Nene H relates the experiences of grief and life as a woman of a Muslim upbringing in the western world with her debut album for NYC’S Incienso, following their top tier LPs by DJ Python and Call Super
Borne as a tribute to her late father, Beste Aydin aka Nene H’s ‘Ali علي’ reflects her background in classical music as much as club styles across eight tracks that synergise slow, concentrated backroom styles and upfront bangers with alien-processed, elegiac laments. Nene arrives at this point via a killer handful of 12”s for Intrepid Skin, Moral Standards, Standard-Deviation, and Possession, to lay out her sound’s broadest coordinates, proving equally adept at introspection as she is at raving dynamism.
Bookended by the plangent, keening chorale and aerial trance arps of ‘Letztes Pech,’ and the Burial-esque isolationist beauty ‘How We Say Goodbye,’ the album shifts through gears of grief and wallhanging outbursts; concentrating tradition and futurism in the slow hitting ‘Lament’ and the pealing microtonal licks on ‘We Wait,’ whilst the pent roil of ‘Rau’ and its contrasting ‘Reue’ trigger the album’s hardest feels in the pounding ‘Gebet’ and party rocker ‘The Hustle.’
Jan Grebenstein grinds out no wave techno swag under the Geza aegis for Shifted’s AVIAN
Concentrated, minimalist, and textured to taste in Avian’s in-house style, ‘Dialoge 1’ sees Grebenstein on six bunkered drills, toiling rusted percussion and wheezing drones into zombie march dances. There’s a grimacing, offset funk to proceedings that keeps it the right side of grinding, with results almost recalling early Powell in the first, and like an arid Regis rhythm track on the 2nd, with the 3rd hewing close to Shifted’s signature style, and the 5th reducing it to a murky lurch, with some grotty swang for your gruds in the 6th part. Good stuff.
Open-hearted and fiery techno-dancehall futurism from the Democratic Republic of Congo's Rey Sapienz, vocalist and dancer Papalas Palata and rapper Fresh Doggis. Tradition, anxiety, conflict and stargazing fever dreams of the future for fans of Zazou Bikaye, Don Zilla or STILL.
Brought up in the midst of the bloodiest conflict since World War II, Rey Sapienz used music to both audit his horrifying experiences and momentarily escape reality. He started rapping at only 12 years old, before leaving the DRC for Uganda and learning to make beats with Kampala's growing crowd of visionary producers. "Na Zala Zala" is the result of Sapienz attempt to create a Congolese response to techno, and positions him alongside two performers who bring their own unique experiences to the mix.
Papalas Palata was a singer in Congolese legend Papa Wemba's band and was expected to be one of the greats of the genre. But war has a derailing affect on progress, and as his country was forced into catastrophe it was impossible to continue his work. Rapper Fresh Doggis is younger and brings his own unique perspective to the mix, learning his craft in a country ravaged by war. Between them, the three artists have developed a style that sits with the traditions of Congolese soukous music, but spikes it with ideas formed from a love of rap, techno and experimental music.
Both vocalists trade words in Lingala, singing and rapping about the constant anxiety that comes with their memories of the DRC. These words are splayed over beats that use Congolese percussive elements and loop them into kinetic, rolling rhythms that draw a straight line between techno, footwork, soukous and the 'ardkore continuum. It's expansive, motivated and unmistakably political music - the sound of artists who are screaming for their stories to be heard in a world that has ignored them for far too long.
Tactile noise and static drones on this unsettlingly good dedication to Zbigniew Karowski from Californian sound artist Jim Haynes. Ear-splittingly noisy at times and almost peacefully grimy at others, it's industrial in nature but disarmingly low-key.
'When the Sky Burned' references a tough 2020 for the Western USA, where fires burned for months causing smoke to blot out the sun or shift the color of the light for days or weeks on end. Haynes uses this to inspire a tribute to an artist he admired via a tense working relationship, the Polish experimental musician Zbigniew Karowski, who died in 2013.
The music itself is a peaky set of static, dissonance and shortwave fuzz that betrays Haynes' years of experience as an artist and curator. It's too easy making this kind of post-industrial crumble to head into the sunken place and struggle to wrench yourself out, but Haynes offers bite-sized dunks, playing with space and form expertly. The album is a fitting reminder of a tense period of US history, and a sensitive dedication to Karowski.
