The mid-90s were a period of going as far out in all directions as possible – and Luke Slater’s The 7th Plain tracks were certainly about exploration of the deep space of the imagination.
"Cosmic, analogue, orchestrated, they still represent some of the most emotionally intense music ever to come out of the techno realm. Whether built on percussive frameworks or sweeping nebulas of dissipated sound, Slater’s synthesizers still sing space-travelers’ tales compellingly and beautifully.
For this reason, Ostgut Ton sublabel A-TON launched back in 2016 with The 7th Plain’s Chronicles I, establishing itself as a platform for archive, ambient and art-related releases. This first eight-track compilation was split between classics from the albums My Yellow Wise Rug and The 4 Cornered Room on the one hand and previously unreleased tracks on the other, with the goal of providing a different, remastered framework for Slater’s futuristic visions from the past.
In contrast, Chronicles III is made up solely of music from the General Production Recordings label catalogue and stylistically skews less toward percussive techno-funk and more toward free-form broken rhythms – though tracks such as “Lost”, “Time Melts” or “Millentum” stand strong as hybrid pillars of both.
Luke Slater pioneered the UK's electronic landscape as Translucent, 4 Slots For Bill, Planetary Assault Systems, The 7th Plain, Clementine, and later as L.B. Dub Corp, by partly focussing on, partly bypassing the traditional, puristic values of techno. Together with Dave Sumner (Function) and Steve Bicknell he also operates as LSD.
Ultimately, when listening to all three parts of Chronicles, it’s apparent that 7th Plain music is cut from the same emotional cloth, one related strongly to the backroom, the chillout, the after-party, the solo headphone voyage. These weren’t and never should be considered separate zones from the dancefloor.
In other words, as Luke Slater puts it, in the mid-90s, they were “part of the night, part of the experience... where ideas could be shared.” And like Global Communication, Mira Calix, The Future Sound of London, the Artificial Intelligence generation, Slater's 7th Plain was a response to those hallucinatory, spiritual, but still social spaces at the heart of underground communities – and the magic is still strong in it."
‘1929 - Das Jahr Babylon’ is Thomas Fehlmann’s soundtrack to a documentary about Berlin in 1929, a time when the effects of the Wall Street Crash and the Young Plan for WWI reparations begin to crumble the Weimar Republic, hastening the conditions for Naziism to flourish
Employing his signatures of dubwise repetition, crackle, and woozy polka rhythms, Kehlmann’s soundtrack mirrors the good times of the 1920’s Weimar Republic, but also connotes something darker, lurking, foreboding, with both subtlety and tact.
“To compliment the internationally lauded TV series "Berlin Babylon", German director Volker Heise has created a documentary about 1929, the fateful year during Germany's "Weimarer Republik" in which "Berlin Babylon" is settled. Heise's stirring documentary portrays Germany's sizzling capital that is faced with radical changes by the dark forces whom are about to toss the world into the abyss we know as World War II. This marks the second time that Fehlmann is partnering up with Volker Heise after 2010's marathon documentary "24 Stunden Berlin" which was released as "Gute Luft" (KOM211, KOMCD81) in the same year.
Fehlmann's composition for "1929" consists of sample material taken from the era and thwarts the exaggerated lust for life with threatening undertones that anticipate the dawn of mankind's darkest chapter so far. Although all the sounds breathe yesterday's atmosphere this soundtrack bursts with modernity. Fehlmann accomplished the daring feat to musically render the unsettling resemblance between the political situation 90 years ago and our current time.”
Luke Slater rifles his archive of 7th Plain riches for a 2nd ambient-techno survey with Ostgut-Ton’s A-Ton sibling
Scanning a golden seam of mid ‘90s material, ‘Chronicles II’ parses cuts from Slater’s classic album ‘The 4 Cornered Room’ beside a handful of other gems off his General Production Recordings (GPR) label, and no fewer than four previously unreleased pieces.
Still phosphorescing from the rave explosion, Luke Slater was one of the key UK players to channel that energy into new forms, transmuting the initial impetus from Detroit, Chicago, Berlin and British fields into his own form of tactile, psychedelically sensitive ambient techno.
From ‘The 4 Cornered Room’ we find the soaring night flight of ‘Astra Naut-E’, and off the ’Shades Amaze Concept EP’ there’s the spangled beauty ‘Big Field’, while his 1993 EP ‘To Be Surreal’ supplies the floating suspension system of its title track and the UR-styled funk bent of ‘Convex’.
The others four cuts are exclusive to this 12” and made during the same era. They include the warm Martian winds of ‘Wand Star’; a lush kosmiche mission titled ’Silver Chinook’; and the unmissable ambient portal of ‘I Think Too Much’, which is bound to light up old raver’s pleasure centres like a vintage mitsi flashback.
Reissue of Drexciya’s seminal debut 2LP - a genuine milestone for Detroit techno and electronic music in the broadest sense. 100% essential!
First released by Drexciya’s James Stinson and Gerald Donald in 1999 after establishing a cult reputation via EPs and 12”s for UR, Rephlex and Warp, ’Neptune’s Lair’ was issued by Berlin’s Tresor to the acclaim of those in the know. Since James Stinson died in 2002, in subsequent years the album has become widely regarded as their definitive opus - a hugely sophisticated, imaginative piece of Afrofuturist sonic fiction embedded with deeply rooted politics.
As the album approaches its 20th anniversary of release, it still holds the power to utterly transport us to other dimensions, both physically and philosophically. Using the ocean and water as metaphor for deep space, and by extension a site of the unknown, where far-fetched (but not entirely unreasonable) ideas about slave babies thrown overboard on slave-trade routes evolved into futuristic, practically alien beings, Drexciya, much like Sun Ra and his Saturnian roots, formed a whole world unto themselves thru their music and track titles and Abdul Haqq’s artwork, creating a sort of holistic gesamtkunstwerk as rich in subtext and noumenal flights of fancy as the most cult comic books or underground animation and cinema.
In context of the very late ‘90s, when ‘Neptune’s Lair’ was issued, these ideas - whilst perhaps oblique on some levels - were necessary and important, as the electro/techno/house paradigm had been largely whitewashed by labels, promoters and DJs who either didn’t understand, or didn’t want to understand, the roots of the worldwide dance phenomenon that cropped up a decade prior - one mostly generated by PoC based in urban US cities. As prevailing techno-electronic trends in 2018 prize forms of classic EBM and trance, it’s perhaps as important as ever ever to acknowledge Drexciya’s origins and intent, to historically hold their work up to the rest of the field as waves of new, plugged in dancers become enthralled by their Hi-Tech Sci-Fi.
Seasonal expansion pack of ‘Music From The Welsh Mines’, including the classic original LP plus a bonus disc of all your favourite Carols in Latin, Welsh and english - ‘Domine Non Sum Dignus’ , ‘Hen Don Llyfr Y Ficer’, ‘Ave Verum’ - and don’t worry, there’s Holy Night’, too
Making a fine accompaniment to Arc Light Editions’ recordings of Gaelic Psalms from the Hebrides, the Rhos Male Voice Choir’s ‘Music From The Welsh Mines’ offers another look at the way music and religion intersect in more rugged corners of the British Isles.
Hailing from Rhosllannerchrugog, a large, Welsh-Speaking village outside Wrexham in North Wales, the village’s choir carry a rich history and tradition in their massed chorales, and were widely regarded among the best in the highly competitive Male Voice Choir scene.
The first disc ‘Music From The Welsh Mines’  makes its first appearance on CD, including the Welsh national anthem, the haunting ‘Hiraeth’, and Schubert’s ’23rd Psalm’, and, ready for the coming weeks, the 2nd disc ‘Songs of Peace and Goodwill’  also appears on CD for first time, ready for sing-a-longs to ‘While Shepherds Watch Their Flock By Night’ and ‘Hark The Herald Angels Sing’.
A long time ago, in a Norway far far away in time, keyboardist Bugge Wesseltoft introduced his New Conception of Jazz to the world. We’re talking about the late 90s, when Bugge’s cosmopolitan blend of jazz, hiphop and techno beats was pretty much the coolest music coming out of Norway at that moment. That was a golden time for Norwegian music, in fact, when the rest of the world began to sit up and take notice that something was stirring up north, and realised the music was more than just glacial tones hurtled from icy mountaintops and frozen lakes. This was the sound of urban Scandinavia.
"A few years later came the electronic dance genre ‘space disco’. Along with Todd Terje, Bjørn Torske and Lindstrøm, Prins Thomas was at the epicentre of this next big wave to surge out of Norway. Now, the two generations have come together in this exclusive collaboration between Bugge and Prins Thomas on the Smalltown Supersound label. Jazz and electronics combine for that energising vitamin D shot of Nordic sunshine.
