Leon Vynehall tends to his dark side with a trippy house blighter, spending the first 1/3 exercising his sound design skills to psychedelic effect before rolling out into a more conventional, if spaced-out, house hustle
Killer, previously unreleased DIY theatre soundtrack by the mastermind behind Belgian cold wave popstars Pas De Deux, released for the first time on vinyl via Ziggy Devriendt’s indispensible STROOM〰 label. It ncluded the rare peach 'De Zus van Adeline' off De Kreet’s 7” Dark In The Shadow, and slotting into their brilliant roster with an experimental confection of new wave pop, synth vignettes and roiling post-punk grooves.
“Theater De Kreet was a short lived theatre collective that existed between 1979 and 1981. In that period the troupe presented just one performance, a musical called 'Adeline' which had a run of six shows during 1981.
The members of Theater De Kreet were originally part of a bigger group called Grasgroen, which was founded by art history students from the Leuven University. The collective mainly focused on so called ‘animations’ in the public space. After a while, Grasgroen split into two different groups (theatre and performance), and Theater De Kreet came into existence. Its core members were Walter Verdin, Guy Dermul, Hilde Wils, Gaby Geysens and Nicole Boffin. Mainly using improvisatory methods, the collective started working on 'Adeline' in 1979. The premiere took place in October 1981 and was met with very mixed critical reviews. Walter Verdin was in charge of the music for 'Adeline'. Originally an art history and visual art student, Verdin was introduced to the Belgian music scene through his record sleeve and poster designs. Prior to the music for 'Adeline', he released a solo album and a 7” white man reggae project with Grasgroen ('Storingen' by Specimen & The Rizikoos). Later in his career, he had his biggest commercial success with Pas de deux, the band that represented Belgium at the Eurovision Song Contest in Munich (1983). After the Pas de deux adventure, Verdin gave up on popular music and had a blooming career in video art, working on video concerts and installations and later on with renowned theatre and dance companies from all over the world.
To write the soundtrack for 'Adeline', Verdin took to the studio of the Audiovisual Services of the KU Leuven, which was his audio and video laboratorium for around 20 years, and subsequently to the ICP Recording Studios in Brussels for post-production. Verdin & co. didn't compose behind a writing desk or a piano. Music for them meant playing - with an instrument, but also with non-traditional instruments. The spring of a desk lamp for instance, could be used to produce music too.
"In that period I was very much experimenting, making new material and using older stuff I had lying around. A lot of the music came naturally. Jean-Marie Aerts would be playing guitar in front of his TV for instance, and I would play along. Or I would just rhythmically move the handle of a flight case – clack, clack, clack – and he would play bass. That became “Lancement”. The melody and the lyrics for “De Zus Van Adeline”, for instance, were written by Guy Dermul, and I made the arrangement for the song.” Verdin's way of playing wasn't an execution, it was playing with sounds, with the technical possibilities of audiovisual equipment, and from this playing, the compositions you will hear on this record emerged.”
‘Dark Matter’ completes a delectable trio of releases surveying Pablo’s Eye, a multifaceted Belgian collective working between ambient electronica, cinematic synth themes and hypnotic minimal rhythms.
Drawn from some 30 years of Pablo’s Eye material, ‘Dark Matter’ oscillates between the shadowy feels found in their ‘Spring Break’ compilation, and their rhythm-driven inclinations from the stunning ‘Bardo For Pablo’ 12”.
As Stroom so beautifully put it, the sound of Pablo’s Eye “is a temporary atmosphere, like a taste or dream…”, and that ephemeral nature is poignantly key to the 12 tracks on offer’, as they drift from theatrical vignettes such as ‘Worship & Passion’ to intoxicating, noirish percussion and drones redolent of Muslimgauze in ‘Different Observers’, and onto reverberating, spacious drum and drone works such as ‘A Pagan Use’ and the trip-hop of ‘Out of the Corner of Her Eye’, via absorbing arabesques like the serene ambient blush of ‘When You Were Asleep’ and ‘L.A. Desert’.
At risk of repeating ourselves, the selection and presentation skills of Ziggy Devriendt and his team at Stroom are achingly on-point here, making for a record you’ll return to over and again.
Another unmissable invitation to the STROOM 〰 dimension, Kyoto’s Sonoko meets Jan Van den Broeke [STRLP-003] for a suite of deliquescent, trippy dream-pop - her first new recordings since the Colin Newman and Aksak Maboul-produced La Débutante  LP and La Poupee Qui Fait Non  7”.
Slotting perfectly into one of our favourite labels right now, Les Anges, Les Bonheurs demonstrates the thizzy quintessence of Sonoko’s serene vocals and vibes in four cuts that could be called trip hop, adult contemporary or most acutely, dream pop. In that sense it’s a direct, if long overdue, continuation of the styles forged on Sonoko’s rarified debut LP, and somewhat makes up for the fact that she had to leave Europe for Kyoto after that LP didn’t quite attract the attention it warranted at the time.
Thanks to Jan Van Den Broeke, who was was a big fan of Sonoko’s album, and contacted her about collaboration via Myspace in 2009, her music now has a second wind, with results every bit as enchanting as you’d expect from a woman who included a cover of david Lynch’s In Heaven, from the Eraserhead soundtrack, on her 1st record!
The result of decades of reflection on everything from French movies and literature (Sonoko studied French lit at University in Paris in the ‘80s) to the classical European romanticism of Satie and Debussy, and Russian theater, it all adds up to a sound sweetly indebted as much to Serge and Jane as the diehard romantic notion of following your dreams, no matter how long it takes you to achieve them.
Hearts and heads will melt.
Cold blue wavey melancholy from Vanderschrick, a new earthling discovered by celebrated reissue specialists, STROOM 〰
On the A-side ‘Ochtendgrijs’ gazes into middle distance with unaffected vocals and a plaintive, minimalist backdrop of wide bass and shivering chime trees that beckon listeners to rest and reflect in its Antwerp attic air.
By contrast, the B-side may well provide the urge to dance, striking the finest balance of sexy slunkiness and introverted pop coyness that’s really pushing our buttons right now.
Stroom zoom in/out on Vazz’s precious post punk zingers and solo piano postcards with a precious compilation drawing from their distinct Glasgow and Edinburgh periods, containing some of the finest, barely-known melancholly wave-pop of the era. Fair to say that over the last few years we’ve developed an obsession with Vazz, their style of proto-dreampop sizzles with a mix of naivety and melancholy that’s hard to shake once bitten. File somewhere between Antena, Maximum Joy, Eno and Byrne.
Now following the release of a Vazz / Hugh Small collection ’Submerged Vessels And Other Stories / Piano Music’ in 2017, Stroom and Forced Nostalgia have cooked up ‘Cloud Over Maroma’ to function both as a refresher and primer to Vazz’s music, shuffling up a track sequence that takes in fizzy ohrwurms from their early years 1982-1987 under the grey skies of industrial Glasgow, and thru to Hugh Small’s solo piano compositions written in the more mannered environs of Edinburgh, as well as by the mountains of Andalucia, Spain, where he moved in 2017 to get away from Brexit (and maybe sigh at leathery brit OAPs shooting themselves in both feet, blaming it on kids, and queuing outside the hospital).
Not sure we’ll ever get over those early Vazz tracks and they naturally make up the big highlights here, notably the keeling swoon of ‘Cast Reflection’ - one of our all time favourite tracks of the era - and the shadow shimmy of ‘Lost Time’, but also the lush strokes of ‘Breath’ from their debut 7”. Those tracks are all strewn across the record, shuffled with the elegant style of Hugh Small’s solo work dating from 2010 to 2018, ranging from the Cézanne-inspired motif of ‘Cloud Over Maroma’, so named after the mountain outside Hugh’s window, to the echoes of Andalusia’s Muslim past that creep into ‘Mezquita (Part 2)’ and the lofty air of ‘Ritual’, his wistful love note to Edinburgh.
To the uninitiated - a total find.
The gods at Stroom deliver another peachy double-header, facing off Kyoto’s classy 1984 synth-pop with the steamy blush of Zoë Sinatra’s 1990 gem.
Kyoto’s ‘Venetian Blinds’ fines the tightest line between flash funk and in-the-pocket cool, with Belinda De Bruyn glyding icy over blinding FM synth stabs and puckered bass hustle to jog a precious part of collective memory - it nails a vibe so well you think you know it, even if you never heard it before.
