Japan’s fearless multi-instrumentalist and cultural provocateur Keiji Haino has made a career out of his free-form musical improvisations and diverse collaborations. Whether deconstructing American blues to a few rogue notes hanging across chasms of empty space in his solo endeavors, sparring with the nebulous fringes of psychedelia in Fushitsusha, or teaming up with musicians like Faust, Boris, Jim O’Rourke, Stephen O’Malley, John Zorn, and Peter Brötzmann for fleeting aural experiments. Haino’s work is never pre-planned or structured, but rather a completely spontaneous exploration of chemistry, texture, and dynamics.
"SUMAC’s tenure is much younger than Haino’s, though guitarist/vocalist Aaron Turner has covered a similarly large swath of musical territory across numerous projects and collaborations, from the sedated drones of recent projects with Daniel Menche and William Fowler Collins to the modern compositions of Mamiffer and all the way back to the restless evolutions of post-metal stalwarts ISIS. With his cohorts Nick Yacyshyn (Baptists, Erosion) on drums and Brian Cook (Russian Circles) on bass, Turner has dissolved the rigid forms of heavy music, searching for a balance between disciplined precision and unhinged musical barbarism, crafting music that vacillates between meticulously detailed instrumentation and uninhibited forays into oblique abstraction.
For American Dollar Bill - Keep Facing Sideways, You're Too Hideous To Look At Face On, Keiji Haino and SUMAC met up in Tokyo’s Goksound recording studio to track a series of unrehearsed, completely non-premeditated sessions. Captured across several reels of tape, the collaboration harnessed Haino’s tension-inducing use of empty space on songs like “I’m over 137% a love junkie, and it’s still not enough” while pushing SUMAC’s dissident metal vocabulary on “What have I done (I was reeling in something white...)”. Throughout the course of its hour-plus length, American Dollar Bill pushes and pulls at the strictures of metal and bends the stylistic formalities of improvised music to create a sonic purge unencumbered by convention.”
DAF go balls-to-the-wall on their Conny Plank-produced Gold Und LIebe
Feat 10 strapping tunes including hi-velocity highlights in the hyper rock ’n roll swagger of Absolute Körperkontrolle and the earlier-written zinger Werschwend Deine Jugend, plus a popcorn-like charmer Liebe Auf Den Ersten Blick.
A massive influence on everyone from Powell to Helena Hauff, DAF are among the most important electronic artists of the ‘80s and a massive influence on electronic dance music ever since.
Karin Dreijer’s Fever Ray returns with the first release in 8 years since the celebrated self titled debut in 2009. She now tweaks the formula while retaining the enigmatic air of ‘80s synth-pop at the project’s core, redressed with rhythms better related to the modern Afro-Latin diaspora and underground fetish clubs, thanks to co-production by Príncipe’s NÍDIA, Peder Mannerfelt, Paula Temple, and Deena Abdelwahed.
Where Fever Ray was blue and black, achingly gothic, Plunge is ultraviolet and lusting, with Karin Dreijer aka Fever Ray poised like some gynoid harpy, enunciating her uniquely seductive, stressed and clipped syllables in a spectrum of screeches, naif sing-song, autotuned turns-of-phrase and etheric flights, all matched by equally piquant, urgent synthetic backdrops.
Highlights are myriad, striking from the front with evil, EVOL-esque synths wrapped to a industrialised dembow swang on Wanna Sip, and floating a superb blend of Errorsmith-like squeaks with railing reggaeton snares and a deliciously bittersweet duet with Tami T in A Part Of Us, whilst the NÍDIA-produced zinger IDK About You is surely primed for widespread dancefloor aktion, and the syncopation of giddy arpeggios and dancehall-meets-EBM drum programming in To The Moon And Back underline a piece of modern pop perfection.
There’s maybe one dud, when the folk strings spoil Red Trails, but ultimately this is a hugely satisfying listen, and a dead welcome return form one of this century’s most innovative pop stars.
Afro-Cubist house prophet Jamal Moss dons his Hieroglyphic Being robes for the most varied, layered and timbrally rich solo mission in his cosmic musical arc thus far. Think Sun Ra, Thelonious Monk, The Weather Report, Larry Heard, Marshall Allen, Pekka Airaksinen, Adonis, Miles Davis, Armando Gallop, Jon Hassell - but most of all think of deep Black musics and Chi house as a portal to other dimensions.
Armed to the gills and wingtips with the plushest hardware line-up we’ve seen on a Jamal Moss recording - organic flutes, piano, guitar, drums, alto sax, Hammond organ, Korg Triton, Linn drum, Korg DDD-1, DR 5 drums, Casio RZ1, Ensoniq Mirage Firelight CMI Series III, Moog Mother 32, Allen & Heath Zed 24 mixer - it’s perhaps understandable that the results feel more lustrous and grand than his usual, stripped and tracky results, seemingly pulling some influence from recent years work with instrumentalists such as Sarathy Korwar, Shabaka Hutchings, Orphhy Richardson and more.
In a subliminal and physical elevation and expansion of styles, the album shapeshifts thru 9 stages variously wrestling with and dancing around the ‘floor, making for one of the first Jamal Moss albums we’d genuinely say sounds as great on headphones, walking around absorbing sights, as it does on home stereos or jabbing you to dance.
The notion of rhythm and sound takes on mutant new meanings at the hands of meter-tweaking mavericks, YoshimiO (Boredoms/OOIOO), Susie Ibarra, and Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe.
‘Flower of Sulphur’ finds the trio working together for the first time after meeting in various other configurations, with results that loosely fall under the improvised free jazz banner, but hold back from the brink by way of an underlying, rolling funk logic and a defined clarity of rhythmelodic texture, rather than the expressive mayhem ‘free jazz’ suggests. Think falling down a tessellating MC Escher staircase for an hour…
“Susie explains the idea: "We had all performed in different configurations before but never together as a trio. I think actually I have met each YoshimiO and Robert at different times when collaborating on larger works with Tarek Atoui. But we had not performed together as trio. I was very happy with the prospect to play a trio concert, as I could imagine the sonic palette could be very interesting, being that we each come from different aesthetic backgrounds but enjoy crossing into various sonic territories.”
The resulting recording of their collaboration, Flower of Sulphur, is a transfixing piece of continuous improvisational work which explores the direct relationship between the artists and their individual configurations. The album takes the form of the trio each playing their principal instruments with no specific goal other than the exploration of the space in that moment.
This spontaneous composition showcases the freedom and musical immediacy of all three artists’ ability to interplay as well as their individual unique techniques to create engaging experimental sounds. Flower of Sulphur was recorded at Roulette in Brooklyn in front of an audience; the trio are hoping to make additional live performances throughout 2018. The hour long instillation builds to a captivating crescendo elegantly fusing immersive layers, rewarding the listener with a true emotive experience.”
Dragon’s Eye Recordings proprietor Yann Novak unfurls a mesmerising, meditative suite of processed field recordings on Touch. Imagine the elegant protagonist of Richard Chartier’s Pinkcourtesyphone took a stroll at dusk with Biosphere in the L.A. ‘burbs…
“Yann Novak is an artist, composer, and curator based in Los Angeles. His work is guided by his interests in perception, context, movement, and the felt presence of direct experience. Through the use of sound and light, Novak explores how these intangible materials can act as catalysts to focus our awareness on our present location in space and time. Novak's diverse body of works – audiovisual installations, performances, architectural interventions, sound diffusions, recording, and prints – ask participants to reclaim the present moment as a political act.
His album Ornamentation was released by Touch in 2016. He also runs his own label, Dragon's Eye Recordings. In March 2018, Yann will be touring Europe, including dates in London, Berlin and others.”
Sweden’s spikiest, boundry-oblivious rock group give one last hurrah with this eponymous slaughter for Thrill Jockey. Following more than a decade of defying categorisation and relaxing on labels as far flung as Diagonal and Important, Joachim Nordwall and co take this opportunity to blast out eight jams tangoing from the xmas-ready combo of noisy dub and sleigh bells in A Brief History of Rhythm, Dub, Life and Death to the shark-eyed krautrock drive of The Beauty of Creation and Destruction, via the Suicide-al Clean Mind, and the punk chutzpah of All Thoughts Thought.
