Carsten Nicolai concludes Alva Noto’s UNI-prefixed release cycle with UNIEQAV, the 3rd and most dancefloor-focussed instalment of the series. The follow-up to Unitxt  and Univrs  pairs pendulous minimal techno and electro rhythms with wide, sheer electronic drones in a way that strongly recalls recent Monolake output as well as Ilpo Väisänen in full swang. Comparisons aside, though, it’s unmistakably Alva Noto.
Pursuing the project’s roots in the dancefloor of Tokyo’s UNIT club to a satisfyingly logical endpoint, Nicolai rolls out 12 typically mercurial yet gripping sound designs defined by their fluid dynamics and seemingly fathomless dimensions intended to render the club or your head underwater, thanks to a still remarkable grasp of purified tonal minimalism/maximalism and studied sensitivity to proprioception.
The results are filigree yet robust, firmed up for deployment on the sickest sound system you can lay your hands on, but also highly pleasurable in a headphone or sofa-inclined context, keeping us rapt and twitching from the dubwise plong and looming pads of Uni Sub and the Robert Henke-esque pressure systems of Uni Mia.
The nervous skeleton of Uni Version flows into singular Alva Noto sounds in the jabbing pointillism of Uni Clip and the staggering scale of Uni Normal, with major highlights in the widescreen drama of Uni Blue, and footwork-like rapid movement join Uni Edit, while Anne-James Chaton’s vocal lend a sharp contrast in Uni Dna.
A new collection of current DIY post-punk shaped by the mutant sounds of no wave, punk funk and New York Noise bands from the late 70s and early 80s that collided with the world of underground dance music found at the Paradise Garage, Mudd Club in New York City (ESG, Arthur Russell, Bush Tetras, Talking Heads, Suicide, Liquid Liquid).
"Other influences cited here include Manchester and Sheffield’s industrial post-punk sounds of the 1980s (Joy Division, Cabaret Voltaire, Gang of Four) as well as the 1970s German electronic experimentalism of Cluster, Neu!, Harmonia and Can. Featured artists from around the globe include Los Angeles DIY band Automatic, New Fries from Toronto, artist/music collaborators Toresch from Germany, Susumu Makai from Japan/UK, Vex Ruffin from the Philippines/California and Madmadmad, Gramme, Tom of England and other UK groups. That all the bands featured here manage to make distinctive contemporary music out of these 80s roots is testament to the wide range of other musics that are seamlessly absorbed into a modern melting pot of sound - hip hop, the electronic European avant-garde, rave culture and more."
The Scottish post-rock faves return for their umpteenth album of cinematic quiet-loud melancholia. Nowt new, but as reliable as a Honda Civic.
It's a little worrying to accept that Glaswegian Slint devotees Mogwai are 25 years old. At this point they're basically an old friend and their latest full-length is packed with the elements that have kept them on our collective radars for the last quarter-century. There's the vocal led slowcore sadness that elevated "Come on Die Young" ('Ritchie Sacramento'), "Rock Action"s fuzzy mix of lite electronix and distorted riffs ('Here We, Here We, Here We Go Forever'), the euphoric synth-led glow of "The Hawk Is Howling" ('Dry Fantasy') - even the Sonic Youth-esque fuzzpunq of their crucial earlier material gets a look-in on 'Drive The Nail'.
And while the band may have started life as a patchwork quilt of sleeve-worn references, a couple of decades later they just sound like Mogwai. That reliability is frankly refreshing. "As the Love Continues" doesn't really add anything new, but it doesn't have to, it's just good.
Minimal, throbbing Kraut-inspired dubscapes from To Rococo Rot's Stefan Schneider and his long MIA Mapstation project.
Stefan Schneider is nothing if not reliable. His latest Mapstation full-length finds him ditching the studio drip in favor of a stripped-down setup: a TR-808 drum machine, Novation Peak synth, a guitar and a tape loop device. The result is his most immediate collection of tracks for years, a set that gets to the bare bones of his sound with uncomplicated ease. "My Frequencies, Where We" is hinged on a Cluster-influenced sense of rhythm, but one that's obscured by glitches, crackle and alien synthetic atmospheres. At this stage in his career, Schneider's primary point of reference is his own long career, so there are elements of To Rococo Rot or Kreidler that spring to mind as he cooks out eerie dub flavors from stark, disparate ingredients.
Schneider's real skill is his seemingly-effortless ability to evoke a sonic world that's immediately identifiable as his own: the magical, anxious buzz of 'To a Single Listener', the tape-distorted electo-psych ambience of 'My Mother Sailor' or the refined-yet-childlike early electronic squelch of 'Actual Possible'. It's a utopian, fairytale world we rather relish getting lost in.
Weightless ambient projections from the prolific don of this style Will Long aka Celer
“‘Being Below’ is a collaborative release between Past Inside the Present (US) and Two Acorns (JP). This is a mini-album of short songs created with digital and analogue instruments. Written with a structure that reflects shifting states, overlooking the past and future as a split pathway with the present endlessly fluctuating between. The pangs of rumination. An exercise in loop-less writing.
"Staring out, tense. Looking down isn’t so different than looking up, but it passes by faster. Contentment at the accomplishment that I'm here, and the fear that what I’ve always been looking for has passed by. Staring up and looking at the sky, wishing you were up here with me, here where you can see everything. Above, the surface drifts by, and the colors on the horizon in pale blues makes me calm. Then blue. Deep in pale blue.
Again, in the morning. Close your eyes. Repeating this, repeating that, then it changes. Try to stay focused, but you've already moved out of sight. You're a million miles away, and farther. Waiting for night. Stars, always beyond. Now, it's already tomorrow." -Celer”
Pairing post-minimalist master Daniel Lentz and the spectral tenor of Ian William Craig, the 16th edition of FRKWYS inter-generational couplings is a starkly beautiful suite of elegiac keys and warbling tape textures - a strong RIYl Harold Budd, Tape Loop Orchestra, Willim Basinski
Accompanied by a soon come documentary on the pair by director Eli Welbourne, ‘In A Word’ sees Craig & Lentz undo each other in brittle but sublime style that, as the label eloquently put it, “embraces erosion and the potential of its loam left behind.” It’s surely one of the subtlest charms on the long-running and illustrious roll call of the FRKWYS series, highlighting the timeless, otherworldlyy intent and transportive power of two artists who respectively emerged some 30 years apart, but patently share a sense of pathos that resonates for the ages.
In nine pieces they spell out a hauntingly lived-in sound, evoking a sort of parlour music for creaky abandoned dwellings, imagining a post-dinner performance of ghosts that emerge from cracked wood panels and tatty curtains in once-splendid settings, seemingly convening around a dilapidated grand piano with chipped keys and peeling walnut wood, to play out lamenting nocturnes rendered in mildewed harmonics and fizzing dissonance, with Craig’s beautifully faltering, vulnerable vocals vacillating folkwise and classical spirits.
Kieran Hebden (Four Tet) gets the best out of his longtime pal, Madlib in an ideal showcase of the master beat breaker’s untouchable, sampledelic style
Tailored for proper end-to-end immersion by Hebden, who’s responsible for the edits, arrangement, and mastering, ‘Sound Ancestors’ weighs in as one of ‘lib’s most distinctive albums, proper, flexing his inimitable style with extra focussed production that really brings his instrumentals to life in an LP context. That’s not to say his previous albums aren’t eminently listenable, but avowed Madlib stan Hebden has really done the hip hop icon proud, drawing from 100s of cuts sent him over the past few years, to render a lushly soulful collection contoured between bumping downstrokes and killlller cuts of syncopated, Afro-Latin suss.
