New music ensemble Eye Music interpret ‘Sapporo’, a seminal, minimalist, graphic score by Toshi Ichiyanagi - the elder statesman of Japanese avant-garde composition, who was famously married to Yoko Ono during the late ‘50s
‘Sapporo’ is considered a classic of the ‘60s trend towards graphic notation, which emerged in the wake of Webernian serialism, and from the intersection of west and eastern musical philosophies catalysed by John Cage, as a way of freeing up music in key with the social, sexual, economic and political revolutions of that important post-WWII era.
The piece requires each performer - in this case Eye Music’s 11-piece ensemble employing everything from analog synths to psaltery bow and umeboshi pit, and kitchen faucets - to play from one page of graphic notation, with each performer aleatorically synching at some point in the piece, but hardly ever at the same points in any two performances.
In effect it’s totally open-ended, with no fixed start or finish point, with this 2006 recording going to just over 50 minutes, whereas previous iterations have lasted only 15 minutes. According to the score’s long, straight lines denoting sustained tones, angular lines describing glissando, and dashes calling for short sounds, the piece if played at slower paces, naturally opens out to reveal long pauses amid its naturally gentle topography, where plateaus intersect sliding descents and elide with inclines and a range of punctuating ephemera, recalling the graceful logic of a Japanese garden turning from dusk to night.
Minimalist german vocalist Marianne Schuppe breaks down the definition of a “song” on ‘Nosongs’, her super sparse follow-up to 2015’s ‘Slow Songs’, further distilling/reducing that album’s themes for the estimable Edition Wandelweiser Records
Accompanying herself with lute and uber-bows in 11 ‘Nosongs’, Marianne vacillates english and german language in phrases that linger on the air, leaving lots of tenebrous silence and space to the imagination in a way that becomes just as crucial as the tangible sounds to the album’s hypnotic yet barely there pull.
Like probably at least a few others, we’re left wondering wtf are Uber Bows (Google’s providing no help), but that’s also the most trivial mystery about ‘Nosongs’, whose enigmatic appeal is genuinely timeless, bringing the age old craft of a bard or singer of myriad stripes, right down to their essence. Like any folky worth their Arran sweater collection, she has the transfixing quality of a singer who can silence a barn or room and draw the audience deep into her own world. But this really isn’t folk music, and what she’s doing appears to defuse more lofty avant-garde vocal music and bring it down to a plaintiveness that also implies some calm, religious, and devotional connotations, although they aren’t really there either.
What we’re left with feels like a cycle of songs seemingly shorn of sentimentality, yet remaining beautiful in a relatively popular sense, with only precisely chosen words and the subtlest of instrumental gestures that, through her precise enunciation and slow, careful cadence, maybe speak volumes more than artists who simply let it all out, which is nonetheless a valid approach. In other words, she’s doing for vocal music what Morton Feldman and Giacinto Scelsi have for instrumental piano music.
Ravishing, dramatic and rambunctious chops from sax virtuoso and Joy O collaborator Ben Vince accompanied by Micachu, Rupert Clervaux, Merlin Nova, Valentina Magaletti and Cam Deas. Definitely one of the strongest WTN? drops in memory. RIYL Diamanda Galas, Chaines, Karl D’Silva, Colin Stetson
“‘Assimilation’ dives right in with Vince assuming downtown skronk, perfectly complementing the commanding no-wave theatrical vocal prowess of Merlin Nova. ‘Alive & Ready’ serves as an avant-garde energy blast, launching us into orbit.
Ben’s next spatial movement glides towards ‘What I can see’, a collaboration with Mica Levi, here donning her Micachu moniker to deliver her signature downcast experimental pop dexterity across Vince’s beautifully treated sax scape. The results are a moving, considered, crafted piece which undeniably nods towards Arthur Russell’s ‘World of Echo’, encompassing that same timeless, ethereal beauty.
Mica and Ben’s moment of longing melancholy is short lived, as we’re shuffled along to ‘Sensory Crossing’, a collaboration with Rupert Clervaux in which he evidences his groundings in Jazz percussion, experimental electronics, and deep interest in ethnomusicology - further exploring and expanding on the basin navigated during his collaborative album with Beatrice Dillon ‘Studies I-XVII for Samplers and Percussion’ to create a blanket of bubbling, wired, frenzied yet fluid motorik groove. Vince’s improvisation here remains restrained throughout, conversing with Rupert’s movements rather than attempting to shadow or overshadow them, an idea which perhaps is cemented in his exclamation that “Collaboration, and also the wider idea of 'communicating' in general, is, for me, assimilating the other, becoming the other, at least temporarily, to forge a point of connection. When we are able to let down our barriers, let ourselves affect and be affected, we can truly communicate.”
‘Tower of Cells’, another percussion led collaboration features drummer Valentina Magaletti (Editions Mego), and sonic explorer Cam Deas (Death of Rave). Magaletti’s immersive, hypnotic, & deep styling holds firm Deas’ synth transmissions & Vince’s wandering, brooding, layered sax drone across 10 minutes of truly refreshing alien Jazz – Think the Necks mixed by Scientist on this one.
‘Assimilation’ rolls us out in fine style with Vince riding solo. Fluttering tonal Sax lines build and build before become interspersed with layers of fourth world styled exotic flurries. Held together by a single perpetual hypnotic bass thud ‘Assimilation’ brings to mind the similarly exotic experimental works of Muslimgauze & Jon Hassell. This final track essentially serves as a space for some reflection, joyously winding down a journey which manages to truly make the ethereal and the intense run alongside each other in perfect harmony.”
Venerable composer and pianist Charlemagne Palestine revisits his seminal 1976 work ‘The Golden Mean’ in duo with enigmatic artist Rrose, reprising a dialogue started 10 years ago when Rrose was studying at Mills college and looking for a score to Charlemagne’s amazing ‘Strumming Music’…
“In 2018 the Festival Variations in Nantes commissions Palestine to perform The Golden Mean, reworking the piece for two pianists. Palestine chose Rrose to join him in this new rendition of the work. Together, they performed The Golden Mean (reborn as “The Goldennn Meeenn + Sheeenn”) onstage at the main opera house in Nantes -- the sumptuous Théâtre Graslin – with extraordinary results.
The concept of the ‘golden mean’ goes back to the roots of mathematics, and ancient Greek philosophy. It is an important work in the Palestine mythos, embodying his total immersion in the power of the interval. “It’s probably his most systematic work . . . a step-by-step journey through the intervals of the octave,” says Rrose. “When we rehearsed it, we were noticing how each interval is like a universe of its own -- with its own history, emotions, and sonic qualities all mixed up together. Every time you move from one interval to the next, it feels like moving into another world.”
“I love the interval,” Palestine told me in a recent interview. “I love when it plays with itself. That's what I learned from organ musics too. You can just do an interval, and if they're just slightly out of tune with each other, then they shimmer . . . they play themselves. And it sounds like somebody's playing lots of notes. In your ear, it's like an aural phenomenon . . . that's my whole concept. I make something that then does itself somehow. It continues by itself. So I don't have to always be there. And that makes my music a little less egocentric. So there’s more space. Also for the listener — the ear plays with these things, and you're not always being given orders. Your ear isn't given orders all the time of what to listen for.”
Beautifully recorded, with mastering by Rashad Becker of Dubplates and Mastering, The Goldenn Meeenn + Sheeenn feels expansive, radiant and hypnotic, opening new ears to its enduring mystery.
Rrose adds this note to listeners: “Do not focus your attention on the notes being played, but on the ocean of overtones swimming, suspended, overhead, brushing against one another, kissing one another, melting into one another.”
From the top shelf of UK soundsystem culture, Soul Jazz pull up a cracking selection from the Fashion Records archive, running classic Dancehall, Jungle and Lovers Rock from Cutty Ranks to General Levy, Carlton Lewis, Top Cat and Janice Walker
Between the early ‘80s and late ‘90s Fashion Records were crucial players in the dialogue between Jamaican, Caribbean music and the sound of UK’s urban centres, and their influence would spill over to become a cornerstone of British dance music culture.
“While nearly all other UK reggae labels focused on releasing Jamaican music, from the early days of Island and Trojan in the 1960s, through Island and Virgin in the 1970s and Greensleeves that came up in the 1980s, Fashion’s focus was firmly on music produced in the UK. This unique British perspective shaped both lyrical content and musical fashion. And like all the great music labels, from Studio One to Blue Note, Fashion was able to create a significant roster of its own artists.
Amazingly for a small independent label, a number of Fashion artists achieved mainstream UK chart and crossover success, including Laurel & Hardy, Smiley Culture and General Levy. But although this success was welcomed, crossing over into the mainstream was never the main focus for label owners Chris Lane and John McGillivray (who also runs the successful Dub Vendor record shop), whose starting point was always primarily focused on producing quality music first.
In the early 1980s, Fashion Records captured the rise of the emerging British dancehall scene in its ascendency. The large roster of first generation British-born artists and MCs on the label, including General Levy, Papa Face, Smiley Culture, Bionic Rhona, Asher Senator, Laurel & Hardy, Top Cat and many more, often gave a unique and sometimes humorous British lyrical perspective to Fashion releases, discussing everyday subjects, from police harassment to road safety.
