Trunk Records kick off their 2018 schedule with a double feature of Basil Kirchin soundtracks to the film I Start Counting  and the documentary Third World, whose creation Jonny Trunk dates to the early ‘80s.
Arriving some months after Superior Viaduct’s necessary reissue of Basil’s mental 2nd World Within Worlds album, this suite helps illustrate the inimitable breadth and style of the late composer’s oeuvre in the most endearing way.
Where Worlds Within Worlds wowed with otherworldly psychedelic technique, Basil brings us back to more earthly matters with a dreamy blend of bubbling pastoral pop themes shot thru with traces of Far eastern scales and instrumentation and offset by jabs of free jazz in the score to I Start Counting, most notably on the title track sung by Lindsey Moore (daughter of Barbara Moore).
And again for contrast, the Third World documentary soundtrack gives up 11 nifty cue vignettes revolving juicy bass motifs, clipped percussion and parping syn-flute stabs. If you asked us, particularly after listening to the creamy digital smoothness of Third World - Track 3 and the New Jack swang of Third World - Track 10 + 11, we’d almost wager they were made in late ‘80s Japan, not early ‘80s Hull, England.
The label with the best cover art in the business follow that stellar release from Polish pop diva Aldona Orłowska with the wonky melt of Caçador do Futuro, where Portuguese duo Tropo Macaca pursue the vibes of their Trilogy Tapes 12” into ever more lysergic instrumental narratives.
Over two wandering sides they let the synths do all the talking, which comes out in voices ranging from slow and viscous to babbling rants, almost like a Dadaist radio play or location recordings from another dimension.
The effect of Tropa Macaca’s music recall a heat-warped adjunct to Jan Anderzen’s Tomutonttu or a smudged echo of Èlg’s avant garde enigmas, leading listeners down a mazy garden path that seems to grow in behind you until you’re meshed into the sound. We’d imagine this effect will only be heightened with good drugs.
Space Afrika return with a long anticipated new album of mutable ambient frameworks somewhere between Lee Gamble’s ‘Diversions', Jan Jelinek, Huerco S and The Connection Machine. Recommended late night listening…
Ambient duo Space Afrika offer a bird’s eye view of the city centre at night with Somewhere Decent To Live; their keenly anticipated first LP on sferic. Unshackled from dancefloor needs, but still inspired and feeding off its spirit and romance, the pair respectfully acknowledge the undercurrents of Jungle, dubstep, ambient techno and deep house which feed into their home city’s late night economy, dowsing their tributaries back to dub and rendering the findings in a quiet, modestly lush ambient haze with a flawlessly anaesthetising effect.
Taking gaseous form as a series of dark blue hues and electromagnetic subbass impulses, the vibe inside is delectably elusive. Unlike their previous transmissions on Where To Now? and Köln’s LL.M., the pair’s dancefloor urges are dissolved in favour of suggestively mutable ambient frameworks this time, leaving the kicks in the club whilst they appear to float overhead like the dead kid embarking his Bardo in Gaspar Noé’s Enter The Void.
In firm but gentle style they feel out eight interlinked headspaces, drifting like spectral flanneurs from the Diversions-like opener uwëm/creãtiõn to intercept telepathic thoughts from Teutonic friends in the percolated subs and drizzly ambient clag of sd/tl, before arriving at the most arresting moment in their catalogue thus far with the masterfully widescreen yet immersive bly and its sublimely smeared timbral thizz.
The 2nd half of the record subsequently describes a more inward journey from wistful loops in u+00B1 to the sylvan 2-step of gwabh and curve feat. Echium, ultimately culminating in the echo chamber melt of dred.
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.
Düsseldorf’s Florian Meyer a.k.a. Don’t DJ wraps up a moebius strip of rhythmelodic grooves with brand new label, Sexes, following recent travels for Berceuse Heroique, Emotional Response, and with his Diskant pals.
Authentic Exoticism is a bit of a beauty, arguably his best release yet. Emerging from a backdrop of nattering cicadas to feel out the chiming, fluidly pendulous drum practice of Savanna Siesta he ups the ante with the outstanding polymetric patterning of Savanna Sundown recalling highlights of Xth Reflexion’s workouts on Aught replaced to some dreamy emulation of an African scape.
Southern Shore starts the other side at a tranquil tilt with loose slippery percussive objets synched to a steady ballast while field recordings slosh in the distance and hyaline melodies bob on the current, taking all the time it needs until depositing us at the desert island of Southeast Subterrane, populated choral pan pipes and drowsy bass figures emerging from the jungle.
Colour us enchanted.
Soaring atmospherics, intertwined vocal harmonies and dramatic shifts in tone and dynamics...
"Like its predecessor, the record features seven songs but from the chiming guitars of openingt rack Side By Side it is clear that the stately pace of For Those Who Caught the Sun in Flight has made way for a far more dynamic and driving energy; perhaps best captured in the righteous anger of The Ghost of John Maynard Keynes Tomorrow We Sail still invoke a keen sense of measured grace in their songwriting - from the sweeping, elegiac title track, through to the sparse, restrained, yet haunting beauty of Winifred and To Sleep."
One of the leading lights of Ethiopian music presents his first new material in an age on Lala Belu for Awesome Tapes From Africa - the label who were instrumental in showcasing his work to wider audiences with the compilation Hailu Mergia & His Classical Instrument: Shemonmuanaye in 2013, and later a reissue of reissue of his Tche Belew  album.
Comprising the virtuoso accordionist and keys player’s first new material since those reissues triggered a worthy career resurgence, Lala Belu catches fire in all six parts with a vitally tough and expressive sound that feels like Mergia has thrown off the more genteel jazz vibes of early releases in favour of a fierce, freer jazz and funk flex to proceedings.
The guy’s gotta be knocking into his 70s now yet shows no sign of letting up here, sounding utterly alive and full of feels from the opening cut’s switch from mellow sway to bustling jazz and blazing electric keys, thru the head-down funk chops of Addis Nat, to the swingeing organ lines and percolated percussion of Anchihoye Lene.