Shy of any voices beyond the samples, the 16 tracks adds up to one of Madlib’s best sets since ‘The Beat Konducta’ series ended a decade ago, reprising that series’ colourful sampledelic tekkers at its best, while flowing with a livewire, jazz-wise quality that’s hard not to get snagged in. Fair to say Hebden’s touch can be felt in the swirling sound design of the album opener, but its a subtler presence as the album unfolds with Madlib’s patented swagger between instant anthem ‘The Call’, and a haul of crooked, club-ready gear such as the almost West London broken beat styles in ‘Loose Goose’, the flighty Afro-fusion of tht title tune and the rare groove move ‘One For Quartabê / Right Now’.
Norwegian duo Smerz release ‘Believer’, the debut album that pushes Smerz far beyond their previous EP releases, 2017’s ‘Okey’ and 2018’s ‘Have Fun’.
"Since releasing the ‘Believer’ trailer back in October 2020, followed by a video for the tracks ‘I don’t talk about that much/Hva hvis’, the duo of Catharina Stoltenberg and Henriette Motzfeldt have slowly revealed a new auditory world. The duo meld sonic touchstones from their youth, like musicals and classical music, with swirling, tranceindebted synth lines and hip-hop plus R&B vocals that is distinctly Smerz. The duo performed recently at Oslo’s Ultima festival; in early 2020 they scored a performance by Carte Blanche, the Norwegian national company of contemporary dance, as well as performed at Mira festival in collaboration with legendary visual maverick Weirdcore."
The Stereolab collection we've all been waiting for: a follow-up to 1998's fab "Aluminium Tunes", compiling a bunch of rare material from 1999-2008 including outtakes from beloved albums "Dots and Loops" and "Mars Audiac Quintet".
Stereolab's blend of early electronic noodling, French pop sexiness, suave lounge posturing and Krautrock's rhythmic thump has had us obsessed for decades. Back in 1997 when they released "Dots and Loops", they had reached a creative high-point, working with Tortoise's John McEntire in Chicago to come up with a sultry collection of space pop / post rock goodness that was a much-needed antidote to the laddish guitar music plaguing Europe at the time. Since the early '90s, the band would routinely collect up their rarer releases - EPs, remixes, B-sides - in "Switched On" compilations, the last being '98's excellent "Aluminium Tunes". Now, following the remastered reissues of the first three volumes in the series, they have put together a fourth, collecting rare material from '99-'08 and bundling it with outtakes from the "Dots and Loops" and "Mars Audiac Quintet" recording sessions. Phew.
This is hardly a set of second rate offcuts either, 'Lab fans know that much of their best material is hidden away on their weirder short-run releases, so having access to the long-deleted mini-album "The First Of The Microbe Hunters" again is just a joy. That seven-track release kicks off the album, dragging you immediately into band's turn-of-the-millennium tight sweater shakes. From there, we get tracks from tour 7"s, a few compilation cuts, a track written for a documentary about synth pioneer Robert Moog and even a dancefloor track that Tim Gane describes as "upbeat and party-ish". If you haven't heard these tracks before, we're jealous, and if you have it's still nice to have them all remastered and assembled together neatly in one place.
Vibes from village recording sessions in Senegal between Swedish musician Karl-Jonas Winqvist and residents of Toubab Dialaw, centre of Senegal’s bohemian art scene
Warped, soft-focus cosmique jazz from Senagal's Wau Wau Collectif - a sick fusion of sounds; West African dub one moment and devotional jams the next.
Hailing from the small fishing village of Toubab Dialaw in Senegal, Wau Wau Collectif make music that sounds unashamedly positive. "Yaral Sa Doom" is a collection of recordings that jumps through ideas fluidly, but coherently - dub reggae and jazz sounds are omnipresent, but sprinkled into a vibrant, instrumental concoction that dips into kosmische music, beatbox rap and more avant garde forms.
The backbone is West African folk music and hearing these instruments and forms - like Sufi prayers and fishing songs - repurposed is just a joy. As a lot of the world sinks into introspection and soul-searching, it's refreshing to hear music that seems to celebrate the very act of creating.
Two hour-long workouts from percussionist Hamid Drake and his long-time collaborator bassist William Parker, alongside London's Black Top (Orphy Robinson and Pat Thomas) and Elaine Mitchener. Blistering!
Damn this is deep; "Some Good News" is a trans-Atlantic collaboration that finds a sweet spot between Hamid Drake and William Parker's legendary rhythms, Black Top's experimental electronics and Elaine Mitchener's avant garde vocal runs. The group clearly enjoys performing with each other as they broach calypso forms and Sarahan rhythms with a sense of humor and hypnotic, spiritual sense of timing. 'Put the Brakes On' winds from psychedelic organ and xylophone into off-planet synth fx and guttural vocal tricks from Mitchener. 'Some Good News' is even wilder, as Black Top duet with Mitchener, mimicking her screams with chirping synth sounds as Drake and Parker thump alongside.
Gut-punching politics inseparable from the music, steeped in revolutionary ‘60s/‘70s jazz, soul, funk and symphonic Blaxploitation soundtrack styles.
“The American Negro is an unapologetic critique, detailing the systemic and malevolent psychology that afflicts people of color. This project dissects the chemistry behind blind racism, using music as the medium to restore dignity and self-worth to my people. It should be evident that any examination of black music is an examination of the relationship between black and white America. This relationship has shaped the cultural evolution of the world and its negative roots run deep into our psyche. Featuring various special guests performing over a deeply soulful, elaborate orchestration, The American Negro reinvents the black native tongue through this album and it’s attendant short film (TAN) and 4-part podcast (invisible Blackness). The American Negro - both as a collective experience and as individual expressions - is insightful, provocative and inspiring and should land at the center of our ongoing reckoning with race, racism and the writing of the next chapter of American history.”
Deep, philosophical and emotionally rich piano, clarinet, percussion and vibraphone musings that sketch out a magically realist portrait of our troubling modern era.
Portuguese pianist Tiago Sousa follows 2015's solo piano album "Um Piano nas Barricadas" with this heady set, based on themes of nostalgic escapism, repetition, temporality and other existential concepts. Don't worry if that sounds like too much to get stuck into now, the tracks here are pensive, but can be enjoyed without having a working knowledge of Heidegger, Camus or Kierkegaard. Souza's skill is in his attention to the texture of the sounds he works with - the anxious squeal of the clarinet, the distant rush of cymbals, the familiar twinkly of piano - and his arrangements are minimal, but always engaging. "ANGST" is a pensive and expressive exploration of the modern condition and it's enchanting.
Enchanting griot tales from West Africa; recorded in traditional settings and spanning nearly half a century, and each accompanied by lilting guitar and koni lutes in a way that you’d never guess when they were recorded
“About a hundred kilometers south-west of Bamako, on the left bank of the Niger River, the Malian village of Kela is known to be home to a large community of griot musicians (jeliw) mostly belonging to the Diabaté family. Their art is recognized throughout West Africa and many griots come from all over the world to stay there, sometimes for several years, in the hope of becoming immersed in it. The six pieces for voice accompanied by guitar or traditional koni lutes were recorded in 1978 (tracks 3 to 6) and in 2019 (tracks 1 to 3), in the same traditional dwelling, which still serves as a "studio". The accompanying booklet contains the testimonies of several important musicians who took part in the recording, and evoke key elements of their universe. Recordings by Bernard Mondet (1978) and Vincent Zanetti (2019).”
Norwegian ambient maestro Geir Jenssen blurs Beethoven into a spectral haze on this disarming suite of eerie vignettes. Fans of Akira Rabelais' unmatched "Eisoptrophobia" need this one.
