Featuring Travis Scott, Moses Sumney, Metro Boomin, Andre 3000 and Rosalia...
"Assume Form follows Blake’s three critically-acclaimed albums, 2010’s James Blake, 2013’s Mercury Prize-winning Overgrown, and 2016’s The Colour in Anything. Throughout his career, Blake has won an Ivor Novello award for Best Contemporary Song for “Retrograde,” garnered four Grammy nominations, including Best New Artist, and has played sold-out stages around the world including Radio City Music Hall, the Sydney Opera House and Glastonbury Festival. In addition to his massive success as a solo artist,
Blake has quickly become one of the most influential collaborators in the music industry, working with everyone from Beyoncé and Frank Ocean to Jay Z, Oneohtrix Point Never, and Mount Kimbie, among countless others. In the past year alone, Blake co-wrote “Element” on Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN., later joining Lamar on tour, collaborated on the record-breaking Black Panther soundtrack, and made his debut on the MTV Music Video Awards alongside Travis Scott performing “Stop Trying To Be God.”
The Firecracker clan gather round to tell the tale of ‘The Sorrow of Derdriu’, an ancient gaelic myth predating the ‘Cattle Raid of Cooley’, featuring smoky, psychedelic music from Lord of the Isles, Hoch Ma Toch, and Other Lands.
On the surface a tragic tale of a love triangle between a king, a young girl, and her suitor, the myth of ‘The Sorrow of Derdriu’ is also a metaphor for matters of national sovereignty, a concept sorely close to the hearts of folk in Scotland and Ireland right now. While that idea is never made explicit in the music, there’s an earthily rich and ancient sense of soul to Mac-Talla Nan Creag’s sounds and arrangements that suggest, whilst we might have hand-spinners and perfectly bevelled phones in our hands, not so much has changed over the past 2500 years.
Stemming from 2015’s ‘Mac-Talla Nan Creag’ compilation of works by Drew Wright (Hoch Ma Toch), Neil McDonald (LOTI), and Gavin Sutherland (Fudge Fingas, Other Lands), they’re now a group in their own respect, alchemising elements of instrumental folk and new age synth musics into their own strains of gaelic songcraft and impressionistic narration. In other hands this record could have come out like a string of cheesy cliches sounding like a 2-bit documentary soundtrack for the History Channel, but this bunch of Detroit, Dub, Jazz, folk and electronica fiends skilfully draw on a broad collective knowledge to beautifully and immersively carry gaelic storytelling traditions into the modern day. Gorgeous silk screened packaging too.
Contemporary concrète artist Lionel Marchetti plays the world as an instrument in ‘Jeu De Monde’, a marvellous 6 hour suite of 20 multifaceted compositions giving voice to nature in strange, hyperreal ways, and sure to light up followers of Pierre Henry, Bernard Parmegiani, and Michel Chion. Incredible, absorbing listening.
Drawn from long unavailable editions, reworks and previously unreleased pieces realised between 1991-2018, each CD has been designed as “an audio film which tells a full story” in a strong tradition of modern french art music. The set coincidentally marks 25 years since Marchetti’s first works in this field, since when he’s established himself among Europe’s foremost practitioners of the concrète style forged by PIerres Henry and Schaeffer some 40 years prior.
Using an intricate system of synths, analog and digital manipulation, percussion, low fidelity samplers, Revox tape, vocals, prepared piano and field recordings, Marchetti renders a series of audio images, or 3D tapestries that present the world familiar yet warped, emphasising its ephemeral aspects with particular attention paid to highlighting the dark matter or negative space that binds it all together.
It’s an absorbing, labyrinthine listening experience, invoking occult metaphysics with the opening chapter’s sequence between ‘Psychopomps (Piège À Fantômes)’, the viscera of ‘Near Death Experience’, and the canny use of samples of Whitehouse and Pierre henry in the escatological scope of ‘Inferno’, whereas the ‘Natura Morte’ section limns a phantasmic, dreamlike play of nature and body horror sounds, and the ‘Océan (de la fertilté)’ chapter feels like a transmission from J.G. Ballard’s drowned world, where cities have turned into mangroves and the air crackles with comms between psycho pirates and warring survivors of sea level rises.
For anyone with a vivid imagination, this boxset is roughly the same length but infinitely more entertaining than a Netflix gouch out. We definitely know which we’d prefer to do.
Rod Modell (aka Deepchord) heads up the Our Lady of the Flowers collective, debuting with a sublime consolidation of dub techno, ambient-pop and psychedelic shoegazing frameworks.
Pointing his ferric particulates to magnetic north for a nightlight to mythical lands, Modell and his bandmates - Kevin Dunham, Jeri Frantz, Erinn Pegan, Jay Buckets and Warren Doss - use Tibetan gong feedback, field recordings of religious ceremonies, and crude homemade electronics to feel out a series of imperceptible segues between low fidelity sound worlds linked by infrasonic bass.
To be fair, we’re not sure if the vast majority of home stereo set-ups can actually reproduce infrasonic bass levels at perceptible levels, but the subs are so low as to verge on barely-there. That air-trembling low end pressure underlines the transition between eight sections, although you’d be hard pushed to pick out where they start and begin, and that’s probably the point - the drifting voices and amorphous, opiated tones are intended to pull listeners out of earthly mindsets and into lucid dream states, with a breezy nature that literally and metaphorically sweep the mind’s eye clear and preps it to be massaged by Our Lady of The Flowers’ subtly suggestive gestures.
As thrilling and unpredictable as anything in Deerhunter’s near 15-year career, ‘Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared?’ was recorded in several strategic geographic points across North America and produced by the band, Cate LeBon, Ben H. Allen III and Ben Etter.
"Forgetting the questions and making up unrelated answers, Deerhunter’s eighth album is a science fiction album about the present. Exhausted with the toxic concept of nostalgia, they reinvent their approach to microphones, the drum kit, the harpsichord, the electromechanical and synthetic sounds of keyboards. Whatever guitars left are pure chrome, plugged straight into the mixing desk with no amplifier or vintage warmth."
