A thoroughly haunting suite of dream-pop/shoegaze songs from Them Are Us, issued in tribute to Cash Askew, former member of the band, who died in the tragic Ghost Ship fire in Oakland, 2016. Unfinished songs by Cash have been completed posthumously with band, family and friends in a steepled masterwork RIYL The Cocteau Twins, Kate Bush, The Sundays
“Them Are Us Too was formed in the Bay Area by friends Kennedy Ashlyn and Cash Askew in 2012 after meeting at school. Fast friends with an appreciation for the same music and art, they recorded a demo and began performing intimate and memorable gigs on the west coast. They quickly gained a cult following as word spread about their youthful, innocent, and fresh take on the revered 80s dream pop and shoegaze sound, and Kennedy Ashlyn’s voice was immediately compared to Elizabeth Fraser, Kate Bush, and Harriet Wheeler – while Cash Askew’s washes of intricate guitar felt akin to Robin Guthrie, Ronny Moorings, or Kevin Shields. Their music felt familiar but new, nostalgic, and heartbreaking, with songs delivered simply and earnestly. They betrayed their age (both only 21 when they signed to DAIS) by releasing one of the most incredible debut albums of 2014, “Remain”.
Tragically, Cash Askew passed away in the Ghost Ship fire in Oakland in December of 2016, sending a shockwave of loss through our community. While Kennedy Ashlyn would eventually emerge as a solo artist through her project SRSQ, there were unfinished Them Are Us Too recordings and demos that Kennedy and those close to Cash felt deserved be heard in her memory.
Kennedy returned to the studio with producer Joshua Eustis (Telefon Tel Aviv), Sunny Haire (Cash’s stepfather), Matia Simovich (INHALT), and Anya Dross (Cash’s girlfriend) to complete unfinished demos and sketches, write new compositions, and honor Cash Askew.
The result is “AMENDS”: an album of tragic beauty and depth that tugs at emotions and inspires.”
Cripes, where did this come from? This is a new limited edition (not to mention beautifully packaged) Will Oldham album in which he combines with Faun Fables' Dawn McCarthy for an alternate take on material penned for the last Bonnie 'Prince' Billy album. The incredibly rough recordings that make up Wai Notes were once demos for The Letting Go album, an LP that was about as hi-fi and full-blooded as you could ever hope to hear. Perhaps because of those maxed-out production values, the album tended to split opinion between long-term Oldham followers, but hearing the songs in their nascent form is sure to be unanimously well received among Bonnie 'Prince' Billy die-hards. The format is pared down to just Oldham and McCarthy singing whilst accompanied by a little acoustic guitar and a whole lot of tape hiss. It's rather odd to hear a song like 'Cursed Sleep' bereft of its lavish string arrangements, but here it is complete with errors and fumbled lyrics, and it sounds just great. Of course to get the full benefit of an album like this it really helps if you know the songs as they appeared on the album in the first place, but even if this is your first time dipping into the material there remains an obvious beauty to these coarse documents. It's interesting that McCarthy gets first billing on the CD, her voice seems to be more defined and spatially diffuse than Oldham's own performance - presumably it's been overdubbed at some later time with some slightly higher quality equipment. In any case the uncompromising physicality and intimacy of the material here makes for a wonderful listening experience. Very highly recommended.
It's finally here, the Bonnie 'Prince' Billy covers record, or as it's become known, the record where our protagonist takes on R.Kelly's 'The World's Greatest'. He does too, and what's more he comes out relatively unscathed, something that's proven quite difficult to most alternative artists in the last few years. The novelty cover has been something of a fixture in the current musical climate, what with Jose Gonzalez going head-to-head with Kylie, The Nouvelle Vague attempting to 'lighten' just about anything and Susanna Wallumrod taking on Kiss (among others) but you should know that with Will Oldham you're in safe hands. The man just has the ability to transform almost anything into a heartbreaking folk standard, and that means that even if he's singing lyrics like "I'm that star up in the sky/I'm that moutain peak up high/Hey, I made it/I'm the world´s greatest" it becomes melancholy rather than the bravado-fuelled masculine boast-fest it originally was intended to be. The most striking song for me however was the song I felt Oldham would have most trouble with, Bjork's 'I've Seen it All' from her Dancer in the Dark score. The song which was co-written by Lars Von Trier is a summation of the movie in a way, a point where everything falls together and is in this both touching and incredibly sad, but Oldham captures this perfectly without ever trying to mirror or imitate what Bjork managed in the original. And this is probably his biggest success, when he takes on Sinatra on 'Cycles' there's never a sense that Oldham is trying to out-sing the great crooner, far from it, rather Oldham is putting his fingerprint on a song he loves and in that we get an indispensable collection from an incredibly important artist of our time. This is a personal selection of secluded moments, hell even Glen Danzig is taken to another level. Maybe Will Oldham is the world's greatest after all?
