The second volume of Kevin Martin's 'Frequencies for Leaving Earth’ series is a 10 track / 50 minute ascent into airless frequencies written for mellotron and sub bass and making repeated use of Shepard tones for an elevated sense of weightlessness and disorientation. The Tarkovsky references are even more apt for this one, highly recommended for Solaris/Stalker freaks as well as anyone into the music of Iancu Dumitrescu, Ligeti or Harry Bertoia’s sculptural Sonambience.
Martin’s credentials go far beyond his best known work as The Bug, his discography extends deep into myriad projects and collaborations that date as far back as the late 80’s, he’s been a player, a writer, a compiler and a vocal enthusiast for a vast array of genres and underground movements for as long as we can remember, and his intersection with what’s now lazily termed ‘Ambient’ dates at least as far as his work with Experimental Audio Research, on the mighty (and still, somehow, little known) 'The Köner Experiment’ in 1997.
'Frequencies for Leaving Earth Vol 2’ follows the pulsing, slo-mo pacing of the first with a more petrified formation, rendered in monochromatic shades that are austere and discomforting. Martin references Techno Animal’s ‘Re-entry’ as a direct antecedent, as well as his full length ’Sirens’ which was released on Lawrence English Room40 label last year - both in the vein of ambient detachment Martin is fast becoming known for, although for our money you can easily imagine Roger Robinson’s instantly recognisable drawl riding over 'Escape Velocity’, making us think of King Midas Sound’s peerlessly creepy ‘Solitude’.
Sean Canty and Andy Votel explore new territory within the realms of broken music, mechanical composition, spoken-word and noise collage with the help of multi disciplinary artist and longtime cohort Rick Myers, feeding Pre-Cert's gothic ambience into more unnerving corridors. We’re very here for it.
Myers is Votel's longest running collaborator (and co-author of his very first releases in the mid-90’s) and alongside Sean Canty the trio find a genuine and naturalistic plain to create some of the collective's most bizarre and beautiful installations yet. Devised fast and loose via cassette overdubs between Manchester and Massachusetts, and further expanding the syncopated vocal work found in Myers' very limited "Obstacle #69: Sentences In A Magnetic Field" from 2019, the two longform pieces that make-up this release are narrated by Myers in a way that sounds like a forlorn John Cooper Clarke riding some abstracted, unheard and unfathomable b-cinematic sound design.
Inspiring an ongoing practice of automatic non-musical sound composition while drawing long term influences from lesser known sound-art projects, such as Milan Grygar's Acoustic Drawings in Prague or Hungarian sound poet Katalin Ladik, and Swiss-German mainstay Dieter Roth, this first soundset reduces the trios reactions with dense and elongated results, piloting this ongoing series under the name HUMAN ENGINEERING. This limited cassette release, housed in artwork based on Myers personal work, proceeds an upcoming vinyl project under the same name, while providing a welcome addition to each members catalogue via Pre-Cert, Popular Mechanics, Demdike Stare, Cacophonic and Rick's own printed work for Primary Information in America, Neives in Zurich and his own Northampton MA based Editions Muta forgery.
All out styles-upon-styles from Tom Boogizm, running 3hrs from Greek concrète to road rap, digi dub and shite that’s yet to be named, on the latest Shotta shot.
Meter-oblivious and mad in the head, ‘Devil on the Cross’ follows Boogizm’s rags around South African house, UK drill, and dancehall with a far more open agenda this time. Titled after his favourite book - by Kenyan writer Ngugi Wa’ Thiongo, who wrote it on toilet tish in prison and published when he got out - ‘Devil on the cross’ was recorded during the tribulations of lockdown to lay out a sprawling, polytonal and multi-metric mix mapping the breadth of Boogizm’s collection.
Expect to hear everything from serpentine drums to obscure ’80s Greek concrète, oblique grime, new age nose flutes, mystic synth dissonance and up-to-the-second rave bullets from each corner of the globe, all put together with punkish hyperactivity and attention to detail in-the-mix. Ya know what we’re on about if any of Tom’s previous tapes sit on your shelf.
Félicia Atkinson synchs her feelings into a watercolour suite of solo keys, voice and field recordings on her gorgeous recording for our Documenting Sound series, 40 minutes of new music that we wager will take your breath away.
Félicia was undertaking an artistic residency in La Becque when the plague took hold in Europe at the start of 2020. Stationed with her husband and young child in the small artistic community near Geneva, she wrote us this “imaginary garden” of music dedicated to anyone in pain or isolation. The result is a ponderous mix of slow but searching keys, windswept sax, room recordings (you can hear every creak of Félicia’s chair, her breath on the microphone, birds outside) and sensitively detached but intimate electronic touches that she intended to mirror the solace she came to find and provide a place for reflection for anyone in need. Hands up most of us, then?!
A defining feature of Félicia’s music is a sense of liminality - of existing between worlds - and this is quite apparent on ‘Echo’. Working from a wooden chalet surrounded by gardens, and particularly one inspired by Derek Jarman’s in Dungeness (created in the years after he learned he had AIDS), Félicia acts as a transducer for quiet energies and the worries of a world where, as she puts it; “basic things… suddenly seemed so crucial and vast; health, disease, plants, nature, solitude, family, people, fear, calm….”.
Across six pieces spanning almost 40 minutes, Félicia describes a slow but fleeting passage of time between pruned pieces of sound poetry, uncanny concrete abstractions and broader parts of ambient jazz that recall the vulnerability and fragility of Terre Thaemlitz’s solo piano expressions with her own sort of tactility and blurry ambiguity, especially the 13 minute ‘Lillies’.
It’s a proper salve for the soul, we tell ya, a beautiful distraction from the incessant oddness out there
Almost an hour of heart-stopping location recordings made by Lawrence English in Queensland, Australia in the aftermath of a summer of intense bushfires and just as the lockdown started to re-shape lives globally earlier this year. These are technically brilliant and emotionally pregnant recordings from “The Zone”, a place we find ourselves in right now, where we just might still have time to reshape the world around us if we pause to acknowledge and address our own actions.
“Sometimes, we need to stop (everything) if we are going to start to realise new ways of being in this world. Field Recordings from The Zone is a contemplation of this proposition. The title is a nod to the speculative fiction of Arkady and Boris Strugatsky; their text a perfect parallel to appreciate the uncertainties of what may lie ahead. It is also a study of the world in these moments of radical public action. The work seeks to recognise that to take our acquired methodologies, knowledge and habituated lives forward without examination reduces the possible futures that splinter infinitely before us.
We are already in The Zone even if we refuse (or fail) to recognise it. It is a place that bares marks of familiarity but maintains a restless psychogeography that can shift without warning. Ecopolitical terraforming becomes ever more plausible. The unknown (and in some cases the unknowable) haunt this place like ecstatic spectres, inviting our investigation, our curiosity and ultimately demanding our intellect. These months have been just a glimpse of the relentless dynamism that will be our lives going forward into the next millennium. This dynamism requires radical positions of thought, of generosity, of optimism and of course, radical listening, as the world’s whispers rise in amplitude.
P.S. (June 2020) And then, it was from this quiet that so many voices rose up in unison, calling together to work against systematic racism in our respective countries. If ever a sound could be as beautifully compelling as the quiet, then surely this harmonised unity is it."
Lawrence English, 2020
Kevin Martin mints his new Intercranial Recordings label with the first volume in the 'Frequencies for Leaving Earth' trilogy, now available on a limited tape run after first appearing on download formats earlier this summer. These are ice cold and precise exercises in minimalism, adapting the tempo and aesthetic of doom metal but with an electronic palette that’s both tripped-out and isolated, highly recommended if yr into Tarkovsky, Thomas Köner, Tod Dockstader, GAS.
Martin’s credentials go far beyond his best known work as The Bug, his discography extends deep into myriad projects and collaborations that date as far back as the late 80’s, he’s been a player, a writer, a compiler and a vocal enthusiast for a vast array of genres and underground movements for as long as we can remember, and his intersection with what’s now lazily termed ‘Ambient’ dates at least as far as his work with Experimental Audio Research, on the mighty (and still, somehow, little known) 'The Köner Experiment’ in 1997.
'Frequencies for Leaving Earth Vol 1’ pursues the kind of minimalism that we find most rewarding; there are no new age tropes or environmental recordings anywhere to be seen - instead it’s all cold tones and pulsing subs worthy of the Eduard Artemyev comparisons. Martin describes these pieces as sounding like "extremely slo-mo jazz” which is astute - the pace and progression here could almost be Bohren & der Club of Gore stripped of brass and rhythm, just leaving a drone, strobes and smoke - exactly our kinda scene.
It’s a proper madness this one, a fantasy travelogue stitching home recordings, spoken word and dismantled tunes like some hallucinogenic mixtape; part audio diary, part YouTube session taking in fairytale folk musics, iMessage notifications and gothic horror that will make you question... stuff. It's the sound of Mark Leckey at home on May 19th 2020, and it’s f#cking ace. He’s a Turner prize winner tho, what did u expect?
