Synth se’er Steve Moore presents his first non-soundtrack work since 2013 with the cosmically scoped ‘Beloved Exile’ - a must check for fans of Abul Mogard and Pye Corner Audio...
"Beloved Exile is the new studio full-length by Steve Moore, his first non-soundtrack album in over five years, and his first for Temporary Residence Ltd. A prevalent figure of the modern synth era, Moore cofounded the influential synth- prog duo, Zombi, and has scored more than a dozen feature films and TV shows, including The Guest, Crunch Time, and Mayhem.
Composed and produced by Steve Moore in his home studio in upstate New York, Beloved Exile is a collaboration with internationally-renowned Tunisian singer-songwriter Emel Mathlouthi, visionary harpist Mary Lattimore, and veteran percussionist Jeff Gretz. Drawing influences from vintage ambient synth libraries, New Age/spiritual music, and menacing horror film canon, Beloved Exile proves to be simultaneously exquisite and deceptively unsettling. It is appropriate, then, that a literary treasure like John Darnielle (The Mountain Goats), would provide the song and album titles – his masterful mind most fitting to put moniker to this mercurial triumph.”
Tim Hecker returns with a companion piece to his recent Konoyo album.
"Anoyo (“the world over there”) draws from the same sessions with members of Tokyo Gakuso which led to the 2018 work Konoyo, but rendered starker, solemn, and stripped back, with more of a naturalist tint. Hecker’s processing here moves in veiled ways, soft refractions and whispered shrouds woven within improvisational sessions of traditional gagaku interplay, evoking a sense of vaulted space, temples at dawn, shredded silk fluttering in the rafters.
This is boldly barren music, skeletal and sculptural, shaped from wood, wind, strings, and mist. Modern yet ancient, delicate and desolate, Anoyo inverts its predecessor to compellingly conjure a parallel world of illusion, solitude, and eternal return."
Skull Disco reaches it's final catalogue number with the final nail in the coffin on 'Soundboy's Gravestone Gets Desecrated By Vandals', collating the final few 12" releases on the first CD, and a selection of accompanying remixes from the likes of T++, Rupture, Geiom, Brendon Moeller, and Bass Clef on an additional second CD.
Over the course of three years the label has come to define a very dark corner of the dubstep related universe, finding fans in unexpected places, from Ricardo Villalobos and Cassy at the housier end of the spectrum and T++ showing love from the techno end. The first CD opens with the dystopian classic 'The Rope Tightens' by the maverick Shackleton, with a horrific echo chamber lockdown featuring vocals from longtime Skull Disco affiliate Tenfold Vengeance, and moves onto later collaborations between Appleblim and Peverelist on their lauded 'Circling'.
Shackleton's smacky voodoo dancer 'Death Is Not Final' is included, alongside the undulating drum workout 'You Bring Me Down' as well as Appleblim's now classic 'Vansan' making it's first appearance on CD. The second set is about as fresh as it gets, starting with T++'s techno enhanced remix of 'Vansan' and further cementing the Berlin connection with Pole's spatialized dub-scape version of Shack's 'Shortwave'. Peverelist's remix of 'You Bring Me Down' is surely one of the finest dubstepXtechno tracks of the year and is also included alongside the stunning T++ revision of Shack's 'Death Is Not Final', surely one of the tracs of year full stop! The most surprising remix comes from badawi, with a previously unreleased rethink of 'The Rope Tightens'. Raz Mesinai sticks with the original's extended format, but rewires it with a technofied yet meditative version that sounds like 'Polaroid' or 'Cern' era Monolake mixed with sound design approaching Peter Rehberg's frosty scapes for the KTL project. The depth and scope on this one can only be fully appreciated at home on a good system with all the lights out, or equally in a dark warehouse setting, this is riddimic futurism at it's finest.
A final mention must be given to the terrific artwork from the mind of Zeke Clough beamed directly from a tower somewhere in deepest darkest Salford, applying the final but essential touch to a stunning package.
150 minutes of previously unreleased material from Coil, strewn with parts that would eventually metastasise into ‘Backwards’, and ultimately ‘Black Light District’ and ‘Musick To Play In The Dark’. We hardly need to stress that ’Swanyard’ is a bounty for Coil nuts out there, but equally a fascinating listen for anyone attempting to get to grips with their unfathomable catalogue - especially DJs and listeners currently digging into the underbelly of the ‘90s.
The material was all written and recorded between 1993 to 1996 and was selected and assembled by Danny Hyde (Electric Sewer Age, ex-Coil, ex-Psychic TV, ex-Black Light District) from the studio archives. As he outlines in the liner notes, these 23 tracks offer unforetold snapshots of Coil’s constant work-in-progress during an important phase of exploration. Tracks were usually seeded in Peter 'Sleazy' Christopherson’s dreams, and rendered thru the prism of his myriad sample bank, with Jhon Balance pulling from his notebooks for lyrics, and Danny Hyde would aid in engineering, editing and mixing, animating their studio gremlins and mental apparitions to an almost complete form.
The ’Swanyard’ is effectively as close as you’ll get to being in their notorious studios during the pharmaceutically-fuelled peak of the ‘90s, at the point where dark ambient, electronica and dance music were mutual bedfellows, and mutated the framework for where we are today.
‘I Am Easy To Find’ is the band’s eighth studio album and the follow-up to 2017’s Grammy Awardwinning release ‘Sleep Well Beast’.
"The album features vocal contributions from Sharon Van Etten, Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Lisa Hannigan, Mina Tindle and more. As the album’s opening track ‘You Had Your Soul With You’ unfurls it’s so far, so National: a digitally manipulated guitar line, skittering drums, Berninger’s familiar baritone, mounting tension. Then around the 2:15 mark, the true nature of ‘I Am Easy To Find’ announces itself: The racket subsides, strings swell and the voice of long-time David Bowie bandmate Gail Ann Dorsey booms out - not as background vocals, not as a hook but to take over the song. Elsewhere it’s Irish singer songwriter Lisa Hannigan, or Sharon Van Etten, or Mina Tindle or Kate Stables of
This Is The Kit, or varying combinations of them. Also, The Brooklyn Youth Choir, whom Bryce Dessner had worked with before. There are choral arrangements and strings on nearly every track, largely put together by Bryce in Paris - not a negation of the band’s dramatic tendencies but a redistribution of them. “Yes, there are a lot of women singing on this, but it wasn't because, ‘Oh, let’s have more women’s voices,’” says Berninger. “It was more, ‘Let’s have more of a fabric of people’s identities.’ It would have been better to have had other male singers but my ego wouldn’t let that happen.”
You’ve definitely seen their name on a poster over the years if you live in the UK, and now, if the mood takes one, Hey Colossus can be heard on vinyl for Luke Younger aka Helm’s Alter label
“Coming out of London and the South West of England, Hey Colossus are one of Europe's great live bands. Since 2003 the 6-piece has been driving around the continent with their “pirate ship” backline of broken amps and triple-guitar drang, elevating audiences in every type of venue imaginable; a doctor’s waiting room in Salford, an industrial unit in Liege and a vast field next to a river in Portugal. Wherever they may roam.
Four Bibles is their twelfth studio album and the first to be released by London label ALTER, whose sole proprietor (the electronic producer Helm) encountered the group at their first gig in 2003. Recorded by Ben Turner at Space Wolf Studios in Somerset, it's their most direct album yet and follows a well-documented trajectory of evolution that began (in the truest sense) with 2011’s RRR for Riot Season and continued across three albums for Rocket Recordings. Lead vocalist Paul Sykes sounds more in focus than before, dialling down the effects and using reverb / delay to carry his lyrics rather than smother. The band has also fine-tuned to leave some room for extra depth. Piano, electronics and violin (by Daniel O'Sullivan of This is not This Heat / Grumbling Fur) all find a way in amongst a familiar mesh of interlacing guitars, wrapped round a taut rhythm section. Like every other Hey Colossus record before, the line-up has altered and the sounds reflect this.
From the weight of “Memory Gore”, to the subtlety and swag of “It's a Low”, via the sonic extremes of “Palm Hex/Arndale Chins” this is exactly as the band are live; raging & rail-roading but somehow in control. Grooves for those who want to dance or for those who want to hug a wall and nod...bleak dystopian imagery submerged in relentless rhythms and low-end rattle. The songs breath life and soul - Hey Colossus have never sounded fresher or more on point.”
Folk-Blues trooper Mike Cooper and French rock band Hifiklub present a craggy psyche-rock soundtrack setting music to a 1907 text and the images of Robert J. Flaherty’s silent film ‘Man of Aran’ 
Filmed over two years on the inhospitable islands off the Irish west coast, ’Man Of Aran’ was 3rd documentary feature film made Robert J. Flaherty following ‘Nanook of the North’ - in 1922 the world’s first commercially successful documentary film in 1922 - and ‘Moana’, which was set in the south seas. While the latter film may seem the most natural choice for Cooper, whose work often revolves the south Pacific, the Aran Isles clearly provide a colder streak of inspiration for Cooper and Hifiklub, who describe the Atlantic-lashed rocks with salty licks of psyche guitar and starkly primitive drums, while Cooper hollers John Millington Synge’s text ‘The Aran Islands’  with a conviction that brings the words to life and takes listeners right there.
