Jim Jupp (Belbury Poly) and Jon Brooks (The Advisory Circle) metamorphosize into The Belbury Circle, incorporating their pal John Foxx on two tracks of Outward Journey.
Pulsing with proggy soft trance riffs and draped in nocturnal atmospheres, it’s one for driving your car late at night thru the conurbations, commuter villages and gentrified docklands of a pensive Brexit Britain, turning up two standout moments in the John Foxx-led highlights of Forgotten Town and the beautifully wistful Trees, with plenty of time of reflection over your milky tea on Café Kaput and the twinkly gaze of Departures Inc, with a wistful guitar solo worthy of an Alan Partridge-style despairing breakdown in a lay-by.
Shenzhou is next up in Biosphere’s album reissue schedule.
Original issued in 2000, it finds the Norwegian artist following the wistful loops of Cirque farther down the rabbit hole, leaving behind the purely electronic contours and beat-driven elements of his early work for a subtler, textured electro-acoustic style comparable with The Caretaker and Leyland Kirby or William Basinski’s faded tape loops. Your attention is required to the mesmerising string swells of Houses On The Hill, the cinematic midnight jazz gesture of Path Leading to the High Grass, and the Deathprod-alike gloam of Lorry Shuttle Shaft.
Penultimate Press bossman Mark Harwood takes a cross-continental trip as Astor, traversing sanguine solo piano pieces, haunted train toilet recordings and death croak noise gasps. All very uncanny and lo-fi, pocked in the space between reality and dreams, as you might well expect from this artist and label.
“The fourth Astor offering presents itself as a limited cassette, intended to fill the vacuum prior to the next full length LP expected to hatch in the year of 2018. A self titled diary-esque offering, this collects recordings made in the UK and Europe throughout 2017 – from a toilet on a train in France to a piece played on Henning Christiansen’s piano on the island of Møn in Denmark. Here we embark on a journey of sound that travels through a vast terrain which holds itself together through the sheer audacity of outre elements and unusual construction. From organ jams to syncopated screams, from absolute beauty to unbridled terror, Astor takes a magnifying glass to reality and unfurls it as an uncanny audio essay.”
PAN’s Afrikan Sciences and Gaël Segalen have hatched one of 2016’s most curious fusions of mystic beat geometry and electro-acoustic process with Low Doses. We’re not sure if that title’s a reference to them micro-dosing LSD - which is entirely plausible after hearing the record - or something else, but either way their debut LP is a deeply trippy dish.
Transcending styles with a deceptive effortlessness, Low Doses feels to be all about locating that elusive, near-mythical third track - a sort of metaphysical alchemy - amidst the duo’s perfectly unbalanced equations. Whilst approaching the same point from differing disciplines - Porter from a world of futuristic hard bop and hi-tech soul; Gaël from the sphere of sound design and concrète praxis - they’re clearly as much aware of their differences as they are sympathetic towards each’s overarching agenda.
At an attuned, yet defocussed and lushly amorphous mid-ground between those aesthetics, Low Doses really comes into its own as a sort of psychotropic, deep topographical journey between their mindsets, conflating sheets of street noise and organic pastoral location recordings with rhythms that seem to have spilled from the field to the club via decades of cryptic encoding.
It’s all totally jazz and definitely experimental electro-acoustic, but in a mixing oil ’n sand way that would have been almost unimaginable or deemed too mutually exclusive in the not so distant past. Ultimately, then, they’ve achieved an unprecedented, imaginative, innovative and stellar music which should only be ignored by followers of great, timeless electronic sounds at the risk of stupidity.
This compilation spanning a period of 37 years features Burnt Friedman's releases and edits thereof from vinyl-only labels (Latency (FR), Marionette (CA), Dekmantel (NL) amongst others) plus 4 hitherto unreleased tracks, making them available on digital formats.
"Friedman's music from 1980 to 2017 covers a broad spectrum of played and programmed rhythmic styles that traverse not only club music from techno, electro and dub, but, above all, trace Friedman's own artistic development. A trajectory that owes a lot to his long-standing collaboration with Can drummer Jaki Liebezeit, who died at the age of 79 in 2017. Like Liebezeit, Friedman already explored even and uneven rhythms back in the late 1980s. This selection of 17 tracks documents this pursuit while bringing rough or discarded tracks to light, which did not fit onto any album or were intended for the Nonplace label.
The compilation runs the entire gamut of his work on percussion, keyboard, samplers and toys of all kinds using various production methods (tape, Atari, Midi, sampler, hard disk recording, digital audio tape). Studio work (instant-composition, programming and recording) underwent major technological changes and revolutions in the 1980s and 1990s, but Friedman's distinctive signature style prevails throughout. Surprisingly danceable tracks, interrupted by alien atmospheric periods, defy any genre.”
Washington’s finest go toe-to-twinkling toe on Future Times, with Beautiful Swimmer Max D in Dolo Percussion mode
Meshing deep house hustle with Dawit Eklund’s low key vox on the Kwaito-esque nudge of Rise, then on a more screw-faced sort of brukbeat riddled with ricochet drums and recoiling dub delays and, of course, Dawit emoting killer, autotuned vocals for the late freaks.
The blinding Habibi Funk survey of Eclectic Music from the Arabic World lights up a lesser known paradigm of artists from the Arabic world incorporating sounds from beyond their local traditions with often stunning, wild and bewildering results. After teasing the set in with a handful of tasty previews in recent months, the full collection includes 5 tunes completely unreleased on any other format, from blazing funk throw-downs to Caribbean-tinged soukous, disco and smoothly harmonised psych-soul.
“Habibi Funk is dedicated to re-releasing a style of music that historically never existed as a musical genre. We use the term to describe a certain sound that we like from the countries of the Arab world. The songs we chose were created in places quite far from another and under very different circumstances. Some were written and recorded during war times, others in exile. Despite the differences we think there is a musical connection between them. Essentially, we are interested in the musical endeavors, in which artists from the Arab world mixed local and regional influences with musical interests that came from outside of the region.
Even though the name suggests it’s all about funk music, our focus is more than just that. Often these influences might be inspired from Western popular music such as soul, pop and rock but it’s not limited to that either. Some of our favorite records are best described as Arabic zouk (a genre originating from the Caribbean islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe) like Mallek Mohamed’s music, Algerian coladera (a popular musical style from the Cape Verdean islands) or Lebanese AOR, which means the process of musical influences displayed on this compilation was much more versatile than just taking Western music as a blueprint and translating it with a local accent. The compilation features 15 different artists. Some you might already know thru Habibi Funk’s releases like Fadoul, Ahmed Malek, Dalton or Al Massrieen, while others are meant as an introduction to artists like Kamal Keila, Sharhabeel Ahmed, Attarazat Addahabia & Mallek Mohamed who will all release full length albums on Habibi Funk in 2018.”
TAR is a poetically plotted suite of ambient/noise and modern classical composition with a real emotive pull, firmly realised by Iranian artist, Siavash Amini. It follows a pair of his albums issued on tape by Mexico City’s excellent Umor Rex to pursue a personal exploration of “the fragile tensions between an individual and a collective subconscious” - effectively opening up and inhabiting the space between waking life and nightmares/dreams.
Let’s be fair, there’s probably 20 albums a week that purport to delve into that twilight zone, but the efficacy of their vision rests on a delicate balance between the presence of the composer and their ability to subtract themselves and leave behind something more intangible,and in turn their ability to suspend our disbelief and immerse us in that space.
By sleight of hand and detail of tone and space, Amini arguably maintains that veil impeccably throughout the four sections of TAR, generating an oneiric series of visual/musical prompts which suggest riveting, yet sometimes harrowing, imagery and sensations, but like a dream its sense of “darkness” is just out of reach, impending and lurking rather than in your face or quite real.
