One of Constellation’s most pivotal contributors, Canadian violinist Jessica Moss, takes the solo spotlight to afford a stunning glimpse of her personal sonic weltanschauung in a rare, captivating away day from the GY!BE, Vic Chesnutt, Black Ox Orkestar, A Silver Mt. Zion and Carl Bozulich ensembles that she frequents.
It wasn’t until 2014, when Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra went on hiatus after years of touring, that Jessica began to tend to her solo work properly; resulting a self-released album, Under Plastic Island recorded by Guy Piccolo (Fugazi) and released in 2015. Maybe understandably that one flew under many folks’ radars, but the febrile dreams of Pools Of Light warrants and deserves much wider attention to its glorious swells of dissonant, coruscating strings and plangent, effected and multi-tracked vocals, all blossoming from a finely honed matrix of distorting and harmonising pedals, loopers and samplers - with no software plugins used whatsoever, we’re promised.
In the two longform pieces of Pools Of Light we hear Jessica channel years of live performance service on stage with an almost ineffably masterful control and vision, presenting a sound clearly anchored with the patience of someone used to holding their own in the eye of a storm, and instinctively operating at the intersection of myriad styles - neo-classical, improvisational, avant-folk and electronic - with a sure-footed sense of navigation that’s decidedly non-academic, but surely guided by emotion and the impression of the world around her, as she puts it in the liner notes: “Feeling love in a melting world”.
Dive in. Roll around and soak it up.
Faust's new album Fresh Air differs in several respects from its predecessor, Just Us. The recordings were made at Jean-Hervé Péron's rehearsal studio in Schiphorst in northern Germany, hypnotic pieces with the kind of noisemaking the band is known for.
"For the new album, Péron and Werner "Zappi" Diermaier were looking for communication with musician friends and the audience. The tracks were recorded in changing ensembles at changing locations in the USA (during a tour in 2016). In these community recordings, with friendly support from Péron's database of field recordings, a strongly shaded noise music emerged which extends its feelers to the remotest corners of the here and now. Droning, swinging, lusting for freedom, here and there holding out quite stoically as machine-room blues.
On board are the freely fabulous Barbara Manning in a live lecture, Jürgen Engler (Die Krupps) in overdub, and Ysanne Spevack as a wonderful wave-maker on the viola. The seven and a half minute title track begins with the poem by a French school friend of Péron (translated and recited in Polish) and ends in an industrial sound inferno. The singer cries for "Fresh Air" as if it is being taken away from him. Jean-Hervé Péron offers a political reading: "Can you breathe calmly here, or are we being poisoned?" "Engajouez Vous!" Péron presents this franco-Faustian artificial word to the audience and rewrites the Marseillaise for the here and now in the track "Chlorophyl". And finally, Zappi has his mini-dada performance with "Schnobs" and "Bia": a small dialect-based text piece, which starts with chlorophyl, goes over the meadow past the cow and lands with the farmer who drinks a beer and schnapps and suddenly sees two cows.
The story of the band can tell that tale nicely. As Krautrockers, Faust had a worldwide career. On their first three albums in the early 1970s, they inhabited the vast field from improvisation to bricolage to rock'n'roll with the ease of rogues and the determination of declared sonic renegades. One can still feel the breathing of this music in current Faust pieces, in the stone-age thudding of "Fish", which Faust anticipated in 1972 on "Mamie Is Blue". "We let the music play through us," says Jean-Hervé Péron. Jean-Hervé Péron has a little tip for us: Listen to the fish.”
The third album from Philadelphia's Nightlands (War On Drugs’ Bassist Dave Hartley), is an exercise in synthetic nostalgia.
"Each of the nine songs use meticulous choral arrangements and bittersweet pop melodies to evoke a unique type of longing, not for the past, but for a future that once lay ahead but has drifted out of reach. For Dave Hartley, the artistic force behind Nightlands, the answer is found on an inward retreat, away from the cold static of modern life and into the warmth of love and protection.
I Can Feel the Night Around Me showcases Hartley's ¬nely tuned ability to layer his voice and conjure some of the most beautiful and elaborate virtual choirs in modern music. If his ¬first two records were vocal layering experiments, his third stands as Hartley's thesis statement: "I was determined to use vocal stacking to enable my songwriting, not shroud or obscure it." He recorded most of the album alone in a cold warehouse basement, which he affectionately calls The Space -- it's where The War on Drugs formerly rehearsed and stored their equipment. "The dissonance between the sound of the album and the atmosphere in which it was recorded is pretty striking," Hartley says.
Indeed the music seems more geographically inspired by the microclimates of the Lost Coast and the moonrises of Big Sur than the post-industrial cityscape of North Philadelphia. Perhaps his periodic westward sojourns and healthy obsessions with mid-career Beach Boys albums and Denis Johnson's Already Dead: A California Gothic were influencing him more than he was aware. Despite the warm astral vibes of opener “Lost Moon," the song was born in that unheated warehouse basement during a record-setting blizzard. "I wanted to write a song like Jimmy Webb's ‘Wichita Lineman’," he recalls. "But it didn't come out like that at all.
I ended up in a lonely and unexpected place, which was a really nice surprise." The massive "Only You Know”, a cover from Dion's Phil Spectorproduced masterpiece Born to Be With You, blends perfectly with the rest of the album's shades of psyched-out doo wop revivalism If there is an outlier on I Can Feel the Night Around Me, it's the exotica-tinged “Fear of Flying,” which Hartley composed with minimalist synth virtuoso Frank LoCrasto before the two had ever even met. Soft tangles of voice wash up on the shore of the song's warbling synth backbone, pushing the album briefly into the sunlight without sacri¬cing its melancholy, late-night vibe. It's the sound of the earth turning, night falling. Soon it will be dark, but there's still light seeping over the horizon. And that's a beautiful thing."
San, Ripley and Jeffrey commit the Yang to Vol.1’s Yin with a fuzzy, psychedelic journey from darkness to light.
“Meaning all things magick and supernatural, the root of the word occult is that which is hidden, concealed, beyond the limits of our minds. If this is occult, then the Occult Architecture of Moon Duo’s fourth album - a psychedelic opus in two separate volumes released in 2017 - is an intricately woven hymn to the invisible structures found in the cycle of seasons and the journey of day into night, dark into light.
Offering a cosmic glimpse into the hidden patterning embedded in everything, Occult Architecture reflects the harmonious duality of these light and dark energies through the Chinese theory of Yin and Yang. Following the Yin (feminine, darkness, night, earth) represented on Occult Architecture Vol. 1, Vol. 2 presents the Yang.
Yang means “the bright side of the hill” and is associated with the male, sun, light and the spirit of heaven, and as such Vol. 2 explores the light and airy elements of Moon Duo’s complex psyche.
“In production we referred to Vol. 1 as the fuzz dungeon, and Vol. 2 as the crystal palace,” guitarist Ripley Johnson explains. “The darkness of Vol. 1 gave birth to the light of Vol. 2. We had to have both elements in order to complete the cycle. We’re releasing them separately to allow them their own space, and to ensure clarity of vision. To that end we also mixed Vol. 2 separately, in the height of Portland summer, focusing on its sonic qualities of lightness, air, and sun. Listeners can ultimately use the two volumes individually or together, depending on circumstance or the desired effect.”
Vol. 2 was mixed in Portland by the band’s longtime collaborator Jonas Verwijnen.”
In December 2016, after more than a year of touring the world behind her 2015 album ‘Over And Even’, Joan Shelley and Nathan Salsburg headed a few hours north to Chicago, where they joined Jeff Tweedy in Wilco’s Loft studio for five days.
"Spencer Tweedy, home from college, joined on drums, while James Elkington (a collaborator to both Tweedy and Salsburg) shifted between piano and resonator guitar. Jeff added electric accents and some bass but mostly he helped the band stay out of its own way. “He was protecting the songs. He was stopping us before we went too far,” says Shelley .
The Loft proved essential for that approach, as it was wired to capture every musical moment, so no take was lost. If, for instance, some magic happened while Spencer added drums to a tune he’d never heard, or while Elkington tinkered behind a piano, the tape was rolling. Indeed, half of these songs are first takes.
“The first time is always the best. That’s when everyone’s on the edge of their seats, listening to not mess it up,” Shelley says. “They’re depending on each other to get through it.
It’s fitting that the resulting set is self-titled. These are, after all, Shelley’s most assured and complete thoughts to date, with lyrics as subtle and sensitive as her peerless voice and a band that offers support through restraint and nuance. In eleven songs, this is the sound of Joan Shelley emerging as one of music’s most expressive emotional syndicates."
Nite Jewel ups her workrate with sublime results found in Real High, arriving only a year on from her Nite-Funk hook-up with Dâm-Funk and the lush Liquid Cool album, itself landing after a five year hiatus. The West Coast songwriter has definitely found her groove now, making for a perfect smoking partner or accompaniment to dusky evenings.
