"Both pieces are intended to aid the listener in times of spiritual change, but are just fine for 'everyday' use as well. Highly recommended." Charles S. Russell, Ear Magazine"
"This LP features two long sides of infinite depth and sensitivity. Oliveros performs these pieces using a Just Intonation accordion and her Expanded Instrument System in order to bend both time and pitch.
Pauline Oliveros, composer, performer and humanitarian is an important pioneer in American Music. Acclaimed internationally, for four decades she has explored sound - forging new ground for herself and others. Through improvisation, electronic music, ritual, teaching and meditation she has created a body of work with such breadth of vision that it profoundly effects those who experience it, and eludes many who try to write about it. Oliveros has been honored with awards, grants and concerts internationally. Whether performing at the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., in an underground cavern, or in the studios of West German Radio, Oliveros' commitment to interaction with the moment is unchanged. She can make the sound of a sweeping siren into another instrument of the ensemble."
AYA rinses out garage, grime, jungle, rap and mutant IDM on a killer debut album of head-spinning, freehand tekkers, plus an ace guest spot by MC/producer Iceboy Violet. Big RIYL Arca, Autechre, Klein, Mykki Blanco
Landing five years since she first snagged attention as Loft, it’s been a real pleasure to witness AYA really come into her own via distinctive releases with Wisdom Teeth and Tri Angle, a.o., not to mention 2020’s A2A hook-up with Air Max ’97, and blazing remixes for Zuli, Xin and Hodge. With ‘im hole’ she distills and diffuses her ideas at their most singular and elusive, brilliantly transcending reference points in a dynamic definition of style that shreds convention and leaves room for interpretation.
Playing deep into Hyperdub’s fundamentally futurist aesthetics, the 11 tracks pack a dizzying amount of pointillist detail per inch, but aways at the service of a bigger picture and an emotive/narrative arc that dances in the integers many others skip over. Fractal not fractional, Aya's designs spiral and splinter to convey a flux of queered, rapturous and melancholic feels with a naturally avant leaning and playfulness, effectively enacting a sort of hyper noumenal playground for her animated designs to come alive.
It all feels like she's better consolidated her acclaimed live act persona - a sort of Northern cabaret DJ schtick - with ever advancing studio practice; giving voice to her truest self, albeit diffracted thru myriad plugins. It’s a richly strange and satisfying experience to follow from the elision of ponderous computer music and stream-of-conscious lyrics on ‘somewhere between the 8th and 9th floor’ to the dreamlike warp of ‘backsliding,’ with a massive highlight in the drill vapours of ‘Emley lights us moor’ starring a typically captivating turn by Manc peer Iceboy Violet, and killer updates of Yorkshire bleep ’n bass torque in ‘dis yacky’, and Rian Treanor-esque metric experimentalism in the puckered nerviness of ‘the only solution i have found is to simply jump higher.’
‘im hole’ is a real marvel for the times; brimming with daring positivity, a curious emotional intelligence, and artistic spirit that’s hard to ignore and may even inspire others to commit so fully to their own style.
Introspective techno nuance from producer and video game developer Zvarra on Shifted’s Avian
Working in similar textured environments to label boss Shifted, Zvarra exerts a personalised slant on the style with ‘Bizzaroland’, their debut album after a couple of self-released singles on Rare Type. No mistaking, it’s one for the niche techno crowd who appreciate the nuance of dynamic over rote formula, primed with iridescent texture and hypnotic repetition that may not come across so well in the rave, but will be recognised for its uniqueness by keener listeners.
Rhythmic structures are exceedingly spare, with the only explicit nods to the ‘floor found in the effortlessly cantering, ghostly pulse of ‘Society’, lurking deep below the surface of ‘Figurine’, and kneaded into the offset bass drum lope of ‘Inside’, while ‘Oracle’ resembles the sound of the workshop after the humans are gone. The album is better considered on its hypnotic feel for space, conjuring immersive environments for the hard-to-please techno fiends between the gauzy organ meditation ‘Bizzorland’, the Kevin Drumm-like sound of metal on metal drown in ‘Prohibited’, and gloaming melancholy of ‘Tired Beetle’, which all perhaps best reflect Zvarra’s background in video game development.
Whew! Montreal’s Light Conductor brings the epic space energy on a pulsating and then sublime 2nd album for Constellation, replete with all that label’s widescreen connotations
Picking up where the pre-pandemic vehicle ‘Sequence One’ left off in 2019, the 2nd mission manned by Stephen Ramsay and Jace Lasek aka Light Conductor continues their trajectory into unfettered psych-kraut-disco-rock zones and beyond into shoegazing synth ambience across a 4-part, 45 journey sure to get the longhairs bristling and reaching for their silver capes.
It’s really all about the opening number here, with ‘Splitting Light’ taking all the time it needs to warm the synth engines and ascend to orbit-breaking velocity, when outta fucking nowhere a holographic Jimmy Somerville bursts into full song, appearing to be overseen by 10CC and Sonic Boom at the mixing desk in a outrageous choral escalation for the ages. Unfortunately it’s a bit of sore thumb, as the rest of the EP never quite achieves those giddy heights again, preferring to terraform vast scenes of textured, off-world ambient and more cliched space music, but it’s all gravy after that flash opener.
Curiously fractal IDM electronics from Italy’s Wesqk Coast, riddled with melody and studded with left of centre club numbers such as the mutant Finn-like soul of ‘Advice’ and the fluttering pirouettes of ‘Cingiz’
“Created through large interactions between heavily processed acoustic gear and electronic devices, Clava (Italian for club, mallet) delivers a range of emotions simultaneously tender and villainous.
Fragmented vocals, pointillist hints, abstract strumming, cascading percussion and pop mutations unfold within this eight tracker conceived as a personal take on alienation and vulnerability.
Wesqk ́s isolationist studio sessions escalated into a fiercely primal approach, leading the producer to the concept of an archaeofuturistic resistance in which subversion, provocation and irony function as tools for pricking small but palpable pinholes into the bias of rules, signs and symbols of musical genre so as to set up a possible—inclusive; yet un-named—sonic space.
Based on mental techniques, such as lucid dreams, semiotic squares, zen practices, sound manipulation, and a surgical use of language, the process of creation was freestyle, led by meditation and music therapy.
“...from a position of powerlessness, it is through the enforcement of mind as a clava that archaeofuture resistance is supposed to function as a practice against convenction and domestication... a low intensity exorcism for millenary hauntings”
Classically trained British producer Dear Laika follows a slew of self-released albums and EPs with this ambitious debut for NNA Tapes. A fusion of operatic vocals, fractured electronics and technically gifted instrumental virtuosity, it's unique stuff that conjures images of frozen and druidic times. Think Kate Bush or Tori Amos with an Icelandic choir and Ben Frost on electronics...
'Pluperfect Mind' reaches for the heavens and when it works, fully shows off the massive musical talents of Dear Laika. Her ability to conquer complicated vocal arrangements, textured passages of experimental electronics and epic instrumental sections with similar skill is quite breathtaking. 'Guinefort's Grave' is poppy and brave, shifting thru Joanna Newsom-esque folk changes but with a snowy Celtic richness that's backed up with assured piano, emotive strings and crunchy, overdriven percussion.
Lead single 'Phlebotomy' meanwhile is more ghostly, sounding like sacred music being piped thru a low bandwidth YouTube connection before Dear Laika's soaring voice takes us to the heavens. The title track might be the album's most successful fusion, as mossy Enya-esque new age synths breathe life through looping vocals before being swallowed into dark ambience.