It flows with an elemental sorcery from reverberant electronic space and caustic noise swells to sweeping strings in A Dream’s Frozen Reflection in a way that recalls subtler Ben Frost, while the stygian viscosity of Rivers of Tar recalls the most impressive aspects of Subtext’s grand statements, but again with a more nuanced, modern cinema noir appeal, and Face On The Sand reminds us of parts to Sir Richard Bishop and W. David Oliphant’s Beyond All Defects.
But it’s really all building to the denouement of The Dust We Breathe, which generates Tar’s most tumultuous and varied topography, from gripping electrical storm disturbances to keening strings and a jaw-dropping turn half way thru its 14 minute trek, towards a more glorious light that reminds of the fade out to Kara-Lis Coverdale’s Grafts.
If you know what’s good for you, check this album out.
French election politics and rave music prompt this ace compilation of winners from Low Jack, J-Zbel, and U-202 (Ron Morelli), dispatched to celebrate 3 years of hook ups between L.I.E.S. and Brothers From Different Mothers.
BFDM’s J-Zbel turns up two ‘ardcore-infected zingers on the front with a wide-eyed zinger named Nik Molina full of trancing arpeggios and strobing choral voices, then on a killer ’91 breakbeat tip with the savant brutishness of Selecta (Neneu Anthem #5).
Sharing the flipside, Low Jack plates up the spooky dancehall dub of Ice Formula Riddim somewhere between the eyes of Equiknoxx and Jay Glass Dubs, and Ron Morelli beats off the gristly, dogged noise torque of Whistler (Edit X), which sounds like one of Cylob’s Lobster Trax gone feral.
Japanese bluesman Kan Mikami is nothing less than an unalloyed force of nature. A skin-shredding blast of frozen wind from the poor, rural north of Japan that he calls home. In the late 1960s, like thousands of other Japanese young people Mikami made his way to Tokyo in search of a life different from that of his parents. Since then he has forcefully carved out a space for himself in the culture as a modernist poet, a raging folk singer, an author, a actor, an engaging TV personality, and one of Japan’s most uniquely powerful performers.
"For most of Mikami’s career as a singer, he has performed solo. Just him and his electric guitar against the world, creating jagged A-minor vamps to drive along the surreal wisdom of his lyrics. But he’s equally at home in more demanding improvisational contexts such as those provided here by John Edwards on bass and Alex Neilson on drums. Their dense propulsive textures seem to spur on Mikami, his voice arcing powerfully into fragmented spaces, his guitar darting, colliding, shedding jagged and angular splinters of sound. A pulsing, raging maelstrom of serrated-edged energy. Gruff, rough, honest and very, very real." - Alan Cummings”
Get closer to the resounding magic of Harry Bertoia’s Sonambient sculptures with this revelatory film and a CD containing the last ever recordings made by Harry with his brother Oreste and their sister Ave. Whether you’ve encountered Bertoia’s work via his modern furniture design, his Sonambient scuptures, or their recordings, consider this necessary viewing and listening!
“The DVD, a film titled Sonambients: The Sound Sculpture of Harry Bertoia, by Jeffrey & Miriam Eger, was shot in 1971 and follows Harry Bertoia in performance and interview throughout his Sonambient barn deep in the Pennsylvania woods. This film offers a rare opportunity to follow the artist in practice, listening carefully as he moves contemplativelythrough his sculptures and gongs. Interview footage offers rare insight into Bertoia's inspiration and process.
A separate CD contains four exclusive, recently discovered audio recordings. Included are thetwo earliest known collaborative tapes from Harry and brother Oreste, morning and evening sessions dated October 12, 1969, as well as a collaboration between the Bertoia brothers and their sister Ave who sings in careful unison with the overtones being produced by the sculptures. With the passing of Oreste Bertoia in 1972, these recordings mark the last meeting of all three Bertoia siblings.”
Although originally released on download formats last year, 2017 saw the first vinyl release of Maxwell Sterling's stunning solo debut album 'Hollywood Medieval', remastered for this new edition complete with new artwork by the artist’s mother - Manchester post-punk legend Linder Sterling. Huge recommendation if you're into TCF, Philip Glass, Coil, 0PN, James Ferraro.
Hollywood Medieval is an album about the glaring disparities and elaborate, underlying convolutions the composer observed and felt while working as a nanny for wealthy parents during his film composition studies at UCLA in the early part of the 2010s. Using an augmented a palette of classic DX7 and Juno 60 synths along with a severely warped bank of library samples and iPhone recordings, it spells out a queasily evocative simulacra of the city in flux, animating a sort of Ballardian tableaux that’s hyper-descriptive in its rendering of the hazy, dosed-up, and often delirious transitions between Hollywood's glamour and grime, using LA's gurning facades and ostentatious wealth as prompts for a richly visual side of sawn-off emotive signposts and jazz-taut turns of phrase that vividly etch on the memory in neon freehand.
From the dizzying sugar rush of the opening sequence, Hollywood Medieval I, to its spiralling counterpoint in Hollywood Medieval II, the album is an inception-like concerto, with Maxwell smartly subverting the film score composer’s role by placing the music centre stage and allowing the narration to be carried by virtuosic flourishes owing to his classical and jazz music schooling, as he explains “one compositional intention was to push the sample libraries to their limits, testing their claims of being ‘realistic’, and finding the points at which they break and falter and become something new and less recognisable.”
From the dizzying sugar rush of the opening sequence, Hollywood Medieval I, to its spiralling counterpoint in Hollywood Medieval II, taking in the Derrick May/Sueno Latino-esque $50 Curse Removal and the Lorenzo Senni like whisked peaks of Synthetic Beach, the album is an inception-like concerto, with Maxwell smartly subverting the film score composer’s role by placing the music centre stage and allowing the narration to be carried by virtuosic flourishes owing to his classical and jazz music schooling, as he explains “one compositional intention was to push the sample libraries to their limits, testing their claims of being ‘realistic’, and finding the points at which they break and falter and become something new and less recognisable.”
In a sense, Hollywood Medieval resonates with the way Sam Kidel subverted the nature of Ambient music on Disruptive Muzak, and offers an alternative, lucid view of the hazy LA offered by Delroy Edwards Teenage Tapes and likewise, works like a present diagnosis of the dystopian future worlds dreamed up in The Sprawl’s dystopian, widescreen visions on EP1, effectively broadening and illuminating The Death of Rave’s own sonic hauntology.
Deluxe edition of Gruppo Di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza’s Azioni collection, comprehensively highlighting the early years of one of the most important, widely influential musical explorers at their late 1960's best. All the material here was salvaged from the archives of Gruppo member Walter Branchi, and serves to illustrate his work in the collective - along with Franco Evangelisti, Ennio Morricone, Ivan Vandor, Roland Kayn, Egisto Macchi, Mario Bertoncini and John Heineman - like some kind of document to the “big bang” of their unique electro-acoustic microcosmos.
Covering the period between their seminal, eponymous debut Gruppo Di Improvvisazione ‘Nuova Consonanza’ and the Improvisationen LP for Deutsche Grammophon - the same period during which Morricone was composing the OST for A Fistful Of Dollars and Roland Kayn was starting to realise the first strains of a sonic AI - the set documents in-depth the exhilarating friction and outlandish wonder of this unique unit of multi-disciplined and unblinkered musical thinkers and performers who smashed convention and effectively opened the doors for thousands of artists in their wake.
Funny thing is, to look at old pictures of the squad, all suited, bespectacled and with neat-ass fades, you’d hardly think that they would out-do Wolf Eyes or Smegma when it comes to creating the maddest racket you’ve never heard; but thats just what these guys did. Drawing from all corners of the compositional sphere, from free-jazz to serialism and concrète, they practically trampled on conventions with a fine-tuned experimental thrust that spun the lead of Russolo and the futurists with the live fire of Ornate Coleman and John Coltrane and the synthetic otherworldliness of Oskar Sala.
