Featuring 10 original pieces of instrumental music by PJ Harvey, as well as two new songs written by Harvey and sung by Gillian Anderson and Lily James.
"On composing this score, Harvey says, “I have always loved stories, and so to compose music to support and enhance a story being told is a challenge I enjoy. I also love the freedom that working instrumentally can give me without the constraints of song form. “For ‘All About Eve’ I chose to work with my long-time collaborator James Johnston as he has a soulfulness and sensitivity to his playing that inspires me. I also worked with Kenrick Rowe who has a versatility to his drumming I knew I could experiment with until I found what was right.”
Floating Points links jazz and electronica on his 3rd studio album, ‘Crush’, following from ‘Elaenia’ and a handful of interim club excursions. From milky ambient to woozy garage and modular experiments.
“Fresh from the release earlier this year of his compilation of lambent, analogous ambient and atmospheric music for the esteemed Late Night Tales compilation series, Floating Points’ first album in four years, Crush, twists whatever you think you know about him on its head again. A tempestuous blast of electronic experimentalism whose title alludes to the pressure-cooker of the current environment we find ourselves in. As a result, Shepherd has made some of his heaviest, most propulsive tracks yet, nodding to the UK bass scene he emerged from in the late 2000s, such as the dystopian low-end bounce of previously shared striking lead single ‘LesAlpx’ (Pitchfork’s ‘Best New Track’), but there are also some of his most expressive songs on Crush: his signature melancholia is there in the album’s sublime mellower moments or in the Buchla synthesizer, whose eerie modulation haunts the album.
Whereas Elaenia was a five-year process, Crush was made during an intense five-week period, inspired by the invigorating improvisation of his shows supporting The xx in 2017. He had just finished touring with his own live ensemble, culminating in a Coachella appearance, when he suddenly became a one-man band, just him and his trusty Buchla opening up for half an hour every night. He thought what he’d come out with would "be really melodic and slow- building" to suit the mood of the headliners, but what he ended up playing was "some of the most obtuse and aggressive music I've ever made, in front of 20,000 people every night," he says. "It was liberating."
His new album feels similarly instantaneous – and vital. It’s the sound of the many sides of Floating Points finally fusing together. It draws from the "explosive" moments during his sets, the moments that usually occur when he throws together unexpected genres, for the very simple reason that he gets excited about wanting to "hear this record, really loud, now!" and then puts the needle on. It’s "just like what happens when you’re at home playing music with your friends and it's going all over the place," he says.”
Sal Principato (Liquid Liquid), Shabazz Palaces, Tune-Yards, and Xenia Rubinos guest on Battles’ 4th studio album of mathy, scattershot percussion and cranky melodic calculations.
“Battles return this autumn with Juice B Crypts on Warp Records to follow their complex, mind-bending predecessors Mirrored, Gloss Drop and La Di Da Di. Their latest album is a sensory overload of information that throws everything you thought you knew about Battles into flux once again. Battles redefined line-up puts Ian Williams (Keys, Electronics) and John Stanier (Drums) at the core of the covertly named Juice B Crypts, which was produced and mixed by Chris Tabron (Trash Talk, Mobb Deep, Ratking).”
Posthumous LP of lush Susumu Yokota sketches written around ‘The Boy And The Tree’ (2002), newly dusted down and issued to mark the 5th anniversary of his untimely departure.
Widely adored for his quintessential contributions to Japanese ambient electronica in the ‘90s and ‘00s, Susumu Yokota passed in 2015 after along battle with illness. His legacy is suitably sustained with ‘Cloud Hidden’, a lovely collection of 10 unfinished but charming works which are here adapted and remained by Jon Tye; proprietor of the Lo Recordings label behind many of Yokota’s most prized releases.
Following Mark Beazley of Rothko’s discovery of a DAT of sketches dating to before Yokota’s fan favourite ‘The Boy And The Tree’, Jon Tye has done his best to “honour the spirit and legacy of Yokota’s work by completing the tracks in a way which I thought he would approve”, resulting a 10 tracks suite that sensitively forms an illusive yet tangible bridge between the artist and his unfinished collection.
Working under a quote taken from Alan Watts’ book ‘Cloud-Hidden, Whereabouts Unknown’, the set comes together with a suitably dreamy resolution, drifting from frayed and gently febrile rhythm excursions to passages of schizoid carnival music and doom belch, and thru to Vangelis-like synth-brass scaping, desert-at-night guitar strums, and more psychedelic, pre-dawn ritual invocations.
Clams Casino, Oliver Coates, Julianna Barwick and Brian Reitzell join in the melancholy frolics of Jacques Greene’s 2nd album of proggy garage trance with LuckyMe
“A bold step forward, Dawn Chorus is also Greene’s most collaborative project to date, featuring additional production and instrumentation from film composer Brian Reitzell (Lost In Translation), cello by London’s Oliver Coates, additional production from Clams Casino and original vocal contributions from ambient artist Julianna Barwick, rapper Cadence Weapon and singers Ebhoni and Rochelle Jordan, all sampled, processed and stitched back into the album.”
Matana Roberts returns from an extensive, celebrated live tour with the fourth volume of her deeply personal but resoundingly immersive ‘Coin Coin’ chapters.
The onetime member of Exploding Star Orchestra looks south to Memphis and the memory of her grandmother (that’s her on the cover) for a typically passionate investigation of her roots, using a patented combination of storytelling and ethnography brought to life with free-metered vocals and strong echoes of early blues, jazz and cajun music.
Make no mistake though, it doesn’t sound old, but raucously psychedelic, contemporary and avant-garde in a totally peerless fashion. Matana’s legion followers hardly need to be told this, but if you’re new to her sound and keen to dip in, expect a helluva journey. Seriously feels like we’ve drunk a gallon of moonshine after listening to this one.
Eternal charmers ISAN investigate the melancholy inner life of their machines with a typically tender touch in a very user-friendly, gorgeous album of burbling electronica.
Arriving just over 20 years since their now-classic debut LP, ISAN’s new side finds that not much has changed in their self-contained world of gilded and exquisitely melodic small sound composition, and nobody’s complaining. Future-proofed by their feel for low-key melancholic ambiguity, they maintain a line of music that’s sweetly primed for warmth.
As ever with ISAN’s music the devil lies in the detail of their recordings. Ostensibly simple and stripped down, there are extremely fine layers of plasmic resonance that inhabit the background and periphery of their elegantly fluid and ribboning arrangements. With the sleight of a master hypnotist they subtly draw the ears in one direction while subliminally illuminating the layers surrounding it, leading the ear’s roving eye to wander the soundfield in slow saccades between their pointillist motifs and strange harmonic remainders.
The effect is just gorgeous, prompting very cute highlights between the kosmische lullaby of ‘Perlon’, and the nimbly star-stepping gait of ‘Ichthyosaur’, along with the crystalline shimmer of ’Strix Aluco’ and the AFXian bliss of ‘Ephemeroptera’, before waltzing you to bed with ‘Calliscope’ and their sighing title song.
Empire of Signs present the premiere compilation of dreamy work by Masahiro Sugaya, an unsung mainstay of Japan’s ambient environmental music or kankyō ongaku scene in the ‘80s.
“Almost completely unknown in the west, Masahiro Sugaya has been composing and producing music since the 1980s in an exceptionally wide range of fields and practices. From arrangements for musical acts like the acoustic guitar duo Gontiti to acousmatic diffusion at spaces like Paris’s Groupe de Recherches Musicales (GRM), Sugaya's reach is almost exhaustive in its breadth, but it was in the 80s bubble-era kankyō ongaku scene that he first found his musical voice. Horizon, Volume 1 presents a window into these works, culled from Sugaya’s early scores for experimental Tokyo theatre group Pappa Tarahumura.
As a teenager, Sugaya would visit the avant garde hub of record/book shop Art Vivant run by Satoshi Ashikawa of Sound Process, guided by Ashikawa’s recommendations into the worlds of experimental composition, jazz and ethnographic music. It was there he also met musician Yoshio Ojima—the two would become close friends and contemporaries, working within a circle of Tokyo musicians that also included Midori Takada, Hiroshi Yoshimura and Satsuki Shibano. Ojima, an early adopter of new musical technology, would introduce Sugaya to the possibilities of composing with computers, synthesizers and samplers, which would become a trademark in Sugaya's early works. Surprisingly, the sound sources on Horizon are entirely digital, showcasing Sugaya’s ability to organically recreate complex musicianship approaches via keyboard using hyper-realistic samples. Much like Ojima and Yoshimura’s work, the results eschew electronic music’s usual coldness for something more warm and inviting, the feeling of a human in deep conversation with technology.
