Unmissable introduction to Zimbabwean-British percussionist Lori Vambe - a one-time bandmate of Michael O’Shea in The Healing Drums of Brixton! - compiled from a pair of hard-to-find 1982 self releases sure to pique keen interest from fans of Nana Vasconceles, Harry Partch, Moondog
Arguably a new name to many of us, Lori Vambe was a distinctive component of London’s experimental underground since the ’70s, when he participated in the early squatters movement that provided sanctuary to a wave of non-commercial and outsider musicians. Born in Harare to a noted journalist and author, Lawrence Vambe, and moving to London in 1959, Lori Vambe, we’re told, became immersed in the same Brixton squat scene that fostered the likes of Bourbonese Qualk and Michael O’Shea, whom it is revealed on this comp’s liner notes for the first time, was his bandmate, along with sculptor Alexander Sokolov, in short-lived trio The Healing Drums of Brixton.
We’re frankly floored by this new nugget of info and would kill to hear recordings of that trio, as we had already imagined links to O’Shea after first listen of ‘Space-Time Dreamtime’, whose free-flowing rhythmelodic meter and judicious use of FX on custom built kit, the Vambez stringdrum or drumgita (pronounced: drum guitar), patently recall an Afro-bluesier modal adjunct to the freedoms of O’Shea’s incredible improvisations.
Compiling material from Vambe’s pair of 1982 private pressings for his Drumony Records, ‘Drumgita Solo’ and ‘Drumland Dreamland’, the 20-track set comprehensively plunges us into Vambe’s attempts to access an imagined fourth dimension according to his own form of string theory. Entwined with FX and layered in overdubs and improvised piano by Brazilian Rafael Dos Santos, Vambe’s music runs ravishingly free with the spirit of an autodidact finely attuned to their own vision. In that sense Vambe’s approach is comparable to the likes of Moondog’s modal street blues, Harry Partch’s musical weltanschauung, Julius Eastman’s ceaseless drive or the fluid buzz of Nana Vasconcelos’ berimbau, but aesthetically, umbilically indebted to his African heritage.
Clearly that lack of training in the field was no impediment to Vambe’s urge to express themselves, resulting in hypnotic, shifting patterns on the course from his Afro-Latin classical sway in ‘Drumming (One)’, to deeply furrowed vibing on ‘Drumgita’, spellbinding reversed loops on ‘(One) Boogie Going Home’ and ‘Ydolemurd’ and pure percussive ecstasies in ‘hum Drum Dring (Two) (The Freedom Song)’.
Animal Collective's umpteenth full-length leans fully into their proggiest inclinations, grazing a century of American musical styles with Renaissance instrumentation, peaking on a wailing, 22-minute epic. Ambitious and eccentric as ever, then.
For all their indie popularity, Animal Collective have always been a bit like Marmite. Their early folk-y run was zanier than the output of their more po-faced peers, and as they've limped into middle age, the band has embraced their wackiest ideas. 'Isn't It Now?' is their most Animal Collective album yet, staggering from doo-wop and soft rock into disco and psychedelic jazz - everything wrapped up in the aesthetics of '70s prog. If that sounds annoying, this one probably won't be for you, but if you fancy hearing what Procol Harem might have sounded like if they'd been raised in Baltimore on a diet of Hot Cheetos, gas station Delta-9 and Kool Aid, then you should keep reading.
Early single 'Soul Capturer' starts us off, but for our money it's the album's weakest link - too close to their earlier hits to pull into more novel territory. They get going in earnest with 'Genie's Open', a slippery '60s psych burner that's blessed with all the horns, gentle trap kit pops and wobbly vocal harmonies you'd expect from a band that's just spent an endless summer finding themselves in India. 'Magicians From Baltimore' is even dizzier, a break-y fog of vintage vamps, raspy and wonked phaser-heavy vocals, but it's 'Defeat' that'll attract most attention - 22 minutes of drone and church organ twinkles, that cuts into a jaunty sing-along romp in the central section.
Elsewhere, the trio tries its hand at vintage disco with 'All The Clubs Are Broken', singing like lost bards with a Space Echo over the expected flurry of kicks 'n claps. And they have a crack at early music with 'King's Walk', sounding like Paul Simon in the process. It's a mixed bag, but you can't fault them for having lofty goals.
Split-release double album featuring brand new works from Midori Takada and SHHE.
Japanese marimba legend Midori Takada wrote this new trio of pieces for the V&A Dundee's main Locke Hall, working with architect Kengo Kuma to fill his space with magical wooden reverberations. It's been gratifying to see Takada's music finally attract the attention it deserves. The Japanese ambient innovator has been working on her personal sound for decades, releasing two acclaimed albums with Mkwaju Ensemble in 1981 before she penned her enduring solo debut 'Through the Looking Glass'. And thanks to the mysterious power of the YouTube algorithm, that album captured the imagination of a new generation of listeners, helped by a legion of contemporary acolytes like Visible Cloaks, H.Takahashi and Chihei Hatakeyama. This surge of popularity led to collaborations with Lafawndah and Bottega Veneta, and a handful of new releases and reissues, and no doubt prompted this collaboration with V&A Dundee.
'MSCTY & V&A Dundee' is a suite of three new compositions for marimba, and is relatively restrained for Takada. The chilly, layered soundscapes of her last album 'Cutting Branches For A Temporary Shelter' are all but gone, and her bare percussion is left to ring into the void, something no doubt inspired by the space she was asked to respond to. The pieces were played in the gallery's Locke Hall, that's clad with wooden panels, so Takada's choice to use only woodblock sounds is canny. Even hearing it outside of its intended space, the music evokes a sense of humble awe. Takada's playing is deft and skillful, but never overwhelmingly technical. And her tuned, wooden knocks are perfectly fitting - for music originally designed to accompany a designated environment, it's an ideal commission.
"Triggerd by the sounds of the water around the V&A Dundee, with the music reacting to the movement of the pools and the tides, SHHE's transcendental 45-minute work is also inspired by the rugged exterior of the museum architecture, and its location by the River Tay."
Avant folk-jazz-blues visionary Matana Roberts braids American and African-American history and music in a remarkable 5th chapter to her epic, ongoing 12-part cycle - co-produced by TV on the Radio’s Kyp Malone, overseen by the spirit of Jaimie Branch (RIP), and performed by her 11-piece ensemble.
Four years since Chapter 4, NYC-based reeds player, composer/improvisor and bandleader Matana summons her consummate strengths in collaboration to spearhead a sprawling, riveting narrative centring American history through “ancestry, archive and place”. Now 21 years since she starred on Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s ‘Yanqui U.X.O.’, and a dozen since she committed to the ‘Coin Coin’ odyssey, Matana draws upon an inimitable reading of links between folk music, jazz and blues, avant garde concrète and hip hop collage to realise a uniquely immersive style of musical storytelling. The 16 parts mazily oscillate and elide instrumental and spoken word parts with experimental classical techniques and staging according to a finely honed instinct and politicised logic that highlights the plight of her ancestors who died from illegal abortions, and how that issue remains relevant at a time when reproductive rights are once again under attack.
Where previous chapters have leaned into free jazz and post-rock (Chapter One), or noise collage (Chapter Three), Matana’s 5th instalment hustles a new ensemble, steeped in post-rock, improvisation, new music and avant-rock, for a record that sees all her circles bleed. Matana’s vocals guide the album, mostly in spoken word form, but reserving the right to rage when combined with her own horns, harmonicas, and percussion, plus her ensemble; fellow alto saxophonist Darius Jones, violinist Mazz Swift (Silkroad Ensemble, D’Angelo), bass clarinettist Stuart Bogie (TV On The Radio, Antibalas), alto clarinettist Matt Lavelle (Eye Contact, Sumari), pianist Cory Smythe (Ingrid Laubrock, Anthony Braxton), vocalist/actor Gitanjali Jain and percussionists Ryan Sawyer (Thurston Moore, Nate Wooley) and Mike Pride (Pulverize The Sound, MDC).
Fixed in place with synths and coproduction by Kyp Malone, found miles away from his pop-rock with TV on the Radio, ‘Coin Coin Chapter’ sees the story grow in scope and intensity. Additional inspirations ranging from Cage and Fluxus to the holistic practice of Maryanne Amacher’s otoacoustic compositions prompt Matana as much as the palpable influence of Mississippi fife & drums blues that perfuse the record from ‘we said’ to its closer ‘...ain't i. ...your mystery is our history’. The results are intricate and engrossing thanks to Matana’s discipline and liberating spirit, most poignantly in her adaptation of plantation song ‘but i never heard a sound so long’ and her ability to wrest a quizzical optimism from dark subject matter on album denouement ‘for they do not know’.
Rare earth materials, not to be treated lightly.
Kampala's Nihiloxica challenge the UK's draconian immigration system on 'Source of Denial', using twitchy Bugandan rhythms to lead a suite of sludgy, technoid mutations that are more Lightning Bolt than Luke Slater.
“We wanted to create the sense of being in the endless, bureaucratic hell-hole of attempting to travel to a foreign country that deems itself superior to where you’re from," Nihiloxica say in the accompanying press release. The band had their UK tour canceled in 2022, and recently performed a pared-down show as only three of the five members were able to enter the country. It's given them plenty of indignation to chew on that provides 'Source of Denial' with its barbed edges. And they've never sounded more charged; the band's self-titled debut neatly introduced their fusion of Bugandan percussion, kit drums and synths, but this record advances the sound significantly.
'Asidi' is an immediate highlight, tumbling from fictile traditional drums and wonky, expressionistic electronics into full-on, sweaty 'ardkore with the huge stabs and breathless breakdowns to prove it. The title track is even twitchier, a bizarre prog-metal mashup that uses distorted synths and heavily amped kit drums to recast the Bugandan ngoma percussion as frothy rolls that keep the momentum going as the rest of the band slog it out at half tempo. Thankfully it's not all balls-to-the-wall biz either; 'Postloya' is a relatively meditative cut, breathing between its percussive flurries and spicing up the gaps with glassy FM chimes, and 'Trip Chug' goes even further into the abyss, obscuring the band's rhythms with filters and turning pulsing drums into humid, anxious drones until they burst out mid-way through.
