Wickedly unhinged anti-music jams from best coast freqs, Smegma; recorded 1973-75 at their shared house in Pasadena, LA and previously unheard until now!
As the rest of the world was going prog, glam or soulful, Smegma were giving no fxcks and going sick on their own sound, as likely to turn on funky rockabilly as express an utterly feral combination of gibberish lyrics, ragged guitars and hit-owt-within-reach percussion that still sounds like nobody else - well, apart from LAFMS, whose number they would eventually join anyway.
Opening and closing with invasive vocals from a local C.B. radio operator called Turkey Mon, whose transmitter signal was so powerful it was picked up on the tape head as they recorded, the set variously trips in and out of consciousness from the wild group singing of Pigface Speaks - a sort of combination of native american song, free jazz scat and getting MWI - to a straight-faced garage rock cover of rockabilly classic Red Cadillac and a Black Moustache and the bubbly bop of The Taster, by LA freak and street singer Wild Man Fischer, amid the genuinely “free” flights of Requiem and the moonshine drenched avant-folk dance of Why?
Perhaps unbelievably, many of the personnel on this record - Dennis Duck, Ace Farren Ford, Ju Suk Reet Meate - are still operational in Smegma’s current touring band, which is either a testament to the sincerity of their madness, or to the appeal of making a proper daft racket, but either way they all deserve a big salute for travelling paths lesser dotted with the doo doo of convention.
On her floating follow-up to the subliminal vibes of Phobiza Dia: Vol.1 with Total Stasis, Phoebe Guillemot a.k.a. Ramzi synthesises four impeccably hypnagogic dub, house and downbeat sensations for the like-mellow-minded folks at Mood Hut.
There’s a succulent, downtempo tension to this one that gets us from the off; tentatively feeling out a humid, deeply overgrown scene inhabited by lonely sax sprites and unidentified voices grooving to natural, cumbia-grained dub rhythms with For Vanda - imagine Twin Peaks replaced somewhere warmer - before Fuma steers that feeling to a more elegant terrace scene of gentle, woody shuffle and cooing ambient pop tones.
Meanwhile Messiah coolly messes with our sense of geography, introducing tabla-like percussive cadence on a swell of bird calls and night-breeze chorales for the morning after slopes, and then takes us to the South Seas via Addis Ababa and ATL with the exquisitely warped, auto-tuned ambi-R&B-exotica of Malehaye.
Italy’s DJ Plant Texture runs the claggy house and jungle-juke jams for UTTU, strengthened with a trio of Simoncino remixes.
Lloyd Goes To Mars, or LGTM herein, comes in a fidgety, warped RaveONine mix for the bumping house heads, before bifurcating into a rushing’ Jungle Mix and the collapsed breaks of his Slow08 Mix on the front.
Simoncino takes the B-side with three deeper acid rubs, at best in the ruddy 303s and foliation pads of the remix original, and also included as a Reese-styled deep Dub and rugged Bonus Beat.
New album from Dominick Fernow’s most intriguing alias with "Sound on Sound” processing by Silent Servant and a remix from Substance (Chain Reaction). A huge recommendation if you're into Vainqueur, Huerco S, Talk Talk, Carl Craig, Rhythm & Sound...
Following a still-ongoing series of reissues of the earliest, previously tape-only releases from Dominick Fernow’s Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement, this long-in-the-making new album proper is an epic 80 minute set featuring additional production from Silent Servant, a remix from Substance and some of the deadliest subs we've heard in an age.
It’s by far the most ambitious and far-reaching Rainforest dispatch, taking that artificial, tropical humidity as a starting point before heading deep into a kind of textured ambience, moving away from the extreme saturation of those early cassettes and the industrial environmentalism of his previous album Green Graves and instead creaiting a kind of 'Fear Dub’ - as the label call it - which is essentially the perfect encapsulation of the deep sense of paranoia contained within.
The opening Jungle Is A Shapeshifter is a gargantuan 35 minute head-melter that’s split across the first two sides of the vinyl pressing. Co-Produced with Silent Servant, it’s the most absorbing piece of "Ambient" music we’ve heard in a long while - slowly unfurling via chorus pedal guitars that gradually degrade, while a fathoms-deep bass pulse and tape-delay gives the piece its shape. It’s like an updated, tranquillised, fever-dream variant of the kind of ambient dub Vainqueur made his own back in the mid-90’s - we could listen to it on a loop for hours.
Beyond The Yellow-Spotted Bamboo, another Silent Servant co-production, clocks in at a relatively modest 17 minutes and heads off into more open terrain, this time with submerged percussion providing some propulsion, while shards of coloured synth pull you back into the swamp. It’s another humid, breathtaking session - bringing out the best in both Fernow and Silent Servant via perhaps the most important and satisfying work either artist has been involved with.
Praying Mantis Black Arts is another masterclass in sub-bass construction, while Chile’s Crimson Tide is the shortest track on the album, a kind of broken coda before Substance ends the set with a remix of Beyond The Yellow-Spotted Bamboo, deploying a tribal reduction that references classic Chain Reaction from a producer who was part of it first hand.
It’s a relatively upbeat conclusion to one of the most immersive listening experiences you’ll have in 2017; those of you looking for escape should dive in - you won’t want to re-engage with the world around you for a while.
The heeds of Glasgow’s 12th Isle keep their vibe gloriously off-map with Cru Servers’ debut LP batch, Blubber Totem. After touching down on a Bomb Shop 7” and self-issuing a tape in the last 5 years, this is the CS brothers’ most substantial and definitive recording to date, relaying an experience akin to a waking dream situated in a different star system to our own.
Plotting coordinates in a zone familiar to Dices and AEM Rhythm Cascade’s Thoughtstream or Belgium’s Innercity, the Cru Servers duo disembark with hieroglyphic electronics of Incubation on Ram Skins, then tilt into 100bpm muggy chug with Shot To Life, before getting buck wild with the severely warped garage torque of Dorito Rook and a slice of fluoro industrial trance in Ark Bile Top Ups recalling Black Zone Myth Chant’s egyptian fantasies.
The recursive wormhole, Deith 2 Hansy prangs out like Rob Hood on a psychedelic secret mission, slopping yer mind into something like Lorenzo Senni in gravity-less space, but they bring us back to disco firma with Accursed Share, only to let it all go with the floppy body of Yellow Domes & the Dawn.
This post-revolution Iranian album from 1985 is so ahead of its time, so completely off on its own sonically and stylistically - that you'd be forgiven for thinking it were a hoax.
In reality it's one of the most sought-after and exceptional records from the Smithsonian Folkways catalogue, here brought back to life in this facsimile edition put together by the Dead Cert imprint. Until now, it's been the preserve of a small handful of collectors who rightly hold it in huge regard and close to their chests. A syncretic traversal of Iranian folk music and modular synth strafing radio-phonic, musique concrète, neo-tanktrik and sound design disciplines, it simply sounds quite unlike anything out there (if you know better, please, please share!) and has had us, and everyone who's heard it, utterly enraptured.