Vocal studies by Dutch minimalist Machinefabriek, working with Richard Youngs, Marissa nadler, Peter Broderick, Chantal Acda and Terence Hannum.
“With Voices is the newest recording by Dutch composer Rutger Zuydervelt under the moniker Machinefabriek. True to its title, the album’s eight pieces exhibit Zuydervelt’s use of cassette recorders, tone generators, radios, synths, and other hifi curio to construct bewildering aural architecture around vocal work from Peter Broderick, Marissa Nadler, Richard Youngs, Chantal Acda, Terence Hannum (of Locrian) and others. These human voices are featured as musical instruments rather than mere vehicles of lyrical content, resulting in a sub-linguistic mosaic of primordially stirring moods.
The initial spark of With Voices was kindled while Zuydervelt was in Taipei creating music for a dance company. In the final days of his trip, a dancer named Wei-Yun Chen caught Zuydervelt’s ear with an instagram video featuring a voice that turned out to be Wei-Yun’s own (she would end up on the album’s seventh movement, a piece that features dissected bits of Taiwanese poetry amid low-pitched murmurs and whispering fogbanks of static). The encounter stirred Zuydervelt to create a single 35 minute soundscape upon which each vocalist on With Voices was encouraged to improvise, be it talking, reading, singing, or wordless, guttural intoning. Such vocal smatterings were then used to determine how the other tonal elements should be arranged, dictating where each musical passage would ultimately lead. “The idea was for everyone to just do what came naturally” he recalls, “the element of unpredictability was important to me.”
Indicative of this approach “III” (the tracks are simply titled with Roman numerals) slowly winds like ivy through staccato phrases spoken by Zuydervelt’s peer Peter Broderick, whose micro-incantations skip along mechanically only to telescope into monastic grandeur at the track’s midpoint; the vibrations of vocal cords are often stretched to a seismic hum to form the heavy implements in Zuydervelt’s toolkit. On “V”, tape recordings of Berlin electronic artist Zero Years Kid (aka Joachim Badenhorst) sputter with their own apparent intelligence like a faulty AI attempting to interpret reels of human speech in some ruinous library of the distant future. Finally, a siren-like Marissa Nadler leads the suite to its lullabic endpoint with overlapping wisps of harmony devoid of accompaniment ending the album on an angelic note.
In these moments, like much of With Voices, warm-blooded arteries seem to have grown around bits of well-designed artifice to form something warmly alien, soberly futuristic, and inherently satisfying. More than simply an album of collaborative features, With Voices is a mutating collage of modern minimalism that challenges as often as it comforts. There is an alchemical, metallurgical quality that arises from Zuydervelt’s unique way of merging humanness with abstraction, harshness with beauty, and unintelligibility with familiarity on what may be the most affecting Machinefabriek release to date.”
Kora-player Sourakata Koité’s ‘en Hollande’ is one of ATFA’s most treasured digs. It’s been available on their blog since 2010 and only now sees a proper reissue, rendering a spellbinding session of quicksilver melody and buzzing harmonies on the 21-string instrument, sometimes combined with vocals, as on the arresting, almost rap style of ‘Djonol’ or the anxious melancholy of ‘Dioula’
“Sourakata Koite is a Paris-dwelling kora-player from Senegal. He is a griot, which means he is a story- and history-teller and singer. He accompanies himself on the kora. The kora is the most representative instrument of Manding music and culture. It is a harp-lute with 21 strings. The instrument is more than 600 years old and has existed in its present form for about 400 years. The griots often make their koras themselves, using a great dried gourd, a thick stick and two smaller sticks and a scraped goatskin. In the old days they used strings of skin, but nowadays often plastic fikshingline is used. The kora is held with the last three fingers of each hand at the small sticks on both sides of the strings. The strings are played by both thumbs and forefingers. With one hand the accompanying part is played and with the other the more free melody. Koite has performed in most African countries and also in a great deal of Europe.’
‘Rare Ravers’ is The Dead C’s umpteenth album of end-of-the-line Kiwi rock, and their 6th LP dished up by Ba Da Bing! following ‘Trouble’  and a 2013 split side with Rangda.
By now regarded among noise rock’s greatest exponents, The Dead C’s Bruce Russell, Michael Morley and Robbie Yeats continue to hack new paths thru thistly fields of guitar distortion in ‘Rare Ravers’, which, for the record, has nowt to do with glowsticks or warehouses, but everything to do with ideas of reverie and a lust for psychedelic transcendence.
“Disguised as the meandering outpourings of vacant thought and activity dialed simultaneously from zero and ten. Formed in the cauldron of a fevered mistake resolute. Surrounded by ignorance, dis-interest, and the attention of the carefully self-selected. Recorded and burned through a thousand galaxies of dust and doubt and endless infinite wonder, transforming both time and space. Forever exiled to the very bottom of the world to reflect on the struggling desperate pile above. Recognizing any contribution as minuscule and insignificant when placed within the greatness of the other, the dominant insolent preening satisfied, continually shouting the pre-eminence of the first world order.
It's a long player.”
Mirage-like new age and early-techno synth groves from Nigeria’s Hama on Sahel Sounds, the amazing label behind that sublime Luka Productions album and the ‘Music From Saharan Cellphones’ sets
Neatly summed up by the label as a re-appropriation of 4th world ethnoambient music, ‘Houmeissa’ lands on the mind’s eye like a lysergic dose. Hama’s ten instrumental songs re-voice traditional nomadic herding ballads, ancient caravan songs and ceremonial wedding chants with colourful synthetic means to resemble something like “a Saharan 1980s sci-fi soundtrack or score to a Tuareg video game.”
We advise running straight to the pulsating, ruggedly elegant charge of ‘Bororo’, the flooding chromatics of the title track, or the deeply trippy, off-key cascades of ‘Takamba’ for the strongest flavours. You’ll know exactly what to do next.
Massive tip for fans of Rizan Sa’id, Black Zone Myth Chant, early B12!
