Nyege Nyege presents another lightning-fast set from Tanzania's fresh 'n boundlessly creative singeli scene, this time zeroing in on Duke's Pamoja Records studio and its local cast of young MCs. There's nowt else like this - jerky, breakneck 200bpm+ rollers with Dar Es Salaam's most exciting vocalists trading bars overhead.
Pamoja boss Duke started making music when he was just 13 years old, opening the doors to his studio when he turned 18. "Sounds of Pamoja" is a document of his self-styled "hip-hop singeli" sound and his contribution to the blossoming Tanzanian scene, featuring a varied roster of youthful spitters: Pirato MC, Dogo Kibo, MC Kuke, Dogo Lizzy, MC Dinho, MC Kidene and of course MCZO, who'll be familiar to anyone who caught Duke on tour pre-COVID-19. And for a country with half its population under 15 years old, it's hardly surprising that Tanzania's most vital dance sounds are being pioneered by a group of producers and vocalists barely over 20.
'Sounds of Pamoja' brings back the sweat of rave backrooms or rap basement parties, with samples, shoutouts and chipmunked adverts hiccuping between breathless MCs and overdriven, clattering production. This is dance music that exists leagues outside the polite world of business techno and the nauseating sponsored content realm: its tongue twisting vocals and blink-and-you-miss-it glo-fi rhythmic shakes make it an uncategorizable and challenging movement for the lifestyle set. As soon as you think you have a finger on what's going on, the beat is likely to shift, the sample flip and the vocal mutate into something completely different.
Duke's outlook is different from many of his contemporaries; influenced by US rap as much as local Tanzanian producers and performers, he finds a sweet spot between the surreal, tongue-twisting sound of early Busta Rhymes and singeli pioneers like Jay Mitta and Bampa Pana. So the music we're treated to here sounds rougher and harder than the sounds on Nyege Nyege's last Tanzanian compilation, 2017's brilliant "Sounds of Sisso". Since then the sound has shifted considerably, and Duke's take on singeli retains the backbone of taarab - a popular traditional fusion of East African and Middle Eastern sounds - but offers it the immediacy of a ringtone.
If you wanna remember what joy and pure physicality sounds like, there's few other dance movements out there right now with the same levels of kinetic pressurei. "Sounds of Pamoja" is for the dancers, in the best possible way..
A self-styled "Afro cosmic experimental dance force", Atlanta duo RAW GAMMA impress on their second EP with a flexible fusion of funk, house, electro, jazz, Detroit techno and rap. 'RAW GAMMA II' reaches high and scores big - RIYL DâM-FunK, Carl Craig, Prince, Theo Parrish.
RAW GAMMA is FWM boss and acclaimed DJ/producer Stefan Ringer alongside Jeremi Johnson, better known as 10th Letter - a Sun Ra-indebted player-producer who bridges the gap between jazz, ghetto tech and early electronics. Phew. This second volume works to establish a mid-point between both producers' vast range of influences; Ringer's usual beat is house (he's a regular collaborator with Kai Alcé), and the two traverse musical ideas like astral travelers, leaping thru spiritual jazz, machine funk and loose rap with giddy, passionate glee.
Opener 'FelaAyers' wears its inspiration on its sleeve, building brittle funk around a vibrating funk-step rhythm, before opening itself up with sax from Quinn Mason and threatening to veer into cosmic wyrdness. Lead single 'Watchu' is a different beast altogether, wrapping vocal rhymes around Curtis Mayfield bass and peak-Miles drums. But they don't stay put for more than a few moments, 'Random Waltz' fizzes into melancholy synth-electro territory (think DâM-FunK feeling himself), and 'Zaza' could be a Paperclip People/UR crossover.
"RAW GAMMA II" is vital Black American music that paints a modern electronic canvas with jazz, funk and the surrounding satellites. It takes matters into its own hands, and sounds fiery, fresh and fluid.
Home counties bassbin pressure from newcomer Minder, distilling and adapting the hardcore ‘nuum in his own image for Sneaker Social Club’s first tape release
Making full use of the format (if not pushing it’s limits at 102 minutes long, when the tape starts to stretch?!) Minder throws down a 19 track volley of vibes emulating the rush of pirate radio and ragging around country roads in a hotboxed Corsa aged 17. The results run it shabby chic, knowingly compressed to sound like a fourth-hand copy of a mate’s older brother’s Top Buzz tape and strewn with ragga chat and classic samples to taste. We’re not sure how this fidelity will come across in a club, but then again everyone just plays YouTube rips anyway so fuck it, take your chances, they’ll probably sound around the same quality.
'Mirror Views' is a substantial minimalist tome from LA-based composer Byron Westbrook. Taking cues from Maryanne Amacher and Luc Ferrari, Westbrook sidesteps the cosmic synth shimmer of this year's 'Distortion Hue' and moves into long-form deep listening territory, using tape-dubbed field recordings, white noise and disorientating drones.
Clocking in at a hefty 72-minutes, 'Mirror Views' is not for the faint of heart. It's a departure for Westbrook, not necessarily for his practice - those that have seen him perform will have no doubt experienced this aspect of his work before. For our money it also might just be his most convincing album to date, a collection of delicate, careful field recordings and subtle tonal elements that places Westbrook solidly alongside his heroes and the greats of the genre.
It's a fully immersive work, not just in its duration but in the absorbing character of the sounds he creates and the narrative it inspires. The piece 'Mirror View' itself is split into three distinct sections, and the first develops over 20 minutes from marshy field recordings that dwell on barely-audible sloshing and insects' rhythmic chirps. Slowly, Westbrook introduces indistinct voices and feedback tones that transform a natural world into an unsettling alien landscape.
The shorter second part offsets these tones with white noise that mutates into crashing waves, but it's Westbrook's careful editing that pushes the track into transcendence. At times it's not completely obvious what he's doing, if anything, but focus your listening and you can just about make up the tiny shifts in noise and texture that create distinct rhythms and disorientating hallucinatory effects.
On the final piece, Westbrook turns up the gain a little further, conducting an orchestra of fine tones that act as a warm, harmonic finale before the environmental recordings return for one last coda. It's masterful deep listening material that displays the possibility for experimentation within the wider field recording spectrum - we urge you to check in.
The most prolific man in electronic music Aleksi Perälä continues his return to the Ovuca project with another lengthy set of microtonal acid, speedy electro and post AFX IDM melancholia.
Before this year, Perälä's last proper Ovuca release had been in 2011 - before that it was 2001's Rephlex-released "Wasted Sunday". But this year, the Finnish workaholic has put out no less than eight (!) new Ovuca albums. And this is after releasing about a hundred microtonal techno bumpers under his own name over the last couple of years.
If you're familiar with the Ovuca project and Perälä's idiosyncratic recent material "Northern Lights & Alioth" won't be a massive surprise. All his hallmarks are present here - psychedelic cycles of oddly-tuned synth, washes of acid-laced synth - but packed into a framework more consistent with the producer's well-liked Rephlex material. So we've got odd tunings and lysurgic synths, but this time mapped against tweaky hi-BPM rhythms that hark back to simpler times.
It's reliable stuff, but when Perälä fires himself further into the depths he really excells. 'FI3AC2146080' is a deep tech burner that sidelines wonk in favor of textural trickery, and closing track 'FI3AC2146090' is a swinger that sounds like peak time minimal with its drums reduced to a cinder.
Batu’s Timedance host Air Max ’97 on a wormholing mutant techno mission somewhere between the styles of Rrose, Plastikman and Joe .
Making up for time lost since 2019’s ‘Ice Bridge / Bruxis’ session, he marks a return to the fold with two laser-focussed club trax that you've probably heard in-the-churn of Batu’s mixes lately.
‘Psyllium’ sounds like he’s emulating the effects of a DMT hit while aboard a sub-orbital flight, sloshing his drums and arps in mind-bindingly mazy techno permutations. ‘Eat The Rich’ is a sentiment we can get down with (even if they’d only taste like shampoo), turning out one of his jiggier specials rife with percolated drums in a sorta of deadly UKF and Kuduro style.
