Bleary soul x screwed beatdown dynamics recorded deep into the night by Rat Heart and Michael J. Blood, primed for neon-lit, nocturnal consumption on a skewed, screwed and heavily marinaded tip that sounds something like Actress/Thriller on a syrup-slow manc-soul cruise.
Fuzzed to the eyeballs and dripping with sticky vibes, ‘Nite Mode Vol.1’ is a new project forged over late nights in north MCR during one of MJ and Ratty’s parallel dimension sessions. Gauzy echoes of bygone soul parties, romances and VHS-baked memories of Moss Side block parties percolate the dozen rawly rendered gems , encapsulating more than a decade of hanging out and shooting the shit over tunes.
It’s a concerted slow-motion contrast to their respective, acclaimed solo LPs of recent months, namely ‘As Is’ and ‘Ratty Rids the Clubs From the Evil Curse of the Private School DJs’, which have kept the disciples on their toes, along with plenty shots of guitar blooz and beatdown since both avatars emerged just prior to the pandemic.
The duo keep it locked and wide open with inimitable style here; playing to polysemous distinctions of “soul” that flow from DJ Screw-like slump on ‘Waitin’wav’ to something like Andrés flying off a triple hit of nos on ‘Trouble’, with flanging boogie soul chords on ‘Claremont Road’ brushing shoulders with piquant synth jam ‘Red Leb’, Thriller-esque swag in ‘Harley Ave’, crankiest dub on ‘Ooze Cruise’, and filter-clogged deep house on ‘Ant Works’.
Dunno how long this run of form can last but, jeez, what a run.
Size 12 techno stompers from the Berlin x Brooklyn battery of Maedon & Adam-X
Laced up to the knee with bollocking kicks and noise and sometimes dressed in droll vocals, this is no nonsense club trample for the EBM-industrial-techno faithful.
Notably playing it down from techno’s current tempo arms-race, the spars helm to 120-135BPM on nine hard-ass warehouse sluggers, leaving internal bruising between the cold chunt of ‘Breathe It In’ and ‘Human replacements’ both deploying Maedon’s gynoid vox, along with rictus jags of ’Subterranean Caverns’, the Ancient Methods of ‘Psychic Vultures’, distorted bass drum march of ‘Buckle Up’, and acidic trance throttle in ‘When It All Ends.’
Düsseldorf’s Baal & Mortimer is the latest invitee to rework Conrad Schnitzler’s legendary cabinet of synth curios on the Con-Struct series.
Operated by Alexandra Grübler since 2014, Baal & Mortimer are of a new German generation who work in the long shadow of influence cast by Conrad Schnitzler’s pioneering electronic music explorations. Chamber classical, synth-pop and gothic choral wrks inform B&M’s two albums to date (‘Deixis, 2020, and ‘The Torso Tapes’, 2021) and feed forward into the usual matrices of her Con-Struct side, bent and melded to Schnitzler’s palette of source material in sloshing, layered designs that mark the distance travelled since the late, great genius emerged as a founding member of Tangerine Dream in 1970, then with Moebius & Roedelius in Kluster, and until 2011 as a solo synth-o-naut.
On the eight woks Grübler takes Schnitzler’s fathomless lead as license to head all over the (work)shop, encompassing lilting Afro rhythmelodic patterns and glossolalia on ‘Mohn’, thru to astral siren calls in ‘Keystone’ and ‘Coat’, with gunky tones of ‘Blue Lotis’ recalling aspects of the classic ‘Conrad & Sohn’ side melted to a tangy essence, whereas ‘FFAALL’ swerves right to avant-chamber classical, and we’re best snagged on the weirdo space baroque of ‘Lo’.
Following the head-wobbling dub of his hook-up with Seekers International, Om Unit gets deeper in the acid dub echo chamber on the first in a promising new series
Repatching uchronic connections between OG Jamaican dub, its Bristol and London variants, and a wave of ‘90s electronica experiments, Om Unit’s ‘Acid Dub Studies’ work in a hypnotic, rooted style shared by the likes of John T. Gast, TNT Roots, Andreas Tilliander and Ossia in the contemporary field.
Listen up for very classy, Wild Bunch-adjacent vibes on ‘Bristol Theme’, and worm charming rumbles on ‘Treading Earth’, pus a dash of soggiest acid dub in ‘Celestial Envoy’, hefty mystic steppers pressure in ‘Circled’, and totally baked 303 work on ‘Tapped’, but we recommend immersion in the full album for best effect.
Eris Drew & Octo Octa split the bill on an early gambit from Fabric’s new club-dedicated label
Drew’s breakbeat rave workout ‘Day After A Night With U’ drips with gunky acidic sleaze and spangled with a cherry string riff, while Octo Octa brings the jack on ‘Stars & Water’, including a crafty half-tempo breakdown.
Three early compositions (1968-1970) by Steve Reich, one of the most prolific exponents of minimal music, in stunning interpretations by the critically acclaimed Ensemble Avantgarde.
"Steve Reich (born 1936) is undoubtedly one of the key figures in 20th century contemporary music and along with Terry Riley or Philip Glass one of the founding fathers of so-called minimal music. With classics like "Music For 18 Musicians", "Drumming" or "Different Trains" the American composer proved himself one of "a handful of living composers who can legitimately claim to have altered the direction of musical history".
The four pieces on this collection date back to the time before his famous master pieces (1967-1970): "Four Organs" and "Phase Patterns" build on short, repeated patterns that gradually go in and out of phase with each other, creating "a shimmering matrix of sound that is both hypnotic and fascinating in detail" and anticipate Reich's later trademark sound.
"Pendulum Music" is a process piece where only a few starting parameters are given: four microphones are suspended within an array of amplifiers and speakers, then set in motion - the shifts in feedback as they move in space create the music, the results differ with each new performance (as can be experienced listening to the 2 versions here). Reich's early works are presented on this release in stunning interpretations by Leipzig based Ensemble Avantgarde whose dedicated, inspired renditions of essential masterpieces of modernism (documented on CDs on reputated labels such as Wergo or Hat Hut Records) won them the Ernst von Siemens Foundation Prize and the Schneider-Schott Prize of Mainz."
A legendary conduit between Berlin kosmicshe ambient and experimental techno, Max Loderbauer takes his debut LP bow on Marionette with a sublime set channelling Eno, Moebius & Roedelius.
Like its title, the slow-paced and wafting synth voyage of ‘Petrichor’ evokes a sensual, sentimental trip full of nostalgic wooze and emotion. Forming Loderbauer’s first solo session since 2020’s ‘Donnerwetter’ with his and Tobias Freund’s Non Standard Productions label, it resounds with a tactility and familiarity with his kit that Loderbauer has developed over decades since the late ‘80s; exploring a huge web of interrelated styles ranging from ambient heroes Sun Electric to the kinky acid house of Fisherman’s Friend (both with Tom Thiel), and as part of NSI, and member of the Moritz Von Oswald and Vladislav Delay ensembles, as well as a duo with Ricardo Villalobos.
Left to his own devices, Loderbauer stirs the senses with a slow-cooked brew of rare tones gleaned from Buchla and modular synth, and coaxed from the touch-sensitive Haken fingerboard performance controller and synthesiser. The set-up allows for really hands, haptic tact that’s felt in the music’s viscous rhythmic and timbral transitions and tumescent shape, where Loderbauer manipulates the senses with a spectra of heady, bittersweet tones that call to mind classic ‘70s kosmiche ambient of Eno, Moebius & Roedelius via the more curdled tang and unequal temperament and slosh of Rashad Becker works.
Proper 313 deep house peaches from Omar S, starring the honeyed tones of Troialexis - think Shari Vari-via-Rat Heart/MJB styles.
Omar S tools reverberating claps and distant synth glitter to Motor City gold underlining the perfectly naif and soul-clasping vocals of Troialexis, who, as far as we can tell, makes her debut here.
For those wo can’t get enough of the vocal (hands up over here), the R&B mix of ‘Can’t Explain’ simmers the flex to a gently percolated 808 bass and tickled rimshot gilded with ultra-subtle pads, best to stage Troialexis instantly memorable melody.