Zoë Sinatra’s ‘Mais Qu’Est-Ce Que Tu Fumes?’ hugs the B-side like a velvet bodysuit. Produced by legendary New Beat guy, Gery François (Teknokrat’s), it’s much slower and sexier than his club gear, destined for the after-party and quite possibly directing you to the cold shower Zoë mentions in the song.
A spellbinding ode to love lost, and possibly to be gained, from Belgium’s Annelies Monseré, one of the few contemporary artists to release new recordings amid Stroom’s classic reissue schedule - although you’d hardly tell from the timeless, ghostly quality of her signing and gothic backdrops.
Described by Ziggy Devriendt’s (a.k.a. DJ Nosedrip) label as “…a record about a parting of ways. It is dedicated to the one who has been left behind and the one who left” the latest LP from Annelies is unmistakably shaded with a mittel european sense of sombre, nocturnal, romantic themes, using a blend of electronic and acoustic instruments to paint stark chambers of sound ready for intimate reflection and contemplation.
The lyrics of each song are included for disambiguity, but to be fair Annalies doesn’t hide behind glossolalia or any sort of wistful whimpering, masterfully mixing her vocals for plaintive legibility and with transfixing effect that’s only accentuated by the stripped back, refined poise of her undulating organ lines, glowing synths and sighing accordion phrasing.
In the most beautiful way, ‘Happiness Is Within Sight’ strikes the finest balance of vulnerability and quietly resolute strength, of classicism and timelessnes, making for a record that rewards many return listens - soemthing we could say about almost any Stroom release, but very strongly here.
STROOM 〰 dish up Patrick Selinger’s suave New Beat classique, ‘Businessmen’, backed with a trio of unreleased solo piano pieces.
A perfect example of New Beat at its most tongue-in-cheek and yet still debonaire, the three ‘Businessmen’ cuts are a coolly sardonic ode to the excess of late ‘80s money men - exactly the sort that Belgian ravers were taking the piss out of by bringing briefcases to the club, usually paired with some stonewashed jeans and shirts decorated in smileys. Factor in the fact that Selinger hails from Antwerp - the biggest port for cocaine imports in Europe - and you can only imagine the kind of Jean Claude Van Damme-meets-Gordon Gecko characters he was observing and passing comment on.
While the original ‘Businessmen’, it’s stripped down vocal mix, and instrumental are as much a showcase for Selinger’s vocal as the dancefloor production of Jan Van Den Bergh (the total G behind Mappa Mundi and too many classics to mention), the B-side tracks show off Selinger’s solo piano talents in three parts that play to the refined sound of Antwerp, offering a frothier taste of its smoky bars and back streets.
Bowing to the court of New Beat; Jade 4U, Praga Khan and Chris Inger’s sexy East-West dancefloor project Shakti is racked up on Stroom’s latest silver platter.
Mixing the raunch of Miss Nikkie Van Lierop aka New Beat siren Jade 4 U with the foundational New Beat chops of prolific producers Chris Inger (Jos Borremans) and Maurice Engelen, and Tej-Doo, plus a coterie of Eastern-Hailing singers and players, Shakti were behind some of New Beat’s sexiest, grown-up classics that contrasted with the genre’s sweet-toothed “nougat beat” strains.
‘Verboten Dromen’ stars nearly half the tracks (the ones you need) from the keenly sought-after ’Shakti featuring Jade 4 U’ (1990) compilation CD - itself drawing from 1988’s equally coveted ’Forbidden Dream / The Awakening’ diamond and 1987’s ‘Demonic Forces’ mini-LP - to supply a strong flavour of Belgium’s briefcase-swinging style in the late ‘80s.
Abiding a formula of sultry female vocals with slow and slick rutting rhythms, noirish synth pads and “exotic” references, the eight trax essentially trace the roots of what would become Euro-dance, spying the style in a formative flux between slower, sozzled Belgian sexiness and a loose mix of Arabic and Indian influences which accounted for one avenue of New Beat, alongside it’s dafter obsessions with Batman and cocaine, to name a few.
Weaving everything from Nabaurak Pran’s 72-string sitar to Dhol-Drums, Nay-Flutes and Japanese Koto with backing vocals by the El Saba-Sisters, the results reach classic heights in the irresistible one-two of ‘Forbidden Dreams’ and ‘The Awakening’, along withe the sultry fanfare of ‘That Boy’ and frothy bop of ‘The Early Train’, while it really all comes together in the come-to-bed vibes of ‘Rainbows’ and the darker lust of ‘Kama Sutra’ - “are you alone tonight?”, and ‘Demonic Forces’ most clearly bridges early industrial pop with ambient dance music.
Swoon-worthy post-punk duo Vazz return with a collection of new/old recordings via Belgium’s sterling STROOM 〰 label, beautifully reprising the nimble, sylvan sound of their cult side Whisper Not  with a collection of songs made during the same era, and right up to the modern day, but never heard beyond their archive. Since the 2012 reissue of their debut recordings, Vazz have been cited among Andy Stott’s favourite artists, and seen key inclusions in prime mixes by Jon K, Illum Sphere, and Ron Morelli, who’ve all helped spread the Vazz sound like a very pleasing virus to welcome hosts around the world.
Hugh Small and Anna Howson aka Vazz are pretty much the definition of a band who were never fully appreciated in their time. Perhaps due to their own stubbornness and self-destructive attitude, they passed up an offer from 4AD’s Ivo very early on, and despite plays of their Breath/Violent Silence 7” by John Peel, they simply missed that boat, only to be rediscovered and touted as “Scotland’s best kept secret” a whole generation later thanks to Forced Nostalgia’s reissues and specifically the song Cast Reflections, which, if you ask us, is one of the most beautiful, definitive songs of its time.
With Submerged Vessels and Other Stories we now get a peek behind the curtain of their sessions spanning 34 years: from early recordings at The Hellfire Club, a studio in the dank basement of a West End Glasgow tenement also shared by Aztec Camera, Orange Juice and The French Impressionists, a.o, where they made Whisper Not, thru to their slightly later Glasgow home recordings, and subsequent sessions in Edinburgh dating to 2014-2016, which are also the focus of a bonus CD; Hugh Small’s Piano Music (2014-2016).
It’s maybe too much to ask for another Cast Reflections, but there’s still some real gems inside here, especially in the serpentine torque and melancholy cadence of Solitary Sun  and the delectable, skinny dub suspension system of Watercolours , or the smoky wisp of PeripheralVision (Macula Lutea Mix), which finds Hugh Small slipping into more ambient/textural spheres slightly later in Edinburgh c. 1988, after they had parted way.
Ultimately, after disbanding they would never reprise the Vazz sound, but Hugh Small proves a dab hand at the keys with Piano Music (2014-2016), sublimely channelling the keen and hiraeth of their spikier early work into reserved yet plush solo expressions that neatly bookend each side of this LP, and the Vazz story altogether, whilst sweetly retaining their timeless enigma.
Dream label STROOM 〰 induces lushest late night feels with Jason Kolàr’s ‘Modified Perspectives’, the label’s first release of original, contemporary - as opposed to vintage, archival - music, following a string of much celebrated ’70s/‘80s/‘90s pearlers
Recorded in the artist’s apartment during 2017, Modified Perspectives is presented by Kolàr as “a hidden place between science and magic. A secret playground where brainwaves rejoice and wander around.” And in that esoteric sense of magick, any attempt to grasp its misty dimensions may leave the person describing it effectively clutching at pretty air.
But what we can tell you is, it beautifully recalls the meditative airs of Dominique Lawalrée or Vini Reilly, as well as the synthetic allure of so much Japanese ambient music, but ultimately it’s got a slightly smudged, just-outta-reach quality that really draws us deep...
Rabih Beaini’s Morphine label rouses from a long hiatus with a killer blast of Sun Ra-skooled cosmic techno jazz.
Last spotted in 2017 introducing solo projects by Senyawa, who have gone on to worldwide acclaim, Morphine Doser doesn’t miss a beat with this immersive session of live instrumental and electronic jams recorded by Rabih Beaini and his pals, Piero Bittolo Bon, Tommaso Cappellato, and Alvise Seggi, in Italy during June of 2016.
