Dawn Richards and Machinedrum entwine one of 2016’s most adventurous R&B albums in Redemption, unpackaging the promise of their Not Above That anthem across a suite of idiosyncratic vocal twists and flighty, vibrant production.
Looking like the starchild of Sun Ra on the front cover, D∆WN really sets to work defining her sound in freestyling opposition to the rest of the scene, embracing a palette of giddy tweaks and unexpected pivots that make the former member of girl group, Danity Kane, stand out a mile on her own terms.
The Redemption LP is literally and conceptually cleft in two parts that correspond to the yin and yang of D∆WN’s chimeric aesthetic. On the one hand, you have the lushly spacious and vertiginous A-side, freewheeling from ascendent new age plumes to teetering dance-pop zingers in Love Under Lights and the brassy bedspring bounce of Renegades, via the ecstatic Black Crimes and weightless thizz of Voices with its spiralling ululations. Allow the guitars on LA, tho.
However, on the flipside, she appear to temper those experimental urges into a subtler run of rugged and bittersweet songs, tipping in with the bleep-gilded swang of Lazarus before tucking the vibe deeper with the RiRi-esque Tyrants and the chiming downstroke of Vines in duet with PJ Morton, prior to really dimming the lights for the pitch-bent rhodes of Sands and fading to close in symphonic style with the aching R&B folk essence of The Louvre.
Following up their acclaimed debut, Thought For Food, The Lemon of Pink was the album that cemented the Books as a pioneering musical force. It would become their biggest-selling album and still stands as perhaps the most beloved album in the Books' brilliant catalog.
"As with the recently reissued Thought For Food, The Lemon of Pink is repackaged with dazzling new artwork and expanded toinclude lyrics for every song for the first time ever. Carefully and thoughtfully remastered from the original mixes by Zammuto at his new studio outside his home in Vermont, The Lemon of Pinknow boasts a warmth and clarity that surprisingly reveals an increased harmonic depth."
Smart survey of productions by members of New Order, including classic tracks released on Factory Records between 1982 and 1985. Bonus material on the CD includes the full 22 minute version of Video 5-8-6 and a Section 25 song produced by Ian Curtis and Rob Gretton in 1979!
New Order Presents Be Music is a compilation of productions by members of New Order, including classic dance and electro tracks released on Factory Records between 1982 and 1985, as well as more recent remixes for current artists such as Factory Floor, Marnie, Tim Burgess and Fujiya & Miyagi.
"The generic tag Be Music was first used in 1981 and covered studio production work by all four members of New Order: Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, Stephen Morris and Gillian Gilbert. Sumner often teamed with Donald 'Dojo' Johnson of A Certain Ratio, including the pioneering electro cuts featured here by Quando Quango, 52nd Street, Marcel King, Paul Haig and Surprize. Morris and Gilbert worked with Thick Pigeon, Life, Red Turns To and also 52nd Street. Although more rock orientated, Hook proved he was no slouch on the dancefloor either with the mighty Fate/Hate by Nyam Nyam.
'Producing was a really important sideline,' recalls Bernard Sumner of the Factory era. 'It's OK doing it because although all the groups are skint, you learn a lot and you're helping somebody.'
After 1985 the band focused more on producing their own records, both as New Order and solo projects such as Electronic, Revenge, The Other Two, Monaco and Bad Lieutenant. However in recent years Stephen Morris in particular has remixed several newer artists, notably London industrialists Factory Floor, as well as former Factory workers A Certain Ratio and Section 25.”
The first new album by Grails in six years, featuring members of Om and delivering a widescreen opus influenced by Western film scores, obscure library music, and psychedelic krautrock...
"Produced by the band over the past five years, Chalice Hymnal bears some of the European psych and experimental hip-hop production techniques of founding members Alex Hall and Emil Amos' other group, Lilacs & Champagne. Amos' meditative metal band, Om, and longtime singer-songwriter project, Holy Sons, also naturally find their way into the Chalice cauldron.
Rounding out their leaner line-up, cofounder Zak Riles (also of experimental kraut-psych trio, Watter) layers finger-picked acoustic guitars into a prog-folk hybrid that pushes Grails further into the deep end, displaying a profound resonance, both musically and emotionally. No one else sounds like Grails, and on Chalice Hymnal they sound more like themselves than ever before."
Call Soops delivers his first official mix CD, weaving together a sumptuous 24-track selection for those “in need of undulating epiphanies” that spans Objekt, Convextion, Yves Tumour, Jega and more.
Recently seen moonlighting as Ondo Fudd and Elmo Crumb for some fine TTT deviations, Joe Seaton returns to his Call Super alias and hands a #saved fabric “a Polaroid of my way of mixing records.” Seaton’s developed a stealthy reputation as a selector these past few years, be it in numerous podcasts, alone in the booth or alongside Objekt under their infrequent Everything Is True banner. Given his close ties to Houndstooth, it is no surprise to see Call Super invited into the fabric hall of fame; and what a mix this is.
Apparently one of 28 live takes Seaton recorded, this 24-track mix displays his innate understanding of the last several decades of electronic music heritage, brilliantly obfuscating the edges of late ‘90s cuts from the Photek and Bushwacka archives, pairing Yves Tumour PAN ballads with the delicate tones of Max Loderbauer, or dropping vintage Convextion in between newer cuts from Bruce and Karen Gwyer.
The opening triplet sets the tone as Seaton finds common ground between the polymetric percussion and dub abstractions of last year’s Paralaxe Editions blinder from Rupert Clerveaux and Beatrice Dillon, Wolfgang Voigt’s late ‘90s project M:I:5 and vintage turn of the century Jan Jelinek. His craft is further displayed in the manner that a Paleo-enhanced Dresvn cut gets submerged in Objekt’s all conquering The Stitch-Up, how Don’t DJ rubs shoulders alongside a reunited Flanger or the revelation of shared sonic DNA between archival Jega and Shanti Celeste’s swooning Future Times debut.
One of the best fabrics in a long while.
Leith newcomer Joshua Sabin moulds the sounds of transit into something quite unique on this killer debut album for Subtext.
Few other labels right now are close to Subtext when it comes to genuinely engaging, rewarding exercises in concept and sound design, and their dominance continues with this rather special album from Joshua Sabin.
Terminus Drift explores how the digital age is impacting on our relationship with our surroundings, and presents Sabin as an intrepid sound explorer with field recorder by his side. A series of trips through Kyoto, Tokyo and Berlin as well as some electromagnetic fields closer to home were inspiration for Sabin, amassing field recordings of ‘sirens reverberating through station tunnels, fluctuating harmonics of subway engines, echoing tannoy systems.
It's the manner in which Sabin manipulates these sounds exclusively and moulds them into a body of work that smacks you in the face with its other dimensional qualities which particularly impresses on Terminus Drift. The ghostly remnants of a tannoy are just about discernible on the opening title track, but the shrill, crystalline dub techno fractures of U12 will have you scratching your head and wondering how he made it.
A rather neat push and pull from moments of calm and foreboding danger is present throughout - perhaps best encapsulated on the mind melting Vivo Wish - and the album suggests Sabin is quite the talent.
RIYL Emptyset, Sa Pa, Sam Kidel, Klara Lewis, WANDA GROUP.
David Moore's minimalist collective jump ship to 4AD for their third album of contemplative modern classical.
