LA’s arch ambient producer Yann Novak supplies a solemn and immersively diaphanous elegy for environmental collapse upon return to Room 40 - RIYL Lawrence English, Dean Hurley, Biosphere
The usually prolific artist appears to have slowed the release schedule and gotten deeper into his sound in recent years, with ‘Lifeblood of Light and Rapture’ marking a new high water mark of his catalogue. Inspired by the formative teaching that 2020 would be a point of no return for the environment, Novak models his thoughts in noctilucent clouds of textured harmonies and glistening filaments, keeping everything just outta reach but with a deeply brooding presence.
“From Yann Novak: "When I began working on Lifeblood of Light and Rapture I was thinking a lot about both my personal and society's tendencies towards nihilism. When I was in grade school, I was taught that 2020 would be the turning point in our collective fight against climate change -- that if we did not change by then, there would be no turning back. After learning this at a young age, I watched helplessly as little was done to save the planet. It made me certain that I would not live to see past 2020 . . . Now that 2020 has come and gone, I have the luxury of hindsight. I can look back and see that so many of my decisions were made not to destroy myself, but in order to self-medicate. In my teens and twenties, the world was a difficult place to inhabit, but I could use chemicals and other distractions to cope. Similarly, as it turns out, this is also the story of the industrial, technological, and digital revolutions. Even though the intention of these eras was to make the world an easier place to live in, most of the progress attributed to them over the last two centuries has directly contributed to the climate crisis. On Lifeblood of Light and Rapture, I wanted to explore this parallel -- that so many of the things we do to try and make this world livable also contribute to its destruction. Formally, this album follows the path I set out on with Slowly Dismantling (RM 4112LP, 2019). I sought to express myself in a more immediate and honest way through the use of digital and analog synthesis. With Lifeblood of Light and Rapture, I built upon this same path; but I also tried to imagine the listening experience over the process of making it, focusing solely on the pure pleasure of listening..."
Fuck Buttons' Andrew Hung plumbs the deep chasms of his mind on this second solo album, that sounds like a rock opera cum '80s synthpop horror movie soundtrack remixed by, well, Fuck Buttons. Properly blurry business.
Written and produced by Hung himself, 'Devastations' is billed as his "most candid and introspective" material yet, and it's certainly inward-looking. Using the kind of gritty beats and jagged synths that made Fuck Buttons so popular and playing them against folky vocals and bumped-up instrumental arrangements, the album is an unusual blend of ideas and styles. It's thoroughly British, occasionally sounding like Depeche Mode, occasionally sounding like vintage Bowie, occasionally sounding like John Foxx and sometimes sounding more like Genesis or Pink Floyd. A trip.
Transcendent material that finds legendary experimental turntablist Philip Jeck using dubplates from Mamiffer's Faith Coloccia and distorting them into a hazy, ambient fog of texture and tone.
Jeck met Coloccia in Seattle back in 2016, where she asked if he'd be interested in working with some recordings that she'd been collecting over the years. She sent him cassette recordings made from 2015-2018 cut to dubplates, but while Jeck liked them, he felt unable to add anything he thought was particularly worthwhile. Last year in lockdown, Jeck approached the material again and had a breakthrough, reshaping them into music that surprised both artists.
Coloccia's source material was recorded when her son was a newborn and formed during naptimes, so the sounds embody a blissful peacefulness while swerving any corny lullaby signifiers. Jeck's additions of reverb and vinyl treatment push the sounds into haunted landscapes, retaining the essence of Coloccia's material but giving them new depth and texture. 'Stardust' is a satisfying meeting of minds, and a perfect middle ground between both artists' strengths. Coloccia's raw emotional weight and Jeck's emphasis on sound and methodology is a match made in heaven.
Electro-acoustic sound sculptor Siavash Amini's latest full-length is inspired by a series of repeating nightmares and Muhammad ibn Mahmoud Hamadâni’s ‘Book of marvels’. It's safe to say it's a transportive experience in textural microtonality: suffocating at times and distressing at others, but with occasional cracks of sunlight.
Amini has been vocal about his desire to work outside of the 12 tone equal temperament, so for these recordings he was passionate about using other systems of tuning to represent his dreams. The result is four long passages of sound that smudge through the consciousness, blurring instruments into synthetic tones and suggesting distance, history and the wild labyrinth of the mind.
'The Oncome' submerges microtonal passages of sound in crashing waves of noise. This is aesthetically Persian music, but feels completely out of time - it could be rooted in the past or being beamed from the far future. 'Crocuta Crocuta' is more ominous, with thick low end that eventually caves into ghostly wails and eerie vapors.
Each track expands Amini's universe, digging deeper into his subconscious and dragging out symphonic fragments or passages of industrial grit. It's a terrifying voyage into a complex electro-acoustic web of literature, antiquity and sonic futurism; ambient, it ain't.
In 1980 the trio Humair / Jeanneau / Texier recorded this album, which was initially intended to illustrate an animal documentary.
"The trio did not know that ‘Akagera’ would become one of the founding moments of an aesthetic and an ethic of French jazz which, 40 years later, remains a model of the genre. First of all, the instrumentation (sax / bass / drums) is already singular for the time, then the creative power of a trio where each musician finds a cardinal place, very far from a mere rhythm section accompanying a soloist. Finally, the three musicians are also composers, each of them contributing original themes tinged with Africa and the Savannah, modal and mysterious World Music, inexhaustible subjects of unbridled improvisations."
Expanded double disc edition of Vini Reilly, the acclaimed seventh studio album by The Durutti Column. Originally released by Factory Records in 1989, the album has now been newly remastered with 23 bonus tracks including companion single WOMAD Live.
"Produced by Vini Reilly and Stephen Street, the original working title of the Vini Reilly album was The Durutti Column Sampler. ‘People describe them as found samples and found voices,’ explained Vini at the time. ‘I always build up a catalogue of interesting loops and voice samples and stuff. Then I forget where I got them from a lot of the time, which is quite convenient… A lot of the time I manipulate the sample anyway, so it’s singing my tune, rather than the original tune.’ Stand-out tracks include Otis, Love No More and My Country.
‘The tune always comes from playing the guitar,’ added Vini. ‘As soon as I pick a guitar up I’ll come up with a tune. I don’t know whether it’s good or bad - but there’s always a tune there.’ The sleeve itself samples Bob Dylan circa Highway 61 Revisited, showcasing an iconic portrait by Mark Warner. Indeed much about the album flirts with mainstream culture, being a deliberate attempt to position Reilly as a ‘pop’ artist following his chart-topping collaboration with Morrissey on Viva Hate.
This collaboration was further celebrated on bonus track For Steven Patrick. Other bonus tracks on this 2020 double-disc remaster include a multitude of demos and outtakes from the same period (some previously issued on The Sporadic Recordings in 1989), plus all four tracks from pristine performance CD WOMAD Live. Recorded at the WOMAD Festival in Cornwall in August 1988, the core Durutti duo of Vini Reilly and Bruce Mitchell are here augmented by Andy Connell on keys and Chinese opera singer Liu Sola."
Eccentric english composer Gazelle Twin marks her 2nd soundtrack release, and first collaboration with Max De Wardener, with the OST for period horror flick ‘The Power’
One year on from their work on ‘Welcome To The Blumhouse: Nocturne,’ and a decade since her debut release, Gazelle Twin comfortably solidifies her transition into movie scoring on her second effort, tempering her pop proclivities in context of the project while continuing the themes of a blighted Britain from her recent albums. She finds an ideal spar in Max De Wardener, a noted composer for TV and film, who brings a taste for unusual instrumental tonalities to GT’s eldritch electronics, makign for a score that will no doubt please fans of classic Radiophonic Workshop output and the likes of Cosey’s soundtrack for the Delia Derbyshire flick.
First reissue of the fabled 2nd album by organ weilding Ethiopian legend Hailu Mergia and his band, The Walias who single-handedly catalysed the modern Ethiopian music scene from the early ‘70s onward. Totally grooving and vibing gear done in a low-key, in-the-pocket style that graces everything Mergia touches...
“Hardly anyone outside Ethiopia seems to know Hailu Mergia & The Walias Band “Tezeta” exists. Within Ethiopia this tape has been impossible to find for decades. That’s about to change with this release, which makes available this epochal recording on LP, CD and Digital formats for the first time.