He chills out beautifully well on the sublime solo piano piece Yefikir Engurguro, which sweetly recalls the magic of Emahoy Tsegue-Mariam Guebru, while Gum Gum sounds perhaps closest to his debonaire early recordings.
Yellow Kitchen features music by Sean Yeaton of Parquet Courts and vocals/spoken word by Mark Kozelek of Sun Kil Moon. It was recorded December 2016 through May 2017. Recorded in USA.
Guests include Will Oldham, Holly Throsby, Steve Shelley, and Jim White of the dirty three.
Up until the release of his debut album in 2014, Shinichi Atobe managed to stay off grid since his release on Basic Channel’s Chain Reaction imprint back in 2001. He delivered the second-to-last 12” on the label and then disappeared without a trace, leaving behind a solitary 12” and a trail of speculation that led some people to wonder whether the project was in fact the work of someone on the Basic Channel payroll.
That killer Chain Reaction 12” was also longtime favourite of Demdike Stare, who had been trying to follow the trail and make contact with Atobe for many years before a lead from the Basic Channel office turned up an address in japan and - unbelievably - an album full of archival and new material. That material was compiled and released back in 2014 as Butterfly Effect.
And what a weird and brilliant album it is - deployed with a slow-churn opener that sounds like a syruppy Actress track, before working through a brilliantly sharp and tactile 9 minute Piano House roller that sounds like DJ Sprinkles at his most bittersweet, before diving headlong into a heady, Vainqueur inspired droneworld. It’s full of odd little signatures that gives the whole thing a timeless feel - like a sound bubble from another era.
Echovolt throw back to the late ‘90s Greece with two archival house trax by Starcount - a then 16 year old artist who was making music in between skipping skool and sailing in the Aegean Sea.
As the first Greek composer on Echovolt’s expanding reissue series, Starcount brings a typically unique swerve to the label with the rudely offset deep house swing and samba-like cross-rhythms of Calma, then on a more low key vibe with the rolling dub house bassline, piano keys and dreamy female vocal loop of Jeraldine in a very DJ Sprinkles-like manner, but perhaps more charmingly naive.
Isle Of Jura reissue Q’s natty early ‘80s electro-funk classic, Voice of Q - a virulent earworm if we’ve ever heard one.
The leftfield electro disco gem originally released in 1982 finally gets an official reissue. Bootlegged badly in recent years, Isle Of Jura does it right with fully remastered versions and the added inclusion of a previously unreleased Q song ‘Keep It Strong’
Expressive experiments in jazz-wise hip hop from Culross Close, whose keys players Anthony Kieron Ifill also records as K15 on Kyle Hall’s Wild Oats.
Moments follows the band’s debut LP Home  with a series of studio snapshots rendering the group at their loosest, capturing those “moments” that make live music performance and jamming what it is, and transforming, re-fusing them with synths and electronics to enhance their effect.
Up top, this results a stereo-flung flurry of percussion wrapped around Eli Emannuel’s spiralling bass in Manifesto, then a mellow slick of Latin fusion vibes contoured by Nathan Jiddu’s synths. Down under, they spume a cosmic ribbon of keys and free rolling percussion on Inna Trice, and perfectly distill their approach in the uncanny layering and plasmic shifts of Unison to finish on a prime, funky psychedelic flex.
Andrew Hargreaves’ cultishly-adored Tape Loop Orchestra invokes a pre-dawn energy with the coruscating choral accretion of Before The Light, a steeply absorbing work which picks up directly from where his Solar Light Emissions LP left off in 2017.
According to Hargreaves, this one “concentrates on the human voice as a transcendental force asking questions of the primordial universe.” In doing so, it resonates strongly with the esoteric magick of Tongues of Light’s Channelled Messages At The End Of History side for Pre-Cert Home Entertainment, but does it in a more abstract, suggestive way.
In an elliptical sequence of keening, windswept exhalations, the work unfolds in two plangent parts broken only by the need to turn the record over, conducting a precarious cosmic traverse from almost Phurpa-esque low end undulations in the first, then glacially scaling up to the higher registers with a choir of celestial angels into more lucent headspace by the end of side A, before precipitating collapse of the firmament in side B that leads to a deluge of dead angels in the apex of the second part, who seem to sing up from earth in a final sweep recalling This Mortal Coil’s Song To The Siren slowed down 1000%.
For their 2nd Transformations meeting, DeepChord & Fluxion work to a subtler shadowplay of vibes
Starting with the stealthy roll of Bona Fide Pt.1 recalling Moritz von Oswald’s memorable remix of 2raumwohnung, but sans the vox and pads, while Pt.2 melts out into more languorous and dusky balearic styles.
Kyle Hall’s Wild Oats present the highly accomplished début from Caron Miller a.k.a Q’D’; a new, Detroit-based artist in possession of a full bodied house sound comparable to layered depth of Ron Trent and the tuff but effortless flow of Omar-S.
A-side, Pure hits a sensually subaquatic sort of groove with rolling bass and radar-ping rimshots establishing its wide, lucid dimensions, which are criss-crossed with fluid arps and keening pads in hypnotic, Africanized pattern.
B-side, Amethyst feels to invert that sound sphere with a pinched, chromatic riff at the centre of the soundfield swaddled in pink-hued pads, holding down a bass drum that comes thru with crucial timing and a grasp of ‘floor-modulating pressure that’s bound to serve him well further down the line.
Joakim cooks up two proggy, electroid house numbers for Crowdspacer as Cray76
Swinging loose and easy with the louche but pensive A-side Tamaraw, and then with a more nagging jack attack in the chunky bugger, Watchado.
Spectrum Spools follow up their stupendous Second Woman release with a sterling second entry from Brett Naucke, pursuing the intricate synthesis of his 'Seed' LP into this riveting session of multi-dimensional, crystalline designs. Expect a steeply psychotropic series of events, twysting cues from the artist’s distant childhood memories into a polymetric complex of ideas intersecting chaoticm kosmiche, avant garde and concrète disciplines, but somehow maintaining a filigree thread of narrative logic that ties it all together. RIYL Bee Mask, 0PN, MoM, Second Woman
“The Mansion finds Naucke at the peak of his powers with a fresh array of meticulously composed psychotropic tapestries. Themes based on a childhood home, now a distant memory, reveal a mysterious narrative in mind-bending sonic detail. These complex ideas fuse conflicting states of tension and beauty with an organic acumen, each track a piece of the greater whole.
