BADBADNOTGOOD return with their new album, "Talk Memory", a psychedelic jazz record that explores balance and harmony through musical improvisation.
"Collaborators include legendary composer Arthur Verocai and contemporary icons such as Terrace Martin, Karriem Riggins and Laraaji."
Piero Umiliani's 1975 album Continente Nero.
""Continente Nero" is the perfect flip side of "Africa" (1972), an album that significantly expanded Piero Umiliani's music perspectives, incorporating partially explored rhythmic variations already used in "Percussioni ed Effetti Speciali" and "To-Day's Sound". It does so by taking inspiration from a tradition that starts from the divine Fela Kuti and reaches the amateur and field recordings by musicologists such as David Toop, but also from the Afro- American jazz history of Art Ensemble of Chicago, John Coltrane, Max Roach and hundreds of others."
Timeless, cinematic atmospheres from Belgian bass clarinetist Ben Bertrand, reprising the classic feel of his 2020 side for Stroom with results tipped to fans of Elodie, Blaine L. Reininger, CV & JAB
Trailing in the smoky wake of last year’s ‘Manes’, Bertrand picks up again in airy art house cinema-soundtrack like zones on ‘Dokkaebi’ with five parts that convect the feeling of lofty Brussels apartments and echoic hallways cobwebbed with melancholy melody. It’s a music for luxuriating in contemplation, allowing oneself to be carried away on the glacial contours and vaporous contrails of Bertrand’s bass clarinet, and likewise the exquisitely low-key and lowlit backdrops supplied by Christina Vantzou, Geoffrey Burton, Indré Jurgeleviciuté, and Echo Collective: Margaret Hermant & Neil Leiter, Otto Lindholm.
The first two pieces ideally establish the timelessness of Bertrand’s music with referential nod to c.20th titan Cage’s latter, harmonic works in ‘The Nixe of John Cage’s River’, while ‘O Ignee Spiritus’ more literally uses a Hildegard Von Bingen melody sung to haunting effect, both conveying the scope of his practice. ‘Zeme’ however feels more in a vein of experimental chamber music akin to Christian Vantzou;s work with CV & JAB, and ‘Sora no’ follows the subtle electronic tones to gaze out on a star blanketed canvas, with a barely-there haze of laminal vocal timbres and elliptical clarinet in ‘The Aurae Loops’ glowing at the end and beckoning to repeat the experience.
Anyone nesting their coming autumn listening playlist needs to give this one a whirl.
Spunky wave pops from early ‘80s Germany, portraying the sound of the country’s first proper youth movement via bullets by Andreas Dorau, Conrad Schnitzler, Der Plan, Palais Schaumburg, Xao Seffcheque, Die Partei, Asmus Tietchens, Holger Hiller, Populäre Mechanik ++
Rifled from the considerable cabinet of Bureau B, ‘Eins und Zwei und Drei und Vier’ surveys those artists who bloomed in the fallout of ‘70s punk, spanning what became known as NDW (Neue Deutsche Welle) and paralleling post-punk and No wave movements elsewhere, up to the advent of home computing and the whole house phenomenon. OK, Germany had “krautrock” and kosmiche before this lot, that they could safely call their own music, and differed from both their parent’s music and Anglo-British styles, but that was never really a full on youth movement, to the extent that this stuff became. Bending aspects of punk, funk, and early industrial styles with everything from steel drums and cod-reggae, to dadaist tendencies, the youth of early ‘80s Germany put their own stamp on music with equal measures of spunk and ludicrousness that’s gone on to influence countless others.
If you’re after exemplary highlights, run check for the phet-twitch of Moritz Von Oswald, Thomas Fehlmann, Holger Hiller and co’s Palais Schaumburg zinger ‘Wir bauen eine neue Stadt’ for somethgin of a funky mission statement, and clock Conrad Schnitzler’s vocoder-driven motorik bullet for a bridge between he original kosmiche and techno welts, while Austro-German artist Xao Seffcheque can be relied on for the possessed drive of ‘Sample & Hold’, and Berlin’s Populäre Mechanik trade in killer, brittle funk on ‘Muster’, and the pop-punk spirit is kicking on gems from Die Radierer and the prince of NDW, Andreas Dorau.
Singer and electronic musician James Blake releases his fifth studio album Friends That Break Your Heart.
"A concept album, Friends That Break Your Heart includes 12 tracks with collaborations with SZA, JID, SwaVay, and Monica Martin."
Deerhoof return with a studio album recorded in individual isolation, 'Actually, You Can', on Joyful Noise Recordings.
"Over eighteen boundless albums as experimental as they are pop, Deerhoof has continuously quested for radical sounds and daring storytelling. Galvanized by the challenge of unifying many styles of music, Deerhoof landed on their next record’s concept: baroque gone DIY. Actually, You Can is a genre-abundant record that uses technicolor vibrancy and arpeggiated muscularity to offer a vital shock from capitalism’s purgatorial hold. “In the United States now, to be a moral person means to be a criminal, whether it has to do with a general strike or forming a union or Black Lives Matter protests,” clarifies Saunier of the album’s countercultural embrace of liberation. “If you follow the rules, you’re guilty. That’s the spirit we were trying to express: an angelic prison bust, a glamorous prison bust.” It’s a condemnation of America’s mundanity, replacing violence with the heartfelt power of mutualism.
With state lines and oceans separating band members, Deerhoof not only reinvented their sonic and thematic credo, but also their recording process. Deerhoof’s players are not strangers to home-recording their individual parts, and have long embraced composing via file trading. But 2020’s halt to touring kicked off their longest separation from playing together, foregrounding new priorities. As the group’s combined demos became increasingly layered, bassist and vocalist Satomi Matsuzaki put her foot down, insisting the new album should replicate concert energy. Visualizing the quartet on huge stages with past tourmates Radiohead and Red Hot Chili Peppers, Saunier fugue-arranged his bandmates’ complex demos into songs to make an audience smile and dance. He sought out far-traveling delays, heavy playing, and unique panning to evoke the power of outdoor music. Matsuzaki scrutinized spots that would betray the conceit, eliminating anything that took away from the sound of onstage grandeur. “We spent so much time imagining playing together in the process of recording, it’s almost like a false memory of us playing this music together,” Saunier marvels.
For Deerhoof’s members to continually uncover new corners of their own talent requires deep wells of gratitude, not only for each others’ creativity but for the freedom their career affords. But by embracing each other’s art with curiosity, Deerhoof authors a musical alphabet that continues to astound and inspire, a unique lexicon expanding limitlessly with each album. For new listeners and decades-long devotees, Deerhoof’s electrifying, generous approach to collaborative worldbuilding on Actually, You Can is an emboldening call to support our communities with renewed strength, infinite love, and the resilience to keep exploring."
After appearing on more than 400 albums as a sideman and session player, multifaceted guitarist and instrument collector Geir Sundstøl released trilogy of his own compositions. Now he is back, with a follow-up to Norwegian Grammy-/Spellemannpris- winning album Brødløs.
"St.Hanshaugen Steel offers an extraordinarily wide range of genre references, and takes us further into Sundstøl’s original and distinctive soundscapes. With clear cinematic features, Sundstøl displays an ever impressing variety of instruments, sliding from the deep and rough bass harmonica to the sharp, circus-like marxophone. In between, multiple layers of glimmering steel. guest appearances by the angelic Sølvguttene boys’ choir bring utter goose bumps, while other parts of St.Hanshaugen Steel might induce the darker chills of Nordic Noir."
Official reissue of Ryo Fukui’s only solo piano album, recorded in 1994.
"Sourced from the original masters, this intimate offering from the Japanese jazz legend is available on limited edition 180 gram vinyl mastered at half speed for full audiophile sound, as well as on digipack CD. Both formats come with liner notes by Yusuke Ogawa.
Originally released on CD only by Sapporo Jazz Create in 1994, My Favorite Tune is a beautiful bop adventure which includes two superb compositions that Ryo Fukui wrote as an homage to his belo-ved Hokkaido region, the fan-favorite “Nord” and “Voyage”, a tribute to his mentor Barry Harris ("No-body’s"), alternate versions of his mega classics “Scenery” and “Mellow Dream”, and, last but not least, bewitching takes on timeless gems by Sonny Clark and Avery Parrish.