From their genesis as members of the Venus club in-house band in the early 70s, Hailu Mergia and the Walias Band were at the forefront of the musical revolution during an era where modern instruments and foreign styles superseded the traditional fare to become the staple sound of Ethiopia. No one would argue that the Walias were the trailblazing powerhouse of modern Ethiopian music.
They were the first band to form independently without affiliation to a theatre house, a club or a hotel; unprecedented and risky as they had to raise all funding for expenses by themselves including buying equipment. They were the first to release full instrumental albums, considered to be commercially unviable at the time. They opened their own recording studio, with band members Melake Gebre and Mahmoud Aman doubling as technical buffs during sessions. They were also the first independent band to tour abroad. In short, they were the pioneers every band tried to emulate; some more successfully than others.
Odds are, any Ethiopian over the age of 35 who had access to TV or radio by the early 90s, will instantly recognize the sound of Walias. What is not a given is, how many would actually identify the band itself. Barely a day went by without hearing the Walias either in the background on radio or as an accompaniment to various programs on TV.
This Tezeta album is the band’s second recording, released in 1975. Sourced by Awesome Tapes From Africa and expertly remastered by Jessica Thompson, its unique and funky renditions of standards and popular songs of the day are so quintessentially Walias, flavorful and evocative. Hailu’s melodic organ, unashamedly front and center in every track, makes even the complex pieces accessible.
Profoundly engaging; it’s an immersive trip down memory lane for those of us getting reacquainted with it, while also an enthralling and gratifying experience for fresh ears. (text by Tessema Tadele)”
Includes the first commercial recordings from Asia made in Japan in 1903 - Japanese gagaku, shakuhachi, shamisen, storytelling, folksong and more - Collected and compiled by sound artist Robert Millis - The beginning of Japan’s homegrown record industry, including a few sides taken from Japan’s notorious bootleg 78rpm industry.
Compiled by sound artist Robert Millis from recordings made by Fred Gaisberg, a legendary producer and recording engineer who travelled the world working for the Gramophone Company (later His Masters Voice), these collected gems offer a return trip to the now-distant past. Swaddled in a dreamlike haze of surface noise that emphasises their alien allure and peculiarity, the set is all the more remarkable for the fact it was recorded only a decade after flat disc recording and playback technology was invented as a successor to Edison’s wax cylinder tekkers. For anyone struck by Robert Millis’ sets such as ‘Indian Talking Machine’, ‘Victrola Favourites’, or perhaps most pertinently his deeply cherished ‘Scattered Melodies: Korean Kayagum Sanjo From 78rpm Records’ collection, this set is absolutely required listening.
They cover a gamut of styles and instruments including gagaku, shakuhachi, shamisen, storytelling, folksong and more, each admitting the listener entrance to what is, to these ears, a whole other world, long before Western imperialism went into overdrive. It documents for posterity a number of important voices who took their turn in front of Gaisberg’s recording horn, regaling their tales in a range of disciplines of which some have endured or been revived, while others have been lost to the mists of time. Safe to say one would never stumble across these recordings in the field without mountains of effort, so all credit due to Millis and his multiple trips to Japan for preserving and sharing these utterly beguiling sonic postcards.
Anniversary reissue of Tortoise’s classic album, Millions Now Living Will Never Die.
"Tortoise's production expertise hit an early peak with Millions Now Living Will Never Die, a work that not only references studio-centric forms like dub and electronica, but actively welds them to the group's aesthetic of sturdily constructed indie rock. The centerpiece is the 21-minute opener "Djed," a multi-part track which brought Tortoise's already impressive compositional abilities to a grand scale. It's almost a history of influences in miniature, first referencing tape music and dub for several minutes, then moving on to Krautrock with a chugging section incorporating wheezing organ and understated guitar chords.
Halfway through, the band takes on minimalism with repeating figures of organ and vibes, then return to the green fields of their debut with a final few minutes of moody indie rock (though even this is spiced with a scratchy rhythm and various noise effects). With "Djed," Tortoise made experimental rock do double duty as evocative, beautiful music. The other songs on Millions Now Living are hardly afterthoughts, though; highlights "Glass Museum" and "The Taut and Tame" display the band quickly growing out of the angular indie rock ghetto with exquisite music, constructed with more thought and played with more emotion, than any of their peers." John Bush, AllMusic
Ambient music's favorite Rock 'n Roll Hall of Famer Alessandro Cortini returns with his highest profile solo album to date. "Scuro Chiaro" is a frazzled selection of 8-bit RPG riffs, tape-dubbed arpeggios, sandblasted rhythms and saturated power ambience. A finely matured cask blend of early OPN, Tim Hecker, Emeralds and Prurient.
The faint throb of industrial electro underpins Cortini's umpteenth solo record. His obsession with synthesizers has characterized his last run, from the minimalist loveletter to Roland's underrated MC-202 "Sonno" to "Avanti", which was written on the EMS Synthi AKS MKII. On "Scuro Chiaro", particular synths are no longer the focus, but Cortini's keen focus on texture and minimalism is still central.
Each track appears to be built from the simplest ingredients, maybe a single melancholy arpeggio or bare drum pulse, but swells slowly to reflect the timbre and shifting tone of the instrument. Cortini treats his electronic boxes as if they were built of lacquered wood and horse hair, and betrays a passion for an era when the serendipity and unpredictability of the analog realm was far more constant.
The tracks are rooted in the eerie genre sound universe of John Carpenter, and tempered by Cortini's well-documented interest in vintage videogames. The repetitive, loping melodies are directly linked to a long-gone era of Commodore Amiga shovelware, filtered thru the composer's knowledge of noise, early synth music and Krautrock. The result is ambient, industrial and electropop all at once, fermented into almost beatless musical liqor: steeped in nostalgia, but expertly restrained.
Pivotal solo cellist and producer Oliver Coates (LCO, Apartment House) proceeds collaborations with Mica Levi and Radiohead with Shelley’s on Zenn-La, an indefatigably endearing 3rd solo album, new for RVNG Intl.
We can hardly think of many artists beyond Oliver’s own circle who can meld dance music with avant-electronic and classical instrumental expression quite like Oliver does here. From the raw electric buzz and spattered breaks underlined with layered cello in Faraday Movement, to the abraded BoC-like downbeats of Lime, thru to wayward disco treks like Charlev, Analord-style braindance in Norrin Radd Dreaming, and the final swoon between wide-open string composition and balletic IDM in Perfect Apple with Silver Mark, Oliver is making wonderful music unconstricted by convention, but patently happy to play with it.
Belgian-German trio Dictaphone keep it spooky on their fifth album. Like its predecessors, it's a blend of jazz and electronics that sounds like the accompaniment to a flickering, monochrome horror movie. On this one, the trio use sounds found on an old tape machine in a hidden room...
Producer Oliver Doerell, clarinet and saxophone player Roger Döring and violinist Alex Stolze join forces once again for another set based around their "morbid instruments" concept. This time, Doerell discovered a tape machine in a hidden room in his Berlin apartment, and this was used as the album's backdrop. For a few moments, ghostly sounds could be heard and the machine died quickly after the tape was digitized.
The trio improvised around these sounds, occasionally roping in help from other collaborators, like Helga Raimondi who sings on 'Your Reign is Over'. Unsurprisingly for a band who have supplied music to countless documentaries and dance performances, "goats & distortions 5" sounds purpose-built for soundtrack use. It curls with the elegance of thick, French cigarette smoke.
T. Griffin's score for Jill Magrid's documentary about Mexican architect Luis Barragán shifts effortlessly from elegiac drone and ambient to subtle modern jazz, the perfect accompaniment to a film that takes a holistic view of art.
'The Proposal' concludes Jill Magrid's art project "The Barragán Archives" and explores the iconic Mexican artist's complex legacy by defying genre and categorization, so it makes sense that she would involve a similarly ambitious musician. Brooklyn-based Griffin wrote the soundtrack while stationed in a cabin on the Massachusetts coast, and roped in some impressive collaborators: Matana Roberts, Reut Regev, Dirty Three's Jim White, Helado Negro's Jason Ajemian and Godspeed You! Black Emperor's Sophie Trudeau and Timothy Herzog.
He conducts this assembly of talent with restraint, using banjo, guitar, keyboard, field recordings and percussion to give the tracks fitting cinematic scope. From track to track, you might hear dusty crate-digging jazz, shimmering post-rock or effervescent electroacoustic ambience. It's an impressive atmosphere, that speaks to Griffin's experience having contributed to over 50 feature-length film and TV scores at this point.