The Mansion is a fine mixture of contemporary concrète structure interlaced with tightly crafted melodic arrangement and hi-fidelity electronic exploration. In addition to his stalwart synthesis, Naucke employs additional personnel featuring vocal duties from Natalie Chami (of Goodwill Smith and TALsounds) and Viola sounds from Whitney Johnson (of Matchess). Field recording, piano and other various instrumentation are also carefully implemented adding a new, deeper dimension to the Naucke oeuvre.
With his most realized set of compositions yet, The Mansion finds Naucke at the paragon of his conceptual and sonic ethos with a work that’s at once deeply meaningful and profound in it’s auditory breadth.”
Gavin Rayna Russom palms out a loose and wiry jag for Barcelona’s Modern Obscure Music, leaning heavily on a knackered acid bent (and seemingly many of the buttons in her keyboard at once) for the soundtrack to a self-made film about transition in a broader context of capitalism and death..
“After a string of releases with dancefloor intent, Barcelona based MOM returns to its more experimental side with NO MORE WHITE PRESIDENTS . For this, Modern Obscure Music welcomes Black Meteoric Star (DFA/Nation) aka Gavin Rayna Russom to the label. NO MORE WHITE PRESIDENTS is an experimental film directed by Russom and soundtracked by her Black Meteoric Star alias. This 12” contains 3 choice excerpts from the soundtrack, the whole of which she self-released last year as limited edition cassette. This is the first time any of this music has seen a vinyl release.
At the start of 2017, Gavin Rayna Russom came out as a trans woman and her transition is one of the themes explored in NO MORE WHITE PRESIDENTS , as well as broader topics such as capitalism and death. She has been releasing music since 1997 under her own name and a string of aliases. Russom collaborated with Delia Gonzalez on the acclaimed Days Of Mars in 2005, where they explored keyboard hypnotics. Russom was the driving force behind The Crystal Ark with Viva Ruiz, and for the last few years has been an integral part of LCD Soundsystem.
The music of NO MORE WHITE PRESIDENTS is dark and claustrophobic yet exciting. As far as the dancefloor goes, it is suitable only for the darkest of clubs. Stealth Technology features punishing beats, oscillating acidic synth lines and a growling bass. Three Trains is a short track where tape hiss drifts over a tough rhythmic section and a dark bassline. Coffin Maker finishes the release with jarring oscillating synths, angular beats and waves of acid. Not for the faint hearted!”
Known respectively for their independent work as Botany and Lushlife, Spencer Stephenson and Raj Haldar selected their collaborative mantle, The Skull Eclipses, when the album became more than just a one-plus-one combination of their individual sounds.
"The odd title was originally given to a demo beat that Stephenson sent Haldar back in 2014, but it quickly became apt for the subject matter and emotional tone that the album and group took on during creation. "The Skull Eclipses" refers to the philosophy of Solipsism, that nothing veri¬ably exists outside of the human mind, and dually to the idea that knowledge of one's own mortality makes inner peace unachievable. Happiness is "eclipsed" by the image of death, classically represented as a "skull".
Accordingly, Haldar's lyrics are a free-associative discourse on the value of life amid a growing population, Islamophobia misdirected at non-muslims via racist assumption, poverty, pharmaceutical abuse, mortality, mental illness, international conflict, political unrest, police shootings, and the continual failure of the drug-war that began when the album's creators were just children. Stephenson's trademark fractalline production, noticeably more grim and aggressive than the tie-dyed psychedelia of his Botany project, provides ample space for Haldar's shadow-self to break through. Aside from displaying a wider tempo variation than any of Stephenson's work to date The Skull Eclipses is spun from sonic threads dark enough to border on horror. Songs are glued together with interstitial bad-trip creep-ups: melting choirs, doomsday evangelists, and the Judica-Cordiglia recordings that are purported to have captured the sounds of Russian kosmonauts burning up on reentry.
Broadly, The Skull Eclipses is a post-hip hop album that harmonizes tropes of mid 90's electronic genres-- ambient, downtempo, jungle, & trip-hop-- under a hauntological umbrella. It is the first offering from a project that's as much indebted to Broadcast & The Focus Group as it is to Pete Rock & CL Smooth, but obligated to neither. Up close however, the album is a peer into the shadows by two figures uncontent with blending into the tapestry of modern music, wholly committed to creating experiences over mere content, which is pouring in from all corners of a frustrated and distracted world."
Beautify Junkyards effortlessly blend their love of English Acid Folk and Brazilian Tropicalia in a collection of songs that conjure up a warm and verdant faerie world.
"Delicate acoustic guitars evoke an autumnal England suffused with Iberian heat by other-worldly voices; the ethereal lilt of João Branco Kyron and the warm languor of Rita Vian. The production is tempered with a haunted electronic palette that anchors the band squarely in the world of Ghost Box.
Their sound is further enhanced by newest member Helena Espvall ( formerly of Espers) on guitar and cello. With João Moreira on acoustic guitar and synth, Sergue Ra on bass and Antonio Watts on drums they are altogether an astonishingly talented group of people.
The Invisible World… will be the band’s third album and their first for Ghost Box, following on from their Other Voices single in 2016.”
Solitary Dancer give Optimo Trax its 33rd and final release with three cuts of mid-tempo, stepping breaks feeling out a woozy hybrid of Memphis rap instrumentals, gamelan-type percussion and early ‘90s ambient dance music.
Arriving from Montreal via Glasgow, the EP weighs in an ace A-side of clipped hip hop breaks and feathered ambient synth swells with results recalling Mappa Mundi and Muslimgauze of that era, whereas the B-side slips off into a more serene dimension recalling Jay Glass Dubs workouts in La Donna, and Lady Pimp sounds out a killer alloy of Memphis rap-style 808 tics and gamelan tang.
