Avant-garde Japanese vocalist Phew follows her sublime Light Sleep for Mesh Key with this album of purely vocal works combining extended vocal technique with Dadaist sound poetry and complex, alien electronic processing.
Voice Hardcore a deeply strange and surreal listening experience, which flits a fine line between real, natural recordings and their warped reflections, gauging a wide space for free expression and, by turns, interpretation, which requires no understanding of the Japanese language in order to grasp its otherworldly beauty.
RIYL Kurt Schwitters, Toru Takemitsu, Joan La Barbara.
Your SA dance collection is set to swell with Pantsula! (The Rise Of Electronic Dance Music In South Africa, 1988-1990), a crucial survey of the much talked about - but little known - scene that sprang from bubblegum and Shangaan Disco, and laid the roots for those Kwaito and Gqom aces which would penetrate scenes and light up dancefloors far beyond the southern hemisphere.
As the excellent liner notes describe in much more detail, Pantsula music (think of Pantsula as a style, attitude rather than fixed descriptor) in 1988-90 was the soundtrack to a difficult, fractious time in SA society and politics, which was still under Apartheid and its people subject to all the shit came with it, which meant that nightclubs and shebeens (blues/after-hours joints/taverns/you know the ones) were constantly under threat of being shut down by the dibble and the authorities, even in places like Johannesburg, where black and white folk mixed more freely.
Still, where there’s a will… and all, meant that the low key shebeens acted as an incubator for Pantsula, where DJs in the backrooms of houses-cum-bars absorbed American and European influences into their own, deeply rich dance culture, resulting a sound that rudely mirrored the hard electronic jack of Chi-house, new beat or eurobeat and the sleek swing of US and Canadian garage, and even traces of Jamaican digi-dancehall, but with natty melodies and vocals familiar to Zulu culture and SA’s wealth of ethnic minorities.
Basically 4/4 house in all its variations was the common currency of Black Atlantic dancefloors, and few places mores than South Africa, which, outside of the USA, was evidently one of the Black Atlantic’s most important hotspots during the late ‘80s international house phenomenon. With that in mind, the 12 tracks on Pantsula! form a vital historic document of Afro-Futurism, catching a uniquely funked up brace of innovative, ingenious and down right infectious dance music which, with the benefit of hindsight, we’d identity among the strongest of its era. Just, it’s taken us all this long to realise.
And the tunes? 100% gold, pal, especially if you’ve a thing for the directness of new beat or the less jazzy sides of Chicago house, as it takes in absolute peaches such as Ayobayo Band’s Sorry Bra, the inimitably tangled bassline of Chaka’s Via Tembisa, the reggae-inflected lope of Go Siami from La Viva, along with pure, brimming soul aces such as The Equals New Lover, the lusty Chi-NYC-Antwerp-esque beauty of Ushelakanjani by Jazino, or the jagged sequencer funk of Scotch Band’s Watsotsama.
For anyone who enjoys dancing, or pissing off the po-po, this one's for you.
Scorched, ethereal love songs, of a sort, from the hirsute co-founder of Godspeed You Black Emperor! and A Silver Mt. Zion
“Efrim Manuel Menuck returns with his second album Pissing Stars, the brilliantly intense follow-up to his 2011 solo debut Plays High Gospel and the first new material with Menuck as central songwriter and vocalist since 2014’s acclaimed Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything from his chamber-punk-rock band Thee Silver Mt. Zion.
The Montréal-based co-founder of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Thee Silver Mt. Zion has much-deserved cult status among fans of political punk, post-rock and avant-noise songcraft. Menuck celebrates 25 years of unflinching and uncompromising sonic output with Pissing Stars, wherein he launches acerbic darts, impassioned salvos and fragile flowers into gusts of noise-battered song built around pulsing maximalist electronics and drone, composed on modular synthesizer and guitar, shot through with alternately plaintive, chilling, often processed vocals. Pissing Stars is Menuck at his most vulnerable and his most adventurous – with a timely narrative framework that only he could conjure.”
Prolific electro producer Roel Dijcks a.k.a. Ekman stretches out on stealthy search ’n destroy manoeuvres for Shipwrec in his sophomore album
Primus Motor gives Ekamn room to explore a broader range of vibes than his 12”s, giving closer attention to minimalist pressure systems with the likes of his i-F-esque Polymath8 and the slippery acid tone of Mills Constant, along with more evocative, spaced-out and melodic feels e To The Pi i, and the ruggedly bittersweet Goldbach Number, saving his sharpest dancefloor moves for the pendulous Riemann Zeta Function.
Mule Musiq push off a promising new reissue label, Studio Mule, with 13-tracks of Japanese disco, boogie and soul music collected on Midnight In Tokyo. Compiled by Toshiya Kawasaki. Mastered by Kuniyuki Takahashi.
"At mule musiq, we've focused on shining light on the many aspects of what electronic music can be, putting out house, techno and ambient releases on our main label, while releasing alternative-leaning dance music through our endless flight imprint. but with the launch of our new label, studio mule, we are stepping away from electronic club music for a bit. the label will not be tied to a specific genre, as we will instead focus on releasing any kind of music that we feel is a little bit different and interesting, but somehow make sense in this day and age. for our first batch of releases, we will be focusing on japanese music.