Patently indebted to Sun Ra, the results gush in five parts ranging form the roiling, turbulent cosmic polyrhythms and haywire synths of ‘Kaigo’, to channel a sort of dark Middle Eastern jazz vibe in ‘Barene’, with the effervescent palate cleanser ‘Sinopia’ leading into more pastoral, spiritual styles spiced with funk drums in ‘Ghebi’, and a head-spinning whorl of splayed breaks and modular scree in ‘Hephaistos.’
Strut and Art Yard present the first compilation bringing together the modern era recordings of Tribe, Detroit’s acclaimed independent jazz collective. Tribe began as a musical ensemble in 1971 co-founded by Saxophonist Wendell Harrison and trombonist Phil Ranelin that soon expanded into a broad amalgam including a live collective and independent record label.
"Ignored by the mainstream, many African American jazz artists in Detroit and across the US began creating their own small imprints and Tribe emerged alongside other cultural entities to express selfdetermination goals in the city: saxophonist Ernie Rodgers with his sessions at Rapa House; John and Leni Sinclair’s Artist Workshop; Bruce Millan’s Repertory Theater; the Hastings Jazz Experience and the Strata Corporation led by Kenny Cox. Harrison’s ideas of independence, self-determination and education were central to the Tribe ethos: “I might be possessed with a drive to get the knowledge out,” explained Harrison, “because I see this as sustaining the future of the jazz diaspora, the jazz tradition.” Tribe album releases like Harrison’s ‘An Evening With The Devil’ (1972) and Harrison and Ranelin’s ‘A Message From The Tribe’ (1973) became early ‘70s milestones in Detroit jazz.
In 1977, Harrison teamed up with pianist/composer Harold McKinney to form Rebirth Inc., aided by Detroit cultural warrior John Sinclair, a continuation of the Tribe community ethos. Musically, it formed a link with radio station WDET and began an outreach program to teach children and to publish Harrison’s jazz instruction books. Harrison continue to record extensively as a leader with his own labels, WenHa and Tribe, documenting the collective through sessions led by Phil Ranelin, Harold McKinney, Pamela Wise and more.
The ‘Hometown’ compilation places the spotlight on this later era of Tribe and Rebirth Inc., with rare and previously unreleased recordings from Harrison’s WenHa / Rebirth Studios and the SereNgeti Gallery And Cultural Center. Among many highlights, Harold McKinney and his “McKinfolk” family of musicians contribute the pulsing ‘Wide And Blue’ and dance celebration ‘Juba’; Phil Ranelin re-works his classic ‘He The One We All Knew’; Poet Mbiyu Chui (Williams Moore), pianist Pamela Wise and percussionist Djallo Djakate spark on the uncompromising ‘Ode To Black Mothers’ and the rallying cry of ‘Marcus Garvey’: “If we ever get together we will astound the world.” Harrison himself evokes the power and majesty of juju on ‘Conjure Man’."
The wonderful STROOM 〰 label expand their precious archive of Lowlands-based synth music with a flowering compilation of Siebe Baarda aka Cybe’s ersatz exotic electronics; Tropisch Verlangen, or Tropical Desire, recorded in the 80's and cast aside to languish in obscurity more or less ever since. Brilliant find this, tipped if yr into early Coil, YMO, Kode 9, Ryuichi Sakamoto.
One of three cassettes issued by the then yung and nascent artist after travelling around India, Indonesia, Thailand, Bali and Java in the early ‘80s, Tropisch Verlangen channels the richness of the sights, smells and feelings Cybe experienced during those trips into an impressionistic moire of shimmering gamelan and nimble electro pieces that resonate with the vibes of Ryuichi Sakamoto’s B-2 Unit classic as much as K. Leimer’s Eastern-facing works or the new age psychedelia of Holland’s Chi Factory.
Using authentically indigenous instruments - Tinklik, Sarong Barong, Genggong, Ching and Suling - as well as a wealth of other synthesisers, samplers, vocoder, gongs, computer and other percussive-melodic pieces like the xylophone and glockenspiel, the results are at once innocently searching and intricately realised. And while his sister, Betty Baarda contributes guitar on one song, The Moon Is Shining Above The Richfield, it’s rather impressively all the work of one man solo in his bedroom/studio.
In that sense, it’s inarguably an ambitious effort, and one that was evidently, beautifully realised at that time. However a lack of recognition beyond a group cult in Amsterdam and a handful of gigs and concerts (especially difficult to play live with tape) meant that he would soon enough sell all his gear and forget about making music, but still listened to it a lot.
The results thankfully live on thru STROOM 〰, reprising the feeling we last felt towards their reissue of Alain Pierre’s Jan Zonder Vrees soundtrack, but with a more piquant tang of unique scales and tingling percussions, including some utterly heart-melting moments in the sublime vignettes of Chinatown and the Sublime Frequencies radio series vibes of Loi Krathong, or the Bamboo Houses styles of Zen Tai.
Hard-to-place singer/songwriter Colin Self follows their ‘Siblings’ LP and Holly Herndon collaboration with a grandiose new EP
‘Orphans’ expresses their extraness with ‘80s xmas song levels of sweeping string arrangements and reverb drenched vocals in ‘Dispossessed’, choirboy styles in ‘Once More’, and just to bring all the family together, a spot of wailing acid house in ‘Polyvagal’, beside a Plannigntorock remix of ‘Survival’ riding pizzicato strings and a strutting beat.
Hudson Mohawke and Lunice’s TNGHT duo double down on their hugely hyped 2012 debut with a much leaner, freakier sound in ‘II’
Counting seven cuts and a skit, ‘II’ is much more stripped down and playful than its predecessor, and sounds more like they were trying to do themselves, than gunning for some viral success a la Baauer (‘member that, lol).
Highlights are many. The polyrhythmic percussive voodoo and possessed hollers of ‘Serpent’ are right up there, as is the farmhand rave madness of ‘Club Finger’, while ‘I’m In A Hole’ hits the nastiest with its devilishly edited trap drums and brooding drop-outs, and ‘Gimme Summn’ wickedly sounds like a lost Mr. Oizo joint.
Building on the fierce reputation of her early albums, ‘Analog Fluids of Sonic Black Holes’ is the brutally transfixing 4th LP by force of nature, Moor Mother, featuring contributions from Justin Broadrick (Godflesh, Zonal), King Britt, Saul Williams, Giant Swan, and Bookworms...
Delivered with a booming, stentorian confidence, Moor Mother holds the listener’s gaze with frightening conviction of purpose, underlined by the ratchet strength of her Afro-punk-techno-blues-noise backdrops. Alongside guest input from poet/rapper Saul Williams and her fellow Philly native, MC Reef The Lost Cauze, Moor Mother holds darkness to light in a way that edifies and complicates the magick of her art.
In its detailed arrangements and penetrative focus, ‘ Analog Fluids of Sonic Black Holes’ resembles an immersive film sans the visuals, but the range of real and synthetic textures and timbres, coupled with Moor Mother’s central narration bring the music and her ideas to life in a way that visual languages may not fully be able to articulate so fully, while also leaving room for the listener to fill in their own gaps. She’s lost none of the rage that informed her first three albums, but here it feels more tempered and pointed than ever.
From the introductory portal/mental compression chamber of ancient sounding vocals, diaphanous synths and tightening, dissonant strings in ‘Repeater’, the album erupts across the first half, only to slow and crystallize into boulders and ash clouds. Warning flares come early with the bristling noise and wailing vocals of ‘Don’t Die’, and surges into gear with the exceptional Jk Flesh-like slam of ‘After Images’, the urgency of ‘Master’s Clock’ and the sooty rock and rolige of ‘Black Flight’ featuring arresting verse by Saul Williams. From here it runs slower, inward, pulled toward the black hole of ‘The Myth Holds Weight’ and the vice-like squeeze of ‘Sonic Black Holes’, resting the pace for her glaring vocals in ’Shadowgrams’ and the heaving slug of ‘Private Silence’, again recalling JK Flesh productions and making room for Reef the Lost Cauze, and a spirited resolution or recycling of they senses in ‘Passing Of Time.’
As we sit here writing in Manchester, which built its name as Cottonopolis, and thousands of miles from the US, there’s lots of food for thought when Moor Mother talks about her ancestors working cotton fields. We all share a history, but we only acknowledge a fraction of it. The visceral context and nature of Moor Mother’s music is vital in prizing opening ears and minds to history and the way it informs modernity.
