The three 'Encores' EPs available as one full length release.
"Whilst Encores 1 focused on an acoustic pallet of sounds with solo piano and harmonium at the core, and Encores 2 explored more ambient landscapes, now Encores 3 sees Nils expand on the percussive and electronic elements in his work.
“The idea behind All Encores is one we had from before All Melody; to separate releases each with their own distinct musical style and theme, perhaps even as a triple album. But All Melody became larger than itself and took over any initial concepts. I think the idea of All Encores is like musical islands that compliment All Melody.”
Moulded during All Melody but refined by his live performances, All Encores is testament to Nils’ exceptional ability to craft his art on stage. Artificially Intelligent which showcases his ‘mad professor’ organ, and All Armed which has been a live favourite for some time, appearing on set lists since 2015, are now available to hear on record for the very first time. The final track of Encores 3, as well as the whole series, Amirador, perhaps aptly nods to the Spanish word for ‘lookout’ and hints at what’s to come."
Julliard alumnae and artistic director of ACME, the American Contemporary Music Ensemble, Clarice Jensen furnishes FatCat with her third solo LP following her 2018 debut with Miasmah and a single in 2019 for Geographic North.
Aside from her solo work Clarice has played cello on recordings by everyone from Nico Muhly to Matmos, Björk and Max Richter over the past two decades. In ‘The Experience of Repetition as Death’ she sombrely plays up to expectations with the opening piece of stately chamber strings ‘Daily’, but soon expands our presumptions with the transition from Soviet-sounding choral drones to gloriously cinematic organ and strings in ‘Day Tonight’, along with the tension between wide, threatening bass and steepled organ in ‘Metastable’, and the apocalypse-baiting 10-minute breadth of ‘Holy Mother’.
If you’re not into the new minimalism of Kali Malone or Maria W. Horn, for example, this one is sure to fulfil your maximalist wont.
The Swedish four-piece fronted by vocalist Yukimi Nagano, with multi-instrumentalists Håkan Wirenstarnd and Fredrik Wallin on keyboards and bass respectively and Erik Bodin on drums and percussion - return with their sixth studio album, ‘New Me, Same Us’, their first album release since signing with Ninja Tune.
"Entirely self-produced and recorded at their long-time studio base in Gothenburg, the album represents another chapter in the continuing evolution of Little Dragon, finding new direction in their unique style of unhurried, off-kilter r’n’b, pop and electronics, they sound as rejuvenated and energised as ever.
The album is accompanied by the release of a photographic book by David Uzochukwu (has worked with FKA Twigs, Pharrell and Ibeyi) called ‘Yerba Mates’. Shot during their latest US tour, David captures his journey with the guys in a surrealistic style."
Smersh’s Mike Mangino does it dubby and deep house-styled for his longtime fans at iDEAL, big recommendation if yr feeling Huerco S., Ilpo Väisänen’s Liima dubs, The iDEALIST!
Pivotal ’80s proto-techno-punk Mike Mangino ov Smersh coughs up an ace bunch of dark dub and house grooves in a patented livewire style for Joachim Nordwall’s iDEAL
As half of New Jersey’s prolific, grooving industrial unit Smersh alongside Chris Shepard (R.I.P), Mike Mangino’s efforts in the ‘80s and early ‘90 have exerted a vital influence on the past decade of DIY noise techno and lo-fi operators thanks to a string of prized Smersh reissues via Dark Entries and Knekelhuis. iDEAL founder Joachim Nordwall has followed Smersh since their cannily titled 1986 album ‘The Part of The Animal That People Don’t Like’, and more recently has been obsessing over Mangino’s SoundCloud page, which lead him to get in touch and promptly receive this hypnotic batch of deep house and moody machine dub workouts.
Judging from the seven trax of ‘Coisas’, it’s safe to say that Mangino’s music is still very much relevant to the underground and fringe electronic music communities. Like his early work, Mangino’s music still moves perpendicular to dub, noise, industrial and synth music, and since the late ‘80s it’s taken form as a sort of slanted house and brittle dub sound that indeed echoes with Joachim Nordwall’s own efforts as part of Börft Records in the early ‘90s, and nowadays as The iDEALIST.
Trustingly hand-picked by Nordwall, the set highlights Mangino’s tastes for cranky textures, melancholic atmospheres, and a personalised brand of sideways futurism. ‘Local Dub’ gets it going like one of Ilpo Väisänen’s killer Liima dubs, and the night crawling dub slug ‘Ramona Corner’ very cannily pitches up with very trippy effect. ‘The Way You Are’ follows with a full bodied, raw and sleepy dub house stride that’ tucked away Nu Groove style in ‘Slowly I Turned’, while ‘Nothing Changes’ returns to dwell in dub contemplation, and the whisked piano house of ’Solitaire’ gives way to something like a smudged Huerco S. dub in ‘Amphetamine Jitters’.
Bon Iver’s Blood Bank EP was originally released in early 2009, hot on the heels of the beloved album ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’. The EP was a harbinger of a new sound for Bon Iver: a movement away from the acoustic guitar-led instrumentation of the debut and the beginning of an exploration into the experimental sounds that have evolved but defined Bon Iver ever since. The reissue of this seminal EP is coupled with brand new live renditions of all the EP tracks:
A reflection on the Blood Bank EP by Ryan Matteson:
"When I reflect on the songs that make up the Blood Bank EP, I am drawn to mantras, both musical and lyrical. The driving and pulsating rhythm of the title track is held steady by the repeated refrain, I know it well, before it eventually yields to a beautiful array of guitar distortion and noise. These moments are significant through all four songs. When the steel guitar makes its entrance on “Beach Baby,” it’s transportive. A blissful, breezy feeling sweeps into the room and that puts you within the moment. Close your eyes and you can feel it. “Babys” follows perfectly. A piano guides your mind to the new beginnings that come with the changing of seasons. The awareness of time passes and makes way for another day. Then there’s “Woods.” A flawless finale. Foreign and new. Not just a new direction but a new beginning entirely. A place where boundaries don’t exist. It was a signal change of things to come, laying the groundwork for new collaborations. A decade later, the song says so much in just three lines. Most significant to me are the words, “I’m building a sill to slow down the time.” Time doesn’t slow down, it races."
Avery and Cortini feel out emotionally raw synth circuitry across an album of rolling topographies strongly comparable to Blanck Mass, Abul Mogard, Tim Hecker.
“The album is a beguiling and unexpected collusion of two sounds. Beginning as a collaborative experiment before the pair had even met, Avery and Cortini then worked remotely and free of concept or deadline over several years. The result, finally completed when both artists were touring with Nine Inch Nails in 2018, is a quietly powerful album rooted in trust, process and experimentation.
The first fruits of their labour were unveiled last year when ‘Water’ and ‘Sun’ appeared online, subsequently released as a very limited 7” run that was sold at FYF Festival, Mount Analog in Los Angeles, Phantasy's online store and Phonica Records in London. Both tracks are included on the album.”
Sorry release their debut record ‘925’ on Domino.
"Together with co-producer James Dring (Gorillaz, Jamie T, Nilüfer Yanya), best friends Lorenz and Louis O’Bryen have woven ‘925’ like a dreamscape in which idyllic and hellish scenes intermingle, forcing the question of what is real and what is make believe.
Inspired by everything from Hermann Hesse to Aphex Twin and old-school crooner Tony Bennett, their experimental and holistic approach marks them out as a thoroughly 21st Century band; from their open-minded approach to genre to their creativity allowing them to self-produce the music and direct accompanying videos."
Beautifully immersive avant-ambient sound sculpture from the peerless Simon Fisher Turner for renowned ceramicist Edmund De Waal - truly unmissable stuff from a living legend of the British art world.
