Steppenroboter Versus Transeuropa by Mekine U Teksi.
"Evocative and spooky contemporary prog. Mekine U Teksi has absolutely nailed it to fetishist levels. It sounds like the synths were the only thing keeping the castle warm the night this was recorded.
The whole record it's made even more unnerving by the fact that the 4th track doesn't exist."
Straight knock-out debut LP by undisputed Manchester heavyweight, Chunky - a uniquely assured, witty and insightful testament to the artist’s African roots and dare-to-differ vocal and production tekkerz, honed in his home city’s South Central crucible - 100% RIYL Coby Sey, Equiknoxx, Trigga, Tricky, Burna Boy, Space Afrika, Rat Heart.
Chunky’s reputation precedes him as one of the UK’s most in-demand MCs, not to mention one of its most distinctive producers (and recently a burgeoning actor), with a handful of inimitable sessions on Loefah’s [Swamp] 81. ’Somebody’s Child’ is his keenly awaited first album, weighing in eleven songs about his roots in Zimbabwe and branches cultivated in Manchester’s Moss Side and Hulme, with a deceptively laconic delivery of observant, at times laugh-out-loud bars that trade space with more coiled and stinging barbs, all hazily matched by the contours of his music, mutating Afrobeats, grime, weirdo dancehall and downbeat rap tropes to unforgettable effect.
While Chunky’s dextrous wordplay is a central presence on the album, it also features the voices of his younger family in gonzo interviews and older members in harmonious chorus that fix up to a timeless portrait of self and humbly acknowledge his work as the product of his environment. In that sense, it’s possible to hear it as a distant, literal echo of the noirish deep topography to Barry Adamson’s ‘Moss Side Story’, or on a textural, rhythmic level, a lowkey, spiritual cousin to A Guy Called Gerald’s Afro-rhythmic psychedelia, yet more squashed with a red-eyed logic that reeks of a ride around his ends on a sunny day and into dusk.
Slanted between passenger seats, sofas, contemporary blues and sweltering club scenes, the album says its piece with a rare clarity and effortless ease that future-proofs it for repeat play. The laid-back bop of lead single ‘Dancing on Tables’ epitomises the flex with its supple hybrid of Afrobeats and post-dubstep perfectly matching the diffractive flow of his delivery, while the rest plays out like a proper story; from scene-setting evocations of South Manchester strut on ‘Yes I’, thru the whispered soul swang of ‘Daylite’, and old skool bop of ‘Ballin’’, to grimier traces of his time spent in the Manc club mines on ‘GNG’.
However in the 2nd half he really starts to get under the skin with the danker ‘Meh’ and the outstanding Afro-punk-dub holler of ‘Long n Strong’ giving way to an Afrobeat pearl ‘@Me’, and the dream-weft transition of Count Ossie-like horns to breathtaking gospel-folk coda in ‘Give U’, and its skin-prickling closer ‘Spare The Rod’.
We were never in doubt, but we’re frankly astonished at the levels of ‘Somebody’s Child’; surely one of 2023’s earliest contenders for an AOTY spot.
Released in 1976 while Irish composer David Cunningham was studying in Kent, "Grey Scale" is a cult minimalist classic that playfully examines the nature and beauty of mistakes in composition.
Cunningham was an art school kid, not a music school kid, attending Maidstone College of Art where he made 'Grey Scale' - inspired by Michael Nyman, Cornelius Cardew, David Toop and Derek Bailey shows of the day. Rounding up college friends - none of whom were musicians - he developed a musical way to exhibit his distinct artistic philosophy. He believed that there was a way to link the rigorous, looping intensity of 20th century minimalism with the textural and tonal freedom of improvised music, and that it might lie in mistakes rather than skillful notation and performance. Cunningham's 'Error System' was a method that relied on his untrained orchestra's tendency to play incorrectly. Each performer was given an easy phrase to repeat, and when one made a mistake they would have repeat it until they made another, and so on.
The resulting mess of loops, rhythms and tones makes 'Grey Scale' an enduring classic, eventually getting a nod in Nurse With Wound's infamous 1979 list. Cunningham splits the tracks up by explaining the process; the opening track 'Error System (BAGFGAB)' is the most tuneful, with the various players working with a sequence of notes. From here it gets more sparse and the errors become more noticeable: on 'Error System (C Pulse Solo Recording)' only a single note is played by a single player, and on 'Error System (C Pulse Group Recording)' the same note is played by a group, taking a wrong turn midway through and spiraling into rhythmic and tonal chaos before righting itself magically. The oddest piece is 'Error System (E Based Group Recording)' that starts simply enough before phasing into Moondog-style rhythmic complexity.
Brilliant, strange music that centers human error in the most unexpectedly rewarding ways.
Orkish ragga and post-industrial gristle from the underbelly of Oslo and the inexplicable Human Inferno, slithering in the wake of Beau Wanzer on Joachim Nordwall’s iDEAL.
For anyone keeping a keen eye on these pages in the past 10 years, Human Inferno may be feared and regarded for a 2013 split with Lasse Marhaug on Sonmoi that still sounds like nothing else. ‘To Piss Warm And Drink Cold’ is their feral return after interim sides with Weltschmerz Verlag and Entr’acte, unleashing a torrent of possessed hardware grot and gunk that knows no chill. It is equally applicable to the scuzziest clubs and ritual bedroom practices with a sort of DIY spirit that resonates the mentation electronics of Fortress Crookedjaw (Black Mecha/Wold/Fauchion), the blasted-mind styles of Black Zone Myth Chant or the grotesqueries of The Body, but with an ogre-in-the-basement quality that the band can safely claim as their own.
Very loose traces of anglophilic behaviour lurk in their manipulation of raw dub elements and the coarsest noise, as well as track titles such as ‘Derbyshire Collission’ and ‘Brexit Rid’em’, intersecting naturally Norwegian leanings toward BM recordings virtues and pure noise in a manner that places them in very good company among iDEAL’s roster. It serves a frankly filthy good time, descending from the bestial growl of ‘Locust’ to a spannered 16 minutes of slurred power electronics ‘Yout’ via prongs of electro-dub like the iDEALIST jamming with BZMC over a pack of special brew on ‘Liquid Breakfast’, or going on like Liquid G meets Vox Populi in the hobbled trot of ‘Derbyshire Collission’, and hopping like Tory lizards adopting their true form in the scaly ragga-noise-techno beast of ‘Brexit Rid’em’.
Fuck knows what’s going on here, but it’s a lot of fun.
Flautist Johanna Orellana teams up with Carmen Villain for a collection of horizontal, pastoral field recordings and close mic-ed flute sounds that zero in on the instrument's unstable resonance and levitational magic. There's no cringe virtuoso business or fourth world firewalking here - just sonic purity, sublime minimalism and the precise capture of time, place and poetry. Huge recommendation if yr into Debit, Joanna Brouk, Bendik Giske, Mary Jane Leach.
The flute's a uniquely misunderstood instrument that rarely gets the attention it deserves, so it’s been a rare treat to hear it explored and captured in a way that challenges our preconceptions. You might have come across Johanna Orellana before if you've listened to Carmen Villain's music (or seen her perform live), and Villain appears here in a producer's role, using her engineering expertise to impart a level of restraint and sonic fidelity that's quite startling. There are only really two central elements to the album: environmental recordings and flute. There’s no psychedelic delay, no cavernous reverb; no audible treatments at all - Orellana and Villain instead force us to consider the flute and its musical lineage.
'El Jardín I' introduces the instrument as a physical conduit; Orellana allows her breath to distort the sound - the padded pat pat of the keys forms a kind of rhythm, closely recorded so it's amplified and jarring, linking to primal wind instruments like conch shells, bamboo flutes and wooden whistles. Recalling the way in which Debit interfaced with the ancient world using AI-assisted tech on last year’s ‘The Long Count’, Orellana uses a comparatively modern contemporary transverse flute, an instrument with roots that stretch back through the baroque era, into Medieval Europe, back to the Byzantine era and into Asia. The component that connects the instruments and eras is breath, and its amplification and modification through differently shaped pipes and vessels.
To accompany these sounds, Orellana lets the environment sing: insects, rushing water and zephyr-like winds form a stage that presents her mortal energy, suggesting a harmony between our use of breath and its environmental ubiquitousness. Her technique is steeped in folk history and decouples itself from expectation by rooting itself in nature. It allows her to bridge the gap between equal temperament and less ordered (less commercially-focused) microtonality without overstating the concept. Other sounds waft in from the sidelines; what might be an Indian bansuri, stray notes, a gust of air.