So yeah. probably best to approach this one cold. Except for maybe this:
"In the Age before These Times I’d been reading lots of folklore about Fairies, and Changelings and the like. At the same time I’d watch all these shows with my young daughter which revolved around magic and myth: enchanted realms, unicorns, mermaids, trolls etc. That I could instantaneously conjure up these shows on various devices made them appear even more magical. In my head these two worlds began to converge; the contemporary magic of consumerism, embodied within a rainbow unicorn, and an older mindset that could transact between the mundane and the supernatural. When the lockdown began this sense of the modern and medieval co-existing grew and grew, along with the belief that all the streaming services served as a protective magic from the encroaching dark age.
Come the pestilence I had the kids, online magic and a hard drive full of stuff I’d collected for O Magic Power of Bleakness, things that I wanted to emulate, that sonically suggested the sensations I was looking for, sounds and music that evoked Childhood and Consumerism, Fairies and Trauma, Hauntings and Concrete. More than these concepts though what I really I wanted was it to sound like someone totally lost and confused with the ongoing mystification of reality. An actuality where a Great Worm could reasonably appear on my news feed app as the Moon turns to Iron.
We draw the magic cap down over eyes and ears as a make-believe there are no monsters. KARL MARX"
Mark Leckey, May 2020
Absorbingly intriguing album of avant-electronics, from pop to computer music - really strong Mondoj this one.
“more eaze is the nom de plume of Austin, TX mainstay mari maurice, a roving experimentalist who’s explored an astoundingly diverse range of sounds, from drone and computer music to avant-pop and beyond. claire rousay is a San Antonio, TX-based percussionist/composer/sound artist who uses physical objects and their potential sounds as a way to explore queerness, human physicality, and self perception. Together—through a suite of deeply personal aural collages—two of Texas’ most vital and vibrant sonic searchers beg the eternal question: If I Don't Let Myself Be Happy Now Then When?
Although only their debut album together, If I Don’t Let Myself… reveals a profound and fruitful relationship between mari and claire. But the symphonic symbiosis goes even deeper still. Outside of musical breakthroughs, the pair helped each other conquer intensely personal changes, with both mari and claire transitioning and coming out as trans.
As mari explains, “to me this record is very much about this process of becoming—trying to reach something and getting there but sometimes not being quite where you want to be but at least getting closer. It’s about feeling alternately empowered and insecure socially as you transition and trying to cope with these conflicting emotions.”
Musically, the album showcases startlingly sincere sets of serrated but sedative situational music. A-side epic “Drunk” is a sprawling but taut rove of aural duality. Passages of exquisite elegance subtly clash with shimmering shards of sound. “Pre-op” is a poised and pensive piece of solemn reflection, harrowingly honest and delivered with clarity and composure, while “Post-op” closes out the set in a wholly uplifting and optimistic flair.
If I Don't Let Myself Be Happy Now Then When? is ultimately about coping during the respective transitioning phase in both of their lives, obliquely blissful and fraught with freedom.”
Utterly absorbing new tape from Berlin’s Perila (aka artist, DJ, and radio.syg.ma co-founder Sasha Zakharenko) for LA’s Motion Ward, following the psychosexual intimacy of her exceptional 2019 debut for sferic and a cassette with TTT.
Lodging alongside uon and Brown Irvin on the Cali imprint, ‘Rust 22’ imparts its message by atmospheric inference rather than the more literal grip evoked by Nat Marcus and Inger Wold Lund’s vocals in Perila’s previous side, ‘Irer Dent’, which was surely among the most memorable of 2019. Save for some extra subtle, glossolalic murmurs, the session focusses on the Berlin-based Russian artist’s gift for conjuring a sense of ambient modernism that’s clearly steeped in classic vibes, yet doesn’t feel beholden to them, and neatly identifies her music amid a growing and boundary-shifting new field of atmospheric music operators.
The tape presents a 21 minute blissed smudge backed with a trio of studio cuts that share a feel a similar feel for sylvan synth strokes and hallucinogenic depth perception. That long cut is a reel beauty, conducting a subliminal transition from blue, subaquatic tones to shimmering chimes and a siltier sort of submariner’s melancholy, before concluding with an optimistic flourish in ‘Ripple22’. Her other three cuts, meanwhile, seep out of the edges to occupy a fuller soundfield, beautifully massaging tranquil new age influences with a more uncertain, underlying, textural anxiety in ‘Transient’, while ‘Distant’ sounds as though she’s turned location recordings of a metalworks into soft focus lushness, and the bass rhythms of ‘Perpetual’ move ever forward with a physics-defying dreaminess that’s hard to describe but a total pleasure to undergo.
We hardly need to emphasise it but this one’s a doozy.
Genius dembow rhythm science from DJ Python on his 2nd album for Anthony Naples’ and Jenny Slattery’s Incienso. Total mind-melter this one, easily Python’s best material since his 'Dulce Compañia’ debut - we can tell you now we’re gonna be banging on about this record all fucking year.
Following from the reticulated deep house-paced reggaeton hybrids of that acclaimed 2017 debut, the new side by Brian Piñeyro ‘Mas Amable’ takes a rambling, sidewinding trip exploring slippery, mutable 90/180bpm metrics with a serpentine guile that surely lives up to his moniker. Imagine Beatrice Dillon jamming with Gescom and Kelman Duran, and you’ve nearly got a grasp on this incredibly constructed album.
Across 50 minutes of seamlessly arranged transitions from lush field recordings to hip-gripping dembow permutations and semi-conscious and tripped-out vocals, Python dangles the dance by a fine conceptual thread that ties the constant rhythmic chronics to their subtly shifting tonal/textural variables. Call it ambient-jugle-dancehall, avant-dembow, deep reggaeton, whatever; it’s just an incredible record for lovers of rhythm and sound of all stripes. Starting up with five minutes of rustling, shoreside ambience in ‘Te Conocí’, the album elegantly and rudely shifts its weight between seven mutations of dembow’s tressilo drum pattern and junglist markers, toggling the pressure gauge from gently propulsive sway in ‘Pia’ to tighter, darker steppers type in ‘Alejandro’ and wavey whistling melodies in ‘oooophi’, before technoid neuro D&B stabs light up ‘Descales’ and it all fades out in the narcotically effective downstroke and tripped vox of ‘ADMSDP’, and slunks into the deep blue reggaeton electronica of ‘Juntos’ and ‘mmmm’.
Cast somewhere between the horizontal and vertical, and thus primed for dancehall or late night satisfaction, whatever angle it’s approached from, ‘Mas Amables’ is a unique and richly immersive experience that will surely rank among the definitive records of the year.
Yeah, we’re feeling this one.
Talk about cashing in eh? lol. Death Is Not The End celebrate our impending apocalypse in style with this properly life-affirming collection of 1930s to ’50s Greek Rebetika. Life-affirming cos it speaks to the daily trials and tribulations and heartache that are more or less on pause right now - so we’re living vicariously through it, and it’s making everything seem normal for a minute. Anyway, proper boss this one.
Greek Rebetika is an often dark, melancholy style of folk/pop music that spread from the docks of Athens to a Greek diaspora across the world in the early 20th century. As the label correctly classify, these “songs of sorrow, poverty, loss and general end of this god forsaken planet” still resonate nearly a 100 years later due to their relative simplicity, which has future proofed their melodies and unmistakeable feel for generations to come.
The famous Markos Vamvakaris appears on this set with the sarkily jolly but exasperated sound of ‘Those Who Are Rich’, and Stelios Kazantzidis contributes two highlights with the lamenting cadence of ‘Bleed Bleed’ and ‘The Leaves Fall From Branches’, while we’re also rapt with the pipes of Yiota Lydia’s ‘Badworld’, the coy strings of ‘I Want to Enjoy the World’ by Elli Sofroniou, and the ventricle-jangling riffs of ‘I Ached in My Heart’ by Marika Ninou.
Absolutely fire showcase of St. Lucia’s Kuduro Soca or “Dennery Segment” sound, a local style notorious for slack lyrics and its hi-NRG pace, here served up spicy as fuck by one of the Caribbean island’s premiere DJs for Uganda’s Nyege Nyege Tapes.
Packing pure heat from the town of Dennery in St. Lucia’s Mabouya Valley, DJ Chengz’ mixtape extends an unmissable introduction to Dennery Segment, a fast and grimy offshoot of the Angola “Hard ass” style of Kuduro that’s been banned in the region for its blend of salacious lyrics and rave-inciting rhythms. Also incorporating strong influence from Zouk and Lucian drums, Dennery Segment is a super strong example of punkishly road level party music from the Afro-Caribbean diaspora that highlights the pronounced, technoid Portuguese accent dominating global dancefloor dialogues right now.
