Smalltown Supersound celebrates its 25th anniversary with an epic new mix album of the Smalltown Supersound catalogue by Prins Thomas. Featuring artists including Sonic Youth, DJ Harvey, Studio, Yoshimi (Boredoms), Kim Gordon, Oneohtrix Point Never, Todd Rundgren, Stereolab, High Llamas, Neneh Cherry, Ricardo Villalobos, Four Tet, Bjørn Torske, Dungen, The Orb, Kelly Lee Owens, Lindstrøm, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Biosphere, Peter Brötzmann, and many more.
"I started Smalltown Supersound in 1993 while in high school in Flekkefjord, a small town of 4,000 inhabitants in the south of Norway. There was obviously no supersound in our small town. It was just an ironic name I came up with to release some tapes with lo-fi/noise/bedroom recordings by my brother and his friends. The name was inspired by my hometown and the catalogue number STS was a homage to SST, a label I deeply admired at the time (and still do). Little did I know that I would have to live with that name for the rest of my life.
I started the label before I knew what a record label was. So I gradually learned it by doing. And it was part of me growing up. It might sound like a cliché, but in many ways the label is the soundtrack of my life. Thomas has now made it into a mixtape.
We all hate to see photos of ourselves when we were younger, the bad haircuts and the strange clothes. It is the same thing when you run a label. You constantly look back on things you regret. This mix makes me see the label from the outside in a way I don’t think I have before. And to my surprise the haircuts and the clothes weren't as bad and strange as I remembered.
I have to admit that when I listened to it the first time, I was moved. First of all, because of the deep and true love Thomas has put into this mix. Second, because some of these tracks I haven't heard in 20-25 years. It really felt like revisiting the past. And in a very good way.
Thomas has followed the label since the early beginnings. Back in the days I was always thinking: “He’s a house/disco DJ – why does he want my noise records?”. I realize now I wasn't smart enough to understand his scope. I didn't understand it until his mix album Cosmic Galactic Prism, which is one of my favorite mix albums of all time. So for me it was very obvious that Thomas should make the Smalltown Supersound mix. I just couldn't imagine that he would go this beautifully far with it.
Since day one I have tried to have a red thread run through the releases and the label's DNA. Most of the time I am probably the only one who sees it. And many times I don't even see it myself. Now Thomas has found the spiritual unity.
While I have always struggled to describe what the label is, only now – with this mix – I can finally say: this is what it is. "
Joakim Haugland Oslo, August 2018
‘Body’ is the mesmerising 20th studio album by cult Aussie trio The Necks. It lands nearly 30 years into their singular run of sprawling, freeform yet coolly disciplined kosmiche jazz treks to prove, where needed, the timeless scope and appeal of Tony Buck, Chris Abrahams, and Lloyd Swanton in combination...
Unfolding nearly 1 hour of fluidly spaced and patiently timed drums, guitar, piano, synth and acoustic bass permutations, ‘Body’ is an instant classic in The Necks’ restlessly shapeshifting catalogue. As ever, their playing is modestly virtuosic and democratic. No one element dominates the others. Rather, they move as a feathered phalanx in dynamic murmuration, moving from breezy swirls of percussion over low-lying bass eddies in the first part, thru a passage of lysergic deliquescence, to a motorik post rock climax and far out into synth-curdled space jazz.
However, any literal description of ‘Body’ will fall short of grasping its full majesty. It’s an album that needs to be received with the patience with which it was made. Only by submitting to its intuitive quantum physics for the duration, and allowing yourself to roll with their unique syncopation and naturally unpredictable dynamics, can you comprehend their music’s full, transportive effect.
London’s experimental hip hop duo Farai follow drop their debut LP of punkish rap, indie-pop asides, and pointed social commentary. Check for highlights in ‘This Is England’, the hot-stepping ‘Love Disease’, and their autotuned synth-pop downstroke, ’Radiant Child’
“Farai’s debut album (a collaborative project between London based vocalist Farai and artist, musician & producer TONE) documents a process of recovery. For the eponymous vocalist of the project, Farai, music has always been personal. Born in Zimbabwe and raised in London, her lyrics are coloured by the different cities she’s lived in, and how that series of different homes has shaped her perspective. ‘Rebirth’ weaves together South East London landmarks, the bare-bones ethos of post-punk, and the experience of being part of the African diaspora. The record is the biggest stepping stone yet in a journey which Farai started in 2012. She hit a period of feeling burnt out, and started attending weekly music therapy classes, where she started writing poetry and music for the first time. It charted a new direction, one that’s brought her to the exciting point where she now stands.
The album follows their debut EP, ‘Kisswell’, released through NON Worldwide in 2017, the label-cum-collective co-founded by Chino Amobi, Angel-Ho and Nkisi. It attracted support from Dazed, CRACK, The Fader and Pitchfork, the latter praising their “rethinking of post-punk and new wave.” Additional support has come from Annie Mac on Radio 1 and a variety of shows on NTS. They’ve performed on Boiler Room and at the Tate, the latter as part of a special one-off connected to their 2017 Soul of a Nation exhibition.
Farai’s partner in creating both ‘Kisswell’ and ‘Rebirth’ has been TONE, a producer she’s worked with from the early on. They’ve carved out an alternative vision of pop together, distinctive and many-sided at once, poised between punk directness and flourishes of soulful warmth. TONE’s heritage is Afro-Guyanese and Welsh, and their shared pan-African heritage was one of the things which drew them together. He spent part of his childhood in Germany before moving to the UK when he was nine. He visited the Caribbean growing up, where he was introduced to his grandmother’s roots as a performer, hearing soca, dancehall and dub.
The album’s opener sets the tone with a short news snippet, situating the album in London: the pair’s common ground and the city where the album was born. ‘Punk Champagne’ nods to a homemade cocktail TONE mentioned to Farai, made of buckfast and prosecco, and is characteristically stripped back, composed of simply drums, vocals and synths. On ‘This Is England’, they adopt a looser structure still, an ominous synth line framing Farai’s reflections on work and hardship in contemporary Britain.”
Incendiary 50 min recording of Merzbow performing at the Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane in 2012. Liable to take your eyebrows off and leave you with no mates. Great fun...
"I think the first time I heard Merzbow must have been in 1994. I was a compulsive cassette trader back then and I was sent a tape from a fanzine editor I traded with in the USA. It had two long form pieces on it that just said Merzbow//Noise.
I remember at the time not really knowing what to make of it. It was effortlessly deep and aggressive, but also very emotive and almost lyrical in the way the waves of sound would erupt and decay. In those days it wasn’t so easy to discover information about artists, but within a few months I had learned as much as I could about this prolific musician from Japan.
In the mid 2000s, I had the chance to meet Masami Akita, aka Merzbow and present him live when I was co-producing the Brisbane leg of the What Is Music? Festival. It was a pretty special event, in fact the first (sonic) meeting of Merzbow and Keiji Haino took place here in Brisbane. For me, Merzbow’s solo performance was as transformative an experience as hearing his music for the first time. Following a switch to digital electronics, in the early 2000s, his powerbook performance was literally like having someone run a razor blade across your eardrum, whilst pummelling your body. An exquisite, and beautiful, unease.