Chicago post-rock legend Rob Mazurek joins forces with Brazilian players Mauricio Takara & Guilherme Granado once again as São Paulo Underground, this time sparring with Tenerife's Tupperwear on a wonked set of squeaky tropical improv and free-flowing psych weirdness.
'Saturno Mágico' was recorded live back in 2016, with the five musicians jamming in a disused kerosene tank in Tenerife after a week-long residency together. With Chicago Underground's Mazurek on cornet and modular synth, Takara on drums, cavaquinho (a Portuguese string instrument) and electronics, Granado on synth and sampler and Tupperwear's Mladan Kurajica on synths and Daniel Garcia rotating between electronics, vocals and guitar, it's a dense froth of ritualistic experimentation. At times, "Saturno Mágico" sounds like a call to the heavens, and at others a basement noise show - it's this freeform levity that keeps you guessing from beginning to end.
CIM dug thru his archives to uncover this quirky selection of Amiga-composed tracker IDM, influenced by the 1990s demoscene and the early UK electronica wave of The Future Sound of London, The Black Dog and AFX. Quite lovely.
It's interesting to think back to just how much music was influenced by the Amiga. The long-defunct home computer system was responsible for a remarkable amount of good material, from classic Amiga jungle (Omni Trio used one) to eccentric IDM, to Max Tundra's proto Hyperpop. CIM's collection - written between '96 and '98 - falls into the middle camp and expresses in a handful of tracks just what worked about the brittle, minimal sound.
The British producer learned to use a tracker - basically a sequencer that rolled vertically rather than horizontally, using tiny samples - by ripping examples from demo disks and re-writing them on the Amiga. Adding elements from his clunky 386 PC, Simon Walley managed to come up with a sound that takes a hearty amount of influence from early Warp legends The Black Dog/Plaid and of course AFX, but manages to steer it in a personal direction.
Listening now it warms the heart; there's a simplicity to tracker material that's been lost in an era where we can technically do anything. The limitations led to intricacies and harsh choices that make the music sound so specific and emotionally resonant that it's hard not to smile. If you've burned thru the early Plaid catalogue and spun "I Care Because You Do" one too many times, here's yer next port of call.
LA’s Avenue 66 host a typically seductive, woozily offbeat house and brokebeat session by Berlin’s Lowtec
Like it implies on the tin, this is music for dancefloor therapy, playing it effortlessly fizzy and slompy for dancers to get themselves in a slow burning lather. The filleted breaks and tinkling timbales of ‘Flat Dog’ set it off with a nice sidespin, where ‘Going Nowhere’ follows with puckered harpsichord melodies and stumbling drums beside the Move D-alike jazz-house depths of ‘Red Sparrow.’
His title cut works to a snappier electrohouse framework (not the sawtooth bass variety) that leads off into the old skool electronica of ‘Nature Thinks For You’ and the balmier dub house skank of ‘From Moment To Moment.’
Aussie experimental titan David Brown originally released "apsomeophone" back in 2005, and now its back in spannered, splattery glory. The title's a reference to French musique concrète instigator Pierre Henry's Apsome studio, so that should tell you all you need to know...
This is a good 'un. Brown's been involved with Australia's avant garde and noise scene for years, and he manages, against the odds, to fuse unhinged guitar skronk with GRM concrète techniques that might seem to exist on the other end of the sonic spectrum. There are echoes of Derek Bailey, or even MAIN, in Brown's unusual amalgamation of ideas; the guitar becomes a source for sharp shards of sound, and echoes of genre - folk twangs, angular metal riffs - are corrupted into dissolved scrapes, loops and drones.
Occasionally, movie samples echo thru the riffage and cut-n-paste mayhem, suddenly grounding us in the real world. It's at those moments you remember exactly what you're listening to and the power of the hard splice. So good.
German renaissance man Niklas Wandt digs his way thru psychedelic, jazz, world, funk and kraut moods on "Solar Musli", arriving on a hectic, borderless sound that refuses to stand still for a moment. Imagine Sun Ra jamming with "On the Corner"-era Miles, Florian Schneider and Felix Kubin.
A drummer, producer and DJ, Wandt has presented WDR 3's Jazz & World program for years, DJing in Düsseldorf's Salon des Amateurs and recording with bands such as Oracles and Stabil Elite and working on synth pop as Neuzeitliche Bodenbeläge. "Solar Müsli" is his most chaotic solo record yet, an album that attempts to flatten his life of wild, diverse influences and unpick a musical puzzle.
It's a thrill ride, veering from quirky, psychedelic free poetry ('Der gläserne Tag') to sprawling, percussive funk ('Lo Spettro'), unhinged free-jazz kraut-pop ('Küsnacht') and quirky early electronic experimentation ('Solar Müsli'). It's best looked at as the work of a particularly limber DJ - Wandt writes and plays like he's mixing with four un-synced decks, wandering thru rhythm, structure and genre like an intrepid explorer.
Hi-pressure club futurism from Japanese dubstep/grime survivor Prettybwoy. Assembled during a stressful stretch for the producer, 'Tayutau' is anxious, metallic and sweaty airlock nu-dance pressure, cooled off by swirling videogame synths and emotional vocals from collaborator lIlI.
Another rapid-fire dancefloor burner from Shanghai's unreasonably reliable SVBKVLT stable, 'Tayutau' makes a bridge to Japan, curving Prettybwoy's well-worn bass-fwd raw materials into a pneumatic neon club structure. He put these tracks together during a time of upheaval; a selection were made before pandemic, then more were added during lockdown, when Prettybwoy was forced into unemployment and lost tracks in a series of hard drive accidents. The chaos is reflected in the album's writhing, anxious mood, that dips from mind-throbbing intensity to lithe, poppy delirium.
Machine-gun bursts of overdriven kicks and burnt outcroppings of heaving synths form the backbone of tracks like 'Island', 'Brontides' and 'Mikoshi', while 'Genetic Dance II' and 'SLT' drag the weightless bounce of Rabit and Mumdance into breathy, floral East-Asian landscapes. Prettybwoy's confident engineering carries the tracks, and whether he's exploring the limits of granular ambience ('ó‹ (Tear)'), weightlessly melting piano and distant Japanese voices into bouncing subs ('Isol') or forming teeth-chattering grime-flecked nu-club ('Rat's Talk') there's the sense that each sound is sculpted by a master craftsman.
The result falls somewhere between Foodman's wiped-clean eccentric wonkiness and the damaged 'n deranged club philosophy of contemporary prophets like Hyph11E, Yen Tech and Lee Gamble.
'Source Crossfire' collects the complete recordings of Montreal art-rock/post-punk troupe SOFA, who sound something like Slint in corpse paint rocking thru Joy Division covers.
SOFA were a short lived band, existing for just a few years in the mid-1990s, but their reputation in Montreal and beyond speaks volumes; they were the first band to be released on the city's still-explorative Constellation imprint, and truly set the tone for the era with a wide-ranging mix of styles, from US post-hardcore and slowcore to UK post-punk and art-rock.
This bumper set combines their 1997 album "Grey" with music from their preceding self-released cassettes "Town Unsafe" and "Record" in an attempt to map their musical evolution. The tracks have been re-sequenced, and remastered by Jace Lasek, Harris Newman and Ian Ilavsky, so the material has never sounded better.
For anyone that missed the band first time around, they sound surprisingly fresh; the echoes of Ian Curtis loom large around Brad Todd's distinctive voice, and David Pajo's angular guitar riffing is never far from Ian Ilavsky's fuzzbox freestyling, but SOFA's combination of sounds is smart, engaging and engrossingly raw - well worthy of this set.
Shine-eyed early ‘90s trance optimism, gritty acid electro and night-hunting downbeats by USA’s James Bernard aka Influx, compiled and reissued for the first time since the golden era
Reaping cuts from Bernard’s debut LP as Influx, ‘Unique’ (1993) plus one from his first single ‘Od’ of the same year, the four tracks offer a diverse overview of Bernard’s action during the early ‘90s, back when he was hanging with the holy trinity of NYC techno; Frankie Bones, Adam X and Lenny Dee. The original cuts found their way onto Sapho, sublabel of the legendary Rising High, and now have their second wind with the cherry-picking label, Hybride Sentimento.