A big Metroplex highlight comes back around with Mike Grant’s powerful 1997 turn as Black Noise
Both sides are some of the purest examples of Detroit techno you can hope for, working within a sort of double refraction of ideas between Detroit and Berlin and placing a deadly, inimitable 313 spin on the stripped down, high-velocity iterations of BC’s style - itself literally built on the machines and styles of Detroit - and injecting it back into the dance.
They don’t make them like this anymore. Unmissable!
‘Suicide By Sun’ marks the beautifully rapturous return of Erik Kowalski’s Casino vs Japan to heavenly realms of shoegaze and ambient electronica...
Arriving 20 years since his acclaimed self-titled début (we’re still waiting on a vinyl edition!) left its indelible impression, Erik Kowalski reprises an inimitable, expansive sound that keens with the dissonant lushness of MBV and evokes the nostalgic allure of classic BoC, yet somehow retains a patented watermark of shimmering qualities that is patently Casino Vs Japan, no matter what angle you view it form.
“Suicide By Sun accrued across countless home studio sessions, slowly sequenced into four sides of narcotic reverberation, reflective loops, and dream-soaked delay. Guitar gestures refract into twilit horizons; hymnal drones swell and shimmer; smeared notes sway like lullabies of quiet communion. This is pensive, patient, personal music, mapped with feeling and finesse by storied hands.”
Since the release of his last solo album, 2010’s elegant Kokning, Torske has kept busy with a steady drip of single and EP releases as well as reissues of his first two albums, 1998's Nedi Myra and 2001's Trøbbel, and last year's collaboration with Prins Thomas, Square One.
"Apart from having made this album entirely by myself, this was also more planned," Torske states regarding the differences between Byen and Square One. "My collaboration with Thomas was pretty ad-hoc and messy in its conception, but this album is cleaner and more straightforward—more primed for the dance floor." Whereas much of Torske's previous work (including 2007's Feil Knapp) featured tracks that had been in gestation for years, Byen's songs were recorded entirely within the confines of 2017.
"My original idea was to keep things simple and more driven by melodies than has been my wont with the earlier releases," he states regarding his thematic intentions behind Byen. "Still, I am always considering myself to produce music for DJs, so there is hopefully some material that will find its way to select dance floors."
On a proper percussive flex, Indonesia’s Marsesura, Uwalmassa and Wahono articulate indigenous rhythms with a crisp technoid tanggg for Don’t DJ’s Disk label...
Jakarta comes via Berlin in four refreshing ways, taking in the interlocking gamelan and gruff-to-sweet flute lines of Marsesura’s Asmoro, which weirdly also recalls some Timbaland or Neptunes beat from the early ‘00s, next to the splashing and rolling clangour and swagger of Uwalmassa’s first entry to the EP, Untitled 10. Their next follows flipside with combination of swingeing syncopation and fragrant vocal samples coming off like Shackleton dubbing Senyawa, while Wahono teases out the colourful, angular plumage of Pakar Gula Gending from a minimalist palette of gamelan chimes.
We're unashamedly loopy about Will Oldham, pretty much any time that anything related to the feller lands in our laps we always go a bit overboard. No point in avoiding that ritual then, especially as 'Lay and Love' was a real stand-out moment on the recent 'The Letting Go' album and that's the lead track here. The best bit about this single however is the frankly bonkers Bob Dylan cover 'Going to Acapulco', seeing our protagonist taking a surprisingly 'easy-listening' route - now let's hope he manages to put an album together of this stuff, it's genius.
One to finally tick off the wants-list, Instinct’s covetable deep house + electro burner ‘Just A Feeling’, re-mastered and re-edited from master tapes
As usual Fit Sound on their top game here, dropping 1992 Detroit knowledge with Instinct’s very Carl Craig-esque deep house gem Just A Feeling in both versions, backed with the killer electro-house nugg Automation, and the raving dream sequence of Please.
