On vinyl for the 1st time - a superb cross-section of romantic new wave funk, post-industrial and minimal synth tracks originally collected and released together in 1984 by Danielle Ciulini; a pivotal member of the Italian and European tape scene who conceived Nouances as a showcase for the breadth of underground Italian music culture, combining articles by the scene’s leading ‘zine writers and editors, together with strong musical proof .
Looking for all intents and purposes like a Crepuscule compilation, but sounding closer to something you might expect on Music From Memory or Ecstatic (who were coincidentally behind Ciulini’s Domestic Exile Collected Works 82-86), the songs on Nouances are balanced in a half light between hacking Gang Of Four funk in The Tempest’s Abc, and Minox’s exquisitely low key new wave slide into Purgatoryo on the front, whilst the other swerves from 23 Skidoo or Cabaret Voltaire styles with Rinf’s Tropical Nacht / Spass Muss Sein (live at Tenax) to a very canny stripe of gloomy gothic minimal wave from Belgium’s Twilight Ritual, I Never Called You A Dream, and not least, Danielle Ciulini’s icy hot-stepper Silences.
Visual artist Jesse Kanda (FKA Twigs, Arca) makes his musical debut with the compellingly bittersweet introspection of his Heart EP for Hyperdub.
In key with the off-kilter harmonies of his peer, Arca, but willing to pursue more abstract angles of expression, the ostensibly tart sharpness and distorted exoskeleton of Doon Kanda’s sound belies the inspirations at its core, “love, compassion, empathy” in a very similar way to which his hyperreal visual work also gets under the skin, right to the core of it.
While relatively simple, linear in construction when compared with, say, Arca’s output, the five tracks of Heart ache with a pent romantic yearn that hits home from the off: Axolotl - described by the artist as “like a chant for giving it your best try” - exemplifies that raw emotive effect with ruggedly thuggish drive and searing hook juiced for all it’s worth, but the beats barely return over the next four songs; leaving his licks lingering in wide open space like a rhythmic gymnast’s ribbon that never falls to the floor in Womb, or percolated in a curious call-and-response of evaporating bass hits and chiming strokes in Wings, before claggy trap trills infiltrate Heart’s starkly contoured chromatic dimensions.
We sense the start of a very promising musical streak from this artist. Check it!
Throbbing Gristle's second album, remastered - making for markedly superior sound quality to some previous editions - and reissued on Industrial Records.
This finds the band at their sleazy (no pun intended) and savage best, reaching an apogee of apoplectic rage on 'We Hate You (Little Girls)', and has to rank as one of the most brilliant British evocations of decay and dysfunction to appear in any art form, ever. For all the P.Orridge-helmed murk, you feel Chris Carter's presence more firmly on this album - as on the the steam-powered, laser-striped synth-wave of 'Dead On Arrival' and especially 'AB/7A', reminiscent of his recently canonized solo set The Space Between.
For all its electronic innovations, DoA also captures TG's oft-forgotten ability to rock, as heard on 'I.B.M.', 'Hit By A Rock' and 'Blood On The Floor', which locate and update the essence of the Stooges and Gen’s beloved Velvets. 'Five Knuckle Shuffle' is as disconcertingly, flagellatingly funky as it always was, and in 'Walls Of Sound' you see the roots of Whitehouse and pretty much all P.E. and harsh noise that's come since.
Never mind the bollocks, you've got Throbbing Gristle.
Moss Garden is a stunning dark ambient opus from Erik Skodvin (Deaf Center) aka Svarte Greiner: collecting his soundtracks for two installation pieces commissioned by Marit Følstad, perfectly distilling the space between waking life and nightmare as uncannily as anything else you’ll hear this side of a David Lynch flick, or that recurring dream where you’re trapped going the wrong way down an escalator into an icy fjord. If you're into Mica Levi's unique string arrangements, this one's a must.
The album marks the return of Skodvin’s most prized solo alias, trailing in the smoky wake of a recent reissue of his Deaf Center classic, Pale Ravine (2005) to effectively resolve the three year wait since he left us dangling with Black Tie, which was also released thru his label; Miasmah.
As any avowed follower of dark ambient music will likely acknowledge, there’s a fine line between numbing tonal drift and genuinely enchanted sound, and it’s one which Skodvin is patently aware of both as a listener/consumer and producer/alchemist operating within those parameters, allowing him to skilfully navigate the sound’s most subtle aspects without ever being accused of being one-dimensional, as could be applied to many others in that field.
Crucially, like the best of Greiner’s work, Moss Garden strikes a balance of almost academic stoicism and expressive pathos, using rarified technique at the service of an instinctually guided tension. He commits something more akin to one of Harry Bertoia’s Sonambient recordings, revealing a widescreen, mazy field of convulsive, recursive metallic shockwaves that open out at unfathomable, horizontal angles whilst the centre ground gains a mass of blackened drone energy, as though we’re moving ever deeper into a space as long as it is wide until we’re greeted by a frost of sylvan timbres that seem to mimic the vocal tone of its translucent inhabitants.