Flourishing within the boom of experimental theatre subsidized by corporations during the bubble economy, Pappa Tarahumura forged a unique dream-like style that merged performance art, modern dance and fantastical installation-like stage sets. Sugaya fashioned multiple soundtracks for their productions in collaboration with director Hiroshi Koike, the first two of which, The Pocket Of Fever (熱の風景) and Music From Alejo (アレッホ - 風を讃えるために), he self-released in 1987 on cassette, handing them out at Tarahumara performances. The third, The Long Living Things (Zoo Of The Sea) (海の動物園) followed in 1988 as a CD on Yukio Kojima’s ALM records. Aside from his brief inclusion on Light in the Attic’s Kankyō Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environmental & New Age Music 1980-1990 (compiled by Empire of Signs’ Spencer Doran), Horizon presents this work outside of Japan for the first time.”
130 year old Tchaikovsky chorales are rendered sublime and ghostly by Craig Tattersall & Emmanuel Witzhum, aka E And I, on a hauntingly gorgeous 2nd release for Letra Rec - the label set up by Craig and The Boats’ Andy Hargreaves for “closer listening.” A big look for fans of Stars of The Lid, Pinkcourtesyphone or William Basinski.
Proceeding in stately fashion from Kira Kira’s mantric soundscapes, Letra Rec’s 2nd CD lives up to the label’s aim to “allow listeners to fully immerse themselves in the music” with an unbroken 43’ piece that draws you in and holds you there for what feels like eons. Using techniques transposed from print and copy making (a speciality of Craig Tattersall), the duo subtly create a facsimile of Tchaikovsky’s Nine Sacred Pieces - a series of choral works written between 1884-1885 - which they treat to create a gauzy sense of detachment between the religious connotations of the source material and the music’s elemental, emotive pull, in the process effectively resulting a collection of songs that are the same but new, dreamily different.
While neither half of Tattersall and Witzhum can actually sing (or in a way that you’d want to hear at least), it’s fair to say that their musical voices and thoughts are conveyed thru the music, and in a way that resonates richly with their slow-cooked and secular, spiritualist worldview. They achieved this effect thru handling the original choral voices, in their own words “…like an audio photocopy working with only contrast and zoom.” With a little bit of maths, digital editing and analogue tape work, they were able to open acres of billowing space where their own presence manifests as the decaying ephemera of time, metaphorically suggesting the haunting quantum effect of being at once within, yet detached, from the music, and by turns applying that effect to the listener, who may well be transported to an out of body experience.
The artist behind The Boats, Tape Loop Orchestra, and The Misty’s entwines his myriad pursuits in a haunting book of found images and two-word poems, plus a 39 minute swell of spectral music featuring vocals by Beth Roberts.
With ’Concrete Handbag’ Andrew Hargreaves effectively distills his various artistic interests into a form of fictive memory that will appear differently to each participant or listener. Presenting a range of found images, recombinant wordplay, concrete poetry, music and field recordings that will be familiar to listeners in some ways if you’ve followed any of his projects over the years, he creates a mazy soundsphere of suggestive cues pulled from the mists of non-time and intended to jog the user’s memory to make new connections between the images and sound, and in turn create their own form of a third narrative or fictitious memory bank.
Acknowledging the formation of memory as fluid, permeable, and ever in flux, his series of prompts reach back to early ideals of recorded music as a portal to bygone dimensions in a way that echoes Marconi’s own attempts to ultimately divine Christ via residual, entropic traces of sounds that never actually die, but just keep fading out. While Hargreaves isn’t really bothered about listening to the big man, he is intent on getting you to listen outside yourself, to have an empathy for voices in the ether, and his beautifully evocative series of cues, both visual and aural, are bound to gently colour the imagination and conjure hidden meanings and connotations with each and every recipient.
New music specialist and guitarist Cristián Alvear sensitively brings Catherine Lamb’s work for solo guitar and electronics to life with intoxicating results for Another Timbre.
Originally written with pedal steel guitar in mind, Catherine’s composition is animated with extreme subtlety by Alvear on the classical guitar, working an infinite cycle of four, overlapping “environmental” chords against an algorithmic response of shimmering electronics. The guitar and electronics proceed to intersect at strangely poignant junctures that describe the piece’s title, resolving in elliptical cadence that seems to also describe the vector of our heads to an imagined pillow, as we struggle to keep our eyes open and deny the piece’s hypnagogic traction for its duration.
Pretty solo piano recordings by Italian Bavota, whose music has appeared on popular playlists and high profile TV placements in recent years
“Bruno Bavota – the young, prolific Italian composer whose music has often been labeled with earnest, adjective-laden descriptors such as “disarmingly sincere” and “extraordinarily emotional” – has experienced a self-imposed creative transformation over the past few years. Where his early records were pristine, piano-driven expressions of universal themes, his more recent works have found him in a place of thorough meditation and self-examination. As Bavota explains, “While at the beginning of my music and career, I focused on crystal clear piano sounds, eventually all the time spent at the piano day after day changed my sense of the piano itself. I started to see the piano like a living instrument.”
Get Lost is Bruno Bavota’s first studio album since the 2016 release of Out of the Blue helped thrust him into that peculiar world of anonymous but significant success via high-volume streaming playlists and high-profile TV placements. Out of the Blue marked the beginning of Bavota’s drift from immaculate, traditional piano music. If Get Lost isn’t a complete reinvention, it is at the very least a radical new direction. Rather than obsess over the sound of the piano itself, Bavota now explores the sounds around the piano – the resonance, the silence, and the acoustic ambience of the living, breathing space in which the piano resides. He employs an array of outboard effects pedals and processors to not just capture those sounds that are often overlooked, but to sample, loop, and reposition them as central figures in a story.
Bruno Bavota gave Get Lost its name when he found himself drifting deeper into the darker side of his music. Inspired by a familiar observation of modern life, Bavota confessed, “I think people are becoming more selfish and don't seem to have time to listen to other people who need to be heard. We don't show much empathy.” Much like Bavota’s evolving approach to the piano, he has discovered profound purpose and influence in the people and places least visible but most meaningful.”
Carla dal Forno’s keenly anticipated 2nd album pays dividends on the promise of her debut, returning a gorgeous, stately suite of chamber pop that certifies her among the most vital songwriters in her field. Tipped to fans of Nico, HTRK, CS + Kreme, Dome, Julee Cruise...
Forming an exquisitely pruned bouquet of midnight wildflowers, ‘Look Up Sharp’ makes the shrugging pop of Carla’s debut LP ‘You Know What It’s Like’  feel almost naif by comparison. With her vocals cleanly poised high in the mix, as though throned in a wide, high-ceilinged room lofted above the city, Carla speaks to a sort of resigned state of mind, coolly coming to terms with a sense of impending doom that resonates with early post-punk concerns over nuclear war and how the old world informs the present.
It’s perhaps best seen as an exercise in snatching relief from the jaws of misery; an idea is conveyed in the plaintive reserve of her vocals and the urge of the album’s title, and arrestingly enunciated between the album’s most immediate standouts, from the driving gothic succour of opener ‘No Trace’, to the elegant self-realisation of ‘I’m Conscious’, leading her to similarly downbeat but not beat conclusions as HTRK in the smoky shuffle of ‘Took A Long Time’ and the quietly optimistic closer, ‘Push On.’
Ambient healing music from Japan. The first in a series tending to the archive of prolific Japanese ambient music pioneer Fumio Miyashita, formerly of psych/prog-rock band Far Out/Far East Family Band.
"In 1969, he was an original member of the rock musical, ‘Hair’, in Tokyo. He formed the progressive rock groups Far Out and Far East Family Band, releasing ground-breaking albums and touring internationally. Always interested in oriental philosophy since studying karate at a young age (he became a black belt in high school), he became interested in oriental medicine after an injury on stage that only healed after undergoing acupuncture. In 1977, he immigrated to the United States, where he continued to study oriental medicine, philosophy, the Chinese Five Elements and also began, in earnest, to research music therapy.
In 1981, he decided to return to Japan, moved to Shinshu Iizuna Highlands and established Biwa Studio. One reason for choosing Iizuna Highlands was because it’s altitude is 1,250 meters and during his studies he learned that this is a very positive and healthy altitude for the human body to reside in. There he created numerous works, including music CD’s and image videos. His passion was for creating music that was helpful to people and his recurring theme in his works was relaxation and healing for the mind and body. He named his music ‘Healing Music’ and he established his own unique style of music therapy."