Nottingham-based composer and multi-instrumentalist Thomas William Hill returns to Village Green with ‘Grains Of Space’, his second album for the label following 2017’s multi-textured ‘Asylum For Eve’.
"‘Grains Of Space’ started life as a series of minimal loops, recorded using a viola da gamba - a stringed instrument most popular in the Renaissance and Baroque eras - and aloop pedal. Using the negative space within each loop as the primary drive for composing, Thomas began a process of ‘joining the dots’, allowing the silence to dictate the next layer, informing the length, pitch and timbre of notes.
Using those recordings as the foundation, Thomas began incorporating a wide variety of other instruments into his palette, including bowed metallophones, gongs, Tibetan singing bowls, African kalimbas and metal tongue drums, as well as drum machines and analogue synthesisers. From the tense, opening drones of ‘Carriages’ to sparser, more lyrical works such as ‘Curvature’ and ‘Refract’, Thomas again demonstrates profound compositional insight, crafting highly poignant moments rich with harmony and texture. Complementing this, a more developed sense of pulse and rhythm characterises much of the album, such as the propulsive undertow of ‘Willow’ and the tactile, modernist polyrhythms of ‘Furnace’ and ‘Tongue’.
‘Grains Of Space’ also sees Tom collaborating and cowriting with a number of other musicians, bringing trumpet, violin, double bass and harp together to provide a broad and varied form to each piece."
Carl Craig follows Stacey Pullen’s lead to mix the 2nd volume of ‘Detroit Love’, starring a slick and funky selection of cuts Kevin Sanderson, DJ Minx, Mr. G, Derrick May, Ectomorph, The Dirtbombs, and many more
The 1hr 37 min mix appears alongside its components, turning up highlights in Gay Marvine’s kinky bathhouse remix of ‘Credit Card’ by Interdimensional Transmissions’ BMG & Sal P; the twisted jazz-techno of ‘Boss’ by Brain; Floorpan’s gospel techno rework of Sophie Lloyd’s ‘Calling Out’; Derrick May’s all-time classic ‘ is It What It Is’; and the rude electro swivel of ‘Satori’ from Ectomorph.
‘Morphic Dreams’ is the sophomore LP by Alessandro Adriani, including guest input from Simon Crab (Bourbonese Qualk) and Shawn O’Sullivan (Led Er Est, Civil Duty)
A crucial cog in the wave machine with his Mannequin Records, and a gatekeeper to one of Berlin’s most feted clubs in his role as programmer of Säule in the guts of Berghain, Alessandro Adriani is by many measures a key player at the intersection of retro-futurist Industrial, EBM, post-punk and techno. Leading on from the cinematic vision of his debut LP, 2016’s ‘Montagne Trasparenti’, his follow-up is defined by its dancefloor-ready stance and is full of dead-on jak beats extracting what he needs from Italo, Industrial and EBM, to galvanise 11 tracky trax of bare bones rhythms and fanged, fleshly arps in his dry style.
Luke Younger yields his most engrossing work as Helm with the sorely romantic dynamics of ‘Chemical Flowers’, his follow-up to 2015’s ‘Olympic Mess’. Bolstered by J.G. Thirlwell’s rich string arrangements, it’s a hugely ambitious work that extends from whirling, panoramic vistas to insular, pulsing dynamics, somewhere between Earth, Oren Ambarchi, Keiji Haino and Actress.
Recorded in long, sustained sessions in the Essex countryside, giving him breathing room from the choke of London, ‘Chemical Flowers’ feels more elusive and ambitious than anything we’ve heard from Helm recordings in the past. While typically concerned with the nature and sound ecology of urban life, the Helm sound now feels more edgeland, drawing on a sense of marshy menace and concrete-meets-country dread limned so evocatively in classic J.G. Ballard novels, and surely recognisable by anyone in the UK beyond off-grid folk in Pembrokeshire or the Scottish highlands, perhaps.
Given the luxury of space and time, Younger detectably reflects on past experience touring and playing live, as ambiguous nods to the strings and tones used in his Egyptian ‘Rawabet’ recordings subtly colour and marble the eight tracks, thanks to string parts arranged by J.G. Thirlwell (Foetus/Manorexia/Xordox, The The), plus saxophone from Karl D’Silva and Lucinda Chua’s cello. These acoustic touches lend human sweat and grease to proceedings which Younger uses sparingly but crucially in his electronically sculpted stagings.
In effect, Helm pulls something hallucinatory from the mundane and prosaic, akin to viewing other dimensions refracted and projected into the dark from within a brightly lit bus or train carriage during a long commute, when the mind slips into the realm between reality and waking dreams. As we pass under the flight paths and neon, microtonal ephemera of ‘Capital Crisis (New City Loop)’ this nocturnal mindset plays out in the most absorbing ways, slipping from Yves Tumor or David Axelrod-like symphonic soul strokes and trip hop drums in ‘I Knew You Would Respond’ then the ambient noise qwheeze of ‘Body Rushes’, while ‘Lizard In Fear’ captivates with its hyperrealist electroacoustic evocation of a drowned Thames estuary, and the title and gnawing tone of ‘Toxic Racecourse’ could be an allegory for London itself.
But Younger makes sure to keep that view of London ambiguous, at arms length, by returning to hypnotic rhythms like the doomy pulse of ‘You Are The Database’ that glumly precedes ‘Chemical Flowers’, a majestic widescreen synth piece that poignantly manifests the allure and promise of the city as much as its isolating qualities.
Reinhold Friedl’s zeitkratzer perform the tense and often violent ‘Agitation / Starvation’ from an original, electronic score by Polish-French composer Kaspar T. Toeplitz, also included on the 2nd disc
Marking 20 years of releases under his own name, during which he’s worked extensively at the GRM and notably collaborated with the likes of Eliane Radigue and Phill Niblock, ‘Agitation / Starvation’ forms both an objective and subjective rendering of Kaspar’s latest work, with his original electronic score included for reference against zeitkratzer’s instrumental interpretation. The two pieces are meant to be stand alone, but the CD cover does ate that they can be played simultaneously.
On the original electronic score, Toeplitz presents a harsh, abstract gully of free-moving atonalities that erupt with a n often violent nature. There’s almost no respite apart from the relatively poignant breakdowns in the latter half that offer some contrast to the transfixing, spectrum-saturating nastiness. So, then, it becomes all the more fascinating to hear how zeitkratzer’s interpretation makes the instrumental leap into acoustic dimensions. Revolving 11 personnel, including Toeplitz as conductor, Hild Sofie Tafjord on french horn, and Reinhold Friedl at the piano stool, the reset ‘Agitation | Starvation’ in a vaster sound stage, sustaining and diffusing the tension with often petrifying, even alarming results that resemble a warzone or the rendering of a nightmare in sound.
‘Birmingham Frequencies’ is Biosphere and Bobby Bird’s atmospheric reading of the Brummy pulse at the turn of the millennium
Recorded in 1999 and released in 2000, the CD album explores intersections of location recordings with filigree ambient tones between dual poles of rugged, range-finding dub and exquisitely burnished, Lynch/ Badalamenti soundtrack styles to present a portrait of Birmingham that’s much more romantic and dreamy than you may imagine, especially if you know the place.
20 years later, the album effectively marks a midway point between original, late ‘70s/early ‘80s ambient pioneers and the modern field. It trades in a mixture of crisply polished, well established, classical ambient notions that reflect foundational forms by Eno and Hassell, and a strain of more technoid investigation that’s perhaps prescient of producers such as uon or Pendant.
The exquisitely sparing ’Giraffe’ contains Swedish composer Johan Lindvall’s super minimalist works for acoustic steel string guitar and voice, performed by Fredrik Rasten.
‘Giraffe’ is a hugely sparing testament to this mature-beyond-his years and quiet mind’s time-lapsed style of composition. It unfurls in 5 multi-segmented parts, firstly establishing his airy meter with the 14’ piece of plucked, trembling strings in ’21 Nocturnes’, and a series of shorter probing pieces, before those spaced out notes appear to gather closer harmonic relationships with ‘As Though It Had Shut Its Eyes’, all seemingly preparing he stage for ‘Five Songs for Voice and Guitar’. Here, words by Marianne Moore are sung by Fredrik fasten in an unaffected, plaintive style, with space between the notes taken up by the breathing and leathery creaks, while the songs take elegant form recalling the spectres of Hisato Higuchi or a Nico folk song taken to extreme lengths.
A must check!
