Arvo Pärt has become something of a yardstick by which all modern classical should be measured, and 'Alina' is arguably his most beautiful piece of work. If you're into Max Richter, Johann Johannsson, Nils Frahm etc - this is perhaps the single most influential piece of music on any of those artists and has come to define the contemporary genre. When you realise this music was composed between 1976 and 1978, it's evident just how ahead of the game Pärt has really been.
'Spiegel Im Spiegel' and 'Fur Alina' have both been used in countless films, the former being perhaps one of the most beautiful pieces of contemporary classical music compoised in the last half-century, rendered with nothing more than piano and violin, captured on this definitive ECM version from 1999 featuring Vladimir Spivakov, Sergej Bezrodny, Dietmar Schwalke and Alexander Malter providing alternate versions.
Pärt's ability to distil so much emotion and spirituality into his work really is quite hard to fathom, regardless of how many times you've heard these magical pieces. If you're new to Pärt, this is really the best place to start.
Bleak, acrid chamber noise electronics from Paris-based Mondkopf, resonating strongly with the reverberant recordings of Alessandro Cortini or Joachim Nordwall, but better compared with the former for its swelling, emotive grip.
Pinch & Sherwood emerge from last years’s Late Night Endless with a 2nd shock of tunes, Man vs Sofa, pitching their unparalleled studio nous on 11 cuts of cranky atmosphere and spliff-bending bass pressure.
Man vs Sofa sees Sherwood’s original, wide-open On-U Sound aesthetic updated thru Pinch’s up-to-the minute production palette and accompanied by a roll call including Lee Scratch Perry, Martin Duffy (Primal Scream), Taz (Def Jam), and Skip McDonald (The Sugarhill Gang, Tackhead, Little Axe) for extra vibes.
Under the ambiguous title Man vs Sofa - are they encouraging you to get off your arse, or trying to put you on it? - the duo serve up some of their most diverse, textured and fractious arrangements, all trustingly helmed in massive, physical basslines; stepping from anxious dread feels in Roll Call to a noisy, murderous version of Pinch’s Retribution via a sweetboy cover of Ryuichi Nakamoto’s Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence and a typically mystic turn from Lee Perry on Lies.
Heavy UK dub in effect.
Preeminent sound artist Florian Hecker investigates the uncanny valley of perception between man/machine in the experimental auditory drama A Script For Machine Synthesis, featuring main vocals by Charlotte Rampling, and completing his trilogy of collaborations with philosopher Reza Negarestani after Chimärisation (2012), and Articulação (2014).
Aesthetically, A Script For Machine Synthesis delivers all the pervasive electronic sensation and perversion you’d hope for from a Hecker recording; most notably including passages of clammy subbass which we’ve hardly haven’t heard in his palette since IT ISO161975 (1998), strangely enough applied to the perfectly plummy tones of polyglot actress and chanteuse Charlotte Rampling, oscillating between untreated recital and a deeply unsettling synthetic voice designed by Rob Clark and the Centre for Speech Research Technology, University of Edinburgh.
Unfortunately the digital files don’t include the perfume designed for the original installation of A Script For Machine Synthesis, but we can safely say that the piece’s potential for synaesthetic appeal in rarely paralleled.
It’s another real headful, highly recommended to listeners looking for life affirming/probing sonic sensations.
**From the label**
“The latest work from Florian Hecker A Script for Machine Synthesis is an experimental auditory drama and a model of abstraction. A Script for Machine Synthesis presents a complex simplicity that spirals in an unending manner as an audio image of the uncanny valley. It is the third chapter in the trilogy of text-sound pieces Hecker has collaborated with the philosopher Reza Negarestani. A resynthesized voice outlines procedure as procedure itself unfolds.
The suggestive encounter with a pink ice cube is a conceptual point of departure for a scene in which linguistic chimeras of descriptors are materialized through synthetic trophies, mental props and auditory objects.
Hecker presents a synthesis of the gap in the valley which we almost know. The motifs Hecker has staged in the last decade, the text, the sound, the scent, the obelisk, the demon, the self, the other all appear throughout in a thorough, rigid and formal exploration.
Exeunt all human actors, A Script for Machine Synthesis is an experiment in putting synthetic emptiness back into synthetic thought.”
Hervè Atsè Corti reaffirms his commitment to the Planet Mu cause on a fifth album.
The addition of Herva to the Planet Mu roster back in their 20th anniversary year was a welcome surprise and it’s great to see how the Florence producer has developed since then. The cannily-titled Hyper Flux follows Herva’s under-rated Mu debut, Kila, and reaffirms his natural talent for fractured, chaotic yet sharply realised electronic music that is far too devilish for the genre police.
Forever a producer willing to rip up the script in the name of creativity, Hyper Flux finds Herva grappling with incorporating live instruments into his array of recording methods. In truth, this just furthers the potential for sonic disarray which Herva explores with abandon across twelve tracks that investigate guzzling braindance, naughty boogie, broken house, slanted footwork, frayed ambient and more.
More than ever before for a collection of Herva cuts, these thrillingly unpredictable deviations within the course of the album leave you with a slab of music that really reveals it’s true beauty with time. Hyper Flux feels like Herva confidently brushing off the artistic comparisons people have previously made, edging ever closer to a style and sound that can only really be classified as his own.
Little known ‘fact’: Thundercat has 15 fingers and 3 thumbs, which enables him to play all the chords, in every combination, and invent a few ones, on Drunk; his 4th album with the Brainfeeder family, featuring guest turns by Flying Lotus, Kendrick Lamar, Pharrell, Wiz Khalifa, Kamasi Washington, and Kenny bloody Loggins! It’s the closest you’ll find to ‘70s soul and jazz-fusion beyond the original thing...
“The album is a 23-track epic journey into the often hilarious, sometimes dark mind of the Grammy-winning singer/bassist and finds a few of his friends joining him along the way including: Kendrick Lamar, Pharrell, Michael McDonald, Kenny Loggins, Wiz Khalifa, Kamasi Washington and Brainfeeder mastermind Flying Lotus. “Drunk” is the follow up to his widely praised 2015 mini album “The Beyond / Where The Giants Roam”, and features fan favourite tracks ‘Bus In These Streets’ and ‘Them Changes’.
‘Show You The Way’ is the first single from “Drunk”, and the ballad features two of Thundercat’s heroes: iconic musicians Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald. And how did this collaboration come to be? Thundercat mentioned his love of Loggins several times during his press tour for “The Beyond…” (Dinner Party Download, Billboard), leading to an introduction via his keyboard player Dennis Hamm. He tells Red Bull Music Academy Daily: “These are guys that I've listened to and where I felt that I've learned that honesty in the music. Kenny Loggins is one of my favourite songwriters.” Loggins was the one that suggested bringing McDonald in on the track and, Thundercat adds: “I think one of the most beautiful moments was realising how amazing Michael McDonald is. He would go through so many ideas and have so much to offer.”
Thundercat also notes: “That song to me is about going down the rabbit hole, taking you to another place… On the edge of dark, there's the brightest light. It means a lot to me in the sense of... the experience that I've had growing up with friends and people that I've been around where it's inviting them into where I come from emotionally. Sometimes it's a pretty intense thing. The point is how weird things can get. I feel like it's very funny that, in a way, of course Michael McDonald and Kenny would be there.”
The album title, like the rest of the album, is meant to be both humorous and serious. “I’ve always tried to hold true to what Erykah Badu and Flying Lotus told me: It has to come from an honest place. I feel like it’s a place that I’ve been in different ways, seen different angles of and it’s been a bit inspirational - the drinking,” he tells RBMA Daily. “It has its ups and downs and everything, but I felt like it showed the human side of what goes on behind things, something that I see with all of my friends… I felt like it was kind of interweaved in the music culture. And it’s something that’s never talked about.”
Incredible, previously unreleased early 1980's Algerian synth electronic by Ahmed Malek, compiled by Flako.
Remarkable discovery of late ‘70s/early ’80s avant ambient electronics from Arabic North Africa; originally conceived as demos or private studies by Ahmed Malek (1931-2008) - “Algeria’s answer to Ennio Morricone” - and now faithfully edited and buffed up for release by Flako. Imagine Dariush Dolat-Shahi turned into jazzy concrète mosaics by NWW and you’ve almost got a grasp of this record’s slippery wonder.