Touch Sensitive chase their Vox Populi! reissue with a return to cranky industrial scuzz courtesy of a Vacant Heads channelling Klinik, Adrian Sherwood’s industro-dubs, or Silent Servant
A solid pick for fans of the label’s fierce drops by Autumns, the eponymous debut of Vacant Heads holds to a dank line of ’80s machine music with outsider swagger. ‘Crawling Up The Pisser’ plays it perfectly dirty with gristly bass and dead-eyed vox stained by ammonia-toned synths, and ‘Street Toucher’ ramps those ingredients to peak time goth club force, all pointy elbows and bat dance moves. On the other hand, they also know ho to play it slower and sleazier with ‘Heavy Rain Dub’ coming off like an acetone-washed Sherwood dub, and ‘Swan Dive’ swinging around power snares, tickled rimshots and sax skronk like a stray Philadelphia Five meets Material jam.
Lovely debut trio of deep house and ambient club trax by Anwei Huss, making a subtle but lasting impression on their own label.
The London-based artist sits at the edge of the ‘floor somewhere between purring, original Chicago, Detroit and NYC house standards, gilded Teutonic glyde and Balearic bop.
’Syria (Autumn In Spring)’ seduces to his steez with lilting bass and shimmering guitar/synth rooted to earthy groove, and ‘Moongazer’ takes it deeper into the night with teasing acidic oscillators and velvet bass groove from the Larry Heard cookbook done to enveloping effect. ‘Sienna’ sees it off with a smile and warm glow primed for sun kissed skin on an Ibizan evening or morning alike.
Prime proto-house-boogie-soul bops rescued from obscurity by Melbourne’s Crown Ruler
Buttoned up on the debonaire side of early 1990’s dance music, but with prevailing traces of a late ‘80s funk, Torontonian producer/vocalist K.G. Russell’s sound has, until now, been the preserve of a handful of collectors in-the-know. Crown Ruler now step in to highlight three nuggz harvested from seldom seen records on ‘Last Dance’, twirling the title tune of balmy tropical hip-house, plus the killer calypso lilt of ‘Talk To Me’ with its swivel-hipped drum machine and peppery cowbell hook, and the end-of-night slow jam ‘Dance With me’ set to soundtrack fantasy blues sessions.
Unpredicted bout of martial D&B arts from UK’s Shiken Hanzo on Incienso.
Alum of BEB’s A14, Samurai Music, and, most recently Inperspective, Hanzo brings a staunch halftime D&B calibre to ‘Eternity Of Echoes’, variously cloaking his gruff halftime meter with murky Bristoian vibes a la Pessimist (‘Darkest Entities’), and deep blue Detroit pads (‘Eightfold Blessing of Amaterasu’), next to more sluggish experiments with dancehall swivel on the title tune, and a killer finishing move of squashed, Loxy-esque dankness (‘The Reaping’).
High grade Latin freestyle electro from Miami, 1986, repressed to the pleasure of snake-hipped dancers and DJs everywhere a generation later
Now trading for the price of a bag on 2nd hand market, Laurie Miller’s fruity ode returns in ’22 with the OG and deadly dub, plus an extended new edit by Danny McLewin ov Psychemagik’s Skyrager.
The flawless original fits Laurie Miller’s silky, loved-up coo to rubbery bass and kinky cowbells in classic fashion, and the edit tweaks it out for extra hair-kissing pleasure. But, as almost ever with freestyle, the dub is the one for us, featuring Carlos Santos on the scalpel-and-tape, trimming it all back to nastier groove giving the dancers something to get their teeth into with choppier edits, plucky B-line and sizzling, stuttering drums that send Laurie in a tizzy and us with it.
Second Woman’s future techno landmark for Spectrum Spools sees a totally timely reminder on this 2022 reissue - big RIYL Vladislav Delay, Mark Fell & Gábor Lázár, Rian Treanor, Automatisme
The duo of Telefon Tel Aviv’s Joshua Eustis and Turk Dietrich ov Belong, aka Second Woman, were among the acts to give dance music a future-facing boot up the arse in the past decade. Their eponymous 2016 debut served to loosen the grid of hybrid modular and computer-based dancefloor production with luscious, aqueous cyberdub tekkerz and sort of etheric emotive sensuality that sloshed over from late ‘90s/early ‘00s dub techno, electronica and IDM.
Six years later it still sounds refreshingly brilliant, spurting nine kaleidoscopic turns riddled with diffractive, underwater dynamics, and ideally balancing abstract and palpable feels that arise from Dietrich and Eustis’ distinctively adroit, obsessively detailed touch. To be fair, their 2017 follow-up firmed up their dancefloor intentions a little more clearly, but this one still beautifully lends itself to balletic movement and a sense of freedom in the club that was in the air of experimental dance music before the pandemic, but feels like it’s been missing since.
We’re not saying the new wave of club kids are coming with with some shitty, stilted expectations, but fuck me if you couldn’t do with loosening up a bit and getting out of those huddles or line-dancing in front of the DJ with your phone out. Just saying. Here’s your prompt.
Astral-planing, tracky techno house from the NYC don Levon Vincent, making crafty use of non-standard tunings after exploring beatdown and slow/fast on his ‘Silent Cities’ album.
Running counter to club music’s cheaper thrills, Levon’s two ‘Niresa’ tracks balance a below-the-belt drive with headier notions than your average dancefloor tackle. His signature, propulsive bass drum march underlines both works, but the focus is more on the swirling, iridescent synth light-shows that play out above, streaming polychromatic ribbons of lustrous, Mid-eastern melody over the A-side, and yoking back to a more subtly mind-bending use of unique musical intervals on the second part that recall to our ears a more polished echo of Christian Love Forum’s microtonal keyboard devotionals.
Flaming Tunes was recorded by Gareth Williams (ex of This Heat) and his childhood friend Mary Currie and released on cassette in 1985. A hodgepodge of lo-fi pop songs, experiments and location recordings that sound like they were never intended for public consumption, it’s by chance or design one of the most moving, personal, memorable DIY/experimental pop albums of the 20th century, you better believe it.
As Mary Currie describes it: "Flaming Tunes was a collaboration that came out of a friendship. Gareth and I would meet at 'Danger de Mort' Gareth's house in Balham usually during the daytime when my son was at nursery. Sometimes we'd be joined by others. A room full of instruments and things that could make noise. We made some of our own too and used available objects for percussion. Later on we had more sophisticated equipment - full size keyboard and 12 track recording facility. Sometimes things happened and sometimes we just indulged ourselves in making a bit of a racket. I can't begin to describe how Gareth put things together and this was often done well into the early hours of the morning. I'd go away and come back and what had started out as a fragment had become another flaming tune."
After a bootlegged version came out in the late 90's, Life & Living Records - an independent label operated by Williams' close circle of friends (Williams himself passed away in 2001 at the age of 48) - went back to the original master tapes and painstakingly restored and remastered the audio. As for the music itself - oh gosh, where to start? On one level - it's a hodgepodge of lo-fi pop songs, experiments and location recordings that sound like they were never intended for public consumption. And yet - these tunes just don't let go of you once you've spent any amount of time with them. Take "Breast Stroke" for instance - just the most unforgettable, life-affirming three and a half minutes you'll ever spend with a piece of music. The fact that the percussion was made on a casio keyboard and what sounds like a peculiarly British variant of a human beatbox, well, it's just the icing on the cake.
Really, words just do no justice.
Anna Von Hausswolff showing off her range and versatility as she veers from Liz Fraser or Lisa Gerrard-like dynamic warbling to smoky Nico-esque curdles and operatics in the vein of Diamanda Galás. A masterclass.
When Anna Von Hausswolff made her Southern Lord debut in 2020 with 'All Thoughts Fly', it felt like a dramatic left turn. Previous albums had made use of the pipe organ, but in the context of Von Hausswolff's dramatic experimental pop songs, her powerful singing voice was nowhere to be found. So for newer listeners who might have only heard the instrumental material, 'Live at Montreaux Jazz Festival' is a crucial primer, scraping together the best bits of 2015's "The Miraculous" and 2018's "Dead Magic".
The album was recorded in 2018, when Von Hausswolff was opening for Nick Cave in Switzerland on the Lake Geneva shoreline. It was a smart match; Von Hausswolff's velveteen pop inversions are rebellious, her commanding performance betrays a rock 'n roll pedigree. Live albums, even the best live albums, often fail to capture the imagination simply because they're less-than-brilliant versions of songs rendered in the studio. But here we manage to get a sense of who Von Hausswolff is as an artist; she excels on stage, and her voice - sounding like goth-era Liz Fraser on opening track 'The Truth the Glow the Fall' and prog-era Kate Bush on 'Pomperipossa' - has to be heard live to be believed.
There's no studio trickery and yet it's all fireworks from beginning to end. Von Hausswolff adds operatic grace and grandeur to a backdrop of lurching sludge rawk on 'Ugly and Vengeful', and levitates with folksy closeness on the near-ambient 'Källans Återuppståndelse'. Sometimes a voice can scrape into the soul - Von Hausswolff deserves to be mentioned alongside the greats.
