DJ Sprinkles' classic Midtown 120 Blues, self-released by Terre Thaemlitz through their Comatonse imprint and finally available again.
Bringing deep house back into contact with its club culture roots, Terre Thaemlitz created one of the most essential house albums of the last two decades with 'Midtown 120 Blues'. Terre was originally working as a DJ under her Sprinkles alias in the gay clubs of midtown Manhattan and New Jersey in the late 80's when deep house began to blossom. It's this early period of House history which Terre has beautifully recreated over 10 tracks, making a pointed comment with the intro track taking shots at Strictly Rhythm for becoming 'Strictly Vocal' and pulling no punches towards "Most Europeans who think deep house means shitty hi-NRG vocal house".
With the intentions made clear, Terre develops a masterpiece of serene melancholy and sublime deep house crafted with the skill and dedication of someone who you know lived this music through every fibre of their being. From the rich subbass driven tones of 'Midtown 120 Blues' with plaintive pianos slowly encircling one another, to drag queen monologues over the deepest ambient brushed rhythms on 'Ball'r (Madonna-Free Zone)' or head-meltingly warm chords and caressed percussion of 'Brenda's $20 dilemna' - this will suck in and swallow you whole - transporting you to another place, another time.
A total pleasure.
please remember that we support Terre and Comatonse Recordings' efforts to keep projects offline, minor, and acting queerly. When purchasing this item, we ask you to refrain from uploading and indiscriminate sharing in any form. <3
Silvia Jiménez Alvarez finally follows up 2017's enigmatic nu-EBM tome 'Weightless' with a dumbfounding left-turn for Berghain's Ostgut-Ton imprint. "A World of Service" isn't techno or EBM, it illuminates Alvarez's staggering voice as it flirts with trip-hop, radio pop, grunge and industrial metal. Unexpected doesn't even come close.
Since the release of her acclaimed debut album for iDEAL, Alvarez has been touring constantly, building a reputation as a live performer and challenging, lithe DJ. So when lockdown hit, it provided her with the time she needed to finish an album that's been years in the making. 'A World of Service' is named after her now-defunct monthly radio show, and retains its sonic philosophy. The Spanish artist has never wanted to pigeonhole herself: she grew up with an obsessive interest in music that never began and certainly doesn't end with techno and electro. It doesn't even begin and end with dance music at all.
Her latest material is rooted in the pop forms that crystallized in the 1990s on alternative radio and MTV, and her dynamic voice is the glue that binds it together. Unlike so many of her peers, Alvarez's shift from electronic producer to enigmatic frontwoman sounds fated. Raw, unprocessed Spanish words lurch into view on 'Camelo', after 'Birds You Can Name' introduces the album on a curly instrumental electronic fake-out. 'Camelo' is the stylistic link to 'Weightless', and accompanies Alvarez's powerful vocals with grinding industrial noise and torched half-speed trap percussion. From here, we're funneled into the album's defining run, beginning with Autotuned lounge sizzler 'Luis' that sounds like a robotic re-interpretation of Sade via Kanye's peerless "808s & Heartbreak".
Title track 'A World of Service' might be the most improbable move for Alvarez. Described in the press release as "pandemic-era trip hop", it's a sultry, pristine slow burner that reminds of the moment where trip-hop started to poke into the mainstream with hybrid acts like Dubstar and Olive. And with clubs shuttered for the last couple of years, it makes sense that the genre's half-tempo crawl has began to resurface. But JASSS saves the best for last, teaming up with Berlin's Zíur on 'Wish', an industrial grunge anthem that sounds like Garbage's towering first couple of albums.
The Berlin underground's relationship with pop has been confused (and often antagonistic) over the years. Here, the union is flexible and candid - perfectly in tune with Alvarez's interests, obsessions and strengths. It sounds like the beginning of the next chapter of her creative story, and might be the most unlikely release on Ostgut-Ton thus far.
Queer deep house pioneer Terre Thaemlitz hustles her entire DJ Sprinkles solo catalogue beyond the seminal ‘Midtown 120 Blues’ album in a crucial 19-track set of NYC-via-Tokyo gold, including many tracks popping their digital cherries for the first time.
‘Gayest Tits & Greyest Shits: 1998-2017 12-inches & One-offs’ sums up twenty years of action deep in the bowels of house with a precious suite drawing from rare and hard-to-find pearls scattered between the late ‘90s and end of the last decade. They span the specificities of a sound rooted in the gay scene of NYC from the late ‘80s onward, testifying to the minimalist, bass-heavy style that Sprinkles played at DJ residencies in transsexual clubs and would later take to Tokyo after moving there at turn of the millennium. For our money they’re some of the strongest, most distinctive deep house cuts of our time, holding true to the fundamentals of a style that would become mistranslated, misunderstood, and coopted by successive waves of deep house dilettantes.
Newly collected and presented in tandem with the ‘Midtown 120 Blues’ reissue, the 19 heavyweight club grooves still kill the old way, focussing on proper jackers drums and sphincter-tickle levels of subbass sparingly ornamented with samples in purist integrations of function and politics that don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. From the earliest Sprinkles cuts in ’Sloppy 42nds’ (1998), a tribute to the 42nd St. transsexual clubs destroyed by Walt Disney’s buyout of Times Square, and 2001’s ruddy nods to that classic Adonis motif in ‘Bassline.89’, thru to proper red-lit basement pressure in ‘Glorimar’s Whore House’, puckered darkroom suss in ‘Kissing Costs Extra’ or ‘Masturjakor’, and up to the heart-punching 10min+ reworks of his Terre Thaemlitz material, it’s a totally unmissable set for proper house heads and far beyond. It’s a document of phase-shifting times helmed by one of the most interesting and important artists of our age.
Please remember that we support Terre and Comatonse Recordings' efforts to keep projects offline, minor, and acting queerly. When purchasing this item, we ask you to refrain from uploading and indiscriminate sharing in any form. <3
Terre Thaemlitz digs deep into her archive for a dead strong 80 minute CD compilation of all her 'Neu Wuss Fusion’s' releases to date, including adjusted and tweaked versions of classics and hard-to-find gems dating back to ’93, including a remarkable liquid D&B cut and an utterly unmissable take on Tangerine Dream - exclusive to the set.
The overarching vibe here hits even deeper than the recent DJ Sprinkles 'Gayest Tits…' set, hovering between the edge of the floor and a late, late night flex instead of driving club pressure, with a focus on bustling breaks and spellbinding ambient jazz atmospheres.
The material here reaches back to the early ’90s, with the kick-less deep House shimmy of opener ‘Thirty Shades of Grey (Demo Version)’ harking back to their debut solo album ‘Tranquilizer’ (1994), and the ambient jazz house lather of ’Sloppy 42s’ connecting to 1999’s ‘Love For Sale’ album, both elegantly edited here, and shuffled up next to both sides of 1998’s ’She’s Hard,’ in its glorious ambient-to-breakbeat mix and rousing ‘Live At Hug Parade’ take.
The set only gets stronger on its 2nd half. The original 11:30’ mix of ‘A Crippled Left Wing Soars with the Right’ makes a welcome first digital appearance beside a mix of its ‘Steal This Record’ edit omitting the ambient breakdown, while also highlighting its incredible, liquid D&B-like ‘1-Step Forward, 2-Step Back’ version - think Calibre meets MvO Trio - seriously - and, just to absolutely polish us off, they include an e-s-s-e-n-t-i-a-l cover of Tangerine Dream’s ‘Love On A Real Train,’ re-titled and remodelled as their orgasmic ‘Sex On A Real Train’ version alongside the 12 minutes of lush, pastoral flutes and subbass in ‘She’s Hard (2007 Archive of Silence Mix.)
Utterly essential, once again.
Please remember that we support Terre and Comatonse Recordings' efforts to keep projects offline, minor, and acting queerly. When purchasing this item, we ask you to refrain from uploading and indiscriminate sharing in any form. <3
Apartment House's latest set is a hypnotic rendition of Morton Feldman's towering late-period masterpiece, originally recorded in 1991 by Kronos Quartet and Aki Takahashi and here performed by Mark Knoop (piano), Mira Benjamin & Gordon Mackay (violins), Bridget Carey (viola) and Anton Lukoszevieze (cello).
When Morton Feldman wrote "Piano and String Quartet" in 1985, only two years before he died of pancreatic cancer, he had Kronos Quartet and Aki Takahashi in mind, but the piece has been recorded many times since it was released in 1993, and has been endlessly influential, like much of Feldman's work.
On this rendition, the dynamic range is tempered with piano and strings fluttering delicately like a whisper over a silence that feels omnipresent. When notes appear from the void, they do so with purpose, hanging like ghosts before slipping away into the aether.