A Message from Joachim Nordwall: “Our new album, simply entitled The Skull Defekts, marks the death of the band and an important farewell to those who have cared. It holds many echoes of our history but it is music that is present and now, and it’s hopeful in its own darkness. It carries some kind of positive desperation knowing what we knew while recording it. We worked with Mariam Wallentin as our fourth member on this one, and she brought in something new; new creativity, new blood. Her contributions were important.
The stuff I wrote for it was of course colored by the fact that we were not comfortable as a band. I think Fagge’s stuff was too. And there in the studio, we realized how much we love creating together. We love playing together but it just had to stop. The Skull Defekts might be our strongest album musically. It is the album that might be the most composed one. It is well prepared musically and of course holds improvisational parts, but probably less than before.
This is our last album. The Skull Defekts has been an important part of our lives. It is no longer.”
Expertly researched survey of Japan’s golden age take on Jazz. Check for highlights in the nippy clip of ‘White Fire’ and ‘Unknown Polint’ for some proper dancers, or the likes of Takeo Moriyama’s ‘Kaze’ for a more sultry take on classic jazz tradition
“In the years following World War Two, Japan developed one of the most insatiable, dynamic and diverse markets for jazz. For a crucial period of little over a decade – from the late 1960s to the early 1980s – Japanese jazz culture progressed at an astonishing rate, producing an extraordinary array of artists, recordings and record labels that created some of the most forward thinking and impressive jazz to be committed to tape. This amazing journey is explored on ‘J Jazz’.
This compilation from BBE uncovers some of the most sought after and rare material from this period and pulls together key artists who shaped the post-war modern jazz scene in Japan.
‘J Jazz’ includes obscure and sought after rarities like the bass-driven power jazz of Koichi Matsukaze’s ‘Earth Mother’, the holy grail rarity of Aizawa Tohru Quartet’s ‘Dead Letter’ and the loping majesty of Takeo Moriyama’s ‘North Wind’. This collection takes the listener into deep spiritual jazz, post-modal impressionism and fierce dance-floor fusion with material from artists and composers whose names are generally only known to committed collectors of Japanese jazz. Fumio Karashima, Mitsuaki Katayama, Takeo Moriyama and Kiyoshi Sugimoto are among the names featured on an album aiming to shed a little light on the shadowy world of Japanese jazz clubs, tucked away in the neon backstreets. This music demands a wider audience and BBE are excited to deliver a landmark compilation, lifting the veil on this wonderful and mysterious area of the global jazz catalogue.
None of the tracks featured on ‘J Jazz’ have ever received an official release outside Japan before. The albums the tracks are taken from are extremely hard to find and often fetch huge sums on the collector’s circuit. Originally pressed in small numbers on independent and private labels such as Union, Johnny’s Disk, Whynot, ALM and VAP, these tracks are now available for everyone to enjoy.
Compiled by Tony Higgins and Mike Peden, both long-time collectors of Japanese jazz, ’J Jazz’ brings together the very best in modern jazz from Japan, recorded during a critical period of musical and cultural transition that saw composers and musicians not only assert a new artistic identity but also create a lasting musical legacy.”
November 2017 August 1988, Spacemen 3 embark on one of the strangest events in the band's already strange history. Billed as "An Evening of Contemporary Sitar Music" (although consciously omitting the sitar), the group would play in the foyer of Watermans Arts Centre in Brentford, Middlesex to a largely unsuspecting and unsympathetic audience waiting to take their seats for Wim Wenders' film 'Wings of Desire'.
"Spacemen 3's proceeding set, forty-five minutes of repetitive drone-like guitar riffs, could be seen as the "Sweet Sister Ray" of '80s Britain. Their signature sound is at once recognizable and disorienting - pointing as much to the hypnotic minimalism of La Monte Young as to a future shoegaze constituency. On this double LP reissue, Dreamweapon is augmented by studio sessions and rehearsal tapes from 1987 that would lead up to the recording of Spacemen 3's classic 'Playing With Fire' album. 'Spacemen Jam,' featuring Sonic Boom and Jason Pierce on dual guitar, is a side-long mediation on delicate textures and psychedelic effects."
Features maverick jazz keyboardist Ståle Storløkken (Supersilent) on a blast of Goblin-esque prog-funk and Giallo-style spy-funk theme
“Elephant9 blends the virtuosic precision of King Crimson and Yes with the jazz-fusion explorations of electric Miles, Weather Report and the Tony Williams Lifetime. Key and time signatures change constantly as the quartet helters and skelters between tightly composed sections, driving kosmische interludes and bucolic Canterbury excursions. Rolling Stone (US)
This sums it up pretty well when it comes to reference points, but it´s also necessary to add that Elephant9 have developed quite a personal and identifiable style - through previous albums, touring and close collaborations with Reine Fiske and Terje Rypdal.
On this, their fifth studio album, they are back to the core trio of their two first albums, with Ståle Storløkken (keyboards), Nikolai Hængsle (bass) and Torstein Lofthus (drums). “The Greatest Show On Earth” displays some truly astonishing playing and is a more dynamic, structured and focused album with all tracks clocking in between five and seven minutes.”
Sub Rosa’s vital Early Electronic Series yields a fascinating and unprecedented collection of Indonesian Electronic Music 1979-1992 with the 1st survey of work by Otto Sidharta; a graduate of music composition at Jakarta Institute of Arts, electronic music composition at Sweelinck Conservatorium Amsterdam, and recently a doctorate from Institute Seni Indonesia Surakarta.
A pioneering figure within Indonesian Electronic Music since his début composition Ngendau , Sidharta has operated amid a small network of prism pushers in relative seclusion from the power centres of electronic music for nigh on 40 years. Since the start of his oeuvre, Sidharta’s work has been concerned with environmental sounds, integrating natural and electronic sources in a way that could be said to reflect the sound ecology of his home land as much as his personal imagination.
As the first collection to reveal Sidharta’s work beyond his home country, this set serves an increasingly rare encounter by revealing a hitherto un or little-known, yet fully formed and genuinely new, perspective on electronic music ranging from deliquescent gong works to dense blocks of gamelan abstraction, computerised chimes and totally unearthly oddities.
Make no mistake though, this isn’t some sort of Hassell-esque 4th world simulation or recreation of traditional music with plugged-in means. Rather, it’s better regarded as a fine mix of academic rigour and methodical electronic music techniques realised at the service of romantic, esoteric notions of space and place; vividly conveying sensations of heat, psychedelia, violence - both natural and political - with an immersively dreamlike effect from both within and post Soeharto’s brutal dictatorship.
Simply, if 4th world music is too fluffy for ya, but you like its Eastern-oriented ideas of new tunings, rhythms, imaginary spaces, this one is strongly recommended, especially to fans of Coil, Rashad Becker, Gottfried Michael Koenig, Pauline Oliveros.
The long awaited Remix album, featuring reworks from Andy Stott, Oneohtrix Point Never, Electric Youth, Alva Noto, Arca, Motion Graphics, Fennesz, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Yves Tumor, S U R V I V E and Cornelius...
We shouldn’t have to be writing this, but naturally the Jóhann Jóhannsson remix of Solari takes on a much darker shade of blue in light of his recent, untimely passing, yet it equally stands out as the LP’s most uncannily suggestive highlight. R.I.P..
Elsewhere, Yves Tumor can be trusted to handle Zure with a sensitively suspenseful sort of R&B/quasi-ambient breakbeat flip, while Andy Stott feathers Life, Life into an elegiac airborne waltz, Alva Noto catches Disintegration in a sublime, quiescent state, and Arca lends his own, original, tortured torch song vocal and windswept beat to a rework of Async with utterly heart-breaking impact. Yelp, this one really gets us.
The Unknowable is a completely improvised, spontaneous group-composed body of music created by legendary saxophone and flute player Dave Liebman together with celebrated percussionists Adam Rudolph and Tatsuya Nakatani.