Bad Company’s Bad Taste label turn out a trio of nastily distorted neuro-funk rollers from Toronto’s NC-17
‘Bunged Up’ deploys bitter neuro-gunk leads on cloven-hoofed steppers drums, while ‘Enter The Void’ squeezes out head-ringing levels of midrange gnarl that will sound exceedingly fucked in the rave when you’re playing in the red and everyone’s asking it to go louder. Sound “engineers” your time!
Chicago three-piece Bitchin Bajas dust of their synthesizer collection to reinterpret some of Sun Ra's most memorable tunes, from 'Space is the Place' to Lanquidity'. If you've ever wanted to hear how Sun Ra might sound as severely faded psychedelic exotica - your time.
Taking influence from Wendy Carlos's literally groundbreaking 'Switched On Bach', Cooper Crain, Rob Frye and Daniel Quinlivan transform a grip of Sun Ra catalog faves into chirpy synth-rich lounge music that sounds like Plone, The Advisory Circle or Pye Corner Audio.
So 'Space is the Place' becomes a heaving chime of rubbery Moog bass, bright, resonant chords and cycling Popol Vuh rhythms. It's music that hangs in the atmosphere like blunt smoke, with a purplish-orange hue burning around the edges. 'Outer Spaceways Incorporated' introduces talkbox vocals and wiry Dr. Who synths that could have been snatched from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, while 'Lanquidity' has been transformed into an electro-lounge groover.
It would be impossible to top the originals, Bitchin Bajas don't even try - they've instead assembled a complete oddity that pays tribute to Sun Ra by being as off the wall as possible.
Visual artist Gangster Doodles compiles a 28-track 2nd volume of low slung rap, G-funk, drill and vibes by everyone from Dam Funk to Knxledge, The Gaslamp Killer and stacks of young guns
“If it aint broke and all that – this second volume follows the first with an all-star line-up which features everyone from hotly-tipped emerging Producers and MCs like Ovrkast, Shungu, Woodie Smalls, Big Baby Scumbag next to underground perennials like Teebs, Ohbliv and Knxwlege all the way up to top flight producer Dam Funk and established vets like M.E.D, Black Milk, Lil B and Open Mike Eagle.
This second collaboration between All City Records and Gangster Doodles is a jam-packed sonic adventure featuring 28 killer tracks from some of the finest creators out there.
“Gangster Music Vol.2 is a living/breathing tracklist of all the music and artists I've been obsessively listening to over the past couple of years(and beyond). Every artist that's on Vol.2 is a creative force pushing boundaries and trailblazing new paths to greatness.”
An exhausting compiling process via emails, DMs, texts and a myriad of other electronic form of badgering and prodding, the last few years have been busy for Marlon "Gangster Doodles" Sassy. In addition to this he released his acclaimed Gangster Doodles (The Book) alongside an ever-expanding array of prints, original works, apparel and exhibitions across the globe. Topping that off with animation projects, a graphic novel in the works and now, with this his second curated LP titled " Gang$ter Music Vol 2”.”
Los Angeles-based harpist Mary Lattimore rides the wave of interest in last year's acclaimed "Silver Ladders", following it up with this bumper set of rarities.
Lattimore's music is unashamedly beautiful. There's an assumption that if you're playing harp music you're attempting to make something that, historically, has been used to flatter some of the planet's most terrifying rulers - adding some reverb and delay only enhances the significance. And few artists handle it quite as well as Mary Lattimore, it's no surprise that she's popped up on a handful of great records this year, most recently Marissa Nadler's killer "The Path of the Clouds".
On "Collected Pieces: 2015-2020", Lattimore welds together her two "Collected Pieces" albums, released in 2017 and 2020, compiling a number of her favorite non-album recordings. If you're familiar with "Silver Ladders" then you should broadly know what to expect, but tracks like the flowery opener 'Wawa by the Ocean' and a blunted home recording of standout album track 'Pine Trees' are worth the asking price alone.
Kenny Larkin takes control of his 2nd album for a necessary 25 year anniversary edition on his Art Of Dance label, newly expanded for a definitive 2LP version
As a member of Detroit’s second wave of producers alongside Jeff Mills and Cral Craig, Larkin will forever be associated with the style’s most sophisticated operators. Released in 1995, ‘Metaphors’ was his sophomore album after ‘Azimuth’ only the year before, and cleanly matches that album for influence and class, containing some all time classics in the likes of ‘Nocturnal’, along with high points of 313 hi-tek jazz in ‘Amethyst’ and the jagged downstroke of ‘Java’, plus the first time inclusion of his banger ‘Catatonic (First State)’ and the heady trip of ‘Life Goes On.’
When contemporary writers and techno commentators speak of something being lost or maladapted in the translation of Detroit techno to its Euro forms, Kenny Larkin’s characterful music surely stands as a strong example of Detroit’s ingenuity and vision that could teach subsequent generations how to do it with style and finesse; a music business studies diploma, big ego and twitchy mixer hands may land the bookings, but fuck knows you need a soul to sound as good as this.
Long out of print, Diamanda Galás' incendiary 1984-released second album is available once more, remastered by Brooklyn's Heba Kadry.
Influenced by free jazz, opera and experimental industrial sounds, and inspired by abusive prison systems and the Greek military junta of 1967-74, 'Diamanda Galás' is a challenging, enthralling experience. Made up of two side-long pieces, it broadcasts Galás' expansive, visionary sound, and showcases her elastic vocal performance. Her voice is weaponized on 'Panopikon', a piece that begins with rumbling noise and morphs into unsettling high-pitched vocal acrobatics, sounding like Goblin's blood-curdling soundtrack to Dario Argento's "Suspiria" if it had been informed by Ornette Coleman and Albert Ayler.
The piece evolves into a chattering, shattered crumble of distortion and screams, anchored by Galás' manic chatter and animalistic noisemaking. On the flipside, she extends the process on 'Tragouthia Apo To Aima exoun Fonos', channeling an ecstatic, shamanic lament in memory of the victims of the Greek junta. It's visceral, moving sound that's not always easy to absorb, but isn't supposed to be - it's supposed to make you feel, and make you consider the themes. Galás is one of the most influential vocal performers of the last few decades, so it's a treat to finally see this outstanding record get the treatment it deserves. Huge recommendation.
The richly rewarding monthly series from string virtuosos Laura Cannell & Kate Ellis pulls in significant contributors for a masterful suite of fireside storytelling
Hosting input by estimable BBC field recordist Chris Watson, Swedish documentary maker Milene Larsson, and Irish singer/songwriter Adrian Crowley; the ‘October Sounds’ volume travels from Scandinavia to Northumberland and New York via a quietly engrossing mix of strings, nocturnal woodland atmospheres and traditional folktales. Anyone following the series the far will maybe know how much we love it, and surely know what to expect, and ‘October Sounds’ does not disappoint. It’s one of the most layered and immersive yet, benefitting from the additional personnel in a similar manner to their previous works incorporating the likes of Rhodri Davies and Stewart Lee.
Chris Watson’s recordings of the Northumbrian nightlife (think Corvidae and wind in trees, not the Bigg Market) lend an absorbing texture and space to three of its works, including Milene Larsson’s evocative regaling of a Swedish folktale about mermen set to distant sounding folk strings in ’Näcken’, to his recordings of layered over Cannel & Ellis’ brooding strings recalling scenes from a Belá Tarr flick on ‘Cloaked by Ravens Wings’, and the darkly sublime stillness of ‘Within the Forest Darkness’, while their absence only heightens the attraction of Adrian Crowley’s intimate delivery on ‘Blue Is The Colour’.
We warmly advise spending the long nights in with the whole series for the best kind of distraction from the outside world.