Teaming up with tentacled producer Cole M.G.N. (Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, Julia Holter, Devonte Hynes) again, the artist aka Ramona Gonzales stirs up a subtly infectious suite of syrupy ’90s R&B and synth-pop gems across Real High, each one drenched in Cali sun and the classic vibes that percolate between all of her records since Good Evening and the outstanding What Did He Say 12” for Italians Do It Better back in 2008 (2008?!?!!).
So, ten years later she’s lost none of that louche but trim lushness, evident in the hazy slow disco gleam of I Don’t Know at the album’s core, and radiating out from the blissful downstrokes of Real High or the perfectly tucked Janet Jackson stylings of Who U R, with special mentions also going to the lip-biting sensuality of Part Of Me’s molasses shuffle and the underwater soul of R We Talking Long.
Uh huh; she’s still got it. Recommended.
Perfume Genius, nom de poster-wraith of musician Mike Hadreas, releases his fourth album, ‘No Shape’, on Matador Records. The album was recorded in Los Angeles, produced by Blake Mills and mixed by Shawn Everett.
"Perfume Genius’s 2014 breakout album ‘Too Bright’, featuring seismic anthem ‘Queen’, marked a musical and performative leap that sounds unlike anything before or since. With his new songs, Hadreas goes even further, merging church music, makeout music, R&B, art pop, Krautrock and queer soul into his take on stadium anthems, completing the journey from critically acclaimed underground hero to fully fledged pop auteur.
Lead song ‘Slip Away’ encapsulates this bold, expansive and sophisticated sound, marrying powerful and intimate songcraft with a newfound visceral and immersive sonic gusto.
Of the album, Hadreas says: “I pay my rent. I’m approaching health. The things that are bothering me personally now are less clear, more confusing. I don’t think I really figured them out with these songs. There’s something freeing about how I don’t have it figured out. Unpacking little morsels, magnifying my discomfort, wading through buried harm, laughing at or digging in to the embarrassing drama of it all. I may never come out the other side but it’s invigorating to try and hopefully, ultimately helpful. I think a lot of them are about trying to be happy in the face of whatever bullshit I created for myself or how horrible everything and everyone is.”
In a bio for the album, writer Choire Sicha says, “God is all around actually and some of these songs are about being equal and some are about the witchcraft of believing. This is church music the same way Prince’s ‘Black Album’ is - too dirty. It’s femme art pop the way Kate Bush’s ‘The Dreaming’ is - too scary.”
"A penguin stands in the middle of a scorching desert, far away from its natural habitat. This mirrors composer Arthur Jeffes’ journey and exploration into a new musical territory. Penguin Cafe have evolved into something of their own at the hands of Arthur who started the band in 2009 with the continuation and homage to his father’s legacy, to the late Simon Jeffes’ Penguin Cafe Orchestra. Now, their upcoming album echoes reminiscent sounds that embrace the new.
The album title refers to a saying by his father that “we wade in a sea of imperfections…”, reflecting upon the idea that beauty can be found amongst the chaos. “If there is a narrative to the album it’s coming to the acceptance of the imperfections in all aspects of life; moreover, the recognition that these imperfections and tiny randomnesses are in fact what make up the best parts”, Arthur explains. This has also been highlighted by the striking cover artwork designed by FELD under the art direction of label founder Robert Raths, resembling a lone figure adapting to and accepting its surrounding environment.
Predominantly self-composed, the new album also features covers of electronic works by Simian Mobile Disco and Kraftwerk, along with a re-working of Simon's 'Now Nothing'. Arthur has developed from the traditional folk and jazz heritage Penguin Cafe Orchestra is known for into another realm of blissful ambience and dance music, recreated using strictly acoustic elements.
“For this album I wanted to effect a departure from where we’d been up to now. The idea was to create a musical world that would feel familiar to an audience more used to dance records but stay true to our own values. So we replaced electronic layers with real instruments: pads with real string sections, synths with heavily-effected pianos, and atmospheric analogue drones with real feedback loops ringing through a stone and a piano soundboard.”
Endearingly head-spinning debut release of textured, pulsating plunderphonics from Jean Cousin aka Joni Void (and fka Johnny_Ripper); spanning elegant waltzes redolent of The Caretaker thru to slamming metal maelstroms and hiccuping, micro-edited avant-techno. While that may read like a mess, there’s a teasingly elusive logic underlying it all which lies in Void’s sleight-of-hand and hypnotic timing.
Under his newly minted Joni Void pseudonym, the Montréal-transplanted artist blends his Film Studies schooling with a sympathetic appreciation of DIY/lo-fi techniques to arrive at a very canny sense of freedom within his music. Now focussing ever deeper on the synaesthetic visual/sound and narrative qualities of editing, he’s arrived at a sort of concrete-pop that lives up to the enigma of his influences - Delia Derbyshire, Philip Glass, Burial - whilst smartly intersecting ground previously cut-up by the likes of Jan Jelinek or Matmos.
However, the biggest key to the record ids in its title, Selfless, which characterises his attempt to undermine egoist composer ideas of originality, or a sense of solipsism, and replace it with the voices of his friends - whether embedding the poetry of Natalie Reid into the fractured waltz of Observer (Natalie’s Song), or incorporating Ogun Afariogun’s rap, processed Moor Mother-style, into the fractious knock of Yung Wether (Ogun’s Song) - whilst the instrumental likes of the warbling Song Siènne fillets Erik Satie into something uncannily refreshing, and Doppler renders something new from familar sound sampled off free mp3s, and the intensely frayed loops of Cinema Without People quite literally nods to the important influence of Vicki Bennett’s People Like Us, twisting samples of her plunderphonic soundtrack to the film The Big Sleep into a miasmic fantasy that feels like the lister is keening through the silver screen.
It’s quite simply a wildly imaginative ride, one of the most intriguing things we’ve heard on Constellation since Sandro Perri and co’s Off World album, at least.
Stunning retrospective of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda’s devotional works collated from the private tape archive of the Avatar Book Institute. Seriously, this one's a proper head melter...
Luaka Bop commence a new series of releases themed around the global spiritual diaspora with this superb collection of rare devotional works from Alice Coltrane. Sure, everyone knows how great ‘Universal Consciousness’ (especially after that Superior Viaduct reissue from a few years back) but ‘The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda’ hones in on a period of her life that is less widely-known.
Undoubtedly moved by the passing of her husband John Coltrane in 1967, Alice embarked on a spiritual reawakening that took her out of the public eye and culminated with the establishment of a 48-acre Sai Anantam Ashram in Malibu, California in 1983. This secluded ashram gave Coltrane the freedom to explore her spirituality through music unfettered, performing countless solo bhajans, and group kirtans and experimenting with them and synthesizers using the complex structures learnt from jazz.
These would soon form a series of cassette recordings that were privately distributed throughout the ashram community on Coltrane’s own Avatar Book Institute label. After some rather iffy, illicit vinyl editions of those tapes recorded off YouTube made the rounds, it’s good to hear this music in newly-remastered form from the original masters (by engineering legend Baker Bigsby, no less) on this Luaka Bop collection.
And how vibrant it sounds! There is clearly a vast intersection of styles at play throughout, interspersing the spiritual incantations of the Vedic devotional chants with some unique song structures and uplifting synthetic experiments. You can easily foresee the likes of Flo Po, Antal and Four Tet playing Oh Rama and Rama Guru, two of the more rhythmically-bound kirtans that act as spiritual jazz precursors to Detroit techno with illuminating synths that would make Carl Craig blush with envy. At other times, it is Coltrane’s voice which acts as the guiding force, orchestrating a wonderful harmonious call on Om Shanti.
Hopefully this is the prelude to a wider LB campaign of Alice Coltrane reissues from the Avatar Book Institute era.
Forest Swords’ decayed yet magisterial palette broadens with the scope of his canvas on a widely anticipated new album, Compassion; marking his shift in line from bedroom producer of note to recent collaborator with Massive Attack and composer for the Assassins Creed video game.
His first new solo material proper since the Engravings [2013, Tri Angle] album locates the Merseyside-hailing artist scaling up his compositions to a more layered, pinched and grandiose sound but still kept just out of reach, somewhere in the middle distance, like the outline of a sunlit mountain range in the distance occluded by a spring storm.
The R&B ruggedness that was key to his cherished earlier work belies Compassion, too. Echoing a beat-driven aesthetic that resonates with the rich history of his home region, a place cleft between sprawling, sea-sprayed wilds, concrete brutalism and mock classical architecture that makes for strong allegorical comparisons with his music.