Gruppo fiends will no doubt know and love the original Azioni set, issued on 2CD+DVD in 2006 and found here cut across 2.5 sides of vinyl. However, hardly anyone in the world has heard the 100 minutes of Reazioni material, forming a major part of the attraction here; manifest in a masterly and near-telepathic system of tonal and percussive communication rent with head-spinning spatial dynamics, generating structures and sounds which arguably never existed before these recordings, which really come into their own in the quiet moments of extended technique, and a totally dilated 20 minute finale or détournement on the 5th disc.
OK, there are historic precedents in Russolo’s Intonarumori, the clatter of early Henry or Schaeffer, and the sonic architextures of Varèse and Xenakis, but nobody else had knitted sheets of plasmic electronic drones (thanks to Roland Kayn and Walter Branchi) with the sublime tensions and cues of music for film (ta to Macchi and Morricone), and the in-the-moment wit of jazz quite like these guys. And with praise due to the restoration of original tapes and remastering by Giuseppe Ielasi, the recordings still sound wildly ahead of the curve, effectively in a parallel dimension of their own.
Gorgeous and thought provoking split LP from these two notable synthesists. Kubisch contemplates Nicolai Tesla and his concept of electrical remoteness as it applies to the modern world, making use of electromagnetic field recordings from tramways, analog machines, light systems, power stations, airports, banks, secrity systems, advertising and the sounds of discharges and activities of Tesla's own devices - recorded all over the world. Eleh's composition makes use of a new kind of spaciousness and was composed for piano & Serge STS modular synthesizers. Though Tesla was not a consideration when the piece was recorded, it takes on a new meaning and is well paired with Kubisch's.
From Christina Kubisch:
"The fgure of Nikola Tesla has fascinated me since a long time. He was the person who imagined wireless communication in an era when there was hardly electricity. He was the one who invented radio controlled devices and other new technologies beyond the generally known limits of technology. Tesla had been picking up radio signals in New York since 1895 receiving them as far as thirty miles away. He wasnot only an inventor whose work was the basis for the development of many electrical inventions and communication techniques of today but was as well a very special person, a visionary who was inable to realize many of his ideas because of money problems and as well his “diffcult” character.
I discovered his work during my studies of electronics in Milan at the end of the seventies. In that period I started to use the system of electromagnetic induction for my sound installations. Tesla had invented and patented the frst telephone amplifer in 1882 in Budapest and, without knowing about its origin I used a simple telephone amplifer with incorporated small coils to listen to the sounds in my installations.Later on my work with electromagnetic induction had developed into the series “Electrical Walks”, city walks with special headphones which make audible the usually hidden electromagnetic felds around us. In 2012 I visited the small museum of science in the city of Kosice in Slovakia. The museum had many Tesla devices in their showroom and I got a special permission to test tem. I listened with my special induction headphones to the Tesla machines and was fascinated: a thunderstorm of electromagnetic noise. It was the moment when I got inspired to make a piece aboutelectrical remoteness. Tesla grew up in a remote small village in Austria (now Croatia) where electricity, radio, cars, telephones, movies etc. were unknown. As a boy he loved nature more than everything else. But already at the age of 36, in 1893, his inventions made it possible that the world expo in the city of Chicago was illuminated by one hundred thousand electrical lamps.
The new technologies concerning light, radio, radar etc. were developing with such an incredible speed since then like today the components of the digital world. I always asked myself what Tesla would have thought about the internet, google, twitter, facebook, apps etc. Was this the vision he had in mind when he invented his system of wireless transmission of electrical signals? His working places were full of big heavy coils, oscillators, metal towers etc. by which he tried to transfer energy without wires. Today we almost forget that digital communication and storage is not based only on invisible remote waves in the ether but that it needs server rooms which are much bigger and heavier than Teslas equipment. “Teslas Dream” opens with the magnetic felds recorded in an old Austrian train station followed by the electrical melodies of old Tatra tramways in Bratislava (now almost disappeared). The sounds of discharges and activities of Teslas devices gradually come in. During the piece the electromagnetic signals change gradually from the sounds of analog machines to the more actual felds of light systems, security systems, power lines, banks, subways, airports, power stations etc. Various electrical signals of digital communication slowly merge in and change again the sound structure. The composition ends with the sounds of a luminous advertising, recorded recently in a shopping centre in Las Vegas, accompanied by the faint vibrations of other signals from the ether. Tesla wanted to reach the most remote places of the earth with electrical energy. Nothing today is remote anymore.
The glass armonica (an original instrument from the 19th century) was recorded at the Musikinstrumentenmuseum in Berlin. All other recordings were made with electromagnetic headphones and other custom made devices developed by Christina Kubisch. The original electrical feld recordings were made in Austria, Germany, Slovakia, Britain, Czech republic, New York, Las Vegas and the Hoover Dam."
First domestic release proper for a cult post-punk LP with strong psychedelic and krautrock leanings
“‘More Wealth Than Money’ proved a vastly ambitious debut album, sprawling across four sides of vinyl in a way that still feels truly expansive, brave, cinematic even. From the plaintive pastoralism of ‘British Warm’ to the transcendental vistas of ‘Other Ways Of Knowing’, the album constantly surprises with its ringing trails of guitar, motorik pulse and synth rambles. From the striving incursion of ‘Sally IV’ to the softly spoken disbelief of ‘Yellow Rain’ the album is nothing short of a waking dream. Guy Smith’s vocal floats through the album in a haunting manner, at times heartfelt at others overcome. He’s on a quest to his own celestial city and we can stay for the whole journey if we only listen.
Described by the press upon its release in 1982 as an “absolutely mesmerising double album travelling through progressive rock, via industrial folk to freaky art-punk whilst sounding delightfully coherent” and “a huge slab of mindblowing dark psychedelia” the album was critically acknowledged for its peculiarly British kosmische. However for an album so indebted to the fertile soil from which it sprang, it’s curious that ‘More Wealth Than Money’ never came out officially in the UK. The band’s label Illuminated were temporarily blacklisted by their distributor because of unpaid debts and so the album was only available from the band at concerts within the UK. The bulk of the record’s sales went to mainland Europe on export.
Upset The Rhythm are now very proud to finally give ‘More Wealth Than Money’ the release it’s always deserved. On December 1st, 35 years since the album first appeared, Upset The Rhythm will be reissuing the newly re-mastered ‘More Wealth Than Money’ album, alongside a further full-length collection of demos and unreleased tracks from the album’s overlooked corners. Both the 2xCD and DLP versions also come with a booklet contextualizing the release, full of anecdotes and photos from all band members. This release follows on from 2015's ‘Return Of The Ranters’, Normil Hawaiians’ lost final album from 1985, which ultimately saw the light of day in a different age through Upset The Rhythm too.”
Keiji Haino, one of the foremost exponents of the Japanese avant-garde, always provides a masterclass in constantly shifting improvisation. John Butcher is a saxophonist of rare grace and power, who has expanded the vocabulary of the saxophone far beyond the conventions of jazz and other musics, to encompass a staggering range of multiphonics, overtones, percussive sounds, and electronic feedback.
"Haino and Butcher met when Butcher opened for Fushitsusha at the show Cafe Oto arranged at St. John, Hackney - 5 years ago. In 2016 they were invited to play two duo concerts – at The Empty Gallery in Hong Kong and at Cafe Oto in London.
Otoroku is proud to present the audio documentation of their first UK meeting. Recorded live at Cafe Oto in July 2016 the results are an uncompromising milieu of swirling sound played out as a total union of these two legendary performers. Haino’s blues drenched guitar entices skittering notes from Butcher."
Loft takes their mutant party to Wisdom Teeth with Three Settlements Four Ways. Landing in the wake of a vinyl pressing for his RA-praised Turbulent Dynamics EP, the vibes and production are, by turns, much lusher, layered and knotty than previous outings, bringing Loft’s sound closer to say, Arca or Lanark Artefax.
Up top, they emerge from tremulous beginnings to open out an optimistic, airborne club blessing with the percolated drums, hyaline chorales and virulent acid lines of Filton Recall, then squashing the pressure down low with bubbling subs generating effervescent ambient chords and a spire of giddy hardstyle trance motifs in Funemployed.
