First ever reissue of a seminal, ambitious fusion of Congolese vocals, likembe and rhythms with analog electronics and free jazz leanings, 'Noir Et Blanc' is justifiably hailed as one of the first and most influential records of its kind, or “in the same class s Byrne & Eno’s Bush of Ghosts… an imaginary collaboration between DAF and Fela Kuti” as the UK’s Melody Maker astutely put it in 1983.
Ever since its original release in 1983, Noir Et Blanc’s nine songs have informed countless DJs and dancers from the NYC new wave to Italy’s cosmic selectors and, pivotally, the swell of Belgian music that fed into New Beat and early techno. It’s no less than a stone cold classic and requires your attention pronto, if isn’t prized enough already.
In unprecedented form, Noir Et Blanc distills and renders the electric buzz of artists breaking new ground. It features Bony Bikaye, a Congolese musician obsessed with the possibilities of progressive German and American musics as much as his indigenous traditions, working with french synth nerds Claude Micheli and Guillaume Loizillon as CY1, and Algerian-born Pierre Job aka Hector Zazou, who all converge a radical attempt to mesh the mutual themes of disparate styles at the service of the ‘floor. Zazou himself has something of an eye-watering CV, having been involved with a huge number of influential projects, from ZNR to La Perversita and beyond; one of those producers with a crazy sprawling body of work you would do well to sink into.
Inarguably, the results have withstood the test of time thanks to the combination of Bikaye’s warm vocals with the minimalist tang and nudge of CY1’s metallic rhythms and Zazou’s wide scoped vision, songs such as the infectious modular dancehall prototype M’Pasi Ya M’Pampa and the roiling, alien plongs of Woa or the grubbing acid of Keba still sound utterly outlandish, out of space and time more than 30 years later, and notably feature some of the funkiest performance ever by Fred Frith.
Now ripened for rediscovery by a new generation of clued up selectors, the timeless qualities of Noir Et Blanc clearly resonate as strong as ever with the modern scene, sounding at times uncannily close to TV on the Radio clashing Congotronics, and just as likely to be played by Vladimir Ivkovic as Jon K or ATFA’s Brian Shimkovitz.
Basically one of those records that forms the square root of everything right now, and loved by those in the know.
Marking 20 years of Prurient and Hospital Productions’ concurrent paths, the epic 3 hr 20 minutes of Rainbow Mirror inarguably ranks among Prurient’s most compelling statements. While still the blood child of Dominick Fernow, the album’s massive scope demanded more hands on board, with Jim Mroz (Lussuria) and Matt Folden (Dual Action) lending their expertise before post-production by Shifted and mastering by Paul Corley cemented this towering work of Doom Electronics for the ages.
Offered up as ‘a portrait in perpetual tension’, and housed in cover art created as the first collage in the pre-recording era of Prurient, Rainbow Mirror draws on the project’s roots in order to locate itself in the modern day. What it finds in the process is that little has changed since Prurient and Hospital Productions’ conception in ’97 - the world is still a torrid, evil mess beyond control, and one that needs notions like Prurient to try and define its heaving mass more than ever.
Like Frozen Niagara Falls before it, echoes of the old world riddle the long, stark corridors of Rainbow Mirror, too. But here those echoes are more fragmented, distant and entropically obfuscated, emulating the effect of trying to find your own image in a hall of mirrors, or locating yourself drowning amid the clamour of more than 3 billion other people online, all saying the same, mundane shit at the same time.
With a length and intensity proportionately reflective of the world’s increasing socio-political tension and rate of homogeneity, Rainbow Mirror holds firm as a space to immolate the senses in preparation for the ever nearing eschaton.
Leading on from a highly memorable debut collaboration, Crys Cole and Oren Ambarchi invite us farther into their shared world with Hotel Record, a poetic four-part suite of touchingly intimate and romantic themes framed in a surreally unique, aleatoric sound world, just as you’d be warranted to expect from this pair of esteemed sonic alchemists.
Recorded between Ko Pha Ngan, Thailand; Oakland, USA; Melbourne, Australia, and at EMS, Stockholm, Sweden, the sense of heavy-lidded intimacy is similar to Sonja Henies Vei 31, but found in a multiplicity of recording spaces and situations, each with their own subtle identity and appeal, and all generated from a broader palette of instrumentation and electronic production techniques.
The chorus of cicadas, scooter engines and croaking frogs in Pad Phet Gob is clearly located to nighttime in Thailand, but the rest are anyone’s guess. It’s better to just let yourself melt into their exquisite designs, such as the silky web of vocoder whispers and languorous subbass contained in Burrata, or likewise become absorbed in the gentle harmonic cadence of breathing organs tones and mottled, glossolalic murmurs in Call Myself, which ambiguously could be a sort of ASMR exercise, an encrypted document of phone sex or pillow talk, or something entirely else, all depending your disposition.