The mothership has landed! Unseen Worlds finally deliver a premiere edition of Laurie Spiegel’s rare 1991 follow-up to ‘The Expanding Universe’ , filling a gaping hole in electronic music collections across the known world
The jaw-dropping ’Unseen Worlds’ was first released on CD in 1991 by Scarlet Records, but the label went defunct soon after, leaving Laurie seeing to any further pressings. She issued a 2nd CD edition on her Aesthetic Engineering label in 1994, but since that sold out, her amazing album has become very hard to find. Perhaps understandably, that scarcity is probably because nobody wants to sell their original copy, making this new pressing an invaluable window onto ‘Unseen Worlds’ in all senses of the phrase.
In the years between her debut and sophomore sides, Laurie moved away from the New York new music scene to focus on other projects, most notably the MusicMouse software; an “intelligent instrument” allowing for greater real time automation of her equipment. MusicMouse for Macintosh, Amiga and Atari gained a lot of traction with rock artists and paid her bills, and effectively allowed Laurie up to focus on the aspects of music which interested her the most - improvisation and artistic process.
Freed from the more laborious constraints of electronic music composition, Laurie’s artistic-technological breakthrough gave her greater tactility and control in the composition process. The result is some of the lushest and vivid electronic music you’ll ever hear. In the impossibly smooth pitch gradients and timbral complexities of the opening ‘Three Sonic Spaces’ trio, and the hallucinogenic harmonics of ’Sound Zones’ we hear the MusicMouse in blinding action, while the rest of the LP is no less impressive; leading us thru breathtaking black hole sonics on ‘The Hollows’; into mind-bindingly vast noise scapes on ‘Two Archetypes: Hurricane’s Eye - II’; while the shimmering beauty of ‘Riding the Storm’ are right up there with classics by Jean Claude Risset or Roland Kayn; and moments of exquisite beauty like ‘Strand of Life (*Viroid*) and ‘From a Harmonic Algorithm’ give way to the rarely paralleled scope of ‘Passage’, one of those epic electronic music works that makes wading through all the other stuff truly worthwhile.
With "Smells Funny" being their sixth album in seven years, this explosive and expansive trio have gone from strength to strength, gathering respect from both rock and jazz camps.
"Although there is enough riffing here to satisfy the headbangers, with "Smells Funny" the trio are venturing into the more free and open landscapes explored on their previous album, "Black Stabat Mater". This new album also sees Mollestad truly coming into her own as an amazing lead guitarist as well as a dependable riffmeister. But let´s not forget how important the rhythm section is to make it all work so well. Ellen Brekken is an accomplished bassist, equally comfortabel holding down a groove and taking off on technically complex runs.
Then there´s Ivar Loe Bjørnstad, not your typical rock drummer, not your typical jazz drummer, but very comfortable in both areas and in possession of that loose swagger Nate Chinen mentions in his writing about "Black Stabat Mater in JazzTimes, and thus in many ways defining their common ethos: Her trio, which has Ellen Brekken on bass and Ivar Loe Bjørnstad on drums, caught my ear then with its audacious style references: the loose swagger of early Black Sabbath; the density and prowl of peak Led Zeppelin; the expeditionary urge of Jimi Hendrix; the incantatory fervor of John McLaughlin."
A cocktail of sultry disco from late night ‘80s Tokyo, compiled by Toshiya Kawasaki for Mule Musiq
“Midnight In Tokyo is a compilation series that aims to be the perfect companion to nights in Tokyo, collecting tracks by Japanese artists that sound best at night. Vol. 2 (STUDIOMUL 006CD/LP, 2018) focused more on '80s jazz fusion, but the latest installment, Vol. 3, picks up where Vol. 1 (STUDIOMUL 001CD/LP, 2018) left off, bringing together forgotten soul, disco, and new wave gems.
The compilation opens with Japanese rare groove classic "More Sexy," a provocative song by Yoko Hatanaka. "Kimi No Yume," from the album Yume No Yonbai (1984) by Masumi Hara, is one of the best Balearic acid folk songs to come from Japan. "Silhouette Call" is an electric bossanova track in the vein of Antena, from a rare album called Octopussy (1982) by Yuki Nakayamate, a singer-songwriter who worked with Motoharu Sano. "Theme Of High School Student" is a dubby cut featured in the Japanese film Kougen Ni Ressha Ga Hashitta (1984), written by Atsuo Fujimoto (Colored Music), one of the key artists in the recent wave of global interest in Japanese music.
"Get To Paradise" is a stone-cold funk jam by Mari Kaneko, who was known as the Janis Joplin of Shimokitazawa. Following that is one of Japan's greatest new wave disco tracks, "Hannya", taken from Tomoko Aran's popular third album Fuyu-Kukan (1983) produced by Masatoshi Nishimura, who was part of Friends Of Earth with Haruomi Hosono. Masako Miyazaki, whose rendition of Seawind's "He Loves You" is a fan favorite, puts her own spin on Earth, Wind & Fire's "Fantasy," singing in her accent-heavy English, giving the song an undeniable character.
"Watashi No Koukoku" is a certified disco-boogie classic by Junko Sakurada. The Brazilian-esque jazz fusion, "Sunshine Bright On Me" is by fusion group Kangaroo, who were often billed as "the japanese Shakatak". "Stranger's Night" is a synth-pop number by Maiko Okamoto, which bears a suspicious resemblance to Rah Band's "The Shadow Of Your Love". Electro-pop disco "Singing Lady", off the sole album by The Fad sounds like something Giorgio Moroder could've cooked up.
"Magic Eyes" is a disco anthem recorded by Tetsuji Hayashi's disco project, The Eastern Gang. Following that is Japanese soul gem "Crazy Baby," found on a rare 7" entitled Minato No Soul by Rinda Yamamoto also composed and arranged by Tetsuji Hayashi. Closing out this collection of 14 Japanese rare groove goodies is "I'm In Love", a bittersweet mellow dance number by Tomoko Aran.”