Belgian jazzrock-fusion ensemble COS, featuring Marc Hollander and Alain Pierre in their number, are in Finders Keepers’ crosshair for a bountiful haul compiled from a sorely overlooked run of ‘70s-to-‘80s albums, including disco gem ‘Babel,’ Aksak Maboul styles on ‘Perhaps Next Record,’ and the swaggering, sample-worthy ‘Postaeolian Train Robbery’
“COS might not be the first genre-defying progressive music group you’ve heard of who share both wordless onomatopoeic vocals and a snappy three-letter name (complete with philosophical leanings and alchemic penchants) but on listening to this first-ever custom COS compendium you might have just discovered a potential favourite!
Perhaps it’s no coincidence that COS share close spiritual, stylistic and social connections with the aforementioned bands, as one of the few long withstanding single-sylable ensembles to remain utterly idiosyncratic and incomparable in their hyper-focused and impenetrable creative bubble. As a group that effortlessly MIX head-nod prog, synth driven jazz, dislocated disco, arkestral operatics and high-brow conceptual anti-pop grooves, it’s easier to just remember the name COS than to thumb the vast amount of genre dividers in your local record shop in which COS could occupy. With the crème de la crème of Belgian jazz, prog, psych and funk within their ranks (Daniel Schell, Placebo, Marc Hollander, Alain Pierre, Brussels Art Quintet), their combined idea-to-ability ratio litters the COSography with concepts that aficionados, future fans, collaborators and critics still haven’t begun to unravel…
With their earliest roots in the compact jazz group Brussels Art Quintet the group spent their sapling years creating art-school prog under the name Classroom, this flourishing collective, cultivated by multi-instrumentalist mainstay Daniel Schell, would soon shed its leaves, dropping band-members and typographics reducing its moniker to simply COS (a multi-purpose, globally recognised word, with links to Alchemy and philosophy, with a hard phonetic delivery to suit the groups heavier rhythmic approach). In it’s new skin COS also shed all forms of orthodox language to find its true exclusive voice.
Fronted, in the conventional sense, by the daughter of author and part-time jazz player Jean De Trazegnies, the bands wordless singer changed her name to Pascale SON, to accentuate the French word for “sound”. Drawing comparisons with sound poets like Polish jazz legend Urszula Dudziak or Hungarian Katalin Ladik, but retaining the crystalline femininity (and funk) of Flora Purim, while effectively sharing an imaginary lyric book of non-words with Damo Suzuki, Magma or a future Liz Fraser… To use the word “unique” would, by COS academic standards, be lazy journalism.”
Hollie Kenniff makes up one half of the duo Mint Julep, and the album features performances from Keith Kenniff (aka Goldmund).
"Director David Lynch once said “I long for a kind of quiet where I can just drift and dream. I always say getting inspiration is like fishing. If you’re quiet and sitting there and you have the right bait, you’re going to catch a fish eventually. Ideas are sort of like that. You never know when they’re going to hit you.” Inspired by this quote in both name and spirit, Hollie Kenniff’s The Quiet Drift is an ambient gallery of cloudlike synths, seraphic strings, echoing guitars, and other celestial textures guided to cohesion by Hollie’s own wordless singing.
Though the album certainly creates (and originates from) the kind of space where Lynch’s proverbial “fish” can be caught, The Quiet Drift is a fitting title for Hollie’s own history, both recent and distant. During the course of the album’s creation, Hollie and her family moved cross-country from an island in Washington state, to an island in Maine before ultimately relocating to Canada. “As a child I visited Ontario year-round,” she explains in her own words. She continues “More than any other landscape, I think the lake, rivers, and woods there left the most enduring impression on me. The landscape and pace of life of these places will always stay with me.” But the reverberant spaces Hollie crafts need no physical headquarters. Instead of conjuring views of nature at the ground level, her sound more readily evokes a top-down perspective, with the distinct features of the land shrinking underfoot as the listener becomes untethered from geography altogether.
The Quiet Drift belongs more to the liminal spaces between life and afterlife, memory and fantasy, landscape and dreamscape, than any mappable locale. Describing her formative years, Hollie says “As a dual US/Canadian citizen who spent my childhood in a rural town one that I haven’t returned to in many years I have a sense of not entirely belonging anywhere. When I was a teenager my close friends were male musicians, so I was also an outsider to the degree that they were wild and anarchic in a way that I wasn’t. I was a quiet book reader and avid music listener who enjoyed being around a creative group. I was also a radio DJ for alternative and punk music throughout high school.”
In this light, The Quiet Drift attests that creativity is placeless, and calls into question the stereotype of artists as scene-centric city dwellers. Having come of age in the absence of metropolitan sensory overload, Hollie learned to spot the muse in nature, and within herself, instead of the echo chamber of a frenzied peer group. On The Quiet Drift Hollie Kenniff wholly escapes from such pop-culture feedback loops into transcendent, shimmering realms, and she brings the listener along with her. In this age in which we have all been called to reevaluate our relationship to indoor spaces, and seek refuge in the great outdoors, The Quiet Drift provides an apt soundtrack for such rebalancing."