Bedcom co-founder Nico Muhly plays on the heartstrings in his score to Hiroshi Kurosaki’s film adaptation of ‘Gift of Fire, a story based in Japan during the final days of WWII
“Bedroom Community is excited to announce a new release from one of the label’s founding members, Nico Muhly, with the stunning new score for Japanese film Gift Of Fire. The release sees Nico team up with esteemed Bedcom alumni Nadia Sirota for some of the most stirring performances for film we’ve heard in some time. Mixed and mastered by Valgeir Sigurdsson at Greenhouse Studios in Reykjavik, this is the first release that sees so many of the original stable of label creatives working together in a long while.
‘When Hiroshi Kurosaki asked me to write the score for his extraordinary film Gift of Fire , he made it clear that he was looking for something more than a soundtrack. He was drawn to concert music, longer than a typical film cue, and music with an emotional intensity commensurate with the difficult and provocative themes the movie explores. I immediately called one of my oldest collaborators, the violist Nadia Sirota, and decided to build the score as a suite of chamber music centered on Nadia, me, and percussionist Justin Peters at the heart of the sound. Rather than assigning an instrument to each of the three main characters in the movie, I wrote music which weaves their stories together, sometimes gently and sometimes violently. My longtime collaborator Fritz Myers recorded the instruments in New York very closely, so the grain of the instrument and imperfections in sound are themselves part of the content of the music. These pieces are supported by and sometimes antagonized by electronic sounds with which I’ve been working since my earliest collaborations with Valgeir Sigurðsson, who mixed and mastered this album’ - Nico Muhly”
Boss level, raggo D&B bombs by Samurai Music overlord Geoff Presha for the headstrong
If we’re not mistaken, this is Presha’s first volley of solo productions, and we’re definitely not mistaken in saying they’re fiercely on the money for nasty D&B tekkers. ‘Mainliner’ lives up to his moniker with a tightly controlled hardstep groove and acephalic choral swarms ratcheting the tension for until a proper outburst of Dom & Roland-like amens.
‘Vendetta’ yokes back to halfstep trample and bassbin bullying swang, while ‘Rats’ cracks out the drumfunk with robotic jazz drummer chops and murderous amens, and ‘The Spell’ follows suit, bowing to the likes of Photek and Hokusai with proper martial D&B funk and darkside technoid synths. He may not be breaking the mould here, but he’s playing into it very strongly.
Brian Eno, Martyn Ware, Coldcut, Matthew Dear, Kate Simko, Osunlade, Iggor Cavalera, Fingathing, Bræv and many more yield new music from field recordings made in Colombia’s neotropical forests
“Cucusonic is an album created by a collaborative collective of Colombian bio-scientists, anthropologists, and musicians – partnered with University of Manchester’s ‘Granada Centre for Visual Anthropology’ and charity In Place of War.
The team set up a network of diverse local communities to capture sounds and stories from the Colombian Neotropical forests, inviting high profile artists and producers to create tracks from these field recordings. The aim of the project, and the resulting album, is to raise awareness about the biodiversity of Colombia, and its importance globally – by translating natural soundscape recordings and bio-acoustic data into new music.”
Dare-to-differ drill producer Nammy Wams doubles his tally for One Bok’s AP Life - sister label of Night Slugs - on six trax of trilling hi-hats and glyding bass with pitchbent Sino-grimy melody
As one might hear on his weekly show for Croydon FM, Nammy’s style fucks with more mutant ends of drill, proper, keenly splicing it with grime and more colourful synth palette to singular effect. ‘Tekisse Music’ gives up fresh goods from the lab, turning out a killer sort of Timbaland/Terror Danjah gone sci-fi drill style in ‘Yella’, and lead lines that sound like SE Asian gamelan on ‘Razorlight Type Beat’. That furtive sci-fi feel also informs the noirish ‘Suspense’, and ‘Lamelo’ comes hard with the drums and speaker-troubling bass upfront in the mix. Always one to watch.
The restless charms of Glasgow’s Lucky & Easy play out across a cherry-picked compilation for the legendary Ampoule label following those choice PUB reissues by the same artist.
Putting his own, pastoral-tinged, Scottish twist on late ‘90s / early ‘00s currents, the artist also known as Pub fostered a strong, if cultish following during that era for his warm and gently wayward style of post-techno exploration. Lucky & Easy’s music was symptomatic of a yearn to mess with the techno and ambient formats that emerged during the preceding decade, and which quickly became hackneyed due to a ubiquity of dance and “chill out” forms during that epoch. Like a wave of fellow artists, he was emulating the emotional intelligence of Detroit techno and modernist R&B and hip hop, with a twinge of wistful post-rock for good measure, arriving at a syncretic sound that’s all the above and entirely its own thing.
Cheeky Speaker contains a bounty of inventive, warmly personalised music that span output from 1998 - 2013, drawing from eight respective releases, with standout material strewn between the meter-messing ace ‘Bully Swimmer,’ the post-Detroit electro reverie of ‘Night Rainbows,’ the DIN-style rhythmic swinge of ‘Wigged,’ the chamber techno of ‘Kite Finger,’ and Sensate Focus-alike, bittersweetness of ‘Titswing.’
Purring Detroit house and ghettotech pressure from the 313’s ATL ambassadors, Ash Lauryn and Kai Alcé
Arriving a couple of years since Ash Lauryn’s RA mix, her solo debut proper plays up to a fine spectrum of Detroit styles across four hot cuts. On a deep house bent, she tenders glowing Rhodes chords and double basslines with finger clicks and hushed poetry in totally timeless style sure to pique broad interest, before NDATL’s Kai Alcé emphasises its drive with a subtly recalibrated bassline.
However, our percy is the quicker ‘Truth’, where she picks up the pace with dabs of Shari Vari esque bass chatter and on-the-fly drum machine tekkers somewhere between Aaron-Carl and Viola Klein, then simmers it to the purring funk perc of ‘Dancing In The D.’
Feathered alt. K-pop from Yaeji and Ohhyuk, lead singer of S. Korean indie band Hyukoh
Leading on from Yaeji’s debut album of 2020, ‘What We Drew’ she makes for a sweet duet with Ohhyuk on the sugary dembow bumps and layered harmonies of ‘Year To Year’, then works a tuffer groove of clockwork percussion and early ‘00s hip hop that turns into airport reggae styles on ’29.’
Deaf Center's Otto A. Totland finally gives us a glimpse of new material, his first since 2017's emotional "The Lost". Fans of Nils Frahm, Hauschka and Goldmund don't sleep!
There's something about Totland's playing that's so evocative that it's hard to ignore. His piano playing has been a key component in the Deaf Center project, his duo with Miasmah boss Erik K. Skodvin, and here unadorned by other outside elements it sounds perfectly stark and completely affecting. 'Companion' is the first we've heard from Totland in a few years, but sounds as if he was never away for a moment: those spine-chilling melodies take us back to the first time we heard Deaf Center's "Pale Ravine".
Simon Shreeve’s Mønic plumbs brooding ambient depths in an exploration of the flipside to his D&B and techno mutations
Enervated, shivering, and isolationist, ‘Trawler Tapes Vol. 2’ expresses a deep sense of tristesse across its six tracks, strafing the shadows from the hovering harmonics and depth charges of ’T-NET 1’ thru almost static tones reminding of Kevin Drumm’s ‘Imperial Distortion’ meets The Conet Project on the 10 minute ’T-NET 3’, with crafty timbral disturbances on ’T-Net 4’ realign Thomas Köner works, and shoring up in the dank scenes of ’T-Net 6.’