Uniquely fruitful duo, John Wall and Alex Rodgers beguile again with a brilliant batch of oily glitch-hop and processed vocals in ’Soar’, a book and CD from Antwerp’s finest publishing house, Entr’acte
Just as we were caught out by their ‘Rafia Longer’ 7” in 2015, ’Soar’ finds pivotal London-based artist Wall recalling everyone from Lorenzo Senni to Vladislav Delay and Jay Glass Dubs in the piece’s viscous contours and pinched percussion, while Alex Rodgers supplies the pointed text, delivered in gruff processed tons to sound uncannily like he’s inside the listener’s head, riffing on observations of self-obsessed society.
We might be drowning in a sea of re-issues right now (not least ones from long-forgotten synthesizer pioneers) but ever so often something comes along that’s really very special indeed.
Laurie Spiegel’s ‘The Expanding Universe’ is hardly a forgotten or lost gem, but this new re-issue is without a doubt one of the finest things we’ve heard (and no doubt will hear) this year. The album managed to supplant itself in the subconscious of electronic music ever since its release in 1980, and in recent years it has gone from strength to strength forming the building blocks that gave us Emeralds, Oneohtrix Point Never, Rene Hell and so much more. Spiegel’s use of the interactive compositional software GROOVE formed the backbone of her works, and little did she know at the time that the fusion of live and software would become the norm in 2012.
That’s enough history though, the extensive liner notes should be able to reveal plenty to satiate that appetite, the fact of the matter is that it’s Spiegel’s music itself that has stood the test of time. Not quite as reckless and ominious as the blippy sci-fi of the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop pioneers and far more exact and economical than the oft-compared Terry Riley, Spiegel produced electronic music that was both fun to listen to and incredibly deep. It’s no surprise that Bach is mentioned on the record cover as an influence, as while the tracks are electronically composed and performed there is a clear backbone of traditional classical composition that gives her music the power to get the hairs on the back of your neck standing on end.
On top of the original tracks that formed the 1980 release, Unseen Worlds have done an incredible job of scouring the archives to provide a veritable treasure trove of additional material. So often the bundled tracks with reissues are simply a collection of crap demos and live performances, but not so here – there’s almost too much to go through and every single little bit is worthy of as much praise as the original record itself.
Ric Kaestner’s impossible-to-find, esoteric ambient gem surfaces on vinyl for first time, taken from one of only 2 known copies of the original tape. Happy endings for all collectors of obscure new age and under-the-radar ambient music! RIYL Dominique Lawalrée, Brian Eno, JD Emmanuel...
“Recorded and released in 1987, the original cassette bore a minimalist plum tree design on the cover and music soothing to match. There are only 2 confirmed copies of the original cassette, one of them was used in the restoration and revival of this classic new age album.
Five years after the New Age cult-classic album Music For Massage hit the shelves, it’s sequel was silently released. Never intended for consumer sale, Music For Massage II was only known to a select few masseuses and tape collectors. The very definition of esoteric. Musically, it’s both an homage to how far the genre had come in those five years and served as a predictor of what was to come. Comprising elements of Folk, Drone, Ambient, Ethereal, Minimal, Modern Classical, the recording is quintessential of all things New Age. These are sounds meant to induce healing, therapy, and relaxation. Hand crafted by Ric Kaestner and inspired in part by an encounter with one of the fathers of modern music, John Cage, for actual massage or for casual listening, it holds its own almost four decades later.”
Two masters of very different string instruments, Ellen Fullman and Okkyung Lee, colour in ‘The Air Around Her’ with beguiling microtonal timbres at a time-melting pace for John Chantler’s 1703 Skivbolaget, Stunning, highly absorbing recordings.
Setting up her famous long string instrument in the 26 metre length of Stockholm’s Kronobageriet - Sweden’s former royal bakery - Ellen Fullman brings a lifetime of dedication to her unwieldy and uniquely resonant instrument, while preeminent improvising cellist Okkyung Lee acts as a more agile counterpoint, subtly contrasting Ellen’s glacial cadence with a broader range of quicker strokes and pointed extended technique.
Produced by John Chantler and recorded by Maria Horn during the First Edition Festival for Other Music, Stockholm on 20th February 2016, ‘The Air Around Her’ takes its title from a quote in ‘Vermeer Interiors’, a poem by Margaret Rabb, from her book ‘Granite Dives’. In both parts, Ellen and Okkyung play with sound as light, conducting a tonal shadowplay of inherently vast scope and ambition that comes with any recordings of Ellen’s long string instrument, as it always requires a good deal of time and space to properly tune and set up.
The results are swept around the space of the old bakery, captivating in their keening swoons and nimble plies, and also the smoothness and friction of their flux of overtones, seeming to coruscate and bend in mid-air in tingling ecstasies, always pulling the ear to the full extent of the room’s parameters.
Our album of the year 2018 is Eli Keszler’s ‘Stadium'; an isolationist avant-jazz masterpiece that's both highly complex and entirely accessible. With his close collaborators Daniel ‘0PN’ Lopatin and Laurel Halo smoking in the back seat, on ‘Stadium’ Keszler somehow manages to emulate a feeling of being lost in a crowd, of time slowing down as the world accelerates around you. In a year full of global upheaval and noise - it was the album that offered us the greatest sanctuary.
Painted in diffuse strokes, Keszler offsets rhythmic complexity with spacious Rhodes chords, floating woodwind and field recordings - showing off an expressive grasp of meter and mood while creating a kind of slow-fast simulation that alters your perspective and sense of scale, zooming out from the atomic to a gauzy panoramic view.
Keszler navigates webs of sound as structurally fascinating as a spider’s web or a deep space image of a distant constellation, seemingly moving on eight legs along steep vertical and fast-flowing horizontal axes with a shocking grasp of precision and pointillism that will leave new listeners to his work scratching their heads, wondering how to programme such chicanery electronically. But as longer term followers of Keszler’s work know, the magick is all acoustic and haptic; physically converting impressions of images and emotions into overlapping geometries of geography and psychology - and in this case effectively projecting a singular, inverted form of sonic deep topography, if you will.