Throughout much of the 1980s and into the 1990s Fashion continued to release an almost relentless array of UK dancehall releases as well as continuing with lovers rock and the occasional dub releases. Then, in the mid-90s, with the dancehall and reggae releases still coming on strong, Fashion released a superb series of early jungle tracks linking Jamaican and British MCs and dancehall artists with young jungle mixers, remixers and producers. By this time dancehall artists General Levy and Cutty Ranks had become the staple vocal samples of literally hundreds of white label jungle records and Fashion took advantage of this, often getting young producers to work in exchange for sample clearances.
This album is a subjective and scatter-gun ride through some of the many unique and heavyweight tracks to come out of the Fashion stable - some classics, some lesser-known, all 100% killer.”
20 years since his Planet Mu debut, Leafcutter John brings his ecstatic prog-electronica virtues to Border Community for a bright and spacious album of driving krautrock rhythms and intricate melodic fancy wrought around field recordings of the Norfolk coastline and the North Sea
“During the summer of 2017 exiled Yorkshireman Leafcutter John returned to his one-time home of Norfolk (having graduated in Painting from Norwich’s School of Art and Design back in 1998) and set out on foot along the sixty mile section of Norfolk Coast Path which runs from Hunstanton to Overstrand, trusty audio recording device in his pocket. “And very soon the physical act of walking began to make me think about music,” he explains. “My footsteps dictated the tempo and imagined melodies accompanied me as I slowly moved along the increasingly wild and magical stretch of coastline. Stresses of the city were replaced by the fall and rise of the North Sea and endless salt flats. Sounds from the environment filtered in and I would stop often to record what I was hearing around me.”
Back home in London, the hours of amassed field recordings would form the backbone and inspiration for a whole album worth of outpourings from John’s six-years-in-the-making modular synth. From the evocative sound of sea birds on Pillar and Stepper Motor to the colourful conversation from a country pub in This Way Out, the apposite selection of samples which made the final edit provide the perfect jumping-off point for John’s synths to soar with abandon, at times uplifting, frenetic, haunting, hypnotic or meditative, but always atmospheric and with unstoppable propulsion.
“Above all else, I wanted the album to exude a sense of constant forward motion but at a very human scale,” says John. Thus drummer friends Tom Skinner (Hello Skinny) and Sebastian Rochford (long-time collaborator in the twice Mercury Prize-nominated band Polar Bear) were roped in to lend their suitably clattering human momentum, on Doing The Beeston Bump and Dunes respectively. Working in tempos to match his walking speed throughout - “whether trudging along a rainy shingle beach or running up wildflowering clifftop paths” - Yes! Come Parade With Us is perfect traveling music, and once unleashed upon the world is sure to provide the soundtrack to plenty more journeys to come.”
A highly evocative, smudged take on shoegaze drone from Jefre Cantu-Ledesma, a release that marked a radical rethink of the classic dream-pop template when it was released in 2010, taking an impressionist's brush to established ambient traits.
Love Is A Stream joins the dots between My Bloody Valentine and drone-pop figureheads like Tim Hecker and Grouper, sculpting noise and feedback around gauzy vocal shimmers that expand the horizon far into the unknown.
Although its component parts spring from the fiery embers of molten synthesizers and tape saturated guitar tones, the album derives its luxurious textural presence from submerged vocals supplied by the likes of Type boss John 'Xela' Twells, Lisa McGee and Maxwell August Croy.
You can just about make out those lost voices roaming around the pulverised mix of 'Stained Glass Body' and the billowing 'River Like Spine’ - though it's impossible to make any single element out given how melted and fluid the mixing is, bringing a frail human element to an album that otherwise sounds entirely not of this Earth.
Aggressively charged mutations of IDM, EBM, and EDM
“‘Calibrate’ proffers the highest of fidelity, with blockbuster sci fi levels of production value and bombast. Donoso channels sonic spirits across fluro pointillism, futuristic industrial tribalism and more serene moments of synthetic reflection.
Having never courted accessibility, Donoso remains as unbending as ever in his approach and unwavering in commitment to his craft. Calibrate takes Donoso’s polymetric abuse and sound design to all new extremes. Conflicting rhythms and swathes of electronic debris move in tandem, to create pieces that expand and contract in on themselves.
A journey through Calibrate is an exercise in instability and failure; its aggressiveness serves as a warning against the urge to seek safety on common ground, and its entire approach seems to display a hostility towards the increasingly homogenized nature of new electronic music.”
Scandinavian isolationists Deaf Center draw a beautiful pall over this decade with ‘Low Distance’, their first album since 2011’s ‘Owl Splinter’, arriving nearly 15 years since their debut couplet of modern classical/ambient masterpieces; the ‘Neon City EP’ and ‘Pale Ravine’.
Low Distance’ returns Erik Skodvin and Otto A. Totland to the shadowy, wintry depths of their early sound, seemingly sequestered in a loft or creaking wooden house in a place where the sun doesn’t rise for 6 months of the year. Their signature palette of ghostly piano gestures, glacial but knife-edge strings and electronics is employed to expectedly beautiful effect, but it’s perhaps the final mixing treatment, uncannily rendered along vertical and horizontal axes at EMS Stockholm, that really brings this record to life, just as integrally as lighting is to a slow burn film noir.
Endearingly working on low batteries throughout the album, their sense of melancholy is patently apparent and deeply intoxicating with it, diffused through the synaesthetic connotations of rain in ‘A Scent’, and through the clammy skin stroking strings of ‘Entity Voice’ before sublimely relieving tension with ‘Undone’. They then broach more textured, abstract electro-acoustic space in the spectral flocking of ‘Gathering’, the album’s extended centrepiece, before touching on midnight jazz notes, sumptuous subs and extended techniques in ‘Red Glow’ like some meeting of Deathprod and Bohren Und Der Club of Gore, and the barely there yet heartbreaking strings of ‘Faded Earth’ attest to their preternatural skill in getting the most from the barest components.
The last section is just immensely powerful in its stark vulnerability and impending tension, holding its emotive line thru the needling hi-register keys and heavy-breathing strings of ‘Movements/The Ascent’, thru the lingering romance of ‘Far Between’, until the quietly jaw-dropping, beautiful solo piano resolution of ‘Yet To Come’, where the hallucinatory nature dissipates and we’re left with starkly vivid, waking realism implied by the track’s title.
You Know What It’s Like is the quietly breathtaking debut album from Carla Dal Forno ov Tarcar and F Ingers - an incredible debut which tip toes the finest line between contentment and aching vulnerability in head-turning fashion.
Her voice is exquisitely fragile but poised and confident with it; representing an unshowy resolve which, despite its gothic chic, actually feels fresh and necessary - operating counter to contemporary glitz and glamour with clear allusions to her heroes, such as Nico or Anna Domino.
Prefaced by two single tracks, the departing dream of Fast Moving Cars and the ghostly nerve pincher What You Gonna Do Now? the album also features six new songs clocking in at just under half an hour, following a bedsit slug trail from the mildew sprawl and nitrate bubble of opener Italian Cinema to the ‘floor-stalking sleep house thud of DB Rip and a deep drifting instrumental, Dry In The Rain, strewn with melodica-like pipes and cobwebbed in acoustic guitar strum like some dusty eldritch dub of A C Marias.
In the album’s twilight hours, Carla really comes into her own on the title song, flitting between Crepulscule-esque songcraft and slow-rocking traces of UK dub, her vocals urgent but nevertheless nonchalant, before Dragon Breath recedes back into the mists of chamber music and she proceeds to pour a potent, near paralysing nightcap and shuffle away from the screen down a long corridor, fading to black in The Same Reply.
We’re utterly smitten, this could turn into a proper addiction.
16 hours of peerless, important works by Eliane Radigue relating to her work with the ARP 2500 synthesiser between 1971-2000. Prior to this period, Eliane worked exclusively with feedback on tape and oscillators, but her work from the ‘70s onward is defined by an uniquely meditative and transcendent grasp of microtonal minimalism which has latterly come to place her among the 20th century’s most esteemed and truly inimitable composers. Bearing in mind that Eliane realised this fathomless body of work in her Paris apartment away from professional recording studios, only makes it resonate more strongly with the idea that Eliane was a genuine outlier whose uniquely sober work divined an unquantifiable yet ultimately human nature in electronic music.
"Eliane Radigue was born in Paris. She studied “musique concrète” techniques at the “Studio d’Essai” of the RTF under the direction of Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry (1956-57). She was married to the painter and sculptor Arman and devoted ten years to their three children. She then worked with Pierre Henry, as his assistant at the Studio APSOME (1967-68). She was in residence at the New York University School of Arts (1970-71), the University of Iowa and the California Institute of the Arts (1973) and Mills College (1998). She has created sound environments using looped tapes of various durations, gradually desynchronising.
Her works have been featured in numerous galleries and museums since the late 60s and from 1970, she has been associated to the ARP 2500 Synthesizer and tape through many compositions from Chry-ptus (1970) up to L’Île resonante (2000). These include: Biogenesis, Arthesis, Ψ 847, Adnos I, II and III (70s), Les Chants de Milarepa and Jetsun Mila (80s) and the three pieces constituting the Trilogie de la Mort (1988-91-93). Since 2002, she has been composing mostly acoustic works for performers and instruments. Her music has been featured in major international festivals. Her extremely sober, almost ascetic concerts, are made of a continuous, ever-changing yet extremely slow stream of sound, whose transformation occurs within the sonic material itself.