Bambounou alters his style with entrancing effect for Florian Meyer a.k.a. Don’t DJ’s Disk label
On all three tracks the Parisian producer moves perpendicular to the more standardised club styles of his previous releases; firstly in a drowsy exploration of lilting and grubbing grooves with the slow lope of Dernier Metro, then with a rugged intricacy that will baffle the posers but get right into the bones of the proper dancers on the mesmerising swang of Kosovo Hardcore, before trimming it all right back to pure percussive nous with the over-pronating, Basic Channel-esque hypnotism of Vvvvv
Kamasi Washington clearly doesn’t do half measures, as his sprawling 2.5 hour follow-up to The Epic proves in no uncertain terms. Prepare to immerse in a worldly but highly personalized bebop and jazz fusion style, brilliantly lit up by the main man’s searchingly expressive tenor sax for Young Turks
“Heaven and Earth is a double album containing 2.5 hours of new music. The Earth side represents the world Kamasi sees outwardly, the world that he is a part of. The Heaven side represents the world he sees inwardly, the world that is a part of him. “The world that my mind lives in, lives in my mind.””
End Ground forms the third and final installment in a series of records documenting the solo prowess of Sunn 0)))’s Stephen O’Malley released on Sweden’s iDEAL Recordings. It was performed on electric guitar thru Sunn model T amps, and captured on a zoom H4 at Centre Cultural Suisse, Bad Bonn Carte Blanche, Paris, France, on 18th October 2013.
In solo mode, stripped of his usual accomplices and collaborators, O’Malley is no less than an elemental force. His durational meditations absorb and consume with steady-handed wave after wave of charred, sustained, and sub-harmonised chords casting the mesmerising minimalist practice of La Monte Young into the physicality of Black Sabbath’s original, heavy metal die.
The A-side/first half of this 45 minute performance features O’Malley tentatively coaxing out languorous riffs which turn the air around him to a pensive, vibrating mush. As the 2nd half dawns he begins to deliver more crushing blows, drawing out and subsiding the chords with a patented, gut-wrenching and vivifying power that transcends rock, avant-garde, minimalism - all of that - to awaken dormant senses not usually experienced with other musics or concise temporality.
As with many of the most affective heavy drone recordings by Sunn 0))), among others, a modicum of patience is required in order to attain the right state for reception, but once your mind and body are malleable, the impact is deliciously visceral, primal and whelming.
Colour us blown away, once again.
Ryuichi Sakamoto & Alva Noto’s soundtrack to Alejandro G Iñárrritu’s The Revenant is one of the most haunting we’ve heard in years. It should be filed in that rarest category - OSTs which are both inseparable from the imagery they drive, and which also stand tall on their own...
Following Iñárrritu’s use of Sakamoto’s music in Babel (2006), the Japanese composer was commissioned to write this full score but, owing to the fact that he was was in recovery from throat cancer, he opted to bring regular collaborator Carsten Nicolai (Alva Noto)on board alongside The National’s Bryce Dessner to realise the vast scale of the project.
They’ve doubtless done a sterling job, exemplifying a minimalist mantra of saying-it-without-saying-it where so many other composers tend to erect huge emotive signposts reading “FEEL SAD…. NOW” or “ROOOOMANCE!!!!!”.
Whether frosting Emmanuel Lubezki’s widescreen cinematography with a nail-biting timbre, or looming behind the close-ups on a ravaged Di Caprio, the effect of Sakamoto’s sweeping string gestures and Alva Noto’s electronic auroras is beautifully, subtly intangible yet breathtaking.
London’s Nokuit impresses a viscous drone distillation of broken Britain, melding dense, keening electronics with TV, Radio and YouTube samples to give a choking/absorbing, abstract/hyperrealistic and largely unsentimental perspective on blighty from the inside, looking in - conveying a sense of entrapment, paralysed by forces beyond control. Crushingly strong and kinda unmissable for heavier heads, especially fans of Stephen O’Malley, Dave Phillips, Lawrence English.
“NKT presents 'Patterns of Instability', a work of freeform experimental electronic music that moves through dense noise textures, visceral sound design and time-stopping ambient suites. Unfolding over 45 minutes, the new Nokuit album is an absorbing soundtrack probing the pervasive bewilderment of society. It’s a relentless journey where blurred melodies and abrasive soundscapes unsettle our most buried dissatisfactions and inner rebellions.
Swirling drones become a sonic lens which drifts and roams through the currents and threads within the contemporary landscape. Mingling amongst the town square demonstration, flipped upside down through the cameras into the news media rooms and editing suites, dragged up into helicopters looking down into streets and homes, then bounced across the globe by satellites floating in the atmosphere. Spam bots and malware, encryption data, analysis of YouTube uploads and text messages. Rather than focusing in on any specific geographical event, ‘Patterns of Instability’ takes a widescreen approach to our contemporary age of discontent and digs deep into timeless feelings of frustration.