OK, there may be some precedents in the work of electronic music pioneer Ilhan Mimaroglu, and it has undoubtedly directly or indirectly inspired music that has come since (Keith Fullerton Whitman's 'Variations For Oud & Synthesizer', for instance), but we're sure you'll agree that the elements have rarely gelled so fluidly, phantastically psychedelic as this, before or since. It's possible to trace that combination of traditional and contemporary styles, mixed with a liberating sense of freedom and abstract expression, to the composer's history; from early enrolment in Shah-sponsored music schools and conservatories he was awarded scholarship for further studies in Holland, and when the revolution arrived in Iran he would permanently leave for the world famous Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center in the late '70s, all priming Dariush's tastes and skills for these recordings made during the mid '80s, late at night in the university studios with the permission of Professor Ussachevsky.
It's testament to its enduring magic that listening back now for the umpteenth time we're still bewildered and vividly transported as we were the first time, lost to its roil of tangled timbres and etheric dynamism, keeling to the metallic lushness of the strings and rendered mindblown at the synchronised sweeps of modular synth and simulated environs. It's a genuine wonder of the electronic music world, and an utterly essential listen, by anyones standards.
Rafael Anton Irisarri unveils his latest sublime panoramas, presenting his first major solo work since 'A Fragile Geography' for Room 40. If you’re into GAS, Tim Hecker, Lawrence English or Bohren & Der Club Of Gore - this one comes highly recommended.
Mantled in reference to the socio-political upheaval it was borne in, The Shameless Years was written in a flurry of creativity at the end of 2016 when Irisarri booted up some old software in addition to his trusted palette of guitar, pedals, amps and analogue processing at his Black Knoll Studio. There, he rediscovered a mean sense of purpose that lends these recordings a thematic cohesion producing his strongest work in ten years of releasing material under his own name as well as The Sight Below, Orcas, and collabs with Slowdive’s Simon Scott, among others.
In typically gauzy vision, the album starts off from an elevated perspective with stately melodies masked by impenetrable fields of noise harmonics on Indefinite Fields - perhaps a poignant metaphor for hope thwarted by terror and confusion. It passes on into the glum marching rhythm buried beneath RH Negative’s banking walls of shoegaze distortion and the expansive lost-at-sea feel of Bastion, sustaining and building a symphonic melodic defiance against the swell, before sublimating himself to the lushness of Sky Burial, which on one hand is a deeply serious mediation on his own mortality, and on the other somehow sounds uncannily close to a shoegaze version of Careless Whisper. Such is life.
To perfectly compound and heighten the impact, Irisarri shares the weight of emotion with Tehran-based composer Siavash Amini in the LP’s final, and arguably most affective, two parts. In a subversive gesture to the travel ban on Iranians imposed by La Naranja, which is only made sweeter thru its release by a Mexican label, the pair worked remotely to realise a fitting diptych with the tempestuous glower of pealing harmonics and apocalyptic low end rumbles in Karma Krama, then tempering and moderating that rage in a palindromic passage from doom jazz to majestic harmonic clusters and back in The Faithless with a crushing sense of controlled rage that reminds us of Bohren & Der Club Of Gore at their most subdued and devastating.
Sterling new dub techno / D&B hybrids from a well known Berlin-based producer gone incognito. To be fair, it's not a new idea, but we've rarely heard it executed so effectively as on the 'Theme EP'. Four tracks coolly dance in the gaps between knackered house and Felix K's fleet-footed D&B reductions, ranging from droning halfstep swamp trudge to proper, shadow-boxing steppers rent with cavernous reverb and delay thru to tense yet lush, heaving slow/fast blown out with epic Basic Channel-style dub chords.
Heavy tramplin’ dubstep from far down under...
Youngsta’s Sentry give NZ’s Accept room to skank on the 3rd Sentry plate, cooking up the cement-rooted subs, recoiling dynamics and Deathprod-esque string motif of Dreader Than Dread on top, and coming super slow, low and duppy with the hulking mass of Howl.
Erstwhile Deaf Center member Erik K. Skodvin aka Svarte Greiner returns with a brilliant, solemn new work a year on from the Moss Garden album for his own Miasmah imprint.
Apart is essentially a suite of pieces for prepared Cello and location recordings, recorded in an abandoned industrial space in Bern, Switzerland, complete with all the aural artefacts you would imagine. As Skodvin explains:
"In autumn 2015 I was invited to perform and stay for a week at the – as it turned out one off - Rebirth Festival in Bern, Switzerland. I was staying at an abandoned farm in the hills, half an hour outside the city with the group of young people responsible for the festival. My room was equipped with a mattress on the floor, some strange paintings, and a lot of spider webs. The view outside was straight into an open field with mostly hills, a forest, and some tents, all of which would be covered in fog every morning. By night I was driven to the venue - an unused industrial building slightly outside of central Bern. Three of the nights there I was given a cello, a sleeping bag, full access to the building, and especially its big open basement space for recording. Something that ended up as both a fruitful and an uneasy experience. The walls were spray painted and the space was scattered with bizarre, elaborate tree / steel sculptures. Most of the rooms were made into some kind of surreal art object, often recalling a sort of Mad Max post-apocalyptic feel.
I realised that getting a clean recording here would be nearly impossible, as the building had a tendency for strange noises, clicks and sounds, seemingly turning itself on and off at random. It was also located right next to the train tracks, which meant I had about 10 minutes of quiet in which to record in between the thunder of passing trains - a lot of recordings were ruined. However, all these off elements somehow had their charm. Having such a big empty space for myself, filled with strange installations and sculptures set up for the festival, was both inspiring and eerie. When not playing and just sitting still, it was unnerving. The lights were on motion detectors and would automatically turn off after 5 minutes without movement, leaving me alone with nothing but a small lamp and my thoughts. Sometimes I wished my imagination would be less vivid, as I´d have an easier time not imagining all kinds of obscure happenings in the shadows. Then again, this is also something that intrigued me so much that I felt no choice but to investigate closer. Spurred by this intrigue/paranoia, I would often walk around the empty building to soak up the atmosphere and check if someone was there.“
That intense sense of isolation seeps through every pore of these wonderfully evocative recordings, situating them somewhere between avant garde composition and minimalist horror, something that’s long been a speciality of the Miasmah label and, indeed, Skodvin’s work - here taken to its most austere, stripped down and rewarding extreme.
Young Marco’s Safe Trip presents darling’s 2nd 12”, contrasting the driving flight of his debut for Voyage Direct with something a little more genteel and tender, all rooted in drum tracks made on a CR-1000 Drum Computer from his grandfather.
It’s an effortlessly smooth and user-friendly proto-house/electro sound compatible with Analord or the best dutch box botherers, coaxing out the analogue bubblebath of JPS Seniori, a gorgeous tropical boogie breeze in Marie, and sweetest braindance romance with Experience 33, then dialling in angelic synth voices and infectious trills on Hide The Petals, and a dash of dusky, fruity flavour in Six Eyes.
Keiji Haino, Oren Ambarchi and Stephen O’Malley re-merge their untouchable Nazoranai trio for a crushing third dispatch from the farthest limits. Bestowed with one of Haino’s brilliantly portentous titles, it unfolds thru a bi-hemispheric 50 minutes of firmament razing hurdy gurdy, guitar and electronics underpinned by sub-harmonic bass and absolutely possessed percussion that reminds us of the almighty power of music at its most elemental and affective.
‘Nazoranai’ - meaning ‘not repeating’ in japanese - defines the group in opposition to free improvisation, or ‘sokkyo’ in Haino’s native tongue; signifying a more meticulous, measured approach and style that’s still balls-to-the-wall, yet consciously sidesteps the cliched traps of ‘free’ convention.