Radigue found her musical voice through the decisive encounter with “musique concrète” and its founding fathers. With Pierre Schaeffer, first, and then Pierre Henry, with whom she learned and perfected the art of tape recorders. She then developed a unique style by herself, freely continuing the exploration of electronic sounds, progressing with tenacity through her musical quest, without worrying about current trends or fashions, paying no attention to creeds or dogmas. An isolated course, out with fashions and institutions, such a singular and intense music, so remote from everything..."
Visible Cloaks meet two of their influences, Yoshio Ojima & Satsuki Shibano, in a beautiful effort to expand and refine their ambient-environmental gestures with firmer architectural underpinnings. For our ¥ it’s the most sublime episode in RVNG Intl.’s intergenerational ‘FRKWYS’ series so far
Between them, Yoshio Ojima & Satsuki Shibano are part responsible for a lot of music that prompted Visible Cloaks to life. Yoshio Ojima is a composer of environmental and ambient music, with a bias toward the possibilities of generative software. Together with pianist Satsuki Shibano, known for his renditions of Debussy and Satie, they programmed influential radio experiment St. Giga’s constant stream of field recordings, sound collage and readings of Japanese poetry, often read by Satsuki.
Recordings of St. Giga was a big inspiration for Visible Cloaks first records, so its a natural conclusion for them to work together, and the results are divine. Pursuing mutual passions for St. Giga’s remit, as well as the Lovely Music, Ltd. catalogue and the British avant-garde, they arrived at a number of creative strategies for the creation of ‘serenitatem’ in Tokyo, late 2017. From MIDI randomisation to text-to-MIDI generative software, the process lends a variable to their music which sweetly blurs distinctions between the programmed and the serendipitous, making their music simultaneously timeless and futuristic, and most of all optimistically utopian.
In effect, they’ve conjured a modern echo of St, Giga, opening a place where sounds illusively occur, emerging form the minimalist but detailed matrix only to metamorphose on sight, and drift back into the parallel dimension whence they came, implying that we’re only teasingly hearing aspects of a greater shape which they’re so carefully describing.
Through her latest, ‘Titanic Rising’, Weyes Blood, aka Natalie Mering, has designed her own universe to soulfully navigate life’s mysteries. Manoeuvring through a space time continuum, she plays the role of melodic, sometimes melancholic, anthropologist.
"Tellingly, Mering classifies ‘Titanic Rising’ - written and recorded during the first half of 2018, after three albums and years of touring - as The Kinks meeting WWII or Bob Seger meets Enya. The latter captures the album’s wilful expansiveness (“You can tell there’s not a guy pulling the strings in Enya’s studio,” she notes, admiringly). The former relays her imperative to connect with listeners. “The clarity of Bob Seger is unmistakable. I’m a big fan of conversational songwriting,” she adds. “I just try to do that in a way that uses abstract imagery as well.” The Weyes Blood frontwoman grew up singing in gospel and madrigal choirs. (Listen closely to ‘Titanic Rising’ and you’ll also hear the jazz of Hoagy Carmichael mingle with the artful mysticism of Alejandro Jodorowsky and the monomyth of scholar Joseph Campbell.) ‘Something To Believe’, a confessional that makes judicious use of the slide guitar, touches on that cosmological upbringing. “Belief is something all humans need. Shared myths are part of our psychology and survival,” she says. “Now we have a weird mishmash of capitalism and movies and science.
There have been moments where I felt very existential and lost.” As a kid, she filled that void with ‘Titanic’. (Yes, the movie.) “It was engineered for little girls and had its own mythology,” she explains. Mering also noticed that the blockbuster romance actually offered a story about loss born of man’s hubris. “It’s so symbolic that The Titanic would crash into an iceberg, and now that iceberg is melting, sinking civilization.” Today, this hubris also extends to the relentless adoption of technology, at the expense of both happiness and attention spans. But Weyes Blood isn’t one to stew. Her observations play out in an ethereal saunter: far more meditative than cynical. To Mering, listening and thinking are concurrent experiences. “There are complicated influences mixed in with more relatable nostalgic melodies,” she says. “In my mind my music feels so big, a true production. I’m not a huge, popular artist, but I feel like one when I’m in the studio. But it’s never taking away from the music. I’m just making a bigger nspace for myself.”
Portishead's Beth Gibbons is joined by the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra for this remarkable album conducted by Krzysztof Penderecki.
Gibbons really doesn’t do things by halves, here committing to singing Górecki’s ‘Symphony No. 3 (Symphony of Sorrowful Songs)’ in Polish - a language she doesn’t speak - after an intense period of preparation in which she not only learnt the lyrics, but also their emotional provenance. Conducted by Krzystof Penderecki, the piece proves a perfect platform for Beth’s lesser heard gift for operatic gymnastics, which, once heard, will beg the question why she hasn't made this kind of recording before.
Most poignantly, we’re left on tenterhooks for the opening 12 minutes of the first movement, until the strings usher in her towering, if fleeting vocal to astonishing effect, before she tempers that drama to a much slower, etheric appeal throughout the 2nd movement, and then with a fine grasp of the nuances of Polish enunciation in the 3rd and final movement, without losing her aching cadence.
Deluxe 3xCD box set edition of Obey the Time, the eighth studio album by Manchester ensemble The Durutti Column. Originally released by Factory Records in December 1990, the original 10 tracks have now been expanded to no less than 43.
The Durutti Column’s overlooked foray into early ‘90s acid house, techno and Balearic dance resurfaces, expanded with bonus discs of related material, and packaged with notes by Tony Wilson. In 1990, gassed on ecstasy fumes and weed pills, Reilly pulled influence from Acid House, rave and Balearic dance music into his singular style of lolling, latinate guitar playing with lovely and commonly overlooked results.
Aware of what could be done with a sampler - where one chord could trigger myriad more at the push of a button - Vini mostly self-produced ‘Obey The Time’, with some help from local studio whizzes such as Bruce Mitchell and Keir Stewart. The resulting album revolved natty acid house aces such as ‘Contra-Indications’ with Vini sailing over its rude machine groove, along with the balmier. dubbed-out ‘Fridays’, plus the utopian bliss of choral synth voices and Afro-Latin groove in ‘Neon’, while this reissue also includes ‘The Together Mix’ by local rave heroes Together (of ‘Hardcore Uproar’ fame), as well as Keir’s schism jungle mix ‘Kiss Of Def’, and the shimmering synth voices of ‘Zinni III’ exclusive to this boxset.
On the 2nd disc is a stack of ‘Related Works’ including a Select Magazine megamix of the album, plus compilation tracks ‘Dry’  and ‘Red Shoes’ , plus songs from unreleased albums, while the 3rd disc documents The Durutti Column’s concert at Manchester Uni’s Whitworth Hall, 23rd June 1990, aka ‘The Acid Guitar’.
Summer’s coming and this boxset could hardily be handier.
Arvo Pärt has become something of a yardstick by which so much contemporary classical music has been measured, and 'Alina' is arguably his most understated and beautiful piece of work.
Für Alina was first performed in Tallinn in 1976, and has become one of Pärt’s most-loved and widely appreciated works - regarded by many as an early, defining example of his signature tintinnabuli style. In the years since its release, Pärt has become the most performed living composer in the world, his approach to religious music seeping deep into our cultural landscape, from the avant garde to the mainstream.
Rendered with nothing more than piano and violin, this definitive ECM version from 1999 features Vladimir Spivakov, Sergej Bezrodny, Dietmar Schwalke and Alexander Malter providing alternate versions, handpicked by Pärt himself from recordings that were originally several hours long. It’s a masterclass in simplicity; an almost painfully beautiful rendering of emotional landscapes that, in the wrong hands, could have (and has, on many occasions, by so many) turned to schmaltz.
For better or for worse, 'Spiegel Im Spiegel' and 'Fur Alina' have both come to be seen as blueprints for a specific strain of solo piano and classical minimalism designed to manipulate and heighten emotive states, as seen in so many films, adverts and idents. In that respect, one could argue that these pieces are indirectly responsible for numerous heavy-handed, emotionally empty, easy-on-the-ear abominations over the decades. And yet, if you listen carefully, Pärt's ability to distil so much emotion and spirituality into his work from so little is ultimately impossible to emulate; regardless of how many times you've heard them, these pieces never cease to transport you elsewhere.
If you're new to Arvo Pärt, Alina is perhaps the perfect entry point for exploring his monumental, peerless canon.
Pascal Dusapin was born 29 May 1955 in Nancy, France. His music is marked by its microtonality, tension, and energy. A pupil of Iannis Xenakis and an admirer of Varèse, Dusapin studied at the University of Paris I and Paris VIII during the 1970s.
"His music is full of "romantic constraint », and he rejects the use of electronics, percussion other than timpani, and, up until the late 1990s, piano. He wrote 8 operas and an important pieces for ensemble and solo instrument. Here is for the first time his complete work for viola.
A unique artist, Pascal Dusapin continues his musical journey, formal and yet never dogmatic, offering his fiercely emotional music through a great range of diverse forms."