The Rainbow Studio in Oslo is a familiar name to anyone who follows the ECM label – many of its classic 1970s jazz albums were recorded there under the eye of resident producer Jan Erik Kongshaug. Bugge and Thomas booked a couple of sessions at the legendary space with Kongshaug at the controls, and improvised some tunes in the style and spirit of some of their favourite ECM moments, like the fresh, open sounds of Codona, Egberto Gismonti, Oregon and Kenny Wheeler. Bugge had previously done a remix of Thomas’s ‘Bobletekno’ in 2015 but this is the first time they have worked together as active musicians. The results – also partly taped at Thomas’s home studio – fuse programmed rhythms, live synths and percussion, all captured in a sumptuously spacious acoustic.
For an even more authentic touch they called up one of their all time local heroes and one of Norway’s most famous jazz drummers, Jon Christensen, who’s been the go-to guy for Jan Garbarek, Terje Rypdal, Keith Jarrett and many more. At 75 years he’s still pretty spry behind the kit, as you’ll hear on several tracks here.
Make no mistake, though, this is not retro pastiche but contemporary music, coasting on gently insistent programmed grooves and bubbling basslines. The whole thing feels not so much like a consciously hip fusion of DJ and jazz musician, more like two great musicians totally enjoying themselves. Which is exactly what it is."
New album by vaporwave pioneer Ramona Vektroid, aka Floral Shoppe aka Macintosh Plus.
"Vektroid (Ramona Xavier) is an electronic musician and artist based in Portland, but her reputation has hinged almost entirely on her hypertextual virtual presence. While she's most often pigeonholed as being a primary artist behind vaporwave—a net-based microgenre notorious for its wholesale appropriations and meme-like propagation—she has been releasing music since 2006 in a variety of styles and under a dizzying array of nom de plumes, from Vektordrum and Macintosh Plus to Laserdisc Visions and 情報デスクVIRTUAL.
Sleepline (released as New Dreams Ltd.), plays in the liminal space between states of consciousness, inducing a hazy, deteriorating quality that stands in contrast to Shader Complete's mostly hi-definition aesthetics. It was written in winter 2013-2014, but it didn't see an official release until 2016. Originally conceived as a Sacred Tapestry sequel called Transcontinent, the album saw Xavier returning to her plunderphonic tactics, looping and down-pitching what sounds like decades-old Japanese commercials. This time, Xavier sought out source material that would more readily fall under fair use, attempting to bridge the aesthetic gap between her works by foregrounding her editing techniques as much as transforming the source material."
Definitive version of the Shader album by vaporwave pioneer Ramona Vektroid, aka Floral Shoppe, aka Macintosh Plus.
"Vektroid (Ramona Xavier) is an electronic musician and artist based in Portland, but her reputation has hinged almost entirely on her hypertextual virtual presence. While she's most often pigeonholed as being a primary artist behind vaporwave—a net-based microgenre notorious for its wholesale appropriations and meme-like propagation—she has been releasing music since 2006 in a variety of styles and under a dizzying array of nom de plumes, from Vektordrum and Macintosh Plus to Laserdisc Visions and 情報デスク VIRTUAL.
Shader Complete is an exquisite, multi-faceted album that pivots effortlessly between widescreen electronic synthscapes, atmospheric drones, and claustrophobic appropriations. It's the latest permutation of a release that originally arrived in summer 2012 as Sacred Tapestry. That version, titled Shader, was written during the first couple months at her new home of Portland, marking a period of instability and existential confusion for Xavier. Concerned at the time that this was her final release, the record was paired with a cryptic note about body transmigration from fictitious Hong Kong company PrismCorp, hinting at the possibility of the album being her "final transmission."
It wasn't until 2016 when it was reworked to its current state as Shader Complete, which saw Xavier reinterpreting the album to include orphaned tracks from the Color Ocean Road (2012, as Vektroid) sessions. This makes Shader Complete something like a lost sequel to Color Ocean Road."
Collaborative 2CD album of a Japan noise legend Masami Akita alias Merzbow and a Czech seven-member ensemble Opening Performance Orchestra based in Prague.
"The first CD contains four compositions by Merzbow. 'Futaomote' means 'double face' and it was originally titled 'Janus'. 'Yasugibushi' is a Japanese old folk song which was sampled. The second CD contains two live tracks from Opening Performance Orchestra which were played live in Tokyo and Prague in 2017 and studio edited at the end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018. --- no melody no rhythm no harmony - this is fraction music."
Cue gushing waves of nostalgia: Sandra Kerr & John Faulkner’s soundtrack forkids TV animation ‘Bagpuss’ is finally available on vinyl. It’s definitely one for the over ‘40s, and younger folkies who’re old at heart.
"Bagpuss, dear Bagpuss , Old fat furry cat-puss , Wake up and look at this thing that I bring, Wake up, be bright , Be golden and light , Bagpuss, Oh hear what I sing. 12th of February, 1974, and for an audience of small children at 1:45pm, a life irrevocably coloured by the wayward wonderings of one saggy cloth cat...
Some 44 years later and Earth Recordings opens the door to Bagpuss & Co. once again, revealing for the first time the original music in all its newly-mastered splendour. The 32 tracks that make up the main body of the compositions are – like all good folk music – a patchwork of traditional pieces, half-remembered tunes and pure improvisation. It's testament to Sandra Kerr and John Faulkner's musicianship that the recordings work so well, not only within the context of the television episodes, but as an album in its own right.
Of the recording, Oliver Postgate (in his exquisite autobiography 'Seeing Things') says: "Between them Sandra and John could play every sort of instrument from a mountain dulcimer to an Irish fiddle. They knew and could sing every tune in the world and didn't bother with written music, except as a last resort. They were exactly suited to Gabriel the Toad and Madeleine the Rag Doll and in those roles were happy to play whatever music and sing whatever songs would be needed." Those songs manifested themselves as reworkings of familiar tunes ('I Saw A Ship'; 'Row Your Boat'; 'Bucket's Burning'), takes on traditional ballads ('Brian O'Lynn'; 'The Frog Princess'; 'Weaving Song'; 'The Old Woman Tossed Up in a Basket') and delicious flights of fancy ('The Bony King of Nowhere'; 'Turtle Calypso'; 'Uncle Feedle').
The counterpart to Madeleine and Gabriel's more polished ditties are the interludes from the mice; a raggle-taggle chorus that accompanies the creatures' efforts of help (with the mice once famously going on strike when they were not permitted sang as they worked). Again, Postgate muses: "Once I had worked out a few episodes I would make a very rough list of the bits where I though music would be appropriate. I would send it to [Sandra and John] to think about. Then we would borrow a fairly silent room in a remote house and, taking the various articles that we intended to celebrate with us, would spend a happy day with a tape recorder, thinking up and recording whatever songs and tunes came to mind."
The outtakes provide an intimate – and often very humourous – insight into the trio's work ethic, if it can be called such a thing. (By all accounts they sound as though they're having a very jolly time indeed.) Highlights include alternative opening words and end music, as well as Postgate sound-checking in character as Bagpuss. This never-before heard audio provides a real treat for fans (and indeed those new to the Smallfilms stable) – affirmation again to the enduring quality of these special recordings, and the beloved programme that inspired them. "An accidental classic of the folk-roots underground that we never dared hope we’d hear with such clarity."Stewart Lee.. And so their work was done."
Richard Youngs and co’s Amor mount a full debut album of disco-not-disco with ‘Sinking Into a Miracle’, arriving 18 months after a couple of charmingly sore thumb 12”s. Imagine ACR entering the studio after binging on avant-folk and Liquid Liquid records
““Our time has begun…” Sinking Into A Miracle is the debut album by Glasgow’s AMOR, a quartet of musical travellers exploring the sonic open-ended-ness of dance music. Following two critically acclaimed 12” Single releases, Sinking Into A Miracle is a fully developed treatise on ecstasy and transcendence. Here, Richard Youngs, Michael Francis Duch, Paul Thomson and Luke Fowler are more honed, razor sharp in focus and timing, testing their instrumental prowess on condensed song structures and new, enlightened feelings of expansive hope and bliss.
From the outset it’s an ambitious yet ultimately inclusive journey they are embarking on. Recorded to 24-track tape at Chem 19 and mixed by Paul Savage and Richard McMaster (Golden Teacher), Sinking Into A Miracle retains the elastic grooves of Paradise and Higher Moment, the group’s previous single releases, but relinquishes the classic Philadelphia International tinged sound in favour of more looser rhythmic patterns. There are new depths to the compositions ; a more free-flowing approach to percussion and deft experiments in hybridity, making for a full and rounded, emotionally tinged record. Indeed, there are times when AMOR sound like the lost house band from David Mancuso's Loft parties: Richard Youngs’ uplifting, gospel tinged lyrics talk about moving beyond, universal truths, sailing through the horizon. It’s a wide-eyed optimism Mancuso would perhaps have approved of and which is embroidered with spectral details that begs to be auditioned on large, tweaked out sound-systems.
