Acoustic improviser Shaul Kohn traverses ASMR zones with atonal, whisper-quiet string scrapes.
Jerusalem's Shaul Kohn has managed to spend his time developing a way of playing acoustic guitar that almost completely removes it from the context you'd expect when you see an acoustic guitar. Bowing the strings with a careful pressure, he creates tones that are so delicate that they sit beneath the sound of the scrapes themselves, creating an almost ASMR listening experience, where it feels almost like it's your eardrums that are being bowed.
Over time, Kohn's pieces develop into resonant tones - not unlike a singing bowl - and the brushy bow strokes create near-rhythms. The result is hypnotic as metallic clangs and microtonal hums convince you of rhythms and harmonies that exist completely on the astral plane. Deep, difficult listening, and worth every ounce of effort.
Digitally overcast "Caretakered" ambient edit of Eartheater's phenomenal recent full-length. Proper late-night business.
We never imagined we'd want a suite of fully blurred-out, granulated-to-fuck reworks of every track on Eartheater's "Phoenix", but now they're here we're not sure how we survived without 'em. There's nothing particularly complicated on show - the same process is applied to each song: a granulated timestretching effect that should be familiar to anyone who's spent a considerable amount of time in the ambient zone over the last decade or two. But "Pheonix: La Petite Mort Edition" isn't about technical grandstanding. Like The Caretaker's reverberating vignettes, Eartheater's edits conduct an alluringly haunting mood that adds an eerie, erotic post-script to the original album.
If "Phoenix" was a deft exercise in spare songwriting and elegiac dream-pop soundscaping, "La Petite Mort Edition" morphs the experience into a mystifying, druggy delayed orgasm, dragging every crescendo into an edged squeal. Bonus points for providing a long-form mixed version for the tantra demons. Who said ambient music couldn't be sexy?
Prolific D&B dynamo ASC swandives back into deep mid-‘90s jungle zones on a lush drop with the Veil subsidiary of his Auxiliary label
There’s no mistaking the cues from that point when jungle emerged as a genuine neologism from the rush of hardcore rave, but rather than imitation, ASC emulates the style at its finest while injecting warm doses of his own heart-on-sleeve emotion.
‘After Dark’ is built plush and smooth for the LTJ Bukem fiends, and ‘Artificial Life cuts a more brooding silhouette remind of classic Peshay, with ‘Voyager’ coming harder, suspenseful in an artful Foul Play style, while ‘Forever’ conjures pure weightless motion in a way reminding of Alpha Omega bits for Reinforced or Omni Trio on Moving Shadow, but with an extra layer of synthetic space that’s all his own.
Enchanting griot tales from West Africa; recorded in traditional settings and spanning nearly half a century, and each accompanied by lilting guitar and koni lutes in a way that you’d never guess when they were recorded
“About a hundred kilometers south-west of Bamako, on the left bank of the Niger River, the Malian village of Kela is known to be home to a large community of griot musicians (jeliw) mostly belonging to the Diabaté family. Their art is recognized throughout West Africa and many griots come from all over the world to stay there, sometimes for several years, in the hope of becoming immersed in it. The six pieces for voice accompanied by guitar or traditional koni lutes were recorded in 1978 (tracks 3 to 6) and in 2019 (tracks 1 to 3), in the same traditional dwelling, which still serves as a "studio". The accompanying booklet contains the testimonies of several important musicians who took part in the recording, and evoke key elements of their universe. Recordings by Bernard Mondet (1978) and Vincent Zanetti (2019).”
Cheval Sombre releases his third album, Time Waits for No One, his first solo release for more than eight years, following 2018’s critically acclaimed collaboration with Galaxie 500 and Luna frontman Dean Wareham, and the first of two new albums scheduled for 2021, both of which have been produced by Sonic Boom.
"Cheval Sombre is the nome d’arte of Chris Porpora, a poet from upstate New York whose otherworldly psychedelic lullabies on his self-titled album from 2009 and its follow-up, Mad Love (2012), won him a cult following. Time Waits for No One ushers in his most prolific period, and serendipitously the world has finally slowed down to his pace. This is no lockdown record, but Cheval Sombre’s reclusive, reflective music is its perfect soundtrack.
“I’ve always said that what I really want to do with music is to give people sanctuary,” he explains. “Pandemic or not, the world has always felt as though it were spinning out of control to me, and so if folks have slowed down, I do see it all as an opportunity to discover vital realms which have always been there, but we’ve been too rushed and distracted to encounter.” Time Waits for No One is also his finest and most fully realised body of work to date and, appropriately enough for a record that has taken so many years to come to fruition, across eight original songs, an instrumental and a closing cover of Townes Van Zandt’s ‘No Place to Fall’, its overarching theme is time itself; what it is and what role it inevitably plays in all of our lives. But the record is also timeless, contrasting the musical simplicity of Cheval Sombre’s open-tuned acoustic guitar curlicues with the beautiful, sweeping and ornate arrangements of Sonic Boom’s keyboards and Gillian Rivers’ and Yuiko Kamakari’s strings. The end result is something akin to Daniel Johnston backed by the Mercury Rev of Deserter’s Songs. Elemental and earthbound, but simultaneously and very subtly shooting for the stratosphere."
Of all the Sakamoto/YMO reissues, this is the one we’ve waited for the most. Hidari Ude No Yume (Left Handed Dream) was released in 1981 and is here reissued for the first time in decades in its rare Japanese edition - beautifully remastered from the original tapes by Bernie Grundman and sounding better than we’ve ever heard it before, including a 2LP version with a bonus album of instrumental versions pressed on vinyl for the first time ever.