Likewise we’re tempted to read a struggle between roots-preserving conservatism and tentative progress in Compassion, finding a balance of pop appeal and rustic authenticity that characterises the albums highlights such as the contrasting couplet of Exalter, with its choked-back choral swells and folk/R&B sensuality, and the sombre sepulchre of Border Margin Barrier, wreathed in gorse distortion, or especially in the dirtied brass gleam and haunted, stately poise of Vandalism and the blue supine elegy of Sjurvival.
For sure he’s going to lose no fans with this one, and will likely gain a swathe more.
RIYL Richard Skelton, Massive Attack, Arca, Phillip Jeck...
Meditative, durational works for a 17th century organ, horn, trombone and microtonal tuba written by Ellen Arkbro, who has previously composed for early music ensembles and studied Just Intonation with La Monte Young, Marian Zazeela and Jung Hee Choi - Huge Recommendation.
“For organ and brass is comprised of two works by the Stockholm-based composer Ellen Arkbro. Both works focus on tuning, intonation and harmonic modulation. In previous projects, Arkbro composed for early music ensembles, wrote a series of durational pieces utilising synthetic tones and processed guitars, and, most recently, presented a work lasting 26 days at the Stockholm Concert Hall. for organ and brass looks back to Arkbro’s studies in Just Intonation with La Monte Young, Marian Zazeela, and their disciple Jung Hee Choi in New York, as well as with kindred spirit Marc Sabat in Berlin.
The title composition was written for an organ with a specific kind of historical tuning known as meantone temperament. It was only after locating an appropriate instrument—-the Sherer-Orgel dating back to 1624 in St. Stephen’s Church in Tangermünde, Northeastern Germany—-that Arkbro set about recording both for organ and brass and its counterpart, three. “Hidden within the harmonic framework of the Renaissance organ are intervals and chords that bare a close resemblance to those found in the modalities of traditional blues music,” explains Arkbro. “The work can be thought of as a very slow and reduced blues music.”
The work moves gradually through a series of long, sustained tones played by the organ and in parallel by a brass trio comprised of horn, tuba, and trombone. Arkbro’s treatment of pitch resembles the tuning strategies of La Monte Young. The brass parts were performed by microtonal brass trio Zinc & Copper, a group whose repertoire has included works by C.C. Hennix and Christian Wolff.
In Arkbro’s words, “the brass instruments and the organ fall into patterns of interaction in which a new breathing instrument emerges.” three, which follows the 20-minute title work, deploys the same principles of harmonic relativity. In removing the organ from the instrumentation and switching to a different meter, three acts as an intimate counterpoint to the ritual drone cycles of the title piece.
Ellen Arkbro is currently studying for her Master’s degree in music composition at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm. Her work has been performed in Brooklyn, Stockholm, Norberg, Bologna, Gothenburg, Berlin, Birmingham, and Malmö, and on Swedish National Radio.”
Despite the unfortunately cheesy artwork, Out of The Dark Room collects some 24 of Max Richter’s “most beautiful compositions for film” c. 2008-2015, issued in the wake of his string of major solo and score releases. So great is Richter’s wingspan now that you’ve maybe heard some of them without realising they’re from the Richter scale - a definite measure by which to hold up modern classical film soundtracks.
Equally adept at majestic string orchestration as he is with bellicose electronic tension and romantic themes - as proved in the first three tracks inside, and as you would hope from a blockbuster OST composer - Richter is patently fluent in the language of film music, evidenced in his work with everyone from Tilda Swinton and Robert Wyatt to his work on films such as Waltz With Bashir, Sarah’s Key, Wadjda, Disconnect, The Congress, and Testament of Youth - all included inside.
The composer himself comments on his role: “I think music is a kind of amniotic fluid and the film lives in it. Sometimes music can be at the forefront, playing a supportive role without even realising it, but if you take it away you would miss out on the basics.” And there you have it, a smart portrait of the man’s mature and widely scoped latter-day oeuvre, 2008-2015.
With ‘Best Troubador’, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy pays homage to a longtime and forever hero, the late Merle Haggard.
"A singer who, some 25 years previously, first performed in public by playing a Merle Haggard song, Bonny has often cited Merle’s work in performance, on records and in conversation with anyone who was around, even talking to Merle himself for Filter magazine in 2009.
‘Best Troubador’ flips through his song book, landing on pages unmoored from their time and located anew. Moving from 1978 to 1969 to 2003 to 1981 allows the album to circle Haggard’s music in a simulation of thought and memory, slipping around from spot to spot as if they were discrete impressions, unknown but knowable yet."
Horse Follows Darkness is the second record by Delia Gonzalez, her follow up to the album “In Remembrance”. The title is taken from a werewolf genre film her 8 year old son Wolfgang had created. At this time, Wolfgang also turned Delia onto a genre of cinema she had always resisted - the American Western.
"Delia explains that what she observed “was all relevant - the album is based on our personal experience of moving back to America (from Berlin) and the journey that followed. The record is a manifestation of that, and what one creates for themselves under the given circumstances. Coming back to America, I felt like a foreigner and NYC / America felt like the Wild West. Most Westerns from the 1960s to the present have revisionist themes. Many were made by emerging major filmmakers who saw the Western as an opportunity to expand their criticism of American society and values into
a new genre.”
The narrative of the record is one of re-encountering the frontier mentality that shaped the country but somehow never faded. This time as a foreigner. The genre of the Western remains pertinent, many of the same stories of that brutally deromanticised era are still relevant today. America hasn’t changed - the cast, times and settings have, but we still hold onto the same ideal. Horse Follows Darkness is essentially a modern electronic soundtrack for the Revisionist Western. Even the idea for the record cover is inspired by one of the most well known modern Westerns, Robert Altman’s McCabe & Mrs Miller.
The album was recorded with Abe Seiferth at Transmitter Park studios, which Delia likens to “going to the finest tailor”. Abe became an integral part of the recording, playing guitar and helping to suggest experimenting with different synthesizers, something Delia was keen to do. Delia refers to Abe as a magical and incredibly intuitive collaborator” regarding the sound of the record. The music that emerged from these recording sessions combines a range of influences - from the compositions of Erik Satie to ‘Salon De Musique’, the solo piano record by Su Tissue (of the L.A. punk band Suburban Lawns). The record also took on a much different shape and sound with the introduction of the Sequential Circuits Prophet VS, as well as a vintage Korg Poly synth and the Roland SH-101. The golden era Krautrock recordings of bands like Neu!, Cluster & Harmonia were touchstones as well, the repetition, swirling soundscapes and locked-in rhythm tracks.”
The entry into the Bohren universe...
"Since their founding 25 years ago, few bands have managed to create such a mythical musical cosmos as Bohren Und Der Club Of Gore. With their dark instrumental tracks they have earned a huge fanbase over the past few years, and this set brings together all the highlights of the Bohren catalogue including new songs and versions..."
This CD brings together the two main strands of FSOL’s current output, namely the “From the Archives" series and the "Environments” albums.
"The "From the Archives” series is no exercise in barrel scraping, FSOL are well known for their prodigious output regularly going through periods of creating several tracks a day. Many of these tracks would be 'lost’ only for not fitting current projects, created only for special live events and broadcasts or would change so drastically during the recording process that the original version would bear little resemblance to the released track.
From the Archives seeks to give light to these tracks that are as good as anything released on their ‘official’ albums. As the title suggests, each Environments album is a journey through a specific mood, place or environment. Views brings together much of the piano work FSOL have done over the years"
Originally released in 1992 by Che Records, Disco Inferno’s debut album ‘In Debt' is now available as double limited edition vinyl LP package including one previously unreleased track and with new artwork and sleeve notes by 90’s music zeitgeist legend Neil Kulkarni.
"Almost entirely out on their own, out of step with the times, Disco Inferno were widely ignored and underappreciated during their (pre-internet) existence. Remaining largely unknown beyond a small but slowly expanding cult of devotees, they were probably the most ambitious and isolated band of the '90s. Over a six-year span (1989-95) they were also quite simply, jaw-droppingly great - a virtually peerless group mining a steady stream of uncompromising, pioneering recordings. One of the first wave of 'post-rock' acts (and perhaps it’s ultimate example), they combined avant-garde aesthetics with a basis in solid pop hooks, credibly depicting suburban alienation and national decay through embittered, intelligent lyrics.
Whilst it's now almost second nature for a band to incorporate digital technology into their armoury, you'd struggle to find anyone who went anything like as far as Disco Inferno. In 1992, they took the quantum leap from their modest beginnings to totally rewire themselves and become the most radical, forward-thinking guitar band on the planet, with a revolutionary sample-based approach that was simply years ahead of the curve. Whilst numerous acts were making use of the sampler and MIDI technology, no other band integrated it so thoroughly into the process. DI didn't simply tack on a dance beat or spice things up with the addition of a few novel sonics or quirky quotations. The technology was hard-wired into the very heart of their music. Veering between the deeply challenging and the downright catchy, they continually attempted to push themselves forwards, resulting in two unrivalled albums and a dazzling collection of EPs that consistently redefined the boundaries.