My Favorite Tune plays like a cool summer night, full of contemplative notes and deep feelings, with Ryo Fukui baring his heart on the piano and displaying the soulful sophistication he is loved for. A true masterpiece completing his amazing discography."
Trunk celebrates 25 years of uniquely British eccentricity with this wyrd and wonderful set of unreleased gems and better-known catalog classics. Newly discovered sounds from Basil Kirchin's tape archive and - oh yeah - an unreleased cut from Delia Derbyshire make this one indispensable.
This sprawling 33-track compilation highlights the imprint's idiosyncratic accent; it's unmistakably British - snippets from Dudley Simpson's unforgettable "The Tomorrow People" soundtrack and Marc Wilkinson's "Blood On Satan's Claw" OST assure us of that - but zeroes in on the dusty jumble sale quirkiness that's slowly been lost to time.
Nothing makes that more clear than the overdubbed sleaze funk of 'Car Boot Sex Tape' or the vibe-led 'Sunbeam' from Kenny Graham And His Satellites. And since it's a celebration of all things Trunk, there are some surprises in store: a short synth jam from Delia Derbyshire, snipped from a Madelon Hooykaas/Elsa Stansfield film; and freshly sourced sounds from Basil Kirchin's tape archive. Other standout moments are more familiar: John Cameron's title music from "Kes", Tristram Cary's shuffling synth nursery rhyme 'The Electron's Tale' and John Baker's psychedelic 'JB Dubs'.
The third LP from San Francisco's Cindy, "1:2".
"Cindy is a band built around the singing and guitar playing of Karina Gill. She became a musician only recently, having sat on the sidelines while ex-partners and friends made their stabs at it. Gill describes a chance encounter with an abandoned Squire Strat left in the basement by a previous tenant, “mummified in electrical tape with the remnants of a burrito on the head stock”, that led her to begin carefully strumming her way through simple chords and making her own songs. After one interesting self-released LP, still finding their footing, the band made the masterful and buzzed-about Free Advice, which went from a limited cassette on local SF label Paisley Shirt to vinyl pressings on Tough Love (UK) and Mt St Mtn (USA).
Cindy’s third LP arrives in quick succession, the quietly devastating 1:2. Jesse Jackson on bass, Simon Phillips on drums and Aaron Diko on keyboards weave the perfectly thin web behind Gill’s slow Velvety strums and murmured melodies. The rhythm section brings the crude flow, while the keys add subtle and surreal counterpoint to the withering world Gill depicts in her lyrics. “Songs tie together seemingly disparate things by the logic of mood,” Gill tries to explain. This isn’t dream-pop sunshine bliss; half-closed black drapes hang on the window where the narrator stares into the middle distance. “Sometimes you say you’re feeling small/You plan all day for your own funeral”, she intones in Party Store. Gill has a way of halting her phrasing that makes it feel like her thoughts are gently tumbling into the abyss. It’s this unsettling quality mixed with the hazy atmosphere that makes Cindy’s new LP 100% addicting and the perfect antidote to comfort listening."
Neo-modernist Mark Fisher acolyte Lee Gamble finally polishes off his ambitious conceptual triptych with a brace of dusty, pensive re-realizations of wyrd dance, hyperreal ambient and warp'd web 3.0 doomsignalling >> proper gurglers fer dissident ravers inside.
Back in 2019 (which at this point feels like about a decade ago) Lee Gamble began his most ambitious project to date, a three-part album that would weave together the loose threads of his varied and often polar back catalog. The conceptual framework was "semioblitz": “the aggressive onslaught of visual & sonic stimuli of contemporary cities and virtual spaces.”
And while we received two weighty transmissions - "In A Paraventral Scale" and "Exhaust" - the third and final piece of the puzzle never appeared, until now. "Flush Real Pharynx 2019-2021" compiles those acclaimed first parts and adds an ample chunk of new material, bringing Gamble's 4K flicker of scanline drone and inverted post-'nuum rhythmic tweakage bang into the post-COVID-19 reality.
If the first two pieces of the puzzle were relatively hopeful ('n brutally cynical) flashes of our capitalism-warped reality, Gamble's new material feels checker'd by dislocated sadness. Given the project's CCRU-wave roots, this makes some kind of perverted sense, and Gamble's use of mucky haunted piano ('Empty Middle Seat') and machine-grade halfstep ('Newtown Got Folded') anchors the nu material in a pensive half-remembered backtopia.
The glinting, polished shimmer of "In A Paraventral Scale" and "Exhaust" is almost gone now, obscured by endless months of digital dust and mental anguish. Transport has stopped, AI has been subverted, and the MDMA rush is completely solipsistic in isolation: what's a contemporary city exactly when u compare 2019 with 2021? Now Gamble casts his mind into the future and channels cracks of light into a new reality's stifling darkness. Who knows what's next, but we ain't going backwards.
Explosions In The Sky’s first soundtrack since 2014.
"Following nearly two years of global touring in support of their adventurous and acclaimed album, The Wilderness (2016), Explosions In The Sky paused on the future to reflect on the past. Celebrating their 20th year as a band with a pair of remastered reissues of early beloved classics – How Strange, Innocence (2000) and The Rescue (2005) – they embarked on a memorable series of anniversary concerts in 2019. It was around then that Explosions In The Sky was approached to craft the score to a new documentary about a place with which, as native Texans, they were very familiar: Big Bend National Park.
That documentary, Big Bend: The Wild Frontier of Texas, premiered on PBS in the United States as well as on a variety of networks in other countries in early 2021. The hour-long film intimately follows the lives of native animals amid expansive aerial views of the iconic desert landscape that makes up one of the grandest natural wonders in the world. The band set these sights to an inspired, melodic, and meaningful blend of acoustic guitar, slide guitar, strings, piano, bells, and drums that feels as alive and diverse--and vast and lonely--as the place it depicts.
Big Bend (An Original Soundtrack for Public Television) takes that mesmerizing score and recontextualizes it as a standalone album. Those brief cues have been expanded and transformed into a thoughtful, gorgeous full-length album that recalls some of the band’s most magical and memorable moments from their storied history.
Big Bend: The Wild Frontier of Texas is a film that explores the past and present of the vast, complicated landscape that still holds countless mysteries yet to be uncovered. In Big Bend (An Original Soundtrack for Public Television), Explosions In The Sky pursue a similar approach to their own past and present, and find inspiration in all that has yet to be discovered."
Tirzah's second album is a fuzz'd-aut, narcotic dreamscape, all screwed trip-pop soulfulness and buzzing, chaotic layers of harmonic noize and hazy ambience. An even slower burn than her cult debut, "Colourgrade" is subtly surprising and calmly mindblowing - co-produced again with Mica Levi and Coby Sey plus an additional stealth production job from Kwake Bass & Dean Blunt. Yeah, Next level.
There's something about the way "Colourgrade" was recorded that makes each song sound like a memory, or a blast of familiar warmth from another room. But Tirzah hasn't doused her "Devotion" follow-up in cheap nostalgia or genre signalling. She uses memory as a creative tool, to sketch the outlines of songs and emotions in charcoal before she inks her evolving narrative. This time the songs are broadly structured around motherhood, being written after the birth of her first child and right before the arrival of her second. In her own words, they detail the process of "recovery, gratitude and new beginnings."
Since "Devotion" was released in 2018, we've witnessed a resurgence of interest in lo-glo trip-hop flutter, and since lockdown the home listening mood has been amplified. But Tirzah smartly swerves this obvious route, retaining the soulful downtempo loveliness of her debut but pepping it up with dissociated abstraction, pensive glaciality and smoove, slippery romanticism. In contemplating motherhood and the bond between parent and child, she creates musical swaddling that feels soothing but doesn't resort to cheap thrills.