To be honest, i have been watching the recent rise of global interest in japanese musicwith a skeptical eye, not sure of how to feel about all these labels overseas licensing great albums that were birthed in our country. but then, i was told by somebody i greatly respect that i should do something similar with mule, and put our own spin on it, which sounded like a good idea to me. after a period of procrastination, i finally got around to doing it. we are starting things off with a compilation of japanese disco, boogie and soul music that we selected from a modern dance music perspective - the kind of songs that we feel would intrigue music fans across the world.
The compilation starts off with the Afro disco classic "Mi Mi Africa" by harmonica player Nobuo Yagi. "Silver Spot" is a jazzy fusion disco track taken from composer, arranger, and multi-instrumentalist Nobuyuki Shimizu's first album (1980), released when he was 19. The track features singer Epo. "Samba Night" is by vocalist Keisuke Yamamoto and his band Piper, from their masterpiece second album Summer Breeze (1983) -- a delightful city pop number for fans of Tatsuro Yamashita. "Akogareno Sundown" is a Japanese soul classic, sung by singer Haruko Kuwana (sister of Masahiro Kuwana). Produced by Mackey Feary Band, known for the soulful classic "A Million Stars". "Koiwa Saiko (I'm In Love)" is a mellow and groovy track by singer Aru Takamura, the great-grandchild of sculptor Kouun Takamura. It can be thought of as Japan's answer to Cheryl Lynn's "Got To Be Real". "What The Magic Is To Try" is a cult electropop track by Honma Express, a project helmed by producer Kanji Honma. Hailed as Japan's Trevor Horn, he is also known as the producer of legendary techno pop band TPO.
"Colored Music" is a song by Colored Music, a duo of pianist Ichiko Hashimoto and her partner Atsuo Fujimoto. Taken from their sole album (1981), the Japanese rare groove treasure is a mesh of new wave, synth pop, and jazz influences. The dubby electronic new wave disco "Electric City" is a B side of pop idol group Shohjo-Tai & Red Bus St Project's debut 12" single. "Love Is The Competition" is a breezy disco jam by Okinawa-born bilingual artist Hitomi Tohyama, originally featured on her album Next Door (1983). Taken from Mariah project's diva Yumi Murata's first album (1979), "Krishna" is a funky and soulful rockin' disco cut. Reminiscent of Chaka Khan's "I Know You, I Live You", "Live Hard, Live Free" is a song by jazz vocalist Eri Ohno who is known for her work with DJ Krush. "Rocket 88" is a melancholic disco number by singer Minnie originally released through Sapporo's independent label Paradise Records. Closing out the 13-track compilation is Japanese disco staple "Tokyo Melody", sung by Shoody and backed by Tetsuji Hayashi's disco band the Eastern Gang.”
One of the last, genuinely great, unsung artists of 20th century composition, Roland Kayn (1933 - 2011) - a sometime member of Gruppo Di Improvvazione Nuova Consonanza and the pioneer of what he termed Cybernetic Music - made some of the most breathtaking, intrepidly advanced electronic music ever recorded. The 14 hour expanse of A Little Electronic Milky Way is Kayn’s late major opus and forms a stargate-like introduction to his modular macrocosm, a place where many ideas of C.20th composition, from serialism to jazz and artificial intelligence, collapse into bewildering harmonic, metric and timbral structures practically unprecedented within his field. And mark our words, that’s not hyperbole: this is proper Enter The Void music.
A Little Electronic Milky Way of Sound is Kayn’s first, posthumous release since Multiplex Sound-Art  and forms a staggering summation of his concept and aesthetic, which was first hatched when a series of 1950s broadcasts from WDR in Cologne named The Sound of Electronic Music prompted the then 20 year old artist to think that “a composer, like a painter, could realise his work without the help of other people. That he can handle the material directly and creatively edit it”.
He subsequently completed his studies as an organist (later applied to his work beside Egisto Macchi and Ennio Morricone in Gruppo Di Improvvazione Nuova Consonanza) and farther developed his concept of electronic music under the tutelage of Boris Blacher, Josef Rufer, Fritz Winkel and Oskar Sala (seminal composer of FX for classic Hitchcock flicks) in Berlin, grounding a sound which would come to pre-echo mankind’s push toward a form of AI, and serve to touch the very limits of human-machine imagination and perception.
A few years ago we were left reeling from a chance encounter with Kayn’s work, ironically enough offered up by YouTube’s recommendation algorithm, which pretty much turned our listening lives upside-down and inside-out. A keen investigation of Kayn’s composition ensued, which only confirmed our initial thoughts: this guy is light years out on his path; and how on earth is his music not better known?! We clearly weren’t the only ones to think so, and, now following their re-mantling of downtown legend, Julius Eastman, Frozen Reeds have grasped that task with both hands on this mind-expanding new release.
A Little Electronic Milky Way of Sound effectively charts all aspects of Kayn’s unfathomable, algorithmically weft sound c. the era of his early boxsets Simultan, Makro, Infra and Tektra - from pineal-smudges and clouds of harmonic colour to fractured staccato pulses and keening, outer space dynamics usually only witnessed by Gods or astronauts. Mercurial by definition, elusive in nature, but gargantuan in scope and scale, it sounds as much like the inexplicable abstraction of a half-recalled, formative fever dream as your first K-Hole experience or some transmission from another galaxy, most effectively representing or emulating a sound which exists in our shared cultural imagination, but which has never before been generated, realised quite so vividly, and yet intangibly.