Expanding the peculiar set of expressive tools built over precursor works ‘Analysis Paralysis’ and ‘Reality Disappears After Waking’, here Nokuit’s music reaches its most defined and highly evolved form yet. This is an observation on how we deal with and perceive our reality - whether or not we are in control of it - and our level of acceptance of the constant brainwashing that affects our lives. Each time Nokuit’s music faces the struggle from different angles and in ‘Patterns of Instability’ it zooms in on collective, political and individual battlefields.”
Wen hypnotises with the pendulous, crystalline designs of EPHEM:ERA, a sophomore album study on the mercurial warp and weft of modern UK dance music. Like Actress and Zomby before him, Wen also has a vital vision of what dance music can and should sound like. Taking the most forward elements of techno, jungle, garage and grime, he salvages what’s good and bends their time-tested functions into ear-snagging yet elusive new designs that express a pivotal sense of an eternally out-of-reach future.
Tessellating style and pattern at oblique angles, Wen teases their common binds and frictional differentials in a way that feels fresh yet familiar to anyone who has been participating with UK dance music cultures over the past generation.
In Silhouette he retro-fits sino grime with spiritual jazz in weightless pirouettes, while Time II Think rewires garage with slinky techno. Previous single Blips is a sterling example of where hardcore has become distilled/inverted into weightlessness without losing that lip-biting section of hardcore proper, and the uncentred axes of Grit and Off-Kilter catch him rendering garage-techno prisms with ambient abstraction, modulating the tension between raving urges and a certain sort of UK discipline that’s key to his sound.
Two-disc set featuring new artwork and a bonus disc of remixes and alternate versions, including a previously unreleased remix of Anymore from the band’s Will Gregory, a new version of 'Ocean' with new vocals from Depeche Mode's Dave Gahan and more.
Goldfrapp’s 7th studio album is arguably among their most potent, poignant to date, and that’s no mean feat for a band approaching their 20th anniversary. This may be due to the input of fresh new hands such as Bobby Krlic (The Haxan Cloak) and Leo Abrahams on a number of tracks, or simply down to Goldfrapp assuming their mantle as one of the world’s best-loved and persistent synth-pop units, but either way they’ve cooked up a goodun with Silver Eye.
Where their previous outing Tale Of Us  dabbled with pastoral indie pop alongside the usual smoky, noirish themes, they’ve returned to what they do best here; slickly glam and sensual synth pop proper, illustrated in glossy, sweeping DX7 synth contours and gilded with Alison Goldfrapp’s timeless grasp of impeccable, romantic songwriting.
The mingling of fresh young blood with Goldfrapp’s anachronisms makes for a record that could have been released at almost any point in their catalogue but somehow sounds very now, in a sort of ‘90s-referencing way - which we’d largely put down to the input of Bobby Krlic on four tracks in particular; on the glam stomp of opener Anymore, suggesting NIN meets Taylor Swift, in the sublime DX7 strokes and shoegaze guitar burn of Tigerman, and thru to the biting point crunch and detached vocal processing of Become The One, or the way how Moon In Your Mouth somehow sounds like a beautifully hyper-stylised version of Dido - and we mean that most respectfully.
The rest is sterling, too; highlights also to found in the lip-biting darkroom greazer, Systemagic; the perfectly curdled chords and Alison’s dry ice poise in Faux Suede Drifter; the Fever Ray-like techno-pop thump of Zodiac Black; or the misty-eyed beauty of Beast That Never Was, featuring Slip associate and Brian Eno collaborator Leo Abrahams.
Crooked, grubbing rhythms and salty noise lashes laced with mesmerising melody, from Stefan Schwander’s Harmonious Thelonious...
In that so-stiff-it’s-funky style indigenous to artists form the Rühr, on Background Noise Schwander racks up the rugged push and pull of zig-zagging rhythms in Elegant, along with a hunched sort of dancehall budge akin to Tolouse Low Trax gear in Masch Masch, while the pulsating Italo arps and spindly figures of Train recall Konrad Kraft’s recently reissued Arctica ace from late ‘80s Düsseldorf, and Remi sounds like a stripped form of robotic ‘80s highlife.
Burly grime x techno chimeras from Zeki, a known producer going incognito for Jack Dunning a.k.a. Untold’s Pennyroyal
Faithfully playing to a hardcore UK aesthetic, Zeki brings it hard and rude but tightly in-the-pocket at 140bpm, skanking out on proper, wide bass and singed 909s in Goofy, and like Jon E Cash meets Sleeparchive in Good Friday, whereas the 45rpm cut B-side raises the tension with needlepoint hi-hats and hypnotic acidic lixx in Organism, and fades out to the brute primitivism of Patchwork.