But Nihiloxica impress most when they're on familiar ground. The schizophrenic Bugandan techno flair of 'Baganga' gives us the kind of idiosyncratic energy that's made the band's live shows so notorious, and on 'Olutobazzi' they manipulate and skew the kind of hypnotic, trippers' tech that Donato Dozzy has spent a lifetime perfecting. Very strong.
NYC’s andPlay string duet, Maya Bennardo (violin) & Hannah Levinson (viola), perform respective works in just intonation, on Sheffield label Another Timbre
‘Translucent Harmonies’ showcases work by a handful of composers and players working within new music and composition, who have emerged in the past decade. It is testament to the mutability of andPlay in interpreting Catherine Lamb’s ‘Prisma Interius VIII (Melodic Duo)’, a reduction of her original piece for six players, intending tofuse outside and interior worlds, and the curious cadence of ‘Vid stenmuren blir tanken blomma’, a fully notated piece by Sweden’s XKatedral alum, whose work recently appeared on ‘Anthology Series I (An Anthology Of Slowly Evolving Timbral Music)’.
The label could do a little better at providing some background to ‘Prisma Interius VIII (Melodic Duo)’, whose original iteration appears to derive from Lamb & Bryan Eubanks’ innovative Secondary Rainbow Synth - an instrument that uses the live environment beyond the performance space to generate noise for the players to respond to. We’re not sure if that’s the case here but the spectral 23 min performance in captivating on its own merits, at least. Working with the fixed notation of Svensson’s composition, the pair yield 40 minutes of music fragmented with lacunæ and sympathetic to negative space, rustically folkwise melodies building then receding in a manner that melts one’s temporality and heightens spatial awareness.
Apartment House perform a revised arrangement to Jürg Frey’s beautifully melancholic 2017 composition for Sheffield based new music bastion, Another Timbre.
’String Trio’ is presented here in its “final” form by Apartment House’s Mira Benjamin (violin), Bridget Carey (viola), and ensemble director Anton Lukoszevieze (cello), the latter of whom recently performed Jack Sheen’s ‘Solo for Cello’ on Trilogy Tapes. The piece was originally commissioned by the Concertgebouw Brugge and premiered by Goeyvaerts Trio as part of the 2019 SLOW Festival, but the composer felt “that it hadn’t yet arrived at its final destination” and returned it to the drawing board, reapplying his un-systematic composition process to result this new iteration, by one of the UK’s most esteemed and prolific performers of new composition, following their 2022 articulation of Frey’s ‘Borderland Memories’.
This first recording of the newly finished work sensitively brings to light its calm architecture of genteel melancholy, typically paced with Frey’s singular temporality and sympathetic to his working methods. From the stark, long opening cello notes to the explicit romantic heartache of its closing minutes, the 47’ work is defined by a contemplative pensiveness familiar to Frey’s work and starkly apparent here. It’s not so much mournful as wracked with a sense of despondence, with a continuity of tonal atmosphere that follows the composer’s deliberate line of thought, with little left to chance as the process of refinement saw him clarify questions that arose from its initial performances. Strong, controlled feelings articulated with intense, disciplined passion.
Éliane Radigue’s momentous first composition for an acoustic instrument, recorded in 2006 in close collaboration with cellist Charles Curtis, is presented in a new remaster and paired with Curtis’ engaging 2020 recording, both embracing the infidelities of the elusive ‘wolf tone’
A masterclass in control and the cosmic clinamen, ‘Naldjorlak’ is Éliane Radigue & Charles Curtis’ meticulous investigation into the physical and philosophic properties of resonance. The piece is famously the first written by Radigue for an acoustic instrument after nearly a half century working exclusively with electronic synths and tape. However, it also directly follows a line of enquiry from her search for the elusive partials - an element of feedback produced by closely related pitches - in that medium, to an investigation of the ‘wolf tone’; a phenomenon of warbling instability that occurs in some bowed instruments, most famously the cello, and is commonly considered undesirable, yet which in Radigue and Curtis’ hands becomes a point of fixation and portal into sound beyond more earthly conceptions of music. It is a fascinating study in liminality, the dark matter of sound, and states of mind produced by deep concentration, and holds among the avant garde’s important, groundbreaking works.
From Gascia Ouzounian’s liner notes: “Even as it expands conceptions of what sound is, and thus what music can be, to understand Naldjorlak only as music would be to limit its scope. It is music, but it is also physics and philosophy. Naldjorlak is a detailed investigation of the physical properties of resonating bodies and dynamic systems; it is a meditation on the condition of instability; it is a metaphysics of chaos and uncertainty.”
Presented on Saltern, the LA label run by Tashi Wada, and which issued Charles Curtis’ remarkable ‘Performances & Recordings 1998-2018’; the two performances of ‘Naldjorlak’, recorded in Paris, 2006, and LA, 2020 represent the mutability of the work and its attempt to grasp the unknowable. Both centre exclusively around the wolf tone’s fuzzed burr but differ in their nature, with the earlier one defined by a relative tussle with the tone’s growl, a contrast that becomes apparent in the tantric, tongue-tip edging of the 2nd. Both feel like Curtis is deeply connected to Éliane’s ideas and endeavouring to best represent them, finely taming the instrument’s clinamen, or cosmic urge toward chaos, and with seat edge effect that, in both cases, practically knocks us ours when the pieces tip over at breaking points deep into the hour. Collected, they are the definition of deferred gratification in key with Éliane’s buddhist beliefs, and richly rewarding listening for those with the time and patience the music deserves.
Rupert Clervaux and Dania loop fragments of Verdi's 'La forza del destino' on this ambitious 77-minute album, spicing them with improvised vocals, tape delays, drums and shruti box drones.
Dania and Clervaux have been friends for some time now, and decided to collaborate last year after a mini-tour in the UK. The starting point was an unfinished drone piece that Clervaux had been working for some time on, assembled using sections of Verdi's supposedly cursed opera 'La forza del destino'. Passing the material through tape delays and adding sub bass and shruti box drones, he'd reached an impasse, so handed the composition to Dania, who added wordless vocals in her Barcelona studio. This helped the duo visualize the lengthy piece as a finished album, and the result is a continuous, steadily evolving hum of subtle harmony that's split into five movements.
The record begins slowly and as quietly as a whisper, showing its genesis with awkward splintered samples that sound almost formless until they're smudged into a billowing drone. It's a smart introduction, and while it's long (this first part stretches out over almost 22 minutes) it's intriguing to hear the development so nakedly. Dania's voice makes its entrance on the second segment, and the record's direction immediately shifts; drowned in reverb, Dania sounds as if she's wailing in a dewy cavern, the miasmic drones crystalizing on the walls.
The third part introduces drums, leaving the fourth and fifth sections to bring everything together. The fourth part is the album's gorgeous centerpiece, just over 12 minutes of soaring vocals that melt into the pillowy ambience, and the fifth is a delayed crescendo, reminding us of everything we've heard. Patient listening is rewarded with this one.
Obscure futurist funk brilliance from a pivotal and hugely influential era of Afro-American music that now seems all too distant in the rearview - choice cuts for the jazz-funk dancers and breakers
‘Space Funk 2: Afro Futurist Electro Funk in Space 1976-84’ hails the roots of what would become rap and dance music, scanning a stylistically diverse black cohort who applied the funk to machines. For context, this was an era post freedoms won during the civl rights era, when the space program was in full effect, and alienated African Americans were using newly affordable electronic gear to express identity and move asses in new ways. The sort of stuff that fuelled parties in US cities, and reached the UK via imports and select few DJs who spun the music in Afro-British stronghold cities to mixed crowds, massively influencing a whole generation in the process.
Not hard to hear how thrilling this highly stylised stuff must have been when compared with the hoary glam and prog rock that preceded it, and in contrast to the thrash and spittle of punk. We’re talking killers such as Maggotron’s impossible to find ‘Computer Pop’, a sorta ruder answer to Herbie Hancock’s ‘Rockit’ from the preceding year, and the tuff, angular boogie squelch of ‘Breakdance’ primed for kids in tracks on the lino outside the local shopping precinct, and the sort of futurist swag in Mid City Crew’s ‘Get Right’ and the snappy electro of ‘Video Control’ by X-Ray Vision that would have fuelled the imaginations of Electrifying Mojo or Gerald Donald, and proper rug-cutters in Rich Cason and The Galactic Orchestra’s ‘Year 2001 Boogie’ and the vocoder funk of Alien Starr’s ‘Music-a-Lizer’.
‘Elistism For The People 1975-1978’ is a four-disc ‘bookback’ set featuring excerpts from the Pere Ubu scrapbook 75-82, written by David Thomas, including historical photos.
"It features the seismic debut album ‘Modern Dance’, it’s follow up ‘Dub Housing’ and ‘The Hearpen Singles’ and the incendiary ‘Live At Max’s Kansas City’. The set collects the bracing and brilliant Pere Ubu in their earliest incarnation, with the devasting one-two knockout blow of 1978 studio bookends.
As vital as ever, no band before or since has ever sounded like Pere Ubu - period."
Soberly perceptive and quietly measured studies in pitch and tuning by Seamus Cater, re-sounding the groundbreaking research of Victorian polymath Alexander J. Ellis, a pioneer in expanding Western conceptions of tuning with his custom-built instruments
“In 1880, Alexander J. Ellis presented a paper, The History of Musical Pitch, to the Royal Society in London. Alongside the extensive footnotes in his English translation, the pitch history was also included in the translator’s appendix of On the Sensations of Tone by Hermann L.F. Helmholtz. The 74 tuning forks used in these pieces were tuned to represent the research of Ellis, where he succeeded in gathering 223 instances of the note ‘A’ from intact historical organs and assorted instruments and makers. These ‘A’s’ ranged between what we now call F# and C#.
Ellis was a measurer. As mathematician and inventor of the musical cent, philologist, collector and translator, he is commonly thought of as the initiator of comparative musicology, but what I looked for around all this data were traces of his private musicality. I knew he had been an amateur performer, who had demonstrated airs at the Royal Society with his experimentally tuned concertinas. While he didn’t leave us any music, I wondered if he might have considered how these pitches would sound, united in a single room or building. Vaguely resembling the Scheibler Tonometer, which he used to measure Victorian instruments, these 74 forks were tuned in just ratios of 480Hz. They make up a system comprising only one note name. A History of Musical Pitch tries to focus the most consonant tones of the system, moving slowly through an historical timeline of 1495 to 1880.