On Gier Jenssen's 2016 album "Departed Glories", the Norwegian veteran used barely-audible samples of Eatern European and Russian folk music to illustrate a narrative that explored the Medieval history of Poland. These ghostly audio snippets were processed through Akira Rabelais' surrealist DSP software Argeïphontes Lyre and then smudged into echoes of a distant world. On "Angel's Flight", Jenssen takes a similar stylistic route, but uses Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 14 as the source material, allowing familiar traces of the German composer's favorite late work to peek through frozen drones and haunted pads.
This music, whether you realize it or not, has been repeated thru our collective consciousness again and again since its completion in 1826, so hearing it stretched, filtered and crushed by Jenssen is a fitting way to reabsorb it. "Angel's Flight" sounds like time itself wrestling with musical hierarchies, as themes and tropes dance and heave through aural molasses, inspiring the memory to land on images of movies, ballrooms, music lessons or adverts. It's also strikingly sad and beautiful, and while it relies on elements we've been assured are sad - minor keys, spooky drones, distant strings - Jenssen handles the elements with a restraint that's way too rare.
Somehow, "Angel's Flight" never descends into the realm of forced melancholy - rather it seeps into your pores slowly and affects you gradually, urging you to play it once more. Sadbient? Maybe, but this sounds strangely timeless.
Reliably unpredictable innovators Mouse on Mars are back with an album of bizarre AI-led club/Kraut deconstructions.
Jan St. Werner and Andi Toma's haphazard electronic experiments have been a refreshing constant over the last 25 years. Always different and often essential, the duo's productions inevitably reflect the era's shifting contemporary forms but inject them with a mischievous DIY spirit and innovative, exploratory sense of wonder. "AAI" is no different, and finds MoM exploring concepts of artificial intelligence without resorting to clapped posturing or empty-headed theorizing.
The title stands for "Anarchic Artificial Intelligence" and to assemble the record, Toma and Werner got together an intriguing team of collaborators: writer and scholar Louis Chude-Sokei, DJ and producer Yağmur Uçkunkaya, percussionist and longtime MoM collaborator Dodo NKishi, AI tech collective Birds on Mars and former Soundcloud programmers Ranny Keddo and Derrek Kindle. The team worked together to create a piece of software that could model speech, feeding it text and voice from Chude-Sokei and Uçkunkaya and allowing the software to learn from that. The resulting voice sounds that guide "AAI" are completely computer generated, despite sounding like narration or samples. Mouse on Mars were able to use the voices like an instrument and play the software like a synthesizer, using the artificial intelligence elements less like an app to write its own music, but like a tool they could manipulate to inspire their musical methodology.
"Machines can open up new concepts of life, and expand our definitions of being human," says Werner. Certainly the line between human and computer is seriously blurred here, with voices melting into percussion and drums rattling and fluffing between words and syllables like bees in honeycomb. "AAI" is a deeply unusual album, utilizing familiar elements - rhythmic flutters from footwork or emerging club forms are brought together in harmony with pulsing motorik sounds - and corrupting or disrupting them with sci-fi-tinged philosophical elements. It's not a record that you can acceptably play in the background, by any means, it takes attention and concentration, and it deserves it.
Cool, off-kilter, improvised jazz-fusion from Norway’s foremost proponents; Mats Gustafsson, Andreas Werlin, and Johan Berthing a.k.a Fire!
“Not the most optimistic title for pressing times, but the music sees Fire! tracking new paths and reaching new levels of excellence, still honoring their 12 year old vow of presenting a fresh approach to improvised music. Their debut album, You Liked Me Five Minutes Ago, was released in 2009 to wide international acclaim. “The basic strategy of pairing the expressive energy of free jazz with a sturdy sense of groove has yielded something potent and self-contained” (New York Times). Between this and Defeat there´s been five albums, including collaborations with Jim O´Rourke (Unreleased?, 2011) and Oren Ambarchi (In The Mouth A Hand, 2012).
No two Fire! records sound the same, but with Defeat they have taken their biggest leap so far, with Gustafsson giving the flute a prominent place in the sound image, a surprising and most successful move, his both expressive and ornamental approach given ample room to breathe, especially on the two long tracks bookending the album. In places more subdued than on previous efforts, but with the distinctive bass figures and hypnotic mood fully intact. There are some lively stretches with guests Goran Kajfes and Mats Aleklint, bringing to mind their big band offshoot Fire! Orchestra, albeit on a much smaller scale.”
Longtime collaborators NWW and Aranos align their visions to a deeply psychedelic, minimalist focus on their self-released 2013 double album .
Also considered relative neighbours on the rugged West Coast of Ireland, NWW and multi-instrumentalist Aranos here reprise a creative relationship ongoing since 1997’s ‘Acts of Senseless Beauty’, with just shy of 2 hours of metaphysical drift; departing with the anaesthetising atmospheres and creepy piano of ‘Letter From Torpor (Draft)’, and the grinding loops of ‘Eyes Of A Scanning Girl (Draft)’ sequenced beside their fully formed versions, including a female french vocal and junkier keys on ‘Letter From Torpor’, and extra space in ‘Eyes’ recalling Muslimgauze’s extreme dubbing.
The one to really stick around for though, is ‘Monstercamer (Orgasm)’, where they properly put the willies up ya with 23’ of yawning metal mechanical noise jaws and garrotting, keening string menace.
Performers – Aranos, Steven Stapleton Sounds [Sculptured Sounds] – Graham Bowers Voice – Aurelie Nyirabikali Lierman*, Marie Venes.
A Winged Victory for the Sullen, the collaboration between Stars of the Lid founder Adam Wiltzie and L.A. composer Dustin O'Halloran, return with ‘Invisible Cities’, the score to the acclaimed theatre production directed by London Olympics ceremony video designer Leo Warner and produced by Manchester International Festival, Rambert, 59 Productions and Karl Sydow.
"Premiering at Manchester International Festival in July 2019, Wiltzie and O'Halloran were commissioned by Manchester International Festival, Rambert, Brisbane Festival, Hong Kong New Vision Arts Festival, Sadler’s Wells, SMG Live, Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmed Cultural Centre (JACC) and Karl Sydowto to compose the music for the 90-minute multimedia stage show adapted from Italo Calvino’s 1972 novel. Centered on the tense relationship between Kublai Khan, the volatile head of a vast empire, and explorer Marco Polo, ‘Invisible Cities’ brings to life a series of fantastical places and disparate worlds through the medium of theatre, music, dance, design and visuals. Described by The Sunday Times as “a beautiful frenzy of movement”, ‘Invisible Cities’ was originally conceived as a touring project with its last performance in Brisbane, Australia before COVID-19 changed the world as we know it.
Transformed into 45 minutes of breathtaking beauty, ‘Invisible Cities’ opens with the numinous ‘So That the City Can Begin to Exist’, as Wiltzie and O'Halloran draw breath from distinctively enthralling and vastly expansive worlds. The ominous soundscapes of ‘The Dead Outnumber the Living’ contrast with the new beginnings that are presented in ‘Every Solstice & Equinox’, while the jagged and uneasy ‘Thirteenth Century Travelogue’ is one of tension and dread. Elsewhere, ‘The Divided City’ captivates and intrigues while ‘Only Strings and Their Supports Remain’ and ‘There Is One of Which You Never Speak’ are bold roars for survival before the choral ambience of ‘Desires Are Already Memories’ and piercing drones of ‘Total Perspective Vortex’ bring down the curtain on a spectacular and incredibly emotive body of work. Released on their own Artificial Pinearch Manufacturing label, ‘Invisible Cities’ comes as part of an agreement with A Winged Victory for the Sullen’s current label, Ninja Tune.
Releasing their self-titled debut album in 2011 (Erased Tapes), A Winged Victory for the Sullen has developed something of a cult status over the past decade and alongside artists such as Max Richter, Hauschka, Hildur Guðnadóttir and Tim Hecker, are the vanguard of the neoclassical and ambient world and can count the likes of Jon Hopkins as fans.