Multiple jaws dropped when RVNG Intl quietly unleashed 'Tomorrow Was the Golden Age,' the second album from previously unheralded microtonal ensemble Bing & Ruth, back in late 2014. After a subsequent RVNG re-edition of their debut Bing & Ruth LP, lead pianist and writer David Moore aligns the collective with British icons 4AD for their third studio album ‘No Home of the Mind.’
Shaving off a few musicians for a five-strong unit, Moore’s latest iteration of the perma-shifting Bing & Ruth conjure a becalming 10-track suite of transcendental compositions based around the piano, woodwind, tape delay and upright bass.
‘No Home of the Mind’ is smartly sequenced, compositions either blend into one another naturally or offer a brief silence that is swiftly punctuated by a burst of Moore’s piano. Commencing with the delicate flourishes of Starwood Choker, the album once again portrays Moore as a confident conductor, equally happy to take the lead with his limber piano playing or descend into the shadows as the entire ensemble combine for an opaquer delivery.
The movement from Scrapes into Chonchos is an early example of this and highlight of the album overall.
Jaime Fennelly’s ever-evolving Mind Over Mirrors project shifts once again on this album for Paradise of Bachelors that features a full ensemble of celebrated vocalists and musicians
First introduced on Brad Rose’s sorely missed Digitalis platform back in 2011, Jaime Fennelly’s work as Mind Over Mirrors has centred around his mastery of the Indian pedal harmonium amidst an arsenal of synths and delay units. Each new MOM album has seen the Chicago-based musician take on an ever-more ambitious approach, and this debut on NC label Paradise of Bachelors is his most compelling undertaking yet. Drawing deeper from the subluminal aether, Undying Color originates from a two-week stint Fennelly spent recording in a cabin surrounded by the natural beauty of Southwestern Wisconsin late last year.
The project is no longer a solo endeavour however, but rather something closer to full-blown band. Fennelly’s mediative assemblage of synths and harmonium complemented by a cast of musicians that includes Janet Beveridge Bean (Eleventh Dream Day), Jim Becker of Califone/Iron & Wine, drummer Jon Mueller, and a returning Haley Fohr who featured on the last MOM LP. At 12-minutes long, you could call Gravity Wake the centrepiece here, Fennelly’s gently pulsing composition coaxing a sensual, personal vocal performance out of Beveridge Bean and Fohr.
But Color Dying remains at this stratospheric high throughout with Fennelly’s gift for the harmonium apparent nowhere greater than the closing melancholy of 600 Miles Around.
Ryan Carlile and Spencer Doran traverse the outer reaches on this killer Visible Cloaks document for RVNG.
We just knew last year's debut Visible Cloaks offering for RVNG, the Miyako Koda-featuring Visible Cloaks single Valve, would be the prelude to something greater from Ryan Carlile and Spencer Doran. Reassemblage marks the Portland pair's second album and further expands upon the Visible Cloaks 'verse, calling on Motion Graphics and Root Strata alum Matt Carlson for assistance.
Inspiration for the album stems from a video essay of the same name by Trin T Minha-ha, which explored the impossibility of ascribing meaning to ethnographic images. With this in mind, Visible Cloaks set about transposing the inherent futurism of acts discovered on their inspirational Fairlights, Mallets and Bamboo mixes well into the 21st Century through modern sound design.
This results in an album whose eleven tracks possess a startlingly lucid and vibrant vision, forming new structures and ideas in the process. The aforementioned Valve features early in Reassemblage, Miyako Koda's presence gaining even more meaning within the context of Carlile and Doran's intentions for the album.
Elsewhere, vocals are deployed with a more abstract bent, VC playfully skewering Matt Carlson's voice through digital manipulation on Neume for one of the album's forays through musique plastique. Circles offers a genuinely spine-tingling moment of modern classical, whilst Motion Graphics follows his avant-jazz Future Times gripper with some illuminating assistance on the digital tranquility of Bloodstream.
Wonderful stuff all round.
Perhaps the most ambitious and absorbing album yet from Lawrence English, featuring a whole host of friends and collaborators including Swans’ Norman Westberg, The Necks’ Chris Abrahams and Tony Buck, Mats Gustafsson, Werner Dafeldecker and The Angels of Light’s Thor Harris. It’s an arctic, ice-cold meditation rendered in the most beautiful drone and semi-orchestral variants - think somewhere between William Basinski, Akira Rabelais and Badalamenti at his most terrifying. A huge recommendation.
Lawrence English carries the weight of the world in the emotive blows of Cruel Optimism; his tortuous yet somehow triumphant follow-up to the Wilderness of Mirrors (2014) LP, which was conceived prior to the present socio-political sh*tstorm, and attempts to present “a meditation on these challenges and an encouragement to press forward towards more profound futures”.
Inspired by the title of a critical text by American theorist Lauren Berlant, whose analysis of the contemporary crisis points to the elusive promise of neoliberalism - particularly its inherent sense of hauntological trauma - Cruel Optimism is offered by English as a reflection “on how power consumes, augments and ultimately shapes two subsequent human conditions: obsession and fragility”, and does so in a way that viscerally resonates with the long-standing, recurring themes of his work: deferred ecstasy, textural decay and the way they affect perception.
Galvanising strength through collaboration, as opposed to the solo introspection of Wilderness…, English elected to work with a number of his peers for this record, who all gauzily serve to enrich these recordings, which each carry the subtle, if distinct presence of plural spirits in the mix. Object Of Projection is especially hard-hitting, recalling Deathprod’s life-changing Treetrop Drive with its looped refrains, albeit here submerged underneath a tonne weight of sonic detritus that triggers nostalgia and dread in the most evocative manner imaginable - perhaps the most astonishing 5 minutes in all of English’s by-now sizeable catalogue of work.
English carefully consolidates every element on this album within the democracy of the soundfield; we may be able to discern the crucial gestures of Norman Westberg’s clanging chops in Hammering A Screw or smudged into the soberly grand dimensions of Requiem For A Reaper/Pillar Of Cloud and the waking dread of Somnambulist, but, in effect, thru English’s enigmatic processing, his ego is properly sublimated into the ether and as vital as any other to the record’s sense of swelling, aching communal pathos.
Earthen Sea follows the lead of his Mi Ami bandmate, Ital, into the deep and dub techno end of the dancefloor pool. RIYL The Sight Below, Varg, Marconi Union
“Jacob Long’s newest recordings under the Earthen Sea moniker deepen his compelling synthesis of shadowy rhythms and opaque atmospherics, drawing on the most potent qualities of melancholic ambient and dub techno. An Act Of Love follows 2015’s Ink, released via Ital’s Lovers Rock imprint, and was inspired by internal tribulations and the experience of exploring an empty nocturnal metropolis.
Careful waves of tones drift and decay; beats materialize and pulse across twilit landscapes; a noir mood reigns. Given Long’s background as bassist for revelatory tribalpunk trio MI AMI, this album showcases a musician in the midst of transcendent redefinition, crafting an immersive language of texture and motion.”
Laraaji’s sublime zither improvisation, Celestial Vibrations (1978) forms nothing less than an early archetype for new age ambient music. It was originally issued as a privately pressed meditation aid and sold in limited numbers around NYC until, that is, Brian Eno famously stumbled across Laraaji doing his thing, and the rest, as they say, is laid out in the ambient history books.