John T Gast and MC Boli operate at the apex of their esoteric powers on ‘Lighthouse’ for 5 Gate Temple, following Young Druid’s addictive début with an expansive, immersive suite highlighting unique intersections of new age ambient, jazz, avant-classical and arcane folk music
As Gossiwor, Gast and Boli share a remarkably intuitive mutualism on Lighthouse. They may draw from a similar pool of references to many other artists working within the ambient zeitgeist, but smartly manage to imbue their works with a sense of magick realism, rather than the smell of stale bedrooms and cheese.
Over the course of 73 minutes and 9 songs, some of them stretching over 14 minutes, they properly get into the vibe, alchemising a fascinating new alloy of their respective styles which refuses to be reverse engineered by listeners. The results are patently their own, coolly scrolling from something like Jani Christou in dub on Domestic Saga 1, to raindance ambient in Oceana Pt.2, and a time-stopping ambient regression to underwater futures with Lighthouse, and the surreal peal of Ava Maria.
Under the Church Andrews guise, Kirk Barley a.k.a. Bambooman takes cues from SND, Errorsmith, Gábor Lázár and Rian Treanor for a crooked, mercurial session of computerised funk
“UK based Church Andrews gifts Health with 4 exercises in crisp hyper-rhythmic digital synthesis. Constructed utilising algorithmic composition techniques, just intonation tuning systems and experiments in time signature and morphing temporals.”
The World of Harry Partch is a seminal survey of the arch iconoclast’s efforts in consolidating the myriad voices which made up American 20th century music.
Collecting three of his famous shorter works, Daphne of The Dunes, Barstow, and Castor & Pollux, this LP is a perfect portal to Partch’s peculiar and radical fusions of Orientalist themes with African percussions and Hobo language. Most importantly it omits reference to the traditions of Western, European music which he believed constricted perceptions and definitions of a “true” American music.
It’s best described in his own terms, as ‘ritual’ or ‘corporeal’ music, which both refers directly to the original intentions of the music he drew from, and to its physical nature, which eschewed electronics in favour of his self-built instruments and their tactile capacity for unique tunings. Of course, you can listen to these recordings without any prior knowledge of their provenance and totally enjoy them for their alien familiarity, but when taken in context of Partch’s philosophy, they really take on a whole life of their own. Dive in!
“'Daphne of the Dunes' (1967) is a side-long update of 'Windsong' written for dance. The melodic segments are given more emphasis than usual for a Partch piece, and harmonically this is one of his best with arpeggiated glides/cries of the Harmonic Canons evoking our sympathies. Meter changes almost measure by measure, with one section in 31/16 meter; another (polymetric) section consists of 4/4-7/4 over 4/8-7/8! Needless to say, while being very physical, Partch's music isn't something you can easily tap your foot to. What's most important is that it works. Partch was not one to introduce musical complexity merely for its own sake, another factor that separated him from his contemporaries. Not only are the rhythms complex, but they are performed at a frantic pace unequaled by any music I've hard (save perhaps the inhumanly fast player piano pieces of Conlon Nancarrow!).
This is characteristic of most of Partch's works, though I think 'Daphne' is one of the most successful and exhilarating. 'Barstow -- Eight Hitchhiker Inscriptions from a Highway Railing at Barstow, California' was composed in 1941 as part of 'The Wayward.' It offers such statements as 'Go to 538 East Lemon Avenue for an easy handout' and 'Looking for millionaire wife...' This charismatic piece is successful due to the contrasting of Partch's intoning voice with others in the ensemble and to increased instrumental emphasis. Last is 'Castor and Pollux' in a more modern performance than From the Music of Harry Partch, with greater vigor and fidelity. The World of Harry Partch is an excellent introduction to his works that comes highly recommended." -- Surface Noise
Grand, sweeping neo-classical statement by Polish cellist Karolina Rec, a.k.a. Resina
“Two years on from her critically acclaimed, self-titled debut, Polish cellist Resina (aka Karolina Rec) returns with her sophomore album for FatCat's influential 130701 imprint. A less fragile, far more immediate album, 'Traces' sees the Warsaw-based artist working a sound which moves closer towards the listener, with increased viscerality and weight. It's a bold, dynamic and assured step forward and an album fully deserving of your attention.
Looped, processed and layered with increased dynamism, on 'Traces', the cello moves from discrete chamber intimacy to shimmering ambient miasmas and more urgent, full-blooded tracks that reach out and grab you. There are points of delicate beauty and moments where everything seems about to melt into chaos. Whilst Karolina's voice appeared only briefly (to stunning effect) on her debut's final track, this time around it assumes much greater prominence, featuring on almost half the album's tracks. Non-verbal, her vocals function as a beautiful, haunting textural layer, conjuring a sense of near sacred purity and longing. Besides the looped and layered sounds/ rhythms coaxed from cello and voice, 'Traces' expands her palette with contributions from drummer / percussionist Mateusz Rychlicki adding body and drive on a number of tracks.
