New on Room 40's Tape series.
"It may sound implausible now, but in the early 2000s Australia felt a long way away from the rest of the world. Brisbane, where I still live today, felt even further removed. This remoteness had its challenges, but also its charms.
In 2001, Zane Trow then director of the Brisbane Powerhouse invited me to perform at an Open Day for the centre with my trio I/O3 and DJ Olive. I didn’t realise it at the time, but this engagement would spark a number of connections that tie directly into this edition. Following that live performance (released as Powerhouse Sessions in 2002), I was invited to curate a performance series, Fabrique, focused on new and emergent musics for Brisbane Powerhouse. At the same time, DJ Olive mentioned that he had started a new imprint, Phonomena, with Toshio Kajiwara and one of the first releases they were planning was from Aki Onda, whom Olive described as using a set of Walkmans that make a whole universe. I was intrigued.
The following year, Aki Onda not only produced Cassette Memories Volume I ‘Ancient And Modern' for Phonomena, but a few months later released a second volume ‘Bon Voyage!’ with the always inspiring Improvised Music From Japan label. Both of these editions marked out overlapping territories relating to tape music, field recordings and most of all perceptions of memory (how it is lost and then found again, how it can constructed and deconstructed - sometimes simultaneously). In early 2004, I wrote to Aki and invited him to Australia for a series of performances including two in Brisbane; one at Fabrique and another as part of NineHoursNorth, a dedicated program of Japanese music I was curating at the Judith Wright Centre Of Contemporary Art.
Each of Aki’s performances typified the expansive nature of his practice. Although the medium and tools may have been identical (cassettes, Walkmans, delay pedals and fender twin amps), the focus of each performance was markedly different. For NinehoursNorth, Aki deployed the approach he presented on 'Bon Voyage!’, long-form field recordings were re-amped and in the process of their unfolding a perception of time being bent in and out of shape emerged. There was a sense of the strange familiar, as bird songs, city scapes, voices, instruments and various environments were melted together and reconfigured through the intense volume produced by the amplifiers.
For Fabrique, the recording collected on this edition, Aki undertook a more performative method that reflected the sense of pacing and movement collected on ‘Ancient And Modern’. What surprised me most about his performance was how closely it resembled the compositional sensibilities captured on the record. In my mind’s ear I had heard ‘Ancient And Modern’ as a highly orchestrated work, a process of layering and transformation. Upon hearing Aki’s performance, it became clear what was captured in that recording was a transcription of an experimental and utterly personal performative language that had unfastened the walkman from its conceptual bounds as a device for linear acoustic playback.
In performance (and his recordings as I now realised) Aki Onda sought to bend, and break, expectations of time and linearity. In doing so he opened up new ways of appreciating themes of texture, pulse, rhythm and repetition. William S. Burroughs often wrote of the cut-up as a device for causing a rupture in time and that certain new ways of knowing and understanding might ooze out from these cuts, to my ears Aki Onda’s sounds were doing just this. He was taking elements from the world we collectively knew and he was refocusing them, cutting into them and removing their sense of ‘natural’ time, in doing so he allowed us all to forgo our desire for the familiar in favour of something unknown and perhaps even unknowable.
To revisit this performance nearly two decades on, I am struck by this same sense of reaching out into something that is not altogether clear, but maintains a deep invitational attraction, an acoustic allure that remains as compelling today as it did then…perhaps even more so."
Intensely quiet, artful improv duelling by Korean and Argentinian players, allowing for lots of pent lacunæ and often hovering on the liminal. RIYL Okkyung Lee, Keiji Haino, Senyawa
“The debut album by international power duo DASOMxVIOLETA, a virtuosic meeting of minds between Seoul's Dasom Baek (traditional Korean flutes) and Violeta García (cello) of Buenos Aires. <Absence> is the sound of two leading composers and improvisers pushing their instruments to the technical and creative limit, then beyond into places unnavigated, futuristic and often haunting.
Dasom and Violeta tussle with playful and brutal mastery between passages of sparse melody, acrobatic percussion and harmonic drift, while interjecting voices fracture and reassemble into intimate, improbable forms. It is hard to imagine an album more abundant in ideas and motifs, all atomised as soon as they are brought to life. The effect is a tapestry of rugged spirits - moving, and at times just plain beautiful.
Recommended for fans of Okkyung Lee, John Butcher, Messiaen, and Ernst Reijseger.”
Good Morning Tapes snag this ace chopped & screwed mixtape from "Californian artist & nomadic free spirit” Swampy, best known as a photographer and artist who's appeared in National Geographic, Time magazine & Juxtapoz.
Swampy's online diary/journal of his train hopping adventures set the backdrop for the mixtape, built around his own edits of everything from countrified railtrack blues to fuzzed out desert rock, bubbling 'soothing sounds for baby’ to slowed down gospel and squashed funk - all with evocative transitions and the littlest hobo vibes you just cant argue with. As the label put it:
“Swampy has an intuitive knack for not only capturing magical moments & incredible scenery on his travels, but also a gifted musical ear, crafting his own chopped & screwed edits to accompany these online visual diaries - which will melt any nostalgic heart that yearns to roam free.”
Aye, it’s a goodun.
"Work on 'Fragile' began last August at the height of lockdown. Grill locked himself in the recording studio where he found himself experimenting with new sounds and technologies and was able to learn more about the techniques involved in mixing, production and arrangement. "The aim was to write a physical album maintaining an energy throughout and utilising sounds and structures I'm interested in. Using limitation was a big part of the process to push what I used as far as possible. Reading about Robin Guthrie's breakdown of Cocteau Twins minimal setups across different albums and how Prince distorted the Linn Drum Machine were also inspirations."
Musically, 'Fragile' is a more dance-centric record than 2020's 'Ride', with eleven blistering tracks aimed straight for the dancefloor. From the lush, pulsing synths and blistering beats of 'Another Time', to the hazy, sun-soaked 'Wildflower', Grill seeks to create dance music that is endlessly catchy and hugely uplifting. He draws heavily on a Euro-dance influence in his search for pop perfection with melody instrinsic to each track. The Italo disco sound of Giorgio Moroder is never too far away, climaxing with the pumping 'Crash' while the emotive dance of New Order is echoed in 'Wandering Sky' and 'Romance'.
From a visual perspective, 'Fragile' is inspired by gothic, renaissance art and architecture. The album artwork is a photograph Grill took on Château d'If, a fortress and former prison located on the Île d'If, the smallest island in the Frioul archipelago, a short distance from Marseille in southeastern France."
Ulla’s recordings of phone conversations and wildlife diffuse into the most vaporous and unsettling ambient dub textures on the third in our Documenting Sound series, recorded over the last few weeks in Philadelphia and recalling Sam Kidel’s ‘Disruptive Muzak’, DJ Lostboi’s ambient hymnals and Vladislav Delay’s Chain Reaction pearls.
Pieced together from airspun recordings made in Philadelphia during spring 2020, ’inside means inside me’ holds a subtle mirror to the new world’s psychic ambiance of existential, slowburn dread. Prizing the sensitively insightful, lower case manner that made Ulla’s recent 'Tumbling Towards A Wall’ album so memorable, here the sound is more poignant, the dissociative flux used to perhaps more therapeutic effect for an ephemeral reading of the times.
In the first half, Ulla makes a subtly heartbreaking use of crackling phone calls and dub stabs, but embedded in the music’s weft they take on an unsettling resolution that’s hard to place. On the flip, more entwined conversations snag in the breeze with location recordings and scudding hypnagogic washes with a signature low key movement that keep you feeling swaddled but uneasy until the end.
Spellbinding, all-female selection from JD Twitch, realised as musical therapy during a bout of Covid and now making for a sterling 8th addition to his unmissable mixtape series
What was planned as a post-punk special became a very different affair when Twitch was isolating after picking up the bug during his first DJ set out of quarantine. Hard luck for him turned into a treat for us, ‘The Word Is Love (Women Of The World)’ features over 90 mins of peachy picks running the gamut of global styles penned over the past 75 years.
The vibes are exemplary, healing, enchanting; coursing from the blues to buddhist music, synth-pop to disco-not-disco, thru folk-rock and dream-pop, before ultimately returning to source in the blues, all guided by an expert hand.
On her fourth album, Maxine Funke makes pure, deeply memorable, deceptively simple folk music that will appeal to anyone into Sibylle Baier, Liz Harris, Bridget St. John, Smog , Harvest-era Neil Young or Vashti Bunyan. A proper special, once again, from A Colourful Storm.