The implications of this sound are multitudinous. On the most fundamental level, he comes as close or closer, and earlier than any other composer to letting his machines speak their own language - and effectively years before Autechre, Keith Fullerton Whitman, the CCRU or Eno probed this same area. On another, connected level, his realisation of atemporal, atonal depth of field and mutably dissolved metrics can be said to consolidate myriad musical forms in a way that’s hardly been bettered (perhaps because so few knew of his examples), hinting at an atomic universality of all things that perhaps even transcends consciousness and gives a fascinating shape and formlessness to some of the C.20th’s most important ideas about AI and that old chestnut; where to next?
The fact that Roland Kayn did all this before most of us were even born, and he and his work still remains sorely unsung, is as humbling as it is frustrating. Kayn’s recordings described the future in prophetic terms and pretty much reset the last quarter of the C.20th in our books, making much extreme electronic music recorded during the interim seem pedestrian by comparison, and likewise makes a lot of deep space ambient seem like a kid’s picture book compared to his Hubble-scoped deep field projections.
Even more so now, in the age of everything at a touch and reams of modular explorers, Kayn’s music formidably generates a genuine, synaesthetically enhanced feeling of the unknown that’s sadly all too rare in modern electronic music, despite being the thing that probably attracted many of us to its putative charms in the first place.
We recommend serious time away from the laptop/desktop and getting right inside Kayn’s matrix, if only at the risk of coming out looking like Niander Wallace days later.
Kiran Sande (Blackest Ever Black) and Chris Farrell (Idle Hands) trigger their Silent Street cooperative with a surefire survey of Maximum Joy’s dub-fuelled punkfunk and pop singles 1981-1982, collected as I Can’t Stand It Here On Quiet Nights. Digging a pivotal point in Bristol’s dub-informed lineage, it reveals the sound of Bristol parties and after-hours blues in the early ‘80s, which would also find success among the punk-funk crowds and hip hop stations of NYC. Fans of Vazz, The Slits, Glaxo Babies, The Pop Group need to check this one!
“I Can’t Stand It Here On Quiet Nights is centred around the trio of singles the band released on Dick O’Dell’s Y Records between 1981-1982. Their first, ‘Stretch’, was licensed to seminal American label 99 Records and soon after became an anthem on the New York club underground, a cult staple at Danceteria and on late-night radio. Closer to home and a shared personal favourite is their first B-side, ‘Silent Street / Silent Dub’: a languid, haunting tribute to long summer nights in St Pauls (where the Idle Hands shop presently resides), and specifically the Black & White Cafe, “where dub-reggae reigned supreme, 24/7”. Llewellin’s mesmerising one-drop kit and Catsis’s outrageously heavy bassline anchor the track, allowing Rainforth’s exquisite vocal and Wrafter’s trumpet to soar within the intense, expressionistic dub mix. In both subject matter and execution it is the definitive Bristol tune.
‘White And Green Place (Extraterrestrial Mix)’, ‘In The Air’, and wistful instrumental ‘Simmer Til Done’ also feature; the non-Y bonus is the 12” version of ‘Do It Today’, Maximum Joy’s contribution to the Fontana compilation Touchdown, which originally came out in ’82 as a white label split with The Higsons.
I Can’t Stand It Here On Quiet Nights is the first official UK vinyl reissue of Maximum Joy material, with sleevenotes by Janine Rainforth, Tony Wrafter and Kevin Pearce. We invite you to acquaint, or reacquaint, yourself with the eclectic, exhilarating work of Bristol’s finest, brightest pop idealists.”
Carla Dal Forno, Sam Karmel and Tarquin Manek return to F Ingers’ noumenal haunted house slightly older, lusher and with a more detached, dub-filtered gaze in Awkwardly Blissing Out, which has to be one of the most evocative album titles we’ve heard all year.
With the damaged, water-logged audness of their Hide debut still lingering like a smell you can’t get out of the curtains, F Ingers’ 2nd grimoir reprises that mildewed nostalgia with a dusky/dawning appeal, capturing the air of hours lost in a pharmaceutical haze or a slow, gradual comedown, metaphorically manifesting residual gurns flickering on twisted lips and from wayward eyelids, clammy fingertips and glowing pores.
Since their debut collaboration, each member of the trio has issued respective solo LPs - Carla with You Know What It’s Like, Karmel in the magnificent CS + Kreme, and Manek with the ace LST and Tarcar outfits - but here they beautifully subsume all individual egos to a common theme that’s testament to their group familiarity and shared status as outsider Melbournians recording both there, and stationed thousands of miles from home in Berlin.
In a sense, listening to Awkwardly Blissing Out is like eavesdropping on the trio’s telepathic comms, intercepting relayed messages about love, like the plasmic bleep lullaby of My Body Next To Yours, or losing yourself in big cities as with the mild dread of Your Confused, and dealing with reminders from home, both positive and negative as in the sun-dazed All Rolled Up and the nerve-bitten post-punk dub jolts of Awkwardly Blissing Out, which all seem to inhabit a more indistinct, smudged place in their collective imagination.
Our imposed ideas aside, though, this is a captivatingly uncertain, ambiguous album that slowly, voyeuristically sums up those glimpses of a parallel world we all escape to at times.
There are too many hype labels around; Wah Wah Wino is one of the good ones.
Their small but perfectly formed catalogue has managed to carve out a very particular niche for the label despite their ideas often sprawling into so many different directions; repeating that trick Arthur Russell employed so brilliantly of always trying something new, always sounding like Arthur.