The title track cracks open the record with timestretched words and rubbery synths melted over brassy bass sounds in arhythmic cacophony. Whistles take over completely and the expected beat never arrives; it's like a soulful acapella injected into a mercifully short psychedelic voyage. Advance single 'Tectonic' offers us the decelerated groove we may have been expecting, with icey cold vocals over downsampled funk that's half '96 Tricky and half '21 Taz & Meeks.
At its best, "Colourgrade" is unsettlingly simple. On its surface the Dean Blunt co-produced 'Recipe' is a stark vocal over a squashed half-speed beat, but repeat listens tear the seal off the tub, letting the prismatic warmth of complex emotionality haze into the atmosphere - it's just so good. The album's longest piece, 'Crepuscular Rays' is also its most uncompromisingly strange, with Tirzah's disembodied, mutated voice dripping like strawberry syrup over creamy phased waves of strummed electric guitar.
One of the most satisfying and consistently surprising records we've heard in 2021 so far, "Colourgrade" feels as sentient and unpredictable as the new lives that inspired it. It's gonna keep on growing.
3 album set from Robert Curgenven: Bardo (longform), SPECTRES and Bronze Lands (Tailte Cré-Umha).
"The 3 albums that comprise this set all, at their heart, concern air and the attendant inter-permeability and fluidity of volumes. Be they discretionary or open volumes, architectural or spatiotemporal, each volume is subject to the specificities of: their resonance; the concomitant movements of volumes of air; their locational context and adjacent spaces. The 3 albums present different harmonic, gestural and durational possibilities to encourage us to step out of the perceptual frameworks that enclose us.
Each album offers a unique instrumental foundation: experimental turntable techniques interwoven with piano & pipe organ harmonics (Bardo); resonant architectural interventions articulated by custom-made oscillators in post-Communist architectures and their locational context (SPECTRES); extended pipe organ techniques with an accompanying soundsystem that plumbs architectural harmonics and corporeal resonances (Bronze Lands). These works entreat us to think and hear beyond the structures enclosing each instrumental- and performance- approach – the turntable body, the architectural, the pipe organ, the speaker enclosure itself, even the confines of an audience as a gathering – and to also consider these longform works as an inter-related suite of aural and conceptual worlds."
Over the last twenty five years Robin Rimbaud – Scanner has traversed the experimental terrain between sound, space and image, connecting a bewilderingly diverse array of genres – a partial list would include sound design, film scores, computer music, avant garde, contemporary composition, large-scale multimedia performances, product design, architecture, fashion design, rock music and jazz.
"‘Fibolae’ offers up a world that splinters between melancholia and penetrating energy. Combining digital technologies, software and live instrumentation it is both a rhetoric of mourning and a celebration of music to empower. Warm, organic, sensual, passionate and frequently angry, it’s an album that radiates with possibilities.
As to the meaning of the title, ‘Fibolae’? There is none. It was a word that appeared to Scanner in a dream, at a time of great challenges in his life. The fact that his unconscious mind could conjure up such inventions that offer no history and context was appealing and yet it was suggestive, playful and open."
Zbigniew Preisner’s super influential soundtrack to Krzysztof Kieslowski’s 'La Double Vie De Veronique’ available on vinyl once again. No schmaltz/overly produced tug-at-the-hearstrings Netflix nonsense here - 100% real deal brilliance.
At one point in time we had the VHS copy of La Double Vie De Veronique stuck inside an old player and subsequently ended up watching it many many dozen times - so its influence here is no doubt magnified, but nonetheless - what a record. If you’ve not seen the film - go do so at once - but irrespective, this score features some of Preisner’s best work, from the mythological 'Van Den Budenmayer’ choral pieces to the exquisite, dappled solo-piano melancholy of 'Les Marionnettes’ and the austere, mournful energy that seeps through each of the ’Theme’ works.
Cinematographer Slawomir Idziak famously used many different shades of yellow filter to elevate the un-real mood of the film, and it translates perfectly to this score - in our opinion an absolute modern great to file next to work by Goran Bregović for Emir Kusturica, Alberto Iglesias for the films of Julio Medem and Nikos Mamangakis’ sprawling work on the Heimat films.
New album by electronica producer Ulrich Schnauss and the Engineers guitarist Mark Peters, 'Destiny Waiving'.
"Hailing from Kiel in North Germany, it's now 20 years since the electronica prodigy Ulrich Schnauss released his debut album. His second, 'A Strangely Isolated Place' cemented his reputation as both a pioneer and an artist who routinely creates inspirational music that is adored by many. As a full time member of Tangerine Dream since 2014, his lifelong passion for their work inspired a creative resurgence for the band, resulting in their most successful new album for over 30 years, 2017's 'Quantum Gate'.
Liverpool born guitarist (and founder of the dream pop outfit Engineers) Mark Peters shared a similar musical path, exploring ambient textures and effect laden songwriting via a series of blissful albums for the band. In 2017 he released his first solo album, 'Innerland' which was enthusiastically received by BBC6 music and later included in Rough Trade's top ten best albums of 2018.
'Destiny Waiving' completes a collaborative trilogy that began with 2011's 'Underrated Silence' and followed by 2013's 'Tomorrow Is Another Day' (Schnauss also became a full time member of Engi-neers at this time). Initial sessions began at Ulrich's East London home studio in early 2017 and final mixes where completed there in late 2020. Despite it's extended conception, most tracks where com-pleted during 2017, in part informed by improvisational sets in London, Dublin and St James' Church in Birmingham (as part of the Seventh Wave electronica festival).
Despite these exercises in exploration, 'Destiny Waiving' is perhaps the most focused and concise collection of all three releases. Ranging in tone from precognitive foreboding to soaring optimism, the album delicately hones a particular atmosphere that is unmistakable in their work."
The Invisible’s lynchpin, Dave Okumu steps out with a suave solo debut album of jazz-sparked hip hop neatly incorporating piano chops by his peer, Duval Timothy and strong nods to J Dilla
After more than a decade of supplying his talents to records by everyone from Amy Winehouse to Ed O’Brien (Radiohead), Tony Allen, Theo Parrish and Jessie Ware (he co-produced/co-wrote her Mercury nominated album, Devotion); Okumu plays it deadly cool and beatdown on his definitive personal statement to date. ‘Knopperz’ wears its influences proudly, with Timothy Duval’s slinky keys, and slompy drums and sirens patently hailing Dilla, but the rest is all him, hustling a hypnotically low-key and smoked out sound slanted to the twilight hours and beyond.
Keeping it fully instrumental and allowing his melodic personality to ooze thru the grooves and moods, the pacing is effortless, luring us in with the balmy bump and lyrical piano turns of phrase in ‘Son of Emmerson’ and coolly accommodating attentions between the groggy jazz-blues of ‘Ballpark’ to the melancholic sign-off ‘Don’t Die’, with his Dilla worship in evidence on the red-eyed nod of ‘Trouble’ and wickedly stumbling drums of ‘RTN.’
"Mark Hawkins has dug deeper on ‘A New Normal’ representing a landscape of electro-funk, body-rocking house, experimental electronica, euphoric pop and reflective chill out all underpinned by his melodic sensibility."
ATFA on their A-game with a debut album of Amapiano aces by Native Soul, the teenaged, Gauteng-based duo of Kgothatso Tshabalala and Zakhele Mhlanga (DJ Zakes)
Arriving in the vein of ATFA’s arguably overlooked zingers by Teno Afrika and DJ Black Low, Native Soul’s efforts should be set to catch fire with a rapidly expanding global audience for Amapiano, or at least its fervent UK fanbase. The tracks are perfectly calibrated with that Amapiano dark/light suspension system, balancing the trilling bass below the waist with atmospheric pads that get up in yuh head and grip the dance like little else right now. The pace is of course locked to SA’s favoured mid-tempo deep house velocity (we’ve heard stories of SA turntables with the pitch locked off at +4, lol), which to be honest does sometimes feel unusual in UK clubs, but soon enough locks everyone into its lathering groove.