Grandiose electro-acoustic composition from Munich’s Sophie Schnell aka Pyur, refining the styles heard on her 2016 Hotflush debut into a mix of distended, crunchy IDM-techno swarmed with symphonic chorales and strings. RIYL Zoe McPherson or Roly Porter
“Munich’s PYUR (Sophie Schnell) makes her Subtext debut with “Oratorio for the Underworld”, a nimble odyssey through vivid, otherworldly dreams. Growing up immersed in her family’s work as shamans, Schnell draws on the techniques and stories of her upbringing, through which ephemeral forms, stories and colours seep into her sound—a synthesis of hyperreal sound design, dramaturgy and classical composition.
PYUR’s fascination with the space between life and death is expressed through the weaving together of the organic and sublime in a dramatic exercise in expansive sonic worldbuilding. The LP is a form of storytelling in which Schnell reimagines and takes on the roll of psychopomp, ushering the listener into a borderless realm. She relays rich legends while warm, airy timbres (courtesy of cellist Teresa Alvarez and violinist Juan Zalba Fuentes) serve as guides throughout.
Working largely in isolation over a period of two years, Oratorio for the Underworld is a document of “inward archaeology,” and marks an intimate yet grandiose journey through the psyche, exploring the ecstatic emotional boundaries between life and death, and body and spirit. Over the two year period, Schnell constantly found herself inventing new and unconventional compositional techniques with which to keep her writing dynamic—a process key in countering her own obsession with the mythos of Oratorio.”
The drowsy nostalgia and summer-days charm of ‘Neighbourhoods’ is another absolute peach from Pete Swanson & Jed Bindeman’s Freedom To Spend, presenting the first ever reissue of Ernest Hood’s sole, outstanding 1975 LP. Big RIYL BoC!
Hazily framed by a mixture of zither, woozy keyboards and sweetly candid field recordings, ‘Neighbourhoods’ is Ernest Hood’s deeply personal and warmly endearing impression of childhood naivety. Previously a figurehead of the Northwest US jazz scene, a bout of polio restricted his guitar playing, so Ernest turned to a gentler sound focussed on “the formation of comfortable memories”, resulting a daydream of an album that recalls fondest memories of long summer holidays, nagging parents, and hours absorbed in kids flicks, cartoons and their sugary soundtracks. sadly that’s maybe not the same experience many kids have nowadays, self-sequestered in bedrooms, congregating on Mmorpg’s, but once upon a time this kind of idyll was real.
Gently coming to life with ‘Saturday Morning Dozing’, the album saunters thru scenes such as ‘At The Store’ documenting kids on a shop stoop deciding what to do with their day and spilling 7up on their peanuts, to the meridian buzz of crickets in ‘August Haze’, and the chufty synth fanfare connoting the buzz of leaving class in ‘After School’, and onto the mischievous frolics of ‘Night Games’, it would take a heart of stone not to melt at the charms of this album. Really, almost anyone will recognise and fall heavily for Ernest Hood’s impressionistic beauty.
Empire of Signs follow Hiroshi Yoshimura foundational 'Music For Nine Postcards' with a much needed look at Makoto Inoue and Yasushi Yamashita’s Inoyama Land project, expanding on their sound heard on 'Kankyō Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environmental & New Age Music 1980-1990' to illuminate material that is even lesser known outside of Japan – some of it presented publicly for the first time, written as the soundtrack to a museum exhibit on slime molds and now making its vinyl premiere after years in the archive.
"A portmanteau of their family names, the “Land” of Inoyama hovers between imagined mythical space and concrete reality, extending beyond physical releases into installations, site-specific sound design and theatre scores. After their famed Haruomi Hosono-produced 1983 release Danzindan-Pojidon, the duo became involved in the budding environmental music business that was taking shape in Tokyo during the development boom of the asset bubble – working directly with figures like Hiroshi Yoshimura (with whom they developed sound design for the International Stadium in Yokohama) and Takashi Sekiguchi (Bamboo from Asia).
Working initially with Munetaka Tanaka’s Sound Process Design (an acoustic consulting company formed by Tanaka with Satoshi Ashikawa, before Ashikawa’s tragic death in 1983), their commissioned work mirrors the sound world first fleshed out on Danzindan: chiming synthesizers, pastoral hues, childhood memory – all pulsing with a distant, emotional resonance. This material – culled from limited CD issues of the material on Tanaka’s Crescent label, Kazunao Nagata’s Transonic Records and self-released CDRs – presents a window into this process, illustrating how Inoue and Yamashita’s idiosyncratic musical identity gelled perfectly with all of the disparate environments of their commissions. Included is music written for the Kankaku (Sense) Museum in Miyagi, an exhibit on slime molds at the National Museum of Nature and Science in Ueno park, the 1977 stage performance Collecting Net (which also included music that would later become Danzindan-Pojidon) and their score for a Tokyo re-staging of New York avant-theatre pioneer Richard Foreman’s post-modern stage piece Egyptology."
Concept machine Jeff Mills dives into the Axis archive for a 42-track compilation spanning eons of his classic techno and sci-fi inspired themes, including previously unreleased material
‘Sight Sound and Space’ is presented as an expression of Mills’ “deep-seated thoughts” on synaesthetic relationships between the visual, auditory, and proprioceptive senses. It logically breaks down those three aspects over corresponding CDs, with respective commentary and explanations for each selected track contain in the attached booklet.
Disc 1 ‘Sight’ illuminates 12 harmonically sound tracks drawn from Mills’ CDs, DVDs and soundtracks, ranging from the floating structure of ‘Perfecture’ off the ‘Metropolis’ EP, to the tense and furtive strings of ‘Deckard’ from the ‘Blade Runner’ EP, and dream-sequence ambient prisms such as ‘Sleepy Time’ and ‘Multi-Dimensional.’
On disc 2’s ‘Sound’ he rounds up a pointedly technoid, driving clutch of cuts taking in the almighty thrust of ‘The Bells’ along with the textured polyrhythmic swinge of ‘4Art’, plus his dramatic ‘Spiral Galaxy’, the Jamal Moss-compatible churn of ‘Jade’, and cryptic ancient-futurist drum code in ‘Spiral Therapy’ and ‘Flying Machines.’
Disc 3 finishes up in ‘Space’ with some of Mills’ most abstract, cinematic astral probes. The ‘Introduction’ to his ‘Fantastic Voyage’ CD parts the way for previously unreleased gear in the tense detonations of ‘Mercury (Residue Mix)’, the iridescent shimmy of ‘Unreleased002’, and the dematerialised textures of ‘Outer Space’ and ‘Unreleased005’, along with killer, subbass-heavy styles in ‘Stabilising The Spin’, deep space romance in ‘Planet X’, and neck-craning avant-classical sound design in the grand staging of ‘Medians.’
First ever re-issue of this 1983 classic full of near-ambient arrangements that float in a space between The Durutti Column, Steve Cropper and Ashra from Steve Hiett, the "master of recontextualization."
"For the first time since its inception 36 years ago, Steve Hiett’s elusive Down On The Road By The Beach is finally made available outside of Japan. Most recognized in the fashion sphere as an English photographer and graphic designer, Hiett‘s transportive audio portraits amplify his serpentine guitar to the infinite blue, recorded across Paris, Tokyo and New York with no coastline in sight. Now widely celebrated as a desert island disc, very little is actually known of its unfathomable genesis.
A career devotee of Brian Wilson’s ground breaking harmonies, Hiett shot The Beach Boys for Rolling Stone - as well as The Doors, Miles Davis and Jimi Hendrix (in one of his final performances at the 1970 Isle Of Wight Festival) - while establishing himself as a fashion photographer. Decamping to Paris in 1972, he began what would become 20-year collaborations with Vogue Paris and Marie Claire, printing his signature warm, saturated and vibrantly hued snapshots.
In 1982, representatives from Tokyo’s Galerie Watari visited him to propose a solo exhibition. Asking if he could insert a 7” of original music into the back of the exhibition catalogue, Hiett laid down ‘Blue Beach - Welcome To Your Beach’ in a Parisian radio station, playing all of the instruments himself, and two more cuts in New York with Yoko Ono, The Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan hired-gun Elliot Randall. Once dispatched, the phone began ringing off the hook with requests for him to fly to Tokyo. Assuming these long-distance callers were wanting him to check proofs for the book, it wasn’t until he arrived that he discovered CBS/Sony had facilitated an entire album. Heitt hastily gripped some petty cash, bought a guitar and retreated to his hotel room to start writing.