25th anniversary survey of James Ruskin’s stalwart UK techno label, spanning highlights from Surgeon, Mark Broom, Outline, Rob Hood, The Fear Ratio, Lakker, O/V/R, Oliver Ho, Sigha, Makaton and more
Established in 1996 by Ruskin with his partner in Outline, Richard Polson (who passed away in 2006), Blueprint has remained a bastion for techno bangers and more mutant strains over the past quarter century. ‘Blueprint 25’ speaks to the breadth of their output, pulling from early classic pounders such as Outline’s ‘Encounters’ (BP 03, 1996) and thru to Ruskin and Broom’s sideline as The Fear Ratio with the slow slamming ‘Skana,’ and the techno tristesse of ‘Erotic Misery.’ Their close circle of ‘90s UK techno pioneers get a run out with tracks by Oliver Ho and Surgeon, with the newer wave also well repped on cuts by likes of Rommek, Sam Kerridge, and Truncate, with strong remix proof from Marcel Dettmann, Rob Hood, Steve Rachmad and DVS1.
Legendary desk-smith Scientist on the buttons for another baga dub from Kingston/Liverpool’s Tamoki Wambesi Dove
Features versions of Tamoki Wambesi Dove found Roy Cousins’ band, The Royals, plus Prince Far I, and highlights to listen up for in the deft upstepper ’Stick Herb Dub’, strangely mixed (room recording?) roots reggae dub on ‘Granby Street, Liverpool 8 - Charlei Chaplin’ and the mellifluous vibe ‘The Hermit’, ancient-sounding business on ‘Count Raja the Joker’, and the between dimensions dub of ‘2 Fenbrook Avenue, Marverly, Jamaica.’
Tech house dreamer Leif treads lightly in melodic, airy ambient house zones on a return to Nic Tasker’s family of labels with his 5th studio album
A core part of the personnel behind fluff-fest Freerotation and longtime committed to the sweeter edges of minimal/tech-house and electronica, Leif’s has seen trends come a go but has admirably stuck to his guns, now resulting in a dreamily etheric echo of the club rendered in gently windswept rhythms and autumnal choral drift for dancefloor downtimes.
‘9 Airs’ by name and nature, the set takes shape as a sequence of soft focus harmonic plucks and LARPing forest spirit atmospheres for those missing their annual dose of drugs and dance music in a stately home, offering something like a night-by-the-campfire’s worth of lowkey, gently blissed works that make a virtue of quiet, lower case musical grammar and sees his sound more porous to worldly influences, with canny, syncopated, Shackleton-esque rhythms in ‘Low D’, and clear traces of Four Tet-on-a-valdo in ‘Seven Hour Flight T Nowhere’, while the beat-less likes of ‘Emotional Risk Assessment’ point to pastoral influence from Cluster & Eno, and ‘Wake Up Now’ feels like a stray rustle of solo piano that leaked from The Remote Viewer’s studio.
UK street soul label V4 Visions is under the spotlight of expert diggers at Numero Group and Rush Hour for this killer 5-track EP, highlighting that incredible meeting point of so many elements that were crucial to the develolment of club music in the capital during that era - you can trace echoes of everything from Joyce Sims to Rhythim is Rhythim, Kurtis Mantronik, Strictly Rhythm, Soul II Soul, Mr. Fingers. - in an era that was right at the cusp between stereet soul and jungle hardcore - what a vibe.
Operating between 1990-1994, V4 Visions was home to a cross section of UK artists operating at an inner city confluence of lovers rock, deep house, swingbeat, and jungle, of the sort that one might hear in a late night blues or smaller parties away from the big raves. The vibe is dripping with soul, adapting Afro-inspired US and Caribbean vibes to a Black British experience, with results zipped up and tucked tight in the pocket between Ashaye’s jazz taught slow jam ‘Dreaming (Original Mix)’, and their guest vox on Insight’s deep house pearl ‘Fantasy - Insight Mix’, thru to Rohan Delano’s purring gem ‘Inflight’, the propulsive subs and gilded vox of Julie Stapleton’s ‘Where’s Your Love Gone’ (later covered by Kylie innit), and the deep, bouncing piano house of ‘Now Where To Run - Instrumental South Side Mix’ looping back to Ashaye.
Puckered kizomba zingers from PT Musik - the grown-up alias of Puto Tito - marking a supremely classy progression from his 2019 debut double album with a sparkling trio of romantic pearls for Princípe
Marking the vital Lisbon label’s 10th anniversary year, ’Não Sou Perfeito’ is one of the sweetest treats in its decade long (and ongoing) reign, exemplifying the rich soul at the heart of its sound. The artist’s name change signifies a clear advance in his already emotive style of composition, as showcased in his teenaged productions on the ‘Carregando A Vida Atrás Das Costas’ set. The style of spare, grimy, chamber-like melodies in his formative early work is now found embellished with warmer pads and more nuanced rhythmic inflections to express a heightened grasp of slow jam romance that blends his native Atlantic coast breeze with a decidedly Californian G-funk lean to gorgeous effect. It’s a west coast thing, baby.
‘Aplausos’ is the outstanding A-side, drizzling syrupy G-funk-alike soul leads on a lilting kizomba rhythm and deliciously woozy chords bound to soundtrack embraced bodies and loved-up eyes scanning the dance. ‘Its Mine’ follows to dial up the forlorn ‘80s FM synth soul with an instrumental flair worthy of a Sade vocal (perhaps that’s her not replying to the ansafone motifs?), and ’Tudo Acabou’ bring this brief daydream of an EP to its closing strokes with a come-to-bed sashay of dry iced synth haze and slow-motion hip work.
Bewitching magnum opus from Lotic, arriving at her definitive album statement with 3rd LP ‘Water’ after helping reassert avant-club dimensions over the past decade.
A dramatic tour de force, ‘Water' is dominated by the confident appearance of Lotic's operatic R&B vocals, lending a vaulted new perspective and embellishment of ravishing electronic backdrops. She arrives at this point after spending the last decade moving from the USA to Germany, and co-founding the influential clubnight Janus in Berlin, where her adventurous DJ sets helped redraw boundaries of contemporary, queer club music and beyond.
Björk is also big fan, enlisting Lotic’s remix skills for the ‘Vulnicura’ album produced with Lotic’s peer Arca, but recent years have seen Lotic withdraw from the release schedule to spend time on this, the most ambitious realisation of a style that transcends club and home listening distinctions and places her music in a loftier dimension of avant-R&B.
Song to song, Lotic's soaring vocals take on an aqueous quality, variously processed into emotional cascades or shimmering passages, with strings and rhythms also allowed to slosh with a freedom of meter that stems from formative classical training. Embodying a siren like character, she summons the storm with ‘Wet’ and makes great use of what sounds like water drumming in the tremulous ‘Emergency’, while binding the club and classical dimensions in a lush manner on ‘Always You’ that also informs the Ariel/aeriel inversion of ‘Apart.’
Her theatric arrangements ultimately come to a head with the final strokes, on the woodwind and Reese bass mise-en-scene of ‘Oblivious’ channelling a sort of Klaus Nomi cabaret for the Berghain generation, while the spotlighted vocals of ‘Diamond’ give way to a killer orchestral death drop and windswept drums that epitomise her grasp of dramaturgy and heightened classical sensitivities.
Oren Ambarchi’s peerless label snuffle out new and unreleased archival sweet treats by legendary avant gardener David Behrman, made between 1989-2020 in collaboration with Jon Gibson and Werner Durand.