The duo has gone on to release two further studio albums; ‘Atomos’ (Erased Tapes, 2014) and most recently ‘The Undivided Five’ (Ninja Tune, 2019) and were asked to perform at the BBC proms in 2015 by 6 Music presenter Mary Anne Hobbs. A Winged Victory for the Sullen also scored the music for the independent film ‘Iris’ (2016), directed by Jalil Lespert.
Wiltzie is best known as founding member of drone legends Stars of the Lid, The Dead Texan and Aix Em Klemm and has scored multiple film projects including ‘American Woman’ (2019) starring Sienna Miller, ‘Salero’ (2016¬) and The Yellow Birds (2017). In 2018, he also scored ‘Whitney’ (2018), the estate-approved documentary about the life of the late Whitney Houston, directed by Kevin Macdonald. Elsewhere, his original music has featured in Hollywood films including ‘Transformers: Dark of The Moon’ (2011), ‘Godzilla’ (2014), ‘Like Crazy’ (2011) and acclaimed TV shows including ‘House M.D’, ‘Nip/Tuck’ and ‘Top Boy’. He also collaborated with the late Jóhann Jóhannsson on his scores for ‘The Theory of Everything’ (2014) and ‘Arrival’ (2016).
O'Halloran, a self-taught pianist from the age of 7, began his musical life as a guitarist and formed the much-loved indie rock outfit Dévics with Sara Lov, releasing four albums on Bella Union. As a solo artist, he has composed music for numerous film and television projects including Sofia Coppola’s ‘Marie Antoinette’ (2006) and Drake Doremus’ ‘Like Crazy' (2011) starring Felicity Jones. Demand for his film scores is high and in 2015, he won an Emmy for theme music for the Golden Globe-winning Amazon series ‘Transparent’, starring Jeffrey Tambor. He has also collaborated with film composer Hauschka on numerous films, including ‘Lion’ (2016), with the score nominated for an Oscar, BAFTA and Golden Globe. Most recently, he co-composed the music for the film ‘Ammonite’ (2020) with Volker Bertelmann, directed by Francis Lee and starring Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan."
Dust-to-Digital close a century wide circle on a real collector’s special, racking up all 84 x B-side songs to the ‘78s originally included in Harry Smith’s pivotal ‘Anthology of American Folk Music’
Smith’s original 1952 series and boxset of country, blues, Cajun, and gospel music from the ’20s-‘30s arrived as something of an anachronism in the ‘50s, but would serve to light the touch paper of interest for this olde timey music that helped spark the whole ‘50s and ‘60s folk revival. It has remained a major touchstone for many ever since, with a resplendent boxset in 2000 also helping to trigger another wave of interest in this sound that, again, arguably influenced another generation of indie-psyche-folk types at the start of this century - heck, it’s fair to say even Taylor Swift is referencing this stuff, via her work with The National’s Aaron Dessner on ‘Folklore’.
Now newly remastered, like their A-side counterparts, these B-sides have also been arranged with the same sequence as filmmaker and record collector Harry Smith’s original set. They span a whole world of merriment and woes from a 100 years ago, taking in multiple barndances and church’s worth of material ranging from Mississippi John Hurt’s lilting folk, the quick Cajun fire of ‘Back To Mexico’ by Carolina Tar Heels, and the likes of Hoyt Ming & His Pep Steppers’ stomping ‘Old Red (Country Dance)’ along with glorious gospel by the legendary Alabama Sacred Harp Singers, and heads down, hard-bitten blues by Blind Willie Johnson.
The first new material from beloved Bay Area new age composer Pauline Anna Strom since 1988. Gamelan-esque rhythmic experiments, mind-expanding cosmic drones and smudgy tropical ambience - all the good stuff.
In the early 1980s, Bay Area-based composer Pauline Anna Strom released a series of beguiling synthesizer albums under the moniker Trans-Millenia Consort. But as the decade drew to a close, she sold her equipment and concentrated her energy on spiritual practices, becoming a Reiki master and counselor and putting the music on hold. That all changed in 2017, when RVNG compiled Strom's early catalog on the anthology release "Trans-Millenia Music", suddenly allowing a wave of new fans the opportunity to hear her inspiring sounds.
This surge in interest prompted Strom to start recording again and "Angel Tears in Sunlight" is the result - a transportive collection of hazy ambience and blissful experimentation that picks up exactly where Strom left off in 1988. In 2020, we're hardly short of new age music, but the mood Strom recaptures here reminds us how unique her sound is. Icy shards of sparkling FM synth cascade over gamelan-esque rhythmic sequences that remind more of Maggi Payne or Laurie Spiegel than Steve Reich; head-frazzling, blurry spiritual ambient tonal work that's only a few paces from Steve Roach's essential early material; and fascinating tropical dreamscapes that sit comfortably alongside Andrew Pekler's sonic universe.
We've had this one on repeat recently - it's a balm in trying times that sits outside time and space, inspiring a peaceful wave of calm.
Kiwi drone pop mainstay Roy Montgomery celebrates four decades of activity with a fresh set of shimmering moods, joining the dots between Slowdive's "Pygmalion" and Vangelis's legendary "Blade Runner" OST. Seriously it's that good.
We're not sure why New Zealand's Roy Montgomery isn't more widely appreciated; he's been working tirelessly for forty years at this point, and while his particular brand of exquisite dream pop is still consigned to the underground, his imitators are too numerous to mention. "Island of Lost Souls" is the first of four albums slated for release this year and serves as a welcome reminder of his compositional skill and restraint. Comprising four long tracks, the album is a sequence of dedications to some of Montgomery's biggest influences. Opener 'Cowboy Mouth (For Sam Shepard)' sounds like an effervescent shoegaze reimagining of Jean-Michel Jarre's "Oxygene", but considering the recently-passed American playwright and actor, you could almost hear it alongside Terrence Malick's "Days of Heaven", humming gently over the infinite sunset.
Each piece is built from transcendent layers of reverberating guitar, dense with harmony and dancing with flutter. If My Bloody Valentine showed one extreme this suggests another, a crushing quietness where extremity is found in meaning, resolve and discipline. This is never more evident on the album's epic closer, 'The Electric Children of Hildegard von Bingen (For Florian Fricke)', a track that honors the Popol Vuh founder and godfather of kosmische music, influenced by the 2nd century nun who inspired hundreds of years of music, science and theology. Musically, Montgomery wears his Fricke appreciation on his sleeve here, evoking fond memories of "Hosianna Mantra" with rhythmic, chiming strums that whirlpool into a blissful, transcendent abyss.
This is a cosmic corner of the musical universe that's often visited but rarely respected or explored successfully. For some reason, the crossover with new age attracts rogue elements, but hearing Montgomery in his comfort zone just reminds us how supreme the dream pop/kosmische crossover is when approached with sincerity and caution.
This one's going to be on rotation for a while - it's divine.
For the past couple of years the Disciples label has been exploring the early tape archives of Warren Defever aka His Name Is Alive, a wealth of home recordings that he amassed whilst growing up in suburban Michigan, prior to signing to 4AD in the late 1980s.
"These records have charted the development of their sound over 3 roughly chronological volumes - All The Mirrors In The House in 2019, Return To Never in 2020, and we're now bringing the trilogy to a close early in the new year with third and final volume, Hope Is A Candle.
This 4CD boxset that anthologises the whole series. A disc for each album in the trilogy, plus a bonus disc which collects together the best tracks from a series of mail order cassette companion volumes that Defever compiled to go alongside each LP - 6Teen OK, Return Versions and Ghost Tape EXP, and a 36 page book."