Anton Lukoszevieze, leader of Apartment House, explains why he chose to record the piece:
"Piano and String Quartet, one of Feldman’s final works, is a seemingly simple work and yet it isn’t. As Philip Guston, a great friend of Feldman, wrote ‘Frustration is one of the great things in art; satisfaction is nothing.’ The length of the work (nearly 80 minutes) and the erasure of musical memory (What did we just hear?) is in fact its identity. Feldman makes simple statements, a piano arpeggio or a sustained string chord, holds these things and examines them over time. Gradually, as the sun’s light moves across a still life through the day, like a drawn out Morandi painting, the work evolves and indeed dissolves in some sense.
Using different transformative processes, Feldman illuminates his basic material and achieves the miraculous, an extended work of great beauty and enigmatic wonder. There are ghosts there, tinctures of late Schubert, Brahms and even Janaček, where beauty is a signature of passing time and an ephemeral focus on hearing and disappearing."
More than just a live session, this set of weighty, radiating interpretations features Anna Von Hausswolff on synth and vocals alongside the Sunn O))) touring band. Heavy-as-fuck ritual drone - you know it.
Recorded after their 2019 UK tour, 'Metta, Benevolence' is an impressive redevelopment of compositions from their two albums released that year - "Pyroclasts" and "Life Metal". After touring with the material for a few months, the band - featuring guest players Stephen Moore, Tim Midyett and Tos Nieuwenhuizen on top of core droners Stephen O'Malley and Greg Anderson - had worked on each composition to evolve them into their emotional final stages. Playing in front of an audience has the habit of shifting material, and O'Malley and Anderson embraced the change, looking to create an "all-inclusive radiation of O)))" that would support each player's interpretation of the themes.
Well, thankfully it sounds incredible. Anna Von Hausswolff's contribution on booming opener 'Pyroclasts F' is particularly noticeable, with her vocals pealing out ritualistically over the band's seismic rumble of saturated guitar and thick, modulated synth. It's Sunn O)))'s open-armed philosophy that's led to their work being so consistently engaging - It would have been easy for them to rest on their laurels years ago, but Anderson and O'Malley have continued to develop their sound and encourage the natural shifts in emphasis.
For many, a BBC session is just a formality, for Sunn O))) - it was an opportunity to basically dub a completely new album.
Exquisite minimalist investigations into counting, repetitive processes and listening from London-based acoustician and composer Georgia Rodgers, performed by Apartment House, Zubin Kanga, and Rodgers herself.
For 2019's Rainy Days festival in Luxembourg, Rodgers was commissioned to write a new piece of music for Apartment House, which would be premiered at the festival. "September" was the result, and it's bundled here in three excerpts, with a selection of other pieces recorded between 2010 and 2021.
'September' finishes the album, and it's undoubtedly a highlight. Rodgers wanted the piece to reflect the counting methods used to track bars, or notes, and it does so by sticking to a discernible rhythm, with instruments taking the place of a metronome. This forces the listener to tune into the sounds of the acoustic instruments, and the space itself. The presentation is minimal, but Rodgers packs it with tiny details and no small amount of emotion. Fans of Jonny Greenwood's soundtrack work - like his collaboration with Paul Thomas Anderson on "There Will Be Blood - should investigate.
'Ringinglow' is the newest recording on the album, and possibly the most stark and evocative. Using a piano and ominous electronics, Rodgers evokes a mood that plays against traditional flourishes. 2010's 'Logistic', the earliest piece, demonstrates Rodgers' dedication to industrial soundscaping, with granulated glass sounds forming a nauseous atmosphere, while 'Base' is almost the polar opposite - warm and welcoming with oboe and strings. It's a varied spread of work that hangs together in harmony, joined by Rodgers' strong sense of space and musical philosophy.
Marissa Nadler's first original solo album since 2018's 'For My Crimes' is a glittering high-point in her catalog, reflecting the dreamy prog-gaze of Air's 'Virgin Suicides' OST in an oily pool of Neil Young, Low, Mercury Rev and Cocteau Twins' underrated "Four-Calendar Café". We're in love.
'The Path of the Clouds' is a remarkably different album from the rest of Nadler's eight solo full-lengths. During lockdown she kept busy, escaping into writing and recording an album of covers (Spring's "Instead of Dreaming"), and learning to play piano with Mercury Rev's Jesse Chandler. This provided a new method of writing, and many of the songs here were penned on keys instead of guitar. Nadler also began experimenting with synthesis, so while 'The Path of the Clouds' feels furthest from the whimsical folk of her early catalog, it also sounds like her most complex, and most developed work so far.
Distracting herself from quarantine boredom with 'Unsolved Mysteries' reruns, Nadler decided to re-imagine the murder ballad as a form to promote female empowerment, focusing on the unsolved case of D.B. Cooper, the unidentified hijacker of a Boeing 727 plane flying from Portland to Seattle in 1971 as a focus for meditation on transformation and the mastery of fate. The idea of escape from authority looms across each song, lightened by Nadler's cosmic synths, mellotron drones and charming shoegaze-country riffs.
Bella Union boss and ex-Cocteau Twin Simon Raymonde adds bass to the album, and it's hard to know whether it's this that amplifies that Cocteaus sparkle or whether it's Nadler's inspired country-tinged songwriting. The spectral pop waftiness of late-Cocteaus tracks like 'Evangeline' and 'Know Who You Are At Every Age' are only a breath from 'Couldn't Have Done the Killing' and 'If I Could Breathe Underwater', and it's not unwelcome. The Scottish band's late period is still cruelly maligned, but Nadler's absorption of this sound is effective and smart. Smashed with the melancholy, doomer romance of Air's "Virgin Suicides" soundtrack, it lifts Nadler's songs into a surreal dreamworld she's only dipped into previously.
The trace elements of Neil Young and Townes Van Zandt are still there, but burned into coiled smoke that snakes around these delightful new forms. "The Path of the Clouds" is a dream pop album that's unafraid to lean into the genre's knottiest tendencies, it's able to be literary and comical, lavish and incisive, labyrinthine and visual. It's fair to say that Nadler had a more productive quarantine than most of us.
Erstwhile Cocteau Twin Robin Guthrie returns with 'Mockingbird Love', a new four track EP, the first in a short series of newly recorded instrumental releases.
"Guthrie, whose production and signature guitar sounds are said to have shaped multiple genres was the co-founder and producer of Cocteau Twins. Over forty years he has produced and remixed countless artists, recorded instrumental albums, movie soundtracks and collaborated with many outstanding artists. Mockingbird Love is a most welcome introduction to a series of releases which will be available for a limited amount of time exclusively on Soleil Après Minuit."
Gritty post-punk outfit Low Life investigate the "disgust and shame" of white Australia and the gloomy reality of betrayed adulthood on their dense third album. Influenced by Michaelangelo, Iggy and the Stooges and the Sydney hardcore scene.
There's a curl of thick, black smoke that surrounds Low Life; their music isn't depressing, but it's filled with anger - the kind of anger that grows from dented dreams, unfathomable reality and fragmented relationships. The band raked in acclaim for their first two albums, 2014's "Dogging" and 2019's Alter-released "Downer Edn". "From Squats to Lots..." is closer to their sophomore album, a record the press release describes as having a "nuanced flavour".
With the grim atmosphere of "Unknown Pleasures"-era Joy Division and Bowie's "Low" (apparently producer Mickey Grossman has a statue of the star in the studio), Low Life conduct a riveting noise that lifts the darkest emotions into almost jubilance. Guitars jangle beneath rugged basslines and thrash-y chords, and vocals lurch from snotty sneers to melancholy cynicism. It's a record that brings to life another side of Australia, one far from what we're accustomed to witnessing in the media. As the band themselves say: it's not for kids.
Juke-pop dreamer Jessy Lanza proves an ideal candidate for the DJ-Kicks series with a shimmering 26-track blend of vibes by the likes of Lolina, Gant Man, Grain, Mafia Boyz, Michael J. Blood, DJ Swisha and more
Beloved for her long players and renowned for party-starting live shows, Jessy Lanza here spells out her influences and current tastes with strong picks of US & UK dance music, peppered with slanted pop and low-key boogie hustles ++ bags of soul. It’s top marks for the flow and feel of her mix, coolly swerving between reference points proximal to her home city, Hamilton, Ontario — not so far from Toronto’s disco and jungle, and in raving distance of Detroit and Chicago with a bit of drive.
The strongest bits are by Jessy herself, who supplies a number of exclusives including the air-lock juke entry portal of ‘Guess What’, plus the percolated sweetness of ’Seven 55’ with Hyperdub labelmate Loraine James, and the feathered techno tump of ‘Wet x3’ and the electro-stepper ‘Heaving’ with Taraval. But that’s not to discount her other picks, spanning the gritty house slap of Michael J. Blood’s genius ‘Lip Biter’, to fleet-footed juke by CN and Mr. Ho, Chicago ghetto percolators by Dee Jay Nehpets, DJ Swisha, and DJ Spookie, with the likes of Lolina’s groggy ace ‘A Path of Weeds and Flowers’ tempering the flow.
