Afrodeutsche provides Skam’s best release this decade with Break Before Make; the British-born Ghanaian/Russian/German artist’s début album of Detroit-inspired hardware jams
For the better part of two decades in Manchester, Henrietta Rolla-Smith a.k.a. Afrodeutsche has been a fixture in the city’s underground currents, but this is the first time she’s properly revealed her solo music, making for a mesmerising addition to the legacy of Manchester’s most notorious electronic music label.
Clearly nodding to Detroit’s seminal electro-techno sound, both implied in her pseudonym’s reference to UR’s Afrogermanic; and explicitly in her moody, raw, machine-made style: Afrodeutsche exerts a a deadly and unique spin on classic styled with an effortlessness that’s not common to Skam’s typical taste for frenetic arrangements. However, on the other hand, the inherent hip hop leanings of her slower grooves, and a mutual passion for bittersweet electronics is patently self-evident across the 14 tracks of Break Before Make.
As with her ace live shows, the tracks are all built from a combination of improvisation and preparation, the result of so many years of honing her hardware intuition so she can fluidly speak and emote thru the keys and wires. In that sense, each cut unfolds with an off-the-dome linearity, with reticulated rhythms sidewinding under chromatic lixx that variously keen, layer and chatter with a sci-fi cinematic sort of encrypted abstract narration.
Essentially, it’s an unmissable album for anyone who’s been entranced by the myriad projects of Gerald Donald a.k.a. Heinrich Mueller, or anyone who enjoys interpreting machine music with proper funk and dark, yet playful soul.
Sweden’s Baba Stiltz turns on a soulful charm for XL with Showtime following a string of choice 12”s with TTT, Born Free Records, and Studio Barnhus in recent years.
Introducing himself with the hazy vibe Showtime, he gets down to earthy grooves and shimmering melodies coming of like a more palatable Jamie Lidell on Situation, before stepping up the pace to a glitching boogie disco burn with Serve, and stretching out in a lusher blend of autotuned R&B vox and rude electro bass arps on Maze.
Hilary Woods’ artistry is one of rare emotive reach. Her minimalist and compositional finesse combine with densely layered atmospheric instrumentation and dreamlike vocals to create music rich with both delicacy and intensity. Written and recorded at home in Dublin, Colt was mixed by and co-produced with James Kelly (WIFE, Altar of Plagues) in Berlin in the winter of 2017.
"After the release of two critically acclaimed EPs, Woods spent 2017 writing and recording songs on an eight-track in an abandoned flat she was living in at the time. Layering piano, synth, tape machine, field recordings, vocals, drone, unadorned beats, and old string instruments, these songs culminate in her debut solo LP Colt. Straddling the acoustic and electronic worlds, Colt is an intensely personal journey through grief, abandonment, and mutating love. Woods navigates this journey with a lyrical potency that cuts through stark piano, sensuous synth work, and textural acoustics. Somewhere between Marissa Nadler, Grouper and Julee Cruise, these songs evoke both the anguish of their content and the ecstasy of their craft.
Growing up in an artistic household on Dublin’s Northside, Woods studied film and literature, dropping in and out of fine art school. A singular vision and tenacious creativity has seen Woods cross multi-disciplinary thresholds, exploring visual and performance art alike. Her work has received critical acclaim all over Ireland with honors from the Dublin Fringe Festival and the Irish Film Institute."
Wonky, winking electro-breaks-acid from M_nus renegade Kevin McHugh for CPU
Up top he pumps out the silly, chattering IDM breaks of Slacken and the tuffer, distorted acid slugger, Punishment.
Down below he tucks away the recoiling Miami boom and cheesy AI trance pads of Creased, and a wriggly bugger named Vague Complaint.
Witness and wince at a noise/metal bromance in the making between two persistent rock diehards
“In Spring 2017, Uniform was asked to support fellow noisy, boundary-pushing duo The Body for a European tour. Having been longtime fans of the band, Uniform vocalist Michael Berdan and guitarist Ben Greenberg jumped at the opportunity. During the planning phase of the tour, Berdan and Lee Buford from The Body started corresponding regularly. Ultimately, Berdan asked Buford if he and The Body cofounder Chip King would be interested in making a collaborative record with Uniform. Buford enthusiastically assented, and the seed of Mental Wounds Not Healing was sown.