On Glimpses Across Thunder, Youngs’ piano chords echo early Blue Nile atmospherics before the band take the song into a funked, minor chord territory that feels endlessly searching, never to resolve. Opener Phantoms Of The Sun relies on Duch’s sublime bass line to drive a dubbed out track complete with a utopian flute refrain. Full Fathom Future stomps relentlessly forward on the back of Thomson’s percussion-heavy groove before collapsing into a moving three chord epilogue played on droning string instruments. Heaven Among The Days introduces a more robotic groove to the album, with a short bass refrain bouncing off stripped drum triggers, its dark rhythms reminiscent of the proto-House tracks that were trademarked by Chicago DJ Ron Hardy.
Whilst Youngs contemplates the prospect of heaven in our daily lives Fowler's gliding synthesiers chords underline the more devotional potential of AMOR's music. Sinking Into A Miracle ends with the sublime, Truth Of Life the most expansive and transporting of these compositions. Here the studio as instrument is used to full effect, with the rhythm section in full flow as the melodic elements are twisted, delayed, swaddled in tape echo, delaying gratification before a full, thrilling drop into blissful pleasure.”
Fallen Trees’ – the new album by Lubomyr Melnyk – known as ‘the prophet of the piano’ due to his lifelong devotion to his instrument.
"The album release coincides with Melnyk’s 70th birthday, but despite the autumnal hint in its title, there’s little suggestion of him slowing down. Having received critical acclaim and coheadlining the prestigious Royal Festival Hall as part of the Erased Tapes 10th anniversary celebrations, after many years his audience is now both global and growing. The composer is finally gaining a momentum in his career that matches the vibrant, highly active energy of his playing.
Cascades of notes, canyons and rivers of sound: there’s something about his music that channels the natural world at its most awe-inspiring. In ‘Fallen Trees’ the connection with the environment continues, taking its cue from a long rail journey Melnyk made through Europe. Glancing out of the window as the train passed through a dark forest, he was struck by the sight of trees that had recently been felled. “They were glorious,” he says. “Even though they’d been killed, they weren’t dead. There was something sorrowful there, but also hopeful.” That sense of sadness touched by optimism infuses the album, too: rarely has Melnyk made music so shot through with melancholy and regret, but which sounds so rapt, even radiant.
Drawing comparisons with Steve Reich and the post-rock group Godspeed You, Black Emperor!, Pitchfork praised his 2015 album ‘Rivers And Streams’ for it’s “sustained concentration and ecstatic energy”. That energy is present in ‘Fallen Trees’ too, but at points the tone is quieter, the mood darker and more wistful. At points elsewhere on the album, despite being rooted in the wonders of the natural world, there’s a kaleidoscopic quality in the fractal flurry of notes and the broad spectrum of colour they summon.
Critics have detected the influence of Ravi Shankar and other Indian styles in Melnyk’s music, along with the insistent, repetitive textures of minimalist pioneers such as Steve Reich and Philip Glass. Melnyk himself cites his debt to the American composer Terry Riley, particularly the legendary 1964 work ‘In C’, which he says “opened the world for me”. But he adds that if you listen carefully, you’ll also be able to hear the lilting contours of traditional Ukrainian folk music."
2008 album making extensive use of digital guitar effects.
Regardless of how highly you might regard his lyrical, deeply melodic playing style, the very fact that everything is so comprehensively caked outmoded, often rather thin sounding production treatments can be something of a turn off. Still, it's very much Reilly's sound, and you could never fail to pick it out of a crowd.
In addition to the excellent guitar instrumentals, you'll encounter emotive beautifully dusky piano pieces ('Amanda') and most curiously, the like of 'Never Known Version', which sounds like it's taken a beat from a Sean Paul record, whilst heavily chorused and delayed guitars fill up the stereo field. Two of the album's standout tracks crop up towards the very end, and both are largely unadorned acoustic solos, recorded in very different ways: the skilful, widescreen flamenco of 'Cup a soup Romance' is a far more enticing prospect than its title would have you believe, whereas 'demo For Gathering Dust' benefits from the sheer rawness of its rendering, sounding all the better for being unburdened by excessive post-production.
Chris Carter plugs a large gap in his discography with ‘Miscellany’, containing a previously unreleased batch of cosmic ‘70s synth abstractions, plus the first ever vinyl pressings of ‘‘Disobedient’ and ’Small Moon’, as well as a new edition of his classic ‘Mondo Beat’ . For any self-respecting fan of Throbbing Gristle, X-TG, Carter Tutti, or CTI, this is a genuinely essential motherload direct from source.
Arriving in the wake of the influential synthesist’s ‘Chris Carter Chemistry Lessons Vol.1’, this boxset extends a necessary catch-up to many listeners, as well as a salve to collectors who can now complete their Chris Carter vinyl collections. Between the four respective albums inside, Mute survey the years prior to Carter’s pivotal debut ‘The Space Between’ , which was recorded in the run-up to TG’s original demise, and the years post his participation in the short but extremely bright early phase of the world’s most notorious band.
The ‘Archival Recordings’ disc is perhaps of greatest interest, historically and artistically. Spanning 1973-77, it covers the years just before, and after, Throbbing Gristle’s conception, when Carter was clearly in thrall to kosmische and psychedelia, but not beholden to them. Across 13 parts, Carter’s take on space music and pulsing early electronics is definitely less whimsical, much darker than other music of that period, progressing chronologically over the LP to reveal a full embrace of electronic music’s dark allure by the time we get to the hellish miasma of ‘See Sick’ .
However, if we follow that chronologic logic beyond his years spent in TG (1975-1981), it’s clear to hear that Carter’s music becomes less dark and more sensual, funked and melodic with the languid lines and supple rhythms of ‘Mondo Beat’, including the classic ‘Moonlight’ which would become a dance anthem around Europe and the US (and reissued by Optimo in 2011). Skipping a grip of classic CTI and Carter Tutti material, that logic also extends to ‘Disobedient’ and ’Small Moon’, issued over 1998 and 1999, and exploring inquisitive strains of sound design more mystic/etheric, than outright dark, noisy or “Industrial” - all quite symptomatic of late ‘90s PMT.
A collection of odds and ends from The Durutti Column's archive.
The material here is culled from a number of different recording scenarios including four track demos. 'Dig A Hole' is one such Portastudio recording - with just a few layers of guitar and half-whispered late night vocal to its name, the track has a slow-burning power to it, thanks in part to Reilly's lyrical lead guitar. This is, lest we forget, the man who John Frusciante declared the greatest guitarist in the world.
In a similar vein there's the echo-drenched shoegaze minimalism of tracks like 'Trust Not The Artist' and 'Natural Mystics'. Showing another side of the project, there are pieces like 'In The City', commissioned by none other than Anthony H Wilson, who was looking for a Durutti Column work that incorporated snatches of dialogue from a debate at the In The City conference. Elsewhere, Reilly gives an impressively faithful nod to his old labelmates on 'New Order Tribute'.
Some of the songs here are improvisations, reworkings of art-installation soundtracks, and snippets of lyrics and musical passages from the past.
"Gone are most of the drum machines and much of the sampling, and in their place is more focused and intense guitar strumming. Tempus Fugit is an emotional, vibrant musical masterstroke from an artist who seems to never release anything less." ALLMUSIC
Released two years after their debut album, This Mortal Coil’s Filigree & Shadow (1986) was no less ornate than its predecessor; a double album with each of its four sides a self-contained unit. New faces joined the cast for this record, including a variety of singers Ivo handpicked like Alison Limerick, Jeanette, Dominic Appleton (Breathless), sisters Deirdre and Louise Rutkowski (Sunset Gun), and Richenel.
This Mortal Coil's second album is arguably their best, a sprawling double-LP expanding on the gothic intrigue of It'll End In Tears with even more widescreen production and symphonic grandeur; vocals are handled largely by Breathe's Dominic Appleton and the wonderful Rutkowski Sisters. This is tender, emotional music - sometimes cloyingly so - but by god, is it good, and unlike pretty much anything else out there thesee days. As before, and after, 4AD and TMC mastermind Ivo Watts-Russell delves into the songbook of West Cost American folk-rock - which, lest we forget, wasn't as well-documented and canonised in '86 as it is now - and comes up with gold.
A sepulchral version of Tom Rapp's 'The Jeweller' opens the album, Appleton turns Gene Clark's cocaine-strained love song 'Strength Of Strings' into a fire and brimstone epic, and Deirdre Rutkowski gives one of the finest vocal performances of the 1980s or any other decade for a soaring dub-pop take on Gary Ogan's 'I Want To Live'. Tim Buckley ('Morning Glory'), Judy Collins, Colin Newman, Talking Heads ('Drugs') and Van Morrison ('Come Here My Love') are also covered, but remarkably one of the album's most classic-sounding and resonant songs, 'Tarantula', was originally by 4AD's own Colour Box, whose own Martyn Young fronts a transformative, celestial chamber-pop arrangement by Watts-Russell.
