For many UK ravers who came of age in the late ‘90s, Jonny L’s Piper was a total anthem. XL have picked out four artists - Peverelist, Powell, Zomby and Overmono - who were all roughly in their teens and twenties when Piper came out, and whom all clearly relish the opportunity to remix such a stone cold and influential classic following its 20th anniversary reissue.
Peverelist hews perhaps closest to the original’s rolling schematics, but at a slower, bass/techno compatible tempo, whereas Overmono retroactivate it with glancing jungle breaks in one of their slipperiest, smartest workouts. Of course, Powell doesn’t play it straight, re-imagining its 2-step chassis with a warped, acidic swagger that sounds closer to a ‘90s Autechre remix, but you can trust Zomby to come hard for the rave with a tense, achingly well poised tech-step mix for the dancers.
Students of Decay follow up last year’s incredible 'All My Circles Run’ album by Sarah Davachi with this new album by French horn player, field recording and audio installation artist Anne Guthrie.
Guthrie takes auditory snapshots of an abandoned city; fragments of song drifting out of basements and across alleyways and muffled conversations, coalescing into an evocative soundsphere that’s gently arranged to give the feeling of a directed narrative unfolding before your ears.
There’s a real art to this kind of field recording and Guthrie manages to neither over-simplify nor colour her recordings too much. Through much of this album the sounds are so alien and beautiful it’s impossible to work out if what you’re listening to is real or artificial; neatly mimicking the way our memory works. When a voice appears towards the end of Serious Water, it jolts you back to the mundane world around you.
Including "posthumous contributions from the artist's grandfather, a jazz pianist; obsolete media palimpsests (some vanity, some necessity); tap dancing on a peeling floor…” there’s something almost disturbing about the personal narrative on display here, as the label describe it…”an unsettling and strangely beautiful album - akin to something on the tip of your tongue, which, before you can name it, slips away into forgetting”.
Outstanding electro-acoustic concrète classic. If you’ve just copped the new Valerio Tricoli album for PAN and want to get some historical perspective, you need to hear this! Mastered by Rashad Becker...
“When Xenakis, who had fought against the occupation as part of the communist resistance, moved to Paris in 1947, it was the start of a highly creative and impressive career. Xenakis not only studied composition with Messiaen and became one of the most innovative composers of the 20th century, he also worked as assistant to Le Corbusier and worked on the Philips Pavilion for the World Exhibition in Brussels 1958.
His compositions were often based on mathematical principles, which give his music an unprecedented aesthetic and “shocking otherness” (The Guardian). The most famous works of Xenakis are his compositions for orchestra Metastasis, Pithoprakta and Terretektorh (where the 88 musicians were spread within the audience) and the electroacoustic compositions Persepolis, Concret PH, Bohor and La Légende d’Eer where he integrated his stochastic synthesis sounds for the first time.
As legendary as this piece itself is the impenetrable thicket of versions and stories around La Légende d’Eer - it exists in different releases, wrong sample rates, digitized backwards … this now is a new version, using the 8-track-version that Xenakis himself presented at Darmstädter Ferienkurse in august 1978.
As the automatic spatialization is lost, this became the only original version of this composition and is presented here (mixed down to stereo by Martin Wurmnest who tried to preserve the spatial movements as perceptible as possible, and then mastered by Rashad Becker at D&M) for the very first time.
La Légende d’Eer not only became a milestone of electroacoustic music but is also an important reference for noise and industrial musicians up to the present day”
Their third album, ‘Treasure’ also debuts Simon Raymonde on bass and finds the band scaling new heights in the most emotionally raw way imaginable. Impossible to overstate just how influential and well loved this album is - from the quietly anthemic Pandora (For Cindy) - probably played in every bedroom by every teenager in 1984, to the sublime 'Beatrix' and 'Otterley' - tracks that were played on Autechre’s Disengage Kiss FM show in the early 90’s and which gave us our first introduction to one of the most magical and timeless albums ever made.
"The band returned to being a trio in 1984 with guitarist Simon Raymonde joining their ranks in time for third album, Treasure. Produced by Robin Guthrie and featuring tracks ‘Lorelei’, ‘Ivo’ and ‘Persephone’, Treasure is often celebrated as one of the band’s finest works. As Pitchfork put it when including the album in their Top 100 Albums of the 1980s, “Treasure was titled simply enough. An adjective for the endlessly inventive melodic lines you'd find buried in these songs, and a verb for what you'd do with them for years to come.”