Japanese-Korean classical minimalist Ryoko Akama collaborates with Apartment House again on this weightless set of deceptively complex pieces. Fans of Morton Feldman, Alvin Lucier or Eliane Radigue >> this one's pretty incredible.
An installation artist as well as a composer and performer, Huddersfield-based Akama writes music that's intentionally visual, or tangible. She creates sound that stretches across time and space, and uses silence like dead air - forcing us to consider our place as listeners.
'Songs for a shed' is series of six works for piano and instruments that was comissioned by Philip Thomas and Another Timbre. It isn't the first time Akama has worked with Apartment House - the collaborated on 2019's excellent "Dial 45-21-95" - and at this stage they feel perfectly in tune with each others' sonic philosophy. Simon Limbrick's vibraphone and marimba contributions are especially impressive, elevating the almost 20-minute 'proposal eleven' to scratch out a physical space in our minds eye.
Another expertly assembled set of avant-garde classical minimalism from Sheffield's Another Timbre label, this time highlighting Californian multi-instrumentalists and CalArts professor Andrew McIntosh.
McIntosh is among the most celebrated experimental string players in California, and here directs his talents to investigating the possibilities of his set of instruments, melting bowed harmonies from the violin and viola with field recordings made in the Californian pine woods.
The album opens on its darkest stretch, with hit piano strings used to punctuate elongated violin drones that reverberate into industrial strength textures. The 20-minute 'Middle' offers relief, a deep listening near-raga made from the microtonal harmonics that slowly emerge from a sustained string. 'Other Middle' is comparatively light-hearted, the instruments mimicking chirping sounds, before the record closes on 'Ending' - a contemplative weaving of environmental sizzle and low-register wobble.
Minimal clarinet compositions, fleshed out with subtle field recordings, vocals, double bass and cello.
There's something unsettling - in the best possible sense - about the clarinet. Reed instruments are tough to play, tougher to play well, with the clarinet perhaps the hardest to elevate. Thankfully, Heather Roche is an expert performer, and Martin Iddon's minimalist, textured piece was composed with her in mind. The sounds she manages to eke out of the instrument - especially on the album's 21 minute title track - are exceptional; turning from animalistic wails to a tender whisper in a heartbeat.
Placed alongside Iddon's recordings of birdsong makes the transition more stark; on 'Muses', Roche makes like a synthesizer next to Juliet Fraser's operatic vocal delivery, and on 'tu as navré', she turns the clarinet into rhythm and bass next to low, scraping strings from James Opstad and Anton Lukoszevieze.
Posthomous release of some of the barest mechanics and deadliest Chicago House you’ll likely ever hear, mostly recorded in the 80’s and now finally released via Carson’s long time disciples at Sound Signature. Best believe that this is the OG shit, never bettered, most of it previously unreleased - all of it a total fucking education. R.I.P legend.
The cover of LeRon Carson's debut album is a reminder of another era; Carson, smiling in front of a pair of decks, bulky headphones around his neck. The Chicago icon died in 2016, but left behind a vast archive of unreleased music, much of it recorded in the 1980s when the House sound was in its wildly creative infancy. Theo Parrish has made much of his obsession with Carson's production and performances over the years - and has put out a handful of tunes on Sound Signature - but this full-length set might be the most fitting tribute, showing the depth and prescience of the producer's sound.
Only seconds into opener 'Sof n Thik' you know what you're in for - fudgy kicks thud slowly and carefully, surrounded by pillowy, soulful pads and the warmest synbass. If you're looking for the root sound that gave rise to Theo Parrish, and in turn Newworldaquarium, Actress, and Andy Stott - this is pretty much the blueprint. Carson's veil-pierced ferric fuzz has been regularly duped but never quite captured. Carson didn't just pre-empt deep, knackered grooves either - tracks like 'Baby Said to Me' and 'Say It' tickle the same loopy funk euphoric sweet spot that Daft Punk, and the later entire French touch kru, would fire into the mainstream a few years later. MLK-sampling '72nd & Ogelsby' meanwhile can't help but remind of DJ Sprinkles with its spare beatbox shuffle and painfully moving square wave bass wind.
It's impossible to overstate the resonance of Carson's tracks; writing music from the Midwest - the US dance music heartland - in the country's beleaguered '80s, they're charged with a hedonism that's far from empty. It's a jubilant cry from Black America, chiming alongside established classic material from Larry Heard, Ron Hardy, Virgo, Adonis and Steve Poindexter.
Honestly, life-changing music.
Next-level hydrophonic fire from early electronic pioneer Michel Redolfi, best known for presenting the first underwater concert in history. It's mindboggling work that imagines deep-sea sound using the glassy tones of the Synclavier digital synthesizer.
Redolfi came up with the idea of his 'Sonic Waters' project in 1979, when he was working at UC San Diego in California. The university's Center For Music Experiment had funded his project "WET", or "Water Electronically Tuned", and he took his music across the USA to similar-minded centers where he was able to perform underwater, using specially-designed equipment. In the last four decades, Redolfi has shipped this concept across the world, performing in public pools in Sydney, Paris and Venice and also in various natural sites worldwide.
Redolfi splits the music into two fields, music for fresh water, which he composed in 1981, and music for salt water, which was put together concurrently, from 1979 to 1987. To call his music fluid would be to ignore its inherent thoughtfulness; Redolfi makes big brain sounds that pull influence from our cultural understanding of water's place in the history of soundmaking. He mixes the harps and shimmering electronics you might expect to see in a classic rendition of an underwater scene with sonorous synthesized sounds that harmonize with whale song or submerged gongs. Each element warbles and vibrates as Redolfi urges us to consider the historical resonance inherent in all the colors and textures refracted into our ears.
"..The songs of sirens, the bells of submerged cathedrals, the voices of lost mariners." Indeed.
Versatile cornet player and elecro-acoustic composer Ben Lamar Gay takes an assured step into ambitious territory with his second album, touching soul, funk, jazz, experimental electronics, ambient and psychedelic zones with help from Tomeka Reid, Angel Bat Dawid, Ayanna Woods, Ohmme and others.
Gay's debut album, 2018's "Downtown Castles Can Never Block The Sun", was assembled from material he'd produced over a seven year period. "Open Arms to Open Us" was a quicker process, and stands as a far more coherent work. Gay began writing the music in Spring 2020, as the world changed and we were all forced to reconsider our place in the world; "things have never been okay," he admits in an accompanying statement. What pulled him back from the brink was thinking about the future - his family, his young nieces and nephews - and Gay puts this into music by focusing on rhythm. "More than anything, I’d like my babies to always trust in rhythm," he explains. "It’s the one trueness that travels great distances and constantly survives the crumbling of facades."
Gay has put his finger on the pulse that travels through culture and history. Rhythm is a unifying force, and he uses it to pull together a wide cast of collaborators and a plethora of genres that all bend to his creative will. On opening track 'Sometimes I Forget How Summer Looks on You', Chicago duo Ohmme back up Gay's vulnerable vocals with ethereal choral wails, but it's the clattering drums - layered over shifting xylophone clonks - that make the song so memorable. 'Aunt Lola and the Quail' is less showy, but no less impressive, with bubbling oscillator gurgles over a loose, pulsing downtempo funk shuffle; the jazz pressure is palpable, but Gay never allows his cornet prowess to overshadow his general theme.
Dorothée Munyaneza sings on the magical 'Nyuzura', vocally pirouetting through skeletal drum skitters and ethereal dulcimer clangs. 'S'Phisticated Lady' meanwhile finds Chicago legend Angel Bat Dawid and Gira Dahnee trading rhymes, seemingly live in situ, over rattling tamborines and a struck tom. Each track feels stylistically different, but philosophically related - it's quite a feat.
Instant life upgrade gear, starring guitar maestro Omar Khorshid showcasing one of the most important Arabic composers of the c.20th, who has written for legends including Umm Kalthum, Abdel Halim Hafez, Sabah, Warda, and many others
Packing opulent string orchestrations, intoxicating sitar work, sizzling drums and the psych-surf guitar fire of Omar Khorshid - a big fave around here - Baligh Hamdi’s ‘Instrumental Modal Pop of 1970s Egypt’ collects 19 relatively stripped back examples of the composer charting modernized directions for Arabic music during the open-minded ‘60s & ‘70s. Compiled and annotated by Sublime Frequencies don Hisham Mayet, the selection is deliberately shy of vocals, in order to best reveal Hamdi’s intricate weave of influences from subcontinental classical music to Afro-American jazz and west coast US surf and psych rock, all subtly and seamlessly incorporated into the lushest of psychedelic exotica.