Between them, he four tracks survey a spectrum of moods and grooves that were in their at the time, oscillating between eye-fluttering string arps and high heart rate techno trance in ‘2001’ to a killer slice of acid electro breaks recalling earlier Joey Beltram workouts in ‘VS128’, while also taking in cinematic acid breaks on ‘Love Song’ and the Carpenter-esque tone of ‘The Future’ for excellent measure.
Unmissable first lick of Blackhaine’s bittersweet EP for HEAD II, a new wing of fabled Salford venue, The White Hotel. RIYL Burial, Autechre, Space Afrika, John Cooper Clarke
Preston's prodigious son sets upon Salford: Blackhaine hails his riveting 2nd EP with lead cut Hotel; a cathartic two- part story of redemption from drug-induced purgatory, produced by North West comrade Rainy Miller from a palette of efflorescent ambient noise and nerve wrecked grime.
In its transition from stomach knotted dread to exhaustive, prang-out negative ecstasy, Hotel bruisingly expounds on the drill blooz of Blackhaine's track Blackpool from 2020's breakthru debut; the Armour EP for Rainy's Fixed Abode. It epitomises his iconoclastic approach and deconstructed aesthetic, clashing the North West's longheld obsessions with rap, punk and dance musicks in a brutally poetic expression of working class heritage and purview.
Building on shocked acclaim for Blackhaine's choreography of Kayne's Donda album playback and videos for Mykki Blanco and Flohio; the November release of the full EP, And Salford Falls Apart, is primed to galvanise the urgency of Blackhaine's message and ricochet thru both the underground and popular consciousness.
Blackhaine performs at his spiritual home The White Hotel, on 25th September, 2021 for an EP launch on the venue's new label HEAD II, with support from Varg2TM, Croww, susu laroche, and Conor Thomas.
Wide-eyed and rapid trance techno slammers from Felix Benedikt’s Alpha Tracks
Working at the speed limit of trance, ‘Bye Bye Sky High’ finds a sublime tension between glyding synths and pelting 150bpm+ tempos for the keener raver, escalating from the fluttering arpeggios and ice cool female vox of ‘Mind over Mayhem’ thru the darker Goa toned and layered 303s of ‘Double Exposure’, to the jibber-jaw strobe of ‘Troubled Waters’ and a class stroke of darkside acid trance reminding of certain Live Adult Entertainment strains in ‘Grand Deception.’
HTRK mint their new label with a perfectly formed 5th studio album - in our opinion a career best - finding the duo stripped to a quietly cathartic, windswept arrangement of bare vocals rent with spectral webs of guitar and synth in a modern, classic, wholly inimitable style that will lodge itself deep in your heart. AOTY gear especially recommended if yr into anything from Dean Blunt to Mark Hollis, Gillian Welch to Slowdive.
Recorded in their native Dandenong Ranges, Australia earlier this year, ‘Rhinestones' contains some of HTRK's most aching/gratifying songwriting secreted in subtly plangent sheets of dubbed guitar, synth pads and crackling 808s that foge a sort of quasi-Americana that feels both intimately familiar and entirely new. It’s an album that seems to have been precision-tooled for tortured romantics and atomised souls, reverberating with a gentle pathos that’s therapeutic to succumb to.
The metaphysical soul of their songcraft somehow bleeds out more clearly than ever, infusing every song from the heartbreak pucker of ‘Kiss Kiss and Rhinestones’ to the intoxicating, spirit-catcher sway of ‘Gilbert and George’ with the tumescent glow of MDMA-tingled flesh and the uncanniest air of déjà vu. All nine songs land with a level of sound sensitivity that reveals every shimmering string, pad and echoic snare contrail like a halo around Jonnine’s voice, which regales tales of love, friendship and the mysteries of the night with an observant, diaristic directness that has a devastating emotive clout.
In key with the times, the songs feel like the soundtrack to emptied cities, casting gothic shadows in the spellbinding reverbs of ‘Valentina’ and mottled beauty of ’Siren Song,’ with the fragged ketrock of ‘Fast Friend’ imagining a séance with Prince and Anna Domino, while Conrad Standish (CS + Kreme) lends bass guitar gilding to the empty saloon sashay of ‘Real Headfuck,’ and ’Straight To Hell’ basks in a transition between the golden and crepuscular hours. Oh - and 'Sunlight Feels like Bee Stings’ - what a title?!
For real, no other band do it quite like HTRK, and ‘Rhinestones’ feels like their purest iteration, conjured in a mist of feeling, love and inebriation.
Radiant, diaphanous ambient scapes from Tehran-raised, Berlin-based Arash Akbari, debuting with Karlrecords after early appearances with Opal Tapes/Zabte Sote and Kate Carr’s Flaming Pines
Steering wide of Karlrecords’ noisier, atonal, avant tastes, ‘Fragments of Yearning’ yields nearly an hour of effortless, harmonic consonance for sound bathing in your chosen listening space. The styles are very much in proximity of Kompakt’s Pop Ambient series (Gas, Simon Scott) and also with a washed out nostalgic appeal comparable to Leyland Kirby’s widescreen cinematics, effectively tapping into a tangible sense of sehnsucht that resonates with the album’s title, or does so to our ears, at least.
Together with the evocative track titles, the pull of nostalgia or home sickness is palpable and apparent from start to finish, but sensitively so, tending to gauzily contemplative, melancholic gestures rather than anything weepy, and leaving plenty of room for interpretation. In a most classic ambient sense it occupies that space between the background and foreground, preferring to suggestively evoke rather than force the emotion. But where that can all too often fall into wishy washy whimsy, there’s something beautifully rarified, eternally timeless about Akbar’s work that says it without saying it and humbly takes us there with minimal fuss or spectacle.
Footwork forefather RP Boo proudly cements his reputation with ‘Established!,’ his most diverse definition of the Chicago styles he grew up with and pioneered over the past 30 years, influencing everyone from DJ Rashad to Sherelle and Rian Treanor
Spanning house tempo jack tracks to his signature 160bpm cyclones and battle track skirmishes, RP Boo’s 4th album crowns the king of footwork with 14 inimitable examples of the mutant ghetto house template he set alongside DJ Slugo and more for Dance Mania in 2000 and has progressed over successive LPs since 2013’s seminal ‘Legacy.’ Where those LP’s have variously spelled out his sound thru a combination of archival and up-to-the-second productions, ‘Established!’ yields a brace of brand new gear that keeps it balling fwd, but also reminisces on his roots, back when he was in the same circles as Paul Johnson and other legends of Windy City stature.
A pivotal figure at home in the Chi and abroad, RP Boo’s productions, like myriad other strains of regional US club music, have remained sorely unsung by a US dance music scene that perplexingly never realises the brilliance under its nose. In that sense his influence on footwork is akin to Juan Atkins’ on techno, whose foundational Detroit techno records found more favour in Europe than anywhere else in the US, and have come to seriously resonate just as much with the UK’s love of accelerated funk and innovative Black music. But where Juan’s records feel very much c.20th, RP Boo has blazed a path for the 21st century whose influence cannot be overestimated.
Kicking off and rounding off with the swaggering jack traks ‘All My Life’ and ‘Beauty Speak of Sounds,’ both harking back to his days dancing in the ‘90s Chi house scene, he works up a proper dervish from the G-funk sampling ‘How 2 Get It Done!’ thru a standout bullet ‘Finally Here’ featuring Afiya, making time for a spot of Phil Collins worship on ‘All Over,’ and tumpin’ it on a juke tip with ‘Be Of It!,’ while reserving his most lip-biting tekkers for the tight energy of ‘Ivory Surface,’ and the gleeful propulsion of ‘Another Night To Party.’