Rhythm and Sound freaks, take note - this album contains the original Chosen Brothers / Prince Douglas version of “March Down Babylon” - one of the heaveiest dubs ever made...
Engineer Douglas Levy was part of the original Wackies set up from 1974-75, alongside Lloyd Barnes and Jah Upton. For a while he would have his own label - Hamma - within the Bullwackies group; but besides Sugar’s International Herb, this 1980 dub album is his finest work. Wackies’ fans have been clamouring for its reissue ever since Rhythm & Sound began making the catalogue available again. Many of the rhythms are derived from a tape given to the studio by Sly and Robbie, containing their versions of recent Joe Gibbs hits. And there are brilliant treatments of Tribesman Dub - the rhythm for Tyrone Evans’ Black Like Me - and Wayne Jarrett’s definitive interpretation of Every Tongue Shall Tell.
Elsewhere Jah Batta takes deejay duties - likewise Prince Douglas himself. But the deadliest cut of all reworks another gift, Steel Pulse’s “Handsworth Revolution”, which arrived in a parcel of records from England the same weekend as the session: March Down Babylon Dub, with Bullwackie himself at the microphone in his Chosen Brothers guise, as steely and apocalyptic as Douglas Levy’s fabulous production.
The Basic Reshape of Carl Craig's 'The Climax' is without question one of the finest remixes of all time. Seminal 12" from Basic Channel....
It's a definitive, driving, hypnotic club killer that rebuilt the tribal mastery of the original into a logic-defying display of bass shuffles and aquatic percussion that kills us every time/
"Remake" Basic Reshape from 1994 relates to "Remake Uno/Duo", Carl's sample-based re-interpretation of Manuel Göttschings epochal E2-E4. Basic Channel take a radical, abstract, sample-free approach with a breathtaking slow motion groove under a multilayered sound sphere.
Collectible ambient label New Atlantis unspool a sublime 3rd release, the solo debut proper by label family member JQ, who presents “…An album about guilt, paranoia, depression, the relationship with self, and growing up in the digital age.”
Five years in the works and split in two parts, Past + Present, said to be “signifying life before and after invasive technology” JQ meditates on the hauntological nature of digital culture thru the apt prism of ambient music - a style of music p’raps best described as symptomatic or a side effect of the digital era, and whose popularity, effect and use directly correlates with the ubiquitous expansion of digital technologies.
A product of its environment, Invisible renders what history will come to regard as a unique perspective of humanity, as the the expression of someone who has experience life before and after the internet came to dominate societal structures and strictures. With that in mind, the first half traverses from the innocent chimes of Komorebi and U_1644 to balmy balearic boogie, befroe a creeping sense of tension comes into play with Memories ultimately leading to the lurking introspection of Spyware, bringing the Past to a close.
The mood explicitly changes on the B-side as 10 minute piece You Can Never Escape What You’ve Done connotes a stark sense of coming to terms with the present, resolving with the phthalocyanine electro of Once, followed by the ambient equivalent of a ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ with the wistful new age flute drift of Acceptance.
Stochastic Moods is an absorbing slab of micro-rhythmic and cosmically attuned electronics from drummer turned synthesist David Ross for Sam Weaver’s excellent, Salford-based Cusp Editions.
It sounds to us like Bellows conducting esoteric electro-magnetic rituals in the ether with Rashad Becker and Christina Kubisch, or equally Mark Fell jamming in hyperspace with Pekka Airaksinen, and comes with some suitably heavyweight conceptual background that requires a bit of explanation, which is included below for disambiguation. However, you’re recommended to just dive in feet first and ask questions later for best effect as the music’s abstract polymetric discombobulations and knotted, wormholing nature will reveal its logic in due course.
“In ‘A Conceptual Framework for Consciousness’, Dr. Joachim Keppler elaborates on Quantum Stochastic Electrodynamic (SED) theoryto suggest that consciousness is a fundamental property of the universe rather than a material creation of the human brain.