Flipside he commits to more chaotic themes with the ambiguous, pranging dynamics of Oh Well We’re All Fucked, chewing up and spitting out a rainbow coloured gob of sawn-off breaks and convulsive club deconstructions, then settles into a nervy swing with the lush but agitated bump of Pottlin.
Björk blooms her most impressive album in a good while with Utopia, featuring co-production by Arca and even a guest spot by Rabit, who both aid in buoying her astonishingly lush and romantic new song cycle. As sincerely optimistic as the title may suggest, Utopia is, by Björk’s own description, her “tinder album”, projecting a positive answer to the tortuous soul-searching of Vulnicura.
We can take or leave a lot of Björk on most days. But this one got us right thurrr. Whether that’s due to the seamless integration of Arca’s virtuosic flourishes, it’s difficult to say. However, the embrace of space and nature, both real and emulated, within Utopia lends an intoxicatingly out-of-body sensation to its songs which beautifully leavens her sometimes overwrought delivery, serving to free up her spirit in the most literal and fascinatingly intangible terms.
Where Arca was brought in at the late stages of Vulnicura to warp its edges, their working relationship immediately spilled over into the recording of Utopia, forging a symbiotic and hugely fruitful relationship with the artist he formerly called his idol. Now creative partners, their powers are multiplied, manifesting the longest single piece of work in either’s catalogue, and arguably their most seductive.
You can literally hear her beaming while she sings over swooping subs, gamer FX and pirouetting harps in Awakening My Senses, whilst the folk phrasing and prettiness of Blissing Me perfectly counters her operatic tendencies. Conversely, the adroit looseness of Arca’s rhythms acutely mirror the expressive meter of Björk’s classical inflections in Body Memory, one of the album’s longest, most immersive highlights, and equally in sweetly fractious form to giddy effect on Losss, which benefits from Rabit’s push ’n pull production.
And even when talking frankly about the darker side of that tinder life in the couplet of Courtship and Sue Me, she pulls off delirious, rugged - but not overbearing - rhythms and skyward-zipping flutes keeping her spirit decidedly up and forward-looking in a way that also informs the album’s heart-cupping conclusion, Future Forever.
Alex Zhang Hungtai explores forlorn, strung out avant-industrial and rhythmic noise feels as Love Theme for Luke Younger’s Alter after laying his Dirty Beaches alias to rest in 2014, and more recently guesting on Dedekind Cut’s American Zen album
“If there's a single guiding motif to this debut recording from Love Theme, it's the melancholic throb of love learnt and love lost, a descent that tumbles and slips through the overall feeling of looking back. As intimately and carefully as its parts cohesively lament a narrative, it's the after-image that catches your breath, like a memory morphing as it is observed.Comprised of Alex Zhang Hungtai of the now defunct project Dirty Beaches, along with Austin Milne, and Simon Frank, 'Love Theme' is arranged from an improvised session with twin saxophones, synthesizer, percussion, drum machine, and voice.
Over the course of a year the material was edited remotely from the members' home cities of London, LA and Taipei.The record's sullen ambience is never left too long to set in. The aching wane of the saxophone arrangements frisk the propulsive aggro of the mixed percussion, forcing a melancholic halo upon the queasy stupor of the synthetic swing that closes each side of the record. It's a bizarre lust for life that's being divined from equal parts dislocation and invigoration, a potent remedy which perhaps Love Theme can call their own.
Percolating and finding form over time, the record instinctively follows a travel narrative, moving across a series of landscapes, reflecting the innate experiences of the expressions and voices that were first collected in South London back in February 2015."
Wolfgang Voigt presents an incredible new chapter in the GAS saga almost 20 years since its last instalment, taking us deeper still into the recesses of that neon lit forest nightscape, just in time for that new series of Twin Peaks that's just around the corner...
Over the last two decades many listeners have become deeply familiar with Zauberburg, Königsforest, and Pop - many for the first time via the vital Nah Und Fern compilation , and with an even greater number becoming seduced and schooled via the comprehensive Box collection in 2016, which effectively sets the scene for this, Wolfgang Voigt’s keenly awaited re-arrival. Not to make him sound like christ or anything but, jeeeeez, we need this guy’s music now as badly as ever.
Under the title Narkopop, which suggests a continuation of the themes explored by its predecessor, Pop , as well as a succinct acknowledgement of his music’s putative purpose, the Kompakt kingpin floods the senses with what must be a life-threatening dose to folk who are AMSR responsive or suffer cardiac respiratory problems; you’ll either shiver yourself to a very pleasurable death or find yourself catching your breath at the point of systolic syncopation with Voigt’s inhale/exhale dynamics.
To be clear, the formula of etheric de/composition remains the same; there’s no studio skits or sidesteps into Ed Sheeraned polkapop (free ideas for the future right there, Wolfgang) - but the production and dense sense of tension is taken even further into that unique soundworld. The kicks remain as deep as your pulsatile tinnitus heard thru the pillow at night, whilst the strings are diaphanous and intangibly convective; slowly but surely directing the listener to a highly desirable state of delirium; along a spiralling Escher’s staircase to a beautiful nowhere.
It’s perhaps arbitrary to give a run thru of all the tracks because, as anyone who has immersed themselves in GAS will tell you, it’s quite likely that consciousness isn’t an option by the end of the recording, with the final tracks of his albums tending to be received by osmosis from behind closed eyelids. But, in case you have the concentration span of a long haul trucker or a tolerance for beta blockers, you’ll be well attuned to its valerian gauze and durational thrum, which picks us up at the very Leyland Kirby/The Caretaker-esque Narkopop 1, and carries thru distinct highlights in the breathtaking symphonic smudge of Narkopop 4, and the windswept aeolian harp shiver laced into Narkopop 6 before delivering us at the feet of a towering, cloud-shrouded holy mountain which gradually reveals its peak in Narkopop 10.
20 years on, it's still a sound that no one has managed to better, despite countless imitations.
Russia’s Paval Milyakov, aka Buttechno, tends to his screwier, inquisitive side for TTT with a gauzy batch of ambient, folk and house experiments, swerving between the lines of his records for Japan’s City-2 St. Giga, Collapsing Market and his Gosha Rubchinskiy AW16 soundtrack, to the dankest parts of his bedroom-baked club sound.
This is music for hanging out on cold, concrete corners in your most flammable trackies, taking in pastoral electro-folk meditation Gosha Medvedeva, his Pole-esque Slow Dub, and the skinny, bone-pinching swing of K4 on the one hand, before decorating those skeletal structures with more fleshly samples of Russia pop in the low key seduction of Poleva, and something like a roadside house rave played on empty vodka bottles, oil drums and cardboard boxes in the Brinkmann-like Metallo, and a nervily grubbing, spooked-out house ace named Super Siziy King.
This album is just so good, probably the most heavyweight, dread-filled Ambient LP you’ll hear this year, exploring post-club dimensions with eight tracks of hazy hooks, engulfing subs and grimy thizz rent in acres of space, something like Arca via Bladerunner. Beneath describes it perfectly as “uplifting whilst also being dread filled...”
Making up the first album release on Mistry after seven club-hingeing EPs from the likes of Batu, Laksa, Chevel and Webstarr, Kailin’s Fracture occupies an introspective middle-distance between perceptions of club and ambient modes of reception by disintegrating dancefloor structures into a near-metaphysical presence with mercurial, vapourising gestures. Like Schrödingers cat in a bassbin, it’s neither or, and possibly both at the same time, depending on your perception.
This paradoxical sense of detachment and immersion perhaps stems from the album’s production; originally sketched out in a 2 month haze, then left to steep for much longer, before the collection’s nuances and conflicting elements began to reveal themselves in remarkable formations such as the OOBE electro flex of Circling or the midnight quantum jazz dynamics of Gimp, or a really big highlight in the teetering, polymetric ambient pop of Respite.
No doubt it’s a fascinating and quintessential turn for Mistry, one which lives up to the label’s name and its roots in the duppie dread effect of UK soundsystem culture, yet never previously revealed by Beneath’s imprint in such absorbing and heady style before now.