‘Panopticon Specularities’ is an ambitious and complex feat of avant-classical chamber architecting rooted in Turkish politics and cultural identity, effectively thawing the “frozen music” of the Hagia Sofia’s 1500 year old architecture. It is the bold debut proper by Berlin-based composer Turgut Erçetin for the ever-searching Edition RZ
Istanbul native, Turgut Erçetin (1983) studied composition and completed his doctorate studies at Stanford University. His work engages with sound as sonic entities that interact with time and space, with an inherent focus on acoustics and psychoacoustics. He uses computer-aided compositional processes to realise unique impositions of space and place that question notions of physicality and metaphysics: employing a highly technical approach to stage practically impossible soundscapes, bringing the meridian sounds of Istanbul - seagulls, ships horns, street noise, the muezzins’ call-to-prayer - and the uniquely purposed Byzantine architecture of the Hagia Sofia, once a venue for singing, then an Ottoman mosque, and now a museum where music is banned, via the CCRMA facility at Stanford, and into the performance space of a Berlin church.
Unable to actually use the Sofia Hagia for recording, Erçetin did the next best thing and modelled its architecture with a computer after gauging its space with sine waves and balloon pops. In the recordings they found the Hagia’s acoustics created specular reflections, localised echoes that highlight specific places, particularly int he 56-metre high dome, which gave the impression of sound descending from above, or from heaven itself. Applying this ancient crafty way of manipulating audience perceptions to the relatively modern idea of F-prisons, smaller cells introduced in Turkey in 2000, as a way of disrupting, segregating prisoners, stymieing their communications, he arrived at the belief that “one could be resilient and free form the solitude to which one is condemned inside and outside, as long as one can move.”
The four works in ‘Panopticon Specularities’ bring this idea of freedom of movement within space - and spaces within spaces - to light in remarkable ways that will have ears and eyes wandering across the whole soundsphere, bewildered and rapt. In effect he’s reverse engineering Goethe’s notion of architecture as “frozen music” by using the reaches of technology to “thaw” and make the building’s music liquid again. Directing four spatialized chamber ensembles in the same space, together with pre-recordings in anechoic chambers, to create a complex space of interaction between gendered voices, both human and instrumental, to wonderfully conflate the ideas of the Panopticon - an 18th century British prison design whereby all points are visible from the centre - and public squares where people of all social strata would see and be seen, establishing their identities and social status in the process, in turn revealing the power of freedom of movement.
Phill Niblock's Music For Cello collects three pieces from the 70's and early 80's, performed by cellist David Gibson. Since the late sixties Phill Niblock has been composing long-form acoustic drones with a focus on the rhythms and overtones that rise from closely tuned instruments. His highly original and influential music is an exploration of timbre, microtonality, stability, duration and psychoacoustic phenomenon.
"3 to 7 - 196 is very direct, aggressive, and gritty. The overtone patterns that are produced by the proximal pitches become more prominent with louder volume. So please, play this piece very loud. This was the first piece of mine in which the musician was precisely tuned, in which I chose exact pitches in hertz. We used a sine wave oscillator and frequency counter for the tuning.
Descent Plus has four cello tones descending one octave over twenty-two minutes, from 300 hertz to 150 hertz. David Gibson played these tones without lifting his bow from the strings, constantly retuning. I made four different scores, manually changing an oscillator to which he was tuning, for each track's recording. For the revision, we added six more tracks, with David playing long tones which were not descending. The second part of the recording was made nearly twenty years later.
Summing II (one of four parts) is mellow and sonorous. David plays two strings simultaneously, one of which is retuned for each successive recording of that pair of tones. This is a mix of an eight track tape. It's better played loud also." - Phill Niblock from liner notes
Current 93 have dreamt a new album, Invocations Of Almost, using music from her FuturePast and her PastFuture, to accompany David Tibet’s art exhibition, Invocations Of Almost.
"The CD version of Invocations Of Almost is 59-minutes long, as it is launched on David’s 59th BirthDay, March 5, whilst he is in LA for the official opening of his show on March 9. There will also be a vinyl LP edition, which sings a slightly shorter version, mixed specifically for the 12”. The music on Invocations Of Almost will be played on a continual loop in The Begovich Gallery whilst the exhibition is open."
A mix of modern noise makers and experts in ancient music put the Italian Futurists’ original Intonarumori instrument thru its paces, while Einstürzende Neubauten’s Blixa barged provides spoken word commentary and history of the instrument and noise
“This album contains seven compositions, created by the Opening Performance Orchestra, Blixa Bargeld, Luciano Chessa and Fred Möpert. All the pieces relate to the theme of Futurism and employ intonarumori, instruments invented and used more than a century ago by the Italian Futurists in their noise compositions.
The Art of Noises, pertained to the entire 20th century. Published in 1913, in response to Francesco Balilla Pratella's Manifesto of Futurist Musicians, Russolo's text encompassed the fundamental ideas for the new music of the modern age. Radical ideas required original compositional approaches, as well as new types of instruments - hence the Futurists opted for the intonarumori.
The two quotations prompted us to give thought to creating compositions in which we would return to the early 20th century, when noises as means of musical expression emerged for the very first time. The typical instruments used by our ensemble, the Opening Performance Orchestra, are laptops, by means of which we conceive our fraction music, which can be briefly characterised by the slogan no melody no rhythm no harmony. Constructing three intonarumori, writing our own pieces for these instruments and performing works by other contemporary composers - Blixa Bargeld, Luciano Chessa and Fred Möpert, represented for us getting into close contact with the beginnings of the musical avant-garde, as well as returning to the historical roots of the music that had served as the basis of noise in art.”
Nourishing the zeitgeist, ‘Dancing In Darkness’ collects 14 EBM and industrial zingers from the ‘80s by Throbbing Gristle, D.A.F., Front 242, Nitzer Ebb, The Weathermen, Cabaret Voltaire and more
A primer for the budding darkroom fiend, the set runs the gamut from TG’s sewer-creeping ‘Dead On Arrival’ thru to DAF’s strident anthem ‘Der Mussolini’, Chris & Cosey’s eternal gem ‘Exotica’, the puckered EBM of ‘Control I’m Here (S.D.I. Mix)’ by Front 242, Borghesia’s moody nightlight ‘Ni Upanja, Ni Strahu’, and Meat Beat Manifesto’s proto-darkside hardcore ace ‘Radio Babylon’.
Stunning debut by L.A.-based violinist Zachary Paul, of Touch’s mentorship scheme, yielding an elemental, time-bending suite of studies exploring the paradox of stasis/movement, and working in a rich vein of minimalism that reaches back thru Pauline Oliveros, Tony Conrad, and La Monte Young
In three durational parts ‘A Meditation On Discord’ introduces a promising and timeless new musical voice, showcasing an expressive range and style porous to nature and the elements. The opening, 30 minute live recording ‘Premonition’ starts anxiously jagged but beautifully warms up as he channels the sun beating down on the Desert Daze festival stage, opening out into the kind of curdled tunings that make our heads fizz, and which we imagine must have sounded incredible in open space. Another live piece ‘Slow Ascent’ follows, glacially coning from wide, lo lying into a peak of looped voice and strings, before the album’s single studio recording ‘A Person With Feelings’ plays to his full range, segueing from luxuriant to atonal with discernibly electronic designs cut to purpose as the soundtrack to a short film by Tamer Smith. Trust we’ll hear more from this bright star in future.
“"'Premonition' (October 12, 2018) was recorded on the first day of Desert Daze music festival. For this performance I tuned my violin in open G (G-D-G-D) for the very first time. The afternoon was warm and bright, but storm clouds, yet to be seen at the time of this recording, loomed on the horizon. My improvisation began in the present moment, reflecting the vibrations of the sun. Once locked in with these higher frequencies, the instrument took control and painted the evening. This performance was both a premonition of night and an astral projection towards the clouds crawling towards the festival grounds, catalyzed by an instrument resonating with the frequencies of the earth. 'Slow Ascent' (February 23, 2018) was recorded at Human Resources, Los Angeles, for an event celebrating the release of Yann Novak's second album. This performance was an inverted guided group meditation. In front of my biggest audience to date, I was extremely anxious. Rather than letting my nerves lead the way, I fed off of the energies of the audience, letting their patience, calm and warmth guide the instrument. 'A Person With Feelings' is a score for a short abstract film to be released in 2019. A modern trance film, the piece follows a young actor's internal journey. The soundscape reflects the arc of the film and showcases the textural range of my instrument." --Zachary Paul
Following his ambient atmospheric project, ‘Phantom Brickworks’, Stephen Wilkinson returns to the path of structured songwriting last explored on 2016’s ‘A Mineral Love’.
"Ribbons yields folkloric charm with an organic palette, incorporating a mostly acoustic-led approach exploring ‘60s and ‘70s psychedelia, soul, ambient, electronic and field recordings. The title ‘Ribbons’ is extracted from the most electronic-leaning track on the album, ‘Pretty Ribbons And Lovely Flowers’. On the track, haunting, processed female vocals illuminate a route through dark ambience and a repeating earthy distorted chord sequence. Referencing the endless ribbons of analogue tape and film used in his music, photography and cinematic work, the album artwork is designed by Wilkinson, where his portrait offers a window onto an English woodland scene with spring bluebells adorned with ribbons.