MONOAkuma is a live recording made in Brisbane in 2012 at the Institute Of Modern Art. This was the second time I had the pleasure to present him live in Australia. To me, this performance epitomises the physiology of Merzbow’s sound work. He creates in absolutes; sonically he generates a tidal wave of frequency that sweeps across the spectra with tireless frenzy. Merzbow’s capacity to conjure a massive swirling mesh of analog and digital sources is without comparison. His work is one of physiological and psychological intensity; a seething, psychedelic and utterly visceral noise-ocean.
What MONOAkuma represents is a resolution of Merzbow’s performative work across both analog and digital noise mediums. Here, he brings together his formidable pulsing analog noise (which exploded in the mid 1990s and subsequently forged the interests of countless artists creating music in his wake) and his more digital approach to noise. On MONOAkuma he resolves these two modes of operation into an ontology of noise in the absolute.
What I recall most about this performance is the sense of utter euphoria that was shared by everyone present. It is captured in the recording too. Not many people tend to dwell on this affective capacity of Merzbow’s work, but there is no question - this is about the body and the ears being overwhelmed. In those moments of being wholly consumed comes an incredible bodily sense of euphoria that is a truly unique and profound experience. MONOAkuma captures this affect in exacting detail.
2019 marks the 40th anniversary of the commencement of Merzbow. This recording, which epitomises Merzbow's 40 years as arguably the most important noise musicians of our time, demonstrates the intense and complex audio world Merzbow has created. It’s the perfect starting point from which to wade into the noise ocean that is Merzbow’s vast output.”
Lawrence English, 2018
Oren Ambarchi’s Black Truffle present a mind-bending major new work by Alvin Lucier with the hour long piece, ‘So You… (Hermes, Orpheus, Eurydice)’, following release of his ‘Cross Cross / Hanover’ LP and the ‘Illuminated By The Moon’ retrospective boxset.
“So You ... (Hermes, Orpheus, Eurydice) is a major new work by legendary experimental composer Alvin Lucier. It is an hour long epic that tracks the familiar Orpheus myth from a less familiar perspective: that of Eurydice as imagined by poet H.D.; a Eurydice who rails at Orpheus for his hubris in attempting to rescue her. Two key, and formerly distinct, aspects of Lucier's practice come together in this piece: the exploration of interference patterns in closely tuned intervals, and the exploration of resonant chambers. From speakers mounted inside amphorae a constantly turning braid of beating sine waves trace the descent into the depths of hell, and then the doomed attempt to climb back into life. Singer Jessika Kenney and long-time Lucier collaborators Anthony Burr and Charles Curtis embody the three title characters in deeply focused performances that assert themselves against the process of the sweep, or become enfolded in it. The electronics were mixed in real time by programmer and equipment designer Tom Erbe.
This record has all of the mind-bending acoustic effects you'd expect from a Lucier piece, but also features a strong sense of narrative drama and flashes of raw emotion that are unexpected and deeply affecting.”
Wolfgang Voigt (Gas) plucks out 12 airy beauties from Kompakt’s ranks for ‘Pop Ambient 2019’. Make sure to check for the gauzy country drift of ‘The Uncertainty Principle’ by Jörg Burger as The Black Frame, as well as Bluebird’s aeolian harp styles in ‘Last Train To Brooklyn’, Thomas Fehlmann doing a mean impersonation of The Caretaker in ‘Karenina’, and the stately keen of ‘Rot 2’ by Gregor Schwellenbach
"25 years of KOMPAKT. When a record label still thrives after a quarter of a century thanks to a focus of what was expected to be a short lived music phenomenon called TECHNO, then it stands to prove two things; that it techno has taken its place amongst serious, multilayered musical genres like rock’n’roll, pop and folk music. And that KOMPAKT has never been only for techno, but KOMPAKT stands as a broad-minded, genre-defying entity that has set out to cross-pollinate all kinds of musical inventions within the realm of electronic music. Through its course, KOMPAKT has sent “Around The World”, all kinds of sub-genres, concept series and crossover adventures based on the non- negotiable 4/4 beat. And back again.
Without a doubt, the 100% kickdrum-free POP AMBIENT series is the most endearing and enduring concept that I have had the pleasure to curate. From the start, I felt there was a strong need to add a certain pop- elegance - ensouled by discourse as much as hedonism - to a sound that was recognized as “Chill Out” music that could be heard in seedy techno club back rooms and forgotten festival areas. Over the years, I like to imagine that POP AMBIENT has crystallized into a highly recognizable trademark sound and a multi-facetted musical universe of its own.
So once again, I had the pleasure to put together this year’s edition by plowing through an ocean of sonic jewelry that had been submitted from all over the world by new and old friends. The task was clear: for this special edition, I must create a homogenous listening experience that would both appeal to our trusting followers, to continue our tradition while integrating new micro facets , variations and influences from neighboring musical universes as possible. Obligatory while being innovative. Conspirative while being cosmopolitan. Albeit the headline “Ambient” might sound a little too humble for a compilation that encompasses aspects of neo classic, atonal music and the most beautiful aural kitsch imaginable, it still helps as a necessary means of orientation in the best possible sense. Same goes for another dear tradition: Veronika Unland’s abstract-floral cover design that keeps on pleasing our sore eyes year after year.
Although each and every POP AMBIENT edition doesn’t shy away from diving into the relevant question of “What is contemporary discourse music” – in the end it all boils down to that elevated moment where all theory dissolves into ambient air, into a higher state of cosmic bliss. POP AMBIENT is sacral music for non-believers."
(Wolfgang Voigt Cologne, October 2018)
Fractal, electro-acoustic improv from NYC’s Marina Rosenfeld and Ben Vida, conjuring a steeply layered investigation of proprioception and dreamtime psyches...
Marking Marina’s first appearance since the resoundingly unusual electro-dub of her ‘P.A. / Hard Love’ [Room 40, 2013] recordings with Warrior Queen, and also Ben Vida’s follow-up to ‘Damaged Particulates’ [Shelter Press, 2016], their probing collaboration is a wicked exercise in vivid, abstract terraforming.
As they both hail from NYC, it’s possible to hear the 8 parts of ‘Feel Anything’ as a gyring, topographical reading of their environment. In bifurcating formations they strafe and wind thru varying densities of tone and space in sloshing meter, scaling the listener’s focus from vertiginous showers of sparky electronic scree to demolished string orchestrations and wide, abyssal bass in fractious permutations.
We can instantly recognise some of Marina’s signature, eerie dub touches carried over from her ‘P.A. / Hard Love’ EP, but here they are unsettled, unstuck by Vida’s nervy tics and persistently amorphous electronics until they both effectively form a sort of vaporous free jazz describing the waveform-like outline of urban panoramas and the insectoid scuttle of busy populations, scurrying up and down and thru skyscrapers, subways, lofts and streets.
With a CV that includes vocals for Timo Maas and doomcore for Invada, Anthony Tombling Jr. returns to Village Green as CUTS with a cinematic hat on.
“Summoning 11 widescreen, electronic compositions in response to global political and environmental breakdown, ‘A Gradual Decline’ addresses the planet’s current fragility using actual field recordings of ice collapsing from glaciers. Weaving these momentary, dramatic events directly into the DNA of the music, CUTS has sculpted rhythmic elements out of geological transformation.