It all adds up to a patently more accessible, dreamy follow-up to their first LP together, and quite easily one of the most quietly seductive records you’ll hear from the abstract, ambient, electro-acoustic sphere this year - strongly tipped to fans of Félicia Atkinson’s Hand In Hand, Kassel Jaeger & Jim O’Rourke’s Wakes On Cerulean, or the new Teresa Winter side.
Blawan mounts what is arguably his master opus with Nutrition; a nuanced but proper banging six track session holding one of his strongest cuts to date in 993.
The 4th release on his Ternesc label finds him deep in the modular matrix getting firmly to grips with thistly noise textures and the rolling drag coefficient physics of techno at an atomic level.
For us, and we’ll wager many others, 933 is the big juicy steak at the middle of the pack. A massive kick drum piles thru the centre, mad sawtooth synth voices seem to drip off like the biggest slug of acetone-stinking ching, and then the moment of lush enlightenment, which hovers around long enough to appreciate the buzz, before it slips off as quickly as the gear and you’re looking for the next high.
The other tracks are dead solid, too; with some proper doom depth to Calcium Red and skull-scraping tones in the empty belly boot of Mayhem. However you really need it for that 933 ace!
Félicia Atkinson is a multidisciplinary artist with many strings to her bow. Hand In Hand elevates her work to a completely higher plain as far as we are concerned though; fusing field recordings, modular and MIDI electronics with an almost hypnotising line in whispered/ASMR vocal narration to subliminally affective degrees, lulling us into an alien - yet incredibly human - soundsphere. It’s rare to hear a singular artistic vision translated into a sound that is so inherently personal and inviting - but somehow Hand In Hand is both one of the most accessible, and most experimental albums we encountered in 2017. It’s riddled with so much nuance that many months on we’re still discovering hidden new crevices with every listen. If you’ve yet to hear it - what are you waiting for?
Preeminent avant-garde composer Felicia Atkinson weaves myriad, filigree electro-acoustic and non-musical metanarratives in her totally absorbing follow-up to A Readymade Ceremony  - a remarkable album which attracted high acclaim worldwide and pushed her to the core of the modern experimental sphere.
Hand In Hand consolidates Atkinson's refined palette of modular and MIDI electronics with ASMR voices, field recordings and instrumental improvisation to subliminally affective degrees, whilst conveying the ambitious complexities of her sound art with a harmoniously organic, spaciously poised appeal.
Where her last album A Readymade Ceremony emerged fully formed from a protracted period of experimentation and research whilst based in The Alps c. 2013-2015, Hand In Hand finds Félicia building a metaphysical playground on its foundations, meshing recordings and lyrics - found and composed between her home in Brittany and Stockholm’s EMS facilities - into a finely sculpted and dreamlike web of subtle sensations and hyperstisised fiction.
In the process she brings closer together a wide-range of her artistic practices, incorporating elements of sculpture and painting along with sound installation, multichannel diffusion and live performance into her ever-expanding sonic vocabulary and grammar. Whether consumed on headphones or loudspeakers, it’s clear to hear this sharply honed sound sensitivity come into play as her carefully hushed vocals are bathed in placid yet suspenseful tones and almost imperceptibly underlined by an attention to timbral detail and those infrasonic frequencies normally ignored or blithely unattended by other composers within the field.
This all becomes apparent within the first side’s transition from warbling ambient-pop/neo-classical in I’m Following You to a stark contrast of hushed ASMR vocals and Rashad Becker-ish crack-bug electronics in Valis laid over Oren Ambarchi-esque bass tones, and then again into the hyaline gamelan dimensions of Curious In Epidavros, each laced with layers of spectral detail that only reveal themselves after multiple listens, and quite differently in each mode (headphones or speakers).
The dichotomies or paradoxes between the seen/heard/felt and unseen/unheard/elusive continue to beautifully, mystically inform and frame the rest of the album; begging us to chase her vocals around the stereo field of and mazy shimmers of Adaptation Assez Facile into the upside down oddness of Monstera Deliciosa’s rising basses and the curiously erotic lyrics about plants in Visage, before calving off into squashed rhythms with the hymn, A House A Dance A Poem, emerging into the sublime, weightless ambience of Hier Le Désert, and the surreal avian jazz Buchla strokes that resolve No Fear But Anticipation.
In the best way this is a record that is immediate and enduring; transparent yet oblique, riddled with nuance and underlying layers that keener listeners will discover in their own time.