K Leimer’s 4th LP Land of Look Behind is a genuine ambient pearl from the early years of his Palace Of Lights label. Remastered (by Greg Davis) and reissued on vinyl for first time since 1982!
It was originally conceived and deployed as the soundtrack to Alan Greenberg’s film of Bob Marley’s funeral, taking the film’s location recordings of crowds at the funeral and Rastas in Cockpit County - high in JA’s mountainous interior - as cues and raw source material for a sublime, rhythmelodic suite of 4th World Ambient themes. The result are totally absorbing, some of the most enduring music in Leimer’s revered cache.
Opening up the process-oriented approach of his then-previous album, Closed System Potentials (1980), Leimer’s 2nd side for PoL is a beautifully ethereal, pensile thing which bears an intrinsic link to the film, which, like the soundtrack, isn’t just a straight-ahead match of sound and image; rather it’s dreamily immersive yet detached, hovering between enigmatic and sublime thanks to the use of sampled and reframed dialogue, and most subtly, in the way Leimer and his quartet of drummers - Steve Fisk, Kevin Hodges, David Keller, James Keller - also use the dialogue and street noise as cues, trigger points for syncopated patterns and weightless tones.
Like his best work with Savant, both prior and post this album, the meeting of swaying, pointillist percussion and floating electronics is key to the magic of this one, too. At many times between the chiming instrumental call-and-repsonse of Two Voices and the mix of grubbing bass, pealing synths and patina of glossolalia in The City Far Below, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re in the midst of an Eno & Hassell record, but the distinction is clearly made by Leimer’s grooving suss and unfathomable sense of space, at its most compelling in the slow, crisply rolled Nyabinghi and keening pads of Testimony and Honor, or its widescreen partner piece, The Cockpit.
Colour us enchanted. This is a properly lovely record.
Hardcore techno pelters from NYC industrial survivor Collin Strange
Private Room is a straight-up, gristly wall-banger fuelled on bone-melting acid, thuggish kicks and razoring hi-hats; Private Lies throws down massive inverted kickdrums and 303s right between the eyes; Private Thoughts polishes you off with a kinkier sort of darkroom acid canter.
Smart survey of productions by members of New Order, including classic tracks released on Factory Records between 1982 and 1985. Bonus material on the CD includes the full 22 minute version of Video 5-8-6 and a Section 25 song produced by Ian Curtis and Rob Gretton in 1979!
New Order Presents Be Music is a compilation of productions by members of New Order, including classic dance and electro tracks released on Factory Records between 1982 and 1985, as well as more recent remixes for current artists such as Factory Floor, Marnie, Tim Burgess and Fujiya & Miyagi.
"The generic tag Be Music was first used in 1981 and covered studio production work by all four members of New Order: Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, Stephen Morris and Gillian Gilbert. Sumner often teamed with Donald 'Dojo' Johnson of A Certain Ratio, including the pioneering electro cuts featured here by Quando Quango, 52nd Street, Marcel King, Paul Haig and Surprize. Morris and Gilbert worked with Thick Pigeon, Life, Red Turns To and also 52nd Street. Although more rock orientated, Hook proved he was no slouch on the dancefloor either with the mighty Fate/Hate by Nyam Nyam.
'Producing was a really important sideline,' recalls Bernard Sumner of the Factory era. 'It's OK doing it because although all the groups are skint, you learn a lot and you're helping somebody.'
After 1985 the band focused more on producing their own records, both as New Order and solo projects such as Electronic, Revenge, The Other Two, Monaco and Bad Lieutenant. However in recent years Stephen Morris in particular has remixed several newer artists, notably London industrialists Factory Floor, as well as former Factory workers A Certain Ratio and Section 25.”
Scott Morgan’s Loscil hovers back into view with a decidedly moody album of his patented dub and ambient productions for Kranky some two years since Sea Island.
Monument Builders is a nerve-riddled and unpredictable thing and perhaps not exactly what you’d expect from him. Where once there was a sense of blue optimism to his music, there is now a brooding pensiveness manifest in its minor key arrangements and bruised, textured tone.
The album perhaps betrays a return influence from his day job as a sound director for the video game industry, as Monument Builders could soundtrack a bleak first person immersion in some dark parallel world not too dissimilar to our own, patiently plotting a course thru the resonant, widescreen space and cracked ice patterns of Drained Lake to ascend a vertiginous vortex of throbbing synths - among the most kinetic piece in his whole catalogue - in the anxiously melancholy Red Tide, pausing for murky reflection in the title track, and raising the tension again with the frosty brassy swells of Straw Dogs and coolly baffling the senses with the headlong techno velocity and strangely static poise of Anthropocene, leaving with us the OOBE, swarmed by deliquescent, dying angels in Weeds.