A stark sense of urgency permeates ‘A Gradual Decline’. At times chaotic and alarming, the album’s siren-like tones and volatile, stuttered beats converge with synthetic gales of melody and glacial percussion. Elsewhere, the sense of precariousness is subtler, enveloped in gaseous chords that swell and evaporate, ethereal and dense guitars and distant vocals – all hallmarks of previous CUTS material - here honed into a concise, conceptual set.
“I have tried to make a record that feels like it’s all come from one place," explains Tombling Jr. “My only musical influence on this was William Basinski’s ‘Disintegration Loops’. Not the music, but the process. The idea of a decline in sound really suited the concept of this record. All this music and instrumentation trapped in this declining digital signal. I wanted it to sound brittle and precarious. I also wanted to avoid doing overly dark material, opting instead for something that was more fragile, melancholic and even hopeful in moments.“
Highly influential, singular sound artist and engineer Stephan Mathieu offers another heart-stopping compendium in ‘Folio’, collecting 5 albums worth of music, plus lots of bonus material, following his massive ‘Radiance’ boxset released earlier in 2018.
A lesson in the art of craftng patient, deeply absorbing drone and string panoramas, ‘Folio’ offers a fully zoomed out birds-eye view over reams of Mathieu’s more recent works (just shy of 8 hours in total), ranging from his haunting dedication to Ridley Scott’s original Alien crew in ‘Nostromo’ - arguably the last word in abandoned space station ambience - and thru to an expanded edition of ‘The Falling Rocket’ , a rework of the droning dream sequences off his 3CD set ‘Nachtstucke’, and a previously unpublished version of ‘Palimpsest’, the first Schwebung release, here retitled as ‘Folio’.
The ‘Nostromo’ disc is a big favourite for us, full of finely layered detail and subtle spatial dynamics in a way that perfectly evokes its subject matter. Likewise, we can say much the same for ‘Sacred Ground’, Mathieu's soundtrack to a film of the same name, where again his skills as a scene dresser and dramaturgist come into play, whilst ‘The Falling Rocket’ finds him tilted skyward, with attention given to a vertiginous sense of scale and heady movement in the mid-higher registers.
Once again, the slow gaze is key to this amazing suite, offering some of the most restrained and absorbing drone and orchestral minimalism you'll hear this side of Philip Jeck, Stars Of The Lid, Kassel Jaeger or Akira Rabelais. We urge you to spend time diving into its endless charms.
The first two discs of the 9 month generative ambient experiment conducted over the turn of the century. Very tranquil and soothing. Remastered and now available on CD in C-shell.
A one-hour track entirely composed on a Voyetra synthesizer, Water Music is a perfect antidote to the saccharin-drenched ambient cakes released nowadays by hundreds of self-producing wannabes. It's a never-too-present low humming lullaby, caressing the brain and the ears and slowly developing from silence. Comparisons could be made with some of Eno's best old releases, but please be advised this is not Music for films 2002 -- instead, the author gets right to the point with a simple idea, a small plant that needs to be growing in the semi-obscurity of your deep feelings. What a nice sensation." --
Massimo Ricci, touchingextremes.org
A brand new album from one of the most acclaimed ambient composers of our time, Vivian & Ondine takes the form of a single, three-quarter hour piece, once again constructed from Basinski's signature style of tape loop manipulation.
While the narrative ebb and flow is largely pinned to a single tape fragment, Basinski merged a further "dozen or so" that sunk into the mix in just the right way, adding to the aura of fluctuation and continuous evolution that's essential to his work. The central theme that repeats its way through the track sounds ancient, played out by what you can only presume to have once been a string ensemble. Possibly the first ever string ensemble, given the copious amounts of dust and debris caked on top of the recording.
This looped phrase carries elegiac clout, taking on a funereal quality (though contrastingly, the title, Vivian & Ondine, is actually a dedication to the birth of two new members of Basinski's extended family) and carrying with it deep-running undercurrents presided over by an almost visceral sense of sadness.
Further careful listening is rewarded by subtle shifts beneath the surface of the loops, only faintly making themselves apparent. One of the more prominent of these arrives just after the twenty-seven minute mark: you hear worn-out, bell-like sounds glistening through all the crumbing decay, like clock chimes wafting in from far off. Small gestures like these probably don't sound much like big payoff moments on paper, but in the context of Basinski's stately and patient sonic universe such things count for a lot.
A double-disc reissue of his 2002 AM classic 'The River', Baskinski originally sculpted his shortwave symphony back in 1983 with little more than some anonymous Muzak tape-loops and a static blighted radio - before he set about slowing down his raw material, mixed them live to cassette from two 50s Norelco reel-to-reel decks and peppered it with a coat of shifting shortwave radio static.
With each disc containing a single extended piece (c.45 minutes), Basinski delights in stripping away the listeners notion of time or space by denying access to the accepted markers - leaving all the senses acutely focused on the ever-morphing sound excursion before you. Of the two, disc one is the more conventional; wherein a sonorous synth pulses gently over the static-couched backdrop, whilst pin-pricks of daylight are permitted through the bellicose fog in the form of antiquated, distant strings. Swapping the emphasis on the second, Basinski fully embraces the notion of static - dissolving what must have once been solid broadcast structures in an ocean of fuzz, drawing parallels with Tod Dockstader and redefining the notion of aural decay.
'Variations: A Movement In Chrome Primitive' available on a 2CD edition.
As a peer of Ryuichi Sakamoto and with a sound that has gone on to influence the likes of Mark Evan Burden, Basinski deals in miasma draped compositions that unfurl like an unhurried cat.
Mixing waves of ambient detritus with glimpses of more concrete structures, Basinski snags the ear through ethereal webs of sound that straddle the line between dream-flecked soundscapes and timeless piano, then makes sure you don't want to leave. Aural balm; utterly immersing and totally lovely.
Once again unveiling hidden treasures from his archive of tape loops, William Basinski releases three pieces made at his Brooklyn apartment during one night in 1982, adding a fourth composition (based on the same source material) made earlier this year.
You can't help but wonder why this music, recorded so long ago, is only just surfacing. Was the world not ready for WIlliam Basinski in 1982, or was WIlliam Basinski simply not ready to hand himself over to an audience at that point? Whatever the reasoning, we're certainly reaping the benefits of the influential ambient composer's stockpile, and 92982 proves to be a real highlight in his output of recent years.
Despite the minimalist essence of Basinski's oeuvre there's a pronounced sense of variety, diversity and depth at work in these four tracks, with each taking on its own specific persona. '92982.1' is outstanding, featuring lilting, gritty strings through the left of the stereo field while crumbling piano sonorities rule to the right. Far from exhibiting any signs of automation or impersonal repetition you can always hear a human hand shaping the music.
The faded, rattling chord movements of '92982.2' take on an altogether more ghostly, dissolved quality, with echo-flecked machine jolts peppering the mixdown, underlining how fragile this whole process is. The third track, meanwhile, is an extended version of a piano-based piece that appeared in its original incarnation on the Variations: A Movement In Chrome Primitive album (surely one of the standout albums in Basinski's entire catalogue), here stretched and developed over the course of twenty minutes. It's a beautiful study in the interplay between an instrumental performance and the medium onto which it's recorded, full of ruptures and low frequency rumble as the tape itself interferes with the flow and consistency of the music.