Stunning archival material from groundbreaking percussionist Michael Ranta - a collaborator with Stockhausen and Conny Plank, highly regarded for his bridging of East/West avantgarde movements - here playing to the breadth of his style between 1971-1978
’Taiwan Years’ supplies another highlight to the Metaphon label (Timo Van Lujik’s home of critical Ranta reissues since 2010) with three durational recordings demonstrating Ranta’s seamless, freeform but disciplined, meld of concrete electronics with Eastern traditions and a singular sort of psychedelic, rhythmic minimalism. Just as he previously had us rapt on the ‘Ranta / Lewis / Plank’ boxset, and a few years ago with the incredible ballet soundtrack ‘Die Mauer’, Ranta’s metric and spatial sensitivities are just breathtakingly uncanny on this collection, too, speaking to a genuinely remarkable sense of timing, tone and proprioception that makes his recordings here comparable with the elemental works of Annea Lockwood as much as David Behrman’s inquisitive minimalism, or the esoteric psychedelia of his former collaborators, Takehisa Kosugi and Toshi Ichiyanagi.
In chronological order, Ranta’s ‘Taiwan Years’ covers the period before he would settle down as the resident composer, percussionist, and instrument handler, at Asian Sound in Cologne. It opens in 1971 with ‘Kagaku Henka’, a slow, beguiling 18 minutes of mind-bending electronic tones and microcosmic rhythms recalling Group Ongaku and Marginal Consort works, before really drawing us into his style of ultra sound-sensitive psychedelia on a 1973 recording of thizzing electronics and location recordings of distant drums and vocals that calls to mind Roland Kayn meeting Peter Christopherson circa The Threshold Houseboys Choir era. And 1978’s ‘Bei Nacht’ ideally brings the set to a close with a pineal-squeezing stretch of gamelan and resonant synth magick that will keep dreamers right at the edge of a hypnic jerk.
Catherine Lamb’s duo piece for quarter tone bass flute and double bass encourages listeners to dwell on the moment, here performed by Rebecca Lane (quarter tone bass flute) and Jon Heilbron (double bass), with recording by Adam Asnan at Andreaskirche, Berlin in 2019.
It’s a piece that only reveals its message with durational, immersed listening in order to inhabit and process its extra subtle shifts from timbre to pitch. The work appears to require the pairing to converse in etheric, sustained drones that hold to a soft, wavering tension, but mainly operating around lower end frequencies in a way that doesn’t demand attention but rather seduces it like dreamily mellow sirens on a rock that we, as listeners, circle from a distance.
The sound follows in spirals drawing us closer in but somehow keeping the its gauzy smear of tones at arms length in the most beautifully elusive, hypnagogic terms. Trust there are no snags or hypnic jerk moments, just a steady orbit without resolution that leave us floating and strangely calmed.
Ivkovic & Smagghe are bang on the nose with a personal love note to ’90s-‘00s electronica rounding up cheap bin gems from I-F, Cylob, The Back Dog, Funckarma, Seefeel and many more from a hazy, inspirational era
Depending your age and location in the late ‘90s, the terms electronica and IDM probably have shifting meaning to every listener. Vladimir Ivkovic and Ivan Smagghe both worked in record shops during this phase and their proximity to the good stuff is evident across ‘A Future Of Nostalgia’, with 12 tracks that exemplify the cross-section of shoegaze/ambient/acid/electro/breaks which emerged from the more unconventional artists of that pivotal era. Trust it’s not intended as any sort of comprehensive survey, but more a personal mixtape style selection, highlighting classic and rarities they look back upon most fondly, surely turning up more than a few obscurities that will have bypassed even the most ardent connoisseurs and owners of moth eaten Warp t-shirts.
It’s been amusing to see a wave of insatiable all-night (and day) house types digging this sound in recent years, so the timing of ‘A Future of Nostalgia’ could hardly be more apt for anyone diversifying their bonds beyond the usual grooves, just as the original tunes would have appealed to a motley cross-section of, as they put it “pop kids getting through to the dancefloor via Aphex Twin and nerdy house heads dissolving their four to the floor into the futuristic world of Warp compilations” back in the day.
If you’re looking for highlights, tip-of-tongue obscurities such as Zugzwang’s lilting beauty ‘Euphonic’ and Marcia Blaine School For Girls’ folksy whirligig are right up there for the lip-smacking daytime dancers, while Move D and co’s I.F. turn for Fax is tipped for couch-inclined gouch-outs along with Replicant’s kosmiche arp trip ‘Analiz’, Abfahrt Hinwil’s ‘Tech 7’ is prime MDMA trigger material, and Marco Passarani’s ‘Ixora’ flings us right back to far more innocent, wide-eyed times.
Spacious, Pan Sonic-adjacent minimalism on NOTON from Italian producer Saele Valese. Like Sleeparchive or Alva Noto trapped in an abandoned underground factory - a vibe, basically.
If you've ever fancied icy minimal techno at half speed with a bit of gothic horror thrown in, "IVIC" is the album for you. It basically sound slike like a 45RPM Container 12" banged down to 33, with Deathprod slung in and out periodically.
The tracks were written over a five-year period and recorded live to DAT in attempt to sidestep the possibility of revising the final recordings, so everything feels quite tactile, despite it being sparse. The beats are fairly static for the most part, but echo with menace - it almost sounds as if everything was recorded in the hull of a shipping container. Cinematic would be a good descriptor, sure, but really this is a power electronics record with a different soundset...
John Carpenter returns with another collection of shlock soundtracks "for the movies in your mind." Kinda good though?
It's been five years since Carpenter last released a collection of "Lost Themes" with Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies, but time means pretty much nothing when you've been trotting out quality (and ridiculously influential) synth-laced movie music since the 1970s. There aren't exactly any stylistic surprises here, a bit of refinement though - since "Lost Themes II", Carpenter has been on tour for the first time ever so that seems to have loosened him up a bit.
These new tracks might be the best latter-day Carpenter material we've heard, and he's finally struck a balance between the new and the old, the digital and the analog. It's as if he's finally unified the chunky rawk stylings of his later work (hello "Vampires") with the icy, minimal doom of early classics like "Assault on Precinct 13" and "Halloween". Here's to "Lost Themes IV", we're ready.
Rolling, panoramic soundtrack from Dirty Three’s guitar whisperer Warren Ellis for Arno Bitschy’s documentary. Fair to say he evokes the subject beautifully and clearly, and quite literally with the well-placed samples of dialogue.
“The Australian musician (Dirty Three, Bad Seeds, Grinderman) has scored a number of high-profile films (‘The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford’, ‘Hell or High Water’, ‘The Road’) and his latest score is for ‘This Train I Ride’, a documentary film directed by Arno Bitschy.
“My idea was to record, collate and produce the music on trains, in the spirit of the women in this documentary. Brian was so encouraging with this approach and told me about a train journey he had taken in the 80’s with no fixed destination. Over the next month I sat with my computer, loops, iPhone, Reface DX synthesiser and forgotten ideas and composed the music on the Metro and Eurostar and in various hotels while working on Ghosteen. I would send the pieces to Arno from the train, or wherever I was located, and he edited them into the film.” - Warren Ellis
The film tells the story of women hopping freight trains around America. The film follows the life-journeys of these women living on the fringe in a rapidly changing country, in their quest for identity, freedom and finding their place in the world.”