"Dave Liebman, whose legendary, more than fifty year-long, career has seen him work with Miles Davis, Elvin Jones, John Scofield, Chick Corea, Dave Holland, Bob Moses and Richie Beirach, collaborates here with Adam Rudolph, himself one of the deepest percussionists of the last half century, whose collaborations encompass Don Cherry, Pharaoh Sanders, Bill Laswell, Herbie Hancock, Omar Sosa and several members of the AACM, and with Japan-born percussionist and sound innovator Tatsuya Nakatani. The result of this extraordinary meeting of the minds is music that stems from the worlds of free and spiritual jazz, yet goes beyond; It is incredibly open, has no north, south, east and west, it is simultaneously music of all humanity and of the cosmos."
Certain to claim its place in pop-loving hearts everywhere, ‘Few Traces’ is a glorious introduction to the admirable optimism and romance of Mark Renner’s American songcraft. Few Traces surveys a near decade of Mark Renner’s scarcely released and unreleased material from 1982 to 1990, embracing and evoking the timelessness of his artistic statement: a wordless translation of the individual’s musical experience, met with the poetic expression of being here.
"Mark Renner first encountered punk while a teenager in Upperco, a country town in rural Maryland. Growing up on his family farm, he became a young acolyte of the British exports hitting not-so-distant Baltimore record store shelves in 1979 / 1980 and was baited by an area musician-wanted ad declaring Ultravox a primary touchstone.
This nascent band and a pair of other group experiments flamed out under the typical totem of despotism. In their ashes Renner began recording independently around 1983 with a portable four-track, electric guitar, and classic Casio CZ101 synthesizer. Aside from John Foxx-era Ultravox, Renner’s process was inspired by the period’s electronic pioneers venturing into deeper, romantic pop pastures: Yellow Magic Orchestra, Bill Nelson, The Associates.
With his tools and teachers in place, the blueprints for Renner’s sound were laid out – metronomic, skeletal rhythms built on sturdy yet singular drum machines supporting luminescent guitar and synth lines, Renner’s reverent voice guiding the fables and construction.
Most directly influential, Renner’s enthusiasm for Days in Europa, the third album by Scottish new wave band Skids, would lead to a correspondence and long-distance tutorship with Stuart Adamson. Before Adamson would achieve worldwide success co-founding the group Big Country, a chance friendship with Renner would impart great confidence in the young musician from Maryland, who, after a visit in Edinburgh, would then travel to London to demo an early version of “Half A Heart” featured in its final form on Few Traces.
The sum of Renner’s music is one-part literary, one-part painterly. The artist cites the individualism of Herman Hesse as a guiding force, and there are overt references to W. B. Yeats and John Greanleaf Whittier among other authors. Lyrical themes evoke the presence of the ancient past, much like early Felt songs or the spiritual visions of Van Morrison. (Tellingly, Renner cites Morrison’s 1980s albums made between Inarticulate Speech of the Heart and No Guru, No Method, No Teacher as musical influences.)
Apart from his writing, Renner explored music as a complement to visual language: many of the dream-like instrumental passages presented across Few Traces were originally implemented as sound elements for exhibitions of his paintings. Renner pursued wordless music as a pure aesthetic in its own right, pristinely balanced segues and open-ended compositions that lead to pasture but not without shepherd.
Compiled three decades after the music was originally put to tape, Few Traces collects Mark Renner’s early music but strives not to simplify or reframe it. (Mark is still active making music and painting) The instrumental explorations remain on par with the great ambient adventurers of the period (Brian Eno, Harold Budd, Roedelius), while the vocal and guitar-centric songs crystalize across similar terrains being transversed by Cocteau Twins and The Chills.
Few Traces highlights in intuitive sequence gems from Renner’s scarce discography and archive: the self-released debut All Walks of This Life (1986), the aptly titled follow-up Painter’s Joy (1988), plus early singles, compilation tracks, and exemplary songs that saw no original release. The collection allows an intimate look at an artist growing into their sound and surroundings, finding the in between echoes and spirituality of the individual.”
La Contra Ola is the fascinating 1st ever survey of Spanish electronic music during the post-punk and synth wave phenomenon which swept subterranean US and European scenes circa 1980-1986.
By their own admission, Spain was late to electronic music, mostly due the restrictive dictatorship of General Franco. But when Franco fxcked off in 1975, it was open season for sounds made with boxes and plugged-in guitars. You’ll find many of the best examples from that period in this set, ranging from the funked EBM swerve of La Fura dels Baus and Diseño Corbusier thru to the orientalist pop jitters of Lavabos Iturriaga and warped disco brilliance of Oviforia Sci, along with loads of other names you’ve never heard before.
Nowadays, although not necessarily synonymous with electronic music, the likes of Madrid, Barcelona and bits of the Basque country have a reputable electronic music scene, mostly a result of artists in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s artists figuring it all out on their own terms and from a distance to the usual electronic power hubs, variously updating old styles, importing from parallel scenes, and essentially imagining their own. In the past decade’s groundswell of reissued classic and obscure material, the likes of Diseño Corbusier’s El Alma De La Estrella and various oddities from Esplendor Geométrico, Luis Delgado and the Grabaciones Accidentales archive have been reissued and reappraised by the likes of Dead Cert Home Ents and EM Records, but now it’s the turn of the others to share the spotlight.
They’re generally all dancefloor-themed, or at least rhythm-driven and pop-wise, as opposed to avant or explicitly experimental. Aside from the better known Diseño Corbusier ace Golpe De Amistad, you’ll also come across their much rarer Meta Metallic  ace nestled next to the hoppin’ punk hustle of Zombies’ La Rebelión de los Objetos, and tentative 4th world/post-punk mapping recalling 23 Skidoo in Derribos Arias’ A Flúor. The aforementioned bendy disco bewt, Mao’s Children by Oviformia Sci is a really big highlight for the DJs, as are the fresh cuts of Moscú está helado and the wiry funk of TodoTodo’s electro bubbler Autogas and the Liquid G-alike EBM force of Himno from El Humano Marrano, while natty surprises keep on coming in the form of Derribos Arias’ Suicide-like dream-bop ditty Aprenda Alemán en 7 dias, and in the melodic fructose of Línea Vienesa’s Cangrejos en la cocina.
So yeh, as you can see and hear, there was a lot of quality gear coming from Spain during that fecund, pre- home computer period, which makes this set rather tasty as both a historical education and a class set of tunes.
Highly respected drummer and prolific composer Bobby Previte continues his Terminals trilogy with Rhapsody, a song cycle on the subject of transit and migration.
"Subtitled In Transit: Terminals II , Previte's newest work was scored for acoustic sextet and features fellow composer - improvisers in guitarist Nels Cline, harpist Zeena Parkins, pianist John Medeski, vocalist, alto saxophonist Fabian Rucker and vocalist - erhu player Jen Shyu. This latest major work, released on RareNoise Records in February 2018, comes on the heels of Previte's powerful prior RareNoise release, Mass , a nine-part work scored for choir, pip organ and heavy metal trio. Rhapsody was commissioned by the Greenfield Prize at the Hermitage Artist Retreat in Florida and had its world premiere on
April 21, 2017 at New College in Sarasota."
Anthony J Hart (Imaginary Forces, Basic Rhythm) adopts the Hi Tek moniker as producer for East Man’s Red, White & Zero; a grime/dancehall/ project inspired by London’s vital relationship between mixed, working class cultures, inspired by conversations with theorist and academic Paul Gilroy - alumni of the late, great Stuart Hall. Features bars by Saint P, Darkos Strife, Killa P, Eklipse, Lyrical Strally, Kwan. RIYL The Bug, Blackdown, Alex Deamonds.
“London’s young people have been seen as a problem by governments for many generations now. Their distinctive street cultures stretch back into the nineteenth century when, just like today, a stylish public presence signified danger to respectable people. At that time, Britain’s class conflicts were being re-made amidst all the glorious fruits of a global empire. Divisions like class and sex had different shapes and tempos that hardly resemble the machinery of our increasingly networked and unequal world. Religion, racism and nationalism were all important, but work, exploitation and poverty supplied the fiery core of politricks.
These days, Britain’s imperial wealth and prestige are long gone. Today’s young people are excluded and marginalized, confined and criminalized, yet they remain at the heart of the vital, energetic best of our city. Their energy and imagination drive London’s convivial culture. They duck and dive just like their predecessors. They hustle, they suffer and they survive. Even where knives are common, most of the problems that come up get resolved without murderous violence. The defining experience of their precarious situation is more likely to be fear or anxiety than warfare between gangs. Their violence is more likely to turn inwards on to their loved ones and family members. There are many forms of self harm and self medication.