Entering the studio the following day, he was further surprised by a waiting room of session players known as Moonriders - one of Japan’s most acclaimed rock bands of the 1980s. Intimidated by their indecipherable sheet music, Hiett suggested Randall join them and with money being no object for major labels at the time, his wingman was on the next plane out of New York to finalise the high production indulgence. "
Avant-percussionist and composer Sarah Hennies explores the brink of un/consciousness in a captivating work for piano and percussion for Oren Ambarchi’s trailblazing Black Truffle. Meditative but often invasively violent, the hour-long piece follows her striking ‘Embedded Environments’ LP for Blume in 2018 with a music that effectively gestures into space between The Necks and Julius Eastman.
As with the resoundingly acclaimed ‘Embedded Environments’, Hennies' latest work uses sound as a means to explore both musical and extra-musical ideas about sociopolitical and psychological issues relating to her own identity, as well as integral topics of love, intimacy, psychoacoustics and percussion. Performed by Phillip Bush (piano) and Sarah with her Meridian bandmates Tim Feeney and Greg Stuart on percussion, the hour long works skirt the schism between conscious and unconscious minds, metaphorically using the two grouped instruments (piano / percussion) to reflect Jung and Freud’s description of the unconscious mind “…as a reservoir, a repository for memories that we don’t readily need access to, yet are kept forever in our minds”, and the way in which its mysterious presence penetrates conscious, everyday thought.
Across the hour-long span of ‘Reservoir 1’, the constant, supple, reactive piano performance acts as the conscious element, while the trio of Meridian’s percussionists take on the role of a separate, unconscious entity pricking and hammering away at the buoyant sense of consciousness. Alternating between chronic rustling that surely nods to Julius Eastman, and more pointed, violent sounds of bricks dropping in buckets, the persistent but fallible percussion is an amorphous, underlying presence that can raise or diffuse the tension surrounding the keys, which, also like Eastman’s classic series, also milk the most out of a relatively simple but damn effective phrase - where the same saying can have myriad different meanings depending the notes’ intonation.
Shimmering AOR-style instrumental balm from storied photographer Steve Hiett, who has shot Jimi Hendrix, Sophia Loren, Miles Davis, Uma Thurman, The Hollies and many more. One for Ned Doheny or Mike Cooper fans
“Three emotional years in the making, Be With and Efficient Space finally present Steve Hiett’s Girls In The Grass. Pressed alongside the long awaited reissue of his one-shot masterpiece Down On The Road By The Beach, these ten balearic soul instrumentals are of equal necessity; unrivalled beauty rescued from the fashion photographer-guitarist’s Paris Tapes (1986-1997).
Remastered for public pleasure by Simon Francis, these private moments are adorned with Hiett’s singular photography and feature typically idiosyncratic liner notes from Mikey IQ Jones.”
Spellbinding, Satie-esque solo piano sprinklings from American composer of contemporary classical music, Michael Vincent Waller, performed by celebrated percussionist William Winant (Vibraphone) and R. Andrew Lee (Piano). Waller has previously appeared on Kyle Bobby Dunn’s recent opus, and released LPs with Recital and XI Records.
"In essence, the sound of the piano comes in two parts: its attack and its decay. The striking of a hammer is followed by the resonance of a string or strings. (Much the same might be said about the vibraphone, as it happens.) This dual quality of sound comes to mind when listening to Moments by New York-based composer Michael Vincent Waller.
Performed by pianist R. Andrew Lee and vibraphonist William Winant, Moments - his third album, following Trajectories (Recital, 2017) and The South Shore (XI, 2015) - draws on Western classical music tradition in its most archetypal forms through its use of modal melodies, triadic harmonies and metered rhythms. Yet the emotional heart of the music is not in attack, but resonance. The afterlife of sounds.
Those elements that can’t be grasped and placed into easy historical categories. Behind his surface attacks Waller finds hazy, edgeless zones that draw us downwards, into introspection - an "inward gaze." Waller’s music is often compared to that of Erik Satie, and there is certainly something Satie-like in its concision, its subtle asymmetries and its lack of ornament. But where Satie’s Gnossiennes, Nocturnes and Gymnopédies were blank canvases, deliberately signifying nothing, Waller’s pieces are vessels to be filled. That is partly an effect of titles: Waller’s pieces on this disc are all ‘moments’ of autobiographical poignancy - memorials, birthdays, homecomings; friends, teachers, family members. We are clearly invited to invest certain emotional expectations into these sounds."
Ravishing, hyperkinetic AI brilliance from Emptyset, really baring their teeth after the electro-acoustic probes of 2017’s ‘Borders’
Edging ever closer to a post-human conception of sound composition, artist/scientist/researcher types Paul Purgas and James Ginzburg advance from the detectably acoustic tonalities of ‘Borders’ into an unapologetically and strangely poignant futurist sound sphere with their 6th album, ‘Blossoms’. At the core of the duo’s newfound energies lies the emergent consciousness of a machine learning system which they fed with more than 10 hours of racket made on wood, metal and drum skins. The highly dynamic results are effectively the software’s efforts to make sense of their input, and arguably amount to the project’s most thrilling album, bar none.
Developed thru a process of “seeding a software model with a sonic knowledge base of material to learn and predict from”, the duo’s primitivist, haptic, fleshly actions become entangled in a virtual world that ultimately manifests a non-human musicality. Convulsing in 10 succinct parts, the AI’s personality emerges as a synthesis of its parents’ characteristic tastes, resembling a bastard golem or cranky virtual spirit that really errs to the darkside of feelings associated with AI, as opposed to the church/folk-reared and “friendly” aspects of AI explored by, say Holly Herndon’s Spawn, or the more ambiguous styles conjured by TCF’s AI familiar, TCF X (run go check his YT channel!).
Of course, there’s a certain level of discrete manipulation by Purgas and Ginzburg at play in the arrangements (they are still credited with writing and production), but we’re fucked if we can point out where the human and AI inputs begin and end. From the shearing metal tones of ‘Petal’ to the guttural eruptions of ‘Blossom’ and the curiously human-like cadence of ‘Pollen’, thru the bittersweet harmonic shifts of ‘Blade’ and bone-twisting torque of ‘Stem’, we get the feeling that Emptyset have achieved an real ideal of relinquishing control of their music and becoming the ghost in their own machine, and it’s a visceral, vivid pleasure to experience them doing so.
A master of intense but barely-there music, Dale Cornish completes a 5-album cycle for Entr’acte with the spellbindingly skeletal and sexy gestures of ‘Enhex’.
Started in 2012 with ‘Glacial’ and taking in the deco rave minimisations of ‘Xeric’ (2014), ‘Ulex’ (2015), and ‘Aqal’ (2017), Dale’s Entr’acte run has consistently, playfully toyed with ideas of anticipation and stylistic convention in electronic music for the best part of this decade. With ‘Enhex’ he yields one of the most forceful instalments with the same strict methodology that we’ve come to know and love about his music.
Sonically ascetic as Mark Fell and as rude as Russell Haswell, but with a queered tactility of his own, Dale continues to plough his own groove in ‘Enhex.’ From the spittly, gasping blatz and gut punch kicks of crowd favourite ‘Enhex Pattern 1’ he does it singularly throughout all 9 cuts. Whether diffusing boomy bass hits and flickering rimshots into acres of nothingness on ‘Enhex Pattern 2’, coming like a stoned Alva Noto in ‘Enhex Pattern 4’, really crushing on your cochleas with ‘Enhex Pattern 5’, or dancing with killer, ricochet dynamics in ‘Enhex Pattern 8’, Dale very knowingly moves in between the lines of convention, locating canny routes of investigation which, for all their ostensibly minimal construction, open vast playgrounds and suggest slightest prompts for the listener’s imagination and body to cut loose.
Special Request answers the question “what if Jam & Lewis signed to Metroplex?” with the 3rd and final instalment of his 2019 album cycle.
Arriving in the glistening wake of his ‘Vortex’ and ‘Bedroom Tapes’ sides, ‘Offworld’ completes the trilogy with a unchronic suggestion of ‘80s soul meets Detroit electro, with results that lean into melodic AI electronica and glyding late ‘90s “breakbeat” trance.
Fair to say that Paul Woolford aka Special Request nails the vibe with dead on with the combo of Midway’s ‘Set It Out’ vocal applied to rocking 808 in ’237,000 Miles’, while he takes it deeper with the smooth R&B/electro-soul shimmy of ’Shepperton Moon Landing’, along with lazer-zap electro and Plaid-like melody in ‘Offworld Memory 3’, the lush nose-drip dissonance of ‘Front Screen Projection’ and ‘Are End Of The Moon.’ The bashy breaks and acid of ‘Morning Ritual’ are a mishit but ‘Floatation (SR Offworld Mix’) pulls it back with a fine marriage of Twin Peaks-meets-Italo House keys, NASA comms, and Wild Bunch-era breakbeats.