More familiar sounds emerge on 'El Jardín II', allowing lengthy tones - each with their own wavering rhythm - to slow dance around themselves. She sets recognisable flute sounds against more abstract wails that gradually overwhelm the track's brief finale. On 'El Jardín III', Orellana traverses the most familiar path of all, using the flute to ring out a simplistic melody that almost sounds like a classic Oliver Postgate TV theme.
All these elements are brought together on 'El Jardín IV’, a poetic overview of the instrument that connects a constellation of musical nodes. There's a link to the foundational new age recordings that Joanna Brouk made with Maggi Payne back in 1980, but Orelanna also absorbs the outdoor folk magic of Fonal or Stroom, and the improvisational grist of Bendik Giske or legendary US horn duo Nmperign. On the album's extended closer 'San Fabián', she carries haunted whistling sounds across pin-prick breath tones that spiral into gusty sonic whirlwinds, suggesting a soft power that's as controlled and capable as it is instinctual. It’s a stunning finale to a stark and deeply immersive album we urge you to spend some time with.
Contemporary ambient electronica compendium featuring sweet morsels by KMRU, Dave Saved, YU SU, Aria Rostami, Kareem Lotfy and more
"Observing how the world is continuously transforming, an idea of motion comes to mind. Inspired by Plato's concept of movement ("Nothing ever is, everything is becoming"), 99CHANTS has invited artists to create an "imaginary landscape." What does tomorrow sound like?
"With creativity an increasing part of our daily lives, we must consider how we navigate the changes this contemporary environment brings. This means thinking through our responsibilities as a label, but also the role of music at this particular moment in time. We believe creativity and looking within our interior worlds can set hope and action in motion. We are curious to further explore music's ability to create gateways to such inspiration. With humility and gratitude, we hope this compilation can be a small contribution to a larger picture." "
Andrew Chalk and Timo Van Luijk aka Elodie reach their most captivating moment of quietude on a heart-stopping new album of muted piano, tape loops and delicately plucked strings, elevated into a heavenly sphere. Perhaps the most gentle and pure evocation of Quiet music we’ve heard since Dominique Lawalrée’s ‘First Meeting’ collection, it comes with our highest possible recommendation, especially if you’re into the waking-dream fantasies of Brian Eno’s Obscure label, Erik Satie or Virginia Astley.
‘Clarté Déserte’ ushers Elodie into its second decade of delicacies with a suite of beautifully elusive, poignant chamber works that typically benefit from the duo’s tongue-tip, pinch-yourself feel for atmosphere. We only cottoned onto their sound around half way thru the last decade, and they quickly became one of the go-to groups for music to colour our dreams. This new album - perhaps their most effortless and remarkable - sees them return to imaginary water-colour scapes, sketched to tape in 2020-21 with an ineffably subtle sort of psychedelia active in the music’s lysergic patina and melting melodies.
While the notion of ambient music in the modern era has too often become shorthand for mimetic milquetoast whimsy and a lack of imagination, Chalk & Van Luijk’s recordings still hold to original principles of modal minimalism and spirited spectral detail that made the original stuff - from Satie to Eno, to new age and soundtrack forms - so entrancing. On ‘Clarté Déserte’ Elodie summon these notions with patience and pacing, wreathing slivers of field recordings with the subtlest nods to country folk, Arabic and Indian musics, and the stately drift of European chamber classicism in a narrative arc that quite honestly left us sobbing.
From the daydream opening scenes of ‘Aumone’ to the drizzly nightfall of ‘Cantique’, ‘Clarté Déserte’ feels like nothing less than a spiritual cleanse, possessing a sort of poetic command of sandman magick that transcends overwrought conceptualism and is perhaps best compared to the feeling of involuntary goosebumps in moonlight.
Set You Free by Chisel reissued via Numero Group.
"In late 1996 Chisel decamped from their native D.C. to Brooklyn’s Rare Book Room. The power trio of Ted Leo, Chris Norborg, and John Dugan teamed with engineer Nicolas Vernhes and came away with Set You Free, a remarkable, but largely overlooked, classic of the era.
Originally issued on the venerable Gern Blandsten imprint, the album presaged the turn of the century ’60s rock revival, providing a counterpoint to second-wave emo."
Mark Nelson harks back to the luxurious dub refractions of his earliest Pan American material on this beautiful suite of productions recorded at the turn of the century. If you know that first Pan American album you’ll already have an idea of what to expect here: deepest midnight dub of the most evocative order, a huge recommendation if you’re into anything from Rhythm & Sound to Seefeel.
That first Pan American album remains a totally singular and highly influential expression of a sound, layering jazz keys and windswept atmospheres around the most softly-piercing subs imaginable. As opposed to pretty much all the dub-adjacent electronic music of the era, there was no glitch to be found within the Pan American matrix - it was all about atmosphere and space rather than texture and process.
‘In Daylight Dub’ rounds up some of Pan American’s rarest and most elegiac turn-of-the-century dubs, originally recorded for the Vertical Form, BSI and (K-RAA-K)³ labels, and all very much falling within the aesthetic, connecting between his earlier work as part of Labradford and the velvet reverberations deployed by Burial Mix at around the same time.
The four extended cuts are just a pleasure to behold; 12 minute opener ‘Renzo’ could easily have lived on that debut album, making use of the same palette and blissed world-building for a sort of shimmering steppers delight best suited to the early hours, while ‘Esso’ amps the skank with a more pronounced rhythmic presence illuminated by sparkling, melancholy keys. On the flip, ‘Quarry A’ is more pensive, referencing Mark Clifford’s work with Seefeel and in particular that still unfathomable, GOATed remix of Cocteau Twins’ ‘Seekers Who Are Lovers’ - all scattered rimshots, Rhodes and subs, while album closer ‘Running Dog (Reborn)’ skews more overtly towards dub techno with a kind of barely-there rhythmic presence typical of the Chain Reaction era.
Over two decades might have gone by in the blink of an eye, but Nelson's emotional conductivity still resonates v deeply. In fact, it’s sent us into a bit of a Pan American wormhole. There’s just nothing quite like it.
One of the most interesting and unexpected projects Mark Lanegan got involved with in the final years of his life, ‘Downwelling’ is his collaborative 2019 album with Alessio Natalizia, aka Not Waving - a modernist fusion of barrel-aged narratives and diverse, experimental backdrops that reminds us of everything from Scott Walker to Conny Plank & Moebius, from Christof Kurzmann to David Sylvian. It’s also a record that stands as testament to Lanegan’s unwavering, boundless musical curiosity - a listener with a voracious appetite for new music of all shapes and colours, until the very end.
One of those rare link-ups that truly transcends the sum of its parts, Natalizia's rolling range of nuanced electronics acts as a backdrop for Lanegan’s smoky baritone storytelling. Delivered in a husky but pliable voice, Lanegan inhabits the songs with a reserved presence that served him so well for decades, but which was rarely heard in quite this context.
Pairing music recorded by Natalizia between London, Italy, and Paris, with vocals recorded by Lanegan in LA, the duo reached a dreamy non-place that’s not defined by geography or time. Instead, the album offers a timeless insight into human behaviour, as reflected in the sleeve art details from the ‘Lights of Canopus’, a Persian version of the ancient Indian book of animal fables, the ‘Panchatantra.’ Thanks to Lanegan’s classically dusty tone - famously described as being “scratchy as a three day beard yet as supple as moccasin leather” - and the breadth of Not Waving’s production, the results draw listeners deep into the duo’s world-weary but quietly hopeful perspective, emphasising the power of closeness and empathy.
Their songs come on like waves lapping a shore that’s ever-shifting, ever the same. This cycle is epitomised on the opener, ’Signifying The End’ with Lanegan’s raspy tone met by honeyed synths, before scaling the nocturnal heights of ‘City Of Sin’ and coolly channeling Suicide in ‘Burn Out Babylon.’ The waters calm again for ‘Persimmon Tree’ suitably set to harp-like arps, while the hoarse croon and impending throb of ‘Murder In Fugue’ comes to rest in the serene resolution of ‘The Broken Man’ in a manner that’s entirely modernist but speaks to eons of human emotion.