Yet the space in which those youthful lives unfold has contracted. The scale on which life is lived has shrunk. Moving around can be expensive. Surveillance is constant. Dignity and certainty are difficult to find and hold on to. It can be hard to feel comfortable outside the spaces and places you know best. Those familiar circuits are marked out by the roadside shrines of dead flowers that show just how vulnerable you can quickly become.
We have been losing London to Babylon but we are busy making a new place. The edges of the city have become fertile. The weeds grow up explosively between palisaded concrete boxes and the litter-strewn greenery. This is not zones 1 and 2 where houses and flats are capital rather than buildings to live in. The music that comes out of that edgy world isn’t what it was a generation ago, but it’s still fundamental--necessary for life.
These shocking sounds can be a part of healing and repair while staying faithful to the pressures that forged them. Musicians can’t make a living from their creativity, but their listeners can’t understand this historical moment unless they get to grips with its local rules, meanings and poetry. This is not America. Even without words, this music speaks for itself and tells a story. It calls out to be understood while seeking ways to escape interpretation.
We are always more than either this or that. We are more than either black or white."
Paul Gilroy 2017.
U.S. Girls is the protean musical enterprise of multi-disciplinary artist, Meg Remy, presenting her sixth studio album ‘In A Poem Unlimited’.
"Remy’s second release for 4AD, which also includes ‘Mad As Hell’ - a clarion call for pacifism - was tracked in collaboration with Toronto-based instrumental collective The Cosmic Range and features arrangements by long-time contributors Maxmilian Turnball and Louis Percival. The dizzying buffet of live grooves on ‘In A Poem Unlimited’ represents an inversion of the dusty, sample-based minimal textures of ‘Half Free’, Remy’s euphoric 4AD debut.
Steered into focus by Remy and mixer / co-producer Steve Chahley, ‘In A Poem Unlimited’ features disco employed as a protest vernacular (‘Mad As Hell’), as well as an unrelenting assault (‘Time’); moody, slow-burning funk (‘Velvet 4 Sale’ and ‘L-Over’) and earnest synth anthems ‘Rosebud’ and ‘Poem’, which form the album’s emotional core.
‘In A Poem Unlimited’ features dark meditations reflecting charged atmospheres that directly precede and follow acts of violence. Many of the songs are character studies of women grappling with power; how to gain and exert it spiritually, as well as desperate strategies to mitigate its infliction. Remy also rallies against the public lies told by political and religious leaders and, more crucially, questions the lies we tell ourselves in order to survive. While U.S. Girls, denoting the plural, is no longer a misnomer, ‘In A Poem Unlimited’ may be Remy’s most individually distilled protest to date.
‘In A Poem Unlimited’ album opener ‘Velvet 4 Sale’ concerns a female narrator imploring another to buy a gun for protection, impressing that the only way to change men is for women to use violence. Remy says, “Men are lucky women (and children) have yet to take up arms. And although I hope this never happens and I completely disagree that violence is ever effective, this very idea was ripe for a song."
Glass offers the sublime results of a collaboration between Ryuichi Sakamoto and Carsten Nicolai (Alva Noto), as performed and recorded at Philip Johnson’s Glass House in Connecticut during the private opening to Yayoi Kusama’s installation marking the 110th anniversary of Johnson’s birth.
Making sterling use of the landmark architectural work’s pellucid dimensions, the pair fixed contact mics to its glass walls, which they effectively played as an “instrument”, rubbing it with rubber gong mallets to generate delicate tones which they combined with a sympathetic palette of singing glass bowls, crotales, keyboards and mixers.
The seamless performance of floating, weightless tones and exquisitely quivering timbres is without doubt one of their finest. For the duration we’re held static and spellbound by the pair’s interplay of microtonal shifts and plasmic chronics, keening the listener thru hazes of digital dust and vortices of angelic harmonics to locate, alchemise and resolve a rarified, deeply mysterious spirit before the piece closes.
As the follow-up to their OST for The Revenant  and the warbling keys of Summvs  before that, the achingly lush tension of Glass is perhaps the purest testament to the clarity of vision and endless minimalist mutability of this highly revered duo.
Ought's third album and first for Merge
"Growing up doesn't mean mellowing out so much as it means learning to pay attention, listening carefully and openly, staying somewhere long enough to really understand where you are. Recorded at Rare Book Room in Brooklyn with producer Nicolas Vernhes (Deerhunter, Animal Collective, Silver Jews), Room Inside the World explores themes that have always concerned the band-identity, connection, survival in a precarious world-but with a bolder, more nuanced sound palette.
Vibraphone, justly intonated synthesizers, drum machines, and a 70-piece choir suffuse the precise post-punk breakdowns that spangled Ought's first two albums, giving rise to an emotional complexity that pushes their characteristically taut sound to greater depths. Ought approached this record with newfound patience, constructing a (digital) moodboard to set their intentions: Brian Eno and Stereolab synths, the Mekons' 1985 album Fear and Whiskey, and Gerhard Richter and Kenneth Anger's sexy, fluorescent hyperreal all made it into the melting pot. "The process of everybody wading into each other's subconscious was really excellent," says frontman, guitarist, and lyricist Tim Darcy.
Holed up in their rehearsal building, an industrial rock block (and sock factory) overlooking the Trans-Canada Highway, the band strove for greater detail and specificity than before while remaining true to the collaborative, intuitive writing process that yielded their earlier work. On Room Inside the World, Ought gnaw at questions that have hovered around their music since they first began playing: How do you live in this world without destroying yourself? What is it that we can do for each other to make the lives we've been given easier?
Room Inside the World steps away from the nervousness and irony that characterizes Ought's previous records. Instead of winkingly asking you to open your textbooks, as on More Than Any Other Day, here they're imploring you to look inside yourself and then around you, to tease out and melt away the barriers that keep people separated from one another. It makes for a different kind of catharsis: the quiet satisfaction of a job well done, the glow of seeing someone as they are, the soft simmer of real love. It's like finding a space inside the world where you can sit down for a bit, a room where there's room enough for everyone. The record ends on a comma, a quick fade, a sharp intake of breath, and you find yourself right back where you began.
Harkening back to their 1997 release of three consecutive EPs (‘Dog On Wheels’, ‘Lazy Line Painter Jane’ and ‘3.. 6.. 9 Seconds Of Light’), Belle and Sebastian release three new EPs under the umbrella title ‘How To Solve Our Human Problems’.
"Just as those three early EPs are at the very heart of the Belle and Sebastian canon, so these three new releases deserve to be treated not as a stopgap but as definitive releases in their own right. ‘How To Solve Our Human Problems’ is both an era of its own and part of a long, rich history. ‘How To Solve Our Human Problems’ is, if you like, Belle and Sebastian Redux"
Made in celebration of the 90th birthday of Musique concrète pioneer, Pierre Henry, this epic collection was personally selected and remastered by the composer himself just prior to his death last year; including nine works released for the first time ever on any format - all remastered by the man himself.
The 12 CD boxset Polyphonies is a mind-blowing summation of more than 50 years work by restlessly pioneering composer, Pierre Henry (9th December 1927 - 5 July 2017) - the undisputed godfather of musique concrète, who laid the groundwork for much of electronic music as we now know it. Counting 29 works, including no fewer than 9 premieres, Polyphonies serves both an historic education and an engrossing reminder of Henry’s influence over developments in 20th and 21st century music.
There’s nothing that we can add to the reams of writing on Pierre Henry. We can only reassert what’s been said in numerous articles, essays and academic texts, that, technically, Pierre Henry was among the most important and ardent manipulators of ‘concrète’ sound - that is, physical sounds extracted from their environment and abstracted through various process of effects, to re-sound or resonate in new, different ways and meanings.
He’s French, so philosophy was always integral to his practice, but the proof is in Henry’s pudding, as his persistent pursuit of sonic spectres and metaphysics brought a world of new sounds into tangible physicality. Whether through animation of inanimate objects, or a re-spatialization of whole scenes of reality, Henry heard a possibility for alteration in almost everything, and acted on his urges with remarkable insightful results.