On 30th Oct 2020 Mr. Bungle released their first studio album since 1999. ‘The Raging Wrath Of The Easter Bunny Demo’ was a re-recording of the band's 1986 high school thrash metal demo along with songs written then but never recorded.
"The album features original members Mike Patton, Trey Spruance and Trevor Dunn, joined by Scott Ian of Anthrax and Dave Lombardo of Slayer / Dead Cross. On 31st Oct 2020 the band celebrated the. release with a massive livestream event, ‘The Night They Came Home’. The event featured a full live show plus an opening set by America’s funnyman Neil Hamburger, plus cameos from musicians and celebrities such as Eric Andre and Josh Homme (of Queens Of The Stone Age)."
Recorded between 1963-2019, Degrees Of Freedom Found is a six CD set “Blue” Gene Tyranny hand selected from archival, live recordings, and brand new first recordings before his passing in 2020.
"Part new album, part retrospective, this box offers a fresh perspective on “Blue” Gene Tyranny’s musical legacy. Blue’s career defining moment, composing the music for Robert Ashley’s magnum opus, Perfect Lives, typifies the Buddha-like self-effacement of his musical life. Often lending a substantial supporting role to his friends’ more visible projects, Blue’s music under his own name blossomed in a more esoteric and highly personal manner outside of the spotlight. Across its many previously unreleased recordings, Degrees Of Freedom Found showcases a surprising, extroverted side of Blue’s music, alongside the virtuoso works of sensitive spirit for which New Music devotees have long revered him."
Remix album featuring production from Pye Corner Audio as well as unreleased accoustic versions.
1.Indica (Pye Corner Audio Remix) 2.Skywalker (Pye Corner Audio Remix) 3.Cherry Cola (Pye Corner Audio Remix) 4.Love Comes In Waves (Pye Corner Audio Remix) 5.I Was Alone (Pye Corner Audio Remix) 6.Indica (Pye Corner Audio Remix – GLOK Re-edit) 7.The Commune (Pye Corner Audio Remix) 8.Plastic Bag (Pye Corner Audio Remix) 9.The Commune 10.Plastic Bag 11.Love Comes In Waves (Acoustic Version) 12.Cherry Cola (Acoustic Version) 13.Skywalker (Acoustic Version) 14.Perfume (Acoustic Version) 15.The Commune (Acoustic Version)
LuckyMe-signed "Akira" fanatic Nathan Micay (fka Bwana) patchworks contemporary soundtrack tropes convincingly on this original score for BBC/HBO finance drama "Industry".
In just under a decade, Micay has shifted his interest from rolling post dubstep to progressive, trancey house and deep, gurgling ambient music, now snapped up to craft the score to prestige series "Industry". It makes sense that Micay has made the jump to soundtracks - in 2016 he released "Capsule's Pride", a collection of sci-fi electronics made in tribute to "Akira" (and Geinoh Yamashirogumi's abiding score). Apparently the "Industry" production team were impressed by last year's elegiac 'Blue Spring' and this full album fleshes out Micay's euphoric framework out into widescreen.
Interspersed with dialog snipped from the TV show, this suite of orchestra-injected electronix snatches liberally from the Christopher Nolan/Hans Zimmer sound-world (ticking clocks, ominous whooshes - you know the score) giving a sense of tried-and-tested urgency to proceedings. At times it sounds too familiar; any of these tracks could be stapled to almost any moody 2019-2020 movie trailer and it would work, but that's prob the point..
Canadian-born, London-based DJ Jayda Guy (aka Jayda G) turns in an effortlessly enjoyable mix of disco, funk, house and techno burners to map out her personal musical autobiography, from her beginnings in Vancouver to headline spots in Berlin. A joyful beacon of hope in trying times.
One of the best DJ Kicks selections we've heard in ages, Jayda G's mix succeeds by being vulnerable instead of posturing for clout. She lays out her musical journey in no uncertain terms, dropping tracks from contemporaries like DJ BORING and HAAi alongside slo-mo soul from Light of the World, Kokoroko's contemporary Afrobeat and Atmosphere's long-form, proggy jazz-funk.
There's an emotionality here that goes beyond crate-digging. Jayda is a DJ's DJ certainly, but she never lets her choices disrupt the flow. As she travels through musical history, she spins her narrative into an expertly blended mix that goes far beyond disco or funk revivalism and center the joyful Black expression of countless interlinked musical forms.
From filtered French funk to contemporary lo-fi house, the fingerprints of soul, jazz, R&B etc are all over today's dance music. On this diaristic journey, Jayda G gives us a history lesson that's just entirely enjoyable, and we can't argue with that.
South African dancefloor scorchers from DJ Black Low, shared beyond the region for first time by the ever reliable Awesome Tapes From Africa
The internet is remaining tight lipped about this fella right now, but it ain’t hard to hear the serious dancefloor levels across ‘Uwami’, working to the side of Amapiano and Gqom styles with lip-bitingly tight Afro-house grooves darkened by gloomy pads, tested with electroid licks, and spiced by a selection of vocalists.
Run go check for unmissable bits in ‘Downfall Revisit’, sounding to us like John T. Gast doing Afrohouse; the stealthy build of ‘Jaiva Low’ starring Hapas Music; what sounds like a deep blue and ruder Donae’o in ‘Emcimbinii’; the hypnotic trills and wonky bass twang of ’Sbono ((Vocal Mix))’; a superb ambient Gqom flex in ’60 Days No Sleep’; and the straight-up trippy morse code melody and gurgling leads of ’Stiwawa Quitter’.
Top shelf tackle for the DJs and dancers.
The Pusherman's debut album celebrates a quarter-century this year. Remastered from the original DATs it's never sounded heavier, with all the virtuoso bass noodling and hyperactive break editing you can squash into one album = an IDM classic, no doubt.
Along with μ-Ziq, AFX and Luke Vibert's Plug, Tom Jenkinson was instrumental in bringing innovations made by jungle pioneers like Goldie, Dego, Jumpin' Jack Frost and Rob Haigh to a global legion of antisocial, screen burned e-boys. At the time, he was widely credited for spearheading various jungle-patented techniques, but listening now it's harder to make that case. Drill 'n bass was always an iffy concept, but with the benefit of a couple of decades, it's easier to listen to "Feed Me Weird Things" free of this context. Now we can simply enjoy its proggy abstraction of Brit TV theme oddness, lightning-fast funk, jazz fusion and druggy rave excess.
All of Jenkinson's albums are a mixed bag (we reckon you could make one belter by grabbing a couple of tracks from each of the good 'uns), but "Feed Me Weird Things" is more reliable than most. The better moments find Jenkinson relying less on bass noodling and more on spooky wooze: 'Tundra' for example, with its wobbly synth and canned beatbox skitter, or enduring fan fave 'Theme From Ernest Borgnine' with its acidic synth squeals and sadboi pads. These tracks influenced hundreds of copyists and still sound just as brilliant today, expertly balancing the indulgent headmash energy of jungle and the gooey synthesized star-surfing of Jean-Michel Jarre or Kraftwerk.
"Get In" dispatched 12 years (!!!) since Get Off for Häpna in 2004.
Sepulchral in tone and celestial in scope, Get In is riven with playfully considered twysts and moments of heart-gripping beauty that recall the ecstasy, darkness and visionary electronic romance of its predecessors - Get Out (1999), Get Down (2002), and Get Off (2004) - but with a more tempered, spacious approach that epitomises the wonder of electronic music at its most elementally affective and also represents a subtly marked difference in his production palette and techniques.
When Pita’s highly original music emerged in the late ‘90s as a powerful force amongst the post-dance music and computer noise milieu, it provided a warped reflection of what came before it, but also suggested new possibilities and horizons. With Get In he presents a deeply personal, romantic view of music still firmly attuned to the world around him, whilst warping its contours and offering new escape routes.
We have to highlight the incredible S200729 as a perfect example, rendering a helical knot of trance arpeggios in vaulted hyperspace - which would be enough to occupy one track in many artist albums - before gleefully ripping the rug with a vicious, blindsiding noise attack that’s possibly the most life-affirming electronic music passage of 2016.
Elsewhere he sucks us into deepest black ambient vortices with Fvo and proper psychoacoustic head floss with 20150609 |, whereas Aahn rumbles like the trapped resonance of a rave recorded from the next warehouse, and the album’s other glistening highlights, Line Angel - rightly hailed in the press release as “a new form of minimalism for the post internet crowd - and the crenellated classical climes spied in Mfbk leave us in a deliquescent, thizzing mess, eager and willing to do it all over again.