Recorded during a pivotal period for Sakamoto - around the same time as his stunning ‘Bamboo Houses’ with David Sylvian, and in between two classic YMO albums, 'Hidari Ude No Yume basically sounds quite unlike anything he made before or since its release, a sort of anthology of pop interiors made with hi-gloss synths and unexpected edits, from farm animals to simmering, percolated drum machines.
‘Hidari Ude No Yume’ was Sakamoto’s follow-up to the seminal ‘B-2 Unit’, and sees him smudge that album’s angularities into weirder shapes that are somehow both more experimental and oddly accessible. The newly available instrumental versions offer previously unheard perspectives on the remarkably detailed production; including an amazing tweaked-out and extended mix of ‘Relâché’, plus a beautifully slippery mix of the album’s best known highlight, ‘Kacha Kucha Nee’.
It’s a sound that has had countless imitators and acolytes; using the newest Japanese synths, traditional percussion, and his own vocals to create a sort of infectiously rhythmic future-primitivism recalling his work with David Sylvian in the Eastern electro orientation and new wave vocal affectations of ‘Living In The Dark’ and 'Saru To Yuki Gomi No Kodomo’, which also sound incredible in their brighter instrumentals, along with more avant jags into collaged 4th world electro-steppers on ‘Sarunoie,’ and a psychedelic masterwork in the strutting ace ‘The Garden Of Poppies.’
What a record.
Completely future ice-cold pinprick dub from severely underrated glitch pioneer Frank Bretschneider. If yr into Alva Noto, Vladislav Delay, Pole or SND, you absolutely need this one.
When "Curve" appeared in 2001, it felt completely new. A wave of laptop music focused on the glitch had begun to wash over the world in the wake of Oval's visionary "Systemische" and "94diskont." and had been highlighted on Mille Plateaux's "Clicks & Cuts" compilation a year earlier. "Curve" built on this foundation, showing the utility of the sound and its proving its long-form potential. Bretschneider constructed the record from a tiny set of tinier sounds, often allowing tracks to develop over ten minutes with only minor shifts. But by infusing his productions with dub processes and rhythmic funk, transcended the scene's aesthetic fireworks reaching a sound that put soul back into the machine.
Two decades later, "Curve" still sounds unique and still stands in a league of its own alongside Carsten Nicolai's early Alva Noto records, Pole's debut trilogy and SND's brilliant early run. Few other artists managed to create such inviting minimalist sound worlds and "Curve" sounds like an empty space mall, an off-world spa, a Polar weather station and a subterranean crystal cave all at once. There's little more than scratchy percussion, deeper-than-deep sub bass and the occasional wavering pad warble, but that's all Bretschneider needs to tell his sonic narrative. Deep as fuck - take us back.
Norwegian duo Smerz release ‘Believer’, the debut album that pushes Smerz far beyond their previous EP releases, 2017’s ‘Okey’ and 2018’s ‘Have Fun’.
"Since releasing the ‘Believer’ trailer back in October 2020, followed by a video for the tracks ‘I don’t talk about that much/Hva hvis’, the duo of Catharina Stoltenberg and Henriette Motzfeldt have slowly revealed a new auditory world. The duo meld sonic touchstones from their youth, like musicals and classical music, with swirling, tranceindebted synth lines and hip-hop plus R&B vocals that is distinctly Smerz. The duo performed recently at Oslo’s Ultima festival; in early 2020 they scored a performance by Carte Blanche, the Norwegian national company of contemporary dance, as well as performed at Mira festival in collaboration with legendary visual maverick Weirdcore."
Almost four hours of wispy, submerged jazz x crate digger modes from LA horn player Sam Gendel. Seriously sublime - float away on this one.
This might be the most Leaving Records album we've come across. Sax scientist Sam Gendel has found a fertile mid-point between the outerzone fourth world experimentation of nu-nu age pioneer Jon Hassell and LA's beat scene, infusing his woozy instrumental compositions with the sparkling essence of the Leaving canon. Gendel initially dropped "Fresh Bread" on Bandcamp during the pandemic, but quickly deleted it pending a wider release; now the 52-track epic of home recordings and performances spanning an eight year (!) period is available once again, with selected cuts making it to a 2LP vinyl edition. Our recommendation is the full set though, which includes charming collabs with Carlos Niño, Jamire Williams, Daniel Aged, Gabe Noel, and Philippe Melanson and holds a consistent groove without falling into repetition.
These are funky, widescreen, sensual and often narcotic mood makers, scraping liberal amounts of influence from Ennio Morricone, Chick Corea, Carlos Santana, Madlib and David Axelrod. Even Stereolab's fizzed Kraut-cum-lounge permeates Gendel's personable wyrd jazz bubble. It's refreshing to hear an artist working in this mode, using crate digger techniques to assemble spiritual, life-affirming compositions that remind you fondly of the impossibly wide-reaching tendrils of jazz. You might not expect to have the patience for a four-hour set but trust us, once you start this one it's hard to stop. You'll find yourself reaching for the play button again just to spend another few moments in Gendel's absorbing, colorful musical landscape. It's basically like listening to someone perform a cross-genre megamix in real time. Really.
Floating Points collaborator Destiny71z collects up last year's EPs with a handful of new material: housey modular electronica for the afters.