Deep and fizzy, breaks-driven dance trax from Portu-gal Violet & Sheffield’s Denham Audio trio for the label wing of NYC’s Frendzone clubnights
Leading on from her smart debut LP ‘Bed Of Roses’ for Dark Entries, Violet coils up the tensile hardcore dread techno stepper ‘Second Nature’ at 133bpm, alongside the shark-eyed junglist swerve of ‘Above The Clouds’ on a vintage Tango & Ratty tip at 150bpm.
South Yorkshire’s Denham Audio then turn on the party with their hackneyed, Soul II Soul-sampling shuffler ‘Overused Vocal Track 1’, plus the in-the-pocket pivot of ‘Overused Vocal Track 2’.
Properly evocative and unsettling field recordings made with bits of the Berlin Wall during the summer following its breakdown. Previously unreleased and out in time to commemorate 30 years since Berlin was reunited.
“Berlin, August 1990, first post-wall Summer. Two friends, the locals Günter Schickert and gallerist Peter Unsicker perform a spectacular yet symbolically intimate interpretation of those epochal changing days by building a sound installation with a damaged piece of the Berlin Wall. They persuade the patrol "Feliks Dzierzynski" of the DDR army to transport and relocate a piece outside Peter's Wall Street Gallery on the Zimmer Strasse, in the borough of Mitte, where only a few months back the intact structure actually passed through. Once the wall was positioned, they bend down the bars of the iron structure that crop out the concrete, bind piano chords to them, stretch the strings down to the bodom base of the construct and connect guitar amplifiers to the set up. The Berlin Wall is ready to be played as a harp.
Günter Schickert's Mauerharfe are executed between August and October 1990, resulting into three long field recordings. "Aufnahme bei Mauerblüten, Sommer 1990" features a 19-minute long piece. The tape-induced background noise lays down a carpet of haunting atmospheres and introduces the experiment. Günter starts to test the chords by pulling out, with his fingers, dry and acid timbers. The warm-up evolves by investigating wider sinusoidal waves and dilated metallic riffs. The track takes the form of a more conventional music narration, as the artist bangs the harp with a sort of rudimental violin bow creating marching percussive patterns. On "Zwei Spuren nacheinander aufgenommen, Herbst 1990", a similarly long take opens up with ferocious urge, like being catapulted into a warfare between iron and cement. As the strings get hit and pulled, the metal seems to crash into thousands of pieces, dissolving into merciless distortions. The third piece (CD-only), "Mauerharfe 3", is a 30-minute long performance dated August the 13th, 1990. As Schickert recalls, 29 years before exactly on that same date, the construction of the Berlin wall was accomplished. The recording is cleaner than the previous two, giving more width and definition to the sounds resulting in discrete and meditative, deep, gong-like percussive timbers. Includes exclusive pictures, liner notes, a prose poem by Peter Unsicker and some draft writings by the artists with reflections on the project.”
Preeminent avant-gardiste and Recital founder, Sean McCann gently melts our heads with ‘Puck’ his significant new solo side following from 2016’s ‘Music For Public Ensemble’. It strongly feels like inhabiting someone else’s dream. Totally spellbinding, life-affirming music from one of contemporary composition’s pivotal artists.
“Puck is both public and private in nature. A smear of chamber works from Stockholm, Moscow, New York, and Kansas. Three aged personal recordings from 2008, 2009, and 2010 are also poured in the batter: a bedroom violin trio, ambient music, and a sad plucked guitar piece. A marbled blend of new chamber works and older, boisterous recordings from the late-2000s.
The first side is subtitled “Folded Portraits” – a three part suite: Nightfall, Broth, and Damals: German for “back then…” (or Remember When: the lowest form of conversation). The spine of it is an informal rehearsal session of Portraits of Friars (2018). Recorded at the fabled Fylkingen in Stockholm, the 10-person text and chamber piece grows and shrinks. False starts and stops and tests are outlined with the black ink of editing. Little moments become big moments. Nailed above that spine is Folded Rose (2018), a piece for piano and humming. A dainty march out of context, immersed in recordings of me gagging and yowling in my car.
Sound artist Lia Mazzari shared the titular spoken piece with me. “Puck,” a duet for dialogue about eggs and jewelry, premiered at Café OTO in 2018. I recorded my text in a dark bathtub in Toronto on my 30th birthday last year. The text is a mold growing on top of a quintet I wrote called Vilon (2017), sweetly performed by the Russian Kymatic Ensemble. Jackson Graham, skilled American percussionist, is a rod bolted through the album. He commissioned a work by me called Violet Fat (2017), which is spliced across both sides, hammered and bent to fit in place.
A fusion of jubilation and gut clenching, Puck balances on the rooftop, tipping side to side in the fog.
by Sean McCann, September 2019”
Morphing deeper into the cyber-techno vortex, NYC’s Hiro Kone gives animus to wrecking ball kick drums, body-scanning synths and atavistic choral pads in a thrilling new album for Dais.
With ‘A Fossil Begins to Bray’ Hiro leads farther into a void between modular synthesis, field recordings and noise following 2018’s cultishly prized ‘Pure Expenditure’ LP and her roiling collab with Drew McDowell (Coil). As the title suggests, Hiro’s new album is intently focussed on the idea of giving a primal, anthropomorphic voice to ancient, even pre-historic, spirits and creatures. This idea provides a thoroughly compelling lense thru which to frame her music, which is at once contemporary and futuristic in its technical make-up, while speaking to instinctive sixth senses, muscle memories and notions of the uncanny valley.
Flooding the synapses with serotonin-lush pads and unheimlich, crawling rhythms in opener ‘A Desire, Nameless’, Hiro’s technical chicanery leads into pensile megastructures with ‘fabrication of Silence’ and shiveringly dark, primordial space stretched out between waning subbass and her creaking violin strings on the title track. ’Shatter The Gangue Of Piety’ follows, carving an elemental techno truth from syncopated drums and surging pad, and the cinematic themes of ’Submerged Dragon’ and ‘Iahklu’ divine a timeless dread that resolves in the action of muscle memory in her restless techno impulses on ‘Feed My Ancestors.’
It’s safe to say that Steven Legget has been somewhat measured in his approach to releasing music. The Newcastle native was behind the Four Hands moniker, with releases alongside iconic industrial figures Zoviet France on Signals From The North and the classic ‘Hizou’ on Claremont 56 back at the turn of the decade.
Steve Leggett pays tribute to one of the last functioning civil saunas in the UK, Newcastle’s Turkish Baths, with an immersive suite of cello, electronics and field recordings layered and arranged to reflect the woozy, slow motion, drug free endorphin rush of the bath house
Stemming from a live performance given by Leggett at the Turkish Baths, the results were edited and recombined with recordings made on location in the islands of Paxos and Loutro, South Crete to create a timeless air of luxurious ambient tranquility that seemingly turns the new age introspection of an isolation tank into a shared experience.
The sauna here is taken in a broader cultural context reflective of how it relates to Newcastle and its fertile rhizome of experimental musicians. On one level, the sauna can be taken as a metaphorical, exotic oasis of calm in the cold, hardworking and hard-playing North Eastern English city, and, on an related tip, it roots back into the city’s long-standing home as port to a rich mosaic of North and East African, Arabic and Middle-Eastern cultures, as well as outward-looking artists such as Zoviet*France, with whom Leggett has previously shared vinyl space.
As each tracks blushes its convective layers of strings and electronics, the results become only stronger thru acknowledging their provenance, and the whole project beautifully comes together as a swirling testament to the blend of idiosyncrasy and open-minded, folk-wise nature and timelessness of music from this region.
Fractal Fantasy’s Sinjin Hawke & Zora Jones tweak out ‘End of the Road’ from Murlo’s ‘Dolos’ album as a bouncing sort of Jersey club meets grime bubbler riding twisted Reese bass torque and drizzled with crystalline electronics
Unthank thaws down from a small cryogenic suspension and delivers it’s first 12”, RIYL Dream 2 Science, Autechre, Unit Moebius, μ-Ziq etc
"Tracks from the vault from DJ Guy (Other World Music/Cejero/All Caps) who’s been busy since 1992. All tracks designed to be played loud and with the dance in mind whilst taking in all sorts of melancholy, euphoria and pastoral, acid soundscapes."
Donato Dozzy distills his ’12H’ sound installation for the Music Bridge - designed by Armando Trovajoli in Rome for MAXXI Director Bartolomeo Pietromarchi - into 12 enchanted, free-floating ambient techno structures running for 100 minutes on Lorenzo Senni’s Presto!?