'Seance' is an understated wonder; Funke has released an acclaimed run of low-key DIY folk records on labels like Feeding Tube, Next Best Way and Epic Sweep, and this latest is possibly her most concise and resolved to date. Stripped but never icy, Funke's songwriting is amiguous, tender and focused, but her voice is the key - using delicate tones to illustrate an internal world brimming with memories of love and loss.
Using just guitar and voice, tape hiss, location artefacts that waft into view (passing cars, life outside), some organ and a single metronome-like perucssive heartbeat, Funke meditates on themes using dreamlike imagery and tangled poetry - it all seems simple, but takes countless listens to unpick. There's euphoria, anxiety, romance and pain hidden beneath her wavering words, and - like all the best songs - all it takes is the slightest key change to turn you to cinder.
What a pleasure <3
Steven Raekwon Reynolds is a singer/songwriter and producer from New York City by way of Buffalo, NY. 'Where I’m At Now' is self-produced and self-recorded (save for drums on two songs, driven by the relentlessness of the East Village and the quiet serenity of Edwardsville.
"The abstractions of his earlier musings transform into a warm wave of genreless coherence, drawing influences from across R&B, rock, folk, and pop to build a record that shines in its quiet spaces as much as its sweeping movements. Simply put, Where I’m at Now is an album where S. Raekwon is no longer invested in hiding. These records don’t contain answers, but signals toward what feels like the right direction. This music serves as a gentle, yet intentional reminder that we only need to be who we are in the moment, and we’re worth becoming who we know we can be."
Deerhoof return with a studio album recorded in individual isolation, 'Actually, You Can', on Joyful Noise Recordings.
"Over eighteen boundless albums as experimental as they are pop, Deerhoof has continuously quested for radical sounds and daring storytelling. Galvanized by the challenge of unifying many styles of music, Deerhoof landed on their next record’s concept: baroque gone DIY. Actually, You Can is a genre-abundant record that uses technicolor vibrancy and arpeggiated muscularity to offer a vital shock from capitalism’s purgatorial hold. “In the United States now, to be a moral person means to be a criminal, whether it has to do with a general strike or forming a union or Black Lives Matter protests,” clarifies Saunier of the album’s countercultural embrace of liberation. “If you follow the rules, you’re guilty. That’s the spirit we were trying to express: an angelic prison bust, a glamorous prison bust.” It’s a condemnation of America’s mundanity, replacing violence with the heartfelt power of mutualism.
With state lines and oceans separating band members, Deerhoof not only reinvented their sonic and thematic credo, but also their recording process. Deerhoof’s players are not strangers to home-recording their individual parts, and have long embraced composing via file trading. But 2020’s halt to touring kicked off their longest separation from playing together, foregrounding new priorities. As the group’s combined demos became increasingly layered, bassist and vocalist Satomi Matsuzaki put her foot down, insisting the new album should replicate concert energy. Visualizing the quartet on huge stages with past tourmates Radiohead and Red Hot Chili Peppers, Saunier fugue-arranged his bandmates’ complex demos into songs to make an audience smile and dance. He sought out far-traveling delays, heavy playing, and unique panning to evoke the power of outdoor music. Matsuzaki scrutinized spots that would betray the conceit, eliminating anything that took away from the sound of onstage grandeur. “We spent so much time imagining playing together in the process of recording, it’s almost like a false memory of us playing this music together,” Saunier marvels.
For Deerhoof’s members to continually uncover new corners of their own talent requires deep wells of gratitude, not only for each others’ creativity but for the freedom their career affords. But by embracing each other’s art with curiosity, Deerhoof authors a musical alphabet that continues to astound and inspire, a unique lexicon expanding limitlessly with each album. For new listeners and decades-long devotees, Deerhoof’s electrifying, generous approach to collaborative worldbuilding on Actually, You Can is an emboldening call to support our communities with renewed strength, infinite love, and the resilience to keep exploring."
claire rousay debuts on Shelter Press with a stunning configuration of her unique dream cartography, weaving field recordings and voice notes with layered strings and synth work for a heartstopping deployment of ambient intimacy.
Preceding a debut album proper for the label due soon, '17 roles (All Mapped Out)’ takes us on a journey from a ringing railroad crossing and domestic rustle, thru quietly glorious inner landscapes and into reverberating x pastoral strings and lambent pads that coalesce to attune the ear to claire’s aural purview with half-heard riffs on friends, life in the digital realm, and the afterlife. Set to the slightest but most transfixing shifts in tone and texture that possess an incredible capacity to bring you to tears, often unexpectedly, her everyday sounds are magnified to gently distort their meaning and heighten their sensuality, effectively glimpsing the firmament from far away in a sort of waking dream gaze.
As with claire’s myriad releases during the past few years, her music’s low-key treatise on loneliness, friendship and existentialism has uncannily come into its own this year, appealing to atomised souls seeking connection thru music. This one in particular feels to strongly capture and characterise a mix of fleeting and torpid emotions in a way that evokes the passage of time and the fragile sense of place in the world like nothing else you’ll hear on the scene, like a rare orchid poking out from the crumbling facade of ambient convention.
HTRK mint their new label with a perfectly formed 5th studio album - in our opinion a career best - finding the duo stripped to a quietly cathartic, windswept arrangement of bare vocals rent with spectral webs of guitar and synth in a modern, classic, wholly inimitable style that will lodge itself deep in your heart. AOTY gear especially recommended if yr into anything from Dean Blunt to Mark Hollis, Gillian Welch to Slowdive.
Recorded in their native Dandenong Ranges, Australia earlier this year, ‘Rhinestones' contains some of HTRK's most aching/gratifying songwriting secreted in subtly plangent sheets of dubbed guitar, synth pads and crackling 808s that foge a sort of quasi-Americana that feels both intimately familiar and entirely new. It’s an album that seems to have been precision-tooled for tortured romantics and atomised souls, reverberating with a gentle pathos that’s therapeutic to succumb to.
The metaphysical soul of their songcraft somehow bleeds out more clearly than ever, infusing every song from the heartbreak pucker of ‘Kiss Kiss and Rhinestones’ to the intoxicating, spirit-catcher sway of ‘Gilbert and George’ with the tumescent glow of MDMA-tingled flesh and the uncanniest air of déjà vu. All nine songs land with a level of sound sensitivity that reveals every shimmering string, pad and echoic snare contrail like a halo around Jonnine’s voice, which regales tales of love, friendship and the mysteries of the night with an observant, diaristic directness that has a devastating emotive clout.
In key with the times, the songs feel like the soundtrack to emptied cities, casting gothic shadows in the spellbinding reverbs of ‘Valentina’ and mottled beauty of ’Siren Song,’ with the fragged ketrock of ‘Fast Friend’ imagining a séance with Prince and Anna Domino, while Conrad Standish (CS + Kreme) lends bass guitar gilding to the empty saloon sashay of ‘Real Headfuck,’ and ’Straight To Hell’ basks in a transition between the golden and crepuscular hours. Oh - and 'Sunlight Feels like Bee Stings’ - what a title?!
For real, no other band do it quite like HTRK, and ‘Rhinestones’ feels like their purest iteration, conjured in a mist of feeling, love and inebriation.
Climate of Fear yield a properly up-for-it b2b session from DJ Python and Rotterdam’s Mad Miran
Joining the series of mixtapes by illustrious names including Nkisi, Vladimir Ivkovic, Shanti Celeste and many more, this one ranks among the most ballistic yet, racking up stacks of jungle, juke, hardcore techno and D&B for the headstrong and healthy raver. The D&B inspiration were clear to hear on DJ Python’s lauded album ‘Mas Amable’, so it’s good to hear those influences laid out and explored here.
Bristolian Artist, Illustrator And Toymaker Ed Cheverton Debuts As Earth Mother Spectral Pilot With A Cosmology-Inspired Melodic Ambient Album On SWIMS.
"Known For His Features In Publications Like It’s Nice That, Juxtapoz, And The Guardian, Cheverton Widens His Creative Scope To Music Via A Project That Borrows Its Title From A Series Of Comics Of His. Influenced By Ambient And Atmospheric Soundtracks, One Can Hear The Connection To Kawai Kenji, Vangelis, And To Japanese Environmental Music.