That fateful meeting with Brian Eno - interestingly enough in the same year that Eno compiled the definitive No Wave document No New York - led to Eno producing Laraaji’s Ambient 3 (Day Of Reckoning) in 1980 and subsequently cementing his place within the emergent ambient sphere.
Yet Celestial Vibration is far from a historic footnote, and still resonates deeply with listeners - especially these ears - ever since it reemerged circa 2010 on its first ever CD pressing and vinyl reissue through Soul Jazz Records.
Now nearly 40 years old, and future-proofed by its timeless sense of expressive minimalism, Laraaji’s fluid, rhythmelodic flutter and reverberant harmonies have lost none of their ability to enchant, soothe and transcend the consciousness of all who cross its path.
Consider it a household staple for those times when you just need a streak of unadulterated, weightless positivity to brighten up your life.
Wonderfully wistful, pastoral kosmiche and underwater jazz themes from Danillo Plessow (MCDE) and Marcus Worgull in sanguine Balearic mode as Vermont
“Following their much-acclaimed surprise debut album VERMONT from 2014, Motor City Drum Ensemble’s Danilo Plessow and Innervisions' Marcus Worgull reunite for more synth daydreaming on the suitably titled “II”. The new outing continues where the first full-length left off, strolling further down the luminous and undulating path that the duo turned into, influenced in equal measures by kosmische, krautrock, minimal wave and synth soundtracks.
This latest batch of instrumental cuts opens with the strictly balearic vibe of NORDERNEY, a softly swinging, light-footed recording with a keen sense for structure. Featuring a guest performance from Robbert Van Der Bildt (aka Kaap) on guitar, it’s a telling starting point for the album that - similar to Vermont’s self-titled debut - successfully navigates between economic, careful studio arrangements and playful, incidental exploration further pushing into jam session territory. Van Der Bildt's guitar returns on the plucky, curious UFER, where Vermont showcase a renewed sense for jazz-like improvisation - same as on the cuts DSCHUNA, CHANANG and WENIK, which also include contributions from Dermot O'Mahony and Tadhg Murphy on strings.
Still, Vermont's synth contraptions remain the album's main attraction, with the extensive array of gear encompassing an entire panopticon of analog bling - from Arp Oddysey and Moog Prodigy to Fender Rhodes, Juno and Prophet, list-studying gear heads will find lots to drool upon. Consequently, tracks like CHEMTRAILS, UNRUH or GEBIRGE err on the machine side of things, expertly interweaving arpeggiated sequences for maximum atmospheric effect. Foreboding, slightly menacing synth motives as on SKORBUT or CHEMTRAILS are perfectly balanced with the casual ambient of HALLO VON DER ANDEREN SEITE and the nostalgic warmth of DEMUT - while the gentle push of the masterful KI-BOU even carries a whiff of classic deep house, linking the Vermont project to Plessow and Worgull’s main careers as dance floor movers and shakers.
Continually intriguing, immersive and texturally rich, each one of Vermont's new pieces betray the experience, precision and determination of the producers involved - while opening up Worgull and Plessow'a vocabulary for patient experimentation and subtle discoveries. A musical treat for synth aficionados - and everyone else, if you ask us.”
The Dial co-founder graces us with a second album of low-slung beat-"mospheres" and discrete Hamburgian minimalist house.
Dial’s David Lieske returns to his dependable Carsten Jost project, scrabbling together a decades-worth of productions - some familiar, the majority unheard - for a second album. Perishable Tactics belatedly arrives sixteen years after his debut Jost LP, 2001’s You Don't Need A Weatherman To Know Which Way The Wind Blows, and finds Lieske going down the textbook European house music album route.
Dark ambient vignettes from Misanthrope CA, Lieske’s somewhat misjudged black metal collaboration with Rob Kulisek bookend the album, with the remainder consisting of that snug, tasteful house and techno that Dial have largely come to typify in recent years.
Soul Jazz dip into the killer archives of French synth punk circa 1980 with this reissue of material from Nancy duo Kas Product.
After delivering a nation-wide primer on the early ‘80s French wave of punk acts with last year’s Punk 45 – Les Punks: The French Connection, Soul Jazz square their focus on one of the bands that featured in Kas Product. Formed of Mona Soyoc and Daniel ‘Spatz’ Favre, this duo represent a classic French slant on the early synth punk formation with the former’s dramatic vocal delivery and cheap guitars offering a foil for the latter’s budget electronics. As Kas Product, Soyoc and Favre recorded several albums throughout the ‘80s that played their part in shaping the Coldwave movement in France; a fact Soul Jazz attempt to reaffirm on this compilation.
Essentially a repackaged edition of the Kas Product retrospective issued on Paris label Fan Club in 1990, Black & Noir - Mutant Synth-Punk from France leads with debut single Mind and covers the period between their first two albums. A period where Soyoc and Favre were more focussed on experimentation as opposed to the latent poppy avant-gardisms of their third and final album, Ego Eye. Highlights here include the scratchy punk funk of Seven, the bleepy electro of Party and the bizarro Talking Heads pomp of Mezzo.
Recommended - worth scrutinising if you are a fan of Ruth, Deux, Philippe Laurent!
Tresor’s 25th Anniversary compilation finds the label looking inwards to discover its strengths in depth and consistency thru 10 powerful, atmospheric cuts ranging from blissed, dark ambience to roiling acid, reaffirming a crucial, underlying sense of psychedelia that has long been at the core of techno proper, yet is all too often overlooked or misunderstood. Includes exclusive versions of tracks from Terrence DIxon, Juan & Moritz, Donato Dozzy, Jon Hassel, TV Victor and more.
Dreamy Harbor is not necessarily an ‘ambient’ album per se, nor a dancefloor selection for that matter. It aims somewhere between the eyes, inducing hypnotic states thru explorative, intuitive frequency manipulation and a host of other, esoteric techniques in pursuit of psychedelic creativity.
If you’re looking for highlights, check the new trippy, expanded new edit of Terrence Dixon’s The Switch - which was found on the CD version of From The Far Future Pt.2 - then the rounded new edit of Electric Dub, which was a highlight of Juan Atkins & Moritz Von Oswald’s Borderland LP, and also for the rolling, haunted pressure system of Mønic’s What Lies Behind Us; that seriously murky 303 action on Donato Dozzy’s The Night Rider; and a pair of lusher wormholes in Jon Hassell’s exclusive Timeless, and a sci-fi epic, Direction Asymmetry from Daughter Produkt.
Rustically off-kilter, cinematic themes played on a prepared Beckstein Model 9 upright piano
“While not a concept album in the strict sense of the term, the album’s title refers to a hypothetical imagining of ‘Mitochondrial Eve’, the theorised matrilineal ancestor of all living humans, reincarnated in today’s world of restricted movement. Threads inspired by this juxtaposition of division and connectedness run through the album, which drifts from plaintive piano-led passages to brisk chamber music and back again, tied together by the textured layering of found sounds and instruments that distinguishes Thomas’s music.
After tracking down an old Bechstein Model 9 upright piano for ‘Asylum For Eve’, Thomas set about modifying and preparing it with cardigans, screws and nails in order to provide the textures and timbres which characterise the album’s dense, affecting sound. Techniques employed for the album include the intricate layering of bowed guitars and ukuleles, and fingerpicked violins, banjo and charango. It’s processes such as these, coupled with Hill’s high quality composition and musicianship, that see the album at once expansive and intimate. Naturally, much of ‘Asylum for Eve’ calls to mind the universe of soundtrack composition, particularly the delicate scores of Gustavo Santaolalla and Thomas Newman. But while the fluttering, layered guitars of ‘Porpita Porpita’ and the title track might bear a passing resemblance to the former composer’s work, Thomas locates these influences in the broader contexts of both his own musical trajectory and that of the wider genre of neo-classical music.”