While challenging and highly complex in its construction, it’s an album that's also tremendously easy on the ear, effortlessly binding instrumental dexterity with cool blue harmolodic sentiment in a timeless style that could feasibly be dated to any point between the mid ‘70s heyday of jazz-fusion and right now - in the most thought provoking, evocative way. It reminds us of Milford Graves, Jan Jelinek and even Miles Davis at their most smoked out and moody: best enjoyed alone, late at night.
RVNG Intl mint their promising reissue label, ReRVNG with the superb first anthology of Michele Mercure’s home-brewed synth-pop and electronic experiments circa late ‘80s/early ‘90s.
It’s actually a co-release with Freedom To Spend, the Pete Swanson and Jed Bindeman-helmed reissue label that Michele kicked off with her acclaimed ’86 debut ‘Eye Chant’ in 2017. Following the mood of that long overlooked side, ‘Beside Herself’ collects 19 further songs and instrumental pieces from hard-to-find tapes, documenting a creative development from her earliest, skeletal guitar, rhythm box and tape loop sketches through the era of her mutant, theatrical synth moves on ‘Eye Chant’ and beyond.
“Michele is a natural collaborator and has made music for all sorts of contexts, film, theater, dance, etc. You get that impression though this set, you hear different sonic collaborators, but you might also be able to pick up on one track being more kinetic, another more cinematic, another taking wild turns that may be due to edits or changes in a performance or just because she made some interesting choice here or there. Spend a little time with “An Accident Waiting To Happen” or “No More Law In Gotham City” and you’ll be taken on a bit of a ride through different movements, sounds, concepts, concerns, all in about four minutes. Some of this music is functional, some of it is dysfunctional, it’s all good.
For those familiar with Eye Chant, you’ll hear some familiar elements in Beside Herself. You’ll find the cool synthesizers and beautiful samples, storytelling through pop gestures, an apparent dedication to technological and aesthetic experimentation.”
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.
Venerable experimentalist Alvin Lucier keeps us beguiled with the high-register acoustic phenomena of ‘Ricochet Lady’, his first piece for Glockenspiel and latest significant work for Oren Ambarchi’s peerless Black Truffle.
Exactingly performed by Trevor Saint, the world’s preeminent specialist in performing experimental works for Glockenspiel, ‘Ricochet Lady’ is presented four times, each recorded in a dissimilar space with unique acoustic characteristics: an arts centre hall, a chapel, an empty forge, and a 36-metre tall grain silo (same site in Buffalo, NY, used in Sarah Hennies’ ‘Embedded Environments’). In keeping with Lucier’s earliest practice and ever since, the results speak to metaphysical perceptions of place, and embody his “…approach towards sound’s individual function and mobility within space.”
For each piece, Lucier instructs Saint to play his tuned percussion instrument while facing a wall or other reflective surface. While the exact same piece of rapid, repetitive patterns is played in each space, the results are the same yet remarkably different depending the space and the way it creates its own matrix of overtones. As the glockenspiel is already limited to higher registers only, and the piece itself follows a simply rising cadence from one end of the keyboard to t’other, the effect of Saint’s playing and the space itself lead to some seriously trippy results.
Likely psychotomimetic for some, and a pleasure for others (it’s both for us), the pieces’ visceral pointillism generates some deeply uncanny side-effects with the breathless, needling peal of the Blum Hall recording, compared with the wider plangency and head-squeezing squeal of the Chapel of The Holy Inncoents piece, and likewise between the increasingly broader dimensions felt out in the Basilica Hudson recording, and thru to the decidedly colder, spiralling scale and screeching buzz generated in the Marine A Grain Elevator part.
Expanded reissue with 3 new piano tracks recorded in 2018.
New edition of Steven Brown’s classic solo piano suite, including the bonus tracks from ’The Ghost Sonata’  featuring his Tuxedomoon bandmate Blaine L. Reininger, and now three tracks from ‘Belly Of The Whale’ .
First issued in 1983, ‘Music For Solo Piano’ found Steven Brown stripping back from Tuxedomoon’s no wave cabaret style to a more intimate, personalised expression of solo piano and clarinet melancholia in refined, chamber-like settings with hauntingly unique results that have lost none of their timeless charm.
The additional six parts from ‘The Ghost Sonata’ follow suit, accompanied by Blaine L. Reininger for a majestic and melodramatic “opera without words”, before ‘Belly Of The Whale’ brings us up to date with Steven Brown’s contemporary practice, some 30 odd years later, focussed on him and the keys in a jazzier modern classical fashion.
The Boats finally relinquish a standalone CD of the ‘Lost Ideas (Expanded)’ piece of their super ltd and sought-after boxset, ‘The Boats Archive’
Touted as “a collection of forgotten fragments, abandoned building blocks, loops, live recordings, rehearsal tapes and orphaned songs 2003-2014”, it’s effectively a treasure trove of impossible-to-find material by the Lancastrian small sound specialists, spanning ephemera from their inception and up until they turned industrial circa ‘Abstraction’ .
The piece plays through as a single, hour long collage of half-thought melodies, heavy-lidded murmurs, and burbling electronic pops where each part blurs or bleeds into the next, forming a tremulous cats cradle of sentimental gesture and quiet whims to get utterly wrapped up in.
Spread over a massive six discs and further bolstered by a pretty darn exhaustive book that interviews the surviving members (Williams passed away in 2001), 'Out Of Cold Storage' is testament to the unbridled virility of This Heat - with all the music very much rooted in its era, yet also utterly timeless. Comprised of their five studio albums ('This Heat', 'Deceit', 'Health and Efficiency', 'Made Available' and 'Repeat') plus an incendiary set of live action culled from their 1980/81 heyday, 'Out Of Cold Storage' allows everyone to get hold of these classic recordings in pristine form - a real treat given the eroded bootlegs and mp3s that have been doing the rounds for years.
Born out of the UK crucible that existed in the period immediately post punk (before it earned capitals and morphed into genre all of its own...), This Heat formed through the restless response of three twenty-somethings who felt impelled to document their corner of 1970's London. Already faces at the more severe end of the prog-rock scene, Charles Bullen and Charles Hayward were joined by non-musician Gareth Williams - a catalyst that would see them recording vast quantities of work then editing the results down into consumable chunks of aural fortitude.