This is a incredible piece of work for anyone with a taste for proper electronic music and into Oneohtrix Point Never, Florian Hecker, Leyland Kirby, Xenakis, Dozzy, Lorenzo Senni etc, etc, etc.
Almost universally derided when it came out in 1998 (I remember, it was shocking), TNT quickly became like a family member we'd listen to it repeatedly, totally entranced by its quirky combination of jazz, post-rock and experimental electronics.
Okay so some levelled that it was too 'light' and had lost the Kraut intensity of previous records, but it's an album that takes time to truly appreciate and hearing it now it seems bizarre that anyone could dislike it. With one of the most memorable sleeves of the 90s, it features 'Swung from the Gutters', 'I Set My Face to the Hillside' and 'The Suspension Bridge at Iguazu Falls' - combining everything that Tortoise do so well. Classic, innit.
‘Rare Pleasure’ is prolific LA-based musician and producer Mndsgn’s third full-length album for Stones Throw, following ‘Body Wash’ (2016) and ‘Yawn Zen’ (2014).
"This is Mndsgn’s first traditional studio album as compared to his repertoire of homemade beat records. Album contributors include Kiefer, Swarvy, Fousheé, Carlos Niño and more. ‘Rare Pleasure’ is an appreciation of sharing life, inward reflection and the gift of joyful catharsis in the face of adversity."
Definitive edition of Miriam Makeba’s final album for Reprise in 1970, remastered by The Carvery from original reel to reel tapes.
"Miriam Makeba’s ‘Keep Me In Mind’ was her last album for Reprise and reflected major changes in both her own personal life and politically within the USA. After becoming a national star globally following the success of ‘Pata Pata’ in 1967, she had fallen out publicly with her mentor and ‘Big Brother’, Harry Belafonte. Makeba made the decision to return to Africa following an invitation from President Sékou Touré of Guinea. In Conakry, Makeba met Stokely Carmichael, President of civil rights organisation the SNCC and they would later marry. “With the Vietnam War, the student protests and the riots in the ghettos, everyone is scared,” Makeba said. “Everyone is afraid that there will be a great black uprising.” Makeba’s concerts were widely cancelled and both her and Carmichael were followed relentlessly by the FBI.
Reprise also terminated her contract but brought in producer Lewis Merenstein for her final recording for the label, best known for his work with Van Morrison on ‘Astral Weeks’. Merenstein suggested two Van songs for Makeba to cover, ‘Brand New Day’ from the ‘Moondance’ sessions and ‘I Shall Sing’ and further songs were added to reflect both the political climate and Makeba’s own memories including Stephen Stills’ ‘For What It’s Worth’ and Lennon & McCartney’s wistful ‘In My Life’. New compositions by Makeba and her daughter Bongi included ‘Lumumba’, a personal tribute to Congolese independence leader, Patrice Lumumba. Reflective of the times, the album is infused with a palpable despair but, as in all of her music, a quiet determination still shines through."
Following in the footsteps of the Minna Miteru compilation of Japanese indie music, Morr Music and Alien Transistor have again joined forces to release The Fruit Of Errata, a compilation introducing the world to the intimate DIY pop of yumbo.
"Led by songwriter, pianist, and occasional vocalist Koji Shibuya, the Japanese band has released four albums since forming in 1998. This compilation draws fifteen songs (eighteen on vinyl) from those albums, and some ancillary releases, to uncover a biographical narrative of yumbo, showing how Shibuya’s songwriting, and the group’s limber, sensitive playing, has developed over the decades. It also places them squarely within a tradition of home-spun but ambitious Japanese pop that takes in Maher Shalal Hash Baz, Tenniscoats, Nagisa Ni Te, Yuzo Iwata, Kazumi Nikaido and more.
yumbo is very much the vision of Shibuya, an amiable iconoclast whose songs seem informed by some of his early listening – there’s the playful seriousness of Maher Shalal Hash Baz’s Tori Kudo here, an avowed long-time hero for Shibuya, but also the flexibility of freely improvised music. You can also hear Shibuya’s fondness for Mayo Thompson and The Red Crayola in both the idiosyncracies of the writing and the egalitarian looseness of the playing. Shibuya also carries those energies into the group’s membership – there are fantastic stories of him having a conversation at a record shop, or overhearing someone speaking, and asking the person in question to join yumbo as one of their various singers. He seems open to chance as a driving force, as a way to make space for unexpected possibilities to blossom.
The great achievement of yumbo and Shibuya, though, is translating all of this into beautiful, unpredictable pop songs. There’s a gorgeous soul-inflected lilt to “A House” that makes it delightfully affecting; the swaying brass on “Storm” propels its melody to a moody, dreamlike conclusion; the nakedness of “The Sweetest Mass” is slightly reminiscent of Carla Bley’s more pop-focused writing, crossed with the classicism of the songs that spilled from the Brill Building in the ‘60s. Throughout, Shibuya renders pop a deeply personal experience; you can hear musings here on friendship, family, intimacy, the complexity of relationships, mortality, and imbalances of power. These musings are also shadowed by real-life events: the effects and impact of the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011 are captured in songs like “Umbrella People” from Onibi.
Throughout the performances on The Fruit Of Errata, Shibuya and the group play with tenderness; they also often draw on other players to flesh out the music even further, two such guests being the aforementioned Tori Kudo (on “Umbrella People”) and Olympia, Washington’s LAKE (on “The Devil Song”). Community-minded and generous in approach, the writing of Shibuya and the music of yumbo is never less than lovely, and The Fruit Of Errata is a welcome introduction to their world. Open and gentle, confident and generous, these pop songs are filled with charm and spirit."
IST are: Rhodri Davies: harp, preparations, Simon H. Fell: double bass, preparations, aqnd Mark Wastell: violoncello, preparations. This 5CD set is a comprehensive study of live performances made by IST between 1996 and 2000, begining at the very outset of the group's career and features their debut concert at Club Orange in London and charts it's way through further gigs in London, Billericay, Norwich and Cambridge. The 20 page booklet contains written contributions from Mark and Rhodri, Jo Fell, Simon Rose, Nick Smith, John Butcher, Phil Durrant, Graham Halliwell and Chris Goode together with previously unpublished photographs.
"When IST’s first release, Anagrams to Avoid came out (recorded in 1995 and released in 1997), it caught listeners by surprise. It’s not like those who had been listening to Simon H. Fell weren’t used to the bassist’s wide-ranging musical interests, from his compositional frameworks for improvising ensembles like Compilation I and II and Music for 10(0) to found-sound tape constructions like Nightfall Two (Standards I) to solo outings to his coruscating duos with Charles Wharf and the Hession/Wilkinson/Fell trio to the trio Badland, where pieces by Ornette and Ellington sidled up to original free-bop excursions. But here was a new kind of group, an acoustic string trio of bass, cello and harp, with Mark Wastell and Rhodri Davies, two players most had never heard of before. But what jumped out immediately was their timbral palette as well as the way the three were beginning to rethink strategies toward group improvisation.
Improvisers were certainly fully engaged in efforts to subvert the touchstones of guitar attack, sustain and feedback, reed and brass multi-phonics and the percussive colorations of small instruments within ensemble settings. With their instrumentation, IST sidestepped that entirely. The three stretched the elemental sonics of their respective instruments, building on the intrinsic resonances, harmonics and layered overtones evoked from the strings while adding timbral orchestrations of multitudes of extensions and preparations. Working within that soundscape, they began to zero in on a micro-detailed consideration toward interaction. Over the course of five CDs, this set documents that exploration, from their first live performance in London in 1996 through a 2000 performance in Cambridge during a particularly active period for the group.
The first disc, capturing the group’s public debut at an upstairs room in a London Victorian pub, documents the group working their way through an extended 35-minute improvisation followed by two shorter outings. Things start out with a crack and flurry of bustling activity with rapid back-and-forth amongst all three players. From there, the trio navigates between vigorous intensity and areas where density is dialed back and the vivid nuances of the instruments emerge, from resonant bass through shuddering overtones, clipped and muted pizzicato, scratched textures, shimmering harp shadings and rustling skitters. The two 10-plus minute pieces that follow dwell more in open densities with some particularly quiet dynamics in the second piece, underscoring the group’s embrace of striated detail which they would continue to gravitate toward. Disc two kicks in a year later, around the same time as the gig that resulted in IST’s second release, Consequences (Of Time And Place) as well as the release of Anagrams. The two pieces here settle more quickly into the fields explored on the shorter pieces from a year before, extending them into longer excursions. One can hear a more assured group sound, honed through countless practice sessions and more performances. On these improvisations, even as velocity mounts, there is a more measured activity level at play and the layers work more transparently.