Checking is more concerned with the act of checking each fork with an instrument, an inversion of checking the instrument with a tuning fork. Musicians who brought their instruments to Ellis for measuring had to maintain a pitch for 20 seconds, which was unreasonably lengthy for the period, so that he could check their tone against a suitable fork from his tonometer. When the closest tuned fork produced the least beatings, a chronograph was needed to calculate the frequency. I like to think Ellis might also have used a concertina or a double bass to check the ‘A’s he encountered, to compare them to his own ‘A’ string or reed, and to see whether holding pitches for such periods could in fact be musical. The cover artwork is a painting of Epping Forest by Ellis’s son, the painter Tristram James Ellis.
Seamus Cater (July 2022)”
All-time classic, life-changing biz.
Mark Ernestus and Moritz Von Oswald already set the world ablaze once, twice, three, four times with their work as Basic Channel and its legendary offshoots by way of the M series, Main Street, Chain Reaction, Rhythm and Sound and, of course, Burial Mix.
This is, in fact, the second Burial Mix compilation, the first "showcase" concentrating on the label's collaborations with Paul St Hilaire, aka Tikiman, for its opening set of releases. This second installment divides itself into Vocal and Instrumental "Versions" (the instrumentals are collected seperately on a "Versions" release), displaying the last seven releases in their entirety, plus "Mash Down Babylon" (a new take on "March Down Babylon").
Catherine Lamb captivates with three works for voice and strings, ascetically focussed on timbral thizz and overtones with minimalist but radiant results.
Lamb is a noted composer and has collaborated with Eliane Radigue, Julia Holter and Phill Niblock among many others. ’parallaxis forma’ is Lamb’s first solo release since 2021’s ‘Muto Infinitas’ for Another Timbre, and features three works performed by Explore Ensemble and Exaudi Music Ensemble, under the direction of Nicolas Moroz and James Weeks, respectively. All works derive a certain sensuality from her personalised process working with layered phonemes, alternately set to string quartet, a mixed septet of wind, tuned glasses and electric guitar, and more simply layered and left floating in air. Her use of overtones is eerily spellbinding and sure to snag more curious ears.
‘color residua’ pitches a string quartet in asymmetry to Exaudi Music Ensemble’s voices - Juliet Fraser (soprano), Cathy Bell (mezzo-soprano), Michael Hickman (baritone) - in a four part movement where composite melody emerges between the singers and strings. The other work for voice and instruments, ‘parallaxis forma’ (2016) is more tentative - underlining the haunting overtones produced by Berlin-based Australian singer Lotte Betts-Dean. Although ‘pulse/shade’ (2014) sounds like a piece for multiple voices, it features Betts-Dean clear, solo enunciation of the phonemes layered into the release’s most enchanting piece, free like ambient music but with an ascetic rigour key to its appeal.
Shore-to-shore etheric dub techno bliss by Italian pioneer Gigi Masin and Detroit’s Rod Modell of DeepChord, beautifully consolidating their respective aesthetics on two durational trips
For many listeners of a sanguine disposition, ‘Red Hair Girl At Lighthouse Beach’ is a marriage made in ambient heaven. The two pieces find them at a certain position in their career arcs where both are particularly porous to collaborative energies, and are now understandably brought together by Silentes’ 13 series. With Gigi beaming from the shores of the Venetian lagoon, and Modell transmitting from the lakes of Michigan, they arrive at a sympathetic union of floating choral castles in the sky buoyed by systolic subbass thrum and bathed in moonlight.
The titular piece sees Modell take the lead with his signature, hearty bass underlining and propelling the hazed out choral pads and ephemeral traces of Masin’s guitar for much of its 20 minute breadth, before fading out and letting the harmonic thizz and tackling field recordings wash over. It would appear that Masin takes the lead on ’Summer Morning at Lighthouse Beach’, where they jettison the bass anchor and diffuse the tremulous electric guitar into shoreside mist, layering lens flare chords and gracefully lapping choral elements into a sustained, heart-in-mouth effect.
The 25th Anniversary Edition of Duster's Stratosphere.
"Best listened to from inside the womb, Duster’s 1998’s debut Stratosphere simultaneously capped off and reinvented the slow core’s first wave. A four track dreamscape that will wake the neighbors and then lull them back to sleep. Hazy, arpeggiated guitars layer over a deliberate drummer with no real place to be, as semi-inaudible vocals warn of millennial malaise and subtly encourage the listener to “rock out, rock out, rock out, rock out.” This foil stampled and numbered 25th anniversary edition is pressed on 180G vinyl and comes with a lyric sheet and poster."
Available on vinyl for the first time in almost 20 years, Bowery Electric's self-titled first album offers a view of shoegaze from across the Atlantic, where New Yorkers Lawrence Chandler and Martha Schwendener combined MBV's enigmatic noise with the inscrutable drugginess of Krautrock.
Bowery Electric's most canonical moment came in 1996 with the sample-heavy 'Beat', but that shouldn't give you an excuse to sleep on their vital, sonorous early material. They released 'Bowery Electric' only shortly earlier in 1995, drowning out Chandler and Schwendener's almost indistinguishable vocals in guitar noise and feedback. Their sound at this stage was undoubtedly rooted in the UK's moodiest, dreamiest shoegaze gear - think Slowdive, Lush and My Bloody Valentine - but Bowery Electric didn't seem interested in breaking through into the mainstream. While their British peers were signing to larger indies and being raked over hot coals by a catty, ambivalent music press, they inked a deal with Chicago's Kranky and found themselves alongside proto-post-rock giants like Labradford, Roy Montgomery and Jessamine.
Listening now, their rugged guitar drones and sparse rhythms harmonise well with Flying Saucer Attack and later Popol Vuh as much as the poppier Creation set. This material would go on to provide a creative lifeline to bands like Windy and Carl and Godspeed You Black Emperor!, suggesting a level of hollowed-out ambience that would later define the Kranky label. And it still sounds fresh, never breaking from its levitational mood for a moment, whether Chandler and Schwendener flirt with beatless soundscapes on 'Over and Over' or jerky, Spacemen 3-inspired psychedelia on the extended 'Slow Thrills'. The most enduring moment comes right at the end, the aptly titled 'Drift Away', a hazed, meditative droner that can be filed alongside Sonic Youth's head-mashing 'The Diamond Sea'. So good.
Bureau B profile the fertile DIY tape scene of East Germany prior to the wall falling on their latest compilation.
Picking up on the themes of Mannequin’s under-rated 2016 KlangFarbe primer, Bureau B widen the scope to profile 14 bands active in East Germany’s DIY tape scene in the last few years before the GDR was dissolved in 1990.
The strict State measures in place demanded these musicians flirt with prosecution to establish the self-distribution networks that proliferated their work on cassette, and it also cultivated the disillusion and despair that resulted in some startlingly creative work. The seeds of so much to follow are evident throughout ‘Magnetband’ as Bureau B highlight work by musicians that largely released on cassette but would go on to form Raster Noton, Rammstein, Kuntskopf, To Rococo Rot and Tarwater.
The various KlangFarbe projects of Raster Noton founder Frank Bretschneider feature prominently throughout, with the hushed guitar freakout of his A.F. Moebius track Böser Traum the sort of thing you’d find in a Beau Wanzer mixtape. Beyond Bretschneider there is plenty to enjoy for the avid archivalist. Stoffwechsel’s Fly, Fliege, Fly sounds like John T. Gast after a weekend on the sensimilla, the brilliantly-named Choo Choo Flame deliver one of the shortest but most unnerving moments in the creeping ambient of Nein and Aponeuron’s Jab Gab Hej is a bracing slab of gurning EBM with added wookie screams.
Best of all perhaps is Gesichter’s SK 8 Gesichte which offers a dizzying frenzy of primitive sampling you’d mistake for early Hype W from Inga and Dean.
Brooding post-industrial tribalism and junglist prang-outs by London’s Kyyberwall featuring Susu Laroche and new for Milan’s Haunter Records.
Leading on from their 2022 debut with Xquisite Releases, Kyyberwall takes their menacing bristle to Haunter with a sort of soundtrack to imaginary places populated with the ghosts of Muslimgauze, Christoph de Babalon and Moin, resonating with like-minded aesthetics and spirits of Downwards’ Nonexistant or percussive warehouse/back alley/industrial zone disciplines of Vivid Oblivion and even Cut Hands.
There’s little melody or vocals to latch on to, but the info is all in the drums and the reverberating space between, with tracks ranging from the worm-charming bass and serpentine slither of ‘Not Far From The Tree’ on a Cut Hands tip, to bone-clak brukouts in ‘Gil Boy Son’ and the rictus twitch of ‘Underscore_’, with a standout in the silo-drumming thrum of ’55FF’ suffused with Susu Laroche’s wraithlike goth vox and suggestions of Arabic enigma, and swaggering post punk goth in ‘Drone Drum Function’.
Pharoah Sanders' painfully misunderstood 1976 spiritual jazz left turn has finally been officially reissued and remastered, with the vinyl and CD versions including two additional, tracks "Harvest Time Live", recorded in 1977. Crucial, cosmic material that opened the floodgates for a wave of ambient and new age jazz experimentation in the decades the followed.
They weren't ready for 'Pharoah' when it was originally released - the album's meditative sway of double bass, expressive low and slow sax, harmonium and gentle percussion fell on sharply critical ears, who preferred the bandleader's more virtuosic turns. Listening now, the 20-minute 'Harvest Time' sounds almost prophetic; taking inspiration from Alice Coltrane (the two had already collaborated extensively by the time this was recorded), Sanders crafts a levitational prayer that's informed by free jazz but not trapped by its aesthetic. His usual angular skronk is nowhere to be found on this opening side, lulled into a peaceful warble by Steve Neil's pointed bass plucks and Bedria Sanders' harmonium drones. And while in the mid '70s the track was considered unusual, its mostly beatless flex sounds completely in line with countless reductionist jazz exercises that have followed - most recently from artists like Nala Sinephro and Sam Gendel.