We could be here for days on SFT’s illustrious past, but Google can sort that so we’ll focus on the glorious, immanent present of ‘A Quiet Corner of Time’, where the artistic polymath wears his sound design hat for a return to his sort of dream-like soundtrack work that enriched Derek Jarman’s films including, among others, ’Caravaggio’, which poetically presages this new piece in collaboration with contemporary artist and master potter Edmund de Waal.
Hailed as “the first time de Waal has collaborated so closely with a musician”, the sonic results were first heard installed at the Schindler house in LA, in a piece that used de Waal’s materials and architectural interventions to link his own history to that of the building, and its famous residents including John Cage.
Standing alone as its own object to be admired, immersed in, Fisher Turner’s album is a richly evocative environment in its own right, weaving in material also recorded and swapped with Ryuichi Sakamoto to create a rarified air of introspection and meditative drama that lends a strange, animist presence to whatever respective environment it’s used in.
It’s totally required listening for followers of everyone from John Cage to Terre Thaemlitz, Jim O’Rourke, Leyland Kirby and Ryuichi Sakamoto.
Ethio-jazz keyboard wizard Hailu Mergia weaves his magic in a crisply modernist but dubbed-out style on follow-up to ‘Lala Belu’, deepening his partnership with Awesome Tapes From Africa, who brought his 40 years of recordings to overdue international acclaim since nearly a decade ago.
"From a young musician in the 60's starting out in Addis Ababa to the 70's golden age of dance bands to the new hope as an emigre in America to the drier period of the 90s and 2000s when he mainly played keyboard in his taxi while waiting in the airport queue or at home with friends. More recently, with reissue of his classic works and a re-assessment of his role in Ethiopian music history, Mergia has played to audiences big and small in some of the most cherished venues around the world. With 2018's critical breakthrough "Lala Belu" Mergia championed himself and consolidated his legacy, producing the album on his own and connecting with listeners through the sheer creative power of his version of modern Ethiopian music. His subsequent performances revealed an artist who is in no way stuck in the nostalgia for the “golden age” sound. The press agreed, including the New York Times, BBC and Pitchfork, calling his music “triumphantly in the present” in its Best 200 Albums of the 2010's list. Mergia's new album "Yene Mircha" ("My Choice" in Amharic) encapsulates many of the things that make the keyboardist, accordionist and composer-arranger remarkable—elements that have persisted to maintain his vitality all these years, through the ebb and flow of his career.
The rock solid trio with whom he has toured the world most recently, DC-based Alemseged Kebede (bass) and Ken Joseph (drums), forms the nucleus around which an expanded band makes a potent response to the contemporary jazz future "Lala Belu" promised. "Yene Mircha" calcifies Mergia's prolific stream of creativity and his philosophy that there is a multitude of Ethiopian musical approaches, not just one sound. Enlisting the help of master mesenqo (traditional stringed instrument) player Setegn Atenaw, celebrated vocalist Tsehay Kassa and legendary saxophone player Moges Habte from his 70's outfit Walias Band, Mergia enhances his bright, electric band on this recording with an expanded line up on some songs. Mergia produced the album which features several of his original compositions along with songs by Asnakesh Worku and Teddy Afro.
An artist still reinventing his sound every night on stage during his marathon live sets, this 74 year-old icon refuses to make the same album twice. The album feels as urgent and risky as his concerts can be, pushing the band to the outer limits of group improvisation and back with chord extensions during his exploratory solos. "Yene Mircha" captures this live experience and fosters an expansive view of what else could be in store for this tireless practitioner of Ethiopian music. "
Beat builder for Kendrick Lamar and Joey Bada$$, Knxwledge comes correct with his first new album since 2015, a decade on from his debut with Dublin’s All City Records
Holding tight against the ubiquity of trap music, Knxwledge sticks to his guns (samplers) in a vintage-soul licking hip hop style on ‘1988’, tiling 22 tracks of deep and rugged MPC knocks alongside shroomie skits and a couple of joints featuring his NxWorries homie Anderson .Paak (Itkanbe[Sonice]) and Durand Bernard & Rose Gold on the slick boogie soul downstroke ‘Minding_My Business’. It’s a proper hip hop album in a really old skool, ruffkut MPC sense, sure to appeal to backpack dads and their ilk.
Timely reissue of The Birthday Party songwriter/guitarist Rowland S. Howard’s ‘Pop Crimes’ (2009), presented just after the 10th anniversary of his passing, aged 50
Notably starring guest input from HTRK’s Jonnine Standish and Nigel Yang, then under Howard’s mentorship, ‘Pop Crimes’ is an aching swansong for the brand of doomy, boozy, literate post-punk and rock that he pioneered over years with The Birthday Party, Crime & The City Solution, and alongside Nick Cave.
The aforementioned hook-up with HTRK opens the album in a dedication to the band’s Jonnine, ‘(I Know) A Girl Called Jonny’, and makes up one of the album’s highlights with his grinding take on Mark Hollis’ Talk Talk classic, ‘Life’s What You Make It’, which, alongside his dust-kicking cover of Townes Van Zandt’s ‘Nothin’’, and the elegiac ‘Ave Maria’. only take on a new levity considering that they were recorded while Howard knew he was dying from a liver cancer. And in that sense, the swagger of closing number ‘The Golden Age Of Bloodshed’ sees him firmly saddled up to go out in style.
For the fifth entry in the Collector's Series, Music For Dreams enlist the skills of Japan-based musical connoisseurs, Ken Hidaka, Max Essa, and Dr. Rob. Their compilation Oto No Wa sets out to map the evolution of chilled Japanese sounds across 3 decades.
"Collecting 14 tracks, produced by a wide range of artists. From ambient pioneers to dance-floor veterans. Roping in 9-piece reggae band, Little Tempo, percussionist Kazuya Kotani, and organic, psychedelic collective, Olololop.
Beginning in the late 1980s, the era when “environmental music” became prevalent, there`s Yoshio Ojima's cool computer-generated Sealed. The compilation also includes later work by his contemporaries Takashi Kokubo, and Yoshiaki Ochi. Theirs are compositions designed for art galleries and museum installations. “BGM” built from emerging technology, and / or counterpoint tapped out expertly on sticks and stones. The 90s give us the seminal electronics of Susumu Yokota, and the solar-flare strut of Scha Dara Parr - Japan's answer to The Beastie Boys. Here, remixed by the legendary Major Force. Moving into the 21st century we have the post-house productions of Flower Records. Kentaro Takizawa's oceanic Gradual Life, and Little Big Bee's colourful coral reef-diving Scuba. Fellow traveller, Kaoru Inoue`s “Kyushu kosmische”. Representing the next decade are Flower Records' current rising stars, Coastlines, who calmly combine classic fusion, library music, and gentle nova bossa nova rhythms. Alongside them are the sun-baked electro-acoustics of Karel Arbus & Eiji Takamatsu, plus Chillax' previously unreleased epic analog / modular jam.
All of these selections are the result of some serious “digging” but more importantly they represent physical connections made during Ken's 20-plus-year career in the “Biz”, Max' decade of DJing all over Japan. Music made by folks interviewed by Rob at the websites, Test Pressing and Ban Ban Ton Ton. Friendships forged at Lone Star - the trio's long-running party, which takes place every month at Bar Bonobo in Harajuku."
One of Australia’s greatest musical storytellers at his best on one of the best albums to come from down under during the ‘90s, including his classic take on Billy Idol’s ‘White Wedding’.
Rowland S. Howard’s solo 1999 debut arrived in a dramatic lineage of The Birthday Party, who he co-founded with Nick Cave and took to indelible acclaim circa post-punk years 1978-1983. ‘Teenage Snuff Film’ saw him saddle up with fellow TBP member Mick Harvey for a now canonically classic trek into the depths of his soul, setting ripping yarns of despair, romance and alien affectation to the sort of swaggering, sozzled, classic but fucked-up alt.rock sound he helped establish in the first place.