Discs three and four, from a bit later in 1997 and early 98, present music from a series of IST + performances where the trio opened, a guest played a solo, and then the four would play together. It’s worth noting that trio improvisations from each of the dates were included in excerpted form on Ghost Notes and are presented in their entirety here for the first time. First up is a collaboration with John Butcher. The two IST trio improvisations reveal continued development of group strategies, homing in on a fully integrated group sound with extended sections of atomic interaction. Even during more vigorous sections, the three utilize a sparing approach, parsed with pools of quiet and heightened attention to timbral detail. By this time, Butcher had been playing with Wastell and Davies as part of Chris Burn’s Ensemble and immediately syncs into the collective tactics. One does notice how much reed sonorities jump out against the acoustic string reverberations, but Butcher is a consummate listener and effectively balances his playing within the trio. Over the course of three improvisations, the four musicians increasingly gel, with quavering reed multi-phonics and keypad pops melding with the variegated string stratifications.
By February 1998, when the meeting with violinist Phil Durrant captured on disc four took place, Wastell and Davies had recorded the first release by Assumed Possibilities with Durrant and Burn and had worked together with him on the session released as Strings with Evan Parker. This string quartet was a natural extension of those sessions. The 23-minute IST trio improvisation that opens the set is a particular highlight, with the group zeroing in with steadfast, reciprocal focus throughout. The piece is imbued with nuanced playing, particularly the closing section of brittle, metallic interplay. The four quartet pieces are compact studies ranging from 5 to 10 minutes. Each piece carves out a particular sonic area with varying levels of density, pace, and articulation. With the addition of another string player, the quartet tends toward a more open sound, with tendril-like individual parts in constantly shifting, angular layers, forking off and then twining back in.
Marking the end of 1998, a particularly active year for the group, IST embarked on an Arts Council-funded tour. During the course of the tour, they presented improvisations alongside compositions written by and for the group, something they hadn’t done before and wouldn’t do again. The three headed into the studio before the tour to record a handful of these compositions which appear on Ghost Notes. Disc 5 includes the final performance of the tour in Norwich, with a program of two improvisations interspersed amongst compositions by Davies, Wastell, Durrant, Guto Pryderi Puw and Karlheinz Stockhausen. In his comments between pieces captured on the recording, Fell does note that the differentiation between improvisation and composition “is sometimes tenuous” and in a blind listen, the distinctions are mostly blurred.
However, a few things jump out in the 40-minute set. Firstly, the flow of the set is somewhat different than that of other live sets documented in this box and on other live recordings of the group, with seven pieces ranging from 3 to 8 minutes long rather than their usual set including an extended improvisation along with some shorter outings. Secondly, in the improvisations as well as a few of the compositions, a delineation of the three instruments is far more apparent. Listen to the opening improvisation and the resonance of Fell’s dark, sharply plucked strings, Wastell’s move between percussive pizzicato and abraded arco, and the spiky attack and shimmering sustain of Davies’ harp, all in clear focus in contrast to the more amalgamated collective sound of much of their playing. Their reading of Stockhausen’s “Intensität” from his text pieces Aus den sieben Tagen builds with layers of arco accentuating the elemental qualities of resonance from each of the instruments. The pointillism of Guto Pryderi Puw’s “X-IST” is another case, with each voice is clearly articulated across the countervailing lines. However the trio’s approach toward a more coalesced sound is still in full evidence like on Durrant’s composition “Sowari for IST,” which centers on muted textures and timbres of the instruments shot through with high-pitched overtone resonances. It is also great to hear another version of Wastell’s “Ritmico” dedicated to John Stevens, which appears on Ghost Notes, with its percussive flecks restricted to the wooden part of each of the instruments with no use of string permitted.
After their appearance as part of Derek Bailey’s Company at a series of concerts in Marseille, IST didn’t play together during much of 1999 while Wastell was living outside of the UK. Upon his return in the spring of 2000, the trio began their last run of active playing. The box closes with a set from Cambridge in May 2000, comprised of a 20-minute improvisation along with a short 5-minute piece. By this point, The Sealed Knot, with Wastell, Davies and Burkhard Beins, had formed, Davies had begun working in what would become an ongoing duo with John Butcher, and the strategies of minutely considered interactions, which came to be shorthanded as the reductionist scene, were beginning to germinate. The extended improvisation recalls of some of the frameworks employed in the compositional pieces melded with their ongoing development of a group sensibility. Here, the trio fuses laminal textures, gossamer overtones, miniscule creaks and pops, percussive attack and resonant sustain, areas of brisk activity and pools of considered composure with rapt listening and unremitting deliberation. The 6-minute concluding piece is a study in interactions of thwacks, plucks, hammered vigor, the resultant ringing decay, and craggy, abraded arco. While the rest of 2000 would remain relatively busy, group activities slowed somewhat after that, with only a few gigs, albeit high profile ones in international settings, each year between 2001 and 2003. Davies and Wastell were becoming far more active with other projects and Fell had launched his more compositionally lead group SFQ and begun plans to move to France. The group played as part of the Freedom of the City Festival in 2003 and then performed their final, although unbeknown at the time, concert together as part of Confront’s 20th anniversary celebrations in 2016. The trio were planning a series of 25th anniversary shows at the time of Fell’s death. This box, along with the release last year of At the Club Room (their second ever gig) and two archival recordings on Davies’ Archif series more than doubles the number of IST releases previously available. Beyond simply serving to fill discographic holes in the previously scant documentation of the group, this box provides an invaluable opportunity to delve into the development of this vital partnership. The fact that each disc stands on its own, deserving deep and repeated listens, is a testament to the music that Fell, Wastell, and Davies created." Michael Rosenstein
This one feels as if it's been a long time coming - Soul Jazz collect tracks from the new wave of cold wave: bands and artists influenced by chilly '70s and '80s synth music, from early electronics and new wave to post punk and beyond. Featuring Kriedler, FIT Siegel, Céline Gillain, Krikor Kouchian and more.
There's an enduring thrill of early DIY synth music that's seen records that, at the time, were barely heard beyond a few heads hit cult status in recent years. This has caused a surge of interest in "cold wave" music, from record labels like Minimal Wave and artists like Cold Cave, to club nights and even festivals prioritizing dry, edgy Euro synth sounds that sound as if they were released on limited cassette in 1982.
Soul Jazz has assembled this bumper comp to celebrate the resurgence of interest and the existence of a new generation of artists who owe as much to techno and hip-hop as post punk and Krautrock. Most of the artists here are European, but FIT Siegel's standout 'Wayne County Stomp' at least reaches out to Detroit with jagged, wiry synth lead and bubbly sequences that remind as much of Carl Craig as Visage.
Elsewhere, German band Kriedler tangle with doom disco on 'Kannibal, Céline Gillain impresses with the eerie, percussive 'Fight or Flight' and Violent Quand On Aime sound as if they've never left the late '70s with their chugging self-titled anthem. It's nostalgic material, that can't be ignored, but it's high quality throughout.
Loraine James follows 2019's charming "For You & I" with this melancholy scratch pad of disparate influences, from drill and R&B to IDM and ambient. Unashamedly beautiful music that perfectly captures an uncomfortably anxious period for British culture.
We don't need to explain what a grim landscape we're dealing with in the UK right now. The fallout of Brexit, Tory austerity, corruption, fascism, systemic racism and COVID-19 mismanagement has left the country in tatters and culture is still locked into a heave-ho of cheeky privately educated poshos attempting to fight or f*ck each other. The rest of us are left to weep on the sidelines, gathering the scraps from perpetual isolation.
Loraine James offers a breath of hope with her third album, "Reflection". More focused than its predecessor, it explores the brain-dissolving isolation of the last year without tripping up into cliché or falling into a spiral of self-pity. Instead it mirrors James' listening habits, obsessions, and yearning, with a mixture of angsty electronics, sub-toppling low end and soaring pop excess.
Representing London with a subtle drill pulse that strings together the album, James weaves through sounds collected from her love of SOPHIE, Telefon Tel Aviv and the Fractal Fantasy Crew, bending pop into dreamy, melancholy forms. Opener 'Built to Last' offers a tearful take on VR club music, with a guest appearance from Xzavier Stone; 'Self Doubt' sets James' own listless lyrics against fractured drums and lost synth pads; 'On the Lake Outside' submerges vocals from Baths in a fragrant concoction of dreamy harmonics and abrasive DSP.