Birmingham’s deep and rugged house producer Jayson Wynters follows his début for Mr. G’s label and the head-turning Double Standards EP with a 2nd EP for DBA delving into more experimental structures along with his patented darkside house styles.
On three of four cuts Wynters explores a sophisticated blend of vibes from NYC, Chicago, Detroit and Berlin mixed with a ruggeder UK flex, resulting something like Batu meets Kareem in the scowling synths and dark swagger of Beta (Version), or with a more roguish swingjack momentum on Into The Void, and like Ron Trent meets B12 in the lush, sub-heavy roller The Kansei Method.
However, the palpitating pressure of One Hundred N Forty is the one for us, reminding of some classic Chain Reaction reshuffled by The Detroit Escalator Company, or something.
D.K. does his debonaire, Far Eastern-oriented synth thing for Second Circle, leading on from his ambient split LP with Suzanne Kraft for their sister label, Music From Memory in 2017.
The Mystery Dub EP can be roundly summed up as disco music from the equator, as D.K. entwines percussion indigenous to South East Asia into patterns more reminiscent of African and South American Latin styles, using canopies of bird calls and humid synth atmospheres to bind those elements into their own sweet dancefloor ecologies.
Two years since 'Splazsh' topped a stack of annual polls, Actress presents his 3rd, and most coherent album, 'R.I.P' - his 2nd for Honest Jon's.
Despite being a vital cog in the machinery of underground UK dance and electronics since at least 2004 (when he released his 'No Tricks' debut), it's fair to say that it's only in the last few years he's made the shift from cult concern to acknowledged auteur of some repute. His work with Damon Albarn's DRC Music, beside a legendary DJ set at Sonar and killer remixes of Shangaan Electro, Panda Bear and Radiohead all certify the fact; so expectations are no doubt set high for 'R.I.P'.
Produced exclusively on hardware and inspired by Milton's classic poem 'Paradise Lost', he's arranged his most labyrinthine, esoteric release to date; a timeless set of 15 tracks traversing crystallized radiophonics and subterranean Techno with a psychedelic sideswipe that leaves us dazed and beguiled. By assimilating machine-like characteristics - his notions of "seeping yourself liquid into the machinery" and "I'm just an instrument, I'm completely dead when I write" - he's become an interpreter, a symbiotic conduit of semi-lucid visions into the interzone whose revelations contain the potential to manipulate your consciousness in magical ways compared to the prosaic intentions of so much bland and overwrought electronic music out there.
The newfound clarity and fluid narration of 'R.I.P.' makes this the most intriguing chapter in the Actress saga so far - an unmissable experience.
Between the three artists involved here, Linkwood, Fudge Fingas and Bacon Rolls, are enough ideas, samples and restless dancefloor energy to fuel a small city if only someone could work out a way to harness such a thing.
If you've heard the other two 10"s in the series you'll know what to expect, if not, it's probably the most potent brew of funk, soul, disco, house and even electro this side of Moodymann and has rightfully found a spot in the box of everyone from Gilles Peterson to Derrick May since it's initial release in 2005. Well fun*ed.
A steeply arresting reunion of Belgian-based Finnish composer Timo Van Luijk (Af Ursin, Elodie) and Belgian pianist Frederik Croene, who relay a stark series of visions from the metaphorical mast of the world’s sinking ship - utterly compelling, essential music if you’re into anything from Colleen to The Caretaker. So good...
Recorded at Van Luijk’s studio between April - September 2017, the duo’s tense suite describes the power and beauty of dramatic fate, "the irreversible” according to La Scie Dorée. In that sense there’s a palpably unyielding pall of resignation to proceedings, with the record unfurling as a gloomy, tapestry-like narration starring Victor Hugo’s impressionistic LP cover image of a ship in stormy seas as the main protagonist.
In nine parts the album shifts from pensive tranquility to roiling, low end piano churn and cinematic chorales with the patience and gripping timing of an ancient storyteller or bard. They select from a broad range of instruments and arrangement techniques to realise a full picture of the scene, but always leaving enough room for you to fill in the gaps, as the story sweeps us from quietly breathtaking synth waves in La Recontre to the swelling crests of Le Choeur Englotui to the incredibly evocative segue of tonal fog into militant percussion recalling Conrad Schnitzler’s work with Mayhem on the LP’s title cut, always maintaining a timeless sense of dramaturgy that keeps us rapt from start to finish.
Breathtaking, Quiet music.
Puce Mary and Jesse Sanes commit their intensely personalised JH1.FS3 duo to wax, pressed on transparent vinyl with a 12” x 12” colour insert/lyric sheet. Edition of 300 copies only...
We may be going out on a limb here but, all clues - from the intimate photographs to the record’s lyrics and its slippery electronic movements - point to Frederikke and Jesse as a couple exploring their mutual binds, which, if we’re correct, places them a in a strong lineage of recording couplings that includes Chris & Cosey, Genesis and Lady Jaye P-Orridge, Venetian Snares and Hecate etc. Either way, it’s easy to pick up on the sparking frisson of energies, yin and yang, generated by JH1.FS3’s proximity, romantic or not.
Comprising the entirety of their 6-track Silence.DOM  tape along with four new pieces, Loyalty forms a marriage of sensibilities, of sensualities, of shared tastes, quite literally framing their time together in the record’s diaristic bookends of 28.08.2014 and 18.12.2015 and documenting their unhiemlich movements between the gripping dungeon tones of 1000 Synonymous Titles About Despair, and with unsettling closeness with the humid location recordings of Damaged Seeds and Virtues Of Desperation, before they really come together in the exquisitely prurient-esque Visions of a Scene (Coney Island).
Ideal throw a total curveball with Vanligt Folk’s doomdub body music mutations on Palle Bondo, where the Oslo/Gothenburg trio drop their punk leanings in favour of a stark sound lodged somewhere between Mika Vainio, CS + Kreme, Fever Ray, Toresch, and even Autechre - TIPPED!!!