Ever since it was released ’Teenage Snuff Film’ has cast a long shadow of influence over everyone from The Horrors to HTRK |(who collaborated with Howard just before he died, on 2009’s Pop Crimes’) and remains a totally definitive record in its field.
‘Fly Or Die’ is one of many peaches on Chicago’s International Anthem label, and the first by Jaimie Branch as bandleader, following work on records by Matana Roberts and TV on the Radio with a tight refinement of her improvised trumpet tekkers, including cameo by Ben LaMar Gay
“A mainstay of the Chicago jazz scene and an active recent addition to the New York scene, Jaimie Branch is an avant-garde trumpeter known for her “ghostly sounds," says The New York Times, and for "sucker punching" crowds straight from the jump off, says Time Out. Her classical training and “unique voice capable of transforming every ensemble of which she is a part” (Jazz Right Now) has contributed to a wide range of projects not only in jazz but also punk, noise, indie rock, electronic and hip-hop. Branch’s work as a composer and a producer, as well as a sideman for the likes of William Parker, Matana Roberts, TV on the Radio and Spoon, is all on display in her debut record Fly or Die – a dynamic 35-minute ride that dares listeners to open their minds to music that knows no genre, no gender, no limits.”
Smoothly full-bodied, melodic, but exploratory suite by AACM and Tortoise staple Jeff Parker for the superb International Anthem Recordings Company behind that blinder from Angel Bat Dawit
“Best known as a multi-instrumental member of Tortoise and a pillar of the Chicago jazz and experimental music scene, Jeff Parker has been incomparably prolific over the last 20+ years while merely producing 5 albums as a “lead artist” (just 2 since 2005, including 2016’s duo recording with Rob Mazurek on Rogue Art). “Lead artist” is in quotes here, because though his name is seldom seen in marquees, his distinctive guitar sound has been essential to every project he’s been part of. It was in that sense that we at International Anthem came to work with Parker during the production of Makaya McCraven’s In The Moment, an album which ultimately showcased said essentialness (of Parker’s “side man” sound) on 9 of its 19 tracks.
Over the course of the In The Moment sessions in 2013 and 2014, Parker was slowly transitioning his personal belongings from Chicago to a new home in Los Angeles. It was when finally settled that he found opportunity to re-open some home recordings and beat projects that had been dormant on his hard drive for years (early versions of some could have been heard in the late ‘00s on his Myspace page). Parker had long been in silent study of vinyl sampling and beat conduction, but perhaps it’s no coincidence that new residence in a city aflame with experimental R&B, jazz and electronic fusers (i.e. L.A., e.g. Brainfeeder, Leaving Records, Low End Theory) spurred him to dig back in to the practice and produce with more purpose.
By early 2015 Parker had refined several compositional ideas around his samples, and enlisted local friend Paul Bryan (Aimee Mann, Meshell Ndegeocello) to engineer and play bass guitar in sessions with Chicago ex-pat saxophonist, Thelonious Monk Institute protégé Josh Johnson (Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, Esperanza Spaulding)and drummer Jamire Williams (Robert Glasper, Carlos Niño. The recordings were conducted to capture composed passages as well as free playing that used Parker’s beats and sample suites as improvisational criterion. After completing 7 songs with the band, the last of which with vocals from his daughter Ruby Parker recorded in Chicago by John McEntire, Parker named the project The New Breed (after a clothing store his late father Ernie owned and operated in the ‘70s)and finished the album by stitching the band tracks together with intermittent pieces of beat memories from his archive.
The final presentation is a retrospective tapestry that explores Parker’s past both musically – as a potent compositional tribute to his influences (J Dilla, Thelonious Monk, Charles Stepney)held together by literal fragments of his life’s work – and patrilineally – as a collaboration with his kin held together by clippings from the family photo album. The New Breed is Jeff Parker’s most vibrant and comprehensively personal work yet, appropriately the first in 11 years with only his name in the “lead artist” column.”
Breathtaking new studio album from The Necks, saddling up for a glorious route taking in fast flowing polyrhythms and revelatory soundscapes - really one of their strongest in a flawless catalogue that now spans 30 years and with a closing track that once again taps into that Talk Talk thing they do so well...
The now legendary trio have always charted their own path thru the backwoods and wilds of jazz, krautrock and avant terrain, but ‘Three’ sees them head off across topographies that were previously only glimpsed on the horizon. In proper beginning, middle and end sections, they thrillingly cultivate and hack thru dense, lush new worlds of psychedelic sound before arriving at a third-eye dilating interzone, and relieving the psychic tension in a tranquil, bucolic final passage, leaving its participants ravished and refreshed.
Effectively 30 years in the making, if we take in their entire run from 1989’s classic ‘Sex’, via 1994’s ‘Aquatic’ and the singular roil of 2018’s ‘Body’, the triad of finely sculpted works in ‘Three’ are the ultimate combination of the instrumental intuition that binds Tony Buck, Chris Abrahams, and Lloyd Swanton, perfectly accentuated by studio processing from Tim Whitten (engineer) and Doug Henderson (master) that portrays their efforts in the best possible, impossible light and studio magick with frankly astonishing, practically psilocybic results.
It’s genuinely difficult to think of another band who could come up this sort of album after three decades together and for it not to sound like they were playing to hoary fans or trying to recapture something. From the barefoot scramble and cascading rush of ‘Bloom’ to the cavernous wonder of ‘Lovelock’ and bluesy resolution in the marshy delta sprawl of ‘Further’ The Necks effortlessly keep their sound flowing into oceanic, hypnotic grace.
Taken from live improvisation to live sampling & recomposition to borderdefying beat collage – a new jazz mixtape tells a many-splendored tale of Trans-Atlantic collaboration in constant cadence.
"Performed by Makaya McCraven - drums; Soweto Kinch - saxophone, voice; Theon Cross - tuba; Joe Armon-Jones - Rhodes piano; Nubya Garcia - saxophone; Kamaal Williams - keys.
Remix Production & Additional Overdubs by LeFtO; Don Leisure & Earl Jeffers (Darkhouse Family); Ben LaMar Gay; Emma-Jean Thackray; Quiet Dawn; Lexus Blondin."
Gorgeous sophomore LP of gothic folk from Hilary Woods, aka erstwhile bassist with JJ72. Really strong Lynchian vibes on this one - aided by exceptionally dank and creaking production by Lasse Marhaug.
That mention of JJ72 may well jog the memory of anyone who frequented indie clubs in the late ‘90s/early ’00s, but we assure you that Hilary’s solo sound is far removed from JJ27’s spunky indie-pop and more in line with a tradition of etheric Irish songcraft that also resonates with the work of Susanna. Fittingly for that reference at least, Hilary worked with Norwegian producer Lasse Marhaug to achieve the album’s beautifully pensive tone and feeling of stark vulnerability.
“Hilary Woods’ Birthmarks has been a labor of intensity and intuition, written over the course of two years. Recorded whilst heavily pregnant between Galway and Oslo in the winter of 2019, Woods explores the oscillating and volatile processes of selfhood and becoming, hidden gestational growth, and the birthing of the Self, amidst continuous social and personal change.
Birthmarks is a record that hunts for ways in which to revisit and caress wounds left by the memory of their scars. In its mystery and attentiveness to the art of alchemy and the world of the unseen, it is a journey through textural fog and feral density that gives way to passages of voracious sonic exorcism and poetic healing. Its eight songs traverse planes of visceral physicality, stark tender space, and breathtaking introspective beauty.