Catching 67’ of rudely stripped down drum loops and hooks locked with MCs chatting sexually charged filth in Kwéyòl (Saint Lucian Creole), the mix arguably recalls the energy of Carnival as much as the grime and Soca that went into UKF, and bristles with the electric rawness of early Marfox and classic Príncipe. But the defining feature is really the raunchy lyrical content, working in a long tradition of XXX-rated Soca styles but with a bang up-to-the-second sense of economy and directness touching on everything from alcohol problems to “Sex like spaghetti”, and galvanised by the jabbing, gruffly rhythmelodic urgency of the productions.
Little known beyond the region, perhaps aside from diaspora carnivals in US and EU, the infectious percolations of Dennery Segment are bound to incite fervent reactions with all discerning dancers and listeners who love it as rugged and rawly stylish as it comes. DJ Chengz’ expertly selected and blended mixtape is the ideal entry point to Kuduro’s latest mutation for anyone with hips and ears attuned to thrilling new music from the tropics.
Following the remarkable gothic pop excavations of her recent ‘Birthmarks’ album, Hilary Woods provides the 7th instalment in our Documenting Sound series, recorded in County Galway earlier this year and conjuring a claustrophobic and fractious fever-dream somewhere between suffocating Lynchian interior and Deathprod’s astral/metaphysical gateway.
Woods’ backstory is by now well known, she was the bassist for JJ72 while still a teenager, left the band in 2003 to study film and literature and eventually returned to music solo, culminating in that incredible ‘Birthmarks’ album earlier this year, co-produced with Lasse Marhaug and for our money one of the most brutally beautiful albums we’ve heard in a long time.
The three pieces on this tape were made in the weeks just after that album was released - right at the cusp of lockdown - and reveal an artist coming to grips with the minutiae of everyday existence. Quiet field recordings are drowned out by anxious drones; immense, shuddering bass rumbles approach on the horizon, a vision of bowed strings circles above like a swarm of insects you can’t see - intensifying and curdling until there’s a complete loss of vision, all that’s left is quiet dread.
On the closing piece, the gaze turn inwards. The incessant mechanism of a polaroid camera provides spatial fuckery. Hilary’s voice is there for the first time as well, but it's only right at the end - in the closing moments - that she lets you hear what she has to say.
New on Shelter Press; endless* piano and tape loop variations by Australian composer and multi-disciplinary artist, Lisa Lerkenfeldt; "An unfolding fantasy through the field of time.” (*not literally endless, like, 40 mins).
We know, we know, "ambient" piano music has been lacking gas since long before Spotify-sponsored neo-bourgeois chill-out terror cells got anywhere near The BBC Proms, but hear us out. Influenced by key-gaze OG and prominent Cocteau Twins collaborator Harold Budd, Aussie composer Lisa Lerkenfeldt offers here an ivory hued fever dream - an endless piano and tape loop variation for isolated states.
"A Liquor Of Daisies" was written for three pianos, suggested as a proposal for "multiple players and machines" and dedicated to a plant: Melbourne's Xerochrysum Viscosum, the everlasting daisy. And while not much happens in almost forty minutes, it offers a much-needed glacial foil to the rapid-fire news cycle and infinite doomscroll. Slow, saturated piano tones gently toss and turn, marinating in their own hazy reverb trails. The duration and repetition pinpoints a feeling of anti-social distance and of reflection and meditation as the world contorts itself around us. Radical softness? Sure. Fans of Akira Rabelais' frosty "Eisoptrophobia" should investigate immediately.
Kevin Drumm takes us to the precipice of loss and melancholy on this stark 8th instalment in our Documenting Sound series. Fuelled by feelings of saudade and isolation, Drumm takes the concept of field recordings to a different place; asking someone else to record their life - so that he can re-construct.
On one side: Drumm recording at home, on his own. ‘Double the room’, because there should be someone there with him, a close family member. It’s a field recording of that space; processed, alien, isolated, like trying to tune a shortwave radio - there is life somewhere, but too much interference to find it.
On the other: 'The Better Space’, the place where that family member is, somewhere Drumm can’t be. Here, he’s asked them to make a recording for him, so he can take part in it for a moment. There is more colour and warmth, fragility - but viewed from afar. A sound like a cymbal offers metre, a measure of time, fleeting and endless. Right at the end, a weight is lifted. Strings waft from a distance, tiny movements, breathing, no words.
Multidisciplinary NYC artist Gavilán Rayna Russom launches her own label Voluminous Arts, dedicated to highlight electronic and experimental artists whose work challenges fixed categories of genre and categorization.
"Her aim is to create a platform for multidisciplinary work and events. The inaugural release being her second solo album as Gavilán Rayna Russom 'Secret Passage', following up last years 'The Envoy, an homage to the East Side Rail Tunnel in Providence, Rhode Island, and the friendships she made there."
Kelman Duran gives up the sixth volume in our Documenting Sound series with half an hour of spectral, humid and downbeat dembow, recorded in Peckham last month and hugely recommended if yr into DJ Python’s epic Mas Amable album, Florentino, Burial.
Infused with the same enigmatic elements that have permeated even the most uptempo cuts on his two excellent albums 1804 KIDS and 13th Month, the 9 tracks here flow from his by-now trademarked style of bumping and morose world-building; danceable cuts lost in contemplation, high on atmospherics but still swinging.
The fast production style suits him; these tracks are shorter and less wrought then pretty much anything you’ll find on his last album; where edits so often function as optimisations for the dance, here - for obvious reasons - they take on a more ghostly and solitary quality.
It all comes to a head on the closing edit of ‘die here’ - surely the most doe-eyed, sticky and beautiful thing in all his catalogue.
Composed, performed & mixed by Heather Leigh "at home with the window open” in Glasgow, the fifth release in our Documenting Sound series is a shocking half hour of music; a 13 track opus that is, by any measure, nothing short of a modernist folk masterpiece. Recorded quickly and instinctively in April this year and described by David Keenan as sounding like "a cross between Meredith Monk, DOME and A Guy Called Gerald", it continues to reveal new dimensions with every listen.
Heather Leigh is a musical polymath in the truest sense of the word; primarily known as an influential practitioner of pedal steel guitar, her work is impossible to pigeonhole - all-over-the-place in the best way, from collaborations with Peter Brötzmann and Shackleton to a properly mind-bending duo of albums for Stephen O’Malley’s Ideologic Organ and Editions Mego - hers is a sound that’s both highly sensual and aesthetically aggressive, beautiful and fearless, always exploratory.
Played on pedal steel guitar, synthesiser and cuatro, and featuring Heather Leigh’s voice throughout, the songs here capture a sense of physical longing wrapped up in a boundless creative energy. What started out as hours of diaristic recordings quickly became honed and crafted into powerful and highly memorable songs - vast in scope and depth of feeling. It’s hard to fathom that these 13 songs were made on the hoof, they capture that most elusive of artistic qualities - a compulsion to evolve.
Working on this series has been a real eye-opener for us, a thought experiment turned real - what happens when an established artist is asked to produce material quickly and without much pre-planning or afterthought? The answer, so often, has been an immense pleasure to behold. But this one, this one’s unreal.
A collection of Jamaican doo wop & R&B records taken from the late 50s and early 60s.
"These records represent a period in which soundsystems were just starting to dominate the island, with Duke Reid and Sir Coxsone stepping up their rivalry by beginning to make and release their own records rather than rely on US imports for use in their dances.
Many of these records are definitely more-or-less imitations of the American records, as the uniquely Jamaican ska sound was yet to take hold - however many of the future stars of ska, rocksteady and reggae were beginning to cut their teeth in the industry on these records, incl. Jimmy Cliff, Derrick Harriott, Alton Ellis and more, and they provide a unique view into the fledgling independent record industry culture in Jamaica that would prove to be unbelievably proflific and unparalleled for an island of it's size."
Andy Votel, Sean Canty and Doug Shipton re-convene for a fourth Popular Mechanics volume, once again reaching into the deepest recesses of the Demdike x Finders Keepers x Dead-Cert hive mind for a completely engrossing, lights-down session.
Volume 4 is perhaps the most unsettling and uncanny in the series so far, mirroring the latter stages of The Caretaker’s 'Everywhere At The End Of Time’ series with what sounds like a trace echo of disembodied choral voices floating in and out of field recordings and found sounds coalescing in ghostly formation.
As per usual, we’re not gonna attempt to guess any of the included material, except to say that to us it sounds like deepest drone, concrète and sound art deployed at an almost imperceptible BPM, with diffused obscurities merging into foley, industrial and phantasmagoric atmospheres and the kind of multi-layered chicanery this lot have become so effortlessly good at piecing together.
This is music far-removed from the eerie shenanigans you’d associate with Italian Library records, instead we’re in ice-cold isolationist mode, a sound more inline with Thomas Köner or Iancu Dumitrescu then Egisto Macchi or Alessandro Alessandroni, which - all things considered - is precisely where we wanna be right now.