The origins of the record are a bit cryptic and personal, which perhaps prompted the abrupt switch from their earlier styles to this, a more grown-up and pointed set of songs that vent their worries in a coolly gripping and cryptic style - not least because we can’t translate their Swedish lyrics.
However, it’s not difficult to comprehend their music - a starkly spacious but invitingly introspective sound whose icy exterior is belied by a quietly seething rage against socio-political and medical convention. In the first song, that comes out as a subtly warped take on Scando ambient dub in Kostymfest/Sken Av Palmpsalmighet, whose combo of looming darkside pads, torchlit croon and pendulous snare cracks uncannily recalls a munted Toresch, before Är Du Min Dotters Ängel plumbs a cyberpunk dancehall style somewhere to the shadier side of Fever Ray and Simone Trabucchi’s STILL.
Curiosity is only heightened on the flipside with Nipt/Gensangerin, where the vocals unavoidably conjure direct comparison with Karin Dreijer, but against a mystic synth backdrop redolent of that recent, amazing Laszlo Hortobagyi reissue, then calving off into a sumptuous mid-section of swooping subbass contours, dembow drums and pointillist hooks like something from Equiknoxx, only to finish with a wicked sample of Autechre’s Piezo strapped to gremlin vocals and spectral horror flick sounds on Mer Än Normal.
Don't miss this one.
Few artists make listeners as aware of their own being as Andrew Chalk and Timo Van Luijk’s Elodie, as the experience of listening to Le Manteau d’Etoiles uncannily makes us acutely aware of our breathing and the slightest movements when in the presence of the immaculate near-stasis and fragile ephemerality of their sound.
Working beyond trend and convention, Elodie make a sound that feels like it comes from a dreamlike and surreally etheric place. In effect, we’d compare it to the way the atmosphere, pacing and mise-en-scene of arthouse cinema (or even TV) and fiction can somehow connote a sense of reality which literal representations tend to fail to grasp.
Joined by Tom James Scott on the piano stool, and the clarinet of Jean-Noël Rebilly, the quartet seduce us with every turn of Le Manteau d’Etoiles, beautifully upholding a sublime tension from the first icy breaths of Cristaux de Lumière to the solitary, hovering notes of Le Temps Suspendu and the air-bending deliquescence of Le manteau d’Etoiles at its close, and in a way which lingers privately with the listener long after the record stops.
Impossible to convey in words just how beautiful and quietly evocative this music is.
Let’s just call it magick, shall we?
Carsten Nicolai’s Noton present a masterclass in minimalist electronic discipline with Mika Vainio, Ryoji Ikeda + Alva Noto’s powerfully future-proofed Live 2002 performance, recorded at Newcastle’s Baltic arts centre.
The only known recording of the trio, as far as we’re aware, Live 2002 documents three visionary artists in seamless, indivisible collaboration segueing from sublime drone darkness (Movements 1) thru what sounds like a massive computer server centre playing dancehall (Movements 2 + 4), to fiercely dense electro dynamics (Movements 6) and passages of purest, rolling techno pressure (Movements 8), intercut with bodiless, beatless electronic frequency massages.
Being familiar with each artist’s respective, individual catalogues, we’re pretty astonished at the level of democratic control between the three singular producers. While it’s maybe possible (or pedantic) to pick out who’s doing what, and where and when, ultimately the 45 minute performance is a lesson in subtlety and restraint at the service of generating powerful, coolly organised pressure systems, without recourse to convention/cliché (delete as applicable), offering electronic sounds at the purest and perhaps even egoless. Definitely no grandstanding doofus in front of a massive IPhone screen filtering dull as fuck doofs here.
More absolutely killer minimalism from the undisputed master of the genre - Mika Vainio.
Kolmio is a masterclass in pristine minimalism that sounds like a pre-cursor not only to the precise tone arrangements of Alva.Noto but also to the bleep-driven reduced Techno of Hawtin, Sleeparchive et al.
Smerz make their 2nd deposit with Have Fun, following up their head-turning début 12”, Okey , with a collection of subsequent digital releases for XL.
A distant, skewed relation to American avant-R&B, Smerz have become widely regarded for their low key, off-kilter smudge of contemporary R&B memes with shabby chic synths and almost glossolalic vocals.
Have Fun showcases their four previous single tracks for XL, including the rugged rolige of Half Life and the salty swang of their Patricia-sampling No Harm, plus two new songs; the watery emo R&B of Girls, and Bail on Me, which makes neat use of a sample from 1991’s No More Dreams album.
Betty Davis was riding high in the 70s. A new record label, a series of high profile relationships, and intensely sexualized live performances made her a rising star. It seemed like everything was aligned to take the music world by storm.
"So Betty and band got back into the studio where she would act as writer, producer, and performer, creating what she thought would be her definitive release... What emerged was the unapologetically uncompromising, self-referential 1975 album Nasty Gal. Now - thirty-five years later - Light In The Attic Records is proud to announce the first official CD reissue of this final label-release by unparalleled funkstress Betty Davis.
The re-release features new liner notes by John Ballon (writer of the Wax Poetics Betty Davis cover story in 2007), original album art, complete lyrics, beautiful digipak, full color booklet, rare photos, and interviews. Ahead of its time, Nasty Gal shows Betty digging deeper into her musical and cultural expression than ever before, and delivers from every angle. This is Hendrix and Sly Stone inspired funk-rock at its finest. From the title track's mutant groove and grunt to her onetime husband and jazz legend Miles Davis co-written ballad ("You and I"), this lady will tear your heart out! Betty's time is now..."
Perhaps the most important contemporary torch carrier for cold wave pop, Martial Cantarel yields his strongest work to date with ‘Lost At Sea’; a richly evocative collection of songs and instrumentals that doesn’t shy away from up-to-date sounds, but uses them inventively and nimbly at the service of the ‘floor and with an ear-snagging sharpness when consumed on headphones.
“Since composer Sean McBride unveiled his first utterance as Martial Canterel almost 2 decades ago, he has produced a body of work both substantial and alluring within the field of live analogue electronic music. Effortlessly fusing a variety of styles and influences, Martial Canterel is one of the premiere outfits utilizing analogue electronics and modular synthesizers. In particular FM synthesis is employed to produce clustered polyphonies and organic atmospheres - a staple of his signature style.