From the seedlings of Ambarchi’s cleansing chimes and precise, angular drum hits in the tense first few minutes, O’Malley’s guitar becomes a massive, looming presence rather than any definable shape, moving in viscously diffused synch with the percussion to provide swelling oceanic/nebulous dimensions for Haino the harbinger to express his worries on a Hurdy Gurdy - an instrument that he has only really played on a handful of his myriad recordings.
They take all of the first side and well into the second to develop this tempest before Haino’s gut-wrenched vocals appear at the point when they achieve orbit-breaking velocity. Out there, Haino comes into his own with apoplectic vocal convulsions and tear-out guitar matched by Ambarchi’s bombardment from all angles in the soundsphere, with O’Malley a prowling, thunderous presence at the perimeter.
And it’s that bass presence that really offsets and makes this one such a monster - lending a plasmic propulsion that’s harder to grasp than Ambarchi’s spiky drums or Haino’s screech, billowing out of the speakers in a way that really does represent the pressure of his live performances, even with relatively meagre amplitude. That sub-harmonic dimension remains rock music's most elusive and enigmatic quality, so kudos to O’Malley and his cohorts for harnessing it here with so much imagination.
Yasuaki Shimizu’s Music For Commercials  is here given a much needed first ever reissue some 30 years since it appeared on Crammed's Made To Measure library music series, which also included editions by Tuxedomoon and Hctor Zazou. Very safe to say that if you were enchanted by Visible Cloaks’ Reassemblage LP or their Fairlights, Mallets & Bamboo mixes, this one is a must!
In 24 parts Shimizu unfolds a tightly packed lattice of crystalline gems and vignettes crafted for TV commercials, plus the 15 minute Ka-Cho-Fu-Getsu piece for a Computer Animation Video which is practically worth the price of entry alone.
Presumably titled after the corporations who employed him, you’ll find stacks of super sweet, pastoral 4th world emulations patched from keys, sax, gamelan, drum machines and electronics for the likes of Seiko, Ricoh, Sharp, Honda, Knorr and Bridgestone, each as exactingly cute and piquant as the last.
Known for his numerous albums, soundtracks, and collaborations including with the likes of Ryuichi Sakamoto and Bjork, this is perhaps Shimizu's most sought-after and influential work and one that perfectly encapsulates our collective yearning for peace and quiet in an increasingly commercialised, chaotic world.
Yves Tumor’s debut for the PAN label offers a perfect distillation of everything the label stands for, filling another as-yet-unnamed niche between the eyes of hypermodern styles. It’s an album that takes you from the most beautifully produced earworm one moment, to the depths of sonic experimentation the next - making for easily one of the most impressive and memorable albums of the year.
The Tennessee-raised, Turin-based artist has sown seeds across the contemporary field in visual as well as musical fields over recent years with releases for NON, Janus and Halcyon Veil issued under an expanding roll call of names, as well as visceral live work for LA's Hood By Air earlier this year. However, it’s under the Yves Tumor moniker that he commits his most personal and noteworthy work to date; the result of three years of creative discovery, drawing from a deeply emotional, vulnerable place to grapple with themes of social anxiety, paranoia and missing loved ones to present one of this year’s most staggering albums.
Serpent Music covers the full bandwidth of Tumor’s far-flung aesthetics, navigating from lushly organic yet elusively distanced instrumental textures in the opening strokes of Devout and the homesick soul ache of The Feeling When You Walk Away, before more oblique, abrasive drums and layered electronics begin to infiltrate the airborne keys of Dajjal, and with Role In Creation he incorporates the east African motifs heard in his Bekelé Berhanu output, but with a much gentler, more optimistic effect.
But just as you begin to get a grip on his slippery scales, Serpent I rushes into a ferocious tribal battery, resolved with the stentorian pastor and doom echo chamber feels of Serpent II, and he really starts to let his mind drift with the conflated pastoral and darkroom noise vibes of Seed, and the eastern-facing Alice Coltrane nod, Spirit In Prison, skizzily returning to smokey vapour trails in Cherish and Face of a Demon, to wash us up on the lonely, distant shores of Perdition.
Alongside the likes of Dean Blunt or Klein, Yves Tumor is patently rewiring the conventions of soul music and psychedelia according to his own, twisted schematic and modernist insight, making this album feel vital at a point where conservative sensibilities seem to have permeated the spirit of so many “independently" minded creators.
Shackleton curves back to Woe To The Septic Heart! with British-German singer-songwriter Anika as his new vocal muse, who lends a refreshing new spirit to his sound following collaborations with Ernesto Tomasini and Vengeance Tenfold in recent years.
Perhaps knowingly timed for release with UK summertime, Behind The Glass is a decidedly mid-summery album full of semi-pastoral psychedelic themes and production in Shackleton’s signature style, equal parts Wickerman soundtrack and Jarman-esque uncanniness with a dash of worcester sauce sourness dosed direct to the pineal gland.
Think ritual dogging sites, lost Spiral Tribe members attempting to find their way out of a nuclear bunker for 20 years, or pagan aliens descending at full moon over Welsh glades. The production, as ever, is incredible.
JD Twitch ov Optimo’s Autonomous Africa serve a mellow, buoyant session of dubbed-out grooves recorded by Tafi Allstars and Mr TC between Ghana and Glasgow.
Too often these cross-continental projects can sound like spiced up tech-house, but not this time, as they find a fine, loose balance of vibes hingeing on the international language of dub, turning up heady vibes in the sloshing rhythms and echoic space of Gormedzedze, strutting punk-funk-disco with gorgeous vox on Deka Wor Wor, and a superb mesh of live drums and minimal electronics in Cantata.
Turn to the B-side and the EP really comes into its own with more psychedelic expressions in Outside Rhythm and the Sordid Sound System dub of Cantata, as dusk passes in richly evocative fashion with the star-gazing electronics and Regina Egbeako’s fragile lullaby are carried off into dreamscape on Agbe Me Nya Wo.
Brighton’s K-Lone helms the next chapter on Parris’ Soundman Chronicles label, backed with an oxidised dub remix by Bristol’s O$VMV$M.
Apparently a year in the works, Old Fashioned convects 10 minutes of silty chords, subtle beachside atmosphere and exhaling dynamics, leading up to a levitating dub bass in classic, or should we say Old Fashioned Berlin style. Schmoke a bowl a drift off styles. In The Dust Of This Planet brings that vibe closer to the UK lean of Parris or Batu, but more low key, furtive, and O$VMV$M seemingly leave Old Fashioned to the elements, returning a wizened, saltier version.
Lakker venture a steeply brooding, stripped and future-primitive sound on their Eotrax label following the conceptual suite of Struggle & Emerge.
Effectively, for Eris Harmonia they went blindfolded in the studio, intuitively feeling out shapes and tones that would form the five tracks of Eris Harmonia, which takes its title from two Greek Goddesses - Eris, Goddess of disorder and strife, and Harmonia, Goddess of harmony and concord.
Between these poles of reference they built a rugged to and fro, floating the ghostly stepper Song for Ratlin beside the evil animist skeleton dance of Extinct Peoples, with the lump-in-throat euphoria of Empress at the EP’s apex, none of which will prime you for the ten minute onslaught of atonal nastiness in Eris Pt.1 and its bittersweet resolution in Eris Pt.2, which finds their sound design skills pushing much farther into the void, fathoms away from safer ‘floors.
