Premium Detroit house flex from FXHE boss Omar-S, striking deep on his 6th album of ruggedly soulful and debonaire dance music
Arriving 15 years since he registered a clutch of head-turning 12”s and the standout debut LP ‘Just Ask The Lonely’ (2005), Omar-S still follows a staunchly DIY, familial way of doing it with ‘You Want’, roping in regular, local collaborators John FM, Norm Talley, Ian Finkelstein, and L’Renee for a plush suite that speaks to the versatility of his classic take on Detroit house, proper.
His two cuts with John FM supply massive highlights, firstly riffing on grown-up nightlife travails in a way that has nowt to do with the computer programme in ‘Second Life’, and the synth-heavy burner ‘Hear Me Out’, while ‘This Love Is 4 Real’ offers his wickedly jacked up take on Lil Louis’ sex beat classic ‘French Kiss’, and the likes of ‘Mandela’s Gold’ and ‘Don’t Get In My Way’ catch him on a cranky and bugged-out broken beat tip, and fans of his classic ‘Blade Runner’ will be very happy to cop his warehouse techno heavyweight, ‘1993’.
You know what to do!
Hyperdub wrap up a decade’s worth of Burial singles and EPs to form the uncanniest sort of memory update
Surveying the entirety of his original output for Hyperdub since the seminal couplet of his ‘Burial’ and ‘Untrue’ albums, ‘Tunes 2011-2019’ offers a very handy 2.5 hour catch-up for those who haven’t already gone to the effort of queuing up the files over time in iTunes.
The 17 tunes been sequenced out of joint from the original release schedule and carefully framed for an absorbing listen akin to the film and computer game soundtracks that are often sampled in his work and have long provided a key inspirations to his sound.
They range from grippingly tense, furtive sci-fi noir styles in ‘State Forest’, ‘Beachfires’ and ’Subtemple’, thru to his singularly evocative style of dark garage and heartbreaking vocal arrangements in the slow anomaly ‘NYC’ , taking in low key modern classics of this past decade with the likes of his pure power-up ‘Hiders’, the epic and intricate arrangement of ‘Come Down To Us’, and most recently the dancefloor lighter tune ‘Claustro’ - a.k.a the one to play any daft dufus who still says you can’t dance to Burial.
Collected, they add up to the equivalent of at least 3 albums worth of material, which makes up somewhat for the lack of actual albums in over 12 years now. For anyone who has taken their eye off the ball since ‘Untrue’, this set is just unmissable. And even for longtime disciples, we guarantee you’ll be reminded of bits you didn’t even realise you’d forgotten.
Magisterial debut LP from Rebecca Foon, a cello player involved with many of Montreal’s greatest bands, here presenting her quietly arresting vocals buoyed by cinematic string and piano arrangements in a suite of rustic folk-pop ballads, torch songs, and swooning dream-pop. RIYL Suzanne, Marissa Nadler, A Silver Mt. Zion
“Rebecca Foon, the composer and musician behind Saltland and Esmerine (and former longstanding member of Silver Mt. Zion) presents a new album entitled Waxing Moon. While best known as an incomparable cellist crafting textural soundscapes and instrumental chamber-rock in the aforementioned projects (and more recently recognized for her creative and organisational work as cofounder of Pathway To Paris), this new collection of songs finds Foon emphasizing piano and voice with striking intimacy and elegance, showcasing a captivating evolution in her always resplendent songwriting. The climate crisis has profoundly framed Foon’s political and artistic life for many years now, and Waxing Moon finds her writing and singing her most arrestingly direct yet poetic words, tapping universal and personal heartbreak in both despair and hope.
With Waxing Moon, Rebecca sets side the Saltland moniker – her electronically-tinged string-centric project from the past five years – to release this more personal new work under her own name. The album's ten songs are predominantly minimal and delicate, immersive and hauntingly beautiful – with vocal-driven tracks booked-ended by piano-based instrumentals, along with one up-tempo guitar-driven number ("Wide Open Eyes") that closes out Side One. While piano figures most prominently on the record, Foon continues to play cello on several tracks, complemented by gentle touches from a close coterie of musical guests including Richard Reed Parry (Arcade Fire) and Mishka Stein (Patrick Watson) on acoustic and electric basses, Sophie Trudeau (Godspeed You Black Emperor) on violin, Jace Lasek (The Besnard Lakes) on electric guitar, and Patrick Watson as co-vocalist on the dreamlike "Vessels". Foon co-produced the album with Lasek at Montréal's Breakglass studio and it sounds glorious.
Waxing Moon is Rebecca Foon's first eponymous release: a sublimely stunning, bracingly intimate, glimmeringly full-hearted new chapter in her celebrated musical catalog. Thanks for listening.”
Having stated on many an occasion that Hardwax affiliates Pete and René, aka Scion, understood and played Basic Channel material in the way it was intended to be played, the release of Ableton's 'Live' software convinced Mark and Moritz that the time had come to try something new out.
And that's precisely what this CD is - components from all 9 Basic Channel 12"s, (plus some choice cuts from related project Rhythm and Sound and remix work for Carl Craig), weave in and out of the mix, flawlessly spliced together, remodeeled and reshaped with a deep understanding of the BC sound and a look towards its future.
The first cut employs fragments from Cyrus's 'Inversion', 'Mutism', 'Radiance III' and the Basic Channel reworking of Cral Craig's 'The Climax' - 4 classics, re-modelled to create something new, somewhere between mixing and remixing - and that's just the opening sequence. Flowing from first moment to last, it's a bit of a benchmark release that not only serves as a testimony to one of the most treasured and beloved catalogues in all of electronic music, but also illustrates that technology really can be about more than just presets and self indulgance.
Fans of Basic Channel will melt into this CD on first play, those of you new to the label will do well to give this a listen and understand exactly what all the fuss has been about...
2nd volume of suave, party-starting digs from the Disques debs International catalogue out of Guadaloupe.
“Disques Debs is the longest-running and most prolific label to have come out of the Francophone Caribbean. Based in Guadeloupe and helmed by producer and musician Henri Debs, the label ran from the late 1950s to the early 2000s and released over 200 LPs and 300 45s, playing a pivotal role in bringing the creole music of Guadeloupe and Martinique to a wider international audience. Volume 2 celebrates the ‘70s recordings of the label that drew local, regional and international musicians and influences together to create a signature sound and style from its base in Pointe-à-Pitre.
At the beginning of the ‘70s, the Disques Debs label was already more than a decade into its existence and had begun to dominate the local record market in Guadeloupe and Martinique, anchored around some of the best studio equipment in the region and staff with a keen ear for a hit record. By the end of the decade, the label and studio had pulled far ahead of the pack, pushing groups like Super Combo, Typical Combo and Les Vikings into Europe and across the Caribbean and stamping its own sound and aesthetic on the musical output of the region, paving the way for the global success of acts like Zouk Machine in the ‘80s.
The increasingly sophisticated sound coming out of the Debs studio found a home across the Caribbean diaspora in Europe and the Caribbean, bringing a new vision of Caribbean music. Compiled by Hugo Mendez (Sofrito) and Emile Omar (Roseaux), ‘Cadence Revolution’ is released in conjunction with Henri Debs et Fils and Air Caraibes. The package features previously unseen photos from the Debs archive with both formats featuring extensive liner notes and an interview with singer and trombonist Christian Zora (Les Maxel’s, Energy).”
Rrose & Silent Servant corral a wealth of exclusive, unreleased avant-garde, experimental electronics in their instalment for the ambient-leaning ‘Air Texture’ series, including exclusive tracks on the vinyl by Laurel Halo, Anthony Child aka Surgeon, Not Waving, Charlemagne Palestine, Luke Slater, Phase Fatale, Function, Octo Octa plus Rrose and Silent Servant themselves (and a tonne more on the digital versions)...
Running to nearly 2.5 hours of music on the CD and digital versions (the vinyl includes 12 tracks), the set sweeps across decades and continents with a variegated spectra of music by 26 artists ranging from the influential Maggi Payne to the enigmatic Abul Mogard and lesser known figures. It’s all sequenced in a way that highlights their mutualities and diverse idiosyncrasies and makes for a quietly absorbing listen riddled with surprises.
As you might expect, there’s a number of ambient/atmopsheric works by prominent techno producers, including the modular explorations of Anthony Child (Surgeon), the pulsating beatless arps of Phase Fatale’s ‘Nightmare in LA’, the petrol-stained tone of ‘Psychic Harms of Economic Deprivation’ by Ron Morelli, and naturally Rrose’s hypnotic smudge of James Fei’s ‘For Bass Clarinet 8.97’, along with a piece of splashy breaks-driven ambient bleeps by Luke Slater, and the floating step of Silent Servant’s ‘New World’.
But some of the strongest parts come by those who’ve longer worked in experimental realms, including the Medieval sounding ambient inquisition of Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe’s ‘8th Continent in 5 Dimensions’, a smart and subtle contrast between pioneering synthesist Maggi Payne’s rugged space music and Lucrecia Dalt’s more tactile, introspective strokes, and the heady expressions of Laurel Halo’s lysergic sphere ‘Dies Ist Ein’ or AGF’s haunting choral chamber work ‘HUM-ILITY’, and the nagging pulses of Laetitia Sonami.
‘Loom’ is Katie Gately’s elegy for her late mum, brimming with layered arrangements recalling her work with Björk, serpentwithfeet and Zola Jesus in recent years.
“Katie’s mother was diagnosed with an extremely rare form of cancer shortly after seeing Katie perform for the first time, and Loom was made during her mother’s illness. To solidify the enormity of a loss like this, Gately has added the seismic rumble and aural grit of real earthquake recordings in her productions – alongside her signature adventurous sound design and earwormy melodies – to signify how grief like this is like the shifting of the earth. “I felt like my world was being shaken,” says Katie. “I was losing the person who created me, and it seemed an appropriate time to sample earthquakes.”
Where her debut album Color, (2016) deployed fractured rhythms, fierce licks, bold samples and her signature paintbox pop hooks, Loom reveals crepuscular textures. Her voice is more forward in the mix, often densely layered in choral laments above a coarse foundation of hard and brittle sound design, the latter of which is rooted in her film school training. As well as earthquake sounds, Loom includes more samples, chosen for their associative power, peacocks screaming, pill bottles shaking, a coffin closing, wolves howling, a shovel digging, a paper shredder, stone grinding and heavily processed audio from her parent’s wedding.