The Album Is A Musical Accompaniment To Visual Works That Spawned From A Period Of Deep Obsession With Cosmology, And The Sense Of Wonder, Scale And Discovery Evoked By That Journey. The Pieces On The Album Grew From Snippets Of Music, Loops And Improvised Explorations That Coalesced Into A Set Of Tracks That Sat Together As One ‘Project’.
True To His Craft, Cheverton Has Enhanced The Album With Thematic Art In The Form Of Series Of Illustrations Within The Tape Insert And Postcards Accompanying Physical Orders."
The weighty and heavily brooding debut album from Simon Shreeve’s Mønic project finally lands on Downwards following releases for Osiris and Tresor and those killer remixes from Burial and Regis. Grey, expansive and low-lit industrial landscapes are the order of the day here, a huge recommendation if you’re into anything from Joy Division to Pan Sonic, Tropic of Cancer to GAS or the rain-soaked zones stalked by Burial and The Bug’s Flame duo, Logos and Karim Maas.
Arriving at a time when we’ve long reached saturation point with user-friendly environmental/lifestyle Ambient, 'In a Certain Light’ offers an anxious counterpoint for late night immersion carefully framed with a cinematic attention to detail in lighting, texture and space worthy of The Cure’s ‘Faith’, the defining aesthetic of the Blackest Ever Black label and Karl O’Connor’s own industrial frameworks.
The almost impossibly depressed opening vignette 'From Sun to Sun’ ushers us into a morose, brutalist landscape that descends into the slow motion thud of "Where Can I Find You Now?” sounding like a lost Tropic of Cancer instrumental, while 'Field Work' recalls Vainio / Väisänen / Vega’s incredible ‘Endless’ collaboration and 'Solar Enemy’ deploys tense strings and clipped subs to sharp and deadly effect, like Alva Noto taped on old, worn-out VHS.
It’s the more nuanced cuts that stand out most though; 'Reversed Language’ could almost be an Elodie recording made in the middle of nowhere, outside, in the thick of night, while the title track unfurls from a dense GAS-like thicket into an unsettling Lynchian nightscape on a moonless night, with faint neon lights flickering somewhere far in the distance.
Pure 808 mindfuck from EVOL, cutting ’n splicing 364 Roland drum patterns from classic tunes for almost an hour-long torrent of boom clap badness for the freaks.
Veteran computer hooligans EVOL transpose the concept of their 303 megamix to another seminal Roland machine with predictably mad results. For almost an hour they keep the classics coming in a non-stop flow of bars bitten from the golden era of machine driven dance music, parsing chunks of Latin freestyle, Detroit and west coast electro, Chicago acid house and European techno on an unstoppably hyperactive session.
It’s predictably brilliant, divisive stuff, executed with a mix of wit and deep knowledge, indebted to the razor wielding styles of Omar Santana and Chep Nuñez et al, to faithfully highlight the infinite ingenuity of an underground wave of Afro-American and Latino producers during the ‘80s and ‘90s, and the way they persistently found the devil in the detail of their staccato code. In other words; it’s a madness.
Low's thirteenth album is a brutally overdriven, but slow-as-fuck offering from a band who resolutely refuse to stay still. Unlike 2018's "Double Negative" it's not soft and hyper-electronic, "HEY WHAT" is distorted but achingly beautiful - like church songs banged thru a broken radio and blown speaker cones.
We gotta admit we were pretty surprised when we heard Low's last full-length. The band has always played with perceptions of their influential slowcore sound, but "Double Negative" was a death-defying drop into territory usually inhabited by artists like Andy Stott and Newworldaquarium. "HEY WHAT" subverts expectations again: Low stick with "Double Negative" producer BJ Burton but drive him to hone in on a completely separate aspect of their sound.
Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker's dueling vocal harmonics are at the center of the album, spruced up by sparse sonic elements that sound so fucked they're almost completely unrecognizable. Is it guitar, drums, synth? It's hard to tell as chaotic, fractured sounds buzz and break off beneath Parker and Sparhawk's melancholy chorals. Opener 'White Horses' sets the stage, with mic hiss and axe fuzz slowly breaking into stuttering ear-bending electronics.
It's music that feels dangerously experimental, but never loses the magic of Low's idiosyncratic songwriting in the lead clouds of white noise, wobbling subs and ear-splitting fuzz. This time around Low have found a comfort zone making devotional music that forces itself thru our era's deafening cultural cacophony, finding a place of euphoric resonance. It's proof that a band can exist for nearly three decades and still find relevance in change, self-exploration and sonic rehabilitation.
JD Twitch leads deeper into the Jamaican hills and annals with a pucker clutch of personal and family favourites from his special wooden box of 45s
Drawing for cuts that have made it into his 60 strong box’s one in, one out policy, ‘Crate of Jamaica’ is a deep burning bonanza of heat from a lifelong devotee of music from the island. We assure you every one’s a doozy, ranging from angelic Chutney ska to Lee “Scratch” Perry nuggets and sweetest organ riders drizzled with syrupy sweet vocals, and weighty early dub dancehall hustlers. You know the score by now; these are all immaculately crafted and highly collectible dives into one of the most enviable collections around..
Glaswegish dream weaver Cucina Povera keeps the magick flowing with her 2nd album of 2021, following the outstanding ‘Lumme’ with a haul of tracks recorded while stranded in a scottish snowstorm back in 2017, tracing an icy path between ancient folk, choral music, Islaja, Lau Nau and Grouper - just next level really.
There's a weightlessness to Cucina Povera's music that’s inspiring and highly original; using little more than her voice, Maria Rossi forms soundscapes and song cycles that drag sacred music into personal new horizons with a depth of feeling and sense of succour in stasis, capturing lonely but quietly life-affirming expressions.
Povera’s music has a strong familiarity with the night; ‘The Dalmarnock Tapes’ are unmistakably made for nocturnal situations in a way that we imagine lonely Sub Arctic folk make music; as both entertainment and for spiritual elevation. Between the purring lilt of ‘Keruu’ and the nithered tone of ‘Olen oluen oljen’ Cucina grants access to this secretive practice, yielding private, if obfuscated, thoughts as meditative aids - building an atmosphere of measured resilience, looping phrases to create the illusion of a choir echoing internally/eternally like some spirit guide for the changing of the seasons.
Third and final Worst Edits session in the series from the don Jamal Moss, deploying an hour and a half of unmixed bullets made to let u LARP as The Sun God himself demolishing and rebuilding New Wave, Chi-house and Disco in that inimitable, deadly style.
Vol 3 deploys 1.5 hrs of his heaviest heat, executed in a style directly inspired by Ron Hardy DJ sets and the styles heard at Chicago clubs Jamal was a patron of during the late ‘80s and thru the ‘90s. As we’ve already mentioned, even eulogised; Jamal’s extended DJ sets are little short of life-changing/affirming experiences that make most other DJ sets pale in comparison, and that’s in part due to the devilish, unpredictable swerve of his edits, as you’ll hear here. Ye ye they’re rough and f*cked around the edges and that’s what makes them so untouchable.
Jamal brings a seriously deep knowledge and unique frame of reference to every edit in a way that just cannot be sniffed at. Yet again we’re mostly stumped for track IDs, but can guarantee they’re all zingers if you’ve a kink for this kind of thing (read: you love dancing), including unmissable chops of MBO & Klein and John Cooper Clark in it along with incendiary, tracky lathers, cavalcades of Afro-Latin percussion, and jaw-wobbling peakers, plus an incredible 15 minute disco-funk rug cutter, and machine gunned disco stutters to polish you off.
Written just a week after 2018's iconic "Make Me Know You Sweet", this surreal, tripped-out sequel from the headier alter ego of Brian Leeds (Huerco S.) is darker, dubbier and more alien than its predecessor >> over an hour of ultra immersive, brain-fluxing hybridized sounds somewhere between Chain Reaction vapourtrails and concrète dream-building.
Captured in one take shots during the weeks following the last album sessions in 2018’, Leeds’ second Pendant album treads a similar netherworld path, channeling a stygian dream-sick effect that effectively explores a flipside to the sunnier prairies of his Huerco S.’ works, shoring us somewhere gauzily redolent of early Wanda Group and the starkest Bellows emissions, but better defined by eerily processed vocals and Lynchian sensibilities that locate it to North America’s dis/possessed lands.