Wriggly, sub-heavy syncopated techno aces from Andrew Nerviano’s Plebeian, deploying subtle sound designer chops at the service of hypnotic grooves shades away from the likes of Peverelist, Howes’ Cong Burn lot and ANA label’s deeper rollers
Yep, we’re feeling this one. ‘Tannins’ marks up as the first vinyl and sophomore EP from Nerviano in Plebian mode, following from his years of work behind the scenes in mixing / mastering for the Sweat Equity label. It’s not hard to hear his engineer’s ear at work on these cuts, nailing the right balance of technical function and artistry that gets us going between the rippling percussive sonorities and swooping subs of ‘Enzymes’, the wickedly offset swang ’n dip of his title tune, and a killer bit of electro-dub-tech pressure on ‘Neutrinos’, before lining up his log drums in natty formation on ‘Quantum.’
A total classic debut by the shining lights of early ‘80s Belgian post-punk/new wave/modern classical/midnight jazz resurfaces just shy of its 40th anniversary, remastered to perfectly suspend its timeless, brooding, shadowy elegance for posterity
Lead out by the deliciously eerie, singed brass of ‘Bamako ou ailleurs’, which Jon K dropped to killer effect in his Reel Torque mixtape, the album remains one of the most vital early numbers on Crammed Discs, unfurling like the noirish score to a dark thriller set in their native Brussels. It was Benjamin Lew’s first recording, and an early example of Steven Brown’s work in Brussels, where he settled after his band Tuxedomoon toured Europe the year prior.
Lew & Brown clearly found a muse in each other, and modestly proceeded to craft this ponderous album of spare airs and ætheric suggestion, dematerialising a palette of Brown’s sax, organ and piano thru Lew’s analog synth, drum machines and tape tekkers to realise a richly intoxicating sound on the cusp of many styles, but beholden to none.
Factored with additional production and engineering by Gilles Martin, and percussion and bass clarinet from Lowlands lynchpin Marc Hollander (co-founder of Crammed Discs, and aka Aksak Maboul), the results are quite unlike anything else, with unfathomable spatial dimensions full of hashed out reverberation that swirls their melodic touches into smoke chamber dynamics, and comes to bridge, in our minds at least, the work of Dominque Lawalrée before them, and the elusive beauty of Andrew Chalk and Timo Van Luijk’s Elodie and other projects in the modern day.
Jan Jelinek shifts into sound college mode for 'The Raw and the Cooked', alchemically processing the sound of material as it changes form. Lifted concrete music that's like Luc Ferrari or Bernard Parmigiani thrown into an anti-gravity chamber...
An album version of a radio piece Jelinek composed for German state broadcaster SWR2, 'The Raw and the Cooked' explores the nature of sound, using its flexibility to illustrate the mutability of raw material. Using recordings of artists Thomas & Renée Rapedius working with paper and metal objects and Peter Granser ritually preparing Japanese tea, Jelinek reflects the processes we take for granted - a solid's transformation into liquid and gas, for example - in his complex compositions. So careful, microscopically accurate recordings are changed quite literally as we listen, or twinned with synthetic sounds that mirror the real-world processes taking place.
It's not exactly a play, but Jelinek's radio experiment has a narrative that expresses the work of the artist, the craftsperson and the human seeking to feed oneself in the same breath. These rituals have been obscured over the centuries, and Jelinek focuses them and dissolves them into meditative tonal poems, with scraping and buzzing reminders of casual daily life juxtaposed with sci-fi wails and harsh edits.
'The Raw and the Cooked' is an absorbing use of GRM/musique concrète concepts and ideas that builds on the foundations of early innovators like Iannis Xenakis (there's the flavor of 'Concret PH' in 'The Raw and The Cooked (II)'), Pierre Henri and Luc Ferrari, shuttling it firmly into the 21st century.
Insistent rhythm trax from Kopy on Stefan Schneider’s TAL, reinforced with remixes by the boss’s Harmonious Thelonious, plus Elena Colombi, and Dynamo Dreesen with SJ Tequilla
Like her half of a 2019 split with Tentenko, Kopy’s solo debut proper trades in a purely rhythmic language of tuned percussive hits deftly dubbed and harnessed in wonky syncopation. ‘Fujiko’ is the kinkier of the two, with nuff cowbell action and grubby bass jabs, whereas ‘Lok’ holds down more restless sort of dembow slosh built from raw drums and acrid electronic noise that verges on Merzbow’s avian chatter.
Harmonious Thelonious drills those drums into a hobbled canter on his remix, and Colombi adds sirens and frazzled electronics to hers in a way recalling Tolouse Low Trax grooves, while one can trust Berlin’s Dynamo Dreesen & SJ Tequilla to come with the freakier funk on their overhaul full of jumping drums and stereo-rolling madness.
A surreal and carnivalesque lost French classique that's somewhere between Cocteau Twins, Nuno Canavarro and Leila, "Chaleur Humaine" originally emerged in 1992, the debut release of sibling duo Danielle and Didier Jean. Anyone into hypnagogic pop, fractured new age experiments or '80s FM synth soundtracks needs to hear this jaw-dislocating Rosetta stone.
Uman's music spidered out thru various new age and global sounds compilations in the 1990s, but at this point the fwd-thinking duo are mostly forgotten, and in need of re-appraisal. After three decades, "Chaleur Humaine" sounds prophetic in its use of sounds, establishing a mood that's as dreamy and pristine as Enya's canonized run, as prismatically awkward as Portland MIDI fanatics Visible Cloaks and as chilling and evocative as Richard Band's schlock horror soundtracks.
WIth a sound that teeters between identifiable pop forms and more challenging expressions that draw on experimental and new age concepts, like the lilting 'Mémoire Vive' and Badalamenti-esque 'Aubade'. it's an album that's jam-packed with gorgeous sounds that seem to refresh with each track, skating close to plasticky exotica but never drifting into parody, pre-empting the shift from DIY rawk and folk sounds into hypnagogic pop and synth modes in the mid-'00s.
The recent obsession with neo-new age forms has resulted in some avoidable lost idols, but 'Chaleur Humaine' is a serious treasure trove of ideas and raw expression that bottles the chaotic analog-to-digital era with no small amount of panache. Anyone who's enjoyed Belgian node STROOM's extraordinary stretch of quirky electro-plated lounge-pop treasures won't wanna miss this.
Witnessing the birth of a remarkable new artist, ‘Armour’ is Blackhaine's startling 2020 debut of drill blooz, cranky industrialism and grime-jazz, produced and released by his close spar Rainy Miller on Fixed Abode
Forging a singular conception of bruised North West soul music, ‘Armour’ first dropped from the skies like a Pennine weather front while everyone was infinitely scrolling thru the 2020 lockdown. It’s the first testament to Blackhaine’s skills as a dare-to-differ rapper and writer, priming the ground for a successive turn with artist Richie Culver on the ‘Did U Cum Yet / I’m Not Gonna Cum’ 12” and most recently his guest appearance on Space Afrika’s ‘Honest Labour’ album, with ‘B£E’ in 2021. And as clued up types will also know, his mic tekkers are just one of strand of a polymath practice that encompasses choreography for the likes of Flohio and Kayne West, and no doubt his incredible talent as a dancer, with a totally distinctive style recalling Ian Curtis doing butoh after a spice zoot.
Track to track the five cuts of ‘Armour’ lay out a roadmap of styles and reference points familiar to Blackhaine’s Preston upbringing and his growing bonds with Salford, where he’s developed a close relationship with its seminal venue, The White Hotel. Riding typically finessed production by Rainy Miller, and flanked by another striking new rapper, Iceboy Violet on its blue highlight ‘The Fall’; the EP cycles thru a play of emotions and hybrid styles that feel like a natural conclusion at the start of a strange new decade, variously articulating a working class weltanschauung and hyperlocality thru unmistakably accented bars between the hotel room blooz of ‘Blackpool’ and the bruxist grime of ‘Black Lights on the M6’, while flexing a remarkable stylistic range on the cinematic grime of ‘Death in June’ and eldritch ambient drawl of ‘Womb.’