Cabaret Voltaire’s Stephen Malinder serves his 1st album in 35 years with ‘Um Dada’, a collection of leftfield house playing with the clonk of classic Steel City club styles, and their influences
“Um Dada opens up with the exact machine-led surrealism that Mallinder recommends in “Working (You Are)”. A thick, stripped back dance floor groove provides the ideal foundation for Mallinder’s eccentric vocal cuts. The frisky chops present an almost twisted irony, subtly bringing to mind the role we’re all forced to play as just another cog in the ever grinding capitalist machine of life. Yet, somehow, the listener is left feeling optimistic. A prime example of simplicity at work.
Tracks such as “Satellite” give a skillful illustration of Mallinder’s adeptness with his musical expertise while preserving his core historical context as only simple reference. The underlying bassline and percussion, coupled with the floating melodies and airy vocal refrain disclose the vulnerabilities of love and loss without a hint of irony or nostalgia.
Um Dada is mischievously idealist, however never loses touch with reality. Offering structure while simultaneously dismantling any and all preconceptions. The spirit of sincerity that sustained Cabaret Voltaire’s lengthy career is abundantly present within founder Stephen Mallinder’s journey through his own whimsical utopian consciousness and staking claim to an identity that is solely his own.”
Several years in the making, and marking 20 years of the cult minimalist project, the richly intoxicating ‘Living Space’ sees Eleh pull back from physical pressures to coax out a more natural cadence and way of arranging that reflects the slowness of plant life and discreet, painterly forms of ambient composition, underpinned by those pristine, deadly subs.
“Following ‘Slow Fade for Hard Sync’ (2009) and Location Momentum (2010), Living Space is Eleh’s third physical release for Touch. Seven years in the making, this new release consolidates the artist’s parallel narrative between a series of vinyl and CD releases for Important Records – where the emphasis is on a minimalist aesthetic – to a visual counterpoint that hints at the cinematic and painterly qualities of the music.
Sound, as a healing force, is an idea as old as the medium itself. Inspired by the legacy and above all the spirit of John Coltrane, Living Space features 5 new compositions that seek to express the beauty of slow change, not only through the microtonal shifts in sound that Eleh navigates but moving with the atmospheric and shape–shifting conditions that the music creates as it interacts with the listening space, whether bedroom or concert hall, each one of them unique.
If the ambition of Living Space is to reflect both personal and collective growth cycles, the experience of its audition has the effect of stopping time. Melodic and harmonic progressions are implied and not stated obviously, to enable listeners to apply their own emotions and feelings to the music.
Using modular and analogue synthesisers, piano, organ, bass and symphonic chimes, Living Space stresses the promise of the CD’s final track – ‘Lighter Touch’ – forsaking the forceful hand for an approach that mirrors the slower and softer exposures of plant life and leaf formations, slow moving waters, not flash floods nor forest fires.”
‘Transmission Suite’ is the first new 808 State album in 17 years, and it’s pretty good!
Recorded at the same Granada Studios where they performed on TV in 1989, ‘Transmission Suite’ sees Graham Massey and Andy Barker reprise their love of late ‘80s Detroit and Chicago records and merge it with new influences taken from the rhythm-riding styles of the Swing Ting clubnight and Jon K/Kelvin Brown’s long-defunct Eyes Down sessions that are so particular to the Manchester dancefloor make-up.
Fair to say they’ve smartly achieved their aim with a strong collection that seamlessly loops their 1989 selves into their 2019 sound, keeping the meter gauge ticking between hot-steppers such as the almost singeli-esque ’13 13’ and the very Rian Treanor-like twitch and parry of ‘The Ludwig Question’, alongside a haul of rugged electro that recalls the current styles of Massey’s former Sisters of Transistors bandmate Afrodeutsche in the likes of ‘Huron’, ‘Landau’ and ‘Carbonade’.
Brilliantly loose-limbed, inspirational solo debut album from Kim Gordon after four decades fronting myriad projects, most notably Sonic Youth, but also with numerous collaborators including Tony Conrad, Ikue Mori, Julie Cafritz, Stephen Malkmus and most recently with Bill Nace as one half of Body/Head.
It’s a raw and effortlessly experimental album, from the red-lining subs of opener 'Sketch Artist' to the tripped out lo-fi Gamelan pop of 'Paprika Pony’, the industrial Berghain grind 'Don't Play It’ and NYC drum machine jam 'Cookie Butter’, it’s a properly, endlessly enjoyable electronic punk album held together by Kim’s sharp lyrics and still completely inimitable vocal delivery - you just can’t f#ck with it.
In lesser hands 'No Home Record’ would be a heavy-handed mess, but - really - it’s the most artful and yet somehow least pretentious record you’ll hear this year - nothing less.
Sound Signature and Peacefrog do the right thing, letting us all get our mitts on this artefact from the afterfuture...
Spanning deepest moments in House, jazz, dub, electronics, melody and soul, First Floor is, incredibly, over 20 years old yet still sets the bar.
Low-slung and spacious as hell, the peak here is the mighty Heal Yourself And Move, one of the deepest and most influential productions in a sprawling catalogue that's not short of classics dunccha know.
As David Fricke points out in his liner notes, this is not just another novelty guest-project, the Krokofant on "Q" is like a brand new band.
"In fact, all the involved are so happy with this album that there´s bound to come more, with a bunch of new material already written. After three albums in a little over three years they felt a need to try something new, taking the band one step further. Especially Tom Hasslan, guitarist and main composer, felt an urge to expand the canvas and sonic possibilities of his writing and playing.
Hasslan´s tunes are perfect vehicles for keyboard player Ståle Storløkken (Elephant9, Supersilent, Terje Rypdal) to present the full scope of his playing; from sheer pastoral beauty to full on jazz skronk. The same can be said about Mathisen, who is given ample room for soloing. The tunes are rich in harmonic structures and melodic hooks, and with the distinctive sax/organ combination it´s difficult not to occasionally think of Van der Graaf Generator in their prime. By introducing Ingebrigt Håker Flaten (The Thing, Scorch Trio, Atomic) on electric bass, work was lifted from Hasslan´s shoulders and a "proper" rhythm section was born, Skalstad and Flaten instantly bonding. As Fricke also notes, ""Q" is their best album, the fullest expression to date of their original design - a drawing of the past forward - with a new strength in numbers"."
Utterly charming Calypso Limonense from Costa Rica by the king of his style, Walter Gavitt Ferguson. Totally remarkable songs salvaged from home-recorded tapes made during the ‘70s and rediscovered in an attic, all awash with background sounds from roosters to road traffic. Folkways fans, this one’s for you!
“99-year-old Walter Gavitt Ferguson from Costa Rica is a humble soul and a living legend, a Calypsonian of mythical proportions. Rooted like an old tree on the caribbean shore, he has never left his home town to look for fame, instead fame did come to look for him. Throughout eight decades, rumours of his musical gifts have attracted people from near and far, contesting Calypsonians, fans, tourists, musicologists, musicians, pilgrims and the President of the Republic. They once even moved a recording studio to his house as he refused to go to the city.
But many years before that, Ferguson used to sell his legendary self recorded cassettes to travellers and music lovers from all around the globe. He never kept a copy for himself and with age started to forget many old compositions. A recently started, international "Tape Hunt" was able to locate 9 such tapes in Canada and rescued 50 of his forgotten songs. Vol.1 of this tropical treasure is now available, resurrected directly from original cassettes of the Calypso King.”
A hitherto-unreleased electronic masterpiece from Roland Kayn, singular pioneer of cybernetic music. Over a period spanning the late 70s through the early 80s, Kayn (1933–2011) issued a quintet of extended works that quietly but definitively redrew the map of electronic music. Informed by cybernetics and a desire to actualise analogue circuitry as an agency in the compositional process, this music adopted a form that can only be described as oceanic, as side after side of vinyl allowed a wholly new vocabulary of electronic sound to find its shape. This set features a staggering batch of mesmerising computer music realised in 1982-83, roughly between his totemic ‘Infra’ and ‘Tektra’ boxsets. Essential listening for fans of Xenakis, Æ, Cam Deas, Jim O’Rourke, Laurie Spiegel.