At the time of her mother’s diagnosis, Katie was near completion of an entirely different album, but says that very quickly she realized she “didn’t have the bandwidth to make that record anymore.” She returned from LA to her family home in Brooklyn and started again, completely rebuilding the album around the track ‘Bracer’, which was her mother’s favourite. She made it while she couldn’t sleep, and the result is a record she says is powered more by heart than mind, with sucker-punch richness and keening vocals that are unflinching. “The process is blurry to me now,” she says. “I don’t know if I’d recommend it, but I didn’t have time to worry about perfecting things, I was just working when everyone was asleep – it was the only time I had.”
Her lyrics are rooted in the events she was experiencing, but describe personifications and abstracted feelings. ‘Flow’ is written from the perspective of her mother; in ‘Allay’ she speaks as the cancer; in ‘Tower’ she inhabits the medicine that confronts the cancer. “They’re darker in tone,” she explains, “but I see beauty in that.” ‘Waltz’ and ‘Bracer’ are tracks she describes as being like a brother and sister: “They’re about the same thing, about being disoriented and wanting to check out with a substance – I used whisky.” ‘Waltz’ spins in on itself, whereas ‘Bracer’ reaches for a series of climaxes that drop out before they can peak. The three interludes, ‘Ritual’, ‘Rite’ and ‘Rest’ are a triptych that carve out light and space to breathe – sometimes synthesizing sounds like exhalations – between the density of other tracks. They are spliced sections of one longer track, with ‘Rest’ closing the album. “When my mother passed I ate doughnuts and slept for a month,” she says. “The pressures from the music industry just fell away – release schedules and the like just didn’t matter any more. But a callous had to be formed, so after that I finished the record, and it was done by the beginning of 2019.”
ISAN’s Robin Saville speaks to the salubrious qualities of a good mooch in a very sweet album inspired by what he sees and feels during his daily perambulations and incorporating field recordings, drones and acoustic instrumentation.
"A lot of things have been written about what happens to the mind when the body starts moving. Instead of reciting poems of the inevitable self-help books, let’s get straight to the point: For many, taking walks on a regular basis is both liberating and empowering. It is not necessarily so much about the exercise, but rather finding one’s own rhythm in life. Robin Saville – of ISAN fame – is such an ambler His walks inspired him to base his third solo album – his first one for Morr Music – on the out of the way places he came to see and experience while being out and about.
Clocking in at just under 40 minutes in total, "Build A Diorama" is both a subtle culmination and a poignant antipode to what Saville has achieved together with Antony Ryan as ISAN. While the aesthetics might seem similar in places, Saville opts for a decisively different pace when it comes to writing and producing. Progress is steady, and change, however, is slow – like looking at a diorama for a long period of time in the ever so slightly changing light or as a flaneur focussing on one particular spot, a found object so-to-speak, waiting for the mind to orchestrate it appropriately, giving it sense and meaning.
Built around quiet field recordings, Saville’s six compositions transform this highly personal and, therefore, difficult-to-convey experience into a comprehensible exploration of beauty. Where ISAN almost exclusively uses electronics, Saville deliberately expands this well-established palette with acoustic instruments like bass guitar, chimes and glockenspiel, aiming for an even more suitable musical manifestation of what the walker sees and feels once he fully engages in his passion. Ranging from blissfully pulsing pads allowing for complete associative freedom ("The Deepdale Halophyte Economy") to the playful minimalism of an orchestra dominated by busy bells ("Bosky"), Saville’s "Build A Diorama" is not just a valuable addition to his musical output, but an essential audio guide for those striving to explore, learn and understand.”
Quietly absorbing chamber works for voice, violin, flute, sneh, and koto, all purposefully recorded to be played at low volume and, as the title suggests, in intimate settings.
“Seven beautiful chamber works by Frank Denyer, ranging in time from 1975 to 2018. Performed by a variety of artists, including the Luna String Quartet, Juliet Fraser, Elisabeth Smalt, Jos Zwaanenberg & Nobutaka Yoshizawa. Frank Denyer's liner notes included as a bonus item
Frank Detner: ‘Most of the music on this CD is soft, some of it very soft indeed. To achieve the optimal listening level, think of the musicians as being just over the other side of the room in which you are listening, rather than in another grander space. Imagine them performing intimately, without amplification, and often in an under-voice in order not to disturb the neighbours. This will give you a realistic idea of the listening level. You may find it takes a few minutes to get used to it, but your ears will soon re-adjust.’”
A singular, 60-minute suite revolving some 40 players on 87 instruments, including many self-built percussion instruments, as well as voice, violin, ocarinas and eunuch flute. Yep, we’re never going to sum this up in a line, save to say it’s a very intriguing, Ur sort of composition, recalling everything from Marginal Consort to Korean Classical court music and avant-operatic composition
“First recording of Frank Denyer's extraordinary hour-long piece for large ensemble: 'The Fish that became the Sun (Songs of the Dispossessed)', composed between 1991 and 1996. The ensemble includes a huge number of home-made percussion instruments made from discarded materials, as well as obscure instruments such as eunuch flutes, ocarinas and crumhorns. The album comes with a booklet with notes by Frank Denyer and an essay by Michael Turnbull.”
For new initiates and avant-garde fiends alike, this Xenakis collection renders a breathtaking survey of works by the radical composer, theorist, architect and engineer, spanning the period 1956-1974 and featuring some of the greatest works of the 20th century, including the awe-inspiring sonic architecture of ‘Persepolis’.
Inarguably one of the most important composers to blend electronic process and classical orchestration, Greek-French artist Iannis Xenakis made an indelible impression on the 20th century with his staggeringly complex feats of musical engineering. Regularly cited as an influence by composers ranging from Russell Haswell and Florian Hecker thru Autechre and Reinhold Friedl, Xenakis’s polymath pursuits in hybridising music, architecture and mathematics generated a bewildering array of sounds and structures which have rarely, if ever, been bettered in terms of their sheer scope, scale and technical ingenuity.
It’s possible to break down Xenakis’ approach to composition, and its results, as an extension of his experiences in armed combat, fighting for Greece’s left wing liberationists against the German army and later the British during WWII, with the latter leaving him blinded in one eye. He would eventually leave Greece in 1947 after graduating university with a degree in civil engineering, and before he could be conscripted into the Greek army, who didn’t look favourably on left wing sympathisers. Moving from Greece to Paris left him with a sense of guilt at betraying his friends, and a sense that “I had to do something important to regain the right to live. It wasn’t just a question of music - it was something much more significant.”
That significant something turned out to be a mind-blowing, multi-disciplinary oeuvre practically unprecedented in the history of music, architecture and art; a radical synthesis of ideas which embraced new technology and abstraction as a means to realise and create a new world in the aftermath of WWII. Like the Italian futurists before him, Xenakis would draw on the chaotic soundfield of war, and combined with a strong knowledge of experimental classical music and a special nous of maths, Xenakis’ subsequent studies with Olivier Messiaen and work with Parisian architect Le Corbusier would prompt him to composing groundbreaking new music during the 1950s.
This 2CD contains works from that era, stretching right back to the pranging clangour and jet-like eruptions of Achorripsis [1956-57], an early example of his stochastic style of composition, thru the dizzying, chronic dynamics of Syrmos , and to some of the earliest work composed by a computer, the 7090 IBM, in ST/48(St/48-1,240162).
But it’s Xenakis’ ’60s/‘70s work where his genius is mst evident, from the breathtaking scope of Polytope De Montréal  - written for four orchestras in the same space in the French Pavilion at Expo ’67 - to the gobsmacking dimensions of his seminal Persépolis , which was realised for the Shah of Iran, plus the frankly terrifying, computerised wormhole of Polytope De Cluny [1972-74].
We can’t reasonably describe this set as anything other than indispensable for fans of electronic music from its inception to the modern day.
Haunting compositions for two double basses and two Norwegian hardanger fiddles from Australian-in-Berlin composer and performer Jon Heilbron, plus Håkon Thelin, Helga Myhr, Rasmus Kjorstad
Hovering in a haze of rustic, bittersweet, folksy discord, ‘Puma Court’ unfolds in two durational parts, with the longer, undulating topography of gently keening tones and curdled turns in ‘Puma Court One’ subtly contrasting with the swaying, breezier resolution in ‘Puma Court Two’.
Bringing to a close a series which has frankly altered the way we listen to and perceive sound and music over the course of this decade, Jakob Ullmann seals his important Fremde Zeit series with ‘Solo V for Klavier’; a fascinatingly stark and spectral hour-long finale that sets the idea of ‘Foreign Time’ in its most minimalist and broadest setting.
Like the previous instalments, ‘solo V für Klavier’ is interpreted from a graphic score, this time formed from a series of abstract water-colours aleatorically overlaid with transparent sheets marked with black lines, scattered in the manner of oracle sticks to create a pattern determining the duration of sections, their colour and sequencing. Whilst patently super-minimal, the piece’s pianissimo nature is too demanding for just one solo performer, Lukas Rikli, who requires the participation of three assistants who use horsehair on the strings to sustain the soundscape.
So far, so concrete (and the above is only a skim of the full technical requirements), but what occurs arguably falls within the realm of the supernatural and metaphysical. Performed according to Ullmann’s uniquely conjured laws of physics, the work opens an uncanny valley between the object - the grand piano - and subjective perceptions of its sound. It takes several minutes before one might even realise a piano is at the centre of the soundstage - somehow all the action appears to happen in the meridian, in the timbral, in the liminal aura, almost frighteningly connoting a presence but not the actual body that produced it.
It’s only when identifiable chords and strings occasionally loom forward that we can just about make out the fixed physicalities in the room, but in the process we’ve already attuned to Ullmann’s laws of sonic democracy (if you’re doing it properly, the piece should play at just above the volume of environmental sound - hence it works best at night), which makes any instrumental gesture, no matter how slight, appear magnified, animating a microcosmos of sound at the molecular level.