“The original piece translated in music the architecture of the bridge and its surrounding life, layering samples and field recordings in the language Donato knows best: the repetition, rhythm and harmony of different building blocks. The work was originally reproduced by 12 speakers spread along the bridge colonnade, escorting the visitor through different musical places in their crossing. It now takes its final stereo form in this continuous mix version: a dense, enthralling flow akin to Tiber’s murky waters. The original installation was set up by sound engineer Giuseppe Tillieci / Neel, a frequent collaborator of Dozzy in the “Voices from the Lake” project, with Funktion One support.
« Similar to a whale skeleton beached on Tiber’s banks, the Music Bridge connects two parts of the city that had been ignoring one another for centuries. On one side the slopes of Mount Mario dominate the CONI (Italian National Olympic Committee) sports fields where many masterpieces of Italian modernist architecture were built: Moretti’s Fencing Academy, the Youth Hostel, the Olympic Pool and later on the Tennis Stadium and the Stadio Olimpico. On the other side there is Quartiere Flaminio, with its theatre, contemporary art museum MAXXI and Renzo Piano auditorium. Donato Dozzy has converged sport and music in his sound installation for the Music Bridge, recounting the story of the two universes connected there. The work, originally presented in a 12 hours format, was a day-long journey through environmental sounds and Donato’s own melodies. In the new-found synthesis we present today we experience once again time and Tiber flowing together, from the crack of dawn until nightfall artificial lights. »
(Pietromarchi Bartolomeo, Director of MAXXI)”
Scratchy, freeform improv liable to head on tangents diverse as bittersweet trance, sampoeldelic collage, and mutant motorik rock
"Founded in 2015, Tears|Ov are sound artist/self-taught musician Lori E Allen, classically trained cellist/mixed media artist Katie Spafford and illustrator/prison psychotherapist Deborah Wale. The trio first collaborated on Lori E Allen’s ‘Tears of the Material Vulture’ cassette on The Tapeworm, a re-imagination of a brief collaboration with Madame Chaos of cut-up cablecasts, 1995-1996, on Manhattan Neighborhood Network and Television in New York City. That release served to resurrect a hibernating creative practice between the three friends.
‘A Hopeless Place’ was initiated by a commission from Wolfgang Tillmans to perform at the Tate Modern’s South Tanks, part of a concert series curated by the artist in parallel to his 2017 retrospective at the gallery. ‘We were asked to play a gig at the Tate in March 2017’ recalls Lori. ‘I’d already started on some of the tracks, but it gave us an opportunity to present them as a composition around their connected themes. Sometime after the gig we decided to capture the work and turn it in to an album.’
For Lori, the album is about loss, ‘especially grief around the edges of growing out of something in order to move toward something else. It’s about transformation through love, not knowing how to hold on to everything while wanting desperately to let go of all of it, craving new shapes but feeling warped in the process of shapeshifting. It’s also about how love changes you, if you allow it to. It can’t be apportioned. And this is the biggest mistake of all – which we all joke about in vain grasping for control over the pleasure of losing control – that’s what the gameshow track represents – the compulsion to break taboo.’
Tears|Ov’s debut is presented as a continuous journey, devised to be heard as a whole. ‘Though I’m interested in attaining a peaceful hold on mixing emotions on a personal level, the compositions seem to come out all sideways, morose and capricious,’ Lori says. ‘I like to change the mood slowly and sometimes suddenly – like how it happens in your heart.’
Debbie notes how the albums’ different movements work for or against each other. ‘“Dancing Without” is about finding a book about nothingness, just lying there on the street, and having gratitude for nothing being nothing yet still somehow falling out of the sky as an object – not just a concept. For “Overstimulated Arcade Rat”, the inspiration was about the feeling of being on a new psychotic substance, endlessly playing video games – a metaphor for being forced into addiction by society, for getting lost in the pressure of finding your way. “Trapdoor Ant” is about the protective survival mechanism of the trapdoor ant. They have the fastest moving predatory appendages within the animal kingdom, used as a catapult to eject intruders or ping themselves backwards to escape threat. The peak force is 300 times the body weight of the ant…’
In Katie’s opinion the album represents an emotional journey, ‘often one started by Lori and shaped by the band. Through my cello melodies, I seek to create a story throughout the album, like a voice. The way the tracks are stitched together is akin to how a symphony is structured, with its different movements; each one with its own story, building to a greater whole. The emotions that Lori describes – of loss, grief and love – are echoed in the romantic and often heart-rending cello melodies. As I am not the one who creates the initial concepts or ideas, for me it’s much more about how I absorb and feel the raw emotion of each track, then voicing and interpreting what I feel through the cello.’ "
Tokyo’s one-to-watch, Yoshinori Hayashi follows his nifty 2018 debut LP with this devilish selection of electro-dub, techno and cyber-house audities for crew at Norway’s Smalltown Supersound.
As with his string of acclaimed singles for Going Good, Lovers Rock and Jheri Tracks that led up to 2018’s ‘Ambivalence’ album, Yoshinori Hayashi can’t help but play the game his own way on ‘γ’ (or Gamma, if you’re wondering what that symbol is).
Up top he rolls out slinky, Miami-styled electro-dub pulses smudged with curdled Braindance tones in the lissom glyde of ‘U’, whereas ‘Cs’ is locked to a late ‘80s/early ‘90s swing-jack meter somewhere between Suburban Knight and more playful Japanese house strains, contrasting darkside bass heft with strange, glancing, metallic electronics. Down-town, he wends off into early UK or Belgian techno vibes with the horror score choral motif and haughty jack of ‘I’ that may well leave you feeling dosed up, and finishes with a wicked piece of techno minimalism that sounds like a dead groggy Plastikman workout.
One of this decade’s definitive singer-songwriters returns in biblical style with 2nd album, ‘Magdalene’, co-produced with Nicolás Jaar and offering a much more mannered and theatric sound than her singular early outings.
‘Magdalene’ signifies a weightier seriousness to Twigs’ 2nd album, which arrives after a well publicised, high-profile romance and period of illness over the interim since 2014’s groundbreaking avant-R&B salvo ‘LP1’. Where that album featured Arca’s dazzling co-production alongside Twigs’ presence, her follow-up sees her mutate thru a carousel of different voices, both whispered, octave-scaling, and processed into alien, computerised reflections that give her persona room to breathe against Jaar’s burnished backdrops; themselves ranging from solo piano torch songs to trap, Burial-esque blues, and Julia Holter-like theatricality.
We really need to spend more time with it to comprehend the lyrical content, but the music says enough upfront, just a bit quieter and spacious in tone than we’ve previously heard from her. Factor in chops by everyone from Skrillex and HudMo to Koreless, Motion Graphics and CY AN and you can be certain the album’s ornate details will only reveal themselves further with repeat listens.
Becoming Peter Ivers tells the story of the late Peter Ivers, a virtuosic songwriter and musician whose antics bridged not just 60s counterculture and New Wave music but also film, theater, and music television. This is the first Peter Ivers compilation, collecting 25 songs from over 500 reels and cassettes and an incredible amount of unseen ephemera, a fraction of which is included in the artwork.
"Written and recorded in Los Angeles in the mid-to-late-1970s, Becoming Peter Ivers raises the curtain on this mischievous master of ceremonies, who, harmonica in hand, rarely missed a chance to light up an audience. Since his untimely death in 1983, Ivers’ short but storied life has been the subject of much research and remembrance. Becoming Peter Ivers is the most expansive effort yet to collect his archival recordings.
“Demos are often better than records,” Ivers wrote. “More energy, more soul, more guts.” The statement anticipates the appearance of Becoming Peter Ivers, which was assembled from a trove of demo cassettes and reel-to-reel tapes that Ivers recorded variously at his home in Laurel Canyon, Los Angeles, and Hollywood studios for a pair of major label albums in 1974 and 1976. While the two commercially released albums feature the resources of session musicians and state-of-the-art studio detail, Becoming Peter Ivers highlights the private moments of Ivers’ musical energy, frequently pared down to piano, drum machine, harmonica, and Peter’s ageless voice.