Regardless of the injustices of history, Disco Inferno were without doubt a trailblazing, unique, utterly important band. With huge ambition and integrity, they rejected the easy routes and rewards. Setting themselves directly against the stylistic regression and rabble-rousing bluster dominating Britpop and grunge, against the bland facelessness of so much of the dance / electronic scene, Disco Inferno ought to have been widely championed as an antidote, a vital blast of nonconformist bravery and brilliance. In reality they received very little coverage. Buried away for way too long, their recorded legacy continues to offer revelations to the open-eared and actively inquisitive. Whilst it may have been their curse to have been overlooked throughout and long past their short existence, the chances of some overdue recognition rescuing them from the limbo of obscurity have nonetheless recently risen. Certainly more popular now than they were during their creative peak, you might detect either direct influence or certain similarities in the likes of MGMT, The Third Eye Foundation, Hood, Epic45, Piano Magic, Deerhunter (particularly offshoot projects, Lotus Plaza and Atlas Sound), Matmos, Animal Collective, Black Dice, The Avalanches, The Books, Battles, and No Age. But no-one has really come close to replicating their awesome output and utterly singular aesthetic. Whilst digital music technology has evolved dramatically, becoming smaller, faster, cheaper, and consequently far more widespread, Disco Inferno's inspired approach and consequent sound seems unlikely to ever be reproduced without seriously compromising its futurist spirit. Littered as pop history is with unsung heroes and buried brilliance, few bands are so deserving of such recovery as Disco Inferno."
22 years since Pygmalion and the band’s dissolution, Slowdive swoon back into earshot with Slowdive. With hearts bleeding all over their sleeves, Slowdive captures the sound of the band at their sunny best, with a renewed optimism and timeless dreaminess to fall right into.
““It felt like we were in a movie that had a totally implausible ending...”
Slowdive’s second act as a live blockbuster has already been rapturously received around the world. Highlights thus far include a festival-conquering, sea-of-devotees Primavera Sound performance, of which Pitchfork noted: “The beauty of their crystalline sound is almost hard to believe, every note in its perfect place.” “It was just nice to realise that there was a decent amount of interest in it,” says principal songwriter Neil Halstead. The UK shoegaze pioneers have now channelled such seemingly impossible belief into a fourth studio opus which belies his characteristic modesty. Self-titled with quiet confidence, Slowdive’s stargazing alchemy is set to further entrance the faithful while beguiling a legion of fresh ears.
Deftly swerving what co-vocalist/guitarist Rachel Goswell terms “a trip down memory lane”, these eight new tracks are simultaneously expansive and the sonic pathfinders’ most direct material to date. Birthed at the band’s talismanic Oxfordshire haunt The Courtyard – “It felt like home,” enthuses guitarist Christian Savill – their diamantine melodies were mixed to a suitably hypnotic sheen at Los Angeles’ famed Sunset Sound facility by Chris Coady (perhaps best known for his work with Beach House, one of countless contemporary acts to have followed in Slowdive’s wake). “It’s poppier than I thought it was going to be,” notes Halstead, who was the primary architect of 1995‘s previous full-length transmission Pygmalion. This time out the group dynamic was all-important. “When you’re in a band and you do three records, there’s a continuous flow and a development. For us, that flow re-started with us playing live again and that has continued into the record.”
Drummer and loop conductor Simon Scott enhanced the likes of ‘Slomo’ and ‘Falling Ashes’ with abstract textures conjured via his laptop’s signal processing software. A fecund period of experimentation with “40-minute iPhone jams” allowed the unit to then amplify the core of their chemistry. “Neil is such a gifted songwriter, so the songs won. He has these sparks of melodies, like ‘Sugar For The Pill’ and ‘Star Roving’, which are really special. But the new record still has a toe in that Pygmalion sound. In the future, things could get very interesting indeed.” This open-channel approach to creativity is reflected by Slowdive’s impressively wide field of influence, from indie-rock avatars to ambient voyagers – see the tribute album of cover versions released by Berlin electronic label Morr Music. As befits such evocative visionaries, you can also hear Slowdive through the silver screen: New Queer Cinema trailblazer Gregg Araki has featured them on the soundtracks to no less than four of his films.
“When I moved to America in 2008 I was working in an organic grocery store,” recalls Christian. “Kids started coming in and asking if it was true I had played in Slowdive. That’s when I started thinking, ‘OK, this is weird!’” Neil Halstead: “We were always ambitious. Not in terms of trying to sell records, but in terms of making interesting records. Maybe, if you try and make interesting records, they’re still interesting in a few years time. I don’t know where we’d have gone if we had carried straight on. Now we’ve picked up a different momentum. It’s intriguing to see where it goes next.” The world has finally caught up with Slowdive. This movie could run and run…”
Like his peer Jeff Mills’ recent Planets suite, Carl Craig continues to pursue a consolidation of electronic and classical composition with Versus, which was initially a live performance and now becomes a studio project adapting his techno for an orchestra.
We can’t really see the classical crowd getting excited for this, so it’s effectively just techno for people who can’t be arsed getting their handcrafted leather trainers mucky in the club.
Preeminent avant-garde composer Felicia Atkinson weaves myriad, filigree electro-acoustic and non-musical metanarratives in her totally absorbing follow-up to A Readymade Ceremony  - a remarkable album which attracted high acclaim worldwide and pushed her to the core of the modern experimental sphere.
Hand In Hand consolidates Atkinson's refined palette of modular and MIDI electronics with ASMR voices, field recordings and instrumental improvisation to subliminally affective degrees, whilst conveying the ambitious complexities of her sound art with a harmoniously organic, spaciously poised appeal.
Where her last album A Readymade Ceremony emerged fully formed from a protracted period of experimentation and research whilst based in The Alps c. 2013-2015, Hand In Hand finds Félicia building a metaphysical playground on its foundations, meshing recordings and lyrics - found and composed between her home in Brittany and Stockholm’s EMS facilities - into a finely sculpted and dreamlike web of subtle sensations and hyperstisised fiction.
In the process she brings closer together a wide-range of her artistic practices, incorporating elements of sculpture and painting along with sound installation, multichannel diffusion and live performance into her ever-expanding sonic vocabulary and grammar. Whether consumed on headphones or loudspeakers, it’s clear to hear this sharply honed sound sensitivity come into play as her carefully hushed vocals are bathed in placid yet suspenseful tones and almost imperceptibly underlined by an attention to timbral detail and those infrasonic frequencies normally ignored or blithely unattended by other composers within the field.
This all becomes apparent within the first side’s transition from warbling ambient-pop/neo-classical in I’m Following You to a stark contrast of hushed ASMR vocals and Rashad Becker-ish crack-bug electronics in Valis laid over Oren Ambarchi-esque bass tones, and then again into the hyaline gamelan dimensions of Curious In Epidavros, each laced with layers of spectral detail that only reveal themselves after multiple listens, and quite differently in each mode (headphones or speakers).
The dichotomies or paradoxes between the seen/heard/felt and unseen/unheard/elusive continue to beautifully, mystically inform and frame the rest of the album; begging us to chase her vocals around the stereo field of and mazy shimmers of Adaptation Assez Facile into the upside down oddness of Monstera Deliciosa’s rising basses and the curiously erotic lyrics about plants in Visage, before calving off into squashed rhythms with the hymn, A House A Dance A Poem, emerging into the sublime, weightless ambience of Hier Le Désert, and the surreal avian jazz Buchla strokes that resolve No Fear But Anticipation.
In the best way this is a record that is immediate and enduring; transparent yet oblique, riddled with nuance and underlying layers that keener listeners will discover in their own time.
Volume 2 of Mac Quayle’s synth-based score for ‘Mr. Robot’.
"Quayle is well respected for his soundtrack work alongside Cliff Martinez on ‘Drive’, ‘Spring Breakers’ and ‘Only God Forgives’ and has written music for over 40 films and TV shows. Quayle’s score brings to mind works by composers such as Cliff Martinez, Cabaret Voltaire and Vangelis but it is ultimately its own dark, unnerving beast; at times strange, dreamy and atmospheric, whilst being almost unbearably claustrophobic at others."
Mica Levi is without question one of the most interesting producers working today, with numerous strings to her bow she has repeatedly wowed us with everything from skewed rhythmic edits to her chopped & screwed take on classical arrangements, hooky 3-minute pop tracks to squashed Urban mixtapes - always seemingly side-stepping expectations with a singular approach to everything she's put her hand to.