Last year, a trio of EPs emerged on Eglo credited to unknown artist Destiny71z. These tracks, created using the Buchla Music Easel and a beatboxes and other bits of modular kit, sounded like Floating Points doing "Analord" covers - slick and groovy, but undeniably spannered. "Six" combines the material on these records, adds a few more tracks and reveals the identity of Destiny71z as Matthew Kirkis from the Floating Points live band. So the Floating Points comparison makes perfect sense then.
It's the modular focus that gives "Six" its own character though, blessing each track with a hands-on immediacy and brittle squelch that feels a few paces from most contemporary DAWtronica. Just like AFX's "Analord" series celebrated the breathy, funk-fwd feeling of playing wyrd dance music on a room full of machines, "Six" follows suit, basking in analog goodness and the freewheeling sound you get when attempting to force your boxes to do as they're told. Cosmic.
The sound of digital ice cracking endlessly. That's a good thing, btw.
'Frankille' is a twysted record in all the best ways. It's basically a showcase of Helsinki-based Atte Elias Kantonen's sound design skills, as he successfully highlights how capable he is at making synthetic, resonating scratches and blips that remind of stretching metal strings, splintering glass, fracturing ice or insects burrowing into your skull. Bonus points for calling a track 'Marmite Love Pool' - no idea what that might look like, but we're willing to try it.
Tehran graffiti writers, Kahkli Cru helm a surreal waking dream of a session on Parsa’s highly watchable young label from Iran, Active Listeners Club - Æ/Gescom/Skam nuts should be all over this one!
Even the thought of Iranian graff writers channelling Persian geometry into their work makes us salivate a wee bit, and with ‘Hollows’ it’s not hard to follow that line into sound, with deliriously contoured results. As with Autechre and their pals, who started out as graffiti writers and pursued those aesthetics into their peerless sound designs, here Kahkli Cru appear to short circuit the links between visual and auditory senses with four hallucinatory, polychromatic sound images full of melting angles, aerosolised textures and dripping dissonance, complemented by a remix from label heads Parsa and Ramtin Niazi in their Ben & Jerry guise.
Yet for all our references to Æ, Kahkli Cru’s work doesn’t hinge around old skool hip hop, but does feel more like instrumentals for some alien MC, effectively ripping the snare hackled spine out of Æ styles and sparking the ligaments and musculature with electrodes to make it dance impossibly like some AI generated avatar. In case you’re wondering, that’s a bit of fantasy of ours, so it’s a good thing, and at best in their polymetric head wobbler ’Shaded 3rd Duct’, and the pitching, curiously emotive traction of ‘Onomatope’, with Ben & Jerry sealing the deal on a fractalised remix of ‘Scala’s Typany.’
Purported Jaws Harp virtuoso, pantea, renders a microcosm of beguiling madness from her computer for the transfixing 2nd release on Tehran’s Active Listeners Club, the young label run by Parsa and Ramtin Niazi
OK, to be fair we’re not sure if the Jaws Harp thing is a red herring or not as we get deeper into the release, but for at least the first two tracks it certainly could be a source for the plucked twangs of ‘Combs’ and the wildly pitching, goopy tones of ‘Keys’, albeit processed lost out of all semblance. For that matter we’re really not sure what’s happening in ‘Cicadas’ either, which sounds like the titular insects have strangely relocated somewhere far wintrier than usual, and the same level of persistent, amorphous dynamic informs the gyring proprioception of ‘Patu (blanket)’, and comes to pool in simply jaw-dropping abstraction of ‘Jar & nuPg.’ Computer music connoisseurs are set to be beside themselves on this one.
“What's happened here is an adaptation of speculative worry, observed but not felt. Empty vessels filled to the brim, and emptied again. Content™ triggers refactorization of Eternity into eternity[n-1] and everything which was real is now ceramic. Magic happens in the space between Listening and the listener, where there is only verbs. And just outside that there is eternity manifest upside down, combing its hair.”
FWD-thinking melting pot club inversions from the always-on-point Mexican producer here welding Latin American club forms with UK funky, post dubstep and even SND's dusty glitch experiments.
Marco Gutierrez has carved out a niche completely for himself over the last few years, surfing fluidly between jagged club styles and refusing to stop in one place too long. This latest four tracker is no different, jumping between dance formula from beat to beat, not just track to track. Opener 'Todo' is like T++'s rolling post-dubstep explorations crossed with Crazy Cousinz's xylophone-led snare-heavy UK funky then thrown through the sonic mangle; Gutierrez spikes this with noisy amens and a reggaeton-esque shuffle, flipping thru rhythmic modes like he's searching for a station on a car radio.
'Derretido' sets its sights on techno, with gloomy rolling kicks that eventually build into flutes 'n thumb piano clang, sounding like Konono No.1 on a messy night out at the rave. Our pick though is closer 'Tu', where Guttierez strips things down to a whisper, with hollow, glitchy beats that sound almost like SND's seminal "sndio", before adding distorted breaks and tinpot percussion that ratchets the humidity to eleven. Fans of Amazondotcom, DEBIT or DJ Plead don't you dare sleep.
‘Working With God’ is the new studio album from Melvins, featuring the 1983 line-up of Buzz Osborne, Dale Crover and Mike Dillard. This is the first time the trio have recorded together since ‘Tres Cabrones’.
"‘Working With God’ is Melvins’ 28th (yes, 28th) full-length studio release and their first since 2018’s ‘Pinkus Abortion Technician’. The band have been one of the most lauded hard rock bands to have helped develop the Grunge and Sludge scenes. The new album is one of their most melodic and playful records - not just another ‘metal’ record, this will translate easily to hard rock and even mainstream rock fans as well. The songs on the album are originals except for their take on Harry Nilsson’s classic ‘Fuck You’ and the well-known ‘Good Night Sweetheart’ that finishes off the album."