Wilkinson’s folk influences span ‘60s and ‘70s styles from Britain, Ireland and America; he mixes influences of homegrown acid folk with the dreamy harmonies of its Californian counterpart. He also pays homage to his past J Dilla and Madlib-inspired works, this time drawing influence from the eras and records those producers sampled - such as ‘60s and ‘70s Dionne Warwick, Dee Dee Sharp and other soul artists - but rather than relying on sampling records, Wilkinson creates his homages from scratch with appropriate instrumentation."
Italian techno producer Jacopo Bacci supplies his pulsating and steeply immersive 43 minute work ‘Throw Light Upon’ as a typically unexpected curveball on Joachim Nordwall’s iDEAL Recordings
Offering a masterclass in how to bridge deep ‘90s and modern techno spheres, ‘Throw Light Upon’ is all about extra subtle modulations of rhythm and tone, and in a way that is too often forgotten or lost-in-translation by current skools of techno praxis. The seamlessly sequenced 44 minute work reminds us the pure pleasure of locking in and staying there, recalling a time before dancefloor patterns were disrupted by health & safety, when a couple of garys and a pack of tabs would see you right for 6 hours spent in the control of a single DJ who could work you like a marionette.
This isn’t a DJ set, but it works very much like the ideal of a fluid deep techno selection, stealthily layering and introducing new motifs that form and recede around a rolling 4/4 ballast, incrementally and almost imperceptibly shifting gears to conserve energy and motion. Like an intangible scent or motif that jogs the memory, ‘Throw Light Upon’ subliminally gets inside the head and under the skin to remind of pure, classic techno from Plastikman, Mika Vainio’s Ø, Donato Dozzy, Nuel.
Excellent, studiously well-crafted and addictive retro-vintage pop nodding to space-pop and gloomy soul in the style of Stereolab, Broadcast, Nico...
“Movies For Ears is a retrospective collection of works by Polish-born, Glasgow-based artist Ela Orleans which navigates almost two decades of songwriting in the heart of the global pop underground. This remastered collection casts an ear over what Orleans might call the ‘pop sensibility’ within her back catalogue. Released previously on a number of small DIY labels, Orleans’ music coincided with the explosion of auto-didactic musicians finding their voice in the age of the blogosphere, artists emboldened by the democratisation of music-making afforded by the internet.
From the outset, Orleans’ childhood studying formal music mixed with cut-up techniques, sampling, sound-art and experimentation to create a distinctive signature cloaked in an innate melancholy and playfulness. Fully remastered by James Plotkin, featuring extensive sleeve-notes and rare photos from Orleans’ archive, Movies For Ears presents an appraisal of the musician’s work, painting a portrait of an artist with an uncanny ability to evoke emotions and ghosts of memories in the listener.”
Normal Brain’s near-impossible to find Japanese minimal wave obscurity, remastered and reissued for the first time.
“WRWTFWW Records is immensely happy to announce the reissue of impossible-to-find cult album Lady Maid by Japanese outfit Normal Brain, available on vinyl, digipack CD, cassette, and digital, with liner notes by acclaimed sound artist and mastermind behind the project, Yukio Fujimoto.
Originally released in 1981 as a limited vinyl pressing of 300 copies on Agi Yuzuru’s fabled experimental label Vanity Records (R.N.A. Organism, Dada, Sympathy Nervous, Tolerance…), Lady Maid is a testament to the creativity of the early 80s’ Japanese electronic and experimental scene, encapsulating a prolific era when audio gear became affordable for musicians to explore sounds in the comfort of their home, free from studio time pressure and major label rules.
Entirely imagined and brought to life by an inspired Yukio Fujimoto, the 6-track opus was conceived with a Korg MS-20, a Korg SQ-10, a Boss Dr. Rhythm DR-55, and…a Texas Instruments Speak & Spell! It’s elegantly minimalist, honest and witty, very playful, cleverly pop, and downright fascinating. The a-side captures the fun side of avant-garde electronica, lo-fi wave, proto-glitch, and IDM, a joyful ride beautifully interrupted by the cinematic mood switch of the b-side - a 20 minute ambient piece flirting with sci-fi, melancholy, and hints of metallic darkness. Unclassifiable and marvelous!”
Breakcore hero/weirdo Bogdan Raczynski coughs up his first LP in over a decade with ‘Rave Til You Cry’ for Disciples, following their two Black Lodge releases.
Back in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, Bogdan was a staple of the drill ’n bass scene, one a number of artists using tracker software to make the fastest, wildest breakbeats after D&B peaked and went pure neuro 2-step. He was also, and presumably still is, very fucking tall.
Many years later, he’s hardly changed, as ‘Rave ’Til You Cry’ catches him in gymnastic form across 18 tracks of kinetic rhythms and strange electronic atmospheres comparable with a fusion of Aleksi Perälä’s odd tunings and Christoph De Babylon’s brittle jungle styles.
Hyperdub’s Danielle Mana really comes into his own with the illusive animations of ‘Seven Steps Behind’, his debut LP and 2nd release under his own name, following years of work as Vaghe Stelle, and alongside Lorenzo Senni in One Circle
Twisting synthetic instruments to resemble semi-acoustic, chamber-like abstractions of grime and deconstructed club musics, Mana’s music now, more than ever, possesses an expressive electronic quality perhaps best compared with the work of Arca, or his former collaborator Lorenzo Senni.
From the proggy trance hymn ‘Myopia For The Future’ to the autotuned avant-synthpop of ’Soaking In Water’ Mana distinguishes his sound from the hyper-contemporary fields with big highlights such as the queasy, weightless R&B of ‘Talking / Choking’, and utterly unique pieces like the unpredictably morphing ‘Swordsmanship’, and the chromatic nose-drip reggaeton of ’Solo’. For our money it’s one of the stranger, more fascinating Hyperdub album in recent memory.
Ambitions is Prins Thomas’ 6th album and his second solo album for Smalltown Supersound (plus two duo albums with Bjørn Torske and Bugge Wesseltoft).
"Ambitions picks up from were he left off with Principe Del Norte. Still ambitious, but the tracks are shorter, more melodic and more concise. Prins Thomas also offers up his first vocal track, lead single "Feel A Love." Or to be precise, it's based around a sample of the track "Feel A Love" by one of the biggest pop-stars in Norway in the 70s and 80s, the late Alex (Naumik).
”The sun rises, the sun sets. This collection of new songs wasn't intended as an album at first. It gathers up loose ideas sketched down on my computer or hummed into my handheld recorder in the last 2 years with a shifting work environment, from hotel rooms in San Francisco, backstage in Osaka, on a plane from Miami to Chicago, my garden patio, and finally my B15 Studios in Asker.
The common thread was found later during overdubbing and reworking these sketches under the critical ears of label boss Joakim Haugland. Most of the tracks were finalized in the studio at the same time as my previous collaborative album with Bugge Wesseltoft. Bugge even kindly joins in on the album's closing track "Sakral".
Ambitions is my 6th album and I would like to thank the following people for their direct inspiration: Jon Christensen, Jaki Liebezeit, Haroumi Hosono, Daniel Lanois, Eberhard Weber, Shinichi Atobe and Ricardo Villalobos."
Prins Thomas, February 2019
Patently potent, mystic invocations of pagan fertility rites and the eschaton from Riga, Latvia-based free improvisors Darja Kazimira & Dagmar Gertot, performing on chuniri, steel cello, dvojnice, double zhaleyka, horns, dung chen, gyaling, vuvuzela, barbiton, gong, metal sheet, didgeridoo, horns, whistles, frame drum, percussion instruments, alternative musical instruments. Truly ‘marish, visionary stuff RIYL Senyawa, the Akira soundtrack, Sir Richard Bishop & David Oliphant, Phurpa
“Aurora Borealis is very proud to release ‘Death Of The Bull’ by Darja Kazimira & Dagmar Gertot. Over the years we’ve released some truly strange and genre-defying albums. ‘Death Of The Bull’ is undoubtedly our most unusual, complex and challenging release to date.
Taking pagan fertility rites as a starting point, Darja Kazimira & Dagmar Gertot have constructed a narrative that witnesses the collapse of the natural order and the end of an age.
The song pouring over the devastated womb.
For those who have left it.
Premonition of renunciation of the oppressive cycle.
Tiredness of the devastation.
Wanting infertility as well as wanting a husband is equal to his death inside her — the final one.
Mother remembers the receptacle, and with it the mountain of the perished.
She will search for the firstborn among the piles of bones and, without distinguishing order, will interrupt the expulsion.
She will sew her bosom, ligate her oviduets, scrape the continuity of the rudiments, burn the belly to forget fertility.
This procession will turn the children who praised her with their voice and their sacrifice into a dead field.”
Stunning, previously unheard chapter in the saga of Igor Wakhevitch, a close peer and associate of everyone from Pierre Henry to Yves Saint-Laurent and Pink Floyd, one of the first composers of his generation to make use of Moog, Synthi AKS and ARP synthesizers. responsible for some of the most remarkable synth music known to humankind.