The results highlight the effective warzones of sonic bombardment and “pollution” we’re all subject to everyday, and most intently offer the invaluable space for retreat we’re all clearly, increasingly in need of.
Fremde Zeit Addendum 4 is the most recent iteration of Jakob Ullmann’s personalised and transcendent quiet music compositions following the equally highly recommended 3CD box set Freemde Zeit - Addendum (2012), plus Voice, Books and FIRE 3 (2008), and A Catalogue Of Sounds (2005) for Berlin’s Edition RZ imprint.
“Thus, Ullmann creates a quiet music in order to give himself and his listeners the opportunity to hear more, and better. This comes about because our ability to hear is augmented when listening to quiet music.
We hear better because we make an effort to hear better. That is why Ullmann likes to locate his sound sources at the periphery, so as not to make it too easy for the ear. In order to let sounds develop and move on their own time, the pieces are usually longer than the general concert norm dictates. The opening minutes serve as the exposition of the tempo and the mode, to condition, as it were, the listening. Bernd Leukert. (Translation: Laurie Schwartz)”
One of only two CDs to bear his name at the top, Edition RZ’s Michael Von Biel collection presents a hardcore haul from the nebulous 1960s avant garde, including one blinding, 13 minute piece of electronic composition commissioned from Von Biel by Karlheinz Stockhausen - his tutor at Darmstadt - which resulted in him repeatedly breaking the sliders on the desk during its creation! No messing, it’s worth it for that one alone - you won’t find it anywhere else! (just checked youtube and discogs) - but his patent taste for noisy dynamics and twist on convention elsewhere on the CD also make this a bit of a must, if you’re into that kind of thing.
“2004 release. Michael von Biel's musical production at the beginning of the 1960s was clearly marked by the expansion of the musical material. "Quartet No. 1" (1962) and even more, "Quartet No. 2" (1963) are noise compositions whose expressiveness rests essentially on the discovery of new sonic possibilities and performance techniques. Bowing with excessive pressure, playing behind the bridge, leading the bow in a diagonal direction, hitting the tip of the bow on the body of the instrument -- these are the techniques with which the sound of the strings enters into the realm of noise. Whereas in the first quartet, the areas of musical sound and instrumental noise are still largely set off against one another, in the second quartet, the concept of a music based solely on noise is realized without compromise. Both of the compositions Quartet with Accompaniment for string quartet and cello (1965) and "Jagdstück" ("Hunting Piece") for 2 trumpets, 2 trombones, 2 horns, 2 tenor tubas, contrabass, tape, e-guitars and electronically amplified barbecue grills (1966) are based on the contrast of divergent sound worlds. Before attending the composition courses of Karlheinz Stockhausen in Darmstadt for three years in a row starting in 1961, von Biel studied one year with Morton Feldman in New York where he met David Tudor and John Cage. Earlier than for most European composers, approaches in aesthetic thinking which couldn't have been more different from one another collided in his consciousness, and this occurred at a point in time when their music-historical consequence could not yet be foreseen.”
This 6-part overview of work by legendary Greek composer Jani Christou (1926-1970) is one of the greatest highlights of the practically peerless Edition RZ catalogue. Documenting distinct periods in the fascinating composer’s oeuvre, before he died in a car crash on, or just before his 44th birthday, the set provides a totally compelling introduction to Christou’s inseparable mix of music and philosophy, and his exploration of their metaphysical binds, and has become a real favourite of ours in the process.
The collected six works feel like discrete wormholes or windows onto parallel, proto- or post- dimensions in a way that we’ve rarely heard before. Taking cues from myriad sources such as his studies of logic and philosophy under Ludwig Wittgenstein and Bertrand Russell, through to his private musical tuition with H.F. Redlich, and orchestration with Angelo Francesco Lavagnino, and, perhaps most unavoidably, his obsessions with death and the afterlife inspired by his upbringing in Alexandria, Egypt, where he was surrounded relics of ancient civilisation, Christou’s music feels to genuinely touch on other worlds, and bring them into our own reality.
We don’t want to delve too far into the philosophy for fear of misinterpretation - we’ll leave that for you to wrestle with in the excellent liner notes - but sonically we can assure of the music’s nonpareil grip, especially in the chaotic flux and cataclysmic orchestral resolution of Enantiodromia, as well as the remarkably open-ended Epicycle, whose score calls for high levels of improvisation in a fixed situation, resulting a proper proto-techno abstraction, or in the spellbinding recording of Mysterion, with its whispered Danish vocal and stygian pulse, which was somewhat uncannily the last of his works to be recorded before his tragic death.
It all begs the question as to what Christou may have made had he lived longer, with access to new technologies - judging by the trajectory of these works, our guess is some of the most incredible music imaginable - but also leaves us with some beautiful, hugely distinguished music which acknowledges “an awareness of how remorseless, varied, infinitely complex, fleeting, but sometimes also infinitely simple is the world-wide phenomenon of pattern recognition” in a way which most beautifully highlights it’s magical logic via its purposed application.
In 1998 the ever-revelatory Edition RZ issued this 1st CD collection of works by Franco Evangelisti (1926-1980), who’s perhaps best known as founder of Gruppo di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza. However, beyond the most crenellated realms of modern composition, his name hardly rings a bell, but judging on the dynamic strength and depth of sounds inside, it really should for anyone with an interest in pioneering Italian avant-garde movements.
We’d fairly speculate he’s not as well known as other Gruppo members such as Morricone or Macchi due to his music’s relative difficulty and lack of commercial appeal. However, just like the work of group member Roland Kayn, there is a worldly, far-out wonder and probing scope to these recordings that warrants much closer inspection if you want to peer beyond Italian library music into its avant garde abyss.
“This two disc retrospective features studio audio-footage and lab-experiments, featuring performers Aloys Kontarsky, David Tudor, Eberhard Blüm and the LaSalle Quartet. Spanning the last 40 years, virtually all forms of post-1950 invention are represented here from the pure electronics of "Incontri di fasce sonore, composizione elettronica" (recorded at the WDR, 1957) to the stuttering orchestral developments of "Ordini, strutture variate per sedici strumenti" (composed in 1955, presented here as a 1993 recording by the Ensemble Streumentale de Camera). A key player in the field of pan-stylistic modernalia.”
Presenting richly detailed hydrophone recordings of algae development in the rapidly depleting Arctic, Jana Winderen’s latest research is a fascinating and acutely topical study of ‘Spring Bloom in the Marginal Ice Zone’.
Prefaced by a sobering interview with world-renowned Professor of Marine Science, Carlos Duerte, the album presents headphone and speaker mixes of the title track, offering an immersive sonic inspection of the transitional area between open sea and sea ice, where the world’s biggest bloom of phytoplankton - the micro-organisms that produce half of the oxygen on the planet - accounts for the most critical CO2 sink in the biosphere.
The results are unmistakably foreboding, layering the sounds of blooming plankton with the tense cracks, pops and creaks of sea ice, and the subaquatic sound of bearded seals, migrating humpbacks and orcas, crustaceans and spawning cod, into a properly suspenseful and eerily alien experience.
Head-turning debut album of lysergic soul and avant-R&B chamber pop from LA Timpa; a Nigeria-born, London-based artist possessing a sound comparable to a mix of Blood Orange, Animal Collective, Soaring Wayne Phoenix, Richard Youngs, Klein, Yves Tumor, Arthur Russell, Mica Levi…
Served up on promising yung London label O___o, and mixed down by Warp’s Kwes, ‘Equal Amounts Afraid’ is a faultlessly modest yet enchanting album riddled with timeless musical soul. Following from his 2016 debut ‘Animal’, and guest production for Cold Specks’ trip hop sound, LA Timpa’s gently reserved and melancholic sound is sweetly symptomatic of the ambient zeitgeist in 2020, and arguably, beautifully sympathetic to the needs of modern listeners.
Introspective and avant like that gorgeous Soaring Wayne Phoenix album or Klein’s psyched chop-ups, as sensuous as Blood Orange, but with a taste for expressively harmonised pop refrains that clearly recall Yves Tumor via Richard Youngs, the album unfolds like a dream with suitably eyelid-tugging levels of hypnagogic charm that practically demands it is heard in sequestered, lowlit situations before you share the pleasure with pals.
Seducing us to his singular temporality and hazy atmosphere with the vaporous falsetto and ambient soundfield of sirens and groggy bass in ‘Around’, a Klein-esque cut-up interlude leads into fragmented music box melody and intimate plainsong on ‘Fertile’, whereas ‘Core’ almost echoes the 4AD dream-pop of A.R. Kane, and ‘Give’ beautifully dematerialises indie-pop into ambient gauze. ‘Backyard Exotic’ then surfaces his strangest side in a maze of mushied songcraft, ushering a trippier 2nd half where the songs really start to fray between ‘Caretaker’, the smokers’ hymnal vignette ‘Towel Under The Door’, before channelling Thom Yorke in the melting Mbira melody of ‘Rattle Snake’, and spooling out into proper ambient soul with the spine-tracing lines of ‘Tried Ice’ and the smudged magic of ‘Memory Phone’ where he truly divines a strength in his vulnerability in a way that should resonate with all sensitive souls.
Such a doozy. Don’t sleep!
UK soul futurist Steve Spacek sticks to his “hi oh es lab” (iOS) tekkers with typically louche, warm and inviting results following his 2018 album for Floating Points’ Eglo Records
Now doing it for burgeoning UK jazz and beats label Black Focus Records (Kamaal Williams), Spacek dishes up what he calls “a bunch of house riddims” in the distinctive style that he’s ploughed for over 20 years. But where his early band recordings with Spacek were elaborate studio affairs, in recent years he’s favoured a peripatetic mode of productions, making beats on his iPhone with apps that allow him to work organically and free-flowing, whenever he likes.
As found on 2018’s ‘Natural Sci-Fi’ album, he continues to get great results from the instant iPhone method of creation on ‘Houses’, trading on a classic brand of jazz-funk inspired dance music, but doing it with a tiny fraction of the kit used in the records he references. Its production values may not necessarily make for “club bangers”, but it does allow him to catch amn all-important vibe between the percolated shimmy of ‘Waiting 4 You’, the natty step of ‘Where We Go’ his sweetly off-kilter roller ‘Tell Me’, and the rude rag of ‘Love 4 Nano’, while lending an unusual, even surreal intimacy to the likes of his soulful downstroke ‘Single Stream’.