Arvo Pärt has become something of a yardstick by which all modern classical should be measured, and 'Alina' is arguably his most beautiful piece of work. If you're into Max Richter, Johann Johannsson, Nils Frahm etc - this is perhaps the single most influential piece of music on any of those artists and has come to define the contemporary genre. When you realise this music was composed between 1976 and 1978, it's evident just how ahead of the game Pärt has really been.
'Spiegel Im Spiegel' and 'Fur Alina' have both been used in countless films, the former being perhaps one of the most beautiful pieces of contemporary classical music compoised in the last half-century, rendered with nothing more than piano and violin, captured on this definitive ECM version from 1999 featuring Vladimir Spivakov, Sergej Bezrodny, Dietmar Schwalke and Alexander Malter providing alternate versions.
Pärt's ability to distil so much emotion and spirituality into his work really is quite hard to fathom, regardless of how many times you've heard these magical pieces. If you're new to Pärt, this is really the best place to start.
Demdike Stare return with their first album since 2012’s Elemental, a feral, loose-limbed and angular rave odyssey wrecking Dancehall and Jungle templates via found sounds, Ambient and exotic spaces.
Wonderland plays the full breadth of the duo’s wide open aesthetic, taking their Testpressing series of dancefloor lashes - issued on 12” between 2013-2015 - as the diving board for an innovative, reverie-like album forming a parallel dancefloor narrative where the spirits of mid ‘90s jungle and digital dancehall are made plasmic, malleable, and syncretised with industrial and ambient techno sound design.
Rooted in record collecting and the art of DJing, and in line with Demdike’s atypical style and pattern, Wonderland veers across styles and temporalities, forming wormholes between Hardstyle and submerged jungle in the curtain-raiser, Curzon, and going in like Slimzee slicing up grime dubs with jungle in the crackden atmosphere of Animal Style, whereas the eleven minute Hardnoise catches them at full stretch, tumbling from head-rinsing noise to a dank, sublow techno mission framed by unsettling ambience somewhere between Prurient’s Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement episodes and a mutant variant of classic Exotica, before coughing you up someplace else.
At the album’s epicentre, FullEdge (eMpty-40 Mix) obliterates distinctions between dancehall and techno as you’ve never heard, an edit that re-laces their formerly mutually exclusive ligature in a belly-tightening and brilliantly messed-up new mutation, before Sourcer prangs out like a cyborg calibrating itself to ragga jungle arrhythmia, and the psychoacoustic nose drip of Fridge Challenge dissipates into the ‘static thizz of Overstaying at the LP’s perimeter, like some DJ Sprinkles cut paused at mid-flow and delayed, re-shaped into a tense burner.
It’s probably the most enjoyable and loose-limbed hour of music in their catalogue, or that you’ll likely hear in these weird, angst-ridden times.
The current UK grime, rap and R&B nexus finds its locus in New Gen; a 17 track album framing the output of of London’s New Gen Studio: a space for young MCs, songwriters, mixers and engineers to collaborate and consolidate their strength in numbers.
It’s effectively a showcase for the scenius of London sounds in 2017, surveying artists such as AJ Tracey, Nines, Avelino, Ray BLK and 67, and the spectrum of flavours they bring to the abundant table of Black British music.
Prefaced by teaser single, Ring The Alarm from Avelino and Tiggs Da Author, and the crushing rudeness of Stefflon Don & Abra Cadabra’s Money Haffi Mek, highlights also come heavy in the form of 67’s road rap banger Jackets, AJ’s sweetly moment, My Ways, the Afrobeats swerve of Rather Get Money by TE dness, and a Future-style bewt, Top Floor feat. Yang Bane.
After teasing us to bits with The Moons Theme 7”, Finders Keepers pull out the full, UK-specific soundtrack to practically everyone’s favourite Finnish fuzzy felt fantasy, written in 1982 by a pair of politically driven post-punk theatre performers from a shared house in Leeeds. One of the trippiest bouts of nostalgia you’ll ever receive, especially those bubblegum electro bits…
“Like a tall tale from the heart of Moominpapa’s memoirs the story of the lost music of Moominvalley has remained a mystery for what seems like an eternity… Or perhaps 33 years to be more accurate. Since the first time the home made Wasp-synth and ocarina driven theme tube and eerie incidental themes first made their soft landings on the UK Children’s ITV, nostalgia nuts, acid-folk fans and electro acoustic aficionados have been united by a fruitless yearning for those misplaced melodies and that last comforting synth note that resolved each episode of what was perhaps the most freakish Fuzzy-Felt five minutes to flicker onto our small screens during the 80′s wonder years.
Born in Helsinki, made in Warsaw, by a German and Austrian co-operative, and finally soundtracked in Leeds in the North of England, the translated and reconstituted tales of Moomintroll, Snuffkin and The Hattifattners (amongst a handcrafted cast of many) first came to our screens as an early exploration of Anne Wood (later creator the equally freakish Teletubbies) who after stripping the Polish and German audio commissioned a new experimental soundtrack from the collective social circles of The Impact Theatre Co-Operative, Gang Of Four and The Commies From Mars. Finally retrieved from the outer limits of it’s cross continental breadcrumb trail Finders Keepers finally grant you an access all areas pass into the vault presenting a complete full formed soundtrack album that fills the gaps between the aforementioned micro-genres that flourished in light of domestic synth technology while providing a woozy hallucinogenic antidote to the disenfranchised political backdrop of 1980s Britain fuelled by a vibrant alternative and progressive pop culture.
Welcome to the ultimate escapist paradise and the exotic folkloric plains of Moominvalley where their anonymous sinfonietta layers synthesiser textures, sound poetry and a pocket orchestra of mechanical instruments with a miniature electronic drum-kit all of which can be heard to their fullest post-punk-potential throughout the grooves of this long anticipate 15 track instrumental adventure.
Via Midwinter rituals, woodland celebrations, astral laments and spectral effervescence, Miller and Shill follow the running-theme of the uber-classic title tune throughout the oblique narrative of the original 100 episodes conjuring nostalgia, awe, surprise, apprehension and unlikely wonderment harking back to our naive wonder years while also pre-empting a universe of electronic music which arguably still begs further intrepid exploration… Perhaps the time is right for this magnetic Moomins music to finally meet it’s modest masses. However long you plan to hibernate, Don’t sleep on this one.”
Thanks to the support of 500 Kickstarter backers who invested in this recording, Emika has enlisted soprano Michaela Srumova and the Prague Metropolitan Orchestra, conducted by Paul Batson, to realise Melanfonie.
Techno virtuoso Aybee follows a similar recent trajectory as his fellow Deepblak traveller, Afrikan Sciences, to present some of his strongest material, bar none, on his latest opus The Odyssey.
His follow-up to the Sketches Of Space collaboration with Afrikan Sciences pursues 10 lines of cosmic techno enquiry intersecting the ‘floor, the head and farthest flung star systems in a journey of discovery and subtle experimentation.