Harold Budd's soundtrack to the Mark Ruffalo-starring HBO show "I Know This Much Is True" contains some of the last material he wrote before his death in December. It's sublime stuff, paired with classic Budd tracks that make this the perfect intro to his catalog.
Budd remains one of the most influential composers in the ambient genre, and if "I Know This Much Is True" proves anything, it's that until the very end, he never lost his spark. New tracks like opener 'Penny Ann Drinkwater' sit alongside vintage material like 1981's 'The Serpent (In Quicksilver)' and nothing sounds unusual or out of place. In fact, the mood Budd manages to create here shows succinctly that his real genius was in retaining and continually refining his own sound while style and genre passed him by completely.
Whether you're an old fan or a new convert, this one's just gorgeous, peaceful music that goes straight for the heart. Recommended!
Big room tekkers from siblings Ed (Tessela) and Tom (Truss) Russell aka Overmono for the neverending Fabric mix series
The 22 track mix slickly spans their big room remit and tastes rooted in the last 25 years of UK raving, racking up a mix of classic garage, techno, and electronica to D&B with milimeter tight transitions and a few surprises strewn across the path. It’s very much built with pedantically neat southern bro’s cutting loose in mind, and primed to soundtrack weekend trade deals.
Expect some beaky Reese-driven garage-techno from them, plus Artwork, dubstep electronica from Milanese and Vex’d, ‘90s anthems by Antonio and Holy Ghost, with contemporary nods to Actress, Anz and Sockethead, plus a run of D&B.
Room40 follow's last year's brilliant "Echos+" collection with another bumper package of underrated Argentinian composer Beatriz Ferreyra's psychedelic early electronics, apocalyptic concrète experimentation and disorienting synth wandering. So essential!
Recorded in 1974, 'Canto del loco' is a 13-minute passage into Ferreyra's wildly creative mind. She honed her craft as a sound artist at Paris's highly-regarded GRM, studying musique concrète and electronic music. These skills are demonstrated here as she explores the characteristic sound of monophonic oscillators which she overlays, echoes and distorts, pushing her techniques to the limit. Without compositions like this, it would be hard to imagine the fertile creative landscape that inspired artists like Keith Fullerton Whitman or Jim O'Rourke's to venture on modular and tape music excursions.
2009's 'Pas de 3 ... ou plus' dials back the synth in favor of pure concrète alchemy, with taped hisses, gurgles and wordless syllables pushing on the dimensional membrane, echoing the vanguard work of Ferreyra's GRM contemporaries Luc Ferrari and Bernard Parmegiani. 'Jingle Bayle's' makes a direct nod to this era, paying tribute to electroacoustic titan François Bayle with both its cheeky title and pots 'n pans acousmatic weirdness.
1971's 'Etude aux sons flegmatiques' is another lengthy high-point, as Ferrarya commands nausea-inducing feedback drones, juxtaposing disharmonic tones and fabricating a glassy, psychedelic microcosm. It's important material, not just because Ferrarya began creating at a time when this kind of experimentation was rare, but because she approaches heady, academic themes with a level of mischievousness and creative glee that lends her work serious longevity. "Canto+" is out there, but brilliantly approachable.
FatCat compete their groundbreaking Split Series with complementary sides by operatic psychopomp Ian William Craig and Estonian folk singer Kago after nearly a quarter century of surprises. Time to release that fake Pole 12" lads?
The Split Series was minted in 1997 with a 12” shared by Third Eye Foundation and V/Vm, and it's since hosted some of modern electronic music’s most vital artists, from Gescom to Konono No.1, Merzbow and Katie Gately, with each instalment typically contrasting and complementing pairs of radical artists on one record. Their 24th and final edition of the series sees them match sides by two artists who share a northerly latitude and experimental attitude, but are separated by thousands of miles, with Canada’s Ian William Craig working at the rudest limits of his mutant neo-classical style, while Estonian poet Kago channels ancient tradition and quietly cosmic energies in a suite of electro-folk curios.