Ritualistic in craft and scope, the six extended tracks of ‘To All Sides They Will Stretch Out Their Hands’ are all titled in reference to indigenous American poetry and thus take shape as elusive, dream-like projections of Leeds’ subconscious and subvocalised thoughts. With a defocussed grain and swirl that perhaps emulates the effect of intoxication thru special herbs, the music acutely suggests altered states of mind, triggering meditations on memory and process reflected by a haphazard and impromptu recording technique. Leeds is a skilled producer, and working instinctively highlights a more fallible, arresting side to his sound - recording and processing vocals on the fly to control his machines less like a conductor and more like a sculptor. When the process hits complications - the DAW failing or outboard gear glitching out - his choice to leave these moments in the final cut allows us to consider the messiness and fallibility of art.
Leeds isn't interested in making aesthetically perfect potted ambience. His narrative is rough and expressive, just as focused on texture as it is tone or rhythm. It's a technique that suggests the heady cut 'n paste sound of musique concrète, but doesn't attempt to recreate it or position itself alongside that canon for academic gold stars. Firing his convulsing collages thru an array of effects gives his music the lively heartbeat of vintage dub, hidden under a fleshy DIY basement noise that could be traced back to Coil or Throbbing Gristle, mediating on memories with haptic strokes and a sense of inseparability between his layers of fuzz and physical actions that most beautifully speaks to a sort of interconnectedness that comes with mescaline, for example.
We’ve been spending considerable time guided by its dream logic - we strongly recommend you do the same, immersing yourself in its spongiform negative space, ruptured raptures and dank bliss.
Good Morning Tapes with another stunner, collecting outsider US new age from 1975 to 1995 as selected by Mark Griffey outta NYC who runs New Age website/catalogue Ultravillage.
Due to the nature of the material it seems likely that most of the material included has never seen the light of day before, and offers wall to wall padded bliss quite literally opening with sounds of crashing waves setting the scene for an hour of breezy vibes that will appeal to both GMT devotees and New Age heads.
As Griffey explains “…many artists from this era produced their music on cassette in small editions which were sold through a network of independent book shops and magazines. While collector interest remains high, much of the music is not well documented and Ultravillage aims to improve that by providing an in-depth look at these musicians and their music. For this mix, my theme was the elements - water, earth, air and fire, with the first two represented on side one and the latter two represented on the second side. Many artists here integrate the sounds of nature in their recordings, or use their instruments to evoke the elements."
Charming expo of mbira music from Zimbabwe, 1983, charting its symbolism during early years of the country’s independence and as a means of contacting the spirit world
Showcasing the playing of Ephat Mujuru, the descendent of a respected spirit medium and master of the mbira dzavadzimu - “a handheld lamellophone used in Shona region to make contact and receive council from deceased ancestors” - the four pieces on ‘Mbavaira’ document Ephat working with a newly formed band, The Spirit of the People on their 2nd album of acoustic mbira music.
While named for the Shona for something like “chaos”, the album was intended to foster unity between Zimbabwe’s two dominant ethnic groups, the Shona and the Ndebele, and arrived on the country’s only label Gramma Records as one of few commercially issued mbira recordings at the time, and was practically received as a pop record, an immediate quality that it carries thru into 2021.
Ephat tragically died from a heart attack at Heathrow Airport in 2001, aged 51, en route to perform and teach in the US, and ‘Mbavaira’ is a lovely testament to his legacy, flowing free with four tracks of complex rhythmelodic colour and soulful vocals by his uncle Mude, sweepign from he lilting dealign music of the title track to the trad hunting song ‘Nyama Musango’ (Meat in the Forest) via the swingeing hustle of ‘Kuenda Mbire’ *Going to Mbire) and the more brooding tone of ‘Mudande’, named for a remote northern village in Zimbabwe.
Labyrinthine and constantly challenging, "Bop 3" questions the usefulness of genre by slathering Sir E.U's complex vocal dexterity with equally genre-busting production from Tooth Choir. Seriously where else are you gonna hear acid-house gospel rap ('Untitled (2 Much)'), overdriven post-punk ('How Much Longer') and 20 minutes of Sprinkles-esque freeform ambient dance spiritualism? Severely next level music that characterizes DC's fertile contemporary scene.
Future Times has done us all another massive favor here, shining their estimable spotlight on the DC duo of rapper and multimedia artist Sir E.U and producer and bassist Julian Oliver aka Tooth Choir. The two both seem to share a disregard for established form, breaking down logic in tandem with Sir E.U mutating rap formula and Oliver meeting him in the middle with a set of truly out-zone productions.
Oliver draws a thick line between psychedelic dance formula and high-minded cloud rap vapor, letting his productions marinate in emotion and gesture without adhering to contemporary templates. This provides an ideal backdrop to the lyrically dextrous Sir E.U - he's a layered and multi-faceted rapper who sounds as confident rapping over pacy 4/4 krautronica ('Hey Mom') as he does throwing words into an echo chamber over distorted beatbox clatter on 'End Of Time'.
But it's the album's extended finale with 'MUA' and 'I Can't Stop Thinkin Bout My Baby' that has us reaching for the replay again and again. 'MUA' is a razor-sharp shard of contemporary cloud rap that reflects the short-lived microgenre and rebuilds it with sincerity and an acidic TB-303 squelch. Then Sir E.U offers his most impressive turn yet as he free associates over a slow, rattling 20-minute slice of muted piano, vaseline-coated kicks and bitcrushed claps. It's a performance that has to be heard to be believed - like Main Attrakionz collaborating with DJ Sprinkles.
Michael J Blood & Rat Heart return with BLOODHEART, an hour-long followup to their already collectable RATBLOOD debut, here sliding thru a thick plume of smoke scored by bare synths and tripped out drum machines deploying Detroit, Chicago and East Coast styles swerved into stripped x emotional arpeggiated oblivion.
Back on their Bodytronixxx imprint, the pair give it up for a classic but completely groggy lean that’s come to define their lauded output over the last couple of years. Both artists come from a background steeped in proper US house and techno and confidently mess with the style from outside in, exploring a space somewhere between Drexciyan aquatics and the likes of Omar-S, Andrés and Urban Tribe on the one hand, and the freakier funk of Fhloston Paradigm and Actress on the other, but with a seshed-out dub soundsphere that recalls both Topdown Dialectic and Huerco S to these ears.
BLOODHEART is crafted with off-the-cuff suss, spooling from echo chamber experiments into offbeat, boiler-rattling drums and radiator percussion, giving way to ratty Dance Mania styles and glorious, hair-kissing synth vamps on the front. Flip it for serotonin-scraped dub chords and licks that resonate your skull, before imperceptibly skidding into dub tech thizz, and ultimately swinging their collective weight into a Thriller style denouement for pendulous measure.
Nowt quite like it, really.
Logos goes deep in the experimental techno prism with the first venture on his private press folio series made in limited and minimalist cassette editions - a big RIYL Pan Sonic, Topdown Dialectic, Ilpo Väisänen, Flaty, Mark Fell, Sleeparchive.
Following in a research vein of Logos’ work after his cinematic second album and missions with The Sprawl and Mumdance, ‘North’ forms his in-depth probe of a Nord G1 synth patch rendered across 10 tracks of bone-swivelling physics.
Locked to a vacuum-tight sound Logos laser-focusses his interests at the peripheries of avant techno and icy minimalist electronics for some of his most obsessively concentrated and curious recordings. Taking explicit inspiration from the enigmatic generative process and results of the /\\Aught label’s releases by likes of Topdown Dialectic and Elizabethan Collar, his skeletal arrangements of flinty drums, gritty filter chicanery and sparking bleeps also come to resemble the rudely stringent swang of Ilpo Väisänen’s diamond-cut 10”s on Kangaroo or the kind of brittle boned flex also explored by Flaty, but ultimately with a discretely self-possessed and uncompromisingly clinical aesthetic that’s come to define his work since his post-dubstep/grime classics.
Embracing negative space more than ever, and refraining from obvious emotive signposting, he effectively realises a sort of coldly angular, noumenal gymnasium for rigorous rhythmic workouts, ranging from swarming metallic diffusions in the title track to double-jointed limb articulations on ‘Loop 9.’ Never settling on one pattern, he cycles thru hypnotic permutations of pulsing, offset techno in ‘Loop 1’ to chaotic subaquatic diffractions on ‘Loop 2’ and an unmistakably Ilpo-esque stepper on ‘Loop 3’, with his most sensuous, if you like, textures found in the Aleksi Perälä-like deliquescence of ‘Loop 5’ and the chirruping bleeps of ‘Loop 6.’