NYC’s prolific fusion-music legend Laswell meets Coil and Tetsu Inoue on his 6th studio album, produced at a pinnacle of the illbient dub sound and highly recommend to disciples of Jon Hassell, Kevin Martin, Muslimgauze, Tzadik Records
Replete with liner notes by Hakim Bey, and recorded between Banaras, India, and Brooklyn, ‘City of Light’ is a highlight of Laswell’s unfathomable catalogue of solo and collaborative works since the late ‘70s. Suspended in the aether somewhere amid dark ambient, drone, 4th world fusion, and dub musick - or what was simply summed as “illbient” at the time - the album can be heard to loosely echo Jon Hassell’s ‘City: Works of Fiction’ album from a decade prior, while resonating the psychedelic pressure of the whole ‘Macro Dub Infection’ sound limned by Kevin Martin’s influential, contemporaneous compilations. It also shares a fascination with subcontinental music’s that links it both to explorations of alternate tunings by pioneering ‘60s minimalists with alternate tunings, and likewise the rhythms and sounds of Muslimgauze, who would remix Laswell over the years.
More than a quarter century after its release, ‘City of Light’ feels very much of its era, but also in its own temporal, uchronic slipstream where timelines bend like light into a place without time. Laws sets the tone with ‘Nothing’, terraforming rich atmospheric conditions for Lori Carson’s narration and Trilok Gurtu’s ricocheting tabla, where ‘Kála’ follows with Coil’s Peter Christopherson and John Balance lending “sound collage” and eerie string colours to its iridescent wormhole dynamic. Chasing his and Laswell’s ’95 LP ‘Cymatic Scan’, (and a hook-up with Jonah Sharp) Japan’s Tetsu Inoue chimes in to the elliptical, harmonious drone arc of ‘Kashi’, and the set shores up in rugged illbient, proper, with the buckling dub ballast of ‘Above the Earth’ acting as augur for the dread darkness that befell electronic music from ’97 onwards.
KMRU compiles Kenyan ambient electronica and dance trax for the Naug label.
On a level, ‘INSHA’ showcases the artists’ range of feelings across cuts ranging from his own moody ambient scapes to Budalagi’s slow techno, Avom’s amapiano-adjacent groover, and the melodic tech-house of Rushab Nandha.
"In Kenyan cultural communities’ musical performance has always been linked with a long chain of related events and ideas. Music was often used to illuminate a specific topic and its implications to society. Through this method of explanation, musicians were able to reveal several underlying social concepts that determined people’s behaviour towards each other and the community.
This common recurring theme was seen mostly in ceremonies. African musical productions are abstract configurations that demonstrate a common fundamental creative principle of mediating the physical and metaphysical worlds. INSHA is centered on time and the evolution/relationship of these cultural-creative influences. The compilation inquires aspects of traditional cultures, physical or metaphysical from communities in Kenya, and act as inspirations and sonic paraphernalia. INSHA serves as a bridge between the past and future music creators on a more fundamental level than usual record keeping."
Brazilian experimental multi-instrumentalist Carla Boregas follows plates for Bokeh Versions and Hive Mind with a ghostly set of deep listening electronics that plays like a symphony for an imagined woodwind orchestra, one to file next to recent work by Wojciech Rusin, Debit and Bloedneus & de Snuitkever.
Carla Boregas is best known from her tenure in São Paulo's genre-bending experimental post-punk scene, playing in long-running outfit Rakta as well as other related offshoots. Her solo material has been knottier to unpick, here developing ideas from a collection of unfinished fragments and notebook scribbles exploring the possibility of finding a wind instrument that could be played collectively by several musicians. Coinciding with the pandemic, however, she soon realised the inherent risks involved with sharing breath and so the concept took a different direction, with added resonance.
Boregas developed a synthetic alternative, layering vocals and environmental recordings to suggest wind instrumentation without attempting to mimic it. The sounds here are airy, but rarely diegetic - on the title track, Boregas uses analog arpeggios and plucked, sustained tones to approximate the kosmische world of Ash Ra Tempel or more recently Emeralds, as if trapped in a wind tunnel, moved forward by an unseen force.
There's a whisper of the ancient past that harmonises with Wojciech Rusin's speculative medieval gasps, and Bloedneus & de Snuitkever's severely underheard ‘Milli Mille’, an examination of the ancient Greek aulos. On ’Grafia Do Invisível' the sound is completely different again, but the concept remains, using precise analog drones and minuscule timbral shifts to imitate the character of a wind instrument and simultaneously harmonise with the deep listening meditations of Éliane Radigue and Kali Malone.
A voice enters the frame on 'Sopro’, chopped into deviated gulps and syllables, creating a language that's unfamiliar and percussive. The use of breath is subtle, and vocalisations criss-cross between synths and faint whistles, forming an expression that's different from its predecessors but intrinsically interlinked. This is where ‘Pena Ao Mar’ excels, by viewing breath and its application in electronic music from multiple angles simultaneously. Fans of Lucy Duncombe, Lucrecia Dalt, or Sarah Davachi - don't miss this one.
Third album, Remember, from Amsterdam duo Weval (Harm Coolen and Merijn Scholte Albers).
"Since they first released their “Half Age” EP in 2014 on Michael Mayer’s legendary Cologne-based Kompakt label, Weval have strived to test and improve their songwriting abilities by incorporating their own vocals and live instrumentation into their recordings, adding an extra dimension to their already impressive sound and in 2019 they released their second album The Weight to critical acclaim."
Jeff Mills revisits Fritz Lang's 'Metropolis' once again, stitching together an entirely new soundtrack that's intended to be a more nuanced reaction to the story itself. A headier, more psychedelic treatment, it's some of the most probing material Mills has released in years.
When Mills released his take on "Metropolis" back in 2000, he was the perfect candidate to approach such a cinematic milestone and bring it crashing into the techno era. The concept of the rescore was still in its infancy, so listeners weren't yet completely jaded by the mixture of silent movie footage and contemporary music. Mills' music had always represented technology, and Lang's classic detailed man's relationship with machines in the most visual way - Mills just offered a fresh backbone that helped build out the vision into another dimension. Over two decades later culture has shifted, so Mills felt it important not to just George Lucas his score but to J.J. Abrams it completely.
Unlike its comparatively compact predecessor, 'Metropolis Metropolis' is a labyrinthine sprawl of lengthy compositions that touch on jazz, baroque music and of course techno - but there's little you could imagine rattling through Tresor on a Sunday morning. Mills hardly reaches for the drums at all on the album's first two chunks, using jazzy flourishes on 'The Masters of Work and Play' but never allowing a beat to form completely. His focus is on mood curation, but the record wakes up when Mills plays to his strengths.
The second half of the record is more animated, with 'Transformation the Aftershock and Evil' using the Detroit legend's glassy soundset to evolve into a rhythm that's between Underground Resistance and Jon Hassell. 'Yoshiwara and the Players of Chance' is even better, with pinprick kicks and swirling oscillators that draw out a classic sci-fi scene without resorting to forgettable tropes. Mills' control of rhythm is most impressive, and he uses interlocking patterns to provide momentum to Vangelis-esque washes of electronics. 'Liaisons and Complicated Affairs' takes us to the end credits, plodding thru synthetic strings and into a flurry of hypnotic sequences that's not a million miles from Klaus Schulze's similarly engaging imaginary score to "Dune".
Kiln's debut album was originally released in 1998, and has now been given a fresh lick of paint to bring their enduring mix of shimmering shoegaze and potent dub techno to a new generation.
Clark Rehberg III, Kevin Hayes and Kirk Marrison initially got together as a live rock trio, but as their sound developed their interest in live instrumentation dwindled and their passion for electronics was stoked. 'Holo' was a painstaking process that used an early 8-channel DAW to combine their sampler experimentation and light, subtle instrumentation and at its best sounds like a more blunted answer to Tortoise's hybridized Chicago post-rock. Kiln's music is sunnier than most of the trio's contemporaries, tracks like 'Squarewave Colorwheel' are so breezy you can almost imagine reclining on a tropical beach, cocktail in hand, and 'Dodecatheon' captures some of the era's windswept hope, with brushed guitar chords, hand drums and watery samples.
In a way, Kiln provided an American alternative to Seefeel. Where Seefeel harmonized with drizzly British melancholy, Kiln were more whimsical and homespun - a ranchside strum rather than a faded trip into the industrial wastelands. If you're into Radian, Loscil or even early Four Tet, there's plenty here to ogle.
Cecilie 'Cisser' Mæhl's debut solo album is a slow-motion set of hushed Danish lullabies that's well worth filing alongside Björk's "Vespertine" and Colleen's "The Weighing of the Heart".
Back in 2019, composer, singer and multi-instrumentalist Mæhl moved from Cophenhagen to Norway to work at a mountain lodge. In her spare time, she'd make environmental recordings while she wandered through the impressive landscapes, and when she relocated to Oslo a few months later and began to assemble a suite of songs, these recordings were the inspiration. In Oslo she became friends with Jenny Hval who introduced her to avant-garde legend and producer extraordinaire Lasse Marhaug, and it's Marhaug who ended up producing the record, putting important finishing touches on Mæhl's quietly epic songs.