From the label:
"With Pharoah Sanders’ blessing, we present the definitive, remastered version of PHAROAH, his seminal record from 1977, in an embossed 2 LP box set. Alongside the original record, we’re including two previously unreleased live performances of his masterpiece, “Harvest Time," and a 24-page booklet with rarely seen photographs and ephemera, which tell the story of this album and this moment in Pharoah’s life in a way that has never been done before—including through interviews with many of the participants and a conversation with Pharoah himself.
For those of you who already know this record, then you know that its origin story is as elusive as Pharoah was about everything Pharoah. It was born out of a misunderstanding between him and the India Navigation producer Bob Cummins, and was recorded when he was at a crossroads in his career with an unlikely crew. Among them was a guitarist who was also a spiritual guru, an organist who would go on to co-write and produce “The Message,” and a classically trained pianist—his wife at the time, Bedria Sanders—who played the harmonium despite never having seen one. At times ambient and serene, at others funky and modal, PHAROAH radically departed from his earlier work. And it became beloved.
Last fall, we were working with Pharoah on this project when he unexpectedly passed away. At first, it was hard to know what to do. We loved him, and the reason you do all of this is not solely for the music, but also for the person who made it. It’s their personality, their humor, and their wishes that drive you forward. So, we decided to go deep into the research. We set out to create something that showed Pharoah and his music in a new light. For seasoned listeners and new acolytes both, Pharoah will never sound the same."
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
Sarah Davachi provides a shortcut to the sublime with 90 minutes of head stroking quiet music - simply unmissable for acolytes of Éliane Radigue, La Monte Young & Marian Zazeela, Kevin Drumm, Andrew Chalk, AFX’s 2nd ambient set
The 10-part retrospective ’Selected Works I & II’ is an ideal way to mark 10 years of releases by composer Sarah Davachi, whose blessed run of recordings of rare, quiet intensity hold among the past decade’s definitive lowkey works. As her legion followers will surely attest, Davachi’s music is possessed of a deeply uncanny potential to mesmerise and transport the mind to other places, following extended lines of melodic and harmonic thought, rooted in early music, chamber classical, and C.20th American minimalism, to the gauziest, most seductive new horizons of timbre and psychoacoustics.
As with her live shows, Davachi’s recorded music operates at, or just below, the speed of resting thought, with a life-affirming ability to sync one’s senses to hers, prompting the imagination to follow its own nose to wherever it goes. To attentively listen to her work can result in genuine, unfettered zen-like or immanent experience, untroubled by the musical clutter that can distract or more plainly signpost emotions, and give listeners a thruline to the sublime, as felt strongly on ‘Selected Works I & II’,
Drawn from material that predates her debut ‘The Untuning of the Sky’ (2013), and also hail from it, as well as excerpted from subsequent live recordings, tape and CD releases, and a precious trove of unreleased work; it all adds up to the sort of release we would direct newcomers as a perfect primer or portal to Davachi’s world. The calming course of ‘Alms Vert’ opens this set, as it did her debut, staking out her fluency of ancient instrumental tongue in contemporary vernacular, while the just intoned drone of ‘In Grand Luxe Hall’ places her in a live context, exploring links between architecture, psychoacoustics, and spirit that ideally reveals the teeth to her music, somehow akin to the drone chronics of Catherine Christer Hennix. The ‘Gathers’ parts from her lockdown tape for our Documenting Sound series characterises a contemporary porousness to noise and natural world, while the incremental shifts of ‘Neustadt’ proves how her music benefits from durational immersion, but likewise enchants in short form on the exquisite ‘First Triad’ and the beatific ‘A Woman Escapes Cue 4’.
Vestiges of ’90s trance surface in strange, elegiac and unusual forms thru Friday Dunard’s debut album for Köln’s Magazine.
Hailing from the motherland of trance, Friday Dunard is somewhat qualified to riff on its lingering after effects, which emerge as residual traces of rushy arps and nostalgic melodies amid the impressionisic fog of memory across ‘Rhenus Aeternus’. While it starts up with propulsive electro-trance pulses, breakdowns and ecstatic vamps for the club in ‘Aeternus’, the thread of inspiration becomes progressively frayed in a manner recalling Lorenzo Senni via Mark Leckey’s collages as the tracks proceed, variously suggesting the form with the uneasy luft of ‘Ultra Citron’ and threaded into playfully syncopated breaks on ‘In McFit’, or congealed into club-teasing strictures with ‘Lower Beach’. The centrepiece ‘Rhenus’ comes closest to Lorenzo Senni at the afters, and by the time of ‘Upper Beach’ it’s full strung out and dreamlike, with a final flourish of escalating, beat-less, near baroque arp arrangements in ‘Latus et Altus’ surely recalling T C F’s legendary YYAA tape.
Perhaps this makes matters clearer? Then again…: “Friday Dunard pulls the sawtooth from trance. Now he whistles elegiac prayers to mystical rivers on it. He lets it bubble out of battered cans of Monster Energy. He sings a protestant canon with it. And in the end it's trance again. Just like when we were guessing track intros with Ben.K on cue point.de. When Fruity Loops was the actual homework. When PvD appeared on Stuttgart's Schlossplatz, or James in a basement a little further on. Duni shares the river with Karlsruhe, the harbor with the Cologne label Magazine. There, not far from a SPA, the "Gerade" EP docked a few years ago.”
Esteemed synthesist Tom Mudd articulates an uncanny valley between guitar and software with sober but subtly mindbending-and-retuning results on the Glasgow/Manc label run by Adam Campbell and Tristan Clutterbuck - think an AI emulating Tashi Dorji, Derek Bailey or Bill Orcutt
“With sound synthesis in general and physical modelling in particular, there is a deliriously tempting urge to push every parameter to materially impossible extremes as part of a broader effort to enter a kind of floating realm freed of the shackles of history. While this approach can certainly be generative, in Guitar Cultures Tom Mudd is ultimately more concerned with the unavoidable rootedness of sound, the place of the instrument as tool in a complex network of social relations; there is something more subtly profound about treating synthesis as a warped mirror in which is reflected our actual mode of being, which itself bears the obscured histories and origins of the sound-making apparatuses themselves.
In this framework, the material being unfolded—code—is certainly synthetic, easily loaded and transported on a thumb drive; at the same time, that material is already a distorted representation of a “real” object—in this case, the acoustic guitar—itself synthetic in its own way. It is in the tension and interplay between these two poles that the power of the music emerges: this is the sound of one tool actively impersonating another, establishing not so much a glossy uncanny valley as a deceptively intimate self-portrait.
There are shreds and scraps of the recognizable in these sketches: Bailey and Fahey runs, Nancarrow vortexes, and LaMonte Young’s famed piano. However, there is no trace of a flashy “look what I can do” gimmickry here; rather, Mudd seems intent on unfurling the experiment and its sounds in a most clinical and neutral manner—precisely to demonstrate the impossibility of true neutrality
for a tool that is embedded in a particular social metabolism, the very human ideas injected into and fixed within all tools and technologies.
It is in and through this firmly social and historical context that Mudd’s work distinguishes itself from its surface-level compatriots. To establish a tenuous spectrum, Guitar Cultures is neither a study of abstract sound-as-sound nor a milestone in a breathless technical quest for a yet more accurate and “realistic” sound-representation. Rather, in these etudes I hear both the comical absurdity and deeply serious potential in the collective efforts behind these algorithms—which then makes me consider that same dialectic embedded in more tangible instruments, and ultimately even music itself. In the pockets of unexpected beauty that emerge from these digital plucks and twangs, I hear, in distilled form, the joy we have all felt in observing real organization, ideas, emerging from a primordial sou —still in that gelatinous state, just before they ossify and become familiar, even ignorable, once again. Sunik Kim.
Helena Hauff trots out a fabric mix studded with crunchy electro bombs
After a decade dominating Euro ‘floors and beyond with her patented direct drive muscle, Hauff parades 19 tried and trusted bangers of a ruff cut and drily emotive electro-techno variety after heading more line-ups than we can count, both solo and in b2b with likes of Eris Drew, Marcel Dettmann and DJ Stingray, and hosting her own BBC Radio 1 show.
It kicks off with one of her own, ‘Turn Your Sights Inward’, and shells down lethal cuts including Clarence G’s pre-Drexicya zinger ‘Data Transfer’, a walloping Slam x Optic nerve juggernaut ‘Machine Conflict’, Radioactiveman’s murderous ‘Night Bus to Nowhere’ and Autechre’s remix of D-Breeze off MASK 500 (jeez, the nostalgia!), while highlighting a raft of newer names and obscurities.
All hitters no shitters.
Legendary Afro-futurist jazz pioneer Idris Ackamoor regroups The Pyramids at drummer/producer Malcolm Catto’s studio for a typically deep and tuff new session that speaks to their 50 years of heavily rooted jams adjacent to Sun Ra and Pharoah Sanders.
"Recorded between San Francisco and London and brought together by the genius of Malcolm Catto at his analogue Quatermass Studio, the new recording represents another bold step in Ackamoor’s ever-evolving journey in jazz, adding full, intricate scores including string sections and choral elements to the Pyramids’ trademark spiritual Afro-jazz sound.
Driven by the core Pyramids members Ackamoor (sax, keytar, organ), Margaux Simmons (flute), Sandra Poindexter (violin) and Bobby Cobb (guitar), tracks range from hard-hitting commentaries about police brutality (‘Police Dem’) to celebrations of the ancestors and departed loved ones (‘Requiem For The Ancestors’, ‘Re-Memory’) and hazy cosmic journeys, including the album’s title track and the sparkling, experimental closer, ‘Nice It Up’.
‘Afro-Futuristic Dreams’ is mixed by Malcolm Catto and mastered by Peter Beckmann at Technology Works. The superb cover artwork illustration is by David Alabo."
EBM/industrial pioneers Esplendor Geomtrico meet Chilean-German boffin Atom TM in a dream-fusion of their respective electronic muscle and gristle as ASA for Raster. They are not fucking-about here!
Named for an acronym of their first initials, Arturo Lanz, Saverio Evangelista, and AtomTM, aka ASA, form a recombinant beast with ‘radial’, the result of pitting their energies in a reflux of vintage industrial thrust with a thirst for modernist production. The album sits among the heaviest, rudely funked on Raster with a superb clash of textured samples dissected in hyper-crisp digital angularities certain to trigger and reprogram well tested muscle memories. The approach and final product speak directly to shared roots in ‘80s industrial body musicks, and likewise a Latin provenance that that can be heard and in their cyborg-sexy offbeat syncopations and feel for physically grinding machinery, resoundingly rent in imaginary workshop/warehouse space.