Finally, Basinski takes a fresh angle on his source loops with a composition recorded in February of this year. There's a markedly different character to this final entry; an unexpected cleanliness that somehow feels just right as a coda to the archival dust and dereliction of all that's come before. Its tacit stateliness serves as confirmation that all these years on, Basinski has lost none of his form, and that despite the richness of his work in the early eighties he's still a very active, utterly compelling creative force.
Impressively weird spins on boogie, dub, house and traditional Japanese themes from Yoshinori Hayashi, who’s built a solid rep in recent years via outings for Going Good and Jheri Tracks, leading to this standout debut album on Smalltown Supersound.
“Previous work by the Tokyo-based producer has been called “a complex patchwork of studio gear, live instruments, dusty jazz records and smartly cut library sounds, whose textures are soft and inviting. But its arrangements are constantly ruffled, squeezed, brushed and pinched—which is to say, nothing stays still for long” (Resident Advisor).
Hayashi presents his self-described “collage expression” throughout Ambivalence, which he produced and played in its entirety. Album opener, “Overflow,” is a club track inspired by Cecil Taylor. It’s freeform nature sets the tone for the album’s cosmic, hypnotic, and almost ritualistic approach.
Hayashi has studied under Japanese avant-classical composer Mica Nozawa. When not DJing, he works in a record store in Tokyo.”
Finally, 'Shortwavemusic' has made it to CD, a decade after its initial release.
The album originally appeared back in 1998 on Carsten Nicolai's Noton label (which as we all know would eventually turn into experimental powerhouse Raster Noton) and was issued as vinyl LP only, so this is the first time the album has appeared on compact disc, now bumped with an extra 15 minute track.
Using fragments of muzak recorded from the radio, Basinski chopped, re-pitched and looped familiar elements to procure the haunting waves of sound on the record and then draped them in a gown of shortwave static, humming and hissing in accompaniment. It is almost impossible to comprehend that Basinski was recording this stuff back in 1982, it still sounds prophetic, the delicate and sentimental ghost-like melodies and the sheets of echoing fizzing and buzzing.
Basinski manages to make music which is referential of the past, yet uniquely forward-facing, managing to create music that is defiantly his own. He has hollowed out his own special place in the music scene, garnering fans far and wide (BoC, Madonna) and that's in some part down to the fact that his music is so accessible despite its minimal nature.
Another addition to William Basinski's catalogue, "Variations For Tape & Piano" is an excursion through forgotten sounds and degraded memories.
"Comprised of one 44 minute track, Variation #9 'Pantelleria,' this archival release is one of my all-time favorites of the piano and tape variations from the early eighties. Using a lilting piano melody on a small loop, the requisite magic happened in the recording process when this particular loop would randomly slip along the play head revealing an extraordinary counterpoint (in reverse) on the other side of the tape. To me, this piece evokes a lazy Arcandian summer idyll, and will always remind me of an idyllic artist's residency in 2003 on the beautiful Italian island of Pantelleria."
William Basinski, June 2006. Stunning.
William Basinski's gorgeous 2003 album reborn on a remastered edition.
Rightly considered one of his finest works, 'Melancholia' employs similar techniques used on his now legendary 'The Disintegration Loops' to another stash of short tape loops he created in the early '80s. Across 15 short form pieces, his beautifully sparse and solemn piano figures become seductive silhouettes and haunting, recurring motifs rent in entropic relief, inception-like passageways into worlds within worlds, dreams within dreams, supernal memories coaxed from celestial bodies. Imbibe deeply and infrequently for optimal effect.
Background information is typically scant with this latest release from William Basinski's 2062 label, but what we do know is that it features re-discovered tape loops that have been re-crafted for a recent performance at the Montalvo Arts Center.
Clocking in at just under 50 minutes, "El Camino Real" is another one of those aural tapestries that Basinski seems to have an intuitive feel for - effortlessly piecing together elements that bring to mind everything from Arvo Part through to the Cocteau Twins without ever letting go of his own signature sound.
Because the source material for these loops has been de-graded and layered so heavily, it's hard to imagine where they could have come from or how they could have been made - all that we're left with are remnants of a ghostly voice dominating the undulating mix to harrowing effect. There's also something about this recording that brings to mind more recent contemporary musical experimentations, in particular the work of Liz Harris / Grouper - who makes use of a similar shoegaze aesthetic.
Tuff, melodic, vibrant and psychy Afro-beat fire from modern day Burkina Faso on the ever brilliant Sublime Frequencies
“Baba Commandant And The Mandingo Band return with their second album, Siri Ba Kele. After the Afro-beat fury of their first album Juguya (2015), the band has now distilled a potent mix of traditional and modern Burkinabe funk with a reverent take on the iconic Mandingue guitar music of the 1970's. Mamadou Sanou (Baba Commandant) leads the band with a confidence earned from years of toiling in the DIY underground of the West African music scene. His riveting growl and main instrument, the doso n'goni, still strike with a profound delivery.
The band's guitarist, Issouf Diabate, is on board again and his breathtaking guitar work is one of the greatest examples of the instrument displayed in modern times. Massibo Taragna (bass) and Mohamed Sana (drums) are simply one of the finest rhythm sections working today, each a master on his instrument and the chops displayed here are truly something to behold. The band has become an interlocking five-headed hydra of complex funk and cosmic guitar explosions. Recorded in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso in February 2018 by Camille Louvel and mixed with SF's Hisham Mayet, the Mandingo Band's sophomore LP is a modern statement of searing Sahelian compositions. It stands shoulder-to-shoulder with such classics as Super Biton De Segou (1977), Kanaga De Mopti (1977), Les Ambassadeurs Internationaux (1981) and the mighty Rail Band.”
Composed way back in 1979, 'A Red Score In Tile' eventually surfaced as a vinyl-only edition in 2003.
It illustrates Basinski's tape-loop technique perfectly and still stands as one of his most affecting pieces of music. If you've heard 'Melancholia' you'll likely know what we're talking about; piano notes transformed into tones by the slowly disintegrating tape, the loops become motifs all of their own.
Jim O’Rourke returns with his first physical solo album since 2015’s Simple Songs, following a relatively steady supply of download-only releases via his Steamroom Bandcamp (over 20 of them since 2015) and collaborations with John Duncan, Keiji Haino, Oren Ambarchi, Peter Brötzmann, Merzbow, Fennesz and others in the interim. Anyone familiar with his exceptional Steamroom output will have an inkling of what to expect here; this is Jim O’Rourke at his most meditative, absorbing and quietly subversive, making use of little more than synthesizer, pedal steel, piano and shortwave radio for one extended 45 minute piece (punctuated by a few moments of silence) designed to mess with contemporary notions of “Ambient” music.
Sleep Like It's Winter took O’Rourke two years to construct after being approached by the fledgling Newhere label to submit an Ambient album. As he explained recently in an interview with ele-king: "I didn’t set out to make an ambient record but it’s sort of about making an ambient record more than it’s an ambient record (laughing) you know? Pretty much everything I do is about what it is as opposed to being it. Just making any record in terms of “make a record in this genre” is anathema to me, but I decided to do it because it was such a revolting idea! (Laughs) Not that I dislike ambient music – I don’t mean that. That’s just not the way I think when I make things, so it was such a bizarre proposal that I decided to do it.”