'Traces' was recorded in December 2017 at renowned Polish producer/ musician Maciej Cieslak's studio in the Wola district of Warsaw. One of the city's uglier areas, Wola was massively devastated during the last war, being the site of both the Jewish ghetto and Warsaw Uprising. During the album's production, the pair often discussed palpably feeling some heavy, dark energy of the place, something of which has doubtless leaked into the album. Drawing upon some dark and timely themes and finding grounding in the worrying / unstable era in which we find ourselves, its title refers to the observing of memories; to remnants surviving violence or the ravages of time; to parts missing or disfigured.”
Footwork OG, RP Boo keeps the style mutably rude and forward with I’ll Tell You What!, a début album declaration of dancefloor war arriving nearly 30 years into a DJ/production curve that started with him handling the decks for original Chicago dance crew, the House-O-Matics, and has seen him release music for Dance Mania before leading Footwork’s global expansion via Planet Mu.
I’ll Tell You What!, is Kavain Space a.k.a. RP Boo’s first collection of new material to be released shortly after it was written. In other words it’s his first album, proper, if we consider that his pivotal Legacy and Fingers, Bank Pads & Shoe Prints releases were compiled from archival material. But pedantry aside, I’ll Tell You What! is simply another thrilling RP Boo record crammed with unique rhythmelodic arrangements.
Born in the resistance of Chicago’s streets to its endemic violence, but also heavily inspired by Boo’s incessant touring schedule over the last five years (if you haven’t witnessed him DJing, you’re missing out) the album is as much about the Chi as his hard-won experience of how to translate Windy City funk to foreign feet, and finds him stripping back the samples to locate leaner, more rugged beat structures and hardcore basslines that marks the difference compared to his earlier work.
If we’re playing favourites, the rhythmic crossfire of At War is definitive RP Boo, while Cloudy Back Yard’s percolated chorales and dark B-line are just mad abstract and inexorably funky, and that mutual, underlying connection with the nuttiness of UK hardcore really comes thru strongly in the cranky prang of Bounty and the breathless flow of U Belong 2 Me. But fuck any more chat about this one, you’re only ever going to understand it properly with your ears and feet.
Infectious hot-steppers meshing belting vocals to pointillist polyrhythms by fuji master drummers on talking drums, trap drums and electronic percussion. Recorded in modern day Lagos, Nigeria
“‘Synchro Sound System & Power’ features the music of Nigeria Fuji Machine, which includes some of Nigeria's finest ‘Fuji’ master drummers and singers, and is newly recorded by Soul Jazz Records in Lagos.
Fuji is the heavily percussive and improvisational style of Nigerian popular music, at once modern and yet deeply rooted in the traditional Islamic Yoruba culture of Nigeria.
Here on this album Nigeria Fuji Machine’s striking and powerful lead vocalist Taofik Yemi Fagbenro soars above a wild and energetic backdrop of polyrhythms played on traditional talking drums, trap drums, electronic and street percussion to create a powerful wall of intense sound.
Fuji is hi-energy street music, heavily percussive which evolved out of the Islamic celebration of Ramadan, which became a major event in mid-20th century Lagos. Groups of young men walked through Muslim neighbourhoods at night singing improvised ‘wéré’ music to the accompaniment of pots, pans, drums, bells and anything else available, waking believers for the early morning prayer. By the early 1970s this music had crossed-over into popular Nigerian culture where it came to be known as Fuji, first made popular by the artist Alhaji Sikiru Ayinde Barrister, as the music began to be performed commonly at parties and social events.
In the 1970s and 1980s three Nigerian artists – King Sunny Adé, Chief Ebonezer Obey and Fela Kuti – all secured international major record deals bringing popularity to the Nigerian musical styles of Juju (Adé and Obey) and Afro-Beat (Fela Kuti’s unique mixture of highlife, funk and jazz) abroad, but in the process ignoring much of Nigeria’s rich musical landscape. Fuji is, alongside Highlife, Juju, Afro-Beat, Sakara, Afro-Reggae, Waka, Igbo rap, Apala and numerous others – one of these central styles of Nigerian music.
The singer Barrister described the music as follows: ‘Fuji music is a combination of music consisting of Sakara, Apala, Juju, Aro, Afro, Gudugudu, and possibly Highlife.’ Juju performer King Sunny Adé described the difference between the two styles of Fuji and Juju somewhat competitively thus: ‘Fuji music is more or less like my music without guitars. It’s like I’m singing in a major key and they are singing in a minor. The music itself is the music of Juju music.’