There’s no radical change to his sound, more a firm consolidation of the classically-rooted but forward-looking ideas that were previously there in his sound; resulting highlights in the hydro-electric techno charge of Down The Rabbit Hoel, and an inimitably crimped Afrobeat dip in Ank and Asteroid Lust, or with superbly fluid electro-trance synth leads in The Professor and the Kassem Mosse-like Build Them.
Aahhh yes, another classic Bohren album reissued.
Bohren & Der Club of Gore’s vital reissue scheme looks to Geisterfaust (2005) after giving Sunset Mission and Black Earth much needed vinyl lives. Very safe to say that if you fell for either of those, this one will keep you right down there.
Nerds will need to know that the tracklisting has been reshuffled for the purposes of this vinyl edition, now still kicking off with the 20 minute sorrow, Zeigefinger but deviating the sequence in favour of Ringfinger, Mittelfinger, Daumen, and Kleiner Finger, for your information.
The effect remains the same, though; sublime, pensile, deeply evocative of Lynch & Badalamenti as much as doom metal and the most poignant, lonely moments of your life.
Sampha’s anticipated debut album ‘Process’, released via Young Turks
"Since the release of his debut ‘Sundanza’ EP in 2010 and 2013’s ‘Dual’ EP, Sampha has quietly but assuredly become one of the UK’s most enigmatic and respected artists. Still just twenty seven years old, he has lent his vocal, production and songwriting talents to a range of stand out releases, from UK contemporaries such as FKA twigs, Jessie Ware and SBTRKT to world-renowned superstars like Drake, Kanye West and, most recently this year, on Frank Ocean’s ‘Endless’ and Solange’s ‘A Seat At The Table’ albums.
Now it’s time for Sampha to tell his own story and ‘Process’, produced by Sampha himself and Rodaidh McDonald, is set to be his defining musical statement."
The Portland lunar explorers embrace the dark side of Moon Duo for the first of a two-part opus on Sacred Bones.
Two years after disappearing into The Shadow Of The Sun, Ripley Johnson and Sanae Yamada re-emerge as Moon Duo for another journey deep into the mystical psyche. Despite sounding like a Legowelt concept album about 4th world pagan skyscrapers, Occult Architecture instead sees Johnson and Yamada exploring 'invisible structures found in the cycle of seasons and the journey of day into night, dark into light.' This loose thematic arc is spread over two volumes by Moon Duo, with darkness the pervading subtext across the seven tracks on this inaugural edition.
Don't expect a drastic departure from Moon Duo's ouevre however; the strident motorik drums, spectral harmonies, spiraling organs and squalling guitar feedback remain a constant as escape the yin in search of yang.
Brilliant album from Marcus Fjellstrom returning after a 5 year absence with an oneiric masterpiece that strongly recalls the low key brilliance of his strings of pearls released by Lampse and Miasmah between 2005-2011. It's a tense, highly atmospheric take on modern classical, highly recommended if you're into Kreng, Nate Young or Deaf Center.
Fjellstrom's natural abilities in narrative detailing and layered sound design seem to have grown exponentially, but with no sacrifice to his music’s ghostly, intangible appeal. He’s spent the last several years working intently on an A/V opera, Boris Christ whose necessary dramaturgical elements and sense of direction are central to the rich array of sound imagery conjured up across Skelektikon - impish funny-bones characters, mythical fauna, backdrops of dark green velvet, grasping forests and carmine lighting.
It’s the sort of music you play late at night, in solitary mouse-catcher mode, to encourage those moments of what the fxck was that over in the corner? whilst you drift off into reveries about pagan things until the hypnic jerks kick in, or don’t, and you’re either petrified, awake, or unconscious and on the other side.
If you’ve ever been seduced by the eyrie worlds of Nurse With Wound, or like the idea of melting into your favourite noir score, Skelektikon is shivering with expectation for you.
Few contemporary artists have so seeped into the underground pop psyche than the Stockholm-born songwriter. After releasing her debut These Things Take Time on hand-made CDrs, Nilsson’s follow up was a leap in scope and ambition.
"Of course, the personal takes on a tumultuous life in Berlin and the journeys to and from it inform the songs as before, but there’s a growing maturity in the songwriting in evidence. From the diary pages of These Things Take Time to a growing stature as a songwriter in touch with the universal, Follow The Light contains many of Nilsson’s now firm fan-favourites. The Closest We’ll Ever Get To Heaven is classic Molly Nilsson. Over plaintive piano chords and little else, Nilsson narrates a story of doomed friends lost, the onset of an East German winter reminding the singer of a time lost, nostalgia frosting the windows to the past.
Meanwhile In Berlin, perhaps a passing nod to Leonard Cohen in the melodic refrain, opens up the sonic palette, with synth strings fitting Nilsson’s delivery perfectly. Never O’Clock is a pure pop moment, with a lilting funk and percussion adding a carpe diem immediacy to the album’s flow. Last Forever, which remains a staple to live encores now, seven years later, is fist-pumping melancholy that only Molly Nilsson knows how to do. It’s
over before it begins and begs eternal repeat. Truth, a synth pop song that sees Nilsson exploring the upper and lower registers of her voice, feels like a lost chart hit from the mid 80s.
I Hope You Sleep At Night, a vitriolic lover’s admonishment gives way to one of Nilsson’s most popular songs: I’m Still Wearing His Jacket. It’s a sentiment that needs no real explanation: the mementos of a completed love affair remain in our wardrobes waiting to hurt us all over again. Hello Loneliness could also be an updated Leonard Cohen song, a peon to melancholy which reminds us that Nilsson has a knack for distilling the complex into sharp epithets. We end on one of Nilsson’s greatest songs. A Song They Won’t Be Playing On The Radio is so finely loaded with emotion that it’s the singer’s reserved delivery that makes it so powerful."
Without question, some of the most beautiful and arresting quiet music you'll likely ever hear, compiled in a 4 hour-long triple disc set.
'Fremde Zeit - Addendum' collects five pieces of engrossingly etheric, liminal composition by Jakob Ullmann (1958), the widely acknowledged master of quiet music and cover star of The Wire magazine.
For us, as we'd imagine many others, this is a striking first introduction to the devoted German minimalist's very particular body of work. Comprising 4 hours of barely-there strings, percussions, wind instruments and voices prefaced by the instruction "Please choose, for each piece, the volume settings of your sound system so as to just barely mask the ambient sounds in the room", this is music made for concentrated listening, recorded and specifically designed to give listeners "the opportunity to hear more, and better" by the simple but essential notion that "We hear better because we make an effort to hear better."
With this is mind, we're invited into a sound world which actively, yet effortlessly and sublimely challenges our perceptions of space and time with a compelling, transcendent effect akin to that of listening to music by, say, Eliane Radigue or Morton Feldman, yet with an alien, detached appeal entirely its own. Due to their extended durations - no piece is shorter than 34 mins, and over an hour at the longest - we form temporal impressions which blur the boundaries between our immediate space and the apparent vastness of the recording, teasing our sixth sense to wander on a knife edge of trepidation and somnolence.
Yet, musically, it covers a far more subtle spectrum of emotions and cabalistic atmospheres casting metaphoric allusions to "…antiquity, to the Middle Ages, to the Baroque, to the 20th Century and to the present" by means of its extreme dilation of space/time and anticipation, and relegation of distortion or any untempered gestures.