James saves the best for last though with her Iceboy Violet collaboration 'We're Building Something New'. The Manchester rapper echoes with sober urgency, evoking Billie Holiday to sum up complicated feelings about a summer of division, violence and isolation. James meanwhile fuses drill with out-of-time lovers pop, speaking clearly on decades of Black British dance music in the process. With her collaborators in tow, James has built something new, and it's a privilege to bear witness.
Dynamic, silver-toned industrial ambience and hyperminimal techno from Mexican pioneer and master of the craft Murcof.
Since 2002's game-changing "Martes", Tijuana's Fernando Corona has been stirring cinematic orchestral flourishes with minimal techno padding. In recent years, his compositions have skewed more towards industrial ambience, but the glacial, glitchy push of Pan Sonic and early Raster is still just about present in his work. "The Alias Sessions" compiles work Corona created for performances alongside the Alias dance company, so his focus on rhythm is brought to the foreground once again; the tracks slither from warehouse gloom and grim, ominous ambience to pulsating intensity, with considerable effort taken to evoke a theatrical mood.
Standout 'Unboxing Utopia' sounds like a war drum from the depths of hell as a filtered 4/4 throbs beneath discordant prangs of anxious electronics. But there's a light at the end of the tunnel; through the doom and gloom, Corona lets light shine through, often building the tracks into jubilant post-rock-esque crescendos, while 'Underwater Lament' sounds like Sleeparchive trapped in a flooded cave, slowly running out of air. Cheery, then.
Oh my jeffing days, it finally happened! The Japanese edition of RZA’s seminal OST for ‘Ghost Dog’ finally lands to answer our prayers.
One of our most sought-after albums never to appear on vinyl (aside from a sneaky edition you could find at Hardwax if u were sharp-eared), RZA’s first soundtrack, for Jim Jarmusch’s mystic assassin thriller starring Forest Whittaker, has been top of our list since the day we walked out of the cinema after watching it in 1999 as a wide-eyed scrawny 16 y.o. That cinema has since been demolished, but our love for RZA’s score has never diminished, and we’ll happily sit with the looped-up 1 hour version of its ‘Ghost Dog Theme’ that was uploaded by some absolute G to YouTube on given day of the week.
With the benefit of hindsight, it’s not hard to hear the album as punctuating a whole epoch of music and culture, practically executing the final word on sample-driven, old skool beatcraft at a time when rap and hip hop were phase-shifting into the whole jiggy era of Timbaland and The Neptunes, and the old analog world of comic books and Kung Fu flicks on VHS were on the cusp of being consumed into the nostalgia industry - an idea perhaps neatly reflected in the film’s story about an assassin who prefers to follow ancient samurai codes of honour in an era of modern gangsters.
As many have discovered to their annoyance, it’s only this, the Japanese version, that carries the full soundtrack, where other versions were full of crap filler from Wu Tang affiliates. We’re talking some of RZA’s crispiest drum chops, soul stabs, and the most atmospheric work in his catalogue; 35 minutes of lethal neck snappers from the top shelf of ’90s hip hop, and we couldn’t be any more gassed to finally clutch a copy that will be coming to the grave with us.
(RZA voice) Raise your swwwords! Ultimate tip!
For Ben Wheatley’s adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s 1938 novel, Clint Mansell supplies fittingly romantic, sweeping string-heavy arrangements, now issued on vinyl with a bonus song by Sleaford Mods’ Jason Williamson
The psychological thriller stars Lily James, Armie Hammer, and Kristin Scott Thomas playing out the bestseller’s gothic tale depicting “an unnamed young woman who impetuously marries a wealthy widower, before discovering that both he and his household are haunted by the memory of his late first wife, the title character.” The novel has previously been adapted most famously by Alfred Hitchcock, and Clint Mansell’s score hews this new version to a classic style, with few surprises save for Jason Williamson’s appearance.
Live In Stuttgart 1975’ is the first of a curated series of Can live concerts available in full for the first time on CD and vinyl.
"Originally recorded on tape, these carefully restored live albums will comprise the entirety of each show in the format of a story with a beginning, middle and end, with Can’s performances taking on a life of their own. Available on double CD and triple vinyl and. Double CD plus 6-page gatefold card pack with 16 page booklet that includes new extensive sleeve notes by novelist Alan Warner, archivist Andy Hall and manager Sandra Podmore Schmidt. Initial 3LP pressed on orange vinyl and packaged in a triple gatefold sleeve with 12” 4-page booklet that includes new extensive sleeve notes by novelist Alan Warner, archivist Andy Hall and manager Sandra Podmore Schmidt."
Canadian ambient mainstay Scott Morgan conceived his latest album from a three minute fragment of orchestral music, which he subsequently stretched, squashed and splayed into ten melancholy movements. One for fans of GAS, Deaf Center, Marsen Jules et al.
Morgan has been a reliable fixture on the ambient circuit since the late 1990s, developing a musical language that has helped shape the genre. For 'Clara' he took a short sample of a 22-piece string orchestra in Budapest and used it to inform the development of the album. To add grit, he cut the initial three minute recording to a 7" acetate, then "scratched and abused" it to infuse the sounds with character.
It's actually difficult to perceive exactly where the original orchestral strings end and Morgan's well-worn processes begin. Each track sounds different, but there's a pervasive sense of European orchestral melancholy that underpins everything. It's like the buried grandeur of Wolfgang Voigt's time-shifting GAS material, or Marsen Jules' Arvo Pärt-influenced ambience. The music has the character of a movie soundtrack, but hones in on subtle shifts in an attempt to represent light, shadow and depth of field.
Double deep, rare and classic Rastafari roots cuts from reggae’s golden era and golden studio, starring Freddie McGregor, The Wailing Souls, The Gladiators, Horace Andy, Devon Russell, Cedric Brooks, Count Ossie and Judah Eskender Tafari
“Soul Jazz Records’ new Studio One collection ‘Fire Over Babylon: Dread, Peace and Conscious Sounds at Studio One’ features a stellar selection of 70s roots music - classic and rare tracks recorded at Clement Dodd’s musical empire at 13 Brentford Road in the 1970s.
Rastafarian-inspired Roots music was an ever-important aspect of Studio One’s output from the start of the 1970s onwards and this album features many of the ground-breaking groups and artists that established the sound of Jamaica during this decade and beyond.
Featured here are seminal artists such as Freddie McGregor, The Wailing Souls, The Gladiators, Horace Andy, Devon Russell, Cedric Brooks, Count Ossie and Judah Eskender Tafari alongside a host of lesser-known rare cuts made at Studio One from artists such as The Prospectors, Viceroys and Pablove Black.
Studio One and founder Clement Dodd’s connection with Rastafarianism dates back to the early 1960s, with Dodd accompanying members of the Skatalites up to the hills of Kingston to listen to the music of the Rastafarian Count Ossie and his drummers. The album sleevenotes discuss how Clement Dodd’s musical links, as well as his role in heading the most important record label in Reggae, are in many ways linked to the beliefs of Rastafarianism.”
Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) and the Dessner brothers’ (The National) Berlin/Brooklyn artist collective 37d03d pivot to melodic rap from Indianapolis’ Sirius Blvck, Oreo Jones, and Sedcairn Archives, aka 81355 (pron. BLESS)
Exactly the sort of rap music that we’d imagine indie-pop folks to pluck out, ‘This Time I’ll Be of Use’ is flush with Sedcairn’s prim melodic hooks and polite beats, where Oreo and Sirius trades bars in a vintage, nimble style - basically well enunciated and flowing, with harmonic choruses. No rude stuff.
Bird Ambience brings several fresh changes for the artist. Until now, Fujita would separate his acoustic solo recordings, the electronic dub made under his El Fog alias, and his experimental improvisations with contemporaries such as Jan Jelinek. The new album sees him unite all these different facets for the first time into one singular vision. He also makes a lateral leap from his signature instrument the vibraphone – on which he created his acclaimed triptych Stories (2012), Apologues (2015) and Book of Life (2018) – to the marimba, which takes centre stage on his new record alongside drums, percussion, synths, effects and tape recorder.