The Electronic Tapes follows Habibi Funk’s prized vinyl reissue of Malek’s Musique Originale De Films  with an unprecedented peek inside the boxes of Malek’s master tapes that were recently discovered by his family in Algiers during the soundtrack reissue process. As the tapes were effectively unfinished demos and the artist isn’t around to consult anymore, electronic producer Flako has capably stepped in to polish them off, adding only subtle flourishes of era-compatible Roland SH-2000 and Korg MS20 to sympathetically bring Malek’s electro-acoustic tapestries to life, and in a way that we can only imagine he would be pleased with.
Ostensibly sounding like some home-made new age excursion from late ‘70s Europe or North America, it’s the recurring presence of authentically Arabic scales and percussive patterns which identify this set beyond some obscure cosmic library LP from Italy or France, and closer to the rare experiments with jazz and electronics - such as Dariush Dolat-Shahi, Salah Ragab, or Ilhan Mimaroglu - from Arabic North Africa and the Middle East that we’re familiar with.
But even still, Flako’s post-processed results form a strange anachronism unto itself, skilfully weaving his improvisations on the original material in an innovative and subtle way that makes it tricky, and perhaps pointless, to distinguish between the dates of recording or who did what. Maybe it’s best left to Flako to sum the project up as: “ It’s Ahmed’s music… If anything, I feel like a member of his band, you know? I’m a part of this. That’s roughly how I see it.”
Stretched across space and time and fleshed out with imagination, the 17 tracks are just crammed with charmingly wild and kinetic ideas, setting out with a squinted synth vision recalling The Godfather theme sent into orbit, before constantly mutating thru cinematic strokes to insectoid jazz scuttle, romantic downbeats, haywire astral synth jabs and whirligig dances by the album’s close, with each allowing X amount of room for the original piece’s experimental nature and fractious arrangements.
Basically it’s not a straight-up reissue, nor is it an new recording; it’s something else and brilliant with it.
Fade To Mind boss lad and Kelea producer, Kingdom, comes up strong with a debut album of signature, moody R&B bangers featuring guest vox by Syd The Internet, Najee Daniels, and Top Dawg Ents’ SZA on six of its eleven cuts.
Prefaced by lead single, Nothin feat. Syd, which appears here in its lush original and bouncing club mixes, Tears In The Club works like a proper album rather than mixtape or a clutch of singles. It mostly operates at a sultry pace, warming up with the future soul glow of What Is Love, the warped club bump of Each & Every Day, and if we’re not mistaken, a snippet of Dawn Richard tweaked into the slow-mo R&B trance of Nurtureworld.
Shaker provides the only male vocal on the record, tucked into the tri-step tics of Breathless, whilst the title track gives up its heaviest club pressure, but our favourites come at the other end, with the weightless instrumental dip of Timex.
The production is diaphanous yet detailed, matched by economical but opulent arrangements and song-writing that future-proof Tears In The Club for time to come.
Featuring members of Tortoise, Eleventh Dream Day, Steve Gunn Band and Tweedy
“A sense of place has been essential to the music of Brokeback since guitarist/bassist Douglas McCombs first launched the project in 1995. Initially conceived as a solo outlet, the Chicago group has taken on new dimensions over the past two decades, morphing from the lean, pastoral ambience of the first album, Field Recordings from the Cook County Water Table, to the more muscular, taut arrangements and dynamic swells of the last release, Brokeback and the Black Rock, for which McCombs assembled a new quartet lineup. Each album develops with exacting detail, revealing McCombs’s gift for dialling in the essence of a mood, feeling, or distant locale with a handful of reverb-laden guitar tones, elegant and sustained, strategically placed and sparingly deployed. The instrumental landscapes he creates on Illinois River Valley Blues are utterly transportive, evoking familiar open-frontier soundtracks and charting out new sonic territory.
Several songs feature lush, multi-layered vocals by Amalea Tshilds (the Paulina Hollers), who made a deep impression on McCombs with a spellbinding a cappella performance a couple years ago. “I often imagine female vocals on Brokeback records, but I wanted it to be someone that I have personal history with, someone who can nail it, not to mention someone who I know digs the music,” he says. “That's why Mary Hansen sang on all those earlier records and why I wanted Lea for this.”
McCombs’s singular approach to guitar and bass, characteristic of his work with Tortoise, is expertly enhanced here by James Elkington (Tweedy, Steve Gunn) on second guitar (moving over from drums on the last record). The two salute one of McCombs’s favorite bands, Television, with latticed dual leads on the stately yet aggressive “On the Move and Vanishing,” while Elkington’s subtle layers of pedal steel and organ burnish more ruminative forays like “Andalusia, IL” and “Ursula.” Their intertwining flights are anchored by the sturdy yet versatile rhythm team of bassist Pete Croke (Exit Verse, Tight Phantomz) and drummer Areif Sless-Kitain (the Eternals), the newest member of Brokeback.
Illinois River Valley Blues is a winding, wistful travelogue that not only captures darker textures but mines their depths. That’s been part of McCombs’s vision for Brokeback from the start: “To me a song is not worth writing if it doesn't have a strong sense of melancholy,” he says.”
Who are we now, in the era of the internet? Former Americanmen artist Sevendeaths looks to answer this on his new album of hi-def power ambient for Luckyme.
Edinburgh-based musician Steven Shade expands on the VST-centric grandiosity of his 2013 debut Sevendeaths set ‘Concreté Misery’ with this rather enveloping new album for the Luckyme crew.
A certain cinematic quality has always been evident in the Sevendeaths sound, but he really ups the ante on ‘Remote Sympathy,’ the ten tracks benefitting from the inclusion of natural sound sources via spectral resynthesis and sampling techniques and contributions from Rafe Fitzpatrick and Iban Perez.
Fans of Jóhann Jóhannsson and the recent output on Subtext should pay attention as Sevendeaths really captures a stunning snapshot of expertly crafted drone and power ambient geared as “both a celebration of life and human strength and an acceptance of the frailty of the human spirit.”
The conceptual nature of the album doesn’t weigh too heavily on the music however, this is no forlorn exercise in noise brutality; rather the moments of darkness act as brief interludes to Shade’s undoubted capacity to sculpt and orchestrate synthesis of shimmering incandescence.
Tresor’s 25th Anniversary compilation finds the label looking inwards to discover its strengths in depth and consistency thru 10 powerful, atmospheric cuts ranging from blissed, dark ambience to roiling acid, reaffirming a crucial, underlying sense of psychedelia that has long been at the core of techno proper, yet is all too often overlooked or misunderstood. Includes exclusive versions of tracks from Terrence DIxon, Juan & Moritz, Donato Dozzy, Jon Hassel, TV Victor and more.
Dreamy Harbor is not necessarily an ‘ambient’ album per se, nor a dancefloor selection for that matter. It aims somewhere between the eyes, inducing hypnotic states thru explorative, intuitive frequency manipulation and a host of other, esoteric techniques in pursuit of psychedelic creativity.
If you’re looking for highlights, check the new trippy, expanded new edit of Terrence Dixon’s The Switch - which was found on the CD version of From The Far Future Pt.2 - then the rounded new edit of Electric Dub, which was a highlight of Juan Atkins & Moritz Von Oswald’s Borderland LP, and also for the rolling, haunted pressure system of Mønic’s What Lies Behind Us; that seriously murky 303 action on Donato Dozzy’s The Night Rider; and a pair of lusher wormholes in Jon Hassell’s exclusive Timeless, and a sci-fi epic, Direction Asymmetry from Daughter Produkt.
Exquisite eldritch spooking from Children Of Alice, the trio of Broadcast’s James Cargill and Roj Stevens joined by Julian House, who collaborated with Broadcast on the final album in his guise as The Focus Group. The trio are titled in tribute to Trish Keenan (R.I.P.), the Broadcast co-founder and Cargill’s partner, who named Jonathan Miller’s ‘60s film adaptation of Alice In Wonderland among the band’s main inspirations.
Now conscripted to Broadcast’s erstwhile label, Warp Records, Children of Alice offers a necessary recap of their adventures to date with three pieces previously issued on Folklore Tapes, plus one previously unheard part called The Liminal Space.
The 19 minute invocation, The Harbinger Of Spring was originally their debut side from a split with Mary Arches in 2013. It drowsily sets the rabbit-holing tone for the rest of the record with a glistening miasma of warbling ephemera and beautifully elusive harmonies to put you in the lushest spin.
Rite of the Maypole appeared on Folklore Tapes’ Merry May compilation in 2015 and sounds like a light-headed fever dream rendered in smudged ’60s pastels, at times uncannily recalling parts of Mark Leckey’s Dream English Kid soundtrack, before Invocation of a Midsummer Reverie (from Crown of Light (Midsummer Traditions & Folklore) reaps some real magic from mercurial flurries of tabla, droning ’tronics and suggestively febrile moans.