Many of Henry’s compositions are broadly known to followers of early electronic music, while even casual observers will likely know his Psyche Rock piece as the influence behind Matt Groening’s Futurama theme tune. However, even the most hardcore Henry heads won’t have heard the 9 premieres in this boxset, including the hyperreal dynamics of Chronicles terriennes, the deconstructed piano clatter of Études transcend antes pour un piano imaginaire, his rhythmically seductive Pleins jeux and the atonal fuss of Kyldex, or the deep space radiation of Astrologie, and likewise the entire 12th disc of 2016 "Remixes" (re-masteres, really), completed by the artist before losing he lost his sight. Ears were definitely still working, though!
It’s fair to say that our perception of sound and electronic music may not be the same if it were not for Henry’s way of listening, dissembling and re-sequencing the sound sphere, parsing and re-parsing it for an ever elusive meaning. In the process he’s thrown up more questions than answers which will puzzle and trigger more ideas, most likely for the rest of time.
Featuring Infinite, Ibeyi, Green Gartside, Giggs, Sampha, Obongjayar, Wiki, Peter Gabriel, Mela Murder, Syd, Tic, Owen Pallett, and Kamasi Washington; Richard Russell’s star-lit début solo LP as Everything Is Recorded sells itself on the guestlist alone.
One of the most prolific artists in the RareNoise roster, Jamie Saft has appeared on recordings by such groups as Metallic Taste of Blood, Slobber Pup, Plymouth, Red Hill, The Spanish Donkey and Berserk! as well as on collaborations with Steve Swallow and Bobby Previte (New Standard/ Loneliness Road, which also featured Iggy Pop, Bill Brovold (Serenity Knolls), Roswell Rudd (Strength & Power) and his own New Zion album Sunshine Seas).
"And yet, over all those sessions he has never recorded a solo piano album Solo A Genova is Saft’s highly emotive take on jazz standards and other uniquely American compositions.Recorded at the beautiful Teatro Carlo Felice in Genova, Italy in an acoustically marvellous space, Solo A Genova showcases Saft on a 9 - foot Steinway Model D piano in the service of a number beguiling piano arrangements of tunes by Curtis Mayfield, Jimmy Tam/Terry Lewis, John Coltrane, ZZ Top, Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Charles Ives, Miles Davis and Bill Evans"
This Gottfried Michel Koenig collection is a definitive document of his pioneering innovations in electro-acoustic composition: spanning his Zwei Klavierstücke  and other works created at the WDR, Cologne; thru his years at the Utrecht Institute For Sonology, and right up to his 60 Blätter for Streichtrio . If you’re into anything from Roland Kayn to Dave NYZ, Ligeti, Haswell or Æ, Koenig’s oeuvre is essential listening!
A key mind in the realisation and theoretical underpinnings of electro-acoustic music, Koenig came thru the Darmstadt summer schools as a student, and later a lecturer, where he met Stockhausen, Kagel, Evangelisti, and Ligeti, whom he would later assist at the famous WDR (Westdeutschen Rundfunk) studio in Cologne - where he also worked in the radio drama department, before moving to Utrecht as director and chair of the Institute of Sonology during its most fecund period until 1986.
The work he assisted on or created himself during this period was crucial to the development of electro-acoustic and computer music paradigms, and since the ‘60s he’s placed ever greater focus on realising a form of computer composition - both writing programs that generate unique scores for instrumentalists to play, and recordings of pure computer music.
For us, and we’ll safely assume many others, it’s the latter part of Koenig’s catalogue - the purely electronic works - that demand attention. Utterly raw, complex and alien, Koenig’s pieces such as Terminus X , and the colour-coded Funktion series from the same era, are some of the most captivating, visceral recordings of electronic music that we’ve ever heard, presenting sounds at their very most abstract, and with no concession to replicating instrumental timbres and dynamics.
We highly recommend getting to grips with the works in this collection, which is pretty much the only place you’ll find a reliable high quality versions of each piece.
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.
Your SA dance collection is set to swell with Pantsula! (The Rise Of Electronic Dance Music In South Africa, 1988-1990), a crucial survey of the much talked about - but little known - scene that sprang from bubblegum and Shangaan Disco, and laid the roots for those Kwaito and Gqom aces which would penetrate scenes and light up dancefloors far beyond the southern hemisphere.
As the excellent liner notes describe in much more detail, Pantsula music (think of Pantsula as a style, attitude rather than fixed descriptor) in 1988-90 was the soundtrack to a difficult, fractious time in SA society and politics, which was still under Apartheid and its people subject to all the shit came with it, which meant that nightclubs and shebeens (blues/after-hours joints/taverns/you know the ones) were constantly under threat of being shut down by the dibble and the authorities, even in places like Johannesburg, where black and white folk mixed more freely.
Still, where there’s a will… and all, meant that the low key shebeens acted as an incubator for Pantsula, where DJs in the backrooms of houses-cum-bars absorbed American and European influences into their own, deeply rich dance culture, resulting a sound that rudely mirrored the hard electronic jack of Chi-house, new beat or eurobeat and the sleek swing of US and Canadian garage, and even traces of Jamaican digi-dancehall, but with natty melodies and vocals familiar to Zulu culture and SA’s wealth of ethnic minorities.
Basically 4/4 house in all its variations was the common currency of Black Atlantic dancefloors, and few places mores than South Africa, which, outside of the USA, was evidently one of the Black Atlantic’s most important hotspots during the late ‘80s international house phenomenon. With that in mind, the 12 tracks on Pantsula! form a vital historic document of Afro-Futurism, catching a uniquely funked up brace of innovative, ingenious and down right infectious dance music which, with the benefit of hindsight, we’d identity among the strongest of its era. Just, it’s taken us all this long to realise.
And the tunes? 100% gold, pal, especially if you’ve a thing for the directness of new beat or the less jazzy sides of Chicago house, as it takes in absolute peaches such as Ayobayo Band’s Sorry Bra, the inimitably tangled bassline of Chaka’s Via Tembisa, the reggae-inflected lope of Go Siami from La Viva, along with pure, brimming soul aces such as The Equals New Lover, the lusty Chi-NYC-Antwerp-esque beauty of Ushelakanjani by Jazino, or the jagged sequencer funk of Scotch Band’s Watsotsama.
For anyone who enjoys dancing, or pissing off the po-po, this one's for you.
One of the last, genuinely great, unsung artists of 20th century composition, Roland Kayn (1933 - 2011) - a sometime member of Gruppo Di Improvvazione Nuova Consonanza and the pioneer of what he termed Cybernetic Music - made some of the most breathtaking, intrepidly advanced electronic music ever recorded. The 14 hour expanse of A Little Electronic Milky Way is Kayn’s late major opus and forms a stargate-like introduction to his modular macrocosm, a place where many ideas of C.20th composition, from serialism to jazz and artificial intelligence, collapse into bewildering harmonic, metric and timbral structures practically unprecedented within his field. And mark our words, that’s not hyperbole: this is proper Enter The Void music.
A Little Electronic Milky Way of Sound is Kayn’s first, posthumous release since Multiplex Sound-Art  and forms a staggering summation of his concept and aesthetic, which was first hatched when a series of 1950s broadcasts from WDR in Cologne named The Sound of Electronic Music prompted the then 20 year old artist to think that “a composer, like a painter, could realise his work without the help of other people. That he can handle the material directly and creatively edit it”.
He subsequently completed his studies as an organist (later applied to his work beside Egisto Macchi and Ennio Morricone in Gruppo Di Improvvazione Nuova Consonanza) and farther developed his concept of electronic music under the tutelage of Boris Blacher, Josef Rufer, Fritz Winkel and Oskar Sala (seminal composer of FX for classic Hitchcock flicks) in Berlin, grounding a sound which would come to pre-echo mankind’s push toward a form of AI, and serve to touch the very limits of human-machine imagination and perception.
A few years ago we were left reeling from a chance encounter with Kayn’s work, ironically enough offered up by YouTube’s recommendation algorithm, which pretty much turned our listening lives upside-down and inside-out. A keen investigation of Kayn’s composition ensued, which only confirmed our initial thoughts: this guy is light years out on his path; and how on earth is his music not better known?! We clearly weren’t the only ones to think so, and, now following their re-mantling of downtown legend, Julius Eastman, Frozen Reeds have grasped that task with both hands on this mind-expanding new release.