Following her standout, brilliantly unnerving score for Jonathan Glazer’s Under The Skin a couple of years back, Levi now returns with her second high-profile soundtrack, this time for Pablo Larraín’s Jackie.
There are some pretty amazing interviews with Levi around at the moment (both written, and a couple of totally hilarious Video ones where she makes no concession to what’s expected of her - go find them!), and the tiny insight she gives to the recording process does very little to explain quite how she manages to make a sound so utterly identifiable as her own, regardless of the scale of the production. You’ll find out that she likes to look out of the window when she’s writing, for inspiration, and that despite a classical grounding (at Guildhall) she likes to layer strings in such a way that they attain a kind of school-band quality to them, ever so subtly messing with harmonics in a way that defies tradition.
And that’s the thing with this incredible soundtrack - it sounds rich and beautiful and hugely accomplished, but also ever so slightly off. The use of silence, dissonance, recurring motifs that accelerate and unravel as the soundtrack goes on... is quite something to behold. It’s a hugely confident, self-assured and above all gripping score that is never emotionally heavy-handed, nor does it ever sound like it's trying too hard.
Rather than adapting herself to convention, Levi has re-moulded the genre itself to fit around her acutely non-conformist approach to composition and production and, in the process, has in some way re-set our expectations of what a film score can achieve. She’s done that twice now, on her first two goes at it, which is really quite staggering.
We’ve said this so many times now it almost goes without saying, but there really aren’t many people in contemporary music leaving quite as indelible a mark across so many different genres and sub genres as Mica Levi, in a way that, in our opinion, hasn't really been seen since Arthur Russell or Prince.
Stunning record from Colin Stetson, continuing to redefine the saxophone’s role in contemporary music with an innovatively percussive and soaring follow-up to the trio of New History Warfare volumes released by his neighbours at Montréal’s Constellation. This time Stetson takes charge of everything - from engineering to mixing, production and release - to present a gripping document of timeless instrumental virtuosity and visionary solo persistence that somehow sounds like Autechre whipping up an ancient Sufi dervish.
Anchored in spirit and narrative somewhere between NHW:Vol.3  and Never Were The Way She Was , and making pointed use of his instrument’s myriad percussive possibilities, All This I Do For Glory was typically recorded without overdubs of loops to effectively bring the listener unflinching close to Stetson’s practice, like you’re the lone front row spectator facing the artist and his massive bass sax in a huge but deserted auditorium.
Shut your eyes, however, and the man incredibly appears to diffract and multiply into trio or quartet; somehow blowing, singing and knuckling out loping, irregular rhythms thru his instrument all at the same time. To break it down as simply a result of circular breathing, microphone placement and extended technique would be doing the results an immense disservice, though, as Stetson is patently transcending method and style to achieve something far more ambitious and disbelief-suspending in each of the record’s six parts.
Like some archaeoacoustic rendering of Autechre playing unplugged in Plato’s Cave, the results thoroughly play with perceptions of electronic and acoustic music: firstly like a cranky blues geist divined by Áine O’Dwyer in the loping, stomping chamber blues-folk buzz of All This I Do For Glory; and then with supernal, lupine elegance described in the wordless vocals and furtive, zigzagging search-and-destroy tactics of Like Wolves On The Fold; or with a perception-baiting buzz and syncopated convulsion that runs ragged along the line between programmed electronic music, improvisation and modern classical in the supernatural, paraphysical emulation of Between Water and Wind and the naturalistic techno-vortices of Spindrift and In The Clinches; before scrambling previously unscaled heights of polyrhythmic scree and windswept harmonic updrafts with agility comparable to a flock of mountain goats traversing an escarpment in the complexity and fixated, hunched intensity The Lure Of The Mine.
It’s truly rare that we hear artists blur the line between perceptions of acoustic reality and the modelled projections of electronic music with such delirious, remarkable results as these.
Thurston Moore entered The Church studios in London to record new songs with producer Paul Epworth, the pair created a dynamic vibratory match (with the realization that they were both Leos, on the cusp of Cancer, born on 25 July.) The session was mixed by Randall Dunn (Marissa Nadler, Sunn 0))), Earth, Boris) at Avast! Studios in Seattle.
"Thurston Moore had been touring since the critically acclaimed release The Best Day introduced the core members James Sedwards (guitar), My Bloody Valentine's Deb Googe (bass) and Sonic Youth's Steve Shelley (drums). Rock n Roll Consciousness is Thurston's focus on this group's strength, beauty and promise, with an unleashing of James Sedwards' brilliant guitar play, Deb Googe's minimalist ethic and Steve Shelley's in-the-pocket swing dynamism.
The songs here are expansive, anthemic and exploratory with lyrics, co-written with poet Radio Radieux, investigating and heralding the love between angels, goddess mysticism and a belief in healing through new birth. They range from the opener "Exalted", an unfolding and emotional journey in homage to sacred energy and exaltation, to "Cusp" a springtime charging, propulsive piece with a feeling of Sonic Youth mixing in with My Bloody Valentine to "Turn On" a pop-sonic poem to holy love both intimate and kosmiche to the contemplative mystery of life-defining time travel in "Smoke of Dreams". The record concludes with "Aphrodite", a strange and heavy no wave rocker in salutation to the idol of love, beauty, pleasure, and procreation.
Rock n Roll Consciousness is a new chapter for Thurston, and promises to be a creative highpoint for anyone interested in his legacy of avant-garde music and writing, as strong a statement as anything he has recorded these last three decades - serious and precocious and strangely accessible."
As Young Druid, John T. Gast distills his most endearing Midi-eval energies into a suite of LED candle-lit fugues and funky Myrdas, making a sterling follow-up to his UVA_roots_and_destruction mixtape for Richard Sides’ Bus and the INNA BABALON tape in 2016, which was also self-issued on his 5 Gate Temple label.
Concocted from a bank of recordings alchemised on one box and a two-track recorder, Young Druid follows 12 ley-lines of investigation with findings equally applicable to occult soirees and the downtime of amateur archaeologists and tyrannical trap lords alike; conjuring a haul of exquisitely ornate, glyphic hooks, gilded dub grooves and smoked-out chamber themes of a supremely rarified yet earthly air.
They bear a striking resemblance to the bright, poised baroque MIDI orchestrations of Coil as much as King Tubby’s classic digi dubs, splitting the fine difference between K. Leimer’s new age experiments and Roland Young’s mystiphonic experiments or even Wiley and Geneeus’ early grime etudes; essentially divining an obscure, arcane and meditative sense of spirituality that transcends time and place with a broad appeal to armchair and headphone-dwelling mystics of all stripes.
If you need any prompts, check the creamy luft of Young Druid for a start, then the cross-eyed invocation of Fugue and the Jammer-meets-kenji Kawai stepper, Myrda, and Blue’s exquisite trip hop pallor and you should have a good measure of the variety and consistency of mood and vibe therein.
10 year anniversary celebration for Echospace with a new release from Deepchord presents Echospace.
"The set was recorded live at “Ghost In The Sound” on 05/26/2013 a few miles away from Hart Plaza. An official Movement after party curated by The Detroit Paranormal Society in association with Echospace, and now re-mastered by Rod Modell. From the second the bass dropped, it stole the breath from the room! This duo started off as barely more than a rumor supported mostly by the continous scarcity of their records.
The duo comprised of Detroit's Rod Modell and Steven Hitchell have spent nearly two decades producing low-key electronic music both bordering on the verge of myth. They're considered by many the most noted producers operating in the dub-infused aftermath of the Basic Channel axis and all its myriad offshoots. Once their critically-acclaimed The Coldest Season emerged on one the UK based Modern Love imprint, the curtain was unveiled and the sound of Echospace was born. They've often been coined the true heirs to the Basic Channel legacy but their work finds a home somewhere on the outskirts of the galaxy, where Detroit soul ties to Jamaican roots played through a tunnel in deep space.
This evocative, immersive sound that is Echospace was born out of a love and passion for analog circuitry, sound design, field recordings and non-conventional methods of recording. But it's also work that's quintessentially building upon the Detroit electronic scene where it was born, and that divine marriage of roots and vision make the work at once so highly considered, so pertinent and so timeless. This is the first new album from the Echospace duo since the critically-acclaimed Silent World (OST) 3LP/CD set dropped 5 years ago, it features live renditions of some of their classics as well as unreleased material. Expect gorgeous plumes of sound deeper than the ocean floor, a rich analog tapestry made and performed in the heart of Detroit, Techno City!"
At the invitation and by the design of Mark Greenberg (The Coctails, eleventh dreamday), half of this record was recorded mostly live at Wilco’s Loft Studio in Chicago with a band that included James Elkington, Gerald Dowd, Nick Macri, and Greenberg himself. Another half was made in TJO’s home studio in California with Devin Hoff, Wilder Zoby, Walt McClements and string supervisor Jim James. This album also features the voices of Chris Cohen, Carolyn Pennypacker-Riggs and Joan Shelley. Tara Jane ONeil plays guitar, bass, keyboards and percussion.