Original badboy DJ Tom Boogizm turns out a silky smooth and hypnotic mix of South African Kwaito - the slicker precedent to Gqom - as the 4th mix on his unmissable Shotta Tapes series.
’Sgbengu inombolo yokuqala’ translates from Zulu as ’Number one thug’, a nickname bestowed upon Tom by crowds in the townships he toured over a pair of three-week stints during 2015-2016, where he established a mean local reputation for his DJing and smoking skills, and where all the tunes in this killer mix come from. His skills and selections surely passed muster with the demanding crowds in Soweto’s Rockerfella club, where he endured a baptism by fire, playing on 1210’s with the pitch locked off at +4, but managed to hold it down and earn the enviable nickname and pick up the slow style of dancefloor pressure caught on this tape.
For the Kwaito layman or anyone who wasn’t listening when it broke thru into UK circles around 10 years ago thanks to Night Slugs et al, Kwaito is the slow (usually around 110bpm) deep house-compatible bridge between SA’s ‘80s bubblegum flavours and current Gqom styles. It’s still massively popular in the shebeens, yard parties and after-hours spots of SA townships such as Mafeking where Tom also played, driving between townships on long car journeys soaking up the local radio and swerving the tourist experience to properly immerse in the local culture.
More recently Kwaito has been highlighted in reissues from the likes of the Afro-synth label and comps on Strut, but you can trust that Tom cuts layers deeper into tunes rarely heard beyond the borders of the Southern hemisphere’s most populous country. You’ll have to shake him down for a tracklist, but if you copped any of the previous Shotta Tapes you’ll well know this one is practically essential, too.
Sleep and weep, peops!
ZULI heat-synchs us into the sound of Cairo as spring transitioned into summer 2020 with a killer, fractious mesh of field recordings, queasily compressed electronics and frayed rhythms taped and edited for our ongoing Documenting Sound series.
Collaged from original music and incidental sound, ‘One’ vacillates bursts of rugged drums with pangs of melodic intimacy and the humid cacophony of everyday Cairo. It extends an immersive invitation to Zuli’s soundworld with results that steer the styles of his widely acclaimed ‘Terminal’ album in and out of the box, framing a unique, between-the-scenes perspective on 2020’s shared experience.
The two long, improvised pieces transport listeners into Ghazoly’s noisy flat / home studio in two subtly differing ways. On the first side ‘Alo?’ rasping junglist and syrup riddms unfurl alongside heatsick ambient sonics and slivers of outside sounds - dogs yapping, street chatter, an after-hours party at the orphanage across the road - and a recording of the artist calling into a Covid19 helpline on a shitty internet connection.
The B-side is a room recording, candidly capturing the artist at home with the windows open, programming fractious percussive shards and filtered electronics against the ever present environment of the world around him. It’s evocative and inspiring work, lending credence to the notion that sometimes recording on the hoof, tapping into quick instinct - and without too much afterthought - can bring out intangible qualities in the most interesting artists.
“Both sides are collages of original music, field recordings and improvised, single-take jam sessions with field samples of everyday Cairo-cacophony under curfew. For side B I placed a field recorder by the window of my studio while jamming so that the music and street sounds were recorded simultaneously. The music on this side isn’t entirely in the spotlight, but rather part of the environment.” ZULI, May 2020
Stunning introspection session from the enigmatic DJ Fusiller aka Jo Tanz, fresh for Low Jack’s impeccable Gravats imprint and a perfect showcase of the label’s wide arc of interests and influences. It reminds us of those classic Les Disques du Crépuscule comps, where you’d find Wim Mertens sitting uneasily next to The Durutti Column, Arthur Russell, Niblock and Eno, except here focussed entirely on music made in France, brilliantly opening up a gateway to unknown pleasures.
Tanz is an intriguing figure in the current French noise scene, running mega cult DIY label Tanzprocesz, as well as working with Ghédalia Tazartès and Èlg in the Reines D’angleterre trio. For 'Sacrilège Vénération Vol.1’ he assembles what he describes as "music for blurry emotions” using a bevvy of techniques he lists as “arbitrary overlays, lazer beams, failed somersaults, cheeky cuts, hectoliters of red wine and freewheel tributes”.
The result is, somehow, one of the best mixtapes we’ve heard in f*cking time, weaving a tapestry of intimate but aggressive sounds taking in everything from chanson to bursts of noise, ice cold drones and fizzing crackles, morose piano and shoegaze bullets, all following a unique and fuzzy logic you’ll want to untangle over repeat listens - trust us.
It’s one of those mixtapes that not only makes you obsess over finding every piece of music included, but also ignites a thirst for discovery - we ain't talking algorithmic nonsense here - but you know, spending time researching/looking for that one record, diving thru wormholes, ending up somewhere you didn’t quite expect.
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.
Parisian label Collapsing Market follow Nkisi’s deadly 'Destruction of Power’ tape with a new one from Finland’s Emma DJ, a fusion of bone-dry drum machine spasms and greyscale soundscaping perfectly in line with Finland’s brutalist lineage and a big one if yr into classic Bunker, Unit Moebius, Nkisi, Traxx, Ron Morelli, BFDM, Teams Shadetek + Doyobi, Autechre's Radio Mix...
Emma DJ is a Paris-based Finnish producer, founder of the city's Fusion mes Couilles club night with appearances on Brice Coudert’ Lavibe imprint, Ron Morelli’s L.I.E.S. and now Collapsing Market. Interestingly, the included postcard features an original photograph by Seana Gavin (taken at the Exodus rave, Luton, in 1999), a London based artist who’s been documenting the Spiral Tribe parties from 1993 until 2003, spending long periods of time travelling in friends’ mobile homes in convoy with the sound systems, attending raves and parties in France, Spain, Holland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary.
Spiral Tribe's connection to the music here is sort of tangential, Emma DJ deploys most of his productions at 100bpm on a squashed/industrial tip with a sound that can be traced back to Geins't Naït's late 80’s/early 90’s curveballs and straight through to the roughshod Parisian aesthetic typified by L.I.E.S. and Low Jack’s Editions Gravats crew.
We reckon it’ll be up yr rue if yr into Gescom or the whole Bunker/Traxx axis…Tipped!
One of the most striking releases of the last couple of years, ‘Kwaidan’ is a spellbindingly curious study in the “lost" art of Japanese ghost story-telling and horror folklore, marking the sublime first release on Singapore’s bijou Evening Chants imprint. It's now finally available on vinyl for the first time.
Inspired by living in Kyoto for the past two years, ‘Kwaidan’ - a form of Japanese ghost story - is focussed on musically crafting a form of “Japanese Mood”, or Meitei. Taking this word as his moniker, Meitei becomes his subject in a pointed effort to revive or at least keep this artform alive, using a combination of frayed, enigmatic backdrops to tactfully limn a specific mood.
The delicate approach and febrile, shapeshifting results recall to our ears the subtly suggestive sound sets of Sugai Ken as much as Jan Jelinek at his dreamiest, conjuring winding passages of crackle and shimmering subaquatic chords, finding beauty lurking in the low key and peripheral, spectral and metaphysical realms.
Two years in the making, Ahwar (Arabic for marshlands) is an otherworldly record, not unlike an abstract mythological story-tale.
"Opening with the mangled and filtered vocals of the album's lead track Afqid Adh-Dhakira (I Lose Memory) like an alien dream, the drones of a bowed double bass lead us into a drum groove that lays the groundwork for El Shazly's sultry and captivating presence, singing: "(I am) coming, from a time far away. Going, escaping. Alone in the wilderness".The Arabic prose lingers over interjections of slap-back delayed guitar twangs and an avant-garde arrangement of dissonant winds, horns and seemingly random drum fills, ending with an eerie soundscape that wouldn't feel out of place in a Giallo classic.
A daring and potent statement that sets the foundations over which the rest of the album can unravel. Composed, written and produced by El Shazly herself in collaboration with The Dwarfs of East Agouza's Maurice Louca and Sam Shalabi on co-composition and arrangement duties, the album was crafted across two continents, between Canada and Egypt, and features the crème of Montreal's contemporary-classical and improvised music scene, most of whom aremembers of Shalabi's own Land of Kush ensemble. In between El Shazly's five original tracks, we are treated to an abstract coverversion of Sayyid Darwish's classic Ana 'Ishiqt (I Once Loved). El Shazly's haunting vocal floats over broken Kalimba and Harp arpeggios which slowly intertwine with a free, bowed double bass improv to nestle within the breaks between Younes Al-Qadhi's early 20th century verses of love and betrayal.