Spurred on and crafted by the impulse to create a more corporeal sonic tendon for her songs to inhabit, Woods took her vision and home recordings to Norwegian experimental noise producer and filmmaker Lasse Marhaug. The collaboration proved rare and fruitful and lies at the heart of this record. Field recordings, analogue bass synthesizers, hushed vocals, and the breath are underpinned with heavy noise processing, fierce and wide cello, rich percussion, sable saxophone, and electronics.
Birthmarks is inspired and informed by ideas of inner transmutation in the face of anxiety, post-war Japanese and wet-plate photography, early music, the secret life of trees, wolves, drone, the drawings of Francis Bacon, the images of Francesca Woodman, the films of Chris Marker, the experiential collapse of community, and the power of the lone human voice. It is a deeply powerful and enigmatic record that ultimately transcends its disquiet roots.”
Colin Stetson’s breakthrough album of gripping bass sax innovations still buzzes like few others.
In 2007 ‘New History Warfare Vol.1’ asserted Stetson as an indomitable player of wind instruments, here letting off on Alto, Baritone and Bass Saxophones, plus Clarinet, in a deftly muscular display of his skills which had previously been employed on record and in live tours for Arcade Fire, Tom Waits, Bon Iver, LCD Soundsystem and whoever the heck else needed a set of lungs as good as a blacksmith’s bellows.
While perhaps best known for wielding a massive Bass Saxophone that's responsible for some of the wildest sounds on this album, Stetson proves to be a sensitive beast capable of articulating the instrument’s full range tonal in his own voice, which variously comes out resembling a purring big cat and the dying wildebeest it just stalked, attacked and slaughtered in ‘Time Is Advancing With Fitful Irregularity’, while he uses the same broad tone to describe natural scenes as textured with soil and moisture and wind as an Anne Guthrie piece in ‘As a Bird or Branch’, while ‘Nobu Take’ sounds like a manic 8-bit computer game soundtrack and ’Tiger Tiger Crane’ adds a tight percussive workout for good measure, but trust its all acoustic, instrumental, hands-on, somehow not processed.
Still a stonking good record, this, ripe for re/discovery.
Alex Paterson steers The Orb on mission calling for common sense and set to a lushly widescreen backdrop taking in cinematic beat-less works alongside throbbing ambient house and newer strains of pop funk, expanding a style he’s helped shape for 30 years.
“Abolition Of The Royal Familia is the 17th album from Alex Paterson and his rotating roster of collaborative cohorts. The album forms part two of a pair – a continuation of the same “anything goes” ethos as the previous, critically-acclaimed long player No Sounds Are Out Of Bounds. This new offering marks the first album with Paterson and Michael Rendall as main writing partners.
‘Abolition…’ features guest turns from Youth, Roger Eno, Steve Hillage and Miquette Giraudy (from Gong and System 7), Gaudi, On U-Sound’s David Harrow, Alex’s dog Ruby, a 17 year old trumpeter called Oli Cripps (who was working a Saturday job in Alex’s local record shop when the pair met), his cousin Leyton on whistle, real strings courtesy of Violetta, and a whole lot more.
With it’s provocative, mafia-alluding title, Hogarth/Chapman Brothers inspired cover by artist Pure Evil and a no-longer-present sample of Prince Charles (removed for litigious reasons), ‘Abolition..’ continues The Orb’s recent run of records which protest against the establishment, albeit in their own roundabout and idiosyncratic way.
The album is in part inspired by and in retrospective protest of the royal family’s historical endorsement of the East India Company’s opium trade, which was hugely damaging to India and caused two wars with China in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Humour, samples, deep ambience, cerebral throbbing dub, classic house, the white island, hip hop, psych and heartbreakingly beautiful contemporary composition are recognisably present, as is, perhaps less expectedly, a proudly pop element.”
Few do cinematic sorrow quite like Poland’s Jacaszek and ‘Music For Film’ spans 20 years of his bleakest, most seductively sad and spectral works for film in 10 pieces that patently make for a beautiful album.
Epitomising a certain, haunted nature and emotive clout we’d associate with soundtracks for bleak Polish and Eastern European cinema, Jacaszek’s various strands of work for documentary, fantasy and TV drama seep together in the creepily paced sequence of events and spectral apparitions that unfold within the ambient-classical-concrete interzones of his ‘Music For Film’.
Etched in chiaroscuro over broad canvasses from a palette of field recordings, acoustic sampling, poetry and baroque instrumentation, his music trustingly evokes the dark fairytales and hardbitten dramas he’s been sought out to score, but removed from those contexts and replaced into an album sequence, the suggestive essence of Jacaszek’s music becomes more versatile, lending itself to your own swoon-worthy scenes and perhaps most acutely, often as a crushing elegy for the times.
RIYL Deathprod, Deaf Center, Jóhann Jóhannsson, and this one’s among the most convincing examples of his chilling abilities.
Imagine a J-Pop loving BoC doing a computer game soundtrack and you have the beautiful ‘Oneknowing’ by Lena Raine; composer of award-winning indie platform game ‘Celeste’, who recently collaborated with Hans Zimmer on the opening theme for The Game Awards 2018 (the Oscars of the gamer world)
A sterling addition to Local Action’s optimist-futurist aesthetic, Lena’s first solo LP proper (if we discount her soundtrack works) finds her putting a finely honed emotive and narrative sensibilities at the service of her own music. Separated from the need to accompany hopping pixels, she emotes a classically modernist melancholy that crisply but gently resonates with ‘90s trip hop, shoegaze and IDM/electronica prisms as much as the sort of Japanese new age ambient styles currently explored by Visible Cloaks.
Considering that the last computer game I played was probably Abe’s Odyssey, as a nipper, around 20 years ago, our knowledge of contemporary game soundtracks is limited to say the least. But no knowledge of that arena is required to enjoy ‘Oneknowing’, which is simply a beautiful album for home listening, utterly flush with ear-worming melodies and and a glowing pleasantness that’s just hard to shake, especially if you like anything from Tenniscoats to Ulrich Schnauss, Boards of Canada or 0PN.
Ruskin and Broom’s electronica duo The Fear Ratio knit ruggedly offset rhythm programming with atmospheric anguish in their 2nd album for Skam.
"The duo, who are long-term collaborators have created their own signature style with abstract synths, heavy basslines and experimental soundscapes that fit somewhere in between IDM, electronica and ambient.
Their acclaimed debut album ‘Lightbox’ was initially released in 2011 on Ruskin’s Blueprint Records, featuring remixes from Warp aficionados Plaid and Deadhand. Soon after they formed a long-lasting relationship with cult Manchester based label Skam, with the follow-up album in 2015 ‘Refuge of a Twisted Soul’. 2018 saw a four track ‘Live EP’ release made up of exclusive versions of their Autechre supporting slot at the Great Northern Warehouse in Manchester,
Several years and various solo productions later, The Fear Ratio return with an album that solidifies their reputation as experimental producers. From the ethereal opening bars of ‘Sender’ slowly twisting into a brooding dub breakbeat, to the staccato, bugged out atmospherics of ‘Grey Code’, ghostly electronics of ‘Small World’, tripped out, schizophrenic hip hop haunting bass of ‘Game Plan’ and sun-dappled keys of ‘The Final Vision’ Broom & Ruskin flex their techno muscles ever further beyond the floor."
RIYL Wooden Shjips, Beach House, Richard Dawson, Endless Boogie.
"Arbouretum’s mystic folk-rock uses English folk, country blues, Americana and 70s psychedelia as touchpoints in their singular and distinctive sound and they’ve perfected the craft of storytelling, using a delicate interplay of melodies and prosaic lyrics. ‘Let It All’ In is their most accomplished and evocative album yet. Guitarist and vocalist Dave Heumann’s melodies and solos remain a central focus, bolstered by the hypnotic rhythms of bassist Corey Allender and drummer Brian Carey, enhanced by Matthew Pierce’s substantial yet understated keyboard figures. Each song a vivid scene or tale; Heumann’s deep sense of spirituality and command of storytelling through myth and metaphor transports the listener to another world and time."