A true pioneer of computer music, from composition to performance, David Behrman is surely among the c.20th avant garde’s most significant artists. His catalogue spans early electronics to Terry Riley’s ‘In C’, thru the foundational Sonics Arts Union with Robert Ashley, Alvin Lucier and Gordon Mumma, and his work on The League of Automatic Composers Lovely Music Inc. releases with Paul DeMarinis a.o., plus the digitised scapes of Maggi Payne, via his teaching at numerous esteemed facilities (Harvard, Colombia Princeton, Mills College, the Technical University of Berlin). Historic credits assured, Behrman continues his unique path with these pieces for Black Truffle, offering longview and up-to-the-moment vantage points on the work ‘Unforeseen Events’, and a wholly new piece spying his work in the modern day, all showcasing the timeless vitality and elusive, in-the-moment ephemerality of his music.
Following up one of our faves of recent years, ‘‘Music With Memory’ and his role in avant-pop troupe ’She’s More Wild’ with Paul Demarinis, Fern Freidman, and Anne Klingensmith, this new side casts back to his “unfinished composition”, ‘Unforeseen Events’ on a lush 1989 recording made in Berlin with saxophonist Werner Durand, whose languorous slyding notes gel with glistening electronics in dreamiest fashion. The work also appears in its 1999 iteration, recorded in New York with Jon Gibson, and expanding it into more fractal, deliquescent designs with darting sax lines echoing the likes of Steve Lacy and Evan Parker, and recalling the languid electro-jazz-fusion of Lifted in the modern day. Finally, ‘ViewFinder / Hide & Seek’ pulls us right up to Behrman’s contemporary work, reprising his duo with Werner Durand for an expansive 20 minutes of alien scaping captured in Berlin and New York, and utilising the ViewFinder - a camera detecting physical motion, triggering changes in electronics - from a 2002 installation, for an uneasy marriage of human/virtual sources.
Bassbin botherer Beneath makes up for lost time with his 2nd strong batch of 2021, delivered by Pev’s Livity Sound in their 10th anniversary year
Chasing up his round for Untold’s Hemlock Recordings, the London bassed producer gears up four propulsive, rolling and technoid steppers mutations skooled in vintage soundsystem dynamics, but looking to push that template into the present.
Built stringently stripped to the bones for dynamics that really come across in the dance (provided a decent engineer), he dials up the spirit of Jah Shakas and Iration Steppas with the pounding subs and dread riffs of ‘Fourth Time’, then mellows out a shade with the dubwise chords and acidic grunts of ‘High Five’. On a much slower swivel, ‘Legs Eleven’ trots on a quasi speed flex in proximity to Parris and John T. Gast workouts, before sloshing in slow/fast meter to the punchier percussive punctuation of ‘Tough One’, both dead canny additions to his arsenal, and angles that we’d love to hear him explore farther.
Raster mark their 25th anniversary with Greek composer Novi_sad’s epic episode of elemental field recordings made on five continents and sculpted into thunderous and sublime scapes.
Rooted in Greek mythology, ‘Κεραυνóς’ is composed of environmental recordings made in Oceania (Tarkine Forests), Asia (Okinawa), Europe (Ancient Olympia and Iceland), Africa (Uganda, Botswana and Namibia), and America (Amazon rainforest and Niagara Falls) to impressionistically relate a mythos that connects Gods of thunder from Greek, Celtic, Slavic, Norse, Finnish, Indian, Chinese and Roman traditions. Aye, it doesn’t sweat the small stuff, and tends to the broadest frame of references for a release befitting of Raster’s lofty reputation.
The five durational works obliquely and evocatively elicit their subject by means of textural inference and timbral nuance; Oceania’s Tarkine forest recordings result a wall of nocturnal bird calls that become soused in flames and give way to lush aftermath; location sounds of Okinawa form a rich blanket of insectoid chatter that sounds like recordings of cicadas slowed 1000%; the various locations of Europe are knitted into a transition from foreboding low end to sublime noise; the Africa piece offers the most haunting, suspenseful scenes of warbling drone wow and flutter; and America’s transformed sounds rainforest squall and cascading water are pregnant with portent.
Marissa Nadler's first original solo album since 2018's 'For My Crimes' is a glittering high-point in her catalog, reflecting the dreamy prog-gaze of Air's 'Virgin Suicides' OST in an oily pool of Neil Young, Low, Mercury Rev and Cocteau Twins' underrated "Four-Calendar Café". We're in love.
'The Path of the Clouds' is a remarkably different album from the rest of Nadler's eight solo full-lengths. During lockdown she kept busy, escaping into writing and recording an album of covers (Spring's "Instead of Dreaming"), and learning to play piano with Mercury Rev's Jesse Chandler. This provided a new method of writing, and many of the songs here were penned on keys instead of guitar. Nadler also began experimenting with synthesis, so while 'The Path of the Clouds' feels furthest from the whimsical folk of her early catalog, it also sounds like her most complex, and most developed work so far.
Distracting herself from quarantine boredom with 'Unsolved Mysteries' reruns, Nadler decided to re-imagine the murder ballad as a form to promote female empowerment, focusing on the unsolved case of D.B. Cooper, the unidentified hijacker of a Boeing 727 plane flying from Portland to Seattle in 1971 as a focus for meditation on transformation and the mastery of fate. The idea of escape from authority looms across each song, lightened by Nadler's cosmic synths, mellotron drones and charming shoegaze-country riffs.
Bella Union boss and ex-Cocteau Twin Simon Raymonde adds bass to the album, and it's hard to know whether it's this that amplifies that Cocteaus sparkle or whether it's Nadler's inspired country-tinged songwriting. The spectral pop waftiness of late-Cocteaus tracks like 'Evangeline' and 'Know Who You Are At Every Age' are only a breath from 'Couldn't Have Done the Killing' and 'If I Could Breathe Underwater', and it's not unwelcome. The Scottish band's late period is still cruelly maligned, but Nadler's absorption of this sound is effective and smart. Smashed with the melancholy, doomer romance of Air's "Virgin Suicides" soundtrack, it lifts Nadler's songs into a surreal dreamworld she's only dipped into previously.
The trace elements of Neil Young and Townes Van Zandt are still there, but burned into coiled smoke that snakes around these delightful new forms. "The Path of the Clouds" is a dream pop album that's unafraid to lean into the genre's knottiest tendencies, it's able to be literary and comical, lavish and incisive, labyrinthine and visual. It's fair to say that Nadler had a more productive quarantine than most of us.
Rob Hood returns to his prized project, Monobox - one of the finest of the ‘00s minimal era - with a trio of sleek, tweaky pounders plus a slamming remix by Ø [Phase]
‘Forwardness Kodei’ sees Hood’s Detroit techno vernacular at its most clipped and pointed in a cold, driving groove gilded with cinematic pads, while his Re-Plant ups the ante to a faster pace tempered with wind tunnel drag coefficients. His other cut ‘Homestead’ is the sort of shimmering dub-techno ace that could have turned up on his seminal mixes ‘Rare Species’ or ‘Deep Concentration: The Grey Area Mix’, while Belgium’s Ø [Phase] keeps the blood up on a smart remix.
Marcel Dettmann’s Bad Manners label with classic-sounding synthpop anthems from Mario Resta’s Exterminador project.
'Age of Consent' is on a super authentic tip, referencing pretty much the full Alan Wilder/Vince Clarke sweep of 80’s synthpop modes on the opening quartet of sweet bangers before edging into more industrial zones ('L’age De L’amour’), EBM (Hello Richard), nEuropop (Rise And Fall Of The Empire) before ending the set with one final DM-style bullet on 'Goth Murder Madness’.
If yr gonna copy the OG's, have the chops to do it this well eh?