Too often the old guard of industrial music can return to the fray sounding dated and cliché, but not ASA. ‘Radial’ sounds classic but fresh, or as the label astutely put it “outstandingly atemporal… even meta-contemporary”. With little recourse to the timestamps of melody, they finely twist sine waves and panel-beaten percussion into compelling rhythmelodic forms that prompt the most crooked movement from dancers in the most classic sense of industrial musick, and likewise give the shadow dwelling types something to really chew on while they scowl at those who do get down.
They keep it playfully obtuse between highlights such as the militant stepper ‘Modernizacion Acelerada’ and the convulsive funck of ‘We Need a Medic’, jamming divebombing synths and cattleprod percussive blows into the hard-working ‘Trabajador Radial’, and mechanically reclaimed brawn of ‘Kreise’ or the jaw-disclocating gurns of ‘Enredando’, and like a scuzzy answer to Alva Noto meets Emptyset in ’Spazio’.
Dubstep choirboy James Blake gets back to his club-adjacent roots with a 6th studio LP balancing tremulous vox, burnished trap and UK rave inspirations, including co-production by Mount Kimbie and interpolations of The Ragga Twins, Snoop Dogg and The Neptunes
Proceeding a slew of recent work with pop and rap notables such as K*nye West, Rosalía, Bon Iver, Metro Boomin, Frank Ocean, and Travis Scott, ‘Playing Robots Into Heaven’ locates James Blake surrounded by partner Jameela Jamil, and longtime pals Mount Kimbie, for a grown-up take on the naïf melodies and heart-flutter UKG/dubstep beats of his early works with Hemlock and Hessle Audio.
Set in place by Matt Colton’s mix/master, Blake’s signature, forlorn falsetto lights up an 11-song suite of twinkling electronic motifs and padded rhythms ornamented with classical keys and samples plucked from classic rave and R&B. As one of the few dubstep-deriving artists to really transcend the sound and “break” the US, Blake has inevitably come in for flack from the diehards who think he diluted the sound. But likewise he’s arguably at least partially responsible for translating it to international pop as much as rave audiences, and ‘Playing Robots Into Heaven’ is patently his clearest attempt in years to consolidate the two.
Allowing for the romantic, schmaltzy waltz of ‘Asking to Break’, a co-production with Jameela Jamil, and return influence from his pop spars across the album, he’s not breaking any molds, but does leave his imprint on them, at best in the playful rudeness of his Ragga Twins-sampling ‘Big Hammer’ and the Burial-esque flip of The Neptunes’ production for Snoop’s ‘Beautiful’, in ‘I Want You to Know’, with sweet highlights in the aerial glyde of ‘Night Sky’ and the lissom swing to ‘Fall Back’ that make it the sort of record we’d bite our tongue at if fancied by a younger sibling or wean who didn’t know better.
Laurel Halo's long-in-the-making debut album for her newly minted Awe label is dazzling; a mix of weightless jazz, orchestral and drift energies that’s both elusive and engrossing; just when you think you have the measure of it, it shapeshifts into something else. Made of rarified material; it bends the contemporary “ambient” template into something almost entirely new, creating a blanket of pure atmosphere that wafts over you like a cloud, but which fully comes to life with closer, deep listening.
A real AOTY contender; featuring contributions from Bendik Giske, James Underwood, Lucy Railton and Coby Sey, highly recommended if you’re into anything from Pharoah Sanders to Gavin Bryars, GAS to Klein’s brain curdling ‘Harmattan’ album.
“Currently based in Los Angeles, Laurel Halo has spent over a decade stepping into different towns and cities for a moment or more, to the point where everywhere almost became nowhere. Atlas, the debut release on her new imprint Awe, is an attempt to put that feeling to music. Using both electronic and acoustic instrumentation, Halo has created a potent set of sensual ambient jazz collages, comprised of orchestral clouds, shades of modal harmony, hidden sonic details, and detuned, hallucinatory textures. The music functions as a series of maps, for places real and imaginary, and for expressing the unsaid.
The process of writing Atlas began back in 2020 when she reacquainted herself with the piano. She relished the piano's physical feedback, as well as its capacity to express emotion and lightness. And when the legendary Ina-GRM Studios in Paris invited her to take up a residency the following year in 2021, she spared no time to dub, stretch and manipulate some of the simple piano sketches she'd recorded over the prior months; these subtle piano recordings and electronic manipulations would go on to become the heart of Atlas. In the remainder of 2021 and 2022, with time spent between Berlin and London, Halo recorded additional guitar, violin and vibraphone, as well as acoustic instrumentation from friends and collaborators including saxophonist Bendik Giske, violinist James Underwood, cellist Lucy Railton and vocalist Coby Sey. All of these sounds were shaped, melted, and re-composed into the arrangements, their acoustic origins rendered uncanny.
In short, Atlas is road trip music for the subconscious. With repeated listens, it is a record that can leave a deep sensorial impression on the listener, akin to walking at dusk in a dark forest. Its humor and sharp focus would dispel any notions of sentimentality. Completely distinct from the rest of Halo's catalog, Atlas is an album that thrives in the quietest places, rejecting bombast and embracing awe. Fitting that it's the debut release on her new recording label, whose slogan parallels the mood and atmosphere of the album: Awe is something you feel when confronted with forces beyond your control: nature, the cosmos, chaos, human error, hallucinations.”
Deaf Center co-founder and key Scandi ambient artist Erik Skodvin dims the lights on his quietest and arguably strongest solo album in years - RIYL early The Caretaker, Deathprod, Kreng, Korea Undok Group
Erik K Skodvin’s music has always been defined by its play of light/dark, yet the negative space has rarely consumed his music as much as in ‘Nothing left but silence’. Following from his ‘Schächten’ (2022) LP and this year’s ‘Devolving Trust’ under the cloak of Svarte Greiner, he really amplifies the background noise and allows only the finest glimpses of gently reverberating guitar to light the way. Its a logical extension of his musick’s nuance, prising a portal to the peripheries where flickering shadows and apparitions of the subconscious lurk.
“'Nothing left but silence' is Erik K Skodvin’s third solo album for Sonic Pieces and his most quiet to date. Subtitled as "Musical improvisations and quiet collages from the subconscious”, Skodvin reduces his instruments to guitar, reverb and amp - and creates a skeleton of eight hypnotic ragas that meanders in an eternal loop between ephemeral and singular.
Only on the horizon it’s possible to sense that Skodvin has also touched the neoclassical terrain in earlier productions - on Nothing left but silence, however, he acts as a twilight player who is not afraid of the coldness of endless space and who knows how to subjugate the shadowiness of the visible world. Carried by the noise of the amp and the occasional click of the effects pedals, a monolithic, reduced blues emerges, whose mediumistic quality nevertheless reveals that Skodvin's music always comes from the body - and as such is always searching for space. A space that - in this case - blends the vastness of the Norwegian steppe with the brittleness of American wasteland (as if Deathprod and Loren Connors were one and the same person), creating a persistent state between deceleration and absence of presence - that leads Skodvin ever closer to the inner essence of sound.
Initially recorded at Saal 3, Funkhaus, Berlin by Nils Frahm in 2015, the album has itself been subjected to silence as a forgotten relic, re-found and now released in a time where it might connect more with the contemporary state of mind. Welcome to the entrance to the periphery.”
Deutsche Grammophon handles this posthumous world premiere recording of the late Icelandic composer's triumphant 'A Prayer to the Dynamo', bundling it with suites compiled from his acclaimed scores for 'Sicario' and 'The Theory of Everything'.
Jóhannsson's fascination with technology is one of his compositional hallmarks. He memorialized an obselete computer system on 'IBM 1401, A User's Manual', and with 'A Prayer to the Dynamo', he wrote the piece after being inspired by field recordings he captured at Iceland's Elliðaár power plant. These sounds are woven into the fabric of the four-part piece, played with requisite skill by the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Daníel Bjarnason. It's hard to know exactly how Jóhannsson might have treated the material, but this recording shines some light on the composition, and it's filled with Jóhannsson's expected melancholy flourishes.
To bump up the release, it's bundled with selected cues from 'Sicario' and 'The Theory of Everything', also rendered by the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra.
Conspicuously sampled by Madlib on Quasimoto's iconic 'The Unseen', Alain Goraguer's score to René Laloux’s trippy 1973 animated feature 'La Planète Sauvage' has been reissued for its 50th anniversary in deluxe, expanded form, re-mixed from the original multi-track tapes and bundled with seven previously unreleased tracks and three alternate mixes.
'La Planète Sauvage' is a cult classic for good reason. The film won a Special Jury Prize at Cannes when it was released, and its bizarre artwork and forward-thinking philosophy has given it a firm hold on the collective imagination; even if you haven't seen it, you've likely seen something that's influenced by it. But it wouldn't be half the statement without Goraguer's feathery, exotica-tinged soundtrack. The French composer-arranger had worked extensively with Serge Gainsbourg and others, and was brought on to pen the score late in the production process, given only a few weeks to complete it. Somehow, that gave him the fuel to write a few core themes that have echoed across music ever since. First sampled in the '90s by KRS One and Big Pun, Goraguer's soundtrack hit a digger's bingo when Madlib chopped elements of it throughout his Quasimoto debut 'The Unseen', assuring the film's status as a late-night, stoner classic.
There aren't many surprises on this fresh re-issue, but it sounds fuller and cleaner than ever before. The new mix is sprightly and pops significantly more than the original, and the handful of outtakes and alternate mixes give those of us who already own a copy the nudge to buy it again. 'Le Destin de Terr' is a particular stand-out, reinterpreting the iconic central theme in a fumble of dusted drums and psychedelic instrumentation. You know what to do.
30th Anniversary edition of The Breeders' Last Splash - remastered from the original analog tapes.
"A defining album of the 90s, Last Splash by The Breeders turns 30 in 2023. Recorded by the ‘classic’ Breeders line-up of Kim Deal, Kelley Deal, Josephine Wiggs and Jim Macpherson, and featuring the infectiously appealing ‘Cannonball’, Last Splash immediately became an alt-rock classic, achieving platinum status in the UK and US, and is ranked in Pitchfork’s Top 100 Records of the 1990s.
