toeplitz with results intended for deep listening.
The first sees Hélène perform ‘Occam Ocean XVI’ for acoustic harp, drawing out a rich array of sonorities from a single pitch across its 27 minute duration. The first 9 minutes are intensely meditative, with the effect of drawing our eyelids to half mast in the manner of best Eliane Radigue music, before that hypnagogic traction gives way to flurries of pitter-patter strings for the mid-section, only to return to the pharmaceutically effective microtonal drones in the final half.
In a smart contrast, Hélène’s take on ‘Convergence, Saturation & Dissolution’ by Kaspar T. Toeplitz is performed on electric harp and live-electronics. Where the former piece is dense but minimal, this piece feels diffuse and vast, emerging from a minute of peripheral, near infrasonic rumbles and sferic timbres to a geologically slow-moving 26 minutes of elliptical oscillators to a coruscating, distorted peak and hellish noise finale.
Iconic avant-rockers Haino, Ambarchi and O’Rourke churn up a magnificent 50th release on Black Truffle sporting recordings of the trio in ruinous and spellbinding action at Tokyo’s now-defunct SuperDeluxe in November 2015
The 9th release by Black Truffle’s core ensemble spits fire and psychedelic balm in a handful of durational pieces running up to 19 minutes long, ‘cuz, as we all know by now; they’re no 3 minute type of guys. Leading down the rabbit hole from ‘This Dazzling, Genuine “Difference” Now Where Shall It Go?’ , their incendiary group intuition blazes a tortuous route between flaying, free metallurgy, astrally inclined hymns and devil’s-ass-kissing swagger in a way that makes most others look like generic plods.
“…the record's opening piece drops us immediately into the maelstrom, abruptly cutting into an extended episode of Ambarchi's pummeling drums, O'Rourke's fuzzed-out six-string bass, and Haino's roaring guitar and electronics. Eventually settling into a hypnotic bass and drum groove over which Haino unleashes some almost Ray Russell-eque skittering atonal screech, these opening 13 minutes act as a potent reminder of the trio's power. Alongside showcasing the steady development of a unique language for the guitar-bass-drums power trio, the group's succession of releases over the last decade has demonstrated a constant experimentation with new instruments, which continues here with O'Rourke use of Hammond organ (played at the same time as his roaming, sometimes knotty basslines). On the album's second piece, the organ plays a key role, furnishing a harmonically rich shimmer over O'Rourke's angular six-string bass chords,
Haino's distant, chirping electronics and Ambarchi's crisp cymbal work; arriving somewhere halfway between Albert Marcoeur and Terje Rypdal, this piece is undoubtedly a highlight in the trio's catalog so far. The second and third sides are slow-burning, multi-part epics that range from spacious reflection to furious tumult. Where the trio's previous double-LP set -- This Dazzling, Genuine "Difference" Now Where Shall It Go? (BT 030LP, 2017) -- was primarily instrumental in focus, here you find Haino's voice taking the spotlight on the expansive third side, intoning, wailing. and exhorting in Japanese and English over a backdrop that moves from hushed bass and organ atmospherics to rolling toms and cymbal crashes before arriving at an ecstatic finale of searing guitar, tumbling drums and reverb-saturated bass. The fourth side returns to the hypnotic grooves of the opening piece, fixing on a relentless riff and riding it into oblivion under Haino's roaming psychedelic soloing and jagged chordal slashes.”