If you were into Davy Kehoe’s blinding 'Short Passing Game’ EP released on the label last year (in our top 20 releases of the year) or into Morgan Buckley’s by-now-legendary 'Shout Out To All The Weirdos In Rathmines’ 12” (in our top 5 records of 2014, £££ on discogs), you’ll have a good idea of what we’re talking about; working their way through five proper peaches that will satiate your Arthur Russell itch and then some.
By the sounds of it Buckley and Kehoe have their paws all over much of the EP (including Brendan Jenkinson’s super recognisable bass guitar sections on a couple of them), delivering 5 indispensable/shot-from-the-hip heaters based around all sorts of spiky, motorik punk and pop variants to great, highly absorbing effect.
There’s just no arguing with this one, or this label generally - they’re the real deal, buy anything on Wah Wah Wino on sight, f8ck the flippers.
A Strangely Isolated Place cycle back to Christian Kleine’s soft focus early years, circa his CCO charms, with Electronic Music From The Lost World: 1998-2001 - a lovely selection of previously unreleased, gauzy instrumental ambient-pop and frayed, mellow electronica. RIYL BoC, Arovane, Ulrich Schnauss.
"1998, Berlin was a pivotal time for Germany’s Christian Kleine and electronic music as a whole. Growing-up amongst a divided city’s bleak aftermath, alongside hedonistic tendencies that birthed the likes of Loveparade, it was easy to be both inspired and rebellious at the same time. The influences of Detroit techno and rave culture started to travel, and artists were turning to new techniques and machinery, at a time when the bedroom, started to become a studio.
Christian would end up developing a new and unique sound, alongside a small but impactful community that eventually formed a cult artist roster on the City Centre Offices label. His background began in New Wave and Punk, eventually transitioning into DJ’ing in the early 90’s and then, into more electronic productions, with Jungle and drum’n bass his first muse. Christian was on the hunt for something different to what Berlin had to offer at the time, and with his first synth, (Nordlead 1995) and an Atari computer, Christian was creating his first drum’n bass tracks, sending them off to the local radio station, (Kiss FM) where he met future production partner and CCO co co co co co co co co co label head, Thaddeus Herrmann.
Sunday morning studio time alongside Thaddi (as Herrmann & Kleine), jam sessions with Arovane, and coffee with Ulrich Schnauss, continued to inspire and push Christian’s style. This small but influential group of producers would go on to define a melodic, and introspective style of music that now has a cult status amongst IDM, ambient and electronic music fans.
Becoming tired of functional productions, Christian was always interested in finding his own place and language, and continued to experiment further. Taking his inspiration from drum’n bass, and the company of City Centre Offices artists, Christian defined his unique style we know today. Intelligent drum programming met an ethereal and melodic synthesizer style. A delicate and introspective listen, or a hazy layer of bubbling activity and color, Christian’s music defies function and invites you into a world of personal reflection.
This collection of music is Christian's own moment to reflect. Going back to a time he misses; an intense period when producing music was the only thing that mattered. This is music that never saw the light of day; recovered from DAT and pressed on vinyl; A Strangely Isolated Place and Christian Kleine present 'Electronic Music From The Lost World: 1998-2001'."
Osiris have the rare honour of hosting a typically sublime Burial remix on the B-side to Deep Summer, Simon Shreeve (Kryptic Minds) aka Mønic’s melancholic and dusky industrialullaby.
Perfectly measured for the pensive atmosphere of summer 2017 in a Brexiting UK, Mønic’s Deep Summer courses ghostly R&B/folk vocals thru an arid scene of knackered, worn-down drums and keening harmonic pads, barely but stoically keeping its head up against its impending conclusion in a cannily metaphorical narrative arrangement.
Trust Burial, then, to extract and amplify some sense of beauty from the reserved anguish of Deep Summer on the B-side, opening with a filigree collage of seagulls, windchimes and pads recalling the “better days” of ‘90s summers, before lone voices sardonically echoes the sentiments of Nigel Farage (say it like garage) in the recurring phrase ‘we don’t need noone else’ against a rhythmelodic moire of maribas, pealing sax and queasy subbass squirms, perfectly capturing the lucid sleepwalking momentum and frayed socio-cultural fabric of Britain right now in the gauziest, impressionistic terms, replete with an updraft of balearic guitar in the closing stages perhaps predicting our mass exodus to a Ballardian super-city along the mediterranean coast.
Benidorm, you’ve been warned.
Klein debuts on Hyperdub with an intuitively avant blinder, the Tommy EP, dropping a pin at the label’s farthest flung coordinates, somewhere between concrète R&B and soul-wrenching jazz noise. Very safe to say, if you were into Klein’s Only LP, this one’s a peach..
We pick up in Prologue with a candid glimpse of Klein in the studio riffing on Mariah Carey along with her pals - Atiena, Jacob Samuel, ThisisDA, Eric Sings and Pure Water - we’re dropped off 25 minutes later at the glitching jazz chord chops of Farewell Sorry feeling dazed and seriously wondering, wtf just happened?!
To offer some kind of description, the London/LA-based artist takes the cut-up, collaged themes and techniques of Only to beguiling new degrees, flinging the listener thru a maze of idiosyncratic gestures from clouds of diaphanous, operatic vocals in Act One to the tenebrous R&B of Cry Theme and the rainy parade of Tommy, then crushing ‘90s soul and jungle like you’ve never heard in the all-too-short Runs, and even some sorta grungy jungle trample in Everlong, while B2k is possibly best described as kitchen sink hypersoul.