Cellist Charles Curtis searches for phantom sonorities in ‘Orpheus Variations’, a work for solo cello and seven wind instruments played by the SEM Ensemble - one of eight large scale compositions expressly written for him by Alvin Lucier - and specifically based on a particular sonority, or de-tuned chord, from Stravinsky’s ‘Orpheus’ that Lucier can’t shake since he first heard it, decades ago
“Lucier speaks first of a sonority, and only then of a chord. He discusses the chord, its notes and their disposition, but what haunts him is a “particular sonority.” A sonority is the product of physical action on physical materials: the instruments, the registers in which they are activated, the breath of the musicians, the waveforms thus produced, their merging and interfering, and finally the moment and place of these actions. An energy field, certain to vanish completely once the musicians put down their instruments. However concrete and real the actions and materials, the sonority they produce is a phantom.”
John Cage acolytes, Edition Wandelweiser Records, collect Guy Vandromme’s performance of three ‘Number’ pieces for piano from a body of late Cage works composed c.1987-1992
All entitled ‘One’, as the pieces were so named to denote how many players, and which variation they’d play, each piece is structured around Cage’s time bracket technique; providing only short fragments of score (often a single note, with or without dynamics) and indications, in minutes and seconds, during which the fragment can start andy what time it should end. The brackets can be fixed (e.g. from 1.15 to 2.00) or flexible (e.g. from anywhere between 1.15 and 1.45, and to anywhere between 2.00 and 2.30), allowing form myriad subtle variations on the same themes.
In the case of ‘One’ there are 10 time brackets, all flexible except for the ninth./ Each contains music written onto staves, but the content of one staff can be played in any relation with that of the other staff. Guy Vandromme offers two calmly spare 10 minute versions of ‘One’, which, if we’re honest, sound pretty much identical, but do actually differ from each other. There’s also a 20 minute version of ‘One5’ (his fifth work for one player) which has a more complex set of instructions including 21 time brackets for the left hand and 24 for the right. Each contains a single chord or a single note, and the performer is instructed to either hold the pedal throughout, or make as many overlappings as possible (again, using the pedal if necessary). The final piece is very quiet, often tending to the lowest registers of the keyboard and allowing the notes to spread out, smeared into a gently undulating late night panorama.
Low Jack hustles a clutch of mutant industrial dancehall edits for Hospital Productions following his role on a pair of killer Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement releases
‘Breizh’ on the most immediate level is a heavyweight bag of riddims bending industrial sounds into the dancehall template - airhorns and vibes replete - while on another level it’s posited as a comment on the “sociapolitical contradictions and passions” of his home region, the Celtic region of Brittany in North West France, which is reflected thru the cryptic cover art of Celtic glyphs and, perhaps more subtly, in the music’s short-circuiting of cultural dogma.
All cut from live recordings, the five tracks serve ammo to the discerning DJ, ranging from stormy dancehall dread in ‘Robert (Le Bourg Version)’ and woozy reversed loops in ‘They Rule (Cap-Sizun Remix)’, thru to absolute dancefloor wreckers in the cyborg bogle of ‘Plogo (Live Edit)’, a bombed out flip of Richard Brown’s late ‘90s ace ‘Baddis Riddim’, and a mental, recklessly sped-up ‘Tempo Riddim’.
Argentinian saxophonist Sergia Merce appears to flicker in and out of consciousness in ‘Three Dimensions of the Spirit,’ a spellbinding deep dive into microtonal and prepared Tenor saxophones.
Conservatory trained Merce plays with the Berlin-Buenos Aires Quintet and Haiti groups, and has previously collaborated on record with another master of spittle-inflected microtones, Lucio Capece. This is his 2nd recording for Edition Wandelweiser Records after 2016’s ‘Be Nothing.’
Until we got used to his steez by the end of titular opener, ’One Dimensional’, we genuinely weren’t sure if the CD was cutting out or if he suffered from a form of Narcolepsy or self-induced hypoxia (shortage of oxygen to the brain) from his concentrated tekkers. But, no, the piece actually makes use of those lacunæ as ear-palate cleansers in between his strangely harmonised musical sections, each returning similar to the previous part, but always different, beckoning the ear to make out the difference. ‘The Same Morning’ follows at a similarly slow pace, this time stressing queered overtones and beating frequencies after each fade out and in, until he’s hitting some really tweaky nerves, before ‘Ondular De La Espera’ completes the suite with a real test of physical endurance, as Merce somehow sustains his beating frequencies and tremulous overtones for 27 minutes.
Youth keep up a killer run of form with the first album proper by Tokyo’s Hoshina Anniversary; a steeply immersive fusion of traditional Japanese instruments with gunky acid and coruscating, psychoactive electronics.
Arriving hot on the heels of Youth’s widely-praised ‘Sports’ comp, Hoshina Anniversary’s ‘Nihon No Ongaku’ extends an invitation into a singular sound world as mazy and enigmatic as the label’s previous solo artist album by FUMU, but informed by a whole other set of reference points.
Comprising over an hour of material, ‘Nihon No Ongaku’ showcases Hoshina Anniversary’s full but particular range, spreading out from the heavy-lidded acid noise hypnagogia to experiments with processed instrumentation and pulsating electronics that recall Sote’s ontological explorations of traditional Iranian music, but woven with curious threads of pinched, minimalist, fluid rhythmelody.
If you’re after highlights, run check for the Don’t DJ-alike percussive cadence of ‘Maai’ - somehow reminding us of both Photek's 'Ni Ten Ichi Ryu' and Ryuichi Sakamoto's 'Left Handed Dream' album, the grubbing electro-dub elegance of ‘Makuranage’, or the oddly sidewinding, darkly jazzy hustle of ‘Saga’ and ’Shindeiru’.
A big tip to fans of owt from Peder Mannerfelt to Foodman, Sote or Don’t DJ!
‘Holy Water Whisper’ is one of those purist electronic peaches that bloom regularly on Antwerp’s excellent, ever searching Ent’racte label
It is Cologne-based artist Volker Hennes’ 3rd release for the label, after 2015’s ‘Emperor Ambassador’, and follows from his 2017 action with Anthony Moore in Therapeutische Hörgruppe Köln.
Technically the nine track album was entirely produced on a Nord Modular G1 - “One track, one patch; no additional effects or over-dubbing”, while the label more poetically describe it as “Fluids flood the entire audio spectrum (20 to 20k). A solid state which is simultaneously and continuously changing.”
Echoing the stripped down approach of Yves De Mey’s recent ace ‘Exit Strategies Part 1’, the results are all dead abstract, and range from what sounds like a protein-gargling alien vocaloid in his ‘Holy Whisper’ parts, thru to bouts of ultra iridescent, deliquescent, gurning lushness in the ‘Fluid Noise’ bits, and a couple of astringent, unsettling ‘Cleaning’ numbers.
Surreal Euro oddity from double bass player Hannes d’Hoine’s Jon Doe One, joined by a quintet of guitar, flues, marimba, drums, clarinet and vacillating late night Lynchian feels with prog-jazzy turns of phrase and unexpected daubs of strange soul music. RIYL Rupert Clervaux, David Lynch, Jean-Michel Jarre, Kreng
“Jon Doe One is the alter ego of Hannes d’Hoine, a double-bass player and composer from Antwerp. His collaboration with guitarist Sjoerd Bruil and Magnum photographer Sohrab Hura, The lost head and the bird, has led to a series of live events in which the framework for Small Numbers was established. Together with a handful of guest musicians (Elko Blijweert, Michaël Brijs, Jeroen Stevens, Han Stubbe and Gert Wyninckx) the material was distilled and refined into the album’s eight tracks.”
American hardcore punk veterans plug in a drum machine and vent their worries about modernity. If you don’t like this check out Holly Herndon’s ‘Proto’ album, and vice-versa
“Technology was meant to be humanity’s tool to combat famine, disease, confusion, and to facilitate life, culture, and innovation. Instead, we’re mired in a digital labyrinth that few care to navigate or even solve. Perhaps it’s not a ruse and the matrices coded by keyboard maestros are a path to liberation, but without querying the constructs we cannot ruminate on their affectations on humanity.
VR SEX are audio/visual provocateurs who transpose the identifiers of death rock, synth punk, post-punk, ambient, and ethereal soundscapes into an audit on technology and its imprint on our collective psyche. Comprised of visionary mercenaries Noel Skum (Andrew Clinco of Drab Majesty), Z. Oro (Aaron Montaigne of Antioch Arrow/Heroin/DBC) on vocals and drums, and Mico Frost (Brian Tarney) on synths and electric bass.
Their debut tome, Human Traffic Jam, focuses on lyrical themes that probe the possibilities of loss of autonomy through social media, the decline of human interaction, and celebrity favoritism. Skum believes in the stabilization of society and preservation of our planet by reducing its amount of procreators.
Through PSRS or Procreation Simulation Reproduction Stimulation, humans can act on their hedonistic desires and not face the responsibilities and consequences that come with being an ill-prepared guardian. The future of our offspring will exist in virtual realms and population growth in turn will be stabilized. VR SEX is the cure to most societal ills.