When this record was first released, Pavement were starting to get some mainstream attention here in the UK thanks to bands like Blur citing them as a major influence. Consequently you'd get surreal TV moments like Jayne Middlemiss interviewing Stephen Malkmus and co. on The O-Zone and telling the band that they sounded out of tune. Oh, the indignity. Brighten The Corners spawned memorable singles 'Stereo' and 'Shady Lane', which helped raise the band's profile further in mainstream circles, whilst memorable Peel Session and Evening Session recordings for the BBC did the rounds too. Listening through Brighten The Corners you're reminded of just how formidable Pavement sounded as a rock band: as wordy and nerdish as they might have been, they could also kick out the jams with the best of them, taking a firm grasp of classic rock band dynamics and cranking up the fuzz where necessary. Significantly, when the band hit the chorus on 'Stereo' or break into their stride during 'Transport Is Arranged' there's nothing ironic or half-hearted about the unrestrained power-chord posturing. Another thing that strikes you about all this is that Pavement lyrics, however wilfully obscure they might tend to be, always seem to evade clever-cleverness or mere empty wit - there's a genuine warmth and meaning at the centre of these colourful labyrinths. Recommended to anyone who's a fan of having a good time, Brighten The Corners is boundlessly entertaining and still startlingly fresh eleven years on.
'Space Is Only Noise' is the first album by Nicolas Jaar.
By anyones estimations his arrival into the electronic music sphere has been unavoidable, receiving comparisons to Villalobos and AFX from The Guardian, providing one of Resident Advisor's most adventurous mixes to date and practically having Panorama Bar, Fabric and Bar25 eating out of his hands - all before he'd turned 20! His string of releases for the like-minded Wolf+Lamb Music and his own Clown & Sunset label besides remixes for Matthew Dear and Ellen Allien have defined his sound as purposefully slow, sensuous, and with a graceful maturity way beyond his years, all equally informed by HipHop and his Chilean heritage as he is House music and the furthest reaches of electronica.
Like the relatively recent pop/dance phenomena of Drag/Witch House, electronic Cumbias and Dubstep, his music signifies a sea change towards exaggerated energy efficiency, dropping the tempo to up the groove and deftly filling the space left behind with supremely sophisticated musical decisions drawing further comparisons to everyone from his beloved Satie and Mulatu Astatke to DJ Shadow. 'Space Is Only Noise' is far from being your conventional House music album and should be filed in your 'promising debut' stack.
Hugely necessary first time reissue of Sun Ra’s rare as chuff 1983 side, containing the timeless/timely anthem ‘Nuclear War’ available on original format and CD
At a glance, there’s only one 2nd hand copy of the OG album available for nearly a grand, so we can almost hear the Ra fiends furiously clicking for the new pressing of ‘A Fireside Chat With Lucifer’. It’s most renowned for the expletive-laden, proto-hip hop call-and-response chorus of ‘Nuclear War’, whose message is still a rallying call for conscious stewardship of the planet today, but also revolves some lesser known but no less haunting works between the the deep bluesy jazz hush of ‘Retrospect’, gilded with Sun Ra’s organ, as well as the etheric groove ‘Makeup’, and 20 minutes of staggeringly unpredictable turns in the title tune.
Don’t think twice; it’s a must!
The first album in six years from German indie-electronic mainstays The Notwist. Gorgeous widescreen alt-pop for anyone who misses the homespun goodness of genre-classic "Neon Golden".
Around for over three decades, The Notwist have helped steer the direction of electronically-augmented pop with the influential "Neon Golden" and its follow-ups. "Vertigo Days" is the band's first full-length in a while, and finds them on fine form, still softly spoken, still charming. Fans of the band's more recent records and releases on their quietly ace Alien Transistor will find plenty to sink their teeth into - not least the Stereolab-in-dub flavors of stand-out track 'Ship', that features Tenniscoats' Saya on vocals.
Elsewhere they explore fuzzy psychedelia with the sweet, smudgy 'Oh Sweet Fire' and hit another high point with 'Al Sur', feat Juana Molina on vocals and electronics for a clattering left-pop u-turn.
"Vertigo Days" is a varied record; it's pop music certainly, but pop that draws from krautrock, Brazilian psych, dusty cult movie soundtracks and vintage British folk as music as it does experimental electronic music.
Camila Fuchs get help from Spacemen 3's Pete Kember to assemble wyrd pop songs that sound like an electro-charged Björk or Jenny Hval. Very nice.
'Kids Talk Sun' is Camila Fuchs' third album, and finds the duo looking back to childhood for inspiration. The result is a bright, breezy collection of brittle electronic pop songs, anchored by Camila De Laborde's signature vocals, that curl around Daniel Hermann-Collini's The Knife-adjacent compositions like bottled smoke. This time around, they rope in super-producer Pete Kember who pushes their songs into widescreen, giving the sheen necessary for that mythical next level.
It's charming stuff from beginning to end, reminding fondly of Jenny Hval's excellent "Blood Bitch" or The Knife's "Silent Shout", but retaining a dark energy that sings of contemporary woes. Recorded in the countryside outside Lisbon, there's a sense of isolation fused with a natural connection. It's electronic music, sure, but there's an organic quality that's echoed in Laborde's voice, that phases sensually, bridging the gap between the physical and digital realms. With the trip-hop revival back in full force, "Kids Talk Sun" sounds present, relevant and cathartic.
SOPHIE presents one of 2015's defining records with the immaculate electro-pop of 'Product'.
Since emerging with a flash remix of Auntie Flo's 'Highlife' in 2012, SOPHIE has infused a minty fresh digital air to modern pop music with a procession of stunning solo singles, co-productions for PC Music's QT, and production credits for Japan's queen of J-pop, Namie Amuro, Mad Decent's LIZ and erm, songwriting for Madonna's 'Bitch I'm Madonna' alongside Ariel Pink.
We'll assume you're already au fait with the record's previous singles - the ecstatic, 'Bipp' and heart-rinsing emultion of 'Elle', or the textural hyper-sensuality of 'Lemonade' and 'Hard' from 2014 - so we'll skip to the new stuff. Msmsmsm ratchets her sound with ambassador-grade trap potency, whilst 'Vysee' sounds like '07 electro-bassline updated by Florian Hecker for a Japanese sex hotel. But it's the final run of cuts that really sends us reeling; 'L.O.V.E.' leaves everyone for dust with its visceral production values, teasing melodies and pointillist edits, whilst the lazer-crafted 'Just Like We Never Said Goodbye' is one of 2015's strangest bubblegum pop hits-in-waiting, or at least one of its most hyper-affected sensations.
In the best sense, this is a record that should divide opinion like few others, and which side of the fence you land on says a lot about your grasp of current, mediated culture. For our 2p, it's the sexiest, most provocative, and uncannily tactile grip of tunes we've heard in years; a massive recommendation!
This is it, the anticipated collaboration between legends MF Doom and Madlib.
The vibe is spread across 22 separate skits/tracks each produced by one or both heavyweights. Opening the Villainy is 'The Illest Villains' a very Doom styled sample skit, lots of TV voiceovers and a storyline about Madvillain which is cut and spliced to perfection, recalling King Geedorah's 'Monster Zero'.
'Accordion' starts the fray proper, an accordion loop drops an almost laxadazical vibe over the beat, while MF styles over the top, namedropping Dastardly and Mutley and Joe Tex, before 'America's Most Blunted' deploys a psyche break with some genius samples lifted from what must be a goldmine Marijuana awareness record.
A collab between 2 of the finest people in hip hop, with some fly guests, a classic for the ages? 100%
Ryuichi Sakamoto’s ravishing and rare solo piano suite ‘BTTB’ is finally issued on vinyl - expanded, reshuffled, and newly replete with liner notes by none other than Haruki Murakami. Trust it’s swoon-worthy stuff.
Originally released in 1998 and hard to get hold of outside of Japan, ‘BTTB’, or ‘Back To The Basics’ is now reissued on 2LP to mark its 20th anniversary. It’s effectively a definitive edition of ‘BTTB’, reshuffled from the original 2LP pressing to also include ‘Energy Flow’ from the BTTB’ maxi-single, (which peaked at No.4 in the Japanese singles charts), as well as the slippery elegance of ‘Reversing’, both on the vinyl album for the first time.