For those who like to imagine dancers defying physics and enacting impossible moves, or anyone looking to hear the the UK ’nuum pushed into hyperspace - you’ll be utterly in your element here.
DJ set from the unchallenged master of blunted atmospherics: Terekke.
"Ripped from a riverside warehouse party in the dog days of summer 2019, Terekke dials up the soulful, expressive house moods that undergird through his ephemeral productions. Digital pianos? Check. Vocal A1's? Check. "Let No Man Put Asunder" samples? Check. No need to strap in, this one's a cruise."
A keeling second dose of pirate radio advert rave excavations from Death Is Not The End, culling 40 more relics from the London airwaves c. 1984-1993.
Unless you’ve gone full hermit during lockdown and cut the internet conx, the first volume of this stuff has already gained cult status, covered in national media and coveted by ravers looking for any form of classic buzz. This 2nd set features a further 40 vignettes from the golden daze of rave, with voices flogging everything from datelines to “tasty leather jackets”, 25K turbo sound rigs, and, quite cannily, ads for throwback rare groove parties that kinda show certain UK ravers have always had one misty eye over the shoulder to a “golden era” when it was just better than it is now.
If we’re playing favourites, the blown out jungle rush of ‘Monster Soundsystem’ is right up there, along with some lass appearing to mimic M*ggie Th*tcher on House FM’s ‘Legal Pulse’ ad, the X-amount of flange on the Fantasia promo ’NYE ’93’, a spine-freezing ’Stunning Dimension’ rave flier, and most definitely the Scouse lass flogging “Tasty Leather Jackets” (well i’ll tell ya, it’s bad!). Despite that Today Programme feature doing its best to cover it all in a sneering/sexless/overly polite sheen, it’s completely undeniable that this stuff is just pure gold, we all owe a debt of gratitude to Death Is Not The End for putting the work in to get it all compiled.
Hi, hello, and how do? This is the 2nd part in a trio of mixtapes released in 2016 by moi, Conor Thomas, following "At The Expense of Others" for the Krokodilo series and arriving ahead of a long overdue Reel Torque instalment.
It’s a tribute to a series of "free parties"/raves held in Manchester over ten years ago, including a lot of records which were either played there or that i used to cane in that era. Using the benefit of hindsight, it’s a sort of a snapshot or perspective of the era after the '90s "Madchester" and “sulphuric soul” (gip) thing. Of course there were other things happening, lots of techno/electro/breakcore/electronica and early dubstep, but for me, this was the sound of cracked warehouses and abandoned hospitals when I moved here in 2002, and it remained like that until dubstep really took a grip after 2007.
The mix was recorded on a suitably drizzly day in Moss Side, summer ’16, and all tracks are from original records released between ’93 and ’04 (apart from the Leckey snippet), with a healthy amount of vinyl crackle and particular focus on the darkside late ‘90s flex which bled from that era into a lot of what came after it.
I only found out years later that other people had nicknamed me The Smoking Man, prob cos i look a bit grey and tended to hang in the shadows with a big spliff when i wasn’t brukking and gurning. Not because i wore a flasher mac and had links to secret government agencies. Those days are long gone but I fucking loved them and all the people, raves of that time. Out to them.
Racking up 90 minutes of prime ’70s/‘80s pressure, plus a smattering of later, related cuts, ‘Caverns Of Dub’ is Twitch’s definitive deep dive into Jamaican music, following from excursions into post-punk, goth, ambient, and myriad other subgenera of late 20th century culture. Twitch acknowledges dub as a common denominator across the spectrum of styles he DJs, with foundational traces of its DNA found everywhere from ambient to post punk and industrial musicks.
Trust he’s really gone to town on the selections and the mixing, fundamentally focussing on the dub aspect but also cuing up plenty of vocal versions for good measure, all with judicious use of FX and immaculate blends. From digi to rootsy, steppers to skankers; he offers a clued-up outsider’s take on the style which extraordinarily punches above its relative weight (Jamaica has half the population of Scotland, and an inversely disproportionate influence on global trends), smartly spelling out links between the island node and its diasporic offshoots.
Expect everything from thunderous proto-techno templates to Rhythm & Sound inspirations via nuff melodicas, sufferation vocals, nyabinghi drums and the weightiest bass.
Power moves from Uganda’s Nyege Nyege Tapes; spotlighting the Dutch bubbling permutations of Den Haag’s De Schuurman - a crucial node of the Black Atlantic diaspora - with 13 hard-to-find, hyper dancehall techno zingers from the late ‘00s up to 2019.
As the legend goes, in the late ‘80s a young DJ Moortje from Curaçao was playing at Den Haag’s Club Voltage, where he accidentally played a dancehall track at 45RPM, not 33, to feverish reception from the dancers. A new style of hi NRG dancehall was born and named bubbling house, with a new generation of diasporic producers such as De Schuurman following in the footsteps of his uncle and bubbling pioneer DJ Chippie to evolve the sound in the late 2000s, using Fruityloops to update the style with traces of rap, R&B, trance and electro-house alongside his cousins, DJ Daycard, DJ Master-D, Stiko Jnr and DJ Justme. The sound received international recognition in 2011 via Anti-G’s ‘Presents Kentje’sz Beatsz’ compilation with Planet Mu, and now NNT serve a hot reminder of its irresistible innovations with ‘Bubbling Inside.’
Crafted mostly between 2007-2009, but also featuring relatively recent productions, the set is a scorching throwback to bubbling’s upfront propulsion systems. Painstakingly sourced from old hard drives by the artist with NNT and Sascha Roth of Pantropical in Rotterdam, it features 13 mostly unreleased tracks that firmly demonstrate how forward the young producer was back then, bending Afro-Caribbean rhythms with prevailing electro and techno-house trends in a way that paralleled UKF across the North Sea, but with a much sharper Dutch electronic tang that really left its mark on dancefloors at the time, and still kills today.
In keen mutations of the fundamental tresillo rhythms that also drive soca, reggaeton, UK Funky; De Schuurman makes his mark with definitive cuts such as the steel drum-driven quickstep of ‘Pier Je Bil!!’ and the string-led swagger of ‘Fermina Style,’ while ‘F*cking Hard!I!’ and ‘Bubbling Inside’ are galvanised with cutting synthlines by DJ Electro. The hot brass of ‘Urban Gunz’ is perhaps closest to certain UKF templates, and the banging ‘First One’ links the sound to late ‘00s European techno, with tunes such as 2019’s ‘Domina’ showing how De Schuurman has kept the style fresh with twists of dubstep and plusher, layered textures without losing sight of its energising dancefloor roots.
Dancehall knowledge Felix Hall presents a momentous 20 year follow-up to Mo Wax’s pivotal, highly influential 2001 instrumental showcase ‘Now Thing’ a blueprint of sorts for the likes of Equiknoxx almost two decades later. This new set - almost two years in the making - reunites original comp players Lil Toby, Will Bankhead and Oliver Payne (on compiling and artwork duties) and features 16 prime Jamaican bullets for Felix Hall's shockout label, Chrome.
Resetting the timeline to 1997-2020, ‘Now Thing 2’ expands on the crucial first set - which was a gateway to the world of dancehall for many heads - with deadly cuts from the scene’s leading producers; spanning Dave Kelly to Steely & Clevie, from NYC’s Bobby Konders to Ward 21, and including killer side-spins on ‘90s rave and R&B.
Two decades since the first set, it’s astute to say that dancehall has exerted a huge degree of influence over dance and club music of all stripes over the interim. Much like how roots reggae and dub influenced disco and post-punk in the ’70s; Dancehall, with its origins in the digidub of Jammy’s ‘Sleng Teng’ riddim, has irrevocably informed jungle, rap, garage, and even pop and techno for the past generation, and ‘Now Thing 2’ is the strongest primer you’ll likely come across..
It’s a proper sound-system thing, deeply rooted in the competitive, inventive nature of Jamaican music, which would, according to ‘Bass Culture’ writer Lloyd Bradley’s liner notes “constantly reinvent itself as a way of staying ahead of the sound system on the next corner.” With access to new technology, producers persistently pushed their paradigm along the axes of function and distinction, with each asserting their individuality in a syncretic style and its permutations of tresillo drum patterns, all at the service of bringing bodies to the dance and keeping them there.