The one part exclusive to this release, The Liminal Space, is a big highlight of the set, where Radiophonic rustle, avant-jazz gestures and wilting keys share a lysergic, drily dubbed headspace.
What a beauty!?
A salve for folk souls and whoever needs it; Ben Chasny makes acoustic folk-pop great again.
“In preparing for the first album of non-Hexadic Six Organs of Admittance music since 2012’s Ascent, Ben Chasny had a think about what he’d be saying in his own tongue for the first time in a half-decade. As ever, a head-full of ideas were driving him to think and speak music as a spirituality superimposed onto a reality, with the ghosts of both whispering at each other. In the end, what sits in our listening ears is the sound of communion. Burn- ing the Threshold brings a wealth of Six Organs-styled lightness into one of his sweetest musical meditations yet.
With a spacious acoustic soundstage, Burn- ing the Threshold may actually more resemble 2011’s Asleep on the Flood- plain. Or it may more resemble Compathia, or School of the Flower. All of this is speculative, comparative, unverifiable — but our sense of what is true tells us that nobody plays acoustic music quite like Six Organs of Admittance, and that furthermore, nothing sounds so much like Burning the Threshold as Burning the Threshold.
Ben is in a particularly expansive mood this time around, singing and playing while thinking of birds in the morning, anarchy, Third Ear Band, Gaston Bachelard, The Gnostics, Ronnie Lane and/or The Faces, Deleuze, Aaron Cheak, Odysseus, This Heat, Takoma Records, St Eustace, Dark Noontide and a HELL of a lot more than that, with all the thoughts affixed to a quiver of potent melodies launching forth and arcing out through dimensions, seeking infinite space.
The space radiates out from the album’s first moment, with “Things As They Are,” a song examining the life of poet Wallace Stevens. Ben’s currently working on music for a theatrical work about Stevens’ life set to debut in Cleveland later in 2017. The empathetic waves generated by this song resonate throughout the album, giving a new dimension to the music of Six Organs of Admittance.
Like so many other Six Organs records, Burning the Threshold was created mostly solo, but features the singing talents of Alex Nielsen, Haley Fohr and Damon and Naomi; the drumming of Chris Corsano; a guitar duet with Ryley Walker, and keys and mixing from Cooper Crain. With this new music, Ben Chasny has created a potent tonic for our times. The gentleness found here, balanced on top of his classical asceticism, provides much of what we need in 2017 and beyond: love, forgiveness, reality and an ever-wider view, with the understanding of our circular path in this lifetime. Looking at the world through clear eyes beneath a knitted brow, but with a laugh rising up from its heart, Burning the Threshold brings us a powerful draught of essence.”
Sun Ra: piano; John Gilmore: tenor sax; Marshall Allen: alto sax; Pat Patrick: baritone sax; Robert Cummings: baritone clarinet; Teddy Nance: trombone; Ali Hassan: trombone; Clifford Jarvis: drums; Ronnie Boykins: bass, tuba; James Jackson: log drum, flute; Carl Nimrod: sun horn, gong.
"The 1965 sessions that produced the original two volumes of Heliocentric Worlds came during the most extremely free-form period of Ra's career, contemporaneous with The Magic City (Saturn Records). Volume 1, recorded in April with an 11-member band, consists of seven relatively short tracks (none over eight minutes); these tracks find Sun Ra breaking ground by using synthesizers and having the Arkestra musicians double on percussion. Recorded in November with an octet, Volume 2, in contrast, was much freer and featured the side-long "The Sun Myth" and the 15-minute "Cosmic Chaos."
The horn players and legendary bassist Ronnie Boykins have plenty of room to stretch out and take full advantage. "A House of Beauty" offers five minutes of relatively lyrical respite between the other tracks. When ESP-Disk' resumed issuing new releases in 2005, Sun Ra archivist Michael D. Anderson resurrected another five tracks from the November session to create Volume 3, featuring the powerful "Intercosmosis."
"...the two Heliocentric Worlds albums, both recorded in 1965, appeared on the iconoclastic ESP-Disk label, and propagated his music to a wider audience of listeners who were open to freakiness. Both volumes are improvisations by subgroups of the Arkestra (directed by Ra), and even at their most dissonant, they're playful and spacious — 'Dancing in the Sun' is off-the-cuff big-band swing. 'The Sun Myth' is a panoramic 18-minute fantasia in which two or three instruments at a time toss long, buzzing tones and high honks back and forth, then fall out of orbit again." – Douglas Wolk, #9 on Spin's "The Top 100 Alternative Albums of the 1960s
Dirty Projectors cough up the canniest indie-pop album in ages with an eponymous, R&B-soaked anomaly practically making a mockery of those indie guitar bands who still continue to ply worthless, played-out pop conventions.
As possibly the one band who can claim mutual connections between Kanye, Rihanna, Paul McCartney, Solange, Blood Orange and Björk, the credentials of Dirty Projectors are peerless at the least, and this, their 8th full length album proves why their experimental song-writing and instrumental talents are sought out by the biggest selling artists in the world.
It’s basically down to the way they acknowledge and consolidate the influence of modern Black soul and pop music as much as folk, chamber music and avant-garde electronic traditions in their compositions, and in a way that is blithely refused by those guitar bands who continue to churn out the same ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s and ’80s-inspired pop styles without realising that each and every one of them is rooted in one form of Black music or another, but gets lost in consecutive translations.
We’d wager it’s a sign of the cleft between majors run by crusty posh old white dudes, and what clued-up younger people actually want to listen to (same difference with Trump/insecure right wing doyles and everyone else, really?). Maybe this isn’t the place for politics but this record seems to embody our current feelings in the best, most relevant way right now, and it'd be remiss to ignore it.
From the eager use of autotune (taken to throat-curdling effect in Keep Your Name) to the ruggedness of their drum programming (like vintage Timba in Death Spiral) to an oil-shimmer mix of G-funk and Americana in Little Bubble or the delicate yet rude pivot of Winner Take Nothing, which could almost be a Disclosure cut; their sense of twisted ridiculousness may be taken as piss-taking by some, when it’s actually a very necessary level of extremity needed to shock and wake the scene from its utterly regressive indulgence and dearth of new ideas.
And most crucially, it’s done with a balance of faithful respect and honesty toward the strangeness and psychedelia of their art form, like, say Autre Ne Veut or Clams Casino (for good examples of respectful but uncompromising appropriation) as opposed to the limpid, simpering pish you'll find elsewhere.
In other words it’s highly engaging, challenging and satisfying in equal measures, and all because they got the balance right. A rare thing indeed for contemporary pop from an “indie” band.
Ryan Carlile and Spencer Doran traverse the outer reaches on this killer Visible Cloaks document for RVNG.
We just knew last year's debut Visible Cloaks offering for RVNG, the Miyako Koda-featuring Visible Cloaks single Valve, would be the prelude to something greater from Ryan Carlile and Spencer Doran. Reassemblage marks the Portland pair's second album and further expands upon the Visible Cloaks 'verse, calling on Motion Graphics and Root Strata alum Matt Carlson for assistance.
Inspiration for the album stems from a video essay of the same name by Trin T Minha-ha, which explored the impossibility of ascribing meaning to ethnographic images. With this in mind, Visible Cloaks set about transposing the inherent futurism of acts discovered on their inspirational Fairlights, Mallets and Bamboo mixes well into the 21st Century through modern sound design.
This results in an album whose eleven tracks possess a startlingly lucid and vibrant vision, forming new structures and ideas in the process. The aforementioned Valve features early in Reassemblage, Miyako Koda's presence gaining even more meaning within the context of Carlile and Doran's intentions for the album.
Elsewhere, vocals are deployed with a more abstract bent, VC playfully skewering Matt Carlson's voice through digital manipulation on Neume for one of the album's forays through musique plastique. Circles offers a genuinely spine-tingling moment of modern classical, whilst Motion Graphics follows his avant-jazz Future Times gripper with some illuminating assistance on the digital tranquility of Bloodstream.
Wonderful stuff all round.