Glass mastered CD housed in 4-panel, letter-pressed Somerset cotton covers with 20 x Polaroid style prints by Nieves Mingueza printed on luxury 250gsm card, hand-numbered 35mm photo slides, and patchouli scent. All packaged inside sealed matt-black darkroom negative envelopes
Funereal levels of adult contemporary melancholy for fans of Bohren Und Der Club of Gore, Svarte Greiner, Julien Neto…
“The Epiphanies sees Bill Seaman in fine fettle, driving along phosphorescent-lit roads marked by the heavy dew of mystery and slow-to-develop intrigue. Delayed secrets are now only coming to light. The setting sun is the glorious backdrop as The Epiphanies coasts along a deserted road, its dark road-trip music glinting like the lightless, metallic chrome of the car’s body. A pack of coyotes come out to play, and further down the road some lusty, post-jazz musings at a local bar hint at dark dislocations. Nothing is right – the neon sign is too bright and things are a little off-kilter. Reality slips slowly away, like water through the fingers, drained as if from the last bottle of whiskey, until it can’t be grasped at any longer.
The sick, cloying perfume of cigarette smoke hangs in the air like a tired apparition. The lingering, too-wide smile of a cute bartender with a string of strange tattoos along her back and an old episode of Tiny Toon Adventures (circa 1990) rather than the latest game from the NHL graces the television’s pulpit, adding to the subtle sense of dislocation, and the music only gets darker, its dying light duelling with the fading sunset. The headlights are a lonely splash of colour at two in the morning, and as the music enters the long hours a velvet-smooth carpet of asphalt spreads out before the listener, the unfolding ambient textures helping to shape a smooth, virgin-pure road.
Dark wet trees and swaying branches are illuminated as the car drives through an eerie, sleeping town, with nothing but a slumping, somnambulant piano strolling up and down the dark, leaf-strewn sidewalk. Distant notes seem to croon into the space, somehow filtering in through the dead radio that needed replacing months ago, luring you into its monochromatic musical world.
You are the first visitor. You are also the last. There isn’t any other traffic…”
Robert Haigh, who is perhaps better known as D&B legend Omni Trio, reprises the solemn, autumnal contemporary classical styles heard on his V-O-D retrospective and early releases for NWW’s United Dairies, this time in the esteemed comapny of Laurie Spiegel, Carl Stone, Lubomyr Melnyk on Unseen Worlds
“A new album of piano driven ambient music from British composer Robert Haigh. Following in the path of his albums for the Japanese Siren label, Creatures of the Deep is an underground vantage of a meeting between the musical worlds of Harold Budd and Erik Satie. With a storied musical career that has ranged widely in style — from his industrial-avant-garde works on Nurse With Wound’s United Diaries label as SEMA to his legendary ambient drum and bass records as Omni Trio on Moving Shadow — Robert Haigh's work occupies a space between music and mystery.
With Creatures of the Deep, Haigh is at the peak of his powers. Among noir, minimal, neo-classical landscapes are robust scatterings of bright reflection and a musical expression that is subtle and elusive yet uniquely Haigh’s in its voice and masterful execution. The closer we examine, the more is revealed, and the less is defined.”
Shinichi Atobe exists out of time, producing material that’s both inimitable and genuine. "From The Heart, It's A Start, A Work Of Art” was released in May and is perhaps the most unique and enduring of all of his output over the years - easily ranking among our favourite releases of the year. Curiously, it has origins going all the way back to early 2000, when three of the tracks here were originally produced and cut to acetate at D&M in Berlin (in an edition of 5!), presumably lined up as a follow-up of sorts to Atobe’s legendary "Ship Scope" 12” for Chain reaction from the same era. Alas, it wasn’t to be, and almost two decades later these tracks, re-mastered from that original acetate, make up the centrepiece of this amazing record alongside mesmerising newer productions.
The tracks here are effectively some of the Japanese producer’s earliest work, showcasing the sort of tender, feminine pressure that would bubble up on the Ship-Scope EP and later be revealed in his new productions, Butterfly Effect and World yet, for many reasons, would lay sunk in his archive for the next 17 years.
The tracks taken from that acetate are labelled First Plate 1-3 and are quite remarkable, having taken on so much added weight over the years that the incidental crackle of surface noise imbues proceedings with an added dimension that’s hard to fathom. it basically sounds like a lost transmission making its way from Paul-Lincke-Ufer at the turn of the millennium to a new, completely changed world all these years later.
The patina of crackle lends a mist-on-bare skin feeling akin to summer garden parties at Berghain in the stepping First Plate 1, and gives a foggier sort of depth perception to the hydraulic, Maurizian heft of First Plate 2, but it’s the submerged euphoria of First Plate 3 that hits the hardest; a heady, bittersweet reminder of days gone by.
The other four tracks are crisply transferred from master tapes, relinquishing a sublime, impossible to categorise House variant that recalls everything from DJ Sprinkles to Ron Trent, yet with that weird, timeless production style that by now has become something of a signature for this most distinctive and hard to categorise producer. For our money, it ranks among the finest and most distinctive in the Chain Reaction / Shinichi canon.