Though technically not Ivers’ debut album (in 1969 Epic Records released Knight Of The Blue Communion, Peter’s psychedelic jazz odyssey of sorts), Terminal Love was the A&R brainchild of music legend Van Dyke Parks. Already a masterful harmonica player (respectively mentored by blues legend Little Walter and jazz bassist Buell Neidlinger while he was a student at Harvard in the late 60s), Ivers wove his harp melodies through the sensuously colored but unconventionally arranged pop compositions of Terminal Love and its self-titled follow up, which, like the New York Dolls at the same time, explored the libidinous, ironic, and artful possibilities of the rock template.
A studious artist, Ivers recorded hundreds of writing and rehearsal sessions onto reel-toreel and cassette tapes, but notes were either scarcely kept or have since been lost. RVNG Intl. collaborated with Ivers’ longtime friend and supporter Steven Martin, as well as his lifelong companion Lucy Fisher, to tell an intimate story of Peter’s creative journey through this untold music. The collection includes tracks that recurred in Ivers’ ouvre over the years; “Alpha Centauri,” “Eighteen And Dreaming,” “Miraculous Weekend.” And, of course, “In Heaven” – the song co-written with David Lynch and commissioned by the filmmaker to be featured in a now-iconic scene of Eraserhead. An accomplished Yogi by the late 70s, Ivers was as spiritual as he was playful. Accentuated by his cherubic face and compact height, Ivers’ vitality and curiosity became a part of his poetic sensibility, a quality that also characterizes his singing voice. Fisher remembers Ivers calling his days holed up in the studio as “snowy days,” as if he had been cut from school and let free to roam on his own. “No one knows what Peter Ivers does on a snowy day,” he would say.
In 1980, Ivers became involved with the Los Angeles-area public access show New Wave Theatre, serving as its host and paternal misfit. Ivers would introduce a new generation of groups like Fear, Dead Kennedys, and Suburban Lawns while playing a kind-of “straight” man, deliberately baiting the punks with square questions and frocked fashion. His signature question to guests was delivered deadpan: “What is the meaning of life?” Ivers died, tragically, the victim of a violent homicide in 1983 that remains unsolved. A shock to his community, his death all but fazed the LAPD, who treated the investigation with less than minimum care. A labor of love that took RVNG Intl. over five years to complete, Becoming Peter Ivers re-frames Peter’s music as the centerpiece of his captivating story, concentrating on the work he made during his numerous retreats into art, or, as he put it, during his snowy days. Available as a double LP, CD, and digitally, Becoming Peter Ivers includes liner notes by Sam Lefebvre and Steven Martin and an array of unseen ephemera from Peter’s life and times."
The prickly lushest band out of Montreal, Land of Kush lead out for a 4th LP by Sam Shalabi, commanding an orchestra of 24 players in wildly unpredictable yet highly organised manoeuvres between free jazz, classical, and incendiary electronic psychedelia.
“Renowned Montréal/Cairo-based composer Sam Shalabi returns with his exhilarating and utterly genre-bending big band Land Of Kush. The trenchantly-titled Sand Enigma is the orchestra’s long awaited fourth album – its first in six years, following 2013’s The Big Mango, Shalabi’s critically-acclaimed love letter to Cairo, written and recorded during the Arab Spring. While the intervening years have obviously been devastating and disenchanting in so many ways, Sand Enigma bristles with defiant exuberance, restless creative energy, and electrifying cross-cultural expression. The album is a wildly diverse and hugely compelling tour de force of modern composition that pulses with emotion and experimentation, blending avant-garde, psychedelic, Middle Eastern, out-jazz, electronic and improv/free music tropes to stunning effect. Sand Enigma is peak Land Of Kush: the band’s most accomplished, acute and accessible album to date (though don’t expect ‘easy listening’ from this boundary-pushing hydra-headed entity).
“Sam Shalabi has raised the bar for modern psychedelic music with the Land of Kush orchestra, utilizing Middle Eastern, jazz, rock, and folkloric sources to weave a seamless montage of styles in a transcendent way that is rarely, if ever, achieved.” – Alan Bishop (Sun City Girls / Sublime Frequencies)”
Mark Nelson's Pan American beautifully drifts into a sunset sound referencing his classic Labradford output on ‘A Son’, his first new album since start of the decade., RIYL Spacemen 3, Mark Lanegan, Bark Psychosis...
Now a duo revolving original member Mark Nelson of Labradford esteem, and percussionist Steven Hess, whose solo work and with the likes of Sylvain Chaveau and Michael Valera is well loved over here, Pan American return to their post-rock roots with suitably brooding results that sound to these ears like a long evening spent porchside sipping an unending and always chilled glass of whiskey.
Dwelling on acoustic strums and murmuring electronic textures, the music hits a fine vein of ambient post-rock sensitivity that gauzily looks back to that time before the retroactivation of new age and 4th world ambient styles, to a sort of pre-2008 Americana ennui and indie alt.rock that used to be dominant but has lost its grip over the past decade.
“Motivated by notions of "moving backward" and tracing roots – as well as a couple years of hammered dulcimer lessons – the album's nine songs were written and recorded in his home in Evanston, Illinois, and honed during a recent solo tour in Europe. The emphasis on uncluttered arrangements and the centrality of the guitar and vocals reveal these songs as the most direct and emotional statement of his career.
Nelson cites everything from June Tabor, The Carter Family, Suicide and Jimmy Reed as oblique inspirations, though his truest muse was creative self-inquiry: "What does music do, Where does music start? How simple can it be? How honest can it be?"
After decades of mining post-rock pathways and latticework electronics in Labradford and early Pan American, A Son strips away ornament and distraction in favor of a direct gaze into the heart of what is.”
Thomas Brinkmann acutely highlights the industrial connections that long begat synth-pop and electronic dance music in hotspots such as Düsseldorf, Manchester and Sheffield with his fascinating recordings of old weaving looms and their clanky mechanical rhythms.
Perhaps the last word in techno deconstruction and archaeology, the 21 tracks of ‘Raupenbahn’ loop techno and rhythm-driven machine music back to its source; in the workshops and mills of the industrial revolution. The album effectively looks to a time when massively complex weaving looms and human workers were practically slaved to the emergent class of capitalists, and the ways of the modern world - from finance to the structures of everyday life - were arguably and almost immovably established. On another level, he also looks back to the advent of modern computing and Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine, whose invention was quickly taken up and advanced by Ada Lovelace (daughter of Lord Byron) and applied to intricate innovations such as Jacquard weaving that were vital steps on the road to the ubiquitous presence of computers, and by extension, electronic music and techno.
These recording are the kind that will get techno, electronica, and noise purists of all stripes gnashing their teeth with glee. Using a vintage Neumann KM 184 Stereo Microphone set, Brinkmann captured the sounds of machines in Germany, Poland, UK, and the Czech Republic to purely relish in the sound of automation which has clothed and fed folk for hundreds of years. It’s really no stretch of the imagination to hear how the trampling clank of ‘Henry Livesy BO (Blackburn / GB)’ would have lived on in Lancashire’s pivotal early ‘90s raves, which were often held in disused mills that once housed looms, and likewise to hear a link between the offset loops of ‘Jean Güsgen BO (Dülken / D)’ resonate with the whirring physics of Kraftwerk (who also supposed James Brown as the factory floor manager, and Detroit’s factory lines as part of the same industrial complex).
Most brilliantly, the recordings are all presented as they were made, with no overdubs or edits, leaving ‘Raupenbahn’ as a vivid example of what Cottonopolis heroes Gescom called “The Sounds of Machines Our Parents Used’, only taken to the Nth degree, and we’re sure it will remain a vital touchstone for generations looking at the link between labour and machines, entertainment and recreation, gender and class, science and technology that make up electronic dance music.
Totally absorbing new hip hop album flush with ambient-jazz-electronica touches from Vegyn, following their production chops for Frank Ocean, Travis Scott and JPEGMAFIA with an ear-snagging new production showcase on London’s PLZ Make It Ruins
Affiliated with James Blake and Frank Ocean and known for work on some of the most prominent, boundary-probing rap releases of recent years, Vegyn brings a refreshingly optimistic and laid-back, dreamy aesthetic to the table in ‘Only Diamonds Cut Diamonds’. If this album had reached ears this summer it would have bene among the season’s most played, but as it stands it’s going to keep us warm all winter with its collaged mosaic of fleeting field recordings, Satie-esque melodic wist and sparingly used but super crispy R&B/hip hop snap.
A big, big look for fans of Klein, Gila, BoC, Oli XL.