Entitled Last Splash (the 30th Anniversary Original Analog Edition), this special edition will span two 12” 45rpm vinyl discs, plus an exclusive, one-sided etched 12” disc containing two forgotten tracks from the original Last Splash sessions: ‘Go Man Go’, a track that Kim co-wrote with Black Francis, and ‘Divine Mascis’, a version of ‘Divine Hammer’ with lead vocals provided courtesy of Dinosaur Jr.’s J Mascis.
For this special edition, the original, iconic sleeve art by the late visionary designer Vaughan Oliver has been gloriously reimagined by his long-time design partner Chris Bigg."
Compiling the first 3 albums in the 'Everywhere At The End Of Time' series - two and a half hours long, each album reveals new points of progression, loss and disintegration, progressively falling further and further towards the abyss of complete memory loss and nothingness...
Embarking on the Caretaker’s final journey with the familiar vernacular of abraded shellac 78s and their ghostly waltzes to emulate the entropic effect of a mind becoming detached from everyone else’s sense of reality and coming to terms with their own, altered, and ever more elusive sense of ontology.
The series aims to enlighten our understanding of dementia by breaking it down into a series of stages that provide a haunting guide to its progression, deterioration and disintegration and the way that people experience it according to a range of impending factors.
In other words, Everywhere At The End of Time probes some of the most important questions about modern music’s place in a world that’s increasingly haunted or even choked by the tightening noose of feedback loops of influence; perceptibly questioning the value of old memories as opposed to the creation of new ones, and, likewise the fidelity of those musical memories which remain, and whether we can properly recollect them from the mire of our faulty memory banks without the luxury of choice
Room 40 celebrate cult Japanese duo Tenniscoats' fab 'Totemo Aimasho' full-length with a remastered, beefed up 15th anniversary reissue, adding some extra variations and demo versions that weren't included on the original version.
Since 2000, Saya and Ueno Takashi have been releasing music that defies conventional logic; on the surface it feels like folk or stripped-down pop, but the songs unwind unexpectedly, fraying into wyrd ambience or abstract minimalism. Collaborators and guests come and go, but Saya and Ueno's core philosophy is always present, always flickering at the forefront. Lawrence English originally released 'Totemo Aimasho' on Room40 back in 2007, having been introduced to Tenniscoats by John Chantler, who had come across the duo in Tokyo and been inspired to work with them. Chantler plays drums, tape and synths on the album, and his partner Carina Thorén plays flute, while English himself contributes synths, electronics and field recordings. Additional drums are handled by Yoshinari Kishida, and Koji Shibuya plays melodica, leaving Saya to work on vocals, piano, keys and bass, and Ueno to play guitar, sax, unisynth and backing vocals.
For this special anniversary edition, English didn't just work on a "more faithful" remaster, but went back to the archive of recordings he'd collected at the time. He found some demos of 'Cacoy', one of his favorite tracks, and a few other variations and experiments, blessing the album's original 12 tracks with four extra pieces. The new version stands as a definitive edition of a record we already loved, and it still sounds singular years later. Saya and Ueno's passion for experimentation and improvisation lifts each gentle composition into the clouds, from the hypnotic, synth led 'Jitsurei' to the rattly folk jam 'Midori'. There's a rough, DIY quality to the music, but it's not sketchy; the duo's vision is self-contained, and their intermingling of lilting, softly-sung vocals and adventurous instrumentation is psychedelic and challenging enough to keep us engrossed after hearing it countless times. Just beautiful, timeless music - if you haven't heard it before, now's yr chance.
Justin Broadrick & Kevin Martin’s singular ’95 illbient dub trip starring Jon Hassell and Kingsuk Biswas (Bedouin Ascent) returns, remastered by Broadrick and reissued for first time in a generation - RIYL Om, Spectre, Andy Stott
Originally a part of Virgin’s Ambient Series, the 1995 release of ‘Re-Entry’ then followed the Kevin Martin-programmed ‘Ambient 4: Isolationism’ and ‘Macro Dub Infection Volume One’ sets on the label with a deep plunge into the murky backroom and bedroom sound of a mid decade UK. Where the duo of Kevin Martin (The Bug) and Justin Broadrick’s (Godflesh) first album as Techno Animal, ‘Ghosts’ (1991) still betrayed their mutual roots in radical industrial metal swag, their 2nd album paralleled the rapid development of styles during that era with a paradoxically sludgier, layered and textured form of mutant industro-dub menace that ran counter to the grain of club and rock musicks. Smelting aspects of everything from King Tubby to Killing Joke and Godflesh into a potent stew of dub bass, brain-curdling acid and noise swelter, ‘Re-Entry’ remains a momentous standout in either’s catalogue and of the era itself, prompting new directions for subsequent threads of post rock, and experimental hip hop and soundsystem music.
For 2.5 hours they take possession of your listening space with a full bodied transposition of studio-as-instrument black magick into mildewed housing stock and smoke chambers across Blighty and beyond. Like the ‘Macro Dub Infection’ series’ dissemination thru Virgin’s worldwide web of shop placements, the 2CD reached myriad ears spellbound by its heavyweight conviction and depth of sound, with most of the dozen tracks taking over 10 minutes to execute their functions and leaving no body in doubt to their dreadnought momentum. Between the 4th world trumpet peal of Jon Hassell on opener ‘Flight of the Hermaphrodite’ and hypnagogic plangency of ‘Needle Park’, the album follows a logic of dense and seething pressure in the first half’s ‘Dream Machinery’ with standouts on the acid-woven trample of ‘Mastadon Americanus’ and 14 minute salvo ‘Narco Agent Vs Medicine Man’ ft. Kingsuk Biswas, to the 20 minute psych-dub blow out ‘Demodex Invasion’, while the 2nd half’s ‘Heavy Lids’ induces sensations of sleep paralysis and doom that ran counter to putative perceptions of the ‘90s as one shiny rave orgy, between the outernational dub drone of ‘Evil Spirits / Angel Dust’, and bleakness of ‘Resuscitator.’
Floating Points’ Melodies International shine overdue light on Mad Professor’s rawly dubbed 1984 lovers rock reggae album, newly remastered from tapes by Matt Colton .
Mad Professor ranks among the world’s leading dub masters since the early ‘80s. He’s renowned for a classic, hands-on-desk approach to dub since founding his studio in 1979, leading to a series of legendary ‘Dub Me Crazy’ albums and UK household staples such as his reworks of Massive Attack’s ‘Protection’ album in the ‘90s, plus countless live performances. Named for his eponymous London studio, ‘Ariwa Sounds: The Early Sessions’ (1984) is a delectable snapshot of his work with lovers rock artists in the mid ‘80s, nestling his work for likes of Deborah Glasgow, Ranking Ann, Errol Sly and Sergeant Pepper in a truly heavyweight style.
A relatively recent encounter with ‘Ariwa Sounds: The Early Sessions’, and its timeless mix of soulful reggae vocals with rawly upfront dubbing, led Floating Points and co’s Melodies International to give it some love on reissue, where it stands tall alongside classic work by everyone from Womack & Womack to Mood II Swing and many more, and is likely to become a new fixation with new generations raking over dub reggae’s hot embers. The sultry but thunderous ‘Moonlight Lover’ is a massive flex, as is the nice ’n easy ‘My Thing’ by Deborah Glasgow, and no doubt the ricocheting instrumental ‘Sitting Room Dub’ depicting Mad Professor deep in the echo chamber,
The label say: “When we finally had the pleasure of meeting Neil at his recording studio, he revealed that this album was one of his earliest works. It was born out of a birthday gift from his wife—a four-track recorder that inspired him to venture into music-making after years of repairing and building electronics and audio equipment. When we asked him if he would be making music if not for that gift, he confessed that it was highly unlikely (!)
Mad Professor further explained that this album, originally released in 1984, is a compilation of tracks recorded between 1979 and 1981, representing the nascent stages of his recording and production career, when the idea of establishing a studio and the Ariwa label were just beginning to take shape. He set up all his gear, including his first homemade four-track mixing desk, in the front room of his house in South London. With no prior studio experience, he positioned microphones where he thought they should fit and invited local musicians to collaborate. Errol Sly, Ranking Ann, Sergeant Pepper, Deborah Glasgow, Victor Cross, Sister Audrey, his backing band the Sane Inmates and a host of other talented local artists, some of whom would go on to become stalwarts in their respective genres, all contributed to this album, capturing the raw essence of Mad Professor and Ariwa's early sound.”
In 1972, trumpeter Baikida Carroll and some of his colleagues from the Black Artists Group (more precisely saxophonist/flutist Oliver Lake, trombonist Joseph Bowie, drummer Charles "Bobo" Shaw and trumpeter Floyd LeFlore) took the advice of their friends in the Art Ensemble Of Chicago and left their native Missouri to come and discover the bright lights of Paris for themselves. The following year they would even get the chance to record their only album which would rapidly attain mythical status and a collector’s item: “In Paris, Aries 1973”.
"Therefore, it was not surprising that they crossed paths with Jef Gilson in the capital. He was always on the lookout for new artists for his recently formed Palm label and had been active on many fronts in jazz since the end of the 50s. The French bandleader / pianist / composer / sound engineer had already recorded, in the preceding months other American musicians who would go on to have great careers: Byard Lancaster, Keno Speller, Clint Jackson III, Khan Jamal... Gilson therefore offered Baikida Carroll the chance to record his first album under his own name, which would be the 13th release on the label. Carroll logically asked Oliver Lake to join him. He also recruited Manuel Villaroel, a young Franco-Chilien pianist from the group Matchi-Oul, who had already released an album on Futura in 1971 and would release another on Palm in 1976. The group was completed with the addition of Brazilian percussionist Naná Vasconcelos, who had just released a well-received album on the Saravah label. They were ready to enter the studio for the 3rd, 4th and 5th June 1974.