A Little Electronic Milky Way of Sound effectively charts all aspects of Kayn’s unfathomable, algorithmically weft sound c. the era of his early boxsets Simultan, Makro, Infra and Tektra - from pineal-smudges and clouds of harmonic colour to fractured staccato pulses and keening, outer space dynamics usually only witnessed by Gods or astronauts. Mercurial by definition, elusive in nature, but gargantuan in scope and scale, it sounds as much like the inexplicable abstraction of a half-recalled, formative fever dream as your first K-Hole experience or some transmission from another galaxy, most effectively representing or emulating a sound which exists in our shared cultural imagination, but which has never before been generated, realised quite so vividly, and yet intangibly.
The implications of this sound are multitudinous. On the most fundamental level, he comes as close or closer, and earlier than any other composer to letting his machines speak their own language - and effectively years before Autechre, Keith Fullerton Whitman, the CCRU or Eno probed this same area. On another, connected level, his realisation of atemporal, atonal depth of field and mutably dissolved metrics can be said to consolidate myriad musical forms in a way that’s hardly been bettered (perhaps because so few knew of his examples), hinting at an atomic universality of all things that perhaps even transcends consciousness and gives a fascinating shape and formlessness to some of the C.20th’s most important ideas about AI and that old chestnut; where to next?
The fact that Roland Kayn did all this before most of us were even born, and he and his work still remains sorely unsung, is as humbling as it is frustrating. Kayn’s recordings described the future in prophetic terms and pretty much reset the last quarter of the C.20th in our books, making much extreme electronic music recorded during the interim seem pedestrian by comparison, and likewise makes a lot of deep space ambient seem like a kid’s picture book compared to his Hubble-scoped deep field projections.
Even more so now, in the age of everything at a touch and reams of modular explorers, Kayn’s music formidably generates a genuine, synaesthetically enhanced feeling of the unknown that’s sadly all too rare in modern electronic music, despite being the thing that probably attracted many of us to its putative charms in the first place.
We recommend serious time away from the laptop/desktop and getting right inside Kayn’s matrix, if only at the risk of coming out looking like Niander Wallace days later.
Carsten Nicolai’s Noton present a masterclass in minimalist electronic discipline with Mika Vainio, Ryoji Ikeda + Alva Noto’s powerfully future-proofed Live 2002 performance, recorded at Newcastle’s Baltic arts centre.
The only known recording of the trio, as far as we’re aware, Live 2002 documents three visionary artists in seamless, indivisible collaboration segueing from sublime drone darkness (Movements 1) thru what sounds like a massive computer server centre playing dancehall (Movements 2 + 4), to fiercely dense electro dynamics (Movements 6) and passages of purest, rolling techno pressure (Movements 8), intercut with bodiless, beatless electronic frequency massages.
Being familiar with each artist’s respective, individual catalogues, we’re pretty astonished at the level of democratic control between the three singular producers. While it’s maybe possible (or pedantic) to pick out who’s doing what, and where and when, ultimately the 45 minute performance is a lesson in subtlety and restraint at the service of generating powerful, coolly organised pressure systems, without recourse to convention/cliché (delete as applicable), offering electronic sounds at the purest and perhaps even egoless. Definitely no grandstanding doofus in front of a massive IPhone screen filtering dull as fuck doofs here.
Jonny Greenwood presents an elegantly poised OST for Paul Thomas Anderson’s ‘Phantom Thread’, performed by The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the London Contemporary Orchestra, and an ensemble including himself and Oliver Coates, among others
“With Phantom Thread, Oscar-nominated filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson paints an illuminating portrait both of an artist on a creative journey and the women who keep his world running. Phantom Thread is Anderson’s eighth movie, and his second collaboration with Daniel Day-Lewis. The film’s soundtrack includes eighteen compositions by Greenwood. It was recorded in London with a sixty-member string orchestra conducted by Robert Ziegler and is featured more prominently in the film than any of Greenwood’s scores have been before. In addition to the Academy Award nomination, the Phantom Thread soundtrack is up for a BAFTA and was nominated for a Golden Globe. Its many other accolades to date include Best Score prizes from film critics’ associations in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Francisco, Seattle, and St. Louis.;
The composer spoke to Variety about the process of creating a score that reflected the film’s romance and glamour: “We talked a lot about ’50s music, what was popularly heard then as well as what was being written and recorded. Nelson Riddle and Glenn Gould’s Bach recordings were the main references. I was interested in the kind of jazz records that toyed with incorporating big string sections; Ben Webster made some good ones.” Greenwood continues, “The smaller groups, and solo players, work like close-ups [and] not necessarily to accompany [a] visual, but rather, to focus your attention on and make you feel directly engaged with the characters. The bigger orchestral things often worked best for drawing you back to see the bigger situation.”
Anderson and Greenwood’s previous collaborations include the soundtrack for Academy Award–winning There Will Be Blood (2007), The Master (2012), and Inherent Vice (2014), all released by Nonesuch. Indiewire says of their collaboration: “Paul Thomas Anderson fans are well accustomed to how instrumental Jonny Greenwood’s music is to the auteur’s body of work. Whether it’s the foreboding strings in There Will Be Blood or the discordant percussion in The Master, Greenwood’s original scores expertly capture Anderson’s tones. This fact is especially true in Phantom Thread, which marks the fourth collaboration between Anderson and Greenwood.”
Matthew Herbert shapes his unique instrumental palette to a brooding, autumnal play of orchestral and electronic tones matching the mood of ‘A Fantastic Woman’
“A Fantastic Woman is a 2017 Chilean drama film directed by Sebastián Lelio (Gloria). It was selected to compete for the Golden Bear in the main competition section of the 67th Berlin International Film Festival and It has been selected as the Chilean entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 90th Academy Awards, making the December shortlist.
The acclaimed drama tells the story of Marina (Daniela Vega), a young transgender waitress who moonlights as a nightclub singer, falls in love with Orlando (Francisco Reyes), a divorced man who is a few decades older. As they plan for their future together, Orlando suddenly falls ill and dies.
Marina is forced to confront his ex-wife, who doesn’t want anything to do with Marina and asks her not to come to the funeral. Over the next few days, as Marina tries to get things in order, she has to endure insults and slurs from the police and Orlando’s family members.
Electronic music legend, Matthew Herbert (Herbert, Matthew Herbert Big Band, Dr Rockit…) brings his unique talent and has crafted a wonderful score which mixes classical orchestral elements with more electronic compositions.”
This 6-part overview of work by legendary Greek composer Jani Christou (1926-1970) is one of the greatest highlights of the practically peerless Edition RZ catalogue. Documenting distinct periods in the fascinating composer’s oeuvre, before he died in a car crash on, or just before his 44th birthday, the set provides a totally compelling introduction to Christou’s inseparable mix of music and philosophy, and his exploration of their metaphysical binds, and has become a real favourite of ours in the process.
The collected six works feel like discrete wormholes or windows onto parallel, proto- or post- dimensions in a way that we’ve rarely heard before. Taking cues from myriad sources such as his studies of logic and philosophy under Ludwig Wittgenstein and Bertrand Russell, through to his private musical tuition with H.F. Redlich, and orchestration with Angelo Francesco Lavagnino, and, perhaps most unavoidably, his obsessions with death and the afterlife inspired by his upbringing in Alexandria, Egypt, where he was surrounded relics of ancient civilisation, Christou’s music feels to genuinely touch on other worlds, and bring them into our own reality.
We don’t want to delve too far into the philosophy for fear of misinterpretation - we’ll leave that for you to wrestle with in the excellent liner notes - but sonically we can assure of the music’s nonpareil grip, especially in the chaotic flux and cataclysmic orchestral resolution of Enantiodromia, as well as the remarkably open-ended Epicycle, whose score calls for high levels of improvisation in a fixed situation, resulting a proper proto-techno abstraction, or in the spellbinding recording of Mysterion, with its whispered Danish vocal and stygian pulse, which was somewhat uncannily the last of his works to be recorded before his tragic death.