Under Hamdi’s direction, the crack squad of Omar Khorshid on guitar, Magdi al-Husseini on organ, Samir Sourour on saxophone, and Faruq Salama on accordion, aka his legendary group “Diamond Orchestra”, articulate a new musical language porous to peripheral influence, yet firmly located in the sophistication of cosmopolitan Cairo during that specific era. Abundant with tonal colour and, crucially, driven by a suave swagger, it’s hard not to be charmed by the passion and patent intellect of this music, sweeping us up on a deadly cool but exhilarating trip for the ages that still surely conveys its urges to mingle myriad musics and make you dance better.
Just essential stuff, really.
Full throttle, 160bpm hardcore, jungle and footwork tekkers from the rave’s leading pied piper, for Fabric’s key mix series
In the space of a few short years, Sherelle has leapt from cult quantity to headline dynamo, largely with thanks to her incendiary and highly memed Boiler Room showcase in late 2019, when she generated nuclear energy levels via a jump up dub of ‘RIP Groove.’ She’s spent the intervening pandemic building a fearsome rep as the happiest and up-for-it DJ on road, ultimately leading to this, her 27-track razz between UK and Chicago rave styles, taking in upfront Black dance music from key hotspots of NYC and LDN with a breathless, party-ready flow that’s precisely what eager yung ravers want, and are getting, right now
As with her A&R actions on the HooverSound and Beautiful labels, the mix highlights Sherelle’s roots and branches thru cuts from a close but far flung coterie of producers ranging from old skool soldiers (Aphrodite, Cloud9, Q-Bass) to relatively new skool jungle players (Dub One, Tim Reaper, Dev/Null) and US catalysts (DJ Rashad, Kush Jones, DJ Phil, AceMo), each finding a mutual axis around the 160bpm thing. With a sense of drama and intensity that’s perhaps more UK rave than US, Sherelle defines the sound at its most disciplined and up for it, spraying from the hip with a lethal disregard for our safety that can’t be prized any more, especially after 18 months of brutal club lockdown.
No prisoners, we tell ya!
Pye Corner Audio finishes his trilogy of albums - following 2016's "Stasis" and 2019's "Hollow Earth" - with this high budget tribute to vintage synth crust, dystopian lost futures and squashed dancefloor memories.
Could there be a more appropriate home for Martin Jenkins than Ghost Box? His latest album characterizes everything that the label stands for, building a strong theme immediately with Jenkins' peerless production skill and leaving the throng of other vintage synth fetishists in the dust. It's hardly surprising that Pye Corner Audio has been picked up for so much TV work recently, he sounds as if his music is umbilically joined to a set of cathode memories: blinking images of Doctor Who, 1980's Channel 4 documentaries, late night horror shows, Open University idents.
We've heard Jenkins' dusted retro-future electronics plenty of times now, and at this point he's just enjoying the ride; the squelchy sci-fi moods of 'Paleolith' are a perfect intro to 'Earthwork', where the album bugs from acidic squelching to knackered dancefloor froth. And while the shadow of Boards of Canada looms over so much retro synth music, Jenkins reaches his own distinct conclusions.
'Hive Mind' twists toughened disco rhythms and modulated arpeggios into a horror theme dancefloor jam that's two clicks left of the TV dial. 'Phantom Orchid' is another slow burner, sounding like Vangelis if he was given the opportunity to rescore John Carpenter's "The Thing". Basically, imagine Johnny Jewel, Alessandro Cortini, S U R V I V E, and Dean Hurley going b2b at the purgatorium disco and you have the measure of it.
Otto A Totland completes his trilogy of piano compositions, following 2014’s Pinô and 2017’s The Lost.
"As a self-taught pianist, Otto further determines himself as a timeless composer who follows nothing but his own gut and heart. The outcome is something so pure it’s hard to not be affected. The development of his pieces over the years has grown into something so himself that it’s almost immediately recognisable. With Companion he has matured in his own craft, and the various pieces here feel confident and absolutely beautiful in a way that sees the end of the trilogy as a warm, empathic document for the times.
As with the previous two albums, Companion was again recorded at Nils Frahm’s Berlin studio for optimal warmth and space, Pinô and The Lost at his previous Durton Studio while Companion at the historic Studio 3 at Funkhaus. All three records are released by Sonic Pieces in hand-crafted limited edition covers as a statement showing that craftmanship and humanity still exists in this world constantly moving towards the exact opposite.
This quote by Norwegian philosopher Guttorm Fløistad seems an appropriate connection to both Otto’s music and the way we are all heading : “The only thing for certain is that everything changes. The rate of change increases. If you want to hang on you better speed up. That is the message of today […] In order to master changes, we have to recover slowness, reflection and togetherness. There we will find real renewal.” With this in mind, Companion is exactly what it’s title sets out to be. A friend that can follow and comfort in both good or bad times."
Jim O’Rourke pushes Apartment House to test their limits via an open-ended score for string trio requiring the players to whistle and sing wordlessly, with absorbing, minimalist results.
Commissioned by Anton Lukoszevieze of Apartment House, who also perform the work with exacting patience and nuance, ‘Best that you do this for me’ is a 50 minute work for string trio (featuring Lukoszevieze alongside Mira Benjamin and Bridget Carey) that also requires the performers to work out of their comfort zones, with additional instructions for them to whistle and sing, as well as play their instruments (violin, viola, cello.) The piece was originally performed in a 15 minute iteration for the BBC, but in this new expanded version its wider scope leads the players to unpredictable harmonic junctures as they work their way around its cyclical indications, overlapping into achingly mournful and sighing cadences with a glacially time-slipping quality.
O’Rourke was inspired to incorporate whistling and singing into the piece after re-listening to a few choral works by Martin Smolka, and was struck by how this relatively simple and always “on hand” instrument is rarely used. In the context of highly skilled instrumentalists such as Apartment House, the simple gesture of whistling and singing becomes a radical one, encouraging the trio to offset and balance their skills and intuition in a sometimes unnerving way that lends the work a beautifully uncertain character, unfurling like an archipelago of islands illuminated by moonlight and punctuated with gulfs of dark, pregnant silence.
Another Timbre finally realise their long-held ambition of putting together new recordings of John Cage’s Number Pieces, here performed by Apartment House who shine a light on Cage’s late period “reconciliation with harmony” on a staggering set of recordings that span over 5 hours in length and which will likely upend everything you thought you knew about the late, great composer's legacy. In other words; it’s a highly immersive, quiet and meditative entry-point to his vast catalogue that comes very highly recommended to old guard and complete newcomers alike - a mind/soul expanding session awaits you.
The Number Pieces were written by Cage during the final five years of his life, 1987-1992, and are widely regarded the most broadly appealing of his vast oeuvre - despite few of them having been performed over the past couple of decades. The starting point for the pieces is typical of Cage’s chance procedures - they don’t have a set time signature, bar lines or a conductor, and the musicians performing can decide when and how loud or soft to play each note, making each and every performance of a number piece unique. As the recordings took place during lockdown between August 2020 and May 2021, many of the individual parts were recorded separately and edited in in post-production, presenting a far from ideal, yet intriguing additional dimension to these performances.
Titled for the number of players (i.e. Five) and their position in the series of compositions (i.e. Five²), each piece accords to a score composed using Cage’s time bracket technique; short fragments which indicate performers play what is often just a single note, and for a mix of fixed and flexible durations. Some were composed for non-Western instruments, but this set focusses on works for traditional instruments, deploying a range from Accordion to Xylophone in myriad configurations.
The set is broadly centred around variations to one of Cage’s earliest number pieces ‘Five’, variations of which account for half of the set, and range from relatively succinct, gorgeous interpretations to a 40 minute rendering of its trombone and string quartet version ‘Five³’. Most striking to us, however, is the remarkably cavernous, abstract space explored in their take on ‘Fourteen’ and also ‘Seven²’, both demanding percussionists use “any very resonant instruments”, while the brief, Gamelan-esque ’Six’ also points to Cage’s fascinations with Far eastern traditions. The hour long ‘Eight’ for wind is also striking for the way Apartment House slowly comprehend its complexities (more than 80 time brackets per part) across its considerable arcing breath.
In effect, the Number Pieces reveal Cage’s return to ideas of harmony after ostensibly finding ways around it ever since his studies under serialist Arnold Schoenberg in the ‘30s. They are perhaps the most beautifully ponderous manifestation of his work with chance operations, or use of the I-Ching as compositional tool, and the soundest reflection of his notion that a harmony exists in everything, if one’s to acknowledge the possibilities that lie beyond the restrictions of classical convention - the rest of the world, the un/known cosmos, and everything between. For the Cage curious and acolytes alike, Apartment House and Another Timbre have here managed to frame Cage in an unexpected light, presenting us with an unmissable entry portal to his most rarified realisation of cosmic chaos.
Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra's Jessica Moss paints another evocative nighttime scene on her fourth album "Phosphenes". Using violin, vocals and electronics, she creates visceral, ghostly soundtracks that are certain to appeal to fans of Deaf Center, Stars of the Lid or Marcus Fjellström.
Jessica Moss has added her signature sound to so many essential artists it's almost pointless listing them all. Most memorably, she toured with Vic Chestnutt's band, co-founded Black Ox Orkestar, performed alongside Carla Bozulich, and experimented with electronics with Growing's Kevin Doria as Total Life, but that's only the half of it. On 'Phosphenes', however, the most striking aspect is Moss's ability to harness the power of restraint, allowing minuscule strokes and small touches do the heavy lifting.
Epic three-part composition 'Contemplation' makes up the bulk of the album's first half, showing off Moss's instrumental skill without any kind of fanfare. Her playing is the central focus, but her knowledge of production and electronics infuses her productions with subtle elements that never detract from the instrumental sounds. On 'Let Down' and 'Distortion Harbour', these elements begin to strangle the strings as if a transition is taking place; by the end of 'Distortion Harbour', light starts to crack through the fog. A child's voice burbles up from the silence: "don't be sad, I love you."
Collecting Eleh's three heavyweight drone albums on CD. Very precious, pure and meditative sounds strongly recommended to followers of Eliane Radigue, Pauline Oliveros, LaMonte Young.
"Retreat is a collection of exploratory sound assemblages put together during a cabin sojourn. New timbral richness, tonal expansion and deep synthesis make these pieces rather different from previous work. Return reflects on time away.Repose contains only one piece, the final recording of Circle Two: Coastal Rotation For Dune Loop which was debuted at 2010's Mutek festival in Montreal. This piece completes the Retreat/Return trilogy with Repose and is intended to stand very much on its own. Rain on your hood. Your heart beats. A beach break roaring in the distance. Isolated pines are played by the wind. A fine spot for repose. You turn around and head home. "Eleh demonstrates once again how a single amplified gesture delivered just so can reveal the inner workings of an entire cosmos." Tony Herrington/Wire"
Enveloping 38-minute piece from Eleh written for performance at the Cleveland Museum Of Contemporary Art.
'For Moussavi Atrium' marks the first new Eleh material since 2012, following an invaluable programme of reissues for their Important early releases during the 2013. It starts off in near silence before fleshing out a supple sinewave flux modulating at rapid intervals to a pulsing, brain-worming coda that'll hypnotise and control anyone susceptible to a good 'wave. This is one of those instances where the format plays some part - the clarity and duration afforded by the CD really holds us under without breaking the spell, and by the time we're 30 minutes in - the point you'd have to turn the wax - it really strikes serious depths of sub-harmonic intensity that feels like the world is geared in slow motion...
Fluxion's best album in years, the Greek dub techno veteran sculpts pristine dub-jazz moods that eschew the genre's usual foggy melancholy in favor of mind-expanding, horizontal landscapes. One for fans of Moritz Von Oswald Trio and Vladislav Delay's underrated "The Four Quarters".
There's an airy lightness to "Parallel Moves" that's unexpected in the dub techno canon. Fluxion's best work - his Chain Reaction two-parter "Vibrant Forms" - is rightly hailed as a genre milestone, and while "Parallel Moves" echoes that work's faded atmosphere, there's none of the eerie mystery. Instead, the Greek producer has augmented his production with a deep house-indebted jazziness, bringing in broken two-step rhythms, feather-lite electric guitar and warm electric piano. It's almost balearic.
Tracks like 'Passage' are as warm and bright as an acid sunrise, with aerated pads that cut through a supple kick and breezy horns that practically drag you to the sand dunes and frothing waves. 'In Limbo', a tight, uptempo deep house burner, sounds looped into Theo Parrish's sonic universe as it drifts around subtly plucked guitar and kinetic electric piano, and 'Spreads' sounds like waking up on a mountainside, watching the clouds part slowly. This is sunny, hopeful stuff, and breathes some happiness into a usually buttoned-up sound.
Compelling textural electronic experimentation in long form from Californian operative Robert Takahashi Crouch, who considers the relationship between abstract sound and personal resonance on "Jubilee", fizzing from luscious filigree drone to dense, crushing tonal destruction. RIYL Lawrence English, Tim Hecker or Jefre Cantu-Ledesma.
'Jubilee' is a major release for Crouch, arriving four years after his last full-length, the Touch-released 'Sublunar'. He admits in a soul-baring artist statement that it took him an unusually long time to complete; the recording evolved at a time when he was re-assessing his priorities.
So often, loud sound - from metal and noise to so-called power ambient - is used as a way of expressing frustration, or worse, repression. But Crouch uses his shifting dynamics to instead represent pain, anxiety, trauma and transgression. These feelings come from a similar place, but he treats them with sensitivity and bounded distance as he melts from liquid bass drones and glassy electronics in 'A Ritual I' to tectonic-shifting overdriven fuzz in the second part, before shifting into pensive, circling tones on the final act. 'I've been a part of evil doing' provides a breather between the album's two sides, evoking Steve Reich or Philip Glass, before Crouch shifts into more emotional territory for the two part 'Reconciliation'. Here, he hits a more jubilant tone - closer to My Bloody Valentine's noisy stompbox grind, or Jefre Cantu-Ledesma's romantic laptop crunch - and reaches into a ghostly, peaceful shimmer before fading into the aether.
Crouch has found a musical way to process world-defining emotions and experiences, and it shows. Maybe it's not just abstract sound, after all.
Important Records release this early piece by Eliane Radigue, pre-dating her use of synthesizers.
Consisting solely of tape feedback, Vice Versa, etc was conceived in 1970, and originally, the feedback piece was issued in an edition of ten signed and numbered copies containing a magnetic tape and a handwritten note, conveying that the listener is free to experiment with playing the tape back at a variety of different speeds, and in both forwards and backwards directions so as to explore the timbral properties and minutiae of the feedback tone.
In their issue of the piece, Important Records have selected four playback speeds (one disc with the tape going forwards, the other with the tape spooling backwards) corresponding to the settings on tape recorders of the era. These drones are even more minimal and steadied than the works Radigue would go on to record with her ARP 2500 and represent an early manifestation of the creative principles that would go on to govern her better known work.
Eliane Radigue's complete "Opus 17" (1970), her final work created using feedback material.
"With Opus 17, Radigue perfected her slow mixing technique with sublime results. Imperceptible transformations envelop the attentive listener who is confronted with an immensely physical experience. Time is suspended in powerfully poetic and artful ways as Radigue masterfully sculpts the physical matter of sound using feedback for the last time. Opus 17 is an absolutely essential masterpiece in the realm of early electro-acoustic/drone/minimalist composition."
It's impossible to overstate the unique brilliance of Arthur Russell's posthumous release, 'Another Thought'.
Originally issued on Phillip Glass's (then Decca financed) Point Blank label (CD only) a year after Arthur's tragic death in 1993, Another Thought features a mostly bare-boned Russell, his vocals mixed with cello plucks and bowing, occasional percussion and other subtle touches. Almost all the tracks are exclusive to this release, two tracks appeared on the Soul Jazz comp and here you also get an alternative take on the classic 'In the Light Of The Miracle’.
We're not ashamed to admit shedding a tear or two listening to the sheer life-affirming qualities of this record over the years. It's not sad, it's just heart-breakingly beautiful, stripped to the bare essentials of Arthur's voice and cello dappled with effects and backed with his own drum machine, plus congas, sax and keys from longtime collaborators Peter Zummo, Elodie Lauten, and Mustafa Ahmed, among others. In the most transcendent sense, it's music that occupies its very own genre, a magical soundworld all of its own, ready for you to visit when times are good, and perhaps even more so when they're bad.
Although it’s been available on CD, first on that 1994 pressing for Point Music, and later in 2006 for Philip Glass's Orange Mountain Music, the magic is arguably enhanced on wax. It's like finding a new, secret entrance to your favourite place in the world. Even passing Russell fans will likely know a few of its charms such as 'This Is How We walk On The Moon', 'Another Thought' itself, or the alternate version of 'Keeping Up' from 'The World Of...', and we envy those of you about to encounter it for the first time.
Staggering, transcendent composition rescued from the dust of Eliane Radigue's archives by Important Records.
'Transamorem Transmortem' has been virtually unheard since it was first premiered on March 9th, 1974 at The Kitchen in NYC, at an event organised by the venue's music programmer, Rhys Chatham. Like the majority of Eliane's works, it was created with her favoured ARP Synthesizer, and would surely count as one of her most subtle and still pieces - which is quite something, considering her status as an almost peerless master of sonic stasis. Like the very best of her canonical works, she challenges, or heightens, our perceptions of temporal awareness, seemingly expanding carefully organised frequencies or even a single note, or moment, into a meditative stillness with only the slightest of timbral transformations to create a near-unparalleled effect of immersion. If you've ever submitted yourself to one of her compositions before, you'll know what we mean.