Ranging in style from the avant-rock of their eponymous debut, through to the political polemic of 'Deceit', This Heat are spiky without the need to resort to high-kicking comparisons with the likes of Orange Juice et al., with their output always a couple of steps removed from their retrospective peers. Unafraid to disrupt their reputation through creative right-angles, the likes of 'Repeat' and it's central 20 minutes of looped drones and rhythms (think Can in a chiller cabinet) are seemingly at odds with 'Health And Efficiencies' melody etched high - yet rather than cause tension, these juxtapositions merely heighten the band's appeal and allow you a glimpse into moments of creative perfection.
Vast, comprehensive and thoroughly indispensable, 'Out Of Cold Storage' proves that the endless vault combing perpetrated by labels can sometimes come good. Six shades of fantastic.
First vinyl edition of Biosphere and Higher Intelligence Agency’s ‘Polar Sequences’ expedition - a dark ambient techno + electro-acoustic suite recorded in Tromsø, beyond the Arctic Circle in the northern extremes of Norway, during the depth of winter
Commissioned for the 1995 edition of the annual Polar Music Festival, Geir Jenssen (Biosphere) and Bobby Bird (HIA) made recordings of the local area’s industry and nature - cable lifts, ice and snow - and turned them into a towering black mass of an album that still holds its own more than 20 years later.
A perennial favourite of night owls and ‘90s ambient fiends since its initial release (on CD in 1996, 2003, 2018), ‘Polar Sequences’ marks an early high altitude pinnacle of the pair’s respective catalogues, with seven longer form works (each between 8 and 14 minutes long) that vividly evoke both their recording environment and the fertile period of electronica in which it was conceived.
The slow thrumming 13 minute expanse of ambient techno ‘Cimmerian Shaft’ is a perfect opener, widescreen, opiated and frighteningly eerie, while ‘White Lightning’ also impresses with prescient rhythm programming that could feasibly underline some Xanny rap joint nowadays, and Bobby Bird’s warm, Indian-derived drum trills still sound uncanny, replaced to the arctic circle in ‘Corona’. Suffice it to say that the ambient parts proper are everything you may hope for.
An overlooked gem, finally on the format it deserves, then!
First ever repress of Luigi Nono’s dedication to Marx and the Paris and Venice ’68 riots, uncannily echoing the Gilet Jaune movement and current European politics precisely 50 years later - reissued for the first time by die Schachtel in collaboration with Archivo Storico Ricordi.
Alongside Pierre Boulez and Karlheinz Stockhausen, Nono was an important innovator of tape music and one of the most important composers to emerge in the years following the Second World War – defining the zeitgeist, taking the his idiom into startling new territories, while standing decidedly apart. Unlike most of his peers, however, Nono was also highly political in everything he did - his music often described as a rallying call of the left. None of Nono’s works illuminate this radical consciousness and concern better than his seminal Musica-Manifesto N.1.
Commissioned and released in spring 1969, it ties all of the most important aspects of Nono’s work into a powerful political statement. Using recordings of the riots made in Venice, July ’68, together with recordings of Edmonda Aldini reading slogans painted on Parisian walls in Mai ’68, and the voices of communist leaders including Che Guevara, Ho Chi Minh, and Mao, Nono paints a plunderphonic collage evocative of the escalating struggle against the bourgeoisie.
Nono was a pioneer in the use and manipulation of magnetic tape, here providing a charged, disorientingly edited, unsettling and immersive record of the time, whose sentiments and inherent politics still ring true today.
PAN’s butterfly net captures IRISIRI, the 3rd solo album by Alex Drewchin a.k.a. Eartheater, who provides the label’s first release of 2018, and one of its most sublime since Yves Tumor’s Serpent Music or the Mono No Aware set. Alexa’s first two Eartheater albums were released at either end of 2015 to critical acclaim - Metalepsis was Fact Mag’s album of the year, and RIP Chrysalis in its top 10 - and this follow-up is a majestic effort balancing a romantic, gothic sense of introspection with wide angled cosmic scope and intuition.
Where the first two Eartheater albums formed a tempered concision of her psychedelic improvisations as frontwoman of the Guardian Alien ensemble, IRISIRI offers a more shattered looking glass perspective on Alexa Drewchin’s personal sound, each track resolving richly colourful mosaics of strings, synths and electronics riddled with trance motifs and her own three octave-range voice, itself an instrument of myriad potential, morphing from xanny mumble to angelic ambient pop tropes and keening wails.
IRISIRI stealthily casts its spell in 13 succinct sections, seamlessly flowing in a deceptively freehanded style from the harp strokes and bubbling bong of Peripheral thru something like blunted rap on Inclined, then making canny use of a Robert Miles sample in the K-holed maze of MTTM, and meshing Harthouse pulses with harps in Curtains, before going full blown Clannad in Trespasses, and tagging in Moor Mother for the fractious MMXXX, and pulling out with the teeny American angst of C.L.I.T., and a computerised meditation on OS In Vitro.
The overall effect of IRISIRI is seductive and layered with enough detail to keep us heading back for further investigation.
Objekt returns with Cocoon Crush, his first LP since 2014’s Flatland. Over the past four years he has continued to challenge conventions with his club output, while maintaining his reputation as a DJ who deploys impeccable technical finesse in crafting elaborate narratives from a diverse and challenging palette of electronic music.
"Written between 2014 and 2018 in Berlin and on the road, Cocoon Crush once again sees the producer jettisoning the functional requirements of the dancefloor. Marking a further evolution from the youthful exuberance of Flatland, Cocoon Crush explores a more introspective side, with themes of human interaction resonating throughout the record as it ruminates on a spectrum of complex moods rooted in 4 years of sometimes turbulent personal experience.