Native Soul’s take on the still evolving genre displays a reserved emotive intelligence mature beyond their years, holding it down and lip-bitingly restrained in the tightest style. We’ll maintain that the best dancers we’ve ever seen hail from SA, and it’s perhaps no surprise when they’ve got this kinda gear to practice with; coming with tendon-tuning nuance in the hip-shot string stabs and puckered torque of ‘Ambassador’ ft. Ubuntu Brothers, and tucking in tight in-the-pocket on the brooding ‘United As One’, and with pure pensile suss in the delayed gratification of ‘Way To Cairo’ while the furtive progressions of ‘Letter To Kabza De Small’ and belly tightening hustle ‘End Of Time’, like much Amapiano, feel really strangely attuned to the tension and efficient energy conservation themes of the times.
In other words it’s a fucking massive tip!
Kondi Band return with their sophomore album, ‘We Famous’ as Sorie Kondi, Chief Boima (INTL BLK) and Will LV join forces once more for another dose of Freetown freestyle.
"Following on from their ‘Salone’ album in 2016 and the massive single ‘Yeanoh’, the new recordings further hone the group’s unique fusions of Sorie Kondi’s inimitable vocals and the kondi thumb piano with intricate dancefloor electronics. The album was gradually recorded over a period of four years with Sorie on the road in Belgium, Spain and Canary Islands with the main production collaboration between Boima in Los Angeles and Will in London. The result is a varied and colourful set of tracks infusing Boima and Will’s wide-ranging dancefloor influences.
Infectious first single ‘She Doesn’t Love You’ features guest vocalist Mariama Jalloh speaking home truths about rejection while future 4/4 dancefloor anthem ‘It’s God’s World..’ features a mighty bassline from prolific L.A. musician / producer Sweatson Klank. ‘Sweetness Don Don’ ramps up the dub and sound system energy while ‘How Will It Be For Me In This World’ sparkles on a bed of electronic textures and kondi lines."
Kompakt's 'TOTAL' series reaches its 21st Volume.
"TOTAL turns 21 this year, and Kompakt’s venerable compilation series couldn’t have asked for a more auspicious coming-of-age collection. If TOTAL 20 was consolidation against the odds, the Kompakt crew producing for a dreamt-of dancefloor in an uncertain future, then TOTAL 21 feels abuzz and alive with possibilities. Significantly, it’s the first TOTAL in some time that’s streamlined down to a single disc; this makes TOTAL 21 even punchier than usual, a joyous, reflective, and always thrilling 75-minute audio scan of the world according to Kompakt.
As with every instalment of TOTAL, there’s a deft balancing here of Kompakt regulars and new blood. Of the latter, there’s a first appearance by KOLLMORGEN, remixed by PATRICE BÄUMEL into an astral torch song; Amsterdam’s NICKY ELISABETH, offering up ROMAN FLÜGEL’s pulsating, arpeggiated remix of “Celeste”; and CAPTAIN MUSTACHE swoops down into view, PLAY PAUL in tow, with the dream-like electro lift-off that is “Everything”. JONATHAN KASPAR also drops by with a new track, “Von Draussen”, a stealthy and lethal floor-hugger with prowling bass.
Elsewhere, there’s the lead track to MICHAEL MAYER’s astonishing recent EP, “Brainwave Technology”, which not-so-gently spears the tech-futurist babble of AI, transhumanism and posthumanism, soundtracked by one of Mayer’s typically lush, glimmering soundscapes. JOHN TEJADA reaches back to the heyday of glitch and dub techno with the gorgeous “Spectral Progressions”, while the brothers VOIGT & VOIGT, on “Nicht Mein Job”, seem reinvigorated by the interwoven patterns and funky minimalism of the Profan days. Not to be outdone, JÜRGEN PAAPE kicks TOTAL 21 with “La Guittara Romantica”, a chiming and lilting lullaby for woozy late-night reflection.
Throughout, it feels as though Kompakt are taking a moment to both breathe in the dust of the past and look forward to a bright future. Perhaps that’s why, on “Fasson”, SASCHA FUNKE seems so confident, with pinprick melodies bouncing around a hall of audio mirrors, or why THE BIONAUT returns with “Blue Sky Motor Lodge”, a song so moistly melancholy, so enduringly lovely, it’ll make you weep tears of joy. ROBAG WRUHME gets a little delirious on the ticking, twisting “No”, and then GUI BORATTO mops everything up with the bubbling, bumping glam-stomp “Wake Up”."
Livity Sound mark a decade of skin in the game with a comp pulling focus on their roster of rhythmic misfits in 2021.
Originally founded as an outlet for Pev, Kowton, and Asusu’s like-minded soundsystem techno oddities in 2011, the label’s scope has gradually expanded over the intervening decade to embrace an emerging movement of non-standard bassbin operators such as Batu, Hodge, Bruce and Simo Cell via the Reverse label (Dnuos Ytivil), and nowadays stands at a busy intersection of globally related styles loosely termed hard drum, or bass music.
YOUTH host Significant Other’s glum but resilient meditation on love and loss, a broodingly therapeutic debut album that straddles IDM and industrial Ambient signatures, reminding us of work from Bola to Jay Glass Dubs, Spectre to classic late night Rob Hall mixes.
Sharing a different side of his sound to that heard on club-cut 12”s for Spe:c, Oscilla Sound and anno over the past few years, Significant Other here dwells on feelings that “emerged from moments of extreme passion and pain", patching new and archival material to work thru a mental fug of ambient noise laments and crankily dubbed out illbient lines of thought.
The pacing is stygian and the atmosphere near still, betraying a depth of suppressed emotion that he processes over the album’s eight tracks. ‘Demonology’ evokes a hash haze contemplation with its patina of Burial-esque vapours and incidental crackle, and ‘The Future Doesn’t Exist’ taps into a classic vein of screwed NYC downbeats a la Spectre, showing off a killer instinct for crushed hip hop drums also explored on the weighty swang of his ‘Love Beat.’
‘Residuum’ doesn't fall into outright doom, preferring to skirt the event horizon of a black hole and keep the chin bobbing up with the vulnerable yet hopeful tones of ‘Pendant’, also in the Loren Connors-esque midnight peal of ‘Drifting In The Third Person’ and the elegiac closing sequence ‘Perpetual Care’, with its piano and string led coda.
Contemporary classical minimalist Jürg Frey transmutes the poetic landscape observations of Gustave Roud (1897-1976) into haunting chamber works for Another Timbre.
Gustave Roud was a poet from the French-speaking part of Frey’s native Switzerland. He studied literature at the University of Lausanne and realised he didn’t want to return to life as a farmer, instead returning to live with his sister in the family’s farmhouse for the rest of his life, mooching in the countryside and mountains, detailing his thoughts in what would become a three volume Collected Works, as well as diaries and critical writings, plus lesser known work as a photographer.
After immersing in Roud’s work, Frey composed this collection in his honour, as he explains: “I first encountered Roud’s work more than 10 years ago, and the impact of his work on my music has been profound. I feel a close relationship to a poet whose mode of operation and sensitivity make a precise resonance in me. It’s a unique poetry that speaks from beginning to end of searching for the essence. I would like to compare his mode of work with that of a painter. Every day he went out, not with an easel, but with his notebook, and he wandered through the landscape as a flaneur, observer, writer, laying the foundations of his work with his notes. For me his work constitutes a kind of ‘field recording’, not with a microphone and sounds, but with his soul and body, recording his environment in the broadest sense. He perceived existential dimensions in the finest nuances of the weather, the landscape and its inhabitants, and made it the basis of his work.”
With quietly gripping results, Frey - and Stefan Thut (cello), Dante Boon (piano), Andrew McIntosh (violin), Regula Konrad (soprano), Stephen Altoft (trumpet), Lee Ferguson (percussion) - sensitively limn the Roud’s work with a painterly play of light and space, and quite literally thru the track titles, with the most enchanting of these bringing it all together, strings, wind, percussion, and transfixing vox based on Roud’s words, in the otherwordly evocation of ‘Farbiose Wolken, Glück, Wind (2009-11).’
Jürg Frey is present in his 7-piece Ensemble Grizzana, performing a suite of more conventional works that go easier on the silences.