More than that, it is difficult to really describe, but imagine the worlds of Nico, Björk and Annette Peacock with the Arabic language as their mother tongue, re-approached through acoustic avant-jazz harmony and re-constructed with a dash of Kamilya Jubran's modern styling of Arabic maqam and you may be somewhere close. Recorded and delicately mixed through miles of analogue cabling by Thierry Amar at Hotel2Tango and mastered by Harris Newman at Grey Market Mastering in Montreal, the album is adorned with the surrealist artwork of Egyptian artist Marwan El-Gamal and designed with custom typography by Egyptian designer Valerie Arif . All editions come with dual-language booklets featuring the lyrics in Arabic with English translation by Nariman Youssef."
Breakcore survivor Istari Lasterfahrer follows Christoph de Babalon’s lead onto Hamburg’s V I S imprint with a 60 minute production mix of spring heeled yardcore and dub noise experiments, yassss.
Celebrating 20 years of his productions via his Sozialistischer Plattenbau label and many others, Hamburg’s Istari Lasterfahrer has pushed a punkish take on jungle that lands squarely in the breakcore bracket of madness. Like his now label-mate Christoph de Babalon, Lasterfahrer was part of the original c8.com posse of underground labels in the late ‘90s/early ‘00s, with a sound that erred towards the more playful ends of DJ Scud and indeed De Babalon, essentially dicing with elements of early jungle but in a noisier and snottier squat party style, as heard on this tape with added emphasis on the noise and freaky experimentation.
This stuff delivers a nostalgic cosh to the frontal cortex, catapulting us back to a strange run of time when it was hard to find proper old skool jungle and hardcore (as opposed to ubiquitous 2-step D&B) and producers such as Lasterfahrer stepped in to plug a gap in the market and give us something nutty to dance to. Across this 60 minute tape he cycles thru all the pranging amens, gabbercore onslaughts and rave madness you could hope for, but persistently breaking up the rufige with mercurial detours into dungeon synth, radiophonic electronics and sampled cartoon/movie dialogue to keep ravers right on their toes.
Nyege Nyege Tapes boss Arlen Dilsizian aka Moroto Hvy Indstr supplies a jaw-dropping mix of field recordings made in Sub Saharan Africa between 1949-1977 on NPLGNN’s cherry-picking MBE Series, astutely highlighting parallels between little-heard African musics and ancient art and their echoes in the European avant-garde over the same period.
Truly a music nerd’s wet dream, MBE 004 comprises field recordings recorded between 1949 and 1977 in Sub Saharan Africa and compiled by Moroto Hvy Indstr, whose influential and world-class label Nyege Nyege Tapes has practically revolutionised perceptions of modern African music - particularly from East, central and South Africa - to a global audience over the past half decade. The tape gives some vital background to the selector and label’s interests in African music, combining his studies and trade as Anthropologist-cum-label owner with his passion for beguiling and radical music to present a thrilling, educational mix that arguably proves the Western music world’s shocking and perhaps unpardonable lack of knowledge of these prescient and naturally radical works, and that sprawling part of the world in general.
Racking up 40 tracks from (deep breath) - Congo DRC/ Congo Brazzaville/ Nigeria/ Niger/ Ethiopia/ Gabon/ Cameroon/ Malawi/ Namibia/ Tanzania/ Central African Republic/ Togo/ Guinea/ Ivory Coast/ Rwanda/ Liberia/ Angola/ Madagascar/ Togo/ Sudan/ Ghana / South Africa and Uganda - your man lets most tracks play out in their entirety, with only dabs of reverb and echo in transitions, and most crucially never looping it up - acutely highlighting how these styles do repetition that’s always different but ever the same in a way that’s become a holy grail for so, so much European avant garde and experimental electronic music, but which doesn’t acknowledge it nearly enough.
In Moroto Hvy Indstr’s own words “This mix tries to explore similar territory from a different angle. I have tried to select field recordings that puts 'traditional' or 'classical' music from Sub Saharan Africa in direct conversation with modern avant-garde compositions of the same era, especially 1950's - 1970's electronic compositions, anything from Jocy De Oliveira, John Cage, Gruppo D'Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza, Steve Reich etc.” and we can only affirm he does it incredibly well.
Do not sleep on this!!!
Visionary house composer Jamal Moss records almost an hour of new, rawly expressive jakbeat psychedelia made at home in Chicago over the last few weeks for our series of recordings documenting sound at this moment in time.
After Sarah Davachi’s first instalment, ‘The Future Shock Chronicles Vol 1’ sees Jamal Moss charting the effects of what Alvin Toffler’s classic sci-fi tome ‘Future Shock’ defined as "too much change in too short a period of time”. Working live and direct in his patented style of encrypted rhythmelody, Jamal intuitively improvises 8 pieces that express a timeless sense of melancholy and elusive optimism thru modern technology, drawing on a cosmically thoughtful spirit that links back to Sun Ra via Ron Hardy and Chris & Cosey.
The mood drifts from panicked and perplexed electro-jazz in ‘Future Shocked’, to exasperated, ominous in ‘2 Much Change In a 2 Short Period of Time’ with thanks to Jamal’s wickedly jazz-wise grasp of emotive ambiguity. Weaving his arps and drum patterns with a practically peerless fluidity, he oscillates a gnawing sense of industrial dread with glistening, hyper jazz notes in ‘Power Shift Engagements’ and ‘2 Psychological State of Entire Societies’, while ‘Informational Overload’ feels to emulate the queasiness of near-addiction to 24 hour news streams in its decayed electro pulse and needling arps, and the grotty acid slap of ‘Social Paralysis’ seems like a grimly rictus daily workout with cold warehouse reverb readied for your lockdown cell raving.
You can trust Jamal Moss is always a lightning rod for the heaviest energies and his take on the world’s current state of disequilibrium is as charged and vital as you should well imagine. Hail to the Sun God and his eternally life-affirming music over any of the false idols and lunatic prophets out there right now.
Krikor throws down sawn-off dub, ruffneck techno and Raï-tek rhythms in the 3rd annual ‘J.O.N.E.S.Y.’ volume - a big RIYL DJ Scud, DJ/Rupture, Ossia, Muslimgauze, all linked by mutant industrial dub styles and a hazy, chronically red-eyed sense of paranoia.
Krikor once again spies a world of sonic influence thru the mosaic prism of the diverse cultural influences of his Parisian locale. A North African sound is felt strongly in the adrenalised chase sequence ‘A Sheep Among Wolves’ and the swingeing dancehall of fanfare of ‘Gasoline Ghoul’ in a way recalling DJ/Rupture and DJ Scud’s hardcore Raï-tek steppers, while the cranky industro-dub of ‘Death Walt’ recalls Bambounou and BZMC, and the tape’s title tune casts back to Muslimgauze’s earliest E.g. Oblique Graph and the deftest mixing-desk swagger of Ossia, while ’The Parallax View’ could almost be Andy Stott on a dancehall tip.
No messing about, this one’s heavy as f*ck.
Documenting Sound is a new series that will archive recordings made during these tumultuous months by an invited selection of artists from different disciplines and locations around the world. The series will hopefully provide a snapshot taken from the perspective of artists whose world we wanted to inhabit and then encapsulate in physical form for posterity. The only proviso was that the material should be recorded at home or its surroundings, without too much pre-planning or concern for convention. We encouraged artists to experiment with field recordings, found sounds, improvisation, spoken word, songwriting, collage - whatever felt appropriate and real. We were hoping we’d get to hear meaningful and unexpected work, but we also entertained the possibility that we'd get sent a lot of hastily recorded, throwaway hard-drive dumps. We couldn’t have predicted the creatively brilliant twists and turns that would unfold as the material started to come in though - the submissions have been properly inspiring. Over the next few weeks and months we’ll be sharing these highly personalised works of art with you, starting this week with the first instalment; recorded Spring 2020 in Los Angeles by Sarah Davachi.
In Sarah’s own words:
"I've been going through various stages of movement – some days I can't be motivated to do anything and other days I can spend long hours working on music and going deep into it. When I've been able to sit with making music, it's been incredibly meaningful and reconfiguring for me at this moment. I'm thankful to have the time in my studio, a room that is calm and quiet and feels quite distant from the outside world, and this cassette is essentially a reflection of that interiorized state of being.
The music on this cassette is a series of studies and sketches that extend the ideas of two different albums: one that is completed but yet to be released, and another that is in the process of development. The material here is mostly improvised and unedited. The A side is a collection of three acoustic studies for harpsichord, harmonium, and piano. My harpsichord has been my main instrument these past few weeks – I'm working on a record that will use a few different historical temperaments, and right now I've set it to a standard quarter-comma meantone, which is what you hear in this piece. These Renaissance tunings have such depth, a house of endless hallways, and it's been great solace to disappear into them temporarily.
The completed album I referred to is entirely composed of organ – different kinds, larger pipe organs and smaller reed organs and some electric organ – and lately I've really been enjoying the intimacy of smaller organs. I think that it's through this particular organ, a chaplain's foot-pumped harmonium which I acquired in 2014 and featured on Pale Bloom, that I've mostly developed my style of playing organ. My piano, an uncommon Mason & Hamlin model from 1886, is not something I record with often because it's about a half-step out of tune and in need of regulation. She's a special being, though, and in my normal daily routine I play her most mornings for an hour or so.