And of course there's no shortage ncredible instrumentals like 'Ivy and Neet', featuring the unmistakably laconic saxophone of Dif Juz's Richard Thomas, the title track, and the incredibly grave 'The Horizon Bleeds & Sucks It Thumb'. The influence of this album, at once mournful and ecstatic, can be heard in everything from Massive Attack through to The xx and even the likes of The Haxan Cloak and Raime - and though not without its cloying moments, it remains an out and out classic, bound together by John Fryar's engineering and Watts-Russell's visionary gusto.
Following on from last year's collaborative release Find The Ways with Peter Broderick, the Californian singer and multi-instrumentalist David Allred returns with a first solo album on Erased Tapes out November 2nd, titled The Transition.
"Hailing from Loomis, a small town outside of Sacramento, via Portland, Oregon – David worked as a sound engineer and session musician, featuring on multiple recordings by the likes of Birger Olsen, Brigid Mae Power, Brumes, The Beacon Sound Choir, Chantal Acda, Heather Woods Broderick, Jung Body, Masayoshi Fujita, and many more. He quickly found himself touring Europe with Peter, culminating in a Royal Festival Hall performance, and contributing the arresting voice and double bass piece Ahoy to the Erased Tapes 10th anniversary box set 1+1=X; only to return to where he started, Loomis, and finally write and record The Transition as his first full-length statement in just one month.
“At 26 years old, I found myself back in the town where I grew up, feeling a bit like a failure for not “making it” out there in the years I spent living and working on my own. I picked up a job working in a retirement home, surrounded by those who are at the very end of their lives, and they’ve kept saying the same thing: that they had no idea life would happen that fast. So I decided to make an album inspired by my recent experiences and stories I heard through working with them,” he explains.
With the release of The Transition, David Allred takes his place among the classic American songwriting tradition whilst revealing a peculiarity to his storytelling. Isolated and cut off from the outside world, David began unravelling his life and putting it on record. With a double bass in his bedroom and a piano in a church across the street, the stories started to unfold until a set of ten songs came to life. Vignettes and feelings from his own experiences, as well as characters he met along the way, inspired a rich tapestry of stories and melodies.
“This record is primarily about change, coming to terms with it, and not getting too attached to any particular phase of life. I’ve experienced living in isolation at various times, and it lead to a sceptical line of thought, but I managed that through accepting change and feeling satisfied with where I am. The Transition is about acknowledging the sadness of change, whilst providing an escape from it.”
Landing at the start of a new decade, after much had happened in both producer Ivo Watts-Russell’s life and with his 4AD label, the fi nal part of the This Mortal Coil trilogy, Blood (1991), felt like a perfect conclusion. Meticulously orchestrated, vocalists Alison Limerick, Deirdre and Louise Rutkowski return from the second album with Caroline Crawley (Shelleyan Orphan / Babacar) and 4AD signees Heidi Berry, Kim Deal (Pixies / The Breeders), Tanya Donelly (Throwing Muses / The Breeders / Belly) and Pieter Nooten all signed up.
This Mortal Coil's final studio album is a classic; considerably more controlled and condensed than its wonderful predecessor, Filigree & Shadow, it's aged more elegantly, sounding very much a record of the 90s (it was recorded than '91) than of the previous decade. It's perhaps the most obviously feminine TMC record: Ivo Watts-Russell, presiding once more over the general vibe of love smashed on a rock, relies largely on female vocalists - with the veteran Rutkowski sisters joined by Creation chanteuse Heidi Berry, Shelleyan Orphan's Caroline Crawley, Anne Garrigues, The Venomettes' Gini Ball, Alison Limerick, and Kim Deal and Tanya Donelly of then recent 4AD signings Pixies and Throwing Muses respectively.
It's also the most covers-heavy LP that the collective ever cut, with transformative versions of folk-rock and psych classics by Chris Bell, Gene Clark, Syd Barrett, Emmylou Harris, Spirit and The Byrds, as well as treatments of more contemporary songs by The Apartments, Rain Parade, Pieter Nooten and Mary Margaret O'Hara. Supremely gothic original 'The Lacemaker' - a haunting, weightless coming together of chamber strings, Badalamenti-esque synth pads and heavily reverbed, Ophelia-ish vocals warning that "dreams are like water, colourless and dangerous" - sets the sombre tone. It's tracks like this, and the atonal ambient spiritual of 'Andialu', that will probably appeal most to contemporary heads curious as to why, for example, the likes of Tropic of Cancer and Raime have pledged their allegiance to TMC, but it's the songs - those big, grandstanding ballads cat in gossamer-thin, minimalist arrangements - that stay with you longest.
The Heidi Berry-vocalled 'Til I Gain Control Again' is simply heart-stopping, while 'Bitter' anticipates the mournful, dub-infused trip-hop balladry that Massive Attack would make their own over the course of the 90s, and 'D.D. and E.' could easily be mistaken for something made by Julia Holter today. By some way the most subtle, and most refined, of TMC's albums, Blood is also the one to have benefited most from remastering - if you've not heard it before, or just you just need reminding of how good it is, it's your time.
A single composition clocking in at 60 minutes, 'Silent Night' is a work from the veteran American composer William Basinski, wherein he embarks on an indescribably tranquil and variegated mediation which will submerge you completely.
Allowing aural tendrils to rise slowly (like smoke), what at first seems indistinct and untethered soon begins to take on a greater significance as structures loom through the shrouded, ineluctable broadcasts. Slow-motion it may be, Basinski nonetheless gets you where you're going in no time at all. Incredible music.
This Mortal Coil’s debut album It’ll End In Tears (1984) forged the template; helping to crystallise 4AD’s emerging signature sound whilst shining a light on some of their stable with Cocteau Twins, Colourbox, Dead Can Dance and The Wolfgang Press all involved. The line-up was completed by arranger Martin McCarrick, violinist Gini Ball, Howard Devoto of Buzzcocks / Magazine fame and Cindytalk’s Gordon Sharp. Pitchfork recently named it one of the best Dream Pop albums ever, a moment which “catalysed 4AD’s ascendance from the stilted poetics of goth rock to the kings of gauzy transcendence.”
Originally released in 1984, ‘It’ll End In Tears’ was the debut of ambitious 4AD ‘supergroup’ This Mortal Coil. Pieced together by 4AD boss Ivo Watts-Russell the project was more of a collective than a traditional band, and was used as a blanket name for anyone Watts-Russell felt like dragging in. Here we find the Cocteau Twins trio of Liz Fraser, Robin Guthrie and Simon Raymonde joined by Dead Can Dance’s Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry among other producers and musicians, and unsurprisingly the musical content veers towards these two bands particular strengths; emotive gothic pop. In the years since, This Mortal Coil have probably been most affectionately remembered for their cover versions, and the Liz Fraser fronted cover of ‘Song to the Siren’ is here in all its glory.
Sad and heart-breakingly beautiful this is a rare occasion where a cover version can better the original in almost every way. Elsewhere we find the collective wrangling with Big Star’s ‘Kangaroo’ and Holocaust’ as well as Colin Newman’s ‘Not Me’, and it stands as a testament to Watts-Russell’s guiding hand that what could have so easily have been a novelty record hangs together with majesty and clarity.
A timeless piece of 80s British music history, ‘It’ll End In Tears’ is a record that should be in any self-respecting music fan’s collection - essential purchase.
‘Light Pipe’ is a typically expansive missive by modular maestro M. Geddes Gengras, clocking in at 2.5 hours of abstract deep space ambience with traces of ‘70s synth epics and ‘90s chill-out functions smudged and teased into diaphanous new abstractions.
“To summarise the work of M.Geddes Gengras is no easy feat. A tireless artist, whose output sprawls across experimental dub, ambient and low key techno, his wide ranging discography reveals a curiosity that serves as a primary driver for creation.
Light Pipe is arguably Gengras’ most ambitious recording project to date. His 10th solo recording is an epic undertaking, spanning over two and a half hours. Across the two CD set, Gengras charts out evocative landscapes of texture and harmony. Working with very simple elements, he creates a tidal like sound space, where sound layers flow seamlessly, rising and falling with an ever-changing sense of motion.
These pieces were written across several years responding the site specific performance situations. These include a durational performance in Los Angeles at The Getty Center’s Irwin Garden, a special performance alongside the banks of the LA river and performances at the El Rey & Regent Theatres, Each disc in this edition focuses specifically on either interior and exterior spaces; the indoor and the outdoor, reflecting the specific conditions of how sound operates in these types of situations.
Light Pipe is a long-form work within which multiple states of listening are possible and moreover encouraged. It’s music that is ideal for deep immersion; for sleep, for flying and for any creative states within which a sense of expansion is needed.”