Another Japanese ambient holy grail is ticked off the wants-list with a first ever vinyl pressing of Midori Takada & Masahiko Satoh’s Lunar Cruise following the widely celebrated reissue of Takada’s Through The Looking Glass earlier in 2017.
Flanked by YMO’s Haruomi Hosono and jazz player Kazutoki Umezu, Takada & Satoh’s original recordings of Lunar Cruise richly resonate with the preceding ten years of digitized 4th world innovation as well as traces of Badalamenti and Lynch’s synth parts from Twin Peaks of the same year, all while clearly pre-echoing the reverberant synthetic spaces of Kenji Kawai’s Ghost In The Shell OST. Even 2nd hand CD copies of Lunar Cruise are trading for a pretty penny, so this vinyl edition could hardly be more welcome right now.
Working deep into the modern ambient zeitgeist, Lunar Cruise’s charms sound as appealing now as ever, catching up with Takada’s sound seven years after her debut percussive masterpiece, Through The Looking Glass to find her working with a broader, worldly instrumental palette inspired by her 1989 tour with Satoh thru Africa, Europe and the Middle East. The pieces alternate super sparse and enchantingly cybersensuous states of mind with more urgent, pealing jazz and free experimentation that breaks far out of the ambient mould into sufi-esque dervishes and rippling dance studies recalling Steve Reich in full flight.
The effect is overall more crisply urbane, angular than the pastoral tranquility perceived in Takada’s better known precedent. From the names of its bookending pieces of Iron Paradise, also reflected in their tensile nature and construction, thru to the ten minutes of stoic tonal experimentation in Chang-Dra, and driving dervish of A Vanished Illusion, a sense of urgency and control is paramount to Lunar Cruise in a way that wasn’t there in its forerunner, pointing to a tightening and vivification of Takada’s ideas that perhaps reflected the increasingly cybersensual world around her and Satoh, as opposed her earlier new age influences.
Highlights belong to In D’s precise, vivid percolations of woodblock percussion and the wistful temperament of Madorone, underlined by Hosono’s quizzical fretless bass probes, but if there’s any one definitive moment, it comes in the gently pealing gamelan and breathy synth voices of Ancient Palace, which really freezes that cusp-of-the-’90s ambient shiver somewhere between new age optimism and the numbness of cybernetic sensuality.
Carla Dal Forno, Sam Karmel and Tarquin Manek return to F Ingers’ noumenal haunted house slightly older, lusher and with a more detached, dub-filtered gaze in Awkwardly Blissing Out, which has to be one of the most evocative album titles we’ve heard all year.
With the damaged, water-logged audness of their Hide debut still lingering like a smell you can’t get out of the curtains, F Ingers’ 2nd grimoir reprises that mildewed nostalgia with a dusky/dawning appeal, capturing the air of hours lost in a pharmaceutical haze or a slow, gradual comedown, metaphorically manifesting residual gurns flickering on twisted lips and from wayward eyelids, clammy fingertips and glowing pores.
Since their debut collaboration, each member of the trio has issued respective solo LPs - Carla with You Know What It’s Like, Karmel in the magnificent CS + Kreme, and Manek with the ace LST and Tarcar outfits - but here they beautifully subsume all individual egos to a common theme that’s testament to their group familiarity and shared status as outsider Melbournians recording both there, and stationed thousands of miles from home in Berlin.
In a sense, listening to Awkwardly Blissing Out is like eavesdropping on the trio’s telepathic comms, intercepting relayed messages about love, like the plasmic bleep lullaby of My Body Next To Yours, or losing yourself in big cities as with the mild dread of Your Confused, and dealing with reminders from home, both positive and negative as in the sun-dazed All Rolled Up and the nerve-bitten post-punk dub jolts of Awkwardly Blissing Out, which all seem to inhabit a more indistinct, smudged place in their collective imagination.
Our imposed ideas aside, though, this is a captivatingly uncertain, ambiguous album that slowly, voyeuristically sums up those glimpses of a parallel world we all escape to at times.
For anyone who knows these records already - you won't need much of a sermon from us about their stature and greatness. If you don't know them - you're in for a treat.
Rhythm & Sound was the project that Mark Ernestus and Moritz von Oswald turned to after their seminal series of recordings as Basic Channel came to an end. From 1997 until 2002 the label released seven 12" EP's which pretty much defined the direction so much electronic music would turn to in its wake - and it still continues to exert a colossal influence, for better or worse. It's perhaps hard to remember over a decade later just how little these productions sounded like anything that preceded them - taking the essence of dub and breaking it down until all that was left was a vapour trail of melody and a colossal bass echo.
We could spend an hour listing all the music that basically came along and copied this template in the intervening years but, the thing is, none of what followed comes anywhere near these productions in terms of substance, none of it has aged in the same way. "Smile" was the fourth release on the label and is for many people its best - a three track EP clocking in at over 20 minutes and once again featuring the voice of Paul St Hilaire, aka Tikiman, on the title track.
Shackleton tends to his roots and branches, remerging with vocalist Vengeance Tenfold for the doomy incantations of Sferic Ghost Transmits - their first collaboration since 2012’s The Drawbar Organ EPs - which acts as a more sullen counterpart to the radiant vibes of this year’s brilliant Devotional Songs with Ernesto Tomasini.
Shackleton’s input oscillates from pointillist gamelan percussions and abyssal bass thru to elusive, unfathomable electronic diffusions whilst the impish spirit of Vengeance Tenfold is, at best, a John Balance-like conduit channelling messages older than time itself.
If you can handle the portentousness, though, you’ll be absorbed into a psychedelic narrative of cryptic percussive communication, blues-hooked chants, metallic polymetric cadence and shimmering dissonant miasmas, which, as with any string substance, may leave you feeling dazed and queasy, but ultimately better for undergoing it.
Mogwai return with their 9th studio album which was recorded with producer Dave Fridmann at his Tarbox Road Studios in New York State.
"Every Country’s Sun, named after a friend’s lack of knowledge in how the universe works, takes two decades of Mogwai’s signature contrasting sounds and distils it, beautifully, into 56 concise minutes of gracious elegance, hymnal trance-rock and transcendental euphoria. It will definitely appeal to fans of the band and will gain many new ones along the way."
Not for the first time, but arguably the most significant, Pye Corner Audio crosses paths with Ghost Box for his first LP of 2016; a narcotically hypnagogic and dystopian trip entitled Stasis.
At least one leap year cycle since his last album with the GB’s, Sleep Games, right now this one feels like a stygian trudge into bleakest futures, operating at such a stoned pace that it moves slower than actual time, and by submitting to its temporal warp we’re allowed to regress back into a pre-digital epoch of paranoid cold, or even civil war atmospheres and paranoia.
It could almost be the soundtrack to a Ben Wheatley flick (low budget, not the over-glossy high rise) about British time travellers, forgoing Dr. Who queso for a more hard-boiled, furtive vibe about anachronistic assassins sent back to kill Nigel Farage at birth, only to uncover that he’s part of an exceedingly dangerous non-human race with ties to Johnson, Cameron and all the other pebble-people, so they round them all up and lock them in a hostel in Middlesbrough with a broken kettle and packet of poisoned monster munch between the lot.