The B side is a collection of three electronic studies for Mellotron, electric organ, and synthesizer, all with tape echo. These are my chosen electronic instruments, and the ones through which I've always found the highest degrees of stillness and transformation. My Mellotron and my electric organ, a Korg CX-3, are especially frequent tools and the curiosities in those particular tones have kept me at rest over the years. I usually pair them together, but I decided here to go a bit solitary and spend time with each one alone. My synthesizers are like old friends, they were my first passion when I started collecting instruments, and this period of time has been a nice excuse to revisit some of them. Each one is unique, but my EMS Synthi AKS is the one I feel most closely connected to in terms of how it sounds and how it feels. My house in Los Angeles has some peculiarities, and I noticed while working with the Synthi that I was getting some radio interference – in order to bypass it, I had to turn the volume knobs up quite high. Some parameters on the Synthi tend to behave in an unusual manner when their knobs are pushed beyond around 7 or so, but I often like to incorporate that saturated quality so it worked out well."
Sarah Davachi / Los Angeles / Spring 2020
Beautifully serene and contemplative, ‘Landscape Architecture’ sees classical minimalists Christina Vantzou & John Also Bennett describe quizzical scenes on their follow-up to a sterling 2018 debut for Shelter Press, all recently mixed and self-released on the duo’s Editions Basilic imprint. RIYL Harry Partch, Félicia Atkinson, Jim O’Rourke, Luc Ferrari, Catherine Christer Hennix, Pan American.
Reprising the lucid dream-like dimensions of their debut ‘Thoughts Of A Dot As It Travels A Surface’, CV & JAB assuredly trace the finest line between etheric whimsy and a genuinely spellbinding sort of atmospheric mastery on their sophomore sequence. Fashioned from petalled classical and jazz keys blended with woodwind, richly enigmatic electronics and gently aleatoric intersections of street noise and bird song with water sounds, the album’s 10 parts and bonus track limn a drift through what they evocatively term as “remote thought gardens and conceptual collonades” with an elegantly sober and yet uncanny, deeply trippy effect.
Recorded over the course of three days during a residency in Brussels, Belgium during late 2018 and mixed at home in April 2020, the results are detailed with a sure-handed directness as ephemeral as spring light. They appear like a dream that lingers on the mind’s eye for the minutes after slumber, and which seeps into waking-life to create its own perpendicular sense of time and space. That effect has long been key to Christina Vantzou’s work, from solo to collaborations with The Dead Texan and Heinrich Mueller, and it’s now clear that JAB shares this gift for elegantly supposing and luring listeners into their ever-curious explorations of ambient classical metaphysics.
Deftly able to move in any direction, the duo recall the rapt effect of Félicia Atkinson’s poetic compositions in ‘Down a passageway’, while the brooding allure of ‘Phantom Tunnel’ remind us of the quizzical nature of Catherine Christer Hennix’s style, whereas the more explicitly electronic works such as ‘Pungent Lake’ and ‘The maître d’ is dead’ capture the sort of laminal ooze and woozy effect of Jim O’Rourke’s amazing 4CD set of 2019 in a more concentrated form.
Saturated in chaotic colour and pushing fugged-out and screwed neo-soul aesthetics to the Nth degree, ‘Embedded Content’ renders Demdike Stare at their most elusive and experimental, distilling edits made for their February 2020 Cafe Oto residency into a properly red-eyed and mazy sound running around a hypnagogic 6 BPM and sounding something like Mica Levi getting on it with DJ Screw at the GRM.
Cementing the quintessence of their set at Dalston’s experimental music hub, Cafe Oto, onto 40 minutes of ferric tape, Demdike basically got blazed on some Whalley Range dank and cooked up the pre-prepared stems from their performance - a mix of live jams, pre-edits, post-edits, and original (de)compositions - into a mad session that lurches from quaalude soul slugs to crushed and wickedly grouchy knocks that sound like Mica Levi and Franco Battiato getting high.
Prizing CDJs as their main tool for on-the-fly edits, sequencing and metric pliability, the duo mete out their most munted gear on the A-side, crawling from dragging drums and endlessly reverberating metallic dub to plunging soul downstrokes and dense, inverted junglist detonations, while the B-side throws down head-smudging ambient noise and a slopped edit of Franco Battiato via bird calls and blunted 2-step prang-outs. In the hands of anyone else this could be a mess, but here the elements are managed with a tempestuousness that speaks to their combined decades of manacled experience with raw, elemental electronics and textured samples. Unpredictable, devilish and ruff cut bizz.
Sweetly sore, contemplative chamber-pop missives from Newcastle’s Craig Pollard, returning to Slip with a subtle expansion of their quietly, confidently vulnerable style of songcraft - precisely puckered arrangements riddled with burred lyrics - imagine Mica meets Paddy McAloon.
“Competition makes a blue return to Slip with 'Repetititive Music': a sawn-off songbook of doting vocals and incisive, heart-ache instrumentals, carried with a soft swagger.
Poised between insistence and tenderness, 'Repetititive Music' is an assured, dreamy successor to 2018's 'You turned into a painting'. As ever, there is Competition's rare care and delight in the unadorned material of modern song. Chopped strings, keys, machines and speech are screwed with classical grace. A voice pines and frays as it circles. Beyond the cut and the loop something yearns and lingers.
Craig Pollard (aka Competition) is a quietly pivotal figure in Newcastle's musical underground, curating events as one half of the Wild Pop collective and operating across the city's artist-led communities. A collection of Craig's writing - 'Inside A Gleaming Feeling' - is forthcoming on Glasgow press The Grass is Green in the Fields For You.”
Twin Peaks sound-designer and David Lynch collaborator Dean Hurley returns with this long-in-the-making collage/mixtape/art project compiling/curating action movie scores with an emphasis on the extreme arp-laden testosterone-fuelled sampler/orchestra hybrid scores of the 80's-early 90’s - an absolute must-have for fans of FM and LA synthesis, digital samplers and hi gloss.
Going hard on the action sauce but holding the misogyny, ‘Big Balls’ is an expertly-arranged flashback to the hugely formative synth scores of golden-era action movies whose shooting budgets usually left 7 figures aside for the lead’s coke habit. If you grew up or watched movies during that era, you surely know exactly what we’re talking about, and if not then the music will definitely induce memories of muscle-bound megastars taking down helicopters with a machete and bumsliding over car bonnets against backdrops of explosions and such. You know the shit, and arguably for many the best part of those movies was their soundtracks, whose stacked and rippling arps, rocket-squeal leads and lush pads matched and properly heightened the on-screen excess in unforgettable and culturally osmotic ways.
The premise for ‘Big Balls’ then, finds Hurley - himself now part of the very highest tier of sound designers for film and television - drawing from a huge knowledge of this pivotal, unprecedented phase in maximalist soundtrack composition (which itself mirrored a wider phase shift from analog to digital studio production) to sure-handedly evoke all the sweat and fake blood of your favourite and most charmingly groan-worthy big Hollywood action hits. Using a panoply of extreme arpeggios, strutting 12bit percussion, sleazy basslines and syn-sax honks, he renders the finest sort of American cheeseboard that ideally highlights the style’s comical but practically avant garde tropes in a narrative-like flow and context bound to jog the imagination and have you acting out barrel rolls over the sofa and making home movies, The Wolfpack style, while under lockdown conditions.
Please send clips if you do.
Club dynamo Finn rains down 20 VIP purlers and most-requested bangers brimming with a blend of good times vibes and misty-eyed melancholy he’s patented over the past half decade.
Hailed recently in DJ Mag as a catalyst of Manchester’s singular hybrid club sound, DJ/producer Finn most smartly draws a line between hearty Northern Soul stompers, US garage-house and regional club styles, and UKG bounce - with a dab of French House - in the winning style that’s earned him a a cult and steadily growing audience in recent years. Like the Anz production reel Finn issued on his 2 B Real label last year, this one plays thru a stack of exclusive original productions, and also includes barrels of tracky dubs with cheeky samples that means you aren’t going to find these rugged and raw jams anywhere else.
Tapping into a rich vein of brio that links the North’s small town and big city club scenes of the ‘70s to their modern day equivalents, Finn works it out in timeless, anachronistic, and even Uchronic style, deftly re-jigging the timeline of US/UK dance dialogue in a directly jacking, swinging and bubbling way that’s properly Manchester and universally appealing to the floors from Chicago to Tbilisi.
Following soon after Finn’s work on the blink-and-miss Michael J. Blood 2LP, and ahead of a promised 4-track 12” for this comp, this lot includes bullets played by Teki Latex on Radio 1 and turns up ample proof, where needed, that Finn is a genuine force for good (times) in a world that really needs them right now.