16 hours of peerless, important works by Eliane Radigue relating to her work with the ARP 2500 synthesiser between 1971-2000. Prior to this period, Eliane worked exclusively with feedback on tape and oscillators, but her work from the ‘70s onward is defined by an uniquely meditative and transcendent grasp of microtonal minimalism which has latterly come to place her among the 20th century’s most esteemed and truly inimitable composers. Bearing in mind that Eliane realised this fathomless body of work in her Paris apartment away from professional recording studios, only makes it resonate more strongly with the idea that Eliane was a genuine outlier whose uniquely sober work divined an unquantifiable yet ultimately human nature in electronic music.
"Eliane Radigue was born in Paris. She studied “musique concrète” techniques at the “Studio d’Essai” of the RTF under the direction of Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry (1956-57). She was married to the painter and sculptor Arman and devoted ten years to their three children. She then worked with Pierre Henry, as his assistant at the Studio APSOME (1967-68). She was in residence at the New York University School of Arts (1970-71), the University of Iowa and the California Institute of the Arts (1973) and Mills College (1998). She has created sound environments using looped tapes of various durations, gradually desynchronising.
Her works have been featured in numerous galleries and museums since the late 60s and from 1970, she has been associated to the ARP 2500 Synthesizer and tape through many compositions from Chry-ptus (1970) up to L’Île resonante (2000). These include: Biogenesis, Arthesis, Ψ 847, Adnos I, II and III (70s), Les Chants de Milarepa and Jetsun Mila (80s) and the three pieces constituting the Trilogie de la Mort (1988-91-93). Since 2002, she has been composing mostly acoustic works for performers and instruments. Her music has been featured in major international festivals. Her extremely sober, almost ascetic concerts, are made of a continuous, ever-changing yet extremely slow stream of sound, whose transformation occurs within the sonic material itself.
Radigue found her musical voice through the decisive encounter with “musique concrète” and its founding fathers. With Pierre Schaeffer, first, and then Pierre Henry, with whom she learned and perfected the art of tape recorders. She then developed a unique style by herself, freely continuing the exploration of electronic sounds, progressing with tenacity through her musical quest, without worrying about current trends or fashions, paying no attention to creeds or dogmas. An isolated course, out with fashions and institutions, such a singular and intense music, so remote from everything..."
Smalltown Supersound celebrates its 25th anniversary with an epic new mix album of the Smalltown Supersound catalogue by Prins Thomas. Featuring artists including Sonic Youth, DJ Harvey, Studio, Yoshimi (Boredoms), Kim Gordon, Oneohtrix Point Never, Todd Rundgren, Stereolab, High Llamas, Neneh Cherry, Ricardo Villalobos, Four Tet, Bjørn Torske, Dungen, The Orb, Kelly Lee Owens, Lindstrøm, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Biosphere, Peter Brötzmann, and many more.
"I started Smalltown Supersound in 1993 while in high school in Flekkefjord, a small town of 4,000 inhabitants in the south of Norway. There was obviously no supersound in our small town. It was just an ironic name I came up with to release some tapes with lo-fi/noise/bedroom recordings by my brother and his friends. The name was inspired by my hometown and the catalogue number STS was a homage to SST, a label I deeply admired at the time (and still do). Little did I know that I would have to live with that name for the rest of my life.
I started the label before I knew what a record label was. So I gradually learned it by doing. And it was part of me growing up. It might sound like a cliché, but in many ways the label is the soundtrack of my life. Thomas has now made it into a mixtape.
We all hate to see photos of ourselves when we were younger, the bad haircuts and the strange clothes. It is the same thing when you run a label. You constantly look back on things you regret. This mix makes me see the label from the outside in a way I don’t think I have before. And to my surprise the haircuts and the clothes weren't as bad and strange as I remembered.
I have to admit that when I listened to it the first time, I was moved. First of all, because of the deep and true love Thomas has put into this mix. Second, because some of these tracks I haven't heard in 20-25 years. It really felt like revisiting the past. And in a very good way.
Thomas has followed the label since the early beginnings. Back in the days I was always thinking: “He’s a house/disco DJ – why does he want my noise records?”. I realize now I wasn't smart enough to understand his scope. I didn't understand it until his mix album Cosmic Galactic Prism, which is one of my favorite mix albums of all time. So for me it was very obvious that Thomas should make the Smalltown Supersound mix. I just couldn't imagine that he would go this beautifully far with it.
Since day one I have tried to have a red thread run through the releases and the label's DNA. Most of the time I am probably the only one who sees it. And many times I don't even see it myself. Now Thomas has found the spiritual unity.
While I have always struggled to describe what the label is, only now – with this mix – I can finally say: this is what it is. "
Joakim Haugland Oslo, August 2018
‘Body’ is the mesmerising 20th studio album by cult Aussie trio The Necks. It lands nearly 30 years into their singular run of sprawling, freeform yet coolly disciplined kosmiche jazz treks to prove, where needed, the timeless scope and appeal of Tony Buck, Chris Abrahams, and Lloyd Swanton in combination...
Unfolding nearly 1 hour of fluidly spaced and patiently timed drums, guitar, piano, synth and acoustic bass permutations, ‘Body’ is an instant classic in The Necks’ restlessly shapeshifting catalogue. As ever, their playing is modestly virtuosic and democratic. No one element dominates the others. Rather, they move as a feathered phalanx in dynamic murmuration, moving from breezy swirls of percussion over low-lying bass eddies in the first part, thru a passage of lysergic deliquescence, to a motorik post rock climax and far out into synth-curdled space jazz.
However, any literal description of ‘Body’ will fall short of grasping its full majesty. It’s an album that needs to be received with the patience with which it was made. Only by submitting to its intuitive quantum physics for the duration, and allowing yourself to roll with their unique syncopation and naturally unpredictable dynamics, can you comprehend their music’s full, transportive effect.
Having stated on many an occasion that Hardwax affiliates Pete and René, aka Scion, understood and played Basic Channel material in the way it was intended to be played, the release of Ableton's 'Live' software convinced Mark and Moritz that the time had come to try something new out.
And that's precisely what this CD is - components from all 9 Basic Channel 12"s, (plus some choice cuts from related project Rhythm and Sound and remix work for Carl Craig), weave in and out of the mix, flawlessly spliced together, remodeeled and reshaped with a deep understanding of the BC sound and a look towards its future.
The first cut employs fragments from Cyrus's 'Inversion', 'Mutism', 'Radiance III' and the Basic Channel reworking of Cral Craig's 'The Climax' - 4 classics, re-modelled to create something new, somewhere between mixing and remixing - and that's just the opening sequence. Flowing from first moment to last, it's a bit of a benchmark release that not only serves as a testimony to one of the most treasured and beloved catalogues in all of electronic music, but also illustrates that technology really can be about more than just presets and self indulgance.
Fans of Basic Channel will melt into this CD on first play, those of you new to the label will do well to give this a listen and understand exactly what all the fuss has been about...
London’s experimental hip hop duo Farai follow drop their debut LP of punkish rap, indie-pop asides, and pointed social commentary. Check for highlights in ‘This Is England’, the hot-stepping ‘Love Disease’, and their autotuned synth-pop downstroke, ’Radiant Child’
“Farai’s debut album (a collaborative project between London based vocalist Farai and artist, musician & producer TONE) documents a process of recovery. For the eponymous vocalist of the project, Farai, music has always been personal. Born in Zimbabwe and raised in London, her lyrics are coloured by the different cities she’s lived in, and how that series of different homes has shaped her perspective. ‘Rebirth’ weaves together South East London landmarks, the bare-bones ethos of post-punk, and the experience of being part of the African diaspora. The record is the biggest stepping stone yet in a journey which Farai started in 2012. She hit a period of feeling burnt out, and started attending weekly music therapy classes, where she started writing poetry and music for the first time. It charted a new direction, one that’s brought her to the exciting point where she now stands.
The album follows their debut EP, ‘Kisswell’, released through NON Worldwide in 2017, the label-cum-collective co-founded by Chino Amobi, Angel-Ho and Nkisi. It attracted support from Dazed, CRACK, The Fader and Pitchfork, the latter praising their “rethinking of post-punk and new wave.” Additional support has come from Annie Mac on Radio 1 and a variety of shows on NTS. They’ve performed on Boiler Room and at the Tate, the latter as part of a special one-off connected to their 2017 Soul of a Nation exhibition.
Farai’s partner in creating both ‘Kisswell’ and ‘Rebirth’ has been TONE, a producer she’s worked with from the early on. They’ve carved out an alternative vision of pop together, distinctive and many-sided at once, poised between punk directness and flourishes of soulful warmth. TONE’s heritage is Afro-Guyanese and Welsh, and their shared pan-African heritage was one of the things which drew them together. He spent part of his childhood in Germany before moving to the UK when he was nine. He visited the Caribbean growing up, where he was introduced to his grandmother’s roots as a performer, hearing soca, dancehall and dub.