Precision-tooled bliss and quietly quizzical turns of phrase by the hallowed duo, newly expanded and reissued with 22 minutes of previously unheard works, all remastered as part of the V.I.R.U.S. reissue series .
An experimental, contemporary evergreen, ‘Revep’, along with ‘Vrioon’, ‘Insen’, ‘UTP’, and ’Summvs’ makes up one of the finest, most rarified series of releases in the electronic sphere thesed last 15 years. Made newly available for the first time this decade, the future-proofed recordings still uniquely enchant with its makers’ mixture of free-flowing lines of melodic thought and effortlessly obsessive electronic detailing that leaves no nanosecond spare of expressive nuance.
Notably including a glitch version of Sakamoto’s beloved ‘Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence’ in ‘Ax Mr. L’, the album’s distinguished pleasures are now enhanced by no fewer than three new works, spanning a spine-playing tribute to Le Corbusier’s famous building in Marseille (‘City Radieuse’) and the two parts of pulsating, reverberant atmosphere to ‘Veru’ sure to pique interests of those who’ve lived with, and loved, the album over the years.
The type of recording that rewards playback on proper soundsystems, but nonetheless carries itself most elegantly otherwise, it delivers shivers from the opening flurry of severed piano notes in ’Siisx’, and its descent to the left hand keys, and upwards into city-at-night vapours, on more brooding sibling piece ‘Mur’, with the aforementioned ‘ax Mr. L’ beautifully marking the distance travelled from Sakamoto’s soundtrack to ‘Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence’, circa his seminal works with David Sylvian.
1080i electro-pop genius from the indomitable Uwe Schmidt aka Atom ™.
Veering sharp right from the resplendent neo-classicism of 'Winterresise' and the lobby vibes of 'Grand Blue', he's obviously having a lot of fun with 'HD', shaping up as some of the poppiest material since his last Señor Coconut outing. The sound design is, expectedly, second-to-none, but more importantly his playful sense of humour and knack for a choon are in full effect, whether he's taking on The Who's 'My Generation', or paying tribute to Prince with Jamie Lidell on the hyperfunky Linndrum flair of 'I Love U (Like I Love my Drum Machine)'. Elsewhere, there's the uncannily Kraftwerk-esque 'Strom', mental DSP blues on 'The Sound Of Decay', the major-label-bashing 'Stop (Imperialist Pop)', and a haul of class electro/house cuts such as 'Riding The Void' and 'Ich Bin Meine Maschine'. Sheer class, highly recommended.
Never before heard outside Palestine, aside from a few copies not confiscated by the Israeli army, Riad Awwad’s reaction to the First Intifada 1987 will be greeted by many keen ears 35 after it was recorded.
Using custom-built electronic equipment and starring acclaimed Palestinian writer Mahmoud Darwish, plus Riad Awwad’s sisters Hanan, Alia, and Nariman, ‘The Intifada 1987’ is a properly curious artefact recorded in the Awwad familiy’s living room just one week after the sustained series of Palestinian protests and civil unrest began, due to an IDF truck killing four Palestinian workers, apparently in retaliation to the killing of a Jew in Gaza days earlier. While its roots are heavier than most of us can imagine, the music balances the mournful with remarkably ebullient synths and pulsating rhythms that wrest a certain optimism from violent backdrops.
The album was originally pressed up on cassette in edition of 300 and sold in the Old City of Jerusalem and across the West Bank. Despite attempts to confiscate all copies they could find, and arresting, interrogating and detaining Riad for several months, the tape remained in a personal collection of some 5000 tapes bought by artist and music collector/archivist Mo’min Swaitat, and now emerges some generations later via the Majazz project.
While Riad is no longer around to see its reissue - he spent his life playing music before founding a school, teaching kids to make their own electronic equipment, and was tragically killed in a 2005 car accident - ‘The Intifada 1987’ stands as vibrant testament to a powerful story, uniquely rendered with eeriest FX on the likes of ‘Palestinian’, the plangent lament ’40 Years’, or the bubbling beauty ‘Intifada’ starring his sisters spiralling vocals, and liberally driven by knees-up pomp with the likes of his brassy ‘Graves’, and discoid zingers such as ‘Im From Jerusalem’.
‘Sign’ is Autechre’s first new album-album proper since ‘Elseq’ and contains some of their most emosh compositions in eons, perhaps since ‘Tri Repetae’.
Practically pocket-sized in comparison to their sprawling torrent of live material and radio recordings in recent years, ’Sign’ is a return to the sort of concision found circa ‘Exai’ and their earlier albums. Effectively they’ve gotten better to grips with their live set-up, and the hyper ideas found in their work-in-progress demonstrations on the five volume ‘Elseq’ and 8hrs of ‘NTS Sessions’ have been refined into moments of crystalline ambient baroque beauty and liquid-limbed swag on ’Sign’.
After their music has undergone what could be called a growth spurt in recent years, the acrid plasma of their complex, hyper-inorganic systems feels to congeal, create more intricate snaps across the album, from the lush cosmic collisions of ‘M4 Lema’, to the rhizomic arp weaving on ‘F7’, while refining their tendons and muscle in the gyrostep of ‘au14’ and ‘such.mefd2’. The anthropomorphisation of their synthesis accelerates with the album’s 2nd half with the elegiac catharsis of ‘Metaz form8’ displaying a greater emotional intelligence, while their shapeshifting synthesis grows semblances of glowing hair and teeth and skin in ’th red a’, and even a plaintive human heartache in the systolic thud and bloo pads of ‘psin AM’ that rawly bleeds out in the album’s future classic closer ‘r cazt’.
This LP was hinted at by Autechre as one of two albums ready for 2020, so we’ll take it this is their “U Ok Hun?” one to some possibly more hardcore turns in the future. Have it.
Iridescent with rhythmelody, the 2nd of two new albums from Japanese environmental ambient pioneer Takada plays to the percussionist’s sweeter side on her first solo recordings this century
In lucid contrast to the brooding solemnity of her collaboration with Buddhist monks, Shomyo of Koya-san, the durational sides of ‘Cutting Branches For A Temporary Shelter’ land featherlight and quietly joyful on the mind. Echoing the genteel appeal of her seminal debut ‘Through The Looking Glass’ (1983), and using instruments conserved in the collections of the MEG Museum, Takada here performs her live rendition of ’Nhemamusasa’, a traditional standard of the Shona people, for mbira, which gained international fame for its version by Paul F. Berliner on the 1983 LP ‘The Soul of Mbira’.
Returning to a recurrent theme through her work, notably on 1990’s ‘African Percussion Meeting’ with Kakraba Robi, in ‘Cutting Branches For A Temporary Shelter’ the now 70 year old Takada lets her rhythms flow beautifully fluidly and easy, eschewing the more puckered melodies of her previous works for a more fluid flow of lilting melodic cadence. Slowly rousing with the delicately radiant touch that opens its ‘In The Morning’ section, Takada tentatively finds her rhythm and plays out its glittering permutations for 21 ineffably elegant minutes, whereas the ‘In The Night’ section finds her pulling back, to play more with space and overtones, and so gently that it appears she’s trying not to wake someone or disturb the museum exhibits.
Dang-Khoa Chau aka Đ.K. gives up a self-released treat, sidewinding into psychedelic realms of radiant gamelan and slow, humid bangers, highly recommended if yr into ’Forest of Evil' period Demdike, early Shackleton, DJ Python.
A pivotal presence in the Parisian scene thanks to his rounds for Antinote, L.I.E.S., Second Circle, and most recently 12th isle & Good Morning Tapes; Đ.K now takes matters into his own hands to issue some golden material, drawing on his South East Asian heritage and sultry, stylized nEuropean club music for a properly hypnotic seven track trip.
In deep pursuit of atavistic urges, and modelled with electronic futurism, his ‘Gate Of Enlightenment’ calls up a spectra of spirits that invoke altered states; vocal swirls meet purposeful gamelan in ‘Enlightenment Process’, aligning for the deftly weight trample of ‘Middle Path’ with its mystic horns, and a slippery sort of dancehall swivel in ‘Sacred Creatures.’
‘His ‘Day of Mourning’ makes room for contemplation with sound sensitive instincts heightened to unnerving degrees, while ‘Metal Frames’ yokes back to the ‘floor with something like an industrialised echo of the Ghost In The Shell OST, while the closing couplet see his percussive proprioceptions at their most devilish and immersive.