Of course, that fantasy is all set to a soundtrack of wistful electronic mists and pulsating arpeggios that could be right out of some late ‘70s / early ‘80s synth library, and ultimately shows that whilst technology has advanced in the meantime, that ostensibly archaic music still reflects an underlying eldritch darkness contemporary and relevant to both eras, then and now.
Kamasi Washington continues to nurture jazz in its classical form with Harmony of Difference, a six-song sort of addendum to his roundly acclaimed master opus, The Epic  for Brainfeeder.
Premiered as part of this year’s Whitney Biennial in NYC, Harmony of Difference is a study on the musical theory of “counterpoint”, which Washington defines as “the art of balancing similarity and difference to create harmony between separate melodies”, and does so with in the hope that “witnessing the beautiful harmony created by merging different musical melodies will help people realise the beauty in our difference”.
We’re inclined to add at this point, the putative advantages of dissonance and discord, which could also help us understand the place of friction and anarchy in humanity, and another aspect of beauty derived from difference, but Washington has decided to forget a huge other chunk of jazz exploration in this case, leading to five pieces of smooth jazz on the front deftly infusing soul and latin influences, which are all re-combined in the B-side’s sweeping sixth movement.
Special Request heralds the imminent payload of Belief System with Curtain Twitcher, including a seriously killer Peder Mannerfelt remix.
Dipping both feet and up to the gills in vintage rave styles, Paul Woolford aka Special Request manhandles slamming acid techno with Curtain Twitcher and more ravenous menatasm in its Nosey Parker Mix, while twatting out AFXian electro in Emutraxx and the wriggly Analord funk of Trippethylophosphazene.
Peder Mannerfelt is arguably star of this plate, though, with a masterfully strobing remix of Real that emulates the rush of a raver coming up off a double drop of triple barrelled mitsi’s.
Sully boomerangs back to the influential Keysound label with Escape, a full spectrum showcase of the sound previously gestated on his Carrier  album and further developed over a unique flux of grime, jungle, footwork inspired mutations during the interim.
Driven by a timeless urge to “create moments where problems go out the window for a while”, he’s crafted an immersive album touching on key aspects of the hardcore UK dance paradigm. Thema I opens the album with a sweeping elegiac ambient gesture which he returns to later in the LP, providing the scant moment of respite of an intense session taking in tool-sharpened grime starring Jendor bars on Casablanca and a nod to vintage El-B in Bullseye featuring Roll Deep’s heavily JA-accented Jamakabi.
A pair of Assembly pieces find him abstracting instrumental grime in devilish style, with superb, Zomby-esque results in the second one, before completing the LP in the junglist mould of his outstanding Blue EP, screwing across the ‘nuum timeline with grime licks squeezed into the amen rushes of Vanta and again with eski bleeps skidding thru the Remnarc-like ruff ’n tumble of X Plus Y.
Gird your loins, people, for 51 tracks, 2 hrs 35 minutes of prime, classic DAF. Think you can handle it?
As the legendary duo of Gabi Delgado and Robert Görl approach their 40th anniversary of formation, Grönland present the exhaustive, definitive Das ist DAF retrospective, including brand spanking new remixes from Giorgio Moroder and Boys Noize demonstrating the timeless resonance of their EBM/NDW classics with the modern disco.
From the razor-dancing Der Mussolini to the playful hooks and clenched twang of Im Dschungel der Liebe and the blend of daftness and steely electro-punk thrust in Kebap Träume, you’ll find the blueprints for masses of dance music to come, but more importantly these cuts still kill it cold on the ‘floor. If you’re into Powell, Ancient Methods, Not Waving or even LCD Soundsystem and don’t know DAF, sort it out with this set right now!
“Many things have been said about this band: they were called the “godfathers of techno,” the pioneers of EBM and the forefathers of electropunk. Yet they only laugh coolly and remain tight-lipped in the face of any attempt to historicize them. Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft – better known as DAF – is a myth.
What we know is that they released four albums in a short time span between 1980 and 1982, and that those albums changed the history of music worldwide. Yet DAF’s international renown certainly was not based in the name: Gabi Delgado-López and Robert Görl were never looking for friendship; their expressions were invariably ones of steely, piercing stares, and they presented themselves with a precisely staged iciness that belied the ardor burning inside them.
DAF initially formed as a quintet in the confines of Ratinger Hof in Düsseldorf, alongside bands like Fehlfarben, Der Plan, Mittagspause and others, but later adopted a conceptual approach that left no space for other “young lords.” From that point on they worked as a duo. With precision percussive elements mastered in classical jazz training, a legendary Korg MS-20 and a highly fetishistic militaristic spoken-word style, they produced four albums in quick succession – records that could be construed as substitutes for sex, drugs and violence. While the first album, Die kleinen und die Bösen – on which half the tracks were recorded in Conny Plank’s studio while the B-side contained live recordings – still hinted at roots in original punk music, they then created a triptych of leathery, sweat-soaked hedonism on Alles ist Gut, Gold und Liebe and Für immer. In the early 1980s the records in the DAF box set Groenland Records is now releasing quickly made this duo the international figurehead of the music everyone now associates with the Rhine region: DAF, along with Kraftwerk and Can, were the pioneers of German electronic music. They were always in vogue. Sequencers, synthesizers, commanding drum beats and the most cutting staccato spoken-word vocals – an alliteration only disrupted by the notion of the uniform. Very few bands have managed to contrive their own look in such masterly fashion, and to even make it a subject of their work: “Was ziehst du an heut nacht?,” “Verehrt euren Haarschnitt” and – oh yes – “Tanz den Mussolini.”
DAF’s militaristic aspect is only broken by their attitude of denial, which invites us to dance in the dark with them and to follow Delgado-López’s rhythmic movements – even if he seems to be dancing entirely for himself. Perhaps it is that contradiction itself that renders this duo so eternal.
This compilation will allow you to experience the music of DAF; the darkest and hardest driving musical imperative ever to come out of Germany.”
"Snapped Ankles have emerged from the woods clutching an album that feels simultaneously modern and ancient."
"This is what dance music will sounds like when computers finally fail us. Log synths, bass guitar and sticks on taut animal skin coalesce to form fearsome primal rhythms. Fuzz guitars rubbing up against dirty rolling arpeggiated synthesisers to ignite wild white noise fires. Forest folklore passed down through generations, has made its way onto the tracks. Subjects veer from dystopian futures to railing against Swedish flat-pack furniture, from the films of Jean-Luc Godard and Andrei Tarkovsky to throwaway YouTube comments. High art and cultural detritus are all fair game - a brave new world indeed."
Check the title track, Future Nights for slinky big room techno-trance build...
“Uwe Schmidt has long been recognized as one of electronic music’s most respected and versatile artists. A man of many talents, projects and identities including Atom Heart and Señor Coconut, Uwe’s playfully ironic and acid-tinged Atom™ moniker is perhaps the identity that most speaks to the New York dancefloors where The Bunker makes its home. Several Atom™ releases are much-loved Bunker classics and with the Future Nights 12” Uwe offers a heady experiment in what happens when a track takes you so far inside your own head that you’re in danger of losing your way back.
All three tracks have been getting heavy pre-release workouts in Brooklyn courtesy of The Bunker residents. The A side is comprised of two fuzzy vocal techno tracks that are as fun to listen to as they will be to subject to some heavy tweaking in the hands of a capable DJ. The B side, “Chemistry” is particularly versatile and crazy-making with elements of darker techno stirred into a disorientingly stereophonic maelstrom that’s guaranteed to cause a dancefloor to lose its moorings until the only thing keeping reality from splintering is the track’s dry academic vocal reassuring us that it’s all just chemistry.”