The first side of the album is divided into two long tracks which send free jazz back to its long-lost African roots. The opener “Orange Fish Tears” indeed rolls out a jungle of percussion of all sorts and sizes -the whole group is involved- which weave and mix together reaching a point where all bearings are lost, lending a sense of wonder to the majestic entry of the brass and woodwinds, flying suddenly out from the undergrowth. “Forest Scorpion” (sic) is a real voodoo ceremony where a venomous percussive groove backs the fiery solos from keyboards and saxophone in a furious trance. A warning; after these two tracks listeners are physically and emotionally wiped out!
The other side is more introspective. Deliberately using dissonance and repetition, “Rue Roger” -the only composition by Oliver Lake- in a long dialogue between trumpet and saxophone, could almost remind us of Terry Riley in his favourite ballpark. “Porte D'Orléans”, the fourth and final track on the album, has the group back to their old tricks in a long hallucinatory jam which owes as much to the contemporary music of György Ligeti as to the most angst-ridden Jerry Goldsmith soundtrack music (remember the heavy chords which beat through “Planet of the Apes»).
With these two sides, and in under 45m, Baikida Carroll and his musicians show just what they can do, from cerebral to charnel without ever simplifying things. This is an essential album if you are a fan of free-wheeling avant-garde music from the Art Ensemble of Chicago to Sonic Youth and including Shabaka Hutchings and Rob Mazurek. For those with good taste, in other words."
Bowery Electric's classic 1996 sophomore album "Beat" finally reissued; a hypnotic set of sampled breaks and shimmered guitar and vocal textures that split the difference between DJ Shadow and MBV.
After releasing their acclaimed self-titled debut in 1995, Bowery Electric's Lawrence Chandler and Martha Schwendener were left without a drummer after Michael Johngren's departure, and a callout for a replacement just didnt work out. In came samplers and drum machines to fill the void, as the band stumbled on a new signature sound in the process. The title "Beat" is an inside joke, but focuses on the element that gives the record its lasting appeal, pre-empting the wave of electronic shoegaze revivalists in the mid-00s like Ulrich Schnauss, Casino Versus Japan and M83, harmonizing with peers like Seefeel, Loop or Windy and Carl.
The heavy-knit shoegaze that guided Bowery Electric's debut is broken down into its component parts here; there's looping dub bass and downsampled breaks - basically the kind of thing you would have heard on Mo' Wax's "Headz" comps, evoking minimal trances that sound like shoegaze, trip hop and backroom ambient all at once.
If you're into that messy zone where shoegaze and trip-hop intersected - think Third Eye Foundation, Flying Saucer Attack, Bark Psychosis or Seefeel - Bowery Electric are an essential piece of that puzzle, and "Beat" is their finest moment.
Pure ecstasy from a living deity: 78 minutes of ineffably blissful, deferred drone gratification of thee highest order. Massive RIYL Pandit Pran Nath, La Monte Young, Alice Coltrane, Angus MacLise, Tony Conrad, being human
Writing thru tears of joy here, ‘cos ’Solo for Tamburium’ has just turned us to a vibrating mass of mush. Taken from a 2017 performance at MaerzMusik in Berlin, the piece is perhaps the most intimately generous, radiant manifestation of C.C. Hennix’s devotion to her craft. As far as we can tell, it is the first release to feature her solo since the 1976 recordings of ’Selected Keyboard Works’, and depicts the septuagenarian Swedish musician, poet, philosopher, mathematician and visual artist at a crest of her powers; cascading an eternal stream of sustained drone and cosmic iridescence from a just intoned, custom-built tamburium - a version of the Indian long-neck lute instrument she studied under Indian classical music master Pandit Pran Nath, which is crucial to performing the ancient music’s drone chronics.
In Hennix’s hands, the results are simply blinding, bringing a rare intensity and beauty rarely found in Western musics beyond the blues and psychedelia, but commonplace for millennia in modes of the subcontinental raga and Arabic maqam that she references. Hennix knows this from her roots in jazz and the fabled ‘60s NYC minimalist scene, that led to an in-depth, lifelong study of modal practice, developing, under Pandit Pran Nath, a system of precision-tuned preparation and intuitive, devotional performance that syncs mind-body and opens the gates for a staggering, singular sense of expression. As with all her solo and ensemble-based works, the spice flows with a preternatural effortlessness, but we’ve never heard it quite so glorious and glittering with utopian promise as here, with Hennix utterly locked into her own mode.
Oceanic, cosmic, corporeal, and spiritually resonant, the music stunningly feeds forward Hennix’s earliest urges into a timeless here and now. It is both immediately gripping, and yet unfolds its fathomless layers with durational immersion, ebbing with elemental logic to reveal dynamically shifting harmonic intensities and shearing timbral intricacies that reprogram perceptions and radically home in on music’s psychophysical effects. Quite honestly, if pushed, we’d happily live on a desert island with only C.C. Hennix’s catalogue and a decent rig for company, and never get bored. Just imagine supping coconuts, slapping midges and quivering to her cold rushes under tropical sun. That’s how we feel right now.
Annea Lockwood’s 1970 avant-garde evergreen is a masterpiece of concrète innovation defined by a sound sensitive curiosity and poetic imagination, now back in circulation via Room 40, on a newly remastered edition that comes with a bonus artist book. Essential listening for all and any disciples of Pauline Oliveros, Christina Kubisch, Ruth Anderson, Madalyn Merkey, Tomoko Sauvage, claire rousay, Alvin Lucier.
‘Glass World’ is the resoundingly classic debut by a pioneering American artist whose tactile, holistic approach to sound craft has been crucial in blurring distinctions between academic, sound art, and experimental musics for half a century. The album’s 23 vignette-like pieces derive from hands-on experiments with the form and function of glass in a musical context, using various techniques to stimulate and animate glass objects and revel in their familiar yet peculiar acoustic resonances and ringing overtones. Over the decades the album has achieved legendary status as one of those records that has found its way to curious ears one way or another, and has sparked the imaginations of so many sound dreamers in the process.
Born in New Zealand in 1939, Annea moved to England in 1961 to study at the Royal College of Music, London, and followed courses under post-serialist pioneer Gottfried Michael Koenig (an influence upon everyone from Roland Kayn to AFX) which honed her playfully intuitive fascination with the malleability and endless strangeness of acoustic sound vibration and resonance. ‘Glass World of Annea Lockwood’, as it was originally known, most beautifully made audible her vision in 1970 with something like a sound map to an archipelago of imagined, ethnomusicological sounds that resemble rudimentary gamelan as much as the sounds of liquid water music or domestic chores, each twinkling and chattering with a recognisable yet otherworldly character that leaves an indelible imprint on the listener.
With all but ‘Water Gong’ and ‘Deep Water Gong’ lasting under 3 minutes, the purely instrumental parts flow over the user in an effortlessly enchanting passage of time, future-proofed by their plaintive simplicity but riddled with the sort of detail that snags on first listen and rewards with repeat returns. It’s not hard to hear analogs with Annea’s recordings in work by her contemporaries such as longterm partner, Ruth Anderson, or the deep listening strategies of Pauline Oliveros, Alvin Lucier or Christina Kubisch, but also likewise in the modern world with the direct similarities of Tomoko Sauvage and claire rousay’s small sound experiments, or the between-worlds electro-acoustic sensitivities of Teresa Winter and Madalyn Merkey.
Essential listening for the curious ear, no less.
Developed from bandleader and poet Alabaster DePlume's collaborative sessions that led to last year's 'GOLD', 'Come With Fierce Grace' paints outside of the lines with additional vocal contributions from Momoko Gill (aka MettaShiba), Falle Nioke, and Donna Thompson.
When Alabaster DePlume recorded 'GOLD', he invited a sprawling ensemble of talented players to join him at London's Total Refreshment Centre hub, where he worked for weeks composing music and developing the unique sound that powered the album. And it turns out that power has spilled over into another completely new record - 'Come With Grace' began to take shape when DePlume revisited the material earlier this year, pruning a handful of stark instrumentals and a few particularly gripping vocal tracks, featuring guest vocalists this time. Musically, the album features the same rich orchestration as 'GOLD', but feels pared down somehow; the instrumentation is particular, with percussion, synths, woodwind, guitar, bass, piano, cello and various voices, helping create a very modern jazz momentum.
But it's the vocal tracks that provide the most focus here. Margate-based Guinean singer Falle Nioke wakes up DePlume's sleepy, cheeky 'Sibomandi' with throaty chants, and Momoko Gill gives a soulful, smoked-out energy to 'Did You Know'. Singer-songwriter Donna Thompson turns up on clear highlight 'Naked Like The Water', wailing wordlessly over Spaghetti Western guitars and obtuse drones. Elsewhere, Tom Skinner makes his mark on the funky 'Greek Honey Slick', augmenting DePlume's lyrical horn curls with a rugged, electronically-assisted thump. Good stuff.
With Oren Ambarchi on guitar, Chris Abrahams on piano and Robbie Avenaim on drums, 'Placelessness' is a testament to the trio's effortless collaboration, a free-flowing tide of tonality, texture and unexpected rhythm.
Ambarchi and Avenaim have been friends and collaborators for over 35 years, and they distinctly remember going to see The Necks together in the late '80s, being stunned by Abrahams' characteristically unique piano playing. It wasn't until 2004 that the trio managed to perform together, improvising at Ambarchi's own touring What Is Music? Festival. 'Placelessness' is their first studio album, two side-long pieces that demonstrate their knowledge of each other's strengths, their obsession with durational composition, and their boundless passion for experimentation.
The first side is split into three segments, with '1.1' led by Abrahams' instantly recognizable piano motifs. Ambarchi creeps in with subtle, elongated tones and gentle guitar licks, while Avenaim coaxes wavering scrapes from his extended kit that gradually splinter into minuscule glitches. These sounds become steadily more dense in the second segment, assembling into an unstable, pattering beat that sounds almost random until the drummer punctuates it with ride hits. Abrahams' piano almost melts away into Ambarchi's drones and Avenhaim's mechanical rattle - aided by his SARPS (semi automated robotic percussion system), that helps him break through the limitations of his instrument. And in the third segment the quasi robotic patter is couched by organ-like hums from Ambarchi that play us into the sunset.