The gust of fresh Nordic air hits immediately on 'Menneskeaftryk', carried by Mæhl's gentle plucks and oh-so-sweet Danish vocals. Her voice is like a falsetto purr, somewhere between Susanna Wallumrød's trained jazziness and Jenny Hval's vulnerable near-crack, and sits on top of the sparse instrumentation as if its a feather bed. Stylistically the songs aren't a million miles from Björk's "Vespertine", if Matmos and co's glitches were removed and replaced with faint orchestral whines and submerged drums. 'Banegård' is particularly impressive, hitting a cinematic note with smooth vocals and a quivering, cardboard box beat.
Intensely cute and obsessively detailed world building by Kate NV, who flips a sample pack of instruments from Philadelphia's public schools into hiccupping, onomatopoeic froth with the modern charm of a Minecraft master well versed in Carl Stone, Foodman, Uwe Schmidt’s LB pops, Max Tundra or Nobukazu Takemura.
Kate’s 3rd LP with NYC’s RVNG Intl. is part study in the limits of language to express emotions, and part aesthetic exercise in imagining what one could build as a child, but with the benefit of a grown-up perspective. Each piece is densely stacked with melodic movement in tightly puckered rhythmic arrangements that cascade from piquant emulations of J-pop ‘oni (they)’ to the fruity parp of ‘meow chat’. They include the exactingly saccharine optimism and naif kids’ orchestra discord of ‘confessions at the dinner table’ with Quinn Oulton, thru the lilting library music winks of ‘asleep’, Max Tundra-esque turns of phrase in ‘early bird’, and ludicrous midi-funk chops of ‘d d don’t’, signing off with what sounds like Ka Baird jamming with Carl Stone on ‘flu’.
Infectious joyful stuff, we tell thee.
You Can Can is comprised of Toronto avant-music scene stalwarts, vocalist Felicity Williams (Bernice, Bahamas) and bricolage artist and synthesist Andrew Zukerman (Fleshtone Aura, Badge Epoch).
"You Can Can is an echoed affirmation, an album which traces song forms around silence, field recordings, and degraded analog memories. This is folk music transmogrified and mutated, as if recorded and reconstructed in Pierre Schaffer’s GRM studio.
The album feels like a somnambulant conversation, fragmented and half-remembered with Williams’ vocals traveling through a landscape of field recordings and Zukerman’s saturated concrète topographies. It is an electro-acoustic assemblage, both analog and digital, comprised of air, electricity, minerals, wood, and water. Although the album nods towards traditional forms of folk and musique concrète (if at this point it can be called a traditional form), it is outwardly and inwardly contemporary; non-linear, citational, opaque, and sui generis. In a way it feels like a sonic index of the narrative experiments found on the infamous Language school-related publisher The Figures, in the work of Lyn Hejinian, Clark Coolidge, and Lydia Davis. In the musical continuum, the album picks up where Linda Perhacs left off in the early 70’s—explored by Gastr Del Sol in the ‘90s—a convergence of rural acoustic idioms and urban avant-electronics. This is country music for the discerning cosmopolitan citizen of the 21st Century."
Oliver Coates' accompaniment to Paramount+ streaming sci-fi horror movie "Significant Other" is as serviceable and familiar as the film itself.
What is it about contemporary film soundtracks that demands such a specific, identikit treatment? When orchestras were deemed too costly for many productions in the 1970s and indie films took risks with young virtuosos or simply anyone with access to a synthesizer and drum machine, it led to music that still has a hold on impressionable creative minds. Now, with almost any sound imaginable available to anyone with a half-decent laptop, everything sounds like the intersection of Hans Zimmer and Ben Frost, with precious little in-between. For every Mica Levi, there are countless hundreds of Benjamin Wallfisches.
Oliver Coates is a talented and idiosyncratic cellist with a solid back catalog of unique recordings, but if you played us the "Significant Other" OST and asked us who made it, we'd struggle to guess. It's impeccably made and chilling to the bone, but it sounds so perfect that you'd almost forget it was present at all. The high pitched string squeals and low-end womps designed psycho-analytically to ramp up tension are all present, occasionally balanced by some advanced choral work. But it's streaming-era Hollywood terror by numbers - we're sure this ain't anything to do with Coates, and more to do with Paramount stooges, but it's more depressing than it is blood-curdling.
Ascendant Bristol producer Yushh debuts a deft sound bending slow/fast ambient techno, broken beats and meter-messing footwork jungle on her killer venture for Facta & K-Lone’s label
Proprietor of the Pressure Dome label since 2019, Jen Hartley aka Yushh arrives at this point via a string of cult releases on her label and DJ sets at Freerotation and Hör in recent years. ‘Look Mum No Hands’ is her first solo record, proper; a dead smart showcase of fine-tuned rhythm instincts conducted with coolly seductive flow and variation that calls to mind vibes from Auco to Parris, Vladislav Delay and LCY inner effortless traction and swirling contours.
The title tune craftily sweeps dembow dancehall and buoyant ambient techno textures into a pendulous slow/fast motion, and ‘Same Same’ edges closer to vintage Peverelist and Parris in its bubbling 2-step make-up. ’Close Fail’ is her keenest, trippiest cut, comparable to Forest Drive West’s footwork/D&B mutations or the crispness of LCY sound design, and ‘Self Couscous’ simmers it right down to dubbed-out step riddled with devilish detail for the dancers.
Experimental Yugo-prog/fourth world/new age from Serbia’s answer to Jon Hassell - the duo of Nenad Jelic & Laza Ristovski - who paved the way for Mitar Subotić/Suba/Rex Ilusivii on a 1985 classic recommended if yr into Hiroshi Yoshimura, The Art of Noise, ECM, Gigi Masin, Laurie Anderson or the sprawling Stroom thing.
‘Opera’ is the sole LP by Jelic & Ristovski, recorded for former Yugoslavian state record label PGB/RTB. Original copies are now mad expensive and in demand for the album’s hybrids of Balkan tradition with a strong influence from Portuguese saudade, with added currents of South American music and contemporary strains of ambient jazz and pop. A big attraction here is the use of early computer and synth technology which permeates their acoustic instrumentation and electro-acoustic timbres in brightly melodic and effusive productions clearly forged in the image of Jon Hassell, but distinguished by a Balkan heritage, resulting in a sound that echoes Offen Music’s unarchived works of Mitar Subotić and the modal moods of László Hortogbagyi, with bags of added slap bass and orchestral stabs that wink to ‘80s Hollywood scores.
Jelic & Ristovski take obvious inspiration from the melancholy soul of Portuguese fado and Jon Hassell’s hyper prismatic 4th world style on ‘Opera’, given a notable era-specific vibe courtesy of early computers and synths that also place this album in the near stylistic vicinity of Laurie Anderson’s ‘Home of The Brave’ and the pitched vocal daftness of The Art of Noise’s ‘In Visible Silence’ from the same era. Jelic comments "My temperament, my previous experience, my sensibility, they all clearly pointed toward a fusion of ambient, jazz and pop music laced with elements of the various Balkan musical traditions as well as the universe of the Latin American sound."
Also drawing from the inflections of Romani music that are found across Balkan and Mediterranean musics, ’Opera’ is a melodramatic experience full of sentimental melody and vocals, flowing through sections of plastic joy, careening from the carnival percussion of ‘Rhinoceros II’ to the big band emulation of ‘In The Sky’ via pluckiest slap bass on ‘Gawker’ and the Suba-esque choral work ‘Lamentation’. Curious diggers fascinated by the liminal space between Les Disques du Crépuscule, Stroom, and Editions EG - look no further, this one's for you.
A dead strong look for Drexciya or Laurel Halo heads, DR MYSTERY debuts on Michael Holland’s Ono incubator with a superb electro/synth-pop salvo full of rugged machine rhythms, subaquatic synths and dreamy vox.
Hailing from the Baltic region but based in Manchester for many years, DR MYSTERY is a masked enigma who has made her name playing live shows and DJ sets in her adopted home city. She now joins the likes of Tom Boogizm, Marlene Ribeiro (Negra Branca) and Dice Miller (Dali Maru & The Polyphonic Swarm) to present a notable first or formative work on Ono with ‘Far From Home’, a robust but sparingly assembled suite of sci-fi storytelling that expresses a certain sort of sehnsucht or hiraeth for her native lands, and a palpable, modernist sense of loneliness and resilience stemming from living in a familiar but foreign city.