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Rainy Miller’s effortlessly soul-nuzzling beauty of a debut album introduces the crucial node of a new movement originating in our native North West England, dispensed on his burgeoning label, Fixed Abode
First issued in early 2019, the low-key neo-R&B electronica glow of ‘Limbs’ has become Rainy’s accomplished calling card, leading to hugely impressive work as producer for fellow Prestonian Blackhaine, including their soundtrack for the JordanLuca SS22 collection this year. Entirely written and realised prior to the world turning on its head, the album speaks to a sort of late decade tristesse and melancholy, exploring a mix of aching R&B soul tenor, replete with bleeding ‘art vocals - both straight-up and autotuned - and nuanced ambient soul backdrops in a way totally faithful to the region’s integral love of new US soul, rap and R&B, yet defined by its brooding grey play of weathered atmospheres, sociopolitics, and an ability to shrug it off and crack on - not be consumed by it.
Calling to mind everyone from Frank Ocean and Prince to Paddy McAloon in its slow burning depth of emotion, gauzy harmonies and timeless grip, ‘Limbs’ is every bit a slept-on modern classic of its ilk. Personalised for lowlit settings, bedroom to curtains-drawn afters and hotboxed whips; Rainy’s modest but mesmerising pathos oozes from every aspect, from its textured production to the spectrum of vocal personas. Scene-setter ‘Miller’ signals a fine vein of ambient tactility that smokily marbles the whole thing, perfused between tender R&B downstroke of ‘GTI’ to the Drake-like ‘Misery’ and the UK soul wooze of ‘Neptune’s House’, which also appears in a gorgeous ‘Ambient Version’, with his cinematic mise-en-scene in the likes of overcast highlight ‘Sans Soleil’, and the standout piece of floating chords and Prefab-like guitar with autotuned Lancastrian accent in centrepiece ‘Chalamet’, surely sealing the deal for us.
Lovely selection of glowing, slow burn electronic handicrafts by Visible Cloaks, Sign Libra, Batu, Dialect, Wayne Phoenix, amid other, promising new names to the RVNG fold
Sweeping their curatorial butterfly net far and wide, ‘Salutations’ crosses continents in search of meditative gems from a fine cross section of ambient-pop related electronica styles. A clear-eyed standout comes from Sign Libra with the crystalline kiss of ‘Pi’ following in the model of her ‘Sea To Sea’ album, and Wayne Phoenix’s ‘Living is the answer to the question that is asked by being alive’ features chants by Cocoa Tea poised in glorious sort of mutant electro-dub ambient roil that should appeal to Space Afrika fanatics.
RVNG’s new signees Rachika Nayar & Nina Keith tease out the lustrous landscape of ‘In The Memory Room’, and Anna Homler (Breadwoman) brings her quietly possessed mystic air to the sepia-toned atmosphere of ’Bounding / Missive from the Teacup Galaxy’, with Visible Cloaks found particularly sombre on ‘Arcoíris.’ Batu is also unusually glum and beatless on the sci-fi cinematic melodrama of ‘Face of the Lake’, and we can trust Dialect to keep it charmingly wayward with frothed voices and airy ambient chamber jazz strokes in ‘BeeOh’ that comes off like Visible Cloaks on a sunnier day.
Lawrence English follows the excellent pipe organ-focused 'Lassitude' with another elevated set of syrupy drone poems built around Charlemagne Palestine's concept of "maximal minimalism". Glacial stuff, in the best possible way >> think Kali Malone, Ellen Arkbro, Phill Niblock or Éliane Radigue.
'Observation of Breath' is a patient, meditative album that continues English's obsession with organ sounds. He's been using the instrument for years now - his standout albums "Cruel Optimism" and "Wilderness of Mirrors" were shaped by the pipe organ - but has only recently began to experiment with the instrument's naked tones.
Last year's "Lassitude" was composed using a 19th century Australian organ housed in Brisbane's Old Museum. "Observation of Breath" picks up where that record left off, eschewing the processed drones of its weighty predecessor to offer a more sacred set of sounds. In fact, the processing English uses here is subtle - he lets the familiar groan of the organ take pride of place in the compositions, playing slowly but assuredly.
'The Torso' is the most abstract of the four pieces, with whooshing air taking up almost as much sonic territory as the squealing organ wails. But 'A Binding' and 'And A Twist' take a more familiar tone, reflecting Kali Malone and Ellen Arkbro's chilly spiritual minimalism. When English reaches his conclusion on the title track, he brings all the elements together, slowly painting over resonant tones until he creates hypnotic phasing sounds that wobble uneasily over gut-churning sub bass.
0PN and Liz Fraser pluck dream-pop heartstrings on a highlight of the ‘Magic Oneohtrix Point Never’ album, here with a completely different mix under the same title
In their original cut, Elizabeth Fraser (Cocteau Twins, This Mortal Coil, Massive Attack) comes across like a new born synth folkaloid, babbling in onomatopeic coos, gasps and glossolalic whispers weft into Daniel Lopatin’s fractal twists of Enya-esque Fairlight string motifs and fractured keys. The new mix sounds like that folkaloid got corrupted and the Fairlight broke down, sputtering out more frazzled vox in something like a deep dream smudged recollection of the original.
Argentine industrialists Mtheorem and Nocturnal Pursuit chase up their 2019 debut as Haunted Mausoleum with a 2nd batch of possessed bangers and gloaming drone
We direct your attention and dancing bodies to the darkroom pressure of their throbbing lead cut ‘No Solutions’ for the sleaziest pressure, and to the groaning workshop noise of ‘Ultimate Devotion’ for their experimental expressions, and ’Shortyswing’ for a cantering techno style shades away from ‘90s Downwards’ records of Female and Regis.
Unclassifiable mutant bass innovator Amozondotcom comes correct once again with a devastating plate for her and Siete Catorce's Subreal imprint. Her labyrinthine dancefloor variations are a futuristic mid-point between early airlock electronix and post-dubstep hard-swung club pressure. So good.
Sometimes less is more. Stella Ahn's productions are anything but simple, but the LA-based producer refuses to complicate her productions with clutter. Each sound on 'War Bride' is tweaked to perfection, and Ahn is unafraid of harnessing the void-like power of negative space. On 'Most Foreign Country', she paints synthetic squeals over clattering drums, before dragging in a swooping bass womp that coulda been swiped from any number of early DMZ. But Ahn's not pushing some kinda tru-skool dubstep revival, her music is lithe and fluid, grabbing the guiding push of bleep variants and skeletal bass wobblers and forming those loose threads into her own distinct sound.
Anyone that heard her idiosyncratic, genre-fluxing 'Mirror River' and 'Vague Currency' EPs should know broadly what to expect, and 'War Bride' refines her sound to a fine razor's edge of musical precision and thematic coherence. 'Household Deity' bends an inebriated syncopated rhythm into psychedelic robotic vocal wails and curling Radiophonic trance oscillations heralding a drop that's re-conxtualizes played-out dancefloor expectations, eventually dissolving into ear-bending police sirens. 'Body and Soul' is more restrained, inserting guttural clicks and hand drums around flicker'd synthetic atmospheres and timewarping low-end womps.
Utterly compelling lo-lite club music from one of the most exciting producers operating right now.
Spanish filmmaker and recordist Carlos Casas pays tribute to the Aeta, an indigenous group from the Philippines who hosted him for weeks while he observed and recorded. The resulting set of tracks is a window into an unseen world, straddling experimental sound collage and raw environmental recording to tell a complex, layered story of an ancient community.
When looking at the practice of field recording, it's important to think about the ethics behind it. As a filmmaker, Casas seems aware of role he plays when he casts real people in his recordings - as such, 'Kamana' feels intimate, rigorous and consensual. Casas was welcomed into the Aeta community, an ancient nomadic culture, and lived with them for a significant period of time, learning their traditions, talking to them at length, and recording the sounds of their day-to-day experiences. The Aeta were devastated by the eruption of the Pinatubo volcano in 1991, but didn't give up their connection to their land, continuing to maintain their long-held farming and hunting practices.