Functioning as a resonant stochastic oscillator, the brain modulates with an all-pervasive radiation field of infinite energy and potential, termed the zero- point field (ZPF). The brain selectively filters resonant frequencies from the field’s spectrum into states of relative stability or balance situations that come to comprise our experience of consciousness.
Keppler compares the ZPF to Prana, the omnipresent ‘vital principle’ or life-force described in Hindu philosophy. It is believed that all forces of the human mind, (indeed the universe), are modifications of the life-force Prana. Ancient Indian philosophy and SED consciousness theory seem to share the notion that mind and matter are based on the same universal substrate and that their interdependence causes matter to shape consciousness and vice-versa.
I started thinking of improvising with control-voltage electronics as a parallel to these processes, regarding the electrical field as a metaphor for the zero- point field or vital principle.
Composing with volatile analogue systems now seemed an endeavour to distil stable voltage-states from the infinitely random potential of the electrical field, to determine audible balance situations for musical contemplation. Stochastic Moods is a paean to the joy of experiencing a pleasantly unexpected thought or feeling as it enters into consciousness."
D. Ross 6/03/2017
Further to the icy gothic designs of her Okovi album, Zola Jesus relinquishes four Additions plus augmentations of album tracks by Johnny Jewel, Katie Gately, Wolves In The Throne Room, and Joanne Pollock.
Of the Additions, the goth dance-pop of Bound and the prickling, off-key discord of Bitten Wool get us best. The remixes turn up some great highlights in Randall Dunn & Aaron Weaver ov WITTR’s diaphanous take on Exhumed, and the nocturnal glyde of JJ’s Ash To Bone remix.
RIYL: Popul Vuh, Henry Flynt, Arthur Russell, CAN, La Düsseldorf, Tony Conrad & Faust, Broadcast, Terry Riley & Alice Coltrane…
"A twelve-faceted sonic inquiry into celestial cycles, the rhythms of the natural world, and the illuminating nature of darkness, the accompanying album Bellowing Sun is the majestic culmination of Fennelly’s immersive explorations of the natural world’s sensory dimensions and the dialogues between musical traditions—acoustic and electronic, vernacular and avant-garde.
The solitary compositional genesis of the piece, and a significant portion of its early recording (before tracking and mixing sessions with John McEntire of Tortoise), occurred at Bean’s home atop a dune of fine quartz “singing sands” on the shore of Lake Michigan. Sonically, Bellowing Sun is both kaleidoscopic and telescopic in nature, offering a radiant palette of rhythmic, textural, and tonal complexity, as well as rapid shifts in scale, from the intimately corporeal to the dizzyingly cosmic.
All four J’s—Jaime, Janet, Jim, and Jon—appeared together on Undying Color, but have since solidified into a formidable, cohesive unit, a true band capable of increasingly expansive arrangements. Though divided into twelve movements, or aspects—zodiacal sectors, perhaps—the piece functions as a heroic, integral whole. The album’s sequence reveals a dynamic push and pull between contemplative stasis and headlong momentum, imparting a palpably physical mass to the cataracts of sound.
Bean sings on half of the tracks, including early stunner “Matchstick Grip” and the spectacular closer “Pause to Wonder.” Whether articulating words or intoning phonemes, her powerful, lucent voice elevates the proceedings to a devotional plane whenever it emerges from the saturated field of sound."
Calibre and Skeptical take Zed Bias for a pair of tuff, deft D&B workouts.
Calibre turns Give Up The Ghost into a rolling, soulful, but rudely driven liquid steppers exercise; Skeptical rebuilds Pick Up The Pieces as a taut, sparring minimalist roller harnessing spiky drums and sparingly used vox.
James Kelly (WIFE) lends bittersweet production touches to the brittle goth-pop styles of Norway’s Soft As Snow. RIYL Fever Ray
“The Norwegian-born, Berlin-based duo Soft as Snow release their debut album ‘Deep Wave’. It was created by Soft as Snow members Oda Egjar Starheim and Øystein Monsen, with additional mixing and production by WIFE of Tri Angle Records.
Their oblique leftfield pop recalls Cabaret Voltaire, Throbbing Gristle, deep Detroit techno, 90s IDM, Fever Ray, cold wave and the ‘Mutazione’ compilations, but is simultaneously fresh, original and groundbreaking, crowned with Oda’s esoteric and otherworldly voice. ‘Deep Wave’ follows two EPs - and as with those, the duo still avoid laptops, preferring analogue machinery, samplers, live drums and processed guitars - but this album marks a creative development, with their sound now deeper, more detailed and less simplistic than before.