‘Far From Home’ captures DR MYSTERY at the cusp of her journey ahead as a recording artist. Clocking in with the propulsive 808 tekkerz and reverberating vox of ‘Dialog That Needs Your Attention’, she enacts a compelling flight between electroid breaks reminding of early Radioactiveman or Two Lone Swordsmen on ‘Gaia’, thru a killer darkside dembow on ‘Petrichor’, to more optimistic electro-dreampop on ‘Opulence’. The beat-less shape of ‘Avalanche’ makes stark her knack for discretely captivating synth tones and arrangements, and the low-slung hip hop/electro of her title tune and the blunted swag of ‘Antares’ both uncannily recall Rat Heart’s blooziest.
Honest Jon's Records releases 'Impossible Love Songs From Sixties Quito'.
"Gonzalo Benitez and Luis Alberto Valencia began singing as a duo in their mid-teens. During twenty-eight years together they recorded more than six hundred songs, for Discos Ecuador, Nacional, Granja, Ortiz, Rondador, Onix, Fuente, Real, Tropical, Fadisa, RCA Victor — and of course CAIFE.
Their exquisitely romantic harmonising is a sublime blend of collected forbearance and abject self-annihilation, underpinned and elaborated by the heart-piercing, improvisatory guitar-playing of Bolivar Ortiz. Effectively the third member of the group. ‘El Pollo’ sets the tone and intensity for everything that follows.
Fiercely beautiful, desolate music from the shadowy mists of time, the lip of oblivion, for anyone who had a heart, for anyone who ever dreamed."
Belgium’s reliably surprising Meakusma host Philipp Matalla’s curious debut LP contorting outernational folk and squashed illbient downbeats into fractal psychedelia.
Strange things are afoot in ’Stakes’, which advances on a decade of releases for Prins Thomas’ Internasjonal and Optimo, and more vaporous ambient electronics as Maxxa/M Pounds with a bolder incursion of experimental interzones. Any semblance of club form or function is out the window on this one, replaced by sheer psychedelic expression that balances lush and brutalist urges in the music’s kaotic harmonies and distorted structures that are possibly best compared with the hallucinatory nature of Kay Logan’s Otherworld works or the bittersweet gnarl of Leyland Kirby’s overlooked Intrigue & Stuff series.
Evoking low res AI emulations of panoramic scapes, or a computer struggling to simulate a sort of noise exotica, the music snags the imagination with its detuned scales and granular textures that get right under the skin. The shearing chromatic bursts of ‘In_blank’ trigger a collection that curdles and diffracts between stately ceremonial procession on ‘Same’ to sawn-off illbient on ‘Clip_Bars’. His feel for expressively detuned tone is most potent on ‘Plus’, and elusively gloopy in ‘North’, while ‘Tarko’ feels like Fennesz doing trap. Strange but true.
Brian Mcbride and Adam Wiltzie's "Stars Of The Lid" are another one of those bands, alongside Windy and Carl, that seem to typify Kranky's quiet exuberance perfectly.
Their ability to create drifting shimmers of sound that veer from hushed, whispered soundscapes to disturbed crescendo's utilising nothing more than a couple of guitars, some basic effects pedals and whatever found sounds happen to be lying around has allowed them to progress slowly from one album to the next with the sort of intuitive, masterful command of minimalism that's quite hard to fathom in one sitting.
"Gravitational Pull" was originally released on the Sedimental label, eventually reissued by Kranky back in 1998, including extra material. Amazing stuff.
High grade digital lovers rock zinger from Melody Beecher, shuffling on the heels of her amazing George Michael version with a cover of Errol Dunkley’s ‘Movie Star’ originally released on Brooklyn label Witty in 1987.
Running strictly bullets, the necessary reissue of Melody’s diamond-cut ‘Movie Star’ pulls versions from the dead hard-to-find 12” and 7” for a definitive edition sure to reach more ears than the OGs. Calling to mind classic Horace Andy and his work with Massive Attack, the title tune comes in mellifluous vocal, robust dub, and 12” disco mix to extend the pleasure of Melody’s glyding vox and the rhythms tuff digital crack, eased off with sparkling DX7-like chimes and chords. Flawless diamonds all the way.
Jan Jelinek's transitional album ‘Zwischen’, made up of versions of pieces recorded for German public broadcaster SWR2. It includes twelve sound collages which make use of fragmented interviews provided by public figures including John Cage, Lady Gaga, Stockhausen, Yoko Ono, Joseph Beuys, Marcel Duchamp and others. Jelinek uses fragments of each voice to create highly evocative soundscapes, a conceit not unlike the use of Jazz loops on his much loved classic.
Jelinek focuses on intonation, umming and ahhing, silences, pauses for breath and hesitations which dictate the pace and mood, the resonance and tone of each interviewee providing the textural core of each piece. These same vocal fragments also control synthesized sound, creating overlays that merge with the voices to make twelve synthetic/acoustic structures.
As Jelinek explains "We all know the speaker’s fate: you falter, you mispronounce, there are breaks, silences and false starts. This results in delays, a language noise compared by Roland Barthes to the knocks made by a malfunctioning motor. Such gaps can be disconcerting, standing as they do for a failure of the speaker’s rhetorical skills. But what happens when they become a constitutive, poetic factor? Zwischen consists of twelve answers to twelve questions. The answers were all recorded in interview situations. From the speech of the interviewees – all eloquent public figures – the pauses are extracted and edited together. The result is a series of sound collages of silence.
But this silence is deceptive, as it is only meaning that falls silent. What remains audible is an archaic body language: modes of breathing, planning phases, seething word particles in search of sense that can break out into onomatopoeic tumult or drift off into sonorous noise. In a further step, each of the twelve collages controls a modular synthesizer via its amplitude and frequency. Supposedly defective speech acts conduct synthetic sounds and the speakers regain their composure – not via the spoken word, but through sound. The opening questions in the various interviews are answered by: Alice Schwarzer, John Cage, Hubert Fichte, Slavoj Žižek, Joseph Beuys, Lady Gaga, Ernst Jandl, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Marcel Duchamp, Friederike Mayröcker, Yoko Ono and Max Ernst.
The third installment of Light in the Attic’s Pacific Breeze series.
"Pacific Breeze... has supplied the world’s growing legions of Japanese music fans with an expertly curated selection of the most sought-after City Pop recordings—the mesmerizing and nebulous genre of Japanese bubble-era music of the ‘70s-’80s that encompasses AOR, R&B, jazz fusion, funk, boogie and disco. These familiar sounds are spun through the unique lens of optimistic, cosmopolitan fantasy colored by Japan’s affluence at the time. Much of the music has previously been nearly impossible to acquire outside of Japan and continues to captivate listeners with its unique blend of groove-laden escapism, even birthing wholly new genres such as Vaporwave.
Pacific Breeze 3: Japanese City Pop, AOR & Boogie 1975-1987 marks the latest chapter in the famed series and features holy grails plus under-the-radar rarities. The collection bursts at the seams to reveal some of the greatest Japanese tracks ever laid to tape, pushing towards the edge of City Pop to reveal glimmers of the next waves of styles to spring forth from the country’s creative minds. The appearance of Pizzicato Five hint at the emergence of Shibuya-kei while the influence of hip hop and electro as an emerging global trend are also evident here through the prevalence of heavier programmed drum beats on tracks such as “Heartbeat” by Miho Fujiwara.
This volume of Pacific Breeze, like its predecessors, is a female-forward offering with many tracks being voiced by women who would become household names in Japan as actresses and pop idols. Their songs here subvert the norm and brim with an innovative spirit that shatters gender roles in favor of sonic transcendence. Techno-pop classics from Susan, Miharu Koshi and Chiemi Manabe sit alongside sublime funk from Atsuko Nina and Naomi Akimoto while Teresa Noda slides into the mix with a sultry reggae jam. The genre span is stretched wider with hypnotic jazz fusion by Parachute and Hiroyuki Namba, a synthesizer fantasy from Osamu Shoji, and magnetic pop by Makoto Matsushita and Chu Kosaka.
Although not front and center, the visionary members of Yellow Magic Orchestra are still very present on Pacific Breeze 3, with Haruomi Hosono, Ryuichi Sakamoto, and Yukihiro Takahashi taking up producer and musician roles on many of these tracks. Pacific Breeze 3 serves up a captivating musical journey that adds an essential chapter to the iconic compilation series."
The inarguable square root of so much post-, math-, and avant-rock to come, one of those records that makes history fall into place around it. R.I.P. Glenn Branca.