Edit Select parse some five years of Selected Remixes from themselves and label associates.
Of Edit Select’s reworks for other artists, we direct you to the ice-skating elan of their take on Antonio Ruscito’s Seconda Immagine, a cavernous version of Teste’s techno classic The Wipe, and the Basic Channel-esque 2012 remix of Fused.
Also check for the pounding Blue Hour rework of ES19.3, and the psychedelic tunnel of Rrose’s version of The Wipe.
Melodies International proudly moves forward with an elusive piece of mid-tempo Chicago soul originally performed by Gloria J. Jennings in 1977.
"Gloria was signed to Stage Productions as a gospel singer with pure and raw talent she had developed in the choir of her father's Southern Baptist Church. She was 16 years old at the time. To tutor her for R&B vocals, Willie C. Nance of Stage Productions spent 3 months taking the artist back and forth for vocal training 25 miles each way, 3 days per week.
At the time, Mr. Nance had made plans to work with singer and songwriter Theresa Eagins to record “Know What You Want”. However, two days before the recording was set to begin, Ms. Eagins refused to move forward with the recording as she chose to take her religious faith more seriously and forgo the singing of secular music. Hence, Stage Productions turned to Gloria Jay to perform a song that would go on to move people thousands of miles away, many years later.”
Paean to Wilson is arguably Vini Reilly and the Durutti Columns most important and consistent piece of work since the demise of the original and seminal Factory Records in the early 1990’s.
"It was commissioned MIF (Manchester International Festival of Music), July 2009. Vini had already composed pieces for Tony to listen to whilst he was ill in hospital and it was from here that the project developed. The opening night of the three sell-out festival shows formed part of the BBC2 ‘Culture Show’ coverage on the event.
Dave Simpson – MIF Review – The Guardian 20/7/09 4 out of 5 ‘ Near the beginning of the final night of the Durutti Column's 70-minute international festival tribute to Tony Wilson, A Paean to Wilson, guitarist Vini Reilly announced that he wouldn't be singing: "So you won't have to put up with my awful voice and schoolboy lyrics." If Wilson was with us, he would have chuckled. The Granada presenter-turned-Factory Records boss spent years urging his first signing to stop singing, and concentrate on the virtuosity that led Red Hot Chili Pepper John Frusciante to call Reilly "the greatest guitarist in the world". Two years after his death, Wilson got his way, one of many lovely touches in a very personal, emotional and often warmly funny musical tribute. Wilson signed Joy Division and Happy Mondays, yet never gave up on this cult band he adored, working with them even after his legendary label went bankrupt."
The Centre Cannot Hold is Ben Frost’s 5th studio album. It was recorded over ten days by Steve Albini in Chicago and represents a pinched, subtler refinement of the billowing structures heard on its predecessor, A U R O R A , as well as a more personalised statement from Frost, who has more commonly been found working to someone film scores for someone else’s storyline with Music From Fortitude and The Wasp Factory.
Accompanied by players Skuli Sverrisson, Nico Muhly, Daniel Lea, and Shahzad Ismaily, and aided by production from Lawrence English, Paul Corley, Daniel Rejmer and Valgeir Sigurðsson; Ben Frost is effectively the triple threat actor/writer/director of his own particular album-cum-movie, rendering a typically melancholic vision of modern ambient and neo-classical storytelling that keens heavy with textural and emotive inspiration from industrial, post-rock and noise paradigms.
The record’s two side openers, Threshold Of Faith and Ionia were issued as single previews of the album, and both offer fair measure of what to expect from the other eight songs, which contract and expand between the scything post dubstep dynamics of A Sharp Blow In Passing and shuddering storm systems of Trauma Theory and the very NIN/Cortini-esque sprawl of Eurydices Heel, to the crystalline ice caves of All That You Love Will Be Eviscerated and the heavy-handed troll-bait epic, Entropy In Blue.
In emotional terms, Frost sums up feelings of apoploptic rage and despair usually only felt when you’ve gone to an outside toilet in Iceland in middle of winter, but forgot the tissue, while the production remains as trustingly tourist friendly as the northern lights. Put this on after GoT while you reflect on another great episode of tits and CGI dragons for optimal effect.
Next in the Aqualung reissue series periscope, Drexciya’s Lab Rat XL - the last of his seven storms LP cycle - comes up for air, ready to stun future generations.
Mice or Cyborg was first dispatched posthumously thru Clone in 2003, in the year following James Stinson’s final dive into the next dimension. It has since become one of his most elusive recordings, with original vinyl copies and even the repress fetching high prices, in parts due to the dead artist factor, and linked to that, the album’s unshakeable feeling of soulful melancholy that’s almost difficult to listen to, knowing that he knew what was on the horizon while making the record.
These ears clearly remember first hearing the record at SV3N’s legendary iLEKTRO event at The Park in Manchester, quite possibly NYE 2003/4, and just being floored by the moody swagger of Lab Rat 3. It was one of those moments when Drexciyan music really hits home, and never leaves you.
Along with the spine-freezing vocals and synth flares on Lab Rat 1, the mad subs on Lab Rat 2, and its eventual turns to more atonal, salinated flow in Lab Rat 5, or the way Lab Rat 6 feels like he’s being absorbed into the wires and re-routed back to the L.A.M. days, Lab Rat XL is undoubtedly one of Detroit’s high water marks, and surely ranks among techno and electronic music’s most legendary.
An essential listen. R.I.P. James Stinson.
Boris Bunnik (Conforce) slips into proper sci-fi soundtrack mode with the furtive atmospheres and slow, intricately sculpted rhythms of Encrypted Mind under his Versalife alias.
Consider this a must-check release if you’re into Heinrich Mueller’s more abstract designs.
Perhaps the most ambitious and absorbing album yet from Lawrence English, featuring a whole host of friends and collaborators including Swans’ Norman Westberg, The Necks’ Chris Abrahams and Tony Buck, Mats Gustafsson, Werner Dafeldecker and The Angels of Light’s Thor Harris. It’s an arctic, ice-cold meditation rendered in the most beautiful drone and semi-orchestral variants - think somewhere between William Basinski, Akira Rabelais and Badalamenti at his most terrifying. A huge recommendation.
Lawrence English carries the weight of the world in the emotive blows of Cruel Optimism; his tortuous yet somehow triumphant follow-up to the Wilderness of Mirrors (2014) LP, which was conceived prior to the present socio-political sh*tstorm, and attempts to present “a meditation on these challenges and an encouragement to press forward towards more profound futures”.
Inspired by the title of a critical text by American theorist Lauren Berlant, whose analysis of the contemporary crisis points to the elusive promise of neoliberalism - particularly its inherent sense of hauntological trauma - Cruel Optimism is offered by English as a reflection “on how power consumes, augments and ultimately shapes two subsequent human conditions: obsession and fragility”, and does so in a way that viscerally resonates with the long-standing, recurring themes of his work: deferred ecstasy, textural decay and the way they affect perception.
Galvanising strength through collaboration, as opposed to the solo introspection of Wilderness…, English elected to work with a number of his peers for this record, who all gauzily serve to enrich these recordings, which each carry the subtle, if distinct presence of plural spirits in the mix. Object Of Projection is especially hard-hitting, recalling Deathprod’s life-changing Treetrop Drive with its looped refrains, albeit here submerged underneath a tonne weight of sonic detritus that triggers nostalgia and dread in the most evocative manner imaginable - perhaps the most astonishing 5 minutes in all of English’s by-now sizeable catalogue of work.
English carefully consolidates every element on this album within the democracy of the soundfield; we may be able to discern the crucial gestures of Norman Westberg’s clanging chops in Hammering A Screw or smudged into the soberly grand dimensions of Requiem For A Reaper/Pillar Of Cloud and the waking dread of Somnambulist, but, in effect, thru English’s enigmatic processing, his ego is properly sublimated into the ether and as vital as any other to the record’s sense of swelling, aching communal pathos.