Three years have passed since Martial Canterel’s last full length album Gyors, Lassù was released on Dais Records. During this down time, McBride found himself in a state of flux, ebbing back and forth between material displacement and musical aestheticism. His expert pedigree in electronic sound and arrangement bridges the gap created by an undecidability between life at home and abroad - his new album, Lost At Sea, is an attempt for the artist to locate common ground, mutating fable with reality, exteriority and interiority.
The album's introductory track, Giving Up, has all of the hallmarks that Martial Canterel has utilized in the past…melodic chorus, upbeat rhythm and classic sequential dynamism. Where the song diverges is in its core theme of nature: nature’s return to a period of restoration after the failures and recklessness of humankind. Although this first glance refamiliarizes one with the tight, upbeat appeal typically found within the genre, Lost at Sea quickly takes a more serious and sobering tone.
The slower pace of songs like Scampia and Puszta yearn for McBride’s complex love affair with far flung destinations. Re-evaluating the political strife and social unrest in these historical locations, McBride delves deeper into political and geological reference points creating symbolic representations using mechanized percussion, white noise and various sine waves.
The conceptual nature of Lost at Sea reaches even deeper depths within the waveforms of Astralize, a track based upon academic Donna Haraway’s pre-civilized theories of human neglect after the ‘azstralization’.”
Burial’s eponymous debut LP is a defining beacon of post-millenium dance and electronic music. Written between 2001-2006, the follow-up to his debut 12” South London Boroughs, further consolidated what were previously mutually exclusive strains of music with unprecedented guile, vision and emotive impact, done to mind-blowing and award-winning effect.
In 2016 it’s easy for folk to forget that prior to this album, aside from a select handful of producers such as Horsepower Productions, El-B or Kode 9, effectively nobody was writing tracks circa 138bpm and using this kind of palette of samples, textures and spaces to the same ends as Will Bevan, a.k.a. Burial. And still, even fewer of them were writing without the dancefloor or radio squarely in mind.
Enter Burial, whose impressionistic, unquantized soundscapes reset the neuroses of Teebee and Bad Company’s neo-D&B with a romance and swing better associated with Steve Gurley and El-B, whilst also listening to and channelling the atmosphere of his environment in a way better likened to the spaces explored by Basic Channel and Rhythm & Sound, but animated like a Massive Attack album produced and collaged by Chris Watson; albeit a Watson raised in suburban British sprawl and smoky bedrooms playing tense computer games and watching classic anime and thrillers on VHS, or whatever obscure foreign flicks Channel 4 had on late at night.
Honestly, nowadays that period seems eons away - especially in light of streaming services where you can find thee most obscure art at the touch of keyboard - but back on original release, this record nailed an atmosphere, even a lifestyle, that was lived by many souls on the peripheries who couldn’t be arsed with the menu offered by provincial high street clubs or cable TV, or a culture artificially inflated by major labels and the media.
It almost feels daft and futile trying to explain this to anyone under the age of 30 - or those cold hearted cynics who roll their eyes at the mere mention of his name - but, quite honestly Burial’s music nailed the vibe so heavily that it felt like déjà vu, uncannily weaving together the disparate strands of culture that meant so much to the artist, and by turns, us the listeners.
There are still tonnes of naysayers, but fuck ‘em - Burial’s music is hugely danceable and mixable by the right DJs, but there’s no denying that it probably sounds best in bedrooms or headphones where you can give it your full attention, or vice versa.
Despite the temporal dislocation, the 2007 smoking ban, and the sign-posted, rictus rigidity of too much modern dance music, we’d still love to think there’s a whole new generation out there who will get and love this record as hard as we did, and do.
Beatrice Dillon & Call Super toy with the dance in two supple, slinky riddims in a killer collaborative push ’n pull for Hessle Audio.
With both producers really coming into their own over the last few years, Beatrice with an acclaimed run of 12” and LP issues for our 12X12 series, The Trilogy Tapes and Alien Jams, and Call Super for Dekmantel and Houndstooth, these two new collaborations firm up the strongest dance moves in either artist’s catalogue.
Inkjet is a proper UK-meets-Berlin gem lodged somewhere in the system between T++’s dynamic steppers and the kind of grubbing grooves explored by Batu and the Timedance lot, persistently mutating with a darkside dancehall-techno science that recalls a synaesthetic analog of PKDick’s scramble suits.
In sweet contrast, Fluo works with a more tempered sort of deep garage swing, dialling in hovering jazz chords on the nimble first half before unexpectedly switching into a rolling tribal house groove with cascading bleeps and lovely resolution.
On his 7th studio LP, Nils Frahm shows off the results of recording in his new, bespoke studio, based in the legendary Funkhaus on the bank of the Spree in East Berlin. Frahm’s signature, melancholic solo piano works share space with runs into 4th World soundscaping, illusive rhythms played on organs-as-drum machines, and gingerly crafted posh tech house minimalism.
“Since the day Nils first encountered the impressive studio of a family friend, he had envisioned to create one of his own at such a large scale. Fast forward to the present day and Nils is now the proud host of Saal 3, part of the historical 1950s East German Funkhaus building beside the River Spree. It is here where he has spent most of his time deconstructing and reconstructing the entire space from the cabling and electricity to the woodwork, before moving on to the finer elements; building a pipe organ and creating a mixing desk all from scratch with the help of his friends. This is somewhere music can be nurtured and not neglected, and where he can somewhat fulfil his pursuit of presenting music to the world as close to his imagination as possible.
His previous albums have often been accompanied with a story, such as Felt (2011) where he placed felt upon the hammers of the piano out of courtesy to his neighbours when recording late at night in his old bedroom studio, and the following album Screws (2012) when injuring his thumb forced him to play with only nine fingers. His new album is born out of the freedom that his new environment provided, allowing Nils to explore without any restrictions and to keep it All about the Melody.