Key Kompakt player Jörg Burger plots out a sort of imaginary soundtrack compilation spanning his own mix of Marcus Schmickler’s Pluramon thru to shuffling trips from Superpitcher, the peyote-buzz psyche trek of Rebolledo and Paulor, and spaghetti western-sounding chug from The Novotones
“With Velvet Desert Music Vol. 2, curator Jörg Burger has intensified his vision for this new series of compilations on Kompakt. The music he’s collected here has a unique vibration, perhaps an audio equivalent to the legendary ‘acid Western’ films of the 1960s and 1970s, when the wild frontier logic of the western met the consciousness-altering psychedelia of the counterculture.
‘Velvet Desert Music’ is Burger exploring possibilities: what happens when you extract the essence from genres as diverse as spaghetti Western soundtracks, moody lamp-lit pop, downtempo, Krautrock, minimalism, classic ‘60s psychedelia, and more, and let their scents intermingle, Des Esseintes-style?
On Velvet Desert Music Vol. 2, Burger welcomes back old friends – Fantastic Twins, Sascha Funke, Paulor, Rebolledo, Superpitcher, The Novotones – and also introduces some exciting new names, such as Golden Bug and The Limiñanas, Mount Obsidian (aka César Urbina / Cubenx), and Lake Turner. Marcus Schmickler’s Pluramon project appears, remixed by Burger, and Michael Mayer makes his first appearance with “Not So Far Away”.”
Stately neo-classical gestures meet seething metal influences in a brooding suite for cello by Helen Money (Sleep/Neurosis/Rachel’s).
“Helen Money stands as one of the most unique and versatile cellists working today. Composer Alison Chesley uses the instrument to access and channel the extremities of human emotion, employing extensive sonic manipulation and an array of plucking and bowing techniques to summon an astonishing breadth and depth of sound. A prolific collaborator, Chesley is equally at home in both New Music and Metal circles. Past albums saw her collaborate with Jason Roeder (Sleep/Neurosis) and Rachel Grimes (Rachel’s), and she has toured extensively with Shellac, Russian Circles, Earth, Bob Mould and MONO. On her new album Atomic, Chesley pushes even further out towards the extremes of her output with a daring leap forward in her songwriting through minimalist arrangements that stand as her most intimate, direct, and emotionally bare work to date.
Atomic was written during a period of transition for Chesley and her family. She explains: “After my parents passed away, we had to find new ways to be - with ourselves and each other. The whole process brought us closer together, strengthening the bonds between the three of us; between us and our friends; between us and my extended family. My sister and brother and I would often get together at my brother’s house in the Redwoods of Northern California. Being there with them, looking up at these giant trees that were there long before we were, looking up at the Milky Way, looking out at the Pacific Ocean - it just gave me a sense of perspective and how connected we all are to everything.” The experience of recalibrating herself in the world came to subconsciously inform Atomic’s searching tone, Chesley pushing her music to surprising new places just as she and her family moved into a new phase of their lives.
While writing Atomic, Chesley went through a process or stripping back compositions to the bare essentials, revealing more of herself than even before while opening up new spaces for sonic exploration and contemplation. Opener “Midnight” and “Understory” see Chesley weave sparse layers of cello into vaporous ambient atmospheres bristling with intensity. “Brave One” stands as one of the most spartan moments on the record, constructed around two cello parts, with a subtle electronic pulse enhancing the rhythmic drive of Chesley’s strumming. Visceral peaks are provided in the pummeling industrial rhythms of the latter half of “Nemesis”, or mountainous riffing on “Coil”, recalling the volume and intensity of Chesley’s earlier work but made all the more impactful by their positioning alongside more subdued pieces. Within the album’s minimalist structures Chesley still finds plenty of room for experimentation, writing for the harp for the first time on “Coppe” and enhancing acoustic instrumentation with modular electronics provided by collaborator Will Thomas. The breadth of ideas explored throughout give Atomic a distinctive ebb and flow; an oblique narrative that conjures distinctive and palpable emotions without being prescriptive.”
Cult debut album of sharply studied, spiky but tape-frayed post-punk bullets served deliciously cold and maudlin by Minsk, Belarus-based Molchat Doma.
“When S Krysh Nashikh Domov the debut album by Molchat Doma, was released in 2017, it announced a bold new voice in underground music. The album found a passionate audience on Bandcamp and other streaming services and was released on CD and cassette. Sacred Bones Records is proud to present the album on vinyl for the first time.
Molchat Doma (translated as “Houses Are Silent”), founded in 2017 in Minsk, Belarus, stands at the intersection of post-punk, new-wave and synth-pop. Dark yet danceable, and with a heavy dose of goth ethos, their music is reminiscent of the masters that predate them, but make no mistake: Molchat Doma creates a sound and meaning that is immediately recognizable as all their own. The band is comprised of Egor Shkutko, who sings the Russian lyrics in his deep monotone, Roman Komogortsev on guitar, synths, and drum machine, and Pavel Kozlov on bass and synths."
Aporia is a New Age album from Sufjan Stevens and his step-father and record label co-owner, Lowell Brams.
"In the spirit of the New Age composers who sanded off the edges of their synths’ sawtooth waves, Aporia approximates a rich soundtrack from an imagined sci-fi epic brimming with moody, hooky, gauzy synthesizer soundscapes.
The album may suggest the progeny of a John Carpenter, Wendy Carlos and Mike Oldfield marriage but it stands apart from these touchstones and generates a meditative universe all its own. This is no mere curio in the Sufjan Stevens catalogue but a fully realized collaborative musical piece."
Empathetic ambient siblings Roger & Brian Eno gently experiment with synaesthetic sound-colour pieces inspired by Schubert on 18 MIDI visions recorded over the last 15 years. It’s super sweet stuff, a necessary balm for current states of psychic anxiety.
“Roger and Brian Eno explore the nature of sound in their first ever duo album, Mixing Colours. The album’s eighteen soundscapes invite listeners to immerse themselves in the infinite space that lies below their surface. Coming out on Deutsche Grammophon.
Mixing Colours grew over a number of years, with both artists drawing on their long experience as composers, performers and producers. The creative process began with Roger Eno playing individual pieces and recording them using a MIDI keyboard. He then sent digital MIDI files of these recordings to his older brother, who set each piece in its own particular sound world, by revising and manipulating its content. Their exchange developed an effortless dynamic as the project unfolded.
The earliest pieces on Mixing Colours began life around 2005, but were not originally thought about as part of a larger body of work. “We weren’t directing this towards an end result – it was like a back-and-forth conversation we were having over a 15-year period,” says Roger. “I’d wake up, go straight upstairs, put my equipment on and improvise, then I sent things to Brian that I thought he might be interested in. The idea for a full album emerged as the number of pieces kept increasing and the results kept being interesting. It’s something that neither of us could have arrived at alone”.
Mixing Colours creates bridges between the music’s past and future. Roger’s compositions evoke the yearning melodic style of late Schubert while Brian’s sound design draws from his ground-breaking conceptual work with electronic music and lifelong fascination with the creative potential of new media. Over the past half century, he notes, the pop world has developed electronic music’s enormous possibilities to create previously unimagined sound colours and instrumental timbres.
Brian observes: “With classical instruments the clarinet represents a little island of sound, the viola another, and the grand piano yet another. Each instrument is a finite set of sonic possibilities, one island in the limitless ocean of all the possible sounds that you could make. What’s happened with electronics is that all the spaces in between those islands are being explored, yielding new sounds that have never previously existed. It has been a huge pleasure for me to explore that ocean with Roger’s unique compositions.”