It’s anarchic, unsettling and steeply unique stuff, largely thanks to her distinctive concrète palette - no recognisable plugins or owt here - but also thanks to a balance of daring, knowing, and playful boldness that makes it clear she couldn’t give a f*ck about trends or convention, which is evidently all too rare nowadays.
Mica Levi is without question one of the most interesting producers working today, with numerous strings to her bow she has repeatedly wowed us with everything from skewed rhythmic edits to her chopped & screwed take on classical arrangements, hooky 3-minute pop tracks to squashed Urban mixtapes - always seemingly side-stepping expectations with a singular approach to everything she's put her hand to.
Following her standout, brilliantly unnerving score for Jonathan Glazer’s Under The Skin a couple of years back, Levi now returns with her second high-profile soundtrack, this time for Pablo Larraín’s Jackie.
There are some pretty amazing interviews with Levi around at the moment (both written, and a couple of totally hilarious Video ones where she makes no concession to what’s expected of her - go find them!), and the tiny insight she gives to the recording process does very little to explain quite how she manages to make a sound so utterly identifiable as her own, regardless of the scale of the production. You’ll find out that she likes to look out of the window when she’s writing, for inspiration, and that despite a classical grounding (at Guildhall) she likes to layer strings in such a way that they attain a kind of school-band quality to them, ever so subtly messing with harmonics in a way that defies tradition.
And that’s the thing with this incredible soundtrack - it sounds rich and beautiful and hugely accomplished, but also ever so slightly off. The use of silence, dissonance, recurring motifs that accelerate and unravel as the soundtrack goes on... is quite something to behold. It’s a hugely confident, self-assured and above all gripping score that is never emotionally heavy-handed, nor does it ever sound like it's trying too hard.
Rather than adapting herself to convention, Levi has re-moulded the genre itself to fit around her acutely non-conformist approach to composition and production and, in the process, has in some way re-set our expectations of what a film score can achieve. She’s done that twice now, on her first two goes at it, which is really quite staggering.
We’ve said this so many times now it almost goes without saying, but there really aren’t many people in contemporary music leaving quite as indelible a mark across so many different genres and sub genres as Mica Levi, in a way that, in our opinion, hasn't really been seen since Arthur Russell or Prince.
PAN imparts its most ambitious and remarkable statement yet with this immersive 3-hour release of Kazuo Imai's avant-garde free improv collective Marginal Consort, recorded at Glasgow's Instal festival in 2008.
It's an impressive feat on so many levels, from the sheer volume of material, to the group's intuitive application of weighty rhetoric and philosophies - eloquently expounded in a 6-page feature in the current issue of The Wire. If we were to reduce it's appeal to any one factor, then its to the potential to collapse almost any listener's sense of time and space, depth and duration when given the attention it deserves.
It makes for a genuinely transcendent and transformative experience: over the course of three hours, divided in eight parts each between 21 - 25 minutes, the set explores forms of sound and ways of playing that never coalesce into 'traditional' music, instead creating a group dynamic of ebb and flow, of exploration and fluidity. Marginal Consort's members: Kazuo Imai (a student of Japanese Free Jazz linchpin Masayuki Takayanagi and also a member of both Taj Mahal Travellers and Takayanagi's New Direction Unit), Tomonao Koshikawa, Kei Shii, Yasushi Ozawa, Chie Mukai and sound-artist Masami Tada (also in GAP) adopt individual positions in the group that are hard to decipher, as opposed to so many other improv units whose preferred mode reflects a method of communication based on a mannered variant of of call-and-response.
Instead, Marginal Consort embrace an overlapping methodology, reflecting the chaos of life mutual to our shared experience, or as Imai himself puts it, "there always remain the fundamental premises that sounds are separately produced phenomena and that their accumulation forms the whole." It should be noted that this release was originally intended as one of PAN's earliest releases; to their huge credit it's taken the label years to put it together. In some respects, it seems right that now, with the benefit of hindsight five years down the line, it arrives to perfectly illustrate the label's broad, often daring parameters.
Praise be to 4AD, who unveil a Jesus arms-worthy new suite of soaring avant and neo-classical reveries by Tim Hecker, on return from unusually long hiatus well spent fine tuning the sound of Love Streams.
“Hecker’s newest opus, Love Streams, takes as its cue from the avant-classical orchestration and extreme electronic processing of his previous full-length, 2013’s Virgins, but shaped into more melancholic, ultraviolet hues. Its power accrues as it unfolds. Inspired by notions of 15th century choral scores transposed to an artificial intelligence-era language of digital resonance and bright synths, the album was assembled gradually, with layers of studio-tracked keyboards, choir and woodwinds being woven into the mix, then molded and disfigured through complex programming. The effect is similar to hearing some ancient strain of sacred music corrupted by encryption. Hecker admits to thinking about ideas like “liturgical aesthetics after Yeezus” and the“transcendental voice in the age of auto-tune” during its creation.”
Among the most stunning and musical electronic works ever produced, these five compositions represent the complete electronic works of Norwegian composer Arne Nordheim (1931-2010).
"Beautifully presented reissue of classic archival electroacoustic works, first released on now very obscure vinyl in 1974. It contains some of the most exciting, shimmering and crystalline electronic sounds to be unearthed in quite a while.
Born in 1931 and highly active, Arne Nordheim is considered by most as the greatest living Norwegian composer, his chamber music, orchestral and various other work spanning a 40 year period. He started to get international recognition in 1960 with his orchestral work ‘Canzona per Orchestra’ and soon after began to explore the use of pre-recorded tape as part of the compositions. His electronic works were recorded in Warszaw between 1967 and 1971, and have strangely enough not been available on record since the 70s.