Thematically condensed into an eight song album, Human Traffic Jam was written and demoed by Skum in a flat in Athens, Greece during the winter of 2017. During a rigorous week long session at Figure 8 studios with experimental and dimensional production extraordinaire Ben Greenberg (Uniform/The Men), Skum solely committed all the instrumentation present on Human Traffic Jam.
Rather than being emblematic of influences, each song on the LP infuses a dire tension that cuts shimmer with fetid frequencies, never establishing an aural hierarchy or urgency. Instead, we’re lead into punchy capsules of “dour pop”; the balance of saccharine and sour so emblematic of the VR SEX hive mind.”
Studio Mule’s rotating assembly, helmed by Kuniyuki, cover a clutch of their favourite ‘80s Japanese music from the likes of Yasuaki Shimizu, Dip In The Pool, and Yellow Magic Orchestra.
Sweetly on the money for a growing number of ears attuned to the gems of Japanese pop and electronics, ‘BGM’ is set to introduce a lot of listeners to some classics picks, strewn between the likes of ‘Face To Face’, Miyako Koda’s take on Yumi Murata’s ambient pop ace - a favourite of Visible Cloaks, too - along with a cover of a cover in Nanako Sato’s version of Yukuhiro Takahashi’s take on Burt Bacharach’s ‘The April Fools’, and Miyako Koda’s funked up spin on ‘Carnaval’, a Japanese dance classic by Taeko Ohnuki, produced by YMO.
A Certain Ratio - who celebrate their 40th anniversary this year - a lavish box set, ‘acr:box’, via Mute, with all material remastered by Martin Moscrop at Abbey Road studios and featuring over 20 unreleased tracks from the archive.
"Following on from 2018’s compilation, ‘acr:set’, the box showcases the diversity of the singles, B-sides and alternative versions of tracks that A Certain Ratio have released but without repeating tracks recently made available. ‘acr:box’ collates everything that fans had been missing from the recent reissue campaign and compliments that with a selection found after a deep delve into the archive to find all the hidden gems that had been talked about over the years but never heard - even a few releases the band had forgotten about.
Looking to make the box set as comprehensive as possible, even the original tapes from the session they recorded for a collaboration with Grace Jones were uncovered and reworked. This session includes the cover version of Talking Heads’ ‘Houses In Motion’, using Jez Kerr’s guide vocals (pre to him becoming the band’s singer). Grace Jones never completed her vocal take after attending one of the recording sessions with the band.
The box set, which marks the 40th anniversary of A Certain Ratio’s debut release, the Martin Hannett produced ‘All Night Party’ (Factory Records’ first single release) was described recently by Record Collector as “a statement of future intentions: to set funk off against nervous angst.” They went on to be hailed universally as pioneers of what became known as ‘punk funk’ thanks to the success of their second single, ‘Shack Up’, represented here via a radio edit from Electronic, featuring Bernard Sumner and Johnny Marr."
Scandinavian isolationists Deaf Center draw a beautiful pall over this decade with ‘Low Distance’, their first album since 2011’s ‘Owl Splinter’, arriving nearly 15 years since their debut couplet of modern classical/ambient masterpieces; the ‘Neon City EP’ and ‘Pale Ravine’.
Low Distance’ returns Erik Skodvin and Otto A. Totland to the shadowy, wintry depths of their early sound, seemingly sequestered in a loft or creaking wooden house in a place where the sun doesn’t rise for 6 months of the year. Their signature palette of ghostly piano gestures, glacial but knife-edge strings and electronics is employed to expectedly beautiful effect, but it’s perhaps the final mixing treatment, uncannily rendered along vertical and horizontal axes at EMS Stockholm, that really brings this record to life, just as integrally as lighting is to a slow burn film noir.
Endearingly working on low batteries throughout the album, their sense of melancholy is patently apparent and deeply intoxicating with it, diffused through the synaesthetic connotations of rain in ‘A Scent’, and through the clammy skin stroking strings of ‘Entity Voice’ before sublimely relieving tension with ‘Undone’. They then broach more textured, abstract electro-acoustic space in the spectral flocking of ‘Gathering’, the album’s extended centrepiece, before touching on midnight jazz notes, sumptuous subs and extended techniques in ‘Red Glow’ like some meeting of Deathprod and Bohren Und Der Club of Gore, and the barely there yet heartbreaking strings of ‘Faded Earth’ attest to their preternatural skill in getting the most from the barest components.
The last section is just immensely powerful in its stark vulnerability and impending tension, holding its emotive line thru the needling hi-register keys and heavy-breathing strings of ‘Movements/The Ascent’, thru the lingering romance of ‘Far Between’, until the quietly jaw-dropping, beautiful solo piano resolution of ‘Yet To Come’, where the hallucinatory nature dissipates and we’re left with starkly vivid, waking realism implied by the track’s title.
Wonderful suite of archival gamelan minimalism from Bay Area practitioner Daniel Schmidt.
Recital dip into the personal archives of Daniel Schmidt, an integral scholar in the development of American Gamelan. After studying Javanese gamelan at California Institute of the Arts in the early ‘70s, Schmidt set about creating a West Coast movement based around an aluminium version of the instrument – the Berkeley Gamelan - forged of his own design. He’s since gone on to build numerous gamelan instruments, theorise on it’s compositional qualities, collaborate with Lou Harrison, Jody Diamond, and Paul Dresher, and currently teaches at Mills College San Francisco.
‘In My Arms, Many Flowers’ captures the American Gamelan movement in its nascent state, the result of a personal invitation for Recital boss Sean McCann to rifle through three boxes of Schmidt’s studio and live recordings committed to cassette between the late ’70s and early ‘80s. What’s immediately striking here is how Schmidt deviates from the traditional Javanese style of gamelan composition, instead seeking out the minimalist movement of North America for guidance.
Making use of a primitive sampler borrowed from Pauline Oliveros (RIP), lead track And the Darkest Hour is Just Before Dawn pairs a sumptuous looped string arrangement with Schmidt’s delicate caresses of the Berkeley Gamelan which build with quiet melodic complexity into something quite wonderful. The title track sees Schmidt augmenting the mysticism of his Berkeley with the bowed strings of a rebab, another traditional Indonesian instrument, deployed to signify a bird that “calls from far away.”
Ghosts is one of two compositions done solely with the gamelan, Schmidt leading a procession of players using traditional techniques on a detailed 14-minute recording of percussive dexterity and intricacy that highlights the spiritual powers of the instrument. Faint Impressions offers a sombre finale, the ringing melodicism of the Berkeley gamelan set to a backdrop of an understandably captivated audience.
Vancouver lasses Minimal Violence are bang on the £$¥ with the EBM/rave/techno collisions of ‘InDreams’, their startling debut album for Technicolour
We were late to MV’s game, only clocking on with their ‘MVX/U41A’ bombs, but we’re full backing ‘InDreams’, one of the fiercest sets of hardcore techno in circulation this side of Live Adult Entertainment. In nine original productions plus a Cardopusher remix and a Powermoves megamix, they absolutely take the skin off it with a wild-eyed and ruthless barrage of hi-impact heavyweights.
They’re not necessarily remaking the wheel, but we haven’t heard this sound executed with so much gnashing energy and style in years. Trust it’s no piss-weak revivalism or slap-a-tinny-break-on-it dilettantism, but the real fucking thing, ravenous and ravishing, chomping at the bit, not hanging in the smoking area cos it’s actually shit inside, where everyone’s going thru the motions, waiting for a good tune.
‘InDreams’ is rave techno as punk music inspired by sci-fi literature and cinema. It’s highly visual stuff, connoting imagery of cenobites at Thunderdome, darkroom chase scenes and dancers pushing themselves to exhaustion between massive highlights in the hard acid trance peak of ‘InDreams’, the mentasmic gush of ‘L.A.P.’, and the lockjaw scally bounce of ‘June Anthem’ or the clattering skullduggery of ‘Persuasive Behaviour’.
Sometimes, it’s hard for us to reconcile first hand experience of older raves, when folk were far less self-conscious and more up-for-it, with many of rave’s current iterations, but ‘InDreams’ is the kind of record that could bring the joy of utter, unbuttoned abandonment back to the centre of the ‘floor. Just imagine a horde of fleggin’ Morley scallies invading your space. That sort of feeling.
Crafty mix of dream-pop vocals and supple, slow grooves nodding to witch house, R&B, trip hop
“"Our Love Is The Gold" is the third proper studio album from Paco Sala following "Ro-Me-Ro" & "Put Your Hands On Me". Written over 4 years it marks a return to song-writing for the duo, employing fever-dream melodies and synth drunk hooks, balanced against off-kilter production that sets them apart from their peers.
Intense, impassioned, guttural yet enigmatic - the album documents the process of leaving London and the empowerment a new life inspires. The opening & title track is a statement of intent “are you aware of my power?” repeats Garza, leaving us in no doubt that we really shouldn’t doubt her.