Legendary dub master Dennis ‘Blackbeard’ Bovell MBE does The Pop Group a dead solid version of their seminal ’79 side, ‘Y’ gutting and rendering their wiry post-punk in tightly rude but rambunctious form
Chasing up the band’s live rendition of 2020, the original 9 tracks appear here filleted for funk, with gristle tossed in the bin and Bovell effectively puppeteering their much younger limbs with specialist animist tekkers. In a proper livication, not dedication, to the band’s mutant avant dub-punk styles, Bovell bring out the studio duppies to play, finding and pronouncing the space in between the grooves in a way that totally reenergises his original work on the record while marking distance travelled from the 1979 studio sessions.
At its maddest on the likes of his GRM-style rendering of ‘Savage Sea’, the whole thing feels only just about tethered to reality, with no two bars left wanting for kinetic, corkscrewing details as Bovell’s deft hands flash across the desk. From the needlepoint step and razor cut parries of ‘Thief Of Dreams’ to the recoiling echo chamber abstraction and reggae disco thrum of ‘3:38’ this is no cursory “in dub” session, but a systemic overhaul of the album’s bones, muscle and sinew, with vocals like a possessed presence, dissected into shrieks, yelps that cut thru the smoke.
Expert-level dub punk business.
At freaking last, arch innovators/influencers MMM aka Erik Wiegand (Errorsmith) and Michael Fiedler (Berghain/Wax Treatment resident DJ Fiedel) deliver a 25-year-in-the-making debut album testament to their raving nous, suitably reading the room for an off-peak session of etheric, killer electro-dub minimalism.
Landing a quarter of a century since their bare boned ‘Elektro Cut’ and the full bodied ‘Donna’ anthem, the pivotal Berliners serve a coolly measured batch of dubwise mutations sensitive to the times in ‘On The Edge'. Strictly speaking it’s not a “pandemic” record, but its notable lack of bangers was prompted by a need to explore moods beyond peak time, resulting in a much quieter, spare set of tunes than many might have expected - us included. However, the eight tracks are properly future-proofed by their elegant efficiency, working to breezy, even meditative templates where aspects of more energetic styles are refined and absorbed with a sophistication and offbeat, syncopated stylings from the city known for its martial metric rigidity.
Drawing on their combined, vast knowledge of bespoke sound design (Errorsmith’s ‘Razor’ softsynth) and contemporary dance music - from its studio roots in Jamaica, to its Chicago disco engine room, UK rave floors, and prevailing mutations from modern day Africa and South America - the duo parse the most salient elements into a meticulously edited melange of motifs borrowed from dancehall. dub, techno, British bassbin styles and gqom, while never quite sounding like any of the above. Instead they deftly explore the negative space between the grooves with a proper dubwise head on them, inventively stripping right back to the pure, infinitely efficient whirr of rhythmic mechanics, while crucially bestowing a devilishly poignant spirit in the details.
The “up” but melancholic techno step of opener ‘Where To Go’ (with a strong whiff of Villalobos’ still peerless Fizheuer Zieheuer) is as fast as it gets, but they’re careful to keep momentum throughout the album, toying with the halfstep in ‘Everything Falls into Place’ and murky tension of ‘On The Edge’, and committing their most introspective moment in the early Dynamo-like reduction of ‘No Thought.’ However, they pull back from the brink with the chamber like sashay of cello and sampled voices in ‘The Interview’, and loosen up in the 2nd half’s buoyant strutter ‘When Does Ghosting End’ and the effortless sashay of shuffling subbass bumps and synthesised vocal in ‘So Nigh’, where their attention to detail really come into play.
Aye, this is the zen MMM and a record that rewards patience and an open mind 🔥
Yazzus and Martyn Bootyspoon swreve baltra’s ‘Ambition’ trax to peaktime club zones.
Breakthru London/Berlin producer Yazzus chases up a string of compilation cuts, including a banger on the ‘Tresor 30’ set, with a frisky then hard-ass overhaul of ‘Make It B.I.G.’, slicing up the vocal on unrelenting Jersey-style drums to prove what the fuss is about. Martin Bootyspoon surely holds his own on a rework of ‘Work (It) Out’ dialling up the cunty ballroom and tuff techno styles into a proper club banger with teasing depth and detail in the modulated toms and textured pads, tipped to fans of AceMo and Black Rave Culture.
Shayne Oliver’s creative studio project Anonymous Club introduces itself with the crunchy slug of ‘Frosty’, feat. catty rap by Leech and backed with a tinkling music box mix by LV
Established in 2020 with Leech’s ‘In The Mood’ and its ace Rabit mix, Anonymous Club the label and production cru has expanded to take in offbeat integers of pop, rap, and electronica creations vocalled by Izzy Spears, Tama Gucci, Sabrina Fuentes. ‘Frosty’ is their seasonal themed venture and exemplary of AC’s in-between-worlds sound, with Leech taking the mic over a fractious sort of NYC boom crack trap, drizzling purring and catty bars in a lowkey burning style off to the left of Arca and Mykki Blanco. We’re not entirely sure who LV is, but they make make for a sweet contrast with an icy music box rework of ‘Frosty’ leaving the vocal aside and riffing on the thumb-piano like melody in subtle, increasingly warped style.
Chi-town’s Chrissy fires off non-lethal rounds of rave, jungle, juke and house on Sherelle & Naina’s Hooversound
Formerly known as Chrissy Murderbot until Boston Dynamics sent a cease and desist, the persistent Mid-west producer and DJ trades in multiple flavours of DJ fuel that have previously seen them dish out releases with Planet Mu and Wide, among others.
‘Physical Release’ certainly ticks boxes in the fast and 160BPM realm that Sherelle has come to dominate in a very short space of time, especially with the likes of his Reese-bassed roller ‘Lost In A Dream’, the natty ’92 hardcore styles of ‘The Map Point’, and the springheeled jungle pressure of ‘All The True Ravers’ and ‘Take Me Away (Again)’.
NYC's Veronica Lauren occupies frayed textural space between the physical and liminal on a deliciously smudged echo of West Coast-styles, puckered new age synths and briny Drexciyan beatdown released on the perennially reliable RVNG Intl.
Operating under the VHVL alias - an acronym for Very High, Very Low - Veronica Lauren perceptively explores the fuzzy ambiguity of human/machine relations and responses with an elusive grasp of rhythmelody and vibe. ‘Hem/Sew’ snugly nests that sound inside RVNG Intl's roster of likeminds, resonating the unbleached dub of Sun Araw as much as Robert A.A. Lowe’s wistful wanderings or Lucretia Dalt’s slowburn tang, but with added, hazily baked West Coast beat scene via Andy Stott’s knackered house and a bluesy sort of soul introspection
Using Roland’s SP-303 and SP-404 sampling units, and guided by Jungian psychology and theories of meta-cognition, VHVL generates a spectra of absorbing textural movements in a style that been developed since 2013’s self-released debut ‘Mhyrrh’. That record’s titular synaesthetic connotations are a key to the sound on ‘Hem/Sew’, too. In ten concise parts VHVL deploys smartly short-circuiting and distorting perceptions of tone, texture and timbre between the silty bliss of opener ’Ahi’ and the underwater sublimation of ‘Dwn’, with a fractured crystalline quality to the wavy lattice of ‘Hem’, and sultry slosh of kneaded subbass and bittersweet soul efflorescence in ‘Sew’ at the record’s fuzzy heart, while the highlight ‘RPG’ teases out fizzing fractals in the space between Drexciya and Samiyam.