The 16 tracks here lead directly from its predecessor with updates of highlights from the first, notably Richard Browne’s darkly dubbed ‘Grass Cyaat Refix’ and the return of Lenky (whose original ‘Now Thing’ rhythm lends the sets’ titles) alongside Andrew Thomas on the haunted fairground pressure of ‘Bad Mongrell’, while prolific dancehall architects Steely & Clevie serve the jabbing ‘Bitter Blood’, and Ward 21 come with the brooding badness of ‘Volume’.
‘Now Thing 2’ comes into its own however, via its more obscure, mutant workouts. NYC’s acid house legend Bobby Konders supplies 1999’s rolling ‘Lickshot Rewind’ from his dancehall label Massive B, and Crown Star Productions let off zinging rave hoovers on the mighty ‘Fire Cracker’, with Donovan Germain’s half step 140bpm rework of Timbaland’s Aaliyah classic ‘Are You That Somebody’ highlighting the vital dialogue between dancehall and mainstream charts.
Compiled by Felix Hall, Lil Toby and Richard Browne, with art and design by Will Bankhead and Oliver Payne (also behind the first volume in 2001), ‘Now Thing 2’ is future-proofed for the next 20 years, and should be considered ultimate listening by a new generation of listeners and ravers who are increasingly cognisant of dance music’s important roots in Jamaican dancehall culture.
Searing footwork/computer music + cut-up vocal mutations from Hungary’s Ábris Gryllus, arriving in a vital vein of The Death of Rave releases shared by Mark Fell & Gábor Lázár, Rian Treanor and The Automatics Group.
Charting new temporalities and ambiguities of the uncanny valley, ‘Canon’ is a remarkable volley of twelve body-flinging and mind-spanking workouts by Budapest, Hungary’s Ábris Gryllus. It’s his 3rd and boldest solo album under his own name, and pushes the boundaries of Chicago footwork and electronic vocal processing to discover ravishing and maddening new sensations at the periphery of club music, contemporary dance, and the avant garde.
Working with vocals by Jessica Smit, who also appears on the cover art, Ábris ambiguously blurs their meaning by ways of repetition and recursive flux, but rudely held together by pointillist footwork rhythms and scything synths. The effect is borderline absurd and genius, implicitly exploring the contemporary semantics of rave as a form of dream-state, temporary madness, or hyperreality, with explicitly direct, physical use of recoiling footwork rhythms and disorienting, strobing vocals that may well send some listeners over the edge..
Track to track, simple phrases become mashed up, Beckettian or dadaist; syllables slipping words into opposites, so that “intimate” refracts into “intimidate” and “imitate”, or the club warcry “let’s Go” becomes “let me go,” and instructions to “focus!” or “obey!” are reiterated into oblivion. The results are a polymetric, psychotomimetic, and picnoleptic feast for insatiable ravers; conceptually resonating with Mark Fell’s exploration of multi-temporality, but with Rian Treanor’s playfulness and Gábor Lázár’s slashing contours, while also recalling the hardcoreness of Jana Rush’s footwork chops, a smudged answer to CoH’s precision, or recent Vladislav Delay maelstroms, as well as that larghely iverlooked run of releases from Anne-James Chaton for raster - some of the label’s best.
‘Canon’ is frankly a mad bit of work; one of the most hyperalert yet disorienting, densely minimalist, and freakishly dynamic explorations of human-nonhuman dialogue and experimental dance music of 2021.
First ever publicly available dip into Lil Toby’s hugely influential TSBO mix series, a 4 hour / double tape session of essential late 90’s early 2000’s Dancehall murder from one of the most pivotal operators/compilers/DJ’s on the underground scene - following his work bringing Mo Wax's genre-defining 'Now Thing' compilation to life in 2001 and appearances on some of the earliest mixtapes from The Trilogy Tapes back in 2008.
The TSBO series was a precursor and testing ground to what became the 'Now Thing' compilation which Lil Toby co-complied with Toby Feltwell (Cav Empt) and Frenchie from Maximum Sound. The mixes consisted of that proto “Now Thing” sound from the late 90’s - early/mid-2000s, arguably the most future sounding period in Jamaican music. Rather than looking back, the TSBO mixes were made from brand new releases and pre-releases Toby copped at Blacker Dread and Dub Vendor - including things like Volume riddim (released in London prior to coming out in Jamaica). In this sense, the TSBO mixes are a time capsule of a hugely vibrant time on the streets/clubs of South London, clubs that Lil Toby was playing at regularly alongside the Honest Jons crew.
There were 100 or so TSBO mixes made between 1999-2004, mostly recorded to minidisc and handed out to friends and sometimes played on pirate radio, with many of them copied, passed around and soon enough worming into the very fabric of London’s rich Dancehall culture. This 4 hour double set features Toby's personal favourite selections from the series, and is the first time any of them have been released. Alongside riddims that have since become rinsed classics, the set includes a ruck of material that was only ever available at Blacker Dread that have more or less been forgotten about in the years since; making it an important historical document selected and mixed by one of the original heads, but also the tightest, deadliest 4 hour dancehall session you’ll likely ever set your ears on.
What next? Now Thing 2, soon.
Psychedelic inner-world astral traveling ambient biz here from Russian universe builder Nikolay Kozlov. Featuring guest appearances from Perila, mu tate, Igor Dyachenko and Ryan & Kouhei >> one fer the Experiences Ltd / West Mineral lot.
While the wider club establishment has been attempting the pivot to ambient as venue doors remained shuttered, a growing throng of dedicated dream riders were already out there plumbing the depths of our shared imagination. Kozlov's latest is a quiet triumph, following the West Mineral torch but edging into fresh territory. Tight, jazzy rhythms underpin synapse-puncturing synth weirdness and dubwise fx trickery, and Kozlov does a good job of harking back to Mille Plateaux's "Clicks & Cuts" era without resorting to quick 'n easy nostalgia.
There are tantalizing echoes of Jan Jelinek, Frank Bretschneider and Kit Clayton, but by upping the mindbending, pineal-tickling content, Kozlov successfully materializes in a more contemporary zone. Interestingly, "OUTTAKES21" sounds more organic and less purposefully glitchy than its predecessors. Kozlov instead creates a world that is woven from Pole's gassy moods and Vladislav Delay's expansive jazziness, but lacquered with contemporary sonic trickery.
Blinding debut volley of industro-dub and free-jazzed electronics by Kenyan prodigy Leon Duncan - a peer of the incredible Duma - unveiling a shockingly distinctive style for NNT’s Hakuna Kulala sibling. Imagine Slikback toe-to-toe with Actress, dubbed to tape by Klein and then piped thru Equiknoxx's FX chain >>
Absolutely following his nose for radical electronic music, Duncan delivers one of the most thrilling new albums of 2021 with nine blasts of algorithmic shrapnel gelled into freakish, pranging arrangements pieced together after getting kicked out of his apartment for being too loud and writing personal soundscapes that matched the rhythmic chaos of East African club music with the physical intensity of harsh noise and grindcore. It all stems from research with software at his high school computer lab, which quickly resulted in him selling beats, with his urges eventually leading him off on more experimental tangents to extreme music, ultimately linking with Duma’s Martin Kanja and developing a perpendicular style of rhythm-driven and wildly atonal experiments. However, rather than anything self-consciously “i’m mad, me” styles, Duncan’s music feels like an urgent expression of independence, like he’s really searching for something, and is practically unbound by notions of trend; just doing what feels right, and resulting in what may be perceived as delirium in the process.
Trust it’s not all frenetic, making room for slower strains of psychedelia in ‘Ching’ and Jahtarian digi-dubbing in ‘Nintendo Dub’, plus the beatless rendering of ‘Plugged in kalimba blues’, all lending a necessary balance to the rambunctious club suss of ‘Rucio’ with its steamrolling percussion, or the likes of his breathless tumble in ‘Babur’, and the radical freeness of his searing leads and skewed Singeli-esque rhythms in ‘Digital Drug.’ When the album comes to a close on 'Acute Psychosis', with its pineal stroking synths and tweaked woodblock rhythm (part East African culture musiq and part first wave dubstep), there'll be no doubt in your mind that Leon Duncan's operating on another plane entirely - showing up so much contemporary Western club and electronic music as boring line-dance reenactments. It’s real deal upfront gear for 2021 = devour without delay.
A Note from Robin:
"The kind of time-travel that occurs when listening back to recordings from 30+ years ago is a peculiar experience. I can still vividly remember sitting on the floor of my flat in Battersea, South London, the walls, floor and ceiling all painted black, crouched over my luxuriously expensive Fostex 280 (over £700 in the mid 1980s) and making these recordings. I’d had to save up for countless months for such a machine, and it was a dream come true.