It’s a fine send off to a reliably off-the-wall series which has turned up some real gems over the years, and which arguably broke the mould for curating adventurous new music, with ‘Split Series 24’ keeping up their remit to the end. Star of experimental contemporary classical Ian William Craig takes the opportunity to explore the limits of his style with ‘Because It Speaks,’ an 19 minute tract of foghorn blasts and keening vox that sounds like a death knell for the world, hard recalling classic Deathprod, but with Craig’s patented, blasted textures in ravishing effect. It’s then left to Kago to see off the final side with a collection of songs sung in Seto, the language of a tiny, indigenous Finno-Ugric ethnic minority in Estonia’s south-east, and set to nithered folk strings and cut-up dictaphone recordings in totally absorbing and charming style. While he’s been on FatCat’s radar since 2006, it’s remarkably his first international release, and bound to snag attention from fans of the Fonal label (Paavoharju, Islaja) or Stroom’s recent Estonian exploits.
Toodle pip, ta for the mad tunes!
Kiwi singer-songwriter Maxine Funke makes ineffably pretty homespun folk that will surely appeal to anyone into Sibylle Baier, Liz Harris, Bridget St. John or Vashti Bunyan. A proper special, once again, from A Colourful Storm.
'Seance' is an understated wonder; Funke has released an acclaimed run of low-key DIY folk records on labels like Feeding Tube, Next Best Way and Epic Sweep, and this latest is possibly her most resolved to date. Minimal but never icy, Funke's songwriting is tender and focused, but her voice is the key here, as she uses delicate tones to illustrate an internal world brimming with love and loss.
Using just guitar and voice, Funke meditates on themes using dreamlike imagery and tangled poetry - they seem simple, but take countless listens to unpick. There's euphoria, anxiety, romance and pain hidden beneath her wavering words, and it's a pleasure to hear something so uncluttered and free from posturing.
One of London’s most intriguing labels ventures a dark fantasy horror/gamer soundtrack by its co-founder, Lugh O’Neill for an experimental film of the same name by Kevin Brennan.
Lugh follows a highlight of the label's ‘Apocope’ compilation with his most enigmatic work, scored in a back and forth with director Brennan to locate some of his most curious and haunted recordings. Made to accompany the film’s part documentary, part scripted format, the music follows a storyline about real life imitating gamer life, and vice versa, outlined by the label as grappling “with the idea of virtual violence as a form of expression and identity whilst scrutinising the predominantly male ‘gamer-bro’ archetype synonymous with these online cultures.” As with 'Apocope’ earlier in 2021, the concept does not get in the way of enjoyment of the music, acting on its own merits as a steeply absorbing suite of suggestive soundtrack and finely sculpted dark ambient music.
The ‘Erangel OST’ finds its closest aesthetic corollary in Lugh’s ‘Re Munus’ LP of 2020, but loses that LP’s more frantic aspects in favour of an extremely slow burning appeal, where scenes unfold at a glacial pace that’s hard not get sucked in by. Its 10 parts unfold thru 37 minutes, describing a fleeting play of shadow tones and transportive spatial settings. Any violence is implied and not explicit, perhaps seeping thru in the unsheathed sword scythes and keening guitar noise of ‘Crystalline Dawn’, the bellyaches of ‘Lost Boys’ and the beastly grind of ‘Moan Jiro,’ but more often reserved to the peripheries where it suggests the tension leading up to the act, and its aftermath, especially in the highlights of ‘Idle,’ the guttural lurk of ‘Forest Lure,’ and exquisite designs of ’Sentinel.’
Post-Vangelis space traveling syfy ambience inspired by Brian Eno, AFX and all the usual suspects. U know what to expect: wobbly analog pads, reverberating syn piano, half-speed horns, stargazing whooshes. Aaaahhh mystery.
'Faith/Reason' is the latest full-length from Belfast-based producer Gregory Ferguson, whose debut album charted a journey to the moon. He's ditched the IDM-inspired electro now in favor of similarly lunar-gazing ambience, and takes cues from Vangelis and "Music For Airports"-era Eno on "Faith/Reason", spiking it with the wobbly tape-flux fuzziness of the Death Waltz set.
So far, so nostalgic, but Ferguson is a gifted producer and lays out his narrative in glorious technicolor. The production is impeccable throughout, and hits hardest when the canned sci-fi tropes are nudged to one side. 'Last Program Run' is a standout, with a delicate, dusted rhythm and reverberating piano that sounds exactly like Deaf Center's debut EP "Neon City". Okay then.
Double deep house from 1990 resurfaces on Rush Hour, keeping Vincent Floyd’s early joint for Gherkin sublabel Resound Records in circulation for the dancers
A sterling example of Chicago house at coming into its own back in 1990, it features the dreamy 12 minutes of cascading bleeps, purring bass and bumpty jack in ‘Cruising (Long Ride)’ plus the effervescent groover ‘Isolation’ with its sparingly used female vocals, and the Detroit-sounding, kaotic harmonic synths of ’Silent Noise.’