After teasing us to bits with The Moomins Theme 7”, Finders Keepers pull out the full, UK-specific soundtrack to practically everyone’s favourite Finnish fuzzy felt fantasy, written in 1982 by a pair of politically driven post-punk theatre performers from a shared house in Leeeds. One of the trippiest bouts of nostalgia you’ll ever receive, especially those bubblegum electro bits…
“Like a tall tale from the heart of Moominpapa’s memoirs the story of the lost music of Moominvalley has remained a mystery for what seems like an eternity… Or perhaps 33 years to be more accurate. Since the first time the home made Wasp-synth and ocarina driven theme tube and eerie incidental themes first made their soft landings on the UK Children’s ITV, nostalgia nuts, acid-folk fans and electro acoustic aficionados have been united by a fruitless yearning for those misplaced melodies and that last comforting synth note that resolved each episode of what was perhaps the most freakish Fuzzy-Felt five minutes to flicker onto our small screens during the 80′s wonder years.
Born in Helsinki, made in Warsaw, by a German and Austrian co-operative, and finally soundtracked in Leeds in the North of England, the translated and reconstituted tales of Moomintroll, Snuffkin and The Hattifattners (amongst a handcrafted cast of many) first came to our screens as an early exploration of Anne Wood (later creator the equally freakish Teletubbies) who after stripping the Polish and German audio commissioned a new experimental soundtrack from the collective social circles of The Impact Theatre Co-Operative, Gang Of Four and The Commies From Mars. Finally retrieved from the outer limits of it’s cross continental breadcrumb trail Finders Keepers finally grant you an access all areas pass into the vault presenting a complete full formed soundtrack album that fills the gaps between the aforementioned micro-genres that flourished in light of domestic synth technology while providing a woozy hallucinogenic antidote to the disenfranchised political backdrop of 1980s Britain fuelled by a vibrant alternative and progressive pop culture.
Welcome to the ultimate escapist paradise and the exotic folkloric plains of Moominvalley where their anonymous sinfonietta layers synthesiser textures, sound poetry and a pocket orchestra of mechanical instruments with a miniature electronic drum-kit all of which can be heard to their fullest post-punk-potential throughout the grooves of this long anticipate 15 track instrumental adventure.
Via Midwinter rituals, woodland celebrations, astral laments and spectral effervescence, Miller and Shill follow the running-theme of the uber-classic title tune throughout the oblique narrative of the original 100 episodes conjuring nostalgia, awe, surprise, apprehension and unlikely wonderment harking back to our naive wonder years while also pre-empting a universe of electronic music which arguably still begs further intrepid exploration… Perhaps the time is right for this magnetic Moomins music to finally meet it’s modest masses. However long you plan to hibernate, Don’t sleep on this one.”
Ghostly atmospheric gong and location recordings performed and made by original Fluxus member, Philip Corner with new age shaman Hiah Park in 1988 and 1989 accompanied by dancers
“Philip Corner writes… ‘Hiah Park – new age shaman, then living in California (where else?). My Korea connexion interest led me to a workshop she gave in New York; more sessions continued until the opportunity of really working together at the proposed seminar ‘Art and the Invisible Reality’ to be held in Bavaria. I revisited my old practice of ‘metal meditations’ specially reinterpreted to go with performance/dance derived from traditional shamanic practices (of which she a certified practitioner). Then done in Trento in front of the cathedral where we joked about when they burnd witches. After the two performances in Europe our association came to an end.
Sin Cha Hong, a great friend in New York and a fabulous dancer and choreographer. Truly profound and intense body-incorporated physicality serving a spiritual content in no need of official status. Her Korean-American company she called Laughing Stone (with its implicit antipod-olarity so seeming compatible with my own expression thru music); she used my anklung (Javanese bamboo rattles) quartet gamelan Adagio onstage for one of her solos.
For many years now she has been back in the Orient. We did reconnect in 1993, performing together in the festival ‘The Seoul of Fluxus’. This recording I made alone in the New York loft with my ‘familiar’ – the large Paiste tam-tam: while holding her in my mind.
The dancer/shamans are, as their names show, from Korea – the country par excellence for this ancient form of religion incarnate. I have had a long continuing and most appreciative relationship to that country’s culture, from 1960 when shipped as a trombonesman to the American occupying forces there and and turned on each afternoon listening to ‘National (Kuk Ahk) Music Hour’ their theme song ‘Su Je Chun’ – the most ancient piece from the court repertoire which I have never stopped hearing as the most beautiful music ever made. That, and the breakthrough composition ‘Sang-Teh/Situations’ which written and performed in Seoul in 1961, made this meeting and working with a genuine Korean shaman a spectacular amplification of my rapport.
It was the beginning of the years-long improvisation-meditation practice shared with many other dancers, including most notably Phœbe Neville, soon to become my wife, and still is.’ – Philip Corner, Reggio nell’Emilia, 1st September, 2016.
In 1966 ESP-Disk' founder Bernard Stollman put together a multi-artist tour of five New York colleges and sent audio engineer David B. Jones on the road with it. When they returned, just 39 minutes of music was chosen to be released as the original Sun Ra LP Nothing Is...
"Forty-four years later, Sun Ra archivist Michael D. Anderson pieced together some missing parts of the New York College Tour. Recorded on May 18th 1966 at St. Lawrence University in Potsdam, NY, this illuminating document represents the full 70-minute first set, from which Nothing Is... was taken. In addition, Anderson uncovered a partial second set from the same evening and some rare rehearsal footage recorded during a sound check before the concert.
The over 90 minutes of additional material includes the rarely performed "State Street" and alternate versions of "Theme of the Stargazers" and "The Second Stop Is Jupiter." Remastered from the original tapes and presented in superb quality, College Tour Volume One is a vivid snapshot of the mid-Sixties Ra and his intergalactic band."
"This album captures events from January to August of this year and how I processed it all while traveling... I’m blessed to have met the very talented Justin Broadrick and to have made these beautiful albums with him..."
“These two new albums capture more than my reactions to mass murders or the passing of beloved heroes like David Bowie or Muhammad Ali. The Sun Kil Moon and Jesu/Sun Kil Moon albums are also full of love, humor, and my gratitude for the gift of life.” - Mark Kozelek, Sun Kil Moon
Moiré responds to the current state of sh*t affairs on a second album of ‘London techno’ for the Ghostly crew.
Aligning with Ghostly Intl after a 12” salvo on their Spectral division last year, the pre-eminent, perennially hat clad exponent of ‘London techno’ Moiré delivers his second album. Referring to the Orwellian nightmare currently unfolding in front of us both sides of the Atlantic, as well as the perennially-troubled nature of London’s nightlife, No Future doesn’t necessarily offer any answers. It does expand on the producer’s palette of well-crafted, robust techno and ambient leaning house previously shown on Rush Hour, Werk Discs and R&S.
Moiré reveals his junglist roots in linking up with Good Looking vet MC DRS for two tracks; Delroy Pottinger’s trademark delivery adding a new dimension to the twilit house slink of Bootleg. South London poet James Massiah also features, intoning the stuttering glide of Façade with his unique cadence. Otherwise, this is Moiré on a solo flex, delivering on the potential displayed on that Werkdiscs debut LP back in 2014 for a rewarding document of house and techno that mixes foggy tones with highly-realised rhythms.
RIYL early Kassem Mosse on Workshop, NWAQ, Terrence Dixon.
Dawn Richards and Machinedrum entwine one of 2016’s most adventurous R&B albums in Redemption, unpackaging the promise of their Not Above That anthem across a suite of idiosyncratic vocal twists and flighty, vibrant production.
Looking like the starchild of Sun Ra on the front cover, D∆WN really sets to work defining her sound in freestyling opposition to the rest of the scene, embracing a palette of giddy tweaks and unexpected pivots that make the former member of girl group, Danity Kane, stand out a mile on her own terms.
The Redemption LP is literally and conceptually cleft in two parts that correspond to the yin and yang of D∆WN’s chimeric aesthetic. On the one hand, you have the lushly spacious and vertiginous A-side, freewheeling from ascendent new age plumes to teetering dance-pop zingers in Love Under Lights and the brassy bedspring bounce of Renegades, via the ecstatic Black Crimes and weightless thizz of Voices with its spiralling ululations. Allow the guitars on LA, tho.
However, on the flipside, she appear to temper those experimental urges into a subtler run of rugged and bittersweet songs, tipping in with the bleep-gilded swang of Lazarus before tucking the vibe deeper with the RiRi-esque Tyrants and the chiming downstroke of Vines in duet with PJ Morton, prior to really dimming the lights for the pitch-bent rhodes of Sands and fading to close in symphonic style with the aching R&B folk essence of The Louvre.
Smart survey of productions by members of New Order, including classic tracks released on Factory Records between 1982 and 1985. Bonus material on the CD includes the full 22 minute version of Video 5-8-6 and a Section 25 song produced by Ian Curtis and Rob Gretton in 1979!