Tone set, what follows is gloriously idiosyncratic and deeply personal pop, presented without compromise or concession. Direct, confident, articulate - gone are the the opiated improvisations of 2017’s "The Silent Season", though the wilful sense of adventure remains throughout. "Our Love is The Gold" is a record of awakenings and self-discovery.”
Holly Herndon returns with the conceptually top-loaded ‘Proto’, an interesting and multi-layered attempt at humanising technology, featuring her A.I. “baby”, Spawn, and a stacked ensemble of guests including Jlin and Amnesia Scanner’s Ville Haimala, plus co-production by Mat Dryhurst.
With one eye on her background in East Tennessee, and the other tracking a future where A.I. aren’t feared but integrated into society, ‘Proto’ is heavily focussed on the voice, both Holly’s own, that of Spawn, and also 16 guests including Stine Janvin, Colin Self and Annie Garlin, in a fusion of folk-wise, hymnal arrangements rendered with computerised tunings. As you can see from the massive list of guest contributors, the hi-def glossy artwork, and an “emphasis on alien songcraft” and existential questioning of “who we are, what are we, what do we stand for, and what are we heading towards?”, a lot of time, thought and effort has gone into this one...
"Holly’s third full-length album ‘PROTO’ isn’t about AI but much of it was created in collaboration with her own AI ‘baby’, Spawn. For the album, she assembled a contemporary ensemble of vocalists, developers and an inhuman intelligence housed in a DIY souped-up gaming PC to create a record that encompasses live vocal processing and timeless folk singing and places an emphasis on alien song craft and new forms of communion. ‘PROTO’ makes reference to what Holly refers to as the protocol era, where rapidly surfacing ideological battles over the future of AI protocols, centralised and decentralised internet protocols and personal and political protocols compel us to ask ourselves who are we, what are we, what do we stand for and what are we heading towards?
You can hear traces of Spawn throughout the album - developed in partnership with longtime collaborator Mathew Dryhurst and ensemble developer Jules LaPlace - and even eavesdrop on the live training ceremonies conducted in Berlin, in which hundreds of people were gathered to teach Spawn how to identify and reinterpret unfamiliar sounds in group call-and-response singing sessions; a contemporary update on the religious gathering Holly was raised amongst in her upbringing in East Tennessee. “There’s a pervasive narrative of technology as dehumanizing,” says Holly. “We stand in contrast to that. It’s not like we want to run away; we’re very much running towards it, but on our terms. Choosing to work with an ensemble of humans is part of our protocol. I don’t want to live in a world in which humans are automated off stage. I want an AI to be raised to appreciate and interact with that beauty ”
Just as ‘Platform’ forewarned of the manipulative personal and political impacts of prying social media platforms long before popular acceptance, ‘PROTO’ is a euphoric and principled statement setting the shape of things to come."
Like a rare comet, Suicide and Talking Heads producer Craig Leon returns nearly 40 years after his ‘Nommos’ and ‘Visiting’ LPs with their widescreen conceptual follow-up; ‘Anthology of Interplanetary Folk Music Vol.2: The Canon’. Apparently John Malkovich makes an appearance too...
Comprising all new material recorded over the past 2 years, and made using similar technology and tekkers as his ‘80s classics, Leon’s sequel finds him riff deeper on the cosmic lore of Mali’s Dogon tribe of Mali, whose exhibition of art at the Brooklyn Museum in 1973 first inspired him to make ‘Nommos’; a visionary piece of NYC’s new wave/downtown puzzle released by John Fahey’s Takoma, which has re-emerged among the most crucial, revelatory reissues of this decade via everywhere from Volcanic Tongue to Superior Viaduct, and RVNG Intl’s deluxe ‘Anthology of Interplanetary Folk Music Vol.2’.
The ‘Nommos’ Leon refers to are part of the Dogon tribe’s creation myth revolving visitations by an amphibious alien race from the white dwarf Sirius B who came to impart their wisdom on humankind. Resonating with then prevailing new age thought and conceptually pre-echoing Rashad Becker’s ‘Traditional Music For Notional Species’, the project sincerely speaks to electronic music’s ideals of transcendence, both (meta)physical and spiritual, beautifully employing the use of synthesis as a means of divination and hyperstition,
‘The Canon’ leads directly on from ‘Nommos’ and ‘Visitation’, tracing the alien knowledge/arithmetic/energy’s journey from Mali to Egypt and Greece in a narrative arc that unfolds like a map for inner exploration, coursing from the ceremonial chorale of ‘The Earliest Trace’ thru glyphic drum communications in ‘The Respondent in Dispute’, and the panoramic beauty of ‘Four Floods of the Point’, before opening the tantalising wormhole of ‘The Gates Made Plain’, and atomically diffusing into ether with ‘Departure’.
Including contributions from folk sorceress Cassell Webb and apparently even John Malkovich in there, somewhere, the results are worth the wait for any believers who look for signs in the skies.
Studiously soft-focus, retro-vintage ’60s/‘70s fetishism from Sweden’s Death and Vanilla, following their live rendition and recording of ‘A Score For Roman Polanski’s The Tenant’
“There’s something about the Swedish city of Malmo that doesn’t add up. Named the “happiest” city in Sweden in 2016 (who gets the job of judging these things?), Malmo’s DNA contains a “none-coding” strain that reveals the city’s penchant for a world more studious, fashioned in a vintage era, telescoped by pop culture that arrives via the TV-approved bridge that connects it to Denmark. Surely, it can’t be the same place.
Marleen Nilsson, Magnus Bodin and Anders Hansson of Death and Vanilla couldn’t come from anywhere else. They are dreamers, antiquarians, music-obsessed individuals, lauded by the media for their last album ‘To Where The Wild Things Are’ from 2015…
Prior to recording their new album ‘Are You A Dreamer?’, they scored several soundtracks, that process undoubtedly influencing the new album’s dreamlike euphoria built with added mellotron and affected electric guitar. Expanded with bass and drums in their quest for the grail, Death And Vanilla’s songs are longer; more plush and pampered; more hypnotic and haunting.
‘Are You A Dreamer?’ is melancholy at its most refined, riddled with super-memorable motifs and melodies that nestle in reflective echo. Death And Vanilla are an alluring confection, hard to resist and wantonly moreish as Marleen Nilsson’s sepia tones are embraced by the trio’s gorgeous arrangements and intricate ambience.”
Pacific Breeze documents Japan’s blast into the stratosphere. By the 1960s, the nation had achieved a postwar miracle, soaring to become the world’s second largest economy. Thriving tech exports sent The Rising Sun over the moon. Its pocket cassette players, bleeping video games, and gleaming cars boomed worldwide, wooing pleasure points and pumping Japanese pockets full of yen.
"Japan’s financial buoyancy also permeated its popular culture, birthing an audio analog called City Pop. This new sound arose in the mid ’70s and ruled through the ’80s, channeling the country’s contemporary psyche. It was sophisticated music mirroring Japan’s punch-drunk prosperity. City Pop epitomized the era, providing a soundtrack for emerging urbanites. An optimistic spirit buzzed through the music in neon-bathed, gauzy tableaus coated with groove-heavy strokes.
Pacific Breeze is an expertly compiled collection of choice cuts that range from silky smooth grooves to innovative techno pop bangers and everything in between. Long-revered by crate diggers and adventurous music heads, this music has never been released outside of Japan until now. Including key artists like Taeko Ohnuki and Minako Yoshida, as well as cult favorites Hitomi Tohyama and Hiroshi Sato, the long-awaited release also features newly commissioned cover painting by Tokyo-based artist Hiroshi Nagai, whose iconic images of resort living have graced the covers of many classic City Pop albums of the 1980s.
Many of the key City Pop players evolved from the Japanese New Music scene of the early ’70s, as heard on Light In The Attic’s acclaimed Even a Tree Can Shed Tears: Japanese Folk & Rock 1969-1973, the first release of the ongoing Japan Archival Series. In fact, you could say City Pop set sail with a champagne smash from Happy End, the freakishly talented subversives who included amongst their ranks Haruomi Hosono and Shigeru Suzuki, both featured on this compilation. As Michael K. Bourdaghs noted in his book, Sayonara Amerika, Sayonara Nippon, this music was, “Deconstructing the line between imitation and authenticity.” Some of the best City Pop teeters in this zone—easy listening with mutant exotica, tilted techno-pop, and steamy boogie bubbling beneath the gloss."
Praised Icelandic ambient-techno producer Yagya spreads his wings on A Strangely Isolated Place
A key member of Iceland’s Thule crew, and a revered artist in his own right, Yagya is beloved for his knack in turning inspiration from his native Icelandic landscapes into signature, sensitively fluffy but sincerely deep creations that swim somewhere between classic ambient and dub techno styles.
Following from two albums for Delsin and a rare 12” for XOZ in 2018, ’Stormur’ is Yagya’s 7th album proper and a snug fit for A Strangely Isolated Place’s eternally melancholy, dream state aesthetic. It works like a seamless mixtape or production showreel, flowing with a cool conduction of energy between its 10 tracks that’s equally suited to simmering dancefloor sessions or sinking into your sofa.