Revelatory first comp of deeply rootsy Nigerian Apala music to be released outside the country, containing loads of amazing talking drum rhythms, thumb pianos, vocal harmonies, and totally entrancing vibes
“Soul Jazz Records new ‘Apala: Apala Groups in Nigeria 1967-70’ is the first ever collection of Apala music to be released outside of Nigeria.
The album focusses on a wide selection of recordings made in Nigeria in the 1960s, a time when Apala music was at the height of its popularity. Apala is a deeply rhythmical, hypnotic and powerful musical style that combines the striking nasal-style vocals and traditions of Islamic music, the Agidigbo (thumb piano), and the equally powerful drumming and percussion rhythms and techniques of the Yoruba of Nigeria.
The most significant figure in Apala music is undoubtedly Haruna Ishola who features throughout this album. Ishola holds an almost mythological status in his role as populariser of Apala music in Nigeria. Ishola’s singing was believed to be so powerful that, without proper restraint, it could kill the recipient of his music.
Apala is a popular music that also functioned as a form of cultural resistance – Apala music involved no western instrumentation and is sung in the Yoruba language, its aesthetic an implicit cultural rejection of the British Empire’s colonial rule over Nigeria which lasted from 1901 until independence in 1960.
Apala music was popular and widely accepted in Nigeria due to its philosophical and profound lyrical content alongside the complex rhythmic patterns of this heavily percussive style, which highlighted many of the percussion instruments of south-west Nigeria.
Apala is one of a number of popular urban styles of music that came out of Nigeria in the 20th century and sits alongside the more well-known (in the West) styles of Fuji, Highlife, Juju and Afrobeat. Of these modern forms Apala remains perhaps the most ‘roots’ style (sometimes described as ‘neo-traditional’) due to the authenticity of its sound. It has similar Islamic roots to other neo-traditional styles of Nigeria – including Waka and Sakara – examples of which are also included on this collection contextualising the music of Apala.
These recordings were originally made and released locally by Decca and EMI Records as well as a variety of independent labels in Nigeria and have never been released outside of the country before.”
‘Invisible Island’ sees Berlin-based Japanese pianist and sound designer Midori Hirano explore a subtly unsettling, frayed nerve strain of neo-classical ambience upon her return to Sonic Pieces
Following up the imaginative, playful scope of 2016’s ‘Minor Planet’, Midori’s new side is best defined by its bittersweet edge and queasy textural/atmospheric backdrops that create an absorbing, quizzical gulf of detachment between the notes and the textures. While ostensibly working with clean, simple piano phrasing, the devil really lies in Midori’s filigree post-production that makes everything appear slightly unsteady and seemingly lost to its own thoughts while we listen in.
The experience of ‘Invisible Island’ almost feels voyeuristic, as though we’re watching from a distance a play of emotions fleeting across someone else’s silent face, morphing from melancholic introspection to pangs of cutting anguish and, eventually on the B-side, a sense of breezy relief and resolution that comes through as the bitterness of the A-side subsides like night to morning. Really, the difference between the impending feel of opener ‘Ocean’s Disconnect’ and the resolution of ‘Invisible Island’ at the end could hardly be starker, with the magic lying in the way Midori very stealthily transitions between these shades of mood.
Jim O’Rourke, Eiko Ishibashi, and Joe Talia aid avant-garde enigma John Duncan unpackage songs from his remarkable grimoir ‘Bitter Earth’ on recordings made in Club Metro, Kyoto, 2017 while a Typhoon raged outside the venue. This is really quite the stunning set...
‘Red Sky’ offers documentary evidence of Duncan cementing his transition from wildly unpredictable experimentalist to a doomy troubadour with a mean line of cover versions during a set lasting just over 90 minutes. While Duncan takes centre stage on vocals, the highly attuned trio of O’Rourke, Ishibashi and Talia reliably supply backdrops that range from ritualistic ambience threaded with Duncan’s favoured FM radio signals, to swooning midnight jazz, passages of driving mixes of kraut- and psych-rock, uneasy exotica and carmine-stained, Italian library soundtrack vibes.
The pair of CDs capture the essence of the band’s last date on a three week tour of Japan. Because of the typhoon outside, the band expected it to be less than busy inside, but a packed audience - replete with steam from their wet clothes - greeted the band, including some coming for their 3rd show of the tour. Given it was their last chance to perform together, and for Duncan to “bask in Eiko’s, Jim’s and Joe’s consistently masterful creativity”, they all put on a mesmerising show that harnessed everything they’d experienced and learned together on the road one final time.
Kicking off with some 18 minutes of utterly haunting dark jazz scaping by his band, Duncan hovers in over a stark piano refrain with a devastating take on Dinah Washington’s 1960 evergreen, ‘This Bitter Earth’, the vocal and keys going toe-to-toe up your spine, and five minutes later they’ve seamlessly locked into a grizzled garage rock cover of ‘Wild Is The Wind’ by Nina Simone, and soon enough an achingly sleazy spin on Steely Dan’s ‘Do It Again’ almost worth the admission alone. CD 2 picks up at the set’s mid-way with a possessed take on Iggy Pop’s darkest moment, ‘Mass Production’, before steering down a dim-lit dark ambient ginnel to the set’s other peak, a spellbindingly tense but shatterproof cover of Four Tops’ ‘Reach Out’, before setting fire to The Zombie’s ‘She’s Not There’, and coming to rest in his quieter element with his barely-there cover of ‘Dark’ by Pere Ubu, and Duncan’s hollerin’, clappin’ bluesy spiritual ‘Red Sky’ to close.
Diaphanous Japanese ambient meditations rooted in Buddhist philosophy particular to Japan, and steeped in native folklore and ghost tales. Follows release for M_nus and performance at Today’s Art
“‘There are dreams that I still remember. Although it has been decades since I had those dreams, they continue to pulsate, circulating their pellucid blood, vital and fresh as if dreamt just last night’
Singing bowls, bronze bells and gongs resonate through the mindful layers of Japanese percussionist and ambient producer Kazuya Nagaya’s music. In Zen Buddhism, bells are believed to wash away the cares of the mortal world, as the listener follows the resonance of the bell into the silence and stillness within all beings. It is a penetration into the depths of one’s self. Floating in a cloud of billowing ambience, its nine tracks invite the listener to traverse a broad spectrum of spirit.
‘There is one thing I have known all along. Someday I will have to face the messages from my unconscious. I will have to decipher their meaning and change my life accordingly. The messages from my unconscious are like a knocking on the door of my mind. For many years the sound reverberated, but I payed it no attention’
Nagaya’s music is rooted in Buddhist (Zenzhu) philosophy and sensibilities unique to Japan. Concurrently, his work and interests are also contemporary and traverse a broad spectrum of cultures. This has led him to work with a wide range of collaborators that include Tibetan Buddhist Monks, Hawaiian Kahuna, artists such as Plastikman and Iris Van Herpen, and also to perform regularly in acclaimed festivals such as MUTEK and Today`s Art. His first album, “Utsusho”, was released in 1999 and later re-released with Minus. His latest album, “The Microscope of Heraclitus,” was released with Indigo Raw in 2018.
Nagaya started out to pursue his talents in literature and is also an award-winning writer and a connoisseur on Japanese Literature, Buddhist Folktales and Zen Philosophical Works. These interests breathed life into his music, and the sensibilities and philosophical views which he developed during his literary years are now reflected in most of his music today. He spends half the week teaching courses at his University in Tokyo, and the other half composing and writing in his home in the Japanese Alps, where he resides with his wife, and many adopted cats and dogs. ‘Dream Interpretations’ was composed at a difficult time in Nagaya’s life. While he worked, he listened closely to the sound of the knocking that reverberated from the paths of his unconsciousness and transformed that into music. In other words, this music is his dream interpretation.”
Omar Souleyman turns out another brilliant batch of club-ready turns on EDM powerhouse Mad Decent
Getting back to the type of fire found on his Sublime Frequencies and Sham Palace turns following years of Four Tet-produced missteps, ‘Shlon’ is delivered hot and direct in the vein of 2017’s ‘To Dyria, With Love’ with 6 tracks of whirlwind microtonal synth licks, stentorian vox and driving machine rhythms.
’Salon’ sets it off with slow donks and line-dancing claps, ’Shi Tridin’ steps it up with a wild mix of Euro-house swagger and blazing synth crossfire, and ‘Mawwal’ makes room for dry-iced, beat-less slow jam in the titular style of sung poetry. ‘About Zilif’ is the BIG one though, featuring Rizan Sa’id slinging wild drums and scything riffs compatible with electro chaabi, and ‘Layle’ nearly hits Psy-trance levels of yoghurt-weaving club action.
Estimable American cellist Charles Curtis spans a spectra of rare, unreleased recordings of music by Eliane Radigue, Morton Feldman, Anton Webern, Olivier Messaien and himself in the first comprehensive survey of his oeuvre on Tashi Wada’s Saltern label. Almost two and a half hours of deep, engrossing music.
Ranging from performance of obscure C.14th pieces by Guillaume de Machaut, to C.20th avant garde works by Messiaen and Webern, thru to his previously unreleased 2012 rendition of Éliane Radigue’s ‘Occam V’, and a clutch of his own compositions, the 20 pieces of ‘Performances & Recordings 1998-2018’ plot out the remarkable breadth and depth of work by renowned, LA-based cellist Charles Curtis. Rooted in his childhood classical studies and subsequent schooling by La Monte Young and Pandit Pran Nath, Curtis’ wide scope and insight has placed him among the eminent performers of contemporary music, minimalism and modern classical for over 20 years, as documented inside.
The set speaks not just to Curtis’ musical restlessness, but his spirit of inquiry, as the works all bear some relation to each other, not least for the fact they’re all performed by him, but also in the way he inhabits and brings the original composer’s ideas to fruition, and makes inherent links between eons of Medieval and Renaissance music, serialism, rock and early conceptions of noise music.