Reliably unpredictable innovators Mouse on Mars are back with an album of bizarre AI-led club/Kraut deconstructions.
Jan St. Werner and Andi Toma's haphazard electronic experiments have been a refreshing constant over the last 25 years. Always different and often essential, the duo's productions inevitably reflect the era's shifting contemporary forms but inject them with a mischievous DIY spirit and innovative, exploratory sense of wonder. "AAI" is no different, and finds MoM exploring concepts of artificial intelligence without resorting to clapped posturing or empty-headed theorizing.
The title stands for "Anarchic Artificial Intelligence" and to assemble the record, Toma and Werner got together an intriguing team of collaborators: writer and scholar Louis Chude-Sokei, DJ and producer Yağmur Uçkunkaya, percussionist and longtime MoM collaborator Dodo NKishi, AI tech collective Birds on Mars and former Soundcloud programmers Ranny Keddo and Derrek Kindle. The team worked together to create a piece of software that could model speech, feeding it text and voice from Chude-Sokei and Uçkunkaya and allowing the software to learn from that. The resulting voice sounds that guide "AAI" are completely computer generated, despite sounding like narration or samples. Mouse on Mars were able to use the voices like an instrument and play the software like a synthesizer, using the artificial intelligence elements less like an app to write its own music, but like a tool they could manipulate to inspire their musical methodology.
"Machines can open up new concepts of life, and expand our definitions of being human," says Werner. Certainly the line between human and computer is seriously blurred here, with voices melting into percussion and drums rattling and fluffing between words and syllables like bees in honeycomb. "AAI" is a deeply unusual album, utilizing familiar elements - rhythmic flutters from footwork or emerging club forms are brought together in harmony with pulsing motorik sounds - and corrupting or disrupting them with sci-fi-tinged philosophical elements. It's not a record that you can acceptably play in the background, by any means, it takes attention and concentration, and it deserves it.
Operatic ambient-pop meets contemporary classical in strikingly distinguished form - imagine Julianna Barwick duetting with Antony Hegarty at Holly Herndon’s lab and you’re not far off this singular bouquet.
“Lyra Pramuk’s debut Fountain explores a post-human, non-binary understanding of life. Lyra Pramuk fuses classical training, pop sensibilities, performance practices and contemporary club culture in what may best be described as futurist folk music. While the American operatically-trained vocalist and electronic musician is perhaps previously best known for her work with musical collaborators such as Holly Herndon and Colin Self, she is set to release her debut album, Fountain, via Iceland’s Bedroom Community label in March 2020.
Created entirely from her own voice, although often shaped and structured by electronics, Fountain is an emotional, sensual, and devotional journey. The title is derived from her family name, Pramuk, which translates from Czech as ‘well spring’ or ‘fountain.’ Often wordless, these songs evoke a new wholeness sustained by the ritual force of drowning, immersion, cleansing, and bathing – also referred to in the album artwork by acclaimed visual artist Donna Huanca. Fountain plays with the perception of music, rhythms, speech, body, and the relation between technology and humanity, exploring a post-human, non-binary understanding of life and the fragile ecosystems it depends on. The work documents a healing that is still in process, and a full circle-moment that reunited Lyra with her sound engineer twin brother, Ben, for the final mix, which they completed in tandem.”
Completely mindbending, fluxed, glitch-heavy DSP dubscapes from Tehran - like a Raster Noton comp stuck in a broken CD player and piped through an empty storage factory. Love.
This one's brilliantly bonkers. We don't know a lot about 1000PA except that they're described as "two insectologists based out of Tehran", but "Vaccum Dub" is a bonafide head-melter. It's basically a sequence of brain-alteringly squelchy FM synth sounds bashed through reverb and manipulated in a way that enhances the lead synth's scratchy ASMR qualities, combing thru the grey matter like copper wire. The "dub" referenced in the title is accurate, but only just: the duo certainly utilize dub elements, but the music is barely recognizable as anything so formulaic.
"Vacuum Dub" is next-level sci fi sound design, but with added echo and the occasional pause for low-end; there's dub there, but it's a cough, hiss or wobble. To put it bluntly, it makes Basic Channel sound like Ocean Colour Scene. If you like TCF, Mark Fell at his most challenging or the deeper end of the Autechre catalog (think the later "elseq" sides), you're gonna find plenty to whet yer appetite here. Proper far-out mirror universe business, and all the better for it.
John Tejada finds a blissful moment of balance between the new and the familiar.
"Anyone who’s followed his career to date, which has included four previous albums for Kompakt,outings for storied labels like Plug Research, Playhouse and Cocoon and numerous remixes and collaborations – most recently, his Wajatta duo with actor and musician Reggie Watts – will immediately sense the warmth and eloquence that Tejada brings to his gilded, pliant techno and electro hybrids.
But there’s more here, too; an explorer’s glimmer in the producer’s eye, as he gets to grips with new ways of working and being, while offering a reflective opening for the listener, something echoed in artwork by graphic designer and ‘contemplative artist’ David Grey.