Overlook makes a pivotal switch to slower, hypnagogic modes as Lucid Dream for UVB-76 Music with results recalling Tropic of Cancer or HTRK if they came from ‘90s Bristol
Track for track, ‘Stonetapes003’ is one of the most impressive about turns we’ve heard in ages. After chasing a D&B muse as Overlook since 2012, Jason Luxton’s metamorphosis into Lucid Dream signifies a major change in direction, not quite leaving D&B entirely, but redressing his style with a new wardrobe of dank post-punk and trip-hop styles much in key with Pessimist’s turn from D&B proper to slower dread vibes with Karim Maas.
A neatly wrong-footing intro of burning arps firstly gives way to ‘Black Tar’, where Manuela Marchis’ plangent vocal channels Camella Lobo over breaks and guitar worthy of prime period Portishead, pursued by the exquisite drizzle and nervy, noirish post-punk steppers push of ‘Doppelgänger’. Locked under his spell, the B-side’s ‘Totemism’ kills us cold with a blend of CUB’s slow techno swang and fiercely depressed jungle breaks, leaving the cinematic aside of ‘Intuition’ and the chest-swelling vision of ‘Hallucinogenics’ to confirm to obvious - this is a f**king deadly plate.
More of this, please.
‘Hymn To Moisture’ is the keenly anticipated debut LP proper by Rrose, one of the foremost techno experimenters of this past, strange decade-in-flux. A new high watermark of techno purism and a massive RIYL Pan Sonic, Plastikman, Jeff Mills, Sandwell District, Eliane Radigue, Phill Niblock
““Hymn to Moisture” explores embodiment in natural phenomena by playing with microtonal and unstable tunings, shifting overtones, and integrated modulations that make it difficult to separate tone from noise. Evoking wind, water, rock, and flesh, the album occupies multiple spaces simultaneously: abrasive and tranquil, propulsive and meditative, familiar and alien. It shows an equal reverence for techno pioneers such as Jeff Mills, Pan Sonic, and Plastikman as it does for composers such as Eliane Radigue, Laurie Spiegel, and Phill Niblock. “Hymn to Moisture” is Rrose’s first solo album, and it unfolds with the scrupulous care and patience that defines all of Rrose’s auditory experiments. The album marks the artist’s most refined work to date.
Since its inception in 2011, the Rrose project has spawned over a dozen vinyl EPs on Sandwell District, Stroboscopic Artefacts, Infrastructure, and their own Eaux label as well as three collaborative albums with Bob Ostertag (on Buchla 200E modular synthesizer), Charlemagne Palestine (for two pianos), and Lucy (as Lotus Eater) respectively. A fourth album-length project on Seattle’s Further Records saw Rrose reinterpreting and extending James Tenney’s monolithic 1971 piece “Having Never Written a Note for Percussion” for solo gong. “Hymn to Moisture” is Rrose's first solo album of original material.”
The second album by the American Gamelan composer and instrument builder, Daniel Schmidt, following 'In My Arms, Many Flowers', his majestic debut on Recital. Abies Firma lies next chronologically, collecting works from 1976 to 1991, considered the second phase of his compositional form.
“We were like children playing with new toys,” Daniel recalls of the early days of American Gamelan music. “Though, as we moved into the 1980s, I moved away from Javanese traditional formalism completely, no longer using a constant stream of notes.” Daniel became a father twice over in the early 80s, transforming his compositional voice, finding himself open to new affects. Notably, the Sierra fir species, ‘abies firma’ … “These trees gave me a sense of rising and rising, all their branches reaching toward sun and sky. Looking at them across open spaces, I felt myself part of their upward striving. The tall mountain trees became rising themes and arpeggios, sometimes even sweeping across the six octaves of the gamelan.”
This album holds a variety of recordings including an especially immersive tape-delay piece for the rebab, a bowed Javanese instrument. A sort of Eastern Frippertronics weaving the stereo field. Another standout is a semi-improvised flute and gamelan work, ebbing in slowly like a night’s wind. “Accumulation” and “Abies Magnifica,” the spirited opening pieces, exemplify the precision and dexterity of Daniel’s group, The Berkeley Gamelan, who at this time were constantly performing around North America. Two pieces on the album were co-composed by Schmidt and the late Lou Harrison, who helped conceive of the American style of gamelan and enjoyed a similarly long and varied musical career. “Unempins to Sociseknum” is based on arranging Harrison’s social security number against Schmidt’s unemployment insurance number. A window into the cooperative spirit and experimentation of the late 70s.
With each LP comes a CD including the addition of “One White Crow,” a three-part tapestry of melodic fragments which epitomizes the second phase of Schmidt’s composing; a divergence from both Javanese and European music. Daniel states, “William James once said that one white crow would suffice to overturn science’s assertion that all crows are black. I felt myself to be ‘one white crow’ amidst the prominent, established musical styles.”
Sean McCann, September 2019
’Time’ is a bounty of restlessly brilliant, kaleidoscopic rhythm experiments from China Town, NY’s Georgia aka Brian Close and Justin Tripp, for the jazzy freaks at Edinburgh’s Firecracker label.
Marking up their first LP proper since 2016’s brilliant ‘All Kind Music’, Close and Tripp return with a crisply enhanced psychedelic keen and temporal slip to their sound after testing this looser form on various tapes and EP's over the past 18 months. Across the 13 tracks of ‘Time’ they inimitably work within this framework to develop a polymetric swerve and style of colouring-outside-the-lines that uniquely acknowledges traditional African tribal musics in the same breath as Footwork, Singeli, and the beat-freaking suss of Don’t DJ or Rian Treanor; It’s hyper-jazz, free-techno, and 4.1-world musique concrète simultaneously.
Cutting around the everything-at-once flatlands of modern culture’s prevailing reference points, they dare to imagine and weave previously impossible texture/patterns, placing their finely-honed graphic designers’ sensibilities at the service of visually-stimulating sonic arrangements rife with clashes of colour and non-standard tunings bent and twysted in devilish, unsteady meters. But make no mistake, this isn’t some experiment in chucking it all in and seeing what sticks; each track tells a distinct, illusive tale that adds up the album’s strange, immersive story about a parallel dimension very similar to our own, but where things happen and move a bit differently.
A treasure trove of early underground from San Antonio’s first “punk” label Closet Records.
"Centered around the manic energy of founder Gary Davenport, this tidy 13-song collection compiles for the first time the best of his mid-fi work in Mannequin, quirky duos with Mark Champion and Charles Athanas, and alone at the raging edge of suburban Texas. A heady mix of jangly prog, dream-punk, community college rock, and anxious alternative, achieved just as video was killing the radio star. Packaged in a heavy-weight tip-on sleeve, with an accompanying book chronicling the entire sordid affair and visual discography."
The modern, avant synth/dance-pop frolics of ‘Moi’ catch Steven Warwick (Heatsick) at his impish but droll best for PAN.
Returning to PAN six years after his standout Re-Engineering album, Warwick returns to similar zones of enquiry as 2016’s ‘Nadir’ - the first release under his birth name. With ‘Moi’ (which we definitely hear enunciated with a playful pucker), Warwick further emphasises the personal, playful nature of his work with 10 melodic, danceable and pop-tart arrangements accompanied by a range of vocal personas; from his naturally droll singing voice to more alien and leaned-out styles, plus a guest platitude by Turner Prize nominee, Jo Pryde.
Bubbling up with the pickled 2-step and Lolina-esque lilt of ‘Open Fire Hydrant’, Warwick clearly draws upon a UK dance music heritage - and its Afro-Caribbean and US inspirations - with the freshest, exceptional style that percolates throughout the album, strongly informing its biggest dancefloor highlights such as the warped trancehall bumps of ‘Salvation’ and the crooked crankshaft of ‘Kaleidoscope’, along with the the brittle boned shimmy of ‘Rush’ and the hard but elegant drive of ’Silhouette.’
But they’re only half the story, which really comes together with contrasts in the fizzy downstroke of ‘Kind of Blue’, on the Black Zone Myth Chant-like psychedelic daze and blunted vocals in ‘Consolatio’, and the album’s standout ‘Danke’, which revolves around Jo Pryde’s gentle utterance of the title weft into ominous ambient clag, connoting a sort of humility that knowingly becomes both less and more meaningful with each reiteration.