With 'Kamana', Casas creates a fluid portrait of the Aeta that shifts between the real and the imaginary, the tangible and the mythical. There are untreated field recordings that capture instruments, rituals, interviews and karaoke, but Casas also takes time to assemble them into distinct experimental compositions. He uses his experience living with the Aeta to realise a sonic narrative that attempts to tell their story in sophisticated abstract strokes that are as vivid as his own memory, and it's these moments that feel most resonant. Compositions like 'Panilan' and 'Camote' are rooted in sounds captured with the Aeta, but are dissociated, shifting the sounds into another plane of existence.
'Torture Dance' is particularly surreal, sounding like distorted kalimba or a haunted chime, with animal groans and drones conjuring an atmosphere that's psychedelic and magical. At moments, it sounds as if you're sitting next to a blazing fire, hearing a story that's evolved over generations, or the recollection of a colorful, labyrinthine dream. The hour-long 'Katapusan (Fire and Mud Mix)' is even better; it's basically an audio movie that drops you into the Aeta's world, first with untreated recordings and then with abstraction that slowly transforms into almost orchestral euphoria. Beautiful, moving material.
Out of print since 1986, this towering work from accordion virtuoso Guy Klucevsek and deep listening pioneer Pauline Oliveros is a time-distorting, fractal delicacy. On the surface level it might be drone, but deep beneath the flutters and tonal cracks is a vast, absorbing landscape of sonic waterfalls.
Oliveros and Klucevsek kept their concept for "Sounding / Way" mercifully simple: they each composed a side for two accordions, then performed them together. Klucevsek is a highly respected accordion player who's worked with Anthony Braxton, Laurie Anderson, John Zorn, Bill Frisell and many others, and hearing him here, his skill matches Oliveros well, leading the two pieces into transcendent territory.
'Tremolo No. 6 (Nucleic Chains)' is Klucevsek's composition and zeroes in on the accordion's familiar flutter, as air is pushed in and out of the bellows and through the reed. Playing clouds of notes offset with Oliveros doing similar, Klucevsek creates a shifting mass of harmony that's not a million miles from Bendik Giske's brilliant overblown horn work on his recent "Cracks". It's music that demands repeat listening, and the sort of focus that concentrates the attention on minute details like the gentle rhythmic crack of the accordion keys or the light, bewildering phasing from the two instruments.
Oliveros's composition 'The Tuning Meditation' is focused on sustained tones, which the two players layer over each other creating eerie dissonance and cooling harmony. But like its predecessor (and similar to much of Oliveros's canon), close listening reveals a cracked mirror of preternatural variation that reminds you just how powerfully singular our breath can be.
Originally composed for a sound walk in the Japanese town of Nakanojo, 'Grass Eater Diary' is as sensitive and poetic as it is minimal, dissolving choral vocals and evocative field recordings into rousing drones and subtle local instrumentation.
Tomoko Hojo and Rahel Kraft assembled "Grass Eater Diary" for 2019's Nakanojo Biennale, and wanted to reflect the environment that surrounded them. Inspired by the Japanese idiom "michikusa wo kuu" (a horse eats grass on the way to the destination and wastes its time), the duo wanted to meditate on the idea of wasted time in a capitalist society. So a sound walk feels like the perfect opportunity to prompt listeners to stop what they're doing for a moment and consider their environment, sonically as well actually.
Alongside field recordings taken from a foot bath, a playground and a rice field, the duo recorded instruments in an abandoned music room in a closed-down primary school. Everything in the room was in place, left as if lessons would start again the next day, and while you can't hear this detail, the ghostly quality is carried into the music. There's a magical hush that surrounds "Grass Eater Diary" and it's a joy to lose yourself in - it's an absorbing way to waste time.
Intense oscillations, dense field recordings, demonic percussion and heady psychedelic noise splatter from Chicago's Norman W. Long. RIYL BJ Nilsen, Speaker Music or Byron Westbrook.
There's a refreshing level of confidence that comes with opening your album on a 22-minute live performance. "SOUTHEAST - LIVE 2019" is the ideal doorway into Long's world, and contains pretty much every component found across the rest of the album. There's disorienting processed environmental recordings, sandblasted DIY synth splatter, richly textured sheet noise and most impressive, chaotic sloooow techno rhythmic cycles.
Long makes music that's painfully difficult to squash into a box. While at times it's easy to compare his sonic landscapes to the Touch canon, there's a playfulness that's perfectly in line with the Hausu Mountain aesthetic. This is music that uses our expectations and preconceptions to mess with us, so when we hear evocative environmental recordings, they're usually accompanied by synth sounds that rub against, mimic and sometimes swallow them whole. It's the sonic equivalent of a magic eye - before you realize it, you've been sucked into another world.
Biblical trip metal regression from Wolf Eyes’ Nate Young and John Olson, joined by art noisists Alan Licht and Rebecca Odes, plus Gretchen Gonzales (Universal Indians).
Taking their cues from the historic threshing floor - a place where farmers would sort the wheat from the chaff (winnowing) - the ensemble play around with sacred/profane dichotomies over 14 unbroken minutes of warped noise improvisation, summoning the spirits of biblical figures and parables as a slightly perverse respite from the current pandemic/plague during Shavuot in 2020.
The results call to mind the rich instrumental storytelling of When’s ‘The Black Death’ as much as Wolf Eyes at their most possessed, including their respective solo projects. We can discern Nate Young’s style of mulched loops in there, as well as Olson’s grim gothic, but there’s a more unusual textures at play, smeared by legendary improv guitarist Alan Licht and no doubt Rebecca and Gretchen. Factor in some angry geese and pulsing electronics and you have one beastly mass of hair and muscle with chipped teeth, feathers and scales that sounds like it crawled of the pages of the old testament.
First new volley from Lee G since 2019, seven tracks of fractal R&B thizz, warped post-junglism and Autechrian hiphop steez rent with lushest psychedelic dynamics, for his spiritual home at Hyperdub
After leaving us in freefall with 2019’s ‘In A Paraventral Scale,’ Lee Gamble explores another Janus-faced brace of retro/futurist visions in ‘A Million Pieces Of You EP,’ bending the timelines of late ‘90s electronics, UK ‘nuum mutations and avant philosophies into a hyperreal, uchronic singularity riddled with surprising new angles to his style. More than any of his releases in recent memory, this one feels farthest from the ‘floor, still hingeing around a pronounced rhythmic impetus, but more reflective of imposed stasis and time spent isolated in their own thoughts.
The process of isolation appears to have marinated his sound into, dare we say, more “mature” flavours of jazz and ambient expression, articulating aspects that have long been integral to, fuck we have to say it, IDM, which has long been misunderstood as a kind of perpendicular extension of jazz’s lessons in intuitive looseness; it’s really not hard to draw lines from jazz-fusion thru electro-funk, and its parallels in experimental music, to Detroit and early UK rave, and logically the avant wave of ‘90s jungle that begat IDM, and ultimately Lee’s music.
Lee’s skill lies in parsing and knotting these myriad stands into his own music, here resulting in some of his most direct gear such as the soul-reaching R&B vapours of ‘Balloon Lossy,’ thru the rudely skewed electro of ’Newtown Got Folded,’ to light-headed AI sensation in ‘Obsession Model,’ with something like Autechre meets latter stage The Caretaker in ‘You Left A Space,’ and fully present technosoul torque of ‘Hyperpassive,’ while sweeping into overwrought, Plaid-esque melody on ‘Balloon Copy.’
Like a cool breeze on a humid afternoon, Megan Alice Clune's "If You Do" is fresh, unexpected and welcome turn from Lawrence English's Room40 label. It's an operatic fusion of vocals and synthy electronics that's something like Grouper and Laurie Spiegel playing simultaneously.
In the summer of 2020, Aussie composer Megan Alice Clune had a dream that she wrote an opera. She'd been struggling to lift herself out of creative stasis after a long trip to Tokyo, but the dream offered her the push she needed. She began to sing melodies (quietly, so the neighbors wouldn't hear) and eventually an album began to take shape. Clune describes the record as "an album for solo voice and an ensemble of technologies" and that feels fitting. Her voice is the central instrument, but that's only part of the story; Clune's use of synths and effects gives the album a character that helps it shift thru genre, time and space.