Citing Eno’s Discreet Music (as opposed to Eno’s work after the word Ambient had been adapted ) as well as Roland Kayn as influences, he goes on to explain "Roland Kayn was the biggest guy for me. Someone could call his music ambient but it’s way too aggressive for that. The idea of his music is you create the system and then you just let it go. The challenge is how can you create a system that still represents the ideas even though you’ve let it go. If you look at some of the last decade or so of Cage’s scores, like the number pieces, they create these systems. These later Number Pieces of his are really interesting because, if you do them correctly, they’re really constraining even though they don’t seem to be. Whereas someone like Kayn and what Brian Eno were doing, especially in the 70’s, they still want a result but they want to be hands off about it.”
The result is a layered and complex piece that takes multiple listens to fully get to grips with, revealing layers of detail deployed within a structure that seems to evaporate into its surroundings. In that respect, Sleep Like It's Winter subverts its brief with an incredible sleight of hand; a piece of music designed to actively, deeply engage but which camouflages itself into the background. It operates within the grid, however faint and hard to define.
"For me, in making this record, the most important thing was, “Where is a line where you decide to give up on formal structures completely?” and, “Where is a line where formal structures can still be perceived but they’re not being shouted at you? For me, in that way of thinking of music, which I’ve been moving towards my entire life slowly but surely (laughs)…"
The second part of William Basinski's superlative 'Water Music' series
Seemingly touching on the idea of mathematical music (ciphers, durational ratios etc.) that surfaced on his 'Disintegration Loops' work, 'Water Music II' is more overtly active than the preceding tract. Spread over a single piece that tops an hour, 'Water Music II' has an undulating predilection that Basinski then goes on to obscure through diffused soundscapes of incremental intensity.
'The Garden of Brokenness' takes a recently discovered tape loop from Basinski's piano and tape experiments (c.1979) then transforms it into a hauntingly hypnotic compisition that clocks in at 50 minutes.
‘5 Klavierstücke’ was recorded and produced by Gareth Jones in the South of France on Irmin Schmidt's two grand pianos. Schmidt partly prepared his Pleyel piano (in the way he was taught by John Cage himself) and the other piano - Irmin Schmidt’s 100-year-old Steinway - remained unprepared.
"Several pieces were recorded in one session on the prepared piano only, others contain recordings from both pianos. All ambient sounds were recorded on site - around Irmin Schmidt's studio - and there are no other instruments or electronics of any kind.
As a composer and one of Can’s founding members, Irmin Schmidt has scored more than one hundred soundtracks. Outside of his work with Can, he has released over a dozen solo albums and written an opera, ‘Gormenghast’, based on the novels of Mervyn Peake. In 2015, he was made a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres for his contribution to art and culture, one of France’s highest honours."
Highly anticipated official reissue of this album from Midori Takada’s MKWAJU ensemble, sourced from the original masters and available in two versions: a vinyl LP cut at Emil Berliner Studios (formerly the in-house recording department of Deutsche Grammophon) and a digipack CD.
"Originally recorded in February and March 1981 and released by fabled Japanese avant-garde label Better Days (home of Ryuichi Sakamato’s debut album, Yasuaki Shimizu’s Kakashi, Colored Music self-titled LP and many more) MKWAJU is the fruit of the collaboration between Takada’s crew and world-famous composer/musical director Joe Hisaishi, the man behind most of of Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli anime soundtracks and over 100 other films scores, including Takeshi Kitano’s Sonatine, Hana-Bi, and Kikujiro. The ensemble’s transcendental wonder is, in fact, the first-ever Midori Takada album and the first-ever Joe Hisaishi-produced album.
Historic. Led by Midori Takada on marimba, gong, vibraphone, and tom tom, MKWAJU is an inventive and riveting take on Eastern and Western minimalist traditions, African rhythms, and early electronica. Drawing from its jazz-rooted polyrhythmic improvisations in the most inventive ways, the album covers a wide spectrum of sounds, from colorful dance floor-ready percussion pieces that stand somewhere between proto-techno and experimental synth-pop, to cinematic ambient landscapes and ethereal drone delicacies. The feverishly sought-after full-length is a stepping-stone in Midori Takada’s career and an all-around pioneering album. Alongside Takada and Hisaishi (who not only produced the album but also played synthesizers), personnel on MKWAJU includes famed Japanese musicians Yoji Sadanari and Hideki Mats."
New compositions for ancient Korean instrument:the Geomungo, a follow up to the high acclaimed Compositions For Geomungo and Gayageum (2012).
"Baudouin de Jaer - Composer, violonist, Baudouin de Jaer studied composition with Philippe Boesmans, Henri Pousseur, Frederic Rzewski and at McGill University (Montréal) with Bruce Mather. He composes for the Korean instruments Daegeum, Haegeum, Gayageum and Geomungo, and for orchestras of Korean traditional instruments. In 2010 he resolved the enigmatic music system of Swiss artist Adolf Wölfli and released a CD called 'The Heavenly Ladder' on the Sub Rosa label (SR312). In 2010, Baudouin de Jaer was awarded a prize from the National Gugak Center for his Gayageum compositions."
The Sound of Music was conceived when Laibach were infamously invited to perform in North Korea in 2015. The band performed several songs from the 1965 film’s soundtrack at the concert in Pyongyang, chosen by Laibach as it’s a well-known and beloved film in the DPRK and often used by schoolchildren to learn English. Laibach are joined by Boris Benko (Silence) and Marina Mårtensson on vocals and the album gives the Laibach treatment to tracks such as ‘My Favorite Things’, ‘Edelweiss’, ‘Do-Re-Mi’ and ‘Maria’, here reworked as ‘Maria / Korea’ (“How do you solve a problem like Maria / Korea?”).
"While the majority of the tracks on the album are from the film, the band also included ‘Arirang’, an interpretation of a traditional Korean folk song considered the unofficial national anthem of both North and South Korea (and released recently to mark the historic summit in Singapore between President Donald Trump and the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un), as well as their own workout of the Gayageum, a traditional Korean zither-like string instrument performed by students from the Kum Song Music School in Pyongyang and a recording of the band’s “welcome” speech to Korea from Mr. Ryu from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Committee for Cultural Relations.
Laibach’s groundbreaking performance in North Korea was documented by director, artist and cultural diplomat, Morten Traavik in the film Liberation Day (described by MOJO as “a humorous, disturbing, illuminating and sometimes moving immersion into an anomalous communist mirror-world …”) which is out now via ITunes following its screening for Storyville on BBC4.
The album was recorded and produced in Ljubljana, Slovenia and in Pyongyang, DPRK and represents another successful collaboration between Laibach and Silence (Primož Hladnik and Boris Benko), who previously co-created Laibach’s 2006 Volk album."
A proper piece of post-punk history: the studio session for Bauhaus’ classic ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’ available on vinyl for the 1st time! Includes early version of the dancefloor evergreen plus a haul of previously unreleased aces
“The Bela Session is a full release of Bauhaus' first studio session from January 26 1979, where the iconic "Bela Lugosi's Dead" was recorded. This is the first and only official reissue of "Bela Lugosi's Dead" on vinyl, and the first time 3 of the 5 tracks have been released. This EP has been produced directly by the band with Leaving Records, in advance of the band's 40th anniversary.