“The album was started using tools I was unfamiliar with, which became an interesting exploratory process,” Tejada says.“Staying away from the obvious and having to re-learn simple things was a fun challenge.” You can hear these new creative pulsions pushing the eight tracks on Year Of The Living Dead ever-forward; the album has an unique cast, and though there are trace elements of the genres Tejada has indulged previously, he’s never quite put them together this way before. There’s the dubwise glitter sprinkled across the moody opener “The Haunting Of Earth”, the kind caresses found amongst the deftly woven textures of “Sheltered”, and the churchy melancholy, all hymnal and golden, of “Echoes Of Life”.
Year Of The Living Dead also speaks obliquely to its moment, though Tejada works this implicitly, allowing the strange circumstances of 2020 to cast their inevitable shadow without being obvious or didactic. “The production process began right before lockdown and continued through what felt like a very serious time for all of us,” he recalls. “Not being able to see or touch our loved ones made me feel we are all like ghosts. We can observe from a distance but cannot really be there. We are isolated and alone.” And yet, Year Of The Living Dead’s tenderness offers an out for that anxiety and loneliness, its intimate immensities gifting the album a redemptive and compassionate core."
The Stereolab collection we've all been waiting for: a follow-up to 1998's fab "Aluminium Tunes", compiling a bunch of rare material from 1999-2008 including outtakes from beloved albums "Dots and Loops" and "Mars Audiac Quintet".
Stereolab's blend of early electronic noodling, French pop sexiness, suave lounge posturing and Krautrock's rhythmic thump has had us obsessed for decades. Back in 1997 when they released "Dots and Loops", they had reached a creative high-point, working with Tortoise's John McEntire in Chicago to come up with a sultry collection of space pop / post rock goodness that was a much-needed antidote to the laddish guitar music plaguing Europe at the time. Since the early '90s, the band would routinely collect up their rarer releases - EPs, remixes, B-sides - in "Switched On" compilations, the last being '98's excellent "Aluminium Tunes". Now, following the remastered reissues of the first three volumes in the series, they have put together a fourth, collecting rare material from '99-'08 and bundling it with outtakes from the "Dots and Loops" and "Mars Audiac Quintet" recording sessions. Phew.
This is hardly a set of second rate offcuts either, 'Lab fans know that much of their best material is hidden away on their weirder short-run releases, so having access to the long-deleted mini-album "The First Of The Microbe Hunters" again is just a joy. That seven-track release kicks off the album, dragging you immediately into band's turn-of-the-millennium tight sweater shakes. From there, we get tracks from tour 7"s, a few compilation cuts, a track written for a documentary about synth pioneer Robert Moog and even a dancefloor track that Tim Gane describes as "upbeat and party-ish". If you haven't heard these tracks before, we're jealous, and if you have it's still nice to have them all remastered and assembled together neatly in one place.
Cutting edge computer music from Iranian “boy band” Ben & Jerry; a gloriously messed up first shot on Parsa and Ramtin Niazi’s Tehran-based Active Listeners Club
After spanking us around the lugs with a gush of tapes for New York Haunted, FLUF and Co-Dependent in recent years, Parsa Jamshidi and his partner in crime Ramtin Niazi posit themselves as pinups for a generation of screen-tanned listeners in ‘Formant Fry’, where they manipulate the unique units or properties of speech known as “Formants” with brilliantly abstract narrative chicanery that’s not frantic but deeply psychedelic, and complemented by a mind-bindingly tip-of-tongue remix by DJ Water.
Fuck knows nobody is ever going to make literal sense of what they’re up to, but taken on an instinctive, face-value level, the music is delivering us feels unfelt beyond the craftiest forms of computer music and experimental composition, recalling sensations we’ve had when listening to everything from Jim O’Rourke’s most wigged out ‘Old News’ slabs, to the mercurial forms of Justin Meyers’ ‘Struggle Artist’, or like some auditory analogue to digital visual techniques of data moshing.
In other words: the best sort of headf*ck.
Minimal, throbbing Kraut-inspired dubscapes from To Rococo Rot's Stefan Schneider and his long MIA Mapstation project.
Stefan Schneider is nothing if not reliable. His latest Mapstation full-length finds him ditching the studio drip in favor of a stripped-down setup: a TR-808 drum machine, Novation Peak synth, a guitar and a tape loop device. The result is his most immediate collection of tracks for years, a set that gets to the bare bones of his sound with uncomplicated ease. "My Frequencies, Where We" is hinged on a Cluster-influenced sense of rhythm, but one that's obscured by glitches, crackle and alien synthetic atmospheres. At this stage in his career, Schneider's primary point of reference is his own long career, so there are elements of To Rococo Rot or Kreidler that spring to mind as he cooks out eerie dub flavors from stark, disparate ingredients.
Schneider's real skill is his seemingly-effortless ability to evoke a sonic world that's immediately identifiable as his own: the magical, anxious buzz of 'To a Single Listener', the tape-distorted electo-psych ambience of 'My Mother Sailor' or the refined-yet-childlike early electronic squelch of 'Actual Possible'. It's a utopian, fairytale world we rather relish getting lost in.
Forty-two (!) one minute minimal musical photographs that sift through dubby, glitch-heavy rhythms and colorful drones.
Originally released back in 2002, "Aerial Riverseries" is an attempt by glitch-dub deity Frank Bretschneider to develop a musical equivalent to Olafur Eliasson's series of photographs that depicted river banks seen from the air. Bretschneider uses his usual palette of sounds - clipped beats, crisp, glitchy sound design and eery FM drones - to evoke Eliasson's use of color, all brown, green, yellow and gold. Rather than feel like a disjointed selection of loops, the tracks phase into each other as if it's one long composition made up of imperceptibly shifting elements, utilizing the fractured dub and uneasy synthetics of records like "Curve" and morphing it into a painterly gallery piece that avoids tropes or stylistic traps. Intense.