Tech specs aside, this new edition is a sumptuous testament to Sakamoto’s effortlessly natural, poetic evocations of emotion, by then channelling some 30 years work as an arranger of classic synthpop (YMO, collabs with David Sylvian), and seminal soundtracks (Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence; The Last Emperor) into some of his most stripped down yet affective music, hovering on the line between precise, mindful composition and intuitively fluid improvisation.
While the majority of the material here features Sakamoto playing conventionally beautiful solo piano with magnificent highlights on the likes of ‘Opus’, he also extends into experimental, prepared piano on a handful of pieces, both serene and frantic, such as ‘Prelude’, ‘Sonata’ and ‘Uetax’, cannily resonating with Aphex Twin’s prepared piano pieces on ‘Drukqs’, which were released just two years later.
Sakamoto combines classical symphonic composition with experimental music and Japanese traditional sounds on his score to Bernardo Bertolucci's 1994 film 'Little Buddha'
"In 1987, Ryuichi Sakamoto played in The Last Emperor and also composed the original soundtrack to the movie, which won him an oscar. In 1990, he contributed to the musical score of The Sheltering Sky and the movie received the Award Golden Globes of the Best Original Score. Moreover, Ryuichi Sakamoto obtained a major part in 1983 in Furyo (Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence), a production by Jeremy Thomas. He also composed the original soundtrack to the movie."
Fifth studio album from Still Corners.
"Building on 2018’s SLOW AIR, Still Corners return with an album about the myth and folklore of the open road. In a world where everyone thinks all the corners of the map are filled in, Still Corners believe there's something beyond what we see and feel, something eternal in the landscape of those never-ending drives.
With the shimmering desert noir sound the band has become known for, THE LAST EXIT takes you on a hypnotic journey, one filled with dilapidated towns, mysterious shapes on the horizon, and long trips that blur the line between what’s there and not there. Greg says, “We found something out there in the desert – something in the vast landscapes that went on forever."
THE LAST EXIT consists of eleven beautifully crafted songs with organic instrumentation, clean-toned guitar, spacious drums and the smoky croon of Tessa Murray. Album highlights include “The Last Exit”, “White Sands” and “Shifting Dunes” all of which evoke the vast space of the desert and rolling unconcerned skies."
The final performance by legendary electronic music catalyst Mika Vainio depicts the Pan Sonic co-founder at his blistering best only months before he passed away in 2017
‘Last Live’ is demonstrative of the singular way in which Vainio harnessed elemental electronics to his will. Recorded at Cave12, Geneva, on 02.02.17, the set is presented here post-edited by Stephen O’Malley and Carl Michael Von Hausswolff, at EMS, Stockholm, to unleash a definitive blast of raw electronic forces that speak unflinchingly to the unpredictable nature of his improvised noise. Quite simply, Vainio is unmatched in his field for this sort of work, and this session stands as testament to the inspirational conviction and devastating effect of his music.
While it may not be immediately apparent on first listen, Vainio’s music has long drawn influence from myriad, intense forms of music. Be it techno, delta blues, dub, black metal, or sheer isolationist minimalism, it was all there, collapsed into a black hole of sound that could be as bloody-minded as it was heart-rendingly sensitive, often in the space of one cut. ‘Last Live’ portrays these unapologetically human characteristics in Vainio’s typically frank yet oblique manner, with each section candidly expressing polarised extremes of sound, from the first part’s transition between jack-licking drones to skin-tearing distortion, while the 3rd and 4th capture him at his most rhythmically disaffected, strongly recalling the almighty, juddering forces of his ‘Kilo’ (2013) album.
Lilting, melodic Malian pop by one of the most popular singers from Wassalou region, highly regarded for producing some of the best signers in Mali
"The meaning of “Kanawa” is so simple. We see our children trying to cross the ocean all the time. I said that many of our children die in the ocean and some of them while crossing the Sahara. Some climb over the wires across the borders and they have gotten shot. We have asked them not to leave and instead stay home. But I ask them why do they leave their country? Why do they decide to go? They said that they leave because of the family situation or problems, poverty, and unemployment. We told them if ever they are to leave, they should privilege legal ways.
They should abide by laws vigorously when they are to emigrate. That’s better than hiding in boats or adopting other illegal means. I ask them to stay and work in their country. So that we can help each other find a solution to this problem. I call on the UN and African leaders so that we can coordinate our efforts to find a solution, to create jobs for them so that young people stop leaving. This song is about that message and I chose it as the title of my album because I like it. My choice is because it is very meaningful and it is something we see on a daily basis. I chose it in order to alert and sensitize everybody about this question of illegal immigration. To sensitize our brothers and sisters. It is a message. That’s why I chose it as the title of my album so that everybody can learn from it and also so that there is a reduction in the number of people emigrating. To sensitize them so that some can stay home and grow the land. Leaving is not the only solution. That’s my message."
First new solo material from Martin Gore in half a decade, packs a gnarled tang where it matters.
‘The Third Chimpanzee EP’ holds Martin L. Gore’s first outing since the eponymous ‘MG’ album in 2015, and arrives 40 years since his earliest roles as one of DM’s founding members and primary songwriters. The five tracks pay testament to a perennially searching spirit still in the process of hunting for the perfect synthetic sound arrangements, but taking “perfect” to mean strangely expressive and uniquely textured synthesis, as generated by his formidable racks of gear.
Melodic and harmonic pop conventions are out of the window, and replaced by a taste for rawest elemental synthesis in all five parts, turning up some heavily satisfying grot recalling Wolf Eyes’ trip metal styles in ‘Howler’, and a ruddy sort of electro-dub chug on ‘Vervet’, along with some curled eastern tunings in ‘Capuchin’, and the elegiac fanfare of ‘Howler’s End.’
We bow down MG.
‘Kin ell, The Body; U OK, hun? Lee Burford and Chip King’s cultishly adored project appears to take absolutely no prisoners on their first recordings since 2019
Marking their first solo jag after ‘I Have Fought Against It, But I Can’t Any Longer’ in 2018 (they’ve collaborated with Thou and Uniform over the interim), the duo deal in their most obliterated music with a concentrated, unflinching style that feels utterly fucking necessary right now.
Everything seethes in the red at a venomous biting point, with guitars, drums and electronics congealed into a mass of matted skin, hair and blood, with vocals alternately wretching with a BM wretchedness, hollering for dear life, or buried down in the belly of it. They’re perhaps matched for sheer ruthlessness by fellow Providence, Rhode Island residents, Black Mecha and Wold, but even still they’re on some scorched earth all of their own in this monstrous creation.
Ryuichi Sakamoto presents his original soundtrack to Rage「怒り」, a Japanese murder mystery by Korean-Japanese director Lee Sang-Il, his second film adaptation of popular novels by Shûichi Yoshida.
Predating Sakamoto’s work on the immense, panoramic OST for The Revenant with Alva Noto and Bryce Dessner, his score to Rage is a far more intimate and finely melancholic affair, reflective of the film’s shifting themes exploring identity and the malaise of contemporary society.
The main title theme is a memorably symphonic swell of lustrous strings and keys riven with he heartbreaking emotion Sakamoto specialises in, while the rest of the suite is swept between grand instrumental gestures and subtler electronic gilding, feeling out a filigree spectrum of emotions from noirish paranoia to genteel, glitching romance themes.