The 2015 double album features Frey on clarinet surrounded in various arrangements by Mira Benjamin (violin), Richard Craig (flute), Emma Richards (violin), Philip Thomas (piano), Seth Woods (cello) and Ryoko Akama (electronics), performing 19 works written 2009-2014. Less prone to long, searching silences, as found on Frey’s more radical works, the music is still borderline liminal, but largely held back from ephemerality.
Frey’s clarinet is accompanied by Seth Woods’ sallow cello in the set’s beautiful opener ‘Petit Fragment De Passage’, which becomes a recurring piece performed by various configurations, from the perspectives of Ryoko Akama’s organ and Philip Thomas’ Piano keys, a string duet by Emma Richards (Viola) & Mira Benjamin (Violin), and Richard Craig (Flute) with Emma Richards (Violin) again, each as quiet captivating as the other.
But their strengths lie in the assembled ensemble pieces, which locate a tremulous democracy between their various voices in ‘Fragile Balance’ and the watercolour landscape of ‘Extended Circular Music No.8’, and with remarkably rich effect in the titular seven-part suite. Fans of Philip Thomas’ quietly unmissable ’Morton Feldman Piano’ set for Another Timbre will no doubt be charmed by his solo performance here, ‘Lieues D’ombres’, and in trio with Seth Woods and Frey on the haunting 30’ work ‘Area of Three’, and we’re reminded to the sacred sublime tension of Jakob Ullmann’s quiet music in the mesmerising hush of the ensemble’s ‘Ferne Farben.’
Last seen sparring with Lucy Railton, pianist Kit Downes here duels with composer and pianist Matt Rogers. Evocative, physical music that bridges the gap between improvisation and composition for fans of Keith Jarrett.
'Premonitions of the Unbuilt City' is based on Matt Rogers' opera "She Described it to Death", which was reduced to piano by Christopher Mayo before being arranged and edited by Downes and Rogers. With Downes adding his signature improvisation, the piece took on new life - something that no doubt inspired the change of title. It's a virtuoso performance from both players, who appear to be locked in debate as they trade harmony and texture between two pianos. Anyone into the slickly accomplished ECM catalogue - particularly Keith Jarrett's recordings - would do well to check this one.
Philip Thomas’ spellbinding solo piano performance of ’Circles and Landscapes’ is a result of Jürg Frey’s residency at Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (HCMF), 2014
As with his masterful renditions of Morton Feldman found in the unmissable 4CD boxset, Thomas’ performance of these six Frey pieces bring the composer’s work to light with requisite precision and care at St. Paul’s Hall, University of Huddersfield, 4th and 5th August 2015.
Oooosh! Deadly Afro-funk from Benin, 1974 sees light of day again with Acid Jazz, to the relief of anyone put off by the triple figure 2nd hand prices.
Available for the first time outside of Benin, Nigeria, the cult side contains some of the deepest and earliest roots music issued on the Albarika label. It’s dominated by the 13 minute lead cut of inimitably Wets African drums synched to fiery psych guitar licks and balmy vocals in ‘Gan Tche Kpo’, which is surely enough to take the head top off any Afrobeat lovers, while the soulful slow jam ‘My Love’ strips everything right back to the tightest sway and almost garage-soul-styled guitars with a duet between wordless croon and sax that says it all.
‘Gnonnou Ho’ picks up the pace with spikier, stepping drums and melody that feels to look East to these ears, recalling Ethiopiques and much farther Eastern vibes on a lilting psych-funk groove, and ‘Min E Wa..We Non Dou’ keeps it up there in an eight minute special for the dancers hashed with wild electric guitar, organ and horns .
Montreal art rockers Suuns follow last year's hazed and phased EP "Fiction" with a more substantial, electronic and skeletal collection of timewarping sounds and ideas.
'The Witness' might be Suuns' chilliest, most anxious set yet. Its 7-minute opener sounds closer to a Radiophonic Workshop jam or a 1970s documentary soundtrack than anything from the band's back catalogue, with talkbox vocals only breaking the squishy wall of analog synth at the midway point. It's a curious choice, but works well, coming across like a prog rock power move rather than post-Radiohead avant electronic posturing.
The band's stoner rock cred is still more than intact. Vocals are rubbery and harmonized, often slapped across inverted rhythms or over slithering industrial synth arpeggios, sounding like Jean-Michel Jarre or John Carpenter, but lifted into Beach Boys territory. The sloppy noisiness of their previous records is still present in spirit, but now a DIY electronic spirit is the primary focus, and on angular, druggy tracks like 'Timebender' and 'Go To My Head' it really works.
Proc Fiscal does his genre origami with grime, drill, jungle, footwork and vaporous ambient styles in a plush 2nd album for Hyperdub
In pursuit of the mercurial magick previously found on his string of acclaimed, daring 12”s and debut LP ‘Insula’ (2018), he returns with a charmingly effusive new volley of 14 cuts that sparkle with restless, fractious detailing and whirring rhythm mechanics. Like his label mates Lorraine James and Lee Gamble, it’s effectively IDM, as in he can’t help but go to town on his grooves and express a probing “intelligence” or curiosity in the embellishments. The results may be too busy for some straighter club heads, but fizz with ingenuity for others, and surely nobody can argue that he’s not got that classic Scottish feel for funk locked down.
In another time, ‘Siren Spine Sysex’ could have been prime Rephlex material, showing off a devilish mastery of inch-tight drum programming and non-standard electronic tuning in each part as the album cascades and skids between lilting downbeat opener ‘Anti Chesst’ and the salty noise convolutions of ‘Roman Fatigue.’ It finds him filleting drill’s glyding bass and hollow-tipped snares in aerial footwork styles on ‘Convaerge Iana’ and the skittish ‘Met Path Thoth,’ with a crafty cut of R&G vocal thizz in the centrepiece ‘8 Mgapixel See Thru Phone,’ alongside a warped, tangy take on Afrobeats in ‘Thurs Jung Youtz’ and ‘Her In.’ His playful wits are in best effect on ‘The Most Beautiful Irish Song,’ which sounds a bit like Todd Edwards doing a giddy jig, and comes complemented by the Carl Stone-esque levels of glitchy vocal processing on ‘Leith Torn Carnal,’ with the album’s sweetest treats coming in the relatively laid-back but mutant minor key drill swag of ‘Auld Peop.’
The second album from Norwegian ensemble Sex Magick Wizards.
"As is the common circumstance for so many new groups forming in Norway this century, Sex Magick Wizards met at the Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo where they studied jazz and improvisation. They released their promising debut album “Eroto Comatose Lucidity” in 2019 through a small, local label based in northern Norway, where leader and guitarist Viktor Bomstad was born. Viktor Bomstad (28) was raised on a diet of Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Jimi Hendrix before being introduced to Django Reinhardt, a turning point in his life. After several years of cultivating a more traditional jazz direction he became engulfed in the possibilities of free jazz. He later returned to his local roots, including a deep dive into traditional joik. Sigrid Aftret (29) is an exciting sax player known for her strong musical presence and open approach to improvisation. She´s been making waves on Oslo's fertile and ever growing improv scene, performing solo and in various constellations and band projects. Henrik Sandstad Dalen (27) is firmly grounded in jazz and improvisation and is always looking to stretch the limits by challenging himself as well as the listener. He´s a tireless source of any musical ideas that will develop the band as a living organism. Ingvald André Vassbø (25) is a very active and in demand young drummer. He took over the sticks after Axel Skalstad (Krokofant), who played on their debut. Raised on progressive rock and jazz from a young age, he has ample experience with both heavy metal as well as improvisation. He´s also a member of Kanaan and Juno, and played in Hedvig Mollestad´s “Maternity Beat” project with Trondheim Jazz Orchestra.
Opener “Qliphoth Chokehold” immediately sets the tone with a frantic, slightly angular yet controlled burst of energy, propelled by drummer Vassbø. “Exaltation”, written by Aftret, nods to early 70s Swedish folkish prog, while the concluding title track brings to mind their mighty stablemates Fire! All in all, the new album is a more varied and dynamic affair and cultivates a more refined expression while retaining the pure energy of the debut. The tunes are more defined, at the same time opening up for a freer and more seamless interaction. The result is seven distinctive tracks where each member is allowed to shine without sacrificing the unifying quest for a strong group signature."