Today Fuji remains a powerful popular music with deep and powerful Islamic roots which continues to modernise and attract new generations of young Nigerians and Nigeria Fuji Machine’s ‘Syncho Sound System & Power’ is a powerful and intense musical experience.”
As Young Druid, John T. Gast distills his most endearing Midi-eval energies into a suite of LED candle-lit fugues and funky Myrdas, making a sterling follow-up to his UVA_roots_and_destruction mixtape for Richard Sides’ Bus and the INNA BABALON tape in 2016, which was also self-issued on his 5 Gate Temple label.
Concocted from a bank of recordings alchemised on one box and a two-track recorder, Young Druid follows 12 ley-lines of investigation with findings equally applicable to occult soirees and the downtime of amateur archaeologists and tyrannical trap lords alike; conjuring a haul of exquisitely ornate, glyphic hooks, gilded dub grooves and smoked-out chamber themes of a supremely rarified yet earthly air.
They bear a striking resemblance to the bright, poised baroque MIDI orchestrations of Coil as much as King Tubby’s classic digi dubs, splitting the fine difference between K. Leimer’s new age experiments and Roland Young’s mystiphonic experiments or even Wiley and Geneeus’ early grime etudes; essentially divining an obscure, arcane and meditative sense of spirituality that transcends time and place with a broad appeal to armchair and headphone-dwelling mystics of all stripes.
If you need any prompts, check the creamy luft of Young Druid for a start, then the cross-eyed invocation of Fugue and the Jammer-meets-kenji Kawai stepper, Myrda, and Blue’s exquisite trip hop pallor and you should have a good measure of the variety and consistency of mood and vibe therein.
Aïsha Devi’s Danse Noire keep pushing the dance with a tense fusion of destructive drums, alarm-raising horns and far eastern gnosticism by Meuko! Meuko!, including an ace, rambunctious remix by Dutch E Germ
“Dreamscape: The fog, snow, streets … everything had only altered slightly from my memory yet I perceived this world as one that might be a couple years, or even a few centuries, into the future. I was amongst a group of futuristically dressed children, school dropouts turned street dwellers, who had just run away from their homes, and I seemed to be one of them, wearing dark sailor clothes, with black hair just past my shoulders.
We had been hiding for quite a while in the white stairwell of a newly built building, uninhabited since its completion. The children set up a den in the stairwell, equipped with a TV and video games. I had somehow become their leader, directing the others where to safely spend their nights. These children were not afraid of the darkness in this world.
One young girl even managed to communicate with rabbits living in the snow. She often hid in a corner of the stairwell, listening to an old yellow cassette player. The girl believed the sound she heard was a gift from the ancestors – music had vanished in this world, you see. She would listen to recorded lectures and pray in the temple left by her predecessors.
Eventually the hideout was discovered by the building’s construction workers when the children were returning from their scavenging mission, so we were forced to leave and seek new shelter. Once again we retreated along the bustling streets, where neon lights were beaming everywhere, and creeping smog rendered peoples’ faces lost and helpless. Elder street vendors were selling every last bit of their wares, hawking outmoded objects of their forefathers. Finally we arranged some cardboard boxes in an alley, just for one night’s sojourn. We knew it was still a long road ahead. That night felt like a year.
Another morning we were driven out from previous night’s hideout, as we had become accustomed to, and while out scouring the streets for food the girl stumbled upon a forgotten temple. A dense fog hovered in the air, as if the place was high up in the clouds. The temple was too crammed with dark painted bronze figures of canine deities for her to even find a way in. She sensed from these figures, a time of strife and warfare harkening back thousands of years, a time when mankind destroyed the earthly body of Buddha and the Gods. These sacred bodies had subsequently been sold and dispersed throughout the world for thousands of years. This temple had become the haven for these anthropomorphized animal figures since then.
Realizing she had in fact lost consciousness, the girl awoke to find the temple floating among the clouds, an island in the sky. Only then did it dawn upon her that humanity will inevitably return to its primal state among the ancient forests, and that the temple suspended in the heavens contained the ghosts of humanity.”
Devilishly slinky techno from French producer Marcelus, back on Tresor, site of his ‘Vibrations’ LP release
There’s two proper rug-cutters on board, namely the swingeing Afro-Latin percolations of Magnet, with its mesmerising lead and sizzling drums, and the crankier Regis-in-the-Amazon styles of Say It Again, which are both sure to make you dance better, while the other cuts explore more sunken, dreamy space in the cavernous, rolling designs of Paranthesis, and the brownian slosh of Descent.