Once you've heard this music it should come as little surprise Ullmann studied sacred music in Dresden from 1979-1982 - his music could be the lingering resonance of an Arvo Pärt piece played in a huge cathedral, and it carries the weight of history - spanning over 18 years of work, the results are duly, deeply considered.
A revelatory package, whose impact will surely emerge and manifest as slowly, yet powerfully, as the music itself.
Moss Garden is a stunning dark ambient opus from Erik Skodvin (Deaf Center) aka Svarte Greiner: collecting his soundtracks for two installation pieces commissioned by Marit Følstad, perfectly distilling the space between waking life and nightmare as uncannily as anything else you’ll hear this side of a David Lynch flick, or that recurring dream where you’re trapped going the wrong way down an escalator into an icy fjord. If you're into Mica Levi's unique string arrangements, this one's a must.
The album marks the return of Skodvin’s most prized solo alias, trailing in the smoky wake of a recent reissue of his Deaf Center classic, Pale Ravine (2005) to effectively resolve the three year wait since he left us dangling with Black Tie, which was also released thru his label; Miasmah.
As any avowed follower of dark ambient music will likely acknowledge, there’s a fine line between numbing tonal drift and genuinely enchanted sound, and it’s one which Skodvin is patently aware of both as a listener/consumer and producer/alchemist operating within those parameters, allowing him to skilfully navigate the sound’s most subtle aspects without ever being accused of being one-dimensional, as could be applied to many others in that field.
Crucially, like the best of Greiner’s work, Moss Garden strikes a balance of almost academic stoicism and expressive pathos, using rarified technique at the service of an instinctually guided tension. He commits something more akin to one of Harry Bertoia’s Sonambient recordings, revealing a widescreen, mazy field of convulsive, recursive metallic shockwaves that open out at unfathomable, horizontal angles whilst the centre ground gains a mass of blackened drone energy, as though we’re moving ever deeper into a space as long as it is wide until we’re greeted by a frost of sylvan timbres that seem to mimic the vocal tone of its translucent inhabitants.
Emptyset really bare their teeth on Borders, the concrète power duo’s most vicious, uncompromisingly genuine, and coincidentally highest profile release to date, landing on far-reaching independent stronghold, Thrill Jockey.
Whilst James Ginzburg and Paul Purgas’ initial, shocking burst of energy, deployed thru a series of crushing releases between 2009-2015, seemed to tail off a a bit at Signal (2015), they return frighteningly charged and combustible on Borders with a baker’s dozen batch of distended, aggressive, and foundation-rocking pieces that sound like Steve Albini evacuating his bowels on a stone-clad bog in the parallel dimension below his studio. And we mean that in the best way.
Working with their favoured, home-made instruments - a six-stringed zither-like thing, and a drum - they enact a series of inimitably visceral gestures, played and effected with analogue electronics and compression techniques in real time in pursuit of an acoustic truth which, it’s fair to say, they locate and grasp with fearless form across the album, pushing headlong for a biting-point atonality and knotted meter which is unmistakably their own.
It serves an inverted contrast to their previous method of playing sound into unique architectural spaces and processing the results, instead placing more focus on the interaction of skin on skin, skin on string, and the way their intentions spiral from subtle haptic infidelities into a sort of raging, harnessed chaos that transcends electro-acoustic dimensions as much as it blurs the distinctions between performative noise, techno, rock and all that zzaj.
In one felt swoop Borders returns experimental electronic and avant-garde techniques to a sort of No Wave ground zero which, only time will tell, but should surely be hailed as the benchmark for noisy new music in 2017. Don’t sleep!!!
Spellbinding recordings of new Baudouin De Jaer compositions from the “impeccable” and award-winning contemporary string quartet, Quatuor Tana; also including their take on Igor Stravinsky’s Elegie, composed for the 100th anniversary of the Pro Arte Quartet.
Baudouin De Jaer is the Belgian composer and violinist who notably cracked the idiosyncratic music system of Swiss outsider artist Adolf Wöfli - as heard on Analysis Of The Musical Cryptograms / The Heavenly Ladder (2010) - and who has previously appeared on these pages with his striking original Compositions For Geomungo And Gayageum modelled on Korean folk and Classical Court music - which, for reference, is also a strong influence on the work of Rashad Becker.
The Tana String Quartet are a multi-award winning ensemble recognised for their willingness to push the conventions of contemporary composition, notably using iPads instead of the usual paper-printed scores, which they also use for educational work, and also for incorporating hybrid instruments and electronics into their classical and contemporary music vocabulary.
Quatuor Tana prove a fine match for the technical intricacies and demands of Eclerectic Attracta, whose complex dynamic range is beautifully captured and rendered by Jarek Frankowski’s Acoustic Recordings mixing and mastering solutions using high-end, boutique grade equipment to capture everything from the finest spectral essence to shock-out passages of white hot string flashes.
They’re not necessarily “difficult” to listen pieces, though: taking inspiration from the mountainous province of South Korea which lends its title, Kangwondo (2011) mirrors the stately, pointillist elegance of De Jaer’s favoured Korean Classical Court music to beautiful effect, while NV (2009) written for 4 violins and four non-violinists instrumentalists, is a thrillingly dramatic and compact demonstration of the Quatuor’s ability to translate the highly demanding instructions of De Jaer’s composition, and likewise the durational, dramaturgical turns and tension of Eclerctic Attracta (1987) which requires a lot of directed movement from the players on stage.
If you’ve found yourself rapt by Mica Levi’s incredible soundtracks or solo work, or beguiled by the narrative dynamics of Rashad Becker’s Traditional Music For Notional Species and ever asked yourself; where to next? This album requires your attention forthwith.
Breathtaking new album from Max Richter, presenting Three Worlds: Music From Woolf Works, his score to Wayne McGregor’s award-winning Royal Ballet production Woolf Works, inspired by the eponymous author and, quite remarkably, featuring a snippet of the only known surviving recording of her voice.
Richter plays right on the heart-strings here, offering a score worthy of both the author’s literary significance and the prestigious Royal Ballet, that extracts and weaves the themes, character personalities and atmospheres of her three works; Mrs Dalloway - which opens with the sound of Big Ben and Virginia reading from her essay Craftsmanship for the BBC in 1937; Orlando featuring the same text read in the modern day by Sarah Sutcliffe: and The Waves, which rather crushingly features Gillian Anderson reciting Virginia’s suicide note to her husband.
Some two years in the works, it’s a staggering feat of emotive triggers and dynamic, innovative movement that puts Richter’s (nearly) 30 odd years experience into practice over 16 parts broken down to three movements, almost seamlessly switching back and forth between acoustic and electronic sources, recorded in orchestral, chamber and studio settings, and beautifully used to illuminate and drive the dancers as much as stimulate your own thoughts in far removed different settings.
If the virtue or skill of a composer lies in their ability to convert or alchemise text, feelings and imagery into a format interpretable by instruments, then Richter surely proves his innately humane sensitivity and distinguished breadth of vision with this recording.
At last, all three Britxotica! LPs now available as a three CD box set! That’s 48 super rare and extraordinary exotic British masterpieces over three genre-defining albums...