It's a record that's intended to inspire through about our use of technology, and after well over a year of being tied to a computer screen, it's timely. The organic, fallible nature of Clune's voice is offset by the layers of electronics, and while the mood isn't combative, it's critical. Good stuff.
Glaswegish dream weaver Cucina Povera keeps the magick flowing with her 2nd album of 2021, following the outstanding ‘Lumme’ with a haul of tracks recorded while stranded in a scottish snowstorm back in 2017, tracing an icy path between ancient folk, choral music, Islaja, Lau Nau and Grouper - just next level really.
There's a weightlessness to Cucina Povera's music that’s inspiring and highly original; using little more than her voice, Maria Rossi forms soundscapes and song cycles that drag sacred music into personal new horizons with a depth of feeling and sense of succour in stasis, capturing lonely but quietly life-affirming expressions.
Povera’s music has a strong familiarity with the night; ‘The Dalmarnock Tapes’ are unmistakably made for nocturnal situations in a way that we imagine lonely Sub Arctic folk make music; as both entertainment and for spiritual elevation. Between the purring lilt of ‘Keruu’ and the nithered tone of ‘Olen oluen oljen’ Cucina grants access to this secretive practice, yielding private, if obfuscated, thoughts as meditative aids - building an atmosphere of measured resilience, looping phrases to create the illusion of a choir echoing internally/eternally like some spirit guide for the changing of the seasons.
Cairo break technician Hassan Abou Alam follows last year's ace 'T44' with this rugged, substantial five-tracker - a crunchy, bass-heave set of post dubstep tweakage, for fans of Martyn, CCL et al.
"It Spills" is strong material from Abou Alam, that seems to bridge the gap between the early '00s car culture breaks scene (think Tipper etc), rave and the Bristol-centric post dubstep movement that took root thanks to labels like Livity Sound and Apple Pips.
'Unkindled' is a low-end heavy machine funk monster, with wobbly synth bass rumbling under bit-crushed beats that aren't a million miles from Autechre's seminal "Envane". 'Breathe' is even better, with pinprick percussion underpinning metallic clattering and an acidic bassline that makes us yearn for a dark basement. Good stuff!
Brooklyn-based experimental noise holdout Bob Bellerue's latest is a symphony for feedback, enhanced with speakers sitting on metal bowls and drums. Seriously heavy durational drones for fans of Sunn O))), Catherine Christer Hennix, Robert Ashley or Eliane Radigue's Feedback Works.
'Radioactive Desire' is a suite of six durational pieces (the shortest clocks in at a modest 13 minutes, the longest is almost 40) that bask in feedback's lavish, squealing fuzz. The harnessing of feedback has been a constant in experimental music for decades, but Bellerue's approach is novel and well conceived. He's been a key component in the East Coast noise underground for 30 years, and brings this knowledge of all things extreme to his treatment, giving it a surprising level of restraint.
Considering 'Radioactive Desire' is constructed from feedback, there are few moments of complete cacophony. Rather Bellerue appears to want to highlight how feedback allows us to hear spaces through vibrations and tones. His space is set up so that the resonant squeals cause rattles and overtones throughout the room and enhance, or distort, every other element. It's not always easy to listen to, but it's consistently fascinating - the title track alone, the most musical of the six works contorting feedback into an almost orchestral groove, is an essential listen.
IDM retrofuturism from Parisian project Synalegg, shaking out wonky generative limbs on Florentine label OOH-Sounds
Leading on from the label’s yab ; yanko turn, Synalegg churns up busy drums and wayward softsynth angularities in ‘Computer Series’, oscillating puckered melodic pieces with more stripped back, splintered rhythm explorations and heady Autechrian spatial convolutions.
Curious batch of roiling, biting point synth noise and drone from Sofia Mestre’s Clothilde, crafted as soundtrack to a stage play authored and directed by Pedro Saavedra. One for fans of Alessandro Cortini, Joachim Nordwall, Alberich
“Out of the eight “Principles Of The New Man”, making up the play staged at Malaposta in October/November 2020, four are cut out for this independent soundtrack release. Precisely those which author and director Pedro Saavedra designated for distinct sound pieces. The remaining four are accompanied by The Background (“A Base”), a long, hypnotic, meditative and pulsating piece over which the listener is offered a chance of imaginative creation, just as in the play it assumes a background role to the text and music.
The author’s briefing and Clothilde’s attentive listening to the (long) original text were the sources for the composition. Each track was completed in one take, no editing. The music thus simulates a live performance, careful to adapt to the stage action but also respecting the natural rhythm of the equipment the artist manipulates. This – shall we say – organic dialogue is itself the creative process and generates a sort of autonomous area where woman and machine cannot be dissociated from each other.
Austere march across a barren land which, through sound, reminds us of the flat surface in Moderan, from the homonymous classic science fiction series of short stories. The titles themselves (“The Dawn”, “The War”, “The Fortress”, “The New World”) resonate as big keywords, each one a full epic suggesting the action in Moderan, within a narrative arc which follows the stage scenography´s conflict between light and darkness.”
Low's thirteenth album is a brutally overdriven, but slow-as-fuck offering from a band who resolutely refuse to stay still. Unlike 2018's "Double Negative" it's not soft and hyper-electronic, "HEY WHAT" is distorted but achingly beautiful - like church songs banged thru a broken radio and blown speaker cones.
We gotta admit we were pretty surprised when we heard Low's last full-length. The band has always played with perceptions of their influential slowcore sound, but "Double Negative" was a death-defying drop into territory usually inhabited by artists like Andy Stott and Newworldaquarium. "HEY WHAT" subverts expectations again: Low stick with "Double Negative" producer BJ Burton but drive him to hone in on a completely separate aspect of their sound.
Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker's dueling vocal harmonics are at the center of the album, spruced up by sparse sonic elements that sound so fucked they're almost completely unrecognizable. Is it guitar, drums, synth? It's hard to tell as chaotic, fractured sounds buzz and break off beneath Parker and Sparhawk's melancholy chorals. Opener 'White Horses' sets the stage, with mic hiss and axe fuzz slowly breaking into stuttering ear-bending electronics.
It's music that feels dangerously experimental, but never loses the magic of Low's idiosyncratic songwriting in the lead clouds of white noise, wobbling subs and ear-splitting fuzz. This time around Low have found a comfort zone making devotional music that forces itself thru our era's deafening cultural cacophony, finding a place of euphoric resonance. It's proof that a band can exist for nearly three decades and still find relevance in change, self-exploration and sonic rehabilitation.
South Korean-born, LA-based producer, rapper and singer Park Hye Jin impressed with her "How Can I" EP and Clams Casino, Blood Orange and Nosaj Thing collaborations. "Before I Die" is a mixtape-like effort that combines disparate flavors of hip-hop and dance with sunny K-pop vocals and riffs.
'Before I Die' attempts a lot, but struggles to escape its cascade of influences. Park Hye Jin sounds most comfortable when she works in a house mode. Opening track 'Let's Sing Let's Dance' is the album's most successful track, her voice is assured whether singing or offering deadpan phrases and the production is propulsive and effective. But when she veers into overworked rap subgenres ('Before I Die', 'Where Did I Go') it gets a bit murkier.
It's not all bad news: 'Good Morning Good Night' is a blissful downtempo cut, and 'Can I Get Your Number' interpolates LA's short-lived jerkin' sound in a respectful way. But "Before I Die" is just too disjointed to fully lean into.
Chock full of humid, resonant soundscapes that bend time and emphasize texture, tone and timbre, Sarah Davachi's latest is her most defining and rewarding full-length to date. We're floored, again - there's nobody else doing it quite like this.
Composed using a Mellotron, electric organ, piano and synthesizers, "Antiphonals" takes all the elements we know and love from Davachi's impressive catalogue to date and refines them into eight tracks of expertly-sculpted deep listening stickiness. If you're familiar with her work, the content won't be surprising, but Davachi's dedication to her craft has resulted in music that feels more and more revelatory each time.