The fifth album from Norway's Krokofant, with Ståle Storløkken and Ingebrigt Håker Flaten.
"As David Fricke pointed out in his liner notes to “Q”, the previous album from this expanded edition of Krokofant, this is not just another novelty guest-project. In fact, all the involved were so happy after finishing “Q” that a follow-up was decided upon straight away. So here it is, with four new tunes from guitarist and leader Tom Hasslan, each clocking in between eight and twelve minutes. Originally a guitar and drums duo, Tom and Axel met in a guitar shop in Kongsberg, a town in southern Norway famous for its annual jazz festival since 1964, and recognised for its experimental and innovative profile. Jørgen was invited to join them for the sessions that resulted in their self-titled debut album in February 2014. Two more albums followed in 2015 and 2017.
When considering guest musicians for “Q”, to become their fourth album, keyboard maestro Ståle Storløkken (Elephant9, Supersilent, Terje Rypdal) was the trio´s first choice. He had seen Krokofant live in 2015 and, in his own words, "had an instant kick", so he said yes straight away. Ingebrigt Håker Flaten (Scorch Trio, The Thing, Atomic) had seen them the same year, and after a few backstage beers practically invited himself to join up at some time. By his introduction, a "proper" rhythm section was born and work was lifted from Hasslan´s shoulders. Hasslan´s tunes are perfect vehicles for Storløkken to present the full scope of his playing; from sheer pastoral beauty to full on jazz skronk. The same can be said about Mathisen, who is given ample room for soloing. The tunes are rich in harmonic structures and melodic hooks, but there is also room for adventures into more free passages. Many names have been mentioned in connection with Krokofant over the years, but with the distinctive sax and organ combination, it´s difficult not think of Van der Graaf Generator in their prime. Which is the highest accolade in our book, anyway. Thus the expanded Krokofant is everything a progressive jazz and rock fan could wish for; positive energy, melodic riches, excellent musicianship and a touch of magic served with a healthy respect for the past and a foot in the future."
Steven Ellison's first feature-length anime soundtrack is an endlessly satisfying jeweled box of delights, with Vangelis-esque vintage synth sparkles rubbing up against carbon-blasted trap, dusty tape warped funk and psychedelic electro-jazz.
It makes complete sense that Ellison would end up scoring a project as idiosyncratic and ambitious as LeSean Thomas’ anime show about a lone Black samurai in feudal Japan. The Los Angeles beat scene innovator cut his teeth doing short bumps for edgy US TV animation channel Adult Swim - home of Ellison's beloved "Afro Samurai" - so surely a project like this was always on the cards. And he's knocked it out of the park, blending a lifetime of nerdy musical influences, from the spiritual jazz of his aunt Alice Coltrane and the bouncy early electronic weirdness of Raymond Scott to the neon strip club pulse of Mike Will and the MPC-fried swing of Mobb Deep's Havoc.
There are 26 cues on the extended album, and while the tracks might lack the duration of those on his proper albums, their heart and mood speaks volumes. Ellison sounds completely untethered, like he's finally got the chance to pay tribute to a life spent jamming tunes and watching cartoons. He's in his element, and that gives the project a warmth and honesty that's hard to ignore. Fans of everyone from Adrian Younge and Emeralds to Ricci Rucker and Tangerine Dream should investigate immediately.
Vital narrative-led field recording work captured in the Amazon rainforest by Aussie recordist and Room40 boss Lawrence English. Utterly captivating stuff that places us in the center of a misunderstood part of the world and allows us to appreciate its rare, complex beauty.
While English is likely best known at this point for his transcendent and ear-splitting drone plates like "Wilderness of Mirrors" and "Cruel Optimism", it's his understated field recordings that have always fascinated us most. "A Mirror Holds The Sky" is a selection of untreated recordings gathered in 2008 in the Amazon over a period of several weeks, chopped down from over fifty hours of audio. It's layered, textured sound that's as mind-alteringly elaborate as any pioneering electronic work (think Morton Subotnick or latter-day Autechre) but exists completely in the natural realm.
'The Jungle' eases us into a world that might be familiar to anyone who's spent significant time with Werner Herzog's "Aguirre" or "Fitzcarraldo". The Screaming Phia takes a lead role here, calling indiscreetly over the hum and buzz of insects and other birds. But as the album digs further into the rainforest, more unfamiliar sounds are unearthed. 'The River' seems to exist both underneath and above the water, capturing the swirl of insects that flutter on the surface. 'The Island' is more unsettling still, with implacable animal gurgles that build into a chorus of groaning, dissonant rasps noisier and more desolate than any noise tape.
On 'The Shore', innumerable insects fashion layers of hypnotizing drone that lull you into near meditation, while 'The Tower' magnifies these sounds further, breaking the illusion. The record is constructed so perfectly; English works like a documentary filmmaker, using real life footage but forming a narrative anybody can hook themselves into.
It's a towering work from a consistently engaging artist that truly celebrates the raw sonic power of the natural world - and is an album to file alongside Chris Watson’s still incomprehensible/incomparable 'Outside The Circle Of Fire’ - it’s that good.
Beautiful meditation by Barbara Monk Feldman, performed by the GBSR Duo with Mira Benjamin.
One of only a handful of releases bearing her name, ‘Verses’ yields a five-part suite written by Barbara Monk Feldman between 1988-1997, and performed here with extreme sensitivity by George Barton (percussion) and Siwan Rhys (piano), with Mira Benjamin (violin). The dates of the works tell us it was all written in the wake of the late, great minimalist Morton Feldman’s passing, in 1987, and they effectively see Barbara continue her husband’s quietly resounding, radical practice during the proceeding decade. Morton’s legion followers will surely recognise the level of liminality from his work in Barbara’s five compositions, which patently share a patience, pacing and appreciation of painterly qualities in their music’s lingering notes and longing strokes of suggestive tonal colour.
As Barbara states in interview accompanying the release, ‘Verses’ takes its logic and nature from her observations of “what is inside and what is outside. The everyday life and tragedy of what goes on around you.” The sublime results are the lucid manifestation of a rich inner life, and speak to her awareness of the porous borders between perception and instinct. They tenderly model her feelings on spaces, places, and the elusive ephemerality of colour, drawing links to the sculpture of Giacometti, the transient qualities of Cezanne landscapes, or the mystical side of Wittgenstein’s thinking and logic, to most subtly emphasise the intangible, encouraging one to really occupy the space between the notes, and meld into the gradated harmonics of decay.
Arvo Pärt has become something of a yardstick by which contemporary sacred music has been measured, and 'Alina' is arguably his most loved and imitated piece of work.
Für Alina was first performed in Tallinn in 1976, and has become one of Pärt’s most-loved and widely appreciated works - regarded by many as an early, defining example of his signature tintinnabuli style. In the years since its release, Pärt has become the most performed living composer in the world, his approach to religious music seeping deep into our cultural landscape, from the avant garde to the mainstream.
Rendered with nothing more than piano and violin, this definitive ECM version from 1999 features Vladimir Spivakov, Sergej Bezrodny, Dietmar Schwalke and Alexander Malter providing alternate versions, handpicked by Pärt himself from recordings that were originally several hours long. It’s a masterclass in simplicity; an almost painfully beautiful rendering of emotional landscapes that, in the wrong hands, could have (and has, on many occasions, by so many) turned to schmaltz.
South Korean-born, LA-based producer, rapper and singer Park Hye Jin impressed with her "How Can I" EP and Clams Casino, Blood Orange and Nosaj Thing collaborations. "Before I Die" is a mixtape-like effort that combines disparate flavors of hip-hop and dance with sunny K-pop vocals and riffs.
'Before I Die' attempts a lot, but struggles to escape its cascade of influences. Park Hye Jin sounds most comfortable when she works in a house mode. Opening track 'Let's Sing Let's Dance' is the album's most successful track, her voice is assured whether singing or offering deadpan phrases and the production is propulsive and effective. But when she veers into overworked rap subgenres ('Before I Die', 'Where Did I Go') it gets a bit murkier.