Berlin’s groundbreaking punk madams are subject of a necessary archive deep dive, reappraising a glut of killer live room recordings and demos from their seminal early years at the crux of the city’s scuzzy wave scene
Part of 40th anniversary commemorations, this is the 2nd part of ‘M_Sessions’, so named after their shared initial of three projects revolving the legendary Gudrun Gut, in various configurations; Mania D. (Gudrun with Beate Bartel, Bettina Köster, Eva-Maria Goßling), Malaria! (Gudrun beside Bettina Köster, Christine Hahn, Manon Duursma, Susanne Kuhnke), and Matador (Gudrun plus Beate bartel and Manon Duursma). Supplementing a side of reinterpretations by the likes of Lucretia Dalt, Midori Hirano and AGF, this collection turns up an abundance of previously unheard material capturing Gudrun and her cohort in their element, variously playing to crowds of post-punks, EBM pioneers and early post-industrialists in the belly of West Berlin and farther afield during the cold war years.
Frankly it’s fucking feast for fans of the era, and anyone interested in the history of female fronted bands, for that matter. The original core team of Beate Bartel, Bettina Köster, Manon P. Duursma are responsible for the selection,drawing from a wide range of aces by each unit; from the no wave skronk of ‘Zukunft (Sender Freies Berlin)’ and queasy stagger of ‘Herzschlag (7inch single, Monogram)’ by Mania D., to the gothic swagger of ‘White Sky White Sea (EDIT, Weisses Wasser EP) and the cranky death rock of ‘Mädels Sind Toll (Live Berlin)’ by Malaria!, and some real gems from the later Matador years, includignthe creepy ‘Nite Time (A Touch BCL Album version)’, the almost Cocteau Twins-like ‘Paradise (Demo Version)’, and the late ‘80s Dome-esque machine grind of ‘Schreiender Tag.’
Kelman Duran, D.K., Stenny, Don’t DJ, Sara Berts, XIII, Mana, Azu Tiwaline, Katatonic Silentio and many more toss their keys in the pot for Gang of Ducks’ infinite paradise comp
It’s a fine exercise in world building and storytelling, gathering far flung operators under a banner of off 4th world exploration at the dance floor’s fringes and stranger integers. Currently on a major roll, Kelman Duran open with the immersive collage of vocal samples, cinematic strings and hazed percussion in ’188’, and local Italian artist Mana draws proceedings to a smart close with the contemporary composition of ‘Rain To Come’ echoing James Ferraro and Maxwell Sterling works.
In the vast space between; Ilian Tapes’ Stenny takes the opportunity to work out the straightjacket dembow groove of ‘Varisum’, and Black Zone Myth Chant follows suit with the squashed glitches of ‘Brom’. There’s strong percussive tackle from Turin’s Black Seed on a sort of Muslimgauze flex, ritualistic rhythmelodies by the dynamo D.K., and ultrasubtle, swingeing tekkers by Don’t DJ, while the headier content is supplied by label co-founder XIII with the glittering chamber classicism of ‘Senza Gamba Danza’, plumes of frothy ambient arps by Sara Berts, and the subaquatic fantasy of ‘Underwater temple’ from Catatonic Silentio.
Incinerated minimal dub dirt from Michael Beckett (aka kptmichigan) that reinterprets Harry Smith's iconic 1952 "Anthology of American Folk Music" as Chain Reaction-esque soundscapes. It's a wild idea that's executed with rare skill and restraint - fans of Vladislav Delay, Rhythm & Sound, Gas, or even Fatische boss Jan Jelinek, you won't wanna sleep on this one.
Who would have thought that using Harry Smith's 1950s Folkways recordings - a defining set of American musical history culled from the filmmaker's extensive 78RPM record collection - as the basis for a dub techno remix project would birth good material? It sounds like a comedy project, not least because Beckett remixed every single one of six-album set's 84 tracks on the record's original 2013 cassette release. But this new reissue, handily pared down to just 13 outstanding cuts, is proof that occasionally, a hilariously high-concept idea can reap rewards.
On the original release, Beckett translated the title of Smith's set into his local "Low German" dialect, and used a sampler and effects pedals to disassemble the material, sometimes banging out multiple remixes in a day. Interpreting the recordings in this manner - turning crackling folk into cavernous dub and undulating ambience - Beckett makes an interesting statement about the evolving back-and-forth between Europe and the USA. Music that was rooted Europe and transformed by the influence of enslaved Africans on American soil is shuttled back to Europe, where imported Jamaican recording processes are employed by a German producer. It's almost poetic.
There's little left of the dulcimer, zither, fiddle, banjo and harmonica sounds that populated Smith's anthology. But the texture of the sounds is just about recognizable in Beckett's slim, rhythmic variations. He takes the hum of these vintage recordings and fashions them into looping tracks that mirror Basic Channel or Rhythm & Sound at their most abstract or Wolfgang Voigt at his most uncompromising. It's distinctly German music that's inspired, directed and buoyed by African and European folk traditions, and there's really little else like it.
Outstanding sacrifice of cybergoth dancepop by New York’s X Harlow, hexing lines between Arca, Burial, The Cure and Alex Zhang Hungtai on ace, exploratory label, Sweat Equity NYC
One of the most striking new works we’ve heard in a minute, ‘Cathars’ ventures the 2nd part of a triptych started with 2020’s ‘Anchorite’, and continues X Harlow’s unique trajectory thru cthonic realms of coldwave pop with strong, seamlessly incorporated influence from UK dance music and Latin freestyle. It’s a dead special consolidation of disparate cues, strafing the shadows of many subgenres but beholden to none of them, and crucially draws on and evokes its heavy, non-musical inspirations - countercultural medieval gnosticism, personal health issues, contemporary socio-politics - in a way that doesn’t feel cloying or distract from its self-evidently expressive results.
Under a titular nod to the unorthodox Christian movement originating between the 12th and 14th centuries, ‘Cathars’ is quite literally one for the heretics, and quite possibly a crafty pun on the cathartic power of goth music. With vocals that step to the right side of the current emo-indie/sad rap tropes, they adapt the framework of classic coldwave - gloaming minor key motifs and shivering negative space - with seamlessly woven nods to the trills of Latin electro freestyle and UKG in a way we’ve simply not heard like this before.
The sepulchral hymnal ’Apparitioner’ is a case in point, underlining This Mortal Coil-esque vox with filleted 2-step and washed out dub, and ‘Light is Gone’ somehow channelling Robert Smith in sad rap steppers style, with ‘Credentes’ nodding toward ‘&&&&&&’ era Arca, and the noctilucent sax of ‘Lost In Her House’ harking to Alex Zhang Hungtai via beat less Burial works. Together with the shimmering choral fantasy of ‘Metempsychosis’ and accomplished, Anni Hogan-esque solo piano coda of ’She Is Found’, it’s unmissable business for listeners of a goth-industrial-dance persuasion, from monochrome types to those who carry it in the inside pocket.
Fluttering, shine-eyed chug by Belfast’s Group Zero, venturing a sort of early morning wonk constructed from trace elements of motorik kosmiche, psychedelic beatdown and deep disco - think Pye Corner Audio, Ssiege, 1991
Member of C86 pop group Girls Names, Cathal Cully aka Group Zero here tempers their pop sensibilities into a more stripped down sound, following their nose for breezy melodies and loping elegant repetition that never tests one’s patience. There’s an unmistakeable shimmer of similarity with Pye Corner Audio’s prized vibe in the delicious synth wow and flutter of ‘Memorial Hall’, and ‘Memorial Deice’ dials up warmest sort of vapourware nostalgia with a fine soupçon of Gaelic romance. The padded throb and lissom arps of ‘You Can See The Dust Crawl’ are surely destined for end of night and the soon afters, while ‘The Club Singer’ trades in nearly 10 minutes of golden gouch out gear.