New Order Presents Be Music is a compilation of productions by members of New Order, including classic dance and electro tracks released on Factory Records between 1982 and 1985, as well as more recent remixes for current artists such as Factory Floor, Marnie, Tim Burgess and Fujiya & Miyagi.
"The generic tag Be Music was first used in 1981 and covered studio production work by all four members of New Order: Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, Stephen Morris and Gillian Gilbert. Sumner often teamed with Donald 'Dojo' Johnson of A Certain Ratio, including the pioneering electro cuts featured here by Quando Quango, 52nd Street, Marcel King, Paul Haig and Surprize. Morris and Gilbert worked with Thick Pigeon, Life, Red Turns To and also 52nd Street. Although more rock orientated, Hook proved he was no slouch on the dancefloor either with the mighty Fate/Hate by Nyam Nyam.
'Producing was a really important sideline,' recalls Bernard Sumner of the Factory era. 'It's OK doing it because although all the groups are skint, you learn a lot and you're helping somebody.'
After 1985 the band focused more on producing their own records, both as New Order and solo projects such as Electronic, Revenge, The Other Two, Monaco and Bad Lieutenant. However in recent years Stephen Morris in particular has remixed several newer artists, notably London industrialists Factory Floor, as well as former Factory workers A Certain Ratio and Section 25.”
Following up their acclaimed debut, Thought For Food, The Lemon of Pink was the album that cemented the Books as a pioneering musical force. It would become their biggest-selling album and still stands as perhaps the most beloved album in the Books' brilliant catalog.
"As with the recently reissued Thought For Food, The Lemon of Pink is repackaged with dazzling new artwork and expanded toinclude lyrics for every song for the first time ever. Carefully and thoughtfully remastered from the original mixes by Zammuto at his new studio outside his home in Vermont, The Lemon of Pinknow boasts a warmth and clarity that surprisingly reveals an increased harmonic depth."
The first new album by Grails in six years, featuring members of Om and delivering a widescreen opus influenced by Western film scores, obscure library music, and psychedelic krautrock...
"Produced by the band over the past five years, Chalice Hymnal bears some of the European psych and experimental hip-hop production techniques of founding members Alex Hall and Emil Amos' other group, Lilacs & Champagne. Amos' meditative metal band, Om, and longtime singer-songwriter project, Holy Sons, also naturally find their way into the Chalice cauldron.
Rounding out their leaner line-up, cofounder Zak Riles (also of experimental kraut-psych trio, Watter) layers finger-picked acoustic guitars into a prog-folk hybrid that pushes Grails further into the deep end, displaying a profound resonance, both musically and emotionally. No one else sounds like Grails, and on Chalice Hymnal they sound more like themselves than ever before."
Call Soops delivers his first official mix CD, weaving together a sumptuous 24-track selection for those “in need of undulating epiphanies” that spans Objekt, Convextion, Yves Tumour, Jega and more.
Recently seen moonlighting as Ondo Fudd and Elmo Crumb for some fine TTT deviations, Joe Seaton returns to his Call Super alias and hands a #saved fabric “a Polaroid of my way of mixing records.” Seaton’s developed a stealthy reputation as a selector these past few years, be it in numerous podcasts, alone in the booth or alongside Objekt under their infrequent Everything Is True banner. Given his close ties to Houndstooth, it is no surprise to see Call Super invited into the fabric hall of fame; and what a mix this is.
Apparently one of 28 live takes Seaton recorded, this 24-track mix displays his innate understanding of the last several decades of electronic music heritage, brilliantly obfuscating the edges of late ‘90s cuts from the Photek and Bushwacka archives, pairing Yves Tumour PAN ballads with the delicate tones of Max Loderbauer, or dropping vintage Convextion in between newer cuts from Bruce and Karen Gwyer.
The opening triplet sets the tone as Seaton finds common ground between the polymetric percussion and dub abstractions of last year’s Paralaxe Editions blinder from Rupert Clerveaux and Beatrice Dillon, Wolfgang Voigt’s late ‘90s project M:I:5 and vintage turn of the century Jan Jelinek. His craft is further displayed in the manner that a Paleo-enhanced Dresvn cut gets submerged in Objekt’s all conquering The Stitch-Up, how Don’t DJ rubs shoulders alongside a reunited Flanger or the revelation of shared sonic DNA between archival Jega and Shanti Celeste’s swooning Future Times debut.
One of the best fabrics in a long while.
Leith newcomer Joshua Sabin moulds the sounds of transit into something quite unique on this killer debut album for Subtext.
Few other labels right now are close to Subtext when it comes to genuinely engaging, rewarding exercises in concept and sound design, and their dominance continues with this rather special album from Joshua Sabin.
Terminus Drift explores how the digital age is impacting on our relationship with our surroundings, and presents Sabin as an intrepid sound explorer with field recorder by his side. A series of trips through Kyoto, Tokyo and Berlin as well as some electromagnetic fields closer to home were inspiration for Sabin, amassing field recordings of ‘sirens reverberating through station tunnels, fluctuating harmonics of subway engines, echoing tannoy systems.
It's the manner in which Sabin manipulates these sounds exclusively and moulds them into a body of work that smacks you in the face with its other dimensional qualities which particularly impresses on Terminus Drift. The ghostly remnants of a tannoy are just about discernible on the opening title track, but the shrill, crystalline dub techno fractures of U12 will have you scratching your head and wondering how he made it.
A rather neat push and pull from moments of calm and foreboding danger is present throughout - perhaps best encapsulated on the mind melting Vivo Wish - and the album suggests Sabin is quite the talent.
RIYL Emptyset, Sa Pa, Sam Kidel, Klara Lewis, WANDA GROUP.
David Moore's minimalist collective jump ship to 4AD for their third album of contemplative modern classical.
Multiple jaws dropped when RVNG Intl quietly unleashed 'Tomorrow Was the Golden Age,' the second album from previously unheralded microtonal ensemble Bing & Ruth, back in late 2014. After a subsequent RVNG re-edition of their debut Bing & Ruth LP, lead pianist and writer David Moore aligns the collective with British icons 4AD for their third studio album ‘No Home of the Mind.’
Shaving off a few musicians for a five-strong unit, Moore’s latest iteration of the perma-shifting Bing & Ruth conjure a becalming 10-track suite of transcendental compositions based around the piano, woodwind, tape delay and upright bass.
‘No Home of the Mind’ is smartly sequenced, compositions either blend into one another naturally or offer a brief silence that is swiftly punctuated by a burst of Moore’s piano. Commencing with the delicate flourishes of Starwood Choker, the album once again portrays Moore as a confident conductor, equally happy to take the lead with his limber piano playing or descend into the shadows as the entire ensemble combine for an opaquer delivery.
The movement from Scrapes into Chonchos is an early example of this and highlight of the album overall.
Jaime Fennelly’s ever-evolving Mind Over Mirrors project shifts once again on this album for Paradise of Bachelors that features a full ensemble of celebrated vocalists and musicians
First introduced on Brad Rose’s sorely missed Digitalis platform back in 2011, Jaime Fennelly’s work as Mind Over Mirrors has centred around his mastery of the Indian pedal harmonium amidst an arsenal of synths and delay units. Each new MOM album has seen the Chicago-based musician take on an ever-more ambitious approach, and this debut on NC label Paradise of Bachelors is his most compelling undertaking yet. Drawing deeper from the subluminal aether, Undying Color originates from a two-week stint Fennelly spent recording in a cabin surrounded by the natural beauty of Southwestern Wisconsin late last year.
The project is no longer a solo endeavour however, but rather something closer to full-blown band. Fennelly’s mediative assemblage of synths and harmonium complemented by a cast of musicians that includes Janet Beveridge Bean (Eleventh Dream Day), Jim Becker of Califone/Iron & Wine, drummer Jon Mueller, and a returning Haley Fohr who featured on the last MOM LP. At 12-minutes long, you could call Gravity Wake the centrepiece here, Fennelly’s gently pulsing composition coaxing a sensual, personal vocal performance out of Beveridge Bean and Fohr.
But Color Dying remains at this stratospheric high throughout with Fennelly’s gift for the harmonium apparent nowhere greater than the closing melancholy of 600 Miles Around.
Perhaps the most ambitious and absorbing album yet from Lawrence English, featuring a whole host of friends and collaborators including Swans’ Norman Westberg, The Necks’ Chris Abrahams and Tony Buck, Mats Gustafsson, Werner Dafeldecker and The Angels of Light’s Thor Harris. It’s an arctic, ice-cold meditation rendered in the most beautiful drone and semi-orchestral variants - think somewhere between William Basinski, Akira Rabelais and Badalamenti at his most terrifying. A huge recommendation.