“The way of playing the marimba is similar to the vibraphone, so it was kind of a natural development for me and easier to start with, yet it sounds very different”, explains Masayoshi. “The marimba bars are made with wood and it has a wider range than the vibraphone, which gives me a bigger sound palette with more possibilities. I play the instrument with bows and mallets, and sometimes manipulate it with effects.”
Bird Ambience also marks his liberation from fastidious preparation for past solo releases to new endeavours in improvisation. “I prioritised trying to capture the wonder which happens during those occasional magic improv moments. Sometimes the mic-ing and placement of instruments was pretty rough; things weren’t perfect and everything was done quickly, but it turned out as the final recording. Overall when I couldn’t decide between two takes, I told myself to go with the first”, Masayoshi recalls.
Arranged with a perfect Kanso-like balance, the unhurried pace of Bird Ambience allows each sound and phrase enough time to be mindfully absorbed and savoured. This subtle but affective work carries ethereal remnants of Midori Takada’s minimalism, the static atmospheres of Mika Vainio, To Rococo Rot’s organics and the bucolic electronics of Minotaur Shock. Fujita vaporises contemporary and classical, ambient and dismantled dub, controlled noise and fragments of jazz into an atmospheric, static mist, which he skilfully coerces into new forms.
Over the slow-motion, skeletal glitch jazz drums of opening title track ‘Bird Ambience’, Masayoshi elegantly weaves celestial choral samples, the operatic voice of fellow Erased Tapes artist Hatis Noit and gentle marimba phrases. This exemplifies his sparing but substantial sound, with a composition that’s equal parts beauty and noise, with plenty of space in between. “When I was working on Bird Ambience, I had this very strong but blurred image in my mind that I wanted to capture, but had to find the right sounds. It was like when you try to remember a dream you just had, but it falls away and disappears”, recounts Futija.
The poem You Will Hear Thunder by Anna Akhmatova is an invisible root for the lead single ‘Thunder’, which blends mildly abrasive effects on the marimba with a warm feeling of benevolence. Its pretty-like-a-music-box-miniature counterpart was “inspired by an illustration for a textile design called ‘Anakreon’ by the architect and designer Josef Frank, which was inspired by a 3500-year-old Greek fresco of a blue-bird”, Masa explains.
Echoing the weight of the title track’s distorted marimba bass notes, on ‘Gaia’ this recurring theme has grown in gravity and gravitas, with the majestic riff now evoking a deep spiritual resonance. The saturated ‘Noise Marimba Tape’ features what sounds like an electric guitar stretched into acid lines, joined by bird-like chirrups, cartoon effects and a vibrating, bouncing-ball-motion-blur; whilst the balletic arabesques of ‘Morocco’ dance from twinkling filigree, to a cascading crescendo.
In a brief return to solo vibraphone, the gossamer ‘Miyama No Kitsune’ forms the most unadorned moment, reminding us of just how delicate the musician’s nimble touch can go. ‘Nord Ambient’ takes the listener through electrically charged layers of synth tones, before Fujita ups the rhythmic ante on ‘Stellar’, with choppy trip hop drums beckoning the sound down an unexpected tangent. The spiky, clipped beats juxtapose with winsome melody, creating a rough-with-the-smooth flawed beauty. The album closes with two meditative pieces, ‘Pons’ and ‘Fabric’, where a drone sustains throughout, slowly drifting away into infinity.
After 13 years in Berlin, Masayoshi recently relocated to a new home and studio in the rural Japanese mountain village of Kami-cho, Hyogo, following his life-long dream of creating music in nature. Even though the album was entirely recorded in Germany before he left, it has this palpable sense of reverie found in the natural world. From there we can only imagine the kind of impact his new life will have on future works."
By name and nature ’Barren’ yields a clammy quintessence of NWW, playing live in various configurations in Florence and Karlsruhe, 2012/2013, with both judged to be among their most unusual recordings.
The ‘Confluence’ parts document the lineup of Steven Stapleton flanked by Paul Beauchamp and Colin Potter, performing at Museo Marino Marini, Florence, in 2012. For just shy of an hour’s length, the trio transition from an oily ooze of searching synth drones, chime trees, and death knell bells, to more gripping tracts of atone psychedelia benefiting from Beauchamp’s texturised electronics, and ultimately slipping down steepest wormholes into stygian rivers of pulsating sludge and epiphanic noise.
Their ‘Transfiguration’ quota follows with recordings made at ZKM Centre For Art & Media, Karlsruhe, Germany during the following year. A classic lineup of Steven Stapleton, Colin Potter and Andrew Liles commune at their quietest, incorporating elements of the still-to-be-released ‘Opium Cabaret’ in its super wide, reverberant soundsphere fleshed out with plasmic desert guitar tones, gloaming ether voices and ritualistic midnight atmospheres that eventually pass out into nerve-gnawing discord.
Lock the doors, shut the lights; it’s going to be a long night in with this one.
Penelope Trappes concludes her trilogy with a selection of shimmering, darkjazz dream pop. Like Hans Zimmer producing the soundtrack to a Cocteau Twins biopic or Bohren & der Club of Gore jamming with Arca-era Björk >> next level doomed romance.
Back in 2017, Australia-born, Brighton-based producer Penelope Trappes released her debut album "Penelope One" on Optimo. Despite having a background in jazz and opera singing, Trappes had never written her own music until after the birth of her daughter. Her debut was a chance for her to comb through feelings on birth, motherhood and the body, and find confidence in creating art in an industry that fetishizes youth.
Her second album was a more somber affair, building on her debut's skeletal doom gaze and exploring loss and grief. Now, with "Penelope Three", she finishes the story with a set of gothic tales of motherhood, anxiety and healing. It's a confident record that's been simmered in experience and emotion..
Trappes subverts this by twisting her words around delicate, reverb-soaked productions that sound timeless. The inherent jazziness - low-slung doom bass, smokey vocals, pitter-patter drums - is offset by smart, subtle electronic elements that feel satisfyingly invisible. The album's centerpiece 'Red Yellow' sounds almost like Art of Noise's 'Moments in Love' stripped its core elements, but sizzles with the smooth, low-slung crackle of Barry Adamson.
It's a mix of styles that's hard to get right (we're not gonna lie, we clock piss-poor Slowdive/Seefeel pastiches every week), but Trappes' navigates the territory with ease. Minimal, haunting and incredibly affecting, "Penelope Three" is a masterful third act.
black midi’s new album, ‘Cavalcade’, is a dynamic, hellacious and inventive follow-up to 2019’s widely-praised ‘Schlagenheim’, “a labyrinth with hairpin-turn episodes and lyrics full of dourly corrosive observations” (New York Times, Best Albums Of 2019).
"‘Cavalcade’ scales beautiful new heights, pulling widely from a plethora of genres and influences, reaching ever upwards from an already lofty base of early achievements."
Musical Willy Wonka JG Thirlwell returns to Editions Mego for his second Xordox album, using an array of synths to conjure up '80s OST jammers that remind of John Carpenter, Giorgio Moroder and Vangelis.
Widely known for his influential work as Foetus, industrial pioneer Thirlwell has barely stopped creating music since the early 1980s. In recent years, he's been most notable for his musical contributions to Adult Swim animated series' "The Venture Bros" and "Archer", aside from that he's channeled his remaining energy into the Xordox project.
'Omniverse' follows 2017's 'Neospection' and again hinges around Thirlwell's love of sci-fi synth soundtracks. Like John Carpenter's recent albums, these records blend the old and the new in a way that's not as nostalgic as it is fun. In fact, this run of tracks reminds us more of video nasty soundtracks than it does the more credible fare - at times it sounds like the accompaniment to some gruesome melt movie that hasn't aged nearly as well as you'd have liked.
Thirlwell recorded some of the material on EMS Stockholm's Buchla and Serge modular synthesizers and blends these recordings with software and hardware in his NYC studio. His expertise working on TV soundtracks sings loud; the press release describes "Omniverse" as "Kraftwerk scoring a video game" and, yeah, that's pretty spot-on.
Exquisite electronic subtleties from two generations of explorative artists, pairing the tactile sensitivities of cult Hamburg based Asmus Tietchens with Düsseldorf resident Miki Yui for the first time with marked success.
Mutual spirits, Tietchens and Yui have long operated in pursuit of a lower case, spectral muse, and now at the behest of TAL’s Stefan Schneider they present a beautifully insoluble sound that transcends the sum of their parts. Incredibly delicate, and full of nanoscopic movement, the seven tracks unfurl between passages of burbling pastoralism and oneiric drowse, with particular highlights in the hypnotic timbral artefacts of ‘Kagerou’ or ‘Usurai’, and their 10’ of lush scenery inhabited by peacocks and a canopy of phosphorescing animaliculae and atmospheres in ‘Akatsuki’ recalling aspects of Mark Fell & Rian Treanor’s tape for our Documenting Sound series.