Utterly engrossing, landscape-scale reverie by Andrew Chalk & Timo Van Luijk’s beloved Elodie, finely nestled among the beauties of A Colourful Storm - deeply romantic, melancholic, transportive music by highly attuned collaborators and psychopomps...
“Chalk and van Luijk embody a bold, free-spirited approach to music making whose improvisational processes can be traced to a distinct period of Europe's post-industrial landscape: the former’s Ferial Confine project finding a home on Broken Flag (Ramleh, Kleistwahr) while the latter co-founded Noise-Maker’s Fifes, a Belgian audiovisual project employing unusual homemade instruments.
More than two decades of ambitious solo and collaborative work would solidify both Chalk and van Luijk as masterful craftsmen exploring (and exposing) the tension between composition and free play. Their individual lists of collaborators boasts a certain fin-de-siècle faction of the avant-garde: Christoph Heemann, Giancarlo Toniutti, David Jackman and Colin Potter, to name but a few, have recorded with Chalk while van Luijk has also welcomed Heemann as well as a guard of other artists including Raymond Dijkstra, Kris Vanderstraeten and Frederik Croene.
Elodie’s first documented recording, 2011’s Echos Pastoraux, betrayed a musical interplay of extremely accomplished standards, Chalk and van Luijk’s pastoral mise-en-scène daubed with Daisuke Suzuki’s Asiatic elements creating a sound world at once mystical and eerie. A figment of two imaginations, Elodie materialised almost fully formed with each subsequent recording patiently revealing glimpses into a world concerned with time dilation, the phantasmagoric and spirits of the everyday.
Enteha is one of the duo’s more subdued and melancholic pieces and can be seen as a human response to seasonal transition, foretold by the concluding passages of 2020’s Le Nid d'Ivoire. It’s one of their uniquely longform explorations of mood and atmosphere as an air of romance drifts deftly into mystery and despair. The delicate hues of autumnal haze. The deceptive optimism of morning light. A work of supremely understated beauty, Enteha develops at an hypnagogic, if not unconscious, level and will appeal to anyone who finds solace in Harmonia, Gas, Joanna Brouk, Roberto Musci, Zoviet France and other investigators of pastoral arcana.”
Placid Angles' Touch The Earth Remixes features Plaid, u-Ziq, Marcel Dettmann, John Beltran, and Cassy.
"One year after its original release, the Placid Angles album Touch The Earth has been remixed by an impressive array of artists from the extended Figure family.
Opening up is Marcel Dettmann, who seamlessly has integrated the lush soundscapes of the original album into a beat-driven but equally serene journey. Picking up on the LP’s underlying dark garage tropes, Planet Mu headmaster U-ziq infuses his rework with even more rolling drums and ethereal vocal chops. The also inherent IDM roots of Touch The Earth have been kept close by Warp-veterans Plaid who deliver a shuffling flurry full of horns, synths and syncopated rhythms. More straightforward interpretations include Dauwd’s dazzling piece of feathery, fast, atmospheric techno; a gorgeous melodic house remix by Baltra and Cassy who turns in a rigid UK stomper.
Amidst all the reworks, John Beltran himself makes two appearances across the record. As Placid Angles he adds another heads-down percussive/ambient swirl, which represents exactly what the producer has been hailed for since more than three decades now. His own remix finishes the record on an epic note, with an organic drum track that celebrates life and the necessity for communal gathering in order to dance.
Beltran’s own additions to this LP are like the essential glue that makes it all bind together, forging the old and the new into something equally exciting as already intimately familar."
UKF pioneer Lil Silva serves a stellar, richly soulful debut album studded with guest stars; serpentwithfeet, Sampha & Ghetts, Little Dragon, Skiifall and many more
A decade in the works, ‘Yesterday Is Heavy’ mounts the definitive portrait of Lil Silva’s distinctive take on UK dance-pop and classic soul tropes. After clocking up some of the biggest anthems of the Funky era at the end of the ‘00s, and emerging from that chrysalis as one of UKF’s most enduring artists, Lil Silva has gone on to work with Mark Ronson & Adele, and produced cuts for Duval Timothy, while increasingly finding his own voice on solo recordings, with thanks to encouragement of pals Jamie Woon and Sampha. ‘Yesterday Is Heavy’ now puts all that experience at the service of a full bodied first album that plays to the breath of his talents, marrying deftly rude drum programming with deep burning vibes and vocals in an effortless end-of-summer bounty.
Heartily rooted in Lil Silva’s dual British and Jamaican heritage, the record looks at “generations of black britons as monuments” and “the idea that despite time being able to wear down your appearance, what’s inside of you can never depreciate”. As such it is emblematic of the way in which Lil Silva’s music helped introduce a critical phase shift in UK music, when its spectrum of ravers were introduced to the ‘floor by new mutations of golden era garage, bassline, deep house, soca and grime that became known as UKF, and set templates for the proceeding decade of dance-pop. That energy now properly feeds forward into ‘Yesterday Is Heavy’, but is finely tempered to a more timeless agenda that beautifully transcends the boundaries of classic soul, R&B and club music.
Abundant with plush string orchestrations and vocal harmonies, its an ultimately optimistic love note to his people and an advance on his music’s therapeutically calming, soulful qualities. From the percolated dubstep soul of ‘Another Sketch’ to its languid curtain closer featuring US R&B starlet serpentwithfeet, its all oozing with good vibes, Silva’s signature falsetto gelling with Little Dragon not the twinkle-toed broken beat of ‘Be Cool’ and the cool water soul of ‘Leave’ ft. Charlotte Day Wilson, while properly tugging on classic Al Green nerves in the standout ‘September’ and jazz-led bassline of ‘To The Floor’ that bring his roots full circle into the album’s heavier 2nd half with club-ready zingers such as the glittering keys and whipsmart swang of ‘What If?’ ft. Skiifall, and a singular display of his solo strengths with the lush light/dark club pressure gauge of its massive highlight ‘Colours’.
Leading light of Chicago contemporary jazz, Makaya McCraven makes it official with XL on a sterling solo debut for the label after his reimagining of a Gil Scott-Heron classic
Collaborator with everyone from Jeff Parker (Tortoise) to Emma-Jean Thackray, drummer/composer McCraven’s reputation as a player, producer and bandleader precedes him over some dozen albums for likes of International Anthem Recording Company and Blue Note. With the swooning designs of ‘In These Times’ he hustles a sprawling ensemble to his beat-driven, richly spirited sound, naturally refracting and recombining the spectra of jazz into a succinct and yet cinematic 11-part arrangement. Recorded with notables including Jeff Parker, Junius Paul, Brandee Younger, Joel Ross, and Marquis Hill, in five different studios and four live performance spaces, and benefiting from obsessive post-production detailing, it’s the definitive statement for a new decade from an artist whose sound could easily be mistaken as hailing from any year since the ‘70s, but distinguished by its contemporary beats.
Stemming from personal experience, and observing broader cultural life as a working class musician, there’s a effortlessly wide appeal to proceedings. It’s possible to attribute that appeal to McCraven’s crucial balance of needlepoint beats and orchestral composition on ‘In These Times’, flowing with a rare vibrancy between the heart-in-mouth communal lift of it titular opener and the strident blues-fusion jamming on ‘The Knew Untitled’. Echoes deep South African jazz tradition surface in ‘The Fours’, and his signature stick work is key to the lip-bitingly tight jazz-folk fusion of ‘High Fives’ or the melancholy, polymetric swoon of ‘Seventh String’, whereas the lounging modal shuffle of ‘Dream Another’ and Brandee Younger’s cascading harp strings on ‘Lullaby’ lucidly dial up Alice Coltrane comparisons. We can even hear parallels with Barry Adamson on the cinematic turns of phrase nestled in ‘This Place That Place’ and it ain’t hard to hear his well-watered, Afro-American roots - and those of Chicago - in the swag of ‘So Ubiji’.
Greg Anderson & Stephen O’Malley’s Sunn 0))) mark 20 years of shaking our foundations with ‘Life Metal’, their 8th studio album and first all analog recording, engineered by none other than Steve Albini.