You don’t usually expect an artist’s most powerful piece of work to arrive fifteen years into their game, but that what Loscil has arguably achieved with his 10th solo album.
Regis compiles a killer Downwards label survey for 2017 featuring excluisve new material from DVA Damas, Autumns, Grebenstein, Sefried and Layne, veering from dank EBM to collapsing industrial structures.
Downwards send their new vanguard on road with The Immortal Eye; the mood is intensely depressive and pessimistic throughout, but, in the classic sense of gothic industrial music, the impeccably maintained atmosphere conversely acts as comfort or redemption to those need it.
Berlin’s Jan Grebenstein remerges with Seefried on the tunnelling Wufferfraction only months after their excellent Strong Proud Stupid and Superior 12”. Imagine an anxious HTRK or ToC have just run out of downers and the technoid tension becomes palpable… before, the uncomfortably stark, empty-stomach concrète churn of Layne’s Love will put you back face down again.
Autumns have flirted with Clan Destine and CF Records since their Downwards debut of eviscerated shoegaze in 2014, but they enter the B-side with a markedly different silhouette, framing spectral electronics and unheimlich voices in acres of negative, miasmic space before slipping into a pulsing techno trajectory, whilst LA’s DVA Damas clear up with the erotic asphyxiation of Shortcut To X, which is effectively a crushing reduction of by now familiar sound...
Warm, spacious deep house trax from Vancouver’s Flørist and his alter ego, V. Rosso.
Classic import house vibes here, from the romantic yearn of Windows On The World and its sublime Moving Day Dub hustle to the weightless, Martyn-meets Chez Damier-esque swing of Down & Out, to the nifty, faded pressure of M-80.
Levon Vincent caps his most productive year since 2009 with the brassy club fanfare of Berlin and NYC’s deft minimalist sound design on NS 15.
Berlin is by far one of the brightest, most optimistic club plays in over a decade of LV’s productions, simultaneously drawing on his classical/minimalist studies and Berlin’s history of economic hedonism to hypnotise with a patented blend of subs-driven pressure, martial trills and heady lead horns that nod toward Steve Reich as much as Moritz Von Oswald’s reworks for Deutsche Grammofon.
Likewise, NYC links with a fertile history of downtown experimentation and deep Black dance music roots in its intricately pointillist, pizzicato top line whilst the pounding bass is physically fierce, irresistible in the right situations.
Hauntingly tender solo debut LP from London’s Kelly Lee Owens, delivering on the promise of her excellent Jenny Hval and Daniel Avery collaborations/remixes in a full album of sylvan tech house and synth-pop beauties.
Prefaced by the head-turning single, Oleic - which featured a smart rework of Jenny Hval’s Kingsize - Kelly Lee Owens’ eponymous album introduces a well rounded yet subtly detailed sound to the world at large, one brimming with the rare promise of an artist who wants to extract something more precious, personalised from the dance music and pop prisms which clearly enthral her music.
There’s probably always going to be something about ethereal, floating vocals and the sensual contours of European tech house, when at its best, which will eternally grab our attention. And this album delivers strongly on both counts - striking an impeccable balance of classic, timeless pop songwriting and purring, contemporary electronic grooves that places it in an exulted space on the shelves.
Collaborators Jenny Hval and Daniel Avery appear on the record’s highlights; Jenny lending her poised delivery and lyrics, framed by KLO’s breathy gilding, on the baroque pop-house dream sequence of Anxi., with Avery assisting on the Fever Ray-meets-Liz Fraser stylings of Keep On Walking; whilst the rest is subtly aided by the mixing and engineering treatments of James Greenwood, who’s best known as Ghost Culture on Erol Elkan’s Phantasy Sound.
That combination of KLO’s chamber-like arrangements and Greenwood’s rendering results a string of other pearls in the strung out balearia of S.O. at the front, thru the gorgeous Arthur - which is surely a play on that library record Aphex Twin sampled on Xtal?! - whereas Evolution flexes some properly toned dancefloor muscle, and Throwing Lines could very nearly be mistaken for a cut from Grimes’ Halfaxa period.
After years of plaudits from all corners, Jacques Greene distills the ecstatic/melancholy sentiment of modern electronic house music within Feel Infinite, his debut album for LuckyMe.
Throughout the album’s 11 tracks, the Montreal-based producer synthesises the see-sawing feels of a night with pals, fingers tasting like acrid saffron and skin flush with water retention, using a range of contemporary house, R&B and electro-pop conventions to convey the warmest, user-friendly vibes.
Tom Krell (How To Dress Well) is partly responsible for one of the album’s highlights with pleading vocals on the swinging soft trance R&B gesture, True, and an uncredited female (or processed male) voice sparkles as an instrumental element across many other, with ear-snagging style in the filter-disco chops of Real Time, and cooing from the snappy 2-step structure of Afterglow.