Despite being confined within the majestic four walls of the Funkhaus, buried deep in its reverb chambers, or in an old dry well in Mallorca, All Melody is, in fact, proof that music is limitless, timeless, and reflects that of Nils’ own capabilities. From a boy’s dream to resetting the parameters of music itself.
Words from Nils, October 2017:
“In the process of completion, any album not only reveals what it has become but, maybe more importantly, what it hasn’t become. All Melody was imagined to be so many things over time and it has been a whole lot, but never exactly what I planned it to be. I wanted to hear beautiful drums, drums I’ve never seen or heard before, accompanied by human voices, girls, and boys. They would sing a song from this very world and it would sound like it was from a different space. I heard a synthesiser which sounds like a harmonium playing the All Melody, melting together with a line of a harmonium sounding like a synthesiser. My pipe organ would turn into a drum machine, while my drum machine would sound like an orchestra of breathy flutes. I would turn my piano into my very voice, and any voice into a ringing string. The music I hear inside me will never end up on a record, as it seems I can only play it for myself. This record includes what I think sticks out and describes my recent musical discoveries in the best possible way I could imagine.”
Finally - Diagonal pull out a zinging art-techno curveball with the 2nd release from Glasgow’s hottest new prospect and Golden Teacher splinter cell The Modern Institute; an iconoclastic trio of agitators that have made one of the freshest and most vital blends of post-punk, art-school and techno sensibilities to emerge in recent memory.
Aimed as a snark at the middle class art gaze as much as a slippery engine for the ‘floor, Another Exhibition at the Modern Institute reels six mercurial fusions of scudding, techy rhythms and sheer electronic contours strewn with drily observant vocals describing hypersensual scenarios. It’s a sound perhaps purposefully located lightyears away from Golden Teacher’s charming retro-vintage styles, and effectively gives that group’s rhythmic engine of McMaster and Pitt a space to express their more contemporary concerns.
Forming the 2nd blow of a Glasgow-centred 1-2 after Russell Haswell and Sue Tompkins’ Respondent EP, The Modern Institute swarm in formation from a white-hot electro-stepper IV Cheeks to somewhere darker, almost paranoid by the close of Dozen Cocktails, taking in a sound like Errorsmith producing for MES in Limitless Light, or Hecker doing footwork on the new beta anthem Quicksilver Lips, whilst Unbreakable Pulse and the pinging ballistics of Molton Gold short circuit the deep rooted transatlantic connection between Glasgow art punks’ afterparties and Detroit ghetto styles with a deadly swagger.
It’s a must-have for fans of Chris Carter, DJ Stingray, Toresch, Dale Cornish, Cabaret Voltaire and, of course, Golden Teacher.
Alongside soundtrack composer Francesco Fantini, Lorenzo Senni makes a naturally graceful move to orchestral composition with their plush soundtrack to Yuri Ancarani’s The Challenge, a film which Warp describe as “an anthropological documentary observing the curious hobbies of rich in the desert.”
Set to images of people bezzing around the desert in Lambo’s with leopards in the passenger seat and hawks in their private jets, the soundtrack fits these scenes and themes with a suitably opulent sound full of sweeping strings and elegant woodwind describing motion and flight.
It’s really no stretch to draw a line between the flouncing weightless dynamics of Lorenzo’s pointillisticT trance deconstructions and the four pieces in The Challenge. They may be much plusher, and with a different purpose, but there’s a striking symbiosis between the way his early work strove for a balletic freedom of dance music, and the classicist discipline of expression, a fleeting play of emotion and lightness of touch, in Senni’s newly chosen form.
Peter Zummo and Arthur Russell work on, off and around the beat in this previously unreleased suite of spontaneous compositions written in 1984, c. the sessions for ‘Zummo With an X’. They’re loose and breezy with all the charm you’d expect from the vital downtown composers...
“A few years ago , American composer and trombonist Peter Zummo discovered a 1984 recording of unreleased material from his Six Songs suite in his archive. Six Songs was the basis for Lateral pass , his award winning score for modern-dance choreographer Trisha Brown’s work of the same name. Material taken from Six Songs can also be heard on his seminal Zummo WIth An X (Loris Bend, 1985/Optimo 2012).
The work is now being released as this new album, r ecorded live and in single takes, it features a stellar line-up of longtime Zummo collaborators: Arthur Russell on amplified cello, Bill Tuyle on marimba, and Mustafa Ahmed on congas. Zummo plays trombone and euphonium. He describes the recording as ‘an exercise in spontaneous arrangement’. He mainly hews close to the score, while from time to time introducing canonic lines and variations.
Arthur Russell, using his signature amplified cello sound, alternates between solos and rhythm playing, while Ruyle vamps on the notation, while Mustafa Ahmed’s improvised percussion drives the forward momentum. Sometimes the music takes its time traversing a sonic landscape; at other points, it jumps from one section to another . Players’ decisions push and pull the downbeat ; rounds emerge, then disappear...”
Akinetic, the new album from Chicago songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Erik Hall sees its creator plunge headlong into allegories of communication, loss, impulse, vice, and mass-denialism.
"With the addition of producer and engineer Brian Deck (Modest Mouse, Iron & Wine) Hall crashes through the aforementioned subject matter with brightness and lucidity, yielding his most intelligent and focused songwriting yet. Working out of his house with Deck in Pilsen, Chicago, Hall’s efforts yield ten tracks of spacious and textured handmade pop, comprising one of the most sharply written and deftly recorded home-studio albums in memory.
Akinetic could not have transpired in any other time. Since his 2015 LP, Driver, Erik Hall has produced records for ambient artist Justin Walter and labelmates Lean Year, all while touring perpetually and sowing the seeds for his own new album. Where his previous titles were natural documents of his musicianship and songcraft, Akinetic arose from deliberate intent to write in concrete pop forms, lyrically informed by what he observed of modern culture, namely its fixation on technology-driven pseudo-progress at the cost of direct communication. “Rather than merely dwell in an inviting musical bed,” Hall states, “I wanted to write songs with intentionality that would more directly declare themselves to a listener instead of just passively inviting them in.