Under a title that pricks trve metal seriousness (it’s an inside joke about Norwegian metal “sellouts”), ‘Life Metal’ is offered as the closest possible representation of the band’s staggering live prowess. Recorded specifically and intensely over a period of just 2 weeks with Steve Albini at Electrical Audio after initial sketches made in LA - contrasting with the 2 year process behind 2009’s ‘Monoliths & Dimensions’ - their intent was to capture the sensation of physically standing in front of their amps whilst they play, aiming to better convey the sensation of being drenched in distorted tonal colour and ravaged by gut rumbling subharmonics. And it’s fair to say they’ve nailed it, like. The sense of resonant space and blistering air throughout the album is viscerally clear and present, but also manifest in a newfound sense of depth to their wall of sound, which is now almost more coral/spongiform, porous to a broader set of world views, energies and influences, yet still unmistakably Sunn 0))).
Of course, you’ll need a decent amp and speakers to really feel the lower registers, but this is perhaps one of the first Sunn 0))) albums that’s not so brutally dedicated to the low end. While it’s certainly there, a lot of information is also contained within the mid and even upper ranges of their frequency spectrum, most likely due to the way Albini’s entirely analog signal chain - from mic to tape to vinyl, with no DAT used - truly captures the complexity and shuddering movement of overtones emerging form their claw handed riffs. The appearances of trusted allies such as Hildur Guðnadóttir, who provides eerily absorbing vocals in ‘Between Sleipnir’s Breaths’ and a flooring section on the unruly oddity Haldorophone worthy of comparison with Tony Conrad in closer ‘Novæ’, or Antony Pateras’ pipe organ burning into ’Troubled Air’, also serve vital variables that marble and colour the record, lending an elemental iridescence that highlights the depth of ‘Life Metal’s character.
After following these guys for much of their unique artistic trajectory, and paying dues whenever they’re playing live in our city, it’s ever more rewarding to find new subtleties and aspects to Sunn 0)))’s always the same, ever amorphous sound.
50th Anniversary re-edition of Seven Up, the third studio album by Ash Ra Tempel and their only album recorded in collaboration with American Ph.D. in psychology, Dr. Timothy Leary, originally recorded in 1972.
"As for the music itself we refer to Julian Cope´s review and remarks from his book “Krautrocksampler” (published by Head Heritage, 1st ed. 1995):
“When the Leary Mob met the Kaiser Gang, the sparks flew ever Up-wards… 7up is a stone classic in every way. Yes, it is unlikely to find Timothy Leary singing lead vocal in a cosmic group, but even weirder that he chose to sing a wild yelping freaked out blues !
Manuel Göttsching and Hartmut Enke had begun their careers in The Steeple Chase Blues Band back in the mid-’60ies, and they quickly felt their way through what Barritt and Leary were aiming for. They reconciled it all as a kind of West Coast chordless psychedelia, where blues riffs sparkle out of nowhere and the sheer weight of synthesizers renders everything with an unreal Pere Ubu/early Roxy Music quality.
The greatness of Ash Ra Tempel burned so brightly on 7Up that there is really nothing else like it. Hartmut Enke and Manuel Gottsching here returned to their riffy roots. It can hardly be called a retro act, though, as the context of music is everything. And with Dierks at the controls, even the New Kids on the Block would have sounded psychedelic.7Up is like a late night radio show glimpsed through a shattered tuner where all but the most truly dangerous sounds have been allowed to stay, to drift and to dance around the performers.The result is an extreme gem, a flash of hysterical white lightning, and a pre-punk Technicolour yawn in the grandest of traditions.
In typical Ash Ra Tempel style, the record is divided into two pieces, “Space” and “Time”. Within this, though, Timothy Leary’s ideas are allowed to free-flow and the two sides are therefore divided into mini-songs all segued together. The highlight of Side 1 is “Power Drive”, a West Coast burn-up that transcends any W. Coast music I ever did hear. Leary and Barritt present the greatest twin-vocal of all time, coming on like Jagger and Morrison but too caught up in their own maelstrom to be anything less than Heralds of the Punkfuture still five years away.
In chaos it was conceived and in chaos it was recorded. Yet Dieter Dierks, the great Aural Architect of the Cosmic Couriers, turned 7Up into a personal triumph and a Kosmische dream.” "
Kosmik Musik is a collaboration between artist Joe Currie, writer Ben Wheatley and musical group Beak>.
"Kosmik Musik is a musical accompaniment for Joe Currie and Ben Wheatley's graphic novel. Ben and Joe met at art school in the 90s where they both were involved in a lot of comic book drawing and reading. It’s taken thirty years to finally get their acts together and create this book. In the meantime Joe has been sculpting and painting. Ben has been writing and directing films. Kosmik Musik is melting pot of 2000ad, Metal Hurlant, Kirby tech, psychedelic 60s art, Doctor Who, Douglas Adams, Kraut Rock, Star Trek and Star Wars. A UK 70s English childhood basically. The project comes with a sonic accompaniment by Beak>."
Barry Adamson’s Steal Away EP via Mute.
"The EP was written and recorded at the time Adamson was writing his memoir ‘Up Above the City, Down Beneath the Stars’. The record ended up becoming an intrinsic part of the book writing process with Barry explaining, “The book is the past, the record is the past present. I needed to write it to get through the book, to stay present.”
Sitting amongst Barry’s diverse catalogue, Steal Away EP presents a refreshing vibrancy and western-like feel that further demonstrates Adamson’s multifaceted ability in songwriting."
Gobsmacking industrial and dark ambient reworks of Aussie post punks My Disco by Regis and Lustmord...
Unfeasibly tight, cultishly adored Aussie post-punk trio, My Disco take a proper pasting from Regis and Lustmord in stupendous remixes of Our Decade and 1991 from their Severe LP for Temporary Residence; the latest in a string of killers from Downwards in 2016 including EPs from JK Flesh, Simon Shreeve, and Dva Damas.
Hammering motorik rhythms with mathematic precision since 2003, My Disco arguably broached a wider consciousness with their 3rd LP, Little Joy for Temporary Residence in 2010. The group’s 4th LP Severe was issued to underground acclaim in 2015, providing a shocking reminder of the trio’s minimalist tension and vitality, and bearing strong material that well warrants these killer remixes from Regis and Lustmord.
Taking on Our Decade, Regis masterfully eviscerates the original’s drawling gothic vox in favour of white hot sheets of processed, coruscating guitar whilst the groove is brought right upfront with a clattering swagger that’s gagging for the dance.
On the flip, Lustmord isn’t up for playing around with his take on 1991, submitting a gravely greyscale and super wide overhaul perfused with curdled vocals and stark drums like something out of a Scott Walker storyboard.
It’s hard to deny that these are remarkable pieces of work, rendering Lustmord’s best outing since The Word As Power, and quite possibly providing a hint of where Regis is headed on his long-rumoured LP for Blackest Ever Black.
Barry Adamson's Back To The Cat, via Mute.
"Originally released in 2008, Back To The Cat, was in keeping with the artist who developed the concept of the imaginary soundtrack, with every song building a compelling narrative around Barry’s lifelong investigation of identity, sexuality, race, spirituality and society.
The record picked up the threads of his previous work and continued to showcase his musical ambidexterity covering noir jazz, sun-drenched pop ballads, fractious funk, heavenly blues and subversive soul."
Debut raft of Buchla Easel synth recordings from Basel-based sound artist Janiv Oron.
Chasing up the themes and aesthetics of Noémi Büchl’s mutable modular suite ‘Matière’ on Swiss label Light of Other Days, Oron’s first solo album, proper, follows his nose for rugged rhythms and the sort of timbres that make the mouth water. Over the course of its six tracks he gets right inside the machine’s mind to eke out its singular voice, deployed in various forms oscillating from bucolic sci-fi scenery to grubbing, Afro-rhythmic syncopation, and bolshier technoid primitivism.
Key to proceedings is Oron’s background in hip hop and dance musics, which patently informs the record’s rhythmic procession in its highlights of thistly, thumb piano-like rhythmelody in ‘Gold Yellow’, and with a swingeing electro-steppers heft on ‘Black Brown’ possibly destined for experimental club DJs, while ‘Purple Black’ sends us reeling with what sounds like a possessed Sufi ritual music, all blazing horns and dervish drums.
Radical “discomposer” Klein renders her naturally avant slant on classical paradigms with utterly captivating results featuring guest vox by Charlotte Church for the Pentatone label. A massive RIYL Alice Coltrane, Actress, Robert AA Lowe, Wanda Group, Yvette Janine Jackson, Mark Leckey.