The album’s opener sets the tone with a short news snippet, situating the album in London: the pair’s common ground and the city where the album was born. ‘Punk Champagne’ nods to a homemade cocktail TONE mentioned to Farai, made of buckfast and prosecco, and is characteristically stripped back, composed of simply drums, vocals and synths. On ‘This Is England’, they adopt a looser structure still, an ominous synth line framing Farai’s reflections on work and hardship in contemporary Britain.”
Incendiary 50 min recording of Merzbow performing at the Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane in 2012. Liable to take your eyebrows off and leave you with no mates. Great fun...
"I think the first time I heard Merzbow must have been in 1994. I was a compulsive cassette trader back then and I was sent a tape from a fanzine editor I traded with in the USA. It had two long form pieces on it that just said Merzbow//Noise.
I remember at the time not really knowing what to make of it. It was effortlessly deep and aggressive, but also very emotive and almost lyrical in the way the waves of sound would erupt and decay. In those days it wasn’t so easy to discover information about artists, but within a few months I had learned as much as I could about this prolific musician from Japan.
In the mid 2000s, I had the chance to meet Masami Akita, aka Merzbow and present him live when I was co-producing the Brisbane leg of the What Is Music? Festival. It was a pretty special event, in fact the first (sonic) meeting of Merzbow and Keiji Haino took place here in Brisbane. For me, Merzbow’s solo performance was as transformative an experience as hearing his music for the first time. Following a switch to digital electronics, in the early 2000s, his powerbook performance was literally like having someone run a razor blade across your eardrum, whilst pummelling your body. An exquisite, and beautiful, unease.
MONOAkuma is a live recording made in Brisbane in 2012 at the Institute Of Modern Art. This was the second time I had the pleasure to present him live in Australia. To me, this performance epitomises the physiology of Merzbow’s sound work. He creates in absolutes; sonically he generates a tidal wave of frequency that sweeps across the spectra with tireless frenzy. Merzbow’s capacity to conjure a massive swirling mesh of analog and digital sources is without comparison. His work is one of physiological and psychological intensity; a seething, psychedelic and utterly visceral noise-ocean.
What MONOAkuma represents is a resolution of Merzbow’s performative work across both analog and digital noise mediums. Here, he brings together his formidable pulsing analog noise (which exploded in the mid 1990s and subsequently forged the interests of countless artists creating music in his wake) and his more digital approach to noise. On MONOAkuma he resolves these two modes of operation into an ontology of noise in the absolute.
What I recall most about this performance is the sense of utter euphoria that was shared by everyone present. It is captured in the recording too. Not many people tend to dwell on this affective capacity of Merzbow’s work, but there is no question - this is about the body and the ears being overwhelmed. In those moments of being wholly consumed comes an incredible bodily sense of euphoria that is a truly unique and profound experience. MONOAkuma captures this affect in exacting detail.
2019 marks the 40th anniversary of the commencement of Merzbow. This recording, which epitomises Merzbow's 40 years as arguably the most important noise musicians of our time, demonstrates the intense and complex audio world Merzbow has created. It’s the perfect starting point from which to wade into the noise ocean that is Merzbow’s vast output.”
Lawrence English, 2018
Oren Ambarchi’s Black Truffle present a mind-bending major new work by Alvin Lucier with the hour long piece, ‘So You… (Hermes, Orpheus, Eurydice)’, following release of his ‘Cross Cross / Hanover’ LP and the ‘Illuminated By The Moon’ retrospective boxset.
“So You ... (Hermes, Orpheus, Eurydice) is a major new work by legendary experimental composer Alvin Lucier. It is an hour long epic that tracks the familiar Orpheus myth from a less familiar perspective: that of Eurydice as imagined by poet H.D.; a Eurydice who rails at Orpheus for his hubris in attempting to rescue her. Two key, and formerly distinct, aspects of Lucier's practice come together in this piece: the exploration of interference patterns in closely tuned intervals, and the exploration of resonant chambers. From speakers mounted inside amphorae a constantly turning braid of beating sine waves trace the descent into the depths of hell, and then the doomed attempt to climb back into life. Singer Jessika Kenney and long-time Lucier collaborators Anthony Burr and Charles Curtis embody the three title characters in deeply focused performances that assert themselves against the process of the sweep, or become enfolded in it. The electronics were mixed in real time by programmer and equipment designer Tom Erbe.
This record has all of the mind-bending acoustic effects you'd expect from a Lucier piece, but also features a strong sense of narrative drama and flashes of raw emotion that are unexpected and deeply affecting.”
Wolfgang Voigt (Gas) plucks out 12 airy beauties from Kompakt’s ranks for ‘Pop Ambient 2019’. Make sure to check for the gauzy country drift of ‘The Uncertainty Principle’ by Jörg Burger as The Black Frame, as well as Bluebird’s aeolian harp styles in ‘Last Train To Brooklyn’, Thomas Fehlmann doing a mean impersonation of The Caretaker in ‘Karenina’, and the stately keen of ‘Rot 2’ by Gregor Schwellenbach
"25 years of KOMPAKT. When a record label still thrives after a quarter of a century thanks to a focus of what was expected to be a short lived music phenomenon called TECHNO, then it stands to prove two things; that it techno has taken its place amongst serious, multilayered musical genres like rock’n’roll, pop and folk music. And that KOMPAKT has never been only for techno, but KOMPAKT stands as a broad-minded, genre-defying entity that has set out to cross-pollinate all kinds of musical inventions within the realm of electronic music. Through its course, KOMPAKT has sent “Around The World”, all kinds of sub-genres, concept series and crossover adventures based on the non- negotiable 4/4 beat. And back again.
Without a doubt, the 100% kickdrum-free POP AMBIENT series is the most endearing and enduring concept that I have had the pleasure to curate. From the start, I felt there was a strong need to add a certain pop- elegance - ensouled by discourse as much as hedonism - to a sound that was recognized as “Chill Out” music that could be heard in seedy techno club back rooms and forgotten festival areas. Over the years, I like to imagine that POP AMBIENT has crystallized into a highly recognizable trademark sound and a multi-facetted musical universe of its own.
So once again, I had the pleasure to put together this year’s edition by plowing through an ocean of sonic jewelry that had been submitted from all over the world by new and old friends. The task was clear: for this special edition, I must create a homogenous listening experience that would both appeal to our trusting followers, to continue our tradition while integrating new micro facets , variations and influences from neighboring musical universes as possible. Obligatory while being innovative. Conspirative while being cosmopolitan. Albeit the headline “Ambient” might sound a little too humble for a compilation that encompasses aspects of neo classic, atonal music and the most beautiful aural kitsch imaginable, it still helps as a necessary means of orientation in the best possible sense. Same goes for another dear tradition: Veronika Unland’s abstract-floral cover design that keeps on pleasing our sore eyes year after year.
Although each and every POP AMBIENT edition doesn’t shy away from diving into the relevant question of “What is contemporary discourse music” – in the end it all boils down to that elevated moment where all theory dissolves into ambient air, into a higher state of cosmic bliss. POP AMBIENT is sacral music for non-believers."
(Wolfgang Voigt Cologne, October 2018)
Fractal, electro-acoustic improv from NYC’s Marina Rosenfeld and Ben Vida, conjuring a steeply layered investigation of proprioception and dreamtime psyches...
Marking Marina’s first appearance since the resoundingly unusual electro-dub of her ‘P.A. / Hard Love’ [Room 40, 2013] recordings with Warrior Queen, and also Ben Vida’s follow-up to ‘Damaged Particulates’ [Shelter Press, 2016], their probing collaboration is a wicked exercise in vivid, abstract terraforming.
As they both hail from NYC, it’s possible to hear the 8 parts of ‘Feel Anything’ as a gyring, topographical reading of their environment. In bifurcating formations they strafe and wind thru varying densities of tone and space in sloshing meter, scaling the listener’s focus from vertiginous showers of sparky electronic scree to demolished string orchestrations and wide, abyssal bass in fractious permutations.
We can instantly recognise some of Marina’s signature, eerie dub touches carried over from her ‘P.A. / Hard Love’ EP, but here they are unsettled, unstuck by Vida’s nervy tics and persistently amorphous electronics until they both effectively form a sort of vaporous free jazz describing the waveform-like outline of urban panoramas and the insectoid scuttle of busy populations, scurrying up and down and thru skyscrapers, subways, lofts and streets.
With a CV that includes vocals for Timo Maas and doomcore for Invada, Anthony Tombling Jr. returns to Village Green as CUTS with a cinematic hat on.
“Summoning 11 widescreen, electronic compositions in response to global political and environmental breakdown, ‘A Gradual Decline’ addresses the planet’s current fragility using actual field recordings of ice collapsing from glaciers. Weaving these momentary, dramatic events directly into the DNA of the music, CUTS has sculpted rhythmic elements out of geological transformation.