One of the most striking, singular débuts of its era, Ascension was and still is a stunning example of an artist pushing the boundaries of their chosen instrument. By this point Branca was already a staple of NYC’s No Wave movement with Theoretical Girls and The Static, two groups who strove to strip rock music back to its primitivist roots and rediscover its truth. After a small handful of records with those bands, he progressed to arrange his own group, the Ascension Band, revolving around Branca as one of four electric guitarists (also including a pre-Sonic Youth Lee Ranaldo), plus a bassist and drummer, who were gathered in order to explore the possibilities of massed, alternate tunings for multiple guitars, sowing the seeds for what would later fully come to fruition with the development of his symphonies for 100 guitars.
In five movements recorded at The Power Station, the Ascension Band explore the guitar’s then-lesser heard voices in a way which would directly feed forward into myriad strains of guitar music as we know it. Opening with Lesson No.2, a grindingly hypnotic motorik follow-up to his first EP Lesson No.1,the album takes in Branca’s 12 minute masterpiece The Spectacular Commodity a situationist-inspired piece full of complex tempo changes and thrilling discord, to variously investigate, gnashing, clashing harmonics Structure, and onto the monotone thrum of Light Field, and the nerve-jangling chaos of The Ascencion, which is the inarguable square root of so much post-, math-, and avant-rock to come, from Swans to Sonic Youth, and on thru GY!BE or even Raime.
The Ascension is one of those records that makes history fall into place around it, when given and heard in proper context. It’s just essential listening. R.I.P. Glenn Branca.
Reissue of Hyd’s PC Music debut - produced by A.G. Cook, Caroline Polachek and umru - charting her metamorphosis from the QT avatar into Tay Tay-meets-Grimes style hyperpop grunge slay
An early fixture of PC Music as QT, Hayden Dunham has become one of its leading lights in recent years as Hyd, addressing the label’s aesthetic arrested development with a more grown-up style of pop songwriting that mixes chart-style chops with cannier traces of up-to-the-second electronic club music. Arriving elven and dreamy on the swole Reese bass ballad of ‘No Shadow’, the EP impresses with her quiet/loud electro-pop ace ‘Skin 2 Skin’, beside the ebullient electro-country twang of ‘The Look on Your Face’ and neuro-pop lullaby ‘The One’.
Reissue housed in die-cut jacket designed by Peter Saville with infamous glass paper (or sandpaper) inner, and 7” ‘testcard’ featuring two tracks by Martin Hannett
The Durutti Column’s sublime debut album is back in circulation on vinyl for the first time in four years, presenting a definitive edition replete with the extra tracks featuring drum programming from Eric Random and a bonus 7” of two cuts from seminal producer Martin Hannett, who produced this album and many more for the legendary Factory label.
Not sure what we can add to the gushing rivers of praise for this record already out there?! Save possibly to say that in the 37 years since conception, Vini Reilly’s best loved album, The Return of The Durutti Column has clearly lost none of its evergreen charm and rarified Didsbury air. That’s possibly down to its timeless, fluid ‘simplicity’ and minimalism, or because of Martin Hannett’s future-proofing mixing desk trickery. But, either way it still floods your listening space with light and languorous, lushly introspective feelings that reams of artists have chased ever since.
Highly recommended? Essential!
While Kevin Drumm has a reputation as a harbinger of doom, he also possesses an instinctive gift for quieter and meditative tones which are deployed to sublime, melancholy effect on this epic new double album. It generates a phosphorescent shadowplay of electro-acoustic tones and timbres comparable to his landmark releases Imperial Distortion and Tannenbaum in terms of their palpable yet somehow barely-perceptible spectral presence.
The first LP in the set is a special addition to the Drumm oeuvre. One of the most varied slabs in his catalogue, it moves in four parts from the keen of hollowed/hallowed resonance in The Forthright Fool to a transfixing pair of works entitled The Loop A + B, with the former sounding like Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement meets AFX’s SAW II ambience, and the latter deploying a gauzier sound sphere of coruscating tones and genteel chaos intensifying to a swarming panic attack, before the B-side-long Old Connections smears that tension with a paralysing, eviscerating force like being buried and slowly dissolving within a glacier.
From that subtle departure of the new paths of Disc 1, the 2nd plate returns us to more familiar Drumm terrain in all three sections. The longest, A Blind Spot hearkens to the supremely rare effect of Imperial Distortion, somehow coruscating yet amniotic - a proper metal ambience - while the final side’s Social Interaction feels like a smothered, internalized expression of Aaron Dilloway’s grotesque body gurns, and the near-static shimmer of Reverse Osmosis lends a suitably ambiguous close with an unyieldingly slow yet somehow lush strokes of genius.
Details of Gustave Doré’s wood-engraved illustration from The Rime of The Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge adorns the sleeve and firmly hints at the poetic tempest and grain of Drumm’s work inside, which fixes its gaze not on the drama of the situation, but the tension and anxiety which frames it.
Bringing vibes for days, if not decades, Peacefrog with a first ever vinyl reissue of Moodymann’s Silence In The Secret Garden  to slake the thirst of DJs and dancers the world over.
Slotting between Forevernevermore  and Black Mahogani  in the scheme of things, KDJ’s 4th album is a peerless distillation of Detroit house DNA and party flavours, working a masterful balance of simmering house party funk and technoid depth that could really only come from one man and the city he reps.
Party-building aces such as People share space with rolling deep techno works such as On My Way Home, and rugged club abstractions like Silence in The Secret Garden hold ground beside sultry Afro-Latin numbers like Yesterdays Party Watta Bout It, demonstrating it’s all part of the same thing in a way that KDJ has exemplified for over 20 years.
Cop on sight!
Class cuts of heat-seeking Afrobeat and soul from 1978 Benin, West Africa - ‘Ogassa Story’ is a must for the Afro-funk heads, beside deeply specialist, wildly crooked grooves in ‘Production Vido Tche’ and ‘Gbe We Gnin Wa Bio’.
“Over the past couple of years Acid Jazz have been re-issuing releases from the enigmatic 'Albarika Store' label, a goldmine in Afro cuts from Benin, West Africa. The latest instalment is the ultra-rare 'Ogassa Original (Vol. 1), the first LP from obscure but ultimately brilliant Porto Novo group, Ogassa from 1978. Like many Albarika releases, it was recorded at EMI Lagos, giving a depth and fidelity that stands out in the realm of Afro rarities. Reissued in full with the original artwork for the very first time, a must have for Afro collectors and completists alike.”
Detroit’s 100 Limousines chase their outstanding Kemetrix album (one of 2022’s best by far) with Dunn’s shearing contemporary ambient designs, primed for fans of special guest dj, Huerco S. or Laurel Halo
Dunn plays with new age ambient tropes in in a warmly user-friendly style oscillating between lush, textured, beat-less works, noisier strains, and blissed downbeats that remind us of 100 Limousines’ K-6000 album as much as Laurel Halo’s gyring early works or the best of the burgeoning US ambient scene in the 2020s.
The dozen tracks are arranged in playthru style for seamless listening, tiling ephemeral vignettes and more full-bodied parts into a mazy mosaic of fractured ambient that might resonate with anxious mindsets. There’s an elusive sort of lushness that threads the whole set from ‘Induction Mechanism’ to ‘Beads like Silvershapes’, with pads and synth lines prone to arc across tracks and follow an under-the-hood narrative from the sci-fi intrigue of ‘Biotecture’ to pockets of iridescent sublime redolent of Nozomu Matsumoto in ’Beckoning Territories’, whereas the thizzing jazz of ‘In The Shade’ echoes the coolest KDJ cuts, and ‘Motionless Surveyor’ hints at Manga soundtracks in a similar way to how ’Seventh Sky (Grey Heaven)’ reflects 0PN and pulpy cyberpunk William Gibson-esque feels.
Originally released in 1972, "Universe In Blue" has been remastered and expanded to include two extra tracks from the same era. Phenomenal music, it shows a distinctly low-key, stripped-down side to the Arkestra, with Sun Ra on organ throughout.
It doesn't take long to tune into the mood of "Universe In Blue"'s chilly title track. With Sun Ra on his "intergalactic space organ" accompanied by sparse, barely-audible drums, Kwame Hadi on trumpet and John Gilmore on horn, it's a longing blues improvisation that gets to the gooey core of Ra's appeal. This is the sound of Alabama's deep sadness, channelled through ancient and modern technologies that heave through the almost 15-minute composition as Ra leads with monastic charm, lashing the church to the juke joint. June Tyson brings a confident, blown-out vocal performance to 'When the Black Man Ruled This Land' (conspicuously truncated to 'Blackman' on the original issue), emoting over Ra's organ blasts. It's the album's most upfront cut, allowing cracks of sunlight to part the darkness for just a second.