Here was a machine that could permanently store my ideas onto relatively cheap cassettes that I could pick up in a local shop. I could manipulate the speed of these recordings and layer them together. Using the Digitech RDS 7.6 Time Machine in tandem I could create loops of sound, and record something as simple as a bell and then slow it down to half speed.
I quickly discovered that sometimes the simplest ideas were the most effective. In Forbidden Mourning you hear a loop of a bell and an ethic tone playing against one another, whilst my dark sense of humour comes across in His Begging Bowl, with a found recording of the last moments in the life of a beloved dog. Some of the pieces such as Soft Enclose, using scanned voices, clearly anticipate my first CD release on Ash International in 1992.
Somehow these tapes have miraculously survived countless moves over the years, in the same cardboard boxes, from my bedroom in my family home to a series of different apartments and even in an industrial storage unit for a year. Using the lockdown to digitise and mix down many of these has been a joy, and what you hear here is just a percentage of what exists in the archive.
Listening back to these recordings today I realise that they actually still inform much of what I do today. Some might find it a little depressing to consider that they’ve never ‘progressed,’ but I find a reassurance in the shapes and structures and strength of commitment in these works. Voices are hidden beneath the surface, slow modulating drones hover ominously in the background, scanned phonecalls are drawn in from the ether and poignant melancholic melodies play against abstract noises.
I hope the listener today enjoys this modest dip in my archival recordings and appreciates that less can most definitely be more. I had no idea that there might be audience for these works when I recorded them at the time, so let’s see how they behave when they are set free into the world this year!"
Yeah this one’s a bit special; selected and arranged by Jack Rollo and Elaine Tierney, ‘Ballads’ is a waking-dream meander through beautiful, romantic, weird, exotic, intimate, un-categorisable music that shouldn't go together but yet somehow makes complete sense, offering a sort of spiritual life-enhancement in the process. It’s a bit like discovering a portal to long forgotten memories that fill you with nostalgia but also the thrill of the new - disorientating, but also a reminder, once again, that music = life.
A Colourful Storm’s Fleetway Tapes seems to have already become the ideal place for skilled musical storytellers to flex their muscle, and on ‘Ballads’ the London-based duo turn their attention to the classic storytelling category of songcraft with the mix of forensic digging and poetic arrangement that has made their long-running NTS show a cult hit for many. Spanning a literate and cinematic world of sound with signature delicacy, they conjure a far flung and totally absorbing set whose track-listing remains impenetrable, and may well drive diggers to a tizzy. Suffice to say; numerous pearls lie within.
Sung in myriad tongues, the ballads range from the romantic and sentimental to the abstract and instrumental, spieling yarns that may not be fully understood, but whose atmosphere, pacing, and seductive vibe is unmistakable.
What a stunner.
After dropping one of 12th Isle’s most prized sides, cult ambient trio Pataphysical conjure richly imaginative solutions to metaphysical conundrums on a lush follow-up via Good Morning Tapes.
Pataphysical were prompted by the pandemic to pause in-person shows and focus on their studio archive, with ‘Hapticality’ reaping a gently febrile session from whimful sketches plotted out between 2013-2021. Like their much lauded ‘Periphera’ LP, Andrés Saenz De Sicilia, Camilo Tirado and Matt Linares hustle a dream sequence of FM synth fronds weft with field recordings and analogue textures that effortlessly wrap us up in their sound, calling to mind the post-new age ambient and jazz inflected interzones of CV & JAB as much as 0PN’s hypnagogic wooze or BoC’s pastoral vignettes.
Where the moniker Pataphysical could have bogged down other operators, the trio deftly work under that mantle with a mix of sublime, world building lushness and unanticipated turns that slowly bifurcate and reweave the listener’s lines of thought into theirs. With time slipping guile they lead from the contemplative oasis of ’Sonora’ to a perfectly unanticipated arrival of a Welsh narrator on the pitch-bent slosh of ‘Moonlit Picnic’, with the dematerialised dub of ‘Integument’ drifting into their most immersively descriptive sound design in the album’s title cut, and Gabriel Chips’ extended reed tekkers blossoming into Hassellian 4th world whorls on ‘Break Lament.’
Hard to deny that Pataphysical’s brand of sensory seduction is at its most intoxicating here, most subtly quilting a more grown-up alternative to the pillowy mass of modern ambient.
Best Available Technology makes up for lost time with a 2nd release in quick succession, after a few years hiatus
Granting Sweden’s Blundar (Lowtec, STL, Benjamin Brunn) access to his backpack archive of tapes, the peripheral artist descends from his ferric cloud base to spells out a singular conception of vaporous, mutant dub flux.
Jamal Moss owns his mantle as The Worst DJ Ever with an absolutely deadly 2nd batch of The Worst Edits, tweaking out Industrial, Jazz, House, New Wave and Psych Rock nuggets in untouchable, incendiary style.
The title of Worst DJ Ever was bestowed upon Jamal by some sad pebble at a secret warehouse rave in Manchester many moons ago. In case it needs to be stated; Jamal is one of the best DJs ever, but some divvies just don’t get it. Allow it anyway ‘cos Jamal just keeps on keeping on with this return to his deeply cherished Members Only series, adding to a precious collection of percies plucked out from behind the ear of late ‘80s Chicago dance culture and treated to his special marination process for future-proofed effect.
On this session you’ll cop his re-cut of The B-52’s up in it along with a stonking take on Larry Heard & Robert Owens ‘Passion Track’ spliced with some super tight Hi-NRG bassline. There’s hyper freestyle-electro chops, strobing disco bouncers, and a very special strain of psych rock edits that we’ve not really heard from him before. The fidelity is all crud VHS and faithful to his beloved aesthetic, and if that puts off some of the club pedants, then all the better for it, as they can go whistle to some immaculately produced bobbins while heads get down.
Unmissable, u already know it.
Harvard architecture prof Robert Gerard Pietrusko looks to poems for inspiration on this blissful set for Lawrence English's Room40. Unsettling, textured drones for fans of early Tim Hecker or Celer.
Based on five piano motifs "repeated with constant variation and extrapolation across the album's nine tracks," "Elegiya" is barely recognizable as a piano album. Pietrusko granulates the sounds into chilly clumps of noisy drone, pushing and pulling the notes like taffy into poetic structures that sometimes sound harmonic and ambient, and sometimes veer into terrifying dissonance. If you enjoyed Tim Hecker's early classic "Radio Amor" with its stuttering granulation, this one's for you.
The sound alchemist behind Elodie (with Andrew Chalk), Af Ursin (on his own) and the Metaphon and La Scie Dorée labels mints a new one-off alias, Emma Tate, with an elemental, soul-wracking beauty for the Documenting Sound series.
An utterly arresting composition built solely from recordings of his breathing, ‘Ame Matte’ is perhaps the purest, most spellbinding example of Timo’s work that we’ve yet heard. It was recorded at his woodland home in Belgium and offers a rare glimpse of his solo practice for the first time since 2017’s ‘Ιτινερα = Itinera’ as Af Ursin, effectively pursuing that record’s appreciation of liminal tones and metaphysical presence to logical, immersive extremes that reflect his experience of lockdown. More often noted as a consummate collaborator with everyone from Andrew Chalk and Christoph Heemann to Raymond Dijkstra, Timo’s solo work is always really special and no less so here, providing the Documenting Sound series one of its most rarified and quietly critical highlights.
Getting right down to musical fundamentals, Timo judiciously uses layering and fx to turn his barely-there palette of sighs, gasps and wordless whispers into a congregation of ghostly inference, gradually feeling out a totally secluded space that could be in the woods as much as leagues underwater or stranded in deep space. It could hardly be more evocative of the stark loneliness experienced by so many of us during the past 18 months, yet for all its horror movie / concrète mise-en-scene, there’s something comforting about his reserved presence that makes his a cappella recordings so rewarding.
Considered in context of its title, ‘Ame Matte’ or ‘Matte Soul,’ and the track titles - ‘Atem’ is German for breath, and its anagrammatic B-side of reversed breathing ‘Meta’ - it feels as though Timo grants us access behind the veil of his sound, to some liminal, purgatorial mindset previously glimpsed in the likes of NWW’s classic ‘Soliloquy For Lilith.’