This releases brings together the collected electronic works of Arne Nordheim, pieces that were furiously dismissed in academic circles in Norway when they first appeared almost 30 years ago, and in a way that have put an effective stop to weaker souls. Compared to some of the more ‘famous’ electronic composers, Nordheim distinguish’s himself by his sheer musicality and sense of structure...Electronic boxes, electric instruments and recorded tape glide in and out as a natural part of the orchestra, in constant pursuit of magical and spellbinding timbres. The orchestral parts reveal how working with mixers and tape splicing have influenced the development of musical ideas in more traditional arrangements.”
Heres our original review from 2004:
"After albums by Set Fire To Flames and Sylvain Chauveau, Max Richter's 'The Blue Notebooks' is the 4th release on FatCat's 130701 imprint, an outlet for more orchestrated, instrumental material. 'The Blue Notebooks' is Max Richter's second solo album, a distinctive and adventurous work that is beautifully recorded and cinematic in scope. Opening with a text from Franz Kafka over a sparse piano melody, the album moves through gorgeous, heart-wrenching string swells of 'On The Nature Of Daylight' through to sparse but lyrical piano pieces; hazy, swirling atmospherics, avalanche pulse-beats and partially occluded melodies that recall Aphex Twin's 'Ambient Works' albums; and to reverberant organ / choir recordings.
Utilising piano, cello, violin and viola, alongside electronic beats (made using a variety of antique electronics and Reaktor), spoken word passages and the occasional field recording, other sounds were generated via old guitar pedals and vocoders. Its lovely to see the Piano making a bit of a comeback, with last week's sublime album from "Hauschka" on Karaoke Kalk, Richter's "Blue Notebooks" and the forthcoming album from Helios on the Type imprint being three of the loveliest exapmples of just how moving this timeless instrument can be. Life affirming music."
The Basic Channel don meets the folk musicians of Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan for a beguiling exchange and fusion of traditions crossing paths between haunting acapella vocals, virtuosic instrumentation and sublime, dub-wise 4th world panoramas.
Locating MVO diversifying his bonds along outernational vectors, just like his BC bandmate Mark Ernestus with Ndagga Rhythm Force or Obadiah, the results form a series of studio portraits and wistful, impressionistic abstractions. They transport us to a place well off the usual map, to rugged lands once crossed by The Silk Road, where preserved, ancient traditions still reveal ghostly traces of the voices and sonic cultures which passed thru them.
The original arrangements of Ordo Sakhna range from complex, airborne string flights to nerve-jangling mouth harp pieces and a few stunning acapella pieces, which to our untrained ears resemble both Middle eastern, Indian classical and Chinese traditions, whilst the Drums track would appear to catch MVO in lissom fusion with live percussionists.
The multiple MVO dubs are a huge attraction, too. None more than the jaw-dropping Facets, where drums are swept in mountainous dynamic across the stereo field, joined by Hassell-esque dream tones and twanging mouth harp in one of the master’s most abstract, mercurial works in memory, whilst Bishkek, May 2016 catches them in live form at the Kyrgyzstan edition of Unsound festival, and the rolling Draught, and its version frame the spirits of Ordo Sakhna in his signature dub techno style, with results comparable to Shackleton when he removes the straight kicks.
One for the kinky French soundtrack fiends: 1st of two volumes presenting the 2011 CD compilation on vinyl for the first time.
“Rising out of the smoky Parisian Mai 68 shrapnel and claiming his stake as the first French vampire movie director, the inimitable father of European Horrortica, Jean Rollin (1938-2010) has smudged the painted face of surrealist cinema for over five decades. Dragging his roots from beneath the Letterist/Situationist movements, avant-garde theatre, Belgian fine art groups and entwining them around the minds of sexual revolutionaries, the European comic book cognoscenti, the Parisian free jazz and rock scene, Rollin stopped at nothing to bring his macabre phantasies of zygotic vampirism and back- ward blood cults to Gallic cinemateques and beyond. Celebrating the immortal legacy of the late director Finders Keepers Records have compiled a detailed and comprehensive music cabinet of some of the finest musical moments from his initial directorial decade (1968-1979) that provided a much needed platform for the freak rock and free jazz that mirrored the distorted erotic visions in his own mind’s eye. Imagine Gong-Gone-Wrong meeting the Art Ensembles Of Châteauroux… Fantasy pop groups mutate and thrive within.
Featuring early recordings from mod rockers Unity, free jazz legends Barney Wilen, François Tusque and Jean-François Jenny-Clark and musical co-conspirators to Walerian Borowczyk and Fernando Arrabal, this collection unites a wide range of previously unreleased material with some of Finders Keepers’ most collectable Rollinade vinyl moments for the first collection of this kind featuring music over forty years old.”
One of Japan’s most revered ambient/deep house/jazz heads shares his sublimely elegant early material with Music From Memory on Early Tape Works 1986-1993 Vol.1. In good company amid the groundswell of reissued Japanese classics and obscurities currently in circulation, this collection gives a smart overview of an artist who is still active and pivotal to modern scenes, as opposed to long over the hill, and demonstrates that the classy integrity of Takahashi’s approach to sound has been there since the start of his oeuvre.
Check it for sweetest ambient treats in his languorous ace Day Dreams, as well as the pulsing kosmiche lift of You Should Believe, featuring a brilliant but as yet uncredited female vocal, and the ruder industrial/EBM styles of Signifie and Zero To One, which relate to his streak of EBM releases as DRP for Dirk Ivens’ Body Records.