It's not all bad news: 'Good Morning Good Night' is a blissful downtempo cut, and 'Can I Get Your Number' interpolates LA's short-lived jerkin' sound in a respectful way. But "Before I Die" is just too disjointed to fully lean into.
Mark & Moritz entrust their Basic Channel output to Pete and René (aka Substance & Vainqueur) who create a sort of immersive label mix featuring components from all 9 Basic Channel 12"s plus some choice cuts from Rhythm and Sound, remodeeled and reshaped in classic style.
The first cut employs fragments from Cyrus's 'Inversion', 'Mutism', 'Radiance III' and the Basic Channel reworking of Carl Craig's 'The Climax' - somewhere between mixing and remixing - and that's just the opening sequence. Flowing from first moment to last, it serves as a testimony to one of the most revered catalogues in all of electronic music - hugely enjoyable if you already know and love all contained within, and a good entry point for n000bs - if there are any left by this point.
Multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, producer, and songwriter Jordan Rakei is back with his fourth studio album, ‘What We Call Life’, released via Ninja Tune.
"‘What We Call Life’ is Jordan Rakei’s most vulnerable and intimate album to date. Its lyrics concern the lessons that the New Zealand-born, Australia-raised, and London-based artist learned about himself during therapy, a journey that began two years ago when he started reading about the ‘positive psychology’ movement. These themes manifest on songs like lead single “Family”, which Rakei says is “the most personal” he’s ever been with his lyrics. “I wanted to hit my vulnerability barrier and be really honest. It’s about my parents’ divorce in my mid-teens but still having love for them no matter what,” he explains.
On ‘What We Call Life’ Rakei dives deeper into his sound world, merging electronic with acoustic, and rugged grooves with ambient atmospheres, to create something richer, more detailed, and more textural than before. Rakei, already a practitioner of meditation and mindfulness, was curious about the potential of using therapy for further self-discovery. During the process, he began to learn more about his behaviour patterns and anxieties, and addressed his long-standing irrational phobia of birds – a fear often associated with the unpredictable and the unknown, and something explored in the album’s creative direction and visuals. “As we worked through it, it made me realise I would love to talk about the different lessons I learned from therapy in my music: about my early childhood, my relationship with my parents and siblings, becoming independent in London, being in a new marriage, understanding how my marriage compares to the relationship my parents had”, Rakei says."
Emerging from the chaos and destruction of post-gentrification NYC, "How the Garden Grows" is a jagged, angry record that bricks YVETTE's gloomy industrial pop into a desolate tower block basement.
Recorded in 2016 in fits and starts, "How the Garden Grows" documents not only a changing New York City but also the demise of YVETTE as a duo. The band was initially formed by Noah Kardos-Fein and drummer Rick Daniel in 2012, but as this album was being recorded, Daniel departed, leaving Kardos-Fein to carry on the project on his own. This event is documented on the album's woozy ambient outro, where you can hear Daniel open the studio door and leave.
The rest of the record was put together with both musicians and strikes a more familiar tone, with Daniel's propulsive rhythms giving a tuff edge to Kardos-Fein's reverberating chants and zippy electronics. It's cold, unusual material that sometimes sounds like a poppier take on Lightning Bolt's daring power duo noise and Animal Collective's ritualistic post-Beach Boys chants.
'Mirror Views' is a substantial minimalist tome from LA-based composer Byron Westbrook. Taking cues from Maryanne Amacher and Luc Ferrari, Westbrook sidesteps the cosmic synth shimmer of this year's 'Distortion Hue' and moves into long-form deep listening territory, using tape-dubbed field recordings, white noise and disorientating drones.
Clocking in at a hefty 72-minutes, 'Mirror Views' is not for the faint of heart. It's a departure for Westbrook, not necessarily for his practice - those that have seen him perform will have no doubt experienced this aspect of his work before. For our money it also might just be his most convincing album to date, a collection of delicate, careful field recordings and subtle tonal elements that places Westbrook solidly alongside his heroes and the greats of the genre.
It's a fully immersive work, not just in its duration but in the absorbing character of the sounds he creates and the narrative it inspires. The piece 'Mirror View' itself is split into three distinct sections, and the first develops over 20 minutes from marshy field recordings that dwell on barely-audible sloshing and insects' rhythmic chirps. Slowly, Westbrook introduces indistinct voices and feedback tones that transform a natural world into an unsettling alien landscape.
The shorter second part offsets these tones with white noise that mutates into crashing waves, but it's Westbrook's careful editing that pushes the track into transcendence. At times it's not completely obvious what he's doing, if anything, but focus your listening and you can just about make up the tiny shifts in noise and texture that create distinct rhythms and disorientating hallucinatory effects.
On the final piece, Westbrook turns up the gain a little further, conducting an orchestra of fine tones that act as a warm, harmonic finale before the environmental recordings return for one last coda. It's masterful deep listening material that displays the possibility for experimentation within the wider field recording spectrum - we urge you to check in.
German renaissance man Niklas Wandt digs his way thru psychedelic, jazz, world, funk and kraut moods on "Solar Musli", arriving on a hectic, borderless sound that refuses to stand still for a moment. Imagine Sun Ra jamming with "On the Corner"-era Miles, Florian Schneider and Felix Kubin.
A drummer, producer and DJ, Wandt has presented WDR 3's Jazz & World program for years, DJing in Düsseldorf's Salon des Amateurs and recording with bands such as Oracles and Stabil Elite and working on synth pop as Neuzeitliche Bodenbeläge. "Solar Müsli" is his most chaotic solo record yet, an album that attempts to flatten his life of wild, diverse influences and unpick a musical puzzle.
It's a thrill ride, veering from quirky, psychedelic free poetry ('Der gläserne Tag') to sprawling, percussive funk ('Lo Spettro'), unhinged free-jazz kraut-pop ('Küsnacht') and quirky early electronic experimentation ('Solar Müsli'). It's best looked at as the work of a particularly limber DJ - Wandt writes and plays like he's mixing with four un-synced decks, wandering thru rhythm, structure and genre like an intrepid explorer.
Patience is a virtue that Chilean guitarist Cristian Alvear beautifully understands and commands in his reading of Jürg Frey’s quietly demanding 2016 work for Another Timbre
With an opener counting just 8 (if we’re not mistaken) solitary notes spaced across 2 minutes, ‘guitarist, alone’ clearly sets its stall from the outset. As with its conceptual forebear, Frey’s ‘Pianist, Alone’, the 53 track double album typically follows in the footsteps of Frey’s 25 years of composition with a license to luxuriate in lacunæ and take the notion of minimalism to its rarified extremes.
Operating at a geologic scale of events, the results are beautifully contemplative on a number of levels; fundamentally offering the listener acres of room for meditation, but rather than anything Buddhist zen-like, where one is encouraged to think of nowt, the music suggests its recipient follow its lingering cadence, and ponder the relationship between the notes and moods they evoke, which may well lead to unusual patterns of thought.
Aye, we’re not going to go thru the whole thing with you, but we can tell say it’s a beautifully sanguine experience that requires a level of quiet time and space - both increasingly rare commodities for many of us - to really get into it, but you have those to spare, then it’s a real pleasure to let yourself wander its warm, still midnight garden.
On their opulent first outing since 2015, the MVO Trio embrace negative space and dematerialised jazz dynamics for a sterling debut with Modern Recordings (Pat Metheny, Craig Armstrong, Hendrik Weber) and a new lineup that now includes Laurel Halo and German jazz drummer Heinrich Köbberling. V highly tipped if yr into Carl Craig's Innerzone Orchestra or Move D's Conjoint.
Typically rooted in extended, improvised jams, the lissom and grooving results were teased into their final form by Moritz at the mixing desk, where he imbues the playing with an effervescent spatial nuance and deftly spotlights its ear-catching peculiarities as the trio naturlly explore and inhabit the interstices of rolling Afrobeat structures, modal Detroit jazz/beatdown, and airy ECM minimalism.