Fans of everything from Gas to Basic Channel and Brian Eno should find something to appreciate here.
EVOL cough up the intensely hypnotic results of sessions recorded on a Serge Modular Music System at the GRM in Paris, in early 2019. Weighing in at 28 trax wide and 292 minutes long, ‘GRM Trax’ is arguably the motherload of all EVOL releases. It features the OG deco-rave duo applying their unrelenting, uncompromising process to a classic vintage synth with transfixing results ready to open a vast, pulsating wormhole in your living room or wherever it is that freaks like to consume their EVOL (betcha someone does it in the bog).
Pushing the classic early ‘70s synth in a way not previously heard, EVOL make only the slightest envelope shifts in each part, allowing the machine to gurn and chatter in its purest, buzzing vernacular. With such unyielding focus on each tweak, they encourage a total immersion in the sounds’ pure signal and its resonant overtones. We can confirm the effect is extremely uncanny and totally disorientating after headphone ingestion, meaning that once the cans came off every sound in the room will still pulse freakishly.
For the sake of your sanity and the health of your ears, it’s maybe not best to do the whole release in one go - or at least not loudly on headphones - but for those who love to peer into the abyss, we can assure you of a heavily sensational, mind-bending experience quite unlike any other.
The Lioness is the first Jason Molina project to fully turn away from the battlefield folk and deconstructed Americana of earlier Songs: Ohia recordings. At the dawn of the 21st century, the album felt modern. It aligned Molina with a new set of peers — Low, Gastr del Sol, Red House Painters and, most importantly, the influential Scottish band Arab Strap, whose producer and members were crucial in the creation of The Lioness.
"The avant- garde tones and arrangements of Arab Strap are absorbed here into Molina’s songwriting to create what would become, for many acolytes, the archetypal Songs: Ohia sound. Love & Work: The Lioness Sessions, the box set reissue, will serve as the seminal log of the era, complete with lost songs, photos, drawings, and essays from those who knew Molina best. We know Molina was diligent in both love and work. He treated songcraft like a job at the mill, and his approach to romance was not so different.
We know that when he fell in love with his wife, he was dutiful in his adoration. There were strings of love letters and poetic gesture. Included in this edition are replicated examples of this relentless love — an envelope with a letter from Molina, a photograph of Molina and his to-be wife, a postcard, a Two of Hearts playing card, and a personal check for one million kisses. Some of these items were gifts he would send to his new love from the road; others, like the 2 of Hearts, were totems he’d carry with him around this time as a symbol for his burgeoning love. And so, the head-over-heels album that is The Lioness has its workman counterpart. Nearly another album’s worth of material was recorded in Scotland during the album sessions. While similar in tone and structure, the songs seem to deal in the grit and dirt of being.
These are songs for aching muscles getting soothed in the third-shift pub. But they’re also examples of Molina’s diligence as he constructs what would be the essential elements of The Lioness. In addition to these outtakes, we also have a 4-track session made weeks earlier in London with friend James Tugwell. Comprised of primarily guitar, hand drums and voice, these songs are raw experiments that mostly serve to illustrate Molina’s well of words and ideas. But then, there is the devastating Sacred Harp hymn “Wondrous Love.” While he may have had his new love in mind, one can’t help but think of Molina’s legacy as he softly warbles “Into eternity I will sing/Into eternity I will sing.” You don’t have to try too hard to mythologize Molina. He did all the work for you."
One of Drexciya's most sought-after and definitive "storms" finally reissued for those that need it.
Originally released in 2002, 'Harnessed The Storm' yields timeless anthems such as the devastating 'Digital Tsunami' - leaves us an emotional wreck every time - and the unfathomable mystery of 'Under Sea Disturbances' alongside signature enigmas like 'Mission to Ociya Syndor and Back' or the heart-breaking melodies of 'Birth Of New Life'. Trust us and everyone else: it's essential.
An incredible 80 minute wormhole into ritualistic, hypnagogic experiments from riveting dark ambient to freezing rave riffs and SAW II-like tone poems. Puts so much of this kind of music to shame - if you’re into the darker, more harrowing end of drone and Ambient - anything from Kevin Drumm to Dean Hurley or Thomas Köner, this will rule your world.
Key Hospital Productions artist Jim Mroz aka Lussuria ditches the synths for a holistically organic, analogue alchemy in ‘Scarlet Locust of These Columns’, anticipating the mighty shadow of his ‘Three Knocks’ album looming on the horizon. Assembled and executed in 10 days of October and finally realised at Merchant House, South Hampton, Long Island, New York, the album locates Lussuria in elemental and liminal states. Gathering a charged array of instrumentation including flutes made out of human leg bones and a drum made from a skull, he conducts ritualistic experiments that enable him to broach other dimensions and relay the what’s on the other side in a series of riveting dark ambient tales and hypnotic pulses.
It’s maybe wisest to take ‘Scarlet Locust of These Columns’ as an initiatory rite of passage for the upcoming ‘Three Knocks’ album. In structure and scale, its 17 tracks are perhaps surprisingly light on the ear, and as hypnagogic as they are impending, vacillating the pressure meter between sky citadel structures in the title track and the choking pound of ’Neo-Savage (Suspicions of Destiny)’ with heavy-lidded wormholes such as ‘With Bated Breath (Bird in Hand)’, segueing from somnambulant shoegaze in ‘Mondala (The Snell Of Power)’ to dry-eyed choral samples in ‘The Mondrian’, and sublime, opiated gauze in ‘White Ties To The Revolution’, or seemingly isolating and freezing rave riffs in meditative space on ‘Feather Duster Put In Place’, beside SAW II-like tone poems and exquisite palls of inclement gloom.
Albums of this kind of atmospheric calibre don’t come along so often. Don’t let it escape you.
Almighty sophomore album by industrial overload Kris Lapke aka Alberich - Hospital Productions’ mastering engineer, scene-defining producer, and right hand man to Dominick Fernow (Prurient, Vatican Shadow, RSE).
Where Alberich’s infamous, 3 hour long ‘NATO Uniformen’  series can be heard as a cornerstone for this decade’s tilt into noise techno experimentation, its follow-up is a bitterly refined and exquisitely crafted single disc bedevilled by increasingly excoriating detail via bombed-out rhythms and eschaton-limning atmospheres. Lapke distills and pokes his most potent ideas into their most succinct, brutalist forms, but also makes room for one durational pulverizer that is on its own worthy of the cost of admission.
A master of calibrating maximalist and minimalist scopes, Lapke has a gift for getting right in-the-mix and pulling sounds to the biting point or allow them to glisten in the periphery; emphasising their grotesqueness, stark beauty and visceral nature in the process. It’s an approach which has elevated him to the vanguard of modern industrial music, evidenced in production work and mastering for Prurient, The Haxan Cloak and Nothing, as well as audio restoration for COUM Transmissions and Shizuka, but rarely felt as strongly or as nuanced as in his solo work.
Between opener ‘Upper Mountains’, casting some of the gloomiest synth pads this side of Silent Servant’s ‘Negative Fascination’, to the entrenched techno of ‘Unity House’ with its asphyxiating, buried-by-mud effect buoyed only by drily resigned vocals, and the aching synth poignancy of ‘No Reference to The Absence of Allegory’ at the album’s charred heart, Lapke's sounds adopt a frightening meaning thru their manacled grip of reality.
But its the B-side that will really see off any half-hearted types, as he sucks us down the title track’s rabbit hole of collapsing techno and lo-NRG vox into the reverberating negative space of ‘Freeze’, and the masterfully dense yet wide open paradox of his closing ‘Radio Op’ transmission.
PAN inaugurate Entopia, their highly promising, soundtrack-focussed sister label, with the tremulous beauty and dreamy ambient detachment of Tujiko Noriko’s ‘Kuro (OST)’
Realised alongside musicians Sam Britton and Will Worsely, experimental J-popstar and composer Tujio Noriko conceived the ‘Kuro’ soundtrack for the eponymous 2017 film which she wrote and directed with Joji Koyama, and in which she also plays the lead role. The film follows the tale of Romi, a Japanese woman living in the suburbs of Paris with her paraplegic lover Milou. Told through personal anecdotes and myths, the story soon turns ominous, reflected as the narrated story and the visual story diverge to reveal an ambiguous space which is subtly coloured and accentuated by the soundtrack’s suggestive daubs of ambient electronics and burnished instrumental tones.
The music was composed during the editing of the film, mostly by Tujiko, but with integral assistance from both Sam Britton and Will Worsely, and her co-director Joji Koyama. Perhaps glibly known as “the Japanese Björk” for her spellbinding, etheric touch, Tujiko brings a wealth of experience to helm in the soundtrack, steering fathoms wide of her pop-related output to work with filigree, layered electronics, organs that are occasionally and imperceptibly meshed with diegetic, rustling sounds from the film. The resulting atmosphere is intoxicatingly gentle yet elusive, evoking themes of claustrophobia and haunting beauty that also lie behind the imagery.