Exhaustive survey of post punks Normil Hawaiians, charting their development from jagged rock to more melodic and funky inventions over a relatively short period, prior to their members playing on ‘80s Bowie records
“Dark World collects together choice material from Normil Hawaiians' formative early years of 1979-1981. Tagging along with the band from their peppy post-punk origins (so brilliantly debuted on "The Beat Goes On") into the looser, dubbier territories that laid the foundations for the group's landmark album More Wealth Than Money. Dark World gathers the group's energetic 7" singles on Dining Out and Illuminated Records, their metamorphic Gala Failed EP (Red Rhino) and a lively last-minute Peel session from 1980, alongside outtakes, rarities, and demos. During this feverish time, founding member Guy Smith was motivated to make music that reveled in always trying out different things.
Normil Hawaiians was a very fluid ensemble at this point, Guy often accompanied by Kev Armstrong and Jim Lusted encouraged saxophones, violins, synths, pianos and a select pack of female backing singers to take their post-punk sound into wilder directions. One of the earliest line-ups of Normil Hawaiians featured a 15-year-old Janet Armstrong on vocals alongside Guy, "Ventilation" best showcases her deadpan digressions. Janet went on to sing alongside David Bowie a few years later on his breathtaking mid-80s gem "Absolute Beginners". By this point Kev Armstrong was also guesting for Bowie on guitar duties too. Another guest to join the ranks of Normil Hawaiians during this fertile time of cross-pollination was Bertie Marshall (aka Berlin of the proto-punk Bromley Contingent). "Sang Sang" is a good example of how he was inspired to deliver his poetic treatises over the band's atmospheric, floating improvisations. Bertie's impressionistic influence helped the group uncouple further from rock tropes, as they became restless and more rhythmically-focused. "Still Obedient" fidgets, soars and careens across the dancefloor.
By the end of this transformative two years Normil Hawaiians had spun an exceptional chrysalis around themselves. The dark world surrounding wouldn't win out, they'd eaten-up the music and grown continuously, wrote and recorded rapidly, covered Zappa and even David Lynch and could feel the light beginning to shine through. Dark World is a snapshot of a band in flux, finding their feet, stretching their limbs. Normil Hawaiians cover an awful amount of ground in such a short time-frame on this record and these tracks document all the glittering debris from their magpie's nest. Emergent, hopeful and resistant in sound and ethic.”
Keening, listiing experimental club rhythms and sublime ambient from Bristol affiliate Via Maris (Timedance, Livity Sound, Mistry) on yung local label, do you have peace?
Their first release since 2018 witnesses Via Maris explore overpronating polymetrics and vacuum processed vocal idents in the gyring motion of ‘Lekky’, which comes off like Koreless and Batu in hyperspace to our ears, whereas ‘Hiblrr’ changes tack entirely toward glimmering ambient that again recalls the crisp design of Koreless, yet with a woozier, nostalgic attraction and Bristol afterparty glow.
Kelman Duran fades to dusk on this killer, smeared new album of steamy, syncopated kicks, spiritual jazz and haunted, weightless textures, nailing a singular sort of ambient dembow folk modernism that comes with our highest possible recommendation - and especially so if yr feeling Nala Sinephro, Space Afrika, Tara Clerkin Trio, Amazondotcom, Klein, Chino Amobi.
A music of margins and shadows full of pent spirit, ‘Night In Tijuana’ was recorded in the titular border city while Kelman was working as a curator for Tijuana's Otras Obras gallery and finds him strafing between enervated ambient rap pressure and gnashing jazz drums with a real sense of purpose that conveys the worries and joys of his Latin diasporic community. Feeding in elements of classical music, sound collage, and a divergent Afro-Caribbean club pulse, it's a sonic representation of his musical fingerprint, that includes his childhood in Washington Heights and time studying at the prestigious Cal Arts institute - a delirious mix of dance culture and vivid, confident fine art.
From the fraught, anxiously gasping but disciplined drums of ‘Freddie King’, to the woodblock ‘Dancehall, Audubon Ballroom’, thru his flip of Arthur Blythe’s modal free jazz stylings in ‘Lower Nile’, to the dusted dembow techno of the title track, his drums and vibes perfectly say it without saying it thru the first two thirds of the album.
However, it’s the weightless aspects that come to define the album thru its recurrent ‘Aeon’ themes, defining its narrative arc into the final passages, between the smoked gloom of ‘South London BC’ and deftly string-heavy melancholy of ‘For Whitney’, with the ritualistic feel of ‘Night In Tijuana III’ giving way to the noirish masterstroke closure of ‘Last Cinema, (outro) II’, all orienting the album for smoked out nights, harnessing elements of club music to ink deeper elegies.
East Coast minimal wave institution Xeno & Oaklander’s seventh full-length, Vi/deo.
""Vi/deo" further distills their iconic noir synth pop into a streamlined suite of gleaming, graceful retrofuturism. Inspired by ideas of synesthesia, scent, star worship, and obsolescent technologies, the duo of Liz Wendelbo and Sean McBride began conceiving the blueprint of Vi/deo while sequestered at their Southern Connecticut home studio during the pandemic. The context of isolation, streaming, and remote dreaming seeped into their chemistry, manifesting as both homage to and me ditation on a certain cinematic strain of technicolor fantasy: the screen as stage, distance disguised as intimacy, where tragedy and glamor crossfade into one.
Opening with the precision synthetic melancholy of “Infinite Sadness,” the album marks a peak fluidity between the pair’s fusion of analog electronics and poetic melody, both refined and oblique, classic but contemporary. Wendelbo modeled her singing on “a young boy in a choir,” alternately holding notes and whispering them, with the lyrics clear, the voice elevated. McBride’s synthesizers serve as the perfect counterpart, tiered and polished, threading fluorescent architectures of a lost audio-visual age. Theirs is a darkwave of reverie and flickering city lights, swooning and sleek, romantic anthe ms for concrete bohemia, cigarette smoke in rainy gardens, and sound as color (“blue is fast and red is slow”). Vi/deo captures the bittersweet beauty of youth and utopias, the wistful transformation from miracle to memory, where love turns unreal and music becomes myth: “Sounds of the underground / Will echo in future days / Feelings of misery / Will fade into the haze.”"
Roberto Carlos Lange’s beautifully beatific Latinx pop-soul warms the cockles on his debut Helado Negro album for 4AD; a slow burn celebration of his South American heritage and nostalgia for the ’80s club music he grew up with
In loving pursuit of the style he’s developed over handfuls of albums for Asthmatic Kitty and more recently RVNG Intl., ‘Far In’ sees Helado Negro further burnish his rose-tinted sound with a sense of intimacy that stems from spending lots of time at home and getting deeper into his sound during lockdown. Referencing a “youth growing up in South Florida listening to 80s club songs, and their return sampled in 90s hip hop”, his 15 songs wash over one with the wooziest daydreaming quality, knitting languorous Latin rhythms to shimmering melodies in a way that, to our ears at least, somehow feel like christmas in a warm place, everything soft focus and lilting with a perennial familiarity that’s seductively disarming and effortlessly comforting.
Typically sung in his bilingual mix of Spanish and english, no matter which language he chooses, Lange’s music conveys the feeling clearly. In key with the notable refinements of his songwriting style over the past decade, ‘Far In’ reaches a new high watermark of classicism as he enters his 3rd decade of releases, nesting a melange of nods to Tropicália, Fleetwood Mac and Beck in his butter smooth transition from the strolling strums of ‘Wake Up Tomorrow’ with its harmonious vox by Bon Iver and Kid Cudi collaborator, Kacy Hill, thru to the glyding yacht rock disco of ‘Aureole’ and the gently insistent dreambop of ‘Outside the Outside’, with bucolic semi-acoustic magic in ‘Wind Conversations’ and Mazzy Star-like tristesse of ‘Thank You Forever.’