Laurel Halo focusses and diffracts her energies into the hi-tech jazz-fusion advancement of Dust; her stellar 3rd album with Hyperdub following the modern classic Quarantine  and the harder-to-grasp Chance Of Rain .
Whilst fully formed in their own rights, those records now appear to be a playground or warm-up for the stunningly loose yet instinctively coherent geometries and ideas that crystallise, slosh and flit all over this one, and which should surely place Halo among the most enigmatic artists in her astral field.
While swarmed with a daring roll call of collaborators such as Klein, Eli Keszler, Julia Holter, $hit & $hine and Max D, Laurel’s myriad ideas both anchor and form a glowing lattice which beautifully perfuses the whole record, tying together her roots in Detroit techno’s makeup - sci-fi, jazz, electro, japanese electronics, dub and nEuropean concrète - and seamlessly incorporating up-to-the-minute gestures from pop, R&B and 4.1 world dimensions in the most elusive yet insoluble style of her own.
If pushed to reduce that concoction to any one common factor, it’s got to be the sense of keening electronic soul that lights up the whole album, lending a cybernetic sensuality and pathos that’s entirely of its time yet totally transcendent for anyone with ears open wide enough to accept the interrelated nature of all the above references.
It would take a braver scribe than us to properly dissect each track, but the exercise would also be a a little pointless or, at least like like describing architecture thru dance, which funnily enough is perhaps the best analogy; a prism thru which to view the deliquescent R&B physics of Solar To Sun and Jelly at the album’s front, to the 3D weft of tribal percussion and Kraftwerkian bleeps wrapped into the avant-pop structure of Moontalk and the insectoid perspective of Nicht Ohne Risiko, or drifting out of 10th storey windows in the dusk of a hot summer day in Who Won? at the album’s core, whilst Syzygy sounds like an ancient construction site visited by a choir of swooping R&B angels from the future.
There’s little doubt that Dust will be one of our favourite albums for the (hopefully) long hot summer of 2017 and beyond; it’s just a brilliant, imaginative and inspiring piece of work.
Ryan Carlile and Spencer Doran traverse the outer reaches on this killer Visible Cloaks document for RVNG.
We just knew last year's debut Visible Cloaks offering for RVNG, the Miyako Koda-featuring Visible Cloaks single Valve, would be the prelude to something greater from Ryan Carlile and Spencer Doran. Reassemblage marks the Portland pair's second album and further expands upon the Visible Cloaks 'verse, calling on Motion Graphics and Root Strata alum Matt Carlson for assistance.
Inspiration for the album stems from a video essay of the same name by Trin T Minha-ha, which explored the impossibility of ascribing meaning to ethnographic images. With this in mind, Visible Cloaks set about transposing the inherent futurism of acts discovered on their inspirational Fairlights, Mallets and Bamboo mixes well into the 21st Century through modern sound design.
This results in an album whose eleven tracks possess a startlingly lucid and vibrant vision, forming new structures and ideas in the process. The aforementioned Valve features early in Reassemblage, Miyako Koda's presence gaining even more meaning within the context of Carlile and Doran's intentions for the album.
Elsewhere, vocals are deployed with a more abstract bent, VC playfully skewering Matt Carlson's voice through digital manipulation on Neume for one of the album's forays through musique plastique. Circles offers a genuinely spine-tingling moment of modern classical, whilst Motion Graphics follows his avant-jazz Future Times gripper with some illuminating assistance on the digital tranquility of Bloodstream.
Wonderful stuff all round.
Brighton’s K-Lone helms the next chapter on Parris’ Soundman Chronicles label, backed with an oxidised dub remix by Bristol’s O$VMV$M.
Apparently a year in the works, Old Fashioned convects 10 minutes of silty chords, subtle beachside atmosphere and exhaling dynamics, leading up to a levitating dub bass in classic, or should we say Old Fashioned Berlin style. Schmoke a bowl a drift off styles. In The Dust Of This Planet brings that vibe closer to the UK lean of Parris or Batu, but more low key, furtive, and O$VMV$M seemingly leave Old Fashioned to the elements, returning a wizened, saltier version.
Home Age is the first proper Eleh full length since 2012's Homage To The Pointed Waveforms.
These new pieces seek to expose the inherent musicality of pure electrical currents via high resolution Serge STS synthesizers. Like early Eleh work, Home Age is inward looking, domestic and deliberate but also slowly emotional and revealing as if peering blurry eyed through a window. Melody, harmony and counterpoint are suggested but not revealed.
Pauline Oliveros surrounded by Belgian ensemble Musiques Nouvelles, performing 2 long pieces for orchestra.
"Sound Geometries for Chamber Orchestra, Expanded Instrument System and 5.1 Surround Sound System by Pauline Oliveros was premiered in Brussels. The 3 sections metaphors of the piece are intended to guide the players in their feelings and approaches to conducted, guided and improvisational music making to create differing atmospheres for each of the three sections. Players sounds are picked up during the performance by microphones, processed in one of ten geometrical patterns by the Oliveros designed Expanded Instrument System (EIS). to transform and move the player's sounds in space in the 5.1 surround sound system.
Meditation for Orchestra asks the performers to listen then sound. Listen means to include all that is sounding and to find a space for each sound that is made. Pauline Oliveros and Ione are guests of Ensemble Musiques Nouvelle in this studio performance of Meditation.”
Swedish boschmaster Pär Grindvik gives Peder Mannerfetl and Malcolm Pardon’s Roll The Dice cut a surprisingly subtle edit, refraining from simply putting a dork on it, and turning in something like Colin Stetson recording on mogadon for Profan.
Visionary south London bass music producer Parris scries his most convincing simulations of weightless grime-techno futurism with the Your Kiss Is Sour EP for Untold’s label following a smart 12” and corresponding remixes for Ancient Monarchy and an excellent mixtape on Keysound.
Defined by a liquid production style that recalls the pensile designs of Actress or Lee Gamble’s ambient memory extractions, the EP cycles three immersively detailed zones of inverted pressure, flickering the gauge needle between a flux of dry/plasmic modular tones and vocals that dart across the stereo field in Your Kiss Is Sour, before coolly drifting into something resembling a dancefloor formation with the deliquescent bleeps and knotted subbass shifts that buoy the dazed sagger of Flowering In Threes, before sounding out like Daphne Oram clashing King Tubby in the smoky echo chamber of My Beautiful Fantasy.
Jlin breaks thru the Chicago footwork ranks with one of the scene's most fascinating, essential mutations in 'Dark Energy', co-presented by Planet µ and Jamie Kuedo's very promising new Knives label.
It's quite possibly the most distinctive contribution to footwork since the RP Boo album and Rashad's jungle splices, and, in such a fast-moving (quite literally) and active scene, that's gotta be saying something. Keener Chi watchers may have previously checked Jlin's standout 'Erotic Heat' and 'Asylum' joints on the Bangs & Works Vol.2 compilation but, since then, the Gary, Indiana-based producer has honed an incredibly tight new style and pattern, exhibited here with shocking impact. Rather than breathlessly frantic chops and hyper momentum, she favours offbeats and more spacious arrangements, but isn't afraid to lace them with visceral, forward tones; as with the zig-zags of 'Infrared (Bagua)' which sounds like an alien instrumental version of Usher and Luda's already mental 'Dat Girl Right There', full of quarter, half and triplet rhythm switches, or in the razor-edged synth strobes that scan Holly Herndon's vocal in 'Expand'.
Factor in the frankly unhinged hyper-tech flux of 'Abnormal Restriction' and the richly expressive percussive motifs of 'Unknown Tongues' or the adroit brutality of 'Guantanamo' and you've got something really, really special. Incredible stuff - Massive recommendation!
Retro-futurist prog-pop made on modular synths.