The first release from Benjamin Damage in two years catches him on a Carl Craig-esque trance techno flight with Montreal
Then focussing strictly on the rhythm with the dry, writhing Drum Computer tool, and building up energy with a strong UK/Detroit techno play called Off World which is surely destined for some peak time, big room action.
After debuting Native and Rupert Clervaux’s CLX project, Laura Lies In deposit a raw, grimy synth noise session by Den Haag’s Jan Katasma aka Nukubus and one half of Syncxom Data.
Under the title Para - which could be taken metaphorically as in-between, or as in the mental condition, - the Dutch producer spits out six gobs of masticated, livewire electronics and caveman donks with a primitivist alacrity that makes many other noisy techno or rhythmic noise folk sound a bit too fussy.
Up top, that means the lop-sided, distorted oscillations of Para 1, the early electronics oddity of Vonk, and a ersatz tribal tumper called Para 2, while down below he comes off like a Black Mecha blast from another planet with Para 3 and the head pinching intensity of GellAC, while Fear The Mindkiller sounds like he left the machines running after Syncom Data’s Den Haag 12”, only to return years later and find they’ve mutated into gristly twysts.
Many of these releases (originally appearing on Octal Records) took center stage on the walls of the dance room @ Record Time (circa 2001) canned by Detroit Legend, Mike Huckaby. This release will mark the fourth installment to the coveted series and returns to form with a stone cold classic from the DC vault. The first time ever released on CD (including unreleased material), lovingly remastered and assembled by Rod Modell.
"Great measures, focus and time were spent to preserve the analog warmth and sonic integrity of the original masters. For those who don't know, these releases are considered by many some of the most inspired and influential sounds to emerge from Detroit well over 15 years ago -- a blueprint was set here for many artists to come, a step in the evolution. Expect gorgeous plumes of sound deeper than the ocean floor -- a rich analog tapestry made in the heart of Detroit, Techno City.Abeautiful analog tapestry made in the heart of Detroit; Techno City."
Djrum presents another magic carpet ride for the dance with his 1st outing of 2017
Getting busy af with the proggy disarrangement of African chants, polyrhythms and rustic strings in Broken Glass, then showing off his skills in a sort of soundtrack-y context with the absorbing blend of instrumental and incidental narratives of Showreel Pt.1 and its hefty, rolling 2nd part.
La mala educación documents Spanish techno overlord Reeko dioversifying his bonds into more experimental realms whilst still keeping the ‘floor in reach, all in the vein of Avian’s hardworn aesthetic.
Vacillating rhythmic noise with proper pounder, the results are likely to offend or frighten the straighter-laced techno bods, and we can’t argue with that. From the front he comes from acres of negative space to build an elusive head of steam that never boils over in Engendrado, before grinding out a sort of latinate rhythmic nose with Carne Y Demonio and the irresistibly writhe of las Virgenes Tamnbien Juegan Con Cuchillos.
For this that need ‘em, there’s massive kicks in Habitación 877 and the hammering force of Desfile Funebre de Rosas, while El Libro Secreto de Guila catches him consolidating those driving and textural aspects in a powerfully absorbing, viscous roil.
For the impeccable MAT label, Denamrk’s Central tends hitherto little known ambient aspects of his sound as Palta with a fine selection of feathered rhythms and gauzy, painterly sounds.
Nesting amid good company for this kind of thing, Universel quietly unfolds scuttling, jazz-wise geometries and keening subaquatic chords in the title track, then drifts with scratchy tribal drums and tropical greenhouse sounds in Tabt Optagelse into frayed, frothy new age feels in På Gensyn.
It would appear he indulges those experimental urges in order to prepare listeners for full immersion in the B-side, where At Ville takes hold with subliminal effect, buoying ears on a bed of viscous bleeps and synth fronds with the lushest, entrancing intent, before Optagelse 16A smudges aut into purest balearic atmospheres.
Second helping from Silent Servant on Jealous God, backed with a cracking Powell remix.
Following his recent production assistance with the Vatican Shadow project and a handful of remixes in 2013, Juan Mendez aka Silent Servant plays ice cool with the low key swagger and noirish minimal wave atmosphere and voices of 'Lust Abandon' sounding like a prime offcut from his stunning 'Negative Fascination' LP.
In contrast, Powell's reconstruction incorporates slivers of the original into a completely new piece bearing only trace resemblance to the original, coming off like a modded-out muscle car groove welded together from some psychobilly's scrapyard in a Mad Max future - all pollutant bass revs, cranking drums and shuddering electronics angled with shark-eyed swerve, pure killer.
A highlight of Laraaji’s Vision Songs, Vol.1, the burbling drum machine, gospel organ haze and plaintively soulful vocal of I Can Only Bliss Out (F’Days) is a definitive cut from the new age pioneer’s 1984 master opus.