Klein debuts on Hyperdub with an intuitively avant blinder, the Tommy EP, dropping a pin at the label’s farthest flung coordinates, somewhere between concrète R&B and soul-wrenching jazz noise. Very safe to say, if you were into Klein’s Only LP, this one’s a peach..
We pick up in Prologue with a candid glimpse of Klein in the studio riffing on Mariah Carey along with her pals - Atiena, Jacob Samuel, ThisisDA, Eric Sings and Pure Water - we’re dropped off 25 minutes later at the glitching jazz chord chops of Farewell Sorry feeling dazed and seriously wondering, wtf just happened?!
To offer some kind of description, the London/LA-based artist takes the cut-up, collaged themes and techniques of Only to beguiling new degrees, flinging the listener thru a maze of idiosyncratic gestures from clouds of diaphanous, operatic vocals in Act One to the tenebrous R&B of Cry Theme and the rainy parade of Tommy, then crushing ‘90s soul and jungle like you’ve never heard in the all-too-short Runs, and even some sorta grungy jungle trample in Everlong, while B2k is possibly best described as kitchen sink hypersoul.
It’s anarchic, unsettling and steeply unique stuff, largely thanks to her distinctive concrète palette - no recognisable plugins or owt here - but also thanks to a balance of daring, knowing, and playful boldness that makes it clear she couldn’t give a f*ck about trends or convention, which is evidently all too rare nowadays.
Ernestas Kaušylas aka Brokenchord is a music producer and composer born and raised in Utena, a small industrial town in Lithuania. Kaušylas was quickly picked up by Black Acre, releasing both a 7inch single and an EP.
"Endless Transmissions is the brainchild of Kaušylas who single handily (bar two tracks) wrote and performed the entire album. The only collaboration was with jazz drummer, Augustas Baronas , who he encouraged to play as mechanically as possible. The LP pays homage to creativity and the ability topush the limits of technology with the physicalness of a human body. Kaušylas explains “machines that mimic human grooves is boring but the other way around it becomes quiet interesting”.
With nods to the likes of Bonobo, Radiohead and Illum Sphere within the LP, Brokenchord also has an exquisite cinematic quality to his production stating “Endless Transmission is a movie painted with sound”.
His previous accomplishments include; his track Lowe featuring in the Radiohead office chart in 2011, which received an invitation to remix Give up the Ghost, from frontman and personal hero Thom Yorke, which was included in the remix album compilation King of Limbs.
In 2014, he composed music for Danish Theatre group Hotel Pro Forma spectacle, winning the prestigious Lithuanian Golden Cross Of Stage Theatre Award. Since then he has supported Bonobo’s North Borders Tour in Latvia and Lithuania and radio hosts such as Mary Anne Hobbs, Gilles Peterson and Stuart Maconie have aired his music.
The talented polymath currently resides in The Hague while he finishes his Bachelor of Music studies at the Institute Of Sonology.”
French-Cuban twins Ibeyi are back with their second album Ash, a record that tackles subjects as diverse as womanhood, spirituality, activism and racism, all conveyed in Ibeyi’s own unique blend of modern pop, hip-hop and electronic influenced music that incorporates the traditional sounds of Yorùbá.
"While Ibeyi’s first album grappled with the past—the sister’s relationship, origins, loss, and roots. It earned them fans and collaborators in some of the most iconic and crucial artists of today, Beyoncé and Alvin Ailey included. By contrast, Ash is a more visceral and potent political statement, and while firmly rooted in Afro-Cuban culture and history, finds itself entirely concerned with Ibeyi’s present: Who Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi are, what’s important to them, and how they live today, especially given that the spheres, both personally and politically, are entirely different from when Ibeyi was recorded.
Ash was recorded in November 2016 in London with producer Richard Russell at his studio The Copper House. The album features twelve new tracks, including ‘Away Away’ which was released in June, and includes appearances from Kamasi Washington, Mala Rodriguez, Chilly Gonzales, Meshell Ndegeocello.
‘Deathless,’ the second track to be debuted from Ash, features the incomparable Kamasi Washington on saxophone, and was written in the wake of an experience that Lisa-Kaindé had when she was sixteen that involved her being wrongly arrested by French police. She went home and wrote the emotive ‘Deathless,’ in which she describes her experience: “I was writing Deathless as an anthem for everybody!” Lisa-Kaindé says. “For every minority. For everybody that feels that they are nothing, that feels small, that feels not cared about and I want them to listen to our song and for three minutes feel large, powerful, deathless. I have a huge amount of respect for people who fought for, what I think, are my rights today and if we all sing together ‘we are deathless, ’they will be living through us into a better world.”
The first vinyl album release on Rabit’s Halcyon Veil label comes from Vancouver’s Will Ballantyne aka City; offering a mercurial set of metal experiments with caustic, vaporized trance riffs emulating upward motion and weightless dynamics. Highly recommended if you'e into Lorenzo Senni, Logos, Rabit or Croww...
A Goal is an Image is an elusive hybrid of experimental metal and weightless electronics distilled into 11 naturally tempestuous takes on the digital zeitgeist, ripping away its hi-fi sheen to reveal a reactive ecology of overgrown, semi-organic textures and pranging rhythms wrapped up in chaotic harmony.
Will Ballantyne has realised a mean contribution to the conversation around peripheral club music and its electronic production, morphing its perimeters between computer game and film soundtrack tropes, soundsystem-testing prangs, and styles foreign to the putative club experience. The effect is simultaneously hyperreal and severed from the daily grind; a simulacra of impossibility animated with physically reactive impact.
Across the album listeners are torn in and out of ‘the box’, perpetually reframing the sound between naturally elegant and digitally unreal environments in a way that resonates with the LP artwork. He establishes this upending uncertainty with the whorl of field recordings, processed textures and floating, Coil-like harpsichord motifs in Provinces and Your Stream, harnessing a sense of struggle against gravity in the buckshot-riddled mass of Pain/Power and with searing trance riffs nailed into place on End Zone like Lorenzo Senni running a gauntlet of snipers.
City’s experi-metal impetus bleeds thru most strongly in the glowering poise of Inevitable, and with needling bite in the towering recursive riffs of Ffaith, quite literally galvanised thru electronic process, leading to the record’s most captivating, expansive pinnacle with field recordings and sample pack presets diffused into the otherworldly detachment of SAR and his trance dress-down, Immaculate.
As Halcyon Veil’s first full length feature album, A Goal is an Image arguably epitomises the label’s aesthetic - unflinchingly upfront and uncannily emotive - and gives voice to a true outsider spirit.
Prolific siblings, Chaos In The CBD return to Mule Musiq on their tour of the houses with Comfort Zone
Laying out the balmy, minimal house subtleties of Comfort Zone for the 45rpm A-side, then switching to night mode for the dub-house ride Educate the Heart, and bowing in the direction of Ron Trent on a tribal hustle named Pressure.
Great ambient dub techno abstraction from uon, the newest moniker of Ryan Fall aka Caveman LSD and DJ Paradise, following superb pair of releases in the same vein for Barcelona’s Anòmia with this, his debut vinyl release - massively tipped if yr into Rhythm & Sound.