40th anniversary edition of NWW’s darkly beguiling 3rd album, seeing Steven Stapleton go solo in a slowly spirit-gnawing side of collapsed concrète jazz cut-ups that recall pre-echoes of Mica Levi and Demdike Stare at their most zonked
‘Merzbild Schwet’ documents Stapleton left to his own devices in the studio later in 1980 after bandmates Heman Pathak and John Fothergill left due to dissatisfaction with their collaborative efforts on ‘To The Quiet Men From A Tiny Girl’. The results, in their own way, are perhaps more detectably coherent, in the sense that this is the sound of one man’s mentalism, and not the combination of three who can’t decade who’s weirdest. As such, it’s a real warper, with one side seemingly nodding to a classic Neu! B-sides from behind lysergic eyes, and the other striking deep into a vein of theatric avant-garde.
Recycled from hacked and spliced jazz samples, the A-side’s ‘Dada x’ slops over the front with knackered drums and smeared brass tones that recall the B-side to ‘Neu! 2’ (itself crafted last minute in the studio, using slowed down samples of the same record’s A-side) as much as Micachu & The Shapes’ & London Sinfonietta’s ‘Chopped & Screwed’ session, with additional stirrings from a French pop record adding to the oddness in a way that also recalls Ghédalia Tazartès and that amazing Joseph Hammer side for PAN.
‘Futurismo’ is a very different beast though, stretching out 24mins of pineal, searching-in-the-dark atmospheres that feel like they strayed from an avant garde theatre work or modern classical conservatory, with pealing woodwind and arcing spectral keys paving the way for mind-bending corridors of patchworked sci-fi vocals, shatterproof industrial clangour, and Stapleton's patented plasmic electro-acoustic audness.
Classy debut album of horizon-scanning but intimate chamber compositions by Elori Saxl, seamlessly weaving a range of classical orchestration with field recordings and electronics
‘The Blue of Distance’ sees Elori draw listeners between the Adirondack Mountains in summer, and the middle of Lake Superior at the depths of winter, for a cinematic album that expresses a palpable sense of nostalgia and hope. Its title is inspired by Rebecca Solnit’s observation that faraway mountains appear blue due to light particles getting lost over distance, as outlined in ‘A Field Guide to Getting Lost’, and Elori uses that phenomena as metaphor for the music’s curious sense of physical detachment/immersion and elusive familiarity, meshing recordings of a 6 piece ensemble (Violin, Viola, Cello, Clarinet, Flue, Oboe, Bassoon) made in summer, with their re-sampled images, re-recorded thru the foot of ice beneath her on Lake Superior, to create an absorbing blur between place and space, and between physical gesture and artificial resonance. A quiet-minded one for fans of Ian William Craig, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, or the evocative, descriptive powers of Goldmund.
A colossal, trance-inducing, yet largely overlooked pillar of 20th century American minimalism.
Regarded as a "holy grail" by the likes of Keith Fullerton Whitman, it spans 100 minutes of atonal, amorphous string composition scored in four parts for a quintet, here performed by Linda Cummiskey (Violin), Malcolm Goldstein (Violin), Kathy Seplow (Violin), Stephen Reynolds (Viola), David Gibson (Violoncello).
By all accounts Harley Gaber was a colourful fella, a complex American artist, composer and filmmaker who dropped it all not long after release of this 1976 work to become a full time Tennis player and coach. He would return to the arts, and later music, writing soundtracks for his own films before sadly committing suicide in 2011.
'The Winds Rise in the North' is a frighteningly heavy and rewarding master-stroke, giving rise to dense, gripping harmonic overtones which prickle, seduce and get under the skin in a way that few others achieve. Lock the doors, turn off your phone and give yourself two hours with this. You won't regret it.
Black Ark In Dub is another piece of Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry’s limitless musical puzzle.
"Featuring a bedrock of deep and heavy rhythms recorded at the Black Ark just before its demise, Black Ark In Dub features bass heavy spooky dub deconstructions of ‘Jah Love Is Sweeter’, ‘Ethiopia’, ‘Lion A De Winner’, ‘Open The Gate’, ‘Guideline,’ and ‘Mr Money Man’, along with an embellished dub version of Ras Keatus I ‘Dreadlocks I’ and the much sought after ‘Guidance’ a longime Jah Shaka killer exclusive to this set.
Originally released in 1981 the hard to find Black Ark In Dub remains a frozen sonic timepiece, captured at the beginning of the end of one era and poised at the start of another. This re-mastered release adds Lackley Castell ‘Jah Love Is Sweeter’ (vocal cut to the opening track ‘Jah’) plus Black Ark Vol. 2 the follow up album to the acclaimed Black Ark In Dub that unsurprisingly for an Upsetter release took a different path. More vocal oriented the album features extended dubwise cuts of Caol Cole’s ‘Ethiopia’, The Originals ‘Got To Be Irie’, Junior Byles ‘Mumbling & Grumbling and The Inamans ‘How Deep Is your Love’, along with an alternate take of the Silvertones roots classic ‘Give Thanks’ with flute overdub and a couple of solid do-overs from Third World man Bunny Rugs."
On this newly released work Jakob Ullmann combines his appreciation of Cageian principles with sacred composition in utterly riveting ways, resulting in two of the most extreme and uncompromising examples of his “quiet music” - that is, a music which is composed and realised to be played just above the volume of each listener’s ambient background.
And in case you’re not aware of what we mean by “extreme”, we’re talking seriously quiet - bordering on silent - instrumental gestures; the kind of creaks and klangs that, on the most glib level, recall a “ghost” in your house at midnight, while on a more serious, theological level, are intended to heighten the listener’s sense of the unknown, the metaphysical, the spiritual: the sacred.
In both works the ‘hallmarks’ of Jakob Ullmann’s intently defined yet unfathomably open style of composition come to light. On Müntzers stern, a pre-recorded performance of a hymnal text written by the German theologian is played back at barely perceptible volume into the same space where Dafne Vicente-Sandoval translates the graphic score for bassoon. The result is a totally sparse yet breathtakingly pensive piece where it’s beautifully uncertain what we’re hearing - is that the chance sound of a distant plane or Dafne’s bassoon? Are those voices in your head, outside the window, or on the recording? Either way, the barely-there but complex results are genuinely ambiguous, forming a total breakdown of conventions that leave the listener with far more questions than they answer.
On solo II, part of a group of works relating to the notion of disappearing musics completed in 1992 following Ullmann’s conversations with John Cage, the effect of Dafne’s bassoon, recorded in Kartäuserkirche (Bürgerliches Waisenhaus) is even more extreme. Holistically taking into account everything from the thermal fluctuation of the space and the way it affects Dafne’s reed, to its unique acoustic imprint, and by turns what lies outside its walls, the piece directly builds on Ullmann’s dialogue with Cage, and induces us into a sort of lucid dream state where time dissolves, outside becomes inside, and we feel physically sublimated into the piece and its projected timbral architecture.
As Ullmann’s music has come to light beyond the most rarified classical corridors over the last decade (with thanks to its champions such as Stephen O’Malley and Bill Kouligas, among others), the composer’s radical approach and uncompromising beliefs have given us some of the most memorable and perception-altering musical experiences imaginable. We can surely add these two new Ullmann works to that set of life-affirming and quietly challenging experiences.
Italian ambient maestro Gigi Masin wins our hearts again with this sublime, impressionistic soundtrack to Il Silenzio Dei Tuoi Passi (The Silence of your Steps), Stefano Gentile’s photo book focussed on Venice at night.
Venezia is certain to strike a chord with anyone lucky enough to have visited the city, and even if you haven’t, it’s a beautifully evocative package, marrying Masin’s balmy drift of solo keys and chiffon synth pads with absorbing imagery of the city’s narrow ginnels and, all softly lit by lone street lamps that mirror the music’s plays of light and shadow.
Unfortunately our Italian is beyond mediocre, so we can’t really tell you much about the liner notes, but the symbiotic images and music convey far more than we could ever spell out here.