'In a Blue Mood' meanwhile continues where the title track left off, centering Ra's emotional organ jamming over skeletal drums, allowing the texture and timbre of the electric organ the space to cough and splutter emotionally. Anyone who already knows the record will no doubt be interested to pick thru the two additions: 'Discipline 27-II' and 'Intergalactic Research'. Both have been released before but not collected with this exact material, and both were recorded in 1972, so while they hover around a different mood - this ain't sedate organ blues - they capture Ra in the same creative tidal wave.
Glenn Branca’s ‘Lesson No.1’  is a foundational touchstone for late 20th C. electric guitar music: featuring both Lee Ranaldo and Thurston Moore, it’s a core inspiration over Sonic Youth and also Swans, and is regularly hailed in lists of influential experimental music. In the wake of Branca’s recent passing, aged 69, Superior Viaduct present a repress of their reissue to the release’s 2004 CD edition, which packages the original ‘Lesson No.1’ with its B-side ‘Dissonance’, and the bonus C-side of ‘Bad Smells’ featuring Lee Ranaldo and Thurston Moore, a.o. “Seminal” is an oft-misused word, but in this instance, it’s perfectly apt.
Originally released on pivotal No wave label 99 Records, Lesson No.1 has become one of the best loved and regarded highlights of NYC’s catalytic No wave scene. Its A-side masterpiece Lesson No.1 For Electric Guitar was inspired by Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart and the work of Steve Reich, which both shine thru in the piece’s nagging melodic phrasing and drifting harmonic swell. Play it on 33rpm for a much druggier sort of glory.
The original B-side Dissonance is perhaps more directly related to No wave primitivism, and the way that style reflected the reality of life in New York’s less salubrious quarters. It’s all about a heady, jarring clangour and inexorable momentum, the sort of piece that sucks you in and demand you keep your wits about you - or utterly let go - amid the dense madness of of a hot sunny day in NYC, or a sweaty throng at Max’s Kansas City. Again, this one sounds great on 33rpm as well as the intended 45rpm.
Bad Smells on the C-side was first titled Music For The dance Bad Smells and issued on Branca’s Who Are You Staring At? split LP with John Giorno. It notably features early appearances of Branca’s touring bandmate Lee Ranaldo, as well as Thurston Moore, who would become known in their own right. In the same way Dissonance gave a taste of the city, Bad Smells offers a synaesthetically incisive, 16-minute reflection of a decaying NYC thru noxious plumes of massed dissonance and wrankling distortion that eventually lead to its heady collapse.
A bridge between free-jazz worlds, John and Alice Coltrane’s ‘Cosmic Music’ pairs two pieces recorded by John’s quintet in 1966 - a year before his untimely passing, aged 40 - with the first two pieces recorded by Alice as bandleader, six months post- her husband’s transition to the next dimension. Housed in gatefold jacket. Highly recommended!
“John Coltrane transformed the inner architecture of jazz throughout the mid-1950s and 1960s and long after his premature death at age 40 in 1967. No other American musician could be said to be at the spiritual center of the '60s musical universe as Trane influenced Albert Ayler, La Monte Young, Jimi Hendrix and everybody in between.
Cosmic Music, originally self-released by Alice Coltrane in 1968 and later issued by Impulse!, features two tracks ("Manifestation" and "Rev. King") by John Coltrane's legendary final quintet that were recorded in San Francisco on February 2nd, 1966 and two more ("Lord Help Me To Be" and "The Sun") from Alice Coltrane's very first session as a bandleader, recorded six months after her husband's passing.
"Manifestation" opens with the group already in mid-flight: Trane's fierce tenor leads the way with Pharoah Sanders' blistering sax and Alice's powerful chords hearing his call. On "Rev. King," Trane introduces a lyrical theme and then the composition erupts into fiery incantations, while Jimmy Garrison's bass throbs alongside the propulsive, gravity-defying drumming of Rashied Ali.
Foreshadowing her majestic debut, A Monastic Trio, "Lord Help Me To Be" brings Alice's celestial piano playing and inspired improvisations to the foreground with Sanders, Garrison and drummer Ben Riley rumbling in tow. "The Sun," a meditative ballad with subtle urgency, perfectly closes the album's contemplative circle.
As John Coltrane recites on the final track, "May there be peace and love and perfection throughout all creation."
Monstrance documents Mika Vainio & Joachim Nordwall reshaping guitars, drums and incendiary electronics at Einstürzende Neubauten’s Berlin studio back in 2010. The results were originally issued by Touch in 2013, with this new 2LP edition now arriving on Nordwall’s iDEAL label five years later as a posthumous tribute and reminder of his erstwhile collaborator. In our opinion, it’s one of Vainio’s most crucial and absorbing collaborations; moving away from ice-cold electronic precision and into a more visceral re-rendering of Metal that’s an abolute must-hear if you’re into Earth, Sunn O))), Fushitsusha and, needless to say, any of Vainio or Nordwall’s productions.
In a sort of fantasy regression imbued with the spirit of their shared heroes - Einstürzende Neubauten - Mika returns to the instruments he cut his teeth on way back in the ‘80s, manning electric guitar, drums and effects, while Nordwall takes control of electronics, electric bass, organ and vibraphone, with both arriving at a mutually primal conclusion of distortion and fiercely charged electro-acoustic air.
The first side’s ‘Alloy Ceremony’ comes on like an Earth deathmarch (especially if played at 33rpm!), before the furnace blast of ‘Live at The Chrome Cathedral’ settles to the sepulchral croaks of ‘Midas In Reverse’. In the 2nd part, the duo communicate in reverberant, hollow knocks and guttural bass waves on ‘Irkutsk’, leading to a moment of raw, staggering poignancy with the shimmering primitivism of ‘Praseodymium’, leading each other in acres of negative space, with needled strings creating a fine tension that dissolves into the funereal, floating tones of ‘In The Sheltering Sanctus of Minerals’ in a sort of blue, etheric and almost ecclesiastic resolution.
All the track titles allude to metal (in the material sense), which gives you a firm sense of the hard, grey tonal palette the duo worked with. But Nordwall and Vainio generate such an impressive array of music out of this ascetic approach that we can’t really think of much in either of their extensive repertoires that sounds much like the hour of music they created here. It's one of Vainio’s most absorbing and unique collaborations outside of Pan Sonic, an essential exploration of silence and noise.
Pusha T and Malice’s classic gets a re-up on wax for anyone who missed out, slanging some of the most sparse and hard hitting, future-proof productions of the 2000’s - still sounding f relentlessly killer almost two decades years later.
When it came out in 2006 - after much publicised delays caused by record label/industry bullshit - it was basically an insta-classic, fuelled by raw and uncut rhymes and double, even triple entendres about that yayo - the best to ever to come out of Virginia Beach, USA. But, of course, those bars wouldn’t hit as hard without that Neptunes’ production, all space and full of bite, snap and wooze. You have to ask - is there a better album produced by The Neptunes? We’d say probably not.
“We always intended to win by being left of center,” said Pusha a while back, and that’s the unique thing about 'Hell Hath No Fury’, it does it all its own way, sounds like nothing else - still doesn’t - and still sold 80,000 copies on the first week of its release. Basically, one of the greatest records of the 2000’s.
A masterclass in modern folk-techno fusion, pitting Acholi fiddle virtuoso Ocen in the turbulent yet disciplined computer matrices of Rian Treanor with jaw-dropping effect for East African powerhouse, NNT
Uganda meets UK in devilishly ingenious style on ‘Saccades’, the long-in-the-works result of Rian Treanor’s 2018 residency at Nyege Nyege Tapes’ Kampala-based studio incubator. Thousands of miles from his Rotherham home, Rian forged a vital creative kinship with Acholi fiddle player Ocen James, using physical modelling software techniques to create a virtual instrument based around the tunings of the a’dungu, an arched harp, as well as the nah or nag, that allowed Rian to “jam” with Ocen’s rigi rigi, a single string violin.
Under a title that ideally sums up the rapid, rhythmelodic flux of their pointillist percussion, plucks and strokes, ‘Saccades’ throws down some of the most exhilarating outernational treks of recent times. Within a system allowing for Rian to react in real time to Ocen’s expressive chops, they play off each other in utterly beguiling styles that effectively bridge ancient Nilotic tradition with up-to-the-second computer muzik, via free jazz and deep fwd club tekkerz.