Among the key, pioneering ‘70s artists who brought an epic sense of poetry to the language of avant-garde synth and concrete music which emerged in the ‘60s, Wakhevitch is hailed as a cult figure for his string of classic albums including ‘Logos’, ‘Docteur Faust’, and ‘Let’s Start’ between 1970-1979, as well as production for Terry Riley, and on Salvador Dalí’s opera, ‘Être Dieu’ (‘To Be God’). Most beautifully, he opened up synth music’s 3rd eye to heavy inspiration from Hindu classical music and schools of thought, leading him to spend 30 years in India prior to the construction of this, a masterful chapter in his visionary canon.
‘Kshatyra [The Eye of the Bird]’ is a remarkable, much later work, recorded in the late 90’s on Wakhevitch’s custom Mysterious Island 88 system, and later edited for this release last year. It came to Wakhevitch as a means of mediating and reconciling his ontology (the grandson to victims of the Shoah) and his knowledge of Hindu symbolism, making use of ancient Indian classical modes and the Far Eastern-influenced styles of Jean Claude-Eloy, consistently conjuring heady modes of listening, hypnotic and transcendent, that subliminally yet potently light up the subconscious.
In eight parts he navigates a journey from celestial melody through spirit-engulfing, widescreen black hole synth dimensions and glistening visions of the sublime, before seeming to collapse the firmament into the earth and vice-versa in the chapter’s glorious, durational finale brimming with elegiac church bells, sky-scorching synths and deep abstractions.
Long a cult figure to diggers and listeners in the know, the praise and admiration for Wakhevitch’s music (by everyone from Demdike Stare to Andy Votel and the GRM’s Jonathan Fitoussi) is proportionally inverse to the availability of his music, which remains all too hard to come by. This new album is crucial as a portal to worlds unheard, and a startling introduction for many to one of the most quietly important figures in electronic music.
A necessary and captivating survey of Greek Experimental Electronic Music, all bar one produced between the 1980’s and 2016. The wildly variegated abundance speaks to ideas of Greekness as a result of a unique, complex culture connected to Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and Asia for thousands of years. Thru the cross-section of this compilation we hear that character bleed out in bewildering forms. Basically, if you have a taste for work by Iannis Xenakis, whose ‘Voyage absolute des unari vers andomède’ is included inside, you’re probably going to be fascinated by the rest on offer, too
“An Anthology of Greek Experimental Electronic Music 1966-2016 aspires to map the heterogenous landscape of Greek experimental electronic music in all its contextual, sociopolitical, geographical and aesthetic disparity. With a single exception: it zeroes in on post-80s music. It comprises works of very different kinds by composers of all sorts of backgrounds that, still, can be thought of, as both "Greeks" and "experimentalists". Experimental electronic music is generally expected to be highly variegated, especially when examined in a breadth of several decades, and with respect to all sorts of artistic, academic, subcultural, and other influences.
What is not so obvious, however, is that the very notion of Greekness, as well as its contextual and historical offshoots, are highly diversified, too. This anthology is an attempt to map the various kinds of experimental music that has been produced by Greeks over the last few decades. More, it is also an attempt to delineate different understandings of what "Greek" or "experimental" may stand for, by means of zeroing in on the numerous, often overlapping, realities and micro-scenes that are associated with the former.”
Edition RZ document the first 30 years of Berlin’s Inventionen festival in this cornucopia of contemporary electro-acoustic composition, including work by Iannis Xenakis, Trevor Wishart, Boguslaw Schaeffer, and Ricardo Mandolini, among many others.
Established by the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) and Berlin’s Technical University, the festival is focussed around presenting premieres of recently composed works alongside “classics” of the genre by Xenakis, Cage, Nono, Stockhausen, and the output of the GRM in Paris, with the subsequent aim of connecting a number of other institutions such as BEAST (Birmingham), CCRMA (Stanford), and EMS (Stockholm).
Marking the festival’s 30th year upon its release in 2012, the box set offers a massive, 17-part DVD rendering the first ever performance of Xenakis’ Bohor using Ina-GRM’s famed Acousmonium speaker array, beside a 75 minute Trevor Wishart suite entitled Encounters In The Republic of Heaven, and the video for Rolf Enström / Thomas Hellsing’s Fractal (1984), whilst the first CD includes the audio of the latter, plus highlights in Takehito Shimazu’s microscopically detailed Zytoplasma, and two Boguslaw Schaeffer pieces, including the remarkable Berlin 80 II, and the 3rd disc, a CD, is given to the diverse, percussive, noisy and poetic Elektroakustiche Musik of Argentina’s Ricardo Mandolini, which proves to be some of the most striking material in the set.
Christian Fennesz relays four compelling deep space images from his unique electro-acoustic microcosmos in ‘Agora’, the Viennese artist’s first album since ‘Bécs’ 
Borrowing its title from the ancient greek word for a gathering place, ‘Agora’ finds Fennesz creating highly detailed, alien ecologies of sound riddled with myriad, interlaced dynamics, but each singular in their scope. They variously transition from wide-open to busy, hyper-populated zones of enquiry and back again, but paradoxically enough all come as the result of one man in his spare room, composing inside a pair of headphones.
Change of circumstances meant that Fennesz couldn’t use his usual studio and by necessity was limited to what was at hand in his spare bedroom-turned-studio - just like the old days when he wrote his first record. These limitations pushed him further to explore worlds of possibility contained within his guitar and computer, with drily functional titles such as ‘In My Room’ invoking ideas from both Alvin Lucier and J.G. Ballard to explore vast realms of reverberant, imaginary space, while ‘Rainfall’ feels to emulate a lush spring downpour over bust city streets, all splitting greys and oil and concrete reflection, and ‘Agora’ radiates into every corner of the synthesised soundfield with gloriously detached, isolationist effect, alongside the bittersweet then and coruscating texture of ‘We Trigger The Sun’.
Kompakt staple Jörg Burger (The Modernist, Burger/Ink ++) initiates a new compilation series, ‘Velvet Desert Music’ with 15 choice cuts strung between traces of rock, folk, country, surf, krautrock and psychedelic contemporary electronic music
“The concept shares some similarities to Kompakt’s Pop Ambient series as unlike a conventional compilation of tracks from different artists, Velvet Desert Music Vol.1 is a collection of music that creates a distinct vibe and atmosphere.
Jörg Burger is responsible for the concept and selection. The styles of music presented on Velvet Desert Music Vol. 1 play a crucial role and influence in his work for many years. Now he has created a platform for these styles. Beside showcasing his own music, Jörg Burger kept to inviting a close circle of friends and colleagues that share similar influences in their work. All of their contributions were specially composed or remixed for this collection.
Velvet Desert Music Vol. 1 features the first new Burger/Ink track since the release of their iconic full length “Las Vegas” on Harvest and Matador Records in 1996.
“Just think...from Sergio Leone to David Lynch, from Elvis in his deepest moments to Johnny Cash somewhere between amphetamine backlash and American Recordings, from Hollywood Babylon to Hotel California, from Mulholland Drive to Paris, Texas. Served with a pinch of Tago Mago and Pink Floyd at Pompeii. Then you know exactly what Velvet Desert Music is about...“ – JÖRG BURGER”
Floating Points’ personal collection of global soul, ambient, jazz and folk treasures form the latest in Late Night Tales series.
"Sam Shepherd aka Floating Points’ music taste is notoriously tricky to define, ranging from ethereal classical at one end to coruscating techno at the other, united only in a firm belief in the transcendental power of music to move hearts, minds and – yes – feet. Similarly, his production career has ranged from early experiments in dance music with breakout records such as the ‘Shadows EP’ and collaborating with legendary Gnawa master Mahmoud Guinia to his expansive album ‘Elaenia’, which met with critical acclaim upon its release in 2015.
This Late Night Tales excursion into the depths of the evening reflects his broad tastes. The globally-travelled producer has collected untold treasures on his travels from dusty stores in Brazil to market stalls near his hometown. There’s the gorgeous ‘Via Làctea’, culled from Carlos Walker’s debut album, Abu Talib’s (Bobby Wright) plaintive ‘Blood Of An American’ and Robert Vanderbilt’s gospel reworking of Manchild’s ‘Especially For You’. Raw soul and feeling oozing from each song’s pores.
At the other end of the music scale are the modernists, such as Québécoise Kara-Lis Coverdale who weighs in with the indelible ‘Moments In Love’, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith whose ‘Milk’ is an exercise in tranquility, while Sarah Davachi’s meditative mix-opener offers respite from a weary world.
We have some exclusive tracks for Late Night Tales; alongside Davachi’s offerings there is also Toshimaru Nakamura’s ‘Nimb #59’, as well as the now traditional cover version. hepherd delved into his childhood
memory for this one, a track taken from the first album his parents bought him, Kenny Wheeler’s ‘Music For Large & Small Ensembles’: Sam offers up his interpretation of ‘Opening Part 1’. Wheeler also contributes horns to Azimuth
track The Tunnel, written and performed by Norma Winstone and John Taylor who, coincidentally, are the parents of Floating Points’ drummer Leo Taylor. Closing the album, Lauren Laverne reads the suitably nocturnal poem ‘Ah! Why, Because The Dazzling Sun’ by Emily Brontë.