Entirely improvised, the second piece is split into five chunks and immediately captures a different energy from its predecessor. Here, Abrahams' playing is rapid and florid, and Avenhaim accompanies with spirited, jazzy flurries that only occasionally betray their mechanical assistance. Ambarchi works on the mood itself, sculpting heaving drones that lift up Avenhaim's machine-gun kicks, matching their energy and dipping like broken oscillators. As the side evolves, Ambarchi's treatment becomes more orchestral, swelling to bring out the beauty from Abrahams' ornate runs. Avenhaim provides the dirt, rumbling and whirring and ratcheting up the tempo until it's just a wash of metal and skins.
Camae Ayewa (Moor Mother) leads the Irreversible Entanglements quintet on a cool, swaggering 4th album of punk soul-inspired free jazz jams.
In Irreversible Entanglements’ adaptations of ‘70s jazz fusion and spiritual modes, the band tacitly acknowledge that on some levels many things haven’t changed over the past half century. They continue to mine a vitality from tried and trusted combinations of styles that still bleed with expression, moving as one between the sinuous, dubbed out roll of ‘Free Love’ to an brilliantly up-stepping album highlight ‘Protect Your Life’, and thru to the more pent, dread-heavy closure imparted by ‘Degree of Freedom’, with Camae Aiwa’s vocals reserved to her most pointed lyrics and deliberate delivery.
There’s a bustling wild one for the most dextrous jazz dancers in the crazed ‘Soundness’, and we’re well snagged on the intensely low-key groove and spiralling synths of ‘root⇔branch’ and the simmering anguish of ‘Sunshine’ channelling Sonny & Linda Sharrock.
Anjimile's sophomore full-length is described by the artist as "an album of curses" that explores what it means to be a Black trans person in America. Features appearances from Sam Gendel, Big Thief's James Krivchenia, Brad Allen Williams and Justine Bowe.
It's hard to believe that almost every sound on 'The King' comes from Anjimile's voice and his acoustic guitar. On the opening, title track, he sings a confused lament over choral echoes that get more and more chaotic as the song develops. His guitar plucks are mutated into Philip Glass-inspired rollercoaster prangs, and the dissonance between the elements adds a level of tension that perfectly captures the concept.
Anjimile's Sufjan Stevens influence is clearly visible on 'Mother', as he sings softly over looped voices and fluttered strums, and on 'Genesis', his vocals snake in-and-out of musicbox chimes and sensitive gospel cries. It's a disarming muddle of influences that speaks to Anjimile's formative experiences singing in choirs and listening to his dad's Oliver Mtukudzi CDs in the car. On 'Father', tightly coiled acoustic guitar phrases dance beneath Anjimile as he sings "where is your father." And as the album evolves, darker elements rise to the surface: 'Black Hole' is a gloomy blend of distorted percussion and theatrical vocals, and 'I Pray' is a breezy gospel meditation that descends into pitch-shifted doom.
Bad Seed and Aussie journeyman Mick Harvey meets Mexican singer Acevedo in a lush, dusty dream sequence, adapting Spanish ballads to English-language duets, and covers of Tim Buckley and Pat Benatar, with quietly captivating results
As the story goes, erstwhile Bad Seed and The Birthday Party guitarist-songwriter Mick Harvey met Amanda Acevedo while he was on tour with PJ Harvey, and a creative union blossomed over the course of 2020/21. They prove an ideally timeless match, with Harvey’s gravelly baritone leavened by Acevedo’s lilt for a drifting hour of romantic torchsong, solemn reflections on mortality, and finding meaning in the mythical.
Underlined by additional guitar and instrumentation from the likes of Rowland S. Howard (Harvey’s bandmate in Crime & the City Solution and The Birthday Party), and set in place by recording engineer Alain Johannes (QOTSA, Mark Lanegan), the album simply drips with a classic lustre that is as much testament to the the old soul of young Acevedo, as it is to Harvey’s legendary calibre. Their take on Tim Buckley’s ‘Song to the Siren’ is a standout, simmering down the vocals and allowing the string arrangement to carry them more rustically, while previous single ‘Milk & Honey’ also grips with its sublime quiet/loud tension, and the late night blooz of ‘The Decadence of Lust’ reminds to Harvey’s Melbourne offspring HTRK in its rapt hush. Acevedo also sounds hauntingly beautiful when singing in her native tongue to Harvey’s english on ‘The Blue Unicorn’.
An entrancing longform piece for shō, Hammond organ and cello, ‘Fragments of Reincarnation’ is ostensibly a study of the differing tuning systems inherent in each of the three instruments, but with results that simmer and sooth in a way that most immediately recalls Kara-Lis Coverdale’s ‘Grafts’.
Michiko Ogawa is a Japanese composer and player of the clarinet, Hammond organ and "sho" - a Japanese bamboo organ. She is a prolific collaborator who has worked with James Rushford, Sam Dunscombe, Klaus Lang among many others, and is also a member of Berlin’s Harmonic Space Orchestra. Lucy Railton needs little introduction in these pages, she is best known for her solo work for Modern Love and her years-long collaboration with influential EMS co-founder and computer music legend Peter Zinovieff (RIP). Lucy was also the founder of London Contemporary Music Festival (LCMF) and has worked with countless artists from Kit Downes, Stephen O’Malley and Kali Malone to Huerco S and Britton Powell as PDP III.
Fragments Of Reincarnation was recorded in Berlin and finds the duo in meditative form, with Lucy’s cello given an almost levitational quality by the sustained notes and slow progressions of the Hammond. Ogawa’s shō weaves around these elements with a breathless, almost wheezing quality that imbues the piece with a fallibility and warmth so often lacking in longform experimental music. In fact, although the expressive dimension of those different tuning systems at points converge into sections of perceived dissonance (especially as the sho grows in intensity towards the end of the piece), the overall effect is one of complete harmony and - dare we say it - one that packs quite an emotional punch.
Jim O’Rourke and Robert Ashley collaborator Thomas Buckner contributes source material for drone alchemist Phill Niblock’s 2001 Touch debut, a true meisterwerk resounding with canonical pieces by La Monte Young, Éliane Radigue, Phurpa, Yoshi Wada, Harley Gaber
‘Touch Works, For Hurdy Gurdy And Voice’ arrived at the cusp of the new millennium as Phill Niblock’s follow-up to the immense ‘Ghists and Others’ (1999), which was recently reissued by Room40. The three part album is cleft between instrumental and vocal works that, despite differing origins, ideally illustrate the singular results achieved by Niblock’s ascetic process of sampling, editing and layering acoustic sources into breathtaking microtonal drone chronics. It’s works such as this one, and reaching back to his 1982 debut, ‘Nothing To Look at Just a Record’ that firmly established Niblock among the pantheon of c.20th drone great and beyond, and remains a powerful example of transcendent art music in effect.
According to his typically no tricks approach and inarguable results, ’Hurdy Hurry’ features a Jim O’Rourke performance on the titular, hand-cranked instrument, renowned for its ability to produce sustained tones, alchemised by Niblock into 14 minutes of glacially shifting harmonic registers peaking out with searing top end dissonance and swollen low end. The effect recalls Yoshi & Tashi Wada’s work with reed organ, harmonium and bagpipes as much as the sound of a foghorn dying, and we’re fully here for it. ’A Y U’ on the other hand, is the meat of this release, pitching American baritone vocalist Thomas Buckner in a transfixing exploration of vocal drone chronics producing psychedelic overtones as more commonly heard in Tibetan throat singing or the likes of Phurpa. For some 40 odd minutes over two parts he opens a portal to other dimensions.
Supremely heavyweight 3+ hours of Phill Niblock’s immense instrumental slabs - essential listening for disciples of Éliane Radigue, Tony Conrad, Kevin Drumm, Sunn 0))), Eleh
First presented in 2006, ‘Touch Three’ showcases 9 pieces, 3hr 33min of material recorded and processed by Niblock between 2003-2005. Aside to its ‘sax Mix’, all works were produced from the sound of one player, on one instrument, into a sole mic, whose recordings were edited of breathing spaces with a Powerbook G4 to leave only the natural decay and attack of their tones. All straightforward enough, but the results are powerfully transcendent, producing sustained microtones that uncannily resemble electronic sources yet are entirely acoustic in nature.
In effect the works induce an acute sense of suspense on the cusp of calm and dread, favouring the sort of resonances that one recognises from the “real” world, although exaggerated. In the process his organised sounds connote the feel of horror films as much as the hypnagogia of riding heavy machinery such as a bus or more pertinently a motorbike, the latter of which, along with the music of Morton Feldman, initially inspired Niblock - a photographer and pioneering Intermedia artist by trade - to start arranging sound in the ‘70s.
It’s safe to say that Niblock’s music effortlessly aids one in achieving rarer states of mind. Given due attention (it more often demands, not requests it), it holds great potential to inspire sensations of synaesthesia and short circuit audio-visual, spatio-temporal perceptions like few others.
Witness a master at work with the black hole drone traction of Phill Niblock’s 2003 opus, newly available again on its 20th anniversary. Essential RIYL Éliane Radigue, Stephen O’Malley, Reinhold Friedl, Charlemagne Palestine, Tony Conrad, Pauline Oliveros
Phill Niblock is one of few artists to have a Sunn 0))) track named in their honour, which speaks volumes to his prowess and uncompromising avant approach to thee heaviest drone music. 2003’s ‘Food’ is hugely powerful example of his ascetic process at work, with four pieces deriving a mesmerising, sustained microtonal drone pressure from acoustic recordings made by Ulrich Krieger (baritone sax), Carol Robinson (bass clarinet, basset horn, clarinet), and Reinhold Friedl (piano). Sunn’s mantra, “maximum volume yields maximum effect” applies acutely to Phill’s music, and never more so than on this 2.5 hour motherload, in which he implores listens to play “VERY LOUD” in the liner notes.
‘Sea Jelly Yellow’ opens the account with an oceanic deposit of smeared baritone sax, layered up and held in place like the intro to a cataclysmic riff that never comes, but nevertheless fixates attention for the duration. ‘Sweet Potato’ follows with an exploration of higher register tones knit in gnawing discord that may leave one unsettled, before ‘Yam Almost May’ supplies some sense of resolution as it recedes into subharmonic mire producing intoxicating overtones. However, the meat of this session is ‘Pan Fried’, a five-part stunner rendering Reinhold Frield’s prepared piano tekkerz at an astonishing, galactic scale of billowing resonance and speaker-worrying low end that just gives and gives.