Scott Herren reminds of his subtle genius on Sacrifices, a 17 track suite catching the Prefuse 73 sound in flux between his signature, off-centre hip hop beats, scrambled interludes and some beautifully minimalist moments.
It’s only just occurred to us that, in name at the very least, Prefuse 73 shares something in common with Oneohtrix Point Never, while on another level their similarities come thru strongly in the jazz-fusion styled melodic charm and proggy harmonic intricacy of ‘Sacrifices’, and perhaps most explicitly in their mutual AM/FM inspirations and predilection for obscure samples. Of course there are certain obvious differences between the two, but we urge any fan of either artist to dip in and see what we mean. You may be very pleasantly surprised...
“Following his detour into fractured, kaleidoscopic hip-hop with Fudge (the duo he formed with wunderkind rapper Michael Christmas), Herren has become increasingly interested in injecting a sense of space into his characteristically complex productions. The resultant 17-track collection is akin to watching an old photograph deteriorate in one’s hands, as otherwise dense beats disintegrate into airy expanses of emotionally resonant electronics. Its effect is not unlike attempting to recall a murky memory of a dream of Herren’s earliest works, imbibed with an increased interest in the subtlety of modern minimalism.”
The great Robert Lippok (To Rococo Rot) returns with his first solo album in seven years, Applied Autonomy for Olaf Bender's Raster. A survey of what he’s been up to, as much as a statement of intent for here and now, Applied Autonomy reprises the fine balance of tuff-edged minimalism, spatial illusion and melodic delicacy that emerged with Redsuperstructure , but ratcheting its effect with a renewed vigour for a frankly epic impact.
As the title makes explicit, Robert’s 3rd solo album is concerned with autonomy, which feels like an apt subject for the age of automation, when humans are increasingly negotiating their role in context of the machine and AI, and vice-versa. The systems Robert set up for Redsuperstructure now come into deeper relief, as he applies a greater understanding of their workings in order to eke out, sculpt their possibilities in his own image.
Much of the material came from improvisation and sketches made in preparation for his live shows. This quickfire process amassed a range of material which was then more considerately cut to shapes and layerd not applied Autonomy, which ranges from almost Rian Treanor-esque stutter drums mixed with dense yet wide atmospheres in his title track, and twisted across the album, from frenetic acid dancehall mutations in Varieties of Impact, to the meter-messing trance of Scene 3 which sounds like something Vladimir Ivkovic might play, and thru to the necessary, hoped for dose of emotive lushness with brimming optimism of All Objects Are Moving.
But he really saves some of the best for last in Samtal, a 14 minute piece recorded in duo - but not together - with Klara Lewis at EMS Stockholm, where we effectively hear two autonomous minds at work, making for a smart contrast with the singularity of the preceding tracks.
Cinematic neo-classical orchestrations meet heavily textured electronics in a way recalling Ben Frost and Jon Hopkins
"Ben Chatwin’s 'Staccato Signals' is the South Queensferry-based composer's second album with Village Green, following 2015's ‘The Sleeper Awakes’.
Ben initially set out to make a purely electronic record, using analogue and modular synthesisers, harnessing the unpredictability of hardware sequencers to write melodic lines rather than by hand with a keyboard. This was about giving up control to the machines – leaving them to their own devices, allowing chance and random elements to decide the direction of the music, ultimately making them more of a collaborator than a tool.
However, towards the end of its writing, not satisfied with the results, Ben was overcome with the feeling that he needed to push what he had created further into new territory, in order to invent entirely new sounds and textures. He decided to work with a string quartet, exploring innovative ways to fold, bury and combine both strings and brass into his industrial, noisy and chaotic electronic template. Again, this was about giving up control – working with other musicians, allowing them to improvise and arrange parts in order to find those special moments where something unexpected happens. The writing process became a search for those moments, the short, sharp flashes of inspiration – the staccato signals.
Throughout the album mournful strings are engulfed by harsh, all-encompassing synths, while disorienting climaxes of blazing electronics recall the deafening loudness of an inferno. Yet while the jagged, synthesized textures that needle the album together might call to mind such devastating imagery, the acoustic instruments that feature throughout the album continuously provide a more human counterbalance.
Following ‘The Sleeper Awakes’ (2015) and ‘Heat & Entropy’ (2016), ‘Staccato Signals’ is Ben’s third album under his own name. It’s a bolder and more ambitious record than anything he has written before, largely the result of relinquishing different levels of control over the musical process. It’s an album which smoulders with an almost aggressive darkness, yet one that is laced with melodic glimmers of light.”