It all begs the question as to what Christou may have made had he lived longer, with access to new technologies - judging by the trajectory of these works, our guess is some of the most incredible music imaginable - but also leaves us with some beautiful, hugely distinguished music which acknowledges “an awareness of how remorseless, varied, infinitely complex, fleeting, but sometimes also infinitely simple is the world-wide phenomenon of pattern recognition” in a way which most beautifully highlights it’s magical logic via its purposed application.
Another totally obscure diamond that we might never have found without Edition RZ’s prompting, and should be strongly recommended to fans of durational, minimal works by Stephen O’Malley, Eliane Radigue, or Jakob Ullmann.
Trauermusiken, or Music for Grief, offers two gravely intense compositions for strings written by contemporary Austrian composer and organist Klaus Lang.First released in 1995 by Lambeart, and reissued by Edition RZ in 2002 (this edition), it ranks among Lang’s earliest works and consists of one relatively short prelude followed by a quietly crushing 69 minute piece.
The five minutes of Der Wind und das Meer, Trauermusik für Bratsche solo (The Wind and the Sea, Music for Grief for Viola solo), performed by Barbara Konrad, foreshadow a glacially unfolding and technically demanding piece performed by the Amras Streichquartett.
In its slow, sustained and keening intensity we’re instantly reminded of Harley Gaber’s The Winds Rise In The North, which was also reissued via Edition RZ. However, Lang’s piece feels like the inverse of that record, trading teeth-chattering high-end for a solemn exploration of lower registers, operating at near-liminal levels of concentration and focus.
It’s yet another totally obscure diamond that we might never have found without Edition RZ’s prompt, and should be strongly recommended to fans of durational, minimal works by Stephen O’Malley, Eliane Radigue, or Jakob Ullmann.
Music freed of volume requirements associated with most modes of listening. Taken as a palette cleanser or listening exercise, the barely perceptible near-stasis of ‘Breath For Music’ serves its purpose beautifully well.
“Second Editions present a new work by composer/organist/musicologist Eva-Maria Houben. Breath For Organ is many things. A composition as contemplation. A study on listening, on deliberation. An approach to modesty. At times, it even feels like an ode to the whole history of organ music. But most importantly, at its core, it is an appreciation for an instrument as an organism. In this case, the (now displaced) pipe organ of the late St. Franziskus church in Krefeld, Germany. It is Houben's most compelling piece to date. Bold, sparse, abstract, yet vibrant and hypnotic. Determined in concept and execution. Musical existentialism.”
Susanna Wallumrød commits her fourth full suite of cover versions with Go Dig My Grave for her home-baked label.
Working again with Giovanna Pessi, who assisted on her first set If Grief Could Wait, as well as invaluable input from longtime partner/production spar Helge Sten (Deathprod), Susanna demonstrates a rare versatility with singular takes on songs by everyone from Henry Purcell to Joy Division and Lou Reed (including a bonus on CD not found on the vinyl), and with particularly spellbinding results in the latter two of those names.
If we try to pick out why we’re more attracted to the ‘pop’ songs, as opposed to the traditionals such as The Three Ravens or The Willow Song, that may come down to the fact their simplicity seems almost overbearing when rendered in such high-fidelity - almost like receiving a folk performance in a white cube gallery or sterile space, as opposed a barn or pub backroom - yet, conversely, the recordings of Joy Division’s Wilderness and Lou Reed’s Perfect Day become devastating thru their clarity of their conveyance, aided in no small part by feral fiddles and accordion in the former, and embroidered with kalimba and fiddle on the latter.
So yeh, some work, some don’t. But when they do, christ, she’s good.
Incredible collection of mid-late 80’s experimental works from the hugely influential Italian avant-garde composer Luigi Nono, including works for contrabass flute, clarinet, treated voices, strings and electronics.
Editions RZ present a necessary reissue of their 1990 LP release, now backed with three legendary recordings, 'La Terra E La Compagna', 'Caminantes', 'No Hay Caminos, Hay Que Caminar'. Collected, they form a great access point to Luigi Nono's unique, carefully realised, yet unfathomably vast world, one equally informed by avant-garde musical studies and his commitment to socialism.
In the best possible sense, it's very difficult to accurately sum up the sounds inside, other than in terms of a visceral, haptic approach and stunning spatial awareness. Highly recommended.
Editions RZ collects historical recordings of Italy's forward looking and influential Gruppo di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza 1967-75, a collective featuring Egisto Macchi (percussion + celesta), Ennio Morricone (trumpet), Walter Branchi (bass), Franco Evangelisti (piano), John Heineman (trombone + cello), Roland Kayn (hammond organ + vibes + marimbaphon), Giovanni Piazza (horn), Frederic Rzewski (piano), and Jesus Villa Rojo (clarinet).
All skilled players and composers, the Gruppo di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza were formed in 1964 at the initiative of Franco Evangelisti with an aesthetic agenda looking beyond the boundaries of previous improvisational musics. They focussed on production and the qualities of sound itself, employing innovative recording and playing techniques at the limits of their capabilities as performers and composers in order to discover the "new consonance" inferred in their nomenclature.
These ten pieces spanning eight years are highly considered works of art, aware of the Neo-Dadaists attempts to disassemble the concept of a work of art, and instead attempting to expand its parameters as a transitory body of work in flux. We can hear traces of this work reflected in the more forward thinking Italian film soundtracks of the era and to a further extent, in Ennio Morricone's work for Hollywood, in turn casting an influence over much exploratory, non-academic contemporary music.
Editions RZ collect ten early works by the late Morton Feldman (1926 - 87).
They're largely his shorter pieces, spanning compositions made between 1952 and 1959 alongside esteemed peers including David Tudor, Cornelius Cardew, John Tilbury, and János Négyesy. ""In his compositions for piano, which make up a central part of his oeuvre and in which all of his experience is accumulated, it is the play of Feldman's hand whose touch is intended precisely for the 'untouchableness' of sound. The clear character of the 'attack' thus displays the paradox of such playing: it is just as much about concealing the idiosyncrasy of the piano sound, the precise point of attack while, at the same time, the structure and tension of those sounds are formed by the hand." --Stefan Schadler.
Typically nice RZ packaging. Includes the following works: "Piano Three Hands" (1957, performed by Feldman & Tilbury); "Intermission 5" (1952, performed by Feldman); "Vertical Thoughts 2" (1963, performed by Janos Negyesy: violin & Cardew: piano), "Extensions 3" (1952, performed by Feldman); "Four Instruments, 1975" (1979); "Intermission 5" (1952, performed by Tudor), "Piano Piece 1956 A" (1956, performed by Tudor); "Piano Piece 1956 B" (1959, performed by Tudor); "Intersection 3" (1953, performed by Tudor); "Instruments 1, 1974" (1975, 24 minute piece performed by Eberhard Blum: flute, Nora Post: oboe, Garrett List: Posaune, Joseph Kubera: celesta, Jan Williams: drums)."
Without question, some of the most beautiful Quiet music you'll likely ever hear, compiled in a 4 hour-long triple disc set.
'Fremde Zeit - Addendum' collects five pieces of engrossingly etheric, liminal composition by Jakob Ullmann (1958), the widely acknowledged master of quiet music and cover star of The Wire magazine.
For us, as we'd imagine many others, this is a striking first introduction to the devoted German minimalist's very particular body of work. Comprising 4 hours of barely-there strings, percussions, wind instruments and voices prefaced by the instruction "Please choose, for each piece, the volume settings of your sound system so as to just barely mask the ambient sounds in the room", this is music made for concentrated listening, recorded and specifically designed to give listeners "the opportunity to hear more, and better" by the simple but essential notion that "We hear better because we make an effort to hear better."
With this is mind, we're invited into a sound world which actively, yet effortlessly and sublimely challenges our perceptions of space and time with a compelling, transcendent effect akin to that of listening to music by, say, Eliane Radigue or Morton Feldman, yet with an alien, detached appeal entirely its own. Due to their extended durations - no piece is shorter than 34 mins, and over an hour at the longest - we form temporal impressions which blur the boundaries between our immediate space and the apparent vastness of the recording, teasing our sixth sense to wander on a knife edge of trepidation and somnolence.