Five years since her cult first release ‘Only’ sent everyone reeling, Klein is now clearly one of the most thrilling figures in new music. ‘Harmattan’ is her perfectly unexpected but logically Queen like move into classical music, offering a more pronounced and quietly profound example of her string arrangements set in diaphanous ambient/electro-acoustic space, and only occasionally dusted with her vocal sorcery, beside a guest appearance by rogue angel Charlotte Church and London-based grime MC, Jawnino. Aye, rub your peepers again and give yourself a lil pinch as ‘Harmattan’ unfolds one of the most hypnotic dream sequences of 2021; a beguiling and confounding high water mark of any genre.
Forming a “personal journey from childhood to now, titled after the West African season”, Klein’s executive aesthetic decision to mostly do away with drums and location recordings in ‘Harmattan’ results in what theorist and poet Fred Moten describes as “a soundtrack of epic revolt against beginnings and ends.” The links to her usual gospel, R&B and grime touchstones are felt more implied, even psychically charged, as the recording unfurls from angular, jabbed keys in ‘For Solo Piano’, thru scenes of devotional woodwind thizzed with fireworks on ‘Roc,’ to effusive Delian synth modes in ‘Champions’, with track titles such as ‘Not A Gangster But Still From Endz’ and ‘Trapping In C Major’ more literally locating her music’s background, and no doubt giving us chuckles to see this on a *proper* classical label run by former heads of Universal and Philips Classics labels.
Front to back the album is a lowkey head-melting upending of convention. Mysteriously working in space between instrumental and electronic dimensions, the palpable acoustic textures of her first pieces give way to increasingly detached and enigmatic tones of distant orchestral percussion recalling Yvette Janine Jackson’s approach in the transition from ‘Trapping…’ to ‘Unknown Opps’, and from alien tones to Alice Coltrane-like cosmic symphonic in ‘The Haunting of Grace’, with seven minute centrepiece ‘Ray’ extending to more ambiguous, cinematic drone horizons, and the nerve-tweaking turn of phrase in ‘Made for Ibadan’ gives way to her curdled duet with Chazza Church on the exceptionally spellbinding highlight ’Skyfall.’
You can probably tell we’re a bit taken with this one, so we’ll stop short of over hyping and let you take it all in in your own time. But suffice it to say; it’s magisterial, life affirming stuff that’s bound to light up the weirdos but also transcend classical music’s putative audience. Seriously, bravo!
Finally reissued, 2004's "The Dead Texan" is a weightless audiovisual collaboration between Stars of the Lid's Adam Wiltzie and Christina Vantzou. Soft-focus, melancholy guitar drones have rarely sounded so entrancing >> literally the roots of Celer, Eluvium, Benoît Pioulard et al.
Back in the early '00s, Adam Wiltzie - then based in Belgium - connected with Christina Vantzou to devise a record that was a few paces from Stars of the Lid's blurry, dreamworld minimalism. A selection of 11 of his smeared, widescreen pieces (lovingly drawn using piano, guitar and electronics) were paired with 11 short visual pieces from Vantzou, and the resulting album pre-empted both the contemporary trend for audio/visual releases and the obsession with nostalgic, beatless music. At the time, Wiltzie revealed that he thought the music was too aggressive for Stars of the Lid, but don't get it twisted - this isn't grumbly power ambient. Wiltzie's perceived aggression has to be seen against Stars of the Lid's "The Tired Sounds of Stars of the Lid", a career-high double album that's as delicate as a whisper wrapped in silk and packed down with cotton wool.
Comparatively, "The Dead Texan" puts its cards on the table: piano motifs anchor many of the tracks, accompanied by swelling orchestral guitar drones and evocative, rumbling bass. Rather than attempt to reference the ambivalent surrealism of David Lynch's cinematic world as he did with Stars of the Lid, Wiltzie leans into the spiritual levity of Terrence Malick. It's music that makes sense when you consider his background. Every time you think it might go over the top, Wiltzie pulls it back, teasing his own limits.
Listening two decades later, the album still sounds relevant. And while there are a litany of artists who have attempted to mine this same musical seam, few have reached the high water mark set by "The Dead Texan". Romantic, effusive and desperately mired in a sense of frustrated longing that's only more palpable in a time of global chaos.
Landing light and fragrant on the mind, Seoul’s Salamanda grace NYC’s Human Pitch with an airspun follow-up to their ambient snacks for GMT and Métreon
After charming with ‘Allez!’ for Good Morning Tapes, the duo coax their rhythmelodic eastern percussions and vox into a lather of gently hiccupping structures on ‘ashbalkum’, their 3rd album to date. Echoing aspects of Korean classical music as much as Japanese environmental ambient concerns, their lissom sound is redolent of of Woo’s lilting confections and the fragility of Susuma Yokota, but packs a subtle, underlying swagger of their own where it matters, lending a fine balance of ying/yang energies that may well equalise heads in need, and suggest a purpose intended for both armchairs and ambient dancefloors.
Nimbly swaying between ambient downbeat froth and prevailing currents of dembow, Salamanda veil their slinky impulses with a gorgeous harmonic lightshow of tuned percussions and nuanced synth and vocal hues. The fantasy begins with breathy coos and aqueous, laminal textures in ‘Overdose’ that slosh into puckered, Reichian melodic phrasing on ‘Melting Hazard’, and given weight with the ruder swang of ‘Rumble Bumble’ that gives a calm but insistent momentum to the album; from its almost early Wild Bunch or DJ Krush vibes on ‘Coconut warrior’ thru the pan-slosh dembow of ‘Hard Luck Story’, to the dream motion evinced by ‘Kiddo Caterpillar’, and Susumu Yokota-like twinkle of ‘Catching Tails’.
First legit reissue of two mbaqanga classics from 1971, including the cut plagiarised in 1981 by Malcolm McLaren and Bow Wow Wow as “Jungle Boy”.
"This 7" spotlights the country’s premier mbaqanga girl group, the Mahotella Queens, and one of the most memorable singles the group ever produced. With its pulsating rhythm, sunny guitar phrases and resonant close harmony, “Umculo Kawupheli” (“The music never ends”) celebrates music as a source of joy and healing. Within a year of its release, the single had surpassed sales of 25,000 units, earning the group yet another gold disc. The tune was included on at least three Queens LPs over the next year and also formed the core of two documentary films about the group.
The reach and influence of “Umculo Kawupheli” spread far beyond its intended destination. In 1981, the song was plagiarised note-for-note by punk rock manager Malcolm McLaren, who replaced the meaningful isiZulu words with soundalike English gibberish to create “Jungle Boy (See Jungle)” for his new wave band Bow Wow Wow. The song’s origins were not acknowledged and all composing royalties went to McLaren and the artists.
After McLaren more flagrantly lifted additional mbaqanga songs for his solo 1983 record Duck Rock, the fledgling Earthworks label brought the plagiarisms to light by licensing 1974’s Umculo Kawupheli compilation for the Western market as Duck Food. Two further releases – the Earthworks compilation The Indestructible Beat of Soweto and Paul Simon’s Graceland – resulted in the first overseas tours by the Queens, ensuring the wider world was able to hear authentic mbaqanga as originally intended, directly from the pioneers of the style.’”
Completely unexpected and striking slowcore pop vapors from Ellen Arkbro, who teams up with renowned Swedish pianist Johan Graden for an album of delicately downtempo songs led by Arkbro's emotional, smoky vocals. RIYL Stina Nordenstam, Jessica Bailiff, Low, Movietone, Emiliana Torrini.
If you heard Ellen Arkbro's chilly 2017 debut "For Organ and Brass", you'll know how confounding the Swedish composer's music can be. Like her friends and contemporaries Kali Malone and Maria W Horn, Arkbro is able to bring an unexpected level of warmth and humanity to music that deals with heady, academic themes. "I get along without you very well" features Johan Graden, an in-demand pianist who's currently based in Amman, making for an unusual set of pop songs that might surprise Arkbro's regular listeners.
An active member of the Jordanian experimental pop scene, Graden brings an uncomplicated, soothing weightlessness to his playing that immediately draws you in. 'Close' wheezes calmly, with breathy woodwind wisping over plucked high register double bass and cautious organ groans, but it's Arkbro's voice that's the revelation here: comforting and assured, it lightly cuts through the delicate instrumentation. The closest parallels might be Susanna Wallumrød's expertly sedated avant-pop or Jessica Bailiff's euphoric half-speed smolders - Arkbro and Graden sound similarly driven by loose-but-technical lounge jazz modalities and narcotic early '00s indie ooze.