Following a rare fallow year, Paradox locks off the step for Sneaker Social Club with two signature breakbeat twysters
Joining the label’s pasture of D&B and soundsystem veterans, Paradox plays it deep and blue in both parts, warming up with the dubbed-out rolige of ‘Octa4’, and a smart hybrid of bouncing dub techno chords and limber, live breaks on ‘Proceed.’
Cabaret Voltaire is Richard H. Kirk and ‘Shadow of Fear’ was the band’s first studio album in 26 years, released in 2020.
"The single ‘Shadow of Funk’ delves deeper into Cabaret Voltaire’s arsenal of “vocal samples, harsh rhythms and threatening detonations” (Classic Pop). Three brand new tracks released on Curacao coloured vinyl with digital download code included."
The precision tooled but playfully haphazard minimalism of Frank Bretschneider’s debut album resurfaces on the pivotal Mille Plateaux label over 20 years since it was conceived
Far from Bretschneider’s first work, which dates way back to the mid-‘80s, ‘Rand’ is technically the first under his own name, and pays witness to the birth of a compositional style and aesthetic that he would come to define with his releases and role in co-founding the Raster-Noton label beside Carsten Nicolai (Alva Noto.)
Hailing from former communist East Germany, Bretschneider’s music is patently inspired by the austerity of life behind the iron curtain, working with a greyscale tonal palette and the most sparing bleeps in a way that sometimes sounds like he can’t find a pfennig for the meter, or is at least being very frugal with the supply. But despite their bleakness, his creations are always full of character, allowing his modular systems and machines to express their quietest, internal thought, which range from barely-there morse code to more playfully rhythmic spasms.
“The 20 tracks of the album are the result of a computer based, modulated synthesizer system. There is no difference between sound and composition anymore. One sound may represent the whole track. Tracks are not created by classic sequencer technology, but all movements, series of sounds, and orders of tones are the result of unorthodox connected Synthesizer modules (LFO’s, oscillators, filters, amplification). Developed sound-events, which are mostly chaotic and accidental, are brought into ‘form’ by special controllers. The result is minimal, often sketchy tracks, which are more constructed than improvised and are most often finished after the idea of the track is crystallized. Fragments of minimal structure are added slowly and carefully, sometimes taken out and then put back in after further thought. Other beat fragments seem lost and out-of-place, until low frequency clicks are locked in. Even if the albumis contemporary electronic music, it is still inspired by the idea of new and experimental pop music.”
FSOL render the classic opener to their seminal ambient techno LP ‘Lifeforms’ in myriad lush and previously unheard versions.
Like recalling a dream thru a kaleidoscope, the 13 versions of ‘Cascade’ each appear familiar but elusive, like morphing wormhole portals to the ambient techno mothership of ‘Lifeforms’. Arriving in 1993 as a prelude to the classic opus, the haunting original charted at No. 27 in the UK charts (not even “just” the dance charts!) and has since put wind in the sails of too many trips to count over the intervening 26 years, with ‘Lifeforms’ becoming something of a staple during the ‘90s.
The original’s haunted pads and breaks have now been respun and rebuilt in Dougans & Cobain’s FSOL lab with help form their studio engineer/spirit Yage, resulting in a variegated sprawl of gloopy acid downbeats, spine-tracing trance arps, intergalactic steppers techno ballistics and a ravishing jungle mix, reconnecting strands of arcane prog rock into dub and computer music = proper old skool ambient.
Vibes from village recording sessions in Senegal between Swedish musician Karl-Jonas Winqvist and residents of Toubab Dialaw, centre of Senegal’s bohemian art scene
Warped, soft-focus cosmique jazz from Senagal's Wau Wau Collectif - a sick fusion of sounds; West African dub one moment and devotional jams the next.
Hailing from the small fishing village of Toubab Dialaw in Senegal, Wau Wau Collectif make music that sounds unashamedly positive. "Yaral Sa Doom" is a collection of recordings that jumps through ideas fluidly, but coherently - dub reggae and jazz sounds are omnipresent, but sprinkled into a vibrant, instrumental concoction that dips into kosmische music, beatbox rap and more avant garde forms.
The backbone is West African folk music and hearing these instruments and forms - like Sufi prayers and fishing songs - repurposed is just a joy. As a lot of the world sinks into introspection and soul-searching, it's refreshing to hear music that seems to celebrate the very act of creating.
Gloomy deconstructed club x dark ambient rushes for fans of early Aisha Devi, Abyss X, NON etc.
Baroque and grandiose, with more than a hint of religious self-flagellation in its melange of awkward choral elements and saturated basement bumps, "Black Leaf" is one for the Northern Electronics / Posh Isolation axis. It reminds of the early days of deconstructed club, before everyone had decided to push the tempo up to 200bpm and make hardstyle; instead we've got terse, spacious rhythms made up of hideously overdriven beats and breaks that sound like they've been recorded on the other side of a courtyard. It's gloomy stuff, especially the gurgling vocals on 'But My Heart Was Slipping' - one for the goths out there. Love y'all.
Two hour-long workouts from percussionist Hamid Drake and his long-time collaborator bassist William Parker, alongside London's Black Top (Orphy Robinson and Pat Thomas) and Elaine Mitchener. Blistering!