Yet, musically, it covers a far more subtle spectrum of emotions and cabalistic atmospheres casting metaphoric allusions to "…antiquity, to the Middle Ages, to the Baroque, to the 20th Century and to the present" by means of its extreme dilation of space/time and anticipation, and relegation of distortion or any untempered gestures.
Once you've heard this music it should come as little surprise Ullmann studied sacred music in Dresden from 1979-1982 - his music could be the lingering resonance of an Arvo Pärt piece played in a huge cathedral, and it carries the weight of history - spanning over 18 years of work, the results are duly, deeply considered.
A revelatory package, whose impact will surely emerge and manifest as slowly, yet powerfully, as the music itself.
This is one of the few instances of Korean Classical Court music that we’ve stocked, and every time it stops us in our tracks. To our native western sensibilities the music is captivatingly slow and dissonant, and with a measured, stately quality of its own. These recordings of compositions made in the 15th century are totally fascinating, maybe an acquired taste, but arresting any way you hear them.
"Yŏmillak is the most extended piece of orchestral court music surviving in Korea and it has for many centuries been used for royal processions and at banquets. Yŏmillak is the piece notated in the oldest surviving Korean score - a score contained in the Annals of Sejong, written in 1454.
The piece originally consisted of ten movements, but three were discarded over time, leaving just the seven movements heard here, and different variants evolved, distinguished in terms of orchestration and size; two of the later (19th century) versions, Kyŏngnokmugang Chigok and T'aep Yŏngch'un Chigok are contained here. The final piece, Sŏilhwa Chigok, is an additional orchestral suite."
A colossal, trance-inducing, yet largely overlooked pillar of 20th century American minimalism.
Regarded no less than a "holy grail" by Keith Fullerton Whitman, it spans 100 minutes of atonal, amorphous string composition scored in four parts for a quintet, here performed by Linda Cummiskey (Violin), Malcolm Goldstein (Violin), Kathy Seplow (Violin), Stephen Reynolds (Viola), David Gibson (Violoncello).
By all accounts Harley Gaber was a colourful fella, a complex American artist, composer and filmmaker who dropped it all not long after release of this 1976 work to become a full time Tennis player and coach. He would return to the arts, and later music, writing soundtracks for his own films before sadly committing suicide in 2011.
'The Winds Rise in the North' is a frighteningly heavy and rewarding master-stroke, giving rise to dense, gripping harmonic overtones which prickle, seduce and get under the skin in a way that few others achieve. Lock the doors, turn off your phone and give yourself two hours with this. You won't regret it.
"We would like to point out that this piece is extremely quiet. Please choose the volume setting of your sound system so as to just barely mask the ambient sounds of the room"
Jakob Ullmann: "voice, books and FIRE is the result of my reflections about the relationship between music and language: language as sound and language as text, the numerous relationships between texts of different cultural and religious traditions, between the work of the human spirit in the present and in the past and the questions arising from the problem of understanding these different traditions, languages and texts and representing them in a present, which has lost knowledge about substantial parts, even of its own tradition and history."
In Jakob Ullmann's 2nd release through Editions RZ, solemn, practically whispered incantations and creaking extended vocal technique of eight singers play in half-lit, wide open mid-air against the phosphorescing resonance of viola, violoncello, saxophone and flute. Recorded 1st July, in the Abteikirche Neresheim. Recommended
Quiet music conceptualist and practitioner, Jakob Ullmann's 2nd release and first with Editions RZ was first issued in 2005.
It yields a single 73 minute piece written for an ensemble of thirteen solo strings and up to three additional solo parts arranged to explore the filigree infidelities of their range between almost "pure", natural harmonics to diffuse noise at the lowest threshold of perception thanks to masterly feats of restrained technicality and the composer's vision.
Of course, this is much more than an exercise in academic or technical exactitude. Ullmann's score elicits the players to play at the edge of their nerves and skill to reaffirm the piece's sureness and manifest the slightest differentiations, sustaining our attention in pensile equilibrium so that the most minor shifts in pace, tone, timbre ensure optimal effect, and live up to the piece's conceptual power.
Expertly compiled selection of Tudor's essential performances of works by John Cage, Morton Feldman, Christian Wolff, Sylvano Bussoti spanning 1955-1963.
"Includes "Music For Piano 21-36", "Variations 1", "Variations II", "Winter Music", "Piece For Four Pianos" (including performance by Feldman), etc. Essential document. "David Tudor, pianist -- a profession, a vocation, a life. From 1950 until around 1965, David Tudor was the epitome of the pianist who could simply play anything. In fact, David Tudor was no longer a name, but an indication for instrumentation as dozens of pieces were written 'for David Tudor.'
As early as 1960, after having conquered all of the challenges posed by serial piano music, Tudor began to differentiate between composers who filled him with life and those who left him cold -- the focus of his repertory became crystallized. The main criterion for his choices were shaped by the part he would play as interpreter in the composition. He distinguished carefully between having a free choice among prefabricated parts -- generally called aleatoric, as for example, Stockhausen's 'Klavierstück XI' (dedicated, as his 'Klavierstücke V-VIII', to Tudor) -- and indeterminate actions. In the first case, they have a tendency to 'put me to sleep,' whereby pieces that are less limiting led him to say, 'I feel that I'm alive in every part of my consciousness.' The program of these CDs portrays these distinctions." --Frank Hilberg"
This double disc collects eight historically important recordings of essential Iannis Xenakis works, among them some of his earliest, pioneering stochastic composition, and the staggering sound architecture of 'Persépolis'. Highly recommended!
CD 1: 1. ST/48-1,240162 for 48 Instruments, 1959-62 (8:22, WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln; Ltg. Michel Tabachnik); 2. Le Polytope de Montreal for four Orchestras, 1967 (6:18, Ensemble Ars Nova de l'O.R.T.F., Ltg. Marius Constant); 3. Nomos Gamma for large Orchestra scattered among the audience 98 Instruments, 1967-68 (15:17, Orchestre Philharmonique de l'O.R.T.F., Ltg. Charles Bruck); 4. Terretektorh for large Orchestra scattered among the audience 88 Instruments, 1965-66 (14:48, Orchestre Philharmonique de l'O.R.T.F., Ltg. Charles Bruck); 5. Syrmos for 18 Strings, 1959 (11:38, Ensemble Ars Nova de l'O.R.T.F., Ltg. Marius Constant); 6. Achorripsis for 21 Instruments, 1956-57 (5:19, Ensemble instrumental de musique contemporaine de Paris, Ltg. Konstantin Simonovic): CD 2; 1. Persepolis Version "avec mouvement", 1971 (ca. 50:49) [Sound design: Daniel Teige]; 2. Polytope de Cluny, 1972 (ca. 24:25).
Features two long-form tonal compositions, Sovereign of the Center (1972-1974) and the engrossingly slow movement of The Realm of Indra‘s Net (1974), running to 60 minutes total.
"Both works on this CD form, in a manner of speaking, bookends for another piece of mine, The Winds Rise in the North. The first of the two, Sovereign of the Centre, was my initial attempt at putting a new musical way of thinking into an ensemble rather than solo form. The second, The Realm of Indra's Net, builds on musical "discoveries" I made in the course of revising The Winds Rise in the North.
It is a hybrid work in as much as it is an "acoustic-tape piece" (not music concrete): There are four tracks of solo violin mixed down in different track combinations. (The one heard on this CD is a full-track mono version of the work.) Both of these pieces reflect a general shift in my musical thinking, which occurred in 1968 with Chimyaku (Japanese for "barely moving") scored for solo alto flute. It was with that work that I began to compose "slowed-down" music, like slow motion images in film, not merely slow music such as that of Feldman. H.G. July 2009 - January 2010"
'Kompositionen 1950-1972' collects 16 compositions by Christian Wolff. Most of the pieces collected for this portrait of Christian Wolff document the composer’s early activity and were mainly recorded around the time of their composition. Each recording exemplifies the sound gestures from their time.
"Finally I realized that the kind of sound made in an indeterminate situation includes what could result in no other way; for example, the sound of a player making up his mind, or having to change it. In fact, the indeterminate notation I've used is, as far as I know, the only possible one for the kind of sound I should like. And don't forget, we also like to be surprised. ...and the rhythm produced by that situation is like no other rhythm."