As co-founder of the influential Gruppo di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza (whose members included Egisto Macchi and Ennio Morricone), and an unparalleled pioneer of algorithmic composition, Roland Kayn made an inestimable and arguably unsung contribution to 20th Century music. Now following the acclaimed recent reissue of his jaw-dropping ’Simultan’ (1977) boxset and the 2017 unearthing of ‘A Little Electronic Milky Way Of Sound’, Kayn’s daughter Ilse has rebooted his Reiger-records-reeks label to unveil ‘Scanning’; a typically brobdingnagian expanse of perpetually amorphous sound generated by unfathomably complex iterations of maths, physics, philosophy and music that advances upon a genuinely post-human conception of sound arrangement.
Remastered from the original tapes by Jim O’Rourke - a long-time disciple of Kayn’s durational works, whose influence can clearly be heard in O’Rourke’s prized ‘Old News’ series - ‘Scanning’ now emerges from a pivotal phase of Kayn’s research/practice to highlight his pioneering grasp of bio-cybernetic communication at its most illusive and elusive. Where ’Simultan’ for example, felt darkly alien, and ’Tektra’ sounds like a black hole, the vast breadth of ‘Scanning’ is best defined by its spectra of impossible, string-like glissandi, cascading in infinitely smooth gradients and tectonic harmonic shifts that recall contemporary examples ranging from Autechre at their broadest (as on the æo³ & ³hæ DVD), thru to the sloshing shape of Cam Deas, and, at times, Dopplereffekt’s immense ‘Calabi Yau Space’ classic taken to Nth degrees.
For those who really like to know what’s going on in the mechanics of Kayn’s music, the boxset is accompanied by Kayn’s own notes, which, while succinct, may still require a Phd in scientific philosophy to properly digest (and same can be said of Massimo Ricci’s fascinating but baffling notes). However, the technical roots of Kayn’s music are not a barrier to entry for anyone with open ears and a taste for actually otherworldly sound. His frighteningly complex grasp of inimitably fluid dynamics and ear-probing tonalities can simply be enjoyed for their richly sensuous qualities and transportive/transcendent potential for altering one’s mindstate, as your grey matter attempts to perceive and compete Kayn’s revelatory series of ever-changing events and alien sonic scenarios. Trust this can have profound effects whether consumed when under the influence of psychedelic substances, or not.
We encourage anyone with the time, funds, and curiosity to immerse themselves in Roland Kayn’s non pareil computer music for some of the most unforgettable, enigmatic, and strangely life-affirming sonic visions imaginable.
Guitar-and-bass duo Gong Gong Gong charge out from Beijing’s underground scene with a distinct vision and sense of purpose.
"The group unites musical cultures, drawing on inspirations as wide-ranging as Bo Diddley, Cantonese opera, West African desert blues, drone and electronic music. On their debut album, ‘Phantom Rhythm’, the locomotive chug of Tom Ng’s guitar combines with Joshua Frank’s thumping, harmonics-laden basslines to conjure an aura of ghostly snare hits and timpani overtones. Over Frank’s enigmatic melodies,
Ng sings in Cantonese, piecing together abstract tales of absurdity, doubt, desire and lust. Synchronized to the point of near-telepathy, the band use their minimalistic tools and idiosyncratic playing style to challenge the notions of rock ‘n’ roll and strip the form down to its bare essentials: rhythm, melody and grit. Formed in 2015, the band’s earliest shows were in Beijing underpass tunnels and DIY spaces - Ng and Frank both being outsiders who call the city their home. Born in Hong Kong, Ng defiantly sings in his native tongue, while Frank, originally from Montreal, has lived in Beijing on and off since childhood."
'Congo Revolution' looks at the explosion of music that came out of the Congo in the years leading up to independence in 1960. Congolese rumba, a wild combination of African, Jazz and Latin influences, created future stars of its now legendary creators – Franco, Grand Kalle, Tabu Ley, Dr. Nico, Papa Wemba - and all feature here in their ground-breaking early groups such as O.K.Jazz, Brazzos, Rock-A-Mambo, African Jazz and The Beguen Band.
"The Congo is in fact two countries – The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC, formerly Zaire) and the Republic of the Congo. Congo Revolution was first released as a sampler 7” box set for RSD, and this expanded release includes a 50-page booklet/double gatefold and inner sleeves containing extensive text explaining the evolution of the music and history of the two Congos, and how music, politics and popular culture intersected at the point of independence from the two Congos’ European colonisers – Belgium and France – through songs such as ‘Vive Patrice Lumumba,’ and ‘MNC Uhuru,’ which celebrated the Congolese independence leader prior to his political assassination.
Also included is the stunning images of the Congolese photographer Jean Depara who documented the Congo’s vibrant nightlife in the period 1955-65 as well as being the official photographer for the superstar Congolese artist Franco up until his death in 1989. Depara also documents the rise of the Bills (Congolese teenagers who dressed as cowboys) and sharp-suited évolués (which later gave rise to the fashion-conscious phenomenon of the Congolese ‘Sapeurs’). These images are reproduced in collaboration with Revue Noire in France."
Follow-up to Penguin Cafe’s 2017 album 'The Imperfect Sea' inspired by the Antarctic, Arthur Jeffes’ journey following in Scott’s footsteps and our penguin friends that reside there.
"Using gut-stringed violins, viola, cello, bass, percussion, upright and grand pianos, synthesiser, harmonium and more, Arthur Jeffes and his cohorts have crafted a vivid series of panoramic sonic landscapes, that are as rich in cerebral poignancy as they are in emotional depth.
Bookended by the atmospheric ambient piano pieces ‘Winter Sun’ and ‘Midnight Sun’, the album traverses glacial minimalism with ease, combining their signature contemporary classical panoramas, such as the melancholic yet upbeat lead track ‘At the Top of the Hill, They Stood...’ and the colossal cinematic piece ‘Chapter’, with the crystalline folktronica on ‘Pythagorus on the Line Again’ — a re-visiting and continuation of the Penguin Cafe Orchestra’s 1993 Union Cafe song on the principles of harmonics.
Handfuls of Night began life after Greenpeace commissioned Jeffes to write four pieces of music corresponding to four breeds of penguins, to help raise awareness for the endangered Antarctic seas . A fundraising evening at EartH in Hackney followed, where Penguin Cafe premiered the four songs named after their feathered counterparts to a sold out audience; the rousing contemporary folk inflected ‘Chinstrap’, the mournful and minimalistic ‘Adelie’, stoic and rhythmic ‘The Life of an Emperor’ and the wistful, string-laden ‘Gentoo Origin’.
“This record started with a core of pieces I wrote specifically about penguins in the Antarctic for a project with Greenpeace in autumn 2018. There are four native Antarctic penguin species – each with their own individual characteristics and natures. I carried on from there to envisage a whole anthropomorphised world, where these penguins had narratives and adventures that we soundtracked”, says Jeffes. But both the album and Penguin Cafe as a project have origins that reach further back:
“In 2005 I was asked to join an expedition re-creating Scott’s last Antarctic trip in 1911 for the BBC, using the same Edwardian equipment. I’m no explorer but I was keen, especially as there’s a family link – Scott was married to my great grandmother before she married my great grandfather. Antarctica by this stage being a protected environment, we swapped to the Arctic circle where we spent 3 months on the Greenland ice sheet, first dog-sledding and then man-hauling just short of 1000 km at 10,000 feet, across ice fields and glaciers. I had lots of time to ponder my life back home. It was then that I decided to get my Master of Music degree and focus on composing music, and also then that I realised that even in the most remote silent places, music can still be a huge part of one’s internal world and imagination. Whilst on the expedition. I spent days playing things back in my head and also writing new things, which I would then try and write down at the end of the day.”
Handfuls of Night’s tones, textures and melodies evoke otherworldly expanses, which at different junctures are either foreboding, awe inspiring or peaceful. There’s subtly morphing rhythmic repetition throughout, somewhere between minimalism, krautrock and the piano-cascades of label peer Lubomyr Melnyk. Jeffes creates a kinetic, circling motion, which drives the album forward in the form of a musical trip that mirrors the physical journey it was inspired by."
Ian William Craig does heart-rending avant-folk with Missy Donaldson in their debut as Minor Pieces. A must check for fans of Cotton Goods, Mazzy Star, Low, Cat Power, “Bonnie” Prince Billy, Grouper, or the corrosive asethetics of Fennesz, William Basinski or The Caretaker
"Retaining some of the textural play and experimentation of Ian’s solo material whilst channeling it squarely within the domain of tangible songwriting, the pair utilise guitar, modified tape decks, bass and synths to fashion deeply-felt songs with their beautifully matched male/ female vocals standing resolutely centre-stage. Taking influence and inspiration from the likes of Low, Grouper, Mazzy Star, Portishead, My Bloody Valentine, Talk Talk and Cat Power, ‘The Heavy Steps Of Dreaming’ sounds at once familiar whilst forging something new, unique and beyond the sum of its influences.