True to aim, album-starter “Beginning to Fade” gets to the point, offering a few seconds of growling guitar chords and piano before the hook bursts in declaring the tone of affairs. The title track follows with stabs of determined synth, painted over with Hall’s verdant three-part harmonies bearing lyrics of one of the record’s core ideas: anemic communication and frustrating disconnection in the age of distraction. “Akinetic anthem’s a generation older,” sings Hall in his signature timbre of hushed realism, “and apathetic eyes love staring at the shoulder.”
The album continues on-theme exploring the struggle of impulse versus discipline on “Overconscious”, and the mass-denial of highly probabilistic cataclysm on “Cascadia” whose title refers to the oft-overlooked Pacific Northwest subduction zone, arguably prone to catastrophic volcanic destruction any day now. Understated breakthrough “Siren Song” propels on a motorik thump and mellotron that ramps to a gratifying collision of mangled drums and guitar; a moment of unrestrained catharsis on an otherwise satisfyingly groomed record. From here, the warm Moog-laden interlude “New Moon” marks the start of Akinetic’s come-down, leading into the undeniably beautiful Heather Woods Broderick duet “Days in Clover”. These junctures of space and texture provide a window into Hall’s ambient predilections, revealing them as a vital part of his toolkit. He’s not merely a singer-songwriter… He is a sound-designer who writes good songs.
The epilogue “Wake Up” takes classic In Tall Buildings form with fluttering guitar, softly thumping drums, and Hall’s trademark production flourishes. Tape-crushed voices chirp behind the instruments (all played by Hall, as per the rest of the album) as our host poetically urges us to do what the song’s title suggests. The lights slowly fade up on Akinetic showing it for exactly what it is: a crystal clear, well-crafted montage of honest emotion, with pointed social commentary crouching just beneath the topsoil. That this was all achieved by one person playing every instrument, gently guided by a kindred and veteran co-producer, denotes Akinetic as the greatest height yet reached for In Tall Buildings."
For their VIP 100th release, Tectonic present the first record with a particularly hungry-sounding Riko Dan’s at the top, featuring the Roll Deep lynchpin - Pinch’s favourite MC - riding ruffshod over killah riddims by Mumdance, Joker, Walton, and Ziro.
It’s a momentous way to mark some 13 years and 100 releases from the UK’s most persistent bass pushers, cannily looping the label back to its roots in the schism between dark garage and grime which birthed dubstep, only for them to push the prism again between Joker’s distorted bashment ting Hard Food, an aggy AF ruction called Vibration produced by Pinch, and the hyperreal pressure systems of Mumdance’s backdrop to Hungry, with Ziro pushing him into deep forward trap vortices and Walton attacking Mumdance and Pinch’s Big Slug ace from a few years back.
A ébut shot of shrieking electronics and jagged post-techno pulses as We Will Fail, including remix reinforcements by Eomac and Ziúr.
Night boots off with febrile arpeggios skittering around distorted bass eruptions and keening sci-fi like Frank Bretschnider or Alva Noto gone manic, whereas Schadenfreude starts out slower, pensive, then congeals in a curdling slosh of rolling techno thumps and worming triplets sure to spin he dance off its axis.
Remixing Night, Eomac firms it up with a swaggering sort of cyber-dancehall swing and and scaly surface of noisy electronics, and Ziúr makes the same elements sound like Ben Frost doing ballroom Breaks - in the best way.
A fine collection of pre-1950’s songs taken from Chinese 78rpm records originally compiled on a CDr released by Dutch label Year Zero Records in 2008.
An otherworldly compilation of Chinese operas and folk songs from old scratchy 78RPM records, featuring such legendary early/mid-20th century artists as Mei Lan Fang, Bai Ju Rong, Fong Yim Fun and many more.
Onra releases his 6th LP on Dublin’s All City, blushing 13 tracks of romantic soul and R&B downstrokes straddling classic ’80s and ’90s vibes with up-to-the-second production. Furtively tucking the vibe away for the lovers, the Parisian producer licks choice samples into slick original arrangements of sticky boogie bass and snares drenched in gated reverb, all chain compressed for that pendulous pressure and a lip-biting sense of tension and release.
“On “Nobody Has To Know”, his fifth album for All City Records, the versatile French producer created music that reflects on the various aspects of a secret relationship pulling from R&B,New Jack Swing and Funk to soundtrack the passions of attraction.
Stylistically “Nobody Has To Know” picks up from the Future Funk style Onra originated on his 2010's “Long Distance” (and its 2012 companion EP “Deep In The Night” for Fool's Gold). Where those two releases mined the early and mid parts of the 1980s for ideas and references, the new album digs into late '80s and early '90s jams for smoother and richer sounds. Bolstering the record are two talented multi-instrumentalists, New Zealand's Lewis McCallum and Belgium's Pomrad, who bring touches of virtuosity to Onra's trademark smooth arrangements. The result is a record that, like its theme, oscillates between tender, torrid and tumultuous.
Over its 13 tracks “Nobody Has To Know” details the ups and downs of a secret relationship, from the excitement of doing something forbidden to the aftermath of living out fantasies. On "Let Me Fantasize" a rolling bassline and sparkling melodies capture the excitement of what is possible, the mind wandering into the forbidden. "No Question" taps into New Jack Swing to act out desires that can't be suppressed, exuberant solos echoing dangerous feelings. With its hard drums and smooth horn solos, and chorus of "Freak" takes you to that place where you can do things you only dreamed about. Balancing this intensity are more introspective moments. "Not Long Ago" rolls out gentle synth solos and nostalgic samples to reflect on past relationships and the very human desire to have what you had or can no longer reach. Rich textures and a languid rhythm underpin the reflective mood of "Nothing To Lose," as you wonder what could go wrong – it's a fine line after all.
The fantasizing, excitement and danger of fatal attraction are all reflected through the prism of the music. With “Nobody Has To Know” Onra deftly evolves the style he first began to explore a decade ago with his unique touch, re-affirming a unique sound rooted in warmth and setting the mood for some late-night escapades.”