"Britxotica! (pronounced “Britzotica”) neatly describes an odd and yet undocumented pre-Beatles British musical scene where famed UK composers as well as unknown singers and bandleaders threw convention on holiday and went wild wild wild! For this very special box set we have gathered the first three groundbreaking and sold out Britxotica! albums…
…thought up and put together by legendary “Smashing” DJ and co creator of The Sound Gallery Martin Green and maverick collector Jonny Trunk, here are 48 incredible, unusual, inspiring and super rare British tracks set across these three magical and very different albums:
Album 1: Britxotica! Primitive Pop And Savage Jazz
Album 2: Britxotica! Goes East! Persian Pop And Casbah Jazz
Album 3: Tropical Britxotica! Polynesian Pop And Placid jazz
Each CD is in a slipcase – a mini replica of the original vinyl LPs. And as well as these three genre-defining albums, you will find an eight page booklet with comprehensive notes about the artists, bandleaders and all our forgotten Britxotica! stars.
So sit back, relax and let Britxotica! take you to musical places you have only ever dreamed of."
One can only imagine what the original crowds who saw George Méliès classic, prototypical sci-fi film adaptation of Jules Vernes’ A Trip To The Moon (Le Voyage dans la lune) in 1902 would have thought of Jeff Mills new, all electronic score.
“When Georges Méliès created A Trip To The Moon in 1902, the world was just beginning to feel the tightening, yet exciting effects of another giant leap in modern civilisation with the Industrial Age. It was a place in time that was transformable and in all dimensions of an evolutionary process: social, economic and political revolutions were buzzing. And man worked hard under the Sun, exposing his efforts and determination, it was the Moon that hatched his dreams. It was a time of realisation and a time of romance.” Jeff Mills
Conceived and produced by Mills in order to soundtrack the newly discovered and restored hand-coloured print of the film, his score fits the film’s fantastical nature with a blend of hi-line, weightless electronic tones and immersive, abstract gestures directly inspired by its imagery but taking license to jetpack off along new techno trajectories.
If you were into Mills OSTs for Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and Woman In The Moon, or Richard Fleischer’s Fantastic Voyage, this one will take you there, too.
Newly availed as a download, Permissions was written and recorded by ambient innovator K. Leimer in 2012, with crucial input in the edit, mix and post-production by 12k’s Taylor Dupree.
Compared with what we know of Leimer’s explorative early work, Permissions feels like a sublimated expansion of his electro-acoustic textures, rendering 16 tracks, 71 minutes of shimmering tonal mingle and diffusion best consumed in low lit and laid-back conditions, especially if you like 12K or Home Normal releases.
The much-cherished Boats/Cotton Goods affiliated Tape Loop Orchestra make a blissful start to the year with an hour long excursion into string-laden ambience suffused with field recordings, traces of ghostly sound and phenomenological overlays in keeping with the Electronic Voice Phenomenon theme. It's soaring, beautiful stuff - highly recommended if you're into Stars Of The Lid, Tim Hecker, Grouper.
For some, EVP is nothing more than a relic of the analogue age, a pseudoscience built on pareidolia or apophenia and “disturbed” people tuning into the voices in one’s head. For others, it presents a richly syncretic field of study combining psychology, parapsychology, metaphysics and the chuff-knows-what, forming potential communication bridges to other dimensions. In any event, it makes for a useful subject matter for this kind of music; you're never quite sure what you're listening to or how it was made, but become increasingly aware of its disorientating effect the more you listen.
In TLO’s hands, Instrumental Transcommunications provides a deep well of inspiration behind this seriously heady album, which unfurls as a gauzy tapestry of original samples from Raymond Cass, among others, woven with signature synthetic diffusions, sorely emotive cues and Beth Roberts’ cirrus pop wisps in the most magical, elusive convections.
This project just gets better with every release; if you’re a fan of genuinely moving orchestral reductions and tempered Ambient music free of heavy-handed/manipulative emotive signatures - this one’s for you.
The Grey Catalog departs from Leimer’s typical obsessions with understatement and homogeneity to range freely across rhythmic, melodic, and disassembled forms.
"Incorporating percussion, electric guitar and bass as well as found sound, digital and analog synthesis and sampled instruments, The Grey Catalog spins off multiple intimations of some earlier works; particularly Closed System Potentials, The Neo-Realist (at Risk) and The Useless Lesson. Compiled over a two-year period, as diverse as the pieces are, they are also related by a shared generative technique and a shared library of voices and processing. The result is an album of highly personal music, restless and shifting forms, with melodic passages drawn over sets of self-regulating sources and shaped by approaches refined over decades of occasionally stumbling across something that might work."
With Beneath the Mirrored Surface, Marc Barreca continues his quest to create deep and shifting aural spaces by merging the abstract rhythmic warmth of early analog synthesis with the complexity and timbral beauty of acoustic instruments and natural sound.
"For this release, Barreca extracted and reshaped rhythms and textures from field recordings, decades-old world folk recordings and acoustic instrument loops. These sources were first converted into MIDI data using Ableton Live and then transformed and manipulated with Max/ MSP. Hundreds of these source clips were then blended and arranged with layered and looped digital synthesizer and sampler tracks. The result is a dense, rich world of refracted light and shifting shadow. Mastered by Taylor Dupree.”
Kazakh violinist Aisha Orazbayeva presents her latest album Telemann Fantasias, works by German composer G.P. Telemann published in 1735.
"Orazbayeva's performance of these pieces range from personal and stylistic interpretations to versions marked by the distortion and fragmentation of the material through the use of contemporary violin techniques.
The variety of extreme colours, sounds and tones illuminates the polyphonic character and phrasing of the music, while also adding unfamiliar and distant qualities. This approach to interpreting old repertoire reflects her work in improvisation and as a performer of new and experimental music.”
One-off Japanaese pressing of this limited CD compiling both of Burial's 'Steet Halo' and 'Kindred' EPs, originally produced exclusively for the Japanese domestic market.
All six tracks in their full length versions, totalling 50 minutes of music not previously available on CD, packaged in full size jewel case with Japanese obi-strip overlay.
Mica Levi is without question one of the most interesting producers working today, with numerous strings to her bow she has repeatedly wowed us with everything from skewed rhythmic edits to her chopped & screwed take on classical arrangements, hooky 3-minute pop tracks to squashed Urban mixtapes - always seemingly side-stepping expectations with a singular approach to everything she's put her hand to.
Following her standout, brilliantly unnerving score for Jonathan Glazer’s Under The Skin a couple of years back, Levi now returns with her second high-profile soundtrack, this time for Pablo Larraín’s Jackie.
There are some pretty amazing interviews with Levi around at the moment (both written, and a couple of totally hilarious Video ones where she makes no concession to what’s expected of her - go find them!), and the tiny insight she gives to the recording process does very little to explain quite how she manages to make a sound so utterly identifiable as her own, regardless of the scale of the production. You’ll find out that she likes to look out of the window when she’s writing, for inspiration, and that despite a classical grounding (at Guildhall) she likes to layer strings in such a way that they attain a kind of school-band quality to them, ever so subtly messing with harmonics in a way that defies tradition.
And that’s the thing with this incredible soundtrack - it sounds rich and beautiful and hugely accomplished, but also ever so slightly off. The use of silence, dissonance, recurring motifs that accelerate and unravel as the soundtrack goes on... is quite something to behold. It’s a hugely confident, self-assured and above all gripping score that is never emotionally heavy-handed, nor does it ever sound like it's trying too hard.