Over the course of its 8 tracks - from the opening bars of ‘Rothko’ to the resonant closing lines of ‘Shipbreaking’ - the duo move fluidly between voices, shift from moments of overwhelming power to perfect points of stillness; from acoustic balladry pared down to the sparsest of means to thick, tumbling swells of tape and electronics or billowing synth trails. At both album and song level, it’s a work of contrasts and combinations; of broad, bold dynamics. Masterfully crafted, the lyrics are rendered with an almost painterly approach and reveal a palpable joy in the richness of language and its capacity to conjure resonances, to hold moments close and to patch together meaning from life’s scattered detritus."
Turntablist and sound artist Maria Chávez turns in her first continuous full length audio work. “Plays” is a DJ mix CD that doesn't feature any tracks. It is a remix of a work whose original doesn't feature recorded sound. It is a minimalistic yet complex electroacoustic work, literally built from scratch, bootstrapping sound out of sheer silence: creatio ex nihilio.
"The story of this album starts with a record given to Chávez as a birthday present. It is Stefan Goldmann's 'Ghost Hemiola', a double vinyl set of empty locked grooves. The record contains no sound whatsoever other than the vinyl's own surface noise.
Chávez's work with records and turntables usually features a rich layer of recorded audio which is transformed, cut up and rearranged by a wide range of fearless physical manipulations. By contrast 'Ghost Hemiola' is a blank canvas, unveiling her craft in its purest form, unobstructed by any audio content other than the sounds of the medium itself.
Breaking up the medium is happening both ways here, literally as well as figuratively. Unlike with her live performances, for "Plays“ Chávez employs digital processes extensively, zooming into minute details of sound and the artefacts of both mediums, the tangible vinyl record and disembodied digital audio. Narrowing down shards of sound to extremely short frames creates metallic timbres, reverberating quasi- spaces and percussive layers. Slowing down the tempo until sound halts at one sample of its digital representation brings forth emergent frequencies, which Chávez then uses to play melodies – vaguely resembling her analog technique of playing melodies by skipping a stylus back and forth across a test tone record.
This thorough investigation of the unobstructed vinyl medium with digital means is distilled into a one hour composition on this album. By the way – Chávez and Goldmann share the same birthdate."
Released digitally in July, Angel's Pulse is a mixtape from Dev Hynes aka Blood Orange, something of an epilogue to his critically acclaimed 2018 album Negro Swan.
"‘Angel’s Pulse’ includes collaborations with Toro Y Moi, Kelsey Lu, Arca, Porches, Ian Isiah, Justine Skye, Tinashe, Project Pay, Gangsta Boo, BennY Revival and BROCKHAMPTON’s Joba."
Tom Jenkinson (Squarepusher) and James McVinnie (Bedroom Community) team up for this Arts Council funded collab.
"The compositions were commissioned by No-Nation with PRSF for Music and debuted as ‘The Secret Life of Organs’ in 2016 with a run of live dates in the UK supported by Arts Council England. The original pieces have since been revised to make up ‘All Night Chroma’. Performed at the Harrison & Harrison organ of the Royal Festival Hall by James McVinnie. Composed and produced by Tom Jenkinson of Squarepusher.
James McVinnie is known as one of the world’s leading organists. His work as a performer encompasses music from the 16th Century to the present day. He is a member of Icelandic record label Bedroom Community. He has collaborated with many leading figures in new music, including Philip Glass, Angelique Kidjo, Nico Muhly, Martin Creed, Richard Reed Parry, Bryce Dessner, Darkstar, Hildur Guðnadóttir, David Lang and Sarah Davachi, many of whom have written large scale works for him."
‘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.
Eighteen months since their first issue, Woe To The Septic Heart!'s long delayed 2nd release finally dawns upon us.
Comprising entirely new and previously unreleased Shackleton material - including collaborations with vocalist Vengeance Tenfold and musical spars Andreas Gerth (Tied & Tickled Trio) and Kingsuk Biswas (Bedouin Ascent) - it's also his most shocking and invigorating body of work. What strikes us first and foremost is the newfound vitality and visceral impact of his sound here. Any signature murk is replaced with a lysergic lucidity and rendered in widescreen 3D that consumes the senses with ultra-vivid potential.
The CD entitled 'Music For The Quiet Hour' features your venerated protagonist and his mystical interpreter, Vengeance Tenfold in the extended format we've long wished to hear them, astral projecting cut-up passages of Tenfold's apocalypse-baiting text over five meticulously crafted sonic topographies which stretch to the periphery of the mind's eye and ever further into inky blackness. This combination of poetry/spoken word and dark ambience clearly calls to mind Deathprod's 'Reference Frequencies', but the choking bass pressure and timbral cadence are innately Shackleton, just presented in a vital new form. But, perhaps the most subtle yet striking new element is the wheezing, scaling tonal spectrum siphoned through the Italian drawbar organ module which inspired the title of 'The Drawbar Organ EPs'.
Effectively forming an album in their own right, it's here that we find more condensed, rhythmically structured episodes reminding of his recent live shows - which are, in our humble opinion, the finest in the world right now. Meditating on late '60s/early '70s Reich-ian rhythm phasing, stained with carmine Italian horror vibes, driven by wanton Junglist and post-punk torque and enveloped by a universal consciousness alluding to Alice Coltrane, it will take longer than we have right now for these tracks to settle in fully, but we can assure you that they're of the rarest, most precious substance. Unmissable.
Boy Harsher find a fine line thru EBM and darkwave synth-pop with ineffable élan on their debut for Ascetic House, neatly benefitting from mix and master by Maurizio Baggio (The Soft Moon, Merchandise). Deluxe reissue of the sought-after Ascetic House EP including 4 bonus, previously unreleased tracks.
Their Country Girl EP sounds like it was dialled in direct from 1986, with sleek, rolling bass arps, glass-eyed gynoid vocals and lusting synth pads seemingly construed for the dry-iced runway of the mind. It could just as easily soundtrack a hi-end fashion show as lure you into a redlit basement, feeling out immaculately realised vibes between the effortless flow and ache crooning of Motion thru the wickedly skizzy light/dark/light twist of Country Girl, to the early ‘90s synth-pop sensuality of Underwater, and with super infectious freestyle inflections that funk up and counter Jae Matthews’ perfectly aloof vocals in Westerners.
One of the most inventive, well produced, original and hard-hitting records of the year. There are echoes of The Fall, Can and Sonic Youth but wrapped in something new. F#cking bravo.
“In many ways the idea behind the album was to make an audio representation of the house.” And this enigmatic manor becomes Girl Band’s sonic playground: to place yourself within a space and to work with that space harmoniously. Dan continues, “We recorded all the drums twice: once on the landing and once in the cellar [The Well of Souls] and during production we could actually cut in between both these sounds.” ‘The Talkies’ vacillates between being big, ambient and atmospheric to suddenly terribly intimate and up close.
‘The Talkies’ is living, breathing, in a continual state of metamorphosis. It encompasses everything there is to love about Girl Band while simultaneously causing an exciting level of discomfort. The moaning and sawing guitars, atonal blankets of sound, abstractive lyrical repetition, chugging snare and ascending / descending snakes and ladders noiserock guitar deliver something that is so distinctively Girl Band. ‘Eregenis’: Album closes to steady breathing. It drips with catharsis, slow and mindful and purging over the familiar key and darkly syncopated grooves which closes the door to Girl Band’s sonic universe and brings ‘The Talkies’ to its first and final silence."
19th Annual survey of Cologne's Kompakt powerhouse, featuring mostly exclusive tracks from Jörg Burger, Jürgen Paape, Reinhard Voigt, Rex The Dog, Justus Köhncke, Extrawelt, Gui Boratto and many more.
"You may ask: "In the day and age of streaming playlists and the omnipresence of freely available mixes, what's the use of a label compilation?" The answer is simple: labels still serve as a dearly needed filter mechanism in this tsunami of music we're facing every day.
Labels strive to establish trust between artists and listeners. They're like your favorite restaurant around the corner. On the spur of the moment, you might find more excitement in that hip place that just opened somewhere else. But when the novelty fades, you'll always return to your sanctuary. The safe place where they know your name and the last drink is on the house. KOMPAKT has become such a place for generations of fans and artists alike. And the TOTAL compilation series serves as its menu: always changing but instantly recognizable.