The set smartly outlines this breadth in stages, drawing connection between his awning take on Radigue’s ‘Occam V’ (2012) and a number of C.14th-17th works by Guillauem de Machaut, Tobia Hume, Silvestro di Ganassi and the stately sweep of his own ‘Unfinished Song’ (1998) in disc 1, whereas disc 2 focusses on his readings of C.20th works including Terry Jennings’ ‘Song’ (1960) which he premiered in 1995, Morton Feldman’s sublime ‘Durations II’ (1960) that appeared on Chamber Music: Alvin Lucier & Morton Feldman’, and Alison Knowles ‘Rice and Beans’ (2008), adapted from a score made out of lentils, fabric and string; while disc 3 contains a massive highlight in his fascinating take on Richard Maxfield’s ‘Perspectives for La Monte Young’, itself inspired by John Cage’s conception of noise music and the harmonic qualities of frictional, non-musical sounds, which all feel as though they’re preparing the listener for the culmination of three Curtis originals, from the supernatural shimmer of ‘Unison Offset’, to the dusky Cali post-rock of ‘Music For Awhile’, and the keening figure of ‘Music for “Lester”’, a commission for Luke Fowler’s ‘Tenement Films’.
A collection of valuable passages recorded by The Durutti Column between 1979 and 2011 for various iterations of Factory Records, including poignant tributes to manager/mentor Anthony H. Wilson.
“The Durutti Column was Tony’s baby,” says Durutti mainman Vini Reilly. “We were the first act signed up to his Factory club night, and the first band signed to Factory Records. Tony became my mentor, somebody to look up to. He was a very tough character, yet he was very gentle. He had many sides. The biggest arguments with Tony were that he wanted to stop me singing with my schoolboy lyrics and my dreadful voice.”
Reilly’s music remains resolutely unclassifiable, and sounds better and better with each passing year. “Don’t listen to the form,” he insists, “listen to the content. Don't listen to the style, the tradition, the technique, just the content of the music. Then judge. People say The Durutti Column is this or that. I don’t care so long as we make good music. There's so much good music around. Don't bother with form. Just enjoy.”
Ex-Chairlift singer Caroline Polachek teams with PC Music’s Danny L Harle (Carli XCX) for a sleekly toned debut solo album of indie-R&B inflected with traces of country, folk, ambient, synth-pop and experimental electronic production...
“Caroline Polachek has already lived an extraordinary life in music: her previous band Chairlift formed in 2006 whilst Caroline was still in art school; and in 2008 the band was thrust into the spotlight when "Bruises" was synched in an iPod commercial as the Brooklyn indie scene peaked as an international export. Caroline's idiosyncratic vocal style and synth textures quickly became their sonic trademark, and continued to evolve through their three critically acclaimed albums into a new, more modular kind of pop experimentation.
Caroline expanded into production in 2013, landing her first credit writing and producing on Beyonce's grammy-nominated self-titled album. Restless while making Chairlift's third (and final) record "Moth", Caroline quietly fostered two side projects: baroque girl-group Ramona Lisa, and minimal synth project CEP. Moving fluidly through radically different genres, Caroline collaborated with dozens of artists (Blood Orange, SBTRKT, Charli XCX) ; sometimes writing, sometimes singing, sometimes directing videos, and sometimes all three.
Chairlift disbanded in 2017 and Caroline feverishly began writing for her first solo project under her own name. For the first time, the DNA from these seemingly different projects fit together perfectly; the playfulness of Chairlift, the theatricality of Ramona Lisa, futuristic glimmerings of CEP, plus a new mastery of her voice and thick rolodex of keen collaborators.
Fast forward two years spent manically between the studio and navigating a series of personal crossroads, and “Pang” marks the beginning of a new chapter. It is the most ambitious, hardcore and beautiful album of her career to date. With her signature 'organic autotune' and liquid lyricism finally center stage, the record positions her firmly as one of the most singular and captivating singers of a generation.”
After years messing about with his robot band, Squarepusher gets back to ye olde drill ’n bass of yore with ‘Be Up A Hello’, his most enjoyable album in decades, basically.
The jizz-fonk is still present and correct, but the junglist breaks and acid are also back in a big way, along with stacks of analogue hardware, throughout the album’s nine tracks of accelerated, hyperactive tekkers.
While the influence of jazz-fusion has always been key to Squarepusher’s work, we’re usually best impressed when he purely gives it up for the rave in proper, if mutant, ‘90s style. he does just that with the unmissable ‘Nervelevers’ and ‘Speedcrank’, which are right up there with AFX’s remix of ‘Box Energy’ and ‘Cock/ver10’ in terms of ravenous acid breakbeat with not a nanosecond spared for razor-sharp edits, while ‘Vortrack’ lends that style a deliciously darkside appeal, but ‘terminal Slam’ takes it a bit too bro-style with its Van Helan levels of noodle acid riffage, and ‘Mekrev Bass’ pulls it back from the brink with Venetian Snares-like complexity and tension. The two beat-less works - his night-glyding ‘Detroit People Mover’ and ’80 Ondula’ - are almost necessary to save you from cardiac arrest if doing it all in one sitting.
Will Guthrie’s hypnotic, amorphous percussion sprawls between free jazz, Javanese gamelan, and electro-acoustic disciplines in a spellbinding new opus for Oren Ambarchi’s inimitably unpredictable Black Truffle
“Nantes-based Australian drummer and percussionist Will Guthrie returns to Black Truffle with Nist-Nah. Like his previous solo record on the label, the abrasive hip-hop concrète of People Pleaser (BT027), Nist-Nah finds Guthrie branching out in a new direction, this time in a suite of six percussion pieces primarily using the metallaphones, hand drums and gongs of the Gamelan ensembles of Indonesia. The music presented here is grounded in Guthrie’s travels in Indonesia and study of various forms of Gamelan music, from the stately suspended temporality of the courtly Javanese Gamelan Sekatan, to the delirious, thuggish repetition that accompanies the Javanese trance ritual Jathilan, to the shimmering acoustic glitch of contemporary Balinese composer Dewa Alit and his Gamelan Salukat.
However, far from an exercise in exoticism, Nist-Nah develops out of Guthrie’s extensive work with metal percussion in recent years (as heard, for example, on his 2015 LP for iDEAL, Sacrée Obsession), where gongs, singing bowls and cymbals are used to build up walls of hovering tones and sizzling details. Though Guthrie is broadening his palette to explore Gamelan instrumentation and pay tribute to his love of this sophisticated yet elemental percussion music, the pieces presented here are equally informed by Guthrie’s interests in free jazz, electro-acoustic music and diverse experimental music practices, exploring long tones, extended techniques, and non-metered pulse.
Nist-Nah presents a variety of approaches across its six pieces, from the crisp, precise rhythmic complexity of the opening title track to the droning textures of ‘Catlike’ and ‘Elders’. On the epic closing ‘Kebogiro Glendeng’, Guthrie offers an extended, layered rendition of a Javanese piece belonging to a repertoire primarily used for warmups, beginner’s groups and children first learning Gamelan, elegantly gesturing to his own amateur status while using the piece’s insistently repeated melody as an extended exploration of the hypnotic effects of repetition, falling in and out of time with himself to create woozy, narcotic effects until the piece eventually dissolves into a wavering fog.”
Dutch sound artist Machinefabriek supplies a fittingly chilly score for video shot in Antarctica by Esther Kokmeijer, following his first suite with a sound that’s truer to the images of icebergs and endless tundra.
“The friendship and collaboration between Rutger Zuydervelt (Machinefabriek) and Alessandro Tedeschi (label founder of Glacial Movements, has been going on for several years now and it is constantly evolving. The Dutch artist, in addition to carrying out the graphic designs of all Glacial Movements' releases, is also part of the label’s catalog with the album "Stillness Soundtracks" released in April 2014. Almost 6 years from its publication, here is the new musical tale of the fantastic journey in Antarctica by Esther Kokmeijer.
When Esther Kokmeijer asked Rutger Zuydervelt (aka Machinefabriek) to score the second installment of her ‘Stillness’ video series, he didn’t have to think twice. After all, when working on its first volume, the duo found out soon enough that the images of floating icebergs and desolate sea scapes were a perfect fit with Rutger’s glacial sounds (as heard on ‘Stillness Soundtracks’). For that first set, the score was quite lively and layered, as if the music was adding a narrative to the static imagery, suggesting that things were unfolding outside of the screen. For the second ‘Stillness’ installment, the focus is more on what can be seen within the frame – an attempt to capture the solemnness of the images – to find beauty, but also sadness in the mesmerizing quality of Esther’s films. This makes ‘Stillness Soundtracks II’ a more sombre and subdued album and one that’s a fitting soundtrack to these alarming times with climate change being a more serious threat than ever.
Esther Kokmeijer: “Stillness” depicts tranquil, gliding images of icescapes from the North and South Pole. I filmed these landscapes during my biannual visits to Antarctica as an expedition photographer. The meditative images invite reflection on the unparalleled beauty of this glacial ecology, which appears both vulnerable and resilient.”
The label behind Angel Bat Dawit’s amazing debut present a glorious side from persistent jazz innovator Jeff Parker (Tortoise), melding deeply soulful charm with naturally explorative leanings operating at similarly loose but focussed levels of intuition and dextrous freedom across his swirling ‘Suite For Max Brown’, but with plusher recording and production values.
Preceded by a 7” that signalled this LP would be special, ‘Suite for Max Brown’ lives up to its promise with a canny mix of supple, live chops and Parker’s own sampling/editing tekkers that makes the LP feel at once fresh and vintage. Manning electric guitar, plus all sorts of percussion (drums, glockenspiel, pandeiro), and electronics (sampler, Korg MS20, Roland JP-08, midi), as well as Mibira and vocals, Jeff is flanked by a hand-picked band of Interantional Anthem regulars on strings, brass, drums and vox for a sophisticated and deeply cool iteration of 2020 jazz music.