“In 2017, the musical term “electronic” is nearly obsolete given the ubiquity of computerized processes in producing music. Even so, the prevailing assumption is that musicians working under this broad umbrella must be inspired by concepts equally as electrified as their equipment. Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith has demonstrated in her still-blooming discography that this notion couldn’t be further from the truth, and that more often than not, rich worlds of synthesized sound are born from deep reverence of the natural world. Smith (who by no coincidence, cites naturalist David Attenborough as a contemporary muse) has embodied such an appreciation on The Kid in as direct and sincere a way as possible by sonically charting the phases of life itself. The album, which punctually follows up her 2016 breakthrough EARS, chronicles four defining cognitive and emotional stages of the human lifespan across four sides of a double LP.
The first side takes us through the confused astonishment of a newborn, unaware of itself, existing in an unwitting nirvana. Smith’s music has always woven a youthful thread befitting of the aforementioned subject. Here she articulates it in signature fashion on the track “An Intention,” which serves not only as a soaring spire on The Kid, but on her entire output. There is playfulness here, but it's elevated by an undertone of gravity into something compelling and majestic that is fast becoming Smith’s watermark. The emotional focus of side two is the vital but underreported moment in early youth when we cross the threshold into self awareness. The subject is profound enough to fill an entire album, but rarely makes its way into a single track, indicating Smith’s ambition to broach subtler and deeper subjects than the average composer. This side offers up another highlight in the form of “In The World But Not Of The World” which serves its subject well with epiphanic, climbing strings and decidedly noisy textures over a near-Bollywood low end pulse.
Side three emphasizes a feeling of being confirmed enough in one’s own identity to begin giving back to the formative forces of one’s upbringing, which is arguably the duty that all great artists aim to fulfill. This side ends with the exploratory album cut “Who I Am & Why I Am Where I Am” recorded in a single take without overdubs on the rare EMS Synthi 100 synthesizer. This humble piece of sound design serves as a contrast to side four’s verdant orchestral moments, all written and arranged for the EU-based Stargaze quartet by Smith herself. This final side represents a return to pure being, the kind of wisdom and peace that eludes most of us until the autumn of life. On “To Feel Your Best” this concept is voiced in the bittersweet refrain “one day I’ll wake up and you won’t be there” which Smith intended to be a grateful acknowledgement of life rather than a melancholy resentment of loss. The song has both effects depending on the mood of the listener, and both interpretations are equally moving.
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith belongs to an ilk of modern musicians who are defined by their commitment to creating experiential albums despite the singles-oriented habits of modern listeners, and here she represents her kind proudly. The subjects on The Kid are not simple to convey, and yet through both emotional tone and lyrical content, Smith does just that. There is a similar gravity to both birth and death, and rarely is that correlation as accurately and enthusiastically mapped as it is here. As Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith explores her existence through music, she guides us in gleefully contemplating our own.”
James Holden and pals converge on a raucous psych-folk-tronica sound presumably meant for cider-soaked harvest festivals and grazing thru fields of magic mushies. Ecstatically giddy and eldritch-tinted stuff.
“Let yourself be transported to a magical other world of instinct and intuition with this bold new set of synth-led folk-trance standards from electronics guru James Holden and his newly-expanded band of fellow travellers The Animal Spirits. A wild ride that unites the characteristic propulsive melodic vigour of his custom-made modular synthesizer system with an unlikely supporting cast of brass, wind and live percussion, the expansive and transformative psychedelic journey of The Animal Spirits is certainly eternal outsider Holden’s most ambitious work to date – but surely also his most direct and accessible.
Since the release of 2013’s epic pagan saga The Inheritors, the kraut-tinged synth-and-drum core of the live touring outfit assembled by Holden to spread his alternative electronic message around the world has picked up several additional members along the way. Legendary jazz band leaders Don Cherry and Pharoah Sanders provided the blueprint for this quest to assemble “something like a spiritual jazz band playing folk / trance music”, but here cornet (Marcus Hamblett) and saxophone (Etienne Jaumet) function as the complement to the star soloist of Holden’s ever-strident synth. Meanwhile drummer Tom Page’s is inextricably bound to Holden's synth care of self-coded interactive drummer-following software, keeping pace with the almost imperceptible – yet unmistakably human – micro-errors in timing which lend live drums their natural magical groove. Thus Holden’s drummer is liberated from the brutal tyranny of the click track and a new organic symbiotic relationship between human and machine is unlocked. Producer Holden’s creative control over the project is absolute, from building his own synth and software, writing the musical backbone and steering his players, to self-recording, self-mixing and eventually also self-releasing the finished collection on his own imprint.
This heady blend of the electronic and the acoustic came into being during the hot and sticky summer of 2016 under the direction of fledgling band leader Holden at his Sacred Walls studio in London. In a bid to capture what he calls the unfakeable “psychic communication” of a group performance, The Animal Spirits was recorded live in one room together in single takes, no overdubs, no edits, in accordance with his own self-imposed dogma.
What has emerged out of these sessions is a genre-blending new form of universal music that feels inherently fluid and alive. Just one example of the record's wide-ranging influences, the relentless, elastic and hypnotic polyrhythms of 'Pass Through The Fire' grew out of Holden’s 2014 trip to Morocco to work with legend of Gnawa music Maalem Mahmoud Guinia. The first song he wrote for the band, 'Pass Through The Fire' took shape over months of pre-show dressing room practice, as Holden set about transmitting the distinctive Gnawa rhythm to drummer Page. It soon made its way into the pair's live shows, adding Jaumet's on-the-hop improvised sax contributions further down the line. Holden says, "This was where I got the idea that songs are just backbones or seeds and the strong ones teach/reveal themselves to the players rather than the other way round."
Blackest Ever Black proudly parade Regis' figures for the label (and others) between 2010-2015, alongside a trio of unreleased, alternate versions and remixes for Tropic of Cancer and his own, teenaged synth-pop band Family Sex.
In effect, 'Manbait' documents thee most crucial maturation, augmentation and consolidation of British techno values in the last 20 years, drawing a sawtoothed line in the dirt between many disparate but mutual factions - '80s post punk and goth, industrial techno, D&B, dark ambient - in a way that no other producer has managed to execute with such unswerving guile and vision before or since.
We're talking decade-defining material such as his remix of Raime's 'This Foundary' (BLACKEST002), which arguably started a whole new movement upon release in 2010, and is here penned in with the murderous techno/D&B reduction, 'C U 1' as CUB, and the shearing metallic brutality of 'Blinding Horses', now revealed in multifarious mixes.
But of course you're here, so you probably know all that already. So what of the exclusives? Predictably they're sh*t hot too. For the fiends, his strapping EBM version of Family Sex's 'Manbait' is practically worth the entry alone (can't.bloody.wait to hear this on a rig), whilst the icily wipe-clean alternate version of 'Plant Lilies At My Head' makes me wanna jump out of a high window (in a good way?), and the Stableboy version of 'Blinding Horses' is a visceral mini masterclass in Black Country ambient misery/mystery.
It's totally f**king essential. You know the drill.
Mind-bending minimalist rhythm trips from Brooklyn’s Robert Lowe, coiling up on the Paris-based Latency Recordings in the wake of sublime excursions for Type and DDS and alongside Jóhann Jóhannsson, Adult and Ariel Kalma in recent years.
A deeply intoxicating session unfurls in both parts, pursuing the patiently nuanced logic of his prior releases into the beautifully melancholic, elliptical downstroke of Magnatite on the A-side, and what sounds like a blunted Villalobos lost in a mazy nitrous fantasy on the marvellous Heart Of Sogguth.
Coaxing waves of drip-off dissonant tang into an alternately acrid, aqueous flow with the meter of a water clock in orbit or a deep sea hydrothermal vent spewing pure minerals under unfathomable pressure, Magnetite beautifully owns our attention on the A-side and is primed to send post-party sessions or stone circle meditations into the absolute lushest freefall regression to primal states.
The B-side’s upstepping vectors therefore give a (perhaps necessary) second wind, picking up the pace to a 111bpm bump soaked in spring reverb and riddled with hiccuping voices that appear to originate in or at least resonate in the listener’s own trachea with a potent tang whilst the groove quietly knots us in sensually elastic loops.