In the film, Tujiko is heard as the narrator behind Romi, but in this soundtrack release her voice is largely reserved to scant, poignant moments of glossolalia or breathy presence, save for one exquisite piece of ambient pop. Nested at the core of ‘Kuro’ is ‘Romi Sings’, where Tujiko appears to duet with the breeze from her window in the album’s most gorgeous vignette. Taken part of the whole, it’s a hauntingly realist denouement for the rest of the soundtrack, and just one of the subtly absorbing, contrasting components that make up the album’s dreamlike nature.
‘Kuro (OST)’ is an ideal first release for Entopia, the soundtrack-focussed offshoot of PAN. Taking its meaning in context of Ekistics - the idea of world-building - and in respect of creative communities both visual and music-oriented, Entopia proposes a promising new space - neither utopian nor dystopic - where the boundaries between installation works, theatre, dance and fashion will fall, just as they have with PAN the parent label.
Scowling industrial bad vibes from Frederikke Hoffmeier’s Puce Mary, mounting her debut LP with PAN after dishing out dozens of albums and oddjobs for Posh Isolation, Ascetic House, iDEAL under her own name and also as Amphetamine Logic, JH1.FS3, and Body Sculptures during the preceding decade
“Building from a reputation of arresting live performances and critically acclaimed releases Puce Mary breaks new ground with The Drought, evolving from the tropes of industrial and power electronics to forge a complex story of adapting to new realities. Remnants of noise still exist, sustaining the penetrative viscerality offered on previous records, however The Drought demonstrates an intention to expand on the vocabulary of confrontational music and into a grander narrative defined by technical and emotional growth.
Bringing together introspective examination with literary frameworks by writers such as Charles Baudelaire and Jean Genet, Puce Mary’s compositions manifest an ongoing power struggle within the self towards preservation. The traumatised body serves as a dry landscape of which obscured memories and escape mechanisms fold reality into fiction, making sense of desire, loss and control. The Drought presents both danger and opportunity; through rebuilding a creative practice centred on first person narrative and a deliberate collage of field recordings and sound sources Puce Mary injects an acute urgency across the album seeking resilience.
“To Possess Is To Be In Control” makes use of lyrical repetition as an ambiguity of two selves, or a divided self, attempting to consume one another, while “Red Desert,” named after Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1964 film, portrays the individual subsumed by surrounding environmental forces. The seven-minute epic “The Size of Our Desires” acts as the emotional tipping point of the record; amongst the ominous drone and dense feedback flutters almost-beatific melodies, while the lyrics reveal a romantic call to be swept up in the midst of an increasingly uninhabitable world.
Rather than escape, The Drought dramatises a metamorphosis in which vulnerability is confronted through regeneration. Noise and aggression no longer act as an affront to react against but part of a ‘corporeal architecture’ where space, harmony and lyricism surface from the harsh tropes of industrial music. The Drought chronologises the artist’s transformation through a psychological famine, new ways of coping akin to plant survival in a desert – to live without drying out.”
Ex-Veronica Falls singer/songwriter Roxanne Clifford becomes Patience to express her synth pop tastes to the fullest on ‘Dizzy Spells’; an achingly well-crafted batch indebted as much to Todd Edwards - who co-produced the opening cut! - as New Order, AC Marias, Vince Clarke or Strawberry Switchblade
“Dizzy Spells delivers a debut album that twists Clifford’s songwriting into new shapes and ecstasies. The album dances around melancholy, thrown to the floor like a bad dream to be circled, emerging bright-eyed into the early morning full of hope. The Girls Are Chewing Gum (produced by Todd Edwards) bursts open Dizzy Spells like fresh fruit: sweet and rich with a synth-bass line beamed down from Chicago House heaven. Exquisitely sung by Clifford, it’s a wonderful, funky, instant-classic hinting at sexuality and memories dredged from our bodies’ secrets. The bouncy production expertly renders the addictive power of our ephemeral pleasures. Living Things Don’t Last chases themes of longing and loss, opening up into a life affirming chorus that sings of transience, the passing of time and railing against inertia. It’s the perfect example of a song formula that Roxanne Clifford has almost patented: simple and cutting straight to the point. There are shades of Strawberry Switchblade or French synth pop pioneer Jacno in the happy/sad dichotomy and it is all the better for it.
Dizzy Spells features all three long-sold out singles, embedded in the full depth of Patience’s soundworld they fit like pieces of a puzzle. White Of An Eye, The Church and The Pressure—all recorded in Clifford’s former home of Glasgow—crackle with razor sharp melodies and dancefloor-ready dynamics. There are exciting additions to Patience’s sonic palette, brought into sharp relief on Voices In The Sand. In this song, a plaintive Clifford enunciates a heart-torn plea to the antagonist, a mournful cascade of synths and haunting vocals evocative of AC Marias, a sepia-toned ode to anxiety, “a storm is on the way”. On No Roses, a Vince Clarkesque production belies a sunburnt sadness. Clifford defiantly sings “you would go out tonight, but there’s nowhere you like,” describing a disenchantment with her adopted city of Los Angeles, she longs for home in a singular refrain “No roses… no roses for us.” An ode to English folk singer Shirley Collins, a surprising yet innate influence throughout Clifford’s work. On Moral Damage, former Veronica Falls bandmate Marion Herbain joins Clifford on an anglo-french duet that feels instant and spontaneous, a cutting comment on emotional accountability. More than a vehicle for Roxanne Clifford’s songwriting prowess, Patience is holding our hand through the night, dancing with tears in our eyes, dizzy and spellbound.”
Out of print for 25 years, Stereolab’s retro-pop and indie-rock classic ‘Mars Audiac Quintet’ is back in circulation with a bonus disc of demos and alternate versions, most notably a demo version of Ping Pong!
Out of print for 26 years, Stereolab’s retro-pop and indie-rock classic ‘Transient Random Noise-Bursts with Announcements’ is back in circulatio, remastered from original tapes and with a bonus disk of unreleased demos, outtakes and alternate mixes.
Split between tremulous, frothing structures and grandiose, discordant modular synth music, ‘Teenages’ is the debut from Pakistani-American jazz drummer/percussionist Qasim Naqvi for Erased Tapes, and the vinyl follow-up to his first LP, 2015’s ‘Preamble’ for NNA Tapes
“This album is one singular synergy between Qasim and his machine within a broader milieu of sound, also explored by contemporaries Sarah Davachi, Alessandro Cortini, Caterina Barbieri and also the forefather, Morton Subotnick. At points tonal, textural and rhythmic, over six evolving and growing audio organisms, the album flourishes upwards in stages, from initial micro-sonics to something bigger, brighter and anthemic.
This is Naqvi’s first non-soundtrack release, having previously established himself as a renowned composer for dance, theatre, film and installation-based art, not to mention his role as drummer in lauded trio Dawn of Midi. According to Naqvi, “my past releases like Chronology, Preamble, Fjoloy and Film were made to accompany visual mediums. The music was always written to enhance another form. Teenages is the first album with its own motivating force. It’s a live multi movement work that I recorded for myself.”
With Teenages, Naqvi summoned all the material on an analog modular synthesizer – a voltage-controlled sound generating system comprised of multiple modules. Naqvi built this synth over the course of two years and amassed a collection of works for this album.
Capturing a live feeling without the aid of heavy studio production was an important component to this release: “Even though this is ‘electronic music,’ I didn’t want to rely heavily on a computer with an array of plugins, loops and samples, or exhaustive editing as part of the writing process. I wanted to treat this work like a live piece of music and have the natural behavior of the machine shine through and sound huge, like an orchestra of electrical signals.”
Gently stuttering like a time lapse-video of a seed sprouting up from the earth, Intermission sets the scene, before musical motifs begin to emerge on the dancing, bubbling bassline of Mrs 2E, which possesses a playful, infantile quality, like a new-born animal learning to walk after birth.”
John Beltran revives his much-loved Placid Angles alias for a new album on Lone’s label, Magicwire
Last heard over 20 years ago on ‘The Cry’ LP with Peacefrog, and before that on a classic 12” with Open House, ‘Aquatic’ and a seminal Buzz compilation, Placid Angles has since become the preserve of the deepest Detroit heads and fans of intricate, jazzy, melodic techno everywhere.
It’s really not hard to hear how the Placid Angles sound has informed Lone’s nostalgic, gauzy style of breakbeats and techno, especially after ingesting ‘First Blue Sky’. From the aerial breaks and plush sophistication of ‘the title track, thru the twilight garage-techno of ‘Angel’, to the romantic sweep of ‘Vent’, via wild breakbeats and ecstatic divas in ‘Earth and Everything’, in the sub-blushed chords of ‘Bad Minds’, and the stressed ambient tone of ‘1700’, the spiritual kinship twixt Lone and Placid Angels is laid bare for everyone to revel in.