The smooth fusion of ‘Max Brown’ off the aforementioned 7” single now closes the LP, but before you get there, the album will charm your socks off in 10 ways. On the A-side he puckers up a selection of succinct bewts, stroking MS20 subs under loping drums, guitar vamps and Ruby Parker’s serene, lilting vox on ‘Build a Nest’, and going all J Dilla with the sample/edit cut-up of Otis Redding on ‘C’mon Now’, before lurching into devilish jazz-funk breaks in ‘Fusion Swirl’, then melting the vibe with a gorgeous take on Coltrane’s ‘After The Rain’, alongside dreamy electronic vignette ‘Metamorphoses’. On the B-side however it sounds like they returned from lunch (and perhaps a spicy zoot) with a much more laid-back, woozy appeal explored thru Parker’s signature, quietly joyful electric guitar and spongiform MS20 bass on ‘3 For L’, while ‘Go Away’ simmers on the good foot for classy ‘floors with Makaya McCraven’s drums synched to Parker’s vox, sampler and chiming, almost highlife-esque guitar.
As with everything we’ve heard on IARC over the past few months (admittedly since being wowed by that amazing Angel Bat Dawid debut), Jeff Parker’s contributions fall squarely within the label’s focused yet broad appeal and properly rooted styles, offering the sort of Jazz slab that will seduce fence-sitters and light up harder-to-please beret wearers.
NYC-based shapeshifters Georgia do it loose and freaky for Andy Lyster’s Youth label with an 80 minute mosaic of worldly, rhythmelodic inspirations and psychedelic electronics.
Following a haul of prime material releasedover the past 12 months with everyone from Firecracker and Ekster to Métron Records, the duo of Brian Close and Justin Tripp aka Georgia really suit the playthru CD format of ‘One Mind’ with a showcase of hypnotic, psychedelic styles that really takes a grip with extended, immersive listens.
The 15 tracks are haphazard and frazzled examples of Georgia’s pointed take on upending western electronic convention with non-standard scales and rhythms. Whether trading in wilfully oblique modular electronics or following club-ready hunches, they always prize a sense of playfulness. Knotty, nutty modular flux in ‘Fifthda’ shares space with wigged-out, ceremonial processions such as ‘Window 8’ and mutations in ‘New Force’, along with sizzling mixes of thumb pianos and synthesised voices recalling Paul DeMarinis’ ‘Songs Without Throats’ on ‘Baiala Ghalic’, and Iueke-style dancehall warpers such as ‘City Floral’.
And on a more ruffneck flex, the sluggin’ slow-fast bogle of ‘Laca Ja’ shares a rudeness in common with the gruff prang of ’Smart Stance’, but they’re at best when doing it colourfully and psychedelic, as with the fractal flow of ‘Day To’, and when it all comes together like Senyawa sparring Foodman on ‘Vision Zero’.
‘América Invertida’ is a fascinating survey of Uruguay’s lesser-covered ‘80s endeavours in new wave pop, jazz-fusion, ambient folk and electronics, compiled by Spanish DJ and collector Javi Bayo
So, hands up who knows about music from South America’s 2nd smallest nation? Aye, just like us, Uruguay’s music scene is a bit of mystery to all but an ardent set of diggers who’ve been mining its fine seams of cult records, often produced by the same handful of artists out of the capital city, Montevideo, and pressed in tiny runs at the time. For anyone interested, ‘América Invertida’ rectifies the issue with 11 charmingly sweet examples that patently echo the styles of Uruguay’s bigger neighbours, Brazil and Argentina, but with their own sense of breezy flair that’s neatly distilled in this compilation.
To play favourites, we’re instantly struck by the shimmering FM synth blush and suave bossa-fusion shuffle of ‘Y El Tiempo Pasa’ and ‘Kabumba’ by Hugo Jasa, while the likes of Contraviento and Travesia supply seductive bits of bucolic, pastoral psych folk and we can almost primacy you won’t be shifting the ohrwurms of Eduardo Mateo’s burbling Candombe rhythms in ‘El Chi-Li-Ban-Dan’ any time soon once bitten.
Prescient maverick Markus Popp minces our swedes with the schizzy, quantum mechanics and avant-pop appeal of his first new Oval album in six years.
Assured of his place in the pantheon of electronic music pioneers since his earliest, groundbreaking work with fucked-up CDs and bespoke software, Oval’s rate of innovation may have waned since the ‘90s, but he still has an extraordinary way with the fundamentals of musical composition, as found on ’Scis’. The follow-up to 2014’s ‘Popp’ expands on that album’s hyperfruity, melodic dance-pop leanings with the kind of inimitably crafty, human touch that many have come to expect from Oval’s advanced output.
You can trust he doesn’t leave a nano-second of the record wanting for detail, cramming filigree melodic twirls and restless rhythm at every turn from the wild fusion of feathered keys and rabid dubstep in opener ‘Twirror’, to the fractalised swang of ‘Fluoresco’, an Akufen-like R&B cut-up in ‘Pushhh’, and Coh-meets-Luomo-esque chops on ‘Improg’, along with exemplary future funk in ‘Cozzmo’.
If previous Oval albums have struck you as too knowingly obtuse, there’s an impressively finer balance of the i’m-dead-clever-me aspects, and straight-up enjoyable pop sensuality and swerve to this one.
Killer joyride of noisy, white-knuckle rhythms and biting-point sound design by Milan’s Advanced Audio Research for the increasingly ace Haunter Records
In hot pursuit of the styles found in his 2018 debut, the ‘First Grade’ LP - which recently turned up in Jon K’s killer TTT mix - the ‘Top Secret’ LP doubles down on that sound with nearly twice as much material and more belligerent confidence that places him in close orbit with fellow Italian demon, Shapednoise while also recalling the breakcore blatz of Somatic Responses and Venetian Snares.
No punches are pulled across the album’s 12 gory cuts, which often run at a frenetic 160bpm and all leave no nanosecond shy of seething action, fulminating standout pieces in the club mastication of ‘Gandalf’, the supremely cranky grind of ‘Gizmo (Tribute to Kazuhiko “Smokey” Nagata)’, his roiling R&B noise fusion, and the hardcore razz of ‘Trans-Mongolian Railway’.
Like a dry audio colonic or frack job for your head, Pain Jerk’s previously unreleased ‘Mission Invisible’ is a grade A+ battery of calamity dished up by his adoring fiends at Hospital Productions. Mega RIYL Russell Haswell, Incapacitants, or wilfully placing yourself at the edge of sanity...!!!
“hospital productions is proud to announce the unreleased would be classic from japanese noise hero painjerk. originally recorded immediately after the canonical ‘gallon gravy’ classic, this is pure - definitive - loop heavy noise energy and dynamism that would become the signature of kohei gomi’s electronic studies having influenced two generations of underground electronics since. hailing from a background of japanese punk, kohei gomi stayed true to the fierce ethos of independence and experimentation that reached its peak in japan in the late 90’s. but make no mistake, mr. gomi never stagnated into a single platform, having worked with such diverse labels as as alternative tentacles, relapse, editions mego and so on. composed with a mysterious configuration of constantly flowing noise hardware - always recorded live without overdubs, gomi went on to risk taking computer explorations into the roots of avant garde compositions inspired by the likes of pan sonic and david tudor. having reached cult status and maintaining an air of mystery after an onslaught of now classic and highly collectible tape only releases such as the monstrous ‘cacophony of a thousand pleasures’ 3xcs which has been cited as an influence for mika vainio.
never settling for stale genre collaborations, kohei gomi further went on to such divergent ends as the insane collaboration with russell haswell, psychedelic commune pioneers smegma, and power violence royalty bastard noise. we are blessed to finally have such a critical document unleashed onto the world of what 20 years on can easily sit alongside the classics of its day. raise a fist in solidarity for the inimitable punk noise of painjerk!”
Henry Kaiser is an American guitarist, composer, label founder, photographer and professional diver. He appears on more than 250 albums, including collaborations with the likes of Fred Frith, Richard Thompson, David Lindley, Wadada Leo Smith, Derek Bailey, Jim O´Rourke and numerous others. In 2017 he initiated and produced the two Sky Music albums, both tributes to Norwegian guitar legend Terje Rypdal. Ivar Grydeland is a Norwegian guitarist and composer, most known from the trio Huntsville (Rune Grammofon and Hubro) and Dans Les Arbres (ECM, Hubro, Sofa). He has recorded and performed with a number of musicians including Nils Petter Molvær, David Sylvian, Tony Oxley, Nels Cline, Thurston Moore and Paul Lovens. He has released two solo albums on Hubro.The two guitarists first met in an Oslo studio in January 2019.
"Having admired each other’s work for some time, they decided right there and then to record a guitar duet collaboration specifically to create a soundtrack for a classic Norwegian silent film. They spent 30 minutes setting up to record and Kaiser suggested a short test recording to one of the less likely candidates, Roald Amundsen’s 1925 documentary "Ellsworths flyveekspedition 1925". One hour and fifty-six minutes later they set down their guitars and shook their heads in wonder.
They had played for the entire length of the film without breaks, in the process creating a complete score for the film. The Norwegian explorer was a key figure of the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration. In 1911, he led the first expedition to the South Pole, and is proven to have been the first to reach the North Pole in 1926. Across the Arctic, traditions of shamanism endure among the Inuit. A vision of the Arctic outside of mundane history, yet common in human polar experience, exists in “time out of time” or “everywhen”, during which the land is inhabited by figures of heroic proportions. Amundsen and his colleagues were just such figures. Grydeland and Kaiser seemed to have entered into a kind of Arctic Dreamtime as they conjured this film soundtrack into existence; playing in real time with the film.
Their guitar improvisations explore historic events, and invoke those heroic figures of the far north, illuminating both Norwegian history, and shamanic time outside of history, through music."
Post-punk’s definitive unit regroup in a jangling, driving follow-up to their best-selling album to date.
“WIRE are the definitive post-punk group. Since their inception they’ve maintained a reputation for creating music that stretches the rock form whilst simultaneously editing it down to its essence. With their gift for crafting songs that perfectly balance experimentation and accessibility, WIRE were recently hailed by the Quietus as "one of the most consistent British bands of all time". Yet WIRE exhibit little inclination to look back or trade on past glories, rather they remain resolutely focused on producing music which is smart, vital and defiantly modern.