They’re blinders, both of ‘em.
Exceptional hi-tech steppers and rollers from Paradon’t - the Black Forest-based duo of Florian Meyer (Don’t DJ) and Volker Weismann (Paraklang) - debuting with a distinctive take on experimental tribal techno for Disk, a new arm of the Diskant label. A very strong look for fans of Photek, Shackleton Pessimist, N.M.O., Cut Hands!
In hot pursuit of a polyrhythmic swerve that transcends techno, D&B, African tribal practice - all that good stuff - the Thrd Mpct EP delivers some of the sickest syncopation we’ve heard since Soul Jazz’s Voodoo Drums sets on both sides of this record.
Up top on Chunwangk Kyuh Hay (thru mpct) they unwind a venomous, reticulated roller coming off like Photek meets Optical at Shackleton’s hut - all wooden drums and noxious atmospheres pregnant with a lethal sense of dread designed to keep dancers well on their toes.
Down below, N Bun Kan Kan (bad rm) pushes farther into a noisy grey area with slithering, salty electronics setting a scratchy course for polymetric patterns pivoting off crisp woodblocks and shards of electronics, kinda like N.M.O. upping the ante for a fierce game of Kabaddi, then Gonyungk Wadt (mtrx) comes off like Marcus Schmickler rinsed out by Rashad Becker.
This is one mean platter, we’re telling ya!
Kosmische-toned techno momentum from Avalon Emerson
Following fluttering trajectories on One More Fluorescent Rush and rustling up some digital dust with the grubbing drums and squawking avian electronics of Finally Some Common Ground.
The fruitful relationship between Rod Modell (DeepChord), Hanyo Van Oosterom (Chi) and Astral Industries continues to yield new beauties with Red Lantern At The Kallikatsou, as Van Oosterom rework Modell's first release for Astral Industries with lovely, low-key ambient results making for a great package clad in the label’s signature, absorbing artwork.
Over two seamlessly sequenced sides the founding member of Dutch new age experimenters Chi reenvisions Rod Modell's 'Lanterns' thru the prism of modern software, sieving their spectral airs for etheric loops and vibes which he layers into a cats cradle of soothing, tranquil atmospheres, but reserving some surprise twists to points when soothed heads may least expect it.
"I’ve never met Rod Modell (Deepchord) in person, but we have met through music. He found an obscure cassette of Chi music (from ’86), sent it to Astral Industries and paved the way for the release (30 years later) of ‘The Original Recordings’ in 2016. Since then, we’ve exchanged ideas and good music. I sent Rod a preview of ‘The Kallikatsou Recordings’ - he really liked it - and here came the idea for a remix of ‘Lanterns’. I started working on some random, lo-fi samples from Youtube, using Audacity, perhaps the simplest way of producing loops and samples. It’s the only computer based system that feels like the tape recorders I used to work with.
I sent the first sketches to Rod on Facebook, but they ended up in the wrong inbox. I forgot about them, but months later he came back saying he loved them. I decided to go back to working on them, maintaining the lo-fi approach. I began manipulating the samples: time-stretching, tempo and pitch-shifting, mixing different layers and adding old-school monophonic “old speaker” effects, delays and loops. I used a few field recordings, voices and samples from my early ambient cassettes, and they matched. Ario from Astral Industries got involved and the experiment turned into a plan - a vinyl release - ‘Red Lantern at the Kallkatsou’”.
Hanyo van Oosterom”
Swedish pop starlet Virna Lindt unleashed this magnificent debut album on the world back in 1983 courtesy of the Compact Organisation (see the A Young Person's Guide To Compact compilation also out recently).
The album harked back to '60s lounge music and spy thriller soundtracks, with the single 'Attention Stockholm' making the most explicit reference to shenanigans over the Iron Curtain, sounding like Saint Etienne taking on a John Barry Bond theme with all kinds of Cold War-themed lyrical silliness. 'Shiver' similarly taps into espionage themes, managing to sound at once brilliant an unashamedly daft. There's a more experimental quality to songs like 'Swedish Modern', what with its backwards digital effects and all, but it remains icy cool pop music at all times, Lindt's delivery never coming across as too tongue-in-cheek or over the top.
On this reissued edition you even get Virna's wonderful cover of 'Windmills Of Your Mind', originally released on the Crepescule compilation Moving Soundtracks. A real lost gem this one - not only a great slice of Euro pop eccentricity but evidence of a largely-overlooked talent. Wonderful stuff.
Ruff garage-techno bangers by some cat called Antonio, delivered raw and uncut on Manchester’s Natural Sciences label.
This one grips and cuts deeper than most, ragging your bones with devilishly infectious swing and bleary chords on Untitled TT and getting under the skin with itchy, nerve-tweaking finesse in Raw Love.
The recoiling kicks and chopped loops in $$$ hit right where it matters on the B-side, again balanced with some really nice pads and gritty mixing, for the clattering jungle uppercut of Untitled D to properly send us reeling.
The Motor City maestro in effect on Barcelona’s 30drop Records, following his 12”s on Lower Parts and Tresor with a pair of harmonically sound and psychedelically dissonant aces, plus remixes by Dasha Rush and 30drop.
Digital Ladder is a spheric beauty drizzling pure chromatic bleeps on a purring 313 groove, just ripe for going eyes-shut in the dance or driving around your local post-industrial landscape. On the other hand, the wickedly abstract clangour of This Is A Test falls in line with his Different Frequencies wonder off his Like A Thief In The Night EP - embracing psychedelic tunings in daring way which many could learn from.
On remix duties, Dasha Rush reworks Digital Ladder as a darker, more jagged and acidic techno roller, while 30drop speeds up and add hi-hats to This Is A test for more driving effect.
Unique, killer tribal techno rhythms from Harmonious Thelonious for DISK, following that superb Paradon’t 12” with a broader, layered and textured batch of knobbly grooves and hypnotic patterns.
Marking a subtle line in the sand from their previous output on DISK’s defunct sibling label, Diskant, the tracks here carry more weight for modern ‘floors, feeling as though he’s unlocked some secret drum kink which allows his rhythm to flow more effortlessly and deadly.
Uptown, he shakes out the unsteady intricacies of Sketches to sound like some inversion of techno, D&B and ancient, psychedelic drum rituals, before yoking his drums to a strobing 16th note synth in Manta Mantra, which is about the most perfect balance of tribal music and mesmerising, electrified Düsseldorf styles that you could hope for.
Downtown, he brings a sort of Konono No.1-alike tang to Shackleton-esque drum cadence in Ayranman, whose title punningly plays on the Turkish name for Ironman (what did you think?), and then trips out with another old skool Shack-style roller named I Found A New Way of Loving You.
For the 1st time since inception, Loefah’s 81 embraces new blood with Milan’s Luca Mucci aka Piezo dropping four cuts of rugged house/bass mutations after a 12” on Idle Hands.
It’s worth checking for the echo chamber oddity El Sangre and the squashed electronics in Rash, especially if you’re into 81’s Mickey Pearce or Hessle Audio’s Joe.
Pye Corner Audio brings his wood-fired analogue sound to Lapsus Records after touring the houses of Mondo Tees, Polytechnic Youth, Analogical Force and More Than Human already in a productive 2017 cycle.
In a smart play of contrasts, we hear much-loved and lesser-heard sides of PCA’s sound in Where Things Are Hollow. The supple, rolling arpeggios and acid tweaks of Resist, and his wobbly, chromatic cosmic chugger Northern Safety Route both bear the hallmarks of Martin Jenkins’ signature dancefloor romance.
However, fans should be very intrigued to hear him go beat-less and weightless in the other two parts. With Mainframe he conducts a stellar display of piquant bleep motifs and arcing choral pads converging into a gently distorted and dissonant harmonic smudge at the track’s peak, and Continental Drift seemingly operates on the opposite side of that wave with a sullen stir of low end swells and light pollution aurora reflecting the scale of the track title.