As per usual TOTAL is a collection of the past years biggest tunes, the creme de la creme of KOMPAKT's steady output of 12"s topped off with eight exclusive unreleased tracks that are also available on the 2LP vinyl edition of TOTAL 19. With JÜRGEN PAAPE, the notorious VOIGT brothers, THOMAS/MAYER and JÖRG BURGER - all founding fathers are on board. Legacy artists SASCHA FUNKE and JUSTUS KÖHNCKE make their long-awaited comebacks, the latter with a kinky Patrick Cowley homage called "Mindless Sex Track". Cologne young blood JULIAN STETTER nails the starry-eyed, romantic KOMPAKT signature sound with his remix for an up and coming local pop outfit called ALBERT LUXUS. Fellow Colonian JONATHAN KASPAR makes his label debut with his slinky track "Renard". DJ BALDUIN definitely is one to watch in 2020. His massive "E.W.B.A." transcends the friendly populism of an ancient Love Parade anthem while capturing the sincere spirit of today's electro revival. REX THE DOG's "Vortex" and TOM DEMAC's "Serenade" perfectly showcase why KOMPAKT is still one of the most played and charted labels in electronic music today. In a scene that is more fragmented than ever these two producers delivered true consensus hits that are cherished on all sizes and shapes of floors beyond genre boundaries.
The second half completely belongs to a whole new breed from our beloved SPEICHER series such as ANNA, YOTAM AVNI, EXTRAWELT, RAXON, BLACKRACHAS, JOHN MONKMAN and LA FLEUR alongside our full time members PATRICE BÄUMEL, KÖLSCH and GUI BORATTO. The energy levels are way up and the mission reads clearly: We'll never stop dancing this way." MICHAEL MAYER
On his stellar debut LP for Mute, NIN keyboardist and formidable solo artist, Alessandro Cortini taps into a poignantly melodic yet ascetic vein of his prized, gauzy style. 'Volume Massimo,' combines his fondness for melody with the rigour of experimental practice that follows on from 2017's universally acclaimed album ‘Avanti. 8 tracks of deftly arranged synthesizers saturated with sonic artefacts and luscious pop sensibilities.
Surely well known to you lot for his trio of LPs with Important and a duo for Hospital Productions between 2013-2015, ‘Volume Massimo’ marks a more pointed, melodic evolution of Cortini’s sound without losing sight of what made his solo work so gripping in the first place. It’s also worth noting the striking resonance of this new record with his work in NIN, as the relatively tighter, pop-wise arrangements feel to condense the wider arcs of his previous records into more concise structures that strongly recall the band’s harmonic aura, while the addition of textured guitars and pulsing undertow make it all sound a bit like NIN wrung thru a psych folk filter and produced by Pye Corner Audio.
Leading on two years from Cortini’s ‘Avanti’ LP and following a pair of 2018 collaborations with Lawrence English and Merzbow, he strips it all down to fundamentals on ‘Volume Massimo’ with a typically precise approach to the qualities of tone and texture in his music. In eight parts he coaxes his classic analogue synths and Fender and Ibanez guitars to copulate in loving, writhing formations of rhythmelodic cadence where melody and rhythm are inseparable, equally balanced sides of the same equation.
The LP’s first side lures us into this intoxicatingly dense yet minimalist aesthetic with the quietly engrossing synth chatter of ‘Amore Amato’ , which builds to a heart-swelling peak before calving off into the furtive cinematics of ‘Let Go’ and a massive highlight in the bittersweet romance of ‘Batticuore’ at the album’s core. That song feels like watershed for the rest of the LP, as ‘Momenti’ stealthily brings the underlying, lysergic folksiness to the fore and in a jangling coda, while ‘La Storia’ pushes that rustic ruggedness farther into a sort of kosmiche wilderness, and, ultimately, to crawl thru the cave systems of ‘Sabbia’ and the burned out sleep tone of ‘Dormi.’
Kristin Hersh achieved a music and publishing first when her eighth solo album was initially released as a multi-media book in 2009. Hersh’s “poetic, provocative and puzzling songcraft” (The Washington Post) makes ‘Crooked’ a stunning record.
"The resplendent, melancholic ‘Flooding’ came to Hersh in the form of song but was also a premonition of the imminent death of close friend and musician Vic Chesnutt. Mainstay in her recent live shows, ‘Mississippi Kite’ is snarly and unsettling whilst the spectral psychedelic tones of ‘Rubidoux’ stem from a 50foot Wave car ride and a late-night recording session. The songs still lead the way hitting Hersh fully formed but it’s her beguiling raspy vocals paired with guitar, and any other instrument that she chose to play on this album, that has a beautiful intensity that’s jarring, unpredictable and inherent in her music. “She's still as powerful a presence as she ever was.” Pitchfork.
A certain magic floods the room when free improvisers of the highest order get together to make music. And when said improvisers are also kindred spirits who know and can anticipate each other's moves, a kind of wonderful telepathy takes over.
"Such was the case when enigmatic Japanese noise legend Merzbow (Masami Akita) got together in the studio with fellow countryman Keiji Haino and Hungarian drummer Balazs Pandi for Become The Discovered, Not The Discoverer. For their second encounter for RareNoise Records, following 2016's An Untroublesome Defencelessness, the three intrepid improvisers explore a threshold of sound so blisteringly intense, that it passes into a zone of divine cacophony.
Comprised of four lengthy, uninterrupted suites, each containing dense, sometimes harsh sonic onslaughts, Become The Discovered, Not The Discoverer is fueled by Merzbow's cathartic sheets of electronic sound and guitar, Haino's slashing guitar, bass and vocal work and Pandi's pummeling intensity on the kit."
The stunning next instalment in PAN’s Entopia series is an audio document of Anne Imhof’s acclaimed ‘Faust’ performance at the German Pavilion of the 2017 Venice Biennale - awarded the Golden Lion for Best National Participation. It’s a dramatic, rich and complex album that within the first three pieces alone transports you into multiple dimensions - from the distorted electronic burst of 'Opening March’ - something like Autechre’s 'Second Bad Vilbel' slowly unravelling, to the funereal, Nico/Desertshore-like hypnosis of 'Medusas Song’ and the soaring, elevated Vangelis-like synthwall of 'Red Scape’. It’s remarkable stuff that encapsulates PAN’s rich and important curatorial role, navigating multiple cultural strands with results that somehow push the same buttons for us as Yves Tumor’s 'Serpent Music’, which was such a shock to the system when it was released a couple of years ago. Impossible to define, endlessly rewarding music.
Part documentation, part elaboration of the live event, the 83 minute album to ‘Faust’ blends candid sonic snapshots with original arrangements in a magisterial suite that presents a detached yet immersive concision of the several hour performance seen by thousands over the course of the Biennale. Aesthetically comparable to the gothic sensuality of Nico’s seminal ‘Desertshore’ as much as torchlit Bach fugues and the tormented instrumental soundscapes of Scott Walker or Björk, the soundtrack acts as a timelessly evocative counter to the mix of brutalist and banal, casual realism - conveyed via a mix of imagery, dance, Dobermans and performers loafing around, checking their phones, masturbating - intended to reflect contemporary German life in Imhof’s performance-based exhibition.
Rendered in 18 parts, the dramatic music for ‘Faust’ was conceived in a band-like process by Anne Imhof with her close collaborators Billy Bultheel, Eliza Douglas, and Franziska Aigner during the months running up to its premiere. It hinges around three pieces ‘Medusa’s Song’, ‘O.W.E.N.’ and ‘Queen Song’, sung in distinctive ominous baritone by Eliza Douglas and Franziska Aigner, whose plaintive delivery lends a crushing, classic levity to the recordings, while the parts in between are coloured and textured by a mix of fleeting, abstract electronics, baroque funereality and beta-blocking doom numbness realised by Billy Bultheel. Vacillating sounds captured during performance as well as studio creations, the results are in flux between polyphonic antiquity and polymetric complexity, providing a hauntingly anachronistic, airborne spirit that connects and locates the performers within the space’s starkly transparent, modernist dimensions of raised reinforced-glass floor and steel ledges attached to high walls.
Bought to life with mixing by Nanni Johannsson at Berlin’s famous Hansa Studios, and Ville Haimala (Amnesia Scanner), the soundtrack to ‘Faust’ is weft with a deep sense of sadness and contemplative torpor that speaks acutely to the work’s central themes of power, complicity, and vulnerability, and seamlessly absorbs the listener in its headspace for a remarkable, transformative hour.