A few months after the genesis of the idea, Berdan and Greenberg went to the legendary underground Providence studio Machines With Magnets, where The Body were finishing up work on their latest LP. King and Buford had a ton of cool beats and music ready that Berdan played synth bass lines over. Greenberg then played guitar over Berdan’s bass lines, and the songs began to take shape.
After the Machine With Magnets session, engineer Seth Manchester sent Greenberg stems of the tracks to work on back in Brooklyn. Berdan recorded vocals in the hallway of Greenberg's tiny apartment, and the raw intensity of that makeshift session served as the perfect counterpoint for King’s unmistakable voice. Effectively, every song on Mental Wounds Not Healing is a duet between Berdan and King. The collaboration pushes both bands far beyond their roots in industrial music and metal, creating an immersive listening experience that truly transcends genre.
The title of the record is a line stolen from the chorus of Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train.” Most of the titles are culled from horror literature and cinema, with specific nods to Shirley Jackson, Jack Ketchum, and Elem Klimov. Thematically, the songs have to do with feeling trapped in one’s own mind, projecting images over and over again of a future in shambles before it even gets a chance to happen. It is about hopelessness, anxiety, and depression so familiar that they seem like permanent fixtures of one’s psyche and identity.”
Gantz on a bad wan, starting his 2016 with a duo of grimacing, cutthroat riddims for Blacklist after a string of shots for Deep Medi Musik.
The highly pressurised, roguish half step of Space Horror lurches and glitches on the front with a febrile, fractious tension framed by bolshy production right on the biting point.
Step On Lava hot-foots it on the flip, beat up with woodblock drums outta the murk and wound up with a searing mid-range synth that pitches into abyssal subs by the track’s close.
Lydspor One & Two is one of the last known studio recordings made by Mika Vainio before he died in a tragic accident in 2017. It was recorded at and commissioned by Moog Sound-Lab in April 2015, and comprises two extended excursions into the wires and golden filters of the lab’s rare prototype Moog Modular System 55.
Mika was so enamoured with the machine that he declared “I Could work with this machine for the rest of my life… I would need nothing else” which is probably the highest endorsement possible, and the results documented in these recordings clearly show that he got a lot out of his time in the lab.
Lydspor, meaning soundtrack in Danish, unfolds across 40 minutes into two parts. Pt.1 finds him taking a tentative minute to find his bearings before precipitating a swarming cluster buzz that engulfs the track, shelling down blunt force bass hits and torrential drones for the first 14 minutes or so, then panning out into eerie darkness in a manner so timelessly associated with Vainio as to send chills.
Pt.2 gradually picks up another head of dense drone steam to choking effect, calving away into black cloud dynamics of corrosive intensity keeping time with a metronomic, doom-laden bass pulse that edges us nearer to some abyss; full of dread and nervous energy.
These are growling, engrossing, important recordings that provide another reminder of Vainio's ability to create intense pieces of music from seemingly not very much. In his hands, elemental sounds take on a visceral, hard-hitting quality that are so full of life and energy as to genuinely defy explanation. It's an alchemy that many have tried but few have mastered; in Vainio's absence it now fees like there's a vast chasm where there was once an unstoppable force...
A more extreme companion to Kink Gong’s Dian Long LP, the haphazard, frenetic glitches of Music is Not a Copy sounds like Chinese radio transmitted via a rack array of faulty DAB radios, each tuned to a different station and algorithmically attempting to consolidate their fragmented data into each track.
It may require a firm disposition and attention span, but there’s some really wonderful material inside, especially the eroticised techno pulse of Baosha, the tonal subtleties of Shanghai Rain, and the fractured 2-step of his School Beat.
Leatherette hit the floor at full wingspan
Slyding between boogie, ‘90s R&B and boom-bap styles with original highlights in the neon greaze of Love Lust featuring Oliver St. Louis, the smudged Thriller vibes of Frsh & Clean, a couple of Pete Rock-styled numbers, and the breezy instrumental to Love Lust.
Marie Davidson and Pierre Guerineau’s Essaie Pas reworked for the ‘floor in multiple ways by Anthony Rother, Khidja, and Schwefelgelb
Budapest’s Khidja tweak the swagger of Complet Brouille to a Hidden Formula Mix primed for redlit darkrooms and such, and Schwefelgelb take Substance M for a prancing, uptempo EBM overhaul that prods in all the right places.