Because the piece was originally intended as an installation, it's organised with clearly spatialized high, mid, and low frequencies to be played on a quadrophonic speaker set-up. If you follow the instructions you may well experience the localised physicality of these frequencies quite differently, but we'd equally recommend simple, linear home listening on a stereo setup for enveloping results. Stunning.
Maiden vinyl voyage of Thomas Köner’s seminal dark ambient album inspired by cosmic ephemera, available on wax and digital formats for first time since 1995.
Originally released by Barooni, who also issued Köner’s first trio of solo albums (and Roland Kayn’s titanic ‘Tektra’ boxset), ‘Aubrite’ checks into the German artist’s resoundingly dark, isolationist headspace a few years later for a profound meditation on the void. To be fair, it’s obviously “dark”, but more in a sense of its starkness and lonesome nature, rather than anything overbearingly gothic or cinematic, holding to a canvas of barely-there, near infrasonic inference and suggestion, and with a timeless fascination as evocative as the small achrondite meteorites that fell near Nyons in 1836 and lend it its title.
"Whoever hears the distortion of all sounds, will soon become Ultrablack. Whoever listens to this world, but has no affection for any of its sites, even to the place of Black Noise, may soon reach Ultrablack. Whoever understands the spirit of impartiality through ten thousand million partial tones, hears Ultrablack and can no longer be measured. No measures, no enclosures, no properties are the sign of ultrablack scores." Thomas Köner
Returning from the brink for the first time in 26 years, ‘Aubrite’ still imparts a message that’s best translated by atavistic instinct. Like Roland Kayn’s work, the level of scope and layered depth is just unfathomably cavernous and even on some levels unheimlich amniotic, yielding a series of quietly reverberating and sensational sort of non-musical events that suspend the senses and send its recipient floating thru richly imaginative deepsea, boreal, and cosmic headspace.
The Mill Pond first surfaced in 1997 as a double 7". Over a decade later, Important Records reissue the EP on CD, accompanied by an extensive booklet reproducing Fahey's paintings.
Characteristic of the great guitarist's work from the period, there's little on The Mill Pond to suggest Fahey's past as a curator of ancient Americana. Instead these four pieces, aided by the electronics of Jeff Allman, are far more esoteric, more in line with the Table Of The Elements classic Womblife than those famous early ragtime jaunts. After the spooky, hummed vocals and vacant strums of 'Ghosts', the ten-minuter 'Garbage' spews blasts of noise and buried, tuneless guitar effects in a hypnotic, dazzling swirl. Yet more ear-shredding dissonance is in store during the almost sludge metal-like 'You Can't Cool Off In The Mill Pond, You Can Only Die' which leads into a more considered finale: 'The Mill Pond Drowns Hope', whose digital effects bolster Fahey's lonesome, echoing guitar picking which eventually leads ferociously into a crescendo of eerily bluesy electronics. Another essential Fahey recording from the archives, saved from obscurity by the good folk at Important. Highly Recommended.
Nairobi, Kenya’s KMRU debuts on Mego with a suite of serene ambient scenes after emerging with Four Tet-like electronica releases in 2019 and recently starring on ‘Alternate African Reality - Electronic, Electroacoustic And Experimental Music From Africa And The Diaspora’
Known as Joseph Kamaru to his pals, KMRU was hailed by RA as one of ’15 East African Artists You Need To Hear’ in 2018 and is a regular performer at Nyege Nyege Festival in Uganda, beside performing at CTM and Gamma Festival. For his Mego release ‘Peel’ it appears he’s been listening to label hero Fennesz, the Austrian experimental guitarist, or Will Long aka Celer, with whom his tracks share a certain, longing melancholy in their long, sighing arrangements of glistening and creaking ambient pads and mournful post-rock/cienmatic elegance.
“The subtle calming atmosphere within Peel belies the compositional prowess as layers of delicate sounds wrap around each other creating a hybrid new form ambient musics both captivating through it’s textural depth and kaleidoscopic patterns. The track titles lend themselves to the themes and mood set within: Why are you here, Well, Solace, Klang, Insubstantial and the title track. This is a deep heartfelt journey with a new strong voice being expressed through the means of organically presented electronic ambient sounds, one which reveals further layers on repeat listens.”
Carsten Nicolai embarks on a new series of works with this new full-length, commissioned to score Richard Siegal's choreographed performance "Oval" and influenced by astrophysics phenomena, cinema and scientific events. Not easy listening then.
At this stage in his career, Nicolai has his methodology nailed down like a dining table on a cruise ship. His precisely-engineered infusions of drone, noise and glitch have inspired a generation of producers, and truly, few do it quite like him. So although "HYbr:ID I" sounds familiar, the only person he's really aping at this point is himself. And Panasonic.
The album is saddled with an expectedly heady concept; it takes its track names from "static images portraying scientific events" and is inspired by "cinematic visual techniques". Which is to say, it's kinetic, spacious music made out of soundsystem-shaking slabs of wavering bass and chattering pinprick rhythms that encourage movement as much as they suggest abstract imagery.
Nicolai has always had a knack for crafting art that inhabits an area between audio and visual, long before it was de rigeur - "HYbr:ID I" continues that tradition: it's intensely visual music, even without accompaniment, and sounds like a blend of his more upfront material (best represented on the "Uni" series) and his textured "Xerrox" ambience. It's excellent, expectedly, like a VW Passat. Play loud, maybe in the Passat?
Venerable minimalist Éliane Radigue continues her ‘Occam Ocean’ adventures at the threshold of perception on a third volume in collaboration with string trio Julia Eckhardt, Silvia Tarozzi and Deborah Walker
Performed and recorded in September, 2019 at the Abbazia di Santa Maria Assunta, Bologna, Italy, the 3rd volume of ‘Occam Ocean’ features the pioneering French composer’s radical thoughts on time, tone and timbre carefully manifest thru the trio’s fingers and strings in the model of preceding volumes, also for France’s Shiiin label. Incredibly patient in its sustained drones and incremental developments, the results return an experience that really only comes with Radigue’s work, among a few others, holding the ability to generate moments of revelatory epiphany from the subtlest alterations.
Where previous ‘Occam Ocean’ instalments fielded a mix of solo and duo works (Occam Ocean 1) and a broad orchestra (Occam Ocean 2), this one is perhaps most focussed in its triumvirate of works written for solo, duo and trio configurations of Julia Eckhardt (Viola), Silvia Tarozzi (Violin) and Deborah Walker (Violoncello). The first, for Tarozzi and Walker resonates with an intense immanence as the Violin’s icy high register is underlined by glyding lower end Violoncello contours, creating a unique weather system of mid-air dissonance, which makes Walker’s lone performance on ‘Occam VIII’ only appear hauntingly nude by contrast.
When all three players converge at ‘Occam Delta III’ they create a more sublime tension, adhering the composer’s instructions to follow a razor fine line between microtonal frequencies and making the piece’s technical challenges feel effortlessly natural, really honing in on tones that resonate the pharynx and get up in your head quite unlike anything else.
A definitive edition of Philip Corner’s ‘The Judson Years’, spanning works for tape, electronics, and instrumental-vocal from a vital period during the early ‘60s. Includes stellar avant-garde cast revolving Ayo, David Behrman, Malcolm Goldstein, Dick Higgins, Joe Jones, Alison Knowles, Jackson Mac Low, Charlotte Moorman, Nam June Paik, and Chieko Shiomi, and more
“It's hard to overstate the importance of Philip Corner. For more than half a century he has been a cornerstone of the American musical avant-garde. Once a student of Otto Leuning, Henry Cowell, Olivier Messiaen, and Dorothy Taubman. A founding member of Fluxus, Corner made waves fast, creating a body of singular work, both on his own and within ensembles like Gamelan Son of Lion and Tone Roads, founded with Malcolm Goldstein and James Tenney, which has cut its way across the decades. Among Corner's most fascinating works are those created between 1962 and 1964, during the period when he was resident composer at the Judson Dance Theatre, one the great occurrences in the emergence of avant-garde dance, movement, Happenings, and performance art. Even today, it stands among the most important examples of collaborate create exchange in the history the American arts. Alga Marghen present a three-CD box, issued in early 2000s by and now out of print, gathering much of the work created during these important years in Corner's career, signed by the composer himself.