A stark sense of urgency permeates ‘A Gradual Decline’. At times chaotic and alarming, the album’s siren-like tones and volatile, stuttered beats converge with synthetic gales of melody and glacial percussion. Elsewhere, the sense of precariousness is subtler, enveloped in gaseous chords that swell and evaporate, ethereal and dense guitars and distant vocals – all hallmarks of previous CUTS material - here honed into a concise, conceptual set.
“I have tried to make a record that feels like it’s all come from one place," explains Tombling Jr. “My only musical influence on this was William Basinski’s ‘Disintegration Loops’. Not the music, but the process. The idea of a decline in sound really suited the concept of this record. All this music and instrumentation trapped in this declining digital signal. I wanted it to sound brittle and precarious. I also wanted to avoid doing overly dark material, opting instead for something that was more fragile, melancholic and even hopeful in moments.“
Highly influential, singular sound artist and engineer Stephan Mathieu offers another heart-stopping compendium in ‘Folio’, collecting 5 albums worth of music, plus lots of bonus material, following his massive ‘Radiance’ boxset released earlier in 2018.
A lesson in the art of craftng patient, deeply absorbing drone and string panoramas, ‘Folio’ offers a fully zoomed out birds-eye view over reams of Mathieu’s more recent works (just shy of 8 hours in total), ranging from his haunting dedication to Ridley Scott’s original Alien crew in ‘Nostromo’ - arguably the last word in abandoned space station ambience - and thru to an expanded edition of ‘The Falling Rocket’ , a rework of the droning dream sequences off his 3CD set ‘Nachtstucke’, and a previously unpublished version of ‘Palimpsest’, the first Schwebung release, here retitled as ‘Folio’.
The ‘Nostromo’ disc is a big favourite for us, full of finely layered detail and subtle spatial dynamics in a way that perfectly evokes its subject matter. Likewise, we can say much the same for ‘Sacred Ground’, Mathieu's soundtrack to a film of the same name, where again his skills as a scene dresser and dramaturgist come into play, whilst ‘The Falling Rocket’ finds him tilted skyward, with attention given to a vertiginous sense of scale and heady movement in the mid-higher registers.
Once again, the slow gaze is key to this amazing suite, offering some of the most restrained and absorbing drone and orchestral minimalism you'll hear this side of Philip Jeck, Stars Of The Lid, Kassel Jaeger or Akira Rabelais. We urge you to spend time diving into its endless charms.
Thee most coveted collection of Coil demos surfaces on CD, opening a window onto the recording sessions for their pivotal 1991 release, ‘Love’s Secret Domain’.
Originally collated on a demo tape for WaxTrax! records in 1989 under the working title ‘The Side Effects of Life’, these are the raw early iterations of tracks that would become ‘Love’s Secret Domain’, and arguably one of the ’90s definitive albums. Only a handful of the original cassette are known to exist, and have understandably become important artefacts in their own right, so it’s a massive buzz to finally, physically grasp the album in its entirety, here supplemented by material off the ‘Wrong Eye/Scope’ 7”.
Between the album’s two bookending versions of ‘Fidgit’, which later appeared on the ‘WaxTrax! Sampler #2’ tape in 1989, the album spools familiar yet rawer examples of Coil classics such as ‘Dark River’, ‘Teenage Lightening’ and ‘Love's Secret Domain’, each replete with haphazard fades, cuts and stereo bias, and often with lots of ferric noise. However none of that should put prospective listeners off, with results more faithful to the original than the weirdly pitched version found on YouTube and p2p sites.
Ultimately it’s a proper find for Coil diehards, but anyone intrigued by the hidden reverse of what was going on in parallel to Rave, grunge and post rock in the phase shift between later ‘80s and early ‘90s, should fill their boots.
The first two discs of the 9 month generative ambient experiment conducted over the turn of the century. Very tranquil and soothing. Remastered and now available on CD in C-shell.
A one-hour track entirely composed on a Voyetra synthesizer, Water Music is a perfect antidote to the saccharin-drenched ambient cakes released nowadays by hundreds of self-producing wannabes. It's a never-too-present low humming lullaby, caressing the brain and the ears and slowly developing from silence. Comparisons could be made with some of Eno's best old releases, but please be advised this is not Music for films 2002 -- instead, the author gets right to the point with a simple idea, a small plant that needs to be growing in the semi-obscurity of your deep feelings. What a nice sensation." --
Massimo Ricci, touchingextremes.org
A brand new album from one of the most acclaimed ambient composers of our time, Vivian & Ondine takes the form of a single, three-quarter hour piece, once again constructed from Basinski's signature style of tape loop manipulation.
While the narrative ebb and flow is largely pinned to a single tape fragment, Basinski merged a further "dozen or so" that sunk into the mix in just the right way, adding to the aura of fluctuation and continuous evolution that's essential to his work. The central theme that repeats its way through the track sounds ancient, played out by what you can only presume to have once been a string ensemble. Possibly the first ever string ensemble, given the copious amounts of dust and debris caked on top of the recording.
This looped phrase carries elegiac clout, taking on a funereal quality (though contrastingly, the title, Vivian & Ondine, is actually a dedication to the birth of two new members of Basinski's extended family) and carrying with it deep-running undercurrents presided over by an almost visceral sense of sadness.
Further careful listening is rewarded by subtle shifts beneath the surface of the loops, only faintly making themselves apparent. One of the more prominent of these arrives just after the twenty-seven minute mark: you hear worn-out, bell-like sounds glistening through all the crumbing decay, like clock chimes wafting in from far off. Small gestures like these probably don't sound much like big payoff moments on paper, but in the context of Basinski's stately and patient sonic universe such things count for a lot.
'Variations: A Movement In Chrome Primitive' available on a 2CD edition.
As a peer of Ryuichi Sakamoto and with a sound that has gone on to influence the likes of Mark Evan Burden, Basinski deals in miasma draped compositions that unfurl like an unhurried cat.
Mixing waves of ambient detritus with glimpses of more concrete structures, Basinski snags the ear through ethereal webs of sound that straddle the line between dream-flecked soundscapes and timeless piano, then makes sure you don't want to leave. Aural balm; utterly immersing and totally lovely.
A double-disc reissue of his 2002 AM classic 'The River', Baskinski originally sculpted his shortwave symphony back in 1983 with little more than some anonymous Muzak tape-loops and a static blighted radio - before he set about slowing down his raw material, mixed them live to cassette from two 50s Norelco reel-to-reel decks and peppered it with a coat of shifting shortwave radio static.
With each disc containing a single extended piece (c.45 minutes), Basinski delights in stripping away the listeners notion of time or space by denying access to the accepted markers - leaving all the senses acutely focused on the ever-morphing sound excursion before you. Of the two, disc one is the more conventional; wherein a sonorous synth pulses gently over the static-couched backdrop, whilst pin-pricks of daylight are permitted through the bellicose fog in the form of antiquated, distant strings. Swapping the emphasis on the second, Basinski fully embraces the notion of static - dissolving what must have once been solid broadcast structures in an ocean of fuzz, drawing parallels with Tod Dockstader and redefining the notion of aural decay.
Once again unveiling hidden treasures from his archive of tape loops, William Basinski releases three pieces made at his Brooklyn apartment during one night in 1982, adding a fourth composition (based on the same source material) made earlier this year.
You can't help but wonder why this music, recorded so long ago, is only just surfacing. Was the world not ready for WIlliam Basinski in 1982, or was WIlliam Basinski simply not ready to hand himself over to an audience at that point? Whatever the reasoning, we're certainly reaping the benefits of the influential ambient composer's stockpile, and 92982 proves to be a real highlight in his output of recent years.
Despite the minimalist essence of Basinski's oeuvre there's a pronounced sense of variety, diversity and depth at work in these four tracks, with each taking on its own specific persona. '92982.1' is outstanding, featuring lilting, gritty strings through the left of the stereo field while crumbling piano sonorities rule to the right. Far from exhibiting any signs of automation or impersonal repetition you can always hear a human hand shaping the music.
The faded, rattling chord movements of '92982.2' take on an altogether more ghostly, dissolved quality, with echo-flecked machine jolts peppering the mixdown, underlining how fragile this whole process is. The third track, meanwhile, is an extended version of a piano-based piece that appeared in its original incarnation on the Variations: A Movement In Chrome Primitive album (surely one of the standout albums in Basinski's entire catalogue), here stretched and developed over the course of twenty minutes. It's a beautiful study in the interplay between an instrumental performance and the medium onto which it's recorded, full of ruptures and low frequency rumble as the tape itself interferes with the flow and consistency of the music.
Finally, Basinski takes a fresh angle on his source loops with a composition recorded in February of this year. There's a markedly different character to this final entry; an unexpected cleanliness that somehow feels just right as a coda to the archival dust and dereliction of all that's come before. Its tacit stateliness serves as confirmation that all these years on, Basinski has lost none of his form, and that despite the richness of his work in the early eighties he's still a very active, utterly compelling creative force.