A two hour Post-Apocalyptic Driving Music homage to Kraftwerk by genius synthesist Novo Line, in ode to Düsseldorf’s finest but also late ‘80s pulpy sci-fi soundtracks and cinematic rave scenes, massive recommendation if you're into Leyland Kirby, Laurie Spiegel, James Ferraro, 0PN, NYZ, Skanfrom, Depeche Mode...
Cult visionary synthesist Nat Fowler aka Novo Line enacts 2 hours of Post-Apocalyptic driving music in an extraordinary homage to Kraftwerk, late ‘80s/‘90s sci-fi, and cinematic rave. Spread over 3 tapes and accompanied by excerpts of an imagined graphic novel, it’s a real gesamtkunstwerk of pulpy, savant genius that highlights Novo Line among synth music’s most singular voices.
Outlining an absurdist story set 25 years in a future where oxygen is a commodity like oil, ‘Autobahn Zwei’ is a total and heavily functioning artwork ideal for the last few years of humanity’s guiltless consumption on the road. Over 12 tracks written between 2017-2019 and each averaging 10 minutes in length, Novo Line experiments with new midi-methologies to combine the sort of slow, electrifying EBM/new beat rhythms of his ‘Movements’ and ‘Dyads’ LPs with the cinematic scope of ‘To Qatsi And Die In LA’ (2019) in a riveting electronic saga that surely marks up as his magnum opus.
Across ‘Autobahn Zwei’ the sleek, futurist promise of Kraftwerk’s seminal 1974 ode to the road is craftily, anachronistically adapted to purpose with a riveting sense of narrative and a rolling, physical traction that Novo Line steers from the club into his own lane. Fine tuned with influence ranging from Maxploitation flicks to the fantasy art of Jean Giraud’s Moebius, the 1989 B-movie ‘How to Get Ahead In Advertising’ and that “rave” scene in Matrix, as well as his circle of pals in Berlin, Novo Line harnesses his era-consistent Atari computers and FM synths to motor forward with a thrilling, inexorable velcoity and masterfully expressive grasp of his machines’ tone.
Synching vintage circuitry into combustibly dirty, whirring, cranky designs that sound like Tesla’s haven’t caught-on in 2045, the album’s pulpy saga about a ruling corporatocracy BrazilCorp and its monopoly on artificial rainforest-produced oxygen is played out along a schism of real, imagined and synthesised worlds. From panoramic intro replete with viscerally smeared lense flare distortion, to the samples of the iconic *rump/H*llary debate from 2016 riddled into ’Never Going Back’ - where Trump’s tweets are voiced by synthetic birdcalls - and thru the adrenalised arps of ‘Rave Scene’ and the lip-bitingly dissonant tunings of ‘Sewers’, Novo Line surely induces the most inexplicable and oddest psycho-physiological reactions associated with probing new works of sci-fi genius.
With ‘Autobahn Zwei’ Novo Line draws a profound sense of originality from well-worn tropes with a style and effect that should be massively prized by any and all fans of proper electronic music. It’s a genuinely prism-pushing and seriously rewarding album for the journey.
Febrile dream sequence mixtape from Laila Sakini, eliding new age ambient, modern classical, art-pop and industrial energies over 90 opiated minutes mixed and recorded in Brussels, 2019 - a strong look for fans of CS + Kreme, HTRK, Jonnine...
Following up Laila & Lucy Van’s ‘Figures’ (2017) for Purely Physical Teeny Tapes, her mix spells out a sprawling world of influence in a carefully plotted trip that comes on in stealthy waves of romantic lushness, existential dread and celestial curiosity. You can go whistle for a soundtrack because it’s not forthcoming from her and we haven't a clue with most of it, which is always a good thing. Anyway, Sakini acts as an ideal spirit guide with the knowledge and patience to take you to strange, surreal, eerily poignant and otherworldly places without leaving the comfort of your living room.
“Laila Sakini is a Melbourne-born DJ and musician. Primarily performing at nightclubs, festivals, galleries and museums, Laila has also been involved in activities that circumvent the usual trajectory of a DJ. She has worked with poets, curated events and runs the Careful podcast series, enlisting established artists to produce original sound-based work with a simple topic or ‘mantra’ in mind. She presents semi-regularly on London's NTS Radio and has been a guest on LYL, Dublab and Red Light Radio, as well as producing mixes for the likes of LNCC, Goodhood and i-D magazine.”
Hakuna Kulala turn out the darkest Gqom on road with the ridiculously strong debut solo release by Infamous Boiz’ Menzi brimming with cyperpunk-cinematic sound design via hard-synched taxi techno drums. Massive RIYL DJ Lag, Nazar, Slikback!
Getting deeper than anyone into the mechanics and mindset of South Africa’s viral township techno sound, 27 year old Menzi Shabane makes seismic moves on the ‘Impazamo’ EP with six trax of gobsmacking Gqom pressure advanced by shocking levels of sound design detail and searing synth dynamics.
Menzi hails from the Umlazi township of Durban, where he rose to prominence as one half of Gqom pioneers, Infamous Boiz, whose influence is now felt shuddering from speakers in clubs across the world. Aside from producing, Menzi also runs the annual Gqom Bloq party, Festive Road Block Umlazi, and recently has supplied beats for some of South Africa’s biggest acts (Moonchild Sanelly, Mahotella Queens, Zolani Mahola and Zakes Bantwini), but it’s this EP for one of the hottest labels on the planet that will surely put his name on the global dancefloor map.
Daring to mess with the machinery of Gqom’s sharply defined style, Menzi opens it up like Hellraiser’s puzzlebox to truly invoke and unleash the sound’s darkside spirits. The title tune’s cinematic intro ratchets new levels of industrial drama to the sound that follow thru in the pained hollers and BM-style screeches of ‘Minimal Surge’ and the sheets of acid rain drone that soak ‘Underground Abaphansi’, while the percussive ballistics of ‘QGM’ and the jaw-dropping ‘Zulu Warrior’ recall the deep fwd sound design of Nazar’s experimental kuduro style, and Uganda’s Ecko Bazz plays the role of shaman or spirit guide in the pitch black midnight tone of ‘GQOM Tera’.
A staggering set packing the strongest Gqom tracks on road right now, ‘Impazamo’ is unmissable for lovers of dark, heavy and futuristic dance music from all corners of the club.
Founded in Lisbon, 2018, Candura is Andre Hencleeday and Pedro Coragem. Their debut recording, "/I", was released through GreySun Records (Portland, OR, USA) in October of the same year. In 2019, the duo presented a new composition live at Galeria Zé dos Bois, Out.Fest, Amplifest and during the closing of Rui Chafes' exhibition "Desenho sem fim (Endless drawing)" at Casa da Cerca. This piece now becomes the duo's second published work, "/II".
"Rui Chafes writes: "Candura is a mountain. It is also a deep forest, full of strobe shadows and dark roots falling from the sky. This music takes us to a pure and untouched space where time has no beginning and no end, a space for the un-born and for the un-dead. Maybe it is a sound coming from an era before the beginning of the world, from the deepness of time. Each concert of Candura is a rough and sharp journey (or a dive) while listening to the noise of blades cutting a feathery silence. During this voyage we remain awake, with maximum attention.
There is no space for rest neither there is for distraction. Here noise is silence and silence is noise. Suddenly, we hear a primordial and archaic howl coming from this distant ice-cold wind, piercing our stunned fragility. Nobody stays on land during this musical piece: Candura uproots people from their positions and takes them to another place. At the end of the concert, everybody feels paralysed, unable to move. Was it a birth? Where did it take us? To the beginning of everything or to the end of everything? Into life's turmoil or into the scaring crackle of death? We will never know. It is a very romantic and terribly positive music, closer to the voice of Nature than to the voice of Man. Maybe between those tumultuous points, between the silence trying to survive and the powerful hurricane that takes everything with it, that is where some inner peace can lay. When this journey comes to an end, we put our feet back on the ground and remain silent, empty of words. Our fragmented bodies have crossed a somber landscape of wreckage, looking for light through the shrapnel. Candura is an inner mountain." – Rui Chafes, Lisbon, Portugal, 1 March 2020"
Félicia Atkinson returns with a stunning album of sensurreal storycraft dedicated to abstract expressionist painter Helen Frankenthaler and featuring spectral drones, gongs, bells, piano and marimbas accompanying Atkinson’s voice. RIYL Éliane Radigue, Jim O’Rourke, Luc Ferrari.