Mind Hive is the group’s first newly recorded material since 2017’s stellar Silver/Lead. That album garnered rave reviews ("Some of the best tunes they’ve done" – The Guardian) and career best sales. Yet, if Silver/Lead set the bar pretty high, Mind Hive seems to have no problem vaulting over it. Album opener Be Like Them is a super-angular composition, utilizing a recently rediscovered Wire lyric from 1977. Colin Newman and Matthew Simms’ guitars constantly mesh and diverge, whilst the rhythm section of Graham Lewis and Robert Grey ensure the song prowls forward with an unstoppable menace. In contrast, lead cut Cactused is the first of Mind Hive’s pop moments. Newman’s vocal is wide eyed and wired, with Lewis’ smooth backing vocals thickening the plot. Simms’ effects-heavy guitar work creates a bright web of noise, with the song’s stop/start moments providing a series of precise energy bursts.
Primed And Ready rides out on a tightly pulsing synth sequence punctuated by icy slivers of guitar. Grey drives whole sections of the song with hi-hat alone, but when his snare cracks return, they push the song forwards with even greater intensity. This is Wire at their most compressed yet propulsive. Off The Beach is another prime pop song. With its breezy, optimistic melody, and blend of electric and acoustic guitars, the song initially sees the group seemingly celebrating the joys of everyday life. And yet, as is so often the case with WIRE, things are destined to turn a shade stranger.
The sun-dazzled splendor of Unrepentant sees the group exploring the kind of bucolic soundscape early Pink Floyd would have been proud to call their own. Boasting one of the album’s finest texts, the song radiates out into a shimmering sonic heat haze. The atmospheric yet concise Shadows pulls the classic WIRE trick of placing a dark and cruel lyric amongst a musical setting of tender beauty. Never has the recounting of atrocity been so seductively pitched. The muscular and dramatic Oklahoma is the joker in the pack. With its opening lyric of ‘I love your sexy hearse’, Lewis’ dark vocal swims through a rich compound of guitar textures and synth tones, building into a master-class of tension and release. The album’s centerpiece is Hung. This 8-minute excursion matches a brief but evocative lyric with a dense, mesmeric guitar grind. Simms and Newman’s keyboards add a plaintive note, as the song moves through a series of sections, each with its own distinct atmosphere. The album closes with the gorgeous Humming, a beatless autumnal drift fashioned from delicate keyboard textures and rich soaring guitar tones. Newman delivers the state of the world lyric with a touching sense of innocence, whilst the piece ends with Lewis’ husky baritone listing locations and their difficult associations. An elegiac end to a supremely confident album.”
Poster boy for the neo-EBM revolution, Phase Fatale attacks with muscular gusto on his debut album for Ostgut Ton
Booting off two years after his ‘Redeemer’ album for Hospital Productions and leading from his link-up with Silent Servant, Berlin’s Hayden Payne aka Phase Fatale defines EBM in 2019 as a more economic sibling to its ‘80s forebears, essentially leaving the hoary vocals but accentuating its kinky, percussive drive and industrial sound design.
Running mostly at a 120bpm pace, but often slower, the session concentrates his energies into 8 lurching chassis built from hard drums, jagged 16th note drops and plangent synth arcs in a classic style trimmed to contemporary tastes. If you’re after straight-up dancefloor weaponry, run go check the swaggering darkroom dram of ‘Splintered Heels’, the gibber-jawed synth motif and steel-tipped drums of ‘Velvet Imprints’, and the clenched funk of ‘Mass Deception’, but if you’re in it for the long haul the album smartly keeps your interest with the variation of 80bpm trudge in ‘During The Freezing Porcess’ and the giurzzled sound design of ‘Proxy Cintact’.
Robert Haigh aka ‘90s jungle legend Omni Trio pursues his classical muse in a suite of solo piano expressions for Unseen Worlds, resonating with his Satie and Debussy-inspired‘80s releases for NWW’s United Dairies and Crépuscule - as found in V-O-D’s 2014 compilation
“Black Sarabande expands upon pianist-composer Robert Haigh's beguiling debut for Unseen Worlds with a collection of intimate and evocative piano-led compositions. Black Sarabande expands upon pianist-composer Robert Haigh's beguiling debut for Unseen Worlds with a collection of intimate and evocative piano-led compositions. Haigh was born and raised in the 'pit village' of Worsbrough in South Yorkshire, England. His father, as most of his friends' fathers, was a miner, who worked at the local colliery. Etched into Haigh's work are formative memories of the early morning sounds of coal wagons being shunted on the tracks, distant trains passing, and walking rural paths skirting the barren industrial landscape.
The album opens with the title track — a spacious, plaintive piano motif develops through a series of discordant variations before resolving. On 'Stranger On The Lake,' sweeping textures and found sounds lay the foundation for a two chord piano phrase evoking a sense of elegy. 'Wire Horses' is an atmospheric audio painting of open spaces and distant lights. 'Air Madeleine' uses variations in tempo and dynamics to craft the most seductively melodic track on the album. 'Arc Of Crows' improvises on a single major seventh chord, splintering droplets of notes as ghostly wisps of melodic sound slowly glide into view. 'Ghosts Of Blacker Dyke' is a melancholic evocation of Haigh's roots in England's industrial north — intermingling dissonant sounds of industry within a set of languid piano variations. 'Progressive Music' is constructed around a series of lightly dissonant arpeggiated piano chords which modulate through major and minor key changes before resolving at a wistful and enigmatic refrain.
In 'The Secret Life of Air', a nocturnal, low piano line slowly weaves its way through the close-miked ambience of the room, nearly halting as each note is allowed to form and reverberate into a blur with the next. The ambitious 'Painted Serpent' calmly begins with drone-like pads and builds with the introduction of counterpoint piano lines and an orchestral collage of sound underpinned by a deliberate bass motif. 'Broken Symmetry' and 'Lady Lazarus' highlight Haigh's gift for blurring the line between dissonance and harmony - opaque piano portraits of moonlight and shadows glancingly evoke the impressionistic palettes of Harold Budd, Debussy and Satie.”
25 years since ‘Gore Motel’, Bohren & Der Club of Gore hold their smoky line of doom-jazz in a sublime, haunting 10th album that once again taps into that interzone between classic Lynchian motifs and fizzing gothic undercurrents.
The sylvan intimacy of ‘Patchouli Blue’ is a Bohren's ineffable skill at lulling listeners into richly hypnagogic states. As ever they prize a deep sense of cool yearning that hearkens back to the slow burn atmospheres of classic film noir as much as David Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti’s soundtracks, dark ambient and the bluest jazz, plus the doom metal of Black Sabbath, Gore, and their dusty echoes in Earth. It’s surely a velvet cloak for the senses; essentially a heavily tranquilising sound, but one fraught with an existential angst that’s won them a captive audience over the years, and is fully in effect here.
As ever, ‘Patchouli Blue’ is a strictly all instrumental affair and was recorded in Cologne and Mülheim An Der Ruhr - site of all their recordings (bar ‘Mitleid Lady’) since the seminal ‘Sunset Mission’ (2000). It was composed by core members Christoph Clöser (Tenor Saxophone) and Morten Gass (Piano, Engineer, Producer) and is performed by them along with longtime member Robin Rodenburg’s plucked, stalking bass lines in a classically sulky, gratifying way bound to make your glass of single malt taste smokier, sweeter. As such, the album is really meant to be taken in one sitting, but if we’re to point out highlights, the slow rise of slinking drum machine and creeping arps of ‘Vergessen & Vorbei’ is just masterful, as is the distant, burnished, Vangelis-like synth glow and elegiac brass of their last call, ‘Meine Welt ist schön’. Basically it’s dead good for what ail’s ya.
Editions RZ collect ten early works by Morton Feldman - largely his shorter pieces, spanning compositions made between 1952 and 1959 alongside esteemed peers including David Tudor, Cornelius Cardew, John Tilbury, and János Négyesy.
"In his compositions for piano, which make up a central part of his oeuvre and in which all of his experience is accumulated, it is the play of Feldman's hand whose touch is intended precisely for the 'untouchableness' of sound. The clear character of the 'attack' thus displays the paradox of such playing: it is just as much about concealing the idiosyncrasy of the piano sound, the precise point of attack while, at the same time, the structure and tension of those sounds are formed by the hand." --Stefan Schadler.
Includes the following works: "Piano Three Hands" (1957, performed by Feldman & Tilbury); "Intermission 5" (1952, performed by Feldman); "Vertical Thoughts 2" (1963, performed by Janos Negyesy: violin & Cardew: piano), "Extensions 3" (1952, performed by Feldman); "Four Instruments, 1975" (1979); "Intermission 5" (1952, performed by Tudor), "Piano Piece 1956 A" (1956, performed by Tudor); "Piano Piece 1956 B" (1959, performed by Tudor); "Intersection 3" (1953, performed by Tudor); "Instruments 1, 1974" (1975, 24 minute piece performed by Eberhard Blum: flute, Nora Post: oboe, Garrett List: Posaune, Joseph Kubera: celesta, Jan Williams: drums)."
Classic, foundational shoegaze pop from Leeds, 1990, including a bonus side of demos recorded in the terraced hills of Woodhouse, plus their John Peel Session...
“On the eve of a post-Thatcherite Britain, the Pale Saints, alongside the likes of Lush, Ride and Slowdive, were ushering in a new wave of British indie. And in 4AD, they found a perfect home for their music - an exciting & undeniable meld of noise and dream-pop.
Their debut album, The Comforts of Madness, didn’t disappoint, now standing as one of the best of its era. Pitchfork placed it in their Best 50 Shoegaze Albums Of All Time saying, “There’s a restless urgency, particularly when the volume swells and the rhythms intensify. That energy not only keeps (it) vital, it emphasizes Pale Saints’ inventiveness, how they channelled softness and rage into something distinctive.”
Nearly 30 years on and The Comforts of Madness is finally getting the reissue treatment. Having been remastered, a faithful LP repress on black vinyl is being released as well as double CD and double clear vinyl editions, both of which come with a bonus disc of previously unreleased demos and the band’s only John Peel Session, recorded in 1989.”
Phill Niblock brings half a century of work in prism-pushing minimalist composition to a pair of towering Organ pieces performed by Hampus Lindwall and Emanuel Schmelzer-Ziringer, and recorded in 2007 + 2019.