Lawrence English carries the weight of the world in the emotive blows of Cruel Optimism; his tortuous yet somehow triumphant follow-up to the Wilderness of Mirrors (2014) LP, which was conceived prior to the present socio-political sh*tstorm, and attempts to present “a meditation on these challenges and an encouragement to press forward towards more profound futures”.
Inspired by the title of a critical text by American theorist Lauren Berlant, whose analysis of the contemporary crisis points to the elusive promise of neoliberalism - particularly its inherent sense of hauntological trauma - Cruel Optimism is offered by English as a reflection “on how power consumes, augments and ultimately shapes two subsequent human conditions: obsession and fragility”, and does so in a way that viscerally resonates with the long-standing, recurring themes of his work: deferred ecstasy, textural decay and the way they affect perception.
Galvanising strength through collaboration, as opposed to the solo introspection of Wilderness…, English elected to work with a number of his peers for this record, who all gauzily serve to enrich these recordings, which each carry the subtle, if distinct presence of plural spirits in the mix. Object Of Projection is especially hard-hitting, recalling Deathprod’s life-changing Treetrop Drive with its looped refrains, albeit here submerged underneath a tonne weight of sonic detritus that triggers nostalgia and dread in the most evocative manner imaginable - perhaps the most astonishing 5 minutes in all of English’s by-now sizeable catalogue of work.
English carefully consolidates every element on this album within the democracy of the soundfield; we may be able to discern the crucial gestures of Norman Westberg’s clanging chops in Hammering A Screw or smudged into the soberly grand dimensions of Requiem For A Reaper/Pillar Of Cloud and the waking dread of Somnambulist, but, in effect, thru English’s enigmatic processing, his ego is properly sublimated into the ether and as vital as any other to the record’s sense of swelling, aching communal pathos.
Earthen Sea follows the lead of his Mi Ami bandmate, Ital, into the deep and dub techno end of the dancefloor pool. RIYL The Sight Below, Varg, Marconi Union
“Jacob Long’s newest recordings under the Earthen Sea moniker deepen his compelling synthesis of shadowy rhythms and opaque atmospherics, drawing on the most potent qualities of melancholic ambient and dub techno. An Act Of Love follows 2015’s Ink, released via Ital’s Lovers Rock imprint, and was inspired by internal tribulations and the experience of exploring an empty nocturnal metropolis.
Careful waves of tones drift and decay; beats materialize and pulse across twilit landscapes; a noir mood reigns. Given Long’s background as bassist for revelatory tribalpunk trio MI AMI, this album showcases a musician in the midst of transcendent redefinition, crafting an immersive language of texture and motion.”
Laraaji’s sublime zither improvisation, Celestial Vibrations (1978) forms nothing less than an early archetype for new age ambient music. It was originally issued as a privately pressed meditation aid and sold in limited numbers around NYC until, that is, Brian Eno famously stumbled across Laraaji doing his thing, and the rest, as they say, is laid out in the ambient history books.
That fateful meeting with Brian Eno - interestingly enough in the same year that Eno compiled the definitive No Wave document No New York - led to Eno producing Laraaji’s Ambient 3 (Day Of Reckoning) in 1980 and subsequently cementing his place within the emergent ambient sphere.
Yet Celestial Vibration is far from a historic footnote, and still resonates deeply with listeners - especially these ears - ever since it reemerged circa 2010 on its first ever CD pressing and vinyl reissue through Soul Jazz Records.
Now nearly 40 years old, and future-proofed by its timeless sense of expressive minimalism, Laraaji’s fluid, rhythmelodic flutter and reverberant harmonies have lost none of their ability to enchant, soothe and transcend the consciousness of all who cross its path.
Consider it a household staple for those times when you just need a streak of unadulterated, weightless positivity to brighten up your life.
Wonderfully wistful, pastoral kosmiche and underwater jazz themes from Danillo Plessow (MCDE) and Marcus Worgull in sanguine Balearic mode as Vermont
“Following their much-acclaimed surprise debut album VERMONT from 2014, Motor City Drum Ensemble’s Danilo Plessow and Innervisions' Marcus Worgull reunite for more synth daydreaming on the suitably titled “II”. The new outing continues where the first full-length left off, strolling further down the luminous and undulating path that the duo turned into, influenced in equal measures by kosmische, krautrock, minimal wave and synth soundtracks.
This latest batch of instrumental cuts opens with the strictly balearic vibe of NORDERNEY, a softly swinging, light-footed recording with a keen sense for structure. Featuring a guest performance from Robbert Van Der Bildt (aka Kaap) on guitar, it’s a telling starting point for the album that - similar to Vermont’s self-titled debut - successfully navigates between economic, careful studio arrangements and playful, incidental exploration further pushing into jam session territory. Van Der Bildt's guitar returns on the plucky, curious UFER, where Vermont showcase a renewed sense for jazz-like improvisation - same as on the cuts DSCHUNA, CHANANG and WENIK, which also include contributions from Dermot O'Mahony and Tadhg Murphy on strings.
Still, Vermont's synth contraptions remain the album's main attraction, with the extensive array of gear encompassing an entire panopticon of analog bling - from Arp Oddysey and Moog Prodigy to Fender Rhodes, Juno and Prophet, list-studying gear heads will find lots to drool upon. Consequently, tracks like CHEMTRAILS, UNRUH or GEBIRGE err on the machine side of things, expertly interweaving arpeggiated sequences for maximum atmospheric effect. Foreboding, slightly menacing synth motives as on SKORBUT or CHEMTRAILS are perfectly balanced with the casual ambient of HALLO VON DER ANDEREN SEITE and the nostalgic warmth of DEMUT - while the gentle push of the masterful KI-BOU even carries a whiff of classic deep house, linking the Vermont project to Plessow and Worgull’s main careers as dance floor movers and shakers.
Continually intriguing, immersive and texturally rich, each one of Vermont's new pieces betray the experience, precision and determination of the producers involved - while opening up Worgull and Plessow'a vocabulary for patient experimentation and subtle discoveries. A musical treat for synth aficionados - and everyone else, if you ask us.”
The Dial co-founder graces us with a second album of low-slung beat-"mospheres" and discrete Hamburgian minimalist house.
Dial’s David Lieske returns to his dependable Carsten Jost project, scrabbling together a decades-worth of productions - some familiar, the majority unheard - for a second album. Perishable Tactics belatedly arrives sixteen years after his debut Jost LP, 2001’s You Don't Need A Weatherman To Know Which Way The Wind Blows, and finds Lieske going down the textbook European house music album route.
Dark ambient vignettes from Misanthrope CA, Lieske’s somewhat misjudged black metal collaboration with Rob Kulisek bookend the album, with the remainder consisting of that snug, tasteful house and techno that Dial have largely come to typify in recent years.
Soul Jazz dip into the killer archives of French synth punk circa 1980 with this reissue of material from Nancy duo Kas Product.
After delivering a nation-wide primer on the early ‘80s French wave of punk acts with last year’s Punk 45 – Les Punks: The French Connection, Soul Jazz square their focus on one of the bands that featured in Kas Product. Formed of Mona Soyoc and Daniel ‘Spatz’ Favre, this duo represent a classic French slant on the early synth punk formation with the former’s dramatic vocal delivery and cheap guitars offering a foil for the latter’s budget electronics. As Kas Product, Soyoc and Favre recorded several albums throughout the ‘80s that played their part in shaping the Coldwave movement in France; a fact Soul Jazz attempt to reaffirm on this compilation.
Essentially a repackaged edition of the Kas Product retrospective issued on Paris label Fan Club in 1990, Black & Noir - Mutant Synth-Punk from France leads with debut single Mind and covers the period between their first two albums. A period where Soyoc and Favre were more focussed on experimentation as opposed to the latent poppy avant-gardisms of their third and final album, Ego Eye. Highlights here include the scratchy punk funk of Seven, the bleepy electro of Party and the bizarro Talking Heads pomp of Mezzo.
Recommended - worth scrutinising if you are a fan of Ruth, Deux, Philippe Laurent!
Demdike Stare return with their first album since 2012’s Elemental, a feral, loose-limbed and angular rave odyssey wrecking Dancehall and Jungle templates via found sounds, Ambient and exotic spaces.