"The Japanese producer and DJ Kuniyuki Takahashi is the subject of Music From Memory’s latest retrospective compilation with ‘Early Tape Works - 1986-1993’. Composed of two volumes, the compilations gather together a selection of tracks from a tiny run of privately released tape only albums, highlighting a fascinating early period in Kuniyuki’s musical output, one of which little is known.
After discovering the world of nightclubs in Japan around 1986, and the seemingly boundless freedom expressed there through music as well as art, Kuniyuki became inspired to experiment with electronic music. Excited by the possibilities of new music technology, he would begin to gather together a number of, at that time, reasonably accessible and inexpensive local keyboards, drum computers and recording equipment. This became for Kuniyuki a way in which to explore music not as such made for nightclubs, but certainly inspired by them. Setting up a home studio in his hometown of Saporro, Kuniyuki would record extensively during this period with the equipment he had gathered together, equipment such as Roland’s Juno60, TR-606, TB-303, Casio FZ-1, Korg 770, Boss DE-200, Foster A8 and a Yamaha MT44 track cassette recorder.
Driven to develop a musical language derived as much by an exploration of music technology and a desire to create new sounds, Kuniyuki was also looking to evolve the possibilities of what he refers to as a ‘new Oriental sound’. Early Tape Works - 1986-1993’ then brings together two albums of material which not only highlights the evolution of Kuniyuki’s own work but also of Japanese electronic music as a whole."
Vital reissue of Chris & Cosey's fourth album proper, 'Exotica', fully remastered by Chris Carter. Originally released in 1987 and pretty much unavailable on vinyl ever since, 'Exotica' sees a slight shift into more club-friendly EBM/Electro, especially with the definitively anthemic title track which has since become the duo's calling card as much as anything else they've released.
In the likes of 'Dancing On Your Grave' or the flashy machine funk of 'Beatbeatbeat' we can also hear clear precedents for the likes of Autre Ne Veut and Twins, but we should remember that all the technology that went into these tracks was totally cutting edge at the time, from samplers to new digital synths and drum machines, lending this LP a timely sense of dedicated futurism. The exotika of the title can be felt in the cyber-sensuous Latin percussion and haunting synths of 'Dr. John (Sleeping Stephen)' and equally the simulated fourth world ambience of 'Irama', firmly enhancing its milestone status for dark and unexplained 80s electronics and dance music in general.
Avanti is Alessandro Cortini’s sixth album and his hauntological magnum opus; a masterful embodiment of his nostalgia for analog synth recordings wrapped up in a pall of decaying futurism. After numerous Forse volumes, a pair of LPs for Hospital Productions, a live recording tape and a collaboration with Merzbow, we’d wager that Avanti is the most substantial Cortini album to date.
In a Leyland Kirby/The Caretaker-esque gesture, Avanti investigates notions of memory surrounding music. Taking a time-capsule of old home movies made by his grandfather as a “perfect fossil of his childhood”, the NIN synthesist turns those cues into signature, billowing structures generated from the EMS Synthi AKS, resulting a record that is sore with a certain ‘hiraeth’, ‘saudade’ or ‘sehnsucht’ for a past which he comes to terms with in viscerally romantic style.
Across all seven parts, Cortini reflects the porous fragility of memory and its decaying glow quite literally in the piece’s fuzzy gaze and the inclusion of almost imperceptible “errors and mistakes”, and also metaphorically in their nostalgia-triggering strokes and wavering harmonic swells, which speak to and stimulate the limbic system with the same sort of magick defined by BoC or indeed Leyland Kirby.
They’re optimistic pieces riddled with and anchored by a sense of sadness, not necessarily cry-your eyes or rip-your-heart-out, but more a sanguine, bittersweet meditation laced with reverence to elegiac effect. For the most they come on as weather-beaten sonic postcards or hand-written missives, each introduced by ghostly voices and saying its piece as though whispering graveside or in private, keeping their messages neatly concise but impassioned in their delivery, save one final section when the feeling almost becomes too much to bear.
His canniness lies in worming out an personalising those combinations of chords, hooks which trigger feelings of nostalgia mutual to most folk who’ve grown up with the same culture and cultural connotations, and then wringing them out to the point of heartache/numbness, and practically making those gestures fulminate on contact with air, skin, nerves and infect your own corrupted memory banks.
Gorgeous 2nd album from Glasgow’s Happy Meals, dispatched via the ever-tantalising Night School a few years on from the duo’s equally endearing debut, Apéro (2014). If you're into Young Marble Giants, Vazz, Antenna, Pram etc, you'll love this.
Fruit Juice can be broadly but cleanly divided in two parts; on the hand they effortlessly charm with slower, creamily kosmiche pop pieces such as Run Round, which sounds a little like Quarantine-era Laurel Halo gone minimal wave, and the woozy psychedelic spell-casting of Fruit Float, which could be imagined as Julia Holter meets Iasos; whilst on the other hand they excel at a smartly pop-wise late ‘80s house and synth-pop style, marking up delicious gallic acid pop in If You Want Me Now and the Deux-styled Suivez Moi, and a real standout portion of mind-bending metallic techno-dub-pop in Now That You Have Me.