Bauhaus are a four-piece from Northampton, England, composed of Peter Murphy (vocals, occasional instruments), Daniel Ash (guitar), Kevin Haskins (drums), and David J (bass). Venerated and highly influential, the band emerged from the post-punk alternative music scene of the early 80s with a string of innovative albums and a powerfully dramatic live presentation. Their music embodies a minimalistic, disconsolate style of post-punk rock unlike any other.
"Bela Lugosi's Dead" was originally released by Small Wonder Records, 1979. "Harry" was originally released by Beggars Banquet, 1982. "Some Faces," "Bite My Hip," and "Boys (Original)" are previously unreleased.”
The opening 20 minute section on this reissue from William Basinksi opens with one of the most heart-breaking tracts of music we've heard for many years; a looped clutch of strings, slowly shuffling into oblivion.
Basinksi watched the fall of the Twin Towers from his roof whilst 'The Disintegration Loops' played in the background. I can only imagine the sheer profundity that would have instilled on such a bleak situation, with Basinski's work able to make a boiling kettle take on a Frederic Mistral air of importance. If you've never dipped your toe in Basinski, then now's the time to take the plunge, if you have; dive in all over again.
William Basinski returns with 'Cascade' - a gorgeous 40 minute meditation on a solitary piano loop coaxed by NYC's neoclassical maestro, William Basinski.
Teechnically, that's all you really need to know, but we should stress that Basinski's way with a loop transcends any prosaic, earthly description and manifests a music in its own self-sufficient world of infinitely morphing harmonics and decay as imperceptibly slow moving yet ever-changing as life itself.
The final reissue of Basinski's 'Disintergration Loops' series sees yet more mediations on the subject of mortailty.
Comparable to Ryuichi Sakamoto in terms of its gracefully hypnotic and deeply textured poetic outlook, the fact that Basinksi managed to retrieve such emotional tracts from decaying source material is testament to his towering talent. Made up of three extended pieces, each composition is unique in terms of sound, but united by a very real sense of unyielding emotional responsibility. Expansive, claustrophobic, threatening and utterly friable, Basinski's work is totally accessible in a majestically rarefied way.
Stellar picks from the MFM camp; 21 obscure, outward-looking and disco-leaning peaches plucked from Europe 1980-91, including big highlights such as Nightfall In Camp’s sultry smudge of computer tones and Lena Platonos-like vocals in ‘Cada Día’, a heavily seductive swooner ‘Listen Over The Ocean’ by Violet Eyes, and the brassy electro swang of Sound on Sound’s ‘Depression’
“Uneven Paths: Deviant Pop From Europe 1980-1991 is the second multiple artist compilation on Music From Memory and is compiled by record connoisseur Raphael Top-Secret and label man Jamie Tiller. The compilation brings together twenty one tracks from across the continent; exploring the more unusual and unexpected sides of Pop music during that period.
Drawing material from cult experimental artists such as Steve Beresford, Brenda Ray and Bill Nelson alongside one-off independent musical projects rescued from he fringes, ‘Unusual Paths’ focuses on a selection of tracks that go beyond the confines of mainstream pop music but which also transcend expectations of much of the ‘experimental’ music of the time. This is music with one foot in the avant-garde and another foot firmly rooted within the sensibilities of Pop; where jazz musicians detour into Synth-Pop, Punk bands break into Boogie jams, and student doctors jam out on off melodies with synthesisers and drum machines during their night shifts.”
Having found acres of tape he'd archived in the 1980's, Basinski decided they should be converted to digital format in order to preserve them from decay.
Too late old chap! During the transition process he found them disintegrating before his eyes, 'so why not let this natural erosion take place and document the results?' he thought. So he did. Beguiling in a way that cannot be readily described, a whole thesaurus could be pissed up the wall trying to capture the fragmented and illusory beauty of these pieces. With a drifting proclivity that is both alarming and comforting, soundscapes break on the shore whilst barely glimpsed rhythms circulate in the background. Consisting of two extra-long pieces that could go on for ever, 'The Disintegration Loops' series is not to be missed.
Emotive lightning rod Brian Pyle a.k.a Ensemble Economique channels a range of feels - from electric anguish to elegiac lament - in a richly crepuscular suite dedicated to those who lost their lives in the tragic ghost ship fire in Oakland.
“The latest long-player of devotional noir by Humboldt County romantic Brian Pyle aka Ensemble Economique was originally titled Music Saves Lives, in response to the misguided backlash directed at underground artists in the wake of the tragic Ghost Ship fire in Oakland. Since Pyle’s career threads through a decade and a half of Northern California’s independent experimental music community, the blow struck a uniquely deep and personal chord. As a way to process, he began recording at his coastal home studio in Manila, California, channeling inner states of mind, seeking something “more personal and intimate, the idea of love, and shining through.”
Radiate Through You delivers on its title, exuding a nuanced catharsis, alternately tempestuous and transcendent, forlorn but undefeated. Vaulted heavens of interwoven electronics ebb into hushed dirges of skeletal percussion and candlelit guitar. Roiling noise seethes, swells, and subsides as an ashen string arrangement rises in the mix, keening a somber, circular elegy, as if overtaken by memory on a long walk alone.
Two key guest appearances lend the album even more dynamism and drama: the first by Barcelona synthesist Alexander Molero on the questing, celestial opener, “Music Is Life,” the second by New Zealand psychic sisters Purple Pilgrims on the devastating finale, “Blue Hour.” Both showcase impressive shades of Pyle’s finesse as producer and muse, sparking his collaborators to new heights.
Whether taken as expressionist memorial, therapeutic song cycle, or something more ambiguous, Radiate Through You stands as a pensive, passionate statement by an enduring light of the West Coast canon, drawn from “a deep, special place of giant emotions, feelings.”
Pivotal solo cellist and producer Oliver Coates (LCO, Apartment House) proceeds collaborations with Mica Levi and Radiohead with Shelley’s on Zenn-La, an indefatigably endearing 3rd solo album, new for RVNG Intl.
We can hardly think of many artists beyond Oliver’s own circle who can meld dance music with avant-electronic and classical instrumental expression quite like Oliver does here. From the raw electric buzz and spattered breaks underlined with layered cello in Faraday Movement, to the abraded BoC-like downbeats of Lime, thru to wayward disco treks like Charlev, Analord-style braindance in Norrin Radd Dreaming, and the final swoon between wide-open string composition and balletic IDM in Perfect Apple with Silver Mark, Oliver is making wonderful music unconstricted by convention, but patently happy to play with it.
Furrowed dark ambient gloom from Berlin-based Otto Lindholm and a member of Orphan Swords, for London’s ace Aurora Borealis label (The Haxan Cloak, Primitive Knot, Burial Hex)
“Combining the talents of P.Maze, one half of noise/techno duo Orphan Swords, with fellow Brussels-based producer and musician Otto Lindholm, ‘Where The Wolf Has Been Seen’ is a meditative and claustrophobic work for electronics and double bass.
The four parts evolve and spread outwards, throbbing bass drones colliding with slowly bowed arcs of keening strings that make for a deeply immersive listening experience. ‘Where The Wolf Has Been Seen’ explores the boundaries of the modern classical and electronic disciplines, with slowly shifting and expanding compositions that thrive on the tension between.”