Hypnotic, drum-heavy club pressure from Melbourne pals and producers Cop Envy and DJ Plead on Air Max ’97’s Decisions label
Thrown down over the course of two nights during summer 2019, the EP’s three tracks are defined by reticulated percussion, worm-charming 808s and a harness-tuggign sense of restraint that will do the business on the right ‘floors.
Up top they work out the sizzling, weightless syncopation of ‘Hinged’, a brilliantly reserved hard drum workout that appears to increase/decrease intensity in palindromic formation. Downtown they tweak out the equally pendulous, but slower, folded rhythms of ‘I.G.A.’ like a stripped down electro-chaabi riddim from Mala, before sealing the deal for any rhythm fiends with the skittish early Skull Disco and dark jungle vibes of ‘Dash to Finish.’
Blawan and Pariah’s Karenn speak to the managers of business techno with a masterclass in hard-working, machine-made dance music destined for big rooms. Bookending this decade along with their 2011 debut 12”, ‘Grapefruit Regret’ keeps it regular on the grinding 4/4 rhythms and virulent noise in eight cranky club knockers inspired by the last 25 years of examples from Detroit warehouses to scally-packed clubs in Yorkshire and the temples of Berlin.
They come with gristle between their teef in the grinding, soggy slog of ‘Lemon Dribble’, then lace up their stomping boots for the Stingray-esque 150bpm missile, ’Strawbs’, along with the bendy garage-techno suss of ‘Peel Me Easy’ on the first disc. The 2nd gets right at it with ‘Crush The Mushrooms’ recalling classic LFO, but pushed up 140bpm, while ‘Cloy’ deploys a non-standard 100bpm chugger, and they save the last side to knuckle out the knarzy shaft of ‘Kumquat’ and the hollow banger ‘taste Yourself’.
Proper workouts. Recommended!
Master of enchanted, lower case composition Andrew Pekler entrances with his exceedingly lovely ‘Sound From Phantom Islands’ for Jan Jelinek’s Faitiche label.
Going deeper on the imaginative themes of 2016’s ‘Tristes Tropiques’ LP, the USSR-born, Cali-raised, and Berlin-based artist beautifully expands on the ideas of his 2018 installation ‘Phantom Islands - A Sonic Atlas’, and it’s corresponding website - including an online interactive map developed with cultural anthropologist Stefanie Kiwi Menrath - to yield a properly absorbing, quasi-ethnographic suite inspired by the speculative notion of “islands that appeared on historical maps but never existed.”
Using his revered sensitivity for small sound organisation and a carefully attuned imagination, Pekler brings his ideas to life in a way that doesn’t matter if the islands were fictive or not, as the music provides plenty enough warm stimulation to ignite your wanderlust. As previewed in the gorgeous, woolly design of advance cut ‘Description of Rain (Over Frisland)’, the places he supposes are wonderfully user-friendly and dreamy in the broadest sense.
Between the lilting jazz tone of ‘Bermeja’ (out in the Caribbean, don’t ya know), the richly elaborated snapshots of ‘Saxenburgh / Pepys / Aurora’ (in the south Atlantic, out near St. Helena-ish), and the stranded sound of ‘Tuanahe’ (in the South Pacific) Pekler has birthed an album of carefully plotted scenes and sonic coordinates which, while maybe apocryphal, at the very least draw us into their world in a stronger way than the mountains of cliché, rote 4th world “ambient” records currently in circulation.
The amniotic grit of ‘Tough Cunt’ is one of Louis Johnstone aka The Hers’ (aka Wanda Group) most curious early releases, originally transmitted back in 2012 on a small-run tape release and now given new life on the excellent Death Is Not The End label for the first time on vinyl. Committed during his golden early phase that also generated ‘Piss Fell Out Like Sunlight’ and ‘My Grandad Never Died On A Boat In Russia And His Brother Not On Land In North Africa’, the 13 tracks of ‘Tough Cunt’ convey an uneasy, solitary state of mind held in atmospheric suspense between layers of peeling, lo-fi field recordings, tape loops and live, playthru performance mulched in a hypnagogic flux.
Like a slippery cyborgian cousin to Graham Lambkin and The Caretaker, or even Gas and Jan Jelinek, Louis operates on the liminal edge of familiarity with a rough grasp of (de)composition applied to arrangements that appear to drift in and out of consciousness, connoting the effect of a memory blipping from daily sensory overload and struggling to fill in the cracks with warm flushes of skull-scraped endorphins.
It’s pretty hard to argue with Louis’ techniques of seduction. From the Gas-like swell and the crepuscular creep of the first parts, he gets right under the skin and stays there, pulling into the golden glow of ‘Super 32’, keening to the stately drift of ’92 Inside an Escort’ and getting it right on the nose with his transition from the olfactory synaesthesic timbre of ‘Everyone Gets Everything he Wants’ into heavy Lynchian clag on ‘You Will Not Remove Shit’ in a way that beggars the question; why the fuck has he not been commissioned for a film soundtrack by now?
The much anticipated debut album by Giant Swan, the brainchild of Robin Stewart & Harry Wright; an acerbic marriage of industrial percussion, abused guitar, hypnotic bass and liberal vocal manipulation.
"Having built a formidable reputation for their hi-octane improvised performances, relentless international touring and a succession of acclaimed EPs on respected imprints such as Whities, Timedance and Mannequin. 'Giant Swan', on their own freshly minted Keck label, sees the pair stepping things up significantly. A full-length musical statement that bristles with the galvanising energy for which they're known while introducing a fresh depth, range and sonic nuance to the equation. File under: techno-not-techno.
Named after a beloved track by screamo overlords the Blood Brothers, Giant Swan was originally conceived as a side project from the duos role as guitarists in the band The Naturals, with formative influences such as My Bloody Valentine and Lightning Bolt being distilled over time with inspiration from the varied and always vibrant local music scene in Bristol. From dub soundsystem teachings at the Trinity Centre and Black Swan or the fiercely experimental early transmissions of friends in the Young Echo collective. Equally at home setting up their table of machines and pedals in the middle of the dancefloor at legendary clubs like Berghain and Tresor, Glastonbury Festival, Supersonic or the Royal Albert Hall,"
Deliciously detached, elusively dreamy dance-pop from the first Russian artist on Antinote. Do check if you also share a thing for music by Teresa Winter, E.M.M.A., Nite Jewel
“We at Antinote are proud to make our first French-Russian connection. Olga is from Moscow. She came to us after Dominique Dumont's show in Paris, winter 2018. We checked her music and immediately fell in love with the song 'Mojno'. Step by step we built a nice collection of tracks that now make up the 1905 LP! Very active in the electronic music scene, she’s spent the last ten years releasing music, performing, recording & DJing as well as being busy with her tech-project Playtronica (with them she's created 3 controllers that you allow to play scales on people, objects and colors).
Across the "1905" LP she utilises some DIY devices such as Yamaha sampler vss-33, voice glitcher from the Russian company “Naked Boards” and organelle synth that creates this synesthetic tone in “ready when you are”. Besides dreamy pads and dancy beats Olga is ironically singing on Russian about her daily routine, in a positive way. There's no sadness and melancholy in the dark snowy days, where even the full moon or retrograde-mercury don’t even bother you ...if you are in harmony with mother nature's 5 elements.”
Supremely funny c*nts Shit & Shine at their jesting best on a slew of rotten rave goods for Florence, Italy’s ace label OOH-Sounds
They get top marks for use of a prank call to a debt recovery agency over porridgey techno bumps in ‘No No No No’ (no, no, before that, LOL, poor lass), while they keep it mutant at strong points strewn between the slamming Pom Pom techno-pop vibes of ‘Tecvo Ooh’, a sort of trancehall inversion with ‘Who Are You?’, and the soggy arsed glam swag and skronk of ‘Yates And Pasadena.’
Andy Stott’s first release since 2016 and first EP since 2011, ‘It Should Be Us’ is a double EP of slow and raw productions for the club, recorded this year and following on from a series of EP’s that started with ‘Passed Me By’ and ‘We Stay Together’ early this decade.
Recorded fast and loose over the summer, these 9 tracks (8 on the vinyl) harness a pure and bare-boned energy, melodies subsumed by drum machines and synths; slow, rugged abandon. It’s all about rhythmic heat and disorientation, pure dance and DJ specials rendered at an unsteady pace, from percolated house and percussive rituals to moody tripped-out burners.
There’ll be a new Andy Stott album in 2020, but in the meantime... this one’s for dancing.