Here, she brings her obsession with the tonal and textural character of early music to the fore, playing confidently with sounds that exist two or three steps from the contemporary sonic spectrum. Her favored outpost is a cocoon of soft-focus resonance, where sounds graze lightly and hypnotize rather than scrape or bruise. It's not background music - this is art that requires attention and understanding to appreciate its layered beauty and subtle complexity.
There are no real standouts or big moments, rather "Antiphonals" is a single long-running excerpt of Davachi's sonic thesis that plays continuously without a defined beginning or a defined end. It's a privilege to spend time in her world, listening to sacred music melt into prog rock and sensual, experimental drone into blurry neoclassical ambience. There are plenty of musicians who attempt to reach this jewelled nirvana, and precious few who get close - Davachi is currently sitting near the center. Breathtaking.
Elemental, experimental brilliance from the peerless Annea Lockwood, venturing two major new compositions attentively performed by Nate Wooley and Yarn/Wire
A leading pioneer of radical experimental music for over 50 years, Annea Lockwood is a legendary artist whose sound sensitive approach lies at the threshold of musical perception. Following the compilation/reissue of her seminal ’70s piece ’Tiger Balm’ (and two new works) by Oren Ambarchi’s Black Truffle in 2017, Annea’s 2nd release for the label offers two quietly stunning new works written between 2018/19 that return us to a familiar yet deeply otherworldly plane of sound exploration with a gripping exposition of sonic fundamentals made musical by her focussed, intuitive approach and dilated purview.
‘Becoming Air’ (2018) was developed with and performed by trumpeter Nate Wolley, who is pushed to the limits of his instrument by “a desire for ‘letting go of the sound to be itself’.” In fractured gasps and tip of tongue sounds at the periphery of audibility, the piece appears to unfold in and out of consciousness on the first section, before fixing into skull scrape, textured drones in the middle, and ultimately unleashing excoriating distortion in the final third with ruthless volume recalling the shuddering effects of Robert Ashley’s Wolfman.
‘Into The Vanishing Point’ (2019) follows in this vein of instrumental tactility by instructions to “explore their ‘feelings about what is happening ecologically’.” A collaborative work hatched with and performed by New York piano and percussion quartet Yarn/Wire, it takes the global warning of insect colony collapse as the cue for a far more low-key, tense and sprawling work populated with buzzing sonorities and flightier expressions that reflect the subject matter with a mixture of obliqueness and suggestive sensitivity that effortlessly and hauntingly weave us into its textures and insectoid rhythms.
Purely Physical Teeny Tapes excavate Aussie post-punks He Dark Age’s debut tape, originally issued in 1986 and absolutely impossible to find, now given a first ever vinyl edition destined to catch attention from Severed Heads, SPK and Pelican Daughters disciples.
Arriving on PPTT in the wake of aces by Laila Sakini & Lucy Van, Max Eilbacher, DJ Fitz and M. Quake, ‘Ecce Homo’ frolics in the scuzzy twilight of post-punk between 1983-1986 in and around Brisbane and Sydney, where He Dark Age’s Paul Newsome and Tony Millner forged a cranky and playfully janky style. They were part of a loose scene summed up on Efficient Space’s cherished ‘Oz Waves’ compilation, to which they contributed a highlight ‘Holding Out For Eden’, and explored a sound patently in thrall to some of Australia’s post-punk/post-industrial pioneers, with a possible clue to their name in SPK’s ‘Another Dark Age’ as well as a sampledelic wit no doubt inspired by Severed Heads, but also with a grubby oddness that recalls the gothic tint of Sydney’s cult properties, Pelican Daughters.
‘Ecce Homo’ (1986) remains a definitive testament to He Dark Age’s mid ’80s run, deploying a range of Korg MS10, Yamaha RX-11, a borrowed vocoder, guitars and bass in the years just prior to the advent of home computing. The original album’s 23 rough hewn but enchanting songs have been pruned back to 13 for this first reissue, from lissom new age in ‘I Have Come Back Deborah’ to the killer club banger on ‘Repent’, taking in American preacher Rex Humbard’s biblical declarations on ‘Jesus Didn’t Beat Him Over The Head’ and scalding EBM skronk on ‘The Book of Common Prayer’, tucking away their Oz Waves ace ‘Holding Out For Eden’, with their blend of gloaming noise and preacher samples in ‘The Master’ reminding of BMB’s ‘Hate Is Such a Strong Word.’ An idiosyncratic piece of the Australian underground music puzzle, Ecce Homo forms a unique DIY document from a part of the world that seems to have dominated our listening this last couple of years.
Sam Shackleton returns to his "core sound" with an intense solo long player of sunrise afters psychedelia and brain tickling, bass heavy rhythmic fusion. Completely absorbing music that spirals thru odd time signatures and offworld instrumentation, landing in a rare meditative space that's a balm fer the soul.
It's been a few years since Shackleton's last proper solo full-length; recently he's been more drawn to bold concepts and collaborations, so it's an unexpected pleasure to hear him circling back to basics on "Departing Like Rivers". Here he processes the emotional complexity of the last couple of years with a warm blast of cascading vocal splices, hypnotic drones and rousing sub pressure. There's little surprising about the album, but he investigates his own tropes more deeply, channeling the looping 'n loping weirdness of his Woe To The Septic Heart! run into a coherent seance that clothes the ghosts of the past in vivid nu threads.
The genre-shaping oddstep of his earliest releases is now left as only a faint trace, while elements snipped from folk music and experimental drone forms loom much larger. Each rhythmic cycle feels as if it dances around the 4/4 idea, without locking into the expected chug, allowing the brain to create subtle aural hallucinations while it processes the complex web of well-chiseled sounds. Electronic and vocal cuts usher us into a spiraling k-hole of echoing instability; colors are painted and then melted, and coherent forms shattered into tiny pieces before being carefully, slowly reassembled.
At this stage in his career, Shackleton isn't interested in making stand-out tracks or bangers; on 'Departing Like Rivers' he creates an emotional soundscape to aid anxious moments and reflective states. It's art that shares as much musickal DNA with Catherine Christer Hennix or FM synth pioneer Maggi Payne as it does with T++ or Peverlist. Pure phantasmagoria.
Neo-modernist Mark Fisher acolyte Lee Gamble finally polishes off his ambitious conceptual triptych with a brace of dusty, pensive re-realizations of wyrd dance, hyperreal ambient and warp'd web 3.0 doomsignalling >> proper gurglers fer dissident ravers inside.
Back in 2019 (which at this point feels like about a decade ago) Lee Gamble began his most ambitious project to date, a three-part album that would weave together the loose threads of his varied and often polar back catalog. The conceptual framework was "semioblitz": “the aggressive onslaught of visual & sonic stimuli of contemporary cities and virtual spaces.”
And while we received two weighty transmissions - "In A Paraventral Scale" and "Exhaust" - the third and final piece of the puzzle never appeared, until now. "Flush Real Pharynx 2019-2021" compiles those acclaimed first parts and adds an ample chunk of new material, bringing Gamble's 4K flicker of scanline drone and inverted post-'nuum rhythmic tweakage bang into the post-COVID-19 reality.
If the first two pieces of the puzzle were relatively hopeful ('n brutally cynical) flashes of our capitalism-warped reality, Gamble's new material feels checker'd by dislocated sadness. Given the project's CCRU-wave roots, this makes some kind of perverted sense, and Gamble's use of mucky haunted piano ('Empty Middle Seat') and machine-grade halfstep ('Newtown Got Folded') anchors the nu material in a pensive half-remembered backtopia.
The glinting, polished shimmer of "In A Paraventral Scale" and "Exhaust" is almost gone now, obscured by endless months of digital dust and mental anguish. Transport has stopped, AI has been subverted, and the MDMA rush is completely solipsistic in isolation: what's a contemporary city exactly when u compare 2019 with 2021? Now Gamble casts his mind into the future and channels cracks of light into a new reality's stifling darkness. Who knows what's next, but we ain't going backwards.