All but one of the recording’s eighteen tracks have colour-related titles – “Burnt Umber”, “Obsidian” and “Verdigris” among them – comparable to those often attached to abstract paintings. Together they create a deep meditation on shifting tonal shades and contrasts in timbre. The final track, the haunting “Slow Movement: Sand”, strips music back to its bare essentials of tone colour, timbre and pulse.
Mixing Colours, adds Roger, stemmed from their shared artistic, musical and literary interests to become a work of genuine collaboration. “The more you listen to this album, particularly with the fabulous worlds that Brian has created, you can really walk into its enormous landscape and stay.”
The album artwork features abstract paintings by artist Dom Theobald, including a striking piece given as a gift by Roger to Brian.”
Featuring Lucy Railton, Ryoko Akama, Sarah Hughes, Sofia Jernberg, Pia Palme, Adam Parkinson, Pat Thomas and Dafne Vicente-Sandoval
"Transversal Time was composed by Rhodri Davies in 2017. For its starting point it assigns different time systems – Standard Time, Decimal Time and Hex Time – to individual musicians. As a composition it encompasses many of those sensations and perceptions of time that are embodied by music. Improvising musicians develop acute sensitivities to body clock, breath, pulses and the silent transformations of time-between-time.
So a musician’s heightened, fluid time becomes enfolded in this narrative situated within the house of clocks, all of them ‘telling’ different times. Also buried under the surface of the piece is François Jullien’s book, In Praise of Blandness, an exploration of the ancient Chinese value system based on simplicity, extreme subtlety and the paradox of sounds that deepen in the mind of the listener if they are not fully sounded, better still left silent so that they retain something secret and virtual within. “In short,” writes Jullien, “they remain heavy with promise.” (David Toop)
Human Impoact are Chris Spencer (Unsane, UXO) Jim Coleman (Cop Shoot Cop) Chris Pravdica (Swans, Xiu Xiu) Phil Puleo (Cop Shoot Cop, Swans).
"The band's first recordings are a dark mirror held up to the band’s collective pre-history. It’s sound is cinematic post-industrial filth rock, a dozen run down subway stops away from recognizable civilization, as futuristic as it is grounded in its sordid heritage. The result is a potent, hard-boiled distillation of this sonic ethos."
Fully remastered edition of Hassell’s debut trip into the Fourth World for Lovely Music, now prepped from original master tapes and packaged with sleeve notes by Hassell and Eno for optimal immersion in their oddly familiar world, and on occasion of the 2020 Vernal Equinox.
Hailed in Pitchfork’s 50 best ambient of all time list, ‘Vernal Equinox’ charts the first bold and probing trips by trumpeter Jon Hassell into a parallel dimension that exists between jazz, dub, Indian raga, and new age ambient. Released in 1977, it was one of the groundbreaking albums of its era, channeling a wealth of inspirations into an imaginative framework that would come to resonate with many other listeners and musicians, but in a much more fully formed, if dreamlike, style.
This dream would come to more resounding fruition with 1980’s ‘Fourth World, Vol.1: Possible Musics’, co-produced by Brian Eno, but in ‘Vernal Equinox’ it’s possible to hear a primordial and enigmatic genesis of what would become known as Fourth World music, with Hassell accompanied by Lovely Music’s avant-garde brigade (David Rosenboom, Nana Vasconcelos, Bill Winant) to effectively bridge Miles Davis’ forays into Indian music with the emergent appeal of more meditative New Age, and open up whole new avenues of exploration for future generations in the process, from Skaters to 0PN and Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith.
A classic in its field.
10 years since his debut, Container holds his line of bolshy, distorted machine rhythms for Alter.
Bringing his studio recordings closer than ever to the sound of his cultishly praised live shows, ‘Scramblers’ is as much mucky fun as the nippy motorbikes it’s named after. With the possible addition of some new software or bit of kit that gives this record a really nasty edge, he tears out between the evil revs of the title cut hacking up pure electro-punk havoc with ‘Nozzle’ and jabs like Rian Treanor on PCP with ‘Mottle’ and ‘Queaser’, with he spring-loaded rage of ‘Haircut’ and the scum bucket razz of ‘Duster’ there to clean any meat left on your dancing bones.
Max de Wardener returns to Village Green with an album of detuned acoustic piano pieces, performed by British jazz pianist Kit Downes (ECM).
"Drawing inspiration from modernist composers James Tenney, Harry Partch and La Monte Young, de Wardener's intentions here were 'to try and bend something established and monumental into something new'. The resulting album is deceptively simple, belying the project's myriad technical challenges, (pianos are immensely stubborn when subject to unorthodox tuning methods).
Captured over a two year period, Downes' enlivening improvisations do justice to de Wardener's vision in creating an elegant record that feels at once familiar, yet otherworldly."
Rustin Man aka Paul Webb returns with a new album, Clockdust – his second in two years.
"Having waited 17 years for 'Drift Code', some may be surprised at Clockdust’s swift arrival, but the album’s roots can be found in the same extended sessions. “Early on I realised I had two albums worth of material,” Webb explains. “The first tunes I wrote were electric guitar based, with long arrangements that built up in layers to something sonically quite dense. These became the bulk of Drift Code. As a reaction, I wrote a batch of songs that were tighter in their structure but had more feeling of space. These make up the bulk of Clockdust.”
Once he’d identified each song’s greater role, Webb took pains to ensure the albums would stand alone. “Through the year of mixing and releasing Drift Code,” he continues, “I made a conscious effort not to listen to Clockdust. It became some long-lost twin everybody had forgotten. There was an older, wiser atmosphere to it, more cinematic, but in a romantic way”.
Clockdust draws upon an armoury of instruments, some, like the euphonium, unfamiliar in such contexts, and plenty – the kokoriko, the okónkolo – with even more unfamiliar names. Each track, too, indicates Webb’s fondness for the path less travelled, its twists and turns at first jarring but soon intuitive. That they’re embellished by a voice which has seemingly endured many lifetimes emphasises their mysterious nature. That its recording was soundtracked by Jacques Brel, Jet Harris and Kurt Weill no doubt contributed too. That many songs are inspired by old movies enhances their ageless atmosphere yet further.
Lead single “Jackie’s Room” is about a dysfunctional yet romantic relationship in which the protagonist believes “as long as she’s desired, she’ll never grow old” and the resulting track sways with the grace of its aging seductress. “I think of the album as containing stories from people who’ve reached their present situation through many years of experiences,” Webb says.
Idiosyncratic and quietly haunting, Clockdust is seeped in sepia-tinted nostalgia, “a powerful force of nature,” Webb states, “up there with love and desire”. The album blurs the boundaries between past and present. Webb insists that he prefers to live in the here and now, but in looking back he’s found a magical, mesmerising manner in which to forge a path forward: for him, for his music, and for his audience.
Alongside the album announcement, Rustin Man announces three very special live dates including London’s Union Chapel. These are the first live dates for Webb since 2003 – when he and Beth Gibbons performed their record Out of Season – and the first ever live dates in his Rustin Man solo guise. On stage, Webb will be joined by five other players, the core of which are Belgium musicians who played on the Dez Mona album, Hilfe Kommt, that Webb produced in 2009. Webb says “I’m excited and privileged to be working with this set of musicians. They already have a great understanding between them, and the unique atmosphere they create is very much in check with how I see Rustin Man music being interpreted live.”
Ian William Craig draws on grief and love in an exceptionally sore and bare new album - his first in 18 months - making heavily emotive use of solo piano, frayed tapes and heart-hurt vocals.
Uncannily timed for the current state of humanity and its need for reflective composure and cathartic expression, ‘Red Sun Through Smoke’ is a powerful new body of work by IWC, who has become widely beloved for his textured tape recordings with Recital and FatCat’s 130701 label over the past decade. Taking the experience of personal loss and finding new love whilst forest fires raged in British Colombia as inspiration, IWC transmutes his feelings into rough gold across 12 of the most stripped back, direct and affective songs in his catalogue.