Stalking terrain familiar to Wanda Group, Pole, Xth Réflexion, DeepChord, the zlo EP captures a wickedly paradoxical sense of movement within static sound in four parts: meshing cooling pads with mercurial kinetics in the title cut, and pushing off into opiated, subaquatic zones with kosm, and hypnotically stumbling up/down an endless Escher staircase with the gravity defying dynamics of suB1, and diffusing your bone into deep space on kissing.
Prime material, all 35 minutes of it. Don’t sleep on this beauty!
Thirteen remixers including Max Cooper and Zimmer subtly adapt the melancholy sensibilities of Chirstian Löffle’s Mare in an ebbing flow of minimal tech-house and electronica for the artist’s Ki Records.
Shockingly strong new opus from USBM’s most fearsome forest dwellers, released thru their own label, Artemisia Records. Sound like it was made with wood-burning amps and elk-gut strung guitars during a total eclipse. Also features guest appearances by Anna Von Hausswolff, Don McGreevy (Earth, MMoB), Steve von Till (Neurosis), with Randall Dunn on production..
“Now, a portal into the dreamworld of Wolves in the Throne Room opens again with THRICE WOVEN. It is a glorious return to the blazing and furious Black Metal that they alone can create!
The album begins with Born From the Serpent’s Eye a true thrashing black metal epic that is bisected with a haunting northern lament sung by Swedish star Anna von Hausswolff. The band worked with metal documentarians Peter Beste and Nico Poalillo to create a video for this track which captures a bonfire-lit performance in the forest near their Olympia compound.
The Old Ones Are With Us opens with the crackling of a fire and the voice of Steve Von Till (Neurosis) invoking the springtime thaw. It then storms into a dirge inspired by 90’s Finnish doom with lyrics that celebrate Imbolc, the holy day which marks the end of winter and the first stirrings of spring.
Figures from Norse mythology intertwine with personal heartbreak and rebirth in the bleak Angrboda. The song is named after a frost giantess who birthed Fenris Wolf, a beast who was destined to destroy the world and murder the gods. Fenris Wolf also appears on the cover of THRICE WOVEN in a painting by Russian occult artist Denis Forkas. Forkas’ obscure medieval painting techniques perfectly compliment the music of Wolves in the Throne Room.
A raven’s wings stir the air in the interlude Mother Owl, Father Ocean. Anna von Hausswolff returns in a duet with Turkish harpist Zeynep Oyku. Forlorn industrial atmospheres haunt the mix. Hausswolff’s lyrics, sung in Swedish, echo over a barren grey seascape.
Fires Roar in the Palace of the Moon is the classic Cascadian Black Metal epic. The third eye opens to see holy rivers being born from the ice on the tallest peaks. The lyrics offer blessings to the waters of the earth as they flow from the high places to the source of darkness, the ocean.”
If Patrick Cowley, Tangerine Dream and Prince recorded the soundtrack to an educational documentary on the homoeroticism of wind sailing, it might well have sounded something like this...
“Tradewinds” The Wavesailing Film is the new LP of unreeled rot yok on Spencer Clarke’s outrageous Pacific City Sound Visions. This is a masterclass in sub-sub-genre study, chuffed up on so much positivity and salty bliss that it’s hard not to charmed by its blazing white toothed grin. Read on for an equally masterful promo text from S. Clarke:
"SOMEWHERE OUT THERE, MANY YEARS AGO THE STORY OF EVOLUTION TOOK AN UNEXPECTED TURN...
ON AN ISOLATED TROPICAL ISLAND, FAR FROM THE ACID RAIN OF CIVILIZATION A NEW BREED OF MAN
WAS BORN, HE WAS CALLED HOMOWAVESAILOR"
ALTERNATIVELY TITLED: "HOMOSWAVESAILORS", AS JACK MCCOY'S 1984 FILM ABOUT THE BIRTH OF WINDSURFING, DETAILS, THROUGH THE GAZE OF THE SPORT AS A PRE-HISTORIC ANCIENT RITUAL, THE EXPLOITS OF A FEW OF THE SPORTS ORIGINATORS. BACKING UP THE CLEAR 80'S BLUE VISUALS OF WAVES WHITE WASHED WIND BLASTED SFX, IS A VARIETY OF ORIGINAL POP AND SYNTH MUSIC MADE BY THE FILMS' COMPOSER, CHRIS EGGLETON. THERE ARE NO SONG TITLES, RATHER EACH TRACK IS SPICED-UP WITH WIND AND WAVE SOUND FX, WHICH WERE ORIGINALLY MEANT TO ACT AS SOUND ACCENTS FOR WAVE SAIL ACTION IN THE FILM. THE POP SONGS ARE BEACH-SPIKED HITS, SOUNDING LIKE NEW ZEALAND' FLYING NUN ROCK, OR BLASTED OUT PRINCE CHORUS FUNK, BUT WITH ADDED FILM SOUND FX, THE ESSENCE OF THE SILVER SCREEN BEGINS TO CREEP INTO THE MEDIUM OF AUDIO DISC! THE SYNTH MUSIC ON "TRADEWINDS' SOUNDS AS IF TANGERINE DREAM MADE INSPIRATIONAL BEACH MOVIE TRACKS DURING THE HEIGHT OF THEIR "FIRESTARTER" PERIOD. THE MIX, IS ARRANGED BY PACIFIC CITY, SO THAT THE SUMMER DOESNT CRASH AND BURN. FOR THE FIRST TIME IN HISTORY, PACIFIC CITY SOUND VISIONS PRESENTS :THE ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK TO "TRADEWINDS" ON VINYL LP. BREAK DOWN..... SHAKE DOWN..... YA BUSTED......
SPENCER CLARK, ANTWERP 2017”
The Brooklyn-based Upper Wilds feature Dan Friel (Parts & Labor) on guitar and vocals, bassist / vocalist Zach Lehrhoff (Ex Models, Pterodactyl) and drummer Aaron Siegel.
"Their fuzz-blasted debut was recorded by Seth Manchester at Machines With Magnets (Battles, The Body, Lightning Bolt). The album marks Friel’s first time incorporating vocals into his music since his days in Parts & Labor and retains his signature penchant for heavily distorted textures and addictive melodies.
This is big, distorted music intended to played loudly, on speakers. Upper Wilds and Thrill Jockey do NOT recommend you listen to this on earbuds, your phone, or your laptop"
First making waves with the almost cult level ‘Hype Williams’ project, and then more recently solo and as part of the group Babyfather, the new 8 track LP sees Dean Blunt step back into the shadowy role of producer for a new band called Blue Iverson.
It’s a vibesey one, this; digging a vein of smoke-hazed living/bedroom feels in eight parts that could almost be passed off as a Dam-Funk jam. Well, almost, but there’s still something off kilter and economical about the fidelity and mixing of the recording that hints it’s from the UK, or is even made to sound like the private pressed soul obscurities picked out by PPU.
Hotep strongly reminds of those lush soul bits from Yves Tumor’s Serpent Music or even selected Letherette cuts released on Alex Nut’s namesake label. The image of Lauryn Hill on the sleeve is a cherry on the cake.
L.I.E.S. look closer to their Paris home with Krikor Kouchian’s ersatz OST, Pacific Alley, making a fine change of pace and mood from the producer known for a string of filter house and electro releases for Kill The DJ Records, Tigersushi and Crowdspacer under myriad monikers since over the past 20 years.