“I tried to find music that reflects the stillness of night. And because my musical interests lie all over the place, it’s quite difficult to distil that notion down to just a few songs. I was quite keen to have some electronic music in there but I also really wanted to have some soul music mixed in, so I had to try and find a pathway between all of this different music.” - Sam Shepherd (Floating Points) March 2019"
The mesmerising ’Ilana (The Creator)’ is desert blues maestro Mdou Moctar’s first album recorded in a proper studio and backed by a full band
Whirling at the heels of his live recordings made in Jack White’s Third Man complex, the Tuareg guitarist returns to his spiritual home of Sahel Sounds, flanked by Ahmoudou Madassane (Les Filles de Illighadad) on rhythm guitar, Aboubacar Mazawadje’s percussion, and Michael Coltun on bass, to present his magnum opus 10 some years since his debut album was distributed on SD cards across west Africa.
Mdou got to this point after his self-taught, fiery guitar skills were heard by Christopher Kirkley ov Sahel Sounds, who, after a few phone calls (Mdou dropped the first one, thinking it was a prank), secured Mdou’s ‘Tahoultine’ song for the now-seminal ‘Music From Saharan Cellphones’ compilation in 2010. A string of celebrated LPs have followed, including Mdou’s soundtrack for a Saharan remake of Prince’s ‘Purple Rain’, and now on ‘Ilana (The Creator)’ he finally shows what he can do in a true studio setting, and with bios own band.
The results are wider, more layered, and immersively lusher than anything else in Mdou’s oeuvre, yet they lose none of the in-the-moment “life” found in his rawer, earlier works, or indeed his transfixing live performances across the EU and USA.
Comprising long hours of jamming in the studio, with later overdubs made in Niger, ‘Ilana (The Creator)’ harnesses Mdou and his group’s mesmerising energy in 9 songs, coursing with the kind of psychedelic feel that begs eyes closed and heads-down from the magnetic swiller of ‘Kamane Tarhanin’ thru the wide open blues space connoted by ‘Inizgam’, to the elegant, swaying rhythms and lilting harmonies in ‘Anna’, and a scorching tribute to Tuareg folklore in ‘Ilana’, with incendiary music underlining lyrics about France’s exploitation of Niger’s uranium reserves.
From Syria via L.A. and upstate New York, K Á R Y Y N makes a strong impression with debut album ‘The Quanta Series’, following a beguiling collaboration with Actress’ Young Paint Ai. No half measures here, K Á R Y Y N is a proper triple threat, writing, producing and performing every track in a dramatic, soaring heart-on-sleeve style of IDM/ambient and operatic pop RIYL Björk, Holly Herndon, Fovea Hex
“Written and recorded over a seven year period, 'THE QUANTA SERIES' tracks K Á R Y Y N’s movements across continents on a voyage of self-examination. Beginning in 2011 following the death of two relatives in Aleppo, K Á R Y Y N left her native LA for Cherry Valley, upstate New York to process her grief in seclusion. During the 18 months she lived in Cherry Valley, K Á R Y Y N wrote two songs for 'THE QUANTA SERIES'. The first was a visceral, emotional piece recorded in one take called 'TODAY I READ YOUR LIFE STORY 11:11'. The second, a musing on impermanence and understanding the impact of our choices called 'SEGMENT & THE LINE'.
Over the years that followed, K Á R Y Y N spent time living in Berlin where she wrote 'PURGATORY', a song inspired by a memory from her childhood spent in the Forty Mountains of Idlib province in Syria. As she travelled, she found inspiration everywhere, leaning into her own familial legacy, feelings of grief and love and observations on human interaction. A deep connection to her lineage is a concurrent theme in K Á R Y Y N’s work, with an interpretation of traditional Armenian folk song 'AMBETS GORAV' present on the album plus a beautiful choral patchwork called 'MIRROR ME' providing an introspective break in the album - a track about "facing yourself, the good, the bad; searching for the parts in us that have been lost."
A wistful, fractal collection of introspective songs built from fragments of other people’s voices, sounds, and music by French/Canadian artist Jean Cousin aka Joni Void
“Mise En Abyme is the second full-length by Joni Void, the avant-electronica project of France/Canada producer Jean Cousin, following his acutely accomplished and acclaimed 2017 debut album Selfless. (#8 Experimental Album of 2017 at Pitchfork, among other accolades.)
Grappling with a cascade of heartbreaks and discontinuities over the past year, Cousin calls the new album a “time-travel experiment”, as he culls sounds from devices and sources spanning childhood to the present (phones, cameras, video games, home movies) to retrieve and reframe subjective memories, histories and “regressions through former selves” through immersion in the evocative potential of the mostly wordless voices of others. The resulting sonic portraits simultaneously convey formally abstract dislocations and highly emotive warmth, interiority, humanity and specificity.
Side A especially highlights these works – the “with people” half of the album, replete with contemplative, melancholic songs, each featuring a deconstructed performance by a different female voice, propelled to varying degrees with additive rhythmic and textural layers. Side B is the “isolation” half: vocal samples continue to make appearances, including Cousin’s own voice on the vertiginous “Voix Sans Issue” and his own lyrics on the computer-narrated text-to-speech spoken word of the confessional “Deep Impression” – but the contrasting vibe is more claustrophobic, anxious and febrile.
Mise En Abyme ends with a throwback to Cousin’s pre-Joni Void keyboard-based works as johnny_ripper on the gorgeous Rhodes piece “Persistence”, while the closing exuberant maximalist jam of “Resolve” fittingly samples every previous song and locks the album into a self-referential recursive sequence.”
Bringing to a close a series which has frankly altered the way we listen to and perceive sound and music over the course of this decade, Jakob Ullmann seals his important Fremde Zeit series with ‘Solo V for Klavier’; a fascinatingly stark and spectral hour-long finale that sets the idea of ‘Foreign Time’ in its most minimalist and broadest setting.
Like the previous instalments, ‘solo V für Klavier’ is interpreted from a graphic score, this time formed from a series of abstract water-colours aleatorically overlaid with transparent sheets marked with black lines, scattered in the manner of oracle sticks to create a pattern determining the duration of sections, their colour and sequencing. Whilst patently super-minimal, the piece’s pianissimo nature is too demanding for just one solo performer, Lukas Rikli, who requires the participation of three assistants who use horsehair on the strings to sustain the soundscape.
So far, so concrete (and the above is only a skim of the full technical requirements), but what occurs arguably falls within the realm of the supernatural and metaphysical. Performed according to Ullmann’s uniquely conjured laws of physics, the work opens an uncanny valley between the object - the grand piano - and subjective perceptions of its sound. It takes several minutes before one might even realise a piano is at the centre of the soundstage - somehow all the action appears to happen in the meridian, in the timbral, in the liminal aura, almost frighteningly connoting a presence but not the actual body that produced it.
It’s only when identifiable chords and strings occasionally loom forward that we can just about make out the fixed physicalities in the room, but in the process we’ve already attuned to Ullmann’s laws of sonic democracy (if you’re doing it properly, the piece should play at just above the volume of environmental sound - hence it works best at night), which makes any instrumental gesture, no matter how slight, appear magnified, animating a microcosmos of sound at the molecular level.
The results highlight the effective warzones of sonic bombardment and “pollution” we’re all subject to everyday, and most intently offer the invaluable space for retreat we’re all clearly, increasingly in need of.
Perhaps the only good thing to emerge from Brexit is The Matthew Herbert United Kingdom and Gibraltar European Union Membership Referendum Big Band, herein referred to as TMHUKAGEUMRBB, and their album ‘The State Between Us’.
Presented as an album ruminating on what it is to be British in 2018, aside from the obvious shame and embarrassment, it locates a strength in numbers and our eccentricities with a cast of a thousand performers responding to the premature ejaculation of Article 50. Between them, they document an imagined journey on foot across Great Britain thru a mix of elegiac melodies with site-specific recordings of Chequers, a Welsh sheep farm, felled WWII planes, and walks along the Northern Irish border that lend a poetic, historically apt reading of a country entering the grip of madness.
Across the album’s 16 songs Herbert and co pull from every aspect of the past two years of Brexit, from interminable news cycles to a spectrum of British eccentricities, to our intrinsic links with the rest of the world, not to mention the EU. The results frame a contemplative collection of arrangements that, while sadly unlikely to change any Brexiteers minds, may at the least give them pause for thought, to reflect on all the good shit they’re so eager to extinguish.
It would be presumptuous of us to expect that all of our UK customers share our sentiment, but we’d wager a £10 that most of you do, and likewise many of our EU and RoW customers. So in effect we’re probably preaching to the choir. But in case we’re not, and you’re up for leaving the EU - and appreciate British sites like ours, or the wonderfully esoteric make-up of British culture in general - know that this could be seriously jeopardised by the clueless Tory pebbles (and those they’ve hoodwinked) who are clinging like winnets to the arsehole of Brexit. Fuck knows what we can do to remedy it apart form support albums like ‘The State Between Us’, and the wholly sensible idea of a 2nd referendum, come what may (or when May goes).
NYC wave-riders supreme, Xeno & Oaklander reprise their feted blend of drily gyroid-styled vocals, naggingly romantic synths and pointed rhythms in ‘Hypnos’, leading on from strong albums for Wierd Records and Ghostly International
“On their latest album Hypnos and first for the Dais imprint, the duo leveraged the talents of visual artist and live sound engineer Egan Frantz to mix the album. It’s a touch that adds both punch and balance, allowing their inherent conceptual voices to converge into a collage with defined edges and warm, synapses of frequency and beat.