Across 9 original zingers, and a surprisingly straight-played Farmers Manual remix, Rian & Ocen harness a scintillating rhythmic energy and ingenuity, diffracting tradition into modernity between the cluttering polyrhythms of ‘Bunga Bule’ and dusk-hailing soundscape of ‘Casascade’, with properly thrilling results in the needlepoint stepper ’Tiyo Ki’, and creakiest free jazz on ‘As It Happens’, plus whorls of iridescent folk-techno futurism in ‘The Dead Centre’ and ‘Agoya’ sequenced beside more haunting use of curdled timbres on ‘Memory Pressure’, or rowdy ceilidh-like party music in ‘Rigi Rigi’.
We were lucky enough to witness an early live iteration of this improvised jam on stage at NNT’s 2018 festival, and can now marvel at the finished product; a radically fluid fusion of what were previously, mutually exclusive styles, projecting the historic, systems-based examples of David Behrman, or indeed Mark Fell’s algorithmic duets with instrumentalists, to the centre of the dancefloor. No hype, it’s simply the best record we’ve heard from Rian or Ocen - a new high water mark of cross-cultural collaboration that makes our head top fizzy as fuck.
Enchanting, 24-track guided tour of Ecuador’s Caife label circa the ‘60s, flush with suave fusions of jazz and indigenous traditional styles running counter to post-colonial, Eurocentric styles. A real holiday for the ears
"Impatiently returning to the golden age of Ecuadorian musica national, this second round of retrievals is more of a selectors’ affair: less reverent, more free-flowing, with more twists and turns. There is no let-up in the quality of the music, maintaining the same judicious, heart-piercing balance between emotional desolation and dignified endurance, the same bitter-sweet play between affective excess and formal sublimity.
This time around, the woman steal the show. Laura and Mercedes Suasti were child stars, with an exclusive Radio Quito contract. Unlike nearly all the men here, they lived long and prospered: Mercedes died last year, at the age of 93. Gladys Viera and Olga Gutierrez both came to Ecuador from Argentina. To start, Gladys plugged the scandalous new Monokini swimwear; Olga performed for visiting British royalty in 1962. Olga was glamorous but tough. She would make little of the amputation of one of her legs: ‘I don’t sing with my leg.’ She is accompanied on our opener by quintessentially reeling, sultry musica national: haunted-house organ, twinkling xylophone, Guillermo Rodriguez’ heart-plucking guitar-playing, and lilting, dance-to-keep-from-crying double-bass. ‘Sometimes I think that you will leave me with no memories,’ she sings, ‘that you hold only disappointments in store for me… In the future your love will search me out, full of regret. By then it will be too late, there will be no consolation, only disappointment awaiting you.’
Other highlights include the two contributions of Orquesta Nacional: Ponchito Al Hombro, like an off-the-wall forerunner of the Love Unlimited Orchestra, beamed into the tropics from an unknowable time and space; and the tone poem Atahualpa, a mystical yumbo invoking Quito’s most ancient inhabitants, the Kichwa. Also the tremulous, gypsy-flavoured violin-playing of Raul Emiliani, who arrived in Quito from Italy, suffering PTSD from the Second World War; the inscrutable, sardonic experimentalism of organist Lucho Munoz; and the mooing and whistling of Toro Barroso — school of Lee Perry — in which a muddy bull dashes home to his darling chola, fearless, full of desire."
Elena Colombi’s Osàre! Editions complete a strong ’22 program with Emil Valev’s first volley of dark, fizzing, avant new wave landing on the senses like a fantasy adjunct to Suicide, Uri Katzenstein, Victor De Roo.
This is the first release, proper, by the deep Euro wave outlier. It’s an open invitation to his worldbuilding style, splicing rugged post-industrial/darkwave with more fragrant Eastern melodies and cosmic inspirations in a spectrum of driving, intuitively arranged works that span decades and add up to a singular depiction of the artist’s take on well-trodden tropes.
Brimming with exactly the sort of screwballs you might hear in Elena Colombi DJ sets, ‘Gentle Reactor’ runs a personalised sort of voodoo down from the snake-hipped noir of ‘Vdahnovenie’ to the dry drum machine crack and sensuous Mid-Eastern melodies of ‘Black Cat’, taking in what sounds like Suicide’s cosmic side project on ‘Haotichen Izgrev’ and grinding wave sleaze in ‘Exhibition’, next to the steamy groove of ‘Dvigatel’ with its slithering, reverse-looped vocals and bezonnkked concrète sound arrangement of ‘Rain Thoughts’.
There’s a darkly playful mind at work here, patiently deep into their own thing on the skewed lounge groover ‘Give me all your love III’, and working to the classiest, lusting sort of Euro-Orientalist schematics on ‘Slow Dancer’ recalling the thrust of Uri Katenzstein’s recently reappraised doozies on Black Truffle as much as Jac Berrocal and co, with prime late night essence in the likes of ‘Kwarks’ or the mystic cosmic beauty of ‘Hope’.
Dream-weft Gallic grooves from Glasgow, knitting influence from Patrick Cowley via YMO’s silicon pop with Broadcast’s retro-futurism in an album of sensuous, uchronic disco frolics.
“Free Love and their music are a conscious study in duality: thumping live tracks and meditational mantras, pop songs and esoteric experiments, acoustic and electronic instrumentation, lyrics in French and English, the Masculine and the Feminine, all side-by-side. Paragons of the cross-pollinating Glasgow DIY scene, their rapturous psychedelic odysseys have been emanating from the city since 2013 via esteemed labels including Night School and Optimo Music. Free Love’s debut EP Luxury Hits was released in 2018 to much critical acclaim (“a groovy fever dream” – Line of Best Fit) and saw them shortlisted for the Scottish Album of the Year Award (Suzi and Lewis’s third SAY Award nomination in all, following two under the Happy Meals moniker). It was followed in 2019 by the mini-album Extreme Dance Anthems (“music to move both body and mind” – Clash). In 2018 Free Love released a limited-edition vinyl EP, written and recorded on the isle of Eigg as part of Lost Map’s V I S I T ▲ T I O N S residency programme – strengthening a long-standing kinship between the band and the label which has seen them perform live many times at Lost Map events on Eigg and elsewhere.
It leads to the release on Lost Map in 2023 of Free Love’s latest opus INSIDE. Written and recorded at the band’s Glasgow home studio during and after the lockdowns of 2020-2021, and completed just before the birth of Lewis and Suzi’s son Echo in the summer of 2022, its 10 tracks of house-quaking acid pop, celestial drones and yogic devotionals are a by-turns banging and blissed-out meditation on life and death, community and seclusion, worlds both outwith and within. A song about “coming back to the centre after spiralling too far and recognising you’re not the only person wondering what’s going on”, ‘Open The Door’ reaches for the fresh silicon sound of Yellow Magic Orchestra. ‘Stop’ and ‘Golden Goose’ channel the space age pop dreams of Broadcast, while ‘Le Mirage’ and ‘Dans Le Noir’ take influence from 1970s electronic dance music pioneer Patrick Cowley – the former his gay porn movie soundtracks, the latter Cowley’s game-changing hi-NRG productions such as ‘Menergy’ and ‘Megatron Man’. Transportational seven-minute album closer ‘I Become’ sees Free Love borrow lyrics from the first track Lewis and Suzi ever recorded together, ‘Crystal Salutation’. “In doing, we become.”
Vaknar unveil eight soundscapes from shadowy Japanese producer Yosuke Tokunaga that join the dots between psychedelic ambient sounds, glitch music and dusty half-speed trip-hop. If Jan Jelinek had been on Mo'Wax...
It's easy to forget the huge fingerprint Japan had on the trip-hop movement. Not only appropriating Japanese imagery, Mo'Wax also made sure artists like Major Force and DJ Krush were given a platform outside of Japan, and the scene only deepens when you look closer. We're don't have much info about Yosuke Tokunaga but from the sound of "8 Quadrants" he was listening to at least some of this output. The record isn't trip-hop exactly, but that sample-based technique is in its DNA for sure. Beats aren't always audible but they're always present, and while the artist uses samples as freely and creatively as Jan Jelinek, there's a dustiness that transports us back to another era.
The best tracks are those that precisely capture this mood, blending murky cinematics with uneven thumps and white noise washes. 'Qua drants' almost harmonizes with Jake Muir's illbient-inspired "Mana", curving bendable jazz drums beneath smoked-out piano twinkles and swirling pads, while 'Quadr ants' sounds like a half-speed soundtrack to a spy movie set in a Tokyo suburb.