‘Everything Evaporates’ is Félicia Atkinson’s exploration of liminal space between dream, memory and waking life, using a palette of gongs, bells, piano and marimbas alongside Atkinson’s own voice to describe and induce deeply hypnagogic states of mind
Through a series of sound paintings that make porous the divide between visual, haptic and sonic sensory perceptions, ‘Everything Evaporate’ arrives with uncanny timing to provide a soundtrack to deeply surreal times of aerosolised viruses and the rapid deceleration and contraction of the world around us. In it Félicia most sensitively uses her filigree sound design skills and quietly penetrative, poetic observations to limn and inhabit a half-way headspace, focussing on a neutral, subconscious zone of transition between the lived-in moment and out-of-body experience with serene, weightless, and introspective results.
Refining the themes of her previous LP ‘The Flower and The Vessel’, which was written and recorded on the road while touring and heavily pregnant, Félicia’s follow-up is inspired by those pauses and transitory periods in life that prompt reassessment of what she and we think we know. But with ‘Everything Evaporates’ Atkinson uses her studio to bring together a quietly soul-bearing performance and the melancholy feel of her compositions with a more detached, out of body sense of temporality where her stories beautifully un/furl in their own time and space.
Sublimating the instruments around her, the five extended pieces here evoke a shimmering sort of mindfulness in their ponderous pace and ethereal atmosphere, setting dream-like parameters where small events become magnified and seep inwards; language and sound entwine and unstitch at the real-time speed of calm, inquisitive thought, slowly emulating the transmutation of feeling and concluding in a musical threshold of unresolved pluralities that require the listener’s participation to unravel.
Nour Mobarak: voice and FX. Bana Haffar: modular synthesizer. Mastered by Juliette Amoroso. Illustration: Nour Mobarak. This cassette tape is a document of two live performances by the Haffar/Mobarak duo. Their mutual pleasure in variable tunings, granular synthesis, and structured improvisations shaped their collaboration.
"A lifelong expatriate, Bana Haffar was born in Saudi Arabia in 1987 and spent much of her childhood in the GCC. Through her switch from 10 years of electric bass to modular synthesizers in 2014, Bana is attempting to dismantle years of institutional "conditioning" in traditional systems of music theory and performance. She is interested in exploring sonic disintegration and coalescence into new forms and synthesized experiences.
Nour Mobarak (Lebanese-American, born 1985 in Cairo, Egypt) is an artist working with writing, music, performance, sculpture, and film making. Performances include the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Miguel Abreu Gallery, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego; Stadslimeit, Antwerp; Cafe OTO, London, and Cambridge University, Cambridge; among others. Mobarak has participated in exhibitions at Miguel Abreu Gallery, Cubitt Gallery, Rodeo, Taaffe Place, LAXART. Her writings have been published by De Appel/F.R. David, The Claudius App, and The Salzburg Review among others. Her music has been released by Ultra Eczema (Antwerp) and Recital (Los Angeles)."
The life recordings on this tape are raw, unedited transfers from Dungeness by Simon Fisher Turner made with a Sony Walkman Professional WM-D6.
With the voice of Derek Jarman recorded on 20 June 1992 in his cottage as he begins to write "Chroma", and sounds from around the nuclear power station in the fifth corner at the end of the globe.
Unmissable UK drill mixtape from Big Scraps, a keen scene observer presenting his critical and almost documdrama-style take on proceedings from the gulliest side of rap music in 2020.
After two rapidly sold-out releases from Tom Boogizm, Shotta Tapes hand over to Big Scraps for 69 minutes of prime cold cuts from the UK drill scene, mostly ripped off YouTube and Pornhub, in a canny survey of the now-notorious style which emerged in London at the back of the last decade in response to the hard new rap sound coined by Chicago’s Chief Keef back in 2012.
On ‘Now That’s What I Call Drill’ your guy Big Scraps takes a cold hard look at the scene with no filters but plenty of overdubs, arranging UK drill’s frankly terrifying, often controversial, yet transfixing tales of hood life reality into a uniquely gripping sort of noirish narrative or feature that faithfully, unflinchingly highlights the sound at its rawest, realest and most effective.
Rather than a mixtape-as-in-album, or a “club” or radio mix, Big Scraps’ mixtape rudely goes all the way on the layered arrangement, using sampled news reports on knife crime, looping up the songs’ faux-baroque intros, and overdubbing with idents, incessant sirens and horns to keep a low-key but palpable cadence of tension between the tunes’ variable bitrates that practically portrays their mix of postcode-war reportage, hyper-violent fiction, and deep-fried crud life with the skill of a docudrama editor and director more than your regular DJ mix.
Hypnotically transitioning between drill’s slower, doomiest styles and aggy mutations that echo the coldest grime and jungle as much as US sounds, ‘Now That’s What I Call Drill’ has the balls to call it and add their own, respectfully distanced perspective on the undisputed heavy and darkside sound of England’s young, urban population right now. It’s another 100% killer collectible from Manny’s Shotta Tapes - the most reliable mixtape dealer on road right now.
Ruskin and Broom’s electronica duo The Fear Ratio knit ruggedly offset rhythm programming with atmospheric anguish in their 2nd album for Skam.
"The duo, who are long-term collaborators have created their own signature style with abstract synths, heavy basslines and experimental soundscapes that fit somewhere in between IDM, electronica and ambient.
Their acclaimed debut album ‘Lightbox’ was initially released in 2011 on Ruskin’s Blueprint Records, featuring remixes from Warp aficionados Plaid and Deadhand. Soon after they formed a long-lasting relationship with cult Manchester based label Skam, with the follow-up album in 2015 ‘Refuge of a Twisted Soul’. 2018 saw a four track ‘Live EP’ release made up of exclusive versions of their Autechre supporting slot at the Great Northern Warehouse in Manchester,
Several years and various solo productions later, The Fear Ratio return with an album that solidifies their reputation as experimental producers. From the ethereal opening bars of ‘Sender’ slowly twisting into a brooding dub breakbeat, to the staccato, bugged out atmospherics of ‘Grey Code’, ghostly electronics of ‘Small World’, tripped out, schizophrenic hip hop haunting bass of ‘Game Plan’ and sun-dappled keys of ‘The Final Vision’ Broom & Ruskin flex their techno muscles ever further beyond the floor."
Aporia is a New Age album from Sufjan Stevens and his step-father and record label co-owner, Lowell Brams.
"In the spirit of the New Age composers who sanded off the edges of their synths’ sawtooth waves, Aporia approximates a rich soundtrack from an imagined sci-fi epic brimming with moody, hooky, gauzy synthesizer soundscapes.
The album may suggest the progeny of a John Carpenter, Wendy Carlos and Mike Oldfield marriage but it stands apart from these touchstones and generates a meditative universe all its own. This is no mere curio in the Sufjan Stevens catalogue but a fully realized collaborative musical piece."
Manchester & UK club institution Swing Ting cap a decade of productions and parties with super sweet debut album ‘100 Dances’ - titled after their admirable tally of raves around the city since 2009.
Fronted by hyper-connector Balraj Samrai and accomplice Ruben Platt, the Swing Ting family spans vocalists, producers, toasters and DJs, many of whom appear in some form on ‘100 Dances’. Taking in early doors warm-up vibes, thru to peaktime steppers, all in the bright and never-aggy style they’ve made their own, the album speaks directly to the good times vibe that Swing Ting cultivated in every aspect of their output, always prizing positivity over nastiness (although their dances weren’t shy of rowdiness, now and then). It’s a dead sweet send off to one period in their rule, distilling the vibe to preserve it for future consumption.
Save for the blissed titular opener, it’s an entirely vocal-led affair, much like their dances. Trusty host Fox graces the ‘90s R&B hustle of ‘Coming Through’ alongside Evabee and [ K S R ], and Equiknoxx’s Shanique Marie lights up the head high bashment closer, ‘Give Thanks’, while Manchester legend Trigga voices the ruder bubble of ‘Swagger’, and Midlands don RTKal shares the mic with Poppy Roberts’ Lovescene on the romantic flex of ‘Feel It’. But perhaps our favourites are the low key burn of ‘Drama’ featuring near-ASMR levels of soulful chills from Thai-Chi Rose’s, or the exceedingly deft touch of ‘Like You Know’ with Dublin’s Gemma Dunleavy.
Since they started up in a sweaty basement in 2008, and nearly ended this writer’s days with a toppling speaker cab in a Chinese karaoke bar in 2009, Swing Ting have long held an admirable line between Manchester’s UK urban heritage and and up-to-the-second waves from Africa, the Caribbean, and the US in a way that’s entirely, humbly inclusive, not exclusive: a lesson that can be learned by too many new promoters who take, take, take and rarely give back as much as these guys.
London’s Acolytes emulate the effects of a Salvia-induced permo with their psychotomimetic salvo for Haunter Records
Leading on from a class mix extruded for Richard Sides’ Bus and their two LPs with Luke Younger’s Alter, ‘Stress II’ juggles a madness between 10 minutes of digitally chewed percussive onslaught in ‘கொந்தளிப்பை’, the shatterproof tension of ‘Stress II’, and what sounds like the ratchet loops of Tanzanian Singeli in ‘Hitch Loop’.