"TJO describes her new record as a “singer-songwriter” endeavor—a description which could apply to much, if not all, of TJO’s solo work. But there is something uniquely satisfying about this record’s willingness to offer individual songs qua songs, and to foreground her voice and lyrics. Unlike some songwriters, whose lyrics have the aura of sophistication because they’re essentially nonsense, or whose lyrics end up pretty banal once deciphered, TJO’s lyrics always repay the effort to discern them. She is a poet at heart, whose chosen phrases and images aim to communicate truly as much as to burrow and sound. As her vocals, lyrics, and melodies emerge into plainer sight on this record, it feels like an act of real, earned generosity. I get the feeling that she’s holding this record out to us, palms upturned, in the gold California sun; I already know it’s going to be one of my favorites.
Until the hammer comes down on us all—and even then—we’re living in an age in which music is more readily recognized as emanating from and belonging to people of all genders and sexualities. When TJO and I were coming up, there weren’t quite as many names for what we were or what we were doing, though certainly there were some. Nonetheless, we persisted. In TJO’s case, she pioneered. Like so many others, I basically just ran after whatever I saw in her, praying for a shred of that confidence, of that natural claim on innovation and presence that she seemed to possess. (I’ll never forget seeing TJO play with Come in the mid-90s, and promising myself on the way home to at least try, as a writer, to do whatever it was that I’d just seen Thalia Zedek and Tara Jane do with their guitars.)
In her music and life, TJO has modeled a new place to stand, new sounds to make, a new kind of artist and human to be. Her career is all the more remarkable for her music’s willingness to investigate quiet, minor, and fugitive sound even as her career at large has taken no prisoners. We are unspeakably lucky to be alive at the same time of her making and being—to behold, in real time, the unspooling of her unremitting ingenuity, voyaging, and grace."
Maggie Nelson Los Angeles, 2017”
The late, great J Dilla is widely regarded as one of the greatest hiphop producers of all time. Since his death in 2006, Dilla’s mother Maureen “Ma Dukes” Yancey has worked tirelessly to further her son’s legacy, and her latest effort is the new posthumous album Motor City.
For 2017’s archival Dilla delivery, Ma Dukes has picked 20 cuts from the archive of her son, the late, great hip hop architect, in dedication to Detroit, his home city.
His legion disciples will lap it all up. Us, we’re really feeling that medieval guillotine on the intro, the thumb pianos hooks of Motor City 3, and the low slung disco knocks of Motor City 14, but it’s frustrating hearing these amazing offcuts and wondering what mighta been…
Heart-rending new grime, pop and soul suite by the Gobstopper boss and Boxed co-founder following his productions for Katy B and P Money
Mr. Mitch presents grime as future UK soul music on his lush and deeply endearing sophomore album, Devout. Surrounded by family and friends and bringing his own vocals into play for the first time, it coolly and considerately sets a new benchmark for production and concepts within a style he’s helped to incubate for best part of a decade now.
Unmistakably fresh in aesthetic, but timeless in appeal, Devout is a contemplative album about “love, loyalty, family and the start and end of relationships” framing a cast of contributors including his son, Milo, as well as P Money and Palmistry, in a filigree-detailed, minimalist and melancholy dramaturgy intended to flip the script of typical grime and rap, as he says: “we all know the stereotype of the black dad with multiple children from multiple partners who is absent from he child’s life, we see it consistently in popular culture. I want to champion the alternative, which to me is just normal.”
Pricking the popular consciousness with a maturity and subtlety beyond many of his peers, Devout is frankly intimate and uniquely engaging; inverting grime’s aggressive side to reveal a resolute but aching soul within, in the process opening out its roadmap to encompass a vaporous, autotuned duet between Mitch and his oldest son, Milo at the front, which also reappears as the baroque R&B bump of Our Love, and thematic closure in the Afrobeats-inspired Oscar.
In between he touches almost club-worthy moments with Priority feat. P Money’s own thoughts on fatherhood, served honestly and without cliche, and we can also imagine Palmistry’s turn on VPN becoming a real percy in its own right, whilst Denai Moore and Py offer necessary balance of feminine pressure in the downstrokes of Fate and Pleasure, respectively.
But it’s all really tied together by Mitch’s quieter moments in between, like the blue - but not depressive - ambience of If I Wanted, or the artist’s lullaby-like dedication to his children in the deliquescent fragility of My Life.
One for the ages. UK soul music at its inventive best.
College return with their third full length album, a rich, glowing and nostalgic synth-based offering reminiscent of previous works heard on the ‘Drive’ soundtrack but at the same time exploring a unique and conceptual world - ‘Shanghai’ - giving College’s textural and atmospherical works a brand new dimension.
"‘Shanghai’ is an album inspired by the city itself - its culture and architecture; a melting pot of many things. Musically College draw on 90s sounds and the work from artists including Mark Snow, Angelo Badalamenti, Joe Hisaishi and Aphex Twin.
In College’s own words: “This record is a mysterious ballad in the heart of 1920s Shanghai... An invitation to travel, a tribute to the refinement and in the delicacy of a fantasized and blurry period of time, which fed the imagination of the musicians, the artists and the architects of this mythical city. Young chinese singer Hama, a Shanghai native, also honors me by singing on the title ‘Love Peas’.”
bvdub is Brock Van Wey, a native of the San Francisco Bay Area. Devoting his life to the SF rave scene in the late 80's, he began to DJ and promote his own deep house and ambient events in 1991, rising 10 years before a self-imposed exile to China in 2001 to escape the state of a scene he could no longer accept.
"He began to produce his own music in 2006, first releasing in 2007 on Night Drive Music. Soon after, his overtly emotional sound spread to Styrax, Millions of Moments, Southern Outpost, and Meanwhile, before a natural and gradual shift to his trademark ambient onslaughts saw him call n5MD, Glacial Movements, AY, Darla, echospace [detroit], Kompakt, his own Quietus Recordings, and many more home.
Now returned to his hometown, he has continued his prolific output, with a string of self-released CD and digital-only releases, a monolithic rework of Vortexual [element seven] for echopace [detroit], and his newest, most wistful and hypnotic work yet - his return to Glacial Movements, with Epilogues for the End of the Sky. Brock has also released numerous ambient projects under his given name, deep house as Earth House Hold, and drum & bass as East Of Oceans."
Typically sublime chamber works issued by Sonic Pieces with all the attention to detail you'd expect from this impeccable label. It’s a deeply contemplative affair rendered through layered strings and found sounds that will hugely appeal to anyone enamoured with the work of Richard Skelton or Max Richter.
The violin is at the core of these pieces, flanked by the low hum of double bass, piano and quiet percussive flourishes; all acoustically recorded with minimal digital processing. Berg does that thing of creating huge widescreen vistas with the most intimate of components; which is essentially what the Sonic Pieces label is all about.
It’s an exceedingly comprehensive, detailed reminder of music as an intimate art form, crafted by an unusually patient and perspicacious performer that by the sounds of it will soon be joining the likes of Johann Johannsson, Ben Frost, Max Richter and Cliff Martinez at the upper tier of artists who have emerged from the corners of this scene and gone on to establish a huge presence in the world of commercial, big budget film scoring.
If you’ve spent any time with Max Richter’s groundbreaking The Blue Notebooks, this one comes hugely recommended.
Disco, Funk and modernized Arabic Pop from Egypt!
"In the beginning of Habibi Funk, our search was focussed on vinyl records. Around a year ago though, we got to the point where we realized that it became substantially harder to discover music, that we enjoyed and hadn't heard before. It became apparent that it was time to start looking for other formats. Cassette tapes were the obvious alternative. These were introduced in the arabic world around the late 1970s. In some countries they took over a bit earlier, in others a bit later, but eventually they pushed the vinyl format out of the market in the 1980s. In Egypt this trend already even started in the late 1970s.
Al Massrieen was one of the first bands I learned about once I discovered the tape format for myself. They were really popular in Egypt in the 1970s and the more of their music I found on either tapes or Arabic pirate mp3 sites, the more I was becoming a fan. Only very few bands from the region can match the band's versatility as well as their strive for innovation. Hany Shenoda is the man behind the Al Massrieen band. He is a reknown figure of the Egyptian music scene and has worked with everyone from Abdel Halim Hafez to Mohamed Mounir. Al Massrieen was his attempt to introduce his ideas of modernizing Egyptian music, heavily encouraged by Naguib Mahfouz (Egypt's only winner of the Nobel Price for literature) after discussing his ideas with him.