Following the sought-after Linn funk of Promo 45, this is Krikor’s 2nd release for L.I.E.S., and features both tracks from the 7” as part of an 11-track suite full of vintage drum machines and gauzy synth gazes suggesting the soundtrack to long drives at dusk along coast roads or cruising California’s less salubrious neighbourhoods.
That’s partly down to the fact that the artist spent time a s a youth in SoCal, soaking up the radio, the beach and American culture in a way which has informed his music ever since (check for his France Copland takes NWA and Bladerunner!), resulting now in something like a lo-fi parallel to Dam-Funk or a more playful Palmbomen II.
Deutsche Grammofon kick off a new, neo classical compilation series with this 14 track selection starring work by Jonny Greenwood, Max Richter, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Chilly Gonzales, Ólafur Arnalds, Philip Glass and Hans-Joachim Roedelius, among others.
If you follow the world of modern or neo classical composition, then we’d wager you already know most of the artists and much of the material on offer. But for everyone else it’s a fine entry point or primer, opening with Max Richter’s 21st century standard, Vladimir’s Blues, and cycling thru the spectrum of classical connotations and flirtations with ambient, jazz, anything else it fancies really.
It may all sound a bit like it, but modern classical music isn’t just for film soundtracks and moody scandinavian crime TV dramas, you know? I think…
Swoon-worthy post-punk duo Vazz return with a collection of new/old recordings via Belgium’s sterling STROOM 〰 label, beautifully reprising the nimble, sylvan sound of their cult side Whisper Not  with a collection of songs made during the same era, and right up to the modern day, but never heard beyond their archive. Since the 2012 reissue of their debut recordings, Vazz have been cited among Andy Stott’s favourite artists, and seen key inclusions in prime mixes by Jon K, Illum Sphere, and Ron Morelli, who’ve all helped spread the Vazz sound like a very pleasing virus to welcome hosts around the world.
Hugh Small and Anna Howson aka Vazz are pretty much the definition of a band who were never fully appreciated in their time. Perhaps due to their own stubbornness and self-destructive attitude, they passed up an offer from 4AD’s Ivo very early on, and despite plays of their Breath/Violent Silence 7” by John Peel, they simply missed that boat, only to be rediscovered and touted as “Scotland’s best kept secret” a whole generation later thanks to Forced Nostalgia’s reissues and specifically the song Cast Reflections, which, if you ask us, is one of the most beautiful, definitive songs of its time.
With Submerged Vessels and Other Stories we now get a peek behind the curtain of their sessions spanning 34 years: from early recordings at The Hellfire Club, a studio in the dank basement of a West End Glasgow tenement also shared by Aztec Camera, Orange Juice and The French Impressionists, a.o, where they made Whisper Not, thru to their slightly later Glasgow home recordings, and subsequent sessions in Edinburgh dating to 2014-2016, which are also the focus of a bonus CD; Hugh Small’s Piano Music (2014-2016).
It’s maybe too much to ask for another Cast Reflections, but there’s still some real gems inside here, especially in the serpentine torque and melancholy cadence of Solitary Sun  and the delectable, skinny dub suspension system of Watercolours , or the smoky wisp of PeripheralVision (Macula Lutea Mix), which finds Hugh Small slipping into more ambient/textural spheres slightly later in Edinburgh c. 1988, after they had parted way.
Ultimately, after disbanding they would never reprise the Vazz sound, but Hugh Small proves a dab hand at the keys with Piano Music (2014-2016), sublimely channelling the keen and hiraeth of their spikier early work into reserved yet plush solo expressions that neatly bookend each side of this LP, and the Vazz story altogether, whilst sweetly retaining their timeless enigma.
Rina Sawayama is a singer, songwriter and model born in Japan and based in London. In 2016 she was included in The Fader’s 13 Artists You Need To Know In 2017 and Noisey’s 25 Under 25 list for International Woman’s Day.
"Sawayama began her solo career in 2013 with the single ‘Sleeping In Waking’. In June 2015 she released a music video, directed by Arvida Byström, to her track ‘Tunnel Vision’. In March 2017 Sawayama’s single ‘Cyber Stockholm Syndrome’ premiered on The Fader and V Magazine’s Erica Russell named Rina a “Digital-age pop pioneer”. This 4 track EP contains new track ‘Tunnel Vision’ and a Nite Jewel remix of ‘Cyber Stockholm Syndrome’."
Cofaxx makes an absorbingly subtle vinyl debut on Nous with Pico Vu, spelling out a cottony soft sound thru seven deep, floating structures informed by ambient, boogie and house, including delectable remix turn by Brown Irvin, who’s better known as LA’s Ashtre Jenkins.
From the first, wispy chord strokes of Tide Pool you know this is going to be lovely and the rest doesn’t disappoint, calmly harmonising to a gauzy swell before the twinkle-toed, jazz-learned boogie of Dicey takes hold and melts out into Brown Irvin’s grubbing, stunning deep house overhaul of Tide Pool placing it up there close to NWAQ output.
Flip her and you’ll get the balmy breakbeat breeze of Velvet, and chiming electro-trance-boogie in 10 Block Radius, with a genuinely arresting spot of ambient keys and barely there drums in the closing kiss off, Heise Pressure that recalls Lack’s Undoing Gaze for 2MR.
Our love affair with Cécile Schott (known to the world as Colleen) is well documented - all it took was her charming debut album 'Everyone Alive Wants Answers' and we were totally hooked.
'Les Ondes Silencieuses' is Schott's third full-length album (following the delightful Music Box sequences of last year's mini-album "..Et Les Boites A Musique") and is by some distance her most refined, mature and successful to date. Utilising an array of instruments ranging from what sound like Tibetan singing bowls through to gently strummed acoustic guitar, chimes, cello, violin, the spinet (a smaller relative of the harpsichord) and Clarinet - Cécile plays every note on the album and the arrangements and compositions are so restrained it's quite hard to believe that this is the same artist who relied so heavily on samples a few years back.
Schott has always displayed an understanding of timing and harmony, but here it feels like this talent is finally explored to its fullest; every change and every note of every distinct segment is there for a reason and takes you into deeper realms of her emotional landscape.
Available officially for the 1st time this decade, Geinoh Yamashirogumi’s dramatic Symphonic Suite Akira arrives just ahead of the seminal sci-fi animation’s 30th anniversary. This is a facsimile reissue of the original Symphonic Suite Akira album, featuring original unremixed and complete versions mastered from same files as the 1988 release. This is not the version with dialogue and all the madness!
The ten track Symphonic Suite Akira essentially documents the film’s sonic architecture - a magisterial blend of musics from around the world, meshing the disparate systems of Bulgarian choral music, Buddhist Temple chants and Balinese gamelan in a lushly complex alliteration of sounds which framed the film’s post-apocalyptic Tokyo backdrops and cyberpunk themes.
It took Shouji Yamashiro and the 200 musicians, engineers, scientists who comprise Geinoh Yamashirogumi over six months to make Symphonic Suite Akira, apparently recording with an effectively limitless budget, and it shows. At the time of release this was an ambitiously proggy effort in consolidating various harmonic systems, building on the technologically enhanced examples of YMO and early ‘80s 4th World styles in the grandest style.
It may not contain anything quite so immediate as, say, Kenji Kawai’s OST for Ghost In The Shell, but it’s a different thing really, with a different story to tell, and it does so beautifully.