The duo continue in this groove guided by an effortless charm that speaks to the power of their friendship. The more melancholy moments - like 'Out of luck' or the brassy 'Temple' - balance the atmosphere with Arkbro's levitational magic. Her vocals are powerfully present - never hesitant or shy, but calm, collected and oddly tactile. When she does lean in, as she does on the piano-led 'Other side', she sounds as if she's singing into a close mic in an intimate cabaret, as a spotlight picks out the detail from the room's omnipresent mist. Her voice is delicately imperfect, cracking as she intones and reminding us of the human splendor that's present when you step away from digital precision. Lovely.
Convincingly bleak, high-minded material from composer and sound artist Siavash Amini in collaboration with author Eugene Thacker. Claustrophobic, heavily processed doomdrones for anyone into Helm, Félicia Atkinson or Yann Novak.
Unfathomably prolific, Amini has released over 20 albums in the last decade, and "Songs for Sad Poets" follows his Hallowed Ground-released "TAR" and "FORAS". Here he teams up with New York-based poet Thacker, a writer whose poetry and philosophical works are intertwined. It's solid inspiration for Amini, who uses sound to interpret Thacker's poetry: none of the poems are read out loud on the tracks, but Amini's sonic treatments are meant to correspond to the words. The album is informed by the legacy of cursed poets ("poètes maudits") and the German-language tradition of song cycles, but despite being so steeped in history and tradition it doesn't take a handful of Masters degrees to get yer head around this one.
Amini is a gifted engineer, and uses processed instruments, field recordings and blasted electronics to create a constantly-moving atmosphere that sounds poetic without succumbing to the usual airs and graces.
Ian William Craig turns in an emotionally pulpous soundtrack to quantum theory-inspired video-game Magnesium_173. Somewhere between Sigur Ros, Lyra Pramuk and William Basinski.
Vancouver-based singer and composer Ian William Craig has been turning out elegiac beauties for a decade now, alternating between Sean McCann's ace Recital imprint and FatCat's 130701. "Music for Magnesium_173" draws Craig in a slightly different direction, having been written to accompany the Steam-released "Magnesium_173", an independent video-game from Graham Johnson released last summer. Heavily delayed while in development, the game was stalled back in 2018 leading Craig to release the "Thresholder" EP with material originally intended for the score. He subsequently wrote new tracks which were lost when his computer was stolen; this final set of tracks was constructed using some remaining stems and old Logic projects.
Inspired by quantum mechanics, the game itself is a puzzler that expects the player to explore its unconventional world, so was designed with the music in mind as a crucial part of the experience. Craig approaches the challenge by creating a coherent musical landscape that plays to his strengths. His vocals are the emotional core, backed up by modular synth drones processed with tape saturation and mechanical grit. The early tracks, like soaring opener 'Blue Suit Glitch' and 'Viridian' do a good job of setting the scene, dissolving Sigur Ros-style coos into ferric muck and the occasional oscillator freakout. But it's when the album settles into its own pace that it hits its peak: 'Sentimental Drift' is the eye of the duck, a slow-moving choral micro-epic that burns with the frothy passion of Lyra Pramuk's "Fountain", complete with with tear-inducing bass harmonies.
Wickedly offbeat techno pressure from Alex Tsiridis on Blawan & Pariah’s label
So ye, after just finding out that we’ve been playing Rhyw’s last EP for his and Mor Elian’s Fever AM at the wrong speed in clubs for months now (sounds fucking class at 100bpm, though!), the ‘Honey Badger’ EP hauls ass at a pacier clip with four cuts of skudgy techno pressure that we imagine will also swill a good crowd on the wrong or right speeds, too.
‘Honey Badger’ whips it on a scudding techno title with razor-cut edit stutters to unknot your knobbly knees, and ’Sharknado’ in particular sounds like sped up futurist dembow-dancehall, adjacent current NAAFI cuts. ‘Kirkhusa’ comes on a tangier, broken acid swivel with squirrelly synth details, and ‘Foamcore’ works out like his Voam labelmate Peder Mannerfelt on a sort of busy soca/UKF-techno flex.
Mind Against's mix for Fabric.
"Mind Against’s gift is for creating emotion through the synths and percussive instruments in their studio where their slick, moving take on techno makes for a special kind of peak across festivals and club dancefloors. Their mix for fabric draws on the psychedelic hooks of 1980s soundtracks and modern dance music’s emphasis on sound design to create a distinctive and immensely powerful compilation. Eleven exclusive tracks grace the eighteen track comp – tunes all matched by the melodic genre and written by friends of the Fognini brothers. The standout track of the mix is the closing number – a transcendent collaborative effort between Mind Against and young innovator Dyzen."
50th Anniversary re-edition of Join Inn, the fourth album by Ash Ra Tempel, originally recorded in 1973.
"In 1972 Ash Ra Tempel teamed up with Klaus Schulze during the recording of Walter Wegmüller's Tarot album, and after one of the recording sessions, Ash Ra Trempel members: Enke, Göttsching and Rosi, together with Klaus decided to "play it again" in a late night session. This recording led to the birth of the “Join Inn” album, as well as two legendary last concerts in February 1973 in Paris and Cologne.
As for the music itself we again refer to Julian Cope´s review from his book “Krautrocksampler” (published by Head Heritage, 1st ed. 1995):
""Freak’n’roll” fades in like it never started - just was always there from the beginning of time, a dry wah-guitar freerock riff-out unlike any of the other Ash Ra Tempel LPs, and not much like any other music. Yes, there are bluesy riff but none of them have a blues context. Manuel Gottsching’s guitar is so confident that he sometimes drops down to a simple major chord groove, whilst the Hawk pushes that round woody bass into strange overlapping rumbling melody. And ... it’s the return of Klaus Schulze on drums which propels “Freak’n’roll” to its height. No-one but Klaus has the ability to transcend rock’n’roll in such an on-the-beat non-groove-y way and still send sparks of light into the cosmos as he does it. “Freak’n’roll” is so egoless that it even works at a quiet volume as meditational music. Themes rise from the high tempo pulse beat, then are carried along the muscles of the song into the main area where the riff actually becomes real and expressionist for just long enough before slipping back into the musical fabric of the song.
As usual with Ash Ra Tempel, the other side is an enormous drift piece called “Jenseits (The Next World)”, a beautiful Klaus Schultze meditation of haunting synthesizer chords over which Rosi Muller tells the story of the Cosmic Couriers’ meeting with Timothy Leary. Gradually, the pulsing guitar becomes increasingly intense and turbulent, but Rosi never sounds less than freaked out. Essentially, “Jenseits” is a precursor to Klaus Schulze’s later spacey minor-key grooves."
Staggering, career-defining work from Norwegian vanguard Helge Sten (aka Deathprod), who drives relentlessly forward on this illuminating new tome, using Harry Partch's extremely rare metal and glass instruments to pen a major new work that’s been years in the making and somehow resets modern experimental mores. Truly one of the most exceptional, most unclassifiable albums we've heard in ages - one that does a rare thing of having immediate impact - only to further expand deeper into the psyche with every listen. If yr into anything from Harry Bertoia to Harry Partch to Hindustani Classical music or Michael O'Shea - it’s crucial listening.
When Helge Sten was a teenager, he found himself drawn to the outsider experiments of American theorist and instrument builder Harry Partch. He went on to study electronic music at art school, and by the age of 20 was already recording music using homemade electronic instruments and tape machines that helped define the term "dark ambient", despite it existing a few paces outside of the genre's now-established modes. Sten was not academically trained in music theory or acoustic instrumentation, but instead developed listening and production skills that established him as a cult figure in the Norwegian music scene, performing in genre-agnostic ensemble Supersilent and engineering a grip of by-now classic releases for the Rune Grammofon and Smalltown Supersound labels. All of this experience plays into Sten's latest album "Sow Your Gold in the White Foliated Earth" - the most ambitious and bewildering record of his career so far.
Sten might not have done it on purpose, but it sounds as if this album is an attempt to course-correct an experimental landscape that's been plateaued by aesthetic repetition and gobby purposelessness. Crucially, there's very little to link this album to Sten's classic (and endlessly referenced) plates like 2004's doomy "Morals and Dogma" or 1994's "Treetop Drive" other than pure vibes. The wavering, murky oscillations are all but gone, replaced by sonorous clangs and dulcimer-like hammered strings. Sten concocts a brew of complex, mysterious tonality and rich, scientifically-engineered textures that harmonises with a contemporary wave of artists exploring non-standard tuning and pre-baroque instrumentation, while simultaneously pushing the sound into a new epoch. It's really that good.