Minimal techno master Rob Hood takes the DJ-Kicks driving seat for a deft but pounding session including no less than 4 exclusive new Hood productions.
Over 72 minutes the original UR member and seminal Detroit hero sequences 22 tracks of driving dance music, Motor City style, rolling steady on the gas thru cuts from both sides of the pond, but perhaps tipping more towards European productions inspired by 313 foundations.
Robert Hood’s exclusive tracks are well worth a gander, from the hypnotic organ rider ‘Greytype I’ to the peak-time play of ‘Bond Solid’ and the trancing, acidic burn of ‘Machine Form’, and it’s also worth peeping the 16th note fangs on Ben Long & Tom Hades’ ‘The Knight Rider’, and the super fucking arid rasp of Matrixxman’s ‘Protocol (Saturation Edit)’.
But, if you really want to hear Hood in proper context, the mix lives up to the exacting standard we’ve all come to expect from a Hood mix - immaculate transitions, timing and groove control from one of the best to ever do it.
Another massive 4CD payload of prime New Beat - no Nougat Beat! - including way more than your RDA of late ‘80s Belgian bangers
Synthesising a crossroad between US house and techno, Italian disco, Mittel Euroepean EBM and frothy Belgian sensibilities, New Beat is the much maligned precursor to rave techno, which, in recent years, has seen a long overdue reappraisal of its charms by dancers and DJs who’ve become snagged on its direct, to-the-floor rhythms and addictive hooks.
For the massive 2nd volume of ’New Beat - The Compilation’, they’ve pulled together 57 heaters from the short-lived heyday of New Beat circa 1987-1990. There’s a lot of well known and fairly easy to find pieces, but also a lot of choice rarities, most notably the likes of Blue Vertigo’s tuff but sexy ‘Abadan (Monday Morning Mix)’, the amazing staccato perk of ‘Komobinn’ by Acidity - an alias of the legendary Tony Baron (Teknokrat’s) - and the steely hardball of ‘Take Me To Your Leader’ from another Teknokrat’s member, F.X. Intruder a.k.a. Mike Butcher, plus oddities such as Rebel X & Vector S’ ‘Controller II’, Inter Phase’s darkside acid trip ‘Back From The Space’, and New Design’s acid jacker ‘Some Like It Hot’.
Rhodri Davies, Dawn Bothwell and Richard Dawson’s Hen Ogledd transmogrify from psychedelic no wave time travellers into a wild, inimitable pop unit on ‘Mogic’, their 3rd album together, their debut for Weird World.
Named for a Welsh word describing the historic region between southern Scotland and northern England, the band has grown from the locus of Davies on harp (++) and Dawson on guitar (++) to incorporate Dawn Bothwell and Sally Pilkington on vocals and multiple instruments - most curiously credited with Red Witch Violetta, Pipa Del’ochio, Mooer Green Mile, Hott’s Rombah, among others, between them.
If you copped either of Hen Ogledd’s first two LPs, logic would dictate that this one was always going to be a bit mad, but hardly anyone could have predicted where they’re going with ‘Mogic’, as the band’s combined, contemporary rationale and arcane urges fulminate a persistently unpredictable sound that ties up influence from all corners - vacillating hot-stepping post punk with plaintive folksong, rubbery primordial techno and lysergic indie-pop.
Other notable inclusions clem from sax virtuoso, Mette Rasmussen on some of the album’s strangest/seductive moments, the Canterbury-esque opener ‘Love Time Feel’ and the brilliantly daft indie-pop of ‘Tiny Witch Hunter’ with Dawn Bothwell’s seemingly sung down the wrong end of a telescope, and also the subtle but pivotal percussion of Will Guthrie. But we can very simply sum this one up as far exceeding the sum of its parts.
Gotta be one of 2018’s most beguiling, trend-oblivious pop records.
Flying Lotus’ label marks 10 years in the game with ‘X’, a 36 track compilation featuring 22 brand new, previously unreleased cuts by Thundercat, Martyn, Georgia Anne Muldrow, mr.oizo, Jameszoo, Dorian Concept, Iglooghost +++
Trust Jameszoo to make it freaky on ‘Flake’, while mr.oizo knocks out the searing disco bullet ‘Ham; DJ Paypal coughs up the hot footwork drums of ‘Slim Trak VIP’; FlyLo chips in his remix of Brandon Coleman’s ‘Walk Free’; Ross From Friends roll out the deep house of ‘Squaz’; and even George Clinton turns up on WOKE’s ‘The Lavishment of Light Looking’.
“For the last ten years, Brainfeeder has reminded the world that the future is only as far away as it needs to be. It’s less a label than an international conspiracy to conquer clichéd sounds, a glowing neon helix re-organizing the DNA of hip-hop and house, jazz and ambient, techno and soul, funk and footwork and every other strain of beat music that eludes compartmentalization. The Flying Lotus-founded label has become a sanctified refuge for those who believe that nothing is too weird, genre is largely obsolete, and the wildest style will always reign supreme.”
From the golden era of Warp, B12’s ‘Time Tourist’ is reissued for the first time, newly expanded with four bonus tracks previously found on their B12 Records archives volumes
Somewhere between a computer game soundtrack, pulpy sci-fi score, and an armchair accelerant, ‘Time Tourist’ holds a special place in the pantheon of mid-late ‘90s electronica/IDM. Some of it sounds pretty dated now, but the innocent sincerity of of B12’s retro-futurist aesthetics still glow from highlights such as ‘Infinite Lites (Primitives Mix)’ and ‘The Radiophonic Workshop’.
Another amazing entry from ‘70s Ethiopia, introducing krar player, singer and national icon Asnakech Worku to the world at large with a beautiful collection of songs made alongside Hailu Mergia at the height of her career, most notably on a haunting prototype of Mergia’s standard ‘Tche Belew’
“There is perhaps no woman more cherished in modern Ethiopian history than Asnakech Worku. As a musician, actress, dancer and cultural icon, Asnakech inspired and challenged society for decades, until her death in 2011. From her beginnings as Ethiopia’s first theater actress in 1952 to her acclaimed film appearances to her days as a club owner-turned-master musician, Asnakech’s inimitable confidence and charm made her a household name. She earned endless accolades across the artistic spectrum.
She made seminal recordings of unforgettable original compositions, as well as legendary renditions of traditional songs, that became national staples. With a singular sense of style, glamour and sex appeal that sometimes stunned mainstream society, Asnakech wore clothes no one else wore and said things no one else said. Staid notions of how women should dress and behave didn’t apply to her. Battling a mentality that until the early 1950s had men wearing dresses to play female roles in the theater, Asnakech became a national treasure on her own terms.
Her family wasn’t pleased with Asnakech becoming an azmari—an itinerant praise musician who sings, often in bars, for tips—and didn’t bother her, especially after Emperor Haile Selassie I began to emphasize theater and music in society, officially legitimizing her career. Asnakech became an internationally-celebrated performer of Ethiopia’s ancient harp, the krar, making her one of the most visible female musicians of the 20th century. All this while leaving controversy, broken hearts and a changed cultural landscape in her wake.