Al Massrieen's sound goes from lush disco like "Sah" to psych rock like "Horreya" or incredible jazz fused pop on songs such as "Edba Mn Gded". I was shocked to realize the band seemed to be hardly known outside Egypt, even though I feel they're at least on the same level as Ahmed Fakroun. An relative obscurity which I largely attribute to the fact that their releases never have been pressed on vinyl (apart from a Greece best of LP which wasn't a strong compilation of the group's songs). One way or another it felt like this band and especially their composer, band leader and overall brain Hany Shenoda was in need to get some recognition outside of Egypt."
Tompkins Square's recent double-LP, Imaginational Anthem vol 8 : The Private Press shed light on forgotten, impossibly rare guitar recordings spanning several decades. Tom Armstrong's The Sky Is An Empty Eye is the first of several reissues planned by Tompkins Square of full albums by artists featured on IA8.
"Armstrong's self-released LP from 1987 sports blissed out acoustic numbers like the one featured on IA8, along with some electric workouts and even a deep pysch vocal tune. Tom's main mode of distribution for the album was handing the LP to drunken patrons at a bar in Pinos Altos, NM. Now Tompkins Square makes it a bit easier to acquire.
In his own words, today : I was born in Elmhurst IL, lived there 29 years. Had a brief career playing open mikes and bars for tips, drinks and nominal cash payments, even gave some guitar lessons. In 1984 I was offered a half partnership in an engineering firm in Dallas, so I moved to Texas. Made a big pile of money. My wife bought me a Tascam 4 track recorder for my birthday, I went crazy with it.
Recorded a bunch of melodies that had been rattling around my brain since I was 8 years old. Liked what I heard, decided to make an LP. It wasn't too hard to track down a studio to master my 4 tracks. By this time I was an old hand at graphic design for promotional material, so I designed the cover myself. Handed the albums out to business associates, as promotional material for other business interests, at a drunken open mike at a bar in Pinos Altos, NM. I continued to record for about another 10 years, blues rock, pop. Really refined my recording skills. Still play once in while, but I'm an old fart now, with all the baggage that entails."
For reasons that will become lysergically clear once you’ve heard the samples, Midori Takada's sublime debut album Through The Looking Glass  is widely regarded the holy grail of ‘80s Japanese ambient & minimalist music. Perhaps it’s no wonder that 2nd hand copies are known to trade for over £600, and, therefore this deluxe reissue is welcomed by a whole new generation of listeners tracing this enchanted sound back to source.
Rooted in Midori Takada's fascination with Asian and African percussion traditions, Through The Looking Glass documents the Japanese musician navigating syncretic channels of practice between floating fantasy kingdoms and parallel ambient dimensions whilst guided by a deeply ethereal, oneiric spirit that’s utterly key to the album’s appeal. While it broadly falls under the ambient banner, the results are far too grand and ambitious to be considered sonic wallpaper - they’re more like widescreen tableaus that open out exponentially the deeper in you dive.
The image of a Lady Godiva-like character riding a hare-sheep-horse chimera on the cover symbolises the surreal confluence of ideas and gestures within; a Japanese musician translating Victorian psychedelic fantasies into a language of rippling rhythmelodies and softly pealing harmonics that nod to Pygmy music as much as gamelan traditions, the soundtracks of Cocteau films and precise marimba patter.
The rest, we’ll leave for your dilated discovery. Take it on trust that this is especially spellbinding and sui generis stuff without complete comparison. A dream.
Remarkable recordings of the breath/wind-controlled EVI analog synth (as used by Marshall Allan), rendering a massive range of coruscating pastoral synth visions that intersect everyone from Hieroglyphic Being to BoC, or Kara-Lis Coverdale to Colin Steson, who cosigns below…
“’I could go on and on about the insane virtuosity, about the rare analog wind synth that almost no one in the world plays anymore, about the most unique intervallic melodies and harmonies, but it's all secondary to the simple beauty that Justin Walter is able to conjure up with his solo music.' Colin Stetson
Michigan trumpeter Justin Walter's solo work centers on evocative, intuitive explorations of the EVI (Electronic Valve Instrument), a rare wind-controlled analog synthesizer from the 1970's.
Its unique, smeared tonality allows for an expressive range of glassy, jazz-like textures, which Walter loops and layers with hushed electronics and twilit trumpet, painting opaque landscapes of resonant beauty.
Walter's 2013 debut, Lullabies & Nightmares, included a handful of collaborations with percussionist Quin Kirchner but Unseen Forces finds him fully solo, refining the project to its essence: shape-shifting watercolors of pastel haze, lit by the soft synthetic glow of electric breath. It's a sound both modern and timeless, fusing emotion and technology, gauze and melody, force and fragility.
From Justin Walter: Unseen Forces is a collection of recordings that document the use of improvisation as a means to create sounds that can either function on their own or serve as the foundation of, or source material for, additional improvisation. There was a definite process used to create this music but at no point was any music ever written or composed.
When putting this music together I was often aware of feelings related to density, spacing,
silence, and the sense of time pulling back on itself, like trying to stretch a scene and pull on it in ways that distort it ever so slightly. This is a record of melodies, alone and in complex relation. This music is a reflection of both feeling, and thought, as much construction as composition. The recordings of the EVI, as well as the sequencing done using samples of those recordings, are mostly the result of exploring melody through intuition. Harmonically simple, but with a complex pallet of texture.”
Wolfgang Voigt presents an incredible new chapter in the GAS saga almost 20 years since its last instalment, taking us deeper still into the recesses of that neon lit forest nightscape, just in time for that new series of Twin Peaks that's just around the corner...
Over the last two decades many listeners have become deeply familiar with Zauberburg, Königsforest, and Pop - many for the first time via the vital Nah Und Fern compilation , and with an even greater number becoming seduced and schooled via the comprehensive Box collection in 2016, which effectively sets the scene for this, Wolfgang Voigt’s keenly awaited re-arrival. Not to make him sound like christ or anything but, jeeeeez, we need this guy’s music now as badly as ever.
Under the title Narkopop, which suggests a continuation of the themes explored by its predecessor, Pop , as well as a succinct acknowledgement of his music’s putative purpose, the Kompakt kingpin floods the senses with what must be a life-threatening dose to folk who are AMSR responsive or suffer cardiac respiratory problems; you’ll either shiver yourself to a very pleasurable death or find yourself catching your breath at the point of systolic syncopation with Voigt’s inhale/exhale dynamics.
To be clear, the formula of etheric de/composition remains the same; there’s no studio skits or sidesteps into Ed Sheeraned polkapop (free ideas for the future right there, Wolfgang) - but the production and dense sense of tension is taken even further into that unique soundworld. The kicks remain as deep as your pulsatile tinnitus heard thru the pillow at night, whilst the strings are diaphanous and intangibly convective; slowly but surely directing the listener to a highly desirable state of delirium; along a spiralling Escher’s staircase to a beautiful nowhere.
It’s perhaps arbitrary to give a run thru of all the tracks because, as anyone who has immersed themselves in GAS will tell you, it’s quite likely that consciousness isn’t an option by the end of the recording, with the final tracks of his albums tending to be received by osmosis from behind closed eyelids. But, in case you have the concentration span of a long haul trucker or a tolerance for beta blockers, you’ll be well attuned to its valerian gauze and durational thrum, which picks us up at the very Leyland Kirby/The Caretaker-esque Narkopop 1, and carries thru distinct highlights in the breathtaking symphonic smudge of Narkopop 4, and the windswept aeolian harp shiver laced into Narkopop 6 before delivering us at the feet of a towering, cloud-shrouded holy mountain which gradually reveals its peak in Narkopop 10.
20 years on, it's still a sound that no one has managed to better, despite countless imitations.
Tobias Freund mounts his 3rd solo album for Ostgut Ton
Toying with his techno moorings in 12 tracks of experimental, avant sound design and ‘floor-flirting structures hearkening back to his earliest work with Hypnobeat and subsequent wok with Max Loderbauer in NSI.
The Bostonian duo deuce slickly traverse 34 tracks of vintage, up-to-date and unreleased house and classic disco music from themselves and a coterie of pals on Fabric 93, including highlights from Jay Daniel, Spaventi Dazzurro and Willie Burns among stacks of raw, soulful tackle.
Bedroom Community founder Valgeir Sigurðsson explores the temporal and textural gulf between classical orchestration and electronic production within the three movements of Dissonance, his 4th solo album (first since Architecture of Loss ), and the most aching addition to his illustrious catalogue of solo work and collaborations with everyone from Björk to Tim Hecker and Robert Wyatt.
The latest extension of his world-renowned practice, exposing and rejoining the fissures of Western classical traditions with contemporary sound manipulation, the finely layered symphonic swell and ebb of Dissonance is the artist’s attempt to reflect and consolidate both a period of personal strife and the underlying tensions of the wider world in a way that perhaps shows he’s not alone in feeling that way.