Rather than adapting herself to convention, Levi has re-moulded the genre itself to fit around her acutely non-conformist approach to composition and production and, in the process, has in some way re-set our expectations of what a film score can achieve. She’s done that twice now, on her first two goes at it, which is really quite staggering.
We’ve said this so many times now it almost goes without saying, but there really aren’t many people in contemporary music leaving quite as indelible a mark across so many different genres and sub genres as Mica Levi, in a way that, in our opinion, hasn't really been seen since Arthur Russell or Prince.
The flagship mix series from !K7 ropes in the Ghostly techno troubadour for a 25-track selection that includes Pearson Sound, SMD, Randomer and some Dear/Audion exclusives.
Dear follows his first Audion LP in yonks for !K7 with this edition of the German label’s DJ-Kicks, which features the regulation exclusive material from the artist himself. Kicking off with a mawkish slab of modern classical from poster boy Nils Frahm proves to be something of a false start as the subsequent 47 minutes veer closer to the funk-addled house, skippy oddball minimal and spinal techno reductions you’d expect from Dear.
New album from Richard who seven influential albums as the leader of French space-rock pioneers Heldon in the 70s, with a further five solo records before his six-year break from music in 1982.
Since returning to the form in the 90s he has been prolific, collaborating with such luminaries as Merzbow, Yoshida Tatsuya, Oren Ambarchi, Barry Cleveland, and Wolf Eyes.
Soul Jazz’ new journey into the mighty vaults of Clement Dodd’s Studio One steps once more into the fertile musical environment of Jamaican music in the late 1960s and early 1970s, from the sweet harmony vocals of seminal 1960s Rocksteady right up to the nascent birth of Reggae and Roots music at the start of the 1970s. Sleevenotes to this album are by Steve Barrow, author of ‘Rough Guide to Reggae’ as well as Soul Jazz Records’ own ‘Reggae Soundsystem Cover Art’ books.
"While Ska at the start of the 1960s had taken American rhythm and blues as its main influence, Rocksteady focused on the emergence of American Soul music – with Jamaican vocal harmony groups such as The Gaylads, John Holt & The Paragons, Carlton & The Shoes showing a particular fascination with the close harmonies of Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions and other US soul acts. Here The Heptones even feature with a cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘I Shall Be Released’.
The influence of Soul music on Jamaican rock steady and reggae is almost palpable, so much so that one wonders how much more successful singers like Delroy Wilson, Alton Ellis, Slim Smith and John Holt would have been had they been born in Chicago, Detroit or Memphis
Artists such as Alton Ellis, Delroy Wilson and Owen Gray defined the era – a slowed down beat as Jamaican political and social heat slowly increased as the 1960s progressed into the start of the 1970s – and the music evolved further from rock steady into roots reggae.
Complementary to D∆WN’s Redemption album, Fade to Mind proffer the expansion pack for her Infrared EP, exclusively produced by Kingdom and bolstered with remixes from the full label roster.
The four originals sit pretty with highlights locked in on How I Get It and the free-floating R&B-jungle hybrid, Baptize, and all provide prime source material for the remixers: Leonce absolutely wins out with his rugged re-bounce of How I Get It and likewise Byrell The Great, following his killer RiRi rework with a sticky, raving ballroom reboot, whilst Divoli S’vere goes in on a junglist/ballroom mutation of Honest, Ikonika alloys scooping subs to Paint It Blue, and Kingdom skilfully turns his own work inside out with his Honest VTX take on Baptize.
This summer, Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite, Slowdive’s Rachel Goswell, Editors’ Justin Lockey and his brother James came together to release their debut album as Minor Victories. Currently in the midst of a run of live shows throughout Europe, the band are pleased to announce their utterly stunning instrumental interpretation of the self-titled record, entitled Orchestral Variations.
Reissue of DJ Sprinkles' classic Midtown 120 Blues, self-released by Terre Thaemlitz through his own Comatonse imprint
Bringing deep house back into contact with its club culture roots, Terre Thaemlitz has created one of the most essential house albums of the last few years with 'Midtown 120 Blues'. Terre was originally working as a DJ under her Sprinkles alias in the gay clubs of midtown Manhattan and New Jersey in the late 80's when deep house began to blossom. It's this early period of House history which Terre has beautifully recreated over 10 tracks, making a pointed comment with the intro track taking shots at Strictly Rhythm for becoming 'Strictly Vocal' and pulling no punches towards "Most Europeans who think deep house means shitty hi-NRG vocal house".
With the intentions made clear, Terre develops a masterpiece of serene melancholy and sublime deep house crafted with the skill and dedication of someone who you can truly believe lived this music at that time. From the rich subbass driven tones of 'Midtown 120 Blues' with plaintive pianos slowly encircling one another, to samples of drag queen monologues over the deepest ambient brushed rhythms on 'Ball'r (Madonna-Free Zone)' or head-meltingly warm chords and caressed percussion of 'Brenda's $20 dilemna' - this will suck in and swallow any deep house lovers in one go.
A total pleasure.
Over 2.5 hours of beautiful, affective deep house, collating all material from their now sold-out double packs and the newly issued triple LP 3rd volume. The first CD contains all of Will Long's original productions, the second CD all of Sprinkles' versions.
As promised, Tokyo, Japan-based American artists, Will Long (Celer) and DJ Sprinkles offer a CD edition of Long Trax, gathering all three vinyl volumes of their sublime, durational deep house studies examining the dancefloor in light of contemporary socio-political inequalities and failed illusions of ‘Revolution’ and ‘Progression’, for Terre Thaemlitz’ Comatonse label.
Revolving around some of the deepest house music you’ll hear in 2016, Long Trax collects beautifully modest, economical productions backed with corresponding, masterful overdubs by DJ Sprinkles that reassert the sound’s original intentions and aesthetics in a way that’s inarguably closer in structure, feel and intent to the original, queer and black-rooted dance music of late ‘80s/early ‘90s NYC, yet feels timelessly effective.
Collected, these tracks outline their point with tactile subtlety and clarity; using minimal, era-consistent means of rhythm composer percussion, polyphonic synth chords and rack-mounted samplers to reveal a humbling alternative to flashy, overproduced, modern deep house that effectively runs counter to its badly repackaged vibes and empty sloganeering and its position as the catalyst of social trends, rather than social transformation.
The beautifully absorbing results - which sound miles away from Long’s gentler ambient and experimental work - are testament to the democracy of early deep house and prove that it is possible to elicit subtle yet optimal responses with a well-selected palette of grooves and samples, faithfully taken from speeches by civil rights leaders including Jesse Jackson, H. Rap Brown, T.R.M. Howard, John Lewis, Kathleen Cleaver and Bayard Jackson, respectively.
To perfectly underline that point, DJ Sprinkles’ meticulous, pensile overdubs quite literally and psycho-acoustically resonate their intention by tactfully rending a farther, lush physicality and soulfulness from Long’s slinky bones. Whether adding a lick of rolling, era-consistent breaks to Under-Currents or nimbly toying the bassline of Daylight and Dark with frankly jaw-dropping results, her overdubs prove that there’s a whole world of new sounds to be drawn out from within, and with relatively simple, classic technique, provided you’re willing to look deep enough.
It is rare that a conceptually rooted project should occur within the realm of modern deep house, and perhaps even rarer that its conceptual thrust resonates so systematically and with such meticulous attention to detail and faith in the subject. But, considering the project’s inputs, we’d hardly expect any less from these two exceptional artists.