Cocoon Crush represents an aesthetic departure from Flatland’s largely synthetic tonality, drawing from organic source material and natural textures to illustrate perplexing and unfamiliar sceneries in photorealistic detail. In Cocoon Crush, Objekt diverges further still from his musical influences to craft the purest manifestation of his own musical personality to date: an intriguing and enigmatic album whose reference points are hard to pin down, in which ghostly synth passages weave through mind-bending, weighty drums, and ASMR-triggering foley collages scrape and sparkle.
Through meticulous sculpting, Objekt traces a rich and impressionistic journey through claustrophobia, hope, guilt, anxiety and joy, nested in layers of sonic detail which reward with every listen."
‘Another Life’ is Amnesia Scanner’s hyperreal début album for PAN. The Finnish production/design duo’s most significant release locates their EDM/pop voice proper after a string of prism-pushing singles, EPs and mixtapes issued since 2015 by Young Turks and Gum Artefacts
Bending EDM pop with warped sound designer sensibilities and a sci-fi visionary’s lust for post-human possibility, Amnesia Scanner’s music has come to define its era with unflinching form. They embrace the most compelling, even grotesque aspects of hyper-commercial dance-pop with an accelerationist alacrity that’s also shared by the boundary-realigning styles of fellow artists such as Arca and Sophie, who, like AS, started out in the sound designer’s playground of mid-’00s electro and tech-house minimalism, but have evolved into something mutant, transcending and redefining conceptions of humanity in their music.
Informed by a singular perspective on technology and the way it mediates contemporary experience, ’Another Life’ is ostensibly binary in the extreme - you’ll probably either love or hate the upfront garishness and unapologetically cybernetic nature of their music. But on another level, the character of AS’ synthesised voice, known as Oracle, and their warped pop conventions, both inherently play with ultra contemporary ideas of ambiguity in a way that’s symptomatic of a socio-political climate dominated by notions of gender fluidity and fake news. In effect ‘Another Life’ can be heard as an attempt to locate the analog nature of human sensation within computerised systems.
The results are effectively an exaggerated, syncretic synthesis of current Caribbean dance-pop, nu-metal, and trashy electro-punk with all elements turned up to 11 on their virtual amp, presenting a shockingly surface level reflection of contemporary culture that’s revealed a line in the sands of time between listeners of differing generations, and how they read meaning into their music. In other words, AS are the ‘ugly’ sneakers of modern music.
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...
Senyawa stir primordial spirits in the cosmically heavy doom and psych explorations of ‘Sujud’, the Indonesian duo’s stellar debut with Sublime Frequencies.
Since arriving to global underground acclaim in 2015 with the ‘Menjadi’ LP on Rabih Beaini’s Morphine Records, Senyawa have established themselves among the most beguiling acts in circulation right now by meshing traditional Indonesian music with elements of doom metal and free improvisation to realise a sound truly without precedent.
Judging by what we’ve previously heard from Rully Shabara Herman and Wukir Suryadi’s duo, ‘Sujud’ is unmistakably their definitive and most powerful album yet. Across seven tracks they explore phantasmagoric scenes of throat singing and abyss-staring doom guitars on the incredible ‘Tanggalkan Di Dunia’, alogn with paralysingly haunting psych-folk on the title track, before jamming gibber-jawed vocals and churning metal riffs on ‘Perjuru Menyatu’, and rounding out with the possessed vocals and grunting guitars of ‘Kembali Ke Dunia’.
“Sujud, their premier release on the Sublime Frequencies label, is the latest chapter of this very special and singular sound of the past, present, and future. The basic theme of the record can be summed up with one extremely powerful Bahasa Indonesian word, Tanah, which translates to "soil-ground-land-earth". Shabara's vocals are an expressive force, conjuring spirits from the soil with a deep humility and respect for the land and their existence in the universe. Suryadi has built a new guitar for these tracks and pushes the Senyawa sound into new territory, utilizing delay, loops, and other effects creating grounded backdrops of folk metal, punk attitudinal, and droning earthscapes - providing Shabara the perfect context to explore his whispering poetry and jagged, sharp-as-a-kris animistic powers. There is simply no other sound like it and Sublime Frequencies is thrilled to present this new direction in their discography.”
Chances are anything you’ll listen to after sitting through this half hour masterpiece will sound a bit lifeless - El Mal Querer is the most vibrant, layered and forward facing album of the year.
Rosalía Vila Tobella is already something of a sensation in her native Spain, but this new album looks certain to propel her into the stratosphere with its immediately accessible but multi-layered fusion of traditional flamenco with the swagger of modern R&B, a kind of minimal pop variant underpinned by what feels like an almost endless succession of clever hooks.
The opening Malamente is the most immediate and hard-hitting of the 11 tracks here, but the album is basically wall-to-wall brilliance, from the subtle, almost Theo-parrish inspired EQ cuts on Que No Salga La Luna to the super fwd juxtaposition of flamenco, auto-tune, pulsing subs and motorbikes revving on De Aquí No Sales to the ultra-ohrwurm Di Mi Nombre. Even the more traditional a cappela tracks edge into deviance - the eerie, layered vocals on A Ningún Hombre closing the album on a nervy, uncompromising note.
El Mal Querer really is a perfectly formed, hyper-modern vision of pop music; structurally daring, endlessly catchy, melancholy, introspective, bursting with charisma and more ideas than any other record we’ve listened to in 2018. Apparently there’s new music in the works from Rosalía with Pharell and Arca, you should keep a v close eye on this one...
ASC explores the depths of his sci-fi ambient imagination with part 2 of the steeply introspective ‘Trans-Neptunian Objects’ sessions
Trailing in the astral wake of his excellent 2x12” ‘The Outer Limits’, James Clements a.k.a. ASC returns to the farthest quadrants of his vast inner cosmos, where he takes as long as he needs (between 8-12 minutes) to fully scan his widescreen panoramas.
By jettisoning his percussive anchor, ASC frees himself up to explore heady, swirling scenes of shimmering tonal gradients and gaseous hues of colour. But, where so many artists working with these kind of palettes can tend to bore us to death, ASC imbues his scenes with a rich underlying sense of romance and sci-fi suspense, effectively exacting that classic idea of electronic music - a soundtrack for the mind’s eye, for mental travel. We’d wager it’s what NASA staff listen to on their days off.