However, Teutonic electro legend Anthony Rother provides the lion’s share with four reworks of New Path ranging from a widescreen electro-trance to a soaring beatless remix, and a sharp edit.
BNJMN goes fathoms deeper for Berlin’s Bright Sounds with four tracks of hydrodynamic techno
Reticuli keeps a steady ballast on course thru widely reverberating dimensions and sublime choral pads; Neurocity follows the currents to somewhere between Lee Gamble and immersive Italian techno styles; Cloaked tends to spheric harmonics and rolling percussive pulses; and Final Network shores up somewhere close to Donato Dozzy and Neel in an epic, trance-tempered mode.
Washington, DC trio Flasher release their debut album, ‘Constant Image’.
"Recorded in 2017 at Rare Book Room in Brooklyn, NY, ‘Constant Image’ was produced by Nicolas Vernhes (Animal Collective, Deerhunter, The War On Drugs) and crackles with invention. This isn’t the sound of a band finding their feet, it’s the rare sound of three people - Taylor Mulitz on guitar, bassist Daniel Saperstein and drummer Emma Baker - who know exactly what they want to achieve from the start."
Available to independent retailers on clear vinyl.
LP formats include digital download codes.
Hard on the heels of his 10th anniversary drop, Joker takes a joyride in his dinghy on the distorted/super smooth purple dubstep shanty Boat, then tramples on a moodier sort of dubstep rave style with Deploy.
Allow that lead line when it drops though, jeez.
Tight electro, techno and breaks from L.A. via London’s Hypercolour
“Returning to Hypercolour with the ‘Persona Non Grata’ EP, Mor Elian continues to flourish with four killer cuts of electro and techno infused goodness.
Following 2016’s “Drum Vortex” EP, Elian has clocked up superb releases for Delta Funktionen’s Radio Matrix label, Delft and her very own Fever AM imprint. On the ‘Persona Non Grata’, Elian serves up dusty electro beats, icy synths, headsy techno flavours and bottom end funk!”
Snail Mail’s full-length debut album, ‘Lush’, is released on Matador Records.
"It’s a debut for the record books - a refreshing marvel of songwriting and technical composition that’s both cohesive and explosive. Snail Mail’s voice rises and falls with electricity throughout, spinning with bold excitement and new beginnings at every turn."
Kiefer is a jazz pianist and beatmaker based in LA.
"‘Happysad’ is his debut album for Stones Throw, following ‘Kickinit Alone’. Kiefer has production credits for Kaytranada and Anderson Paak, has shared the stage with Terrace Martin and Moses Sumney and is a constant in labelmate Mndsgn’s live trio. ‘Kickinit Alone’ was nominated for the A2IM Libera Award for Best Jazz Album."
Adding vivid new colour to Jamal Moss’ complex harmonic spectrum, The Replicant Dream Sequence (Blue PA14 Series) documents the brilliant results of Hieroglyphic Being jamming on a Moog modular system 55 at the Moog Sound Lab in late 2016.
Oscillating between lush beatless plumes, pulsing Afro-Cubism and even two works starring a rare appearance of his own vocals - the mid-tempo swagger of Sequence 06 and the fluid techno flow of Sequence 08 - the results rank among Jamal’s most varied releases, almost encapsulating the breadth of his aesthetic in one album.
Some listeners may also like to know that the fidelity, relative to his other work, is trustfully high-end, thanks to the quality of the Moog kit and recording, meaning they feel a lot more spacious and layered than usual.
High-tog ambience from Tokyo’s Chihei Hatakeyama, contrasted with icier designs for electronics and vocals from Vida Vojić, making their first solo appearance proper following their ‘Untouch’ track on First Terrace’s ‘Compilation 2’
Hatakeyama offers Heliosphere on the A-side, a conventionally gaseous and lush 19 minutes of blissful meditation, clear and direct, where duration becomes a key unlocking moments of cognitive harmony.
Vida Vojić impresses more with the cinematic sense of detail and sensations of weightless amniotic space in Unseen, and again with a sublime study in reverberant, hyaline dynamics and glossolalic vocals with the gorgeous Sfär.