Damn this is deep; "Some Good News" is a trans-Atlantic collaboration that finds a sweet spot between Hamid Drake and William Parker's legendary rhythms, Black Top's experimental electronics and Elaine Mitchener's avant garde vocal runs. The group clearly enjoys performing with each other as they broach calypso forms and Sarahan rhythms with a sense of humor and hypnotic, spiritual sense of timing. 'Put the Brakes On' winds from psychedelic organ and xylophone into off-planet synth fx and guttural vocal tricks from Mitchener. 'Some Good News' is even wilder, as Black Top duet with Mitchener, mimicking her screams with chirping synth sounds as Drake and Parker thump alongside.
Gut-punching politics inseparable from the music, steeped in revolutionary ‘60s/‘70s jazz, soul, funk and symphonic Blaxploitation soundtrack styles.
“The American Negro is an unapologetic critique, detailing the systemic and malevolent psychology that afflicts people of color. This project dissects the chemistry behind blind racism, using music as the medium to restore dignity and self-worth to my people. It should be evident that any examination of black music is an examination of the relationship between black and white America. This relationship has shaped the cultural evolution of the world and its negative roots run deep into our psyche. Featuring various special guests performing over a deeply soulful, elaborate orchestration, The American Negro reinvents the black native tongue through this album and it’s attendant short film (TAN) and 4-part podcast (invisible Blackness). The American Negro - both as a collective experience and as individual expressions - is insightful, provocative and inspiring and should land at the center of our ongoing reckoning with race, racism and the writing of the next chapter of American history.”
new Blanck Mass
"What is the utility of pain? Can it do anything but fester? In Ferneaux explores pain in motion, building audio-spatial chambers of experience and memory. Using an archive of field recordings from a decade of global travels, isolation gave Blanck Mass an opportunity to make connections in a moment when being together is impossible. The record is divided into two long-form journeys that gather the memories of being with now-distant others through the composition of a nostalgic travelogue. The journeys are haunted with the vestiges of voices, places, and sensations. These scenes alternate with the building up and releasing of great aural tension, intensities that emerge from the trauma of a personal grieving process which has perhaps embraced its rage moment.
An encounter with a prophetic figure on the streets of San Francisco presented the question of “how to handle the misery on the way to the blessing.” This is the quandary of the impasse we now all find ourselves in, trapped in our little caves, grappling with the unease of the self at rest – without movement, without the consumerist agenda of “new experiences.” The possibility of growth, always defined by our connections with others, held in limbo. Sartre said that “Hell is other people,” but perhaps this is the Inferno of the present: the space of sitting with the self.
A blessing is often thought of as a future reward, above and beyond the material plane. With In Ferneaux, Blanck Mass wrangles the immanent materials of the here-and-now to build a sense of transcendence. Here, the uncanny angelic hymn sits comfortably beside the dirge. The misery and blessing are one."
Vital figures in folk, classical, improv, and experimental fields, violinist Laura Cannell converses with cellist Kate Ellis on the 2nd instalment of their series charting 2021 in sound
Meeting for the 4th time on record after ‘The Feral Lands’ salvo and preceding editions of this series (if we include their ‘Winter Ritual’ as prologue), the English and Irish collaborators channel a palpable sense of sorrow and an inherent rustic air in the four pieces found on ‘February Sounds.’ Recording took place remotely in their respective homes in Suffolk (Laura) and Essex (Ellis), documenting their innermost feelings, elided and unedited, in spontaneous performances composed by their emotions.
In opener ‘The Bellowing’ they appear to summon the sounds of wounded animals heard across wide and wild landscapes, with Ellis’ cello describing guttural feels, whereas ‘The Riverbank’ is as its title evokes, sublime and pastoral, with overlapping streams of burbling thought. ’Sun Drops Closer To Earth’ brings nightfall with phosphorescing string resonance juxtaposed against gorgeous wordless vox, and ‘Follow Me To The Lantern Marsh’ holds a line into more frightful scenes of bittersweet, overbowed discord that delivers the brain-freeze we’ve come slightly addicted to in Cannell’s music. Honestly, this stuff just makes most other string music seem contrived and aloof by comparison.
After shots for Ascetic House, Granite Mask does grimacing industrial techno slugs and cantering EBM kinks for Newcastle’s Opal Tapes
Carrying its industrial club weight from L.A. via the Toon, ‘Time Elapsed’ plays hard but fair in 8 murky variations on a theme. The DJs looking for EBM finesse will find it between the fllthy mid-tempo sleaze of ‘Peel it Back’, the noise gnash of ‘Open Wound’, and the sore 16th note arp burn of ‘Gauze Patch’, and ruder dancers will find a class sparring partner in his snaking syncopation of thuggish kicks and blunt force percussive trauma in ‘Basement Light.’
Deep, philosophical and emotionally rich piano, clarinet, percussion and vibraphone musings that sketch out a magically realist portrait of our troubling modern era.
Portuguese pianist Tiago Sousa follows 2015's solo piano album "Um Piano nas Barricadas" with this heady set, based on themes of nostalgic escapism, repetition, temporality and other existential concepts. Don't worry if that sounds like too much to get stuck into now, the tracks here are pensive, but can be enjoyed without having a working knowledge of Heidegger, Camus or Kierkegaard. Souza's skill is in his attention to the texture of the sounds he works with - the anxious squeal of the clarinet, the distant rush of cymbals, the familiar twinkly of piano - and his arrangements are minimal, but always engaging. "ANGST" is a pensive and expressive exploration of the modern condition and it's enchanting.