Alga Marghen's triple box gathers On Tape From the Judson Years, and More from The Judson Years (Early 60s) Instrumental and Vocal Works Volumes 1 and 2, bringing you to heart of Philip Corner's brilliant practice and mind. Across the first disc Corner's tape works -- complex textures and sonority coming to life. The second disc is of an entirely different sort, featuring works created with a great many of Corner's closest collaborators and friends. Recorded at Judson, 1965, the disc features a knock-out cast of Ayo, David Behrman, Philip Corner, Malcolm Goldstein, Dick Higgins, Joe Jones, Alison Knowles, Jackson Mac Low, Charlotte Moorman, Nam June Paik, and Chieko Shiomi, and more. The third disc takes the ear further afield, with "Everything Max Has" (1964), a performance of Max Neuhaus solo recorded at the ONCE Festival (1965), captures the composer and percussionist taking down an overwhelming amount of equipment. It also includes Big Trombone (1963), with Jim Fulkerson improvising over tape collage, "Homage to Revere" (1962) a work for an ensemble of copper-bottom kitchen utensils, and "Punkt" (1961) for an ensemble of staccato sounds, and a number of other astounding works from the era. As a totality, Alga Marghen's three-CD set of Corner's years spent at the Judson Theatre, are a mind-boggling entry into an overwhelmingly exciting moment in time.”
Now compiled into a single handy package, Judee Sill's first two albums here resurface with extensive bonus tracks included.
Sill's place in history is assured by the fact that she was the very first artist to sign to David Geffen's Asylum label at the beginning of the '70s, recording the two now legendary albums (her eponymous 1971 debut and 1972's Heartfood) found on this release. Sill's lyrical concerns tended to converge upon particularly eccentric Christian themes, never more successfully than on her debut single 'Jesus Was A Crossmaker', produced by Graham Nash.
Frankly, it's as good an example of 1970s West Coast songwriting as you're every likely to hear - the almost uncomfortably intimate live version that rounds off disc one of this collection stands as a testament to its incredible compositional elegance. The second disc contains Heartfood in its entirety plus ten bonus tracks made up of outtakes from the original recording sessions for the album, solo demos and alternate versions. These two albums have achieved 'lost classic' status by now, and there's never been a better presentation of them than this.
Iranian-Canadian brothers Mohammad and Mehdi Mehrabani-Yeganeh harness the fourth world power of Jon Hassell and the spannered, electrified weirdness of New York's short-lived illbient genre on this exceptional, eccentric voyage into stateless sound. RIYL DJ Spooky, Bill Laswell, Moor Mother, Supersilent...
Over the last few years, Saint Abdullah have been quietly cooking some of the most intense genre-distorting experimental music we've heard from NYC in ages. Their PTP run - 2018's "Stars Have Eyes" and last year's "Where Do We Go, Now?" - established them as key players in the city's musical landscape, and this two volume follow-up (the second part is a cassette on Important's sublabel Cassauna) is their most convincing statement yet.
On "To Live A La West", the brothers lean into the spiritual and political fluctuation of free jazz, effortlessly melting it into their established fractured electronic backdrop. So virtuoso instrumental performance takes a front seat, whether it's Panamanian trumpeter Aquiles Navarro on subdued opening track 'A Lot of Kings', British sax legend John Butcher improvising over stuttering beats on 'Like A Great Starving Beast' or Mohammad and Mehdi themselves inhabiting a space between Alice Coltrane and Florian Fricke on cosmic jazz burners like 'Philly' or 'Nocturnal Pool Party'.
The album is a subtle statement on western living; Mohammad and Mehdi grew up in Iran but were shuttled to Canada by their parents when they were kids. So they reflect on the choices they made for acceptance, for "a life lived with less tension". "But who are we imitating?" they ask. The brothers take American music history and reconfigure it in their own mode: levitational spiritual jazz becomes as emotionally affecting as Middle Eastern classical music, and blown-out, freeform electronics that owe as much to the post-punk era as they do The Bronx, sound as cybernetic and expertly wrought as Sote's "Parallel Persia". At times their production takes on the cadence of gutter-blasted IDM, refined with the free-flowing immediacy of Rune Grammafon's Supersilent.
It's hard to express how well engineered and perfectly cooked this sound is. Fusion is a tough thing to get right - a quick dip into NYC's restaurant culture will assure you of that - but when it's good, it sounds like everything you love all at once - and nothing quite like anything you've heard before.
"The Nearer The Fountain, More Pure The Stream Flows", is the new studio album from Damon Albarn on Transgressive Records.
"The Nearer The Fountain, More Pure The Stream Flows was originally intended as an orchestral piece inspired by the landscapes of Iceland. This last year has seen Albarn return to the music in lockdown and develop the work to 11 tracks which further explore themes of fragility, loss, emergence and rebirth. The result is a panoramic collection of songs with Albarn as storyteller. The album title is taken from a John Clare poem Love and Memory.
Albarn says “I have been on my own dark journey while making this record and it led me to believe that a pure source might still exist.”"
Curated by Wolfgang Voigt, Kompakt's ongoing Pop Ambient series continues with this latest set, featuring gauzy sadbient contributions from Blank Gloss, Andrew Thomas, Thomas Fehlmann, Yuo Onodera and more.
Started in 2001 "Pop Ambient" series long predated the current global obsession with ambient music, but somehow has still managed to stay completely mired in its own reading of the sprawling, bloated genre. The label's latest compilation is completely free of surprises, and again highlights the dedication to their chosen theme. There's no darkness here and few blustery field recordings, the world of "Pop Ambient" is right there in the title - whimsical pop (or post-rock) bluster has been reduced to Gas-eous fog.
Cali duo Blank Gloss start things off calmly with a dream pop jangle and occasional kick drum, before Yui Onodera gets us back on the usual path, blending watery environmental sounds with Reich-ian phasing, evocative piano and strangled strings. Markus Guentner and Joachim Spieth do their best Wolfgang impression on 'Kari', before Thomas Fehlmann lightens the mood slightly with the cheery 'Rosen Fliegen'. For the most part, these tracks are almost interchangeable - a granulated pad there, a twinkling piano there - so it's fitting that, as usual, there's a mixed version.
Unmissable first showcase of pioneering Vietnamese rock ’n bopper Phương Tâm; a real labour of love compiled by her daughter and the Sublime Freq’s, all bubbling over with catchy rock ’n roll, blues, jazz, twist and surf nuggets
‘Magical Nights: Saigon Surf, Twist & Soul (1964-1966)’ spans dozens of songs written a lifetime ago, when Phương Tâm blazed a trail of US-influenced songwriting, which she promptly left for family life after only a few years. It was only in 2020 that Phương’s daughter, Hannah Hà, now in the USA, began to fully uncover her mother’s fantastic - if short lived - pop and rock career, leading her to Sublime Frequencies via their much-loved collection ‘Saigon Rock and Soul’, where Phương’s ‘Magical Night’ is a centrepiece, and whose title lends itself to this archival bonanza. Reaped from far flung collections thanks to the efforts of Hannah, plus Mark Gergis and a network of proper diggers, its 26 songs speak to Phương’s remarkable range which saw her in high demand at Saigon nightclubs and a regular in the recording studio, penning songs that would become popularised by others years later, after she exited stage left to marry her love and start a family, still against the backdrop of the Vietnam war.
After 55 years, Phương encountered many of her recordings for the first time since they made, thanks to the compilation process. Including 25 of her known 30 recordings, the set proves her natural dexterity at both driving, early rock ’n roll, and a fine vein of sultrier jazz soul ballads, and crucially with influence from traditional Vietnamese melodies in parts. We find ourselves most snagged on the likes of her strolling bewt ‘Đêm Huyền Diệu’ with its haunting woodwind and choral backing, and likewise the smokier sashay of ‘Ngày Phép Của Lính’ or ‘Buồn Lên Thành Phố’ and ‘Lá Thư’ just drip with timeless elegance, whereas the likes of her slinkily infectious ’60 Năm’ and the reverberating surf rock licks of ‘Tình Mơ’ surely scream late night good times.
Legendary balearic disco and house player DJ Harvey adjusts the temperature on his 3rd volume of peachy picks for Ibiza’s Pikes
Named after his residency at the seminal Ibizan hotel, ‘The Sound Of Mercury Rising Vol. III’ packs 16 prime, and as yet (at time of writing) undisclosed, cuts of glistening yacht boogie, star-eyed house, debonaire boogie disco and blissed out downstrokes. We’ll be honest, we can only ID Twice of Love’s sexy New Beat ace ’24 Hours From Culture’, but we’d love to know what that 10 minute closer is. Trust it’s all bound to get you unbuttoned and feeling dead glam. Add your own pool and cocktail bar for best effect.
Raster mark their 25th anniversary with Greek composer Novi_sad’s epic episode of elemental field recordings made on five continents and sculpted into thunderous and sublime scapes.