Sten's starting point for the record came in 2014, when Oslo's Ultima Festival granted him access to Harry Partch's collection of custom-made instruments. Partch's primary interest was in microtonality, a reaction against the Western standard of equal temperament. When the Western hierarchy decreed that music should be standardised using 12 intervals, we lost a system of emotional expression that we've not fully managed to claw back. And while plenty of artists have attempted to break down that system, it's still a controlling - often invisible - force that limits our prospects as artists and listeners: even our contemporary technology is invariably soft-locked into following a system that's no longer materially relevant.
While many 20th century avant-garde composers tried to modify the equal temperament system, Harry Partch was fascinated by a different method of tuning entirely: just (or pure) intonation, an ancient system that allows a much larger number of intervals. More recently, artists like Mark Fell, Kali Malone, Duane Pitre, Caterina Barbieri, Ellen Arkbro - even Aphex Twin - have experimented rigorously with just intonation, helping to re-introduce it into the modern experimental lexicon. And while microtonality isn't alien to non-Western forms such as Chinese, Middle Eastern or Indian classical music, it breaks down the logic of Western hegemony to hint at a flexibility that opens the floodgates for complex emotional expression.
Partch's instruments use 43 intervals, which gives players access to a rich spread of microtones to experiment with. This was a fascinating challenge for Sten's collaborators, the Cologne-based Ensemble Musikfabrik, who were compelled to re-train themselves to play in this mode, even going through the costly and intricate process of assembling an entire set of Partch's instruments. 'Sow Your Gold in the White Foliated Earth' isn't a recording from the shows, but Sten's audio score. He sat with the material for years, and slowly fell in love with its unblemished, unhurried and chillingly dry purity; a snapshot of Sten interfacing with history.
It's impossible not to be moved by the scope of 'Sow Your Gold In The White Foliated Earth', and it's not crucial to have any level of academic training to notice its overlaid nuances - for Sten himself the project was a ritualistic rather than an intellectual endeavour. As a seasoned minimalist and composer, Sten is able to give the instruments space to breathe without ever overdramatising their impact, and as a sonic philosopher he's able to broadcast a musical worldview that's not stifling, nostalgic or familiar, but completely new - rejuvenating even. We've had this one on repeat since it landed on our desks some weeks ago and have been ruined by its seemingly endless hidden layers, slowly revealing themselves with each new listen. For our money. it’s unquestionably one of the most startling, satisfying records of recent times.
Grittily iridescent ambient billow from Canada’s Steve Bates, rendering maximalist panoramas from a mix of lo-fi Casio SK-1 sampled textures and organ recordings made in Chile.
‘All The Things That Happen’ is Bates’ sixth solo album since 2006, and first for Montreal’s Constellation. It richly resonates the label’s explorative, emotive aesthetics with an innovative, experimental approach done at the service of resoundingly sore arrangements where grand harmonic movements struggle against the self-imposed limitations of his equipment. The 9 pieces seethe with feeling, red-lining his structures to the bitrate limits of the SK-1, beloved by many for its integral bite and texture, pulping results that recall the absorbing ambient noise of Andrew Chalk as much as Emeralds’ free-jazzed kosmiche synth noise.
“"This was supposed to be an ambient record; quiet, minimal and sad. These tracks all started off that way but I kept reaching for more texture and noise. Somehow the noisier the record got, the less sad it was also. I was listening to, and loving, a lot of music by Andrew Chalk and I had finished a year-long run of listening to Eno’s Ambient 1 and 4. I prefer On Land to Music for Airports although I love both. On Land just has a darkness and uncertainty that appeals to me. Adding more noise also got me excited about ways this material could be played live even though it also felt like that could never happen again. In 2022, I opened for Godspeed You! Black Emperor in Saskatoon to give it a try and was pleasantly pleased to hear it all live and loud."
A fixture of Winnipeg's burgeoning anarcho-punk and social justice community in the 80s-90s, Bates played in hardcore and indie rock bands (XOXO, Bulletproof Nothing) while contemporaneously continuing to fiddle obsessively with the shortwave radio his father bought him as a child — sensibilities that continue to meld and inform his sound work to this day. Bates founded the Send + Receive Festival in 1998, a crucial development in putting Winnipeg on the map for avant music and experimental sound art, which he helmed for seven years. Moving to Tiohti:áke/Montréal in 2005 he took on the Sound Coordinator position at Hexagram (Concordia University), released solo and duo work on ORAL_records and two albums with his Black Seas Ensemble on The Dim Coast, while pursuing myriad other ongoing audio research, installation and collaborative projects. His exhibition and site-specific works have been presented throughout North America and Europe, Chile and Senegal.”
Barely conscious beauty from Dutch experimental ambient duo Muziekkamer, resurfacing from a sought-after 1982 tape via Belgium’s divine Stroom label
'Op Zee’ works its magic in the gentlest loops of faded synth filament and sedimental/sentimental ferric froth that could happily be played on repeat until the sandman comes. Secreted somewhere in the imagination next to Zoviet France, it shares something of a forlorn North Sea romantic allure that’s dead close to our hearts and does tingling things to the back of our head.
A real no brainer for anyone chasing the dragon of ambient musick’s most elusive yet quietly affective tendrils.
Nils Frahm returns with a new album, Music For Animals, his first fresh studio material since 2018’s ‘All Melody’ and 2019’s associated ‘All Encores’.
"Containing ten tracks and clocking in at over three hours long, it’s an ambitious and compelling set different to anything Frahm’s released to date – in fact, it finds the Piano Day founder declining to use a piano – but at the same time retains many of the qualities that have set the influential musician’s work apart over much of the last two decades.
Unfolding at an unhurried, meditative pace in a celebration of tone, timbre and texture – and thus of sound itself –Music For Animals offers an unusually immersive experience. “My constant inspiration,” Frahm explains, “was something as mesmerising as watching a great waterfall or the leaves on a tree in a storm. It’s good we have symphonies and music where there’s a development, but a waterfall doesn’t need an Act 1, 2, 3, then an outcome, and nor do the leaves on a tree in a storm. Some people like watching the leaves rustle and the branches move. This record is for them”.
Music For Animals is a substantial collection that encourages listeners to bask in its tranquility at their chosen depth, demanding only as much attention as they wish to contribute. As Frahm himself happily points out, “It all comes back to that waterfall. If you want to watch it, watch it. If you don’t, then you don’t have to. It will always be the same, yet never quite the same.” Indeed, that’s Music For Animals’ greatest strength. Instantly recognisable, it’s still like nothing else."
Tresor’s 300th release is a 15 track anthology of the Scopex label, a hugely coveted late ‘90s UK electro imprint whose releases by Simulant and Pollon now fetch triple figures for 2nd hand copies. When this set was announced a few weeks back, we could practically hear the collective relief of a thousand night owl neeks hooting at the moon and salivating at the prospect of fresh vinyl editions of Simm City, Out OfEther, and Electratech, all newly remastered from DATs and included here inside.
Right up there next to classic Drexciyan Storms and the black secret technologies of Ultradyne in the pantheon of 3rd/4th wave electro, Scopex releases defined ’90s electro at its tightest and mercurial best with a blend of razor sharp production and concise, sci-fi vision that’s rarely been surpassed.
In chronological order, you’ll find diamond-cut new pressings of Simulant’s Simm City , which is perhaps most noted for its Stinson-esque strengths in New Machines and the rare charms of Musical Box, or the low-lying missile Wav. Form (Mix), before Out Of Ether  dispenses some of the nastiest electro-funk to come from the UK in Knife Edge and the clenched swing of Access Future Audio (Mix).
Pollon’s Electratech  follows to open the 3rd disc with the tense angles of Lost Souls, as deployed by Objekt on his Kern Vol.3 mix for Tresor, and also included in a banging alternate Mix beside the epic Lonely Planet, while the previously unreleased, slow-mo sci-fi electro grunge of Optimal Flow completes the set and sees the label to its final resting place in one piece.
Come git it!
Barry Adamson is something of a Manchester legend – born and raised in Moss Side, he has since gone on to play with legendary punk rockers Magazine, he was a founder member of Nick Cave’s Bad Seeds and since 1988 has had a successful solo career.
Adamson first came into my radar in 1996 though, when his tracks were used on David Lynch’s Lost Highway soundtrack and this was just what I wanted to hear; dark, smokey jazz crossed with electronics which avoided the dreaded ‘trip-hop’ tag. The focus of the album is still intact; smoky and cinematic, each track seems to approach a different genre, yet keeps a certain mysterious edge about it which links the record together. There’s a narrative too, not least thanks to the spoken word section which ushers us into the record, but it plays as a film should, from beginning to end – and while some tracks work dramatically better than others, each is part of a welcome whole.