Soft as Snow’s singular sound can in part be attributed to Oda’s background in performance art, (which brings a raw intuitive approach to vocals) and to Øystein’s drumming for various noise rock bands in Oslo’s underground scene (which explains their abrasive, rhythmic energy).
“We kept a lot of the first takes. There’s something with that first immediate energy that’s really essential and hard to recreate later on. It’s more important for us that the vocals have the right energy and feeling for the song, than being recorded properly and having to refine the lyrics”, says the duo.
Soft as Snow are two people making music with little acknowledgement for conventions of the outside world and ‘Deep Wave’ gives a peek into the sound-environment they’ve created. It’s genuinely original music, governed by its own unconventional logic, language and creatively free sense of play that’s simultaneously childlike, fun, harrowing, angular and dark.”
In a smart turn of events, Daniel Avery’s second album scales between lush ambient downstrokes and signature, rolling techno for a sublime dialogue between the ‘90s and now, all aided and abetted by guests including Teresa Winter, Manni Dee, and James Greenwood (Ghost Culture).
As lushly prefaced by the Slow Fade EP, Avery’s Song For Alpha continues to diversify his bonds in sublime style, strafing from slow acid to rolling and purring techno and back again with a time-dilating and immersively expansive effect that lends itself as well to headphone travels as smoky afters with a pack of pals.
On one level, its aesthetic and effect can be taken as a sincere nod to the hauntology of UK dance music, revelling in its phosphorescent ambient afterglow and beautifully distilling the paradoxical nature of being locked in your own world within a sweaty mass of dancers, whilst also conveying the detachment of perception between generations who experienced the original rush, those xennials who came in its slipstream, and a current generation raised on YouTube clips of the original.
On another level, he’s also tapping into a far more ancient, arcane thread of tribal ritualism and new age thought, of which Rave music, like the psychedelic movement of the ‘60s, is a manifestation of timeless esoteric desires that erupts in mass popular consciousness. In that sense, from the name to the cover artwork, Song For Alpha pursues a similar spirit to Ami Shavit’s In Alpha Mood, existing in a wider vein of hypnotic synthetic music with James Holden’s The Animal Spirits and AFX’s SAW volumes.
But that’s all another way of saying that the album, from the lissom Plastikman acid strokes of Stereo L thru to the diaphanous ambient techno of Endnote, which features a gasp of Teresa Winter teased into cirrus drones, is just a lovely example of that nostalgic but forward facing thing UK dance-as-folk music does best.
Nearly 10 years since meeting Mica Levi as Kwesachu, and 5 since his début LP ilp, Kwes. charmingly reminds us of his modern electronic soul on Songs For Midi - a 6 track EP written in dedication to his young niece, Midori and cousin, Connor, who both helped out on the artwork.
Clearly a personal endeavour, and very much inspired by an image of youthful innocence, Songs For Midi expresses, nay exudes, a bright optimism that really can’t be sniffed at. Kwes. gestures that it’s an effort in finding his own musical voice after working in the studio closely with everyone from Bobby Womack to Solange and Kelela in recent years, and we have to agree that he’s definitely located and rounded up his idiosyncrasies inside.
Popping with chromatic colour and beautifully freed of fixed meter, Songs For Midi is a brilliant study on the vividness of youth, as seen and heard thru a personalised prism of modern electronic jazz fusion. In freehand strokes and with balletic lightness, Kwes. keeps us rapt from ribboning sino-esque scales of Midori thru the off-kilter tangggg and pastoral lushness of Ungry/Milk, to the superbly curdled 99flake and the head-spinning Blox/Connor with its strobing pop chops and swallow-diving strings.
RIYL Mica Levi, Cy An, Maxwell Sterling
Tropical Interface’s OM1 is a heat seeking blast of deconstructed club music placing listeners in the midst of a hyper present.
A rush of ideas that feel like they were almost created in real time by a youth with VR headset and gloves in a Minecraft-like environment, wielding huge objects in a frenzy of explosive collisions generating polychromatic splashes of radioactive ectoplasm. But don’t worry, it’s not real.