Wonderland plays the full breadth of the duo’s wide open aesthetic, taking their Testpressing series of dancefloor lashes - issued on 12” between 2013-2015 - as the diving board for an innovative, reverie-like album forming a parallel dancefloor narrative where the spirits of mid ‘90s jungle and digital dancehall are made plasmic, malleable, and syncretised with industrial and ambient techno sound design.
Rooted in record collecting and the art of DJing, and in line with Demdike’s atypical style and pattern, Wonderland veers across styles and temporalities, forming wormholes between Hardstyle and submerged jungle in the curtain-raiser, Curzon, and going in like Slimzee slicing up grime dubs with jungle in the crackden atmosphere of Animal Style, whereas the eleven minute Hardnoise catches them at full stretch, tumbling from head-rinsing noise to a dank, sublow techno mission framed by unsettling ambience somewhere between Prurient’s Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement episodes and a mutant variant of classic Exotica, before coughing you up someplace else.
At the album’s epicentre, FullEdge (eMpty-40 Mix) obliterates distinctions between dancehall and techno as you’ve never heard, an edit that re-laces their formerly mutually exclusive ligature in a belly-tightening and brilliantly messed-up new mutation, before Sourcer prangs out like a cyborg calibrating itself to ragga jungle arrhythmia, and the psychoacoustic nose drip of Fridge Challenge dissipates into the ‘static thizz of Overstaying at the LP’s perimeter, like some DJ Sprinkles cut paused at mid-flow and delayed, re-shaped into a tense burner.
It’s probably the most enjoyable and loose-limbed hour of music in their catalogue, or that you’ll likely hear in these weird, angst-ridden times.
The current UK grime, rap and R&B nexus finds its locus in New Gen; a 17 track album framing the output of of London’s New Gen Studio: a space for young MCs, songwriters, mixers and engineers to collaborate and consolidate their strength in numbers.
It’s effectively a showcase for the scenius of London sounds in 2017, surveying artists such as AJ Tracey, Nines, Avelino, Ray BLK and 67, and the spectrum of flavours they bring to the abundant table of Black British music.
Prefaced by teaser single, Ring The Alarm from Avelino and Tiggs Da Author, and the crushing rudeness of Stefflon Don & Abra Cadabra’s Money Haffi Mek, highlights also come heavy in the form of 67’s road rap banger Jackets, AJ’s sweetly moment, My Ways, the Afrobeats swerve of Rather Get Money by TE dness, and a Future-style bewt, Top Floor feat. Yang Bane.
Techno virtuoso Aybee follows a similar recent trajectory as his fellow Deepblak traveller, Afrikan Sciences, to present some of his strongest material, bar none, on his latest opus The Odyssey.
His follow-up to the Sketches Of Space collaboration with Afrikan Sciences pursues 10 lines of cosmic techno enquiry intersecting the ‘floor, the head and farthest flung star systems in a journey of discovery and subtle experimentation.
There’s no radical change to his sound, more a firm consolidation of the classically-rooted but forward-looking ideas that were previously there in his sound; resulting highlights in the hydro-electric techno charge of Down The Rabbit Hoel, and an inimitably crimped Afrobeat dip in Ank and Asteroid Lust, or with superbly fluid electro-trance synth leads in The Professor and the Kassem Mosse-like Build Them.
Aahhh yes, another classic Bohren album reissued.
Bohren & Der Club of Gore’s vital reissue scheme looks to Geisterfaust (2005) after giving Sunset Mission and Black Earth much needed vinyl lives. Very safe to say that if you fell for either of those, this one will keep you right down there.
Nerds will need to know that the tracklisting has been reshuffled for the purposes of this vinyl edition, now still kicking off with the 20 minute sorrow, Zeigefinger but deviating the sequence in favour of Ringfinger, Mittelfinger, Daumen, and Kleiner Finger, for your information.
The effect remains the same, though; sublime, pensile, deeply evocative of Lynch & Badalamenti as much as doom metal and the most poignant, lonely moments of your life.
The Portland lunar explorers embrace the dark side of Moon Duo for the first of a two-part opus on Sacred Bones.
Two years after disappearing into The Shadow Of The Sun, Ripley Johnson and Sanae Yamada re-emerge as Moon Duo for another journey deep into the mystical psyche. Despite sounding like a Legowelt concept album about 4th world pagan skyscrapers, Occult Architecture instead sees Johnson and Yamada exploring 'invisible structures found in the cycle of seasons and the journey of day into night, dark into light.' This loose thematic arc is spread over two volumes by Moon Duo, with darkness the pervading subtext across the seven tracks on this inaugural edition.
Don't expect a drastic departure from Moon Duo's ouevre however; the strident motorik drums, spectral harmonies, spiraling organs and squalling guitar feedback remain a constant as escape the yin in search of yang.
Brilliant album from Marcus Fjellstrom returning after a 5 year absence with an oneiric masterpiece that strongly recalls the low key brilliance of his strings of pearls released by Lampse and Miasmah between 2005-2011. It's a tense, highly atmospheric take on modern classical, highly recommended if you're into Kreng, Nate Young or Deaf Center.
Fjellstrom's natural abilities in narrative detailing and layered sound design seem to have grown exponentially, but with no sacrifice to his music’s ghostly, intangible appeal. He’s spent the last several years working intently on an A/V opera, Boris Christ whose necessary dramaturgical elements and sense of direction are central to the rich array of sound imagery conjured up across Skelektikon - impish funny-bones characters, mythical fauna, backdrops of dark green velvet, grasping forests and carmine lighting.
It’s the sort of music you play late at night, in solitary mouse-catcher mode, to encourage those moments of what the fxck was that over in the corner? whilst you drift off into reveries about pagan things until the hypnic jerks kick in, or don’t, and you’re either petrified, awake, or unconscious and on the other side.
If you’ve ever been seduced by the eyrie worlds of Nurse With Wound, or like the idea of melting into your favourite noir score, Skelektikon is shivering with expectation for you.
Without question, some of the most beautiful and arresting quiet music you'll likely ever hear, compiled in a 4 hour-long triple disc set.
'Fremde Zeit - Addendum' collects five pieces of engrossingly etheric, liminal composition by Jakob Ullmann (1958), the widely acknowledged master of quiet music and cover star of The Wire magazine.
For us, as we'd imagine many others, this is a striking first introduction to the devoted German minimalist's very particular body of work. Comprising 4 hours of barely-there strings, percussions, wind instruments and voices prefaced by the instruction "Please choose, for each piece, the volume settings of your sound system so as to just barely mask the ambient sounds in the room", this is music made for concentrated listening, recorded and specifically designed to give listeners "the opportunity to hear more, and better" by the simple but essential notion that "We hear better because we make an effort to hear better."
With this is mind, we're invited into a sound world which actively, yet effortlessly and sublimely challenges our perceptions of space and time with a compelling, transcendent effect akin to that of listening to music by, say, Eliane Radigue or Morton Feldman, yet with an alien, detached appeal entirely its own. Due to their extended durations - no piece is shorter than 34 mins, and over an hour at the longest - we form temporal impressions which blur the boundaries between our immediate space and the apparent vastness of the recording, teasing our sixth sense to wander on a knife edge of trepidation and somnolence.
Yet, musically, it covers a far more subtle spectrum of emotions and cabalistic atmospheres casting metaphoric allusions to "…antiquity, to the Middle Ages, to the Baroque, to the 20th Century and to the present" by means of its extreme dilation of space/time and anticipation, and relegation of distortion or any untempered gestures.
Once you've heard this music it should come as little surprise Ullmann studied sacred music in Dresden from 1979-1982 - his music could be the lingering resonance of an Arvo Pärt piece played in a huge cathedral, and it carries the weight of history - spanning over 18 years of work, the results are duly, deeply considered.
A revelatory package, whose impact will surely emerge and manifest as slowly, yet powerfully, as the music itself.
Moss Garden is a stunning dark ambient opus from Erik Skodvin (Deaf Center) aka Svarte Greiner: collecting his soundtracks for two installation pieces commissioned by Marit Følstad, perfectly distilling the space between waking life and nightmare as uncannily as anything else you’ll hear this side of a David Lynch flick, or that recurring dream where you’re trapped going the wrong way down an escalator into an icy fjord. If you're into Mica Levi's unique string arrangements, this one's a must.
The album marks the return of Skodvin’s most prized solo alias, trailing in the smoky wake of a recent reissue of his Deaf Center classic, Pale Ravine (2005) to effectively resolve the three year wait since he left us dangling with Black Tie, which was also released thru his label; Miasmah.