In 1975, keyboardist and bandleader Hailu Mergia got a call from the owner of Misratch Music Shop to do a recording with Asnakech and he went for it. This recording is a nearly-forgotten artifact of the remarkable icon’s singular legacy, remastered and available outside Ethiopia for the first time. It also provides a rare glimpse into Mergia’s work as a arranger-sideman in the Addis Ababa music scene.”
Unique psychedelic killers from Niagara, mounting a sterling debut album with Lisbon’s Príncipe five years after their first 12”, ‘Ouro Oeste’ . Trust that they have lost none of the weirdness that’s endeared them to freaks around the world ever since they emerged. If anything they’re stranger, more spaced-out and porous to wild influence...
Outlining Niagara’s definitive description of contemporary exotica, ‘Apologia’ limns a frayed, buzzing sort of “Fourth World PLUS” sound, where the “PLUS” refers to their embrace of noise as an agent of chaos. But it’s not necessarily malefic chaos, and should be taken as a smart acknowledgement of the overlooked yet crucial role that roughness of grain and construction play in contrast with so many clinically smooth and even anodyne efforts from the same, imagined arena of worldly music for a new age.
In allowing for the entropy of time and the inevitable infidelity of attrition to enter their soundsphere, Niagara’s organic machine music keenly reflects a natural world order without the need for algorithmic process. Their world is a fertile interplay of acoustic and electronic sources rendering hazy, fata morgana-like glimpses of musical possibility, practically triangulating the visions of likeminds such as Jamal Moss/Hieroglyphic Being and Dolo Percussion with the explorative precedents of Portugul’s Telectu to realise a fine expression of anachronistic modernism.
Most of the tracks loosely work around 3 minute timeframes, lending a zig-zagging mosaic quality to the tracklist in between its longer parts. Richly colourful spiritual jazz arps and raw machine grooves spring from opener ‘França’, triggering a cascade of ideas that bends between acidic kosmiche in ‘6:30’ to the heatsick boogie gliss of ’40’ and the stark emptiness of ‘Senhora Do Cabo’, to give up the gorgeous, extended flute and acid meditation ’Siena’, and mess with Vangelis-style synth majesty on ‘Via Garibaldi’, before spending their coolest energies in the drowsy Afro-latin swagger of ‘Cabo Verde.’
It’s hard to ignore the fact that Alberto, António and Sara a.k.a. Niagara have distilled their sound to imperfection on ‘Apologia’, resulting one of 2018’s most crucial and vital electronic albums.
First ever pressing of a 1975 psych throw-down by soon-to-become important members of the Belgian wave underground; Alain Neffe, Guy Marc Hinant, and friends
“Something undoubtedly cosmic but with a DIY, home-made edge: a cosmos for sure, but dirtier than clean, noisier than technology-based. All songs are unreleased. Recorded and mixed in March 1975. After some years rather cosmic and raga-esque music, Kosmose slowly began to explore some more experimental and noisy sonic expression. At the time, the band only owned a few instruments and sound effects and, no drummer. They used to play long tracks in order to follow the trend of the alternative music of the period -- remember, this was 1975. The event was a total spectacle with an inventive light-show including a stroboscope and a frantic projection of strange abstract slides on a giant screen by Freddy Pourcel. Some incense was burnt time-to-time. Personnel: Alain Neffe - monophonic synthesizer, flute, primitive rhythm box, bell, clumsy voice, tarang; Francis Pourcel - bass, bass with violin bow, electric guitar; Daniel Malempré (aka MAL) - electric guitar, 12-string acoustic guitar.”
Première release of a pivotal piece by important American composer, Julius Eastman.
After more than 40 years, Julius Eastman’s Femenine - a euphoric, colourful, and inventive work by the brilliant but criminally overlooked composer with the S.E.M. Ensemble - finally sees the light of day thanks to Finland’s Frozen Reeds, bringing to life a wondrous iteration of the highly fertile 1970s north american minimalist/modern classical nexus for a whole new generation of ears.
Notable not least as the only known recording of Femenine, recorded live in 1974 at Composers Forum in Albany, New York - which makes it only the 2nd CD with Eastman’s name at the top - this release also documents the composer on piano (whilst wearing a dress, as it goes) and features his unique innovation, a set of mechanised sleigh bells, rattling throughout the 72 minute performance, which, in a way, neatly characterises the artist’s wide-open, pioneering idiosyncrasies and dichotomies for anyone new to his work.
Un/fortunately, depending your perspective, far too many folk will be new to his work or even unaware of Eastman’s involvement in some true totems of the time; whether that’s as lead vocalist on Peter Maxwell Davies’ Eight Songs For A Mad King (1971), playing keys on Dinosaur L’s disco-not-disco classic 24→24 Music (1981), or conducting Arthur Russell’s Tower of Meaning (1983). And we say too many folk, because, all considered, until quite recently, Eastman has been long overdue the shine afforded to many of his peers and contemporaries.
As a Gay, Afro-American new music composer, pianist and vocalist in the ‘70s, Eastman’s work was innately politicised and exceptional by the nature of its provenance, not to mention the music itself, which pulled from his personal history as much as wider social movements to represent a uniquely fluid perspective on minimalist music’s rigid process and presentation right up to his untimely death, aged 50 in 1990.
With that in mind, Feminine stands at a crossroads between Eastman’s earlier chamber work Stay On It, and later pieces such as his iconic, majestic Evil Nigger and the ambiguous flux of emotions in Gay Guerilla; sounding quite unlike any of them thanks to its sense of communal joy (there were somewhere between 12 and 15 players) and the polymetric meter of his mechanised sleigh bells, coupled with a display of massed, pitching tonal colour that moves with the kind of deliquescent, flighty optimism that’s hard not to be wowed by.
Ultimately, it genuinely lives up to the mantle of “new music” and presents its ideas in a deeply refreshing, insistent, yet never-cloying manner.
A huge recommendation.
‘What Light There Is’ finds Janek Schaefer feeding off and disassembling Robert Wyatt’s ‘Cuckooland’  album in his sublime style, paired with seven new, original pieces that share a captivating eldritch aura. Huge recommendation if you're into work by The Caretaker, Philip Jeck, WIlliam Basinski.
Continuing a series of releases reverential of significant British composers, writers and artists such as J.G. Ballard and John Tavener, Janek treats Robert Wyatt’s material with the same poetic license. What follows is an immersive, hypnagogic episode from the mental realm between waking life and dreamspace, gently teasing the pastoral loveliness of Wyatt’s music into a woozy, heavy-lidded parallel dimension.
As always with Schaefer’s work, the idea of nostalgia and the fidelity of memory is also key to the appeal of ‘What Light There Is Tells Us Nothing’. In the 21 minute title piece, commissioned by the Sounds New Festival in Canterbury and presented as a multi-channel radio installation, Schaefer revels in the profundity of Wyatt’s work with poignant slivers filtered into gaseous shapes suggesting a fleeting mix of pastoral glory and somnambulant melancholy comparable with the most striking Philip Jeck works, or the trace echoes of memory supplied by The Caretaker.
The other seven pieces follow with a more cinematic appeal, as though we’ve dozed off during a midday matinee programme in middle England and slipped into a silvery phantasy of medieval gallantry and posh English gentry, before nods to Schaefer’s Polish ancestry flicker into his nostalgic reverie via the bobbling loops and glitching chorales of his three ‘Corah’ pieces.