Impressively weird spins on boogie, dub, house and traditional Japanese themes from Yoshinori Hayashi, who’s built a solid rep in recent years via outings for Going Good and Jheri Tracks, leading to this standout debut album on Smalltown Supersound.
“Previous work by the Tokyo-based producer has been called “a complex patchwork of studio gear, live instruments, dusty jazz records and smartly cut library sounds, whose textures are soft and inviting. But its arrangements are constantly ruffled, squeezed, brushed and pinched—which is to say, nothing stays still for long” (Resident Advisor).
Hayashi presents his self-described “collage expression” throughout Ambivalence, which he produced and played in its entirety. Album opener, “Overflow,” is a club track inspired by Cecil Taylor. It’s freeform nature sets the tone for the album’s cosmic, hypnotic, and almost ritualistic approach.
Hayashi has studied under Japanese avant-classical composer Mica Nozawa. When not DJing, he works in a record store in Tokyo.”
Finally, 'Shortwavemusic' has made it to CD, a decade after its initial release.
The album originally appeared back in 1998 on Carsten Nicolai's Noton label (which as we all know would eventually turn into experimental powerhouse Raster Noton) and was issued as vinyl LP only, so this is the first time the album has appeared on compact disc, now bumped with an extra 15 minute track.
Using fragments of muzak recorded from the radio, Basinski chopped, re-pitched and looped familiar elements to procure the haunting waves of sound on the record and then draped them in a gown of shortwave static, humming and hissing in accompaniment. It is almost impossible to comprehend that Basinski was recording this stuff back in 1982, it still sounds prophetic, the delicate and sentimental ghost-like melodies and the sheets of echoing fizzing and buzzing.
Basinski manages to make music which is referential of the past, yet uniquely forward-facing, managing to create music that is defiantly his own. He has hollowed out his own special place in the music scene, garnering fans far and wide (BoC, Madonna) and that's in some part down to the fact that his music is so accessible despite its minimal nature.
Another addition to William Basinski's catalogue, "Variations For Tape & Piano" is an excursion through forgotten sounds and degraded memories.
"Comprised of one 44 minute track, Variation #9 'Pantelleria,' this archival release is one of my all-time favorites of the piano and tape variations from the early eighties. Using a lilting piano melody on a small loop, the requisite magic happened in the recording process when this particular loop would randomly slip along the play head revealing an extraordinary counterpoint (in reverse) on the other side of the tape. To me, this piece evokes a lazy Arcandian summer idyll, and will always remind me of an idyllic artist's residency in 2003 on the beautiful Italian island of Pantelleria."
William Basinski, June 2006. Stunning.
William Basinski's gorgeous 2003 album reborn on a remastered edition.
Rightly considered one of his finest works, 'Melancholia' employs similar techniques used on his now legendary 'The Disintegration Loops' to another stash of short tape loops he created in the early '80s. Across 15 short form pieces, his beautifully sparse and solemn piano figures become seductive silhouettes and haunting, recurring motifs rent in entropic relief, inception-like passageways into worlds within worlds, dreams within dreams, supernal memories coaxed from celestial bodies. Imbibe deeply and infrequently for optimal effect.
Background information is typically scant with this latest release from William Basinski's 2062 label, but what we do know is that it features re-discovered tape loops that have been re-crafted for a recent performance at the Montalvo Arts Center.
Clocking in at just under 50 minutes, "El Camino Real" is another one of those aural tapestries that Basinski seems to have an intuitive feel for - effortlessly piecing together elements that bring to mind everything from Arvo Part through to the Cocteau Twins without ever letting go of his own signature sound.
Because the source material for these loops has been de-graded and layered so heavily, it's hard to imagine where they could have come from or how they could have been made - all that we're left with are remnants of a ghostly voice dominating the undulating mix to harrowing effect. There's also something about this recording that brings to mind more recent contemporary musical experimentations, in particular the work of Liz Harris / Grouper - who makes use of a similar shoegaze aesthetic.
Tuff, melodic, vibrant and psychy Afro-beat fire from modern day Burkina Faso on the ever brilliant Sublime Frequencies
“Baba Commandant And The Mandingo Band return with their second album, Siri Ba Kele. After the Afro-beat fury of their first album Juguya (2015), the band has now distilled a potent mix of traditional and modern Burkinabe funk with a reverent take on the iconic Mandingue guitar music of the 1970's. Mamadou Sanou (Baba Commandant) leads the band with a confidence earned from years of toiling in the DIY underground of the West African music scene. His riveting growl and main instrument, the doso n'goni, still strike with a profound delivery.
The band's guitarist, Issouf Diabate, is on board again and his breathtaking guitar work is one of the greatest examples of the instrument displayed in modern times. Massibo Taragna (bass) and Mohamed Sana (drums) are simply one of the finest rhythm sections working today, each a master on his instrument and the chops displayed here are truly something to behold. The band has become an interlocking five-headed hydra of complex funk and cosmic guitar explosions. Recorded in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso in February 2018 by Camille Louvel and mixed with SF's Hisham Mayet, the Mandingo Band's sophomore LP is a modern statement of searing Sahelian compositions. It stands shoulder-to-shoulder with such classics as Super Biton De Segou (1977), Kanaga De Mopti (1977), Les Ambassadeurs Internationaux (1981) and the mighty Rail Band.”
Composed way back in 1979, 'A Red Score In Tile' eventually surfaced as a vinyl-only edition in 2003.
It illustrates Basinski's tape-loop technique perfectly and still stands as one of his most affecting pieces of music. If you've heard 'Melancholia' you'll likely know what we're talking about; piano notes transformed into tones by the slowly disintegrating tape, the loops become motifs all of their own.
Jim O’Rourke returns with his first physical solo album since 2015’s Simple Songs, following a relatively steady supply of download-only releases via his Steamroom Bandcamp (over 20 of them since 2015) and collaborations with John Duncan, Keiji Haino, Oren Ambarchi, Peter Brötzmann, Merzbow, Fennesz and others in the interim. Anyone familiar with his exceptional Steamroom output will have an inkling of what to expect here; this is Jim O’Rourke at his most meditative, absorbing and quietly subversive, making use of little more than synthesizer, pedal steel, piano and shortwave radio for one extended 45 minute piece (punctuated by a few moments of silence) designed to mess with contemporary notions of “Ambient” music.
Sleep Like It's Winter took O’Rourke two years to construct after being approached by the fledgling Newhere label to submit an Ambient album. As he explained recently in an interview with ele-king: "I didn’t set out to make an ambient record but it’s sort of about making an ambient record more than it’s an ambient record (laughing) you know? Pretty much everything I do is about what it is as opposed to being it. Just making any record in terms of “make a record in this genre” is anathema to me, but I decided to do it because it was such a revolting idea! (Laughs) Not that I dislike ambient music – I don’t mean that. That’s just not the way I think when I make things, so it was such a bizarre proposal that I decided to do it.”
Citing Eno’s Discreet Music (as opposed to Eno’s work after the word Ambient had been adapted ) as well as Roland Kayn as influences, he goes on to explain "Roland Kayn was the biggest guy for me. Someone could call his music ambient but it’s way too aggressive for that. The idea of his music is you create the system and then you just let it go. The challenge is how can you create a system that still represents the ideas even though you’ve let it go. If you look at some of the last decade or so of Cage’s scores, like the number pieces, they create these systems. These later Number Pieces of his are really interesting because, if you do them correctly, they’re really constraining even though they don’t seem to be. Whereas someone like Kayn and what Brian Eno were doing, especially in the 70’s, they still want a result but they want to be hands off about it.”
The result is a layered and complex piece that takes multiple listens to fully get to grips with, revealing layers of detail deployed within a structure that seems to evaporate into its surroundings. In that respect, Sleep Like It's Winter subverts its brief with an incredible sleight of hand; a piece of music designed to actively, deeply engage but which camouflages itself into the background. It operates within the grid, however faint and hard to define.
"For me, in making this record, the most important thing was, “Where is a line where you decide to give up on formal structures completely?” and, “Where is a line where formal structures can still be perceived but they’re not being shouted at you? For me, in that way of thinking of music, which I’ve been moving towards my entire life slowly but surely (laughs)…"
The second part of William Basinski's superlative 'Water Music' series
Seemingly touching on the idea of mathematical music (ciphers, durational ratios etc.) that surfaced on his 'Disintegration Loops' work, 'Water Music II' is more overtly active than the preceding tract. Spread over a single piece that tops an hour, 'Water Music II' has an undulating predilection that Basinski then goes on to obscure through diffused soundscapes of incremental intensity.
'The Garden of Brokenness' takes a recently discovered tape loop from Basinski's piano and tape experiments (c.1979) then transforms it into a hauntingly hypnotic compisition that clocks in at 50 minutes.