“Asmus Tietchens: "After Stefan Schneider suggested to release a Yui-Tietchens album on his TAL imprint Miki and I quickly developed some ideas towards our eventual collaboration. We agreed upon an ongoing mutual exchange of material. We have both been very familiar with each other's music for a long time and we found our individual approach towards sound design to be uniquely compatible. We do not use our electronic tools in order to merely achieve the maximum of technical possibilities, but to illustrate aesthetic necessities. This entails a deliberate reduction and refined perception of the sonic characteristics of the material. Only this approach enabled us to fully realise the complete spectrum of the sounds and noises we were working with in order to construct this New Boat. Each and everyone of my treatments is exclusively based on a track supplied by Miki..."
Miki Yui: "The title of the album as well as the individual tracks have been inspired by conversations with Asmus. When we had a chat after one of his concerts, he told me about Kōdō, the Art or the Way of the Scent. It is an 8th century Japanese incense ceremony. Very frequently the names of Japanese incense sticks are derived from natural themes, e.g. Bairin is the plum grove, the scent of the first blossom heralding the end of winter. This poetry, the ephemeral nature of the world reminded me of Kigo, words from a Haiku (a form of Japanese poetry), which reference a particular season or a natural phenomenon. So I chose the names of the individual pieces from Kigo as if The Boat was exploring nature whilst sailing through the seasons. Only in retrospect I realised that the titles combined create this poem: Early spring a hazy view in the night (Oboro) Plum groves (Bairin) Over a Dayfly (Kagerou) A Milkyway (Amanogawa) Dawn (Akatsuki) Art of fragrance (Kōdō) On fragile thin ice (Usurai)"
Arch rave deconstructionists EVOL systematically break down and resequence a Roland TR-808 drum palette playing all 65,519 possible percussive chords over two properly trippy hours that provide the uniquely satisfying, rhythmelodic style of their “computer music for hooligans”.
At it for over 20 years now, and showing no signs of inquisitive inertia, EVOL’s Roc Jiménez and Stephen Sharp practically eat, sleep and pee electronic music at its purest, playful, and uncompromising. On ‘The Chord Catalogue For Eight-O-Eight’ they follow intensive interrogations on a plethora of pre-sets such as mentasms and 303s with two hour-long tracts of perpetual 808 chronics, arranging the purely percussive palette in a richly pleasing, pointillist cadence that, quite brilliantly, does not know when to let up. Depending where you stand on their - to our ears amazing - megamix of bars from acid classics, ‘Ideal Megamix’ or the likes of their jack trax for Diagonal, you’ve either stopped reading by now or will be jumping on it with energy.
To get conceptual, the 2hour+ piece is based on a 1986 Fluxus style composition by Tom Johnson, which demands the player plays all the chords possible in 1 octave of a piano; all 8178 of ’em. Applied to the 808 - the backbone of electronic dance music - and its 16 different voices, EVOL’s work utilises some 65,519 chords in an unyielding gush of percolated drums in a perfectly obsessive style. Your ears won’t lie from hearing the samples, but we can assure you that the metric swells and increasingly stacked chords of the extended piece are hypnotic, daft and delirious in equal measure.
"Acoustic nylon strung guitar is not something I usually play but a visit by Duck Baker to our home in Rome inspired me to dig out my Brazilian version. I met Duck at Stefan Grossman’s house in the late seventies and embarrassed myself by replying to his question about what did i play by answering "you probably wouldn't understand", assuming he only played folk music.
"He produced from his bag and gave me a copy of a record with him, Henry Kaiser, Eugene Chadbourne, Owen Maercks, Randy Hutton in improvised music trios. I think at that point I had never heard of any of them. I had just returned to the UK from Spain and was looking for a new direction for my music to go in and this, as well as discovering the London Musicians Collective, was what I needed to send me into some new musical space. These improvisations were recorded - on a Zoom H2 - in our kitchen in Rome, hence the title, Cumino in Mia Cucina.
I started touring England in the late ’70s when I was making folk/blues/ragtime guitar records for the Kicking Mule label. These tours made me a frequent visitor at the home of Kicking Mule boss Stefan Grossman in Fulham, and I met many other folk/blues musicians there. Mike Cooper was introduced to me as one of these, but he seemed unimpressed when he heard that I played such fare, and told me that what he really WAS interested in was any American guitarists who might be playing free improvised music. Well, says I, pretending not to be amazed, I guess I’m one of these guitarists you’re interested in, and there are some more on this record that just came out. So I showed him my copy of Eugene Chadbourne’s Guitar Trios LP, which featured Eugene, myself, and Randy Hutton on one side and Eugene with Henry Kaiser and Owen Maercks on the other. I don’t think Mike and I dared to play any free music in Stefan’s house that night, but we did get other chances over the years, and finally one day when I was visiting Rome in 2010, we sat down and recorded."(Duck Baker)
Gorgeous, minimlaist faded dub-pop from Colleen, written in the midst of illness, relocation and the breakup of a long-term romantic partnership and sounding something like Antena reworked at Black Ark Studios. Highly recommended if yr into Broadcast, Lucrecia Dalt, Camino Del Sol...
'The Tunnel and the Clearing' is Cécile Schott's most immediate and open-hearted album to date; after beginning her journey with the underrated, sample-based 'Everyone Alive Wants Answers', Schott tried her hand at instruments and looping, eventually settling on sparse, haunting song forms on 2013's 'The Weighing of the Heart', marked out by the inclusion her own voice. On her last album, Schott honed these songs into dub-influenced Arthur Russell-esque vignettes - 'The Tunnel and the Clearing' continues this journey, but completely reconstructs her creative methodology.
After spending months in almost complete silence in treatment and then in lockdown, Schott stripped her setup to use only a handful of instruments: a Moog synthesizer, Yamaha organ, the Roland Space Echo and a vintage Elka drum machine, following the same process with which some of her favorite albums were recorded, squeezing creativity from a basic set of tools. It's an age-old story, but it here pays off in spades; the songs here have a warm familiarity to them but sound more focused, delicate and emotionally raw then anything we've heard on a Colleen album until now.
'The Crossing' and 'Gazing at Taurus - Santa Eulalia' remind us of late nights spent in the company of classic Les Disques du Crépuscule, while bubbling, melancholy drone experiments like 'The Tunnel and Clearing' and closer 'Hidden in the Current' hark back to a rough-hewn simplicity that drew us to Schott's earliest work. It's an album full of songs underpinned by an almost early electronic froth, with an undulating dub pulse that makes it an essential listen for fans of Broadcast and the Focus Group's underrated collaboration or even Cluster and Eno at their most exposed.
Since 2017 FSOL have released whats called Calendar albums, digitally delivered monthly tracks that form a 12 track album by the end of the year.
This release picks the best tracks from the last 4 years and brings them together in a seamlessly mixed 50 minute journey - 11 songs from FSOL, Humanoid and Synth-a engineered and mixed by Yage at FSOL's 9Lwest Studios.
Mute boss Daniel Miller and producer-engineer Gareth Jones team up again after their historic work on Depeche Mode's "Berlin" trilogy and a slew of high-profile remixes. "Electronic Music Improvisations Vol.1" collects the duo's recent modular jams, sounding like early Tangerine Dream, Bee Mask, Sun Electric, M. Geddes Gengras or early Emeralds.
While Miller and Jones are notorious for their interest in vintage synth gear, their debut full-length was born from a fascination with affordable and compact contemporary rigs. In 2019, the duo dragged their modest setup to various studios around London and recorded a series of improvisations, exploring the limits of their new gear and paying tribute to decades of synthesizer music.
The obvious bedrock here is German kosmische music - Tangerine Dream's early material specifically - but Miller and Jones's improvisations nod to a newer wave of synth fetishists, as well as the 1980s industrial/DIY zone. "Electronic Music Improvisations Vol.1" is trippy stuff from the outset, all detuned arpeggios and pinging sequences, syrupy multi-oscillator drones and torched percussion.
Fans of the mid-00s tape/CDR scene explosion - think Emeralds, Pulse Emitter or Bee Mask - will no doubt be fascinated by this back-to-basics approach from two well known synth collectors. Sounds as if they had a blast.