Rooted in Greek mythology, ‘Κεραυνóς’ is composed of environmental recordings made in Oceania (Tarkine Forests), Asia (Okinawa), Europe (Ancient Olympia and Iceland), Africa (Uganda, Botswana and Namibia), and America (Amazon rainforest and Niagara Falls) to impressionistically relate a mythos that connects Gods of thunder from Greek, Celtic, Slavic, Norse, Finnish, Indian, Chinese and Roman traditions. Aye, it doesn’t sweat the small stuff, and tends to the broadest frame of references for a release befitting of Raster’s lofty reputation.
The five durational works obliquely and evocatively elicit their subject by means of textural inference and timbral nuance; Oceania’s Tarkine forest recordings result a wall of nocturnal bird calls that become soused in flames and give way to lush aftermath; location sounds of Okinawa form a rich blanket of insectoid chatter that sounds like recordings of cicadas slowed 1000%; the various locations of Europe are knitted into a transition from foreboding low end to sublime noise; the Africa piece offers the most haunting, suspenseful scenes of warbling drone wow and flutter; and America’s transformed sounds rainforest squall and cascading water are pregnant with portent.
Veteran sonic alchemist BJ Nilsen returns with a Sartre-influenced hall of mirrors, using recognizable elements (voices, trains, bells, birds etc) to create fantasy "irreal" soundscapes struck thru with beauty, intrigue and mischief. Chris Watson and Lawrence English devotees take note!
Swedish sound artist Nilsen has spent almost two decades impressing us with his skillful blend of environmental recordings and deep drone. His '06 collaboration with Chris Watson, "Storm", is a classic, and his records with Icelandic duo Stilluppsteypa remain some of the experimental canon's most slept-on tomes. "Irreal" is Nilsen's most impressive solo work in a while, combining his philosophy of sound with evocative field recordings and engrossing deep listening experimentation.
Using recordings from Austria, Russia, South Korea, Belgium and The Netherlands, Nilsen creates fresh, unique landscapes that exist in neither one place nor another. Insects and birds hum in the distance, snow crunches, grass blows in the wind, but this isn't documentary, it's pure fantasy. The environmental sounds form a textural landscape for Nilsen's careful synth work, and drones and wobbling rhythmic sequences ping in-and-out of the more recognizable sounds.
This is meditative music, created with a distinctly philosophical concept in mind. The title is taken from a Sartre quote, and the music is intended to investigate the effect natural sounds have on humans. On the epic almost 40-minute closing track 'Beyond Pebbles, Rubble and Dust', Nilsen's ideas come together with the force of an orchestra. In less capable hands, this would fall into "power ambient" traps, but Nilsen only teeters on the edge of the extreme, never allowing his slow-building composition to overwhelm the cautious, complex palette. It's a masterclass, honestly.
Bewitching magnum opus from Lotic, arriving at her definitive album statement with 3rd LP ‘Water’ after helping reassert avant-club dimensions over the past decade.
A dramatic tour de force, ‘Water' is dominated by the confident appearance of Lotic's operatic R&B vocals, lending a vaulted new perspective and embellishment of ravishing electronic backdrops. She arrives at this point after spending the last decade moving from the USA to Germany, and co-founding the influential clubnight Janus in Berlin, where her adventurous DJ sets helped redraw boundaries of contemporary, queer club music and beyond.
Björk is also big fan, enlisting Lotic’s remix skills for the ‘Vulnicura’ album produced with Lotic’s peer Arca, but recent years have seen Lotic withdraw from the release schedule to spend time on this, the most ambitious realisation of a style that transcends club and home listening distinctions and places her music in a loftier dimension of avant-R&B.
Song to song, Lotic's soaring vocals take on an aqueous quality, variously processed into emotional cascades or shimmering passages, with strings and rhythms also allowed to slosh with a freedom of meter that stems from formative classical training. Embodying a siren like character, she summons the storm with ‘Wet’ and makes great use of what sounds like water drumming in the tremulous ‘Emergency’, while binding the club and classical dimensions in a lush manner on ‘Always You’ that also informs the Ariel/aeriel inversion of ‘Apart.’
Her theatric arrangements ultimately come to a head with the final strokes, on the woodwind and Reese bass mise-en-scene of ‘Oblivious’ channelling a sort of Klaus Nomi cabaret for the Berghain generation, while the spotlighted vocals of ‘Diamond’ give way to a killer orchestral death drop and windswept drums that epitomise her grasp of dramaturgy and heightened classical sensitivities.
Songs of resistance and gratitude in a Latin pop mode from Chicago’s Dos Santos, one of the longest running groups on International Anthem Recording Company.
Vintage-sounding, but polished to modern tastes, ‘City Of Mirrors’ feature the septet playing to their latin heritage in a style that will appeal to all members of the extended family. It’s rich with melody and impassioned vocals, driven by coolly urgent tresillo rhythms and equally given to elegiac ballads that wouldn’t sound out of place in a Lynch flick, as it is to party-gathering bops and jangling, psychy, indie-rock verve.
"Cinematic in its journey, the album was produced by multimedia artist and long-time friend of the band Elliot Bergman (NOMO, Wild Belle), and reflects sounds from across the Americas combined with Chavez’s compelling poetic narratives. Its 13 tracks consolidate the band’s unique identities, creative and cultural roots, and their penchant for honoring traditional Latinx music with contemporary compositional expressions and production techniques. It achieves the band’s mission to push against their own musical boundaries while also exploring themes of social justice, immigration, and contemporary human struggle.
Chavez, a scholar who has produced albums for Smithsonian Folkways and conducted extensive ethnographic work on the music of the Texan US/Mexican borderlands (where he is from), articulates beautifully: “City of Mirrors is an assemblage… glimpses of tradition… reflections on our collective present… luminous echoes between love and solitude, hope and absurdity, euphoria and mourning. This album grapples with and transgresses these binaries because we have/and continue to cross borders. Yet, for us, the border is no metaphor — too much real staring back at us. We embody the border. We (our families) have crossed it. We (our stories) are coated with its residues. And so… we cross the border of self through our art – out of necessity.”"
‘Morton Feldman Piano’ is a major 5CD collection of virtually all of Feldman’s music for piano, performed by Philip Thomas with a tactility befitting of this extraordinary, quiet, intimate music. It’s the most extensive survey of Feldman’s piano music since John Tilbury’s long unavailable 4-CD set was released 20 years ago, including several pieces which weren’t included there, and three works which have never been released on disc before at all.
Feldman was part of a radical group of experimenters, alongside the likes of John Cage, Christian Wolff and Earle Brown, who looked beyond the strictures of serialism to innovative with and embrace aspects of chance and “indeterminacy” in their compositions. Most often associated with the piano, Feldman is perhaps best known for his perceptively time-slowing later works, but this boxset presents the widest angle possible on his approach to the piano, spanning surprisingly cranky recordings from the 1940s thru to the exquisite delicacy of his acclaimed ‘Triadic Memories’ and ultimately ‘Palais de Mari’ in 1986. Feldman died in 1987, leaving behind a remarkable catalogue that has previously been tackled by John Tilbury in the 4CD set ‘All Piano’ (1999), which is now long out of print and trades for triple figures on the 2nd hand market, making this boxset of Philip Thomas’ Feldman interpretations an even more indispensable collection.
Accompanied by pianist Philip Thomas’ lucubrate and extensive book of notes on Feldman’s music, its development, unique notation, and his close personal relationship with it, ‘Morton Feldman Piano’ methodically and artfully unpackages the great composer’s often forbiddingly vast oeuvre for anyone looking for a way in or seeking to enrich their knowledge of his life and work. In great depth, Thomas writes about Feldman’s holistic approach, recognising the connection between ears, mind, and fingertips which resulted in the music’s quietly extreme dynamic, and which singularly revolutionised historic approaches to the instrument thru the artist’s attempt at refusing attack in the notes - essentially a near-impossible idea when considering that the piano is a percussive instrument, and needs to be hit to be played. The sensitivity of the results are quite astonishing, and most beautifully executed and evidenced in Thomas’ playing throughout all 31 pieces included.
While the later works will be well known to even the casual Feldman follower, and are sure to entrance newcomers, his early and mid-period works between the late ‘40s and into the ‘60s provide a fascinating grounding for his sound and style, ranging from a solemnly inquisitive ‘Untitled piano piece’ (1942) to the almost jazzy flourishes of ‘Illusions’ (1949), thru to his increasingly sparser ‘Music for the film ‘Sculpture by Lipton’’ (1954), and up to the barely there ‘Piano Piece’ (1964) before he took a 13 year hiatus from writing for solo piano (although he would still write parts for piano in larger ensembles), only returning to it with ‘Piano’ (1977).
Yet for all the technicality and philosophy surrounding Feldman’s compositional process, it remains to be said that his music is strikingly easy on the ear. With a little focus and patience in the right mindset, Feldman’s music has the capacity to lead the thinking mind into unusual places, and as his catalogue proceeds, it becomes an increasing pleasure to find the notes flickering, illuminating contrasts with the shadows of his lacunae.