Coil’s unearthly garden continues to bloom posthumously with the Astral Disaster Sessions - including a whole bunch of previously unreleased and rare cuts from the Un/finished Musics recordings finally seeing the light of day, transferred from analogue tapes onto Gary Ramon’s Prescription label a year after the remastered original sessions crept out on vinyl reissue.
Notoriously recorded in the former debtors prison-turned-Iron Maiden studio beneath the River Thames, on Samhain, 1998, the Astral Disaster Sessions - Un/finished musics serves a haul of previously unreleased or hard-to-find versions of tracks from the original Astral Disaster [1999/2016] LPs, which are widely regarded a seminal highlight of Peter Christopherson, Johnn Balance, Drew McDowell, Thighpaulsandra and Gary Ramon’s time together as Coil.
On the A-side you’ll now find swirling raga-noise meditation The Sea Priestess (Early Mix) next to a sublime, previously omitted Part 2 tract of The Mothership and the Fatherland, and a skinnier, plasmic Alternative mix of The Avatars, but we imagine the big attractions for Coil fiends will be the Instrumental mix of I Don’t Want To be the One, which was previously only found on a rare 1999 promo-only Prescription sampler, and most particularly the ghostly and invasively psychedelic 14 minutes of Cosmic Disaster, which was the original working title for Astral Disaster, and has never been released on any format.
Autechre's classic third album from 1995, reissued for the first time in 15 years...
Completing the triumvirate of early Autechre essentials, Tri Repetae was the duo’s cranky contribution to mid ‘90s electronic music, and, like its predecessors - Incunabula and Amber - a record that completely defines certain aspects of that era for many electronica nerds, us included.
It’s possibly best known for including the peerless electro-trance swerve of Eutow - which could literally kill someone prone to AMSR in the right situations (not a bad way to gan) - whilst the rest of the LP cements some of Autechre’s sharpest, neck-snapping hip hop beats.
If you’ve only heard this album via download or streaming, or are only aware of their later gear, you’re in for total treat.
A late ‘90s neo-noir ambient and D&B masterpiece - imagine if The Caretaker made fierce, unrelenting Jungle - fully remastered by Rashad Becker and reissued 21 years since its original release back in 1997.
Christoph De Babalon was a key member of Germany’s mutant splinter cells who fused UK rave music with more experimental, Teutonic techno, Ambient and hardedge politics to brutal effect during the mid-late ‘90s. 21 years later, this music has patently withstood the test of time, distinguished by a haunting atmospheric pallor and ruffneck way with Jungle that still makes us feel just as clammy and psychotic as when we first heard it (most likely on a trip to Berlin or via Christoph Fringeli’s invaluable C8 database).
For us, If You’re Into It, I’m Out Of It really distills a feeling of that era, as the utopian outlook of rave’s early years had evidently given way to something much darker, more maudlin, perhaps symptomatic of ennui with dance music’s hyper-commercial land grab, or even a pre-echo of pre millennial tension. Either way it provided the perfect soundtrack to ravers who were spending more time developing virtual lives online, or (speaking from experience) who weren’t yet old enough to go raving, but were shelled with media images and 2nd impressions of the culture, which had by then morphed into the prevailing trends of garage, trance, and prog house, and was but a ghost of its original, loony self.
If You’re Into It, I’m Out Of It therefore feels torn between extreme states. On the one hand it goes harder than the rest in killer rave moves such as the hardcore rattler Dead (Too), the epic amen + drone blow-out My Confession, or the cutthroat beast Water. But on the other, he goes darker, more haunting than the rest of his field with remarkable cuts such as the 15 minutes of billowing dark ambience that open the LP in Opium, or with the sublime, Gas-like suspension system of Brilliance, and the funereal, bombed-out bliss of High Life (Theme).
De Babalon effectively plotted out terrain that bridged DJ Scud’s rugged jungle breakcore with soundscaping more commonly associated to Thomas Köner or Deathprod, and in the process set the ground for myriad contemporary producers and sounds ranging from Raime and Blackest Ever Black to Demdike Stare, Pessimisst and beyond. If You’re Into It, I’m Out of It was, and still is, a deadly statement of intent, whose rhetoric and aesthetic still strongly resonate with subcultural concerns in 2018.
C L A S S I C
Finders Keepers come up roses again with dazzling, never-before-heard live documentation of two Buchla 200 concerts recorded in 1975 by Suzanne Ciani. Rightly heralded as “a distinctive feminine alternative to The Silver Apples of the Moon”. The words “Holy Grail” and “revolutionary” spring to mind! Remarkable stuff for any synth fetishists or historians of the future.
“This spring Finders Keepers Records are proud to release an archival project that not only redefines musical history but boasts genuine claim to the overused buzzwords such as pioneering, maverick, experimental, groundbreaking and esoteric, while questioning social politics and the evolution of music technology as we’ve come to understand it. To describe this records as a game-changer is an understatement. This record represents a musical revolution, a scientific benchmark and a trophy in the cabinet of counter culture creativity.
This record is a triumphant yardstick in the synthesiser space race and the untold story of the first woman on the proverbial moon. While pondering the early accolades of this record it’s daunting to learn that this record was in fact not a record at all… It was a manifesto and a gateway to a new world, that somehow never quite opened. If the unfamiliar, modernistic, melodic, pulses, tones and harmonics found on this 1975 live presentation/grant application/educational demonstration had been placed in a phonographic context alongside the promoted work of Morton Subotnick, Walter Carlos or Tomita then the name Suzanne Ciani and her influence would have already radically changed the shape, sound and gender of our record collections. Hopefully there is still chance.”