As any avowed follower of dark ambient music will likely acknowledge, there’s a fine line between numbing tonal drift and genuinely enchanted sound, and it’s one which Skodvin is patently aware of both as a listener/consumer and producer/alchemist operating within those parameters, allowing him to skilfully navigate the sound’s most subtle aspects without ever being accused of being one-dimensional, as could be applied to many others in that field.
Crucially, like the best of Greiner’s work, Moss Garden strikes a balance of almost academic stoicism and expressive pathos, using rarified technique at the service of an instinctually guided tension. He commits something more akin to one of Harry Bertoia’s Sonambient recordings, revealing a widescreen, mazy field of convulsive, recursive metallic shockwaves that open out at unfathomable, horizontal angles whilst the centre ground gains a mass of blackened drone energy, as though we’re moving ever deeper into a space as long as it is wide until we’re greeted by a frost of sylvan timbres that seem to mimic the vocal tone of its translucent inhabitants.
Emptyset really bare their teeth on Borders, the concrète power duo’s most vicious, uncompromisingly genuine, and coincidentally highest profile release to date, landing on far-reaching independent stronghold, Thrill Jockey.
Whilst James Ginzburg and Paul Purgas’ initial, shocking burst of energy, deployed thru a series of crushing releases between 2009-2015, seemed to tail off a a bit at Signal (2015), they return frighteningly charged and combustible on Borders with a baker’s dozen batch of distended, aggressive, and foundation-rocking pieces that sound like Steve Albini evacuating his bowels on a stone-clad bog in the parallel dimension below his studio. And we mean that in the best way.
Working with their favoured, home-made instruments - a six-stringed zither-like thing, and a drum - they enact a series of inimitably visceral gestures, played and effected with analogue electronics and compression techniques in real time in pursuit of an acoustic truth which, it’s fair to say, they locate and grasp with fearless form across the album, pushing headlong for a biting-point atonality and knotted meter which is unmistakably their own.
It serves an inverted contrast to their previous method of playing sound into unique architectural spaces and processing the results, instead placing more focus on the interaction of skin on skin, skin on string, and the way their intentions spiral from subtle haptic infidelities into a sort of raging, harnessed chaos that transcends electro-acoustic dimensions as much as it blurs the distinctions between performative noise, techno, rock and all that zzaj.
In one felt swoop Borders returns experimental electronic and avant-garde techniques to a sort of No Wave ground zero which, only time will tell, but should surely be hailed as the benchmark for noisy new music in 2017. Don’t sleep!!!
Spellbinding recordings of new Baudouin De Jaer compositions from the “impeccable” and award-winning contemporary string quartet, Quatuor Tana; also including their take on Igor Stravinsky’s Elegie, composed for the 100th anniversary of the Pro Arte Quartet.
Baudouin De Jaer is the Belgian composer and violinist who notably cracked the idiosyncratic music system of Swiss outsider artist Adolf Wöfli - as heard on Analysis Of The Musical Cryptograms / The Heavenly Ladder (2010) - and who has previously appeared on these pages with his striking original Compositions For Geomungo And Gayageum modelled on Korean folk and Classical Court music - which, for reference, is also a strong influence on the work of Rashad Becker.
The Tana String Quartet are a multi-award winning ensemble recognised for their willingness to push the conventions of contemporary composition, notably using iPads instead of the usual paper-printed scores, which they also use for educational work, and also for incorporating hybrid instruments and electronics into their classical and contemporary music vocabulary.
Quatuor Tana prove a fine match for the technical intricacies and demands of Eclerectic Attracta, whose complex dynamic range is beautifully captured and rendered by Jarek Frankowski’s Acoustic Recordings mixing and mastering solutions using high-end, boutique grade equipment to capture everything from the finest spectral essence to shock-out passages of white hot string flashes.
They’re not necessarily “difficult” to listen pieces, though: taking inspiration from the mountainous province of South Korea which lends its title, Kangwondo (2011) mirrors the stately, pointillist elegance of De Jaer’s favoured Korean Classical Court music to beautiful effect, while NV (2009) written for 4 violins and four non-violinists instrumentalists, is a thrillingly dramatic and compact demonstration of the Quatuor’s ability to translate the highly demanding instructions of De Jaer’s composition, and likewise the durational, dramaturgical turns and tension of Eclerctic Attracta (1987) which requires a lot of directed movement from the players on stage.
If you’ve found yourself rapt by Mica Levi’s incredible soundtracks or solo work, or beguiled by the narrative dynamics of Rashad Becker’s Traditional Music For Notional Species and ever asked yourself; where to next? This album requires your attention forthwith.
Breathtaking new album from Max Richter, presenting Three Worlds: Music From Woolf Works, his score to Wayne McGregor’s award-winning Royal Ballet production Woolf Works, inspired by the eponymous author and, quite remarkably, featuring a snippet of the only known surviving recording of her voice.
Richter plays right on the heart-strings here, offering a score worthy of both the author’s literary significance and the prestigious Royal Ballet, that extracts and weaves the themes, character personalities and atmospheres of her three works; Mrs Dalloway - which opens with the sound of Big Ben and Virginia reading from her essay Craftsmanship for the BBC in 1937; Orlando featuring the same text read in the modern day by Sarah Sutcliffe: and The Waves, which rather crushingly features Gillian Anderson reciting Virginia’s suicide note to her husband.
Some two years in the works, it’s a staggering feat of emotive triggers and dynamic, innovative movement that puts Richter’s (nearly) 30 odd years experience into practice over 16 parts broken down to three movements, almost seamlessly switching back and forth between acoustic and electronic sources, recorded in orchestral, chamber and studio settings, and beautifully used to illuminate and drive the dancers as much as stimulate your own thoughts in far removed different settings.
If the virtue or skill of a composer lies in their ability to convert or alchemise text, feelings and imagery into a format interpretable by instruments, then Richter surely proves his innately humane sensitivity and distinguished breadth of vision with this recording.
At last, all three Britxotica! LPs now available as a three CD box set! That’s 48 super rare and extraordinary exotic British masterpieces over three genre-defining albums...
"Britxotica! (pronounced “Britzotica”) neatly describes an odd and yet undocumented pre-Beatles British musical scene where famed UK composers as well as unknown singers and bandleaders threw convention on holiday and went wild wild wild! For this very special box set we have gathered the first three groundbreaking and sold out Britxotica! albums…
…thought up and put together by legendary “Smashing” DJ and co creator of The Sound Gallery Martin Green and maverick collector Jonny Trunk, here are 48 incredible, unusual, inspiring and super rare British tracks set across these three magical and very different albums:
Album 1: Britxotica! Primitive Pop And Savage Jazz
Album 2: Britxotica! Goes East! Persian Pop And Casbah Jazz
Album 3: Tropical Britxotica! Polynesian Pop And Placid jazz
Each CD is in a slipcase – a mini replica of the original vinyl LPs. And as well as these three genre-defining albums, you will find an eight page booklet with comprehensive notes about the artists, bandleaders and all our forgotten Britxotica! stars.
So sit back, relax and let Britxotica! take you to musical places you have only ever dreamed of."
One can only imagine what the original crowds who saw George Méliès classic, prototypical sci-fi film adaptation of Jules Vernes’ A Trip To The Moon (Le Voyage dans la lune) in 1902 would have thought of Jeff Mills new, all electronic score.
“When Georges Méliès created A Trip To The Moon in 1902, the world was just beginning to feel the tightening, yet exciting effects of another giant leap in modern civilisation with the Industrial Age. It was a place in time that was transformable and in all dimensions of an evolutionary process: social, economic and political revolutions were buzzing. And man worked hard under the Sun, exposing his efforts and determination, it was the Moon that hatched his dreams. It was a time of realisation and a time of romance.” Jeff Mills
Conceived and produced by Mills in order to soundtrack the newly discovered and restored hand-coloured print of the film, his score fits the film’s fantastical nature with a blend of hi-line, weightless electronic tones and immersive, abstract gestures directly inspired by its imagery but taking license to jetpack off along new techno trajectories.
If you were into Mills OSTs for Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and Woman In The Moon, or Richard Fleischer’s Fantastic Voyage, this one will take you there, too.
Newly availed as a download, Permissions was written and recorded by ambient innovator K. Leimer in 2012, with crucial input in the edit, mix and post-production by 12k’s Taylor Dupree.
Compared with what we know of Leimer’s explorative early work, Permissions feels like a sublimated expansion of his electro-acoustic textures, rendering 16 tracks, 71 minutes of shimmering tonal mingle and diffusion best consumed in low lit and laid-back conditions, especially if you like 12K or Home Normal releases.