The background to ‘Red Sun Through Smoke’ is almost hard to believe. Ian travelled to his grandfather’s house to record an album while his gramps resided in a car home. But upon arrival his grandfather was taken gravely ill and moved to palliative care, where he sadly died two weeks later. During this time, as life would have it, Ian met someone special and fell in love, but they promptly moved to Paris, 5000 miles away. A long distance relationship flourished while Ian also grieved and wrote the music of ‘Red Sun Through Smoke’ against a backdrop of thick smoke, in a small house shared with his parents. Understandably, many of us would crack or unravel under this sort of stress, but Ian turned the intensity of the situation into a master opus.
Pared back to keys, vocal, shortwave radio and tape, the recordings find IWC at his most vulnerable, with a vocal captured naked to tape and then mixed on vintage 4-track with shortwave static and tape infidelities to poetically represent his situation, as he attempted to follow and come to terms with his thoughts amid scenes of emotive confusion. The results are inarguably, soulfully profound from the multitrack choral greeting of ‘Random’ to the elegiac resolution of ‘Stories’, following the artist’s bewildered state of mind between heart-breaking songs such as ‘Supper’ and its stark refrain, “We had grief for supper”, the doomy majesty of ‘Open Like a Loss’, and the devastating smoky stillness of ‘Last of the Lantern Oil’ where his touch for textured, dreamlike tones is at its most traumatised.
Max Graef and Julius Conrad’s Ratgrave dip their toes in jazz-fusion with debonaire results that also make room for splashes of experimental sound design. One for fans of later Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock as much as Ramzi and 12th Isle.
In their own words: “Rock is the essence of energy and vibration we felt in different styles of music, almost like a parallel component connecting all things we like. In the process of recording the new album we kept coming back to this essence no matter what style the original idea was. There was the raw and brutal energy of Jazz-Rock, a lot of video game influences that somehow adhered this essence just as well as quieter Pop and Psychedelic passages that we recorded. Among other things we absorbed a lot of heavy music during the time of the recording like Blue Cheer, Black Sabbath, Frank Zappa or Jimi Hendrix and realized while writing our own music how much impact they had even on quieter songs. This is why ‘Rock’ felt like the perfect title although the music ranges from P-Funk and Spiritual Jazz to various styles of Pop and beyond.”
Låpsley's highly-anticipated second album titled Through Water, is the follow up to her 2016 album Long Way Home, one of that year’s most acclaimed debuts.
"Released while she was still a teenager, Long Way Home featured Låpsley’s breakthrough moments ‘Station’ and ‘Falling Short’ and spawned one of the biggest club tracks in recent years (DJ Koze's edit of "Operator") as well as inspiring a new generation of electronically minded songwriters including Billie Eilish, who namechecked it as a key influence on her sound.
Through Water is without doubt Låpsley’s most accomplished work to date, written and recorded during her transition into young womanhood. With Låpsley as the major producer and songwriter, the ten songs (whittled down from over one hundred) reflect her newfound confidence, clarity and self-awareness as an artist, documenting a wealth of personal experiences and coming-of-age stories set against a thematic backdrop of water, climate, weather and the elements."
Mixtape and club specialist DJ/producer, Judith Biffiger aka Sassy J rounds up exclusive deep house and broken beats for Rush Hour following her sets for Altered Soul Experiment, RA, TTT
Named after her Bern/London-based club night of 14 years, ‘Patchwork’ is introduced by a gorgeous spoken word piece by Farrah Boulé, before the Swiss DJ glides between exclusive turns by Dego in his 2000Black guise ‘Plastic Jam’, to the other half of 4Hero with Marc Clair’s brilliant ‘Mirror Images’ from Nu-Era’s ‘Beyond Gravity’ (1994), along with the chromatic acid colours of ‘The Projector’ by Gifted & Blessed, the triplet-helmed swag of Aardvarck’s ‘Aap Noot’, Mr. Fingers’ silky ’Survivor’ (1992), and the infectious hustle of ‘Jelly Bubble Rise’ by Alex Attias & herself, plus the earthy depths of Georgia Anen Muldrow’s ‘Always’.
Ultraísta, aka Joey Waronker, Laura Bettinson and Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich reyurn with a 2nd album.
“It’s a collection that defies easy categorization, and one that proves that Ultraísta — GRAMMY-winning producer/engineer/musician Nigel Godrich, best known for his two decades helming Radiohead’s groundbreaking studio output; celebrated drummer Joey Waronker, who’s toured and recorded with everyone from R.E.M. and Beck to Roger Waters and Elliott Smith; and singer Bettinson, an acclaimed solo artist whose work combines synth-driven electropop and dreamy vocal looping — is far more than just the sum of its remarkable parts.”
Espers’ self-titled first release appeared in 2004, heralding an era in which there was a perception of back-to-the-roots in the underground; kids making new music that spoke strongly of folk traditions and psychedelia, in the process setting themselves apart from latter-day sounds and approaches.
"Espers didn’t shy away from this image, projecting a collective air, almost like a rural outpost, out of time and place in the urban environs of Philadelphia. The staid harmonies of Meg Baird and Greg Weeks, the 6- and 12-string guitars and percussion of Brooke Sietinsons, the full-bodied arrangements rife with traditional and classical details and the regular intervention of acid-toned guitar leads formed, along with the mystic and melancholy cast to their songwriting, a galvanizing identity for them among other like-minded music players of the day."
The second Espers album, ‘The Weed Tree’, was released in 2005.
"It was a nearly inevitable endeavour for the group, made almost entirely of cover material but the traditional folk songs - ‘Rosemary Lane’ and ‘Black Is the Color’ - were paired with songs by Nico, Michael Hurley and even Blue Oyster Cult, making for an oblique run through eclectic aspects of the past that succeeded due to Espers’ thorough re-imagining of the material in their own image. The addition of current members Helen Espvall on cello and Otto Hauser on drums and percussion upped the alchemy of the band to its most potent, making music that drew from tradition but making it new at the same time.
Espers, existing in between places, were a part of a flow of ideation that has as much to do with revelations from the 70s or 60s - with all the decades of the last century, really - as it does with the current expressions in favour of selfhood and safety that are struggled over today. Their music has retained a mysterious, unknowable vitality that, in the name of their original intention, continues to express Espers’ individualism, optimism and deeply empathetic soul."
New album of melodic jackers, swingers, downbeats and ambient interludes by Kieran Hebden’s Four Tet
Four Tet’s music is a perhaps too-easy-to-understand yet still a perplexing perennial concern. With ’Sixteen Ocean’ he reels off 10 tracks of signature, lilting rhythmelodic cadence at an unhurried pace, including his ‘Teenage Birdsong’ tune. Nice surprise on the D side as well.
One of the strongest debut albums we've heard in years, Nazar’s ‘Guerrilla’ is a record about the Angolan civil war that we reckon will come to be one of the defining albums of 2020
Relaying the tragedy and terror of his family’s experience of war, Nazar uses a highly distinctive sound design palette and manacled grasp of what he calls “rough kuduro” rhythms to bring listeners deep into his mindset. While essentially impressionistic, Nazar vividly dramatises the theatre of war in a way that’s perhaps needless to say, authentic; drawing on his parents’ first-hand accounts and his own familiarity of the war’s aftermath, including his Rank General father’s writings and his mother’s oral recollections, to supply a shocking record that doesn’t shirk from the gore and adrenaline, while acknowledging sensations of blissed relief and optimism amid its scrambled con-fusion of feelings.