His ‘Music For Organ’ surely arrives at a high zeitgeist moment for organ music - like his younger counterparts, Phill has keenly worked at the radical peripheries of whatever instrument he uses, systematically isolating and highlighting its phenomenological peculiarities and often subverting their context. However, as a son of the pivotal late ’60s era, Phill is also a true autodidact and applies a rigorous, if raw, approach to his music that always generates gripping, and often challenging, results, as heard here.
The A-side’s ‘Unmounted / Muted Noun’ (2019) for organ and 4 pre-recorded tracks was commissioned by Musica Festival Strasbourg for Hampus Lindwall and recorded in the composer’s presence. It appears to feature the organist stacking dense blocks of chords into a blinding black mass of roiling harmonics that do not let up until the runout groove. For 24 minutes the piece sustains a breathless pressure that’s either hellish, ecstatic or simply otherworldly, depending on your disposition, and we can only imagine that the Orgelbau Klais organ must have made it feel like the walls of the C.15th Collégiale Sainte-Waudrau church in, Mons, Belgium were about to crumble.
In stark contrast, the B-side’s ’Nagro (AKA - Organ)’ (2007), for organ and tape, performed by Emanuel Schmelzer-Ziringer at the Joseph Gatto organ (1787) in Sankt Kirchberg Am Wagram, Austria, feels much more pent in its transition thru tight, glistening higher registers. Up there, the piece feels out a fine range of tonalities and harmonic spectra, which, while dominated by the pealing highs, is also fleshed out with rolling low end in a seat-edge but heavy-lidded display of never-resolved tension.
7 years after the release of "Laughing Stock" and the end of Talk Talk, Mark Hollis recorded what has since gone on to be described as "quite possibly the most quiet and intimate record ever made".
In many respects it's an album no-less influential than "Laughing Stock", once again extending the parameters and smudging the boundaries between many disparate musical styles and influences, taking elements of jazz, classical and devotional music without ever really sounding like anyone or anything else you'll have heard before.
Much like "Spirit of Eden" and "Laughing Stock", it's an album that's really attained an almost mythical status - leaving so many desperately waiting to see if Hollis would ever return to making music again. Either way - his influence appears to be stronger today than ever before, and this gorgeous vinyl pressing has sent us off once again into a place we'd almost forgotten about but which has accompanied and enriched our lives for many years...
Inimitable “mentation electronics” visionary Black Mecha breaks down psychosonic defence systems in a potent new release snuck out via their Internal Masonry Publications. A must check for followers of Merzbow, Haswell, Viviankrist.
Following the inexorable momentum of his LPs, CDrs and tape for The Death of Rave, Profound Lore and Independent Woman Records in the only the past 12 months, the singular project is now hitting a critical velocity in various zones of the music media and chthonic scenes, including Esquire Italia who recently deemed Black Mecha’s ‘Counterforce’ LP a “disc of the decade”. Surely a Kayne call-up is only around the corner. But jesting aside, it’s very pleasing to witness such an uncompromising and non-commercial artist gaining traction in the wider world.
We can surely say that Black Mecha’s staunch values are firmly in effect on ‘Mechanised’, the project’s Xth or 10th release since their ‘AA’ side landed like white hot space junk from an alien destroyer in 2015. The inclusion of panic-setting vocal samples from film and TV lends a key difference to this EP, cropping up at opportune junctures to light off the title track’s brain-drilling squabble and clawing rhythms, and suitably sparking up and sustaining the febrile churn of ‘Operations’, which comes on to grip like the rapid onset of influenza or some unidentified space sickness, before the roiling mass of ‘With Gunships’ burns out like a planet destroyer expending every last bit of laser energy on its way down.
‘Morton Feldman Piano’ is a major 5CD collection of virtually all of Feldman’s music for piano, performed by Philip Thomas with a tactility befitting of this extraordinary, quiet, intimate music. It’s the most extensive survey of Feldman’s piano music since John Tilbury’s long unavailable 4-CD set was released 20 years ago, including several pieces which weren’t included there, and three works which have never been released on disc before at all.
Feldman was part of a radical group of experimenters, alongside the likes of John Cage, Christian Wolff and Earle Brown, who looked beyond the strictures of serialism to innovative with and embrace aspects of chance and “indeterminacy” in their compositions. Most often associated with the piano, Feldman is perhaps best known for his perceptively time-slowing later works, but this boxset presents the widest angle possible on his approach to the piano, spanning surprisingly cranky recordings from the 1940s thru to the exquisite delicacy of his acclaimed ‘Triadic Memories’ and ultimately ‘Palais de Mari’ in 1986. Feldman died in 1987, leaving behind a remarkable catalogue that has previously been tackled by John Tilbury in the 4CD set ‘All Piano’ (1999), which is now long out of print and trades for triple figures on the 2nd hand market, making this boxset of Philip Thomas’ Feldman interpretations an even more indispensable collection.
Accompanied by pianist Philip Thomas’ lucubrate and extensive book of notes on Feldman’s music, its development, unique notation, and his close personal relationship with it, ‘Morton Feldman Piano’ methodically and artfully unpackages the great composer’s often forbiddingly vast oeuvre for anyone looking for a way in or seeking to enrich their knowledge of his life and work. In great depth, Thomas writes about Feldman’s holistic approach, recognising the connection between ears, mind, and fingertips which resulted in the music’s quietly extreme dynamic, and which singularly revolutionised historic approaches to the instrument thru the artist’s attempt at refusing attack in the notes - essentially a near-impossible idea when considering that the piano is a percussive instrument, and needs to be hit to be played. The sensitivity of the results are quite astonishing, and most beautifully executed and evidenced in Thomas’ playing throughout all 31 pieces included.
While the later works will be well known to even the casual Feldman follower, and are sure to entrance newcomers, his early and mid-period works between the late ‘40s and into the ‘60s provide a fascinating grounding for his sound and style, ranging from a solemnly inquisitive ‘Untitled piano piece’ (1942) to the almost jazzy flourishes of ‘Illusions’ (1949), thru to his increasingly sparser ‘Music for the film ‘Sculpture by Lipton’’ (1954), and up to the barely there ‘Piano Piece’ (1964) before he took a 13 year hiatus from writing for solo piano (although he would still write parts for piano in larger ensembles), only returning to it with ‘Piano’ (1977).
Yet for all the technicality and philosophy surrounding Feldman’s compositional process, it remains to be said that his music is strikingly easy on the ear. With a little focus and patience in the right mindset, Feldman’s music has the capacity to lead the thinking mind into unusual places, and as his catalogue proceeds, it becomes an increasing pleasure to find the notes flickering, illuminating contrasts with the shadows of his lacunae.
Compiling the final three albums in the 'Everywhere At The End Of Time' series - 4 x CD's and almost 5 hours of material cataloguing the ultimate descent into dementia and oblivion, using a patented prism of sound to connote a final, irreversible transition into the haunted ballroom of the mind that The Caretaker first stepped into with 1999’s ‘Selected Memories From the Haunted Ballroom’.
Invoking Jack Nicolson’s caretaker character in Stanley Kubrick/Stephen King’s ‘The Shining’ as metaphor for issues revolving around mental health and a growing dissociation/dissatisfaction with the world, the project really took on new dimensions in 2005 with the 72-track, 6CD boxset ‘Theoretically Pure Anterograde Amnesia’, which was accompanied by an insightful unpacking of its ideas by cultural critic Mark Fisher aka K-Punk; a stalwart of the project who identified it (alongside music from Burial and Broadcast) among the most vital, emergent works of Hauntological art - a form of music often preoccupied with ideas about memory and nostalgia (but one distinct from pastiche), and the way that they possibly overwhelm, occlude, or even define our sense of being; ideas that resonate with Fisher’s own assertion that capitalism essentially undermines collective thought, distorts the individual, and has tragically lead to a worldwide increase or even ubiquity of mental health-related issues.
By using fusty samples from an obsolete analog format, and by doing so in the 2nd decade of the 2nd millennium, The Caretaker perfectly and perversely bent ideas of anticipation/expectation with his arrangements, playing with notions of convention and repetition with effect that would lead some listeners to wonder if the same record was being released over and again. When combined with Ivan Seal’s bespoke painting for each release from 2011’s ‘An Empty Bliss Beyond This World’ onwards, the project crystallised as a real gesamtkunstwerk for these times, and one arguably defined by a stubborn and intractably chronic drive against the grain of modern popular culture, or even a refusal of it.
And so to the project’s final goodbye. Drifting from the silty departure of ‘Confusion so thick you forget forgetting’, thru the smudged anaesthetisation of ‘A brutal bliss beyond this empty defeat’, and the abyssal, distant echoes of ‘Long decline is over’, to the increased pauses that punctuate the final side’s piece, ‘Place in the World fades away’, it eventually leads to a final coda that breaks the fourth wall.
Here, with the outside world muted and only the timbral residue remaining like smoke, everything moves as slow as a Lynchian dream sequence - until a conclusion so ineffably sublime occurs that we can’t mention it for fear of waking up.
Silent Servant - former Tropic Of Cancer and Sandwell District producer, Juan Mendez - made his stunning album debut with the poised fusion of epic techno, primitive post punk, and industrial electronics on 'Negative Fascination' for Hospital Productions in 2012.
Recorded just months after he stopped recording with Sandwell District, on Negative Fascination Mendez explored his divergent yet compatible tastes to their fullest, recognising and reconciling their congruent rhythms, atmospheres and intentions with alchemical ability. From the bellicose sci-fi romance of 'Process (Introduction)' to the full flight techno escapism of 'Utopian Disaster (End)'.
From the wave-scanning intro he spins a bleakly noirish narrative, slowly building tension with 'Invocation Of Lust''s acid hypnosis and the stoic deployment of drones and agitated drum machine slaves on 'Moral Divide (Endless)' that resolves with gritted techno determination on 'The Strange Attractor'. Yet perhaps our favourite moment is 'Temptation & Desire', sounding like the converged darkroom visions of Front 242 and Stephen Morris, but if any cut shocks us the most, it's 'A Path Eternal', revealing Silent Servant at his most unreservedly sublime and vulnerable without his usual, armour-plated chassis of beats.
It adds up to one of the most impressive examples of modern industrial techno of the decade, one that doesn't merely pay deference to its roots, but nourishes and augments them into something new.