Timeless jazz flames from poet and noise musician Moor Mother; her first theatrical work, reflecting on public/private ownership and the housing crisis in an Afrofuturist song cycle for the ages
Tackling issues of the impending present in a way that resonates clearly with ‘60s jazz, Moor Mother situates ‘Circuit City’ in a “part musical, part choreopoem, part play” context, exploring themes of home ownership in the corporate-technological world where needs are indexed and valued by algorithms and portals.
Located in the living room of an apartment complex, Moor Mother’s pointed poetry in ‘Circuit City’ speaks of trauma, inherited and imposed, over ravishing and swingeing dynamic backing performed live by Steve Montenegro, Luke Stewart, Keir Neuringer, Tchese Holmes, Aquiles, Madam Data and Elon Battle. The latter also shares vocal duties with Moor Mother, lending a softer contrast to the sublime but needling highlight ‘Time of No Time,’ as the ensemble’s swarming, Sun Ra-like cosmic discipline gives levity to the album’s crushing earthly concerns. It’s one for anyone suffering from lack of proper, affordable housing, particular African Americans, but also anyone trapped in the cracks and dealing with the stark inequities of corporate-driven housing markets worldwide.
As Plankton Wat, Dewey Mahood uses his considerable guitar prowess to deliver an album that encompasses both the wild, seeking energy of free-improvisation and the deliberate arrangements of more traditional composition.
"With his deft and stylistically varied playing, Plankton Wat’s ‘Future Times’ escapes psychedelic tropes and chemical fuelled alterations and instead celebrates an escape into the natural world. ‘Future Times’ taps into psychedelia’s counter-cultural heritage as music for protest, liberation and imagining new ways of being in this world. “Pastoral drones and swirling psychedelia” - Pitchfork Known for his guitar prowess in modern psychedelic music, specifically with Eternal Tapestry as well as Edibles, Elephant Factory Galaxy Research and Gärden Söund among others. ‘Future Times’ was recorded at Mahood’s home studio Solar Commune, with additions from Dustin Dybvig (Horse Feathers & Edibles) and Victor Nash (Flash Hawk Parlor Ensemble). Features Ash Dybvig on flute."
A big look for fans of the DRMTRK series; Hyperdub MVP Scratchclart links with Razzler Man, Scottie Dee & DJ Polo, LR Groove and KG for grimy/butters hybrids of UKF with SA gqom, Amapiano and Afrohouse styles.
Teaming up with Razzler Man, he gets down on a wicked blend of warped UK garage bass with Amapiano-style horns and percolated drums in ‘Razzclart’, while UKF OGs Scottie Dee and DJ Polo lift a leg with him on the darker pressure of ‘Banx Skanx.’ A classic sort of weirdo grime dub informs the wilder tangle of dancehall samples and sirens in ‘Murderer’s Reprise’, and KG lends some slicker calibre with the mellow chords on the drum-shy doozy ‘Baga DMs.’
Brooding UK garage-techno rollers and steppers from Jossy Mitsu, graduating to their solo debut after a mean shot on the ‘Frass FM 5’ comp
‘Odyssey’ creeps into action with icy, trimmed 2-step and proto-grime energy that they galvanise into a steely steppers techno style on ‘1997’, and tease out into bolshy breakstep with ’Turismo’, and tuck away into dark, whirring garage mechanics on ‘Ø.’
Comedy, topical grime flips by scene stalwart Lolingo in a crisp and daft style for the playful DJs
On ’Looney Tunes’ he chops the classic cartoon ident into club TNT with a few extra gunshots and sirens for measure, while ‘Bill Gates’ turns chunks of 50 Cent’s ‘I Get Money’ and cash register bings into a hard 8-bar jabber.
DMX Krew rejoins Hypercolour’s stable for veteran electronica racehorses with a bleeping electro-house toned set in his signature melodic style
Broadly weighted between strolling house pace and bouncing electro energy, all the hallmarks of DMX Krew’s tried and trusted style are in place, checking off squeaky Braindance tunings on the A Guy Called Gerald-esque charms of ‘Unconnected’, and early AFXisms in the squidgy strut of ‘Dejected Ambient Twerp’, with tangier electro tackle in ‘Torpedo Tube’ and discoid flair of ‘Sounds Good.’
Chevel does an unexpected turn of chufty cosmic big beats for Houndstooth, paving the way for an album with the London-based label
Initially sounding like one of 0PN’s KGBMan cut-ups, the introduction of splashy rock drum breaks and surging kosmiche synthlines takes it somewhere cornier, ’80s, and reeking of ledge Phil (Collins).
Kung Fu-style dubstep chops from bassbin lamb, Kwizma and trusted hand, Nomine
With strong nods to classic Horsepower Productions and dank late ‘90s/early ‘00s stoner vibes, they set the scene with dubbed martial arts film dialogue and step off into proper, deep and nasty halfstep with chiselled percussion and ‘floor-scooping subs.
Grimbient soundscrapes and industrial foggers from the Malmö duo. Seriously moody.
Död's third album for Opal Tapes, "Just Död It" is a darker-than-the-new-Batman-movies selection of blustery drone, half-audible acid and industrial scraping that feels right in line with how everyone's feeling at the moment. The duo of Jurko Haltuu & Benjamin Syra can't contain their misery on dirge rollercoasters like the chirpily-titled opener 'Favorite Moments From 2020' and funereal doomer 'Empty Streets'. On 'Life Eternal' they start to bring in a more obvious acid techno throb, but even that's struck through with a sense of impending nausea that's hard to shake. Happy hardcore it ain't.