As previewed in 2018’s remarkable ‘Enclave’ EP, Nazar’s singular sound naturally bears a strong relationship to the Kuduro futurism of artists on Lisbon’s Príncipe label, however his use of cinematic tropes and a visionary style of narrative arrangement distinguishes his sound in its own lane. Setting the scene with the resigned negative ecstasy of ‘Retaliation’, Nazar becomes a physical presence via his vocal duet with Shannen SP, who returns from the ‘Enclave’ EP to supply icy gynoid vox to his blunted rap in ‘Bunker’, before lead single ‘UN Sanctions’ comes off like Klein’s hauntological elegies taken to the club, and the thrilling kuduro skirmish ’Immortal’ gives way to the contrasting, blissed succour of ‘Mother’ at the LP’s heart. But that relief is short-lived as the album’s final section stakes its message brutally clearly in the end scenes, running between his ravenous ‘Arms Deal’ to the schizzy but exactingly disciplined trample of ‘Why’, and the triumphant yet heartbroken denouement in ‘End Of Guerrilla’.
Where Burial somehow bridged a sort of maudlin vibe with still glowing embers of UK dance music in a style that became known as hauntology, Nazar follows to use a similar technique to distill and connote the pathology of war and its aftermath in a way that’s equally vital as a timeless expression of contemporary concerns on how the past plays out in the present day.
Radiant fusion of motorik polyrhythms with strings and electronics in a systems-based music, think Don’t DJ meets Four Tet
“Free-thinking Nova Scotia composer, musician and visual artist Jay Crocker (aka JOYFULTALK) channels Minimalism, Japanese environmental music, Maghrebian rhythmic modes and other numinous folkways to create his most focused, vibrant work to date. Based on a monumental, kaleidoscopic graphic score, A Separation Of Being is translated from two-dimensional page to trans-dimensional aural life using an array of homemade instruments, crowned with a majestic string arrangement written by Crocker and performed by Polaris and Juno winner Jesse Zubot (Tanya Tagaq, Destroyer).
Visual scores often provoke ideas of openness, interpretation, improv and fluidity. JOYFULTALK’s third album, and second for Constellation, is an altogether different beast. This three-part suite is airtight; interlocking arcs of polyrhythmic deep groove and new minimalism roll out in spellbinding propulsion, the music gathering its warmth from the strings and its peculiarities from Crocker’s bespoke instrumentation and analog clockworks. The separation of being here is not division or rupture, but buoyant freedom through conduction of circulatory energies, marked by flowing melodic rondos of gyrating strings and sonic pointillism. A Separation Of Being is a systems music feast for the heart and mind.”
‘The Crying Space’ is a gorgeous suite of collaged sound art from 1990/1991 by Danish Fluxus artist Eric Andersen, finding a beautifully sympathetic ear with Sean McCann’s Recital where it slots among their singularly poetic works by RIP Hayman, Geoffrey Hendricks, Anne Tardos, Sarah Davachi
“"The Crying Space holds music and sounds to spawn tears. This double-CD is comprised of two sound pieces by the Fluxus artist Eric Andersen (b. Denmark, 1940). The first CD, Le Chemin Des Larmes, is a sound collage made for French radio broadcast in 1990. Fragile narrations in French and English by the artist and other voice actors, played over a streaming assemblage of tragic classical music. The sound crying, that of a professional Karelian mourner, is infused periodically. The texts describe the social and scientific nature of tears, in the context of Andersen's worldwide 'Crying Space' installations, which the artist describes in detail:
'The first Crying Spaces were made in Holland, England and Scandinavia in 1959/60. They were made quite simple by drawing a circle on the ground and to step inside to Cry. Crying is the only means of human communication that cannot be decoded and interpreted with certainty. You can observe a person Crying but can never determine why without additional information. It could be sadness, joy, pain, exhaustion, pleasure, relief or a particle of dust in the eye. However, if you analyze the hormones and crystals in each tear, you can with scientific certainty declare the specific reason for that particular Crying session. After innumerable Crying Spaces all over the world I had an offer to work with the famous marble from the notorious town of Guilietta and Romeo, Verona, Italy. The Verona Rosso. The editor Francesco Conz from Verona offered to publish an edition in Verona Rosso. Here, I found the opportunity to materialize the old Greek saying that the most fragile and ephemeral part of the human body, The Tears, eventually will change and shape the most solid parts of the world. The Crying Stone saw the light of the Day. Unfortunately not in an edition of seven billions (one for each inhabitant of Earth) but in a number of 19. For each stone a most elegant wooden box in mahogany was made. In this way you could travel with your Crying Stone and have it handy for all occasions.'
The second CD, The Crying Place, is the soundtrack to installations at Emily Harvey Foundation in 1990 and Galerie J & J Donguy in 1991. Scarce cassette editions were made for these exhibitions. This is a 30-minute complete recording of a professional mourner as they cry and holler in sympathetic pain. The crying becomes songlike, as the weeping modulates and ebbs." --Sean McCann
‘Morton Feldman Piano’ is a major 5CD collection of virtually all of Feldman’s music for piano, performed by Philip Thomas with a tactility befitting of this extraordinary, quiet, intimate music. It’s the most extensive survey of Feldman’s piano music since John Tilbury’s long unavailable 4-CD set was released 20 years ago, including several pieces which weren’t included there, and three works which have never been released on disc before at all.
Feldman was part of a radical group of experimenters, alongside the likes of John Cage, Christian Wolff and Earle Brown, who looked beyond the strictures of serialism to innovative with and embrace aspects of chance and “indeterminacy” in their compositions. Most often associated with the piano, Feldman is perhaps best known for his perceptively time-slowing later works, but this boxset presents the widest angle possible on his approach to the piano, spanning surprisingly cranky recordings from the 1940s thru to the exquisite delicacy of his acclaimed ‘Triadic Memories’ and ultimately ‘Palais de Mari’ in 1986. Feldman died in 1987, leaving behind a remarkable catalogue that has previously been tackled by John Tilbury in the 4CD set ‘All Piano’ (1999), which is now long out of print and trades for triple figures on the 2nd hand market, making this boxset of Philip Thomas’ Feldman interpretations an even more indispensable collection.
Accompanied by pianist Philip Thomas’ lucubrate and extensive book of notes on Feldman’s music, its development, unique notation, and his close personal relationship with it, ‘Morton Feldman Piano’ methodically and artfully unpackages the great composer’s often forbiddingly vast oeuvre for anyone looking for a way in or seeking to enrich their knowledge of his life and work. In great depth, Thomas writes about Feldman’s holistic approach, recognising the connection between ears, mind, and fingertips which resulted in the music’s quietly extreme dynamic, and which singularly revolutionised historic approaches to the instrument thru the artist’s attempt at refusing attack in the notes - essentially a near-impossible idea when considering that the piano is a percussive instrument, and needs to be hit to be played. The sensitivity of the results are quite astonishing, and most beautifully executed and evidenced in Thomas’ playing throughout all 31 pieces included.
While the later works will be well known to even the casual Feldman follower, and are sure to entrance newcomers, his early and mid-period works between the late ‘40s and into the ‘60s provide a fascinating grounding for his sound and style, ranging from a solemnly inquisitive ‘Untitled piano piece’ (1942) to the almost jazzy flourishes of ‘Illusions’ (1949), thru to his increasingly sparser ‘Music for the film ‘Sculpture by Lipton’’ (1954), and up to the barely there ‘Piano Piece’ (1964) before he took a 13 year hiatus from writing for solo piano (although he would still write parts for piano in larger ensembles), only returning to it with ‘Piano’ (1977).
Yet for all the technicality and philosophy surrounding Feldman’s compositional process, it remains to be said that his music is strikingly easy on the ear. With a little focus and patience in the right mindset, Feldman’s music has the capacity to lead the thinking mind into unusual places, and as his catalogue proceeds, it becomes an increasing pleasure to find the notes flickering, illuminating contrasts with the shadows of his lacunae.