Included in the five-CD collection are 14 of the revolutionary composer’s best known and most acclaimed pieces, including: Music for 18 Musicians, Different Trains, Tehillim, Eight Lines, You Are (Variations), Electric Counterpoint, Come Out, The Desert Music, and Drumming.
For new initiates and avant-garde fiends alike, this Xenakis collection renders a breathtaking survey of works by the radical composer, theorist, architect and engineer, spanning the period 1956-1974 and featuring some of the greatest works of the 20th century, including the awe-inspiring sonic architecture of ‘Persepolis’.
Inarguably one of the most important composers to blend electronic process and classical orchestration, Greek-French artist Iannis Xenakis made an indelible impression on the 20th century with his staggeringly complex feats of musical engineering. Regularly cited as an influence by composers ranging from Russell Haswell and Florian Hecker thru Autechre and Reinhold Friedl, Xenakis’s polymath pursuits in hybridising music, architecture and mathematics generated a bewildering array of sounds and structures which have rarely, if ever, been bettered in terms of their sheer scope, scale and technical ingenuity.
It’s possible to break down Xenakis’ approach to composition, and its results, as an extension of his experiences in armed combat, fighting for Greece’s left wing liberationists against the German army and later the British during WWII, with the latter leaving him blinded in one eye. He would eventually leave Greece in 1947 after graduating university with a degree in civil engineering, and before he could be conscripted into the Greek army, who didn’t look favourably on left wing sympathisers. Moving from Greece to Paris left him with a sense of guilt at betraying his friends, and a sense that “I had to do something important to regain the right to live. It wasn’t just a question of music - it was something much more significant.”
That significant something turned out to be a mind-blowing, multi-disciplinary oeuvre practically unprecedented in the history of music, architecture and art; a radical synthesis of ideas which embraced new technology and abstraction as a means to realise and create a new world in the aftermath of WWII. Like the Italian futurists before him, Xenakis would draw on the chaotic soundfield of war, and combined with a strong knowledge of experimental classical music and a special nous of maths, Xenakis’ subsequent studies with Olivier Messiaen and work with Parisian architect Le Corbusier would prompt him to composing groundbreaking new music during the 1950s.
This 2CD contains works from that era, stretching right back to the pranging clangour and jet-like eruptions of Achorripsis [1956-57], an early example of his stochastic style of composition, thru the dizzying, chronic dynamics of Syrmos , and to some of the earliest work composed by a computer, the 7090 IBM, in ST/48(St/48-1,240162).
But it’s Xenakis’ ’60s/‘70s work where his genius is mst evident, from the breathtaking scope of Polytope De Montréal  - written for four orchestras in the same space in the French Pavilion at Expo ’67 - to the gobsmacking dimensions of his seminal Persépolis , which was realised for the Shah of Iran, plus the frankly terrifying, computerised wormhole of Polytope De Cluny [1972-74].
We can’t reasonably describe this set as anything other than indispensable for fans of electronic music from its inception to the modern day.
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."
A unique, prickly flora in the garden of Edition RZ, ’Klangregionen 1951-2007’ offers an unparalleled and riveting overview of Josef Anton Riedl’s pioneering concrète and electronic noise music; ranging from his time at the GRM c. 1950’s thru his later years, when he made important contributions, alongside Nikos Mamangakis, to the soundtrack for Edgar Reitz's incredible Die Zweite Heimat series.
Of proper historic pedigree, Klangregionen 1951-2007 renders a fascinating cross-section of Riedl’s oeuvre, collecting material previously released on vinyl, along with a number of premieres, which all make their first and only appearance on CD here thanks to the great Edition RZ. Frankly, it’s a treasure trove for adventurous listeners who hold an interest in any aspect of electronic and noise music, and where it came from.
As the set reveals, Josef Anton Riedl (1929-2016) was way ahead-of-his-time. After early studies in Münich, he began in earnest with electronic and concrète composition in 1952, charting a course that would take him to the GRM in 1953, to Köln’s NWDR studio in 1955, and Gravesano with the legendary Hermann Scherchen in ’59, before a spell as director of Siemans Studio for electronic music between 1959-66, and subsequently turning toward multi-media events, both in production and organisation, with the Musik/Film/Dia/Licht galerie in Munich, and the Kultur Forums in Bonn (1974-82), and since 1987 with the Bonner Tage Neuer Musik festival and Musica viva festival Munich.
The work he produced over this period is some of the most striking concrète and electronic noise we’ve ever heard. From the outset of this set, the shearing angularity of Paper Music I, 1961/70 sound remarkably fresh and distinctly prescient of music made 60 years later, while his later take on Cage’s Fontana Mix, here as Mix Fontana Mix, 1974/76/79 is one of the best, freakiest, we’ve heard - clearly pre-echoing the mad fuss of Russell Haswell and reams of Japanese noise music. Factor in breathtaking percussive workouts such as Silphium, 1969/70, the totally alien vocal diffusion of Leonce Und Lena, 1963/64, or the Roland Kayn-esque tonal warp of Studie 62 II, 1962 and you’ve got a truly astonishing, diverse body of work which requires much closer attention.
An added bonus for us is the revelation that Riedl was responsible for much of the experimental music in Edgar Reitz’s incredible second series of Heimat : Chronicle of a Generation, which we are only now realising was strongly related, or possibly even loosely based upon, Riedl’s own life; as the series follows a young composer who moves to Munich in the 1950s, undertaking classical piano studies which expand into experimental music as he looks to find a new musical voice and language for the generation of German youth who grew up in the shadow of WWII. The parallels are arguably striking and unmistakeable, and serves to render this collection in a fascinating new light.
For fans of anything from Daphne Oram’s alien abstractions to Gottfried Michael König’s harshness, thru their modern antecedents in Russell Haswell, Autechre or Emptyset - or indeed Heimat - this collection is utterly essential!
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.
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.”
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.
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