Xiu Xiu's Hyunhye Seo, aka Angela Seo, goes deep and dark on her debut solo album, flitting between subterranean Lynchian ambient and abstract solo piano. Foreboding and ambitious stuff.
Split into two parts, "Strands" straddles Hyunhye Seo's musical interests. The first part focuses on her interest in percussion and noise, and features processed gong sounds and rattling industrial dirt. In three long tracks, Seo builds an anxious narrative that sounds almost like a fusion of Thomas Köner's early dark ambient material and the Lynchian sound design of Dean Hurley or even David Lynch in the "Eraserhead" days.
The second part finds Seo experimenting with the piano, and she shows off her skill using the instrument alone, playing on its tone and dissonance to create a similarly dark mood.
Hood’s Chris Adams summons the ghosts of ’94 under his jungle/breakbeat alias Downpour.
Also known as Bracken for his instrumental hip hop output, Adams serves up his first proper release under the Downpour alias in over 20 years, drawing on scattershot digital self-releases for a definitive overview of his work during the past decade. Extant since the late ‘90s heyday of D&B, Downpour issued a handful of 12”s on Midwest US rave label Drop Beat and Leeds’ 555 Recordings that on the face of it sounded nowt like his better known work with Hood (who also counted Craig Tattersall aka The Humble Bee, and Andrew Johnson aka A New Line (Related) in their number) but which shared a melancholy, polaroid quality with it.
The 11 tracks of ‘Do You Remember When It Was All About The Drums? (Parts I & II)’ now find their feet again in the midst of a jungle revival, coming with classic motifs shaded to the deeper, darker end of that sound, and most successfully in the likes of his hardass breakage in ‘Red Flag,’ the deft smoky chops of the album’s title tune, and splashy breaks recalling Scorn’s Quoit gear in This Sound,’ with a slower variant in the woozy squash of ‘Pressure.’ Takes us right back to raving in West Yorkshire fields and scuzzy warehouses, we tell thee.
Slowtime ambient soul music from the DIY heart of Bristol, introducing Jabu’s new label; do you have peace?
Emerging from the scene revolving Young Echo, No Corner, and Blackest Ever Black (R.I.P.), Jabu trio of Amos Childs, Jasmine Butt and Alex Rendall meet their pals, Vessel, Sunun and Rakhi Singh to conjure an intimate, familial atmosphere and headspace that touches on Lolina-esque dub-bop and screwed soul, puckered with dead sweet vocals by Butt and Bristolian-Colombian singer Daniela Dyson.
A proper low key charmer, this one RIYL Laila Sakini, Teresa Winter, E B U.
A collection of songs / mixtape from Sunun + Jiinx - made up of all their own material, a combination of fully realised songs as well as unheard demos / ideas and alternate versions.
"The mix was compiled by Jiinx over a period of nightshifts - sat in his (now cubed) car with the computer running through the stereo. You can hear the dry eyes as the tape moves through sleep deprived jungle to new-age and ambient interludes - with voices (including Sunun’s own) moving in and out like real world sounds intruding into a dream (there’s also a cameo from Jiinx’s daughter). The tape operates in the spaces between waking and sleeping and night and day - and manages to walk the line between euphoric rave afterglow and sleepless sickness and disorientation. Definitely one for the shift workers / ravers / insomniacs. Dedicated to the roofless Beemer."
Selected ambient works from ex-NAKED producer Canaan Balsam. Epic, cavernous business for fans for Coil, AFX et al.
"Cruise Utopia" is the first solo work from Canaan Balsam since he left Halcyon Veil industrial duo NAKED, and it highlights another facet of his interests. The metallic grit and grind of NAKED is still there, but is relegated to the background as isolationist melancholy takes hold. Opener 'C.C.C.C' is straight out of the AFX school of ambient ('Lichen' 2.0?) with its wavering sadboi synth flute, but we're quickly fired into different realms with the elegiac 'Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears' and Coil-esque grim droner 'One Rat Short of a Plague'.
The Edinburgh-based artist infuses his work, created over the last three years, with a distinctly Scottish mentality, often juxtaposing his synth compositions with barely-audible spoken word vocals and harsh field recordings. This imparts a sense of space and never allows things to fall too far into new age loveliness, retaining a brisk, mountainous air at all times.
Ambient sound baths from Carmen Villain, moonlighting on Geographic North with a gorgeous follow-up to her track on the nocturnal 2020 suite ‘A Little Late Night Music’
Carmen Villain is best placed to spell out her take on a seasonal music for the Sketch For Winter series, offering a sublime half hour of sound-sensitive scenes that appear to reflect a transition from cold space to deliquescent thaw over the course of six gently paced, instrumental parts. Any followers of her works for Smalltown Supersound and the sentiments of last year’s ‘Affection in a Time of Crisis’ with Longform Editions will surely recognise the near-therapeutic levels of ambient bliss and understated melancholy that makes Carmen’s music such a delicate treat.
It sounds as though her Norwegian/Chilean spar, flautist Johanna Scheie Orellana reprises her role from the Longform Editions release on opener ‘Everything Without Shadow’, blowing wistful lines thru Villain’s richly evocative synth pads, before her narrator/sound designer skills leads the way from the padded snow crunch and sleety slosh of ‘Two Halves Touching’ like PInkcourtesyphone’s protagonist gone wandering around winter gardens. ‘Things That Are Solid’ follows to sustain the vibe with warmer baubles of synth melody as the textures feel to melt at the edges with ‘Agua Azul’, gently warmed by the arrival of supple percussion and the return of Orellana’s languorous flute.
A Colourful Storm’s Fleetway Tapes sublabel follow up that crushing ’Time Is Away’ tape with this super satisfying curveball from Andy Mac, offering over an hour of spirited vibrations that come highly recommended if yr into Beatrice Dillon, Awkward Corners/Chris Menist, Peverelist.
A decade since Andy Mac committed his crispy debut productions to Peverelist’s Punch Drunk he's cultivated a rocksteady rep for working rugged, minimalist grooves with bags of rude soul. On ‘First & Last, Sennen’ he weaves roots and branches of classic Bristol styles into his first physical mixtape, tracing a jagged line from prevailing interests in vintage Jamaican dub and Caribbean rhythms, and their distant echoes in post-punk, cosmic drug chug, and AOR oddities, across a tight selection certain to have nerds itching for track IDs.
it’s properly slanted and enchanted gear, planting its feet in dusty, lilting calypso and nonchalant South American grooves, toggling the groove with effortless suss, shuffling weight across continents and epochs with proper percies drawn from a venn diagram of NDW, post-industrial, and downtown NYC records whose names may elude and tease even the most ardent heads. In the best sense, each cut sets up the next, creating stepping stones through offbeat and lesser trodden regions of dub and dance music from the past 60 years.
Perpetually keeping us on our toes, a Colourful Storm assemble previously unreleased works by cult Swiss synth-pop and NDW legend Christian Pfluger aka Die Welttraumforscher, essential listening if yr into owt from Cleaners From Venus to Skanfrom, Stano to Frederik Schikowski and The Kitchen Cynics.
Pfluger's sorely unsung, naïf pop recordings - loved and cited as an influence by everyone from Felix Kubin to Yello’s Dieter Meier and astronaut Hans-Joachim Roloff are introduced here with a kind of primer for newbs, packing sterling, previously unreleased examples of his endearingly oddball, near-mythical NDW style, perfectly distilling the oneiric appeal of the lo-fi imaginary universe he inhabits.
Since the early ‘80s he’s dished out dozens of releases spanning records to films and illustrations, mostly on his label, Das Moniflabel, but thanks to his German language lyrics, Pfluger’s music has been largely reserved to German speakers who perhaps best pick up on the subtleties of his wit and pathos. However, the sharply melodic instrumentals and vocal delivery are so timelessly enigmatic, that his music is surely ripe for wider appreciation by new ears.
The spirit of early ‘80s DIY craft is integral to the charm of Die Welttraumforscher music, imbuing his fanciful arrangements with a kitchen sink quality so prevalent in UK post-punk at the time. Daily life, or “coffee, cake, and comets” as he pithily puts it, provides the impetus behind each vignette-like song; channelling the eccentricities of waking life via guitar, synth, drum machine and tapes into discretely self-contained songs that sound as though they were recalled from a dream while still rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. As far as introductions go, one could hardly ask for a more carefully assembled, immersive entry point to this secretive, fantastical microcosm.