“Musically, Hypnos is a return to polyphony after several years of using strictly monophonic synthesizers,” McBride says about the album’s ethos. “This has brought dense harmonies and a more complex counterpoint to the composition. Staying with the same equipment and processes without the inveterate compulsion to update and refashion allows for a clearly perceivable genealogy with our previous work.”
“I felt the desire to tell mythical stories, I also wanted my voice to sit strongly in the mix,” Wendelbo explains. “I channeled the spirits of 60s French Pop chanteuse Françoise Hardy and 80s New Wave New York icon Tina Weymouth.” Her intentions are best evidenced on the tracks “Angelique,”and “Insomnia,” the former a spry track sung in French, against a springy rhythm. Laden with expanding and contrasting frequency and a penchant for strategic rhythm, Hypnos juxtaposes dance with distance, creating an immersive oeuvre that exudes contrast and control.”
Wonderful suite of archival gamelan minimalism from Bay Area practitioner Daniel Schmidt.
Recital dip into the personal archives of Daniel Schmidt, an integral scholar in the development of American Gamelan. After studying Javanese gamelan at California Institute of the Arts in the early ‘70s, Schmidt set about creating a West Coast movement based around an aluminium version of the instrument – the Berkeley Gamelan - forged of his own design. He’s since gone on to build numerous gamelan instruments, theorise on it’s compositional qualities, collaborate with Lou Harrison, Jody Diamond, and Paul Dresher, and currently teaches at Mills College San Francisco.
‘In My Arms, Many Flowers’ captures the American Gamelan movement in its nascent state, the result of a personal invitation for Recital boss Sean McCann to rifle through three boxes of Schmidt’s studio and live recordings committed to cassette between the late ’70s and early ‘80s. What’s immediately striking here is how Schmidt deviates from the traditional Javanese style of gamelan composition, instead seeking out the minimalist movement of North America for guidance.
Making use of a primitive sampler borrowed from Pauline Oliveros (RIP), lead track And the Darkest Hour is Just Before Dawn pairs a sumptuous looped string arrangement with Schmidt’s delicate caresses of the Berkeley Gamelan which build with quiet melodic complexity into something quite wonderful. The title track sees Schmidt augmenting the mysticism of his Berkeley with the bowed strings of a rebab, another traditional Indonesian instrument, deployed to signify a bird that “calls from far away.”
Ghosts is one of two compositions done solely with the gamelan, Schmidt leading a procession of players using traditional techniques on a detailed 14-minute recording of percussive dexterity and intricacy that highlights the spiritual powers of the instrument. Faint Impressions offers a sombre finale, the ringing melodicism of the Berkeley gamelan set to a backdrop of an understandably captivated audience.
Without question, some of the most beautiful 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.
On this newly released work Jakob Ullmann combines his appreciation of Cageian principles with sacred composition in utterly riveting ways, resulting in two of the most extreme and uncompromising examples of his “quiet music” - that is, a music which is composed and realised to be played just above the volume of each listener’s ambient background.
And in case you’re not aware of what we mean by “extreme”, we’re talking seriously quiet - bordering on silent - instrumental gestures; the kind of creaks and klangs that, on the most glib level, recall a “ghost” in your house at midnight, while on a more serious, theological level, are intended to heighten the listener’s sense of the unknown, the metaphysical, the spiritual: the sacred.
In both works the ‘hallmarks’ of Jakob Ullmann’s intently defined yet unfathomably open style of composition come to light. On Müntzers stern, a pre-recorded performance of a hymnal text written by the German theologian is played back at barely perceptible volume into the same space where Dafne Vicente-Sandoval translates the graphic score for bassoon. The result is a totally sparse yet breathtakingly pensive piece where it’s beautifully uncertain what we’re hearing - is that the chance sound of a distant plane or Dafne’s bassoon? Are those voices in your head, outside the window, or on the recording? Either way, the barely-there but complex results are genuinely ambiguous, forming a total breakdown of conventions that leave the listener with far more questions than they answer.
On solo II, part of a group of works relating to the notion of disappearing musics completed in 1992 following Ullmann’s conversations with John Cage, the effect of Dafne’s bassoon, recorded in Kartäuserkirche (Bürgerliches Waisenhaus) is even more extreme. Holistically taking into account everything from the thermal fluctuation of the space and the way it affects Dafne’s reed, to its unique acoustic imprint, and by turns what lies outside its walls, the piece directly builds on Ullmann’s dialogue with Cage, and induces us into a sort of lucid dream state where time dissolves, outside becomes inside, and we feel physically sublimated into the piece and its projected timbral architecture.
As Ullmann’s music has come to light beyond the most rarified classical corridors over the last decade (with thanks to its champions such as Stephen O’Malley and Bill Kouligas, among others), the composer’s radical approach and uncompromising beliefs have given us some of the most memorable and perception-altering musical experiences imaginable. We can surely add these two new Ullmann works to that set of life-affirming and quietly challenging experiences.
Incredible, transfixing avant-classical solo piano and dynamic, puristic synthesis from Iranian-American composer Cameron Shafii. Big RIYL Kevin Drumm, Iancu Dumitrescu, Mika Vainio, Luigi Nono
Following the short-run edition of his ‘DzGI’ tape in 2015, it’s fair to call ‘Corpora Vilia’ Cameron Shafii’s definitive release to date. Consolidating the Ph.D. student and Ge-Stell label boss’s fascinations with the physics of sound, specifically digital synthesis and spectromorphology, Shafii’s 2nd release places exacting techniques at the service of a uniquely refreshing, playful, and genuinely bewildering music.
In three durational parts, Shafii presents a wealth of micro-edited sounds arranged into radical synthetic symphonies. Structured around deeply uncanny transitions between acoustic and digital spheres, they each reveal inception-like worlds within worlds, using every integer of the sound field to draw ears between his spectral presences and pointillist acoustic strikes with a quietly breathtaking grasp of proprioceptive chicanery.
With ‘Points and Planes of Potential Future Violations’ he establishes a beguiling soundfield foregrounding insectoid electronics over cascading piano arpeggios in the midground, punctuated by percussive violence and leading to head-wrenching chaos recalling Luigi Nono’s ‘Non Consumiamo Marx’ classic. ‘Text 27 (Lise in Fernsehspiel)’ follows, rendering pink hued ambient harmonics centre stage, surrounded by vertically creeping strings while near-infrasonic bass turns the stage to jelly, before ‘Spatial Envy; or Suture and Cut-Pieces’ again extends the strangest timbral combinations and perception-baiting segues.
Ultimately it’s one of those releases that will constantly make you stop and double-check what you’re listening to. It’s floored us each time we return to it, at least. Lovers of leading edge experimental composition of all stripes need ‘Corpora Vilia’ in their listening lives.
Quiet music conceptualist and practitioner, Jakob Ullmann's 2nd release and first with Editions RZ was first issued in 2005.
It yields a single 73 minute piece written for an ensemble of thirteen solo strings and up to three additional solo parts arranged to explore the filigree infidelities of their range between almost "pure", natural harmonics to diffuse noise at the lowest threshold of perception thanks to masterly feats of restrained technicality and the composer's vision.
Of course, this is much more than an exercise in academic or technical exactitude. Ullmann's score elicits the players to play at the edge of their nerves and skill to reaffirm the piece's sureness and manifest the slightest differentiations, sustaining our attention in pensile equilibrium so that the most minor shifts in pace, tone, timbre ensure optimal effect, and live up to the piece's conceptual power.
London five-piece Housewives return for more anarchic genre-blending adventures on their second LP, Twilight Splendour
"Bringing to mind the digital meditations of legendary producer Oneohtrix Point Never, Twilight Splendour presents a love letter from an early AI to its owner, its concept-led songs strewn with “ecstatic messages of frustration and a desire to connect”.Since forming five years ago, Housewives have drawn from such diverse scenes as post-punk, jazz, drone, electronic and avant-garde. 2013 saw the release of an eponymous debut EP via Brighton label Faux Discx, while their first-full length record, ‘Work’—recorded at a barn in a desolate corner in the south of France—arrived two years later.
2017 live album FF06116 marked the band’s first collaboration with experimental saxophonist Ben Vince. Following on from these early statements, Housewives are now set to unleash their game-changing new album—turning away from performance-based writing, the human, and facing the cold light of computers head on."
The Necks’ dynamo percussionist Tony Buck helms and pushes equally skilled improviser Massimo Pupillo (Zu) to ritualistic drone zones in their densely absorbing debut collaboration
“Atmospheric and pulsating release TIME BEING/UNSEEN brings together, Tony Buck(The Necks) on drums/percussion and Massimo Pupillo(Zu) on bass.
Tony Buck is regarded as one of Australia’s most creative and adventurous exports, with vast experience across the globe. As a drummer, percussionist, improviser, guitarist, video maker and producer, he has been involved in a highly diverse array of projects but is probably best known around the world as a member of the trio “The Necks”.
Massimo Pupillo (Ostia - Roma) is a bass and double bass player and composer. Best known for being the bassist of Zu, which produced bio 15 albums with labels like Atavistic / Touch n 'Go (USA), Southern (EU), Heads (JAPAN), Ipecac Records (USA), TROST(AT) and numerous singles and split with other labels.”