Picking up in the ether where ‘Sounding Lines’ left off in 2015, the deep presence of erstwhile trio member Tony Allen (RIP) is adroitly channelled by Köbberling’s shuffling stick work, and decorated with blushing organ chords and vibes laid down by Moritz, who finds an ideal foil in Laurel Halo’s electronic gilding. In unison they hold a sublime tension that’s driving but floating, placid yet thizzing with cool energy as they cycle thru harmonically sonorous permutations of a dubwise jazz techno.
From the pointillistic percussion and vapours of the opener, the set arcs low and wide from passages of spiralling organ to swingeing depths, coalescing at the mid-way point with a proper jazz techno vibe recalling Moritz’s early works with Juan Atkins, and traveling to almost 4Hero-esque hi-tech jazz abstraction and back into the pocket with natty rhythms that resolve into proper, heads-up techno.
A surreal and carnivalesque lost French classique that's somewhere between Cocteau Twins, Nuno Canavarro and Leila, "Chaleur Humaine" originally emerged in 1992, the debut release of sibling duo Danielle and Didier Jean. Anyone into hypnagogic pop, fractured new age experiments or '80s FM synth soundtracks needs to hear this jaw-dislocating Rosetta stone.
Uman's music spidered out thru various new age and global sounds compilations in the 1990s, but at this point the fwd-thinking duo are mostly forgotten, and in need of re-appraisal. After three decades, "Chaleur Humaine" sounds prophetic in its use of sounds, establishing a mood that's as dreamy and pristine as Enya's canonized run, as prismatically awkward as Portland MIDI fanatics Visible Cloaks and as chilling and evocative as Richard Band's schlock horror soundtracks.
WIth a sound that teeters between identifiable pop forms and more challenging expressions that draw on experimental and new age concepts, like the lilting 'Mémoire Vive' and Badalamenti-esque 'Aubade'. it's an album that's jam-packed with gorgeous sounds that seem to refresh with each track, skating close to plasticky exotica but never drifting into parody, pre-empting the shift from DIY rawk and folk sounds into hypnagogic pop and synth modes in the mid-'00s.
The recent obsession with neo-new age forms has resulted in some avoidable lost idols, but 'Chaleur Humaine' is a serious treasure trove of ideas and raw expression that bottles the chaotic analog-to-digital era with no small amount of panache. Anyone who's enjoyed Belgian node STROOM's extraordinary stretch of quirky electro-plated lounge-pop treasures won't wanna miss this.
Our album of the year 2021 is ‘Rhinestones’, the 5th studio album by HTRK. It finds the duo stripped to a quietly cathartic, windswept arrangement of bare vocals rent with spectral webs of synth and countrified guitar in a wholly inimitable style that’s enveloped and crushed our spirit like nothing else we heard all year. It does that thing so few albums do of feeling entirely familiar, cut from classic material, but skewed just off centre in a way that makes it hit entirely differently. If yr into anything from Dean Blunt to Mark Hollis, Gillian Welch to Slowdive, we’re pretty sure it’ll lodge itself deep in your heart.
Recorded in their native Dandenong Ranges, Australia, ‘Rhinestones' contains some of HTRK's most aching/gratifying songwriting secreted in subtly plangent sheets of dubbed guitar, pads and crackling 808s that forge a sort of quasi-Americana that feels comforting and out of place.
The soul of their songcraft somehow bleeds out more clearly than ever, infusing every song from the heartbreak pucker of ‘Kiss Kiss and Rhinestones’ to the intoxicating sway of ‘Gilbert and George’ with the tumescent glow of MDMA-tingled flesh and the uncanniest air of déjà vu.
All nine songs land with a level of sensitivity that reveals every shimmering string, pad and echoic snare contrail like a halo around Jonnine’s voice, which regales tales of love, friendship and the mysteries of the night with a diaristic directness that has devastating emotional impact.
In key with the times, the songs feel like the soundtrack to emptied cities, casting gothic shadows in the spellbinding reverbs of ‘Valentina’ and mottled beauty of ’Siren Song’, while Conrad Standish (CS + Kreme) lends bass guitar gilding to the empty saloon sashay of ‘Real Headfck,’ and ’Straight To Hell’ basks in a transition between the golden and crepuscular hours. Oh - and 'Sunlight Feels like Bee Stings’ - what a title?!
No other band do it quite like HTRK, and ‘Rhinestones’ feels like their purest iteration, conjured in a mist of love and inebriation.
10 years since his debut, Container holds his line of bolshy, distorted machine rhythms for Alter.
Bringing his studio recordings closer than ever to the sound of his cultishly praised live shows, ‘Scramblers’ is as much mucky fun as the nippy motorbikes it’s named after. With the possible addition of some new software or bit of kit that gives this record a really nasty edge, he tears out between the evil revs of the title cut hacking up pure electro-punk havoc with ‘Nozzle’ and jabs like Rian Treanor on PCP with ‘Mottle’ and ‘Queaser’, with he spring-loaded rage of ‘Haircut’ and the scum bucket razz of ‘Duster’ there to clean any meat left on your dancing bones.
Detroit visionary Terrence Dixon scans stellar new horizons on the awe-inspiring 3rd chapter of his most cherished, foundational and inspiring album series.
Roughly once a decade since 2000 the pioneering Afrofuturist has offered a new landmark of deep, electronic music, and ‘From the Far Future, Pt. 3’ stakes one of 2020’s - and probably the next decade’s - leading examples of Detroit techno at its furthest, most experimental limits. This series of albums has consistently been the place to go for Dixon, and by extension the 313’s, most unruly but truest works, dashing between broken drums, dissonant alien synth tones, and the deepest recesses of the warehouse mind in a rudely distinguished calibration of Motor City mechanics. For us he’s right up there with the city’s deepest heads like Jeff Mills, Drexciya, Mad Mike, or Howard Thomas for producing some of that sound’s most vital, uniquely expressive machine music.
Dixon’s latest landmark sees him double down on the proprioceptive depth with acres of abstract, spatialised synth work while fine-tuning and ruggedly fucking with rhythmic conventions. From the black hole sensations of the album opener to abandoned space station ambience of ‘Found In Space’ and ‘Remarkable Wanderer,’ and the uncharted planet atmospheres of ‘By Land’ or ‘Rotation (Delay Mix),’ he has that side absolutely on lock, and in a way that lends proper cinematic cadence to the album’s flow of raggo muscle car drive between ‘Don’t Panic,’ the warehouse donuts of ’Spectrum of Light,’ a strobing deep technohouse centrepiece ‘Unconditional Love,’ and the widescreen warehouse-in-space scope of ‘Out of Darkness.’
Saint Etienne return with their 10th album.
"The album was made largely from samples and sounds drawn from the years 1997-2001, a period that was topped and tailed by Labour's election victory and the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers. Was the optimism of that era a lost golden age, or was it a period of naïvety, delusion and folly? The collective folk memory of any period differs from the lived reality. I’ve Been Trying To Tell You is an album about memory, how it works, how it tricks you and creates a dream-like state. It also taps into the way we think of our youth, a sense of place, and where we come from.
For the first time, Saint Etienne didn't record together in a studio. The album was completed remotely, in Hove (Pete Wiggs), Oxford (Sarah Cracknell) and Bradford (Bob Stanley), in collaboration with film and TV composer Gus Bousfield, who contributes to a number of tracks).
“To me it’s about optimism, and the late nineties” Bob explains “and how memory is an unreliable narrator. Pete and Gus have done a properly amazing production job. I think it sounds gorgeous.”
Sarah: “It's the first sample driven album we’ve made since So Tough and it’s been a really refreshing experience, such fun! It’s both dreamy and atmospheric, late summer sounds.”
Pete: “We've really pulled apart and dived deep into the samples; the concept and each of our interpretations of it have made this a very special sounding album, we hope you think so too."
Alasdair says “My starting point was an interpretation of my memories from the time I first started to listen to Saint Etienne’s music. Of course, it is an interpretation of what I was doing then while looking back at it now. At that time, I was a bored teenager in a village near Doncaster, South Yorkshire; it was a place where very little happened. I now look back at that time as something quite idyllic – even the boredom seems idyllic – and a big part of its soundtrack was Saint Etienne.”