Yves De Mey untangles presets with remarkable harmonic variation via the Modor NF-1, a new polyphonic digital DSP synth developed in Antwerp by Marcel Belmans. If you’re into Autechre - this is a must.
An experimental study in getting the most from a single instrument, ‘Exit Strategies Part 1’ finds De Mey wrestling with the machine in eight parts. Using only a single preset in each cut, he pushes their forms to reveal slight harmonic mutations and in the process focus on the tangible quality of the resulting sound.
From the slippery rhythms and harpsichord like twang of ‘Track 01’ to the boiling noise of ‘Track 02’, thru to proper, curdled Ae dimensions in ‘Track 03’ and ‘Track 04’, the variation is remarkable and just keeps on evolving with the empty-belly beastly growl of ‘Track 05’ and ‘Track 06’, before opening out into calligraphic murmurations on ‘Track 07’, and needling hi-register tones in ‘Track 08’.
The results also somehow recall Theo Burt’s ‘Gloss’, itself an experiment on a single synth which yielded captivating results, and proved in the process - in key with Mark Fell’s mantra - that you really don’t need a studio stacked with vintage analog gear to make unique sounds. If you like the idea of an artist wriggling themselves out of self-imposed straitjackets, this album will almost certainly push your buttons.
Planet Mu’s first footwork signing, DJ Nate boomerangs back to the label nearly a decade since his debut EP and album triggered a rush of interest in the hyper Chicago style.
After Nate’s tracks first cropped up on a Dissensus forum thread at the end of the ‘00s, Planet Mu were quickest to his Myspace page, signing what would be most people’s first introduction the evolution of Juke music into its concatenated, battlefloor-ready cousin. The pivotal ‘Bangs & Works’ compilation followed, and with it amazing releases from Jlin, DJ Rashad and Traxman et al, but we’ve basically all got DJ Nate to thank for kick-starting a wider interest in the hyperlocal Chi-town scene.
Since then, DJ Nate has focussed on producing R&B and hip hop, finding a strong local following and even an underground hit outside the Chi with ‘Gucci Goggles’, but two years ago he was paralysed from the neck down in an accident from which he only just recovered.
But he never forgot about the footwork. ‘Take Off Mode’ collects 17 of Nate’s footwork tracks produced over the interim, including many previously uploaded to YouTube. They’re not quite as frenetic as Nate’s early style, but they’ve still got that sweet, almost feminine sort of pressure intact, making gripping use of pitched (up + down), syrupy R&B and soul samples and his own vocal idents woven into mercurial rhythms and palpitating bass.
Amazing CD volume of unreleased work by Martin Bartlett; a British emigre based in Canada for most of his life, where he established Vancouver’s first Gamelan orchestra, and cultivated a singularly beautiful, even prescient style of electronic composition that worked within, around, and against its conventions and restrictions. This CD containing four durational works, is more sprawling than its sibling LP, running raga seemingly play on electronic bagpipes, thru to vast generative noise tracts, and grand orchestral composition somewhere between Webern and Alice Coltrane. A Real find, especially RIYL Roland Kayn, Pauline Oliveros, David Behrman
“Bartlett was a prolific writer, and he expresses himself in fresh, lucid, and wonderfully descriptive prose, offering clear thinking on social aspects of electronic music performance; on the barriers between the performer and the 'black box' and on possibilities for organic systems in electronic music. He also wrote accounts of his sailing trips, treatise on performance practices, and technical academic articles on the systems he built, along with the incandescent manifesto-like piece Electronic Recalcitrant, in which he hoped that electronic music would be imbued with “organic codes of growth and metamorphosis” so that he could “pluck elegant and fleshy electronic sound fish from the frothy algorithmic sea of possibilities”.
Key influences were Pauline Oliveros, John Cage and David Tudor, all whom he studied under. Like many of his generation, he became interested in non-Western compositional and philosophical practices, and in 1981 he travelled to India to study Carnatic vocal music with V. Lakshminarayana Iyer in Madras and then on to Burma, Thailand and Indonesia where he studied shadow theatre. He studied South Asian music with Pandit Pran Nath, gamelan with K.R.T. Wasitidipuro, and closely collaborated with Don Buchla on live performances and synthesiser design. He was particularly interested in the Javanese gamelan, which led to him founding the Vancouver Community Gamelan in 1986. On his travels to Indonesia he made hours of field recordings, many of which are accompanied by vivid narrations on the rituals and ceremonies he was documenting.
It is unclear why Bartlett’s work remains unknown. Perhaps it is because it remained largely inside the academy. Perhaps his commitment to live performance and community activity means it was more transient than the work of others. Perhaps his openness about his sexuality played a part in his music not receiving much recognition – one can only speculate. But correspondence in his archive shows that rejection and general lack of interest from labels was a source of great personal discontent, leading to Bartlett working again with the Western Front to release his final opus Pythagoras’ Ghost shortly before his death.
Bartlett died young, of AIDS-related causes, in 1993, but his music remains a rich source of inspiration, and is characterised by an irresistible and unselfconscious charm that renders his sound unique. These selections, along with the companion LP Anecdotal Electronics, and Luke Fowler’s film Electro-Pythagoras, aim to redress this prior neglect, shedding light on this little known personality from electronic music history, who still has so much to say.”
A year has passed since the untimely death of Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson. In tribute to an exceptional artist and musical storyteller, Deutsche Grammophon has compiled a two-volume selection of his most important works. This first part - RETROSPECTIVE I includes seven albums featuring Jóhannsson’s earlier works, including his previously unreleased soundtrack to the documentary White Black Boy.
"The phenomenal Jóhann Jóhannsson was, in his own words, “obsessed with the texture of sound”. Together with a serious dose of creative inspiration, that obsession enabled him to distil music into primal forms. He had a gift for bringing together highly complex themes and starkly contrasting musical ideas with both apparent ease and striking emotional directness. The composer died a year ago at the age of just 48. Deutsche Grammophon is now celebrating his legacy with a two-part retrospective project which will encompass all his major works, along with a previously unissued soundtrack album. The first part of this special edition will appear on 26 April and will comprise seven albums and a hardcover book.
Born in Reykjavík on 19 September 1969 Jóhann Jóhannsson was involved with music from an early age. As a young man he played in various rock and pop bands and was part of Iceland’s indie scene, before eventually deciding to focus on writing music rather than performing. His debut album, Englabörn, which came out in 2002, reveals that even at that early stage, he was already a master storyteller, a composer who could translate feelings and emotions into powerfully atmospheric soundscapes and compelling musical portraits. Jóhannsson gained international renown for his 2013 score for the film Prisoners – just two years later he won a Golden Globe and an Oscar nomination for the score for The Theory of Everything. A second Oscar nomination followed in 2016 for the thriller Sicario (2015). He went on to write the scores for the science fiction film Arrival and for The Mercy – the latter album was released shortly before his death; further Hollywood projects were in the pipeline.
A pioneering figure in the contemporary music scene, Jóhannsson ignored the barriers between classical and electronic music. By fusing together Minimalist elements, traditional forms, symphonic expansiveness and both acoustic and electronic sounds, he created not only hynotically lyrical images, but also an entirely new musical idiom.
The selection of early works that have been chosen for Deutsche Grammophon’s RETROSPECTIVE I show Jóhannsson to have been a composer of imagination and versatility in equal measure. The earliest recording is Virðulegu Forsetar (2004), an hour-long elegiac work for eleven-piece brass ensemble, percussion, electronics, organ and piano, recorded in Reykjavík’s Hallgrímskirkja. The soundtrack album Dís features an exceptional array of artists, including members of the bands The Funerals and Singapore Sling, and singer Ragnheiður Gröndal, who all give intensive voice to Jóhannsson’s melancholy narrative. And in the Endless Pause There Came the Sound of Bees – which weaves together orchestral writing with electronic synth sounds in unique style – was written to accompany the animated short Varmints, while The Miners’ Hymns is the audiovisual masterpiece that resulted from a hugely productive collaboration between Jóhannsson and American filmmaker Bill Morrison. The documentary soundtrack Copenhagen Dreams is Jóhannsson’s tribute to the city in which he was living at the time – a moving sound collage for string quartet, clarinet, celesta, keyboard and electronics. As for Free the Mind, it was written to underpin a documentary about the power of meditation, and is evocatively scored for orchestra, piano, percussion and electronics.
A special inclusion in this first retrospective volume is Jóhannsson’s score for White Black Boy. Previously unreleased, this is the soundtrack for the Danish documentary of the same name which sensitively tells the story of Shida, a Tanzanian boy with albinism who is taken away from his parents and sent to boarding school, in order to be kept safe from witch doctors who would otherwise target his body parts and blood.
This vibrant and revealing musical portrait of Jóhann Jóhannsson is accompanied by a hardcover book containing essays by Wyndham Wallace and John Schaefer and a generous selection of photos of this most modest of artists, providing further insight into his life and work."