Using a laborious technique of recording each section of the 16-piece orchestra individually, before gilding them in post-production to really bring out their respective nuance and character, Sigurðsson effectively isolates and emphasises the chaotic qualities of massed, off-key strings in order to give himself up to their tumult and better control their, and his, emotions.
The result is a vast, side-long title piece of heaving, weeping, wilting viola da gamba played by Liam Byrne, and so anxious and quietly fraught that they keep slipping off the stave yet fight against the pressure in a perpetual struggle to remain positive and on-course against the odds. It’s not an easy piece but it is rewarding in its execution and resolution.
On the other side, the whole 16-parts of the orchestra come into play on the five parts of No Nights Dark Enough with a very cinematic quality emerging thru Flow to the electronic aurora of Infamy Sings and the pinched peak of Learn to Condemn Light, whilst the three parts of Eighteen Hundred And Seventy-Five appear to nod to Mozart as much as Star Wars.
To be fair, the B-side doesnt quite match up to that stunning A, but it's still an arresting album that comes highly reocmmended.
The noted Lisbon musician continues his quest to open a new dimension in sound with the final iteration of his long-running Space series.
Rafael Toral closes the loop on his Space Program ahead of schedule, ‘Space Solo 2’ his sixth and final outer-dimensional adventure as opposed to the series’ intended target of ten albums.
Continuing and expanding on the methods deployed in his first ‘Space Solo’ album from 2006, this second edition finds the Portuguese artist narrowing his craft down to just one instrument on each track. These include modulated feedback controlled through a Theremin, electrode oscillator, glove-controlled sinewaves and a series of modular synthesizer solos.
Whilst the Modular Synthesizer tracks occasionally sound like R2D2 hocked up on acid, Toral’s jazz-like mastery is evident throughout and is at its most decimating on the seven-minute Electrode Oscillator Solo.
RIYL K F Whitmann, Container, Metasplice and Senyawa.
Actress comes correct on a 5th album proper for Ninja Tune following a period of creative fecundity which has seen him DJ almost every corner of the globe and collaborate with the London Contemporary Orchestra at The Barbican on a project inspired by Xenakis, among many other things.
Taking its title from the moniker of his home-built studio, AZD forms a deep cartography of the new dimensions discovered between the wires and amid the haze of his equipment, modelling a suite of noumenal dancefloor extractions that could only come from one mind and place.
Turning up nearly a decade since his debut album Hazyville  effectively set in motion a phase-shift of fidelity which has arguably affected an entire spectrum of electronic music, on his 5th album Actress effectively parses a murkier selection of textural clag and heavy-lidded hooks with a more fluid secretion of internalized rhythms and in-built ruggedness.
It’s like he’s gotten deeper into the machines, or the machines have gotten deeper inside him - by turns dragging us, the listeners, farther into that zone of inseparable melancholy/ecstasy and stylishly writhing, sweat-burnt and THC-grained rhythms - of the sort that make you dance better no matter your actual capabilities.
He’s totally locked that vibe with the humid, Thriller-esque crystals and heads-down but dandy slam of Fantasynth and will send you reeling with the weightless steppers inversion of Blue Window, whereas Cyn neatly resets to a vintage, crunchy neck snap, before the up-tilt of X22RME intriguingly calves off into short monologue about semiotics sure to catch out the DJs.
Runner sounds naggingly familiar, like a flashback from a post-club Uber ride, and Falling Rizlas is his most attractive chamber-jazz since the R.I.P. phase, leading to a final run that really gets it right between the hardcore-sampling darkside buzz of Dancing In The Smoke, the noctilucent thizz of Faure In Chrome, and the romantic/voyeuristic ambiguity of There’s An Angel In The Shower.
And there you have it; an agitated, emotional, caustic and wickedly lush dispatch from the UK’s most important avant dancefloor mind.
Air Texture coax Juju & Jordash and Jonah Sharp (Spacetime Continuum) out of Amsterdam’s coffee shops long enough to gather this absorbing compendium of ambient pop and deep house themes from a creamy crop including Aybee, Fred P, Claude Young, Move D, I:Cube, Donato Dozzy, Gigi Masin and many more.
In the space between your eyes, between the horizontal and the vertical, they tee up 28 cherry-picked pieces that unfurl with delectable sequencing, arriving at some sublime highlights such as Patrice Scott’s pensile peach Synchronicity, the stately, Coil-esque chamber piece Fukui Morning from Claude Young, and a heavy-lidded treat called A Dialogue With Gravity from Tragic Selector, Terre Thaemlitz and Daisuke Tadokoro, along with a few of their own pieces like Sharp’s mellow melter Flux, and a couple of hushed Magic Mountain High exclusives for good measure.
Following the excitement generated by the re-release of ‘Further’, ‘Chorus’ and ‘Distance’ last year, Domino are reissuing three more peerless early works from Flying Saucer Attack - the self-titled debut, ‘New Lands’ and ‘Mirror’.
Flying Saucer Attack’s self-titled debut album, released in 1993, was commonly known as ‘Rural Psychedelia’, an apt description for the rough-hewn soundscapes they crafted.
Following the excitement generated by the re-release of ‘Further’, ‘Chorus’ and ‘Distance’ last year, Domino are reissuing three more peerless early works from Flying Saucer Attack - the self-titled debut, ‘New Lands’ and ‘Mirror’.
‘Mirror’ would turn out to be Pearce’s final offering as FSA for 15 years but at the time of its release in 2000 it felt like the start of something exciting and new - it was seen in some quarters as one of the first great records of the millennium.
Following the excitement generated by the re-release of ‘Further’, ‘Chorus’ and ‘Distance’ last year, Domino are reissuing three more peerless early works from Flying Saucer Attack - the self-titled debut, ‘New Lands’ and ‘Mirror’.
‘New Lands’, released in 1997, was album proper number three, described by main man Dave Pearce as ‘phase two’ of the FSA project. It found Pearce operating alone and finally realising the guitar sound that had been in his head all along.
One of their strongest, widest appealing releases to date: Tombed Visions unleash the sepulchral invocations of Gareth Smith’s Vanishing - featuring members of Gnod and LoneLady concocting a proper midnight trip into scorched industrial scapes, given gravity and pathos by Smith’s impending, politicised lyrics. RIYL Ike Yard, Gnod, Einstürzende Neubauten
“Vanishing is the new album by Gareth Smith. Borne from the Islington Mill Arts Studios and featuring collaborations and contributions by members of Gnod, LoneLady and an array of other experimental musicians, it is the sound of blunted beats, stripped electronics and flares of melody, which coruscate around a deep emotional centre; words, that address a world, shifting, breaking, Vanishing.
Paddy Shine of Gnod is the most consistent contributor to Vanishing’s stark sound world, offering unused materials from his archives that were re-contextualised and carefully re-scored into the foundation of differing atmospheres chronicled on the albums 8 tracks. The original sources have been carefully re-contextualised, offering at times minimal tenderness, at times beautifully orchestrated passages, arranged and structured by Smith, to fit around his impassioned prose.
It is a prose that addresses a complex identity, both beautiful and brutalised, working through a plethora of difficult themes ranging from isolation, claustrophobia, social and political disenfranchisement. ‘As the recording process developed I realised I had created a musical platform to pursue the lyrical content to its fullest. This is the latest statement of my lifetimes work.’
In which Italian techno maverick Donato Dozzy reworks material from US synth sorcerer Chris 'Bee Mask' Madak, generating seven serenely ambient, meticulously detailed themes that hark back to a more innocent, wide-eyed era of armchair exploration.
The two artists met last year at Japan's Labyrinth festival; having been commissioned to do a single remix for Madak, Dozzy found himself so stimulated by what he had to work with that he came back with an hour's worth of material - Spectrum Spools decided the only reasonable course of action was to release it all as a double-album. Dozzy's mastery of narrative is well-documented, whether in his celebrated work with Neel in Voices From The Lake or in the leftfield 4/4 gear he releases under his own name; his elegiac treatments of Bee Mask tend towards the astral melancholy of the former. 'Vaporware 1' and 'Vaporware 07' are typical of the whole, all intricately arranged bell-tones, humid field recordings and magnificently forlorn string-pads calling to mind the mid-90s Apollo missions of John Beltran, Locust or Thomas Fehlmann.
'Vaporware 02' retains more of the noise DNA that runs through the Bee Mask bloodstream but the atmosphere is still one of rarified despondency; the album's second half goes further into rhythmic, head-blown-off kosmische, building up to the climactic arpeggios of 'Vaporware 07', a sincere, irresistible articulation of IDM reminiscent of the original Black Dog or Kirk DeGiorgio in full space-flight.